London has a growing population of daily cycling commuters who need space and safety on the road. But the work taking place on London’s streets and back roads to make cycling safe is costly and disruptive, and Transport for All has some serious concerns on how safe disabled and older people will be on our streets as a result.
Former mayor Boris Johnson instructed Transport for London (TfL) to create a series of routes from north, south, east and west for over half-a-million cyclists to come into and out of Central London each day.
What is a bus stop bypass?
A bus stop bypass is a cycle track cut into the pavement which runs behind the shelter at a bus stop. The cycle track runs parallel with the road and turns the bus stop into an ‘island’ cut off from the rest of the pavement. Each bus stop bypass will cut the bus stop off from the rest of the pavement because alighting passengers will have to get over the cycle track.
TfL is building an east-west cycle superhighway running on main roads and incorporating separate cycle lanes and including bus stop bypasses which pass behind the bus stop shelter. They are also building a similar north-south cycle superhighway and the two will form a shape roughly like a cross.
In addition, there will be several quiet cycle routes that run through back streets and supplement the cycle superhighways. Where they share the road with motor traffic, the cyclists will be on the same carriageway. Some minor roads will be closed to motor traffic and cyclists will use dedicated cycle lanes there.
In East London some bus stop bypasses have been in operation for many months and some observers have said they are dangerous with videos showing near misses and cyclists shouting at pedestrians to get out of the way. TfL set up a working group in August last year to work out how to make this “island bus stop” arrangement work more safely. Karl Farrell, TfA member, is on the working group on behalf of Transport for All. Also represented are Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Age UK London, London TravelWatch, Living Streets, London Cycling Campaign, Cycling Embassy of Great Britain and TfL.
The working group has agreed that TfL needs to formally monitor the use of six sites where bus stop bypasses are in use and to also survey users. We urge TfL: to stop building more bus stop bypasses till the results of this are known. This is to identify the nature and the significance of problems observed. This will take place in early summer and there will also be 24 accompanied ‘walks’ around these sites by mobility impaired and visually impaired people. The data obtained will help determine what next steps are required.
Imagine a busy island bus stop, with disabled and older pedestrians looking out to cross the cycle track and a bus driver looking to safely deploy the wheelchair ramp. The worst outcome from all this would be that anyone who feels uncomfortable dealing with this situation will decide not to use that stop anymore. So much for bus stops and the cycle superhighways.
TfA Trustee Patrick Roberts, who is visually impaired, said “As I can’t see cyclists coming, I would think twice before putting myself in an unsafe situation. As long as there is a risk I could get hit by a bike I will try to find another bus stop and avoid floating bus stops like I already do with shared spaces”
The quiet cycle routes will throw up their own problems for older and disabled people. Cyclists will share the carriageway with motor vehicles but then, with the increased volume of traffic, those thoroughfares will become much more difficult for all of us to get over. It is therefore hard to understand why the planners have chosen to replace existing controlled crossings along these quiet routes with zebra crossings or informal crossings. The only way a blind person can know when they have the right to cross a busy road is via the indication of a controlled crossing and lots of other pedestrians want that certainty too.
Similarly, the installation of bus stop bypasses for cyclists at bus stops must surely be of questionable worth. The original island bus stops in Copenhagen were approved even though they were not found to be safe for all pedestrians. Following representations to Islington Council, one installed bus stop bypass here in London is to be removed.
St Thomas’ Hospital’s petition
No-one wants areas of London where 30% of people feel unsafe to go. In all honesty, Transport for London should stop building new bus stop bypasses until the safety and acceptability of these schemes has been determined for all! St Thomas’s Hospital in London has serious fears for its patients who have to cross busy cycle lanes to get to the hospital. Their “Keep Our Bus Stops Safe!” petition, which calls on TfL to rethink its proposals, has been signed by more than 1,000 people. On the 28th June, their Trustees organised a protest to mark the launch of legal action against TfL’s proposals for a ‘floating’ bus stop outside St Thomas’ Hospital. Transport for All was there to support their action and we look forward to working with them on this important issue.
Article written by TfA member Karl Farrell
Picture taken by Ross Atkin (Twitter: @rossatkin)