Bow roundabout the first of many changes coming to London’s junctions

Bow Roundabout showing TfL visualisation with blue lanes ahead of the main traffic and with separate traffic lights

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.

(See also: Pictures from the Christmas Vigil held by cyclists at Kings Cross)

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.

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13 Responses to Bow roundabout the first of many changes coming to London’s junctions

  1. Alistair Burns 12/01/2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I’m looking forward to the reaction of motorcyclists who routinely occupy the front and beyond of advanced stop lanes and never, ever get prosecuted. Will they head off when the green bicycle light comes on? What will happen when cyclists get the green light but can’t get through because the ever familiar row of motorbikes and scooters is blocking their passage?

    • Andreas 12/01/2012 at 6:34 pm #

      Yep – it’s a whole new scenario so I think they’ll be a little bit stumped as to whether to be cheeky and join the bicyclists!

    • Paul Draper 17/01/2012 at 12:36 pm #

      I’ve never noticed much of a problem with motor bikes at this junction. Most of them will use the flyover and the few that want to turn left seem to respect cyclists.

  2. Caroline 12/01/2012 at 2:45 pm #

    It’s a step in the right direction, but surely will only help those cyclists if they’ve had to stop at the traffic lights? If they’re cycling along without having to stop, they still run the risk of cars and lorries trying to turn left into them.

    • William Hook 12/01/2012 at 4:27 pm #

      If you’re a nervous rider you could always stop and wait?

  3. Caroline 12/01/2012 at 4:31 pm #

    You can’t stop in a cycle advanced stop line when traffic lights are green , you will get flattened by angry traffic :D

    But yeah I guess you could get off your bike on pavement and wait, but then you could do that anyway with the current design.

  4. Tommi 12/01/2012 at 7:28 pm #

    In the video the so-called “early start” traffic signals are nothing like the name would imply. They’re just an extra red light for bicycles only to prevent them from moving along and entering the roundabout when other traffic is already moving. The only “early start” you get is to move from behind the ASL to the front of the ASL when cars are stopped and wait there, like you’d do even without the signals. Both cars and cyclists get the green light to enter the roundabout at the same time. Best I can tell these signals force cyclists to stop at the junction, even if there’s green light for entering the roundabout.

  5. Beth A 12/01/2012 at 8:42 pm #

    It sounds like a step in the right direction, although the ‘phased’ lights seem to not really add much more than entry into the advance stop box anyway. If the cyclists could go a few seconds before the vehicles then it might help but it seems the cyclists can only commit to the roundabout at the same time as the cars behind them, and you can be sure that the cars will be coming *fast* behind them. Maybe it will stop vehicles from entering the advance stop box, but as they already do that anyway I’m not holding my breath.

    Also, it’s very very blue. That bank must be rubbing their hands with glee!

    But like I said, it’s a positive move and seems like TfL actually are listening. It’d be much better if they actually seemed like they were and engaged with people better though.

  6. Adam 12/01/2012 at 8:44 pm #

    “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. ”

    This is what everyone was told would happen, but isn’t actually what is planned. The cycle lights do not go green first. Lights for all traffic goes green at the same time. Yes, cyclists get a chance to get a few metres ahead if they arrive at the lights when they are red. But they still stand the risk of motor vehicles turning left over them as they proceed across the roundabout, even more so if they arrive at the lights when they are already green and all traffic is moving.

    TFL are already telling lies and changing what they said they would do.

  7. Joe Billington 12/01/2012 at 9:08 pm #

    The significant positive here is that Tfl have acknowledged there is a problem, responded to public concern and made a proposal.
    The proposal itself needs some work.
    It does not help cyclists arriving in moving traffic
    it must offer a phased traffic light giving cyclists some seconds to get ahead
    In many ways it looks like a jumped up advanced stop line, not only motorcycles but cars all over London go through them, bringing them right up alongside bikes
    What will prevent cars, particularly those that have gone through to the ASL, deliberately or by accident, responding to the cyclists green light? It’s very easy to be distracted by a green light, or mista
    ke which set of lights applies to you, cf: Euston Road eastbound by st pancras.
    I hope TfL keep talking to us to get this proposal right.

  8. Graeme 13/01/2012 at 10:47 am #

    Sounds good. Regarding the lights, York already has a set of phased lights at Blossom Street (http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/9408521.Blossom_Street_to_get_revamp/) that were installed about a year ago. There is an additional light (similar to a left turn light, but witha picture of a bike on it) that allows cyclists to go five seconds before the rest of the traffic. It actually works quite well.

  9. Andy (Manchester) 13/01/2012 at 2:42 pm #

    The idea is open to abuse .

    The only way I could see it succeeding would be if the law/use was enforced by CCTV

  10. Steve 01/02/2012 at 1:54 pm #

    FFS, just make it no-left-turn for motorists make the traffic go all the way around the roundabout and ta-dah no more blind spot!

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