A recent article in the Guardian bike blog included a video clip of a cyclist travelling around some of London’s most dangerous junctions including the Vauxhall gyratory.
The cyclist featured in the video was criticised by one online commentator for not using the cycle lane at the appropriate points promptly triggering some counter criticism that the cycle lane itself was not well designed. In order to test out the view points, I carried out a very quick survey this evening watching how cyclists were using the cycle lanes and the alternative road route under the bridge near the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT). Here are some pictures to illustrate the issues.
Entrance to cycle lane (left) and alternative road route to right
Exit from cycle lane (right) and alternative road route (left)
Cyclist waiting to continue on cycle route.
- The first picture shows a batch of cyclists opting for the road route under the bridge ignoring the safer but slower cycle lane to the left. Note the road signage and worn road markings which do not make it easy for someone new to the route to find the cycle lane.
- The second picture shows a cyclist coming out of the cycle lane near the RVT. Note also how the cycle lane on the road starts, arguably, after the main danger has passed. The pavement outside the RVT (from where the picture was taken) narrows so much so that cyclists often have to come to a complete stop as they compete for space with pedestrians or wait to join the flowing traffic.
- The third picture shows a cyclist and a pedestrian waiting to cross the road. Almost invariably, the cyclist will continue on the dedicated cycle lane.
The survey took about one hour at around 5pm time when it was getting dark and traffic was busy. A total of 106 pedal cycles exited either the cycle lane or alternative road route under the bridge.. Here are the results:
- 58% (61 of 106) took the road route, the remaining 42% took the cycle lane route;
- 59% (63 of 106) turned right, towards South Lambeth Road the remaining 41% headed straight on towards Kennington;
- Of those who headed straight on towards Kennington, approximately half (21 of 43) used the road route and the remaining half the cycle route;
- Of those who turned right towards South Lambeth Road (as the cyclist featured in the video did) , 63% ( 40 of 63) used the road route and the remaining 37% the cycle route.
Although I did not specifically measure the relative time that cyclists have to wait I estimate that cyclists taking the safer cycle lane route would add between 30 to 60 seconds to their journey when turning right and up to thirty seconds when heading straight on.
Based on this very small survey, the cyclist featured in the video was doing what the majority of cyclists do when turning right. Of the 40 observed doing something similar, only 1 (in my opinion) was badly positioned having to cut across traffic to a safe position.
A number of subsidiary observations were made during the survey:
- There were two near misses (pedestrians almost being hit) during the hour or so of the survey – once by a car and once by a cyclist;
- Of the 40 turning right from the road none joined the segregated cycle lane because there was no practical means to do so other than by jumping up on the kerb;
- Almost all cyclists crossing the road at the RVT continued on the segregated cycle lane towards South Lambeth Road. Only 1 of 23 went back on the road
- Of the 22 who used the segregated cycle lane, only a minority 36% (8 of 22) joined the marked cycle lane at the start. The 64% majority cycled on the pavement for at least 20 or more metres before joining the cycle lane.
In my assessment, there is clear room for improvement in this area for both pedestrians and cyclists. No doubt there are many possible solutions but here are some:
- A wider pavement outside the RVT;
- A proper filter to allow those going ahead to Kennington to join the traffic flow without having to stop (this would probably encourage more to use the cycle lane rather than the road under the bridge)
- A means to join the segregated cycle route towards South Lambeth Road for those turning right.