London’s tube map needs to rethink how it shows the Bank/Monument interchange

Bank station. Image: Getty.

The world is cold and dark and terrifying, and the British economy might be about to go off a cliff. So I’m retreating to my happy place: here is an unnecessarily detailed piece about the tube map.

Transport for London (TfL) is currently in the middle of rebuilding Bank station, its third busiest interchange, in a project it claims will increase its capacity by more than 40 per cent. The modernisation scheme will include two new lifts, two new moving walkways, 12 new escalators, and a whole new entrance to the station on Cannon Street.

There’ll also be a whole new stretch of tunnel for the Northern line, to allow for wider platforms. (Something similar happened in Angel in the early 1990s, which, if you were wondering, is why one platform is so incredibly wide.) You can’t really do this while trains run through – so the scheme will involve closing the entire branch for much of 2020, which I’m sure will be hilarious.

The proposed developments: note the layout of the lines, and the position of Cannon Street. Image: TfL.

What’s all this got to do with the tube map, I tell myself I can hear you ask in an attempt to convince myself I’m not wasting my life? Well, I’m very glad you asked.

Bank station, you’ll recall, isn’t just Bank station: it’s part of the same complex as Monument station, allowing interchange with the District and Circle lines, and TfL runs them as one. Historically, the map showed the two linked by an escalator, which at some point in the late 1980s I forced some tolerant relative or another to take me to. These days, it just shows up as an interchange.

The 1985 tube map. Note the escalator link. 

Here’s the thing, though: it’s often a rubbish interchange. The District and Circle platforms at Monument are an easy walk from the Northern or DLR ones, which run under King William Street; but they’re a bloody long way from the Central and Waterloo & City ones, which don’t.


For those, in fact, you’re actually better off changing at Cannon Street – which is, surprisingly, rather closer to Bank junction – and nipping over the road to the new Walbrook entrance to Bank station. It’s at street level, but it’s a much shorter walk.

Since that new entrance opened, indeed, this latter interchange is actually officially recognised as an Out-of-Station interchange, meaning the ticketing system recognises it as a single journey. But it’s not on the map, despite the fact apps like CityMapper will tell you to use it all the time: follow TfL signage, indeed, and you’re likely to use the Bank-Monument link instead, and spend an eternity trudging along underground, because the link isn’t actually an escalator, it’s an insanely long tunnel, and my childhood self was so disappointed.

Anyway: I’ve been using the Cannon Street interchange recently, and it’s pretty good. So it strikes me that the Bank rebuilding project is an excellent excuses to rethink how the map shows this entire area.

Here’s an extract from the amateur tube map produced by Paris-based designer Jug Cerović last year:

Image: Jug Cerović.

And here’s a very slight amendment to it:

Image: Jug Cerović/CityMetric.

Okay, it’s scrappy, but do you see what I’ve done there? It now suggests that, from Cannon Street, there’s a direct street level interchange to the Central and Waterloo & City lines; for the DLR and Northern, though, you’re still better off at Monument.

This won’t be right for everyone – some people will still prefer to stay below ground and avoid traffic, even if it’s the longer way around – but it gives a better sense of how the junction actually works.

TfL could even go further, perhaps, renaming the DLR and Northern line stations Bank/Monument to give a better sense of the geography – this would make sense on the new double-ended Elizabeth line stations, too – but I know in my heart of hearts I’m never winning that argument. The map, though, would be a relatively easy fix. So why not?

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites

 
 
 
 

Cycling on London’s Euston Road is still a terrifying experience

Cyclists on the Euston Road. Image: Jonn Elledge.

The New Road, which skirted the northern boundaries of London’s built up area, first opened in the 1750s. Originally, it was intended to link up outlying villages and provide a route to drive sheep and cows to the meat market at Smithfield without having to pass through the congested city centre. 

As with bypasses and ring roads the world over, however, it increasingly became congested in its own right. Today, you won’t often find livestock on the route, which is now Marylebone, Euston and City roads. But you will find up to six lanes of often stationary buses, cabs, and private vehicles. In a city whose centre is largely free of multi-lane highways, London’s northern ring road has long been the sort of abomination that you avoid at all costs.

But now, somewhat surprisingly, the road is seeing yet another new use. Earlier this week, the first phase of a temporary cycle lane opened on the Euston Road, the middle section of the route which runs for roughly a mile. As London rethinks roads throughout the city, this addition to the cycling map falls solidly into the category of streets that didn't seem like candidates for cycling before the pandemic.

It is, to be clear, temporary. That’s true of many of the Covid-led interventions that Transport for London is currently making, though those in the know will often quietly admit to hoping they end up being permanent. In this case, however, the agency genuinely seems to mean it: TfL emphasized in its press release that the road space is already being allocated for construction starting late next year and that "TfL will work with local boroughs to develop alternate routes along side streets" when the cycle lane is removed.

At lunchtime on Friday, I decided to try the lane for myself to understand what an unlikely, temporary cycle lane can accomplish. In this case it's clear that the presence of a lane only accomplishes so much. A few key things will still leave riders wanting:

It’s one way only. To be specific, eastbound. I found this out the hard way, after attempting to cycle the Euston Road westbound, under the naive impression that there was now a lane for me in which to do this. Neither I nor the traffic I unexpectedly found myself sharing space with enjoyed the experience. To be fair, London’s cycling commissioner Will Norman had shared this information on Twitter, but cyclists might find themselves inadvertently mixing with multiple lanes of much, much bigger vehicles.

It radically changes in width. At times the westbound route, which is separated from the motor traffic by upright posts, is perhaps a metre and a half wide. At others, such as immediately outside Euston station, it’s shared with buses and is suddenly four or five times that. This is slightly vexing.

It’s extremely short. The publicity for the new lane said it would connect up with other cycle routes on Hampstead Road and Judd Street (where Cycleway 6, the main north-south crosstown route, meets Euston Road). That’s a distance of roughly 925m. It actually runs from Gower Street to Ossulton Street, a distance of barely 670m. Not only does the reduced length mean it doesn’t quite connect to the rest of the network, it also means that the segregated space suddenly stops:

The junction between Euston Road and Ousslston Street, where the segregated lane suddenly, unexpectedly stops. Image: Jonn Elledge.

 

It’s for these reasons, perhaps, that the new lane is not yet seeing many users. Each time I cycled the length of it I saw only a handful of other cyclists (although that did include a man cycling with a child on a seat behind him – not something one would have expected on the Euston Road of the past).


Though I hesitate to mention this because it feeds into the car lobby’s agenda, it was also striking that the westbound traffic – the side of the road which had lost a lane to bikes – was significantly more congested than the eastbound. If the lane is extended, it could, counterintuitively, help, by removing the unexpected pinch points at which three lanes of cars suddenly have to squeeze into two.

There’s a distinctly unfinished air to the project – though, to be fair, it’s early days. The eastbound lane needs to be created from scratch; the westbound extended. At that point, it would hopefully be something TfL would be keen enough to talk about that cyclists start using it in greater numbers – and drivers get the message they should avoid the Euston Road.

The obvious explanation for why TfL is going to all this trouble is that TfL is in charge of the Euston Road, and so can do what it likes there. Building cycle lanes on side nearby roads means working with the boroughs, and that’s inevitably more difficult and time consuming.

But if the long-term plan is to push cyclists via side roads anyway, it’s questionable whether all this disruption is worth it. A segregated cycle lane that stops without warning and leaves you fighting for space with three lanes of buses, lorries, and cabs is a cycle lane that’s of no use at all.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.