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Deventer: An efficient route for cycling in a city which has much to offer.

A View from the Cycle Path - 7 hours 17 min ago
A few days ago, Ranty Highwayman wrote about visiting Deventer. He covered the central streets quite well, but unfortunately, the central streets are not where you find the best developed cycling infrastructure in that city. Therefore, I've brought forward a long overdue blog post about Deventer, including a long video which I shot back in April 2014 just after a new cycle route had opened. David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2015/08/deventer-efficient-route-for-cycling-in.html
Categories: Views

Deaths on the road

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 26 August, 2015 - 00:12

It goes without saying that the crash of a plane onto the A27 on Saturday was a terrible tragedy, an incident in which at least 11 people died, and many more were seriously injured. Rightly, the crash is being investigated thoroughly, and undoubtedly measures will be taken to greatly lessen the chances of any similar kind of incident ever occurring again.

But what has happened following that crash on Saturday afternoon? On the same day – the 22nd August, shortly afterwards, a motorcyclist died in Manchester, a pedestrian was killed in Solihull, and a driver died on the M1.

On Sunday 23rd August, 3 people died in a car crash in County Down, a motorcyclist died on the A82 near Loch Lomond, a cyclist died in Essex, a motorcyclist died in the Peak District, a driver died in Lincolnshire, a motorcyclist died on the A40 in Cheltenham, and a driver died in the New Forest.

On Monday 24th August, teenager died in a motorcycle crash in London (with another teenager seriously injured), and a motorcyclist died on Anglesey,

On Tuesday 25th Augusttwo people died in a car crash in Doncaster – with one (and maybe two more) seriously injured, a driver died in Camarthenshire, and a driver died (with another driver seriously injured) on the diversion route from the A27, closed following the Shoreham crash.

The scene of the crash in Doncaster.

This means that in the three and a half days following that dreadful air crash, 18 people have died on Britain’s roads, in crashes that, because they occurred in isolation, and because they are so appallingly ordinary, won’t make any headlines, or any lasting impact, beyond a fleeting mention in a local newspaper.

No lessons will be learned; nothing will change. All part of everyday life in Britain.


Categories: Views

The redesign of the Utrecht Sint Jacobsstraat

BicycleDutch - 24 August, 2015 - 23:02
City streets used to be designed with only the private car in mind, but that has changed (in The Netherlands at least). In many Dutch city centres the car is … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The 85th percentile as a tool for improving roads and streets

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 21 August, 2015 - 10:11

The “85th percentile” speed is a speed at which 85% of traffic will be travelling at, or below, along a street or road (under free flow conditions). It’s typically associated with the setting of speed limits, and (more controversially) often used as an argument against lowering them, or enforcing limits.

In particular, some police forces have been reluctant to enforce 20mph limits that have been introduced on roads that previously had a higher speed limit, without any changes to the design of the road, on the basis that enforcing this lower speed limit will prove to be too much of a drain on their resources – too high a proportion of drivers will be exceeding the new (lower) limit.

I have to admit I have changed my position on this issue over the last few years. Previously, I had been of the opinion that a speed limit is a speed limit, and that it should be enforced, regardless of how many people are breaking it. That any refusal to do so was effectively a ‘cop out’ (excuse the pun) on the part of the police.

But I think the police (or ACPO) are exactly right when they say

Successful 20 mph zones and 20 mph speed limits are generally self‐enforcing, i.e. the existing conditions of the road together with measures such as traffic calming or signing, publicity and information as part of the scheme, lead to a mean traffic speed compliant with the speed limit.

To achieve compliance there should be no expectation on the police to provide additional enforcement beyond their routine activity, unless this has been explicitly agreed.

In other words, the 85th percentile speed (the speed at which 85% of drivers are travelling at, along a road) should correspond much more closely with the posted speed limit through the kinds of measures the police list here – in particular, the design of the road. Research carried out for Manual for Streets shows that the speed at which drivers travel along a road is influenced by its design – principally its width, and forward visibility. If plenty of people are breaking a limit, that probably tells you either the limit is wrong, or the design of the street is wrong. Something has to give.

And this is the reason I am suggesting that the ’85th percentile’ could actually be a force for good – it cuts both ways. While it can be used to reinforce the status quo, it can also tell us that the design of a road is inappropriate for the posted speed limit.

Take, for instance, a situation in which a residential street with a 30mph limit has that limit lowered to a 20mph limit, without any changes to the design of the street, or to the motor traffic network. Let’s then say that the 85th percentile speed of motor traffic on this street, after the introduction of the lower limit, is much more than 20mph – close to 30mph, for instance.

What does this tell us? It tells us that the design of the street isn’t doing its job. While it might be a good idea in the short term to get the police out with speed cameras, a long-term solution should be to change the nature, character (and usage) of the road so that the 85th percentile speed on it is much closer to 20mph.

So the 85th percentile is an effective way of demonstrating when speed limits and road design are out of kilter. Take, for instance, this 20mph limit on Midland Road in London, running between St Pancras and the British Library – just one of many main roads in London that have, in recent years, had their limits lowered from 30 to 20mph without any change to the design of the road.

I don’t know what the (free flow) 85th percentile speed of motor traffic is here, but I’d be willing to bet good money it is way, way over 20 mph – this is a wide road, with three lanes of motor traffic bearing down on Euston Road, in one direction.

Again, we could get the police out here with speed cameras, but really, the discrepancy between the posted limit and the way people are actually behaving on the road tells us that something more serious is wrong here – the messages the road is sending out to drivers don’t correspond to the limit that has been painted on it. Something has to give.

By contrast, in this early-1990s 20mph zone in Horsham – designed to be self-enforcing – it’s pretty much impossible to drive at 20mph (despite it being one-way!).

A combination of speed humps, tight corners, limited forward visibility and surfacing means that the 85th percentile speed is likely to be at (or even below) 20mph, which tells us that the speed limit and the design of the road are in agreement, and there’s little or no need for enforcement.

The same logic can be applied to 30mph roads too. This road in Wageningen, NL, has a 50km/h speed limit – and it’s reasonable to assume that the 85th percentile speed will be at or below that speed, due to the design of the road.

The carriageway is very narrow, with motor vehicles barely passing each other, and has no centre line.

And there are other ways of bringing the 85th percentile speed into line with a 50km/h (or 30mph) limit on these kinds of distributor roads – for instance, pinch points for motor traffic (that don’t affect cycling).

So if the 85th percentile speed on a 30mph road near you is (under free flow conditions) closer to 40mph, that should tell us that action is needed to bring driver behaviour more closely into line with the posted limit, through these kinds of measures. Principally, perhaps, by reclaiming a good deal of the carriageway for cycling, consequently narrowing it down for motor traffic.

I hope this explains why I’ve changed my mind, and why the 85th percentile can be a constructive tool for improving streets for walking and cycling!


Categories: Views

My City Sucks and it's Great

Copenhagenize - 20 August, 2015 - 11:19
When I am doing keynotes or interviews I describe the mainstream aspect of our bicycle culture as being nothing more than Vaccuum Cleaner culture. Like bikes, we all have one, we all use it but they are just tools to make our daily life easier. No fetishizing, no naming of inanimate objects, no vaccum cleaning clothes.

Our city sucks in other ways in other ways. Almost every day I'm reminded of just how much it sucks. And I love it.


I enlisted The Lulu to show how we get rid of our household garbage. Because it's pretty cool. Firstly, as The Lulu's photo clearly demonstrates, we use small bags for daily waste. Nothing bigger than this will do.


When we chuck our garbage, we do it in the morning, as we head for school and work. We pass one of the four bike sheds in our backyard.

We end up at this little building - there are two of them in the backyard - with this round chute. That's why we have to use small bags - the chute just ain't big enough for bigger bags.


Open chute and insert bag. Boom, baby. The bag slides down into an underground container and that is the last we see of it. But that's where it gets cool.


Out on the sidewalk, outside the backyard, about 60 metres away, this cylinder stands all quiet and sentinal. An unassuming addition to the street.


We never see the elusive "sugebil" or "suck truck" if you like, but it will roll up to the cylinder, unlock it and attach a badass vaccum to the top. Hit the switch and all the garbage in the two underground containers are sucked into the truck at a speed of up to 70 km/h.

It's over in under two minutes, with a minimum of noise and fuss. Call me urbanist geeky, but I get a kick out of this. But I've been looking into this lately and I've found out that there are 240 of these systems in Denmark, sucking garbage from 27,000 flats. Not surprisingly, most of them are in the densely-populated cities.

Many of the systems suck garbage from multiple backyards at once, from much farther distances than ours. Be still my urbanist heart. The advantages are many. I assume it's more cost-efficient to do this rather than have garbage men traipse in and out of countless backyards dragging wheeled containers behind them. I certainly don't miss the early morning noise waking me prematurely up. Eliminating smells is certainly a bonus. We have a big problem with rats in Copenhagen, so this kind of system separates them from the garbage, too.


Most of these systems are retrofitted in the backyards with a simple cut and cover operation to install the pipes and lead them out of the backyard through the gateways. These are sucked up by the trucks. There are also apartments built in the 1970s and 1980s where the garbage chutes are installed in the stairways and the garbage is collected in a container in the basement. Sometimes a truck will suck from there, other times the garbage is first sucked to a larger container, after which it is picked up by trucks.

I quickly got sucked into learning more about this system that I have taken for granted for years.


It turns out that all the garbage in the picture postcard area of Copenhagen called Nyhavn is now rigged with this kind of system. Which is awesome.

It also turns out that this system was developed in the early 1960s in Sweden and was first implemented in a hospital - Sollefteå Sjukhus - in 1961. It is still in use today with many of the original parts. In 1965, the first housing development installed a system - Ör-Hallonbergen in Sundbyberg, Sweden. Again, it's still working fine today and has become the largest housing area with garbage sucking in Sweden. While writing this I was trying to figure out what to call garbage sucking. You know, for the Americans. Sucking would probably be deemed socially unacceptable, rude and politically incorrect. It's "affaldssug" in Danish. Garbage suck. What about "Vacuumed Waste Removal System"? Oh, nevermind.


By all accounts, a Swedish company named Envac sits comfortably on the Garbage Sucking Throne. They invented it and they have mastered it. They now have 700 installations in over 30 countries. Most are in Sweden and Denmark and the other Nordic countries, so it's not as though this system is widespread.


Envac Group - Official company presentation from Envac Group on Vimeo.
Here is a film about their products. Once you get past the overly-dramatic music and lame speaker voice, it gets interesting.


Using underground facilities is nothing new. These photos are from the 1940s in Copenhagen. Leaves were swept into underground containers. I'm still trying to figure out how they were moved from there, afterwards. But hey.

Is garbage sucking the perfect waste management solution for cities? It just might be.



Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

E-bikes embraced by ever more people

BicycleDutch - 19 August, 2015 - 23:01
Last week a news-broadcast on national Dutch TV reported that e-bikes are now even embraced by a most unlikely group: school children. Electric assisted bicycles have long had an image … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Taking the lane: a personal history

Vole O'Speed - 19 August, 2015 - 19:39
This post will not be the one that you thought it would be from the title. The title was suggested to me by a tweet from @AlternativeDfT whose inspiration I hereby acknowledge. Here is is:THIS is what real "taking the lane" looks like, not some temporary mirage dependent on a driver's temperament. Taken for good! He's referring to this picture of the very first cyclists to use the East-West Cycle Superhighway currently under construction on the Thames Embankment in London.

Picture by @beagleldnI was originally going write a kind of review post called  Reflections on reaching 500,000, marking the half million page views of this blog, but we have gone a bit beyond that now. I have not had time to comment on many of the recent developments on cycling in London, but I thought I would try to summarise the state of play now as I see it, how far we have come, how we got there, and where we are going: a big task, necessitating an unusually long post. The account will be, of necessity, quite personal. The quote from @AlternativeDfT contains, of course, an ironic reference to the technique of 'vehicular cycling' as taught in various manuals, but that won't actually concern me here. The picture of the East-West Superhighway in action at last, combined with @AlternativeDfT's concept of Taking the lane – for good rather summarises all I have been trying to achieve in over 20 years of cycle campaigning in London, hence the title. This blogpost is a kind of summary of the whole blog so far, over five years.

Camden experiments and the early London Cycle Network
My main campaigning objective, as you will probably know if you have read earlier posts, has always been to get London to build a world-class network of segregated and largely-car free cycle infrastructure that will enable mass utility cycling. I became convinced that this was the correct direction in which to go in the late 1990s, mostly through discussions with Paul Gannon in the Camden Cycling Campaign, a branch of London Cycling Campaign.

Our successes in CCC in that period were the construction of the Royal College Street segregated cycle track (the first one), and the east-west cycle track through Bloomsbury, as I have described before. These were early examples of taking the lane, in the sense of my (@AlternativeDfT's) title. We got Camden council to remove lanes dedicated to motor traffic on the road, and just give them to cyclists. This was a big step forward from previous London Cycle Network concepts of painting lanes on the road that drivers could still physically drive on and park in, or confusingly painting cycle symbols on largely unadjusted bits of pavement, which was, and tragically, still remains, one of the government's (the Department for Transport's) main recommendations to local authorities for cycle infrastructure.

The original Royal College Street cycle track in Camden, photographed soon after it was built in 2000I authored a piece in the LCC magazine, London Cyclist, with Paul Gannon, published in the October 2002 edition (you can read it here), in which we went through the whole argument about the need for high-quality segregated cycle routes to change the reality and perception of safety of cycling in London and readjust the demographic balance of cyclists to make it more like that found in the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries in order to make high levels of utility cycling (which I would define as a modal share of all trips above 10%) a practical possibility. We used graphs, figures and international comparisons, and we showed pictures of good and bad segregated cycling schemes in London, pointing out the errors that cause failure of some schemes. We also discussed the need for more and better training of cyclists, that would need to take into account the skills required for using a proper cycle network in a city of mass cycling (not just teach cyclists how to defend themselves against drivers on the roads), and the need for changes to the UK legal framework to balance it more in favour of the rights of vulnerable road users. But we were rather clear that the most productive thing campaigners could do at that moment was to campaign for more high-quality segregated cycle tracks on the roads. The key to the problem was taking the lane.

This was all pretty revolutionary stuff at the time; though not novel – other authors, notably academics like John Parkin, had written similar things before, but it was unusual find these ideas advocated in grass-roots cycle campaigning at that time, I don't think any other article had every been published on similar lines in London Cyclist (which had been published since the 1980s), and such view were very widely attacked by other campaigners. Nevertheless, it was all an extension of other developments that had already been occurring: some moves, from as early as the1980s, to establish a London Cycle Network that would, as David Hembrow would now say, unravel cycle journeys from busy motor routes in London. We can see some of these early attempts in a classic film now on YouTube: GLC Cycling for London from 1984 shows examples of cycle crossings of main roads, no-entries with exceptions for bikes and other early attempts to allow cyclists to thread a path through relatively traffic-free minor roads that was not possible for motor vehicles. Interestingly, many of these facilities still exist today, virtually unaltered, including the so-calle Ambassadors Route, which is shown. It has long ceased to be known by that name, but still runs from Albert Gate in Hyde Park to Chelsea Bridge.



These early network attempts were pretty limited because they tended to run out of ideas in the many places in London where main routes could not be avoided, particularly on and approaching crossings of the Thames and other barriers, they did not deal with major junctions very much nor physically reallocate any space on crucial main roads, they were built to low capacity standards, and they were sparse, soon exhausting the practical possibilities for running useful cycle routes entirely on the network of back-streets. Nevertheless, by the early 2000s, despite the slowdown in building them caused by the abolition of the Greater London Council (which produced the film), but because of the persistence of local campaigners, like us in CCC, trying to improve standards and ambition from the various borough councils that took over responsibility for the cycle network from the GLC, they had certainly made an impact. Cycling in London was on the rise, reversing the downward trend of the post-war period up to the 1980s, and in the same issue of London Cyclist that I already mentioned, October 2002, in which Paul's and my article appeared, we find this letter to the editor, which I urge you to read in full.



Well, perhaps it's a bit overstated, but I find this quite moving, coming as it does in the same issue  where Paul and I laid out the rationale of the segregated tracks we had been developing, and which Mike Aitken had already discovered and been so pleased by, and to me it's an important piece of evidence as well. It coincides with my view that the beginnings of a cycle network that had been developed in London by 2002 were actually effective in promoting journeys by bike, particularly in central London – even poor cycle facilities do have some positive effect – and it opposes the view that I have often heard stated, particularly by Roger Geffen, policy officer for CTC, that the moderm upsurge in cycling in London was independent of any provision, and particularly occurred without the provision of segregated space. I hold it did not. Segregated space and almost car-free space as part of the network was developed from the 1980s onwards, mostly by allowing cycling in the parks, on bits of embankment and towpaths, by providing cycle-specific connections which allowed these spaces to be utilised and accessed from the road network, and by means of minor road routes facilitated by the types of means shown in the GLA video and referred to in the letter.

This, remember, was the period before the congestion charge, and a period when Inner London was still depopulating, and an increase in cycling could not be attributed to increasing population density. Counts of cycles on screen lines provide the most accurate figures for cycling, and the data shows that cycling into central London was on a clear upward trend from the mid 1990s, and into inner London, increasing from 2002. The early, poor London Cycle Network did actually, to an extent, work, and our work in adding into it the first substantial, properly segregated on-road routes in Camden (which got extended a bit into Islington as well, but sadly not Westminster) enhanced it considerably, though only very locally, so you would be lucky to find yourself, like Mike Aitken, in the position where the new routes helped your commute.


I went into, in my earlier article, why the Bloomsbury route never achieved its potential, as it was compromised and mis-constructed into a space half the desired size. Basically, in this period, few politicians, and perhaps even fewer cycle campaigners, believed there was actually any demand for cycle routes like this. There was a belief that they would not be used much, and certainly they would not fill up. Paul and I were not surprised, but virtually everyone else was, that the Bloomsbury route was full to capacity from the day it opened, and remains so today.

We fondly hoped that such immediate success, and particularly with a route in quite an 'iconic' location, known to many Londoners, by the University of London and Dillons (now Waterstones) University Bookshop, the concept would rapidly spread, and other boroughs would build similar routes. But things are never quite as simple or as easy as this. Lack of borough resources no doubt played a part, in the era before the GLA and TfL were established, and lack of coordination between the boroughs and relevant leadership within them, but certainly a factor was the continued division amongst cyclists, within the LCC and CTC, and local groups, as to the in principle desirability of segregating cyclists from motor traffic. To say this today will sound strange to many, but the poor quality of information available at that time, in this largely pre-internet age, and climate of misinformation, spread by the likes of the American author John Forester, and his UK equivalent John Franklin, about the nature and results of segregated cycling systems across the world, which was widely manifested in what Paul Gannon has described as a counter-evidential 'campaigners' groupthink' within cycling organisations, where you wouldn't really be accepted socially unless you toed a certain philosophical line – the integrationist, pro vehicular cycling line according to the gospel of Frankin and Forester – resulted in it being very difficult for those cyclists (probably always a quiet majority), who felt instinctively that what the wide public really needed and wanted was to be able to cycle in a motor-free environment, to express that view wihout being shouted down, demeaned, or told they were ignorant of all the 'facts' and 'research'.
A period of stasis and ineffective campaigning
So history moved on. Tony Blair gave London a government again in 2000, and Ken Livingstone, previously leader of the Greater London Council, which had begun the London cycle Network in the 1980s, became Mayor. But Livingstone, a non-cyclist and bus enthusiast, never understood cycling, and his re-warmed cycling programme, called LCN+, soon ran into the sand, not being not based on the type of understanding we had been trying to promote in Camden for the need for demographically inclusive cycle facilities, nor backed by the political will to tackle the difficult places, the big, unavoidable roads and junctions, ther Niagaras and vortexes, in Mike Aitken's terms, that remained huge barriers everywhere, in places like Elephant and Castle, Swiss Cottage, Kings Cross, Bank and Bow. The concept in LCN+ was still one of basically trying to connect up backstreets, but, as I said, the easy possibilities for this had really been exhausted already in the first LCN building phase. Far more significant were other things that happened in this period: the introduction of the Central London congestion charge in 2003 caused a massive transfer of private car journeys directly to the bike, as the graph above shows. Ken's enthusiastic extension of the bus lanes (shared with cyclists) no doubt helped a bit for cycle commuters travelling at peak hours when the lanes were in operation and free from parked cars (though junctions remained dangerous). The 7 July 2005 bombings of the tube and bus network also seemed to cause some people to start cycling as a permanent lifestyle change, and the changing demographics of London, with an inflight to the inner city, reversing decades of exodus, probably enhanced the trend.
It was clear by the end of Ken's period in office, 2008, that a change of direction was needed if any cycle growth momentum was to be sustained, and the new Mayor, Boris Johnson, who was a cyclist, proposed the Cycle Superhighway project to replace an abandoned LCN+: a 'network' or twelve radial routes into central London from the suburbs, mostly on major roads controlled by the Mayor's transport organisation, TfL, not by the boroughs. I put the word 'network' in quotes, as it was not a network, the routes failing to link up in the centre. Moreover, the whole conception of the routes was, as I commented at the time, 'calamitously inadequate to the task', with little segregation, routes largely using busy bus lanes, and parked on much of the time, and lethal junctions. (Literally lethal junctions, as people soon started to get killed on Superhighway 2). Unfortunately the LCC went through a period, at this time, of ineffectual campaigning and weak leadership, with a chief executive, Koy Thomson, who believed in not criticising the authorities too much for fear of being excluded from influence and negotiations, and having no desire to take the membership on to the streets and protest, or otherwise be seen to be 'too militant'. 
The defective design of the Cycle Superhighway at Bow that resulted in three deaths

There was also the issue in the background that LCC, and even more so CTC, had never grappled with the segregation issue. They did not really know what they wanted as organisations, in terms of policy for accommodating cyclists in the transport network, at a very fundamental level, so couldn't argue for any coherent alternative to mis-concepts like the first generation cycle superhighways. There was a fear of confronting the division that existed, which resulted in a kind of paralysis. Also, there was the concept of not 'dangerising' cycling, which was highly prevalent, and generally corresponded with an anti-segregation stance. We couldn't campaign for safe facilities because we couldn't talk about the danger that existed, for fear of putting off new cyclists, which was believed to be counterproductive, since it was felt that there was 'safety in numbers' rather than in properly-designed infrastructure. These beliefs came very directly out of the Franklin-Forester 'religion'. I've taken on this belief-system in this blog several times, and a nice recent article by As EasyAs Riding A Bike does a good job (again) of demolishing this nonsense. But at one stage in Koy Thomson's LCC, campaigners were actually told not 'to use the D word' in their public pronouncements!
Enlightenment
But times they were a-changin'. The dark ages of the lack of information about how segregated cycling actually worked in the Netherlands, Denmark and so on were being swept away by blogs like and A View From the Cycle Path, Copenhagenize and others you can see in the sidebar of this blog. Home-grown London blogs like Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest, Cyclists in the City and iBikeLondon proved a significant force to mobilise a new movement, and the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain was formed to spread information about good and effective cycle engineering practice in the UK, and campaign for its implementation nationally. A new, dynamic CEO of LCC, Ashok Sinha, decided that the organisation needed to organise big, clearly directed campaigns, involving mass protests on the streets, as well as lobbying all the levers of power. The Tour de Danger, breaking the taboo on 'the D word', around all the worst junctions in London, was probably the first of these mass protest rides, organised initially by bloggers, and then endorsed by LCC. Later came the protests at Blackfriars, covered in early posts on this blog. Also, significantly 2011, Sinha decided to consult the LCC members, the ordinary cyclists of London, directly, on what they actually wanted the organisation to campaign for in the run-up to the mayoral election of 2012. I proposed that they should be asked whether they wanted to campaign for segregated cycle routes like the Camden ones, for more taking the lane. As I expected, they massively concurred.

The Big Ride organised by LCC to promote its Love London, Go Dutch demands before the May 2012 mayoral electionThis campaign was styled under the slogan Love London, Go Dutch,  and a set of demands was put together and promoted in 2012 in a manner that  made it very clear to the candidates for mayor that London's cyclists were a substantial, committed and united lobby who were demanding space to be taken from motor vehicles on main roads and physically reallocated to cycling, primarily for the benefit of the vast number of people who could cycle, but refused to do so under existing conditions. So successful was the campaign that all the mainstream candidates signed up to the demands, though I was sceptical about the true commitment of Boris Johnson to the programme. After his re-election (very marginal, in which the votes of cyclists could have made difference), things moved slowly, and there was talk of a new programme and a new person to take on a job as the Mayor's Cycling Commissioner, but little apparent action through the remainder of 2012. In October of that year I met the journalist Andrew Gilligan at a conference on Love London, Go Dutch organised by LCC and the Dutch Embassy with participation from TfL and the DfT. He asked my opinions and I emphasised to him the need for high-profile, effective segregated cycle tracks on London's main roads. I think he was already convinced of the case for this. When asked what was the one scheme that could make the biggest difference, I said the most obvious and easiest 'big win' was a segregated route along the north side of the Thames, on the Embankment. I may not have been the first to suggest this to him, but I can thus possibly claim some parentage to the East-West Superhighway.
Three months later, in January 2013 it transpired that Gilligan was the Mayor's Cycling Commissioner. In March he produced The Mayor's Vision for Cycling in London document that made promises pleasingly close to the Love, London, Go Dutch campaign demands. Critically, the Cycle Superhighways were to be upgraded and re-planned to the standards demanded, with large-scale segregation, and a grid of routes in central London was to be created to connect them up. The healine scheme was to be the route on the Embankment that I had suggested, styled Crossrail for the Bike  extended east and west from Barking to 'the western suburbs'. So clearly the Camden-pioneered programme of Taking the lane had been re-started after a decade and a half of delay.

At its October 2013 AGM, LCC further solidified its policy on physical provision for bikes, mostly through the efforts of its dynamic new Board member and Chair of its Policy Forum, sociologist of transport Rachel Aldred. The elected Policy Forum had been established at the initiative of Ashok Sinha a year earlier, to sort out the thorny issues I have dwelt upon above, but it had been initially chaired by Hackney anti-segregationist Oliver Schick, so had made no progress. Influenced by the Dutch standards being promoted by the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, the Policy Forum now proposed to the Campaign that the bar for segregation to be demanded on cycle routes was to be set at 2,000 vehicles per day and 20mph. The AGM accepted this policy proposal, along with another from me on Uniformity of Provision, designed to put an end to two-tier network thinking and official discrimination that traditionally operated through providing for different notional 'types' of cyclists differently, so setting-up unacceptable choices between safety and convenience.

Proper standards and gradualist change
The new standards LCC adopted in 2013 meant that without speeds of 20 or lower plus very low motor vehicle volumes (generally only attainable on roads closed to through motor traffic), the campaign would henceforth not except as adequate route implementations those which were not physically segregated by some means or another. This was, at last, the clear and definitive endorsement of the policy I had been seeking since before 2000. The long internal arguments were over (in LCC, if not in the national organisations CTC and Cyclenation), and we could campaign unequivocally for what we needed for inclusive mass cycling. One novel means of segregation was being experimented with in Camden, where the Royal College Street track was rebuilt in 2013 with lightweight segregation on both sides of the road, to allow a capacity increase of at least 33%. This was another significant bit of taking the lane. Hard to recall now, but before 2000, Royal College Street was a three-lane one-way motor racetrack. In 2000 we took one lane from the cars, and in 2013 we took another. It is now one lane for cars, still one-way, but transformed out of all recognition from 15 years ago: a testament to, and a proof of the effectiveness of, visionary, but gradualist, campaigning.

The Royal College Street light segregation rebuild in 2013LCC launched a further big campaign for the 2014 local elections in London entitled Space for Cycling. This was based on the polices adopted in 2013, and the idea spread to other parts of the country, with CTC and Cyclenation endorsing a national campaign along the same lines. So now the cycle lobby nationally was asking protected space on main roads and through major junctions, another landmark whose significance will be appreciated only a few people who have been involved with this over a long period. To those who became involved only more recently, it will just seem reasonable and expected. Back in London, it was satisfying to the the designs produced in September 2014 for the East-West Superhighway (as Crossrail for the Bike was subsequently renamed) and North-South Superhighway as being pretty much as ambitions as I would have liked them to be. We were to get, at long last, after all the protests, segregated cycling on Blackfriars bridge, a huge amount of motor traffic space was to be removed in the Blackfriars area to be given to the intersection of the two flagship segregated routes ('shockingly different' was how Cyclists in the City described the visualisation of this), and a high-capacity segregated route was to be driven right through that horrible gyratory Parliament Square and past the Houses of Parliament themselves. If we had believed in Camden in 2000 that our Bloomsbury route was a high-profile one, that would achieve a step-change in thinking as to what was possible for cycling on the streets of London, then this would be ten times more so.
I've already reviewed the problems and hold-ups and inevitable dissapointments that have accompanied the first two years from the publication of the Vision, and I don't need to go through that again at the moment. A huge battle for public opinion in the consultation on the E-W and N-S Superhighways was fought and won. Even in the week of writing this, on 18 August 2015, it has been announced that the London Taxi Drivers Association is trying to stop completion of these routes through the courts, though construction is well underway, and part of the E-W route is already being used by cyclists, as we saw in the picture at the top of this essay. This challenge will, I predict, fail, but it emphasises the battle that we still face in taking the lane, and probably always will.

Under construction
What do we have happening in London now? I can't cover it all, but we have construction of the East-West and North-South Superhighways, with the parts already consulted on due to be completed in Spring 2016. We haven't had plans for the full originally-promised Crossrail route from the 'western suburbs' (wherever they might be) to Barking, and I sense backsliding on this, on which we need to be very vigilant as the 2016 Mayoral elections approach. We have construction also ongoing of a pretty good looking Cycle Superhighway 5 between Oval and Belgravia, via a segregated two-way track on Vauxhall Bridge, which is already open. This should make an end of the Vauxhall Gyratory nightmare once and for all, and another landmark here is the first genuinely purpose-built, high quality piece of space reallocation on a Thames bridge. Though CS5 is intended to go to New Cross, however, we have not yet seem detailed plans for the rest of it: furthermore, the City of Westminster have not clarified how it will run north of Vauxhall Bridge, so these are more issues on which to be vigilant.

Current construction work on CS5 at Oval (photo by @cyclistsinthecity)Some upgraded segregated sections of Superhighway 2 to Bow have just opened. I haven't experienced the route myself, but here is as early account. This route still clearly has major gaps and dangers that TfL has not presented satisfactory proposals on. But progress is being made on this notorious route; the cycle space is gradually being physically taken from motor vehicles.

New segregated section of CS2 with separated traffic light phases for motors and bikes, photo by@AViewofLondonSeparately from the Superhighways programme, as part of the Central London Grid (first proposed by LCC), Camden has been extending the segregated route on Royal College Street down Pancras Road, using stepped cycle tracks similar to those employed on Old Shoreham Road in Brighton. This work is also ongoing. Camden has plans also to create segregated tracks in both directions on Delancey Street, which will link the northern end of Royal College Street westwards towards Primrose Hill and Regents Park – a much needed part of the network jigsaw that I first proposed a long time ago, but TfL buses seem perversely to be creating problems with this plan.
New Pancras Road stepped cycle tracks, picture by Camden CyclistsCamden, still the leading borough for cycle tracks, has plans for more stepped tracks on Gower Street (also in fact an indirect result of a suggestion I made, though the solution they are working on for Gower Street and Tottenham Court Road is not as good as the one I advocated, which would not have involved undoing the one-way system for cars). Work on designing signalisation to separate the cycle flows from motor flows on the five signalised junctions on Gower Street (similar to what has been done on CS2, above) is, I hear, ongoing. Further down the pipeline is work to create a proper cycle route on that busiest of central London cycle corridors – Bloomsbury Way, Theobalds Road and Clerkenwell Road – a concept that has been dubbed the Clerkenwell Boulevard. The boulevard concept is as yet only an idea from campaigners, originating with Andrew Casalotti, but it is being seriously investigated by Camden Council. It is a critically-needed part of the Central London Cycle Grid, linking the ends of the various Superhighways and other routes and creating a second east-west axis after the Embankment Superhighway. The boulevard would need to be implemented by Camden and Islington councils with TfL co-operation.

Consultant John Dales presents possible plans for a segregated Clerkenwell Boulevard at a Camden Cyclists meetingAnd there is more in Camden. Finally the Bloomsbury route (or Seven Stations Link, the name we gave the route when we invented it in Camden Cycling Campaign in 2000) is to be upgraded to the capacity it so desperately needs. The plans are for the current two-way track on the north side of the road to become the eastbound track, with a new westbound track on the south side, and a whole motor lane removed from most of the route with one-way arrangements for motor vehicles that will minimise through-traffic and conflicts at the junctions, as described in detail here. So, another object lesson in how progress can be achieved: as at Royal College Street, a two-way track on one side of the road can, when the demand has been undeniably demonstrated, be easily upgraded by adding another track on the other side and making the original one-way, removing another motor traffic lane or a parking lane. Just as we predicted that the Bloomsbury route would be at capacity as soon as it was built, which it was, so I predict that the East-West and North-South Superhighways will be at at capacity as soon as they are built. And I think we can see how that will need to be resolved by the next Mayor.


Campaign video to show the need for upgrade of the Tavistock Place Cycle Tracks from Camden Cyclists on Vimeo.

Out in the north-west suburbs, where I live, we have seen no promising developments as yet. We await the advent of Cycle Superhighway 11, to run largely on the A41 from the West End to Brent Cross. We have not seen any plans for this so far, but it has to be of comparable standard to the Superhighways being built elsewhere in London. It must be at the very least a fully segregated two-way track on one side of the road (I favour the east side) achieved by removing one whole lane of motor traffic on the southbound side of the road. Nothing short of this will do, and I'll be watching this very closely. All we have seen so far has been some consultation by the City of Westminster on their proposal for painted cycle lanes on Avenue Road, between Swiss Cottage and Regent's Park. This will not do, and I strongly hope it will not do for Andrew Gilligan as well.
Looking forward with realismI've made all the foregoing sound like a great success story, from my point of view, but I remain cautious. We are still a world from the comprehensive 'go anywhere' all-abilities cycle network we need in London to turn it into a world-class cycling city. I've already had the disappointment of expecting the manifest good of the cycle tracks implemented in Camden in the early 2000s to be rapidly understood and replicated all over London, only to find the project stalls for a decade and a half due to many other factors. I have ceased to believe there is any automatic route to progress, and that everyone else in the capital will suddenly see the light and start demanding this infrastructure in their neighbourhoods in a way that politicians find impossible to resist. The forces opposed to us remain very strong, and we are only a very small distance towards our goal. Progress after the current flurry of building, corresponding to the end of Boris Johnson's mayoralty, could yet stall with his successor, and we could be left in limbo for another decade. I now believe that every meter of new segregated space for cycling will continue to have to be fought over tooth-and-nail for the forseeable future.
I do believe that the current generation of segregated cycle routes, once completed, being much higher profile than those which we achieved in Camden 15 years ago, will make it obvious to far more people in London and the UK more generally that this is a means of achieving more pleasant and more efficient streets for everyone – cyclists, public transport users, pedestrians, business owners and motorists – whose results are superior to those produced by any other means: by that I mean, superior to the results achieved by mere implementation of lower speed limits, or superficial redesigns, such as Shared Space schemes. Another point is that, whenever we get a success in implementing a segregated cycling scheme, in my experience some foolish person always pops up to say "You did not ask for the right thing, you should have got elimination of all motor traffic on this road instead". Now it should be noted that usually this person never successfully campaigned for his preferred solution anywhere, nor discovered the real political and practical difficulties inherent in his idea, but has an unrealistic concept of the political process of negotiation over the use of street space, and no concept of a network of where the motor vehicles need to go.
I have always believed in putting forward ambitious, game-chaging concepts that will inspire people to see how our streets can be used in new, better and more efficient ways, and this was why I supported or proposed Royal College Street, the Bloomsbury Route, the Embankment route and so on. I have continually, in this blog, told campaigners not to 'fight over scraps' or make demands which are too small to make a difference or inspire anyone; this has been a guiding principle of mine. But I am also a realist, and no fundamentalist ecological anti-motor campaigner. I don't think cars, vans, lorries and buses will ever be eliminated from London, not in the lifetime of anyone now living, at least, I don't think they will be eliminated even from central London, and I don't really think they should be, either. They have many uses. They have become essential to our system of living. We can get a better balance incorporating them, but we cannot eliminate them. There will continue to need to be a practical working network of roads for motor vehicles, allowing access to all properties, throughout London, for all the future that I can foresee. Our cycle network proposals need to take this into account and allow it to be. All the schemes and proposals that I have mentioned and supported allow this. 
Going back to those early days in Camden Cycling Campaign in the 1990s, one of the main arguments that Paul Gannon was advancing at that time, which didn't seem to have occurrent to anyone in UK cycle campaigning before, was that segregated cycle tracks, with continuing motorised use of the rest of the road, are really the only way to square the need for workable dedicated cycle space with the need for taxis, buses and delivery vehicles to continue to be able to operate on necessary through-routes. The argument for cycle tracks, as opposed to fully closing roads to motor vehicles, has aways been an utterly pragmatic one. However ambitious the plans have seemed, the intentions have been limited and pragmatic. I've never set out to solve all the problems inherent in the use of motor vehicles with proposals for cycle infrastructure, and I've not set out to redesign the entire urban transport jigsaw. I've not set out to change the world, only to achieve the limited objective of getting more people enjoying the experience of riding bikes. I've set out to import the best bits of the cycling systems of places that seem to do it well, like the Netherlands and Denmark, but I've not claimed that they offer all the solutions to transport or environmental problems.
What we need to be asking for nextSo, where now for the campaign? We've established clear principles for what we would like to see. We've largely ended the internal arguments within the cycling world that blighted the earlier years of my history here. We have a programme ongoing from the Mayor for the upgrade of the Cycle Superhighways, and from some boroughs for the construction of some other routes, to fairly good standards. We have new junction designs being tried out that aim to eliminate turning conflicts between bikes and motor vehicles by separating flows in time that cannot be separated in space. We have some sensible design standards for the new cycle facilities in London, and some good people in place in TfL. We are starting to learn from the Dutch experience, from the nation so far ahead of the rest of the world on these concepts, but we have many elements that are obstinate to learning, There are many in the GLA and Transport for London, and many in more in the boroughs, who are in positions of power and do not believe in the cycling agenda at all. To get building started on the East-West and North-South Superhighways was a huge battle for the progressive elements in the GLA and TfL. We will need to convince the next Mayor, elected in May 2016, to continue, improve and extend the programme, to spend more on cycling, and spend it efficiently and productively. We need an extensive and intensive network, and we need the quality, simulataneously, to achieve our objective of 'mass cycling'. We need to make the next Mayor understand that, want that, and be committed to that.
But we also have huge problems in the division of responsibility in London government. We have a Mayor with very limited powers over roads (though he controls the funding of changes on them) and we have 32 boroughs of diverse political and philosophical complexions that control most of the network. We have odd bodies like the Royal Parks, the Crown Estate Paving Commission, the Canal and River Trust, and the Corporation of London, that control bits of territory – roads, paths and open spaces – all over the place, having the arbitrary and democratically unaccountable power to scupper the Mayor's cycling schemes. The Mayor very nerarly had to use his ultimate power, through the Secrtetary of State for Communities, to remove control from one of the boroughs over a section of road on the East-West Superhighway, in order to get that route agreed, and the Royal Parks continue to stand in the way of a sensible solution to the Superhighway in the Buckingham Palace area, and also threaten CS11, which will need to use a (closed) Outer Circle of Regent's Park. 
TfL needs more powers over roads in order to implement a complete cycle network, without a doubt, but this is not within the Mayor's power to grant. It will require lobbying of the government to achive this, and at the moment it looks unlikely, with the continuing lack of leadership and stick-in-the-mud attitude to cycling from both the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and local Government. Maybe we can somehow get the London MPs cross-party to propose extra powers for the Mayor and TfL, but this looks a long shot.
Having established the principles, I believe the campaign needs next to become one on the scale of the vision. Even without new powers for TfL, that body has in its power, if the next Mayor so wishes, to implement the type of solutions we are seeing on the latest Superhighways, or on Pancras Road, Gower Street etc, on every road it controls in London. We need to demand an end to main roads in London that do not provide practical separated space for cycling usable by all; Space for Cycling should not be restricted to a few arteries, it needs to become the standard, through a massive programme of progressive upgrading of the whole TfL-controlled network, that will, of course, need to deal with the remainder of the dangerous junctions as well. At they same time, the next mayor will need to cajole the boroughs into implementing similar solutions on all of their main roads and junctions, providing the necessary funding for them to do so. It's a tall order, but I have said we need to be ambitious, and this is what I think we need to be asking for in 2016: a programme of installation of cycle tracks on all TfL-controlled roads, plus strategic borough roads as well. In this context, the feeble and inefficient Quietways programme, re-cooking the old LCN concept, can probably be allowed to wither and die by the next Mayor.
The TfL route network, in red, shows the very minimum coverage that we need to start to achieve a segregated cycle network on London's main roads; eventually we will need segregation on all the white roads (borough A roads) as well.Of course we need more than this; we need local rat-runs cutting, we need lots of traffic taken out of town centres and out of residential areas, we need better routes through parks, and the rest of it, but the demand for the tracks on all the main roads is a simple, comprehensible and saleable one, achievable, I believe in the medium term (say less than 10 years), and it would bring far more benefits and raise cycling levels faster than any other possible change. And it is not a fantasy, it's what they have in Copenhagen, I've seen it, and it works. Of course, if we demand it, we won't actually get cycle tracks on all  the main roads, but getting the next Mayor to be working towards that objective would get us an awfully long way.
Does campaigning work?I've laid a lot of stress here on what actually happened in the campaigns over cycling in London over the last two decades, as I saw, and I've often been accused of over-esimating the impacts of campaigns, by some in the cycling world who seem to want to regard us as powerless pawns in the face of some vast, faceless bureaucratic government machine that does what it wants, serves its own interests and does not listen to special-interest voluntary group very much – well, not in this field anyway. In this narrative, something called 'culture' or 'tradition' determines what sort of society and infrastructure we get, this traps us in certain patterns of behaviour, and there isn't a heck of a lot we can do about it. Well, this is a matter of personal temperament and attitude, clearly, and there is certainly something in the 'bureaucratic barriers' narrative. I have often railed against these myself. But I give this account as I experienced things, and my experience was very clear. Before 1998 and the start of the Camden experiments, no cycling campaign group in London asked clearly for Dutch-style segregated cycle tracks on roads. Camden Cycling Campaign decided to do so, as a policy, going far out of line with what the rest of the UK cycling world was up to at that time. We asked for them, and, strangely enough, after a determined campaign, we got them. Of course they weren't done exactly right and we got less than we demanded, but we got enough to work and demonstrate a principle, and now those pieces of infrastructure form a basis that is being extended in all directions, as well as having the original parts upgraded.
By exact parallel, it was only when London Cycling Campaign took on the historic divisions over the segregation issue, put the issue to votes, and formulated clear policy on the matter (which some strongly disagreed with, and continue to do), and launched an energetic campaign, mobilising the membership and a wider part of the public in favour of this new vision, that, lo and behold, an initially very sceptical mayor bowed to the pressure and started to build what we wanted. I should not neglect to mention the influence of other, allied but separate campaigning groups in all this, particularly the 'pop-up campaign' Londoners on Bikes, which worked to take the Go Dutch message to politicians in the 2012 London elections, CyclingWorks, which did a tremendous job mobilising big employers in central London to come out in support of the 2014 Superhighway plans, and Stop Killing Cyclists, which continues to organise protests in the wake of deaths. I've also mentioned the national organisations CTC and CycleNation coming round to a similar agenda, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, founded to promote that agenda nationally. In addition there has been significant support from the mainstream press, particularly the Evening Standard, which has adopted a very pro-cycling tone in recent years and been a strong supporter or the new Superhighways, and The Times, with its Cities fit For cycling campaign. 
During the period I have covered social media became very significant in enabling the rapid organisation of protests, drawing in people who would not have been part of paid-up organisations. All these movements and opinion-formers, including the blogs and other social media, have supported each other in enabling the changes we are now seeing, but that the people at the centre, the existing and organised cyclists in London, decided exactly what they wanted to see, and decided to act on it, has, in my view, been decisive. The challenge now is to broaden the base of support massively; we need to get not only existing cyclists, but parents, teachers, academics, religious leaders, trade unions, mother' unions, old peoples' organisations, neighbourhood groups, amenity groups, disabled groups, and so on, on our side. CyclingWorks did a tremendous job getting businesses on our side, and that's a model that needs to be extended and followed up in other ways, particularly as the infrastructure starts to extend further out into the suburbs, where the views of employers become less important, but those of other groups more so.
In many ways our democratic process is broken, and broken into many pieces in London, with so many bodies having authority, and the ability to block change in certain areas. Some of this we cannot overcome now, but we can sometimes use this fragmentation to our advantage. There are always lots of people to whom we can appeal, who potentially have influence. If the councillors won't co-operate, one can try appealing to local MPs. If they are not interested, the London Assembly Members might well be, or even MEPs. It is possible to contact the Cycling Commissioner, and though Boris himself can be difficult to get hold of, he has various deputy mayors and assistants. There are usually potential points of pressure, and if you only have the Green Assembly Members on your side, you probably wont get very far, though they may make some noise. On the other hand, a broader alliance involving politicians and officials in different bodies and from different political or practical backgrounds might well provide the critical mass to move things forward.

"The argument your city is not like #Amsterdam is invalid. Neither was Amsterdam." Change takes work. A relevant  tweet from @TodUrbanWORKSConclusion: some campaigning principles
  • Ask for big enough changes to make an obvious difference to the environment for everyone. Try to find out what best practice is, ask for that, and keep asking for it at all stages of the lobbying and negotiation process. What you get will probably be compromised, but if the starting point was good enough, the final result will be good enough to make a difference. Don't be under-ambitious or think "We'll never be given that". Note, for example, how the solution for the intersection of the East-West and North-South Superhighways at Blackfriars that the Mayor went for actually turned out to be more ambitions than any campaigner had asked for. The things you are compromised down to in the end are capable of improvement later, when the climate of opinion has improved, as with the widening Camden cycle tracks.
  • You have to take account how all the other transport modes and legitimate business and residential activities on the road are going to operate. There is no point crusading for a solution which is going to be widely unacceptable. You have to develop the ability to distinguish between the visionary, which is eminently practical and can prove popular once a certain conservatism has been overcome, and extreme, impractical and fundamentally unpopular solutions that will be perceived as anti-car, anti-choice, anti-business, or anti-pleasure.
  • Once you have a valid, practical and saleable solution, all objections should be analysed, questioned and shown to be weak or groundless. The variety of these is never-ending, and more will always be invented, from golf balls to bombs, but these can be shown up as mere irrational resistance to change, and most people have the good sense to be able to see this. The public can be trusted perhaps more than you think. Don't dismiss any population, anywhere, however it may appear from the outside, as being 'irredeemably wedded to the car'. Scratch the surface, and you find the most car-oriented people generally would like to be able to cycle their children to school, and they'd like their granny to be able to cycle to the shops like she used to, if they can see a feasible way of doing it.
  • Officials tend to want to keep doing the same things they have always done. Though nothing is actually telling them they cannot do what you are asking, they will invent reasons why it can't be done. Appeal to politicians at all levels and in all parties to make the officials work for them, as they are supposed to do, and not dictate their own agenda.
You may need to wait many years for it to finally pay off. But hopefully, one day, you'll be able to say, like Mike Aitken of Brighton, in his 2002 letter to London Cyclist:

Then in a blinding epiphany I realised: I had designed this route! This was the London Cycle Network in action, which I and thousands of LCC members had argued for over two decades.... I loved every one of them (even the dispatch riders). Sobbing by a blue cycle post in Mayfair, it was like Mandela walking free all over again.
Categories: Views

Entrenching car dependence with brand new development

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 18 August, 2015 - 12:23

A few months ago I commented on the new Waitrose/John Lewis retail site in Horsham, principally in relation to the way the visualisations of the (then yet to be opened) new development ducked the problematic issue of a very busy road severing the site from the town centre, but also on the potential difficulties of getting to the site by bike and on foot.

Now that the site is open, it is quite obvious that, yes, walking and cycling have been completely failed by the planning process. As I hope to explain here, cycling to Waitrose and John Lewis is effectively impossible, except for those who want to cycle (illegally) on footways, or for the tiny minority of people who are prepared to ‘negotiate’ with motor traffic on a dual carriageway carrying 20-25,000 vehicles per day.

To set the scene, here’s a video I’ve made showing the ‘legal’ cycling route to Waitrose.

To repeat some of the points made in the video – this isn’t an ‘out of town’ site, it is just outside the town centre, separated from it by the road I am cycling on. The route shown in the video is the one that will have to be taken by the vast majority of people who live in Horsham if they want to ‘legally’ cycle to Waitrose – only a small proportion of the town’s population live in the ‘opposing’ direction, and they too will have to cycle on this dual carriageway, as this is the only access for the supermarket.

There is heavy traffic in the video which actually makes the experience of cycling to the store slightly less hostile, principally because of reduced vehicle speeds. At less busy times, moving out into the outside lane (as I do in the video) is much less easy because motor traffic will be travelling at or above 30mph.

The video also shows someone cycling on the footway, from the supermarket. This isn’t legal (and I don’t think it should be – the footways, as currently designed, are too narrow). But it is exceptionally common. People want to cycle to Waitrose, but faced with the choice between a four lane, high speed, high traffic road, and trundling on the pavement, people are unsurprisingly opting for the latter.

Not setting out to to break the law – just being failed by highway engineering

Cycling has been squeezed out on these kinds of roads for decades, and this new development has done nothing to address this root problem. The only silver lining on the cloud here is that, in undoubtedly attracting more ‘ordinary’ people on bikes to find their way along this road to the supermarket, the problem is now increasingly visible and less easy to ignore.

My video also shows the stupidity of planning entirely around motor traffic – from start to end of the video, my trip is only around 300m as the crow flies, but it takes me three minutes to cover this distance, in large part because to even get to the front door by bike (which is where people cycling should be going) I have to go out of my way to a roundabout, and then negotiate my way through two levels of a car park. There is no direct access to the front door by bike.

Some amazing open goals have also been missed here – whether by Waitrose themselves, or by council officers, or both.  Mainly, there are no access points into the site from the surrounding area, only the road I cycle on in the video. This is incredibly frustrating.

Standing in front of the main entrance, it is quite easy to see the main road to the north. The silver car is travelling along this road, and the white building is on the far side. It is a distance of only 80 metres or so from where I am standing.

But there is no walking (or cycling access from here – instead, you have to go take the long way round, the motor traffic route. I’ve marked this obvious (missing) connection on the visualisation of the site – the red line.

This is looking north, across the site, to the road running east-west (left-right). But there is no connection through to the west, either – a housing estate clearly visible, and a passage there to the side of the supermarket, but… fenced off.

This missing connection would run here – again, marked in red.

Again, the absence of this connection means a walk of a few metres is converted into one of several hundred.

Nor is there access at the south-west of the site. The development looms behind the housing here (circled) but again, no direct access, no connection with an existing path running along the river.

The overall impression is of a development that has been plonked down, with no thought or consideration, no attempt to connect it up sympathetically with the surrounding area, by foot or by bike.

The three missing connections described here, in red – with the only existing access (from the major road) marked in blue

Anyone living to the south, west, or north of this site has to go some distance out of there way to get to it. Combined with the hostility of the road you are forced to walk along, or cycle on, this development has entrenched, indeed worsened, car dependence within the town, which is pretty appalling given that this was a blank slate, in 2014.

The final insult – useless bike parking, which is (of course) placed as far away from the entrance as possible


Categories: Views

Attention for cycling in major infrastructure works

BicycleDutch - 17 August, 2015 - 23:01
Even in the Netherlands decision makers and planners must often be reminded that the needs for people cycling should be taken into account when major infrastructure is to be reconstructed. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The most dangerous junctions in Assen and other Dutch cities. What makes junctions dangerous ? What can we do to address that danger ?

A View from the Cycle Path - 17 August, 2015 - 20:08
Though there isn't a huge amount of traffic at this location, and though speeds aren't particularly high (this is an intersection in a residential area between a 50 km/h road and 30 km/h roads), this is the most dangerous road junction in Assen for cyclists. It doesn't look like much - just a simple road crossing. But simple crossings like this can be dangerous for cyclists. The problem at David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2015/08/the-most-dangerous-junction-in-assen.html
Categories: Views

BOOK REVIEW: “Mobility” by John Whitelegg

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 14 August, 2015 - 23:53

Mobility: A New Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future John Whitelegg  (Stockholm Environment Institute)

Mobility measured crudely in terms of how many kilometres we move around every day has nothing whatsoever to do with quality of life, rich human interaction, satisfaction, happiness and a detailed knowledge and familiarity with places and the things we chose to do in those places.”Our roles as transport professionals or campaigners are always related to the assumption – however unstated that assumption may be – that mobility is, in itself, inherently desirable. It is, like all background assumptions or cultural themes, so deeply seated that only careful analysis will suffice in assisting us in understanding what modern transport thinking is about. And when I say “transport thinking” I mean not just that of transport professionals (highway engineers, transport planners, road safety professionals, land use planners etc.). Indeed, the current assumptions we have about mobility are so wide reaching that they impact on just about every corner of modern life.

This important and necessary book is exactly what we need to help put questions probing so many areas of modern society, as well as those immediately concerning transport professionals. Why, for example, has the cutting of the fuel tax accelerator (at massive cost to the exchequer) gone without opposition in parliament or any real public debate? If we are really supposed to be concerned about climate change, why has a level of motorisation in this country been accepted which, if universalised, would mean no prospect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions with any existing or likely technology? Do we really value local community? Are we able to even talk about all the various depredations of contemporary car culture?

In modern society, actually questioning the sense of entitlement to largely unhindered car usage is highly unusual. Some of us have tried to do so. John Adams has used the concept of “hypermobility”. With Adams and Mayer Hillman, Whitelegg carried out the key work on the loss of children’s’ independent mobility over just a short period of modern time: “One False Move”. But this kind of questioning has had little impact on actual practice, particularly in the UK.

Indeed, this questioning of assumptions – I find myself using that word again and again because it is the key one – is discouraged by those in the “Smarter Travel” movement and elsewhere as unhelpful. I disagree. Stating what is wrong with car culture and the worship of mobility is necessary. The public, as well as professionals, can benefit from being made aware of the numerous ramifications of contemporary transport and associated policies.

Biting this bullet is exactly what Whitelegg does here: I would argue that the Introduction and first two short chapters of the book are a “must read” for all transport professionals. In fact, it should be required reading for first year students on not just transport related university courses, but social science courses as the implications are so widespread. This is easily recommended because of the books concise nature and low cost as an e-book.

Of course, concision means the arguments against the villains of the piece (Air pollution; Death and injury on the roads; Energy consumption; Climate Change; Obesity and related health impacts; Community disruption; Equality and social justice; Fiscal burdens) each of which gets a chapter, are necessarily brief.

I would also argue against danger being treated in terms of the end product of death and injury. Whitelegg is a fan of the “Vision Zero” approach. Some of us are deeply sceptical of this idea, simply because death and injuries can and have been reduced precisely because of the decline of walking and cycling along with most processes of motorisation. (Whitelegg acknowledges this, but I think that he is not fully aware of how the “casualty reduction” trope has worked against reducing danger on the roads.)

Nevertheless, each chapter is worth reading, if only to provide a basis for further study. Above all, this book sets down an alternative framework for us. It is”…intended to promote the abandonment of the mobility paradigm and its replacement by something that maximises benefits to all sections of society locally and globally and minimises disbenefits. For convenience this is referred to as the accessibility paradigm.” A New Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future: indeed.

 


Categories: Views

Who’s afraid of “Safety in Numbers”?

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 14 August, 2015 - 20:25

The following essay is based on a review of “Is it safe in numbers?” by Christie and Pike (in Injury Prevention August 2015 Vol 21 No. 4 276-277 – see the reference to it here ) . It indicates certain attitudes and beliefs about human behaviour amongst “road safety” researchers and professionals – attitudes and beliefs which we think it important to criticise.

What is “Safety in Numbers”?

The “Safety in Numbers” (SiN) thesis is associated with Jacobsen, and argues that, as Christie and Pike note:

“Based on data from the Netherlands, Denmark, USA and UK, Jacobsen’s paper in 2003 1 identified the non-linearity between the number of cyclists and pedestrians and the risk of injury from being hit by a motor vehicle. In other words, the more people walked and cycled, the fewer the number and rate of traffic collisions and injuries experienced by cyclists and pedestrians—a non-linear relationship. Jacobsen, termed this relationship, ‘Safety in Numbers’ (SIN), which was shown at different levels of scale, whether at an intersection, a city or a country. More recent work has since shown SIN to occur in other countries such as Australia” (*)

I am not here restricting myself to, or defending, the work of Jacobsen. I am, however, defending the idea that people adapt to perceptions of risk (risk compensation, henceforth RC) and that SiN is a manifestation of this. In fact, a reduction in casualty rate per motor vehicle at a roundabout with the increase in flow of motor vehicles through it was noted in 1962 in a paper quoted by the father of road safety studies, Reuben Smeed, shortly afterwards. For his and other illustrations of what RC is about, see Chapter 2 here  and of course the work of John Adams , particularly “Risk and Freedom” and “Risk” downloadable from his site.

RC is the causative mechanism for numerous phenomena. Some of these are the effects of “road safety” interventions which have adverse effects on those of us outside cars: the iconic case of seat belts, for example:  . In presentations I often refer to the comments of Alec Issigonis about the lack of “safety features” in his Mini Minor: “If I had wanted to build a safe car, I would have put nails in the dashboard”, generally to be greeted with laughter. The effects of the use of more crashworthy cars on those outside them have been anything but laughable.

Sometimes there are beneficial types of adaptive behaviour to changes in the transport mix – albeit not ones created by “road safety” or other transport interventions. These are the ones referred to by Christie and Pike (increased numbers of people walking and cycling). Consider the following two cases. Firstly the case of an increase in cycling in the first decade of the current administration of London’s transport affairs through the GLA and TfL:

Cycling in London 2000 – 2010

Looking at the annual reports by Transport for London for the first decade of his century, we see a decline in reported Killed and Seriously Injured (the most reliable casualty statistics) cyclists, moving back up to around the 2000 level in 2009. Over this time cycling approximately doubled in London, indicating something like a 40% cut in the KSI rate for the average cyclist.

What’s the explanation for this? There have been similar casualty rate declines for other modes, but these are claimed to be due to highway and vehicle engineering. There has been little of engineering with significant benefit for cyclists – the much-vaunted segregated cycle tracks promised in the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling are only being completed now, in mid-2015. Policing of London’s drivers is minimal at best, with a flurry of activity occurring at the end of 2013 after a spate of cyclist deaths.

There has been an increase in cyclist training, with some evidence that recipients are less likely to be involved in collisions – but the vast majority of London’s cyclists have not had this training. There have been advertising and publicity campaigns asking cyclists and drivers to behave in certain ways: this form of “road safety” intervention is the least proven of all types.

There is one possible area where some interventions by Transport for London may have been effective: collisions where cyclists are killed under the wheels of lorries (HGVs). While the Killed statistic is the most reliable of all casualty statistics, in London it is difficult to use, as it is small for cyclists – the annual number is typically between 9 and 18 and is difficult to use in statistical analysis. Nevertheless, the number of cyclists killed in this way stayed more or less the same during the first decade of this century despite there being an increase in lorry traffic (and even more so in the construction industry, whose vehicles are particularly implicated) in the areas where most London cycling occurs – inner and central London. Even more striking, the increase in cycling in inner London was greater than the London average: other things being equal, one might have expected the number of cyclists killed in this way to be 3 – 4 times higher than it was in this decade. (Of course, as will be pointed out below, this is not any reason for complacency – the lorries issue is one which should be addressed forcefully, as we argue here ).

What’s the reason for this? TfL during this decade made efforts to alert lorry drivers, a small fraction of cyclists have been warned not to undertake lorries, and operators were urged to use additional mirrors. But would these efforts have resulted in a massive cut in the death rate amongst cyclists? My argument would be that there has been substantial publicity (particularly in London’s Evening Standard and the London BBC and ITV news programmes), and likely informal discussion among the lorry driver community.

It is crucial to remember that this need not involve what is often referred to as “respect” for cyclists – as in so-called “mutual respect” advertising campaigns – but simple awareness of cyclists. Lorry drivers may still (or even more so) regard cyclists as a hazard or menace: the point is that they appear to be more willing to watch out for them.

Of course, outside the community of professional lorry drivers, we would expect the SiN effect to be less, as indeed it appears to be with a less dramatic fall in the cyclist casualty rate.

Of other explanations the main one raised is of course cycle helmet wearing, with use apparently increasing during this time period. On this I would refer to the work by the Cyclists’ Touring Club and other evidence collected by the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation.

In addition, we have to ask what the beneficial effect of cycle helmets would be on the Serious Injury figures. (As already noted, the annual number of cyclist deaths is difficult to use in statistical analysis, and the majority of these either involve lorries or high speed collisions with motor vehicles where helmets will have little benefit).

Even where a helmet may have had a beneficial effect after a collision, the collision should still be analysed as a Serious Injury (SI) for reporting (on the STATS 19 form) purposes. One reason for this is that where the helmet liner has been damaged (supposedly preventing a head injury from being Serious rather than Slight) the injured person should still be under observation, and thus more likely to be recorded as a Serious Injury. Another is that other injuries may fulfil the SI criteria. All of this applies even without any adaptive (risk compensatory) behaviour by either helmeted cyclists or other road users towards them.

Removal of pedestrian guard railings in London

This is the second case: For the evidence see the debate with John Adams in Local Transport Today 26/08/2011. Essentially, the pressure put on motorists to have to watch out for crossing pedestrians and be more careful has had some beneficial effect. Of course, there are always other factors – like having sufficiently slow speeds – but there is still the sort of effect that SiN is all about.

What we think of SiN

Our reading of SiN as a form of adaptive behaviour/RC is, like RC, something which we think of as a plausible reason for some phenomena. It is important to state what we DON’T think about it.

Firstly: “Implied in the SIN concept is that cyclists and pedestrians travel in proximity with each other and that the protective effect is similar to the protective effect of animal herds”. We have no evidence of this assumption. The “critical mass” sometimes referred to in discussions about SiN is the effect of increasing numbers impressing greater awareness on other road users, specifically drivers.

Secondly, it is not sufficient to argue that all we have to do is to increase the numbers of people walking and cycling – nor has anybody ever suggested this to be the case. The road danger reduction agenda argues that we require a shift in our everyday assumptions about transport and safety. This may be manifested through technological changes (as in highway and vehicle engineering, or in aids to law enforcement) or simply in the ways people behave.

UK cyclists riding in in countries like France and Spain point out significantly different driver behaviour towards them: the idea that UK drivers (with basically similar genetic make-up) could not change, albeit over some time, to behave the same way is nonsense. That does not mean that the usual publicity campaigns will be effective, or that relying on drivers to change their behaviour because they have also cycled will be effective. It just means that change occurs – often entirely irrespective of any official “road safety” intervention.

SiN is at least a partial explanation for some beneficial changes, and can be part of wider moves to reduce danger at source.

 

Don’t panic!

By contrast, the reaction of some such as Christie and Pike is hyperbolic. The attention of public health promoters was apparently “grabbed” by the concept of SiN, allowing them to make “clarion calls” resulting in :

“… a paradigm shift among planners and engineers who could think about pedestrian and bicycle safety in a different way and not be so fearful that by encouraging increases in walking and cycling they would see an increase in traffic collisions and causalities”.

I doubt that there has been a “paradigm shift” except in terms of increased verbal “support” for walking and cycling, with an exception being in London – (mainly) characterised by segregating, rather than integrating cyclists with the general traffic flow. Public health professionals have been pointing out the benefits of walking and cycling for over twenty-five years, showing that the benefits of cycling in particular far outweighed the dangers even in then existing conditions (which were not to be tolerated anyway).

Christie and Pike are particularly concerned about criticism of helmet advocacy which draws attention to the adverse effects on cycling levels. Given the adverse effects of compulsion http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/12/17/the-effects-of-new-zealands-cycle-helmet-law/ , this is hardly surprising.(no comment is made by Christie and Pike about this evidence, nor the likely reasons for a lack of effect of mandation http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/12/27/the-effects-of-new-zealands-cycle-helmet-law-the-evidence-and-what-it-means/ .)

 

An exception

There is an alternative source of concern about SiN, namely from the new wave of cycle campaigners pushing for full y segregated cycle tracks as the key feature of a pro-cycling programme. Their argument is that such provision creates safe conditions to cycle, which then supports mass cycling. The consensus in RDRF is that while we’re happy to go along with the current push for “Space4Cycling” in the UK and London in particular, we have reservations about specific issues (driver behaviour at junctions, potential conflict with pedestrians at bus bypasses and on segregated cycle tracks), the lack of relevance on rural roads and more generally the possible adverse effects on the majority of streets where cyclists will travel in proximity to motor vehicles.

However, we are fully in agreement with the idea that cycling must be supported as an everyday form of basic transport carried out ordinary people wearing ordinary clothes, as opposed to a specialised athletic pursuit (although that can also be accommodated). Our main difference is a concern about “dangerising” existing cycling, and arguing for support for those people already cycling, as well as the full range of measures required for reducing danger at source for cyclists and others, whether highway engineering or other methods: vehicle technologies, law enforcement etc.

Our view is that high cycling rates and low cycling casualty rates per journey are achieved when cycling is regarded as a normal form of transport where special clothing and helmets are not seen as required. This appears to be at odds with Christie and Pike.

 

Why the panic?

There has traditionally been hostility towards increasing the numbers of people walking and cycling among “road safety” professionals, as “vulnerable road users” outside cars they are particularly prone to injury and death after collisions and not to be encouraged. (This opposition does not extend to a significant proportion of the “road safety” industry that advocates the far more hazardous form of transport that is motorcycling). Cycling, in particular, is seen as problematic.

One way this manifests itself is the way the problem is measured. For us this is critical, and requires a fundamental transformation in the way we conceptualise safety on the road. For traditional “road safety” professionals, it is the aggregate number of KSIs, or at least the aggregate number of a road user group KSIs. So, Christie and Pike mention: “…the relative high risk of injury among pedestrians and cyclists from deprived areas, where we know people walk more because there is less access to a car?” as a counter to SiN. But is there this “high risk of injury”?

What we know from such neighbourhoods is that there is indeed far more walking and street play. Taking into account this level of exposure, such pedestrians may in fact have quite a low level of risk – a low rate of injury per hour spent walking or playing in the street. But then an exposure based measure is not what the “road safety industry” is interested in.

Another indication of a scared reaction to prospects of increased cycling is: “… that 8 out of 10 injured cyclists result from single crashes not involving a collision with a motor vehicle”. Of course, as with all road crashes, there is the question of under-reporting. But there is no reason to think that there has been any change in the proportion of cyclist casualties that are under-reported: in terms of a trend, the picture is the same. Also, how serious are these collisions that might involve children playing (often off-road) on bicycles?

More importantly, is it really helpful to suggest that danger from the (ab)use of motor vehicles is not the problem? Is that what the “road safety” professionals want us to think?

The conceptualising of cycling as, we think, a key element in helmet advocacy.??? Sure enough, one of the authors mentions cycle helmet wearing as one of his two key points to consider when taking to the roads in this video . (The other is seat belt wearing which we would think of as grimly ironic in this context given the adverse effects of seat belt laws on cyclists and pedestrians) .And they ignore unreported pedestrian falls, which probably mean that figures for the relative danger of walking and cycling make cycling look worse than it is.

 

 

Conclusion

Christie and Pike do acknowledge that there is some sort of possible SiN effect, and call – as academics are so wont to – for further research. We would also agree with them that good quality highway engineering is required for cyclists and pedestrians.

But we need to point out the flaws in a belief system that has stood in the way of the more benign modes for far too long, and indeed been part of the problem for walkers and cyclists. If new research is indeed forthcoming, it has to take into account two features constantly highlighted by the road danger reduction movement. Firstly the hierarchy of danger in a car-centric society with discrimination against non-car modes, specifically, cycling as key. Secondly, that people constantly adapt to their perceptions of risk. Otherwise we will get nowhere.

 

NOTE* Linearity is the wrong word. The null hypothesis is that the risk does not change with cyclist numbers.

 

 


Categories: Views

Talking about ‘danger’, again

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 13 August, 2015 - 23:16

Some thoughts about ‘danger’ and ‘dangerising’ cycling had been floating around in my head, following recent local discussion about whether talking about ‘danger’ puts people off cycling, and whether we should refrain from talking about it all.

This issue has reappeared today, with some comments from Anna Glowinski in the Evening Standard (that may or may not have been accurately reported).

Speaking as she prepared to race today in a pop-up street velodrome in Broadgate, Glowinski told the Standard: “I think it can be quite damaging to talk about how ‘dangerous’ cycling is. I really don’t think it is that dangerous. The reason I think women are getting hit by lorries is because it’s an assertiveness thing. […]

“I think it’s good that cycle safety is taken seriously and highlighted so it’s high on the political agenda, and people care about road safety and think about how to make certain junctions safer,” Glowinski said. “But constant highlighting of cyclist accidents can be a bit misleading. I get told all the time: ‘You are taking your life in your own hands, you are crazy.’ It’s misleading. It’s putting people off.

I’ve emphasised in bold the passages that I think exemplify the kinds of objections made by people who think we shouldn’t talk about ‘danger’. We’ve been here before, of course, and others have eloquently covered the same ground.

At face value Glowinski’s comments appear confused – on the one hand she thinks it’s good that safety is on the agenda, and that we are talking about how to make roads safer. But at the same time a ‘constant’ highlighting of these issues is a problem. Is it even possible or sensible to draw a line here? This leads me to believe she may have been selectively quoted, or was pushed for a quote on something she didn’t really consider.

But, more generally, I think an important distinction often gets missed here. It’s vital to stress that when people like me, who are interested in increasing cycling levels substantially in Britain, talk about danger – both in objective terms, and in the way perception of danger is a major barrier to cycling uptake – are not arguing that cycling is an intrinsically dangerous mode of transport. We aren’t say that cycling itself is dangerous.

Instead, quite specifically, we are arguing that the design of certain roads and streets, and the nature of the motor traffic using them, presents an unacceptably high risk to people cycling on them. Cycling on a quiet residential street, with very low levels of motor traffic, is acceptably safe to anyone, but obviously very different from cycling around the Elephant and Castle, or Hyde Park Corner, or through Kings Cross, places where you have to make your way across multiple lanes of motor traffic travelling at higher speeds than you.

… Or through junctions where you are mixed with a high proportion of HGVs. Or sharing space with motor traffic travelling at the national speed limit on rural A-roads, or trunk roads.

Exposure to this kind of motor traffic is unacceptable. It continues to baffle me why, in a country that (quite rightly) takes Health and Safety very seriously, these risks continue to be tolerated. Certain kinds of step ladders have to be used in the workplace, yet it is apparently fine and dandy for local authorities to build new roads where people cycling are expected to mix with heavy traffic, travelling at speeds of 50 or 60mph, ‘negotiating’ their way into the middle of the road to get around roundabouts.

A new road in West Sussex. Cycle here.

The only way these roads even appear to be ‘safe’ is because next to no-one is using them on a bike. (Despite this, cycle KSIs on these kinds of roads form a considerable percentage of the total, even if the number of trips being made on them by bike is 1-2% of the total.)

The reasons so much of the British road network is dangerous for cycling are established reasons –

  • speed differentials while sharing the same road space;
  • major differences in mass while sharing the same road space;
  • unforgiving road design;
  • unpredictable or uncertain layouts;
  • layouts that fail to account for human fallibility.

In short, all the attributes that are being designed out of Dutch roads and streets, thanks to Sustainable Safety.

Big differences in speed, mass and momentum means separation is a necessity.

Meanwhile Britain squeezes cycling onto roads that are simply not designed to accommodate it safely – with predictably tragic outcomes.

Does pointing this out really ‘put people off’ cycling? I think that’s a pretty far-fetched assertion. For one thing, we’ve been talking about road safety in general for decades in often quite vivid detail – in particular, car safety – without putting anyone off driving. And we have succeeded in greatly reduced the exposure drivers face while travelling around on roads and streets, by designing more forgiving environments for motoring, that tolerate minor mistakes, and reduce the seriousness of consequences when mistakes occur. (The problem is that cycling has largely been ignored in this process).

The implication of the ‘putting off’ claim, therefore, is that cycling is an especially fragile mode of transport, one that can collapse when people talk about the downsides of it; that exposure to risk and danger, and the perception of it, genuinely is a problem for cycling, compared to other modes of transport.

But even for the ‘putting off’ claim to stand up to scrutiny, there must exist some large cohort of the population that is willing to cycle on roads that have all the kinds of problems described here, yet will choose not do so simply because these problems are being talked about.

Is this really at all probable? Are they somehow blind to the hostility of these roads and the hazards they present, yet simultaneously so danger-sensitive that mere words will stop them cycling on them?1

The general public might not be particularly au fait with the principles of safe road and street design for cycling, but those principles will correspond closely with what we as human beings can instinctively judge to be unsafe. Faster motor traffic whizzing past us at close proximity feels unsafe. Being surrounded by HGVs feels unsafe. Junctions which present multiple potential conflicts and uncertainty about what other parties might be doing feel unsafe. And so on. These are the reasons most people don’t want to cycle on Britain’s roads.

I think most human beings are pretty good at assessing risk for themselves; they might not get it right all the time, but they can judge that it is safe enough for their children to pedal around in a park, or on a small section of pedestrianised street that rarely carries any motor traffic…

… while at the same time judging that allowing their children to cycle on the road with HGVs at the junction just yards away, in the background of the same photograph, presents an unacceptable level of risk.

This is exactly the point that David Arditti makes in the post I have already linked to –

I think the advocates of cycling need to stop treating the public like idiots who cannot correctly judge what is or is not an unacceptably dangerous activity for them to engage in. I think they can judge.

The public knows that cycling itself isn’t dangerous. That’s why families will wobble around parks, and up and down trails, and in those places they feel comfortable. But they do know that cycling on certain types of road presents a kind of risk – even a feeling of risk – that they simply aren’t prepared to tolerate.

Talking about addressing those risks isn’t going to stop anyone from venturing onto those roads on a bike, who wasn’t already prepared to do so.

1. [I am vaguely aware that statistics suggest there may have been a ‘dip’ in London cycling levels following the six fatalities in quick succession in late 2013; but this is surely attributable to the deaths themselves, rather than the people making the case for changing they way roads are designed to prevent these kinds of deaths from occurring in the future.]


Categories: Views

British ‘Simultaneous Green’ junctions, in… 1979?

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 12 August, 2015 - 00:43

I’m currently working my way through a DVD set of films from the BFI on cycling in Britain. One of these films is called ‘Free Wheeling’, which you can watch yourself on the BFI site (although it will cost you £1).

The film was produced for the Department for Transport in 1979, and appears to be aimed at councils and local authorities, showing them what can be currently be designed for cycling, based around Local Transport Note 1/78, Ways of Helping Cyclists in Built Up Areas, which we see, and is referred to, several times in the film.

It’s quite eye-opening – there are some things in there that were obviously radical at the time, like contraflow cycling on one way streets (something that, ridiculously, we still struggle to implement with any consistency 36 years later!).

What really caught my eye, however, was this short section on signalised junctions.

To my (untrained) eye, at least, this looks remarkably like, well, a simultaneous green junction – two of them.

In the first section of the clip, we see a man on a bike setting off from a bicycle-specific signal, heading diagonally across a junction, while other people cycling emerge from the road he is heading towards.

Note that there is apparently nothing to stop any of these of people choosing to cycle off into any of the exits they want to use.

And indeed this is precisely what happens – the man and the woman emerging from the junction opposite do head off in different directions, the woman ‘yielding’ to the man in the blue jumper.

As this occurs, the voiceover states

There are many variations [of this type of junction] possible, depending on local circumstances

which funnily enough is exactly what David Hembrow has been saying about ‘simultaneous green’ arrangements for cycling – that they can work at junctions of different sizes and shapes.

The second junction in the clip is even clearer. We see two people arriving at the junction, waiting at the corner on cycle-specific infrastructure, for a green signal to progress across the junction.

Note that this ‘corner’ arrangement is precisely the same as that at ‘simultaneous green’ junctions in the Netherlands.

Positioning on the corner allows people entering and exiting the junction to take the most direct route across it for the destination they want.

As the two cyclists get a green signal, all motor traffic at the junction is held.

As in the previous example, people cycling emerge from the opposite side of the junction – not directly opposite, but from a cycle track at 135° to their own entrance to the junction.

Note, again, that there is nothing to stop people choosing whichever exit they please. All these (conflicting) options are possible.

The final lovely detail is that there is an induction loop to detect people waiting at the junction; something commonplace in the Netherlands, but extraordinarily rare in Britain.

I’d love to know where these two junctions are – my guess, from the rest of the video, is somewhere in Peterborough – and indeed what happened to them, Do they still exist today?

 

 

 


Categories: Views

Another before and after in ʼs-Hertogenbosch (5)

BicycleDutch - 10 August, 2015 - 23:01
The cycleway surface on a busy main road in ʼs-Hertogenbosch was recently upgraded. The original concrete slabs were replaced by smooth asphalt. Not a major change you might think, but … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Cycling and the Royal Parks

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 10 August, 2015 - 09:16

TfL’s response to the consultation on the route of the Superhighway through Hyde Park was released last week. It reveals, yet again, a curious hostility to cycling from the Royal Parks, the (government) agency that manages the eight Royal Parks in London.

This is the same body that is effectively blocking the most sensible routing of the Superhighway past Buckingham Palace for ‘safety, operational and aesthetic reasons’; that bans cycling along the eastern side of Green Park (yet allows driving, for access); that is apparently reluctant to close parts of Regents Park as through-routes to motor traffic; that organises regular ‘crackdowns’ on cycling, including (notoriously) one last year which saw BBC presenter Jeremy Vine stopped by the Met Police for ‘speeding’ (at 16mph).

The curiousness of the Royal Parks’ position was neatly summed up by City Cyclists back in January

it seems to me that the [Royal Parks] authority is terribly concerned that building a safe cycle route through this area might lead to conflict with pedestrians. Fair enough. But I don’t see any evidence that The Royal Parks understand that much of that potential ‘conflict’ is because they are trying to squeeze people on foot and bikes into small spaces at junctions that are absolutely mobbed by motor vehicle traffic. The elephant in the room is that there is an awful lot of motor vehicle traffic in the Parks. Why isn’t The Royal Parks worrying about removing some of that, I wonder?

And indeed this latest response from TfL to the consultation reveals that the Royal Parks are still thinking this way. For instance –

3 respondents (<1%), including The Royal Parks, expressed concern about provision for cyclists on North Carriage Drive

The Royal Parks stated that the proposals are not safe enough for pedestrians. Most of these cited potential clashes with cycles due to increased cycle congestion in certain areas of the park

The Royal Parks stated that impact on pedestrians needs to measured and a risk assessment undertaken

Nobody wants to see more conflict between walking and cycling, but it seems to me that the Royal Parks are coming at this issue from a perspective that is bound to see problems where they don’t exist, and fails to diagnose solutions where they can be found.

First of all, from the tone of their comments on this consultation, and other public responses, they appear to have a fairly fixed idea of ‘cycling’ being the preserve of fast, speedy types, posing grave danger to other users, rather than as a potentially universal mode of transport that could be used by all visitors to the Parks. Indeed, these people exist in the Parks already, and they are hardly a great danger to other users.

Ordinary people, using bikes, in Hyde Park

Ordinary people need safe routes through (and obviously to) the Parks by bike, not just ‘cyclists’, and those routes shouldn’t be compromised because of assumptions about speeding, or bad behaviour, or lycra, or whatever. If there is a genuine issue with bad behaviour, that should be tackled directly, rather than punishing everyone else by not even providing proper routes in the first place.

Secondly, all the (potential) problems with conflict between different users in the parks are almost certainly design problems, rather than any intrinsic problem with cycling itself. Where there are currently issues with ‘speeding’ in Hyde Park, for instance, it’s notable that it is on a desperately narrow shared path, along Rotten Row.

The Rotten Row shared path

With two-way cycling on the right hand side of that white line, it’s hardly surprising that conflict with walking on the other side of the line is going to occur, with ‘fast’ cyclists seeming to come out of nowhere.

Parks across Europe handle much larger numbers of people cycling, with much less conflict, because their paths are designed to safely accommodate it. In Utrecht –

In Lyon –
And of course in Amsterdam.There isn’t conflict in these parks, precisely because there is enough space allocated to walking and cycling for everyone to get along quite happily. The problems that result from pushing people together into a tiny space isn’t a problem with cycling; it’s a problem with bad design.

This fixation on the ‘problems’ cycling might cause is even more curious in the light of the Royal Parks’ ambivalence about motor traffic levels in the areas it controls. We are told that

It is The Royal Parks’ aspiration to reduce the number of motor vehicles in the Royal Parks. It does not feel an immediate ban on cars in Hyde Park is considered feasible given the impact that this would have on those who currently visit by car and taxi.

Reductions in motor traffic would obviously be welcome, but it’s not clear how this is going to be achieved without restrictions on the routes motor traffic can take through the parks. A ‘ban’ on motor traffic needn’t even be a priority in the short term; the main problem with motor traffic in the Parks is how the roads in them are used as through routes. These roads could be converted to access roads, still allowing people to visit by car, but removing the motor traffic using the Parks as a cut-through to somewhere else.

The Royal Parks seem innately conservative; wedded to preserving the status quo, even if that is deeply sub-optimal in terms of safety and convenience, especially for people walking and cycling.


Categories: Views

"We all cycle" - the rise and rise of proud cycling cities

ibikelondon - 5 August, 2015 - 09:24

I'm spending the summer in the Netherlands, and have been learning so much about cycling in their cities.  What has become clear to me is that Dutch cities are increasingly competing for a share of the visitors who come here to learn about the Netherland's cycling and planning culture. Utrecht, host of this year's Grand Depart, is not alone in this - note how this incredible video touting their cycling achievements is presented in English rather than Dutch and really tries to "show off" the city as a beautiful place to visit (which it is, I hasten to add).



I think this is an interesting phenomenon for two reasons; firstly the internet is being recognised by cities as an effective tool for reaching and inspiring many people around the world, getting them excited and clearly demonstrating exportable concepts.  There's also a clear attempt here to attract high-spending tourists who are on learning-based trips.  In short, visiting cities to find out how they work has become a mini industry of its own!

What do you think? Have you spent time visiting cities in order to learn and find out what you can do in your own city? Do videos like this make you want to visit somewhere more? Could pro-cycling messages like this help to make the case for cycling in the city where you live?

For more information on cycling in Utrecht, visit utrecht.nl/we-all-cycle/

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Categories: Views

Blindness to motor traffic

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 4 August, 2015 - 22:59

An essential component of whether a road or a street is a pleasant place is the amount of motor traffic travelling down it. It isn’t the only component, of course, but it’s going to be a struggle to make somewhere that has tens of thousands of motor vehicles travelling through it into an attractive destination. Conversely, streets that have very low levels of motor traffic – or indeed no motor traffic at all – are very much easier to ‘convert’ into destinations, places where people would like to hang around, rather than rushing off somewhere else.

This will often have very little to do with the way the street itself is designed. Waltham Forest managed to transform Orford Road into a pleasant place, simply by closing it to motor traffic.

People were happy to mingle in the street, and to let their children play in it, despite the ‘conventional’ road layout remaining, with tarmac, kerbs, and street markings.

The same is true of Earlham Street in Camden; again, a ‘conventional’ street became a place people were happy to wander around in, simply by the addition of a closure to motor traffic – without any changes to the street layout.

And even major roads in central London became places pedestrians were happy to wander around on, at will, when they were brought to a standstill by a taxi demonstration last summer.

The Strand, and Trafalgar Square, accidentally become places.

This is surely all fairly obvious stuff; yet there is a curious blindspot on the inescapable influence of motor traffic levels on the quality and attractiveness of our street environments, particularly (and most troublingly) amongst many of the people who have responsibility for what happens to them, or who are engaged in the design and function of them.

It is a little unfair to single any particular individuals out, especially people who are thoughtful and reflective on how streets work, and how how they could be improved. But an analysis of Exhibition Road by John Massengale and Victor Dover in their book, Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns is such a good example of this phenomenon it’s hard not to point to it.

In a two-page section on this ‘shared space’ design – perhaps one of the most famous examples of this kind of design in Britain – the authors reflect on why this street is both a success and a failure, and arrive at some reasonable conclusions. The treatment on Exhibition Road is described as a ‘mixed success’, the authors finding that the very southern half of the street, south of Thurloe Place, is a success, while the section north of it (and north of the A4 Cromwell Road) is something of a failure. Here is the relevant passage, quoted in full –

The innovations at the southern end of Exhibition Road have been more successful than the primary stretch between the museums and other institutions. Thurloe Street and the adjacent plaza are small-scale, comfortable spaces that are well used by the public. Both are lined with attractive storefronts that have been revived by the popularity of the new design, now filled with several cafés with outdoor dining, a bookstore for the Victoria and Albert Museum, and other shops. Cars can enter the Exhibition Road space here, but it feels more like a piazza than shared space. Low ventilating stacks for the tube station and a tunnel leading to it poke up in the middle of the space, helping the spatial definition. Built-in benches attached to the stacks are frequently occupied by those who don’t have to spend money to spend time people-watching, and the few cars and vans that park in the square tend to cluster around them, giving some visual order to the parking. On the street itself, bold striping in light and dark grays clearly sets the space off from the through traffic on Thurloe Place.

The effect of these paving techniques on the long, wide piece of Exhibition Road to the north is less pleasing, because here the street feels vast and poorly shaped. The bold diagonal striping is visible for many blocks, and since there are no sidewalks, the supergraphic bumps into the institutions lining the road in an almost random and uncomfortable way. On the small piazza to the south, on the other hand, the paving pattern seems less repetitive and is broken up by the ventilation shafts and the benches around them, the parked vehicles, and the number of people in the space. The outdoor tables on the southern block of Exhibition Road also cover the supergraphics at the edges, softening their effect.

A smaller pattern north of Cromwell Road would bring a more human scale to the vast space, and breaking it into smaller parts would help, too. A more traditional design would make borders along the edge and break the long space into smaller parts. cars park in the center of the road, which has traffic on one side and pedestrians on the other. “Only the parked cars look comfortable,” says Hank Dittmar, the Chief Executive of the Prince’s Foundation.

This is all clever, intelligent analysis, but amazingly (to my eyes, at least) there is absolutely no mention here of the difference in the levels of motor traffic on the distinct sections of the street that are considered to be a success, and to be a failure. The section that they feel is a success has a relatively tiny amount of motor traffic, only accessing the shops and premises on the street itself, and the handful of properties on Thurloe Street, while the section they deem to be a failure has a considerable amount of motor traffic – around 15,000 vehicles a day.

Yet this difference is not mentioned, at all.

Instead, the authors attribute the differences in quality to what are, in reality, very minor design details. Indeed, the differences in design have to be minor, because the layout of the street is essentially identical in the two sections that are deemed to be a failure, and a success.

The south section – a supergraphic extends from building to building, across the whole width of the street.

North of the Cromwell Road – the same supergraphic, extending from building to building, across the same width of street.

This continuity of design is even more obvious in aerial shots of the whole length of the road.

Picture from here.

The main reason for the difference in quality is obvious – the north section is a busy road and car park, while the south section isn’t, carrying only a negligible amount of traffic on what is actually a minor access road. 

The southern section of Exhibition Road is not a useful route for motor traffic; anyone accessing it will be sent back where they came from. So it is only used for access purposes.

So while the authors observe that ‘the rebuilt road changes character as it goes north’, they fail to remark upon the principal reason why this is so – very different levels of motor traffic.

The reason the southern section – which has the same street layout as the northern section – feels like ‘a piazza’, and ‘a small-scale, comfortable space’, and where people will actually want to sit out on the street and eat a meal, or watch people walking by, is because it is not full of motor traffic. Nothing more, nothing less.

Is this failure to recognise the importance of motor traffic levels important? I think it is. I think it explains why towns and cities have been so ready to embrace ‘shared space’ as an apparent solution to the problems with their roads and streets. Current levels of motor traffic on a given route are taken almost as innate, an essential characteristic that cannot be changed. It’s background; the ‘problem’ to be solved then becomes one of how to arrange that motor traffic on the street, how to manage its interactions, how to make it ‘behave’, rather than one of determining the function and purpose of a road or street, and determining the level of motor traffic it should be carrying accordingly.

Dutch access roads work well because they are designed to eliminate through traffic, often in very subtle ways – an arrangement of one-ways, for instance, or simply a fast, obvious parallel road. The success of these layouts actually has very little to do with the design of the streets themselves.

The children are able to play safely in this residential street in Gouda not because of any ‘shared space’ or similar treatment, but because this is not a through-route for motor traffic.

Streets like the one in the picture above are designed the way they are because motor traffic has largely been removed from them; they are not designed that way in an attempt to mitigate the effects of motor traffic. They are able to function as ‘shared’ because of low motor traffic levels; their design is essentially a bit of icing on the cake.

Of course at the other end of the scale, by ignoring the reality of motor traffic we risk designing inappropriate ‘sharing’ into roads that are far too busy for anyone too actually consider sharing, creating (at some expense) what amount to fairly conventional roads, but ones that have serious downsides for groups like those who are not included on the carriageway or the footway, or those with disabilities like visual impairment. Roads that will continue to function as distributor routes for motor traffic should be designed with the needs of all users in mind, even if in practise that means a dilution of the ‘placemaking’ value of any redesign.

We ignore the importance of motor traffic at our peril.


Categories: Views

Nijmegen bicycle parking facility underused

BicycleDutch - 3 August, 2015 - 23:01
Like many cities of the Netherlands, Nijmegen suffered from a shortage of bicycle parking spaces in the central station area. That is why an extra bicycle parking facility for almost … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

A day at the races: Motor racing has no effect on cycling in the Netherlands. Nor does everyday driving. That's why people cycle.

A View from the Cycle Path - 3 August, 2015 - 17:54
I've never had much interest in motor sport. When I was a child I remember being taken to see motor racing twice and having found it noisy and unpleasant. Assen's TT circuit is world famous. It's known as the "Cathedral of motor sport" and attracts many visitors to the area. But motor racing was not one of the things that attracted us to the area and until yesterday I'd never been to the track David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2015/08/a-day-at-races-motor-racing-has-no.html
Categories: Views

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