Camden West End Project – Another Look

Since my earlier blog post on the Camden West End Project, there have been further comments elsewhere. Camden Cycling Campaign hosted a meeting from which there was a series of tweets, which I have storified. A key outcome around this time was that Camden extended the consultation deadline from Friday 18th July to Friday 1st August. In addition the LCC has now released policy guidance for Camden Cyclists interpreting the policy on protected space.

I have also been scouring other documents to try and get more of a sense of the history of the arguments here, and see what forecasting and planning for cycling is evident elsewhere. There are also notable comments about the West End Project in documents around HS2, but I shall have to pick up on those in a further post. This post is essentially to cover what I’ve found so far to give some thinking before I write something further.

A source has also passed me a link to three documents on the West End Project (which I believe have been cited but not published elsewhere). These are particularly interesting as they make it clear that there has been much discussion prior to the consultation where perhaps three parties: TfL, Camden and the Mayor’s office have not been in alignment. This would seem to chime with public comments by Andrew Gilligan that he and Isabel Dedring are against the scheme as it stands. I’m sure others can make much more of these documents than I ever could, so invite those who best understand them to comment in more detail.

What I think is most notable with these documents is that there has clearly been detailed discussion on segregated cycle lanes between TfL, Camden and the Mayor’s office. However, it is clear that Camden (and perhaps TfL?) are committed to moving to two-way working, and indeed have been for some time. This seems to have meant that proposals for segregated cycle lanes have not been taken seriously and instead effort has been made to fit cycling into a two-way working system. TfL appear to be trying to state that inconvenient and slower facilities than the main roads would not be used. And yet, there are far more cyclists on the Torrington Place cycle tracks than you’ll see on Euston Road. There is some very sloppy thinking going on here, I’d say. Certainly not thinking that embraces the reality, that many more cycle journeys are discouraged by fear of other traffic than may be diverted by changes in design.

It seems at another stage that there was an attempt to look at segregated cycle tracks combined with two-way working, perhaps using contraflow lanes.

I said in my previous post that I had also concluded that Tottenham Court Road would likely be rather like Oxford Street is now. This thinking is perhaps well illustrated by this earlier visualisation of the project which shows a central median just like that in Oxford Street now. This is from the 2011 Camden LIP.

visualisation of Tottenham Court Road in August 2011 Camden LIP
visualisation of Tottenham Court Road in August 2011 Camden LIP

Note that in the right hand image a cyclist in the distance is riding in primary (central in the road lane) position in front of a bus. Also, either the pedestrians or the cyclists aren’t obeying a red light! Hardly much faith in design from whoever made the mockup.

It is very clear from the earlier stages of the West End Project that thinking has started from wanting Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street to become two-way and then worked from that basis forward.

Let’s also reassess what the consultation proposes for cycling. At present the cycle provision is to be armadillo light (or semi-) segregation along Gower Street and wider lanes shared with buses along Tottenham Court Road. One thing I think perhaps we risk overlooking is that the treatments at junctions will be rather basic especially on Gower Street. There we will see segregation but only semi-segregation and only on the sections between junctions. Junction treatments look light and sparing, not even of the level of that seen at the entrance to Royal College Street. Are changes in road surface and level really enough to eliminate danger? Note that on Torrington place the cycle track appears to shift to the left hand side of the road going Westbound. The corner is cut back on the pavement and new left hook risk is introduced, where presently there is none with cyclists in a two-way segregated cycle track. Is this progress?

junction of Gower Street and Torrington Place
junction of Gower Street and Torrington Place

It’s very instructive to look at those collisions that have taken place in the area involving cycles or pedestrians which are not within 20m of a junction and those that are. What is the plan for reducing the dangers at the junctions on Gower Street if that is where the cycle route is to be? (Yellow is slight, Brown is serious and Red is fatal)

Not within 20m of a junction

Within 20m of a junction

And a pictoral footnote, part of the reason the West End Project is necessary is Crossrail, the new East-West railway tunnel connecting and extending existing radial railway lines. The works have involved a lot of road closures, which have inconvenienced all in the area. How is this referred to in the documentary on Crossrail?

EyeTVSnapshot[21]

Crossrail’s road closures in the city are a bane for motorists, especially London’s 23,000 cab drivers

What’s the problem for taxis?

You can’t do the rat runs any more. So they’ve messed up what we call the dirty dozen. The dozen streets that get you through the north part of Soho, to get out of it.

Can we just respectfully suggest that road closures are hardly a barrel of laughs for people on foot or on bike as well? Perhaps we don’t want taxis to be rat running at all?

EyeTVSnapshot[20]

EyeTVSnapshot[22]

Also, there are some lovely images in here of what sharing a busy road with buses is really like.

EyeTVSnapshot[23]

That’s what Tottenham Court Road looks like with buses and cycles sharing, and it’s not the future I want to see.

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