Tell TfL: reject GST NHS Trust’s bad ideas for Westminster Bridge

I started an only slightly facetious petition: Build safe bus stop bypasses on Westminster Bridge. Please do sign it and share it.

Facetious because it’s a tit-for-tat response to Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust’s* petition against bus stop bypasses on Westminster Bridge. I felt just slightly bad resorting to such childishness in a week when more than ever I felt the need for the world to sit down and resolve its differences through mature dialogue, compromise and understanding rather than mobs lashing out for all-or-nothing outcomes.

But only slightly facetious, because Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust set the terms for this game, shunning attempts at engagement and instead spreading misinformation to frighten people into opposing a scheme with little understanding of the proposal. If that’s how we’re playing this, bring it on.

What TfL have proposed

TfL want to continue their long-overdue modernisation of London’s roads, and next on their list is Westminster Bridge. Following established international best practice, the modernisation will provide clear space for cycling that is separate and protected from the carriageway and footway, making cycling a safe and attractive option while removing conflicts with motor traffic and pedestrians. Obviously these will also be separated from bus stops, with so-called “bus stop bypasses”:

WBS Visual 1 roundabout

Readers in London will be familiar with these tried-and-tested designs from the Cycle Superhighways. Readers in a number of European countries will be so familiar with them that they’ll wonder how they could possibly provoke a second thought, let alone how something that’s such an established part of the street furniture could lead to tit-for-tat petitions and blog posts.

What Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust propose

But in Britain we really are that far behind, and therefore bus stop bypasses are still alien enough to some people that Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust have been able to spread fear and misinformation about them — enough to gather 972 signatures for their petition, which calls on TfL to “consider the alternatives”.

GST don’t elaborate on the what the alternative is, and have declined to answer questions or engage on the subject, but we know what the alternative to separating modes is — it’s mixing them. GST have, at least, clarified that they are not opposed to cycle tracks, only to the bus stop bypasses. So the only possible conclusion is that rather than bypassing the bus stops on clear separate space, cyclists mix with bus passengers in the bus stops.

Obviously that’s an insane idea, and it’s difficult to find examples of such a thing being built. But this is Britain, home of the insanely badly designed cycle facility, so it’s difficult — but far from impossible. Here’s a bus stop on Royal College Street without a bypass**:

bottom-bus-stopped

(via CEoGB)

Guess how well that works?

This is on a relatively quiet street, with just one relatively lightly used bus route and a trickle of pedestrians and cyclists. On busy Westminster Bridge this would be carnage, and it’s utterly irresponsible of GST NHS Trust to advocate for such dangerous designs.

A serious point

Shared bus stop/cycle tracks are undeniably the logical conclusion of GST NHS Trust’s stated positions, but I’m not seriously suggesting that’s what they’re campaigning for. It’s clear they have no idea what they’re campaigning for, and not much better idea what they’re campaigning against. They are the latest in a line of organisations to make knee-jerk reactions to unfamiliar ideas — and threaten those ideas by spreading fear and misinformation about them.

So the serious point is that we need to actively stand up to the bikelash if we are to ensure that Go Dutch, Space For Cycling, and the progress that we have seen these past two years do not lose momentum.

We must engage with such organisations, when they are willing to engage, understand and address their fears when there are genuine fears, and keep plugging away at spreading understanding of best practice.

And we must laugh when such organisations become laughable, and mercilessly mock the likes of “Stop CS11” from the moment they lose all credibility.

And we must keep reminding TfL that we’re here — that the 10,000 who turned up in the rain to ask them to Go Dutch have not gone away. Which is why you should sign the stupid facetious petition.

* and for once on this occasion I’ll celebrate the NHS Trusts’ refusal to waste money on brand consultants who would advise them to name themselves something that means something and appeals to the public — say, “hospitals” — and instead always insist on being referred to as cold, faceless, bureaucratic, and eminently petition-against-able “NHS Trusts”.

** though for bonus weirdness, look carefully at the far left and you can see it does have a bus stop bypass — but for cars on a service road!

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4 responses to “Tell TfL: reject GST NHS Trust’s bad ideas for Westminster Bridge

  1. As someone who sees both sides (having frail older relatives with combined mobility and sensory impairments, and kids who are desperate to get out and about on their bikes), it’s really important to distinguish between the layout proposed here (uni-directional cycle track) and the most publicised of the new Cycle Superhighways (bi-directional cycle track).

    If your walking speed is 1-2mph, you have 20% vision, poor hearing, stiff joints & feel that a low-speed collision with a bike is likely to be life-changing (plenty of people in their 80s & 90s unfortunately fit all those categories), there is an *enormous* difference in subjective safety between a 4m track where you have to look both ways, and a 1.5 – 1.8m track which only requires you to look in one direction.

    I’m talking about people who:
    – can’t turn their head quickly, and take a while to focus their eyes
    – have a narrow field of effective vision when they do
    – don’t have sufficient hearing to detect approaching bikes which they can’t see, above the genral hum of urban noise

    Fortunately we have a built, concrete example of the proposed Westminster Bridge layout on CS2 next to the Royal London Hospital. (I don’t recall if that one has raised tables for pedestrians to cross on, but it certainly could & probably should).

    It’s also worth pointing out that the arrangement of traffic signals around Westminster Bridge Roundabout will create substantial gaps in cycle flow even at busy times, especially at the southern end of the bridge itself where there is a heavily used pedestrian crossing immediately next to the bus stop bypass.

    Off to sign the petition now, will leave the same comment there!

    • Mark Williams

      There are other alternatives, of course. Either get rid of the bus stop altogether or, if the hospital is keen to retain use of the motor bus as a surrogate ambulance service, move the stop into the hospital’s underground motor car `park’ and ask TFL for any such further motor traffic lights as might be efficacious where access crosses the cycle track. Yes, that might mean some building work at the trust’s expense and/ or loss of motor car storage for their top brass.

      If the trust won’t engage publicly with a mere cyclist/ ‘blogger, then try to find out who they are engaging with secretly (it will probably be at least one of TFL’s anti-cycling departments in this case) and pump them for information instead.

      I shall not be signing any petition with a USAian data `sharing’ policy like change.org’s and urge others not to, either.

  2. You can find the compromise approach in Melbourne:
    https://meltdblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/09/super-stops-on-swanston-street/
    Where the bypass has space for pedestrians on both sides of it, but the bicycles are obliged to stop and wait behind any stopped trams. Priority for public transport is a good thing, though it can be disheartening when other road vehicles are given an unobstructed bypass. The example bypasses you show have the bus blocking other traffic so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect bicycles to wait as well.

  3. Would have signed but change.org is broken and doesn’t work on my phone.

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