Initial thoughts on the proposed Bow Flyover/Roundabout changes

Cor, that’s an exciting blog title, isn’t it? Really going to lure people in…

@TfLofficial tweeted: “TfL announce design proposals to further improve cycle safety at Bow roundabout #cyclesafety” on 12th January.

I’m sure it was the merest slip of the finger that stopped them typing “TfL announce design proposals which will make a start on cycle safety at Bow roundabout,” but there we are.

If nobody died in the five years before you started messing about with a junction, and then two people die in the space of three weeks, it’s a fairly safe bet that your much-vaunted “safer, faster and more direct” route has made it worse.

I’ve had a look at TfL’s design proposals.

From the point of view of a utility cyclist, someone who ambles off to work or the shops or the park or her mate’s with a pair of leggings on under her skirt as her only concession to “cycle clothing” (well, it doesn’t do to show the neighbours one’s knickers), I’m not impressed at all.

Reducing the Bow flyover from two traffic lanes to one in both directions, with new dedicated cycle lanes. Traffic signals could be installed at either end of the flyover to make access safer for cyclists

Dedicated how? The PDF says “mandatory cycle lanes,” but there’s no indication of a physical barrier between the lanes. That’s got to be a pretty thick layer of paint to stop a lorry driving in it. In my experience of cycling in London, the only time a non-segregated, mandatory cycle lane is actually mandatory is when there’s a police cyclist in full, eye-bleeding hi-viz in it.

To get onto the flyover from the westbound lane you have to go across at least one lane of fast-moving, heavy traffic. TfL is therefore proposing to put a crossing in to enable cyclists to access the flyover at both ends. Surely this will just move delays at the junction (which TfL appear to fear more than anything else in the whole world ever), back to the start of the flyover?

The we come onto the flyover itself. The only thing I will say there is “it’s a bit of a steep incline for a utility cyclist in a skirt, and I don’t fancy trying to heave 50lb of steel-framed bike, plus luggage, plus me, up there.”

A cycle ‘early-start’ phase at the traffic signals on the eastbound and westbound entrance to the Bow roundabout. This would provide a dedicated green light phase to allow cyclists to travel ahead of other traffic

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this really doesn’t look like a dedicated green phase for cyclists that allows them to travel ahead of other traffic. It just looks like a dedicated green light that lets them into the advance stop box, where they’re held on red and then cyclists and other traffic just go for it like usual. You still have to hope that the car or lorry behind you isn’t in such a rush to turn left that they don’t wait until you’re safely past before turning.

If cars are on green while I’m held on red, this seems to be inherently dangerous unless cyclists are segregated from motor vehicles in some way – a careless turn from a car driver and I could be under their wheels.

Additional dedicated cycle lanes on the east and westbound approaches of the roundabout, allowing cyclists to approach the advance stop lines at the junctions without the need to filter through traffic. Advanced stop lines would also be made deeper on both approaches to the roundabout, so there’s a clear space for cyclists in front of any traffic

It looks to me that the cycle lane is only segregated for part of the way leading up to the junction. the protection can’t be continuous because there is a side road on the left and a bus stop. You’ve still got to negotiate your way through the traffic to get to the dedicated green phase and the Advanced Stop Box. Cars coming out of the side street creep into the cycle lane.

Unless the cycle lane is properly segregated from traffic, it will not provide additional safety for cyclists because it will still be shared with motor vehicles.

I’d also be interested to see the junction timings, to see who will have priority, cyclists or motor vehicles?

Heading west, Cycle SuperDeathway 2 still spits you out down the Mile End Road into a “cycle lane” which has got car parking spaces in it, and heading east, it drops you with no guidance, not even an advisory cycle lane, into a road which is three lanes of fast-moving traffic each way.

Not impressed, TfL. Fine words but no actual, concrete changes.

If you had bitten the bullet, accepted that prioritising the motor car in London is a damn silly idea, and gone for this I’d have cheered you to the rooftops. But no. You’ve gone for the grand gesture which, on first sight, pays lip-service to the idea of cyclist safety but doesn’t actually do anything, and still makes no provision for pedestrians to get safely across the junction.

The reason that there has been no pedestrian injury or fatality at that junction in three years is (a) because you’ve, corporately, been lucky (b) everyone who’s the slightest bit vulnerable as a road user (the elderly, the disabled, those accompanied by children), takes the bus one stop to get across safely! My opinion on this is well-known and contains the words “stupid,” “mendacious” and “thieving.”

Oh, and one more thing:

The Highway Authority for the Bow Roundabout Flyover and the road immediately to the east of the roundabout (Stratford High Street) is the London Borough of Newham. TfL has commenced discussions with Newham to seek approval where changes to accommodate these options may be required on their roads.

Good luck with that. Mayor Wales is the reason cycleSuperdeathway 2 stops at the roundabout and doesn’t go into Newham. He is vehemently anti-cyclist and this attitude pervades all of Newham council. You can’t “discuss” anything with a man who thinks the convenience of him and his deputy being able to park their cars closest to the lifts at the council offices fully justifies the removal of two disabled parking bays.

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One Response to Initial thoughts on the proposed Bow Flyover/Roundabout changes

  1. Good article. I cannot help thinking that you would not want to be tail end charlie who is last across before the lights change to allow the motor vehicles to go. After all, they will have been sitting there snarling as the cyclists go past, just itching for the lights to change. A lot is going to depend on the phasing so as to allow cyclists to clear the left turn exit . Can we expect TFl to get that right? Don’t answer that!