London’s bad cycling infrastructure at work

London’s so-called Cycle Superhighways, once a flagship project of mayor Boris Johnson, have been criticized right from the beginning in 2010. Most of the flak  is focussing  on the particularly dreadful Cycle Superhighway 2, where five cyclists died within two years.

But Cycle Superhighway 3, which runs from Barking to Tower Gateway, has flawed bits as well. Yesterday, I gained some first hand experience on how  bad design puts cyclists at risk and annoys motorists who don’t understand the odd layout of the cycle lane.

The flawed spot is on Horseferry Road in Tower Hamlets, which is a one way street. It has a contra-flow cycle lane for eastbound cyclists riding towards the City. The snag is that that cycle lane runs on the right hand side of the road, rather than the left one. The lane is not physically separated from the street and entails a blind turn.

Car drivers who don’t know the layout assume that riders not only go in the wrong way of a one-way street but also think those bloody lycra louts are doing this on the wrong side of the road. A real life example of such a situation can be watched in the video. Unnecessary and potentially dangerous conflicts are imbued in that layout.

A second, related problem is that the cycle lane is too narrow so you can’t safely overtake a slower cyclist, as you can see in seconds 6 to 9 of the video.

This has been an issue for years, as this 2011 comment on Londonist’s website shows:

 “I live in a flat overlooking the CS3 that flows past the T-junction at Branch Road & Horseferry Road in Limehouse. At least once per day, a cyclist runs into a car turning right off of Branch Road onto Horseferry Road one way system (the cycle route runs opposite in the opposite direction to the one-way system).


I guess the reason for this odd layout is that there are parking spaces on the left hand side of the road; and I fully understand that it is of course utterly unacceptable to sacrifice parking space for the safety of cyclists.

4 thoughts on “London’s bad cycling infrastructure at work

  1. Watdabni

    Bad it is true, but CS3 from Tower Gateway as far as Limehouse (can’t speak for CS3 beyond that) is, at least, mostly segregated (if not particularly well) and thus far safer than the other CSs and is the only CS I feel is relatively safe. CS7 is, in my view, at least as dangerous as CS2 and I am surprised that no-one has died, so far as I am aware, on that. CS8 is pretty bad in places too. I cannot speak for the remainder as I make a point of avoiding them if I can.

    1. I agree that the seperated parts of CS3 along Cable street are above the average. However, the way of right at intersections is a bit dubious. At some crossings, riders apparently have priority over cars from side streets while at others they don’t. Most parts of the segregated path are way too narrow to safely overtake. The big irony is that the cycle path already existed before the Cycle Superhighways were launched. The surface was just repainted from green to blue….. I don’t know CS 7 and 8 too well.

      1. Watdabni

        Thanks. That is interesting. I believed that TfL had actually thought about the design of CS3 and spent some real money on it (cynically I thought it might be because the better quality of CS3 could be used by TfL and the Mayor to deflect from the horrors of the other CSs). Knowing that the cycle path was already there just shows that, in truth, no more thought or money was spent on CS3 than on the others – it is just luck that it is slightly superior to the other CSs.

  2. nwk cc

    I think the CS are about as good as an idea as bike lanes on the avenues in New York. Instead of integrating bicycle traffic the cities try to segregate it and control it. However they make it seem as if the bicycle is a different type of vehicle, when in reality it is a VEHICLE utilizing a roadway that we have paid for. In other words, these initiatives are a good idea in theory, however they seem to protect the cars “rights” over promoting equality of the modes of transportation.

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