It has been a long and tedious campaign. Pedestrian and cycling campaigners pressured Transport for London for several years to redesign an important crossing of Holloway Road in Islington that was inherently unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. In 2008, Lisa Pontecorvo was killed by a lorry while wheeling her cycle across the busy street. One year later, a pedestrian was knocked down at the same junction.
After several months of construction work, the new junction was finally opened to traffic several days ago. On their website, Islington Cyclist Action Group (disclaimer: I’m a mostly passive member of them but was not involved in the campaign because I moved to London only later) hails the redesign as
“an unalloyed success story for local campaigners working with Islington council officers and Transport for London (TfL)”
Unfortunately, however, I have to play the party pooper.
I use the junction on a daily basis and am rather dissappointed by the new road layout. It’s is better than the original design, but it still is far from perfect and continuous to be inherently dangerous for cyclists.
The basic problem of the junction still has not been resolved by the redesign. The fundamental issue is related to north bound car traffic on Holloway road. There is way too much empty space between the traffic lights for northbound cars and the crossing for cyclists.
In the peak hours, there are traffic jams on Holloway road. The typical situation, depicted in the picture above, is this: Northbound cars pass green traffic lights but cannot clear the junction due to congestion. Cars queuing in the junction do not realise when the lights change to red for cars and cyclists get a green light. Quite often, in such a moment the car traffic on Holloway road clears slightly and the cars blocking the junction move on. They are on a direct collision course with the cyclists who face a green light at that point of time.
(Update: When I wrote this post I wasn’t aware that there now is a second light for cars about 20 meters further north that prevents the clearing of the northboung car traffic while cyclists face a green light. This, apparently, prevents that the traffic blocking the junction clears while cyclists face a green light. Hence, my initial headline [“Death by design”] appears to be slightly over the top. This is why I removed it.)
The redesign of the junction tried to address this problem but fails to solve it. Nowadays, there is a clearly marked green cycle path across Holloway road and massive “Keep Clear” signs on the street in front of it. Additionally, the space between the lights for cars and the crossing for cyclists has been made smaller (the lights for cars were move a few yards north).
However, despite these measures, Madras Place is still a recipe for disaster. The photo, which I took this morning, shows a typical situation at Madras Place: Cyclists have a green light, but cars queue into the junction. Imagine that the skip lorry moves on – the car will follow suit and conflicts – possibly crashes – with cyclists are bound to occur.
From my point of view, the only permanent solution would be a second, additional traffic light for cars directly in front of the junction so drivers clearly understand that they have to wait while cyclists face a green light.
Otherwise, new accidents at Madras Place are just a matter of time.
At the moment, cyclists still are being confronted with unnecessary dangers at Madras Place and have to take extra care. Use your bell when facing a situation like the rider on the photo and do not ever cross Holloway Road in front of a HGV (you’re in the blindspot of the driver directly in front of a lorry – the driver can’t see you!)
Update: James Candlin just send me the following via the ICAG newsgroup:
I have always said (on this forum and elsewhere) that the only modification which is actually needed is the one which distinguishes North side of the junction from South.
On the north side there is no central suspended traffic light and no repeater traffic light either side where there is one on the South side.
This means any driver heading north in traffic who gets stopped beyond the stop line does not know that the light has turned red for him and carries on as soon as the road clears regardless of the cyclists whom (as ever ) he ignores until too late.
The expensive rejig was wholly avoidable if they had just fitted the lamp on the post which is actually there for the purpose. They could add to the safety by putting up a reminder notice of the cycle lane for motorists or a yellow box junction. Why not put this in your blog too.
Regards James Candlin
Update II: Apparently, TfL already is aware of the remaining problems at the junction. A few days before I wrote this post they met with cycling and pedestrian campaigners and discussed further improvements. Let’s see how things pan out.