Camden Cyclist | 23.10.2007 13:25 | London
From 14 November 2007, Eurostar services to Brussels and Paris will depart from St Pancras International. The station building is a wonderful mix of Gilbert Scott's gothic extravaganza, Barlow and Ordish's train shed repainted sky-blue and the new modern concrete structure.
While appearing modern, when it comes to cycles the new Eurostar service is stuck in a time warp. Again and again cyclists are told that it is no one's fault, the problem is that everything was laid down by act of Parliament - the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996 - at a time when cycling was unimportant.
But if the longest champagne bar in Europe - something we have been unable to find mention of in the Act - can go in, why not safe and secure facilities for cycles?
The saddest example of the consequences of this Act is perhaps the case of the new ASL box at the bottom of Camley Street. This was rushed in after a cyclist was killed by a left-turning cement lorry. Camden Council and CCC agreed that the lead-in lane should be central, or failing that, non-existent. However, it was implemented on the left - luring unsuspecting cyclists into the danger zone. We were told that the Act specified a lane on the left - but did they have ASLs in 1996? Camden Council promise to move it over when they get the road back from CTRL – but will that be too late?
Cycle parking at St Pancras International consists of about 30 unattached substandard loops at the far end of the car park, about 5 minutes walk from the ticket office.
Transport for London has stepped in to provide a cycle parking facility which is intended to be opened in 2011. However with other such facilities, such as at London Bridge running two years late, it is unlikely to be open in time for the Olympics and the high speed Javelin service to the 2012 games.
Besides St Pancras International having the worst cycle parking of any major station in the UK, it also is positioning itself as truly grand retail and hospitality destination for London.
Sadly the mistakes of high profile developments such as Paternoster Square and Spitalfields Market have not been learnt: the private developers have failed to include any cycle parking for visitors to the shops and restaurants and there are no cycle stands in the adjacent streets.
This is despite the claim that Everything at St Pancras International has been designed from the visitor's point of view. More research has been commissioned, more customer profiles analysed, and more habits and preferences studied than for any British railway station. If anything is breathtaking, it is the hyperbole rather than the "retail experience".
On 3rd November, a new one-way system around St Pancras International will open. Midland Road will re-open to southbound traffic and Pancras Road from Euston Road to Goodsway will re-open to northbound traffic. This gyratory will cause cyclists to make long detours in trying to access or get away from St Pancras and Kings Cross Stations.
This will be 3-4 lanes southbound with no provision for contraflow cycling. This is not for lack of asking: since the late 1990's, CCC has been campaigning against making Midland Road one-way. Buchanans Report for TfL on "Kings Cross Area Modelling", June 2005 failed to take account of cyclists - in fact, cyclists were not mentioned even once.
CCC studied Buchanans report and made arguments based on estimates of traffic flow that Midland Road could accommodate contraflow cycling The Judd Street one-way scheme and Midland Road.
In June 2006, TfL commissioned Buchanans to carry out a study on Cycling Strategy for Kings Cross. A draft report was discussed at a meeting with Camden Council in December 2006. Discussion of draft Cycling Strategy for Kings Cross. We have had regular promises of a final version, even expecting one to be presenting at WCRSAG on 16th October; but the report does not appear.... Might it be it too embarrassing?
Cyclists have been promised two-way access in Pancras Road, but in August, Camden Council published a traffic order specifying that Pancras Road will re-open to northbound traffic. The council confirmed that southbound cycling would not be allowed until 2011-12. But after a meeting, it was conceded that cyclists could use the taxi lane to travel southbound. This was confirmed by a traffic order.
The new St Pancras Thameslink Station will open in Midland Road in early December. Cyclists approaching the station on the north-south Route 6 in Ossulston Street will be able to access it via Brill Place. Unfortunately when they try to make the return journey, they will need to walk northbound on Midland Road as far as Brill Place. The need for a contraflow has been made repeatedly by CCC via Camden Council - see for example Minutes of meeting with Laurie Baker (Oct 2005).
The spur to St Pancras from the Stations Circular Cycle Route 0 remains unsigned despite it having been cyclable for a number of years. The lack of a sign here has led to a new incorrect sign at the junction of Marchmont Street that directs westbound cyclists to go to the stations via Euston Road.
The only new cycle route signage to the stations is:
* a sign from Islington along LCN+ route 7: it directs cyclists around the notorious King's Cross gyratory rather than the quiet cycle route along Copenhagen Street.
The brand new cycle lanes around the station position cyclists going straight ahead or right inside left turn only lanes for motor traffic: the manoeuvre that has the highest risk of a fatal collision. A two-way cycle track on the eastern side of Pancras Road which was promised in the act of Parliament has now been altered to contraflow cycle track to be implemented at an uncertain date in the future.
In the introduction to London cycle Design Standards, TfL's director Peter Hendy still manages to claim that while initially we had much to learn from our northern European neighbours [following record investment] London now has examples of cycle-friendly infrastructure to match the best.
While these neighbours are now a short train ride away, don't count on taking your cycle with you...
Despite announcing on its site that "we'd love you to take your bike" Eurostar does not permit you to take your cycle with you on your trip. In fact while travel across and border checks between European countries are simpler than ever, if you have the misfortune of taking a cycle by rail it can feel as difficult as trying to cross the Iron Curtain. For international trips, making a cycle reservation across the Channel is near impossible.
On the one hand you can take your cycle to pieces and put it in a special bag. Not only is this difficult to carry at the station, even more so if making cross Paris or London transfers, but you may also have to lug the bag around during your trip abroad. Some cycles such as tandems and recumbents won't fit into such bags.
Alternatively four of the eight Eurostar stations will permit you to deposit your cycle so that it can be conveyed as registered baggage, meaning you either have to go to London 24 hours before your trip or wait at Paris/Brussels for 24 hours before you can go further. Furthermore, this costs £20 each way when tickets start at £59 return.
ECF study on bikes on long distance trains
1. Reallocate part of the carpark to cycles within 3 months and provide proper Sheffield stands to which frames can be secured. Space for at least 250 cycles is needed initially and to be expanded when necessary.
2. Ensure that the secure cycle parking facility is opened by 2011 at the latest with no timetable slippage. Improve cycle parking at London stations generally, see: City Cyclists notes on cycle parking at stations.
3. Signage of route in both directions between Stations Circular and St Pancras within three months. Also maps of the cycle network and directions to it from inside all parts of the station. NB First Capital Connect who operate Thameslink are already committed to doing this.
4. Contraflow on Midland Road from entrance of Thameslink station northbound within six months. Cycle contraflow along rest of Midland Road within one year.
5. The area between Euston Road and the canal from Euston Station to Caledonian Road to have speed limit reduced to 20mph: around Gare du Nord the speed limit is 15km/h (10mph) by way of comparison.
6. Eurostar to introduce trial carriage of cycles within six months and full carriage within a year.
7. Cross reservations for cycles, including internet and phone booking within one year for all long distance rail travel.
We hope to organise a joint demonstration with Provelo at Brussels Midi and Velorution at Paris Gare du Nord. At Brussels Midi a bike station with space for 300 cycles has been promised since 2000. However it is clearly not a priority for Infrabel, the Belgian answer to Network Rail, which is instead building parking for 1650 cars.