How to deal with cars parked in the bicycle lane?

A few months ago a cyclist in New York got a ticket for not cycling in the bike lane, he made a video about various reasons why and it’s got millions of views.

Well now a Mayor in Lithuania has come up with a different approach to dealing with drivers parking illegal.

When will Boris Johnson be getting one of these?

Cyclists on the Bridge

Picture this, it’s 8.30am on Friday the 20th of May and the pavement on the south to north bound side of the bridge is full of cyclists. Cyclists which were called to this location by the LCC and campaigners less than 24 hours ago.

The result was nearly 300 cyclists cycling over the bridge each way as slow as possible. By my Garmin device, we travelled 0.83 miles in 14 minutes and 30 seconds. That gives us an average speed of 3.4mph.

We stopped outside of the TFL building on Blackfriars road, only a stones throw away from the bridge, to voice our concerns to them in person but they didn’t want to talk. I suspect because we caught them off guard, I heard that they didn’t even know we where coming.

All in all it was a good ride and we only had a few minor issues with motorcyclist that where in a rush to get to somewhere. Below is a 3x speed video i recorded.

Something that is hard to make clear, is why we did this.

TFL have rejected several plans which would have suited many people’s needs and instead have tried to push plans through that favour the motorist and fast-moving, dangerous traffic.

The upgrade to Blackfriars station is going to produce a huge increase in pedestrians that are using the area. But in TFL’s plans, pedestrians and not being looked out for, the speed limit of cars is being increased and space is being taken away from pedestrians and cyclists to allow another lane for vehicles. Which resembles a motorway.

Cyclists we will also be affected, our cycle lanes will be smaller and we will have faster traffic moving around us. If you choose to turn right at the north side of the bridge then you will have to cross 3 lanes of traffic which is moving at 30 mph (well that is the limit).

So the reason we grouped together as cyclists, bloggers, cycling groups, road users and people of the city is to voice our concern over the plans to put vulnerable road users at the bottom and allow faster and more dangerous vehicles to have the priority.

We are meant to be going through a cycling revolution in London but as anyone that knows, it was not Boris that came up with or laid the initial plans for the Cycle Superhighways or the Cycle Hire Scheme. The two leading schemes of the revolution. It seems that the cycling revolution can only progress if motorists are not hindered.

I must say a big thanks to the London Cycling Campaign, Mark at i bike london, Danny at Cyclists in the City and the MET Cycle Task Force.

LCC, Mark and Danny have provided us with fantastic information and detailed descriptions about the plans and potential issues with the designs for Blackfriars bridge. And they helped organise and publish the plans for this group ride. Without them, where would we be?

And a big thanks to the MET Cycle Task Force. An ever-growing group of officers that watched over our event and spoke to a few impatient motorcyclist. They are working hard to prevent and catch bicycle thieves and make the roads of London a safe place for any mode of transport to use. I even got my bicycle security marked after the event, a big thanks again for that 🙂

[UPDATES] Missed the time in the post, time added back in.

Did London Beat Copenhagen

Someone on a cycling forum posted a link to this website which boasts about a new cycling facility in Copenhagen for cyclists who stop at red lights.

Leave it to Copenhagen. While other bike geeks fight over guerilla-painted bike lanes, or shine them on the street with laser gadgets, or dream of floating them in mid-air, the City of Copenhagen and the bike advocacy group ibikecph installs a simple, low-tech fix that makes riding in the famously bike-friendly city even easier.

In the picture above is what i’m calling the cyclists balance beam. It’s being put in by a company to help cyclists get going after being stopped at a red light. It means you can stay in the saddle and move away quicker.

London had these years ago. Back then we called them railings and their primary design was to protect pedestrians at crossings. They went all the way around crossings apart from where you could cross. They had a few issues, it kept pedestrians in and meant they had to cross at specific locations, drivers felt because pedestrians where not going to be running free they could drive faster and cyclists got crushed up against them!

Cyclists in London have been using these railings to balance on whilst stopped at red lights. Although we didn’t have the bottom section for our feet, we managed alright with just our arms holding us up 🙂

But over the past few years the London councils have been removing these. And it’s because of the reasons above. Major Boris Johnson wants to make the streets and roads a nicer placer to be, by making pedestrians feel more open to the environment and vehicles slowing down (year right) and hopefully less deaths from cyclists being trapped between the railings and vehicles.

These will only work for safety reasons at segregated cycling facilities. Copenhagen I hope you are listening, the UK did this first 😛

Croydon – A cycling Borough

The Mayor, Boris Johnson, announced yesterday that £4,000,000 would be spread across the 13 cycling boroughs of London that he had named in 2010.

Those boroughs are Barking & Dagenham, 
Bexley, 
Havering:, 
Redbridge, 
Brent, Ealing, 
Haringey, 
Hillingdon, Hounslow, Bromley, Croydon, 
Kingston and 
Merton.

Croydon will be receiving the largest amount of money, £450,500 which should go towards making Croydon a better place to be a cyclist. Be that adding more cycle facilities, adding more parking or offering cycle training.

And Croydon certainly does need that! At present cycling isn’t great in Croydon, despite being the London borough with the highest population of people and the 5th largest borough the cycling facilities are poor and parking is hard to find outside of the town centre.

When you do find a cycling facility it will be the usual crap, substandard, not maintained, not cleaned and often putting you in danger. Many cyclists have stated the danger of the cycle lane that travels along Croydon Road (A236), for miles cyclists are encouraged to cycle in the door zone and I see many unaware cyclists falling into just that potentially life costing trap!

Croydon has had 5 cycling facilities in the well-known cycling facility of the month which is run by Warrington cycle campaign. Each is a great example of the fine work and thought that is given to cyclists in Croydon. Don’t think we are any different to anywhere else, this happens all over the country!

Will nearly £500,000 improve cycling in Croydon? I shall certainly be on the look out for new and updated cycling facilities but i doubt that what we get will be any better than what we already have!

Croydon will certainly be a tough place to improve. Cars are relied on heavily by anyone that doesn’t live near a shopping centre, supermarket or local shops. Places like the Purley Way which contain a vast array of shops is very impracticable to travel to and from by bicycle. Bulk purchases are made in these shops and bringing them back on a bicycle would be a challenge.

Croydon isn’t exactly known for its road planning anyway. Look at Valley Park as an example. It contains a vast amount of shops including the only Ikea in South London, cinema, dining and a large B&Q. Yet there is only one way in and out!?
Which stupid designer thought of that idea?
It’s almost impossible to get out of there on a busy afternoon as everyone has had the same idea and gone shopping!

Croydon will never become a cycling town if the council doesn’t start looking after cyclists. Adding new facilities and parking is great! But if they are not maintained then  how can we use them safely?

Another example from Croydon Road (A236) is a small section just after Mitchem common and before the petrol station. A small section of cycle lane is in very poor quality, it is always filled with water, stones and glass. And just yesterday I had to move a tyre out of it.

I can only hope that we won’t be sold the same fairytale that TFL is doing with the Barclays Cycle Superhighways!

Are we being sold a fairytale?

It’s approaching the time of year where another set of Barclays Cycle Superhighway routes are going to be opened. Work has already been underway for several weeks, with the roads being re-surfaced and blue paint being laid. In some places it has even meant a remodel of the road design, reducing 2 lane sections of road into one.

The cycle superhighways are meant to make it easier and safer for cyclists to commute into and out of London via direct and continuous cycle route . But CS7 and CS3 haven’t exactly done that.

CS3 is pretty much a nightmare. The shared pavement sections on Cable Street and the A13 aren’t continuous and aren’t exactly what i would call safe. Pedestrians walking onto the cycle route, plenty of roads crossing the path where they have priority. And due to how narrow it is, it makes it very hard to pass slower cyclists if it’s busy.
Due to the on road bits being built on sections of road which are quite narrow, then there is lots of conflict with drivers as you are forced to take a primary road position at plenty of points to keep safe. Not exactly what a novice cyclist wants to be doing on their dream cycle path to work.

CS7 is much the similar, i use it near daily for my commute to and from work and anyone that watches my videos will know that it certainly comes with issues. At certain sections you have to take a primary position to avoid dangerous overtakes and to keep your self safe.

Most of the cycle lanes along both routes only meet the minimum requirements set by the DfT (1.5m in width). With less than 1 mile of both of them being any greater. Even less of them are mandatory, and thus you will often find that other vehicles are driving in them and it’s not uncommon for it to actually be completely blocked.

Re-design of the road structure has been kept to a minimum. Sections of road have been re-designed to attempt to keep traffic flow and cycling flow constant but key issues like left hooks have not been addressed.

TFL boast about the increase in ASL size and quantity. Which is pointless considering they aren’t even enforced and more often than not they are full with other kinds of vehicles or you can’t get to them!

The main problem I see with these cycle lanes is the mentality of cyclists. I witness on a near daily basis cyclists filtering in the blue cycle lane in an unsafe position. Be it through a small gap or up the inside of a left turning TP flat-bed lorry. When these blue cycle lanes of death are laid down on the road, it gives cyclists the feeling that they are safe because they have their own designated area but in reality we are still at risk from the motorists that care not for our safety.

These cycle lanes are meant to aid in the cycling revolution that is happening in London. An increase of 70% of cycle journeys was recorded on CS3 and CS7. But the cycle lanes do not meet the demands of commuters, more often that not they are overflowing with cyclists overtaking each other and conflicts with drivers are not dropping.

Will the new cycle superhighway routes be an improvement over what has been given to us?

On a side note, don’t even try to use the superhighways on a weekend. It’s like cycling down Oxford street!

Popularity of the Cycle Superhighways

TFL released a press statement yesterday stating that cycle journeys have increased by up to 100 per cent during peak times on route 7 and 3.

The headline is a bit misleading unless you look at the numbers and the smaller print at the bottom. The 100% increase was only on a few sections of the routes (these sections are not mentioned) and the real increase is more around 70% with the CS7 (A24) seeing a jump from 2724 in 2009 to 4092 in 2010 and CS3 (A13) seeing a jump from 1388 in 2009 to 2932 in 2010. These where taken during a 12 hour period and where both done in October.

What we can’t tell is how many of them are new cyclists, it may just be that the extra 70% of cyclists that are on these routes have just migrated from another route near by because they now feel safer with the larger number of cyclists.

So whilst it is clearly positive that we see such large numbers of cyclists on a single route during a 12 hour period. There may not actually be any new cyclists on the route.
Lets also not forget that the A24/A3 has been a popular route for cyclists to get to the city for quite some time now, and I suspect that CS7 was chosen as one of the first routes to be a pilot as it would be very hard for it to fail.
What will really tell is how the next 10 Cycle Superhighways do on improving the numbers.

60 per cent of cyclists said the blue coloured surfacing made them feel safer. Overall, more than three quarters asked said that the Barclays Cycle Superhighways had improved safety for cyclists.

If only it was the case that we where safer in the blue lanes. I’m afraid that in some situations the cycle superhighways put cyclists in danger by taking them next to parked cars and leaving them to cross a busy lane just outside oval. The cycle lanes don’t stop people from driving like idiots on the roads and until that behaviour is sorted no amount of paint will make us truly feel safer.
The later section of that quote leads me to believe that motorists believe that the blue lanes make us safer, hopefully not because they think we now have a defined place on the roads along these routes. As I often find I’m in need to leave the superhighway and take control of the road due to a pinch point or obstruction of some sort.

Lets not forget that the superhighways are not just about blue paint and that TFL and the local councils have done a fantastic job of improving the routes for cyclists (even if it isn’t quite at the level we want).
There are 40km of new or improved cycle lanes, 94 new or improved ASLs at least five meters deep, 46 signalised junctions improved to provided quicker journey times and create more space for cyclists, 39 safety mirrors installed at junctions, 2,372 new cycle parking spaces along the routes and 1,362 extra cycle training hours delivered.

BUT we are missing some important data in this press release with regards to traffic and public transport along side the cycle superhighways.
What effect is there on traffic?
Is there a decrease in the use of cars?
Are the buses/tubes/trains quieter?

The Success of the Barclays Cycle Hire

Barclays Cycle Hire bikes

Image by duncan via Flickr

Anyone that has been into central London after the 30th of July will have seen the Barclays liveried cycle hire bikes that are scattered across 7 boroughs of central London. Thousands of people use them each day, with peak days reaching over 20,000 journeys being made.

Who would have thought that this scheme would work, adding such a scheme into a busy metropolitan city such as London could easily lead to a disaster. A similar scheme in Melbourne, Australia failed dramatically. That was mainly down to the mandatory cycle helmet laws they have over there.

Why is the success of such a scheme important for cycling in London and potentially England?
The added cycles to the road and image value that they have will make people aware that cycling is the cheap and easy transportation. The easy access to the bikes also gives people the freedom to cycle around the City and in many cases people start using other bikes for other duties, such as commuting.
The sheer volume of cyclists on the road during non commuting times has increased dramatically and the bicycles i see the most are the cycle hire ones. Could the success of this scheme be the next big thing for the Cycling Revolution in the 21st century?
In the first 2 and a half months 1,000,000 cycle journeys were made using the Barclays cycle hire and with only 90,000 people registered that means each user has used a hire bike on average 11 times.
This makes the Barclays cycle hire scheme more succesful than any other cycle hire scheme of its kind in the world for its uptake by the public that uses them.

For the lucky person that took the 1,000,000th bike for a spin, Barclays have awarded them and 3 of their friends a 5 year membership to the scheme for free. This lucky person is Rupert Parson from Balham, South London, he also wins a cycling makeover at Bobbins Bicycles in Islington.
Rupert is not just a user of the cycle hire scheme, he also uses the Cycle Superhighway 7 to commute to work. Clearly the two major cycling schemes in London are working well for Rupert.

Clearly from the quick uptake, even with technical issues and access limited to people in the UK with credit or debit cards, the scheme has been a massive success and lets hope that it continues to grow.