Why is Hackney blocking Cycle Superhighway 1 on the A10?

In practice Hackney prioritises bus transport over cycling. Is that such a bad thing?

When I interviewed Hackney’s cycling boss Feryal Dermici last week, she told me the borough was blocking TfL’s preferred route for Cycle Superhighway 1, which goes right down the A10, from Tottenham, through Stoke Newington, and down Kingsland Road.

She gave three main objections: She didn’t want a cycle lane running around the gyratory system, a segregated lane could mean narrowing footpaths, or it could mean removing bus lanes.

Looking at these objections:  A one-way gyratory shouldn’t be a problem for a segregated cycle lane; a design could just ignore the gyratory and go contra-flow. Contra flows can be found all over London – this is a bad excuse.

When it comes to narrowing footpaths: there are parts of the A10 with absolutely huge footpaths that could probably comfortably accommodate a segregated path, as this picture from Hackney Cyclist illustrates.

A Dutch cycle track compared with part of the A10 – from Hackney Cyclist’s Twitter

But at the same time, there are also areas of the A10 where the pavements are fairly narrow, and, if the council is (reasonably) prioritising pedestrians over other forms of transport, as their hierarchy of provision suggests, they probably shouldn’t touch them. (See below)

Image from Google Streetview

Image from Google Streetview

That doesn’t mean there isn’t space – those pavements are, arguably, only narrow because of huge carriageways –for most of the road there are two general traffic lanes, and two bus lanes. Which brings us to Feryal’s last objection – removing those bus lanes.

If the council was strictly following its hierarchy of provision, which puts cycling below pedestrians, but above public transport, it would have no problem removing the bus lanes.

Should they put bikes over buses, though? It’s not as clear cut as it might seem.

As anyone who has spent time in Hackney will know, it sometimes feels like the desert of tube stations. There are very few, and the area is underserved. Due to this, Hackney residents are more reliant on buses than in other parts of London.

One way?

One option that immediately appeals to me is making the road one way for general traffic, keeping the bus lanes, and using the resulting space for cycling. Penalising private motorists at the expense of cyclists is a no-brainer, surely? I’m not entirely convinced this is a bad idea, but in the context of Hackney’s overall strategy for their roads, there are problems with it.

The borough’s entire cycling strategy is about making its quiet roads very quiet – they have made a name for themselves as the home of filtered permeability, and have done this largely by steering motor traffic towards main roads and away from rat-runs.

Yes, a good chunk of the A10’s traffic would simply evaporate as driving became harder and people switched to other options; but realistically not all of it would, and you’d end up with a significant part of that traffic rat-running through the residential back-streets around the A10: hardly ideal.

Not the last word

So, actually, yes, I can understand why Hackney is resisting cycle tracks on the A10. But there is hope…

Last year, the Department for Transport announced that it was handing the railway lines from Liverpool Street  to Chingford and Chushunt to TfL, to use for the London Overground. On the map, these lines look like this, next to the A10.

The A10, highlighted in Green, and the soon-to-be Overground line, in Orange - from Google Maps

The A10, highlighted in Green, and the soon-to-be Overground line, in Orange – from Google Maps

Yes, those lines are already there, but the Overground will bring a good service to them, and affordable fares. When TfL turned the Silverlink metro and East London Line into the first parts of the London Overground, ridership increased by 280%. Expect a similar thing to happen with these lines.

Part of the reason will be affordability: National Rail fares are currently more expensive than bus fares: an Oyster single on a bus is now £1.45 at any time. But an on-peak Zone 2 fare on the Overground is £1.60, or £1.30 off-peak, – with a Young Person’s Railcard it is still £1.00 – the Overground usually costs about the same as the bus, but sometimes can be nearly 50% cheaper.

Once these lines go Overground from 2015 onwards, the bus service going up the A10 will inevitably become much less crucial: cheaper, faster, higher capacity alternative will be available for people who want to go from Hackney town to Stoke Newington, Seven Sisters, Stamford Hill, or Tottenham. A new footbridge between Hackney Downs and Hackney Central will also give Dalston, Hackney Wick and Homerton easy access to these lines.

The new Overground lines won’t replace all journeys, but will definitely take a lot of the strain off the buses. Could it be enough to tip the balance against bus priority and in favour of better cycling provision? Hackney should definitely think about it.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

12 Responses to Why is Hackney blocking Cycle Superhighway 1 on the A10?

  1. Sophie 03/03/2014 at 3:41 pm #

    People won’t be abandoning Hackney buses in favour of those overground trains unless they make a lot more of those stations accessible

  2. Jude 03/03/2014 at 6:52 pm #

    The parade of shops in your photo is pretty much round the corner from my house, so I know it very well. That photo is slightly misleading, as the the pavement is considerably wider than it looks in the photo. The road at that point is very wide – four lanes, including a bus lane each way. There’s also a parking lay-by on the other side of the road, and an island in the middle of the road. Space clearly isn’t an issue here – there is room for a cycle lane, *if* they wanted to put one in.

    A better example of how they would struggle to fit a cycle path into the A10 would be the centre of Dalston. The road is narrower here, without a separate bus lane in both directions even though there are more buses, and there’s more traffic and a lot more people on the pavement.

    • Jon Stone 03/03/2014 at 6:57 pm #

      I agree with this, I did note that four lanes of traffic were what was taking up most of the space.

      • Paul 07/03/2014 at 10:56 am #

        Hi Jon, The crucial thing is you didn’t mention the lay-by & the central traffic island. The photo you selected also has the normal clutter of badly sited pavement furniture that makes the lot of a pedestrian seem very difficult. Have you got a better photo that shows the full picture . . . ?

  3. Mik 04/03/2014 at 10:03 am #

    I thought the intention was to put a dedicated cycle lane pretty much parallel to the A10 rather than just not have one at all. Isn’t that a reasonable idea?

    My only thought is that cyclist who didn’t know the area might not realise it was a usable alternative. I’ll rarely ‘chance’ bike route signs over main roads if I don’t know the area because I’ve had poor experiences of them (either they put you in the middle of anonymous streets and leave you there when the signs run out, or the cycle provision is just poor) but if I could trust them as a usable alternative (like the superhighway down Cable St) then I’d use them…

    • Jon Stone 04/03/2014 at 2:04 pm #

      Difficult to say – she said it would be a Quietway. That could mean a road closed to traffic, or it could be something less impressive. If you look at the map of the roads around that area it definitely won’t be very direct, though.

  4. Alan Moore 05/03/2014 at 10:44 am #

    For a second there I thought you were going to suggest using the train line as a cycle path instead.. :-)

    • Andreas 07/03/2014 at 3:14 am #

      When I first saw the picture of the map – I thought the same thing :)

      • Adrian Harper 07/03/2014 at 10:49 am #

        Now that would be cool – I wonder whether it would be feasible to run cycle paths on the border of some train lines ? Probably not ones with fast inter-city trains on them, but with some form of physical separation, it should be practical ?

        Anyway, for the A10 / Kingsland Road, most of it is already suitable for a super-highway. The tight stretches are from Stoke Newington Church Street to Evering Road, and Sandringham Road to Dalston Junction. You could run the cycle highway down parallel streets easily enough on both these areas. Boleyn Road just needs a cycle crossing over Balls Pond Road and a filter onto Kingsland Road from Bentley Road.

  5. Paul King 07/03/2014 at 5:11 pm #

    Regarding train capacity on the Cheshunt – Liverpool Street line: TFL will have to lay on a lot more trains or carriages to increase the capacity on this line, as it is frequently over-subsrcribed in the rush hours. It has a poor reliability at times (especially on Friday evenings when I’ve struggled to get home sometimes) and is not highly regarded as a service. Maybe some might disagree with that, but I think TFL will have problems improving and integrating an Overground service with the Stansted Express and other services going further into the sticks using the same line.

  6. David Sumray 21/05/2014 at 8:46 pm #

    I should be grateful (as a non-driver, non-cyclist) for any comments about a cycle superhighway along the Finchley Road (where I live) large parts of which are residential, e.g. from Hendon Way to Arkwright Road going South. It seems to me that the only sensible way is to have a buffered highway exclusively for cyclists and therefore reduce traffic lanes from six to four. We are red routes for buses each way, and I was interested in the arrangements for buses from Bow to Stratford – making a little island for the bus stops and narrowing the superhighway (from my experience as a bus user, drivers often draw up before or after a stop, so I don’t know if the Bow-Stratford islands are 100% successful). I’m also thinking of elderly and visually disabled pedestrians. Any thoughts/suggestions would be very welcome – it’s something we’re looking at as part of our Neighbourhood Forums, and we want to ensure that GLA gets it right. Swiss Cottage to Hendon Way is also going to be a route for HS2 construction traffic. To my amateur eyes, the cycle superhighways need to be re-thought so that they are as safe as possible, and I can only see that working if motor vehicle traffic is reduced and segregated. Thanks for any advice/comments/suggestions.

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