Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Superhighway? Super disappointment.

TFL have released plans for the East-West Superhighway (EWS) from Parliament Square to Lancaster Gate. And I'm angry. Let me go through the reasons below:

The route

The route of the EWS though this section goes along West and South Carriage Drive, though Hyde Park Corner, along the Mall and then Horse Guards Parade. This means taking large detours off the most direct route.

Sending the EWS along the Mall instead of along Birdcage Walk adds an extra 500 metres for the route via Parliament Square.

But the main detour is from the northern end of Horse Guards Parade to the eastern end of Northumberland Avenue. The most direct road route between these two points is about 650 metres according to Google Maps. The route of the EWS takes 1,600 metres to get between these two points, meaning nearly a kilometre added onto the route.

Actual route in red. This is almost one kilometre longer than the black line
What would be good is a link between these two points along the direct road route, while obviously still keeping the planned route too. But we don't need to imagine what this could look like, because Westminster Council have already done it for us!

Yes, the connections are extremely poor, but the route itself keeps together well.
Yes, these plans were only ever created in an attempt by Westminster to completely derail the EWS project. However, I feel it would be an awful shame for the effort put in by Westminster to go to waste, as these are probably the best cycling plans the council has ever produced. Yes, compared to rest of the superhighway these plans are crap, but I feel the hilarious irony of using Westminster Council's attempt at derailing the EWS to instead improve it would be worth it. 

The plans by Westminster also don't involve any of the next thing that annoys me about the new plans.

The shared use

Shared use in busy urban environments is a bad idea. We already knew that the shared use at Hyde Park Corner would be staying but this is an existing environment, and while proper segregation would be best, maybe it is slightly acceptable given that this is already a popular cycling route.

Some improvements, but still pedestrian and cycle conflict galore.

What is not acceptable is shared use on what will be brand new sections that are being created from scratch. Carrying on from the traffic signal fetish that was apparent along Embankment, a zebra crossing with a separate (non-priority crossing) for cycling is being replaced by a toucan crossing. Not only will this cause extra delays for pedestrians crossing, it will bring cycles and pedestrians into conflict. This would be a perfect location for the new cycle zebras but instead we get this.
Why not have one of the new cycle zebras rather than conflict and delays?
The section exiting the park into Lancaster Gate can only be described as complete and utter bollocks. It simply looks like the engineers gave up here.

"We need to design the section leaving the park"
"Yeah, OK then"

Horse Guards

As this tweet from @nuttyxander points out, TFL have backed down from the plan to close Horse Guard's Parade to through traffic:
This means that cycles will now share with motorised traffic using a cut through. This was a chance to create a pleasant environment at one of London's tourist attractions, but never mind, eh?

The missing gap

As someone who is studying in South Wales, but spends time in between term in Maidstone, it is common for me to use my bike to travel between Paddington station and either St. Pancras or Victoria stations. My route between Paddington and Victoria is generally pleasant except for the section outside Buckingham Palace, trying to get from Buckingham Gate to the existing segregated cycle track along the Mall.

This remains a large gap in cycle provision. Getting from point A to point B on this map will remain terrifying, despite there being cycle infrastructure at these two points.

It seems that this section is being blocked by the Royal Parks for some, currently unknown reason. This is ridiculous and we need to put some serious pressure on the royal parks here.
This will remain terrifying for cycling

Should I support?

I am seriously finding it difficult whether to recommend supporting these plans or not. I may have written a negative post about the original EWS plans, but I was very clear that I partially supported the plans, and recommended that others do the same.

But the plans here have serious shortcomings that need addressing. However while this post focuses on the negative there are some positives here too. Should I partially support or not at all? I will need time to decide. 

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