Whitechapel High Street cycle superhighway bus stop bypass is a mess

Whitechapel High Street cycle superhighway bus stop bypass is a mess

One of the more conspicuous of Boris Johnson’s cycling infrastructure initiatives is doing little for the East End high street it has carved up

Should London’s streets be designed for facilitating traffic movement or enhancing them as attractive places? The right answer is generally some variant of both, and takes different forms according to the type of street and the priorities of the people making the decisions.

Boris Johnson is, of course, such a person thanks to his much vaunted Vision for Cycling and its ongoing, high profile implementation on many of the capital’s roads. The hard part is getting the combination right because that is where the arguments begin. Some of the most fraught are about where cycling should fit in. Here’s a view from the author of the Cycle And Walk Hackney Blog about a major street in his borough:

Dalston’s Kingsland High Road is a thriving shopping street by day and one of London’s most important (and coolest) night time economy destinations. It’s a busy bus corridor and arterial road into central London. It was regenerated only a few years ago to give the street an uplift. Whilst nominally a TfL road, the borough, Hackney, and the local cycling group had a great influence on its redesign.

It is now still a busy motor vehicle street and an important bus corridor, but the balance between movement and place has been tilted in the direction of its ‘place’ function. The pavements have been widened, paving material improved, clutter removed along with the removal of the central white line. Its now a more pleasurable street for people to visit, shop, linger and enjoy…It is regarded as a good cycling environment by the local cycling group – the lane width is wide enough (4.5 metres) for cycle to safely pass bus and bus to pass cycle. Formal pedestrian crossings are provided for, while informal crossing is also easy.

Like Kingsland High Road, Whitechapel High Street is a busy bus corridor and arterial road into central London and most importantly, is also the local high street, with the diverse mix of shops that should be found in any thriving high street environment. However…unlike at Dalston the balance between movement and place has been tilted further in the direction of movement. Pavements have been narrowed, reduced to six feet (narrower than many residential streets) along some sections where there is a huge amount of pedestrian movement.

It is the first busy street in London in which cycles are routed around the back of newly installed bus stops – so that cyclists cycle between the pavement and those getting on and off the bus. These so-called bus stop bypasses are designed to facilitate high speed cycling with cycle priority, so that cyclists do not need to slow down or need to overtake a bus which has paused to pick up passengers.

There is less space on the street now to stop or linger. Informal crossing of the street is made more difficult because of multiple additional raised kerbs on which one must perch before crossing. Wheelchair users, buggy pushers, luggage pullers and cycle pushers can no longer informally cross the street without having to navigate these additional obstructions…Boarding and alighting from the bus now means dodging cycles travelling at speed. The consequences for those with businesses on Whitechapel High Street remain to be measured, but the street is being made a less pleasant environment in which to linger – so it is conceivable that fewer people will visit to shop.

The introduction of segregated facilities may attract more commuting cyclists, but won’t achieve its other expressed objectives – namely use by 8 to 80 year olds, not clad in lycra, and a reduced casualty rate. Tilting the balance further in favour of movement (primarily high speed cycle commuting) will not attract more, slower cyclists.

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Source: Guardian Transport

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