Wednesday, 3 April 2013

And time to dismount

Sweet Looooooooooooooord Jesus, there is a time and a place to dismount from your bike and take the slow pedestrian walk across the road and I have found that time and place!

It's The Strand and High Holborn during rush hour.

After following TFL's recommended cycle route to get me from Crouch End to Waterloo Bridge, I found myself cycling some of London's most terrifying and perilous roads where cycle infrastructure is zilch, nano, non-existent. Ok, ok, I already knew this, but I guess I've never really had so much trouble getting somewhere during rush hour before.

At the start of my commute, I was at ease with the calm traffic and simple roads, but then I stumbled into territory where cars, black cabbies and monstrous lorries rule the streets. I quickly learned where my place was and it was a difficult decision between the pavement and the gutter.

Throwing myself onto the sanctuary of the pavement, I walked the remainder of my route to Waterloo Bridge and I thought about how cycling on quiet back roads just doesn't work in central London (a point well made by the Alternative Department for Transport blog). Here is a taster of what I encountered:

+ Wide one way roads with multiple lanes occupied by buses and taxis - but no cycle lanes!

+ Monstrous lorries storming through junctions at peak times

+ Congested traffic on narrow lanes with limited shared space

+ And this Crazy of a junction on High Holborn. I thought I understood roundabouts and complex junctions but this one is ridiculous

+ Walking and cycling, I eventually made it to my work training session

But I decided that next time I'm going to call The Jetson's and HITCH ME A LIFT please!

Do you often have to walk part of your cycle route you are way too scared for your life?


Anonymous said...

You need to cycle the Holborn Circus roundabout like a car (observing the rules of the road) once the lights have gone green. It's not that difficult when you get the hang of it but watch out for black cabs, as ever.

mangoandlebsgocycling said...

Love your writing style! Well I have watched cyclists navigate London Roads without any desire of wanting to try it myself... Very scary! Even in my own area I primarily keep to back streets as I'm new to cycling but even this poses its own risks in snow or icy weather and theres no such luxery in Central London. More power to you for doing it!

Clare said...

Yes, I feel your pain. I have to go through Parliament Square every day and am waaay too scared to cycle it. I get off and walk. Every day. I may be being a wimp but I'd rather be a non-squished wimp!
Love the blog, btw.

Steve Biggs said...

Talking of walking with your bike I always tend to that at crossroads with traffic lights! If I'm going straight on and it's a red light but green for pedestrians I just hop off, walk and easily save 30-40 seconds as the traffic still needs to go from left <> right as well :)

bikemapper said...

Does TfL really recommend a route from Crouch End to Waterloo Bridge that goes via Holborn Circus and The Strand? Oh my God, they do! (I had to laugh, actually, because the option that you chose was listed as: "I want to cycle the whole way".)

You say that cycling on quiet back roads just doesn't work in central London, but actually there is a route from Crouch End to Waterloo Bridge which mostly uses back streets and which is only about a tenth of a mile further!

So it can be done. But in saying this, I don't want to take anything away from the point that is being made both in this blog and in the Alternative DfT blog.

The question is, what can really and truly be done about it? Ultimately, of course, we want segregated cycling facilities on the majority of London's main roads. However, to be blunt, this is not going to happen within this mayoralty. The Mayor's Vision for Cycling includes plans for a network of Quietways, and for a few high profile schemes on some main roads, amounting to no more than about twenty-five miles of segregated facilities (not one inch of which would have been any use to you, by the way).

So, until such time as segregated cycling facilities can be installed the majority of London's main roads, what should be done on roads like High Holborn and The Strand in the meantime?

Nothing? Nothing at all? You wouldn't even do as much as possible at least bureaucracy first? Is that really what you all think?

Anonymous said...

Happened to come across this which might be of interest...


Paul M said...

Many thanks to Anonymous No 2 (is it actually the same person as Anonymous No 1?) for pointing to Project Centre - I have been racking my memory for their name for a while, as they are illustrative of some of the whackier things going on in London street design at the moment.

This firm was the design unit behind the Cheapside redevelopment - the one where road narrowing by pavement widening and the use of mid-carriageway pedestrian refuges ensures that cyclists can neither overtake, nor be overtaken by, motor vehicles, and thus become "rolling speed humps". If you think this is accidental, think again - use of cyclist as a traffic calming measure is an explicit aim of this firm. They used it in Kensington High St as well, and I recall one blogger saying that one of their people spoke at a conference expressly admitting that this was their strategy.

I don't believe that they were respnsible for Strand, which was done a while ago and is certainly one of the nastiest experiences anywhere on a bicycle, made worse by the fact that Westminster makes it so difficult to make progress through back streets - permeability and contraflow are words which simply don't feature in their lexicon. Also I don't think the recent redesign of Pall Mall and Picadilly can be laid at their door, although the effects are much the same.

Perhaps, though their work on Holborn Circus deserves more sympathy, although that might be unwarranted sypathy as the City of London and the boriough of Camden, which each own about half of this junction, engaged fairly well with City Cyclists (notably the illustrious Danny Williams - he'll get my vote for campaigner of the year in the LCC election) and with Camden Cycling Campaign, to improve the cyclists experience there.

There are other changes afoot around Holborn Circus to remove rat-running down Shoe Lane and out via Stonecutter St to Farrindgon Rd, which have made that area much pleasanter for the many thousands of people who work, and walk, around there.

Finally, if you look at projectcentre's website, you have to see this - about CRISP and cycle design. Have they no sense of irony whatever?

liz said...

I find myself getting off and walking most often when the congestion gets bad. It seems that when traffic is heavy, drivers tend to forget about things like stop lines, box junctions, pedestrian crossings and lights, and just focus on the bumper of the car in front. So even when you've got the green light, you can't get anywhere because the junctions are choked up. Today I ended up walking for a fair amount of my journey near the British Museum because of some incredibly bad parking. When was the last time you saw a badly parked bike causing a massive tailback? We desperately need better protected bike lanes so bike journeys can be smoother, more enjoyable and safer!

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