Wrong priorities on Hackney Marsh

Anyone visiting Hackney Marshes recently will have noticed that the North Marsh carpark is now open. It is apparent that there are a number of serious problems with the signage that controls the traffic going into and coming out of the carpark over Cow Bridge.

SLM has for a long time been aware that there is a potential for collisions at the east end of the bridge, where the access road to the carpark (east-west) intersects with National Cycle Route 1 (north-south). We raised concerns about this situation at the PINS inquiry into the new North Marsh Pavilion in June 2015, and we were gratified to see that shortly afterwards Hackney Council installed a 5 mph speed limit sign at the west end of the bridge.

Look at these four photographs, which show the views of the intersection in four directions (click on the links to display them full-size):

  1. North (looking south),
  2. East (looking west),
  3. South (looking north),
  4. West (looking east).

You can see in these photographs the signs that are visible:

  1. To cyclists and pedestrians crossing from north to south:
    • A warning “Caution vehicles crossing”, before the footbridge
    • A symbol of a bicycle in a red circle, which means that the riding of bicycles is not permitted, before the footbridge
    • A sign saying “Cyclists dismount”, before the footbridge
  2. To motorists crossing from east to west:
    • A couple of tiny 5 mph signs on the end of each parapet wall, too small to be legible in this photograph
  3. To cyclists and pedestrians crossing from south to north:
    • A warning “Caution vehicles crossing”, before Cow Bridge
    • A three-aspect traffic light, which seems to be permanently stuck on red, between Cow Bridge and the footbridge
  4. To motorists crossing from west to east:
    • No signs at all.

These are the questions that Hackney Council needs to answer.

  • Why are cyclists on NCR 1 expected to dismount at this crossing? This route is the cyclist’s equivalent of the M1 or the A1. As far as I am aware, there are no signs anywhere on the A1 or M1 instructing motorists to get out of their cars and push. In fact, it is obviously not seriously intended that cyclists should dismount here, since if they were there would be a sign further on indicating where they may remount.
  • Why are pedestrians and cyclists warned about other road users, but motorists are not? When a motorist is behaving dangerously, there is little that a pedestrian or cyclist can do to avoid a fatal collision; but when a pedestrian or cyclist is behaving dangerously, all that a motorist has to do to avoid a fatal collision is to stop. Furthermore, in any fatal collision between a motor vehicle and a pedestrians or cyclist, the victim is always the pedestrian or cyclist, never the motorist. For both of these reasons it is surely more important to control the behaviour of motorists than that of pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Why is the traffic light where it is? Its ostensible function is to cause cyclists crossing from south to north to stop in the middle of the crossing (and to wait there permanently), which is obviously not the intention. Surely it should be positioned so as to control alternating single-lane traffic flow over Cow Bridge. I have seen motorists coming out of the carpark, driving up to the blind summit of the bridge as fast as possible (to minimize the chance of meeting a car coming the other way) sounding their horn as they go.
  • Why are there no measures to reduce the speed of traffic coming down off the bridge: no warning signs, no speed limit reminder, no traffic-calming measures? This is the most dangerous part of the entire layout, because the parapet walls hide motorists and obstruct their vision, and they will have a natural tendency to accelerate coming down the slope.

There is also another question, which relates to the west end of Cow Bridge.

  • Why has the gate been moved so as to prevent cyclists from using the bridge when the gate is closed? The decision to do so seems entirely perverse. It cannot be due to safety considerations: when the gate is open cyclists are not prevented from using the bridge despite the danger from cars; when the gate is closed they are prevented from using the bridge even though there is no danger from cars.
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