Cycopathic? No bike paths on newly widened pavements as Dalston gets traffic makeover

CHANGES IN THE LAYOUT OF the streets around Dalston junction are causing problems for pedestrians and cyclists, if not also for traffic.

In Dalston Lane, next to the new library and archive, pavement width swells to several metres, a spacious footpath even by the standards of Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping thoroughfare.

The space could have been used to accommodate both a wide passage of walkers and a dedicated cycle lane, but planners failed to provide for cyclists.

Rather than try to find a way through the squashed-in traffic on  the road section, cyclists have taken to the pavement, as the picture above shows.

Further east in Dalston Lane are gaps for traffic between islands. On the north side of the street, one gap is reserved for buses and cyclists, on the other side the gap is for all vehicles. In neither case, again despite on one side of the road a pavement wider than will conceivably be filled with pedestrians, is a cycle gap provided.

In Kingsland High Street, the footpath is also being widened, and no provision has been made for two-wheeled pedallers, even though the A10 (the street’s other name) is part of the planned supercycle highway from the City to Tottenham.

Loving Dalston asked Feryal Demirci, a Hackney councillor responsible for neighbourhoods, whether provision would be made for cyclists in Dalston Lane. She emailed: “It is not accepted that the needs of cyclists have been ignored at these locations.”

A council official admitted, however: “Ideally, the road could be wider to better accommodate cyclists.” The council had looked at widening it to help both buses and cyclists during the design, but “the cost of moving utility apparatus made this prohibitive”.

The official cited London Cycling Campaign (LCC) guidance that questioned the effectiveness of cycle lanes because “they imply that cyclists should be positioned to the kerbside of streets, not in the primary position advocated by cycle-training courses.”

Trevor Parsons, LCC’s Hackney co-ordinator, told Loving Dalston that the campaign group “would support a review” of this section of the road layout at Dalston Junction. “Unfortunately,” he added, “I can’t imagine any great appetite to revisit this.”

Dalston Lane just W of Queensbridge Road. Top: at the new library

“As to the bus pre-signal arrangements on the eastbound carriageway of Dalston Lane approaching the Queensbridge Road junction, I can’t see a great problem here. The pre-signal provides priority for buses over private motor traffic, which we of course support. Cycles can use the bus lane and benefit from the priority signal.

“There is no room in the carriageway to provide an additional lane for cycle traffic. As on most streets in London, buses and cycles have to share the available space. Buses and cycles in this case have to pass through the pre-signal one at a time.

“These days bus drivers receive specific training in how to behave around cycles, and they generally behave well.

“A well-trained and assertive bicycle rider will in any case take the primary position when approaching a narrowing such as this pre-signal, to ensure that the driver of the vehicle behind him or her is not tempted to pass too closely.

“We encourage everyone who cycles, or who wishes to cycle, to take up the council’s offer of one-to-one professional cycle-skills training, free  for people who live, work or study in the borough.”

David Altheer 031111

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13 thoughts on “Cycopathic? No bike paths on newly widened pavements as Dalston gets traffic makeover

  1. I’ve always used Forest Road to avoid Dalston Lane. There are plenty of other routes. As for the junction, we need to return the lanes to their original width for those passing through who don’t know the other routes.

  2. Hi! This is of off-topic but I need some guidance. Is it difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very technical but I can figure things out pretty quickly. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you [The free Google Blogger publishing site will answer your questions. – Ed.]

  3. There should be cycle lanes (aka “clear space”) wherever there’s likely to be queueing traffic. Otherwise you’re just asking for trouble.
    I’d go for moving the centre line back, 3m traffic lanes, 1.5m cycle lanes, and a reduced number of zig-zags. So what if it’s broken up by bus stop and crossing markings? So long as it isn’t broken by parking, it will feel continuous.
    Whenever I hear cycle campaigners talk about primary position, I want to scream. Go and watch some real cyclists. More than 80% prefer secondary position on busy roads.

  4. Yet again narrow-minded comments from those who pass through Dalston rather than live there. The increased pavement widths will alleviate the over-crowded footpaths that in themselves create a danger, when members of the now-increasing population decide to step into the road to avoid pedestrian congestion.
    As a cyclist, scooter rider and car user, I choose my route, before simply taking whatever my mode of transport is down the busiest and most direct route from A to B.
    There are plenty of route options through the borough, other than the main thoroughfare. How about taking to the canals, pavements, playgrounds or squares to travel/play fixie polo?
    It amazes me that so many can be so hypocritical when it comes to safety.

  5. Trevor, Anywhere there’s room for car-parking at the roadside, or for three traffic lanes to be squeezed in, there’s room for a decent (mandatory/segregated) cycle lane/track.
    I know there’s a choice here between a wider roadway, which should allow cyclists the space to be overtaken, and a narrower roadway with cycle provision. In theory, these should be more or less the same, but in practice the roadway gets taken up by parking, which forces bikes to move out into traffic, and by extra right or left turn lanes, that are squeezed in, and at peak times, results in traffic blocking the entire roadway.
    So, yes, you’re right to object to the advisory lanes that stop at every obstacle. But I think there’s a very good case for narrowing the vehicle lanes (which reduces speeds), removing parking (it’s the TfL Road Network, after all), and instituting high-quality cycle facilities, and cyclist traffic lights at junctions. This could certainly be done in Kingsland Road, and very possibly in Balls Pond Road. It may be the only way to make that junction less lethal.

  6. Greetings to those who have commented on the issues raised in the above article, and about the politics and practicalities of cycling more generally.
    A clarification first: what we in the London Cycling Campaign would like to see specifically reviewed are the carriageway-lane widths at the western end of Dalston Lane, especially the short section between Beechwood Road and Ashwin Street, part of which are shown in the photo.
    I had a look at this part of Dalston Lane today, measuring tape in hand, and then compared my findings with aerial photographs of the status quo ante.
    The detail is revealing. The varying carriageway widths are actually much the same as they were before the de/construction of the past few years. The increase in the width of the footway on the south side is entirely because the, uhm, delightful new edifice housing the Hackney Archives has been built a lot further back from the kerb than where the dear old Four Aces Club used to stand.
    But there is indeed a squeeze on cycling space that wasn’t there before, and it turns out that it’s because of recent changes to the lane markings on the carriageway.
    Eastbound cars and trucks used to have to wait behind buses stopped at the bus stop, but now the centre line has been shifted so as to widen the eastbound lane, allowing overtaking. As a result, the westbound lane has gone from 4.5m — wide enough for cycles to pass or be passed by motor vehicles with room to spare — down to a cramped 3m.
    So the quick and cheap fix of the current problem would be to burn off the new car-friendly lane markings, and restore the old cycle-friendly ones. This would be a practical demonstration of Hackney council’s long-adopted road-user hierarchy, which puts walking, cycling and public transport at the top, and private motor traffic last. We will ask the council to do this. Please ask it too.
    As for the more costly options, I quite agree with the comment by John [Thornton] that cycle paths have no place on the footway. In any case, diverting cycles on to the footway here would provide about three seconds’ worth of cycle path, after which people would have to re-enter the carriageway awkwardly just where the bus stops begin outside the station. That would be worse than nothing.
    The less unpalatable option of taking some of the footway space and giving it to the carriageway, as the council evidently considered but turned down for cost reasons, would be an option to explore further. You’d then be able to keep the current overtaking space eastbound, and restore a 4.5m shareable westbound lane. But this would equate to taking space from pedestrians in order to preserve a recently provided perk for private motor traffic — not a principle we would generally endorse.
    On points raised by other commenters…
    Dicky, rightly concerned about the effect which the carriageway lane reallocation has had in Dalston Lane, is also unhappy that the footways are being widened in Kingsland High Street (not Kingsland Road), saying that cycle lanes should have been installed there. Our view is that the High Street is such a busy pedestrian destination that it cries out for wider footways. A single carriageway lane of 4.5m will remain in each direction. As previously mentioned, this is pretty much the optimum width for a multi-use traffic lane. Installing either cycle lanes (painted) or cycle tracks (separated) would be a non-starter. There is so much kerbside activity (bus stops, loading, crossings both formal and informal, side turnings, etc.) that they would be constantly interrupted. The user experience would therefore be inferior to that which is offered by the flexibility of a wide shared lane.
    Andrew and Fred, I want safe and attractive cycling conditions too. But, however strongly one might wish it otherwise, neither Dalston Lane nor Kingsland High Street has appropriate characteristics for continuous high-quality cycle tracks or 2m (the minimum acceptable) cycle lanes. If you disagree about this technical opinion, I invite you to do some detailed drawings of what you envisage and then we will have something to discuss.
    Chris, I’m not sure exactly what guidance the quote might be referring to. It’s true that we usually advise against attempting to squeeze cycle lanes or tracks on to our borough’s streets, because in most cases the characteristics of these streets make it impossible to implement high-quality cycle-specifics. A good example of where we successfully argued in detail against a proposal for cycle lanes on a main street is here: It’s a detailed document, but I will be delighted if you are able to take the time to read it and let me know your thoughts.
    As to whether we are reactionary mock-experts, it’s not for me to say. But I hope that you will cut us a bit of slack for having influenced some progressive interventions in recent years, including: widespread cycle permeability improvements; restoration or preservation of two-way cycling on many streets; the removal of most of the Shoreditch gyratory system; the rollout of 20mph and controlled parking zones; modal filtering (eg, in Goldsmith’s Row, Haggerston E2 8Q); free realistic cycle training for school pupils and adults; improvements to off-street links and associated crossings; widespread re-engineering of junctions to reduce speeds (eg Shacklewell Lane / St Mark’s Rise in Dalston E8); increased on-street cycle parking, including on-carriageway; cycle parking being required in all new residential and commercial developments; retro-fitting of secure cycle parking in some older residential blocks; priority resurfacing of busy cycle routes; cycle pitstops; Exchanging Places events, and cycle training for all drivers of the council’s heavy vehicle fleet (cont. page 94).
    And we are just volunteers. You are free to come to talk about issues like this face to face at our meetings, at 7.30pm, first Wednesday of every month, in Marcon Court Estate community hall, corner of Amhurst Road and Marcon Place, London E8 1LN. So the next will be on Wed 7 Dec 2011.

  7. What we need now is an acknowledgement that the road is no longer suitable for cars and cyclists at the same time, and that markings are made on the pavement to indicate a shared cycle/pedestrian byway. This. along with appropriate entrance and exit ramps correctly placed on the pavement. could make the whole experience of cycling more pleasant for all involved. I would be rather furious if anyone were to be reprimanded by police for cycling on this stretch of pavement, and would like to see the council thinking about how it can accommodate cyclists as a given when making this sort of road-layout change.

  8. I’m a cyclist, who lives in the borough and who uses that particular stretch of road regularly. The new pavement is disproportionally wide. My guess is that it’s been done for the benefit of the retail spaces that surround the library. Great for Barratt Homes but not for cyclists. Do you know of the best way to petition for a review? [You should be able to find a how-to-online-petition site easily enough. Why not also ask a local councillor or MP for help? — Ed.]

  9. Yet another case of a council quoting the mock-experts at the London Cycling Campaign to back up their reactionary stance. I challenge any of these people to send their children off to primary school along such roads with or without cycling-skills training.

  10. Well done. I’m glad you have highlighted this gross oversight by Hackney council and TfL. Many cyclists go on the footway, often at great speed, at this very point, past both the entrance to the library, and the doorway of the building that houses Age UK and Disability BackUp. This area is where some of Hackney’s most vulnerable pedestrians are walking. I’ve witnessed some frightening near-misses here. How soon before we have our first major injury? (And who will be held accountable?)
    Yes, we need good conduct from cyclists and effective enforcement from the police. But first and foremost we need good design of our streets and footways. And Dalston Junction is not an example of good and thoughtful design — and, obviously, was undertaken without effective public consultation. Of course, cycle paths have NO place on the pavement and, wherever possible, the road should be improved to facilitate all road users (and that includes cyclists). But with slow moving motor vehicles blocking the heavily clogged up road, the argument for a slightly narrow footway and the inclusion of a dedicated cycle lane (on this section of the carriageway) is strong.
    One point of correction, you refer to Feryal Demirci as “he”. Cllr Demirci is female. [Thank you: I shall correct that. — Ed.]

  11. Unfortunately, Hackney LCC branch is at odds with the rest of LCC, and most of the rest of the world, in opposing high-quality cycle lanes next to busy roads. There’s clearly room for one here, and in many other places in London. There is also clear recent evidence that these lanes are safer and more attractive to most cyclists.

  12. And this is the result of not asking for cycle tracks because cyclists might otherwise lose the right to the road. Though I believe that bus drivers are well trained, this doesn’t give me the confidence to cycle in such conditions with my children. Please start learning from the Dutch.

  13. Similar widening is happening on Kingsland Road. I find it incredible that they have failed to plan for cycle lanes. Hackney, of all councils, should be able to get this right. Is the council really committed to sustainable transport systems or is it just paying lip service?
    Feryal Demirci’s weasel words give no hint at why this failure occurred, or even that it’s seen as a failure.

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