The big news reverberating today around the London cycling blogosphere and reaching the mouths of cyclists sipping their morning cup of Joe in Look Mum No Hands, is about the planned changes to Bow Roundabout.
Nothing if finalised yet. However, it looks as though we will soon be seeing the first ever phased traffic lights in the UK. Cyclists will be given a separate set of lights, 12 metres ahead of general traffic. The lights will go green for cyclists first, giving them enough time to safely navigate and clear Bow Roundabout without fearing fast moving left turning traffic.
These changes will likely be seen in time for the Olympics. Visitors attending the games will be able to marvel at how forward thinking we are with our cycling infrastructure. “Them Brits really know what they’re doing over there on the other side of the pond!”
Over 500 junctions up for review
Unfortunately, it has taken a number of tragic deaths and protests before the Mayor ordered an urgent review of the most dangerous junctions in London. With over 500 junctions in the queue, Bow was pushed up the line to first position. The priority of getting this right is high enough that TfL will likely be breaking their rule of no new major road works in the run up to the Olympics.
The other major change is to the Bow flyover. According to the press release 60% of cyclists choose to use the flyover to navigate across from Bow road to Stratford High Street. A new compulsory lane just for cyclists would improve safety.
Is this a sign of bigger things to come?
The changes will have cycle campaigners wondering whether it’s time to pop open the champagne and celebrate better things to come or whether they are counting their chickens too early.
According to a phone interview with Ben Plowden, the Director of Better Routes and Places at TfL, it absolutely" and unequivocally is. The priority will be to review the junctions that are the largest in scale and public interest.
As you read this you’ll be thinking: Kings Cross. The scene of many of the recent protests.
This was the next question I put to Ben Plowden. The original improvement works that have been planned for a while at Kings Cross, will still be going ahead. These plans have been criticised by campaign groups of not doing anywhere near enough to protect cyclists.
However, and this is where things get confusing, TfL will still be including Kings Cross junction in their wider review program. It seems counterproductive to go ahead with changes that have been planned for a while, with a view to changing them down the line.
To that Mr Plowden added that the original changes needs to be done in time for the Olympic games, due to the huge increases in pedestrian traffic in the area.
Big changes are coming, but after the Olympic games
It’s likely therefore, any further big changes such as the ones seen at Bow Roundabout, will only bring safety to cyclists after the Olympics. The job of campaign groups will be to keep the pressure on TfL and the Mayor, to press ahead with any recommendations that come out of the review of all the junctions.
The positive change, is that it finally seems the TfL wheels have begun spinning in a good direction for cyclists. Whilst 2012 won’t be the year we stop opening the newspaper to stories of cyclists hit by vehicles, the Bow Roundabout should stand as an example of what can be achieved when the Mayor acts on people’s concerns.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.