Royal College Street bus stops post: An update

I must have hit a nerve with my last article, because all manner of hoo-hah sprung up around it. Unfortunately, it was mainly on Twitter, which is a dreadful forum for debate. I’d much prefer it if people would use the comment form on the article for their thoughts, but it’s up to you I guess.

Camden Cyclists say they disagree with my piece, which is fair enough, but have offered no factual criticism of my article as of yet. They did remove the phrase “truly Dutch” from their puff piece about Royal College Street, though there is still plenty of other nonsense.

In addition to Dutch influence, they now also claim that “the armadillos are from Barcelona, the idea of using planters came from Vancouver and I understand that the bus stops are like some in Copenhagen” which made me laugh because none of those are Dutch cities or have the level and wide demographics of cycling that the Netherlands has. After all, why look to the best when elsewhere is cheaper?

The page also says “we have observed that some cyclists prefer to change the vehicle lane or to overtake the bus” which, despite being a bit mangled, says to me that the scheme isn’t working as well as it should be. When bike riders are choosing to ignore your brand new space for cycling and mix with the cars and vans on the main carriageway instead, there’s something wrong.

In desperation, they’ve taken to Streetview and found two examples of similar bus stops, one of which does look even poorer than the ones on Royal College Street. Trouble is, the one in Den Haag has an admittedly rather narrow, but still useable (maybe 1.5m-wide) bus stop island! The photo from Copenhagen seems to have been sourced from the roughest part of town they could find. I don’t remember Copenhagen looking that tatty.

Take it outside

Camden Cyclists also recently suggested that we stop discussing this online and meet in person instead, which I suspect is a way of saying they’d rather keep criticism out of the public eye.

I fell for this let’s-meet-up ruse once before and ended up in a conference room listening to Hackney LCC’s Oliver Schick drone on and on (and on and on) while nobody else could get a word in edgeways. I’ll never get those hours back, you know.

Anyway, what’s wrong with discussing things online? I think it’s great. It gives you time to research each answer, study and prepare your evidence, and present it in a way you feel puts the case forward clearly.

And what’s wrong with discussing this in public? This is a public scheme, paid for with public money, why shouldn’t it be criticised in public? (I note that they don’t object to it being praised in public!)

The Web is the perfect place to have this discussion, and I don’t intend to stop having it here. It’s 2013, get used to it.

Schrödinger’s Cat is half-dead

Since writing the article on Friday I’ve been in bed with flu. Yesterday I was feeling a little better, and I fancied some fresh air and a view of something other than the walls, so we took a short walk to the park.

In my weakened and slightly groggy state my walking pace was glacial, and suddenly London was a much more difficult place to be in. Zebra crossings felt especially stressful and dangerous – impatient drivers would pass close behind us while we were still on the crossing.

The experience gave me some small insight into what it must be like to have restricted mobility, and I can see how stepping off a bus and seeing bikes approaching could be very stressful. It underlined to me that I was right to criticise the bus stop arrangement on Royal College Street. I wonder what blind, disabled and elderly campaign groups think about it?

Questions remain unanswered

Still no answer is forthcoming about all the extra space which magically appeared between the southern bus stop and the parked cars, or between the second bus stop and the southbound cycle lane.

Where has all the extra room for motoring come from? It wasn’t on the plans or the visualisation. It’s big enough for motor vehicles to pass through. Why are people defending the council for prioritising car travel at the expense of walking, cycling and public transport?

Camden Cyclists, ever the apologists for the Council, describe this as “a little extra space”. A little extra space?! A LARGE VAN CAN PASS A BUS AT THE SECOND BUS STOP! That is not “a little extra space”. Stop apologising for the Council’s mistakes and start sticking up for what’s right. You’re meant to be a cycling campaign not the council’s mouthpiece.

They go on to say there’s “about 1m [extra space] at the southern [bus stop]” right below a photo of the bus stop in question, showing that there’s at least twice as much. Am I the only person round here with a tape measure?

Why were Camden Cyclists so keen to defend the new layout when it clearly didn’t match the plans? Why were they so keen to write off the passing taxi as a “skinny car“? And why do they still down-play the issue? LOOK AT THIS PHOTO AGAIN. Cars and vans pass freely while people on the bike track wait. Is that what 10,000 people protested for in the pouring rain? It’s pro-car business as usual.

Where did all this extra space come from? Aren’t Brian Deegan and co. paid tens of thousands of pounds of public money each year for this sort of thing? Don’t they have a tape measure? Was there some secret diktat from above which insisted cars should be able to pass stopped buses, or was it just a surveying balls-up?

We deserve to be told. I’m not saying this is a truly terrible scheme (like Bethnal Green Road, gosh no) but it is a disappointing scheme compared to what it should be, and it certainly shouldn’t be held up as a shining example of cycle infrastructure when there are so many things wrong with it (each of which I’ll be explaining clearly, of course!).

I didn’t set out to rubbish Royal College Street. When I heard it was very nearly finished I rode up there with excitement, but when I got there my heart sank the more I saw of it. I’m just one person writing their personal opinion on a personal blog. I try to be as honest as possible and tell things like I see them. Maybe that’s why I upset so many people.

I’m tired and I’m going to bed now…

…but I’ll be back later on today with a thrilling article about kerbs and why you gotta get them right if you want to maximise your width. (I’m sure you’re as excited about it as I am.)



Oh, and finally – if you must have a pop, do it on here, Twitter’s doing my head in these days. Ta.



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7 responses to “Royal College Street bus stops post: An update

  1. In response to Mark Treasure’s recent critique of Bracknell, Arthur commented: “I agree with this post but is it really useful to personalise it to Mr Owens? I ask because this approach usually just antagonises people, whereas a more general tone, attacking the scheme without attacking a specific person is more conciliatory and often gets better results.”

    In this case I disagree with Arthur, not least because Pete Owens has a right to reply. However, this option is not available to Brian Deegan, so why do people keep having a go at him?

    Also is it true that were no problems with the plans or the visualisation? Has the problem arisen in the implementation? If yes, why do people keep having a go at Brian?

    P.S. You have a very strong argument, otherwise. If you’re going to spend money on it, then do it properly.

    • Thanks for your comment, Simon. I know what you mean about Brian Deegan having limited right of reply due to his position at TfL (though he has responded to questions about it on Twitter). I mention his name mainly because he is frequently praised for getting the project started and overseeing the first stages.

      As far as I can tell, the road wasn’t measured correctly for the initial plans and visualisation, which must have happened on Deegan’s watch. Measuring what’s on the consultation plans with what’s on the ground today shows that there’s more space between the footpaths, several metres in fact. The footpaths haven’t been narrowed either, I checked that too.

      As of yet nobody’s provided an explanation for this, just mitigation and excuses! I had expected Camden Cyclists to want to get to the bottom of it, but they seem to want to pretend it isn’t happening instead, which is a shame.

  2. you are right to get angry at this poor design.
    the plans and visualisations were good, but somewhere someone built it different. i expect someone with money swayed the decision.
    but it doesnt make sense, by NOT following the plans i cant see how they would have finished the work with a cash saving at the end!
    i for one would not use the stupid raised section – taking me onto the pavement and crashing into an old lady.
    until decent schemes come along i will continue to fight for my space on the road with the motorised vehicles…. well something has to wake me up in the morning, and its not the coffee!

    • Thanks for your comment, Mark. You’re an in-the-flesh example of why the scheme isn’t meeting its goals! If current cyclists don’t want to use it, what’s the point? It’s got to be top quality, and this ain’t it.

      • exactly!
        schemes like this actually make it worse because i know what will happen, i will safely move to th right, overtake the bus at about 15-20mph, only to have an idiot driver revving 2 inches from my back wheel and shoting at me to “get on the cycle path” because they are impatient and want to over take me.
        by avoiding a conflict with someone alighting th bus i get a confilct with a motorist. cant win either way…..

        same happens when i dont cycle in a “cycle path that is 50cm wide, or even 100cm wide. motirists sometimes want me to move into that space. i’d rather it wasnt there. then they would at least not have any reason to shout and tell me to move over! dont give me a crap space to use, give me no space to use!

  3. Baudrilol

    The bus is so ‘close to the kerb’ that its back wheels aren’t really even on the yellow lines.

  4. Pingback: Armadillos: The Emperor’s New Infrastructure | The Alternative Department for Transport

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