CS2 isn't officially due to be operational until next Summer, but the latest of Boris's bank-sponsored cycle lanes is already making an appearance. A blue stripe has been daubed along parts of Bow Road and Mile End Road over the last week or two, and bikes are already speeding their way along. Sounds great? I'm not convinced.
The road from Aldgate to Bow ought to be perfect for the addition of a dedicated cycle lane. It's relatively straight and there's plenty of room - the road's wide enough to have supported both trams and traffic back in the early 20th century. Indeed there's been a cycle lane along the road for several years, it's just wasn't as wide as Cycle Superhighways are supposed to be. The old lane was less than a metre wide, which isn't entirely conducive to feelings of safety. The new lane's the requisite metre and a half, which is much better. But you still wouldn't catch me dead using it, for fear you'd catch me dead.
Problem 1) It's still just a cycle lane. It's not segregated from the rest of the traffic at all. No thanks, not for me.
Problem 2) Bow Road is wide enough for a narrow cycle lane and two lanes of traffic. But it's not wide enough for a wide cycle lane and two lanes of traffic. All that's happened so far is that the new blue stripe has encroached on the inside lane and shrunk it, meaning it's no longer wide enough for a lorry, bus or coach. Traffic is now forced to trespass on the Cycle Superhighway because left-hand wheels have to go somewhere. As things stand, CS2 is much more likely to be full of traffic than its narrow predecessor.
Problem 3) OK, there are probably plans to repaint the existing white lines to equalise the two non-bike lanes. But I fear this would simply shrink both lanes to impractical widths too narrow for buses and broad-chassis traffic. It's therefore possible that Bow Road will, in places, be restricted to a souped-up bike lane and one lane of traffic, rather than the current two. Great for cyclists, but expect snarled-up jams of cars and lorries as the capacity of the road suddenly shrinks. We'll see.
Problem 4) As a cyclist, the one thing you really don't want to end up underneath is a bendy bus. Along Bow Road we have lots of those trundling along route 25. More importantly we have lots of enormous bus stops, increased in size six years ago to be long enough to fit two-and-a-half bendy buses. Our bus stops are a massive 45 metres long, creating corresponding 45m gaps in the blue striped Cycle Superhighway. These huge bus stops won't be required next summer when the 25 is due to revert to double decker operation. But I bet nobody at TfL thinks to shrink Bow Road's bus stops down to normal size after the bendies go, and the unnecessarily large gaps in CS2 will remain.
Problem 5) Bus stops aren't the only street features creating gaps in the Cycle Superhighway. We have a ridiculous number of pedestrian crossings along Bow Road, so the stripe regularly breaks for those. And for road junctions. And for laybys. Indeed, the newly laid Cycle Superhighway is split into at least ten separate chunks, and that's over a stretch less than a mile long. The blue lane stops starts stops starts stops starts, which ain't great. I hope there's more blue paint on its way, to link things together, otherwise this intermittent stripe is a bit rubbish.
Problem 6) TfL posted me a leaflet three months ago which promised "From Autumn 2010 a section on our webpage will be showing further details of what will be implemented, and where. We will also show details of the timing of any works which may affect local residents and businesses." It isn't there. Work has started on CS2, and nobody's telling us anything. That new layby beside St Clements Hospital, that should have been online somewhere, but it's finished already and not a mutter. Much public information was promised, but none's been delivered.
Problem 7) The Cycle Superhighway's blatantly not yet finished. I'd hope that many of the problems I've mentioned above will be sorted out before the official opening next summer. And yet someone's already been along and written "CS2" on the road at regular intervals, as if to give the fledgling Cycle Superhighway some unwarranted legitimacy. Bad thing. If it's not yet ready, don't tempt cyclists onto it.
Problem 1 again) Even when it's finished, it'll still be nothing but a souped-up cycle lane. It won't be segregated from the rest of the traffic at all, it won't be safe. No thanks, not for me.