Views

Pedestrians and the Superhighways

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 9 October, 2014 - 09:22

The Cyclists in the City blog has cast its eye over the City of London’s latest response to the Superhighway proposals [pdf], interpreting it as suggesting that the City are supporting their proposals, and actually demanding even more radical change.

I’d really like to be that charitable – after all, the City are demanding better pedestrian crossings, more pedestrian space, and better waiting times, as outcomes from this scheme. However, it’s quite hard to take these demands at face value when their response to the current proposals is so strangely negative. I can’t make sense of it. It seems there is some politics going on being the scenes, but the City’s interpretation of what is currently on the table is so oddly skewed it bears examination.

For a start, the City explicitly state that the proposals will make the roads in question worse for pedestrians.

The overall impact of the current proposals on pedestrians, local access and the environment are not in keeping with the Mayor of London‟s Vision to “create better places for everyone”.

Apparently, the current proposals have such an impact on pedestrians, they can’t be said to create a ‘better place’ for them. Elsewhere -

Officers believe that TfL’s proposals will have a significant adverse impact on the City. In particular to pedestrians, traffic flow, access and network resilience. It also fails to sufficiently address other challenges such as casualty reduction, air quality and the built environment.

‘Significant adverse impact’, in particular on pedestrians. Justified? Here are the new crossings that will be provided, listed by the  City in a table, which I’ve annotated. Of the 14 listed, 12 are an (often substantial) improvement. The two that are worse are negligibly worse – the ‘2-stage’ crossing listed is a crossing of the road, then a crossing of the cycle track. This also applies to other ‘2-stage’ crossings listed above – they are not conventional two stage crossings – they are a crossing of the road in one go, followed by another (signalised) crossing of the cycle track, much better than crossing two large carriageways in two stages.

Three of the junctions mentioned currently have no pedestrian signals on one , two, or all of their arms.

The Queen Street Place crossing. Currently no signals for pedestrians. A safe, proper crossing will be delivered here, with the Superhighway.

Likewise, the east and west side of Ludgate Circus have no pedestrian signals. You have to guess when it’s safe to cross. Proper crossings will come with the Superhighways.

No signals for pedestrians at all on all four arms of the Farringdon Road/Charterhouse St junction. Crossings coming on all 4 arms, single stage on 3 of them.

The Tower Hill/Minories junction would be a huge improvement, as you can see below.

Left – existing THREE STAGE crossing. Right – proposed, direct crossing

The City have this to say -

Whilst most of these new crossings are welcomed and long overdue, a number of them are proposed to be the “stagger” type crossings. These are crossings where pedestrian will need to cross in two attempts (two stages) and are therefore less than ideal.

Given that these “stagger” crossings are being put in place where there are currently no signals at all for pedestrians, this strikes me as being a little uncharitable. But if the City – in good faith – are calling for more direct crossings as part of these proposals, then that is very welcome. There is no reason at all why direct crossings can’t work with segregated cycle tracks – in reality, a number of these crossings remain two-stage to preserve motor traffic capacity, not for anything specifically related to cycling.

It’s also worth pointing out that – as mentioned above – there are two very different kinds of ‘stagger’ crossings. There are the current, horrible ones on the Embankment, which leave you stranded on a narrow island in four lanes of thunderous motor traffic.

Nearly every single crossing on the Embankment is like this.

Then there are the ‘stagger’ crossings that will replace every single one of these unpleasant crossings, which are of this form -

A direct crossing of the road, followed by a crossing of the cycle track.

These are very different beasts, and the latter has to be acknowledged as a massive improvement, even if it remains a ‘two stage’ crossing.

So the crossings – while plainly not ideal – are almost in every case a large improvement on what is currently in place. The City are right to call for more – and one should welcome the chance to make things even better for pedestrians. But do the current proposals really justify comments about ‘significant adverse impacts’ on pedestrians? I’m not seeing it. Even the space gains for pedestrians (several thousand square metres) are accepted slightly churlishly by the City -

Although the proposals provide more pedestrian space, they are not necessarily at the locations where they are most needed such as the large islands north of Ludgate Circus or the islands forming the cycle lane segregation. In fact, the proposal looks to reduce footway space, particularly outside areas where high pedestrian flows exist such as at the Tower of London, Trinity Square Gardens, Queen Street and Ludgate Circus.

Footway space is, in truth, being marginally trimmed at these locations. Ludgate Circus is both gaining and losing some footway space -

‘Salmon’ colour is new space; purple outline, the old kerblines

… while the losses at Trinity Square and Queen Street are really quite marginal, especially in the context of the public space behind the carriageway in both these locations. To focus on these minor changes, as against the major gains elsewhere, again seems churlish. This is without even touching upon the large overall benefit to pedestrians from the way these schemes move motor traffic further away from footways – making for quieter, more comfortable and attractive experience – and the benefits from the banned turns for motor traffic, making it substantially easier to cross many of the minor side roads covered in these schemes. None of this mentioned by the City, at all.

The remaining pedestrian-specific issue the City raises are the longer waiting times at some of the pedestrian crossings, particularly at Ludgate Circus, where waits could be up to 24 seconds longer. But, as with ‘staggered’ crossings, this issue of timings is entirely related to maintaining motor traffic capacity. There is no incompatibility between cycling infrastructure and short waits to cross the road – the problem is the motor traffic.

The City’s position here is – rightly – that crossing times have to be shorter, but something has to give, and that ‘something’ should be motor traffic, not safe and attractive cycling conditions. Unfortunately it’s not clear where the City stand on this issue, particularly as they are making noises about delay to motor traffic elsewhere in their response, and also because of their strange comments about the Superhighway schemes being ‘biased’ towards cycling.

[The Superhighways] will run mostly on TfL roads, be direct and largely segregated. At junctions, conflicts between motor vehicles and cyclists will be removed. In order to achieve these design objectives, the reallocation of road space, amended signal times and restricted access is proposed. The City considers that the proposals are too heavily biased towards cyclists with insufficient consideration given to the needs of other users.

Funnily enough, ‘removing conflicts’ at junctions, and physically separating between them, is exactly what TfL should be doing on these busy roads – these designs, despite the ‘bikelash’ hype, are really the bare minimum.

So, from this passage, it seems the City believe that the mere act of designing properly is enough to render these proposals ‘too heavily biased towards cyclists’. (To look at this another way, how might the proposals becomes less ‘biased’? Maintaining conflicts at lethal junctions like Ludgate Circus, or Blackfriars? Continuing to mix people cycling with HGVs and coaches on Lower Thames Street, rather than separating them?) My concern, from this kind of comment about ‘bias’, and from comments elsewhere that

the segregation design would significantly compromise network resilience

is that the City want to iron out these niggles, in some areas, over the quality of the pedestrian experience by watering down the quality of the Superhighway proposals, and even eroding them completely, rather than taking more time, and space, away from motor traffic. I hope that’s not the case.


Categories: Views

Dynamic sign to indicate the fastest cycle route

BicycleDutch - 8 October, 2014 - 23:01
A novel and dynamic traffic sign shows people cycling the fastest route across a big intersection in ʼs-Hertogenbosch. It works since Wednesday the 24th September 2014. For that occasion the … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Your ride to work in the morning just inspired a whole album of music: introducing Me For Queen

ibikelondon - 8 October, 2014 - 08:30
The Beach Boys sang about cars. Kylie wiggled through the Locomotion. And Kraftwerk were more than a little obsessed about the Tour de France.  Music and transport have always gone hand in hand, but now riding a bicycle in London has inspired an entire new album of music by upcoming band Me For Queen.



I love how as cycling increases in popularity it inspires new cultural output; from the beautiful posters for the Grand Depart to high-end clothes dreamt up just for London riders, riding a bike has never had so much cultural cache. 

Four-piece band Me For Queen crowd sourced the production of their album, Iron Horse, and built up a name for themselves via social media before launching a few weeks ago at London's 2012 Olympic Velodrome in Stratford. (Check out the video if you missed the night, here)

Singing about everything from riding with deer in Richmond Park, to crushing on your fellow riders at the traffic lights (just another reason to stop at red), their lead single White Bike reflects on the haunting experience of witnessing a cycling crash:



Lead singer Mary Erskine's stunning vocal ability is put to work beautifully in this song, seamlessly blending with the keyboards and guitars to create a wall of sound that belies their tiny line up.  And it's genuinely affecting and poignant too, with Mary and her band mates clearly passionate about their chosen subject matter.  There's a blend of influences here too, from electro (Mary's other love) to classical (one of the band has a Classical Grammy. No really), with drums, bass and trumpets thrown in for good measure.  Think Beth Orton or Martha Wainwright with a London bent and a handful of Tijuana brass and you're on the right (cycle) track.

If like me you think the fact that something as simple as your daily commute can be magical enough to inspire people to write music is amazing, then you should check out Me For Queen online or take a look at their Facebook page and join their growing base of fans. 

The album, Iron Horse, is available for download via iTunes now and you can catch them live in Camden this Friday.  Just don't blame me if you're stuck with some beautifully crafted ear worms next time you go for a ride...

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Categories: Views

What would measuring overtaking distances in the Netherlands tell us about Dutch drivers? Very little

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 7 October, 2014 - 08:40

One of the presentations at last month’s London Cycling Campaign Seminar Series was from Ian Garrard of Brunel University. Ian was one of the authors – along with Ian Walker and Felicity Jowitt – of a paper examining the influence of a cyclist’s appearance on overtaking distance. The paper is freely available here, and well worth a read.

One of the standout findings is that 1-2% of the thousands of overtakes measured came within 50cm of the ‘trial subject’ (Ian himself) – and this on roads that included 60mph limits – and that this was consistently the case, regardless of the clothes he was wearing. It seems that a minority of drivers just don’t care, and will continue not to care, regardless of who they are overtaking, what they look like, and what they are wearing.

But I was most interested by this slide from Ian’s presentation.

Compared to 1979, British drivers – on average – now get 34% closer to people cycling while overtaking. (This is in just one region – the region in which the study was carried out – but likely to be reflected across Britain).

What’s the explanation? Are British drivers of today that much worse than those of 1979? That seems unlikely – there’s no standout reason why British drivers of the 1970s would have been trained any better, or behaved any better.

Ian Garrard’s (speculative) hypothesis is that motor traffic volume has substantially increased since 1979, which raises the risk of being on the receiving end of a close overtake. With lower traffic levels, it’s much easier to overtake correctly, as there’s less chance you will encounter a cyclist while there is oncoming traffic. With higher traffic levels, the ‘windows’ of an empty oncoming lane are more scarce, and the option of just ‘squeezing through’, instead of waiting patiently, becomes increasingly tempting.

The hypothesis is plausible, and worth examining in more detail – doubtless the closer overtakes would correspond to the busier roads, with the wider overtakes occurring on the quieter ones. I’ve observed – anecdotally – how easy it is form a misleading impression of continental drivers, based on the fact that British people cycling in Europe will generally be doing so in low traffic areas, at off-peak times – on holiday.

This issue of overtaking distance cropped up again, around about the same time as that LCC seminar, in a musing from Carlton Reid that Dutch drivers might give more overtaking distance – suggesting that Ian Walker use (or lend someone!) his proximity test in that country to find out whether that is true.

My immediate instinct is that such a test would be fairly meaningless.

For a start, on roads that carry significant volumes of motor traffic – above about 3-4000 PCU/day – it is almost always impossible for Dutch drivers to overtake closely to people cycling.

Will that HGV perform a close overtake on people cycling here? Erm, no.

Does this young girl have to worry about a close pass?

Watch out! A bus!

Roads that carry high volumes of motor traffic, or where motor traffic is travelling at higher speeds, form part of a system where cyclists are catered for separately. They don’t have to share these roads, as a matter of design principle. And they won’t be overtaken closely, because it’s just impossible.

Of course, the remaining parts of the Dutch road network are places where Dutch cyclists will share with drivers, but these parts of the network are places where there is very little motor traffic; almost always below that 3-4000 PCU/day threshold. These roads and streets will, for the most part, serve access purposes only; to residential areas in towns and cities…

A (retrofitted) access-only road in a 1960s Utrecht housing development. Only residents driving here.

or to link up properties in rural areas.

Not hard to overtake properly here.

These rural roads will only be used by local motor traffic, because faster roads have been provided for drivers, and/or they are restricted as through routes. Consequently, there will be very little oncoming motor traffic, and very little opportunity to do crappy overtakes.

Indeed, a basic rationale of Dutch sustainable safety is to remove the opportunity to perform a crappy overtake entirely. The consequences of river error, and driver stupidity, are slowly being designed out of Dutch roads and streets. So, really, measuring driver overtaking distance under this kind of system – sadly so very different to the prevailing conditions on British roads – would tell you very little about Dutch driver behaviour. It would be almost equivalent to measuring the distance with which British drivers overtake pedestrians.
Note – the one way in which a legitimate comparison might be made is to examine overtakes on two equivalent segments of road, in Britain and the Netherlands, of the same approximate width, carrying the same approximate volume of motor traffic.


Categories: Views

Trondheim in Norway. How an already successful city can increase cycling.

A View from the Cycle Path - 3 October, 2014 - 10:17
The local newspaper interviewed me. Following on from last year's study tour of planners and officials from Trondheim, I was invited this year to take part in a conference on cycling in the city. That was two weeks ago but I've been thinking about it until now. Differences between the Netherlands and Norway are obvious before landing But there are also similarities. During my three days inDavid Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/10/trondheim-in-norway-how-already.html
Categories: Views

Friday Throwback: what links Mark Cavendish, illusive medals and a Nazi-fighting Columbian drug lord?!

ibikelondon - 3 October, 2014 - 08:30
It's the last day of a busy week, so what better time to have another Friday Throwback, our occasional series celebrating the best cycling images from online archives?

When London hosted the Olympic Games in 2012, the first event was the men's road race, specifically chosen to deliver a golden start to Team GB.  The dream team of Sir Bradley Wiggins, David Millar, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Ian Stannard were primed to win the first medal of the games, but poor pack form and a hurtling 70kg man from Kazakhstan put paid to such dreams.  It was down to Lizzie Armitstead to bring in the first cycling medal for Britain during the Women's Road Race the next day. 



But 2012 wasn't the first time Britain had hosted the Olympics, nor even the second time; London is the only city to have ever played host to the Games three times.  In the summer of 1948 the country was still under rations, and great swathes of London remained obliterated following the war.  The Games went ahead all the same, with the American and French teams shipping their own food in, and athletes staying on church hall floors, with host families and in a camp site in Shepherd's Bush.

Track events were held at the Herne Hill Velodrome, the only surviving 1948 finals venue you can still use today, whilst the road race took place in Windsor Great Park, over 17 loops of an 11.45km course.

The race started in a torrential downpour, meaning spectator stands were almost deserted.  The course - chosen at the last minute after the realisation that Richmond Park's 20mph speed limit would seriously curtail racing - proved to be entirely unsuitable for a bunch race.  Made up of loose gravel, and compounded by the standing water on the road due to the terrible weather, there were over 100 punctures in the course of the event, with the majority of the peloton retiring before the finish line.



Gold was taken by French war time resistance fighter Jose Beyaert who would go on to have an illustrious career of ill gotten means with associates of dubious origin in Columbia.  Alongside being accused of murder, he also commentated on cycling on television in Bogota...

Just like with 2012's race one of the joys of the event is that after the Games have finished anyone can ride the route of the race (See MapMyRide for the course).  But if you're heading for Windsor Great Park, you might want to take your puncture repair kit...

This week's photos are from the National Media Museum archives on Flickr, whilst accounts of the road race and the career of Jose Beyaert can be found here and here.

Whatever your cycling plans this weekend, be sure never to miss another post from ibikelondon again! You can join the conversation on Twitter or follow our Facebook page.  Happy cycling!

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Categories: Views

The Badgertown Exception

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 2 October, 2014 - 12:10

No, not the latest Matt Damon film. The ‘Badgertown Exception’ is a debating technique which employs the following logic.*

  • Cycling infrastructure requires x amount of space.
  • Here is Badger Street, Badgertown. It has many competing demands, and cycling infrastructure won’t fit.
  • Because cycling infrastructure won’t fit on Badger Street, cycling infrastructure is pointless/won’t work, anywhere, and we should employ other techniques, everywhere.

This kind of logic is actually employed by Hackney Councillor Vincent Stops – calling it the ‘Hackney Cycling Test’.

In response to someone suggesting that ‘dedicated space on main roads‘ has to form part of the answer to making cycling more attractive in Hackney, Stops suggests

You should take the test. How would you put segregation through Dalston Kingsland?

The implication being that because cycle tracks ‘won’t fit’ on Kingsland Road, by Dalston Kingsland station, the strategy of cycle tracks on main roads is entirely flawed, anywhere in Hackney.

This section of the A10 is undoubtedly a busy area, with competing demands for the space between the buildings. It’s a through route for motor traffic, there are bus stops, the footways are busy with pedestrians, and loading needs to take place.

The A10 at Dalston Kingsland

Creating cycle tracks here would not be straightforward (although certainly not impossible). But even if it were impossible to do so, that doesn’t tell us anything about anywhere else in Hackney, nor should it. Failing a ‘test’ on one particular road shouldn’t rule out that design intervention everywhere else, any more than a failure to fit bus lanes on Dalston Kingsland means that bus lanes should be ruled out everywhere in Hackney.

It might be that case that Dalston Kingsland remains a ‘gap’ for the foreseeable future; one of those bits that are just difficult to get right. Dutch cities have these kinds of roads and streets too, places they haven’t really got around to sorting out yet, because of similar competing demands. Mixed use streets where children have to cycle outside parking and loading bays, on a route shared with buses, for instance.

Importantly, however, these are the gaps, not the model itself. These gaps are only really tolerable because the rest of the network is so good – good enough to keep large numbers of people flowing through these low quality areas. The city of Utrecht did not look at the street above and think – ‘well, it’s quite hard to fit in decent cycling infrastructure here, so that rules out the principle entirely – let’s give up.’

Utrecht got on with creating good conditions everywhere else, and at some point in the future will presumably revisit this street and come up with a decent solution.

By the same token, Dalston Kingsland tells us nothing about the kind of treatments that are available, and could be employed, on other main roads in Hackney. Difficulty on one section of road should not rule out attempts to improve other parts of that road, or indeed other major roads.

Equally, it would be silly to suggest that the current arrangement on Dalston Kingsland is ideal, or even ‘perfect’. It really isn’t. It’s unpleasant, and hostile, even for someone used to cycling on London’s roads.

Is this good enough?

Yet Stops is presenting this road as a perfect cycling scheme.

It’s true that putting cycle tracks here would require compromises; delaying motor traffic while making buses stop in the carriageway, for instance, or trimming some of that (wasted) footway space you can see in the picture above. But in acknowledging these compromises, we shouldn’t go so far as to suggest that the current scheme – which does very little to take cycling into consideration – is ‘perfect’ – or indeed that it should teach us anything about any other road or street.

 

Credit for the Badger Street, Badger Town formulation goes to Jim Davis


Categories: Views

Scared? Joyous? Exasperated? Lend me 1 minute of your time and share your experience of riding in London

ibikelondon - 2 October, 2014 - 12:06

As we explored on Monday, the Mayor recently announced really exciting plans for new Cycle Superhighways across London which will form the back bone of a network of tracks, trails, quietways and safe space for cycling.

It's the start of something big, but it isn't going to happen without a fight.  Even though we are only at consultation stage, some business groups are lobbying hard to have the plans delayed, or even canned altogether.  In short, if we can't bring these plans to fruition in London - with all the support that entails - it's curtains for any hope of mass cycling in the rest of the UK as well.



The usual cycle campaigning suspects are at the coal face working hard behind the scenes to try and make sure these plans become a reality, but we do need your help! (Hello Cyclists in the City, London Cycling Campaign and pop up group Cycling Works!)

So if you have a minute today (literally, just one minute) please share your experience of cycling in London and your opinion on the new cycling plans at this survey here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/72FPH3V
If you want to get involved further, there's lots more you can do.  Every voice counts, so if you'd like to do more than just fill in the short survey why not consider the next steps?

  • Sign the London Cycling Campaign petition saying you back the superhighway proposals.
  • Respond directly to the consultations positively - it only take 2 minutes of your time - to drown out those who respond negatively. Here for the north / south route and here for the east / west route.
  • Business voices count in London. Do you run a company, or work for one? Make sure they pledge their support with Cycling Works London and join firms like The Crown Estate, Barts NHS Trust and Knight Frank in showing their support. Follow @CyclingWorksLDN on Twitter and add to their voice.
  • Stay tuned! The consultation period has already been extended due to negative responses, so there will be lots more action to come. Keep up to date and make sure you're involved!


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Categories: Views

Iconic bridge for cycling and walking in Purmerend

BicycleDutch - 1 October, 2014 - 23:01
“A high profile and iconic bridge for Purmerend, that’s what I think we’ve built and that’s what we’ve wanted to build right from the beginning.” In a video documentary, Alderman … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

On being hit by a car. Or, why ‘mutual respect’ is incoherent.

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 30 September, 2014 - 09:48

Today marks the third anniversary of the last time I was hit by a motor vehicle.

It wasn’t the worst collision I’ve suffered, but it sticks in the memory, partly because it is the most recent, but also because – for whatever reason – when you are young you seem to have the ability to quickly slough off and dismiss incidents that would probably linger when you are older and wiser.

This particular crash occurred in the evening, at around a quarter to seven. I’d just been visiting a friend. I was exiting a cul-de-sac, approaching the T-junction at the end of the road, at which I was going to turn right. I was correctly positioned, as per Bikeability training, in the middle of my lane (ironically enough, I might not have been hit had I been hugging the kerb to my left, but that introduces other dangers).

About twenty metres from the junction, I realised a car approaching on the major road, from my left, was turning into the side road I was on, and it was doing so in a way that meant it was going to crash into me. It was turning in on my side of the road, straight at me.

Time slowed down, enough for me to process a number of thoughts.

  • Have they seen me? No.
  • What on earth is going on here? Are they going to stop? No.
  • Can I move out of the way in time? No.
  • Will yelling help? No.
  • Will this driver brake enough, so that the collision will be negligible? No.

This all took, almost certainly, less than second. Suddenly I was on the bonnet of the vehicle.

This is a curious and memorable experience, and I think it’s worth attempting to convey what it’s like.

Imagine the strongest human being you know. Then make them twenty times stronger. More. And made out of metal. Then imagine them running at you, at fifteen miles an hour.

When they hit you, there is no trading of momentum. The car doesn’t bounce off you like a human would, it just keeps coming at you, and I was suddenly travelling with it, in the opposite direction to which I made been travelling, a fraction of a second earlier.

Then – presumably once the driver had realised there was a person on her bonnet – the brakes were suddenly applied. The car quickly came to a halt, but I didn’t, flying back off the bonnet, suspended in mid air, before landing in the ground, in a tangle with my bike, my right hip and right elbow taking the impact.

I bruised up a fair bit over the next day, but fortunately my injuries were minor. I still have a bit of a scar on my elbow. My front wheel was ruined, but apart from that, my bike survived. Pleasingly (from my perspective) the car was not unscathed – a shattered numberplate -

And a long, dent/scrape in the bonnet, presumably from where my bike landed on the car, beneath me.

The driver was (at the time) mortified – she couldn’t understand what had happened. We exchanged details, and I limped home.

A few days later, when I rang her up asking her for forty pounds to repair my front wheel (this was for a new rim – I was even going to the trouble of re-lacing the existing wheel, rather than demanding an entirely new one) she had a change of heart and accused me of riding without lights, before hanging up.

I texted her to point out that this was unlikely, especially as we had used my bike light to illuminate the exchanging of details. She backed down, and a cheque for forty pounds arrived a few days later.

I did go back and check how visible I would have been, from her perspective.

I was on my touring bike, which (then) had a Mk2 Strada Exposure fitted – a bright light, as good enough, approximately, as a car headlamp. The bike would have been in the middle of the lane, not propped up against the kerb, but the photograph gives a reasonable indication of the situation.

Even if I didn’t have a bike light, she should still have seen me. I could have been a pedestrian crossing the road, and she would have run me down in just the same way.

She just didn’t see me.

I don’t know why. She was pulling in to the parking bays in this cul-de-sac, so, at the end of her journey, at the end of the day, she must have switched off, assumed her journey was over and not realised that, driving on the wrong side of the road, cutting the corner, there might have been something, or someone, in the way.

What sticks with me about this incident is the impact, and how powerless I felt as it was occurring, and how powerful the motor vehicle beneath me was, how it just kept going, and how it stopped so abruptly.

And yet this was, in truth, a minor collision. (Because I went to the police station to report it the next day, it’s logged as such on Crashmap). At a rough guess I was hit by a car travelling at around 10-15mph, that was probably already slowing. I bounced off, landed on the road, and recovered from my bruises and scrapes.

I was already a careful rider, but the incident has made me even more cautious. Worst case scenarios run through my mind. If I see a driver approaching a Give Way line, waiting to join the road I am cycling on, I really, really make sure they are going to stop, and think about what evasive action I might take, should they fail to yield. When I approach a main road, I am really, really wary of drivers who might be turning in on my side of the road. Understandably.

I know what a minor collision feels like, so I really don’t want to suffer a serious one. A minor one is bad enough, and I shudder to think about harder impacts, impacts at greater speed, impacts I can’t limp away from.

Every time I hear the expression ‘mutual respect’, I’m transported back to that moment when I’m on the bonnet of a black car, a car that has just driven through me, scooping me up, before unceremoniously dumping me on the tarmac, and my helplessness to avoid the collision, or do anything about it while it was occurring. The difference in power was total.

What kind of ‘mutuality’ are we really talking about, when this is the reality of interaction between motor vehicles, and human beings, when collisions occur? Presumably only ‘do your best not to be hit’. A pretty shallow form of respect.


Categories: Views

Who is undermining plans to make London's streets safe for cycling, and why? Find out how to get involved...

ibikelondon - 29 September, 2014 - 08:30

London's Mayor Boris Johnson recently unveiled his proposals for two new Cycle Superhighways in London; a north / south route via Blackfriars Bridge, and an east / west 'Crossrail for Bikes' along the river Thames via the Embankment.

Plans for the east / west cycle superhighway along the Thames, on Victoria Embankment.
The proposals - though not perfect - are the boldest plans for cycling ever tabled by the Mayor and Transport for London, and will certainly lead to a large increase in the volume of cyclists along these routes, riding in a safe and inviting environment suitable for a wider range of ages and abilities.  Credit where credit is due: Johnson has not always endeared himself with the cycling community, but his plans - delivered by his cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan - are outstanding.

These incredible new bike tracks, substantially segregated from traffic, are the end result of a long and sustained campaign by the cycling community.  In 2012, grass roots protests on Blackfriars Bridge about plans to tear out cycle lanes and increase traffic speeds helped to bolster the ambition and strengthen the voice of the London Cycling Campaign.  Their 2012 Mayoral campaign, "Love London, Go Dutch" saw 40,000 Londoners sign up and over 10,000 cyclists take to the streets urging all the Mayoral candidate to create safe space for cycling on London's busiest roads.  In a huge campaign success, all of the Mayoral candidates signed up, with Boris Johnson represented at the Go Dutch Big Ride by Daniel Moylan - then Deputy Chairman of Transport for London, and still a serving member of the Board.  The proposed new superhighways is that rarest of things; a politician coming right on their election promises.


Conservative politician and TfL board member Dan Moylan pledging to "Go Dutch" on behalf of the Mayor alongside other politicians and young cyclists at the LCC's 2012 Big Ride.
The consultation on the new routes is already open, and as you can imagine they are attracting considerable attention.  With such radical plans for central London, you'd expect some concern from other road users, especially taxi drivers, as par for the course.  But there's something stranger going on here...

The Evening Standard's transport correspondent, Matthew Beard, reported that "business leaders are in revolt" over plans, but failed to name who those business leaders are.  The Standard also span a line that the new highways would delay car journeys by 16 minutes, despite Tfl's modelling showing this is the worst case scenario for just one type of journey - from Limehouse to Hyde Park - and totally ignored other journeys which would actually be quicker under the proposals.  They also failed to mention the thousands of square metres of new public space the new highway would capture for pedestrians.  As Easy as Riding a Bike blog does a good job of demolishing some of the more outlandish claims made against the proposals.  A bizarre and hole-filled statement claiming the superhighways would damage their business appeared to come from the Canary Wharf Group, whilst another press briefing revealed by Cyclists In The City purposefully distorts the facts to try and discredit the superhighway plans.

Plans to make Parliament Square - what should be the heart of London - accessible to pedestrians for the first time, under cycling plans.
There's something fishy going on here.  This is more than just the mutterings of a few taxi drivers and white van men.  Indeed, journalist Adam Bienkov revealed on Politics.co.uk that those who are briefing against Boris Johnson's cycle superhighways are actually from inside Transport for London itself.  He writes: "Senior figures at Transport for London (TfL) believe Boris Johnson is trying to rush through his plans for segregated cycle lanes in London too quickly, Politics.co.uk can reveal."  That is to say, employees of London's transport body, whose job it is to enact Mayoral transport policy, policy which is enabled by the democratic process of Londoners electing their own Mayor, are directly working against his wishes, and by default the wishes of Londoners.  How's that for democracy in action?  

If we needed any re-assurance that this dissent is coming directly from within Transport for London itself, TfL board member Michael Liebreich tellingly tweeted on September 26th "Make sure the voice of non-limo-driving Londoners is heard on cycle super-highways!"  Clearly, not everyone on Boris' board agree with Boris himself, and are out to undermine our Mayor and his cycling vision



Make sure the voice of non-limo-driving Londoners is heard on cycle super-highways! Quick yes/no questionnaire: https://t.co/9vP6SMyuiU
— Michael Liebreich (@MLiebreich) September 26, 2014
In PR they say a good story will walk around the world before the truth has had a chance to get its shoes on, and those who are briefing against the superhighways are hoping hand-picking figures and using scare tactics will have the proposals thrown out, the Mayor's cycling commissioner discredited and the kaibosh put on future cycling plans.  In other words, your help is needed now more than ever.One day soon, with your help, children will be able to ride through central London more than just once a year on a SkyRide...
The London cycling community has been incredible in their vociferous dedication to calling for better cycling facilities in the past.  You've signed petitions, attended protest rides, badgered newspapers and pestered politicians.  And you are winning, as these latest plans attest.  But we need your help again.  It is time, once again, to get involved to help create the city you'd like to ride in in the future and to drown out the spinning voices of dissent who don't want to see safe space for cycling on our roads:
  • Sign the London Cycling Campaign petition saying you back the superhighway proposals.
  • Respond directly to the consultations positively - it only take 2 minutes of your time - to drown out those who respond negatively.  Here for the north / south route and here for the east / west route.
  • Business voices count in London. Do you run a company, or work for one?  Make sure they pledge their support with Cycling Works London and join firms like The Crown Estate, Barts NHS Trust and Knight Frank in showing their support. Follow @CyclingWorksLDN on Twitter and add to their voice.
  • Stay tuned!  The consultation period has already been extended due to negative responses, so there will be lots more action to come.  Keep up to date and make sure you're involved!
Mark
PS. Sorry for the long delay since my last post.  I go on holiday for a few weeks and come back and all of London is up in arms about cycling. Honestly, I can't turn my back on you lot for more than a minute!Share 
Categories: Views

Why is the Evening Standard’s transport correspondent presenting the Superhighway proposals in the worst possible light?

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 26 September, 2014 - 13:31

A short piece on the Evening Standard’s reporting of the Superhighway proposals.

The first article in the Standard came on the 11th September, entitled Business leaders in revolt over Boris Johnson’s cycle superhighway plans, quoting an (unnamed) business leader describing the plan as ‘an absolute mess’ that ‘will cause gridlock’, without providing any evidence to back up these claims. This ‘gridlock’ theme is one the paper returned to later, as we shall see.

The next article appeared nearly a week later, on the 18th September. This was an ‘exclusive’ which revealed, in a large headline, that

Mayor’s new £48m cycle superhighway would have to be removed after just one year to make way for supersewer construction

Really? In the article, an unnamed ‘source’ (another one) had this to say -

“The idea is that they do the cycle superhighway in 2015 and then in 2016 take it out all again for Thames Water. The concern is you are going to have to pay tens of millions of pounds and you are going to have to take it all out.”

The implication of this comment (and the article in general) is that tens of millions of pounds will be going to waste; once the Superhighway is built, TfL will ‘have to take it all out’. But the ‘tens of millions of pounds’ cost of the Superhighways is for the whole project, both E-W and N-S routes, from end-to-end. How much of the Superhighways might have to be taken out for the ‘supersewer’?

The Thames Tideway Tunnel website confirms that between Horse Guards Avenue and Northumberland Avenue along the Victoria Embankment a section of “roadway and pavement” will be required on the westbound carriageway.

How long is this section?

… Just 200 metres.

A tiny, tiny percentage of the whole Superhighways scheme. And in any case -

Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport at TfL said: “We are working closely with Thames Water to ensure that there is no impact on the superhighway. It is planned that in the event of any closures, a safe, segregated and clearly signed cycle lane will be installed to get cyclists past the works.”

This silly article was followed on the 23rd September by an article that contained this bizarre passage -

… transport chiefs have pledged that all major sports will be able to take place as usual along the Victoria Embankment despite the [Superhighway] changes.

It follows concerns that there would be insufficient space to stage the BUPA 10k, British 10k, Royal Parks 10k and half marathon, London triathlon, and cycling’s Tour of Britain.

Again, unnamed, unreferenced ‘concerns’, this time about sporting events being unable to take place – ‘concerns’ that are completely unjustified. Here’s Leon Daniels again -

Leon Daniels, managing director of surface transport at TfL said: “Major sporting events in the capital will not be affected by the east-west Superhighway.”

Sporting events – just like supersewers – will happily coexist with the Superhighways. But plainly they are extremely ‘concerning’ for the anonymous people being quoted in the Standard. Where next for this paper, in its trawl for negative things to write about this project?

Yesterday Transport for London published the (projected) effects of the Superhighways on journey times for motor vehicles, and the effects on pedestrian crossing times. The Standard splashed with the headline

Car journeys to take 16 minutes longer because of bike highways

Which was subsequently changed to include the crucial detail ‘up to 16 minutes longer’ (the original wording is contained in this tweet from the author, Matthew Beard).

As the article reveals, this ’16 minute’ figure is the very worst case scenario, the maximum possible delay for people driving from the Limehouse Link to Hyde Park, at peak times.

The TfL summary of effects of the E-W route is here, and the table of modelling impacts is here. The effects on motoring journey times is shown below. The right hand columns show the difference, either positive or negative, if the scheme were to be implemented, against current journey times. The ‘headline’ figure is in the top row.

Notice that for most of the other motoring journeys, the effect on journey times is negligible, or even beneficial. This hasn’t been reported by the Standard.

From the same table, here’s the potential delay to pedestrians at a variety of crossings (in seconds). The right hand columns show the difference in maximum waiting time, in the AM and PM peak, if the Superhighways were to be built.

At worst – 9 seconds, and mostly no change. This should be set in the context of a 4000 square metre gain of pedestrian space, 25 crossings being shortened, and 4 staggered crossings changed to direct crossings. The figures released by TfL confirm that the project as a whole will offer significant benefits to pedestrians.

Much the same is true of the north-south route. Again, the net gain for pedestrians will be 3000 square metres, there will be six shortened crossings, and three staggered crossings will become direct crossings.

Amazingly TfL don’t even mention new crossings, like the one on the north side of the Blackfriars Bridge junction.

No crossing here at present (top). There will be one with the Superhighway.

The modelling suggests that maximum waits for a green signal for pedestrians will increase by up to 24 seconds at some crossings, but as Cycalogical points out, this extra delay (indeed, any delay at pedestrian crossings) is purely a function of an attempt to accommodate motor traffic, rather than cycle tracks, in and of themselves. More people cycling means less motor traffic, and less delay for pedestrians, in the long term.

One final point here is that the TfL modelling (as is increasingly becoming clear) is extremely conservative, not least because these figures are based on static motor traffic. The modelling assumes no continuing decline in motor traffic in central London, and no modal shift to cycling.

From the TfL summary

The Evening Standard has chosen to focus on the very worst headline figures from the TfL modelling release, without setting them in context, or even mentioning  the positive effects of the Superhighways, either for drivers, or pedestrians, or for the functioning of London as a modern multi-modal city. Getting more people cycling – rather than causing causing gridlock – is in reality a way of avoiding it.

The Standard’s latest report fits into a pattern of negativity about the Superhighways, with worst case scenarios, and unjustified ‘concerns’ from unnamed sources, forming the basis for articles. What’s going on?


Categories: Views

Intersection redesign in Utrecht (2)

BicycleDutch - 24 September, 2014 - 23:04
In this post a second look at a recently reconstructed intersection in Utrecht. In the first post about this reconstruction I focused on the differences between the before and after … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Selective attention to danger

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 24 September, 2014 - 08:47

The local cycling forum in Horsham are banging their heads against something of a brick wall, attempting to get contraflow cycling on a short (residential) street that has one-way flow. This is Barrington Road.

There’s a bit of background here, but essentially allowing two-way cycling on this street would mean that it would form part of a useful route, from north to south, connecting up with a a reasonable shared cycling and walking path. At present, without two-way cycling, the route effectively hits a dead end.

Local councillors appear adamant that allowing two-way cycling would be ‘dangerous’, because of the parked cars on each side of the street, and the narrowness, and continue to oppose opening up this street to cycling in both directions.

We find these arguments quite unconvincing. The street is not at all busy, even at peak times, the sight lines are good, it is short, and it is surrounded by equally narrow (and busier) streets that have two-way driving on them; for instance, New Street -

and Clarence Road -

I encounter people driving towards me while cycling on both these streets, and we manage to work it out amongst ourselves. Barrington Road would, of course, involve changing the status quo, meaning drivers would now be encountering people cycling towards them when they hadn’t previously, but

  1. these difficulties can be mitigated by appropriate exit and entry treatments, making drivers aware of the situation
  2. bicycle symbols can easily and cheaply be painted on the road, again, making plain to drivers what to expect
  3. it is not unreasonable to expect drivers to look where they are going, and to respond appropriately to oncoming cyclists.

Of course, there will be a safety issue that didn’t exist before. But simply refusing to allow cycling in a contraflow direction – while a neat and tidy way of dealing with that safety issue – is not a particularly productive one.

There’s a wider point to be made here. This particular case illustrates a phenomenon I would like to call selective attention to danger. What this involves -

  • a minor scheme which might introduce a small element of risk or danger being blocked, while
  • the roads and streets around that scheme – indeed, often the only alternative in the absence of that scheme – remain hostile, intimidating and objectively dangerous, without any remedial action. For decades.

A notable example of this phenomenon is the Holborn gyratory in Camden, which was the scene of death in July last year. This justifiably angry blog from Andy Waterman – written on the day of Alan Neve’s death – tells this story better than I can. But this image, from his blog, sums up the issue.

Courtesy of Andy Waterman

The direct east-west route – formed of a contraflow bus lane – could not be used by people cycling, and indeed the police consistently ticketed people for doing so. The only alternative was therefore the fast, wide Holborn gyratory, four lanes wide. Where Alan Neve died. Subsequent to his death, east-west cycling is now allowed in the bus lane. It probably wasn’t that dangerous in the first place; certainly compared to the alternative.

There’s similar selective attention to danger in Horsham. Contraflow cycling on this quiet residential street is seemingly beyond the pale, but across the rest of the town, we have unremittingly hostile roads that pose far, far greater risks, about which nothing has been done, and about which nothing is being done. To take just one example, barely half a mile, as the crow flies, from Barrington Road, we have this junction on our inner ring road, Albion Way.

To make a right turn here by bike (at the lights in the distance) involves crossing into the third lane, moving across two lanes of heavy traffic, often travelling at or above 30mph, heading straight on. There is no alternative here, except giving up entirely. The only reason this junction might appear ‘safe’ is that very, very few people are actually prepared to do this.

The risks posed cycling down a quiet residential street, facing intermittent oncoming traffic, pale into insignificance compared with the hostility of this junction, and many others, in Horsham. Yet nothing is being done about these latter environments, while the comparatively minuscule risk of the former is enough to torpedo any changes. It’s objectively absurd.

If a council is genuinely concerned enough about my safety to stop me from cycling on a short, narrow street in such a way that I might occasionally encounter an oncoming vehicle, where is that concern on all those other roads where I, and many other people, cycle every day? Roads where I have to cross multiple lanes of motor traffic; where I have to negotiate out around parked cars into streams of traffic; where I have to position myself to prevent drivers from turning across my path; where I have to ‘take the lane’ to prevent dangerous manoeuvres. Why is your concern so selective?


Categories: Views

Car Industry Strikes Back - Smart Hates Peds

Copenhagenize - 22 September, 2014 - 19:57

Here is (yet) another piece to fit nicely in our ongoing Car Industry Strikes Back series.

Yep. All this growing momemtum for liveable cities, civilised streets after almost a century of destructive, car-centric traffic engineering is really starting to irritate Big Auto. Smart is no exception. In an almost laughable direct extention of the automobile industry's invention of the concept of jaywalking (as highlighted in this TED talk), Smart decided to use "fun" and "gameification" in order to keep the sheep that are pedestrians down. Under the thumb. Under control. In the name, of course, of their kind of safety. They call it:


They are really grasping at straws, Big Auto. This generation is abandoning the automobile and so here comes the spin... new, smart generation... for loving the city. Those of us who love cities rarely have a love of the automobile. We're tired of death, injury, destruction. The new smart generation can see through Big Auto's attempts to spin things their way once again. "To hook them back to the car" as this former head designer at BMW actually told the crowd during his keynote.

So, funny dancing crossing lights to keep pedestrians "safe". Give me a break. 30 km/h zones like in over 120 European cities keep pedestrians and cyclists safe. Traffic calming does, too. External airbags on cars - placing the responsability on the potential murderers, too. Reducing the number of cars in cities is a no-brainer for the new, smart generation. Eliminating car ownership in cities altogether is actually a thing.

We who are new, smart and of this generation don't buy this blatant ignoring the bull. The paradigm is shifting. We are rejecting the car-centric streets that we inherited from the past century. Let the pedestrians dance wherever the hell they like in the Life-Sized City. It's the future of cities. It's back to the future, too. Seven thousand years of liveable cities will NOT be ruined by 90 odd years of deadly mistakes by traffic engineers and Big Auto, who have more deaths on their conscience that most dictators. The liveable city is rising once again, carried on the shoulders of a new, smart generation.


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

Conference on road danger reduction and enforcement in London

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 22 September, 2014 - 14:45

                    

A one-day conference ‘Road Danger Reduction and Enforcement: How policing can support walking and cycling in London’

Organised by RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims; the Road Danger Reduction Forum; CTC, the national cycling charity; and the London Cycling Campaign, the conference will highlight what the Metropolitan Police Service and Transport for London are doing to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety, and what changes campaigners would like to see. The conference is aimed at non-professional road safety campaigners, Councillors, and transport, health and road safety professionals concerned with safety on the roads.

The conference will be chaired jointly by Lord Berkeley, President of the Road Danger Reduction Forum and Vice-President of CTC, and Baroness Jenny Jones MLA.

The conference, which is free of charge, will be hosted by LB Southwark at 160 Tooley Street (http://www.southwark.gov.uk/location) on:

Saturday November 1st  :  10.30am – 3.45pm.

  To register for the conference send an e-mail with your name and e-mail address to TLELondon@lcc.org.uk

 Lord Berkeley says: “Attention is rightly directed at how our streets are engineered for people walking and cycling. But we also need to have road traffic law properly enforced – for the safety of all road users – if we are to reduce danger to cyclists and pedestrians.

The conference has been welcomed by the 20’s plenty campaign and the Transport and Health Study Group. Conference programme is below here:

Road Danger Reduction and Enforcement: How policing can support walking and cycling in London

Venue: 160 Tooley Street (http://www.southwark.gov.uk/location)

 

  Schedule Speakers 10.15-10.45 Registration and coffee 10.45 Opening comments Lord Berkeley, President Road Danger Reduction Forum (RDRF) CHAIR MORNING SESSION 10.55-11.35 Road Danger Reduction and Enforcement Dr. Robert Davis, Chair RDRF 11.35-12.00 Enforcement and the Criminal Justice System Amy Aeron-Thomas, Executive Director, RoadPeace, National charity for road crash victims 12.00-12.15 Break 12.15-12.45 Enforcement: reducing danger to walkers Brenda Puech, Hackney Living Streets 12.45-13.15 Enforcement: reducing danger to cyclists Charlie Lloyd, London Cycling Campaign 13.15-14.00 Lunch. (A sandwich lunch will be provided)   Baroness Jenny Jones, MLA. CHAIR AFTERNOON SESSION 14.00-14.10 Southwark Cycling Strategy and policing Cllr Mark Williams, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, Southwark Council 14.10-14.40 Roads Policing and Transport Command: new approaches MPS Roads Policing and Transport Command

Representative 14.40-15.15 Enforcement—a priority for Safer Streets for London Siwan Hayward, Deputy Director, TfL Enforcement and On-Street Operations 15.15-15.45 Roundtable: LCC, CTC, RoadPeace, RDRF, CTC (The national cyclists’ charity) and close

Categories: Views

Cycling is only as discriminatory as we make it

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 22 September, 2014 - 11:37

The Birmingham Post has published an excellent response to the claims from Councillor Deirdre Alden that cycling is in some way discriminatory. It’s worth reading in full, despite the headline about ‘sport’, which presumably has been added by a sub-editor.

At the start of this article we discover that Alden was not the only councillor making these kinds of comments. Councillor James Hutchings apparently argued that ‘hordes’ of cyclists would have ‘a severe impact on pedestrians and motorists’, before stating

It might be great for cyclists but it won’t be great for the rest of the population, particularly elderly people, a lot of women who don’t cycle, a lot of disabled people who can’t cycle, a lot of the ethnic minority people – do you see them cycling all over the city in their hijabs? It isn’t sensible policy.

It’s highly discriminatory for relatively few people who don’t pay any money, who don’t insure, and I do think we do need to get away from the pretence that cycling is wonderful for everybody. Loads of pedestrians will be put at greater risk.

If there genuinely were ‘hordes’ of people cycling on Birmingham’s enormous roads, that would not have a negative impact on motorists (let alone a ‘severe’ impact) – it would be a positive one, because it would reduce the lengths of queues, and congestion more generally. Cyclists don’t come out of nowhere – they’re just people who would have been making trips by other modes.

But anyway…

Hutchings then argues that attempting to improve conditions for cycling would be ‘highly discriminatory’, apparently on the basis that he doesn’t see elderly people cycling, or ethnic minorities cycling (with or without hijabs) or disabled people cycling. (Note that his argument is anecdotal, not based on any evidence.)

His comments mirror those of Cllr Alden, who argued

The vast majority of cyclists on our roads are young, white men… most elderly people are not going to cycle, and it would be dangerous for them to start on our streets now.

Women of any ethnic group who wish to wear modest clothing, and I count myself in that category, are not going to cycle. It is a discriminatory form of transport

Alden stood by these comments in a later interview -

In asking for the assessment, I made the factual observation that most, not all, but most, of the cyclists I see in my area are young white men. Of course I know some elderly, disabled, women and people from all ethnic groups cycle. But clearly many in Birmingham – for lots of reasons – don’t feel they can. Surely it would be better to spend some of the cycling money in ways which would help those groups who don’t currently choose to cycle?

And also clarified her position in Cycling Weekly -

None of the £24 million is being spent on lighting the canal tow path which would enable safer cycling. It is all being spent on the road and this can put cyclists off. It is only helping current, confident cyclists – not new cyclists and all sections of society.

There is a scheme in a local Edgbaston park that is encouraging Asian women to cycle which is great but we’re talking about roads here.

Now I have to say here that Alden is actually making a sound argument. If the improvements being made to the roads are only marginal, then I think she is right to say that the money is being spent in a way that could be discriminatory. If the funding, for instance, is being spent making cycle lanes a bit wider, or painting ASLs, or other measures that are not at all attractive to children, or the elderly, or those with disabilities, then yes, the only people benefiting will be those who are cycling already, who are disproportionately male and middle-aged.

I’ve only managed to have a cursory look at the proposals for Birmingham, so forgive me if I get this wrong, but certainly it seems as if some of the schemes might fall into this trap. For instance -

‘Cyclists share road space with motorists’

This is on the A41 Soho Road. Does this look like an environment in which some painted symbols in the carriageway will make cycling attractive to all?

Elsewhere we have a cycle lane alongside a dual carriageway, with loading allowed in the cycle lane.

So, while there are better parts to these proposals, some of the money Birmingham has won from the Department for Transport would seem to be being spent on schemes that are not inclusive – ‘only helping current, confident cyclists’, as Alden puts it.

Whether these arguments are being made in good faith or not is hard to say; the picture is muddied by her comments about cycling being something that certain groups of society simply won’t engage in, regardless of the quality of the environment. Cllr Hutchings’ comments fall more overtly into this category; that ‘cyclists’ are a small subset of the population – compared to ‘the rest of the population’ – who don’t deserve any money.

What can be said is that cycling is only as discriminatory as we make it.

The reason why cycling is limited to certain groups, in certain places and along certain roads, is because the environment excludes others. Riding a bike – or using pedal power more generally – is something that nearly everyone can engage in, if the environment is right. Even those who don’t cycle, and use mobility scooters and wheelchairs to get about, would benefit from a quality cycling environment.

Independent mobility, on a cycle track in Zoetermeer

Mobile phone use (flowing robes included) – Gouda

Headscarves don’t seem to be a problem in Utrecht

So while it is true to say that cycling is a mode of transport that many people are excluded from using in cities like Birmingham, that in itself is plainly not an argument for maintaining the status quo. If children and the elderly do not feel comfortable cycling on dangerous roads, then rather than shrugging our shoulders and doing nothing, while wailing about how cycling is ‘discriminatory’, that state of affairs should be remedied.

BUT we need changes to roads and streets that open them up to all potential bicycle users, not marginal adjustments that make things slightly better for the few currently willing to cycle on them. Buried in the rhetoric from those councillors in Birmingham is a substantive argument.


Categories: Views

Cycling through the heath

BicycleDutch - 17 September, 2014 - 23:01
Three years ago I showed you how I had cycled through the heath with all the heather in full bloom near Hilversum in North-Holland. That was also the last time … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Devo max is not on the ballot paper

Vole O'Speed - 17 September, 2014 - 16:47
As the title indicates, this post is intended mostly for my Scottish readers. If there are any.

This post is not about cycling, except, in a way, it is related.

I've always thought that the general lack of progress on improving Britain's environment is bound up with a democratic and constitutional failure. It is notable that the most democratic countries in the world tend to have the best-manged environments, and the most dictatorial, the worst. The UK has always fallen somewhere inbetween, but not very close to the best.

I view the Scottish referendum as an opportunity to force some constitutional change on the UK establishment. I think the result of a 'yes' vote would, in the long run, probably, be a better, more modern and more democratic, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, that looked after their people and their environments better.

If, as looks likely, there is a narrow win for 'no', I expect little to change. Cyclists, more than most, will know how promises made by politicians at the point of an election disappear like Scotch mist after they have won. The 11th-hour commitment by the main Westminster parties to devo max in the event of a 'no' vote is deeply unconvincing. The British establishment is extraordinarily resistant to fundamental constitutional change that would break down its powers and privileges. We have been let down on this front by the Coalition, and in particular the Lib Dems, who did not use their bargaining power effectively to gain reform. We had a referendum on changing the voting system for Westminster, but that was meaningless as it did not offer the real reform of proportional representation that constitutional progressives want. The promise to reform the house of Lords has been broken. Promises of devo max I am certain will also be broken in the same way.

The party leaders in Westminster cannot deliver devo max because there would not be support amongst English MPs for an even more asymmetrical devolution arrangement that is even more unfair on England. There is no overall, final constitutional solution being proposed here, because the party leaders haven't been able to think of one that is in the least bit probable or stable. The 11th hour pledge is a transparent panic measure that has not been thought-through. It would, indeed, be the duty of English MPs to vote against some elements of the bribe that has been proposed to try to stave off the Scottish independence bandwagon.

The referendum debate should never have focused so relentlessly on the currency, which is actually not that fundamental an issue. Scots after independence could use the Pound, or the Euro, or their own unit, or whatever currency was found to be most convenient and beneficial for Scotland and all her main trading partners, including England, Ireland, and the rest of the EU,  through international negotiation, the results of which cannot be predicted before independence, because so much would change afterwards.

The focus should be on democracy, on representation, and on systems. If the parties in Westminster had been interested in a federal UK, they could have proposed one by now. But the problems are deep. England would be too dominant in a federation, if kept as a unitary governmental entity, yet England has been a united entity for so long that it cannot now be broken down in any obvious way into provinces that should appropriately have a similar level of devolution even to Wales, let alone Scotland.

My feeling is that the Union has served its purpose, a long and honourable and historical one, and it is time to move on, for Scotland (and indeed Northern Ireland as well, but that is an altogether knottier problem). We have so many international institutions that have an effect of partially pooling sovereignty that did not exist when the Union was founded: the EU pre-eminently, of course, but also the Commonwealth, the UN and NATO. Borders have effectively been broken down between all EU states now. The Union is a level of cross-border organisation that, though there was great justification for it between the 17th and 20th centuries, has now been rendered fairly surplus to requirements.

I think only a 'yes' vote by Scots will deliver the kick needed for real constitutional, democratic, change, leading to long-term social and environmental progress,  in any of the nations of the current UK. The next opportunity, should this one be missed, will be a long time coming.
Categories: Views

Exempting people cycling from signals, and how that can benefit people walking

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 17 September, 2014 - 08:15

By way of a follow-up to last week’s post about reducing the need to stop at traffic lights while cycling, I thought I’d take a look at exemptions to signals – how they work in the Netherlands, and how they could be transferred to the UK.

This is a bit of a hot topic (as far as hot topics go) in cycle infrastructure design, and also something that could offer benefits for pedestrians – pertinent, as we’ll see, to aspects of the Superhighway plans. just announced by Transport for London.

The basic Dutch principle is that if someone is making a right turn by bike (our left turn, obviously) at a signalised junction, they shouldn’t have to stop. Not only is this convenient, it’s also safer – people cycling, turning right, don’t need to go anywhere near the junction itself.

No need to worry about that HGV.

Amazingly the Dutch have been doing this for a very long time. Mark Wagenbuur (BicycleDutch) showed me this example dating from the 1960s, in the Overvecht area of Utrecht -

This signalised junction is completely bypassed if you wish to turn right by bike (much as it is if you were walking). Good design, even if it is clearly in need of renovation, being about fifty years old!

Here’s a more modern example of the same design, in Amsterdam -

Again, turning right here is easy, and doesn’t involve signals at all.

In fact, we actually do this already in Britain – but badly. We simply allow cycling on the footway. Either this is a simple footway conversion – ‘you can now cycle here, off you go’ – or it’s deliberate design, like (for instance) on Old Shoreham Road in Brighton, where you are allowed to cycle onto the pavement to make left turns.

It’s a nice idea, but it’s far from ideal, not just because it creates conflict and uncertainly between people walking and cycling, but also because there’s no continuity through the junction.

Happily it seems that moves are afoot to try and bring Dutch-style design to the UK, with cycle tracks, clearly separated from both footways and the carriageway, extending around the corners of signalised junctions, and remaining outside of signal control.

Here’s a detail from a presentation made at the latest LCC policy forum, by Transport for London’s Brian Deegan -

The full presentation is here.

It’s not quite perfect, but the principle are exactly right. Turning left is possible at any time, regardless of what the signals are doing. Likewise, the interactions with pedestrians are managed correctly, with pedestrians having priority across the track on zebras, on both arms of the junction – reaching a waiting island, and then crossing the carriageway with signals.

So this is how someone walking might move across this junction -

In more detail!

They can, of course, cross the ‘signalised’ bit whenever they want to, if the road is clear, because UK pedestrians don’t have to obey the red man.

Flipping a picture of a junction in Amsterdam, we can see how this might look in Britain.


The woman with the dog has crossed the ‘zebra’ bit over the cycle track, and is waiting for a green signal at the carriageway. Slightly confusingly, the Dutch use zebra markings across signalised pedestrian crossings too. (This is so that they can function with pedestrian priority at night, when traffic signals are turned off). But Brian’s example is how it might look in the UK.

Brian himself is pushing hard for an implementation of this kind of junction somewhere in London. His actual intention is for it to operate as a form of ‘simultaneous green’, with people able to cycle across the junction in any direction, at the same time, while all motor traffic is held – and pedestrians also able to cross at the same time, because the ‘signalled’ bit of the crossing doesn’t involve anyone cycling.

But it seems that some people in TfL are quite sniffy and sceptical about how this would actually work – Brian related how he had been told that the ‘zebra’ and the ‘signalised’ parts of the pedestrian crossing should be staggered, or offset, so that pedestrians don’t get confused into thinking that the whole crossing is a zebra. (Yes, seriously).

Funnily enough, I was in Bristol the other weekend, and, well, they are actually building something like this already.

This is the new cycle track along Baldwin Street, still under construction -

It will be bi-directional, which is less than ideal, but I think Bristol have actually pretty much nailed how this design approach should work. The cycle track passes behind the traffic signals, meaning there’s no need to stop. There’s even a hint at a Dutch protecting island on the corner, and the pedestrian and cyclist parts of the crossing (heading to the left) are clearly separated. Pedestrians cross the track on a hinted ‘zebra’, and then wait on an island, if they have to, for the signalled part of the crossing.

The ‘zebra’ has to be unofficial like this, because doing it officially would currently require Belisha beacons, and zig-zag markings – rendering something that should be quite simple very messy. So I think Bristol have taken the right approach – it’s quite obvious that it’s a crossing, even if it isn’t done by the letter.

Are people confused by this design? It would seem not.

I stood here for a while, and nobody appeared to feel the urge to march across the road, convinced that they had priority on a zebra, all the way across it. It’s really quite obvious what’s going on.

The rest of the track will, it seems, have this same kind of treatment at straightforward signalised pedestrian crossings.

A little hard to see, because it’s obviously still under construction, but pedestrians can cross the cycle track on this ‘zebra’, before waiting on an island at a signalised pedestrian crossing. Simple, and it means that people cycling along the road don’t have to worry about stopping for the signals; they just have to yield to pedestrians at the ‘zebra’.

The original plans marked this arrangement much like a ‘give way a footway’ -

From here.

This would not have been a bit messy, I think, and I’m pleased to see Bristol using the best approximation of a Dutch approach that they can manage.

So, can this be copied in London, and elsewhere in the UK? Definitely. Here’s a pedestrian crossing, from the new Superhighway proposals on Lower Thames Street.

The whole crossing is signalised. But why not do what Bristol are doing, and only signalise the bit across the road, with a zebra (or ‘zebra’) across the cycle track, at the top? (Note – this would have the added benefit of shorter pedestrian stages).

Likewise, just to the west of Blackfriars Bridge -

Do we really need to make people walking go out of their way, on a two-stage staggered crossing, just to get across a cycle track? Surely a simple ‘zebra’ marking would suffice. Why make our lives more difficult with all this staggering, when the cycle track could be crossed directly on zebras?

An array of ungainly, indirect pedestrian crossings

So I’d love to see all this unnecessary signalisation removed from these (very promising) plans, and replaced with zebra markings. It would make everyone’s lives much better. These plans would make a substantial improvement to the pedestrian environment as they stand, but i think they be even better.

It would also provide firm support for Brian Deegan’s attempts to implement his simultaneous green junction plans elsewhere in London, – as well as support for the sound principle of exempting people cycling left at junctions from signalisation.

Bristol are showing us how it can be done. Why over-complicate things?


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