01 January 2010

Happy New Year (but not on Blackfriars Bridge)

I hope one of Transport for London's New Year Resolutions is stop putting in expensive and pointless facilities like this one. It's just appeared at the north end of Blackfriars Bridge.

It's a short length - maybe 20m or so - of separated cycle lane. Just after the lights, it rejoins the road, merging with the traffic that's turning left. The lights have three phases: (1) red for both bikes and cars; (2) red for bikes, with a green left filter lane for cars (right); (3) green for bikes and general-green for cars (below).

Now, even if you have a Hogmanay hangover the size of Southwark, you'll spot the flaw straight away. What possible benefit does this separated lane offer cyclists? When the bike signal is at red, traffic is turning left in front of you. When the bike signal turns green, you still have traffic turning left in front of you.

In other words, all the signal does is (a) hold you up, and (b) offers no safety benefit. It's useless. No wonder every cyclist we saw simply ignored it and rode through red (below). By doing so, of course, they're at risk from left-turning traffic in front of them - just as they are if they wait for the green.

In fact, it's worse than useless. Not only has it wasted money, it also encourages cyclists not to use the cycle lane, but go on the main part of the road with the traffic and go through the left-filter. Which drivers won't be expecting, of course, even though it's perfectly legal, and they'll and shout and complain and resolve to run over the next cyclist they see.

Integrate cyclist with main stream of traffic, or build a segregated Dutch-style system? It's one of the big debates of the moment. In London, all attempts to do the latter have failed miserably. By contrast, all attempts to the do the former have failed appallingly.

Which side am I on? Whichever side has the green signal.

Happy New Year everyone!


  1. This is unbelievable (at least if it wasn't in the UK). When I first glanced at your pics I thought the point must be to give cyclists a green when left truning traffic is held back by a red (and why is Rob moaning about that?) but, thanks to your painstaking photography (not easy to get all the light phases and cycle/car movements juxtaposed), we see that it confers no benefit on cyclists at all.

    Is it too much to ask that local authorities employ, or at least engage with, competent cycle infrastructure designers with a modicum of understanding of what safe and convenient cycling is about?

  2. That end of the bridge was bad before but this is truely awful.
    For starters the bike lane narrows shortly before what you can see in this photo. The bridge is used by loads of cyclists so this makes it an even worse pinch point.
    Then if like me you will be wanting to turn right into Queen Vivtoria Street its no use at all being in the bike lane as you will never be able to get across.
    Might have been some use if they had a cycle only phase but that still wouldn't cope with the volumes of cyclists they get at rush hour.

    This has not been designed by anyone who actually cycles.

    I'll be putting a complaint in to TfL, anyone care to do the same?

  3. Looks like another example of a cycle facility built (most likely by someone who doesn't cycle) to work out how it will (or won't) work rather than thinking it through beforehand. Learning on the job. This and the many shared use pavements springing up are really doing nothing but creating situations where cyclists will not use the "facilities", which in turn creates friction and a gives drivers who are looking for a reason, to get even more upset about cyclists.

  4. Any idea what the price tag was?

  5. I cycled to London in December with some friends and really enjoyed my stay. Cycling through London was certainl an experiance and one that I will treasure for a long time. My frinds like to cycle in the countryside, but I loved the city! I think it was blackfriars bridge that I cycled accross but may not have been. It was the next one up (west) from the Millenium Bridge.

  6. Eco Bloke, that was Blackfriers bridge you were on, unless you were on a rail bridge ;-).
    Its mostly fun cycling in London, along with being faster and cheaper.

  7. and not long after that particular heinous example of numbnuttery - the pedestrian crossing just after is almost timed to perfection to stop you again...

  8. Agree it is bizzare and as far as I can tell the red cycle light is either totally ignored or the cycle lane bypassed when red.

    I've raised is an issue on TfL site but won't hold my breath.

  9. Through various contacts the signal phases are now being looked in to by TfL. This was not a permanent arrangement anyway but is subject to final layout design and signal phasings in due course. Thanks for pointing it out though.

  10. Thanks, for that Phil!

    I'm glad TfL are looking into it. Which I suppose happens when you dig holes for yourself... Anyway, let's hope their rephasing has some common sense behind it, or even some uncommon sense.

    And meanwhile, perhaps they could consider putting up a sign saying TEMPORARY PHASING. BLOGGERS PLEASE IGNORE.

  11. Was still stupidly wrong today, and un-gritted (of course)

  12. It was being ignored by all this morning. If its a temporary measure, it would be better to turn it off for the time being.