Friday 20 December 2013

Being fair to the idea

Details of the central London bike grid have been published now, and looking at the proposals positively, I think there are some excellent routes, and some excellent plans for these routes. In terms of laying a solid foundation, I think it represents a fairly decent start.

The problem is – as TfL acknowledge – that the routes don't cohere properly, for one thing, and they don't necessarily provide good access to some key destinations, for another thing. But these are not insurmountable problems.

What would need to be done in order to "introduce" a much denser network? I can show you what I think would need to happen in Westminster, and before too long I should be able to show you what I think would need to happen throughout the rest of the central London area.

View larger-scale map

It is too late to change it now, but the map above was prepared before the details of the central London grid were published. When the time comes for me to draw up the next incarnation of the map, there are already some things I am planning to do differently. I think the main thing to bring to your attention now is the omission of a CSH route through Regents Park. It didn't appear in the Westminster map, and wasn't therefore included above.

The animation sequence starts with Westminster's plans. Obviously I want to use as many of the officially-proposed routes as possible, but some of them are only properly useful for local journeys, and I am looking at this strictly from a strategic point of view. In any case, I need to be able to assign a colour to every route which features in my design. By necessity, therefore, I have to be selective.

The next frame in the sequence shows those routes from Westminster's plans which I have been able to find useful. And last of all there is the latest version of my design. It goes without saying, but I apply the same caveat which accompanied TfL's plans, namely that the proposed routes are not fixed and unchangeable. Indeed, until very recently, I had incorporated a route along Vauxhall Bridge Road. Such is the flexibility of compass colours, however, that it is possible to shift things around a little bit without diminishing the quality of the overall design in any way.

In terms of the main roads, as Val Shawcross explained to the Commons transport select committee, "There is relatively little mystery and a lot of consensus in London around what does need to be done."

I think Doug Gordon, author of the website Brooklyn Spoke, has it exactly right when he talks about the need for "clarity of design".

90% positive, 10% negative (Image from peopleforbikes

Speaking about the cycleway pictured above, as characterised by coloured paint and physical separation, Doug says that these designs don't take very long to process. He said, "It's – Oh, I go here. You don't even have to think about it."

He explained that when you're cycling down a street, you don't always have very long to make complicated decisions. "You just want those choices to be made very, very clear for you," he added.

Sam Saunders of Bristol takes a similar view. "The development of a settled culture of city transport will depend on consistency, predictability and regular physical cues," he remarked. "Consciously wondering what rules or possibilities are likely in a given situation, while trying to find a route or deal with an immediate problem, overloads the attention span, increases anxiety and increases errors – for all."

The question remains, however, until such time as high-quality infrastructure can be installed, what can done to make all the various rules or possibilities "very, very clear" for people?

View Westminster non-functioning bits in a larger map

Excluding the routes through green spaces or alongside canals, the map above shows all of the non-functioning bits of an extended network (i.e. not included amongst the works already proposed).

View Westminster in a larger map (Circular route not shown)

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