Did TfL weaken pro cycling recommendations for killer Kings Cross junction as long ago as 2007?

In 2006 TfL commissioned Colin Buchanan, traffic engineers to produce a cycling strategy report for Kings Cross.  This report isn’t widely known locally and I am indebted to Kaya Burgess from The Times for drawing my attention to the final 2007 report as we discussed the other Buchanan report on traffic modelling in Kings Cross.  There is also a draft version of the cycling strategy report from  2006. Cycle sources tell me that despite their bizarre modelling of Kings Cross without cyclists, under instructions from TfL Buchanan’s normally has a good cycle reputation.

In the draft cycle strategy report Buchanans made a sensible recommendation for the killer junction of Gray’s Inn Road, York Way and Pentonville Road:

An obvious solution is to convert the pedestrian crossings at the junction with Euston Road to Toucan crossings to enable access to the stations area and York Way, and for this facility to be clearly indicated well before the junction. The toucan itself should be as wide as possible to allow for heavy pedestrian traffic flows in addition to cycle traffic.’ [section ends]

5.2.3 Cycling Strategy for Kings Cross Area, Colin Buchanan & partners draft report , as online at Camden Cyclists, retrieved 7 March 2012 2010z

A Toucan crossing is one with a button and lights for a bike and pedestrians to cross while the traffic is stopped.  In my opinion, had one of these been operational Deep Lee would not have met her end under a lorry as she set off from Gray’s Inn Road when the lights changed to green.  Indeed she would have set off on her own before the lorry, protected by the Toucan.

It’s worth comparing Buchanan’s view in the 2006 draft report with the text in the final report, as published by TfL, who paid for it in 2007:

One solution may be to convert the pedestrian crossings at the junction with Euston Road to Toucan crossings to enable access to the stations area and York Way, and for this facility to be clearly indicated well before the junction. The toucan itself should be as wide as possible to allow for heavy pedestrian flows in addition to cycle traffic. However, given the restricted pedestrian refuge and footway space at this location it is likely to prove difficult to achieve.’ [section ends]

4.4.5 Kings Cross Area Cycling Strategy, Colin Buchanan, TfL November 2007

A strong recommendation has been weakened and undermined by a caveat inserted.  Which organisation was responsible for these amends?   Some clues come from the helpful Camden Cycling Campaign.  In worthy, almost old fashioned way CCC minutes its meetings and publishes the minutes online.  CCC minuted a meeting of stakeholders to discuss the draft report on 13 December 2006 at Camden Town Hall.   The TfL representative, speaking for TfL CCE (Cycling Centre of Excellence) was reported by CCC as being:

‘very insistent on through traffic’

Button controlled Toucans are problematic if you want to maximise traffic flow – they take power away from road controllers and give it to cyclists and pedestrians to manage the junction on demand.  It seems remarkable to me that a TFL person from a Cycling Centre of Excellence should be insistent on through traffic – the volumes of traffic at the junctions are the problem for cyclists.

The caveat about this being difficult to do at the Gray’s Inn Road/York Way junction is nonsense – TfL controls the junction and can remodel it.  As they plan to do now.  But the current plans omit any sort of Toucan crossing.

The final report overall is damning about cycling in Kings Cross and the killer gyratory in particular:

There are major one-way systems in the area at King’s Cross and Camden Town, which can be intimidating for cyclists.

There are extensive one-way systems to the east of the study area. These are an important factor in consideration of cycling strategies as such an extensive area of one-way working poses a barrier to cycling

The net effect of one-way working is to speed-up motor vehicles due to the wider road width available, which can
create uncomfortable environments for cycling. In addition to speeding, the stretches of multiple one-way lanes also means that vehicles can move across lanes more often, which can deter cyclists from being able to make such manoeuvres themselves where necessary….

…The short to medium-term solution for this situation is to either establish alternative cycle routes that by-pass these areas or else provide access through them utilising such features as contraflows, or some combination of both.

Kings Cross Area Cycling Strategy, Colin Buchanan, TfL November 2007

This Cycling Strategy, although little known outside TfL has been around since 2007, setting out clear and present dangers to cyclists in Kings Cross.  At least one pro-cycle safety recommendation in the draft report concerning a junction at which someone was subsequently killed was weakened in the final report.   Why, over five years has no comprehensive action been taken to make the Kings Cross roads safe for cyclists once and for all time?

In possession of this evidence and not taking adequate timely action TfL has unambiguously failed in its duty of care to road users who have to use its junctions and must be held to account in the Courts for corporate manslaughter or some egregious breach of common sense health and safety law.

kings cross cycling final buchanan TFL Nov 2007

draft Cycling StrategyKingsCross Buchanan 2006ish

About William Perrin

Active in Kings Cross London and South Oxfordshire, founder of Talk About Local, helping people find a voice online and a trustee of The Indigo Trust , Good Things Foundation and ThreeSixtyGiving as well as Connect8.
This entry was posted in Bad Gyrations KX Campaign, Road Safety in Kings Cross. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Did TfL weaken pro cycling recommendations for killer Kings Cross junction as long ago as 2007?

  1. and of course there is the instance of TFL officers in numerous correspondences that they have tested the roads and found no evidence of speeding. And of course, this is not just an issue for cyclists. For all of us living within the gyratory system the streets are an anti-social fact to anyone walking and above all to our children due to especially the aforementioned frequent lane changes and the speeds.

    On the issue of not having two way lanes: Just today again I narrowly escaped the ticket happy Police Assistant on my way home watching out for cyclists who cycle counterflow on the pedestrian paths counter-flow. Ironically he is on a bicycle. I have written about this elsewhere (http://danielscounter.blogspot.com/2011/12/cyclists-at-kings-cross-or-30-pounds.html) and counted the one ways to tally over 20 in and near Kings Cross.

    Whatever way one looks at this, TFL’s attitude towards Kings Cross including in Labour dominated years was anything but forthcoming. Regulation and redesign that would slow down motor traffic, even though streets cutting into the heart of the inner city and other cites showing the lead here (e.g Amsterdam) London remained slave to the cars must move fast lobby – in an area that has multiple underground and bus connections, as much as national and international connections and which due to its inner city location is crossed on bicycle by many who work in Central London.

  2. Pingback: More on the Kings Cross scandal « bikesalive

  3. N1 Cyclist says:

    Also, Daniel, it is both illegal and dangerous to ride your bike on a pavement not specifically indicated as being for such use – especially one as busy as around King’s Cross. There’s no excuse – if you’re on the pavement with your bike you should be walking it. And if you don’t feel confident and safe on London’s roads you shouldn’t be cycling them (or at least walking those sections you don’t feel safe). I wish the police would enforce such rules more.

    I don’t understand this aversion to one way streets. The cars go round them, so can cyclists. Or they can get off and walk through a shortcut. This junction is at the intersection of several busy roads. It will be VERY busy. There’s nothing tfl can do about that. And as much as I’m a proponent of discouraging car use I think through traffic and congestion is a very important consideration for tfl – increased levels of congestion make London’s roads less safe and less pleasant for all users.

    I write all the above as a cyclist.

  4. Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

    N1 I am writing as a former advanced “police rider” motorbike licence holder. I insist that cycling (rather than motor-bike riding) is dangerous here, that we should have the rights to cycle on all roads (not pavements for sure) that are residential and in both directions and that cars can be reduced in many ways. There is an alternative, They are called look at Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Arnhem, Appeldoorn, Copenhagen and much of Berlin to name a few. There is no reason why the heart of town near a station can not be calmed considerably and traffic controlled.. I guess we sit on different points of ideology here, but having lived in London, Holland and Germany amongst others I know that things can be changed and in a dramatic way! In best consideration, D

  5. N1 Cyclist says:

    “I guess we sit on different points of ideology here”

    I guess we do. I am still concerned that busy, congested roads are far more dangerous that busy, flowing roads; and that clogging the traffic flow doesn’t necessarily reduce it – it just makes it more dangerous. Cyclists have (with a few exceptions) the same rights and responsibilities as any other road user – while this is great because it means we don’t have to put up with being pushed around it means we have to obey the same rules too, even one way streets. Setting up one way streets for contraflow cycling requires a lot of thought and careful planning – probably the majority of contraflow routes I know (and use) in London are far from perfect, and in some cases downright atrocious. Unfortunately TfL’s dominant strategy in the Argyle Square area recently, off just sticking up a few (far too inconspicuous) signs allowing two way cycling, is far from adequate and as a result just not safe.

    (My “beliefs” regarding road cycling are well summed up by this Wikipedia article – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicular_cycling. I think one of the problems with cycling in London is that while, for most roads/situations (perhaps 60/70%), this is the cycling practice the designers anticipated (and that British children are officially taught) there are just enough (say 30-40%) of cases where European/US segregated style of design has been (often badly) implemented to lead to a confusion about what cyclists are “supposed” to do or how they are supposed to behave. Couple that with poorly skilled cyclists who think, having never cycled in a major city, they can just hop on a Boris bike and head straight down the middle of the Euston Road and major problem are inevitable.)

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