Two new cycling superhighways planned for London

A whole road, just for bikes. Image: Greater London Authority.

As one door closes, another opens. In the same week as his plans for an airport island on the Thames were rejected by the Airports Commission, London mayor Boris Johnson has unveiled plans for two new cycling superhighways across London. Subject to public consultation, they could be completed as soon as May 2016.

The two routes, according to the Greater London Authority, would be the longest cycling superhighways in Europe. One will run for three miles, from King’s cross in the north to Elephant & Castle in the south; the other will run for 18 miles from Barking in the east to Acton in the west, swallowing the existing Cycle SuperHighway 3 from the City through Docklands, and taking over an entire lane of the Westway flyover. (We’ve included full route maps at the bottom of this post.) Once completed, these two will make Copenhagen’s 220m orange superhighway look like a tiny village lane by comparison.

So how did TfL figure out where to put 21 miles of cycle-only highways? For a start, planners found roads where traffic had fallen by around 25 per cent over the past decade. Then, they narrowed it down to roads with little residential parking and where TfL buses don’t currently operate. All this should minimise the impact of the new routes on existing road users.

The proposals also include fixes for other problematic sections of London’s cycling network. The segregated routes should give cyclists a safe path through dangerous junctions such as Tower Hill, Blackfriars, Parliament Square and Lancaster Gate (no mention of segregated lanes at other cycle injury hotspots at King’s Cross or Elephant, though).

There’s also a buried reference to improving the CS2 route to Stratford. Let’s hope this includes upgrading the cycle route through Bow interchange, a notoriously dangerous junction which is less “segregated bike lane” and more “a narrow blue stripe on road which stops mid-roundabout”:

This week’s plan isn’t just good news for bikes, either. It also includes the introduction of bus priority lanes, as well as new pedestrian areas at Parliament Square and Victoria Embankment.  Here’s a mock-up of what the new layout at Victoria Embankment would look like:  

So far, the plans seem to be going down well with cyclists, mostly because they actually offer fully segregated routes. Ashok Sinha, chief executive of the London Cycling Campaign, said:

“LCC is really pleased to see commitments to substantially reallocate carriageway space to ensure protected space for cycling – particularly on the east-west superhighway, where cyclists regularly make up almost half of traffic during the morning peak.”

He added, however, that the group has concerns about the width of the track and the safety of some junctions.

The new routes don’t cover the entire city, of course. Let’s hope this is a start, and not a conclusion.

Here’s a map of the East-West route:

And the North South route (the intersection with the E-W route is marked in pale blue stripes):

 
 
 
 

London Overground is experimenting with telling passengers which bits of the next train is busiest

There must be a better way than this: Tokyo during a 1972 rail strike. Image: Getty.

One of the most fun things to do, for those who enjoy claustrophobia and other people’s body odour, is to attempt to use a mass transit system at rush hour.

Travelling on the Central line at 6pm, for example, gives you all sorts of exciting opportunities to share a single square inch of floor space with a fellow passenger, all the while becoming intimately familiar with any personal hygiene problems they may happen to have. On some, particularly lovely days you might find you don’t even get to do this for ages, but first have to spend some exciting time enjoying it as a spectator sport, before actually being able to pack yourself into one unoccupied cranny of a train.

But fear not! Transport for London has come up with a plan: telling passengers which bits of the train have the most space on them.

Here’s the science part. Many trains include automatic train weighing systems, which do exactly what the name suggests: monitoring the downward force on any individual wheel axis in real time. The data thus gathered is used mostly to optimise the braking.

But it also serves as a good proxy for how crowded a particular carriage is. All TfL are doing here is translating that into real time information visible to passengers. It’s using the standard, traffic light colour system: green means go, yellow means “hmm, maybe not”, red means “oh dear god, no, no, no”. 

All this will, hopefully, encourage some to move down the platform to where the train is less crowded, spreading the load and reducing the number of passengers who find themselves becoming overly familiar with a total stranger’s armpit.

The system is not unique, even in London: trains on the Thameslink route, a heavy-rail line which runs north/south across town (past CityMetric towers!) has a similar system visible to passengers on board. And so far it’s only a trial, at a single station, Shoreditch High Street.

But you can, if you’re so minded, watch the information update every few seconds or so here.

Can’t see why you would, but I can’t see why I would either, and that hasn’t stopped me spending much of the day watching it, so, knock yourselves out.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.