Cycle Superhighway 3: A victim of its own success?

Cyclist riding across Cycle Superhighway 3

Riding along Cycle Superhighway 3 during the morning rush hour is an unfamiliar experience for the typical London cyclist. The route that connects Barking to Tower Gateway has experienced an 83% increase in cyclists since the first lids of blue paint were popped open.

For those used to competing with drivers on busy London roads, the pace on Cycle Superhighway 3 can feel frustratingly slow. The narrow size of the lane throughout a large part of the route means that overtaking is risky. There’s also an increased danger of pedestrians veering in to the blue path. This combined with an influx of less experienced cyclists has caused some to question whether they’d be better off along the busy main road.

So is Cycle Superhighway 3 a victim of it’s own success or an example of the sort of infrastructure we should be aiming for?

Cyclists at CS3 traffic lights

I’d tend to lean towards the latter camp. I believe Cycle Superhighway 3 brings something that was much needed along this part of London. An easy route to follow that feels safer. In a survey by TfL, the figures paint a positive picture. 80% of respondents agreed that the Cycle Superhighways improve safety for cyclists and 78% said that the Superhighway has improved predictability and reliability of journey’s.

Cycle Superhighway 3 offers segregated infrastructure along central London parts of the route. This means you won’t find cars parked in the blue lane and buses that you have to manoeuvre around in to busy traffic. In all, riding along Cycle Superhighway 3 is a more pleasant experience. This is more than can be said of other Cycle Superhighway routes.

However, that’s not to say that everything is perfect. A couple of sections along the route are confusing and awkward to navigate. The planners seemed to have opted for the easy route out as opposed to building a more direct solution that would perhaps impact the number of parking spaces or require a more drastic road redesign. In particular, this is noticeable as you reach Westferry and only gets worse towards East India. Why exactly cyclists are directed on to a road blocked by a security barrier is something only an official could explain.

The ultimate message that should be taken away is that if segregated infrastructure is built, even if it’s not perfect, then the cyclists will come. Now that TfL has the figures to support that, it will be interesting to observe the next set of Cycle Superhighways taking shape.

In 2013 we’ll see four new superhighways completed. CS5 will take cyclists from Lewisham to Victoria. CS9 from Hounslow to Hyde Park. CS11 from West Hampstead to Marylebone. CS12 from Muswell Hill to Angel.

Do you regularly ride Cycle Superhighway 3? What is your experience?

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40 Responses to Cycle Superhighway 3: A victim of its own success?

  1. Paul Draper 07/06/2012 at 12:25 pm #

    I gave up on CS3 as it was very slow and I felt the amount of sideroads having priority over it was far to high. There really isn’t enough room for the number of cyclists who want to race along it. Plus I’ve had that barrier down on my head! I prefer CS2 after cycling up the Greenway – it’s much more direct and roomy even though it shares the roadway.

  2. AdamS 07/06/2012 at 1:21 pm #

    The section of CS3 that I have ridden is certainly a better example of a good cycle route than the dreadful CS7. Ok it’s not perfect and is pretty slow in rush hour, but for London it ain’t ‘alf bad.

    • Jo 10/10/2012 at 1:00 pm #

      Just saw this article, I am a new cyclist and I use CS7, totally agree its dreadful, the pot holes are something else. Especially around Kennington.

  3. Alastair 07/06/2012 at 1:36 pm #

    I use some of CS8 every day. It’s not perfect, but it is a big improvement and has led to more cyclists. I hope more cyclists will lead to bigger improvements, which will lead to more cyclists, which will lead…

    You get the idea. They are a good start.

  4. Jim 07/06/2012 at 1:40 pm #

    As far as I know TfL have no intention of segregating any future superhighways, notwithstanding the Mayor’s apparent commitment to ‘Go Dutch’. If anyone knows otherwise I’d be interested to hear more.

  5. Kerena 07/06/2012 at 1:45 pm #

    I’ve been using CS3 a lot lately – or at least the stretch from Limehouse Marina to Tower Hill. It is always busy & sometimes there are frustratingly slow cyclists, but generally it feels pretty safe (although to be fair, this is more to do with the stretch of road it runs down & not to do with the blue paint!). The crossings can be a bit of a long wait, but generally I find it a lot better than CS2 which is my other (faster) alternative!

  6. Kat 07/06/2012 at 1:47 pm #

    I cycle CS3 between Sutton St and Tower Hill on my daily commute. It does get very crowded, especially after a run of warm, dry days. Along this stretch, over-taking is always pretty easy, and you only really feel the crowd at the junctions. I have occasionally missed the green after waiting at the back of the queue of cyclists at the lights.

    Pedestrians stepping into the road isn’t that great a problem during rush hours anymore – I think people who regularly use that route must’ve got used to the fact they can’t navigate with their ears.

    Despite the busy route, I feel *so* much safer up on a raised level than down on the road. It keeps motorbikes out of the lanes, for one!

  7. Scott van Looy 07/06/2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Does everyone have amnesia?
    The good bits of CS3 (off road segregated stuff down cable street, own lights at Cannon St Road etc) were all in place before Boris painted them blue. The bad and confusing bits tacked on (wrong way up a one-way street, mysterious disappearing bits and bobs) were simply added later. I’d say about 50% of CS3 existed previous to the rebranding and that is why CS3 is better than the others, because it built on a very good cycle path that already existed…

    • AdamS 07/06/2012 at 2:45 pm #

      Q:Does everyone have amnesia?

      Yes generally I do, but having never cycled the route before it was CS3 I think I can be excused this time around. What were we talking about again?

    • Martin 16/06/2012 at 11:07 am #

      Long Live LCN+

    • Ara 09/02/2013 at 9:26 pm #

      Good point to remember. And Cable street end had space of whole traffic lane to design from.

  8. Massimo 07/06/2012 at 3:53 pm #

    I make a point of not using the CS3. The quality of the the path as you go under the A406 roundabout is terrible. It is unkept and you generally have to be very careful going round the bends. This is heightended in wet weather

    The Cable Street area can be very busy and a fair few cyclists unfortunately seem to lack awareness skills.

    I have no problem using Barking Road, East India Dock Road and Commercal Road. A fair proportion of the roads have bus lanes and even in the rush hour the roads are okay to cycle along (the Limehouse Link entry demands a bit more caution).

  9. Simon 07/06/2012 at 4:40 pm #

    I use CS3 Most days between Canary Wharf and Tower Hill, the cyclists are much more dangerous than any bus. People overtaking without due care and attention, i am suprised there aren’t more head on smashes, never feel confident to go above 15mph on there.

  10. Kenny 07/06/2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I think this post was prompted by an email I sent Andreas last week after being rear ended by another (experienced) cyclist on CS3 after I had to pull up due to a group of cyclists stopping in front of me. I don’t know why they stopped, it was either a pedestrian or someone with a pram straying onto the blue strip, but the guy behind was looking further ahead and didn’t see us all stopping. I was ok but he suffered some bloody scrapes and a few bumps. Just before this I was almost driven off the road by a girl on a Boris bike fastening the strap on her sandal as she wobbled all over the place. I’ve been cycling this route as part of my commute between North Woolwich and Covent Garden long before it was painted blue and find it’s just become totally congested during peak times. I’d rather do it at 7.00am or just after 9.00 if I can manage it. There is a real mixed bag of abilities and some at both ends of the scale are making it dangerous for others. The boy racers among us need to slow down, and the wibbley wobblies need to be more aware of other cyclists around them and to stop queue jumping at the lights. If you’re wearing a pair of flip flops on your Boris bike, pushing right to the front at the crossings is only going to really piss people off and make it more dangerous as the people you’ve just pushed in front of want to pass you. Do they do that in the supermarket?

    CS3 as a whole is pretty pants and very poorly designed once you get beyond Wapping. Poplar is very poor and East India worse although that’s where I leave it and follow the Thames. Did they really pay £13 million for this? Still thinking it would be better on The Highway…

    • Andreas 07/06/2012 at 9:32 pm #

      It was Kenny – been interesting to head from other readers that agree with your points.

  11. PaulM 07/06/2012 at 5:43 pm #

    I have never ridden CS3 but I used to ride regularly on the route which preceded it, from Tower Gateway to Canary Wharf via Cable St and Narrow St. It was at the time moderately well used but not greatly congested – the blue paint and publicity must be responsible for that.

    It was however, on that part of what is now CS3, a fairly well thought out facility. Sure, it is a bit narrow and it yields to side streets along cable street (on traffic lights which also apply to the cars runnning parallel) but if you are not in a tearing rush – if, for example, you are travelling between your office sites in a suit and need to keep fresh so you don’t drive all your colleagues away when you meet them – it worked fairly well.

    The comments do highlight a problem for cyclists which motorists in this country, and I suspect cyclists in the Netherlands or Denmark, don’t have. The spectrum of cycling proficiency and behaviour is cavernously wide. While all (OK, most) drivers young or old, tyro or experienced, will travel at much the same speed and with comparable assurance, on bikes children and older people – and, yes, men in suits – will inevitably be much slower than “vehicular” road-warriors. Because you don’t have to take lessons and pass a test, there will be wide variations in skill or experience too. Accomodating them all on any cycle path is going to be difficult. In the Netherlands, perhaps they just don’t have vehicular cyclists, or perhaps the paths are wide enough to permit easy overtaking. I doubt we will get to that point here any time soon, even if it should remain a long-term goal, and meanwhile it is probably better if the fast & furious vehcular cyclist, copy of Franklin in hand, stays on the road proper.

  12. Iain 07/06/2012 at 8:34 pm #

    When it’s not raining, CS3 from Tower to Poplar is the final leg of my ride to work or the warm up on the return. At 6 am it’s not too busy [although having to wait for nothing on three phases of lights is rather frustrating] At 3pm I have more trouble with dithering cycle couriers than Boris bikes! Yes there’s speed differentials but it’s not rocket science, a wobbly Boris [do they actually have the ability to move in straight lines?] is easy to see ahead, ease off and position yourself to see past, overtaking when you’re on a wider bit and there’s no one coming the other way! Oh, and it would be nice is people obeyed the zebras [and pressed the button at the various lights!] The contraflow lane is good, sad to say I have more issues with cyclists salmoning it than motorists looking the wrong way when pulling out… I did try to follow it beyond East india but gave up as it just seemed to peter out at a roundabout [and it was busy enough on a Sunday morning to put mme off exploring further]

    What i do know from my lengthy commute by bike [on those rare occassions I do it by bike thanks to this ongoing drought] is that I can ride like Wiggins or Miss Hubbard, climb the hills like Andy Schleck or Cav etc and it still takes around the same time. I lose more time at the Shadwell lolipop lady than behind wiggling Boris’ [borii?] bikes. None of like impatient motorists in a rusgh to get to the queue squeezing past, so remember that when you’re elbowing your way along the lane. Oh and if someone passes you and stops at the white line by the lights, don’t pass them and stop where you can’t see them change!

    • Owen 14/06/2012 at 3:01 pm #

      Your last comment is spot on – one of my biggest head-scratchers as a cyclist. Guys! You’re not giving yourself an advantage if you stop three metres further ahead but then have no idea when the lights go green. I just love waiting and overtaking the dopes as they stare about themselves blankly.

  13. Adam Edwards 07/06/2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Now what we want to hear from the Mayor is this:

    “Following the stuning success of my cycling superhighways we will of course be smoothing the flow for cyclists and taking lanes from cars, as car use is going down.”

    Likely?

    Adam

    • Andreas 08/06/2012 at 7:47 am #

      Wishful thinking! Though from some of the quotes Boris drops about cycling, I wouldn’t be too surprised!

  14. carolyn 08/06/2012 at 8:56 am #

    As pointed out in previous replies the CS3 along Cable Street was a dedicated cycle lane before it became part of CS3, it just changed to blue. However, since becoming part of CS3 it has constantly had various roadworks to disrupt easy access and once found it used for parking funeral cars.

  15. Coallers 08/06/2012 at 10:22 am #

    Like a few people commenting, I used the Cable Street bike lane before it was rebranded. If you’re not in a rush it’s great. Tower Hamlets seem to treat sweeping CS3 as a priority. However, the stop lines that some local idiot painted on a junction with Cable Street still haven’t been removed.

    The issue with people jumping the queue at the lights is an odd one. It’s easy to generalise but my experience is that it is ‘new’ cyclists who do it. They then start off with the acceleration of a narrow boat and wonder why the regulars on road bikes are zipping past them tutting.

    Before the bike lane was installed much of Cable Street had a very broad footpath and was ideal for the change. On other streets we could make it one way and have the other lane dedicated to a wide protected bike lane.

  16. Steve H 08/06/2012 at 11:48 am #

    I’ve started cycling from Ewell West (Epsom) to Kings Cross and use the CS7 from Colliers Wood up to Elephant and Castle on the way in.

    Although it has its problems – such as to many traffic lights, buses and taxis occasionally blocking the way and some nutter cyclists – I feel much safer on it than the other parts of my journey, especially from Morden to Colliers Wood; where there are no official bike lanes on the main roads and on the return journey a minority of drivers seem to be competing to see how close they can get to me without knocking me off. The ride up from Morden towards Cheam isn’t that much better other than the road is a bit wider.

    So I’m grateful that the CS7 exists. It gets very busy too, but there is a feeling of safety in numbers after being what feels like a lone cyclist on a narrow strip of road elsewhere.

  17. A Smith 08/06/2012 at 12:45 pm #

    I used it for a long while before giving up and joining the lorries on the main road. Although there is a lot of good in the path and that is reflected in its popularity I decided it was just too dangerous for me.
    1. Unclear prorities on side turnings are a problem
    2. Regular pedestrians wandering onto the path because to them it looks like part of the pavement.
    3. The path is too narrow for two way traffic. Because of the range of different speeds on bikes (all the way from Boris to 30mph) overtaking is inevitable and can’t be done safely.

    What is really needs is a lane on the other side of the road.

  18. Adrian 08/06/2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Given up on CS3 I’m afraid. Just too congested and too close to pedestrians to make me feel safe. My only major London spill happened on CS3 when a child deliberately pushed a metal bar into my wheel. Ouch. Now cycle into London along Mile End Road/Whitechapel road which (because buses are slow) gives me bus lane generally to myself. Feels safer – though not sure if that would be objectively true or not.

    • Louise 13/06/2012 at 3:12 pm #

      I always felt that the CS2 (Bow to Aldgate along Mile End Road/Whitechapel) was less frustrating and therefore safer comparable to the CS3, but in the last couple of weeks I had a couple of nasty incidents at the end of the CS2 at Aldgate. Both have involved taxi drivers trying to undertake other cars, both not appearing to realise that undertaking is illegal and that cyclists have a right to be in the road. I think I’m going to swallow my irritation with cyclists who don’t realise that going through a red light in order to pass cyclists who have just overtaken you is extremely frustrating, and brave the CS3 from now on.

    • Ara 09/02/2013 at 9:30 pm #

      To feel safer on an A road bus lane is not a good sign

  19. Goonz 08/06/2012 at 12:57 pm #

    This is the first time I am hearing of CS3, I cycle along Barking Road, East India Dock Road and Commercal Road all the way into St Pauls and its a really easy and nice route. There is a bus lane pretty much the full distance and this is hardly ever congested.

    The only part you have to be careful with is the entrance to the Rotherhithe tunnel.

    I dont think I could handle cycling on a narrow path with so many other cyclists as I tend to cycle at a reasonable pace and like to dodge manholes and potholes so would probably be a nuisance to other cyclists as well as not being able to handle being held up by other slower cyclists.

    Better for both this way.

  20. Philip 08/06/2012 at 4:48 pm #

    I used Cable Street once and was so frightened by the attitude of the other cyclists that I used the Highway. The car, coach and lorry drivers were so much more considerate than the cyclists and the fact that 4 wheeled traffic moves so slowly along there in the evening meant that I got to Limehouse quicker than by using Cable Street.

  21. Dave 10/06/2012 at 7:52 am #

    I dont have a CS on my commute yet but I am coming to termswith life as it is
    Y

  22. Paul 11/06/2012 at 10:51 am #

    On my first time of using I reported the traffic lights at the junction with B108 as faulty. On my next try I saw the push buttons. How may junctions require highway users to push a button when going straight ahead on the major road ?

  23. Jason 11/06/2012 at 1:50 pm #

    I’ve been using the CS3 for around 3 months now and to be honest, I’ve got no major issues with it.

    From Barking to Canning Town it basically runs alongside a 6 lane (both directions) dual carriageway (A13) on the pavement bit, and though it does have plenty of side junctions and a few traffic lights, compared to central London it’s a breeze. If anything it’s a bit boring and due to it being open you do feel the wind compared to in town. It can be a bit bumpy and under maintained but nothing too serious in my opinion.

    Then you hit Canning Town and it starts to get interesting. I’ve never ridden through Canning Town without there being the never ending roadworks and diversions but I hope when it’s finished they wont leave it in the mess it is now. After Canning Town you have a staggeringly bad section that runs through the Tower Hamlets Council HQ – where the security gate is. There’s no signposting or blue paint apart from a half dozen tiny blue squares on a bit of pavement – for people new to this route it’s pretty appalling – seriously how could they leave such a gap in there??

    Anyway once you know the way through it it’s ok and you hit Poplar High Street then Limehouse. I’ve got no problems here even as a new cyclist of 3 months (or one month when I first went though here) The roads are relatively quiet and it’s pretty easy…then you hit Cable Street :)

    It’s an unholy mix of fast and slow riders, is too narrow for the numbers of riders now using it but it’s not a major issue in reality if you chill a bit. Yes it could be better, but for those of us who use the whole length of the CS3 and far beyond it’s not a bad stretch. The only thing that winds me up are the slower than walking pace boris bikers who hold you up then jump red lights after you’ve stopped at them thus forcing you to overtake them again (and again). Luckily it’s only two sets of lights where this can happen, so could be worse. The lights are damn slow to change though.

    Overall I’m grateful for the confidence the CS3 gave me when I first started cycling 3 months back (training for the London to Brighton ride this Sunday). It gave me an easy introduction to cycling on the road and now I do my 36 mile round trip commute a few times a week using all of it.

    I gotta be honest though…my ride doesn’t get interesting until I hit Tower Hill…I actually prefer riding on the road to the (blue painted) pavement and seem to go faster. Not sure if it’s because the roads I use are less bumpy or less windy but I like ‘em more :)

    So CS3 = great for new cyclists, bit boring and possibly slow for more experienced ones (joking, it’s far better than having nothing there and the lack of traffic lights on the A13 bit make my commute possible)

    • Mark 21/06/2012 at 10:59 am #

      I like Jason cycle the entire length of CS3 – from Barking via Tower Hill, then through central London and out to Shepherds Bush.

      The section from Barking to Canning Town is good (although very boring and annoyingly windy) – definitely better than the Barking Road route. Some trimming of the bushes around the A13/A406 would be good at the moment! Canning Town seems to be constantly dug up, which is frustrating but I am sure it will be better when completed.

      I however then skip off the CS3 route and opt to continue down the A13 to Limehouse as it is a straighter and faster route (I do return home the Poplar High St route though).

      I then rejoin the CS3 at Cable Street. When the weather is good it can be very busy down there. Slow and wobbly cyclists, a mix of people who will/will not stop at lights/juctions, cars that may or may not pull out of side roads in front of you (I am still usure of who actually has priority) and pedestrians who may step out in front of you at any point. In an ideal world it would be twice as wide, but that isn’t really possible.

      All that said, the section is OK. If you want to average over 20mph, it just isn’t possible. But there are few places in Central London that is possible!

      My bigger frustrations are The Mall and Constitution Hill constantly being closed and Hyde Park.

      Hyde Park is much more dangerous than Cable St – I have seen more accidents there than anywhere else – there are a lot of cyclists that go through there and pedestrians that seem completely oblivious! They need to mark specific cycle lanes on the cyclist designated routes!

  24. Si 14/06/2012 at 10:26 pm #

    Once you get east of Westferry it really quietens down, does something unusual for a cycle track in that it goes direct to Barking and is off the mainroad…

    whllst riding along the side of the A13 is one of the less visually pleasing cycle routes, it makes up for it by being direct without the pointless detours many cycle routes take..

    agreed cable street is a pain if you want to do a reasonable speed…

  25. Leftback 17/06/2012 at 7:11 pm #

    The traffic lights should have a much longer time to let cyclists through. Its a cycle way so give priority to the cyclists.
    The thing I don’t like most is the zebras. I wouldn’t like to be a pedestrian using them, so maybe they should make priority really clear and make them pelicans or whatever they are called? Or remove them – at least the pedestrian knows the cyclist definitely is not going to stop. Most don’t anyway.

  26. Mark 03/09/2012 at 11:31 am #

    The CS3 is a step in the right direction, however it has some issues along the Tower Hill to Canary Wharf section:
    o It is too narrow for the amount of traffic. There are going to be head on crashes, it’s a matter of time.
    o The side roads give way points are not consistent, they should all be the same. Being that it is a cycle superhighway then the side roads should have to give way to the cyclists in all cases, not just in most cases.
    o The signage on the side roads is inadequate – a motorist approaching the cycle lane MAY NOT KNOW IT IS THERE and will assume that they have to stop at the actual road. To get them all to stop 2 – 3m earlier will require more significant signs and paint.
    o The paint that is there is fading.
    o Not all motorists know they are turning across a cycle lane when they turn from cable street into a side road, so assume they have right of way. There have been a number of accidents (I saw one last Friday) and many close calls. There needs to be better signage about this too. Something like “Turning traffic give way to bikes”.
    o The cross over from riding on the left to riding on the right around East India Dock area is scary. Two cyclists approaching at 20mph each trying to figure when to cross is plain scary. Someone will get it wrong, most likely someone using it for the first time. Make it two way for cyclists (ie ride on the left) and then let normal road rules apply when turning into a side road to the bridge. Experienced cyclists cruise far to fast (20mph and faster) for one off rules, especially changing such basic rules such as riding on the left. It’s not done for cars for very good reason, the same applies to bikes.

  27. Chris 29/11/2012 at 11:20 am #

    I haven’t ridden on CS3, but if the photos in this article are typical of the route, surely it has to be near enough useless in peak hours?

    My ride to work is just over 15 miles each way, half of which is on CS7 between Colliers Wood and Elephant & Castle. Around Kennington, Stockwell and the Oval, there will regularly be 30+ cyclists stopped at each set of lights. That’s 30+ cyclists who all cycle at widely varying speeds.

    If CS7 had the tiny little strips of blue shown in these photos, it would be utterly useless to anyone needing to use it for more than a few hundred yards, as it would just become an endless procession of the slowest-moving cyclists (who at present can pootle along without holding anyone else up) delaying ever increasing bunches of faster riders behind them.

    I’m far from the fastest of cyclists. I probably get overtaken by 2 people for every 3 that I overtake. I’m average. At my average pace, my ride takes me around 75 minutes each way, which is perfectly acceptable. Whilst I’d love to have a route which removes some of the 80+ sets of traffic lights I go through every day, if that came at the cost of being stuck behind the slowest cyclists on CS7 because there’s no room to overtake them, it would make my journey completely unrealistic and force me on to less safe roads or, God forbid, back on to the train.

    In my view, the biggest threat to the future of cycling in London is the people promoting this daft segregated single width bike lanes which offer nowhere to overtake other cyclists, presumably because they lack the confidence to negotiate buses in a bus lane.

  28. Si 29/11/2012 at 11:38 am #

    From Chris post above
    <>

    Yep this is one reason that Going Dutch in is perhaps not the way to go in London – if those 30+ people with in NL they would all pretty much be on the same type of bike, similar ability, generally slower and travelling less distance. London cyclists are far more varied in ability, distance, speed etc

    Si

    • Ara 09/02/2013 at 9:37 pm #

      And many Londoners dress for a bike ride and change clothes at work – NL cyclists often travel dressed for work

  29. Si 29/11/2012 at 11:47 am #

    was refering to this snippet from Chris’s post

    there will regularly be 30+ cyclists stopped at each set of lights. That’s 30+ cyclists who all cycle at widely varying speeds.

    got commented out above.

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