Friday, June 25

Cycle superhighway 7/Heygate Street junction safety

Struggling to work yesterday on my Raleigh 20 (much easier cycling than walking with a sprained ankle, surprisingly!) I discovered that in my absence, part of my route had morphed into a section of Cycle Superhighway 7.

Cycle Superhighways are the London mayor's idea of how to encourage people onto their bikes, and on the whole they consist of painting parts of the road blue and putting more signs up.

However I am delighted to report that in this particular location the implementation of the superhighway has incorporated a much-needed improvement to what was a very dangerous crossing of a busy road.

Formerly this junction incorporated a separate pedestrian and cycle crossing of Newington Butts near the Elephant & Castle in south east London; the two were separated by about 50 yards. The cycle crossing was able to operate separately from the pedestrian crossing but it had no button to change the lights, it relied on sensors which were never pointing the right way. If a pedestrian pressed the button on the pelican crossing, the cycle crossing would operate too, but because of the separation of the two crossings, any motorist jumping through on orange or red (usually at least one each time) would then arrive at the cycle crossing just as bikes had started to cross. Any cyclist not aware of this anomaly was at risk.

What's more, the road surface at the cycle crossing had no hatched yellow lines, so if there was a queue of traffic at the junction further along the road, it would inevitably block the cycle crossing.

The other problem with this crossing was the amount of time it took to change, even when a pedestrian pressed the button and even if it had been a while since the last change. Some cyclists would try to nip across to the tiny strip of central reservation, which was barely wide enough for a bike, attempting to cross the road in two stages.

Sensibly the two have now been combined, so that both cyclists and pedestrians can use the button, there is a wide crossing area and there is much less danger to cyclists from errant motorists.

All they need to do now to improve my journey safety by about another 25% is to alter the phasing of the lights on the following junction (Heygate Street/Walworth Road). The lights have several phases - traffic runs both directions on Walworth Road (L to R on the photo) and then all traffic is stopped and a pedestrian phase operates on all sides. Traffic coming out of Heygate Street (towards the photographer) then has a green phase, the vast majority of it turning right (L in the photo) into Walworth Road. A very short green phase then operates for traffic going in the direction of the photographer - mostly wanting to go straight on, and mostly cycles with one or two motor vehicles. Unfortunately the way is usually blocked by traffic from Heygate Street that has jumped through the amber and red phases and is still turning across the junction. After the short green phase, the lights for Walworth Road traffic change again and if you haven't cleared the junction by this time you are at a very high risk.

A couple of years ago I spent about six months trying to find the right person at the council/TFL to nag about this, being passed from pillar to post before eventually tracking them down. I suggested that if the two phases for the cross-junction traffic were reversed, the problem could be solved at a stroke, with no impact on travel times and a huge improvement in safety. They agreed and said they would issue instructions to this end. I am still waiting, and know that I should nag again but have to be honest it has ground me down. If you see me there, I'm the one who nips across on the red light when the pedestrian phase is finished, before the lights change for Heygate Street. It is the only junction where I run the red light, and I believe my action is justified in the name of safety. When TFL sees fit to implement this simple change, I'll be happy to obey the highway code again.


Rowan said...

I always thought that anyone cycling round Elephant & Castle needed their heads seeing to, just because it was so obviously dangerous! Doug used to avoid it completely and cut behind it - as he used to cycle across Blackfriars Bridge, his route was quite dangerous enough without adding E&C into the mix.

Glad its improving, even if slowly. They've put a lovely cycle path on the footpath down the road we walk to school along - the school kids all use it at the end of the day, but for some reason, most adult ignore it. Arghhh!!

knit nurse said...

This is probably the same route - it doesn't go round either of the E&C roundabouts - it's the 'cyclists ring road' that follows streets nearby.

Brianna said...

It's important to try to implement change. Good for you for trying to keep people safer!!