Blue paths to nowhere

I have, belatedly, sampled the Cycle Superhighway that runs along the A11 through Mile End having gone to Stratford twice in the past week. I must say that the comments from the cycling fraternity (and sorority) made so far have been  far too mild. To say it is a joke is to demean the concept of humour. On the section I cycled between Mile End station and the infamous Bow roundabout – after which  it unaccountably ends – it is merely a patchwork of bits of blue interspersed by bus lanes, black tarmac and various other markings.

Moreover, it is not even the same ghastly Barclays bank blue throughout. It alternates between that standard blue and a darker one, either because TfL has become ashamed of its association with the hated bank or, more likely, because the  alternative darker version is cheaper. To add further ridicule to the superhighway idea, just a year or so after the introduction of the lane, in a couple of places the Barclays blue is eroding away, returning the road to its usual browny-black colour.

I had expected, too, given the amount of money spent on it that it would be a continuous blue line with  special protected bike lanes,  at various intervals.  But no, there seems to be very little new special infrastructure for cyclists and, of course, the special lane disappears as soon as it encounters something more important such as a bus stop or a junction. At bus stops, for example, the blue ends and there is a sign painted on the outside line denoting it a cycle superhighway. Why?

I am truly, utterly aghast at the ridiculous nature of what has been done. Surely, even the most bone headed highway engineer would understand that the whole  idea of a ‘highway’, let alone a ‘super’ one is that it would provide a continuous route through all the obstacles which an urban main road presents. Can you imagine a motorway that kept on becoming a single lane road – or indeed a muddy path – at regular intervals. As I say, I had not realised from all the descriptions from my fellow cyclists that this was such a shambles. And surely Boris, with all your Olympic emphasis, could you not have coughed up the few bob necessary to make the Superhighway stretch up to Stratford for the Games? Doh!


  • I don’t cycle but I live near the southern end of CS7.  In my area there is so little blue it’s unbelievable.  Few people seem to use it, and I’m not entirely surprised by that.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I was struck especially when travelling along it for the first time the other day by the complete lack of any white line separating much of it from the rest of the highway, along much of its length. So not only is it incomplete as you mention, but even the sections which do exist seem to allow motorists to cross into it. What a disgraceful waste of public money.

  • I think the simple term “Cycle Superficial Highway” is the best description anyone has come with (thanks LCC)

  • CS2 is indeed shit. Fortunately I live in the hinterland to the south of CS2 and I can use the much safer Salmon Lane / Stepney Way / Fieldgate Street alternative, which I heartily commend to others in the area.

  • calum_1693

     Hmm.  As someone who used to commute along CS2 and now CS7 daily, I would say they are more than adequate.  I would say cyclists put themselves in far more danger – jumping lights, trying to shade through traffic, and not looking before maneuvering – than any road layouts do.  That said, I do support on-the-spot execution of motorists who merrily drive into advanced stop zones.

  • Christian Wolmar

    Is that not a bit hard line, Calum? Perhaps just confiscating their cars?

  • Mike42

     Calum, spoken like a true Vehicular Cyclist. You represent the 0.1% who are happy to play in traffic (and probably go vroom vroom to boot). You don’t represent the the 99.9% who know intuitively that the whole ‘Cycle Superhighway’ thing is abject shite that does nothing to encourage women, children, the elderly or anyone else dis-inclined to ride amongst HGV’s, cabs or other hazards on our roads. And total BS regarding it being cyclists putting themselves in danger by jumping lights or filtering to get in front of HGV’s etc. When 9/10 of collisions are the driver’s fault, when intersections like this exist, how can you possibly blame the victim?

  • Obviously making CS2 extend to the Olympic Park was not an option, as Barclays don’t sponsor the Olympics.

  • Of course if we didn’t have a bike hire system that had a Barclays logo plastered all over it, it could have been extended – and therefore have offered a better service.

    [n.b. I doubt they would have extended it myself anyway – too much potential demand would only lead to disappointment]

  • Jefff

    Speaking as a new cyclist, anything that highlights that the side of the road is more than just a bumpy gutter, has got to be a good thing.
    Yes, the cycle ‘super highways’ are totally pathetic, but they are better then nothing.

  • I use the northern part of CS7 quite often and it seems reasonably well used, especially around Elephant where it provides a welcome route round the back streets to avoid that ghastly roundabout. Mind you, I also see just as many cyclists *not* using it at Elephant, and sometimes I do think cyclists are their own worst enemies.

  • calum_1693

    I’m not a fan of this “vehicular cyclist” label.  You’re on wheels, you’re on the road, and you’re subject to the rules of the road.  Everyone’s a vehicular cyclist, like it or not, and everyone that goes out there should have a basic level of competence and know and obey the rules.  The number of cyclists who seem to have no concept of riding defensively is ridiculous.  This isn’t Holland; we do not have the space or the money for real segregation. 

    Until cyclists stop blowing through red lights, across zebra crossings with people on them, undertaking slow moving traffic, cutting across pavements at speed, and every other damn fool thing I see every day, you’re not going to get any political support for special treatment.

    The phasing on that junction is bloody stupid, yes, but it’s also painfully obvious that the main flow of traffic is across your front.  The cyclist entered the box with traffic already crossing in front of him.  Discretion is the better part of valour, sometimes.

  • Shaun

    The problem with the alternative route through Elephant and Castle is that it has too many turns and junctions, thus the safety vs time balance means that going the shorter route is better.

  • I enjoy cycling but I’m too scared to cycle the 4 miles from home to work in Westminster. I get off the bus on Millbank, and see buses and bikes crossing each others’ paths as the CS goes outside the bus stop markings. For demographics, I am 44 & female. Walking leaves me in considerable pain because of fibromyalgia, so cycling is partly a substitute for a nice walk

  • RichardH

    I’ve always found the problem is that motorists think that so long as they’re not in the bike lane they must be giving cyclists enough room. Untrue.
    The so-called bike lane along Lower Thames St is frightening – 18 inches wide and juggernauts going by with their wheels on the edge of it. But the cyclists are in ‘their’ lane, so must be OK!

  • Mike42

     Calum, man, you are so utterly wrong it’s not funny, for someone purporting to cycle daily and speak on the matter. You aren’t a stooge for the Daily Mail, are you? To address your points:

    “everyone that goes out there should have a basic level of competence and know and obey the rules”
          Most adult cyclists hold driver’s licences. They are perfectly capable of reading the road, understanding the law etc. You don’t take the legally-qualified and experienced part of your brain away when you get on a bike.

    “Everyone’s a vehicular cyclist, like it or not”
         The definition of a Vehicular Cyclist is someone who thinks they are a car, and wants to be treated the same. Here’s why that’s a load of rubbish: . No, very, very few people on bikes are or want to be ‘Vehicular cyclists’. see Gert’s comment above.

    “This isn’t Holland; we do not have the space or the money for real segregation”
       This is the single biggest fallacy in the UK cycling debate. It’s utter rubbish. See here just a fraction of the incredibly narrow, no-space-for-a-2m-bike-lane streets in goode olde medieval London: and also here

    “Until cyclists stop blowing through red lights…yadda yadda…”
        Again, rubbish. The only reason some cyclists deliberately flout the rules some of the timeis for their own safety. By your analogy, there’s no political support for driving, because HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of drivers break many rules – speeding, not giving way, not stopping at amber or reds – every day in London. Except when a cyclist breaks the rules, they only endanger themselves (No, don’t bother with the ‘cyclist-hits-pedestrian’ one ‘cos it’s so rare it’s up there with ‘piano falls on man’)

    With friends on two wheels holding your views, cycling sure doesn’t need enemies…Take a holiday to the Netherlands. See what we could have. Don’t accept what we’ve got and don’t blame the victims, past, present or future.

  • calum_1693

    Making up definitions and pointing to Wikipedia pages ruled by semi-obsessed editors is not much help.   There are no studies that examine causation with regards to provision or the safety of segregated facilities.  And those pictures are ridiculous.  No, it’s not hard to find wide avenues in London.  I could also go out and spend an afternoon taking photographs of the opposite, and what’s more do it only using routes I cycle regularly.

    As for the no-one getting hit by cyclists, tell that to the young mum on a zebra crossing whose pram some dickhead knocked over when he blew past a knot of cyclists waiting for her to cross.  That was last week, on a CS route.  No damage done, but please don’t try to suggest that cyclists don’t do stupid things and don’t put others at risk at times.  As an aside, I can’t think of a single place on any route I ride where breaking the rules of the road is essential to my safety.  It might be essential to getting moving faster, but let’s call a spade a spade roundly.

  • Phil

    @RichardH – you’ll be please to know that the lane on Lower Thames Street has largely been removed to make way for the Olympic lanes.  The juggernauts are still around though.  

  • Mike42

    You win Calum, your logic is faultless. Enjoy being a Vehicular Cyclist on the ‘more than adequate’ ‘Cycle Superhighways’ with your 1% lycra-clad helmeted mates mucking in with the friendly, colourful HGV’s, while the rest of us normal folk fight to humanise our streets.



  • Tramsol

    I seem to have optional colour blindness which helps immensely in not getting upset when the road isn’t coloured blue. 

    I sampled the Bow flyover the other day 2 generous and near empty lanes in each direction and more cyclists heading East than cars when I went over – solution is simple – make nearside lane CS2 advisory cycle lane as very few cyclists likely to be turning left or right at roundabout, or coming off the A102 – (M) from the North. 

    I did have need to head for Bromley by Bow (LUL) and was pleased to divert on to the Tesco/Big Brother slip road given the 32T tipper driver intent on intimidating me at may back. and this linking needs to be accommodated in the road design.

    Interesting to see how Chapter 5 (road markings) sets out clear dimensions for tapering at the start of bus lanes etc, but this seems to have escaped the designers(?) of signage and markings for CS – one lane on Southwark Bridge Road ends abruptly in a parking bay – usually with a taxi in it from the taxi workshops next door.

  • Hex

    “Wikipedia pages ruled by semi-obsessed editors”

    Care to explain for us what you mean by this?

  • Fledermaus

    Never mind grey paths to nawhere.
    The IS a cycle path under the appalling Bow flyover, running N-S along the Lea canal – can you get to it from the main road?Nah.
    Anyway, the whole thing has been close because of “olympic security” or some such shite ……
    As for the rounadabout itself, it gives me the willies as a car driver, never mind trying to go E-W (or the other way) on a bike!
    See also many other posts on this subject – try starting with “Daimond Gezzer” – himself a non-cyclist, but deeply unimpressed with the whole thing.