Ever get frustrated by traffic in the capital? What’s the latest on the cycling superhighways? Tipper truck annoyance? The cycling commissioner for London, Andrew Gilligan, has been answering the most important questions from the BikeRadar community.
The journalist and ‘cycling czar’, who has been in the job since January 2013, responded on a wide range of issues, from the new cycling superhighways, to the existing lanes, to slippery street paint and taking bikes on trains.
We asked users from the Commuting Chat and Road General sections about the issues affecting their cycling in the Big Smoke. Here’s what Gilligan, who commutes 100 miles a week across London himself riding a Boardman 29er, had to say…
From The Rookie: The one question I would ask is about the questionable design of some of the existing super cycleways, especially at roundabouts, which have seen a number of accidents (some fatal) due to the fact that the cycleway routes the cyclist round the outside of traffic exiting creating dangerous crossing features. How on earth did that ever make it into ‘concrete’ and what is being done to prevent such poor planning in future?
AG (Andrew Gilligan): We’re going to construct new super highways that are fully segregated with cycle-separated junctions at traffic lights to avoid cyclists and motor vehicles coming into conflict. We’re also going to upgrade the most criticised sites of the existing super highways (such as CS2) to the same status, again with fully cycle-separated junctions.
From TGOTB/Medders: Why do so many cycle lanes have limited hours that end at 7pm, slap bang in the middle of the rush hour?
AG: I think we’re talking about bus lanes here. There are a handful of cycle lanes that are part time but most aren’t. It’s simply that the traffic is less after 7 o’clock, the local communities want to be able to park in front of their homes or in front of shops and so on. We’re going to do more and convert more of them to 24/7, however.
From Big Mat: What are you going to do about tipper trucks? The number of incidents involving them is beyond depressing.
AG: We’re doing something called the ‘Safer Lorry Scheme’. It’s a scheme to force any HGV in London – including tipper trucks, which are so far exempt from all safety rules – to fit sideguards and mirrors. The sideguards will make it harder for cyclists to be swept under the wheels and crushed.
From Davmaggs: What action is City Hall able to implement that would free up storage in public areas like stations – [for instance a] monthly clear-out of abandoned bikes?
AG: The mainline stations are owned not by us but by Network Rail. So it’s up to them what they do with abandoned bikes. But we’re working with Network Rail to create a massive great cycling hub at Waterloo station in the unused spaces under the platforms. The idea is to convert part of the vaults underneath into a cycle storage space.
From mroli: When the existing provision is so clearly inadequate, why are we trying to introduce new lanes?
AG: We’re upgrading some of the existing cycle lanes and we’re also upgrading a lot of the cycleways. The new quiet ways, which are the kind of backstreet routes, are going to be using existing LCN routes, but they’re going to be upgraded to make them better.
From Greg66 Tri v2.0: Perhaps you could ask Andrew, only slightly tongue in cheek, whether the people who come up with these urban cycling infrastructure plans actually ride their bikes to and from work, in the rush hour, every day along the routes they change?
AG: Well actually, you can tell from some of the facilities they’ve produced that they’ve never rode a bike in their lives. But I ride a bike [100 commuter miles a week], the mayor rides a bike, some of the people involved in the TfL also ride bikes and we look at every design from the point of view of a cyclist. [It] seems an absurd thing to say that it wasn’t done in the past – it wasn’t – but it’s being done now.
From redbikejohn: How do you propose to change drivers’ attitudes to cyclists so that they perceive a rider as a valid road user?
AG: I think most drivers in central and inner London are all right. I think driver behaviour has improved. I think you can see the difference in it between central and inner London and some parts of the country, going out to Surrey or something like that. It’s not that the drivers there are worse people, it’s just that they’re less used to cyclists. Central and inner London has huge numbers of cyclists on the roads now and the drivers have got used to them and have been sensitized to them. And obviously that’s not to say that we can’t do any more, but I think driver behaviour in central London is better than it was.
From redbikejohn/964Cup: Do you have any idea just how uncomfortable and dangerous a poor road surface can be to someone riding a non-suspended bike, [in other words] not a mountain bike but a road bike on skinny wheels?
AG: Re-surfacing is part of the new routes. Where the surface is inadequate, it will be remade.
From Levi-501/On_What: Why do they insist on painting the Cycle Super Highways with ‘slippery when wet’ paint?
AG: That’s not happening any more [laughs]. The paint is coming out and so that’s not going to happen any more.
From JZed: Have the traffic light sequences on CS2 been altered to slow everything down to a crawl on CS2 so that everything appears faster when the upgrades are complete?
AG: No, I don’t think so. I think the building works might be causing the slowing of traffic. We’re building it at the moment. There will be a permanent delay caused to traffic by CS2, as we said in the consultation, so we’re not going to slow down traffic any more than that.
From JZed: Why do bus lanes on CS2 end at left-hand turns allowing cars to dive in and try to undertake at speed?
AG: They’re not going to do that any more. The upgrade includes fully cycle-separated junctions at all the major junctions ensuring that traffic and cycling movements take place separately.
Transport for London
From JZed: What do you think about the composition of the TfL board and the recent outbursts of Brian Cooke against cyclists on Twitter?
AG: I know that there’s a lot of people been saying that I should have a place on the TfL board – or some cycling interest should have a place – but I think that’s to misunderstand how the board works. The rules of the board mean that those with an interest can’t actually speak on the subject that they have an interest on; for example, the taxi and private hire trades have representatives on the TfL board but they can’t actually speak about their industries on the board. The TfL, obviously, are the final deciding authority on schemes but the details of schemes are worked out in other places entirely. The board itself is a high level authorising unit. Basically I think that I have more influence on cycling provision through not being on the board than through being on it.
From JZed/On_what: Do you think bus companies need to educate their drivers away from ‘everyone should give way to buses who have automatic right of way’ and towards better standards of driving?
AG: Yes, we do training for bus drivers. Obviously we employ them indirectly – they’re employed by our contractors – so we can and have insisted that bus drivers will do cycle training.
From Kurako: What is the fascination with buildouts, roundabouts and traffic clutter?
AG: Partly they are there to make it safer for pedestrians. For example, a buildout of a pedestrian crossing is so that drivers can see that someone is about to start crossing and is less likely to run them over then. And I support that broadly – I think that in some cases it’s not as safe as it should be and so we’re going to change it in some cases. For example, there’s a pretty dangerous buildout on the A2 at Thetford Bridge, a station which we’re going to take out, and several others like that, but broadly, obviously, the roads have to serve a variety of users, they’re not operated entirely in the interests of cyclists.
From On-What: When is someone going to lean on the train operators regarding their cycle policies?
AG: It’s a very good point and something I’ve been meaning to do for ages actually. I’m going to do it before I leave. The short distance train operators are okay but the long-distance operators I’ve got real problems with. They have a far too bureaucratic system of operating; having to book your bike in advance, and you often can’t do it online for instance, you can’t do it at ticket machines you have to queue up at the booking office and it’s pretty annoying. So I’m going to see what I can do about that.
From BuckMulligan/Man Of Lard: How long is Operation Safeway planned to go on for? Is it a case of waiting for a few more months without a cyclist dying and then ending it?
AG: No, it’s a permanent feature. Obviously another London mayor might decide to change it but as long as this mayor is in office it’s a permanent feature.
From Buck Mulligan: Why don’t TfL Cycle Hire publish any details or plans of proposed expansion of the scheme?
AG: We’re not going to expand the scheme significantly further – we are going to have incremental expansion though, what I call oozing: we’re going to expand it to the Olympic Park next year for instance, and there are demands for us to expand it to parts of Southwark, which we’re considering. But on the whole we’re not going to have any major expansions because it costs quite a lot of money and we have a very good deal with Santander, which has significantly reduced the cost to the taxpayer – and I want to spend the cycling budget on infrastructure rather than on cycle hire.
From Ugo.Santalucia: What is the point of a cycle lane where cars are allowed to park? Outside rush hour, virtually all cycle lanes become car parks and that includes some sections of the so-called ‘super highways’.
AG: It’s basically because people along the route want to park in front of their houses or shops, and when the traffic is not so busy, we can allow that, and roads are not solely for cyclists but for everybody. In some cases we are going to make those bus lanes 24/7 and in the segregated bits you’re not going to be able to park at all.
From CookeeeMonster: Are there any plans to upgrade CS3 at any point to give priority over little used side roads (especially the Barking to Canning town stretch)?
AG: Yep, we’re going to do exactly that. On Cable Street there’s a couple of roads… most of the roads, the cyclists already have priority over side turnings but one or two they don’t for some reason. We’re going to change that, make it consistent so that they do it all the turnings; we’re also going to rework the route through that sort of office block park just east of the Blackwall tunnel and where it’s a bit convoluted at the moment we’re going to make it simpler and faster. We’re also going to upgrade Horseferry Road in Wapping, if you know that, where at the moment you have to cycle on the wrong side of the road in the wrong direction. That’s going to change – those plans are out for consultation now – and we’re also hoping to improve the crossings of the super highway section of the A13. The big picture is that the CS3 will link to the new east-to-west crossrail cycling superhighway, so you’re going to be able to cycle from Barking to Acton in the end on a substantially segregated route.
From Veronese68: Kingston got a load of funding for the Mini Holland thing but seem to have downgraded their plans from the original proposal. Will boroughs be made to stick to the original plans that got them funding?
AG: Yeah, we’ve had long discussions with Kingston about their mini-Holland plans and I think you’ll see improved plans in the next few weeks.
From Rick Chasey: With regard to the cycling super highway proposals, have they taken into account that, unlike vehicular traffic, there are significant speed differences between users, and so necessary space needs to be created for passing?
AG: Yes, the new cycling superhighways are going to have four-metre wide lanes for two-way traffic; two metres in each direction, which is going to be enough for faster cyclists to overtake slower ones. Obviously if faster cyclists get stuck behind slower ones then they probably won’t use the lanes, and we’re aware of that. That’s why we’re making them suitable for both speeds of cyclists.
From Rower63: What will be done to prevent drivers from (mis)behaving as if the new segregations are actually for motorists’ convenience, and becoming even more aggressive against cyclists who stay on the roads?
AG: I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think the vast majority of cyclists will use the segregated lanes; we’ve seen them this on the short stretch of segregation that we’ve already done in Stratford High Street. We’ve done surveys on that; something like 97-98 percent of cyclists are using the segregated lanes, and why wouldn’t you? Cyclists will still be able to use the roads, but I think it’s very unlikely that drivers will then deliberately run them off the roads in retaliation for having a segregated cycle lane.
From Bar Shaker: FORS has been a huge success – can we have a campaign to now get pedestrians to actually look over their shoulders, before stepping out into the road?
AG: I’m not the pedestrians czar so you’ll have to ask whoever is responsible for pedestrians.
From Yankee1: How about the alleged massive underspend on funds allocated for cycling?
AG: That’s not an alleged underspend, it is an underspend. And that’s largely because the borough programmes are going slower than I would have liked. We’re doing all right on the programmes on TfL roads; as you know 95 percent of the roads in London are not owned by us – by TfL – but by the boroughs, and nearly all the quietway network is on borough roads. It’s just been harder to get that programme into gear because there are more moving parts; you’ve obviously got 32 local authorities to negotiate with, so that programme is off-track at the moment and that’s why there’s the underspend largely, but we are doing our best to get it back on-track.
From BuckMulligan: Who on earth approved the ‘new double traffic light’ design for Bow Roundabout? I cannot stress highly enough that it is the most dangerous piece of road infrastructure that I have ever seen.
AG: I would disagree with that – there has been a substantial reduction in incidents at Bow since we put that design in.
From 964Cup: Are there any plans to educate motorcyclists and moped riders about ASLs, and specifically the fact that their pedal-less lazy pollution machines aren’t allowed in them?
AG: Yeah, they often do think they’re allowed into ASLs, don’t they? And they’re wrong about that. We need to get the police to enforce ASLs – they’ve done it a bit but they tend to do it rather sporadically. What I would like to do is be able to enforce ASLs ourselves in the way that we already can with bus lanes – at the moment bus lane enforcement is done by TfL, not by the police – and if we did it, we’d do it more vigorously than [they do]. But that requires a minor change in the legislation which the government has been stalling on for nearly two years. The power to do it was contained in the Traffic Containment Act 2004 but it requires what’s known as a commencement order and the government (the DfT) has so far despite two years of us asking has not agreed to sign the commencement order.