It’s been an eventful six months for the Cycle Superhighways. The CS2 was opened in east London in Summer 2011, miles shorter than originally intended due to the Borough of Newham refusing to play ball, and to endless criticism from bloggers and cyclists. Within months, two people had died at Bow roundabout – the very section of the route that received most criticism – resulting in Transport for London commissioning a review of every junction on all four Superhighways. Bow roundabout has since been redesigned, and the two Cycle Superhighways that were originally intended to open in 2012 have been pushed back to 2013 because of ‘Olympics logistics’. An extensive list of transport achievements recently released by Mayor Boris Johnson neglected to mention the Cycle Superhighways, despite mentioning pretty much everything else he has done whilst in office.
But amongst all this drama, London’s bright blue bike lanes are still getting a lot of use, with the CS8 being no exception. Stretching from Lambeth Bridge in the city centre to Wandsworth in south-west London, I recently cycled the route, noting the best and worst as I went along.
At the Lambeth Bridge end, things are pretty good. Wide, consistent lanes run alongside road traffic, but are bike-only. No need to worry about sharing this space with cars, unless they pull to the side of the road for the designated parking area.
This junction has a large bike box, though at this point the wide blue lane becomes shared with left-turning road traffic.
As the route continues, the lanes remain wide, and for bicycles exclusively. Anyone familiar with my other posts in this series (see the CS3, CS7 and CS2 here) may wonder the same thing I started wondering at this stage. Is it me, or is this a pretty great piece of infrastructure?
Of course, that kind of thinking never lasts long in London, and things swiftly get complicated. As the route progresses it starts getting narrower, and then a second bicycle lane appears on the pavement as the CS8 continues on the road. This has to be a first for cyclists in London – two different lanes to choose from.
Probably best to choose the lane on the pavement, as the CS8 swiftly stops as we near another junction.
Poor roundabout design on the CS2 resulted in two deaths. Thankfully, the CS8 takes a better approach, guiding cyclists onto the pavement…
…where a bi-directional lane runs alongside, and totally separate from, road traffic.
The CS8 now passes through a residential area, quiet enough to justify a lack of separate facilities. At this stage, the blue boxes marking the route of the CS8 become so dispersed you kind of wonder why they bothered (and London cyclists – is it just me, or are these boxes getting smaller and smaller?)
In case the lack of road markings was starting to trouble you, this sign pops up just in the nick of time, letting you know in minutes how long the rest of your journey is likely to be.
Back on the main road now, and we’re in familiar territory for the Superhighways. Nothing says ‘super’ like sharing your bike lane with a parked vehicle.
‘Nothing but blue paint’ is the criticism most frequently levelled at the Superhighways. Though there are moments that suggest there’s a bit more to it than just blue paint, this section of the route truly looks like someone picked up an oversized roller and went for it. It doesn’t even go in a straight line!
Those following the route of the Cycle Superhighway get a lane separated from a busy, and pretty terrifying, six-lane roundabout. Cyclists taking a different route? I’m afraid you are on the road.
This roundabout really is enough to put anyone off cycling. Thankfully, cyclists following the CS8 get a wide bike lane separate from the road and on pavement level.
As we get close to our end destination of Wandsworth, a small section of the route is shared with pedestrians…
… with the route then passing through a park. This is meant to be bi-directional and can’t be any wider than 75cm (30 inches). Try fitting two cyclists on that.
Things get a bit scary in Wandsworth town centre. At a junction where six lanes of traffic merge into two, you are expected to cross both lanes to prepare for a right turn. I was in town on a relatively quiet Saturday, didn’t feel safe making this turning and ended up taking this shot from the pavement.
For those a bit braver than me, the CS8 ends right outside Southside shopping centre with this blue bike box.
I’m pretty sure I’ve ended every post on London’s Cycle Superhighways with this sentiment, but, there’s some great moments on this route. Sadly, there’s some pretty shocking moments too that turn this into an inconsistent piece of infrastructure. Cycling alongside the Thames in central London in a bike lane wide enough for overtaking and full of nothing but cyclists is fantastic. Moving through busy lanes of traffic to follow the route is not so great. The CS8 is undoubtedly an improvement on what came before, but it doesn’t provide a consistently safe environment for cycling.