About 14 people die each year cycling in London. I don’t like exercise, and I don’t like commuting, but I do like cycling, so later this year I’m planning on starting cycling to work in the morning, and I would like my commute to be as safe as is possible. If I had a fold up, say, I could cycle to work in the mornings and carry it home. Today, to test out this plan, I cycled down Cycle Superhighway 2 in East London.
The Guardian criticised Cycle Superhighway 2 back in 2013 for being dangerous, with three deaths within a week. It’s being upgraded by TFL to have physically segregated bicycle lanes (to be finished by Spring 2016), so today was a bit of an odd mix of extremely pleasant cycling on the finished physically segregated bike lanes and frustrating merging repeatedly into traffic that plainly didn’t want me there. Once it’s done and the barriers removed it should be lovely — I’d be able to cycle from Stratford to Whitechapel without ever having to do the bus-bike-hop, the horrible manoeuvre where a big red bus stops in front of you, so you overtake, and then it pulls out again and passes you and stops again so you have to overtake again so that from above you appear to be doing some kind of incredibly dangerous mating dance with the bus.
I’m trying to move at the moment, and my office might move at some point too, so planning is difficult. Assuming both moves happen, let’s annotate a map. TFL has these cutsey maps where the cycle superhighway is drawn as a straight line when it is not — useful for Tube maps, because when you’re underground and someone else is driving the physical reality of London doesn’t matter, absolutely awful for cycle maps. The closest thing I’ve found to the analogue of the Tube map is the “Central London Cycle Grid” linked to from a Lambeth Council consultation in March 2015. Here’s my own:
In the top right is a yellow line indicating a road which has a so-so cycle lane that I’m comfortable cycling on near where I might live (near to the dark purple blob). The Superhighways, when they’re finished and open, are a joy to cycle on, so CS2 (light blue, finished in Spring 2016) will take me a lot of the way to Kings Cross, my future destination (dark green spot). If I head South at Whitechapel I can pick up the EWCS (dark red, finished in Summer 2016) and turn North on to the NSCS (pink, finished in Spring 2016) until I reach Farringdon. This is where the pink line turns spotted green, and this is because it’s not clear if the proposed extension to the North-South Cycle Superhighway is going to happen. There’s supposed to be a consultation within the next month or so about it.
Today I followed CS2 down to Whitechapel and then turned right on to the A501. This wasn’t immediately horrible, but became so when I reached the Old Street roundabout, which was three lanes wide and so broad across and laden with traffic lights and signs you couldn’t see where you were supposed to be. It was worse as we approached Angel, where there was a bizarre junction where a cycle lane suddenly appeared on the _right-_hand side of the lane, and that cycle lane led straight into a road with “NO ENTRY” written above it in big signs. It turns out that that is a bus lane, and cycles are allowed in, but I think I would have a good chance of dying if I tried to move from the left-hand side of the A501 in rush hour traffic to the right-hand side in order to join an impossible cycle lane.
None of this was possible to work out without cycling down CS2 and getting off occasionally to look at my phone’s map. Neither Google Maps nor CityMapper suggested the Cycle Superhighways as preferred cycling routes. It’s bad, because cycling in London is dangerous and unpleasant — today a black cab tailgated me, revving its engine as I took the lane — and the easier it is to find these real cycle lanes the happier and safer everyone will be.
EDIT: Wait a hot minute! According to this I could cycle to my current office as soon as EWCS is finished this summer. Why the Sam Hill has it been so difficult to find this out? It’s bizarre that I had to sit down and colour in a map by hand to get this information. Even before summer, if I just take CS2 down to Aldgate then hop on the Circle line I’ll be doing pretty well, and will beat public transport…!