The much anticipated Transport for London report on the Battersea Bridge Safety Improvements scheme has landed! This scheme proposed changes to the lethal junction where Jack Ryan was killed while jogging in January 2021 and a woman suffered life-changing injuries while cycling exactly one year later. After a great campaign by a local resident, TfL installed a pedestrian crossing late 2021 on the bridge, and this was the catalyst to the proposals to make the entire junction safe. However, the council and some vocal local residents only supported installing three pedestrian crossings, and pushing all safety improvements for cyclists into the long term. The people spoke and the response to the proposals was positive – with many people asking for more.
Below is the drawing of the proposed changes (click here to see a larger version on TFL’s website).
We’re pleased to see in this week’s report that the scheme is going ahead as planned – but we are left with some concerns.
It will be safer
The changes to the junction itself look set to significantly improve safety, especially for those walking or cycling. For walking, there will be a signalised pedestrian crossing on each arm of the junction. For cycling, there will be a new short stretch of protected cycle lane approaching the junction going west and dedicated cycle signals. On the eastbound approach, motor vehicles will be banned from turning left into Beaufort Street, to make the traffic light cycles possible. This has the added benefit that people on this side can also cycle safely ahead. There will also be a new stretch of bus lane on the westbound side.
But will some safety measures be watered down?
While the report says that Transport for London will go ahead with the plans they consulted on, there are a few caveats…
The bus lane: It was proposed to be 24/7, but residents objected, and now TfL say they will reduce the hours that it operates. This reduces safety for people cycling, since a bus lane does offer safer space than mixing with general traffic.
The width restriction on Albert Bridge: the report says TfL will help “the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to review the feasibility of modernising the width restriction on Albert Bridge to 7ft to assist traffic flow, which would help to relieve traffic congestion on other surrounding roads.” This suggests that larger vehicles will be able to use Albert Bridge, again reducing safety. The larger and heavier the vehicle involved in a collision, the more likely a pedestrian or cyclist will be killed. Large vehicles entering Chelsea from Albert Bridge will be more likely to go to Kings Road via Oakley Street, a street dangerous for cyclists.
Unbanning a turn: The report says: “After reviewing our plans for the wider local area, we will also revisit the banned left turn onto Chelsea Bridge from Grosvenor Road to explore whether there is a solution for this junction that provides safety benefits for cyclists but enables the banned turn to be removed”.
Does this mean that objections to drivers being inconvenienced, or fears of traffic congestion, will take priority over safety? Most cycling and walking casualties happen at junctions, and reinstating a turn for motor vehicles makes collisions much more likely to happen.
Rather than increasing flows of motor vehicles on both Albert Bridge and Chelsea Bridge, TfL should restrict itself to reviewing one scheme, and if enacted first monitor its impact.
What about safe protected cycle lanes?
The Embankment, Battersea Bridge itself and surrounding area is hostile and dangerous for cycling. Yet thousands of people need to cycle through it every day, and deserve better safety measures. The single biggest priority for people responding to the consultation was protected cycle infrastructure on Battersea Bridge and area – see the table below.
Yet the report offered little hope to those 138 people asking for safer cycling: “Unfortunately, due to the physical constraints of this listed structure, it is not possible to provide cycle lanes on Battersea Bridge. The priority is to ensure cyclists can safely navigate the junctions as this is where collisions are most likely to occur.”
We think that other solutions could be explored to make cycling safe on Battersea Bridge – cycle lanes are not the only measure. For instance, one of the pavements could be designated as shared space, allowing vulnerable pedestrians to use the other pavement. And a very obvious need is for continuous, protected cycle tracks on the Embankment itself, which was not mentioned in the report. As TfL has expanded the scope by reviewing the junction at Chelsea Bridge, this is the time to also start a review of protected cycle tracks along the Embankment.
What’s next? We will follow up these issues with Transport for London, and we look forward to seeing the construction get underway at the junction. Please remember to join our mailing list if you would like updates about making Kensington and Chelsea’s streets better, safer and greener!