Yesterday I wrote about the plans for the cycletrack on the Westway reaching consultation, but today I want to look just a mile a bit further south but still in West London. I think it’s worth considering a pair of junctions out for consultation and what the differences between them tells us about TfL’s (somewhat necessarily) flexible approach to handling boroughs appears to mean. Now, both of these junctions are along the route of the cancelled Superhighway 9. I won’t rehash the arguments of that, but if you’re not aware of them do go back and read over them.
So, Hammersmith – here we get a reasonably chunky two-way segregated track. All this does is navigate one side of a large gyratory system, but in so doing it provides a higher capacity safe method to do so that is presently available. However, it seems quite clear that the join into this track from the east is compromised and possibly rather problematic. Other elements seem a bit peculiar, particularly the way that the route enters Blacks Road at the bottom left, which seems determined to have cycles in an unexpected place all over the junction to a road that is essentially a cul-de-sac. There are some other rather nice elements that I think should just about work but will need the details right. Seeing the King Street contraflow reach the gyratory after about 30 years feels good, and the bus lane in Beadon Road may be a workable compromise given the alternatives on offer, but the chance to provide a clear cycle route along that road should have been taken during realignments of the road for the various redevelopments along it. It feels rather odd though that no reference whatsoever seems to be made to the proposed width of any element of the scheme. So I have a few questions to ask already!
But think back to the plans for the superhighway along this route. They would have involved a two-way segregated track at least in Kensington High Street (further to the east). On that basis, is the problem the nature of this join or the fact that the two way track is only being delivered to cover the junction? It’s a thought certainly, though with the range of nearby destinations and high levels of cycling perhaps tracks with flow on the route to the east are more important. Maybe we didn’t really want a two-way track beyond the gyratory itself.
This feels a bit disappointing but when we then go and look at the junction on essentially the same cycling route (and what would have been Superhighway 9) to the east in Kensington and Chelsea, we don’t see even a glimpse of colour let alone segregation. Here we just see wider, marginal improvements in the alignment of painted facilities and nothing to deal with the issues of sharing roads with heavy traffic. Remember, Kensington and Chelsea themselves admit that they need routes on quiet roads to deal with that problem but have been unable to devise a single alternative east-west route to Superhighway 9 that would do so.
Some of the space in this junction is just aching to have “Space kept for future superhighway” stamped on, but instead we get the dreaded wide lanes and markings to denote wasted space. It’s notable in both plans but most especially this Kensington junction that plenty of opportunities taken not just to make cycle access better aligned and smoother but to offer more width for motor vehicles. Look at the realigned left filter into Holland Road above, the widening of Warwick road above or in the case of Hammersmith the way the inside lane gets smoother turns all the way around the broadway. TfL isn’t highlighting these features but just because a plan focuses on changes for cycles and pedestrians in the explanatory text in boxes with arrows it does not mean that the changes only favour them. Perhaps TfL would be better off noting these improvements for other users to help defuse some of the negative feedback on these plans.
We’ll have until mid-march to respond to both of plans, but it seems prudent to wonder why both schemes are so incoherent with each other. Who’s really going to be happy about avoiding that massive truck on the segregation at Hammersmith only to share the road with it all the way up Kensington High Street? Or if it’s on their way home, to have a gradual increase in segregation as their journey progresses towards outer West London, especially if the replacement for Superhighway 9 from Hammersmith to Hounslow is built.
Anyway, for now, a reminder if any were needed, that the delivery of routes in London under the Cycle Vision is hugely variable.