Stretching 2.8 miles in a northeast direction from Whitechapel Road in Aldgate to the infamous Bow Roundabout, daily challenges greet those who ride the Cycle Superhighway 2 in London.
It’s a prime example of a cycle path that’s been improperly designed. Cyclists are frequently exposed to the dangers of traffic, the stench of exhaust fumes, and the constant din of the city. The weathered blue markings on the path hardly offer any protection against the onslaught of buses, lorries, taxis, and vans.
During rush hours, the experience can range from exasperating to outright life-threatening. It’s a somber fact that a young lady, Philippine De Gerin-Ricard, tragically lost her life here due to a collision with a heavy goods vehicle.
The majority of cycling mishaps occur at intersections, and along CS2, these intersections are particularly perilous, especially near the City end. Here, traffic accumulates until the designated areas for cyclists at these junctions are nearly swallowed by the surrounding vehicles. Often, these vehicles turn abruptly across the bike path without prior warning.
Overseeing CS2 is Transport for London (TfL). According to Charlie Lloyd from the London Cycling Campaign, by TfL’s own metrics, this pathway should have distinct lanes for cyclists. Lloyd comments on the tragic incident near Aldgate East station, emphasizing the palpable danger in the area.
Cyclists are often caught in a quagmire of vehicles changing lanes and making abrupt turns. Lloyd advocates for unique traffic lights for cyclists to avoid dangerous encounters at these junctions.
While London’s cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, has mentioned plans to overhaul CS2 since April, details are still under wraps. Presently, the space is inhospitable for cyclists, often resembling a spectral lane due to the ephemeral blue paint which often gets obscured by vehicles. Additionally, at bus stations, the cycle path is completely non-existent, only hinted at by blue markers in the midst of the traffic lane.
Given the hazards and overcrowding, it’s amazing that there are still cyclists here. Their presence underscores the potential of this route. Even amidst the chaotic rush hour, scores of cyclists await their turn at traffic signals. Daily, thousands of cyclists traverse the Mile End Road, forming a significant portion of its traffic.
Interestingly, the CS2 holds immense potential for segregation. Lloyd notes the wide spaces between buildings, suggesting the feasibility of an isolated route throughout. Rachel Aldred, a transport expert at Westminster University, draws attention to the significant latent demand and emphasizes the need for spacious cycle paths to cater to a large number of cyclists.
The borough of Tower Hamlets, which CS2 goes through, is adjacent to Hackney, a hotspot for cycling. Aldred underscores the economic benefits of affordable transportation for this borough, and the potential increase in local business revenue.
Given its current state, CS2 is far from optimal and poses genuine threats. Any makeover must aim for a bold, segregated space dedicated to cycling.
AREAS OF CONCERN:
- Aldgate Circle – Where CS2 commences with just blue paint marking its presence amidst a busy road.
- Aldgate East Section – A perilous crossing without any pedestrian lanes, giving priority to vehicular traffic.
- Whitechapel Road Market – As per LCC’s Charlie Lloyd, this market holds cultural significance and has potential economic benefits from cyclists.
- Mile End Road – A rare peaceful segment of the highway with a European ambiance.
- Bow Roundabout – Notoriously dangerous, with the loss of three cyclists’ lives, and still presents risks even with new traffic light arrangements.