Friday, 6 August 2010

Raw Deal for cyclists

Changes to the traffic lights at Deal's Gateway next to Deptford Bridge Station have scarcely been noticed by motorists - but for cyclists they have created a very dangerous junction, potentially lethal.

For many years, road traffic exiting Greenwich High Road onto Blackheath Road has had its own green phase in the traffic light cycle - initally because the road into Deal's Gateway did not exist, and then when it was built the two traffic phases were still kept separate. The majority of this traffic turns right from Greenwich High Road, towards Deptford and New Cross.

Now TFL in its wisdom has seen fit to combine green phases for the two roads into a single phase, making the junction extremely dangerous for cyclists coming from Deal's Gateway and the cycle path in Brookmill Road, wanting to continue towards Greenwich or turn up Blackheath Road (the only two manoeuvres likely from here, since cyclists going towards Deptford will go round the back of the DLR station and over the crossing by Lewisham College.

There are two things badly wrong with this junction.

Firstly, and fundamentally, this combination of two single phases into one is inherently dangerous, given the obvious incompatibility of the traffic movements from the two routes, and should never have been implemented.

From my own experience and that of other cyclists in the area, drivers emerging from Greenwich High Road are not only failing to give way to cyclists, some are displaying aggressive behaviour towards them, perhaps under the impression that the two phases are still in operation and that the cyclists are merely ignoring the red lights. Unfortunately the history of the junction and the fact that these motorists have had priority for so long makes re-education a very slow process - if not impossible. Meanwhile cyclists are being put at risk every day.

Secondly, the stop line for traffic emerging from Deal's Gateway is way too far back from the junction. If cyclists stop at this line, by the time the lights go to green they cannot get across the junction before the traffic from Greenwich High Road begins turning. If they shuffle forwards to the edge of Blackheath Road in order to nip across the junction before the turning vehicles, they cannot see the traffic lights.

In its response to letters from Greenwich cyclists, TFL admits that there is a problem with the junction but seems to believe that the signs that it has erected - 'signal priorities changed' - are sufficient to address this and that moving the stop line forward a bit will make all the difference. Unfortunately this is not going to happen until later in the year. There is no intention to reconsider the signal timings or phases - all for the greater good of traffic on Blackheath Road.

'we are developing a proposal to relocate the position of the stopline in Deal's Gateway - this is by approximately 14 metres towards the junction with the Advanced Cycle Stopline retained. I would like to assure you that we will aim to deliver this before the autumn. This will require relocation of signal poles and additional ducting under the footway. This will increase visibility of users in Deal's Gateway. Our proposed design includes carriageway markings in the junction to raise awareness of traffic in Greenwich High Road that they are turning right. We envisage this will reduce the instance of right turners from Greenwich High Road not giving way to ahead traffic and cyclists from Deal's Gateway.

We have considered changes to signal timings but we found this to be detrimental to overall junction capacity. As such, no changes to signal timings are proposed.

We consider that the signs installed to inform traffic that signal timings have changed are sited in appropriate locations, and the sign dimensions meet standards.'

Once the improvements are made it will be interesting to see what - if any - changes they bring to safety at the junction.

In the meantime, when I take that route by bike (mercifully infrequent for me) I will be using the crossing next to Deptford Bridge Station and then joining the Blackheath Road traffic to turn left into Greenwich High Road. I do hope my use of the crossing does not prove too detrimental to traffic flow.

If you want to comment on the safety of this junction, you should direct your comments to TFL's surface transport customer services. Having looked at the 'contact us' part of the website I suspect this will not be an easy process. And be prepared to nag for a response.


Marmoset said...

Hi DD, I saw this junction come up in a Greenwich Cyclists' email and went to have a look on 2 wheels because I don't normally go that way. It is indeed fatal. Not only does traffic from Greenwich steal cyclists' right of way but when I got stopped in the path of traffic coming down Blackheath Road, there's no visible traffic light at that point so you simply can't judge whether you can cross when a safe gap appears or whether you're going to find yourself stranded in the middle of the A2.

I wrote to the Deal's Gateway residents'association last week but got no reply.

The junction also came up as a topic on the bike radar forum 2 weeks ago. It's worth having a look here:

John said...

I suspect that the designer didn't give any thought to cyclists and is now back pedalling (no pun intended). Why weren't these proposed changes incorporated into the original design? Now the tax payer has to cough-up more money to fix an oversight. You may want pursue this through the LA member.

Headhunter said...

I can verify that this junction is now possibly the scariest in London. I cycle up to 120 miles per week in and around London and I have never been nearly mown down by motorists and then yelled at at any other junction! Complete fail by TfL.

Marmoset said...

Yoo hoo, me again! Bee in bonnet time. I thought it might be interesting to think about this junction not in terms of cyclist safety but in terms of safety for all vehicles. Does this illustrate the problem?

chuck fucking norris said...

While this is a problem, its not as big as the problem outside my flat. im referring to the crossroads in deptford near the college. Unless you know the timings of the lights (which fortunately i do) then the place is a death trap for people trying to cross the road.

Donnie said...

Just to add to this, there's been a pretty bad accident at the junction this morning. Seriously have no idea whether TFL know what they're doing sometimes.