London

Bow roundabout: Will TfL and the Mayor now act?

  • 12 November 2011
  • From the section London
  • comments
A cycling superhighway in London
Four priority lanes have been painted blue around London to encourage more people to ride bikes

Just days after I wrote about dangerous junctions and the Bow roundabout, another cyclist has been killed there.

The 34-year-old woman is the 15th cyclist to die in the capital this year - the eighth involving a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV).

While the exact circumstances into both deaths are being investigated, there are now renewed calls from politicians and London Cycling Campaign (LCC) to change the junction.

And what makes cyclists and many others more angry is that the problems and concerns at that junction are not new, and are very well documented.

In February the LCC wrote to TfL, saying they had concerns about the cycling superhighway going through this junction being "woefully inadequate".

LCC says: "There have now been three fatalities and eight serious injuries at the roundabout in recent years."

As I reported recently this is one of a number of junctions that campaigners want made safer in London. Don't forget the Bow roundabout route is meant to be one of the main cycling routes to get to the Olympic Park.

In August I reported on grave concerns from local cyclists at the very same junction.

As you can see in that story's video, the cycling superhighway stops completely on the roundabout.

This is because Newham Council do not want the blue cycle lane going up to Stratford yet.

Again John Biggs from Labour and Jenny Jones from the Greens on the London Assembly questioned the mayor and the transport commissioner Peter Hendy about this very junction this week.

Here's my report on that.

The junction has always been potentially very dangerous for cyclists but the issue seems to have become more pronounced as the cycling superhighway now runs through it.

'Critical mass'

The theory behind the cycling superhighways - which are non-segregated - is that the blue lanes mean drivers know where to look for cyclists.

And as the superhighways attract more cyclists to them, the "critical mass" theory also means drivers are more aware of those on two wheels.

TfL have already produced figures that show many more cyclists are attracted to using the superhighway from Clapham into town, for example.

And there have been no reported casualties there.

A ghost bike tribute and flowers where a cyclist died near King's Cross
A ghost bike tribute and flowers where a cyclist died near King's Cross

The problem is that at this very busy junction in particular there are many more HGVs, with the associated blind spots, than on other cycling superhighways.

This junction is next to one of the biggest building sites in Europe - the Olympic Park.

Sadly it's well known that HGVs cause the majority of cycling deaths in London.

And while we don't know what exactly happened in either of the cases, it follows that if you are attracting more cyclists to a route where it's known accidents happen, then probability-wise you will see more collisions.

And if HGVs are more likely to be involved as there are more of them at a particular junction, then sadly there will be more deaths.

'Extremely sorry'

So the question now has to be asked - is this the right place to be trying to encourage cyclists to go through using cycling superhighways?

It seems inconceivable that London's mayor and Transport for London would not now act in some way to try and solve this problem. Should the superhighway be re-routed away from the Bow roundabout? Or could it be redesigned?

Leon Daniels, managing director of Surface Transport at TfL said: "We are extremely sorry to learn of the tragic death of a female cyclist, following a collision with an HGV on the Bow Road roundabout on Friday evening.

"Our thoughts are with her family and friends. I have visited the scene and both TfL and the police have launched inquiries which will report as quickly as possible‬."

They have also listed the improvements they have made to the junction so far - none of them though address the problem of the superhighway stopping in the centre of the roundabout:

  • New blue cycle surfacing on northern and southern sections of the roundabout
  • New traffic islands to separate cyclists from general traffic
  • New advanced stop line (ASL) on exit from Bow Road
  • Trixi mirrors were installed at traffic signals on the roundabout
  • Sections of new road surfacing
  • Changes to kerb lines

Let me know your thoughts.