07 December 2009
Cabbages, King's Road, and contraflow cycle lanes
I've just received my Dec-Jan copy of the London Cycling Campaign magazine. The LCC is like a Cabbage Marketing Board: you can sort of imagine what they're supposed to be doing, but you're not aware of anything they've actually done.
Anyway, among the mag's out-of-date news stories is one about Kensington and Chelsea's decision to pioneer new signing on contraflow cycle lanes.
Now, as I understand it from this Central Office of Information news story, the situation is this. The government is keen to cut red tape, and is letting local councils tweak road signs without having to get approval, as part of a Traffic Signs Review. The Review started on 17 September and runs until this Thursday, 10 December. K&C was one of the first councils to take this up.
As part of their review, K&C have put up signs for contraflow cycle lanes that are normally considered illegal: a simple 'No entry' sign with a plate below it saying 'Except cycles'. Such signs are legal in Scotland, and widely used on the continent - one of the few bits of Dutch I'm fluent in is 'Uitgezonderd fietsers'. You'll have seen several examples in 'illegal' use already, though, like the one (right) at the entrance to Petworth St near Battersea Bridge.
But in England, you're supposed to design the entry to a contraflow cycle lane like the Great Gates of Kiev, with no-entry signs for cars, and the bike lane barriered off and signed separately with a blue cycle-lane sign, like the correct example on the right into Herbrand St near Tavistock Square. Cambridge Cycle Campaign's gallery page has more examples for fans of counter-directional pedalling.
Now, K&C's new signs are on five quiet back streets: Gilston Rd and nearby Hollywood Rd, off Fulham Rd; and the almost-contiguous Holland St, Old Court Place (below right) and Thackeray St off Kensington Rd. In each case the start of the contraflow is marked by the 'illegal' except-cyclist sign and a short or medium length painted cycle sign.
The idea is that, with fewer literal and metaphorical barriers to creating contraflow cycle lanes, councils might be readier to do it, and make streets more permeable, which would be a good thing. The Holland St / Old Court Place / Thackeray St set, for example, is a newly-created contraflow sequence. I cycled all the above back streets in both directions yesterday, and it felt no more dangerous than say a Go Go Hamster.
If the idea catches on after the review finishes this week, expect a few silly news stories on the lines of 'now cyclists are being allowed to go the wrong way up all one-way streets' - as did the BBC website's report last year. Make no mistake: these are very quiet back streets, and the stretches affected are only a few dozen yards, less than the total of column inches they've already generated.
But make no mistake also that these will really encourage councils to shift the emphasis from car to cycle. As the K&C spokesperson quoted in the LCC mag said themselves, this measure will "reduce street clutter" and "allow more parking"...
...Oh. Well, I never did like cabbage much anyway.