The official City of London stance regarding the direction of a detour around the upcoming Thames Valley Parkway (TVP) construction is to provide two options, their original route via Talbot St and Grosvenor St as well as the route proposed by cyclists via Blackfriars Bridge and Gunn St. Cyclists have warned that the original detour is flawed and dangerous but the City still maintains it as a reasonable option.
In our view, the original detour is dangerous. It proposes taking cyclists through the busy stretch of Talbot St to Oxford St which includes the narrow passage under the CP railway bridge. Additionally, and what is missed by most, is that this route will also take cyclists down the very speed downgrade of Grosvenor St through a busy parking lot into Gibbons Park.
The City seems to misunderstand the influence that downgrades have on cyclist speeds. Our data from testing at several hill sites throughout the TVP has been previously published on this Gorski Consulting website. It clearly shows the heightened speeds of cyclists observed when travelling along downslopes. It is of additional importance that the downslope at the Grosvenor St site ends at a busy parking lot to Gibbons Park. There will be motor vehicle drivers pulling out of parking spots or travelling toward the Grosvenor St exit exactly where cyclists will be racing down the slope. Drivers will not expect or detect high speed cyclists approaching at unexpected angles toward them. Unless major enforcement and signage efforts are engaged there is a heightened probability that a collision will occur.
Our data from our Blackfriars Bridge Traffic Study (BBTS), conducted this summer, provides an indication of the types of cyclist and non-pedestrian users (e-scooter, e-board, medical carts, mini-trailers, e-bikes) that travel northbound along the TVP toward the area of construction. Some of these users include the transportation of children in mini-trailers or wider than normal cargo bikes which do not function in the same manner as a single-manned pedal bike. Braking and acceleration characteristics are different and important when travelling down a steep down-slope or when trying to travel through the narrow confines of the railway underpass at Talbot St.
Not all users of the TVP have an intimate knowledge of its characteristics. As such they may listen to the advice of expert-sounding, officials who would seem to know the quality of the advice they provide. The City has never explained what knowledge they possess about the characteristics of the users of the TVP and whether they know how many vulnerable persons might be placed at risk along the original detour route.
More generally, when collisions occur with cyclists they are rarely publicized in local news media such that the general public is unaware of the safety risks at certain locations. A recent example is the case of the owner of the Smiley’s Pizzeria who was found unconscious somewhere along his cycling route, in the early morning of August 7, 2022, either on Adelaide St north or Sunningdale Road, a location that was never official disclosed. While news media indicated that it was unclear whether the cyclist fell off his bike or whether it was a hit-&-run, nothing was disclosed about the police investigation. Such lack of disclosure could place other cyclists at risk if they are unware of the dangers that may exist at such unknown sites in the City.
It has also been recently disclosed by the Canadian Institute of Health Information that cyclist injuries, identified by visits to hospital emergency wards, have increased dramatically in Canada and in Ontario: “The jump was especially big in Ontario, which logged 1,579 bike-related hospitalizations and accounted for about 30 per cent of all cycling traumas”. Why has this fact not been disclosed in the City of London which, most likely, would not be immune to the developments in the rest of Ontario? Lack of disclosure of where/how/why cyclists have sustained their injuries means that sites dangerous to cyclist travel continue to exist without proper knowledge of the cycling public. If injuries occur to cyclists from travelling along the originally-proposed detour route of the TVP will the public be made aware of that or will that information remain hidden?
Our advice to the City is to stop advertising this original detour as a safe and reasonable option for cyclist travel.