22 February 2010
Strange ways in Tower Hamlets: Horseferry Rd contraflow
What would you do here? You're a bit east of Tower Bridge, and heading east on Narrow St towards Limehouse Basin (pic 1, right).
Well, you'd turn left, obviously, into Spert St. You can see that the road ahead is no entry, and two signs point you left. And you never disobey a traffic sign.
Anyway, if you've ridden here before, you know that this is a sort of square-roundabout clockwise one-way system, as in the Google map on the right.
Wrong! You're obviously a lycra lout who enjoys knocking over old ladies on the pavement. In fact, you should have gone straight on.
If you do turn left, this is what you see: a new bike contraflow coming on your side, the wrong side, the 'continental' side, towards you. (Pic 2, right. That big thing in front of you is the entrance to Limehouse Link, and just round the corner from here is Rotherhithe Tunnel, by the way, east London's answer to the Large Hadron Collider.)
But you carry gamely on, along Horseferry Rd (pic 3, right), not sure whether you should be in the marked-off cycle lane (in which case you're going the wrong way) or just to the right of it (in which case the cars behind you hoot because you're 'not in the bike lane').
Eventually you get near the end of the third side of the square (pic 4, right), where you turn left to rejoin the road you originally left, still wondering what's going on.
What's happened is that the old one-way system has been made two-way for bikes. Which is good.
Except it's bad, because (a) it's been done in a confusing way - with bikes being put on the wrong side of the road and (b) half the signage (so far, anyway) is missing.
Presumably, cyclists are now expected to go the opposite way round the square to the traffic, anticlockwise. (Perhaps this is to give westgoing cyclists who can't make it to Dignitas better access to Rotherhithe Tunnel.)
Except that if you do, you're liable to get confused when you see No Entry signs like this (pic 5, right) apparently barring your progress.
But every cyclist I saw on Thursday and Saturday last week was still going round the same way as the traffic (quite legitimately, of course), contrary to the contraflow.
In other words, the wrong way. Or maybe the right way. Or the wrong wrong way. Or something.
I don't know. I have no idea. I don't think the council do either.
But let's be optimistic. Good things can come from this. In 1736, faced with the problems of crossing bridges in the most efficient way in Konigsberg, Euler came up with a whole new branch of mathematics to solve them: topology. Maybe that Marcus du Sautoy bloke off the telly could come up with something here to unite String Theory, the Riemann Zeta Function, and where to turn left to find the riverside path.
Mind you, this is Tower Hamlets, home of the Glamour Ride: they sometimes do have strange ways here...