TfL To ‘Re-Engage’ On Blackfriars Remodelling

TfLs plans, overlaid on the current layout.

TfLs plans, overlaid on the current layout.

The uproar of cycling campaign groups, assembly members, and you – dear readers – have sent TfL back to the drawing board on the Blackfriars Bridge approach redesign.

They’re back at the drawing board, but not actually proposing to change anything on it right now. They’re just standing near it. And that’s where you come in. TFL are having an ‘engagement’ (it’s not a consultation, consultations are real things with legal status, engagements are not) and want your views on what they are planning.

Thankfully the whole episode means they have been forced to finally explain what it is they are planning and why. The scheme is the product of the same team that brought us the friendly Vauxhall gyratory, and it is designed to respond to the upcoming increase in trains serving Blackfriars once the Tube reopens and the Thameslink upgrade reaches its mid-way plateau. The boffins predict that an extra 6,000 people will want to cross the road outside the station and so the road needs to be rearranged to accommodate this. This is best achieved (TfL propose) by adding an extra lane of vehicle traffic, increasing the speed limit and removing a pedestrian crossing, all of which we still find confusing.

TfL never got back to us on our questions, but provided the following FAQs:

Why remove the section of southbound cycle lane outside Blackfriars Station?

Network Rail data indicates that pedestrian flow at the station will increase to 10,000 pedestrian movements per hour during the AM peak, as a result of the redevelopment of the station.  The majority of the existing subways outside the station will close, and new surface-level pedestrian crossings will be provided in order to meet this enhanced demand.  The footway outside the station will be widened to provide additional space for pedestrians and to meet DfT guidelines for there to be space between the carriageway and the frontage of a national rail station, for security reasons.

It is necessary to remove a short section of the southbound cycle lane in order to meet the significantly increased demand from pedestrians.  At the same time, TfL must bear in mind traffic flow across the bridge.  It is necessary to provide three southbound traffic lanes on the bridge: two for traffic heading south via Blackfriars Road and one for traffic turning right towards Queen Victoria Street.

Reducing the number of lanes beyond this would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area.  Buses make up a significant proportion of traffic passing through this area: in the busiest hour of AM peak period a total of 64 buses pass north and southbound through the Blackfriars Bridge junction.  TfL has a duty to keep traffic moving throughout its network.  Overall, the scheme has been designed to have a neutral effect on vehicle flow over the bridge.

Why reduce the width of some cycle lanes, for example at the section between the Blackfriars on and off slip roads and Victoria Embankment?

The footways at this section are too narrow to accommodate the significant increase in pedestrians the re-opening of Blackfriars Station will generate. The footway has been widened at this location to allow for more pedestrians, whilst maintaining a cycle lane of 1.5m, which is the minimum width identified within the London Cycle Design Standards.  There are currently no traffic signals in this area of the bridge, and traffic is free flowing.  The installation of new pedestrian crossing points will introduce signal control, allowing cyclists to position themselves more easily, and so improve their passage across the bridge.  Reducing the number of traffic lanes would generate significant congestion throughout a potentially wide area.

Why remove the pedestrian crossing on New Bridge Street?

This is necessary as there is insufficient footway space to accommodate pedestrians using this facility in addition to the new crossings that will be introduced.  Pedestrians making this movement will be able to use the existing subways to cross.

TfLs methodology simply ignores cycling: ‘we need more room for pedestrians’ and ‘we need more room for cars’, so ‘let’s cut the cycle lane’, they argue. Let’s be sure – this is more room for cars – there is one southbound lane onto the bridge at the moment, so any ‘congestion over a wide area’ will be roughly what it was this morning. They argue that there are 32 buses going each way in the busiest hour, but there are also approximately 642 cyclists commuting in that same hour (according to their figures), that’s another seven full Borismasters who aren’t being considered, and not a thought given to the Mayor’s stated manifesto intent to increase cycling by making it “safer and more convenient” (Boris has been notably silent on the matter, despite our pestering him on Twitter).

Danny from Cyclists in the City once again has the full story, and we join him in thanking Labour and Green Assembly Members Val Shawcross, John Biggs and Jenny Jones for meeting with him and pushing this engagement through with TfL.

The deadline for the engagement is 14 April and full details are available here – please take a minute to give our transport planners the benefit of your opinion.

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