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?
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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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.