Views

100 years of recreational cycle path building

BicycleDutch - 12 March, 2014 - 23:01
On the 4th of March it was exactly 100 years ago that the society for the construction of cycle paths in the Gooi and Eemland region was founded. It is … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

100 years of recreational cycle path building

BicycleDutch - 12 March, 2014 - 23:01
On the 4th of March it was exactly 100 years ago that the society for the construction of cycle paths in the Gooi and Eemland region was founded. It is … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The problem with (British) zebra crossings

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 11 March, 2014 - 22:33

Zebra crossings are, in principle, the ideal way for pedestrians to cross the road. They give pedestrians priority, and mean they can cross without delay.

But there are a number of regulatory difficulties which make them rather less than ideal. The first is the absurd requirement that every single zebra crossing has to have two Belisha beacons at either end of it, to make it ‘visible’ to drivers. Trying to implement Dutch-style infrastructure under UK rules would result in a complete forest of these beacons – amply demonstrated by the TRL trial of a Dutch roundabout.

Spot the zebra crossing

European countries are quite capable of implementing zebras without these ugly poles. In France -

In Switzerland -

And of course in the Netherlands -

Simple crossings that consist of nothing more than paint.

These continental zebras also do not have the ‘zig-zag’ markings on either side of the crossing, that are compulsory in the UK. This ‘extra’ marking not only uglifies the street, like the Belisha beacon – it also presents practical difficulties.

The minimum requirement is just two zig-zags – a ‘zig’ and a ‘zag’. Even this means that zebra crossings will inevitably be displaced from desire lines. Unlike in the French and Swiss examples, above, where the crossing goes from corner to corner, UK zebras have to be set back from junction mouths. Nor, on main roads, can they be placed by junctions with side roads, meaning extra delay and inconvenience for pedestrians.

About the best we can do – two ‘zig-zags’ back from the junction

And, from a cycling perspective, this ‘zig-zag’ rule is also inconvenient. It means that  crossings for cycling cannot be placed directly adjacent to zebra crossings, either across main roads, or across side roads.

Main road crossing, with zebra

Side road crossing, with zebra

Under the current rules, placing cycle tracks and zebras around the perimeter of a roundabout means that the zebra crossing is significantly displaced from the natural desire lines, as shown in this mock-up for the Cycling Embassy of a legal perimeter track.

From the Cycling Embassy blog

So these rules about zebras really need to be simplified, so we can have straightforward crossings without all the paraphernalia of beacons and markings.

The other serious problem with zebras involves the rules governing their use. Here’s the relevant passage from the Highway Code, with what I consider to be an unhelpful rule underlined.

Highway Code Rule 193

That is, drivers have to give way only after the pedestrian has moved onto the crossing, not before – not, for instance, when the pedestrian is waiting to cross.

What does this mean in practice? To give an example from just yesterday, I watched an elderly lady waiting to cross a road, standing on the pavement at a zebra. Because she didn’t step out onto the crossing, no driver stopped. About five cars passed, despite her clearly waiting to cross, as I approached.

As someone who cycles in traffic on a day-to-day basis, naturally I had no qualms about striding out straight onto the crossing the lady was waiting at (it helps if you have a bicycle with you, to wheel out in front of you), commanding, or rather daring, the oncoming drivers to stop, which they did – just about. She didn’t follow me, however.

But this is the problem with Rule 193. Because priority only arrives after you step onto the crossing, Rule 193 expects people waiting to cross the road on a zebra to effectively play chicken with approaching motor vehicles. This is not something people are willing to do. Given the choice between just waiting for a gap in traffic to materialise, and stepping out in front of a driver and hoping they will stop, I suspect most will simply wait for a gap, as the elderly lady did yesterday. Indeed, this (quite rational) preference is reinforced by official advice.

Thanks TfL

‘Never assume traffic will stop’ (or rather ‘never assume drivers will stop’) means zebras only effectively become useful when there are gaps in traffic. People simply don’t want to chance it. They wait on the pavement – and that means no driver has to yield for them.

Rule 19 in the Highway Code effectively encapsulates this gaping hole in the rules.

The gloriously contradictory Rule 19

Wait until all traffic has stopped before you step onto the crossing. But traffic doesn’t have stop until you step on the crossing. Right… that makes sense.

It’s not surprising therefore that, as I understand it, pelican or toucan crossings are preferred by the general public, because while delay is  involved, the signals give a degree of certainty that drivers will stop – albeit a certainty that is often misplaced.

So, in essence,  Britain’s traffic rules have managed to seriously wound a sensible and straightforward way of crossing the road. I suppose we should pat ourselves on the back.


Categories: Views

The problem with (British) zebra crossings

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 11 March, 2014 - 22:33

Zebra crossings are, in principle, the ideal way for pedestrians to cross the road. They give pedestrians priority, and mean they can cross without delay.

But there are a number of regulatory difficulties which make them rather less than ideal. The first is the absurd requirement that every single zebra crossing has to have two Belisha beacons at either end of it, to make it ‘visible’ to drivers. Trying to implement Dutch-style infrastructure under UK rules would result in a complete forest of these beacons – amply demonstrated by the TRL trial of a Dutch roundabout.

Spot the zebra crossing

European countries are quite capable of implementing zebras without these ugly poles. In France -

In Switzerland -

And of course in the Netherlands -

Simple crossings that consist of nothing more than paint.

These continental zebras also do not have the ‘zig-zag’ markings on either side of the crossing, that are compulsory in the UK. This ‘extra’ marking not only uglifies the street, like the Belisha beacon – it also presents practical difficulties.

The minimum requirement is just two zig-zags – a ‘zig’ and a ‘zag’. Even this means that zebra crossings will inevitably be displaced from desire lines. Unlike in the French and Swiss examples, above, where the crossing goes from corner to corner, UK zebras have to be set back from junction mouths. Nor, on main roads, can they be placed by junctions with side roads, meaning extra delay and inconvenience for pedestrians.

About the best we can do – two ‘zig-zags’ back from the junction

And, from a cycling perspective, this ‘zig-zag’ rule is also inconvenient. It means that  crossings for cycling cannot be placed directly adjacent to zebra crossings, either across main roads, or across side roads.

Main road crossing, with zebra

Side road crossing, with zebra

Under the current rules, placing cycle tracks and zebras around the perimeter of a roundabout means that the zebra crossing is significantly displaced from the natural desire lines, as shown in this mock-up for the Cycling Embassy of a legal perimeter track.

From the Cycling Embassy blog

So these rules about zebras really need to be simplified, so we can have simple crossings without all the paraphernalia of beacons and markings.

The other serious problem with zebras involves the rules governing their use. Here’s the relevant passage from the Highway Code, with what I consider to be an unhelpful rule underlined.

Highway Code Rule 193

That is, drivers have to give way only after the pedestrian has moved onto the crossing, not before – not, for instance, when the pedestrian is waiting to cross.

What does this mean in practice? To give an example from just yesterday, I watched an elderly lady waiting to cross a road, standing on the pavement at a zebra. Because she didn’t step out onto the crossing, no driver stopped. About five cars passed, despite her clearly waiting to cross, as I approached.

As someone who cycles in traffic on a day-to-day basis, naturally I had no qualms about striding out straight onto the crossing the lady was waiting at (it helps if you have a bicycle with you, to wheel out in front of you), commanding, or rather daring, the oncoming drivers to stop, which they did – just about. She didn’t follow me, however.

But this is the problem with Rule 193. Because priority only arrives after you step onto the crossing, Rule 193 expects people waiting to cross the road on a zebra to effectively play chicken with approaching motor vehicles. This is not something people are willing to do. Given the choice between just waiting for a gap in traffic to materialise, and stepping out in front of a driver and hoping they will stop, I suspect most will simply wait for a gap, as the elderly lady did yesterday. Indeed, this (quite rational) preference is reinforced by official advice.

Thanks TfL

‘Never assume traffic will stop’ (or rather ‘never assume drivers will stop’) means zebras only effectively become useful when there are gaps in traffic. People simply don’t want to chance it. They wait on the pavement – and that means no driver has to yield for them.

It’s not surprising therefore that, as I understand it, pelican or toucan crossings are preferred by the general public, because while delay is  involved, the signals give a degree of certainty that drivers will stop – albeit a certainty that is often misplaced.

So, in essence,  Britain’s traffic rules have managed to seriously wound a sensible and straightforward way of crossing the road. I suppose we should pat ourselves on the back.


Categories: Views

A prize!!

John Adams - 11 March, 2014 - 22:08

This is a graphic record of the event. Jeremy Harrison, the head of the Institute of Risk Management, is laughing because I have just called him a sneaky bastard for inviting me to dinner without warning me that he had this in mind. And I am looking bemused because I was – and still am. I think the photo captures the lifetime bit fairly accurately.

PS It weighs 4 kilos.

Categories: Views

A Prize!

John Adams - 11 March, 2014 - 21:54

 

 

This is a graphic record of the event. Jeremy Harrison, the head of the Institute of Risk Management, is laughing because I have just called him a sneaky bastard for inviting me to dinner without warning me that he had this in mind. And I am looking bemused because I was – and still am. I think the photo captures the lifetime bit fairly accurately.

Categories: Views

The AA’s “Think Bikes” campaign: What it tells us about “road safety”

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 11 March, 2014 - 21:03

              One million wing-mirror stickers are being sent out by the AA to remind drivers to watch out for two-wheelers on the road. The campaign is based on a poll for the AA showing that nine out of ten motorists admit that when driving, “it is sometimes hard to see cyclists”, with 55 percent of motorists claiming that they are often “surprised when a cyclist appears from nowhere.” It’s nice to see AA president Edmund King say that: “The AA Think Bikes campaign is definitely needed when half of drivers are often surprised when a cyclist or motorcyclist ‘appears from nowhere’. Those on two wheels never appear from nowhere (our emphasis) so as drivers we need to be more alert to other road users and this is where our stickers act as a daily reminder”.

So is this an unequivocal step forward? The main feature of this, as with so many other similar campaigns, is what it tells us about the beliefs underlying what passes for “road safety” – beliefs which we have to challenge.

So let’s take a look at the campaign and what underlies it in some detail:

 

What should be happening with wing mirrors?

Let me quote one of the commenters on this road.cc post :

If, on your driving test, you failed to check your left door mirror, before turning left you would not pass your test and couldn’t drive unaccompanied (by an experienced licence holding driver) on the road. How come once you pass you never need check a mirror again? (Unless you have a stupid sticker to remind you). If you need that then you shouldn’t be driving on the road as you are dangerous to other road users.

 Now, that may seem a bit perfectionist. But it is what is required in terms of drivers’ obligations to the safety of cyclists and motorcyclists. It is stated clearly in the Highway Code in Rules 159,161,163, 169, 179, 180, 182, 184, and 202. It is simply what should be happening. As the Institute of Advanced Motorists spokesman said

 ”The IAM welcomes any campaign which raises awareness of how vulnerable cyclists can be around motor vehicles. Reminders can be useful but the best drivers should already be looking out for cyclists at all times.(my emphasis)” And why just “the best”?

Would we accept this with other types of safety regime?

Let us pause briefly and think of what we would expect from other types of safety regime. Consider Health and Safety at Work regimes operating in workplaces. Or safety under maritime safety regulations. Or with aviation safety regulations. Or safety on the railways.

Let’s say that third parties have their lives regularly put at risk by operators of machinery in the workplace (or airplanes, ships or trains) because they fail to engage in an operation as simple as using their mirrors, in a manner which they have been required to do (and tested on) when they start their careers (in the workplace or on airplanes etc.). We think the issue has to be the extent to which this unsafe behaviour happens irrespective of the numbers of cyclists and motorcyclists hurt or killed by this malpractice. But the fact remains that it is substantial. For example, in the TfL Cycle Safety Action Plan (2010) we see that  a large part of the biggest type of conflict (close proximity conflict)  leading to cyclist Killed and Seriously injured casualties is the following:

o Cycle and other vehicle travelling alongside each other (12%)

o Other vehicle turns left across the path of cycle (9%)

o Other vehicle changes lane to the left across the path of cycle (3%)

o Cycle and other vehicle collide when both turning left (2%)

 (percentages are of all cyclist KSIs).

Plainly non-use of nearside wing mirrors has some relevance here in these cases.

So, if such unwillingness or inability to follow the regulations, with such actual or potential consequences for the safety of others, were to occur under these other regimes, would we be satisfied with a campaign like this? One which is essentially just a polite reminder to the operators of dangerous equipment or practices by a sticker placed on the equipment which was not being used?

 My suggestion is: No, we wouldn’t.

 

What might the effects of this campaign actually be?

The reason for my scepticism is not simply one of principle, but one based on a concern about its likely lack of effect. Some, like Chris Boardman, appear to think that “This campaign will undoubtedly contribute to promoting safer driving habits on the road.” Undoubtedly?

What we have is some 4% of the UK driving public being presented with stickers. There is no evidence that placing the stickers will actually lead to previous non-users becoming users of wing mirrors. Then, as always with road user safety, those most likely to change habits will be those most willing to do so in the first place. Is the behavioural change actually likely to be anything more than minimal at best?

One of the reasons why it is unlikely to be more than minimal – if that – is the background set of beliefs underlying it.

All in it together? The mythology of “One Tribe”.

The key theme expressed by the AA and British Cycling is the idea that lots of cyclists also drive cars, and vice versa, and that recognising this will lead to reduced casualties. My view is that this is a dangerously misleading approach to safety on the road.

It conceals the fact that when people are using different modes of transport, they have markedly different potential to endanger, hurt or kill others. The fact that they use more than one form of transport is at best irrelevant. Indeed, the fact that the same people are both far more likely to endanger, hurt or kill when they are driving than when they are cycling is part of the problem. Cyclists are more unlikely to see themselves as part of the problem when they drive precisely because they are also cyclists.

One way of looking at this is to consider pedestrians instead. Most motorists know that they also walk, as indeed they do. Has this led to no danger being presented to pedestrians by motorists?

The central theme of Road Danger Reduction is that there is a fundamental difference between use of those modes which have a significant potential to endanger, hurt or kill (essentially the motorised ones) than those (essentially cycling or walking) which have a far lower potential to endanger, hurt or kill. The “Evens Stevens” approach is based on denying this.

Underlying this “Evens Stevens” approach is a fundamentally patronising attitude. According to the AA’s chief executive, Chris Jansen,cyclists have to “recognise when they have been well looked after on Britain’s roads by motorists” – as if drivers are doing them a big favour by not threatening their lives by rule or law breaking behaviour. A duty of care becomes “looking after”.(This is the “New Deal” on safety which the AA offer cyclists)

 What could work?

There is a definite need for drivers to use their wing mirrors as part of their driving activity. It is a timely reminder with TfL’s encouragement of doing exactly the opposite here with its “Cyclists stay back” stickers It is also good to see the AA oppose a SMIDSY excuse by stating that “Those on two wheels never appear from nowhere”.  And as Chris Boardman says: “Looking left and giving way to cyclists is a crucial part of improving safety on the roads. This is what happens on the continent and it should become part of our culture too. Of course, this rule is already written into the Highway Code – we just need to ensure that people are following it.”

 But the crucial issue is whether this actually changes driver behaviour or not, fitting into a programme of genuine accountability of those responsible for actually and potentially endangering, hurting or killing others. Such “road safety” initiatives will fail if they are simply polite requests to a minority of drivers who may or may not choose to follow them, particularly if they are embedded in a culture which is based on the “Evens Stevens” school of obscuring the differences in potential lethality between different road user groups. While the AA are being less arrogant than in previous initiatives, they still have a historywhich makes them dubious supporters of real road safety.

 As Roger Geffen of the CTC puts it:CTC absolutely agrees that this is the right approach, but this doesn’t mean cyclists should be doffing their caps to drivers when drivers behave responsibly – responsible behaviour should be the norm.” And the CTC point out: “…experience shows that awareness campaigns work best when supported by related enforcement activity. (Successful) campaigns…strengthen public support for enforcement activity, while the related enforcement activity re-enforces the impact of the campaign by punishing irresponsible drivers who ignore the message”.

 


Categories: Views

New Traffic Test App for Dutch Children

BicycleDutch - 10 March, 2014 - 23:01
This year in April about 150,000 Dutch school children will take a traffic test called “Traffic Exam”. It is tradition Dutch school children do this test when they are in … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

New Traffic Test App for Dutch Children

BicycleDutch - 10 March, 2014 - 23:01
This year in April about 150,000 Dutch school children will take a traffic test called “Traffic Exam”. It is tradition Dutch school children do this test when they are in … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The Bike Share Bicycle Copenhagen ALMOST Had

Copenhagenize - 9 March, 2014 - 20:48


While La Rochelle, France can boast about having started the first proper bike share system in the mid-1970s, Copenhagen introduced the Bycyklen - City Bike - in 1995. Picture above and below, the bikes were cute gimmicks that lasted until late 2012. They worked on a shopping trolley system - put a 10 or 20 kroner coin in and get it back when you return it. The bikes were horrible to ride and it didn't take long for them to become tourist magnets. Most Copenhageners wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole.

They were, however, visionary in their own quirky way and paved the cycle track for the systems that are now featured in 500 odd cities around the world. And as goofy as they were, I found myself missing them when they were gone.

The City of Copenhagen started pondering the idea of getting a Next Generation bike share system back in 2009. We announced the launch of a bike share design competition here on the blog on September 1, 2009. On December 11, 2009, the winners of the competition were announced in Copenhagen. It was never the idea that the winning bike would become the actual bike share bike. The City was just keen to get all sorts of ideas in.

The hype soon died out and time dragged on. New politicians showed up who were less bicycle-friendly and the new bike share system idea was down-prioritised.

Then the idea got dusted off again and the Danish State Railways (DSB) started taking the lead. A bid went out for concrete proposals. Designs came in. A shortlist was settled upon. Finally, a design was selected. A new system is scheduled to hit the streets of Copenhagen in October 2013.

There has been a lot of talk about taking bike share to Generation 3. Maintaining Copenhagen's role as an innovation powerhouse regarding bicycle culture. I have a filter about bold declarations from the City but I harboured a secret desire to see Copenhagen select a bicycle design for the new bike share that was something different and something that respected the historical aspects of our bicycle culture. A bicycle that was somehow traditional in its design and far removed from the plastic fantastic bike share systems in other cities. A design that rejects the goofy technological overcomplication our society is riddled with.

Something that adhered to the principles of Danish Design. Simple, elegant, functional.

So, what will we end up with?


Here's the design from Go Bike.dk. Which just looks like a bicycle from UR Bikes, to me, but hey.


It's a little (geeky) bundle of tech-solutions, including a tablet screen onto which you punch in your credit card info, as well as look up train times and even gps-based routes to restaurants, cinemas, etc.

First thought? Do we really want people unfamiliar to cycling in our city staring at a screen as they ride around? Second thought? Do the people behind this bike really expect those screens to survive the Copenhagen nightlife? It's going to become a game to see how they can be smashed while parked at the stations. You read it here first.

In Denmark we have a new public transport travel card called Rejsekortet. A billion kroner was invested in a really crappy solution - similar to London's Oyster Card but just super crappy - in a country where smartphones and debit cards rule. The Oyster Card was used as the inspiration and now it looks like that billion kroner was a waste - travel cards like the Oyster may soon be obsolete. So why the tablet? Useless.

The bicycles will also be equipped with an e-motor. First thought? Do we really want people unfamiliar with the city - or locals unfamiliar with e-motors - riding around the city at higher speeds? E-bikes are the new scooters. You don't want to be the new scooters, believe me. People flying along at 25 - 30 km/h in a city where the average speed is 16 km/h. This isn't going to end well. You can read about The E-Bike Sceptic right here on this blog. There's a very good reason that so many Chinese are banning e-bikes. It's called preventing injury and death.

The design? Nothing special. Nothing visionary or innovative. Not an interesting symbol for the City of Copenhagen or the City of Cyclists. Clearly inspired by Dutch brand Van Moof.

The cost? Over 600 cities around the world have bike share systems with bikes that cost around $800. These bikes will cost around $10,000. Seriously. Complete waste of money for an experiment, especially when you're playing with taxpayer financing. It's not surprising that Copenhagen City Council weren't big fans of the idea when they had to negotiate the budget. The original price that DSB wanted the City to pay was 114 million kroner ($20.7 million) but the politicians whittled that down to a token 40 million kroner ($7.2 million). The remainder went to infrastructure - something people actually need in Copenhagen.

The cost of using one of these bikes? In most cities, the first 30 minutes on bike share bikes is free. These new bikes in Copenhagen will cost 20 kroner ($3.60) per hour.  25 kroner ($4.50) if you hit the switch to activate the e-motor. One person involved with the company admitted to us that, at 30 kg, the bikes are almost too heavy to cycle without the motor. You can also get a subscription that will cost you 70 kroner/month ($12.75), but still no free ride like on the rest of the planet.

The saturation? 1260 bicycles in 60 stations. Not that impressive. Makes you wonder why the DSB didn't just adopt the Dutch OV Fiets system that the Dutch Railways have going on. An established, successful business model serving the Dutch for a decade so far. If you're incapable of doing anything interesting yourself, then at least copy from people who have experience.

While we're on the topic, why not just get an established company who have done bike share in other cities to do the bike share system for you? Save time, money and minimize your risk of screwing up. Especially since we're in uncharted territory with putting in a bike share system in a city where everyone already owns bikes.

Yeah, okay. I'm not a fan. Like Socrates said, "Necessity is the Mother of invention." I've ridden almost every bike share bike on the planet, in over 30 cities. There is stuff out there that works. Trying to reinvent the wheel with overcomplication isn't clever, isn't cool, isn't cost-efficient.


What makes it worse for me, personally, is that I know that my secret desire for coolness, tradition and style married to functionality in a new Copenhagen bike share system actually exists. One of the designs shortlisted for the bid produced a bicycle that makes me swoon.

So what bicycle did we almost get? Sigh. Here it is.

Danish bike brand Velorbis teamed up with HomePort Bikesharing Solutions to produce the bike share bicycle above. They simply took the iconic Short John (delivery bike) and all its inherent tradition and historical relevance and made it into a bike share bicycle. A bicycle that was the backbone of bicycle deliveries in this city for over half a century.


Here's another variation of their design. This is the bicycle I imagined when dreaming of a modern icon for our bicycle culture.


They were shortlisted, so I'm assuming that all the tech-specs were in order if they made it that far. The solar panels are a nice touch.


I'm not, however, going to bang on about the tech factors and all that. I just lament the fact that we were this close to getting a cool, iconic bicycle that salutes our bicycle history and culture and that still provided a modern bike share system for Danish cities.

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

The Map Bicycle

Copenhagenize - 9 March, 2014 - 16:32

Tourist season is starting. I thought it would be nice to be prepared for when they stop me and ask for directions. So I glued a Crumpled City map onto the Bullitt. The Crumpled City maps are rip-proof and waterproof and generally pretty tough. So with some glue underneath and some varnish on top, I'm ready for the lost, wandering herds of visitors to Copenhagen.


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

Dealing with a historical failure to consider cycling

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 7 March, 2014 - 09:14

Way back in the 1970s, Horsham built a stub of inner ring-road, a dual carriageway that was later extended in two stages to (almost) encircle the town centre. It’s called Albion Way.

Albion Way – Horsham’s inner ring road

It involved almost entirely demolishing a church…

The remnants of St Marks

and blasting a dual carriageway through a high street, to link up with a new Sainsbury’s, built on school playing fields (you can see the car park by the ‘A’ on the map above).

Frankly, it’s a bit of a monstrosity – overkill, given that it duplicates a bypass that encircles the town. The severance is crap for people walking and cycling, who only have a few places they can cross it, which are (with one exception) pretty awful.

Lovely

Motor traffic on Albion has consistently fallen over the last decade, and it needs to be resolved. But even in its current form it represents a bit of a mixed blessing. The town planners who initially set about building it were quite clear that motor traffic should be removed and displaced from the town centre – and that has been achieved, pretty well. The area enclosed by the ring road has only one route through it, as shown below.

The route through the town centre

This is a one-way road – all the other streets in the town centre have been pedestrianised, or are dead-ends, or do not form useful routes to anywhere, and are only used for access. And the centre of Horsham as a whole was one of the first 20mph zones in Britain, dating back to 1992. As well shall see, the only route through the centre has traffic calming in the form of humps and a cobbled surface, and  is deliberately tortuous, in an attempt to discourage people from using it as a through route, rather than the longer ring road (although in my experience many people still try).

It’s pretty good, and I have sung the praises of the town centre before, which has been improved further over the last few years by the progressive removal of motor traffic from more streets.

The only problem… is that cycling has been forgotten about.  The town centre is impenetrable from most directions by bike, because of the one-way route through it (that doesn’t have an exemption), and pedestrianisation. There is no useful, direct route across the town from north to south, nor from east to west, nor from west to east. The only route through the town centre is by following the existing one-way street. This lack of permeability is really quite poor.

This may change. West Sussex County Council won some Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) cash in the last round of bidding, which has to be spent by April 2015 – some of that cash is coming to Horsham, to construct (amongst other things) a cycling route across the town, from the station (which lies to the north of the town centre) through to the south. This will obviously have to tackle the one-way system.

This direct route, from the railway station (to the north) to the town centre, is currently impossible by bike, without taking an unpleasant and/or lengthy diversions

The planned route will come from the station, over the inner ring road on an existing shared walking and cycling route (running along the bridge in the picture earlier in this post). It then arrives in the Carfax, where it is confronted by the one-way road in the centre of the town.

Horsham’s Carfax, looking south. Currently no cycling in this direction

The route will have to run from where the photograph is taken, to the red brick building in the distance. There is a huge amount of space available here, but there probably isn’t going to be much money to play with. That means relaying the street (playing with the cobbles!) to make the carriageway wider is unlikely.

My instinct tells me a simple contraflow would be the most straightforward (and cheapest!) approach – simply legalising cycling in a contraflow direction. But there are issues. The carriageway is not especially wide, and while the volume of traffic is not very high, at all, there are potential conflicts with a loading bay on one side, and a combined bus stop/loading bay on the other. This picture gives some idea of the potential difficulties.

Not particularly brilliant to be cycling the other way under these conditions

The other alternative is to route the contraflow to the left (as we look at it) of that loading bay, but this is not particularly wide, and would obviously impinge upon walking. It’s probably a non-starter.

Not a huge amount of space for cycling and walking here

I’ve taken a short video of this section of road, at one of the busiest times of day, 5:30pm. This is when the density of people driving through the town centre tends to be highest – to pick up friends or relatives at the end of the day, to grab some cash from the banks nearby, or simply to use it as a shortcut. This is obviously combined with the buses – the frequency is not especially high, but it could be a problem.

See what you think – it gives a flavour of how difficult it could be to cycle in a contraflow direction, and also how easy it could be!

Outside of the morning and evening, I think a straightforward contraflow could work absolutely fine. The street is very quiet. Indeed, in the evening, and the middle of the day, it can be absolutely deserted. It’s also a low speed environment, with pretty good (by British standards) traffic calming.

Lunchtime

But it could obviously present difficulties at peak times. The street is awkwardly designed, as far as two-way cycling is concerned – the narrow bits are in precisely the wrong place. Optimistically, if it is made obvious that there will be people cycling in a contraflow direction to people driving through the centre, my hope is that people will exercise common sense and not crash into each other.

The advantage of this approach is that will cost next to nothing, beyond signage. If, as I fear, it’s not good enough, and people simply can’t behave, then it will have to be changed.

My ideal solution would simply involve cutting out much more of the motor traffic – stopping the use of the Carfax as a route, by installing a bus gate halfway through it. Buses could still pass through (this is an important bus stop, right in the centre), but private motor traffic could not. The roads would be returned to two-way, for all vehicles.

This would stop people driving through, but would still allow access for people loading and delivering, and to the disabled parking bays in the town centre. Indeed, we have already had an (accidental!) trial of this system last year, when the humps in the Carfax were being repaired, and the route was blocked.

The closure of the Carfax to through-traffic – by accident

This closure point here would be the natural position for the bus gate. While these repairs were taking place (for over a month) people could still access all parts of the town centre, but couldn’t drive through. I even have a picture of a taxi driving the ‘wrong’ way down the section of road that will need two-way cycling!

Legal two-way driving on this narrow section of road, during the repair works. This could be the way forward.

This would be the ideal solution, but it would represent a bigger change, all for a mode a of transport that people around here don’t really think exists. It would be a much harder sell. The contraflow would be easier to implement, but sub-optimal.

I’m wondering what you think.


Categories: Views

Dealing with a historical failure to consider cycling

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 7 March, 2014 - 09:14

Way back in the 1970s, Horsham built a stub of inner ring-road, a dual carriageway that was later extended in two stages to (almost) encircle the town centre. It’s called Albion Way.

Albion Way – Horsham’s inner ring road

It involved almost entirely demolishing a church…

The remnants of St Marks

and blasting a dual carriageway through a high street, to link up with a new Sainsbury’s, built on school playing fields (you can see the car park by the ‘A’ on the map above).

Frankly, it’s a bit of a monstrosity – overkill, given that it duplicates a bypass that encircles the town. The severance is crap for people walking and cycling, who only have a few places they can cross it, which are (with one exception) pretty awful.

Lovely

Motor traffic on Albion has consistently fallen over the last decade, and it needs to be resolved. But even in its current form it represents a bit of a mixed blessing. The town planners who initially set about building it were quite clear that motor traffic should be removed and displaced from the town centre – and that has been achieved, pretty well. The area enclosed by the ring road has only one route through it, as shown below.

The route through the town centre

This is a one-way road – all the other streets in the town centre have been pedestrianised, or are dead-ends, or do not form useful routes to anywhere, and are only used for access. And the centre of Horsham as a whole was one of the first 20mph zones in Britain, dating back to 1992. As well shall see, the only route through the centre has traffic calming in the form of humps and a cobbled surface, and  is deliberately tortuous, in an attempt to discourage people from using it as a through route, rather than the longer ring road (although in my experience many people still try).

It’s pretty good, and I have sung the praises of the town centre before, which has been improved further over the last few years by the progressive removal of motor traffic from more streets.

The only problem… is that cycling has been forgotten about.  The town centre is impenetrable from most directions by bike, because of the one-way route through it (that doesn’t have an exemption), and pedestrianisation. There is no useful, direct route across the town from north to south, nor from east to west, nor from west to east. The only route through the town centre is by following the existing one-way street. This lack of permeability is really quite poor.

This may change. West Sussex County Council won some Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) cash in the last round of bidding, which has to be spent by April 2015 – some of that cash is coming to Horsham, to construct (amongst other things) a cycling route across the town, from the station (which lies to the north of the town centre) through to the south. This will obviously have to tackle the one-way system.

This direct route, from the railway station (to the north) to the town centre, is currently impossible by bike, without taking an unpleasant and/or lengthy diversions

The planned route will come from the station, over the inner ring road on an existing shared walking and cycling route (running along the bridge in the picture earlier in this post). It then arrives in the Carfax, where it is confronted by the one-way road in the centre of the town.

Horsham’s Carfax, looking south. Currently no cycling in this direction

The route will have to run from where the photograph is taken, to the red brick building in the distance. There is a huge amount of space available here, but there probably isn’t going to be much money to play with. That means relaying the street (playing with the cobbles!) to make the carriageway wider is unlikely.

My instinct tells me a simple contraflow would be the most straightforward (and cheapest!) approach – simply legalising cycling in a contraflow direction. But there are issues. The carriageway is not especially wide, and while the volume of traffic is not very high, at all, there are potential conflicts with a loading bay on one side, and a combined bus stop/loading bay on the other. This picture gives some idea of the potential difficulties.

Not particularly brilliant to be cycling the other way under these conditions

The other alternative is to route the contraflow to the left (as we look at it) of that loading bay, but this is not particularly wide, and would obviously impinge upon walking. It’s probably a non-starter.

Not a huge amount of space for cycling and walking here

I’ve taken a short video of this section of road, at one of the busiest times of day, 5:30pm. This is when the density of people driving through the town centre tends to be highest – to pick up friends or relatives at the end of the day, to grab some cash from the banks nearby, or simply to use it as a shortcut. This is obviously combined with the buses – the frequency is not especially high, but it could be a problem.

See what you think – it gives a flavour of how difficult it could be to cycle in a contraflow direction, and also how easy it could be!

Outside of the morning and evening, I think a straightforward contraflow could work absolutely fine. The street is very quiet. Indeed, in the evening, and the middle of the day, it can be absolutely deserted. It’s also a low speed environment, with pretty good (by British standards) traffic calming.

Lunchtime

But it could obviously present difficulties at peak times. The street is awkwardly designed, as far as two-way cycling is concerned – the narrow bits are in precisely the wrong place. Optimistically, if it is made obvious that there will be people cycling in a contraflow direction to people driving through the centre, my hope is that people will exercise common sense and not crash into each other.

The advantage of this approach is that will cost next to nothing, beyond signage. If, as I fear, it’s not good enough, and people simply can’t behave, then it will have to be changed.

My ideal solution would simply involve cutting out much more of the motor traffic – stopping the use of the Carfax as a route, by installing a bus gate halfway through it. Buses could still pass through (this is an important bus stop, right in the centre), but private motor traffic could not. The roads would be returned to two-way, for all vehicles.

This would stop people driving through, but would still allow access for people loading and delivering, and to the disabled parking bays in the town centre. Indeed, we have already had an (accidental!) trial of this system last year, when the humps in the Carfax were being repaired, and the route was blocked.

The closure of the Carfax to through-traffic – by accident

This closure point here would be the natural position for the bus gate. While these repairs were taking place (for over a month) people could still access all parts of the town centre, but couldn’t drive through. I even have a picture of a taxi driving the ‘wrong’ way down the section of road that will need two-way cycling!

Legal two-way driving on this narrow section of road, during the repair works. This could be the way forward.

This would be the ideal solution, but it would represent a bigger change, all for a mode a of transport that people around here don’t really think exists. It would be a much harder sell. The contraflow would be easier to implement, but sub-optimal.

I’m wondering what you think.


Categories: Views

Friday throwback: dating by bike in Copenhagen

ibikelondon - 7 March, 2014 - 08:30
Valentine's day may already have been and gone, but romance can strike on two wheels at any time of the year.  This week's Friday throwback comes from Copenhagen, in Denmark, where these well turned out couples are using a bike ride through the city as an opportunity for a quick cuddle in the late 1940s.




Photographed by Sven Türck, the image is from the Royal Denmark Library's archives shared on The Commons on Flickr which we've been exploring every week here at ibikelondon as part of our series of "Friday throwback" posts.

There's a happy contemporary twist to this story however.  Scenes likes the one above would have been common in cities across all of Europe throughout the '40s and '50s before the arrival of the mass motoring age when most people were scared off the roads.  However, the tables were turned in Copenhagen.  The photograph was taken on Stroget (pronounced Strollt), and here is what the same plaza looks like today:



The square was pedestrianised in 1962 and forms part of the longest pedestrianised shopping street in the world.  Considerate cycling is of course welcome, and the street forms the backbone of a skeleton of people-friendly spaces throughout the city.  If you wanted to recreated the tender moment in the first photo with your cycling loved one, you still can!  For a history of how Stroget came in to being - and the effect it had on the city - check out this timeline from the City of Copenhagen here.

Catch every post from ibikelondon - connect with us online! Join the conversation with us on Twitter @markbikeslondon, or give us a "Like!" on our Facebook page.

Share |
Categories: Views

More motorway ‘idiocy’

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 6 March, 2014 - 12:08

So another person cycling on a motorway has been stopped by the police.

The last time this happened – just a few weeks ago – Beyond the Kerb succinctly described the different types of ‘idiocy’ involved here.

I don’t for one moment condone the idiocy of venturing onto a motorway on a bicycle. And I suspect nor do you condone it. It’s insane. It’s incredibly dangerous. And it’s illegal, and in this case a fine was levied.

But nor do I for one moment condone the idiocy of highway engineering that directs people to behave in precisely the same manner (with about a quarter of the width of tarmac to cycle on and far fewer safety criteria for the road as a whole). Yet, most people do condone it. It’s insane. It’s incredibly dangerous. Yet it’s legal, and people get paid for it.

On the A3, just a few miles from where our first idiot had his collar felt, is engineering that designs in the exact behaviour he exhibited; behaviour that attracted widespread and vociferous criticism from the police, the media and an angry public. And this is far from an isolated example of such engineering.

The latest example of motorway cycling is even more delicious, in that the motorway the man was stopped on is, objectively, far less dangerous than the A-road he had previously been cycling on, which simply ‘becomes’ a motorway at Sunbury.

Where the A316 becomes the M3

Lets take a look at these roads.

The A316. No shoulder. Legal to cycle here.

The M3, effectively the same road. But with a shoulder. Illegal to cycle here

The chap was ‘surrounded’ by police vehicles and escorted from the motorway with a £50 fine.

The cyclist apparently joined the motorway after riding along the A316, but “didn’t think to stop and walk off,” as the police put it.

Well, quite. Given that the objective conditions on the M3 are superior to the A316, and  that the two are essentially the same road, I can see where he’s coming from.


Categories: Views

More motorway ‘idiocy’

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 6 March, 2014 - 12:08

So another person cycling on a motorway has been stopped by the police.

The last time this happened – just a few weeks ago – Beyond the Kerb succinctly described the different types of ‘idiocy’ involved here.

I don’t for one moment condone the idiocy of venturing onto a motorway on a bicycle. And I suspect nor do you condone it. It’s insane. It’s incredibly dangerous. And it’s illegal, and in this case a fine was levied.

But nor do I for one moment condone the idiocy of highway engineering that directs people to behave in precisely the same manner (with about a quarter of the width of tarmac to cycle on and far fewer safety criteria for the road as a whole). Yet, most people do condone it. It’s insane. It’s incredibly dangerous. Yet it’s legal, and people get paid for it.

On the A3, just a few miles from where our first idiot had his collar felt, is engineering that designs in the exact behaviour he exhibited; behaviour that attracted widespread and vociferous criticism from the police, the media and an angry public. And this is far from an isolated example of such engineering.

The latest example of motorway cycling is even more delicious, in that the motorway the man was stopped on is, objectively, far less dangerous than the A-road he had previously been cycling on, which simply ‘becomes’ a motorway at Sunbury.

Where the A316 becomes the M3

Lets take a look at these roads.

The A316. No shoulder. Legal to cycle here.

The M3, effectively the same road. Illegal to cycle here

The chap was ‘surrounded’ by police vehicles and escorted from the motorway with a £50 fine.

The cyclist apparently joined the motorway after riding along the A316, but “didn’t think to stop and walk off,” as the police put it.

Well, quite. Given that the objective conditions on the M3 are superior to the A316, and  that the two are essentially the same road, I can see where he’s coming from.


Categories: Views

Junction capacity

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 6 March, 2014 - 11:26

The cycling schemes in Bedford and Southampton – the ‘Turbo’ roundabout, and the Itchen Bridge junction, respectively – have been hitting the headlines recently. A post by SmallTown2K (who has been taking a thorough look at the Southampton scheme) goes some way towards explaining why what has ended up on the ground is so compromised -

In traffic engineering parlance, the junction does not operate satisfactorily in the AM peak. What this means is the junction is over capacity. I have no baseline Arcady (roundabout modelling software) for the roundabout to compare to, but the signals are likely lower in capacity and this indicates liable to cause congestion.

Obviously, traffic will readjust and vehicle congestion isn’t the be all and end all, except, in Southampton, almost everyone drives and angry drivers don’t re-elect people. Further, and perhaps less dramatically, as a highway authority, Southampton CC is bound to a Network Management Duty which means they must secure the “expeditious movement of traffic”, albeit that traffic is defined as all road users. In that vein it should be noted for non-locals that the Itchen Bridge is a key bus corridor and congestion over the bridge would affect all these routes and the large number of people thereupon (which offhand I would guesstimate outnumber cyclists in the order of 10:1).

It is this intersection of ‘keeping the traffic moving’ (conceived in terms of motor traffic) and political unwillingness to do anything that might disrupt ‘traffic’ (again, motor traffic) that has seen the removal of the ASLs from the original plans, the extra length of stacking lanes, and so on. The quality of the junction was sacrificed.

There’s a similar story behind the Bedford ‘Turbo’ roundabout. The council simply didn’t want to do anything that might have reduced the volume of motor traffic on the roundabout, resulting in the bodge that is finally going to see the light of day, with cycling effectively pushed onto shared use pavements, with a roundabout design that has the stated intention (whether it will succeed or not is another matter) of increasing motor traffic capacity.

The problem is that cycling is, as always, seen as something ‘extra’ to be accommodated around existing motor traffic, rather than a way of reducing congestion on the network as a whole. In a post yesterday Herbert Tiemens, of the Dutch Cycling Embassy, commented that

congestion easily evaporates with only a low percentage changing cars for bicycles

But we don’t seem to appreciate this in the UK – perhaps because we can’t get our heads around the fact that ‘ordinary’ people could actually switch from their cars to cycling, for short trips, if the conditions were more acceptable.

The truth is that designing junctions properly for cycling hugely increase the capacity of these junctions in terms of the movement of people, even if capacity for motor traffic is reduced. 

I dug out an old video of mine, shot in Groningen in 2011, just to demonstrate how efficient junctions can actually be.

This is the north-west corner of Vismarkt, right in the centre of the city, at about 5:30pm.

The video is only 3 minutes long, but I managed to count around 350 people passing through this junction in just that time – almost certainly an underestimate, because the video doesn’t capture people crossing on the arm to the right. This is a rate of 2 people every second, which amounts to at least 7000 movements per hour. It’s hard to say how many people might pass through here over the course of a day, but quite obviously the junction could handle a huge amount of people in a 24 hour period. All this in a small space, with no need for signalisation, or delay. And very little danger!

By comparison, busy junctions like the Bedford ‘Turbo’ roundabout currently handle 25,000 vehicles per day, as does the roundabout at the northern end of Lambeth Bridge – in a much bigger area, with much more delay, and with much greater danger. This junction in Groningen is much, much more efficient at moving people about.

I’m not suggesting that the motor traffic on these roundabouts can, or even should, disappear. The broader point is that shifting people out of their cars and onto bikes would serve to reduce congestion, not increase it – even if that means taking junction capacity away from motoring. But it has to be done properly, so that cycling is a genuine, attractive alternative.


Categories: Views

Junction capacity

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 6 March, 2014 - 11:26

The cycling schemes in Bedford and Southampton – the ‘Turbo’ roundabout, and the Itchen Bridge junction – have been hitting the headlines recently. A post by SmallTown2K (who has been taking a thorough look at the Southampton scheme) goes some way towards explaining why what has ended up on the ground is so compromised -

In traffic engineering parlance, the junction does not operate satisfactorily in the AM peak. What this means is the junction is over capacity. I have no baseline Arcady (roundabout modelling software) for the roundabout to compare to, but the signals are likely lower in capacity and this indicates liable to cause congestion.

Obviously, traffic will readjust and vehicle congestion isn’t the be all and end all, except, in Southampton, almost everyone drives and angry drivers don’t re-elect people. Further, and perhaps less dramatically, as a highway authority, Southampton CC is bound to a Network Management Duty which means they must secure the “expeditious movement of traffic”, albeit that traffic is defined as all road users. In that vein it should be noted for non-locals that the Itchen Bridge is a key bus corridor and congestion over the bridge would affect all these routes and the large number of people thereupon (which offhand I would guesstimate outnumber cyclists in the order of 10:1).

It is this intersection of ‘keeping the traffic moving’ (conceived in terms of motor traffic) and political unwillingness to do anything that might disrupt ‘traffic’ (again, motor traffic) that has seen the removal of the ASLs from the original plans, the extra length of stacking lanes, and so on. The quality of the junction was sacrificed.

There’s a similar story behind the Bedford ‘Turbo’ roundabout. The council simply didn’t want to do anything that might have reduced the volume of motor traffic on the roundabout, resulting in the bodge that is finally going to see the light of day, with cycling effectively pushed onto shared use pavements, with a roundabout design that has the stated intention (whether it will succeed or not is another matter) of increasing motor traffic capacity.

The problem is that cycling is, as always, seen as something ‘extra’ to be accommodated around existing motor traffic, rather than a way of reducing congestion on the network as a whole. In a post yesterday Herbert Tiemens, of the Dutch Cycling Embassy, commented that

congestion easily evaporates with only a low percentage changing cars for bicycles

But we don’t seem to appreciate this in the UK – perhaps because we can’t get our heads around the fact that ‘ordinary’ people could actually switch from their cars to cycling, for short trips, if the conditions were more acceptable.

The truth is that designing junctions properly for cycling hugely increase the capacity of these junctions in terms of the movement of people, even if capacity for motor traffic is reduced. 

I dug out an old video of mine, shot in Groningen in 2011, just to demonstrate how efficient junctions can actually be.

This is the north-west corner of Vismarkt, right in the centre of the city, at about 5:30pm.

The video is only 3 minutes long, but I managed to count around 350 people passing through this intersection in just that time – probably an underestimate, because the video doesn’t capture people crossing on the arm to the right. This is a rate of 2 people every second, which amounts to at least 7000 movements per hour. All this in a small space, with no need for signalisation, or delay.

By comparison, busy junctions like the Bedford ‘Turbo’ roundabout currently handle 25,000 vehicles over a 24 hour period, as does the roundabout at the northern end of Lambeth Bridge. This junction in Groningen is much, much more efficient at moving people about.

I’m not suggesting that the motor traffic on these roundabouts can, or even should, disappear. The broader point is that shifting people out of their cars and onto bikes would serve to reduce congestion, not increase it – even if that means taking junction capacity away from motoring. But it has to be done properly, so that cycling is a genuine, attractive alternative.


Categories: Views

Eindhoven, nominee for best cycling city

BicycleDutch - 5 March, 2014 - 23:01
Eindhoven is one of the five nominees to become best Cycling City of the Netherlands in 2014. Chosen from a long-list of 19 municipalities, these five municipalities compete to take … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Eindhoven, nominee for best cycling city

BicycleDutch - 5 March, 2014 - 23:01
Eindhoven is one of the five nominees to become best Cycling City of the Netherlands in 2014. Chosen from a long-list of 19 municipalities, these five municipalities compete to take … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Pages

Subscribe to Cycling Embassy of Great Britain aggregator - Views