Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Inclusive cycling- what can we learn from the Kingsmead Estate in Hackney?

The cycle lobby and bloggers have managed to establish that there is a simple link between road safety and levels of cycling. They suggest many would rush to cycle if only the road network ‘felt’ safe. They use the phrase ‘build it and they will come’.

They are able to sustain this argument because very few people cycle and little independent research has been undertaken. The research available has been undertaken by lobby groups in the main. And what research there is relies on surveys of attitude and sentiment. They ask respondents what they 'might do' rather than researching what they 'actually do'. In the words of Werner Brög, Social researcher and well know travel surveyor, “attitude is not behaviour”

The study I have undertaken is very different. It is an analysis of two communities in Hackney living cheek by jowl and using an identical local road network. The data is from the 2011 Census and as such is of unimpeachable quality. The analysis finds huge a difference in cycling levels between two communities that share identical access to the local road network. It debunks the cycle bloggers mantra of ‘build it and they will come’. The challenge for those advocating inclusive cycling is to understand why this is.

The analysis finds that comparing two adjacent census areas in Hackney one, ‘the leafy streets’, has the third highest (25.6%) cycling to work levels in Hackney. This compares to the adjacent ‘inter-war and 80s housing estate’ with the second lowest (3.6%). Both share an identical local road network. This is a seven-fold difference in cycling levels. The housing estate is the most bus dependent in the borough.

The two communities.

The map below is of the census areas which the Office of National Statistics (ONS) call Lower Level Super Output Areas (LSOAs). There are 144 such areas in Hackney. They will have between 400 and 1200 households each and are shown here with their ONS reference numbers.

Two adjacent Hackney LSOAs 

The 144 LSOAs have vastly different travel to work by cycling levels. The highest being 27.5% down to 3.1%

The first community live in Victorian terrace housing on leafy streets, just off the Homerton Road. There is little through traffic. Homerton Road is not one of London’s thundering roads. It is a  narrow primary route, the B112, often busy, but slow flowing road. It has a speed camera indicating past serious collisions. It is an important bus corridor. Access to the wider road network to the north and west, where most local transport objectives would be, is via Homerton Road or the wider traffic filtered area of Lower Clapton.

The second adjacent community lives on an inter-war and 80s housing estate that was a Hackney council estate and former timber factory, but is now managed by housing associations. It is set further back from the Homerton Road than the leafy streets and there is again little through traffic. In all other ways access to the local and wider road network is identical.

It’s clear that these two areas share the same road network. Both are within the red circle on the map below.

The leafy streets

This photo is a reasonable representation of the leafy streets.

The leafy streets

The inter-war and 80s housing estate

This photo represents most of the housing on the Kingsmead Estate.

The inter-war housing estate, Kingsmead

The demographics

The leafy streets community is 66% white, of whom 34% cycle to work. 43% commute by Underground, rail or bus; 13% by car whilst 11% work from home.

The second largest ethnic group are black (17%) of whom less than 3% cycle to work. Most (62%) commute by Underground, rail and bus; 25% by car whilst 8% work from home.

Overall 43% have access to a car, 21% travel to work by bus, 26% by cycle, the third highest of any LSOA in Hackney.

The inter-war housing community is 53% black of whom less than 4% cycle to work. Most others (74%) commute by Underground, rail or bus (50%), 14% by car whilst  5% work from home.

The second largest ethnic group are white (27%) of whom 9.5% cycle to work. Most others (60%) commute by Underground, rail and bus and 20% by car whilst 6% work from home.

Overall 35% have access to a car. 46% travel to work by bus, making it the most bus dependent community in Hackney. 4% cycle, the second lowest rate of any LSOA in Hackney.

Looking for an explanation

So what are the differences between these communities that so impacts cycling levels, beyond the housing form and ethnic group. The Census allows further analysis by cross tabulating several different characteristics within each LSOA.

Ethnic group and cycling

If you plot cycling levels against % of white commuters it seems there is a correlation, though some of the highest % of white population has the lowest cycling rates. I think this is associated with the Charedi community in Stamford Hill.

Socio-economic group and cycling

Here cycle to work levels are plotted against a Census socio-economic classification.

 Occupation and cycling

In a similar way to socio-economic classification, high cycle to work levels correlate with high percentages of professional occupations.

Access to car and cycling

Unsurprisingly better off residents own cars and so given what we have learned above its not surprising that higher levels of cycling are associated with car ownership, though this will be depressed in Hackney due to its car free planning policies.


It is clear from this analysis that the central proposition of cycle lobbyists is not true. if politicians and sensible policy makers continue to unquestioningly follow their lead they will continue to fail and cycling will remain the preserve of those living on the leafy streets.

Monday, 13 December 2021

Access denied, How providing for cycling has left disabled people with less access to bus services

One of the things one picks up early from working in transport and talking to older and disabled people is that they fear cycles on the pavement. And so for many of those working on streets policy it has been shocking to see TfL and other highway authorities divert cycles through bus passenger waiting areas at bus stops. This has been reinforced for me when working alongside disability groups who complained of being ignored and at a Hackney council scrutiny committee when the RNIB told us blind people could not use these stops. 

And to recently read that TfL’s own internal disability advisory group described one bus stop design as a ‘turd’, is more shocking still:

However, there was also strong agreement that this design was, in essence, ‘polishing a turd’ i.e. it was still a turd, but a better one.

The introduction of accessible buses and bus stops has been a key task of the last 30 years. This is because the bus is the most inclusive and affordable public transport, operating 24/7 across the whole of greater London. Any notion of social justice in transport starts with improving access to public transport, primarily the bus.

We know there will be any number of bus passengers at these stops that are either elderly or disabled. There will also be other passengers not in these groups, for example those pushing a buggy or alighting with multiple small and energetic children. All have benefited from legislation and action to improve access to the bus.

How did we get into a situation where £100s millions has been spent over decades on accessible buses and £10s millions to provide accessible stops? How have public bodies, such as TfL, been able to avoid their legal duty to older and disabled people to ‘advance equality’? Are they in fact allowed to disadvantage disabled people who need to access the bus from the pavement in such a manner?

TfL describes the negative impact of their bus stop designs on disabled people in its equalities assessment. And so they understand the problem. They say:

This may increase the potential of interactions between cyclists and pedestrians. Pedestrians who have cognitive, mobility and sensory impairments are more likely to suffer from the negative effects of the increased degree of cyclist / pedestrian interaction. In addition, the amount of manoeuvrability for wheelchair users may be more restricted to accommodate the cycle track as there may be less space.

And on older people:

This may increase the potential of interactions between cyclists and pedestrians. Pedestrians who are over 65 and have restricted mobility or are blind / partially sighted are more susceptible to potential cyclist / pedestrian interaction.

Which all means that older and blind people along with, say, autistic children, and those that use wheelchairs will be put off using the bus. And in some cases may well be injured because cycles, travelling at speed*, are diverted through bus stops.

Understanding how this has been possible requires an understanding of the history of equalities legislation. But in short the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act  that focussed entirely on disability, was repealed and replaced by the Equalities Act 2010 with 9 ‘protected characteristics’.



Gender Reassignment

Marriage and Civil Partnership

Pregnancy and Maternity


Religion and Belief


Sexual Orientation

And this has meant that instead of worrying about the access needs of older and disabled people getting on and off the bus, TfL has been able to mix it up in their assessment and balance off the needs of any group that is under represented in the demographics of cycling. Thus, TfL say:

there are benefits for all ages:

It is anticipated that introducing a segregated cycle track will encourage cycling growth among people of a wider age range;

disabled people benefit:

Cycles can act as a mobility aid for a small number of those who find walking difficult or cannot walk at all. Some people with disabilities ride standard bicycles; others use one of the many types of non-standard bicycle available such as tandems, tricycles, hand cycles or electric bikes;

women benefit:

With women making up over 50% of Hackney’s population, improvements to the infrastructure in the area to create a feeling of safety is likely to achieve higher levels of active travel for women;

there are benefits for ethnic minority communities:

This forms part of a series of measures to help open up cycling as a viable mode of transport to a larger number and wider range of people. BAME groups are typically under-represented in cycling at less than 7% of all cyclists in London, with the lack of facilities and safety concerns associated with traffic key barriers to cycling for BAME groups according to a TfL report;

those having undertaken gender reassignment benefit:

Implementing these measures is likely to deter people from committing crime, which may have a positive impact on people that have undertaken gender reassignment; 

And so it goes on.

TfL and other highway authorities have, in effect, said that they can now set aside the access needs of older and disabled people in favour of all of those that might cycle if cycle lanes were routed onto the pavement and through bus stops (None of which is substantiated).

So legislation designed to advance the needs of all equality groups is now disadvantaging those with disabilities and it is no longer the case that disabled people’s access to bus services is a priority.

This can’t be right!

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

There were 228 cycling fatalities in the Netherlands in 2018 - Christian Wolmar doesn’t want this known

The cycle bloggers and campaign groups such as the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) are forever extolling the virtues of cycling in the Netherlands. In 2012 the LCC ran a campaign to persuade the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, that London should ‘Go Dutch’. It was implied that cycling in the Netherlands is much safer than in Great Britain. 

It is the case that on a ‘per kilometre’ cycled basis fatalities are lower.  However, in absolute numbers, the Netherlands has twice the number of cycling fatalities than Great Britain, but with a population one quarter ours. I have tried to bring this to people’s attention because it’s important. But I was effectively silenced. The person who prompted the suppression of my views would, you’d have thought, been in favour of free speech and intellectually interested in alternative points of view.

Christian Wolmar, journalist, and London Cycling Campaign board member (Chair of the HR Committee), wrote twice last year to my employer complaining about comments on my personal Twitter account. Until now I have been unable to respond. In August he wrote:

“I have been concerned about his Twitter posts for some time but the final trigger which has prompted this email is a recent post in which he used statistics in a completely dishonest way. In this post, Mr Stops argues that to ‘Go Dutch’ risks an increase in cycling fatalities because that is what has happened in the Netherlands. This is a misuse of statistics on a Trumpian scale. Of course there are more fatalities in the Netherlands because cycling levels are many times greater than in the UK. The relevant statistic, as Mr Stops must know, is the rate of deaths per million miles cycled, which is far lower than ours. This is a plain misuse of statistics, using a highly partial selection in order to fit in with Mr Stops’ views.”

 His complaint went on:

I would be very interested to know if this is something that is allowed under your employment terms and, if not, whether you will ask Mr Stops to desist from making these attacks.”

Below is the thread he complained about. My tweet makes the point that the absolute number of cycling fatalities in the Netherlands in 2018 was 228 and in Great Britain 99. And that the Netherlands has a population a quarter the size of the GB. I highlight this because it is a big deal. People ought  to think about the consequences of ‘going Dutch’. I believe we should do much better than the Dutch, or there will be many more cycling fatalities on our roads.

One should be careful with statistics. The number of fatalities can be ‘normalised’ in different ways, and it is true that there is a lot more cycling per head of population in the Netherlands than in Great Britain. Presenting the fatality statistic per kilometre cycled (cycle fatalities / kilometres cycled) is relevant and favours the Netherlands. It is, however, only one dimension. The absolute number of fatalities, is equally relevant because every life matters and the numbers in the Netherlands are high.

The best source of the data I know is the EU sponsored European Transport Safety Council’s publication, page 25: How safe is  walking and cycling in Europe?

Mr Wolmar is correct in saying ‘cycling levels are many times greater than in the U.K.’ The distance cycled per year, per inhabitant, is 865km in the Netherlands compared to 80km in Great Britain i.e. over ten times more. Cyclist deaths per billion kilometres cycled is 13 for the Netherlands compared to 19 for Great Britain. That means the fatality rate per kilometre cycled in the Netherlands is 2/3 that of Great Britain. It is not “far lower than ours” as Mr Wolmar states. 

The table also shows the cycling fatalities per million inhabitants is 12 in the Netherlands compared to 2 in Great Britain.

So, the point of my tweet was not to deny that the Netherlands do better in terms of fatalities per kilometre cycled, but to make the point that the absolute number of cycling fatalities on Netherlands cycling infrastructure is very high and if the UK had the same fatality statistics as the Netherlands it would mean many hundreds more cycling fatalities.

Going Dutch may not be such a good idea. To emulate ‘Go Dutch’ may well result in many more cycling casualties on our roads. We need to do better than the Dutch. This is the debate Mr Wolmar wanted to close down.


As background, the latest fatality data for all modes in both countries is available for 2019Tackling pedestrian and motorcycling casualties, alongside cycling and child casualties on the roads is where the focus of road safety should be in my view and, until recently, was.

Great Britain











Car occupants









Population millions (Wikipedia)



* includes mopeds & pedelecs

** includes 42 mobility scooters


The Netherlands recently published figures for 2020 that show there were an even greater number of cycle fatalities in 2020. 229 cyclists lost their lives using Netherlands cycling infrastructure, the highest number of cycling deaths in 25 years:

More and safer cycling

There are interventions that can improve cycle safety and they are well known:

  • Slower speed initiatives;
  • Motor traffic reduction;
  • Targeted remodelling of junctions:
  • Education and enforcement -get some training:
  • Motor vehicle design - there is some hope that the design of large lorries, more appropriate for urban areas with greater all round vision for the driver, may reduce ‘failure to see’ collisions.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Are cycle lanes safe? A personal view.

Much has been made recently of conditions being made safe for cycling. However my experience has been that there is an unwillingness to discuss or take on board any views about what keeps cyclists safe other than the viewpoint that is currently fashionable - namely providing cycle lanes across London. The lengths to which some people will go to in order to suppress alternative views has surprised me. It includes people who would be, you’d have thought, in favour of free speech. These are my personal views.

Christian Wolmar journalist and London Cycling Campaign board member (Chair of the HR Committee), wrote twice last year to my employer complaining about comments on my personal Twitter account. Until now I have been unable to respond. In August he wrote:

“I am writing to you as a trustee of the London Cycling Campaign and one of the founders of Labour Cycles over concerns about the Twitter activities of one of your staff, Vincent Stops.”

 His second complaint in October stated:

“After a period where Vincent was quieter and blocked me so I could not see his emails [tweets?], he is now at it again.. Here is his latest effort which is clearly nonsensical - cycle lanes are not inherently dangerous and I am sure this is not a view that [employer's name] would want to share.

I hope that you can take action on this...”

Below is the thread he complained about. My twitter thread challenges a rewriting of history by the local cycling group as to how Hackney became such a successful cycling borough. As an aside I say that cycle lanes were avoided because they are unsafe:

I’ve worked professionally, and as a councillor in Hackney, to promote more and safer cycling for over two decades. For two years I was the lead councillor for transport. Hackney is by far the best cycling borough in London. The Census in 2011 reported the highest rise in cycle to work of any local authority area in Great Britain. More residents cycle to work than drive. 

There are cycle campaigners who think cycle lanes will get more people cycling safely, but there are others who have substantive concerns about the safety of cycle lanes. I am one of the latter - some cycle lanes are unsafe. I have made that case in public for many years, including on my Twitter account.

I’ve been on Twitter for a decade and have been debated and attacked for my views for years, and that’s fine. But what I want to put on the public record, and respond to, is the action of journalist and London Cycling Campaign board member, Mr. Wolmar, who made a direct complaint to my employer asking them to take action against me. The effect of this complaint was to stop me being able to express my views on these safety concerns, even in my own borough, in which I am an elected representative.

My twitter account made no reference to my then employer, nor has it ever made reference to my employer. The account is obviously of my own views. I didn’t get a chance to debate Mr. Wolmar on Twitter as he did not seek to engage with me, preferring, instead, to seek to suppress my views via my employer.

Christian Wolmar is a fairly high profile individual in transport circles and his complaint led to my consulting a solicitor, my trade union and invoking a grievance process with my employer - a public body that I had worked for, for 20 years and had hitherto been supportive of my public role.

Are cycle lanes ‘safe’?

Campaigning for cycle lanes and describing them as ‘protected’, ‘SafeSpace4Cycling’ or ‘segregated’, is easy.  It is much more difficult to actually design and implement lanes that provide space genuinely separate from motor vehicles. Often cycle lanes will stop short of the intersection. And it is at intersections where, overwhelmingly, collisions that injure cyclists occur. The ‘protection’ will often be only a dashed line or coloured surface. And, critically, the cycle lane means that cyclists are in the wrong position on the road from which to safely negotiate the intersection. Cycle lanes can make negotiating intersections less safe.

The collision types include: 

  1. being hit by a left turning vehicle or a vehicle changing lane;
  2. being hit by a right turning vehicle. 

You can read some proper analysis of cycle collisions commissioned by TfL here. And below is a slide from the Metropolitan Police service:

Cycle lanes may be fine on stretches of road where there are no intersections, but if there are intersections, bike lanes mean cycles pass side roads and travel through junctions, often at speed, too close to the kerb and on the inside of motor vehicles. This is the opposite strategy to that which cycle training teaches cyclists. Cycle training encourages cyclists to take a more central position so that one is visible to other road users. Cyclists should travel either in front of, or behind vehicles at intersections, and should not try to fit alongside each other competing for the same road-space at the junction or turn.


Cyclists travelling at speed down the inside of motor traffic at an intersection are out of the mind’s eye of the motorist or in a blind spot as the driver turns left and as both cyclist and driver compete for the same road-space. There is some proper research about ‘failure to see’ associated with turning collisions, commissioned by the EU 

Below is an example from my own borough. The cycle lane merges with the carriageway. Cycles turning right compete with left turning motor vehicles for the same road-space.

Below, at the approach to Highbury Corner. A multi-million pound, cycle led, remodelling has designed in this situation. Cycles travelling straight ahead compete with left turning vehicles.

A similar situation arises as cycles pass side roads. Again the cycle is too close to the kerb and the motor vehicle will pass on the offside of the cycle and may fail to see as the driver turns left. Ordinarily, the cycle would be either in front of, or behind the motor vehicle that it is now alongside. Below is an example from one of the early Cycle Superhighways at Mile End.

As I have said, none of this is new. For many years cycle trainers, cycling organisations, the police and highway authorities have tried to raise awareness of this danger. Below is an image from a Metropolitan Police slide. 

Pop-up cycle lanes introduced in response to the pandemic, have the same problem. Below an example on Green Lanes.

Mr. Wolmar also objected to the tweet below, in which I prompt readers to recognise the problem of turning right from a cycle lane on the far left of the carriageway, sometimes across two lanes. The video is from the DfT funded Bikeability training course for children. The video describes how cyclists are trained to safely turn right:

To safely turn right cyclists are trained to follow a sequence of 

  1. look; 
  2. indicate and 
  3. move into a central position. 

How much distance is needed to perform this manoeuvre is dependent on traffic conditions, but it can be quite a distance, particularly if crossing two lanes in busy traffic. Often this manoeuvre is not possible from the confines of a cycle lane and the only safe way to turn right is to dismount and become a pedestrian, which rather defeats the object of cycling as a respectable transport mode - it infantilises cycling.

Below, the photo of a ‘pop-up’ lane approaching Newington Green from the north, illustrates the problem. There is now no safe way of leaving the cycle lane in order to position oneself in the right turn area ahead without at some point dodging through the bollards whilst looking behind.

I have thought about this a lot. Social media is a fact of life. Everyone has a right to their views and should be able to express them. I was not politically restricted and should have the same rights as journalists and board members of cycle campaign groups. For politicians this is important and the electorate are entitled to know one’s views. It is surprising and disappointing a journalist would seek to suppress others’ personal views.

Installing ‘protected’ cycle infrastructure is not as simple as the cycle lobby and Mr. Wolmar would have you believe. The situations I have outlined above are well recognised safety concerns and they are not being dealt with. Whether the problems can in fact be ‘dealt with’ inclusively is debatable. Endless campaigning and harrying of those who have and express these concerns does not mean the concerns themselves will go away or become irrelevant.

Time will, of course tell, but I firmly believe the problems of cycle lanes for cyclists’ safety should be understood and debated, certainly not suppressed.

Further reading

If you want to read some proper research for yourself, there is a DfT commissioned assessment: 

and a Danish study: 

Post script: More and safer cycling

There are interventions that can improve cycle safety and they are well known:

Sunday, 13 December 2020

What do the Dutch and London household travel surveys tell us about modal share and sustainable transport?

I havn’t blogged for a long time, but the publication by TfL of travel statistics earlier this year and similar data from the Dutch household travel survey allows a good comparison between Hackney and Dutch cities that is worthy of comment.

In May 2020 TfL published a guide for boroughs that included results from its London household travel survey. The sample size is small at borough level and so the data for three years is combined. The survey gets a 50% response rate. It’s a long running survey and a reasonable statistic. The table of mode share by borough, can be found at: (

In late 2019 the Dutch ministry of infrastructure published its ‘Mobiliteitsbeeld 2019‘ at: . This is a national compendium of transport statistics and includes modal share charts and commentary from their national household survey for five Dutch cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht and Eindhoven. This too is a long running survey.

So what does the Dutch survey tell us?

Below is ‘Figure P1.1.3: Mode of transport distribution for journeys from, to and within the five major cities. Source: CBS, OViN 2015-2017’.

Clearly the Dutch cycle a lot, but they also drive a lot. Even in Amsterdam and Utrecht, both regarded as high cycling level cities, there are a lot of car trips. In the table below, both of the green segments are car trips: as driver and passenger. Utrecht has the lowest car share of trips at 27%, Eindhoven the highest at 52%.

As an aside, the Netherlands has a very high density of motorway compared to its European counterparts.

A Google translation of the accompanying text above states:

The five major cities in the Netherlands differ in the use of transport modes, when we consider the total number of journeys from, to and within the city. The use of the car is dominant in Eindhoven and Rotterdam, with 52% and 45% respectively of all trips made. Car use in Amsterdam (31%) and Utrecht (27%) is considerably lower. In these cities, the so-called 'active modes' (walking and cycling) have a high share in the trips made: 46% for Amsterdam and 44% for Utrecht. The Hague occupies a middle position, with a share of 42% for the car and 40% for walking and cycling. In the three largest cities, the share of bus, tram and metro is around 10%.

So how does Hackney do? The table below is derived from the TfL data. The order of modes is the same as the Dutch publication and the colours matched. Walk is highest, followed by the public transport modes. Cycle is at 8.5%, far higher than any other London borough. Private car is very low at 13%.

In conclusion, the Dutch city dweller does cycle a lot in comparison to their Hackney counterpart. But they also drive twice the number of trips of Hackney residents. The Dutch walk much less than their Hackney counterparts. Use of public transport is far more significant in Hackney than in any of these Dutch cities. 

Public Health recognises public transport as ‘active travel’ and as such Hackney has both higher levels of sustainable transport than these Dutch cities. It also has higher levels of active travel.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Planning for cycling

The Mayor of London has undertaken a 'Strategic Cycling Analysis'. He recently announced six 'Strategic cycle routes', one of which is between Lea Bridge and Dalston. However, neither the Mayor, nor anyone else has an informed idea of cyclists' "preferred route(s)”. Nor is a process of calling something a  "preferred route” any basis for making decisions about investment in more and safer cycling, nor does it increase the chances of getting local support for any proposal. 

In this blog I describe why planning cycle routes always disappoints and suggest a better way to plan for more and safer cycling. 

What makes a “route”?

First, a bit of history. Planning cycle “routes” has been around a long time. In 1989, London local government promoted a 1000 mile 'Strategic Cycling Network'. This was followed by the 'London Cycling Network' (LCN) in 1997  which had a target of achieving a 10% cycle mode share by 2012. The target was never achieved and mode share in London is even now barely 3%. The LCN was superseded in 2004 by a variant, the 'London Cycling Network PLUS' (LCN+). The idea behind LCN+ was to focus more on where cyclists wanted to cycle and was considerably shorter (planned to be 900 km by 2009/10). More recently, the Boris / Gilligan 'Cycling Vision' gave us 'Superhighways' (with blue paint and concrete kerb variants), 'Quietways' and  'London Grid' routes.

Why cycle route planning disappoints

The first reason that planning in terms of cycle “routes” fails is graphically illustrated by the output from the Hackney Cycle App This 'App.' records real cycle journeys through Hackney made by real Hackney cyclists with all their different journey purposes and different needs.

From this real data, it is evident that cyclists neither start nor finish from particular identifiable points, nor do they choose any single route. The map below demonstrates that the Mayor of London will be spoilt for choice of “strategic cycle route”, even between the few kilometres between Lea Bridge and Dalston and he is sure to miss many cyclists’ preferred route.

The output from the Hackney Cycle App demonstrates the streets 
actually used by cyclists in Hackney.

Social media campaigns are easy, but building cycle tracks rarely is

The second reason for failure of route planning for cycles is more important than the question of  what makes a route “strategic” or “preferred”. 

The process sounds simple:

1 the cycle bloggers, twitterati and campaigners demand safe routes; 
2 the planners draw the lines on maps; 
3 the designers, who have the toughest job, join up dots with something they hope is useful and safer.
4 the engineering contractors attempt to implement what the designers have drawn

But it never quite works out. The approach takes too little account of what is actually encountered on the ground. Moreover it takes no account of the local politics of transport. 

On the ground the street is sometimes wide then narrow, footfall high and then low. There are bus lanes, bus stops, bus passengers, town centre uses (shops, shopping, deliveries), pedestrians, narrow pavements, wide pavement, busy road intersections, side streets, roundabouts, one-way streets and parked vehicles. There are markets and churches and mosques, blind people, older, less mobile people, trees, pillar boxes, telephone boxes, advertising hoardings and wifi kiosks.  There are all manner of utilities above and below ground. Moving them costs a small fortune. And this is not a comprehensive list of all the contested demands for space in normal city life. 

The roads can be residential or part of London’s Strategic Road Network and used by either 10s of vehicles an hour or tens of thousands. Every road junction is different. But the unachievable demands of the cycle lobby are for the same level of service, end to end, but this will never be possible. 

Waltham Forests mini-Holland design guide was ambitious and strongly suggested cycle tracks and footway would be consistently 2m wide. Below is the result of the design code. Both pavement and cycle track are far too narrow. A two metre wide footway and cycleway is rarely achieved. 

Here Waltham Forest managed to implement a compromised scheme,
but its clearly not appropriate for a local centre.

Every yard of London's streets is contested and compromised. Shoehorning bike lanes into streets that have multiple users and uses is the primary reason for the continual failure of cycle route planning and why it so often disappoints. Often the compromises are worse than doing nothing, even for the cyclist. This happens too often, and continues, because of the ongoing adherence to the concept of “cycle routes”.
Even the politics of places makes a difference. A bike lane was shoehorned into Whitechapel High Street and Mile End. There was no local opposition apart from the stall holders of the historic market who managed to reduce the impact of the cycle track on their access, but that annoyed the cycle campaigners because they lost their kerb protection for a long stretch of road.

The pavement at Whitechapel was narrowed, bus stops designed around the needs of cycles. The end result is a degraded pedestrian environment for the overwhelming majority of the street's users. For cyclists it is a mixed bag of a cycle track that is variously 'protected', but in other locations dangerous, such as at the junction of Commercial Street.

The pavement is far too narrow at Aldgate where the cycle lane with deep, 6 inch, 
kerbs made an already pedestrian unfriendly high street worse

At Aldgate the cycle track is often unusable at peak times because the junction of
Commercial Street is overwhelmed by motor vehicles

But in Chiswick the politics are different. A two-way cycle track is planned even though this is recognised as poor practice because of the additional risks of cycles travelling in an unexpected direction. But the council and TfL will have a much harder fight with the church, the middle classes and the Tory party locally opposing the scheme.

The 3m wide cycle track at Chiswick is proposed through the middle of the 
pavement and is being vehemently opposed.

Finally, cycle route planning is an inefficient use of finite resources.  It focuses far too much on the links (the sections between the junctions) rather than the road intersections where most (80+%) of the collisions that injure cyclists occur. 

The cost of moving the kerb lines of London's streets is astronomical (£1 million to £5 million  a mile) because it can often mean moving underground utilities, water, gas, telecom, etc.  Often these costs are incurred not for any good cycle safety reason, but just to try to introduce a continuous level of service that, it is said, will encourage cycling by improving the perception of cycling. 
"A new forecast of £58.7m against the original pre-construction estimate of £40.3m is therefore now predicted. "
The project originally cost £40m, BUT OVER RAN BY £18! 

The cost benefit analysis that TfL reported to its Board in February 2015 was -£200m. Yes minus £200million, including huge additional annual costs of £8 million pa to the bus network.

The Hackney to Haringey schemes, Superhighway 1, is generally a good scheme through Hackney. It had a positive cost to benefit ratio and didn't damage the bus service, but £17million could have been spent to benefit cycling more wisely.

The results of all this is plain to see, there are so many examples of compromised schemes, too numerous to record. Minimum standards are routinely ignored and poor designs implemented. There are sections of road on so-called segregated “routes” where there is in fact no separation. This is inevitable. 

From the cyclists perspective, the supposed beneficiaries of these “routes” the end result is poor. The rest of us, all other road users, have to put up with all manner of disruption to our daily journeys. The pedestrian environment is degraded and bus services poorer.

At Tottenham, the most bizarre section of the Boris / Gilligan Superhighway 1 is the section on the pavement outside of Seven Sisters Tube. The need for continuity in cycle route planning trumps everything!

The not so superhighway outside Seven Sisters Underground station. 
A bizarre intervention to complete a route
Along Blackhorse Road there is only room to squeeze in a cycle track on one side of the street. On the other side the cycles remain on the carriageway!

A bizarre finished scheme, with cycle lane on only one side of the street!
I've blogged about bus stops before. The fit, young cycle campaigners want to convert thousands of bus stops to suit their needs not the needs of bus passengers, many of whom are quite vulnerable. 

The cycle campaigners will prefer cycle tracks to go around the back of the bus stop, and some do. But this is hardly ever possible because the stop, track and pavement will have to be 6 metres wide.
TfL's accesible bus stop guidance effectively calls for a 6 metre
wide bus stop area which is often not available

The stop below and other inappropriate designs of cycle lanes through the waiting, boarding and alighting areas of a bus stop do not feature in TfL's guidance for accessible bus stop design, but will be used in most locations.

This busy bus stop has a cycle track through the area passengers wait,
board and alight

In Camden there is a strange variant of bus stop / cycle track because there is so little space. 

A busy bus stop, but its on a cycle route and so gets the treatment

At Whitechapel over 30 bus stops have been redesigned for cyclists. Many of them are far too busy or the pavement too narrow for such an intervention, but the demand ifor a cycle route has led to an end cycle route treatment.

Whitechapel is a mess

So what should London's cycle planners be doing?

There aren't sensible answers to the unachievable demands of the cycle bloggers who want networks of cycle routes suitable for 8 year olds to cycle at will. But there are much better, pragmatic, good value for money interventions to enable more and safer cycling by a wider demographic on London's streets. Reading the peer reviewed Road Safety Observatory research synthesis should be required reading for those planning for cycling because it addresses these issues.

Trevor and Oliver previously coordinators of Hackney Cycling, and their predecessor all understood this. They would say the priority should be firstly to consider the network, then the node (or junction). And only then, the links between the junctions. Hackney thus avoided demands for cycle specific infrastructure for years and spent the monies associated with cycle routes wisely. 

If you want to invest wisely in more and safer cycling, then area wide interventions to create genuinely quite streets are best. They achieve far more that planning eye wateringly expensive routes of varying usefulness to cyclists.

Controlled Parking Zones, enforced slower speeds and closing residential and minor streets to through traffic is the most cost effective intervention to improve cycling, without unacceptable impacts on other users.

In addition there should be programmes to address those junctions that are most problematical for cycles and reduce the dangers of main roads for everyone: 
  • wider inside lanes and bus lanes so cycle can pass bus and bus pass cycle;
  • extended operational hours for bus lanes;
  • reduced parking on main roads;
  • side road entry treatments to slow turning movements;
  • road closures to reduce motor vehicles turning into rat runs;
  • bus and cycle only streets;
  • slower speeds initiatives;
  • traffic reduction.

Training is recommended for those taking up cycling, because most of London’s streets will be as they are now in ten years time. And please don't encourage poor cycling with nominal cycle lanes and tracks on the pavement that keep cycles too far left and unprepared for a right turn.

Cycle training will teach you to position yourself behind the bus,
not where the highways engineers paint the lines
Some quick wins for Hackney's main roads for pedestrians, cycles and bus passengers would easily and cheaply be achieved by extending the operational hours of bus lanes on the A10 and the removal of some of the parking on Hackney Road. Taking out the through, non-bus traffic, from Amhurst Road, in Hackney Central would transform the area at a stroke. And these things would finance themselves by savings to the bus network!

If you wanted to do some useful highways engineering in Hackney instead of ‘strategic cycle routes’ you would remodel the Pembury junction, the Hackney Central junctions, Stamford Hill Broadway and Middleton Road at its junction with Kingsland Road. And, of course, revert the Stoke Newington and Victoria gyratories to two-way operation. 

If you wanted to do some useful area wide interventions you would close residential streets to through traffic in already designed schemes for Wenlock Barn, London Fields and Walford Road and create a network of genuinely quiet streets - all Hackney's residential streets should look like De Beauvoir Town. This creates quieter streets, but also safer main roads by reducing turning movements off of main roads into rat runs

If you close residential streets to through traffic you create a great
cycling environment and reduce the number of turning movements
off of the main road network

In conclusion

Planning for cycling should focus on the network, then the junctions and only finally on the links between the junctions.