There were a fair few cyclists around, interestingly around half used the flyover, the other half using the roundabout - but of those using the roundabout a significant number eschewed the new cycle scheme completely and cycled in the traffic flow.
I wasn't one of them. I elected to use the new TfL "early start" scheme. I was second in the queue and had a couple of cyclists behind me. I didn't like the look of mingling with the traffic and considered that the specially developed cycle facility would surely be better than that. And I was somewhat intrigued to understand what the facility was like to use with several cyclists - last time it had just been me.
The video below is the result.
There are many things to note from this video.
Firstly, the poor pedestrian with a buggy and small child having to dash across the A11 off ramp exit to cross the road. And also note that not only are there no pedestrian lights, but on this crossing there isn't even a dropped kerb, so she has to lift up the buggy whilst sprinting across 3 lanes of traffic with no signalling and a small child in tow. One can only assume that she had to do the same thing with the "on-ramp" whilst dodging cars entering the A11 west-bound.
Secondly, the cyclist in front of me isn't lightening fast at getting away from the lights, but they aren't exactly the slowest either. Clearly the motorcyclist, who one can hear giving the bike full throttle to get around in front of us is an unmitigated moron who, if they have a license, clearly obtained it by some miracle that managed to get their small cluster of brain cells corralled together for enough time to fool an examiner that they were someone who should be let loose with a vehicle. Frankly, on this video evidence, allowing the motorcyclist access to anything more dangerous than a plastic spoon should be thought a mistake. If that motorcyclist had misjudged the gap, or the cyclists been a bit quicker we could be having our third ghost bike at this junction. I have reported this incident to Roadsafe, who I hope will do something about it. If I ruled the world (or at least the TfL roads) this idiot would be banned from a license for the foreseeable future and made to cross the bow roundabout continuously until they realised how antisocial and ill-educated they are for pulling this kind of stunt.
But these incidents show the fundamental flaws in the approach taken to junctions such as Bow. The fact that a pedestrian and child have to scamper like hunted animals simply to cross a road is disgusting. This isn't a civilised space - no amount of regeneration and fancy paving is going to make a difference to the fact that - in this configuration - no-one outside a car will have any desire to be anywhere near this area. And even in a car it is pretty horrible - the traffic is too fast, the lanes are too wide. And it shows the huge flaws in the "early start" system because the highest priority of the scheme is to implement something with no impact on traffic flow at all. The feed in lane is one cycle wide, meaning that you feed in as a queue to wait at the next lights. The scheme relies upon drivers not encroaching on the ASL, and it relies upon the fact that drivers won't simply try to bully their way through like the motorcyclist. It relies upon the fact that everyone using the facility has the ability to sprint away from the line and across the junction in the time it takes the cars to traverse the several metres of ASL - woe betide anyone not taking off like they are in the tour-de-France.
TfL on their website say they are redesigning Bow Roundabout to improve cycle safety. This might be what they would like to happen, but with the compromise of having a scheme that cannot impede - to any extent - traffic flow, they have implemented something really deeply flawed. TfL say on their blurb that they believe that the Bow Roundabout scheme is the "first of its kind in London". But I don't believe this to be the case. There are in fact many instances of poorly thought out cycle facilities which are utterly useless because their functionality comes a very poor second to keeping traffic flowing to the next queue. Unfortunately, reflecting on my experiences at Bow, TfL have simply managed to add another scheme to this list.