London - West End Project - Tottenham Court Road, Gower Street and more

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London - West End Project - Tottenham Court Road, Gower Street and more

As noted earlier in consultation watch, there is now a formal consultation open by Camden Council on the long-running West End Project. Discussion is now coming thick and fast on this, so we're making a separate topic to help organise what should hopefully be an in depth discussion.

In addition to the overview of the consultation provided by Camden Council, they have also provided details on what they are doing for cycling and most concerningly what they are not doing for cycling.

There is also a page on Camden Cycle Campaign (the local LCC group) detailing their input to the plans so far. Camden Cycle Campaign have also made open threads on CycleScape to discuss Concerns about motor vehicle flows in TCR, General Comments and Alternative Options. They are also holding a meeting on Monday, 30 June 2014 from 19:00 to 21:00 at a neraby YMCA, but you should pre-register ASAP if you intend to go as only 40 spaces are available.

The scheme appears disappointing. Though it does involve major changes to Tottenham Court Road the result is no protected space for cycling there. Tottenham Court Road becomes two way and sees cycles sharing with buses in the daytime and all motor traffic in the evening, with some traffic joining and leaving along the length of it. More developed cycle provision is to be made on Gower Street, where semi-segregation will mark out 1.5m wide cycle lanes in either direction, though junctions are mostly ASLs. There are also some changes in crossing and nearby streets to provide some cycle facilties and it should be remembered that they will form key elements of the London Cyle Grid. Camden Cycle Campaign give it only qualified support at present, saying "We have concluded that we will support the Camden proposal unless some much better alternative comes up". Their final response will be influenced further by key groups in LCC and an open meeting they've arranged for Monday 30th June (booking above).

There has so far been comment on the scheme from Cyclists In the City, David Arditti and Rachel Aldred along with a news piece from LCC.

Meanwhile, the Movement For Liveable London have an open letter on their blog, which makes no specific comment on the scheme but seeks to encourage supportive and constructive criticism whilst noting differing views on what should happen.

I intend to write a blog post myself in the coming days, and agree with much of what Danny (Cyclists in the City), David and Rachel have written (though obviously they conflict a bit). I've made a few posts already in the Cyclescape thread on motor vehicle flows to attempt to get some clarity on the likely PCU level in Tottenham Court Road.


The proposals so far:

  • Official West End Project: Out of all the options considered, TCR 2-way for bikes and buses; Gower Street 2-way for motor-traffic, with 1.5m segregated bike lanes.

Problems raised:  Neither TCR nor Gower Street are suitable for inclusive cycling; TCR still unusable outside of restricted hours; TCR restrictions fairly unenforceable.

This is Scenario B in the presentation of options.

Problems raised: Undesirable impact of the gyratory system on vehicle speeds; bus routes in each direction too far apart.

​Problems: Where does the motor traffic go?

If we are seriously considering unravelling all modes, then there does need to be somewhere for cars to go. (Even assuming a certain amount of traffic evaporation, they're not pedestrianising all of Zone 1.) Is it assumed anyone going North-South will use Woburn Place/Russell Square or Portland Street? Is this acceptable?

The Considered Options  list suggests this would be rejected because a high level of taxis through TCR will prevent people being able to cross the road informally, and it seems highly unlikely that they will be completely banned from both streets.

  • ibikelondon: "More safe space for cycling on Gower Street; either through wider and better separated cycle tracks, or [Option 4+]."

Is it physically possible to get wider and better separated cycle tracks on Gower Street? If so, this seems like the best and easiest option!

  • Angus Hewlett: as the Official West End Project, but narrow the bus lanes on TCR to 3m each way, expand the pavement, and lightly segregate bikes from pedestrians instead of from vehicles.

This also seems like an excellent idea, and considering that "buses cannot overtake" was not listed in the reasons for rejecting other options with 3m bus lanes, fairly feasible. The only concern would be designing the streetscape such that there are not lots of pedestrian-cyclist conflicts.

I'd like to add a proposal of my own to the discussion, in case either of ibikelondon's or Angus Hewlett's are not feasible:

  • As the Official West End Proposal, but one-way hard segregated cycling on TCR, and one-way hard segregated cycling on Gower Street. (Assuming the maximum space for cycling is 3m on Gower Street, 2.5m+hard segregation one way vs 1.5m light both ways can be debated.)

TCR is 9m wide at its narrowest, and 11-12m for most of its length (from Bayley Street northwards). That is wide enough for 2 x 3m bus lanes, and 1 x 2.5m bike lane, with 0.5m hard segregation. The only problem is bus stops.

An island bus stop is 2.5m wide. In total, this gives 11m (assuming you need no segregation from the island!) The bus stop by-passes can, where necessary, be narrowed to 1.5m instead. This gives a total width of 10m.

According to Vole O'Speed, the narrowest part of the road is 9.8m, not including the pavement. If we're moving a bus stop off the pavement to an island, thus getting more pavement space anyway, perhaps the pavement can be narrowed by 20cm there.

And voila! Hard segregated cycling space down one side of TCR. I assume it would follow the current gyratory layout, with TCR being northbound, and Gower Street being southbound/both, though that's entirely debateable; it may depend on where is best for island bus stops.

(As a pedestrian, I love the idea of island bus stops: all the people standing around waiting for buses are not in my walking space. And as a bus user, I'm not constantly trying to avoid all those speed-walkers!)





The answer is, it 'evaporates'. It has happened time and time again - you remove road capacity, and after a brief period of adjustment, congestion levels return to where they were. Unfortunately 'common sense' won't countenance this so it's a brave politician who will remove road capacity.

Anyone remember how the whole of London was going to grind to a halt because Ken Livingstone cut off the top end of Trafalgar Square? The media coverage at the time was nigh on hysterical - you would have thought he was proposing to open the Hellmouth. Nothing happened - and I doubt you'd even get a cabbie now who would suggest reopening it to cars would be a good idea...

AKA TownMouse


Sure, a certain amount of it will, not arguing with that. But as you say, you have to present this to the general population.

If someone lives in Pimlico and is trying to drive to Kentish Town, say, there are several routes open to them. But are there any neighbouring streets that are not filled to capacity? Because if there are, I expect those will get more busy before the rest of the traffic evaporates. And this may not be acceptable to those local residents and businesses.

There is also the concern that if you closed both streets to motor cars, the black cab lobby would argue they should be allowed on TCR, which Camden is very much trying to avoid.

The cabs issue is one for Camden Council to solve, but I think if we are going to consider the unravelling of modes seriously, we want to be sure that the parallel routes for cars are indeed where we want them to be first. (E.g. Euston Road for cars, Clerkenwell Boulevard for buses and bikes appears to work quite well, since Euston Road can't really get worse.)


It seems like it could be practical to combine the two suggestions into three lanes of motor traffic on TCR (two-way for buses and a single taxi/private car lane northbound) and hard segregated cycleways on Gower with a single taxi/private car lane southbound (not exceeding 3.1m width, and with horizontal calming measures to reduce speed).


I considered that, but it seems that Camden feels fairly strongly about removing the gyratory because of motor speeds. (I think the 2-way buses would work, but I am not sure whether a single lane sharing with 2-way bikes on Gower Street would be enough; and I don't know why removing the gyratory is considered the only solution, rather than the horizontal calming measures.)

Also, one of the options they rejected allowed taxis on Tottenham Court Road with the buses, and this was rejected because the taxis would make it 'too busy for pedestrians to cross informally'. So I assume that they definitely want to remove motor traffic from that road - presumably so that there is a clear pedestrian alleyway from the Crossrail station northwards.


Hence why I think leaving the rest of the plan as-is, but putting segregated cycling one-way on both roads. This has the advantage of being a fairly minimal change, and thus conserving all the benefits of the chosen scheme.

The only downside is that on Tottenham Court Road, buses would only be able to overtake if there was nothing coming the other way. But that's not been stated anywhere as a major goal of this project, so I think it's an acceptable disadvantage. (And hey, nothing stopping them making the road wider at the north end to allow overtaking if they think that's more desirable than large pavements.)

So my concern - and the reason I'm fishing for responses here - is: why wasn't this the suggestion in the first place? It's not mentioned as one of the rejected options - has it not been considered? Did Camden Cyclists specifically request 2-way cycling on the same street? If so, do they think that's more important than inclusive provision? (Especially since TCR could still be open 2-way to the cyclists who are prepared to cycle with buses.)

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