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Biking to buy: how campaigners in Whitechapel are using the money in their pocket to lobby for change

ibikelondon - 23 October, 2014 - 08:30

There's a sudden glut of cycle schemes on the cards in London, and the stakes couldn't be higher.  We've been monitoring how businesses and residents are rallying behind plans for central London's "Crossrail for Bikes", and yesterday we looked at top tips for campaigning for change in bike-lite outer London.  Today it's the turn of my home borough, Tower Hamlets, where campaigners are having to take a different tack to muster support from their neighbouring community.

When the original Cycle Superhighways were laid out in Boris Johnson's first term as Mayor, not all Cycle Superhighways were made equal.  Some - like CS3 along Cable Street - were very good.  Others - like CS2 along the Whitechapel Road - were very bad.  Stretching from Aldgate to Bow Roundabout it was little more than blue paint splashed across the existing narrow carriageways in most places, with no actual protection for people on bikes.

 The existing CS2 (it's that blue bit under the taxi, by the parked market lorry) Picture by As Easy As Riding a Bike blog, with thanks.
Despite the lack of safety, cycling numbers climbed 32% after the introduction of CS2.  However, a series of shocking and high profile deaths - in particular that of Philippine De Gerin-Ricard at Aldgate and Brian Dorling at Bow roundabout - led to a spate of protest rides and pushes for safety improvements.  A coroner looking in to the deaths of both was particularly damning of the unprotected blue paint, with an expert witness stating that it "lulled cyclists in to a false sense of security."

Responding to criticisms of their previous designs and keen to make the route as safe as possible, Transport for London recently published proposals to upgrade the entire CS2 route from Aldgate to Bow.  At Bow Roundabout the upgrade will connect with the river Lee towpath, the Jubilee Greenway, the Olympic Park and a further stretch of separated Cycle Superhighway (CS2Ex) from Bow to Stratford which looks like this, thus creating an extensive network of connected traffic-free bike routes across the borough.

Transport for London's new plans for the upgraded CS2, seen here passing Whitechapel Market towards the City.
The plans will create some delays for other road users, including bus passengers, described in detail in this useful blog by East London Lines.  Additionally, the new Cycle Superhighway will pass directly past Whitechapel High Street market, the power base of Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman and the focus of many of his supporters.  Traders there are so concerned that restrictions on curb-side loading will damage their businesses that the Mayor has written in very strong terms to Boris Johnson, stating "This proposed design will place delivery vehicles outside the cycle lane, in the bus lane. It will disrupt bus services and bring cumbersome delivery movements involving heavy goods, waste, and pedestrians across the cycle lane, causing frequent obstruction to cyclists."  

But politics also play a part here. Rahman and the Cycling Commissioner for London Andrew Gilligan (who has spearheaded the delivery of these plans) have a long history of animosity between each other.  As a Telegraph journalist Gilligan has described Rahman as "extremist linked" and has even published a 30-item long list of serious accusations against his conduct.  As you can imagine, the idea that Gilligan the commissioner might now be taking out traffic lanes and pushing bike tracks through the heart of Rahman's support base is considered to be more than a little affront.


A "bus stop bypass" under construction on CS2ex in Stratford in 2013.
Local cycle group Tower Hamlets Wheelers, the borough branch of London Cycling Campaign, are keen to extend the olive branch to their neighbours.  Fully aware of the political background to the issue, they want to re-focus attention on the fact that this scheme has been devised to increase safety on a route where 6 cyclists have been killed in recent years.  And they want to show that people on bikes - of which over 2,000 a day currently pass the market by - are also good economic partners for the concerned market traders.

This Saturday they'll be leading a ride from Mile End ecology park bridge to the Whitechapel market to stage a "buy in"; a positive opportunity for cyclists to exercise their purchasing power directly with the traders, to understand some of their concerns, and to show that the market and Cycle Superhighway plans can peacefully exist together.

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Wheelers said: "Bring every possible pannier, saddlebag and basket to fill with your delicious market goodies.  Together, we can show that improving cycling infrastructure can improve local business."


Bikes and people at the centre of economic activity - here at Amsterdam's historic market in the working class De Pijp neighbourhood.
In order to earn all of the proposed changes to streets across London we are going to have to win an awful lot of hearts and minds along the way.  I like the plan to hold a "buy in" to show that, because of the power in our pockets, inviting cyclists in to your neighbourhood can only be a good thing.

Why not join the Wheelers for their ride this Saturday?  

Meet beneath the Mile End green bridge (just south of Mile End tube station) on the 25th October at 11AM before a short ride along the existing CS2 to bustling Whitechapel Market where there will be the opportunity to talk to local traders, buy fresh produce from their stalls and explore this fascinating and bustling corner of diverse London.  Afterwards the ride will roll on to a tea and cake stop.  Full details can be found here.

Can't make the ride?  

Be sure to add your e-support to the plans by responding to the consultation using this easy to use form, and to say "yes" to plans to make Tower Hamlets a 20MPH borough here.

You can check out the full plans for the CS2 upgrade on the TfL website here.

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Why cycle alone, when you can do it together?

BicycleDutch - 22 October, 2014 - 23:01
After all the recent serious posts it is time for a light hearted look at people cycling again. What better place to look for people on their bicycles than the … Continue reading →
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Anniversary of the Modern Copenhagen Cycle Track

Copenhagenize - 22 October, 2014 - 19:15

I made the above graphic back in 2008 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the return of Copenhagen's separated cycle tracks.

Now it's 31 years on, but the anniversary is timeless.

It was in June 1983 that the Copenhagen cycle track returned to Copenhagen. Meaning cycle tracks separated from cars on one side and pedestrians on the other by curbs.

For the record, there were cycle tracks prior to this. Historically, separated cycle tracks criss-crossed Copenhagen but many were removed during the brain fart that was the 50s and 60s where planners decided the car was a good horse to back.


Here are the first bike lanes being marked out back in... 1915.


Here is a cycle track being constructed back in ... 1930.

But the return of the physically-separated cycle track in the modern era is a landmark. The City of Copenhagen made a visonary choice in implementing them. Cycling levels plummeted through the 50s and 60s from a peak in the late 1940s. By the late 60s, the modal share hit 9% after a high of 55%. Due... you guessed it... to infrastructure being removed to make space for cars.

Through the 1970s, the focus returned to the bicycle as a solution to transport problems. In 1983, the foundation was laid - in stone - for a return to rationality. Jens Kramer Mikkelsen, head of the traffic department (and later Lord Mayor) was responsible for the paradigm shift. A shift which continued unabated until today, where 41% of people arriving in the City of Copenhagen at work or education do so on bicycles. Of the citizens of Copenhagen municipality, the number is 55% who cycle every day. Only 12% drive cars.

On June 4, 1983 the Danish Cyclists' Union, at a large bicycle demonstration, gave a "Cyclist Award" to Mikkelsen in the form of a two metre long curb to symbolise the physical separation from traffic.

The cycle track was placed on the bike lane on Amagerbrogade at the corner of Hollænderdybet - just after Amagerboulevard - a sacred shrine for bike culture if anyone wants to start a'pilgrimage-ing.


The photo features the Cyclist Award and the two chaps who made it - stone mason Uffe Mohr [right] and his apprentice Egon Albertsen [left].

Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
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Fighting for "Mini-Hollands" in outer London; 5 things we can learn from Walthamstow

ibikelondon - 22 October, 2014 - 08:30
Recently on ibikelondon we've been focusing on the fight to ensure London's "Crossrail for Bikes" get built.  But these are not the only important plans for London cyclists currently under consideration.  Later in the week we will look at some of the issues surrounding other Cycle Superhighways; today we hear about Walthamstow's "Mini-Holland" proposals, and what the struggle to get them implemented can teach other campaigners.

Walthamstow resident Ruth Standing has been out on the streets trying to drum up support for the proposals to stop rat running through the borough and to create a more inviting environment for pedestrians and cyclists. (For the full bid document, click here)  Here, in a special guest post, Ruth takes us through her experience of 'being the change she wants to see' and helping to set the agenda where she lives:


Taking the online fight to the streets of E17, in 5 simple stages:

Stage 1: Despondency
 
My journey began with a deep sense of despondency. Whatever my mood when I left the house, my daily cycle commute down Lea Bridge Road from Walthamstow to Hackney left me glum. As I dodged opening car doors and speeding drivers with their eyes glued to their mobile phones I wondered how a civilised society could create such an uncivilised transport system. Other cyclists I saw on route looked just as beaten down as me. Worst of all, I saw no political will for change amongst my elected politicians at either a national or local level.
 
Stage 2: A glimmer of hope!

I then heard that Waltham Forest council was bidding for a large chunk of government money to improve cycling infrastructure in Walthamstow. Plans were mooted for a segregated cycle lane down Lea Bridge Road and road closures in Walthamstow Village to prevent rat-running. But I was cynical. 
"I’ll believe it when it happens." And then it did happen! 
The first phase of Walthamstow’s Mini-Holland trial started just over two weeks ago. Orford Road, a narrow traffic choked strip of shops at the heart of the Village was blocked to traffic. And the transformation was incredible. The street filled with bikes, children playing, people hanging out and drinking coffee, actually talking to their neighbours. Seeing a workable alternative before my eyes made me feel well, rather emotional! I felt, for one of the first times in my life, proud of the politicians I had elected to represent me. 

 Day 1 of the trial road closure. Photo via @rosslydall with thanks.

Stage 3: Step away from the computer!

But then came the backlash from residents, annoyed that they could no longer drive exactly where they wanted. Angry petitions began to circulate both the internet and the streets.  This felt like a call to action, but just ranting on twitter to those who already shared my opinions didn’t feel like it would cut it. So I put down my phone and went to hang out on my newly reclaimed local street. Within minutes I met Jakob, a local resident armed with a clip-board and a huge smile, collecting signatures in favour of the scheme. I immediately thought"I want to help you!"
 
Stage 4: Empowerment!

Over the next two weeks I helped Jakob collect over 700 signatures (although he collected many more than me). I talked to more people from my community than I had in the previous 5 years of living in the borough. I felt empowered and buzzing with positivity and my perception of my neighbours began to shift radically. In an atomised car-sick society, you simply don’t meet your neighbours, treating each other with annoyance and suspicion. In my case, my neighbours were those who bullied me on the road whilst I was cycling. But here I was discovering that actually many of them were just like me and shared my despondency about the way our public space was being used.



Orford Rd after the street re-opened after the conclusion of the Mini-Holland trial.  Video via @rosslydall with thanks.
Stage 5: Keeping up the slog!
 
Now the job was to keep going and keep up the fight. We collected more signatures. I contacted our local paper, angry about their negative and biased coverage of the scheme. They agreed to post a short comment piece on their website. It attracted a lot of negative comments from people accusing me of being a naïve ‘newcomer.’  But at least that meant that people had read it. And last Thursday, we went to Waltham Forest Town Hall to present our petition to the Mayor.

All in all, I hope that I’ve made some small difference to the future of my borough.  It sure felt good to step away from the keyboard, stop moaning and do a little bit of local campaigning. I’d recommend it to you all.

A huge thanks to Ruth for sharing her thoughts on campaigning for this trial.  Here's a write up of a visitor's perception to the trial, by Cycling Weekly's Laura Laker.  What tips would you share with fellow campaigners?

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As another Londoner is seriously injured on a bike, how DARE the Canary Wharf group talk of "damage to growth"

ibikelondon - 20 October, 2014 - 08:30
A steady stream of London businesses have been pledging their support for the Mayor's ambitious new Cycle Superhighway plans - from the smallest of start ups to behemoths of the City - one after another they've come forward with comments like "build it", "great for London" and "keep our employees safe".

Last week the Evening Standard revealed the massive support among London residents for keeping our cyclists safe; 64% of those polled support the Cycle Superhighway plans as they currently stand, the majority back building segregated cycle infrastructure even if it means taking road space from other traffic and - perhaps most tellingly -  a massive 71% of those polled (who came from all economic and political backgrounds) NEVER drive in central London.  

"Brave new world", you might think, but when looking around my own office that's a simple reflection of reality.  Our Head of Investment catches the bus to work when he is staying in his London home. Our company cook rides a bike across Vauxhall Bridge every day, and loves talking about cycling with one of our most senior lawyers who has a fleet of gorgeous bicycles at her disposal.  Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Peter Anderson is the Finance Director from Canary Wharf Group.  He's also Chair of Transport for London's finance and policy committee and a member of their board.  On one hand he makes critical decisions about what sort of public transportation infrastructure does - and does not - get built. On the other hand he's one of the most senior employees of a company which has received billions of pounds of direct public support in the shape of transport connections; train lines, road tunnels, Underground routes, Crossrail.  I can remember when Canary Wharf was little more than a destitute shell on London's outskirts.  Now it is a financial powerhouse, employing thousands of people, the majority of whom come and go every day on those very trains and tubes and light railways built with public funds. (Fun fact: the majority of Canary Wharf employees live in inner London, of which only 5% drive or are driven to work - almost the same amount as arrive by bicycle according to this GLA Intelligence report)

 TfL and Canary Wharf Group's Peter Anderson
But being in receipt of billions of pounds of public investment is clearly no cause for humility in the Canary Wharf Group.  Far from it.  Their Chief Exec might tell the newspapers “As a company you have to be a good citizen and do what’s right”, but behind the scenes it seems to be another story altogether...  

The Canarf Wharf Group have admitted (to Guardian journalist Peter Walker) that an anonymous briefing paper against the Cycle Superhighway plans had come from them, and that they had been lobbying against the proposals, even sending a lobbyist stuffed with misinformation to party political conferences.  It clearly had an effect; local MP Jim Fitzpatrick has been spouting some dubious and drip-fed figures in Parliament whilst the Guardian's Dave Hill - usually a voice for cycling - has adopted a "calm down dears" attitude


On Thursday the 16th October Canary Wharf Group told the London Evening Standard "[we] believe that certain elements of the proposed east-west cycle superhighway could be improved to ensure not only that better and safer provision is made for cyclists, but that there is no damage to the growth and day-to-day operation of London."

The following day, Friday the 17th October, the same newspaper reported how a female cyclist went in to cardiac arrest on Ludgate Circus after she and her bicycle were crushed beneath the wheels of a left turning tipper lorry.  Her crash took place just a few metres from the spot where earlier this year another cyclist, Victor Rodriguez, was killed when his bicycle disappeared beneath a truck.  At least 7 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured on this one spot alone since 2008.  


The scene of Friday's crash on Ludgate Circus, Photo via @craigshepheard on Twitter with thanks.
Fourteen London cyclists were killed in 2013, six in a single two-week period alone last November.  Each one had a valuable role to play in our city: from students to eminent Doctors, from hospital porters to famous architects.  It is not just the friends and family of each of these cyclists who notice their loss, but the wider city too.  And on a purely logistical basis, each time one of these terrible tragedies occur the emergency services are scrambled, road crash investigators are roused, the roads on which they take place are closed for many hours.

How DARE the Canary Wharf Group talk about damage to the growth of London, when it is London's own who are being killed in such great numbers on our roads.  How DARE they go about briefing against these plans, seemingly more concerned about the speed of a handful of car trips vs the safety of people on bikes, when the very people who drive our city forwards are being killed on its streets. The suggestion that cyclists are somehow detrimental as oppose to central to London's economic success is a fallacy.

Olympic champion Chris Boardman described those who are briefing against these plans as "old men in limos".  But I know that the sort of people who are driven around London are fond of hard figures, not existential ideas about road justice. 
So here's some hard figures...
The two new Cycle Superhighways will carry 6,000 people on bikes every hour: that's the same as 20 Underground trains or 84 new London buses.  They will cost about the same as 0.0002% of the colossal budget allocated to build Crossrail.  They have the support of the majority of Londoners according to the latest polls, and the support of hundreds of businesses - including Deloitte, Unilever and Argent - companies hardly in the habit of being breathless about aspirational cycling projects.  600,000 journeys take place in London every day by bicycle, or 22% of the amount of journeys conducted by Tube.  This is against a backdrop of decreasing car use in central London.  In Westminster, where Mr Anderson lives, traffic volumes have fallen by approximately 25% since 2000 according to the Department for Transport.  

Assuming that something odd happens and traffic volumes don't continue to fall, and taking in to account the impact of all other proposed road schemes, and assuming that the new cycle routes will not lead to people changing their travel habits and traffic evaporation occurring, once built the average journey time in a car from the City to Whitehall will increase by a negligible 19 seconds. 

In short, bicycle transport in our city is now a big deal, a good thing, and it is not going to go away.  It's time we started to keep all of those cyclists - all of those Londoners - safe, rather than pushing for faster journey times for company directors in chauffeur driven cars.


Decline in motor traffic on major roads in Westminster '00 - '13
And here's another fact that is worth pointing out: the north / south Cycle Superhighway currently being proposed crosses the exact spot on Ludgate Hill where the cyclist was crushed on Friday and where another cyclist was killed in April.  If these plans which the Canary Wharf Group are briefing against do go ahead, cyclists will be separated in space and time at this junction from other traffic.  That is to say, there is a possibility to make safe a known problem junction where people on bikes being killed or seriously injured has become an alarming statistical probability.  Why would anyone want to brief against that?

I agree with Danny Williams at Cyclists in the City blog.  It is imperative that Peter Anderson from Canary Wharf Group has nothing to do with the funding decision for the Cycle Superhighway plans at the finance committee in November.  Furthermore, if he is to retain his positions at Transport for London he must declare his interests and disclose exactly the extent of the Canary Wharf Group's lobbying to their tenants, to journalists, to business groups and to politicians at party conferences against the Cycle Superhighway plans.

The sort of people who rise to become Financial Directors at companies like the Canary Wharf Group have an intrinsic understanding of how gambling works.  In this instance, they've played their hand, but I think they've lost.  It's time they threw in their cards.
  • For more facts on the Cycle Superhighways and their likely impact, The Guardian have churned the data to bring us this Reality Check: will Crossrail for bikes bring gridlock to central London?  
  • To find out more about the businesses pledging their support for the Cycle Superhighway plans visit CyclingWorks.London
  • To make your own contribution to the Transport for London consultation (every voice counts!) visit the proposal's designated page here.

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Perne Road – what’s gone wrong, and what could have been done instead?

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 20 October, 2014 - 00:55

A bit of a follow-up to last week’s post about the Perne Road roundabout, looking at the potential issues, and what could have been done instead.

This roundabout has now hit the headlines because a child has been injured while cycling on the roundabout, on Wednesday evening. I don’t think it’s massively helpful to leap to conclusions on the basis of one incident, but it’s certainly worth looking at the general design flaws with this roundabout, and the alternative ways in which it could have been designed.

For me, the central problem is that cycling has not being designed for explicitly. Instead, it has been bodged into pedestrian-specific design, and into motor vehicle-specific design, simultaneously. Almost all the potential issues flow from this failure. The roundabout design expects people on bikes to behave like pedestrians, or like cars; something genuine Dutch design would never do.

For a start, the ‘shared use’ paths around the edge are quite obviously footways, on which it is permissible to cycle. They are not cycle tracks, with clearly defined routes. The result is cycling in a pedestrian-specific environment, and this, coupled with a lack of clarity, presents a number of problems.

With ‘shared footways’, drivers will have less certainty over where a cyclist might be heading. Take the scenario below, with the path of a cyclist represented by the blue arrow.

Where is that cyclist going? Across the crossing? Or away from the crossing, along the road?

The driver doesn’t know if the cyclist is, or isn’t, going to use the crossing. The cyclist is travelling across an expanse of tarmac, and their intentions aren’t clear. The driver may assume wrongly.

Contrast this with a Dutch roundabout (in Assen) -

It’s much more obvious to drivers, at an earlier stage, where cyclists are heading, and they can respond accordingly. (Note that on this roundabout, cyclists don’t have priority.)

And the same is true from the perspective of people cycling. They have more time to assess which direction a driver is taking – staying on the roundabout, or leaving it – and therefore will have more opportunities to cross, more safely. Again, this is without cycle priority -

The Cambridge roundabout does not have this cycle-friendly feature. Because the crossing points are not set back any distance from the roundabout, there’s little time in which to assess which way drivers might be heading. In many instances, it may be too ambiguous to take a chance.

Placing the (pedestrian) crossings at these locations close to the roundabout also means they are blocked by drivers queueing to enter the roundabout, rather than left clear, as on a Dutch roundabout, by setting the crossing points back from the perimeter.

Funnily enough, although I’ve criticised the Poynton scheme, this ‘setting back’ of the crossings has been done correctly there, approximately one car length back from the ’roundabouts’.

 

 

This means people can cross behind stationary vehicles, rather than trying to cross in front of a vehicle that might be about to jump into the roundabout.

This ‘set back’ design approach also allows drivers to deal with crossing cyclists/pedestrians, and entering/exiting the roundabout, in two separate stages.

To compound these issues of uncertainly about where people are going, drivers have to contend with people cycling on the road, and on the footway, simultaneously, as they enter and exit the roundabout, rather than dealing with cyclists at one clear crossing point, on defined paths. This is a point John Stevenson makes here -

Drivers don’t know where cyclists are going to be. Because cyclists can either use the main carriageway or the shared-use, off-carriageway paths, drivers are expected to look for cyclists in a number of places at each arm of the roundabout, instead of just one.

Unnecessary complication has been added by putting people cycling on two different forms of route across the roundabout.

Another issue John identifies – having visited the site – is that a shared-use footway, by definition, involves mixing up pedestrians and cyclists together, rather than separating them, and that can be an uncomfortable experience for pedestrians, particularly in areas with high levels of footway cycling. Again, this problem is not one that should have been created.

What effect might the narrowed carriageway might have on people who continue to cycle on it? John thinks it might make collisions more likely, as people cycling will be closer to motor vehicles (and there also might be a temptation to squeeze through). That said, the geometry has been tightened, which should lead to lower vehicle speeds – so the collisions would probably on balance be less serious. Swings and roundabouts, although it is obviously far too early to make definitive judgements. In any case, a roundabout with this volume of motor traffic shouldn’t – in principle – be designed with the expectation people will be cycling on the carriageway.

Finally, there has been an awful lot of discussion about whether or not a genuine Dutch-inspired roundabout design would offer cyclists priority over motor traffic, or not. To me, that’s not a particularly pressing issue, compared to the overall design problems set out here. A Dutch roundabout with priority would look very similar to a Dutch roundabout without priority. Cyclists would have clear routes, separated from pedestrians – routes which would make it obvious to drivers what they are doing. Likewise the paths that drivers are taking would be clear, and the roundabout would be designed to maximise crossing opportunity. This roundabout achieves none of those outcomes.

My personal inclination – and I’ve been persuaded on this point – is not to offer cyclists priority, for the main reason that it is safer (remember, this is an entirely new kind of treatment for British drivers), and also because the loss of convenience is marginal, if the roundabout is designed properly. We should remember that no Dutch roundabout offered Dutch cyclists priority, at all, until the 1990s, by law. It was only for reasons of convenience – not safety – that his law was changed, and priority was switched in urban areas.

Priorities can be changed easily – bad design can’t.


Categories: Views

Sustainable city logistics in ʼs-Hertogenbosch

BicycleDutch - 19 October, 2014 - 23:01
Every year the proud 140,000 inhabitants of ʼs-Hertogenbosch (aka Den Bosch) welcome around 5 million visitors. Every week 5,000 lorries and vans enter the city centre to get all the … Continue reading →
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While focus is on the Mayor's Superhighways, Camden plans to double its length of segregated track

Vole O'Speed - 19 October, 2014 - 21:35
I wrote a post about two years ago entitled While Boris so far fails to 'Go Dutch', Camden quietly gets on with it. This is something of a 'second round' of that. Today, there is somewhat more sign of Boris Johnson trying to make a permanent mark on London before his mayoral term ends in May 2016 by building some good-quality cycle routes. Though what he will have achieved still looks likely to fall well short of the commitments he made before the 2012 election in response to London Cycling Campaign's Love London, Go Dutch campaign, in particular, he will not have completed the Cycle Superhighway programme to an adequate 'Dutch' standard on all its routes (nowhere near, in fact), the plans for the East-West and North-South superhighways are a substantial advance and have generally been welcomed by campaigners, business, the public and the media, while plans for Cycle Superhighway 5 in south-west London and the long-demanded upgrade to Cycle Superhighway 2 in east London look pretty good as well.

I'm planning to make a more general assessment of where the Mayor's Cycling Vision has got to, 18 months after it was announced, in another post, although attempts to write that keep getting overtaken by relevant events. However, I will to draw your attention here to the fact that, as coverage has been concentrated on the plans above, the Borough of Camden, pioneers of the on-street segregated or semi-segregated cycle track in London, have been continuing to 'get on with it' in a manner that, though it is not above criticism, must be said is not being replicated by any other borough.

When the rebuild of the Royal College Street cycle track was announced in 2012, replacing the two-way track on one side of the street, which had had an intractable collision problem at two junctions, with two two-way tracks, I supported the scheme because it was linked to a commitment to extend the track northwards to Kentish Town Road, making it go from 'somewhere to somewhere', to adapt the words of Jon Snow when he opened the track in 2000. Since then, this has developed into a plan to extend the route southwards as well, down Pancras Road and Midland road, forming a more main road and direct alternative route to the Kings Cross area than the existing back-strteet Somers Town Route (one of the oldest cycle routes in London, dating from Ken Livingstone's GLC era, before 1986).

The consultation on the northern extension closed earlier this month, and the response from Camden Cycling Campaign can be seen here. The gist of the scheme is that Royal College street will become two-way for bikes all the way, the bike space generally protected by rubber armadillos, and in places by car parking on the east side as well. The cycle tracks bypass bus stops and loading bays on the inside. The southbound approach to the Camden Road junction is not protected, and this is a concern, though the northbound is protected.

The southern extension to the route is now being consulted on. The consultation runs to 14 november, and I encourage people to respond. This will be an enormously important pice of infrastructure, linking residential areas in Camden with the big employment growth areas around Kings Cross and St Pancras, with the new Google headquarters, the Francis Crick Institute opening in 2015, and much else. Argent, the developers of Kings Cross Central, say that their site will eventually be home to some 30,000 office workers, 5,000 students and 7,000 residents. It looks as if, at last, we have some cycle route planning in London that is coming at exactly the right time. This route will link southwards into the existing east-west Seven Stations Link segregated cycle route across Bloomsbury   (which itself needs major improvement of course, to cope with the high number of cyclists it already attracts), and that will link to the Mayor's North-South Superhighway at Clerkenwell. We will have the beginnings of a functioning, continuous segregated or semi-segregated network on the streets of central and north London.

It is of credit to officers at Camden that they are conceiving part of this Royal College Street route extension also as the beginning of an east-west route across Camden Town. Ultimately this should run along Crowndale Road to Oakley Square and Hampstead Road. It is not too much of a stretch to suggest that the stage after that should be the construction cycle tracks on Hampstead Road to connect with Tottenham Court Road. This is consistent with the overall Central London Cycle Grid plan.

The part of the Pancras Road plan that would also form the beginnings of the East-West Camden Town route. I would oppose the advance stop areas, which suggest confused thinking about where cyclists should be on the road. I also think it would be better if the north/west-bound route was on Goldington Crescent, merged with the Somers Town Route, approaching Royal College street via the existing bicycle signals.More southerly section of Pancras Road scheme. The bus stop bypass looks a bit substandard, and having been set back behind the stop, the cycle track would be better continuing its setback across the Chenies Place junction.The overall network is being developed in stages, and the current consultation goes down south to the Pancras Road / Midland road junction (the tunnel under the railway lines). This junction was consulted on in August, along with a plan for a 2m wide kerb-segregated cycle track on Midland Road northbound (in the contraflow direction), from Brill Place. This plan showed southbound cycling on Midland Road with taxis segregated to the left (there are lots of these serving St Pancras) but only a painted advisory cycle lane separating cyclists from the general (heavy) traffic flow. The Camden Cycling Campaign response called rightly for this design to be improved.

Curious proposal for Midland Road: the caption misleadingly suggests there are 'kerb segregated cycle lanes' on both sides, but the two sides are actually the opposite of one another. Also the central cycle lane on Pancras Road (section under the bridge) is a poor solution. (North is to the left)The plans for Pancras Road, currently being consulted on, are for armadillo-separated lanes on both sides, which will be 2m wide for most of their length (actually 2.5m wide for 105m, 2m wide for 375m, 1.5–2m wide for 34m, and 1.5m wide for 30m). There is no parking on this stretch, but there will be bypasses for the bus stops.

The existing Royal College Street cycle tracks seem to be popular and working well, except that the planters have in many cases been bashed out of shape by motor vehicles colliding with them. Camden are looking to find out specifically why this occurs. There are no planters planned in the future schemes. Camden quote, from their surveys, a doubling of cycle traffic on Royal College Street since the rebuild of last year.

If all goes well, by the end of this year Camden should have almost doubled its length of segregated or semi-segregated cycle track compared to 2012, and that means they will have increased the total length of on-street cycle track in London by a considerable fraction, as the other boroughs have little. This is being done for very small sums of money compared to what will be absorbed by the Superhighways – hundreds of thousands of pounds rather than millions. It will be paid for out of the TfL's Quietways funding for the Central London Grid.

Whatever detailed comments and criticisms of Camden's current plans may be made, and I am making a few as you can see, and whether the schemes meet the optimum Go Dutch standard, which they probably do not, it needs to be strongly noted that of all the boroughs involved in the Central London Grid, Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Camden, Islington, Hackney, Lambeth Southwark and the City, only Camden is making clear and rapid progress towards realising its section of the Grid to any useful standard at all, genuinely planning for broad-demographic 'eight to eighty' cycling on a grid of major and semi-major roads. For this, Camden councillors and officers deserve credit. I urge you to write in support of the Pancras Road scheme.

TfL's indicative map of Central London Cycle Grid routes, Camden section
Categories: Views

Our streets are too narrow for cycle paths

A View from the Cycle Path - 18 October, 2014 - 11:56
I've lost count of how often people have tried to convince me that their city's streets are too narrow to have cycling infrastructure. The three words "not enough space" are repeated as if they are a mantra. It is often genuinely believed that Dutch towns were built with wider streets and that there is therefore more space here than in other countries. Of course, that's not true at all. If you David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/10/our-streets-are-too-narrow-for-cycle.html
Categories: Views

The Perne Road roundabout design

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 17 October, 2014 - 12:30

The Perne Road/Radegund Road roundabout in Cambridge reopened recently – it’s been redesigned with ‘continental’ geometry, and wide shared use paths around the perimeter. This picture from Chris Rand gives you an impression of how it looks (and some of the potential issues).

Picture from CherryHintonBlu

This redesign was at a cost of £413,000 – £240,000 from the DfT’s ‘Cycle Safety Fund’, £70,000 from the European Bike Friendy Cities Project, and the remainder from Cambridgeshire/Cambridge City Council’s cycling budget.

I’ve been struck by some of the comments from the designer – Alasdair Massie – which can be found here. I’m going to analyse these, in turn.

The geometry is taken from Dutch guidance, although you will see some differences from the classic “Dutch” roundabout. Most significantly there is no segregated cycle track around the perimeter. This was a deliberate decision. We could have provided one, there is sufficient space if other elements were adjusted, but there is no off-carriageway infrastructure to link into and no prospect of providing any in the foreseeable future. [my emphasis]

Here it is stated that the decision not to provide cycle specific provision, away from the carriageway, around this roundabout is deliberate - it could have been provided, but because there isn’t any infrastructure to link to it, there apparently isn’t any point.

I find this slightly boggling. It implies that segregated infrastructure can only ever join up with existing bits of segregated infrastructure, which has slightly disturbing implications for a country that has next to no existing segregated infrastructure.

It’s also, well, complete rubbish. Segregated infrastructure can, and does. join up smoothly with other bits of cycle provision that doesn’t involve separation. Cycle provision in the Netherlands is not made up entirely of segregated provision - it’s made up of a variety of treatments, all of which smoothly transition from one to another, as you cycle along.

So a moment’s reflection shows this kind of assertion to be baseless.

In addition, these kinds of transitions in the Netherlands frequently occur at these kinds of situations. There might be a cycle lane – or even no provision at all – on a link approaching a roundabout, or junction, which then transitions to segregated provision, at the conflict points.

Cycle lanes in Gouda, that become protected tracks, on the approach to a large junction.

In fact, this kind of arrangement is very, very common, because designing proper separation at junctions is a priority. I’ve frequently been struck by how fairly crap Dutch roads still manage to prioritise physical separation at junctions, because that’s where it is most important. You’ll see it in rural areas too.

Roundabout in Genderen, showing transition from on-carriageway lanes, to physical protection at the roundabout

So this explanation doesn’t really stack up. Next -

There is a significant amount of pavement cycling at certain times of day, principally by school children. One of our aims was to make it safer for people to cross the roundabout using thefootways, without actively encouraging footway cycling. We also wanted to make it easier to cross on foot, as the previous arrangement involved a 60m detour via a Pelican Crossing, with guardrails to prevent jay walking.

‘A significant amount of pavement’ cycling suggests that on-carriageway traffic levels are too high for people to happily share the carriageway. A proper response would surely involve designing explicitly for these people, creating the segregated provision that it is acknowledged would fit here. Indeed, this has been demonstrated visually.

Image created by Kieran Perkins

There are issues with motor vehicle access to the properties to the north east of the roundabout (not insurmountable – it would be relatively easy to provide motor access along, or across, the cycle tracks) and whether the Dutch would provide this kind of design with or without cycle priority across the arms. In either case – no priority, or priority – there would be separation from pedestrians, and clear routes through the junction. The motor traffic levels of around 20,000 vehicles/day (as discussed below) would, under Dutch guidance, still allow priority to be provided (the threshold is 25,000 PCU/day – p.246 Diagram 43).

But instead of creating this high-quality provision, the intention is apparently to make it easier for people to cycle on footways, ‘without actively encouraging’ it. Something of a contradiction.

I designed the work and I cycle across it every day on my way to work. I have to say that I am very pleased with the outcome. The traffic flows more smoothly and calmly; it is much easier to break in and out of the flow on a bike, and having watched Coleridge College empty out on Wednesday afternoon, the off-road provision works fine.

Translation – I’m happy cycling on the roundabout; it works for me. And there’s a footway people can cycle on, for those people who don’t want to mix it with traffic.

There are then some follow-up comments from the designer. Among these is a repeat of the earlier argument that segregation won’t work, because there is no segregation on the approaches.

There are no segregated cycle tracks on the streets leading to the junction, no prospect of any being provided in the foreseeable future. Where roadside cycle tracks exist elsewhere in urban Cambridge they are problematic and unpopular with many people. We used to call the abuse suffered by on-road cyclists the “Milton Rd effect” after a particular roadside cycle track. Where isolated cycle tracks exist at junctions they give drivers an excuse to harass and abuse those people who choose not to suffer the danger, delays and inconvenience of using them –I speak with personal experience.

Creating an isolated, segregated cycle track here would have been detrimental to the design in many ways. I would not have recommended it at THIS junction even if the funds were available.

I’ve already examined why this ‘lack of continuity of segregation’ argument is bogus. Another argument appears here, however – that ‘isolated cycle tracks’ at junctions create harassment from drivers for those people ‘closing not to suffer the danger, delays and inconvenience of using them’.

Note – this argument is coming from someone who has just designed in off-carriageway provision on this very roundabout, that he himself chooses not to use! It’s extraordinary hypocrisy. Surely you should build off-carriageway provision that you yourself would choose to use, before you start complaining about its effect?

However, this follow-up comment is more revealing, in that it shows what I think is the actual motivation for the design.

I have to say that I have been a little taken aback by the venom with which some in the twittersphere have attacked this design. As far as I can understand the anger is ideologically based – we did not  provide a segregated peripheral cycle track and so some people hate it on principle.

I am not sure at what stage we abandoned the Hierarchy of Measures in LTN 02/08, but this is NOT a junction where I believe that a segregated cycle track around the outside is either necessary or appropriate. Ours is a TOP of hierarchy solution – it reduces traffic speed, it addresses junction danger, it does so by changing the geometry from the wide, flared, tangential British roundabout geometry to a tight, radial arrangement typically used in the Netherlands.

The absence of a separate cycle track is not due to an oversight, a misunderstanding or due to a lack of funds – although funding would have stopped this project in its tracks, if people had insisted on all or nothing. It was a deliberate design decision, because this was the most appropriate solution for the junction. [my emphasis, again]

Now, I think the Hierarchy of Provision (or Hierarchy of Measures) is a woeful piece of guidance, precisely because it can lead to bodged outcomes like this. To see it being used to justify this kind of design says it all. It’s so open to (mis)interpretation it needs to be jettisoned, and I’m glad to see a growing consensus on this.

Indeed, this is a textbook example of how the Hierarchy of Provision can be misused. For a start – the top measure in the Hierarchy of Provision in LTN 2/08 is actually to reduce motor traffic volume, not ‘speed’. This hasn’t been addressed at this roundabout.

The Hierarchy of Provision, from LTN 2/08

In fact, a roundabout with this kind of layout would actually be appropriate, if the Hierarchy of Provision was properly applied, and motor traffic levels were actually reduced to 6000 or so motor vehicles per day, which is what the CROW manual recommends as the maximum volume for ‘mixed traffic’ (cyclists and motor vehicles sharing the carriageway) on a continental geometry roundabout. With that level of motor traffic, a roundabout designed like this could properly accommodate cycling on the carriageway, for everyone.

But the designer hasn’t done this – he’s employed the Hierarchy of Provision ‘pick and mix’, picking out elements from it like speed reduction, junction layout changes, and off-carriageway provision, blending them all up, and then claiming that the outcome is a ‘top of the hierarchy solution.’ Which is just meaningless guff, because

  • the actual top measure – motor traffic reduction hasn’t been applied
  • the bottom measure – shared use – has been applied, and forms a major part of this design.

How on earth does that amount to a ‘top of the hierarchy solution’?

There is then the belligerent insistence that not providing a cycle track is actually ‘the most appropriate solution for the junction’ – apparently in defiance of the fact that significant volumes of motor traffic will still be flowing across it.

There are DfT counts for Perne Road (which runs N-S across the roundabout) – these figures show around 13,000 motor vehicles per day flow along this road. I can’t find figures for an E-W direction, which looks quieter, but this figure of 13,000 vehicles per day corresponds with a quoted figure from Martin Lucas-Smith of 20,000 vehicles using the roundabout, every day (in the comments here).

So this is a busy roundabout, one that – if we really care about making cycling an attractive transport option for anyone – certainly shouldn’t involve people cycling on the carriageway. As already mentioned, it far exceeds the Dutch threshold for ‘mixed traffic’ (i.e. integrating cyclists and motor vehicles) on roundabouts, of 6000 PCU/day (Diagram 42 of the CROW manual, page 246).

I cannot understand how – in this context of continuing high levels of motor traffic – expecting people to share is ‘the most appropriate solution’, especially when the design itself acknowledges that many people don’t want to do this.


Categories: Views

Harleden's regressive town centre 'regeneration'

Vole O'Speed - 17 October, 2014 - 01:30
Thursday was the day, if you lived in Harlesden (which I do not). It was the day the Harlesden Town Centre regeneration scheme, four years in the planning, more years than that in the discussion, came to some sort of conclusion, with the new traffic system being 'switched on'. However, a final element of the new street design, the partially pedestrianised Harlesden High Street, will take another month before it opens for business.

In case you don't know it, Harlesden is on the southern edge of the borough of Brent in north-west London, on the boundary between Inner and Outer London, but only three miles from the West End. It is highly multicultural, residential, but on the edge of large industrial areas, rather scruffy, and mostly notable for having a major rail interchange, Willesden Junction, which, curiously, is not in Willesden, but Harlesden. This area has always been a blockage to cycling, consisting of a large gyratory system that interrupts the continuity of the A404 Harrow Road, which is a major cycling desire line, as it has, further west, really the only safely cycleable crossing of the North Circular Road for miles. As a cyclist the gyratory tends to push you a long way off your desire line and mix you with a lot of lorries and buses in constricted spaces. It is also an area where the streets all crazily seem to lead off in directions different to what you expect initially, if you are not very familiar with it, as if the road grid got knotted up by unknown geological processes at some time in the distant past. The impenetrability of the area is increased by the severance caused by the extensive railway wastelands attached to the West Coast Main line just to the south, and the Grand Union Canal corridor. Harlesden High Street is part of this hard-to-comprehend gyratory system, and has always been a merry, chaotic, somewhat down-at-heel mess.

A great play has been made of the new street layout and design having been selected by, or designed by, the local residents and businesses, in the form of the Harlesden Town Team. A study of the area was commissioned by  Brent Council and Transport for London in 2010, produced glossily by a firm called Urban Design Skills, on behalf of the council and the Town Team. I have it here. It is signed (in print) by all the members of the Harlesden Town Team, and contains the usual consultants' guff about 'vision', 'renaissance', 'pillars' ,'themes' , 'gateways', 'public realm project areas', etc. I am not sure how much it all cost, but I recall a figure of £2 million just for the studies and preparatory work, from a previous Brent Local Implementation Plan.

And, the result of all this is they are replacing a confusing gyratory system whose design never made any concession to those who wish to travel by bike with... another one. With semi 'shared space' style paving in places. And lots of bollards. And narrower carriageways, that will either squash cyclists into the gutter, with dangerous overtakes by wide, heavy vehicles, cause intimidation if cyclists decide to 'take the lane', or block their progress entirely if traffic is queued up, and force them on to the pavements.


The 'star feature' of the Harlesden scheme is the partial pedestrianisation of the High Street, with no motor vehicles allowed except for loading and buses. Cycles will be allowed, but they will not be excepted from the one-way used by the buses. So north-west bound cyclists will be able to cycle in a relatively traffic-free environment, briefly, on the High Street, before joining the merry rat-run between rows of parked cars in Craven Park Road. Going the other way, they will have to throw themselves round the gyratory system, via again narrow corridors parked-up on both sides, which I expect to have just as much of a hostile rat-run character as they do now, full of buses and heavy goods vehicles. There are no exceptions to the one-ways for cyclists in this new system, and there are also numerous minor streets off the main roads, not shown here, that are one-way. Two narrow residential roads, Tavistock Road and Crownhill Road (the two one-way 'verticals' in the diagram above) are intrinsic parts of the new gyratory system for cars. I expect there to be widespread infringement of the design by cyclists, for their own safety: either going the wrong way down one-way streets, or cycling on the pavements.

I took some photos of the nearly-completed streetscape of Craven Park Road, effectively the wider,  northern part of the High Street, in August.




The scheme is not finished in these photos, but you can see where the kerb lines will be, the general style of it, and also the very large amount of car parking built into the streetscape. I fear the pious hopes of a renaissance of this town centre on the back of this rebuild will come to very little. The system overall certainly does not create a set of streets where parents would be happy allowing their children to cycle. It seems that such a possibility never entered the heads of those designing it.

For the Harlesden Town Centre scheme in the light of today looks like an astonishingly regressive piece of urban planning. With the Mayor of London proposing wide, segregated cycle tracks on main roads in central London, and the neighbouring Borough of Camden putting in cycling exceptions to most of its minor one-way streets, or building contraflow and with-flow semi-segregated tracks to keep cyclists safe on its gyratory systems, here we have a massive, expensive rebuild of a town centre only a couple of miles west that focuses on providing space to park cars, provides unnecessary wide pavements that will themselves almost certainly get parked on as well (because of the low kerbs), and makes no concession to transport cycling on a major commuting desire line except for a few token advanced stop lines at junctions.

I don't blame the members of the Harlesden Town Team for this. They are no doubt good people within their fields of expertise, but they are not urban planners or traffic engineers, let alone experts in sustainable transport. Not having been involved in the process myself, I can only surmise that what happened was that they were given various options by Brent's planners, or by the consultants, all of which would have been rubbish for cycling, and they just chose one. Which we have now got.

Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor's Cycling Commissioner, did keep warning us, after the launch of The Mayor's Cycling Vision in March 2013, that there would be lots of old-style traffic schemes continuing to come through the planning system on London's main roads, and continuing to get built, even though they were completely inimical to the Cycling Vision. He said he couldn't prevent that, that it takes a long time to turn a supertanker around. One of those schemes was clearly this one.

I criticised the Borough of Camden, in previous posts, for their West End Project, still under discussion, in which they have been seeking to undo a gyratory system (Tottenham Court Road, Gower Street and Bloomsbury Street) merely because it is fashionable to think that doing so will somehow make the streets automatically better for walking and cycling, but without putting in first-class cycling provision, which I thought the Cycling Vision had promised us on these streets. However, perhaps Brent deserves even more criticism for not following fashion, in this case, and leaving a bad old gyratory system perfectly intact, after spending a great deal of TfL's money on it, providing zero meaningful cycle facilities, and creating the farcical situation of one-way cycling in a near-pedestrianised high street. It's just clueless.

What I think they should have done in Harlesden is actually rather on the lines of what Camden are proposing for their West End gyratory (and for which, paradoxically, I have criticised Camden). They should have made Manor Park Road two-way, and put all the general traffic on the A404 corridor down that, reducing the parking to one side to make it wide enough for the job. Then Harlesden High Street and Craven Park Road could have been the two-way bus and cycle route (allowing deliveries also at certain times) with wide pavements, done in a fully shared-space style. Alternatively there could have been cycle lanes on the wider parts of Craven Park Road, but this is not Tottenham Court Road, the concentration of buses is far lower, and I think a shared space street, without cars, would have been fine, and it would have looked far nicer, and have been a far more pleasant and safe environment than what we are going to get. This could have formed a 'ready-made' section of a Cycle Superhighway along the A404, so badly needed with the complete neglect of north-west London by the Superhighways programme so far.

For sooner or later we are going to need the A404 Harrow Road converted into a decent cycling highway, and all this work that has been done will have to be changed again.

When I was taking the photos in August, a big black lady, I surmise a shopkeeper, came of of a shop. The conversation went like this:
"What are you taking photos of?"  "The street."  "Why?" "Because I am interested in street design."  "This is the worst designed street in London"  "Do you think it will be better or worse after these changes?" "Much worse. They should have left it how it was."I think they should not have left it how it was. They were right to try and change it. But, in the end, streets should be redesigned by people who know what they are doing, and who genuinely take the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and bus passengers into account, in that order, as well as the need for a flow of general through traffic on a main artery, and the need for some car parking. The dangers with the "DIY streets" idea are that groups can get excluded from the decision-making (as in this case cyclists clearly were), and that more strategic interests bearing on local streets are not taken into account (for example their place on the city-wide cycle network). In any case, the results can only be as good as the expert advice being given to the community supposedly taking the decisions, and that often leaves a lot to be desired.
Categories: Views

Aspiring to explore how we might do something, with other people doing it

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 16 October, 2014 - 12:23

Great historical speeches on matters of ambition, put through the Department for Transport Cycle Funding Filter™.

Reagan’s ‘Tear down this wall!’ speech –

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalisation,  Mr. Gorbachev, aspire to explore ways of working together with other parties to develop a strategy for tearing down this wall!”

John F Kennedy’s ‘Moon’ speech –

“Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. And that’s why my aspiration is to explore ways of potentially getting the funding together by the end of this decade, working with other countries.”

(More suggestions gratefully welcomed)


Categories: Views

Why are we waiting? Protest for longer green times

BicycleDutch - 15 October, 2014 - 23:01
A little over a week ago, there was a protest for longer green times of the cycling traffic lights in Utrecht. The local chapter of the Cyclists’ Union (Fietsersbond) and … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Nantes: A City Getting it Right

Copenhagenize - 14 October, 2014 - 09:58


A French translation of this article follows the English text.

The city of Nantes in France will host the global bicycle conference Velo-City in June 2015. Before showing up, Copenhagenize Design Company decided to do a scouting tour.

Nantes and its 600,000 inhabitants - including the immediate suburbs - is one of the French cities that decided to implement an ambitious cycling policy. They dared to innovate and to make strong political decisions. We find that inspiring.

To begin with, watch the Velo-City 2015 promotional clip. In this video, Nantes demonstrates that they understand that creating a bicycle-friendly city is not just about building infrastructure but it's most of all about developing a life-sized city where bicycles are merely one of the tools to create an active, creative and liveable city - albeit one of the most important tools. Nantes presents in the video its inhabitants, its urban spaces and its activities.

We have to admit that we have been impressed by the diversity of features included in the bicycle policy. Far from being only focused on building infrastructure, Nantes expands the initiatives to include everything that can support rebuilding a bike-friendly city; services for cyclists; parking; a bike share programme; long and short term rental bikes; collaboration with the local associations, etc.



The implementation of their policy has been a success if you consider the fact that the number of cyclists has increased and the modal share rose from 2% to 4.5% between 2008 and 2012 (5.3% in the city-centre). Most importantly, the bicycle users in the city are largely Citizen Cyclists and not hard-core "avid cyclists" dressed in racing gear.

First step - Reducing the Number of Parasites
During rush hour, many streets are still highly congested but when it comes to traffic regulation within the city-centre, Nantes has made a crucial decision: the through traffic has been completely removed from the heart of the city thanks to the creation of a Limited Traffic Area.

The main boulevard running through the city is now only accessible to bicycles, public transport and authorised vehicles (taxis, delivery trucks, shopkeepers), meaning that most cars and motorcycles are no longer welcome. On this boulevard, just like on a pedestal, cyclists ride a 4 meter wide cycle track, slightly elevated. Even if we can criticise the fact that the cycle track is very different from the others (bi-directional, in the middle of the street, elevated), we notice that the Municipality has decided to showcase to the inhabitants that the cyclists are very welcome in Nantes - and prioritized. In addition, the city continues transforming symbolic car-centric places into pedestrian areas (such as the Royale square and the Graslin square). Nantes is Copenhagenizing and modernising itself.



Building Several Kilometres of Bicycle Infrastructure
In addition to their wider focus, Nantes has, bien sur, built numerous kilometres of separated bike lanes. The colour chosen for the bike lanes is a very light orange. At the intersections, this colour communicates clearly that the space is dedicated to cyclists and orange stripes along the lanes strenghten this communication in some areas.

But let's look at the infrasturcture in detail because it is the backbone of any cycling city. The lanes are wide enough to host the current number of cyclists (3 meters wide for the bi-directional lanes). But when the modal share will really increase, will it be sufficient to cope with the user's flow and capacity? Is the infrastructure capable of evolving and expanding? We're not sure.

 



 

A Clear Strategy Can Still Suffer from Drawbacks
We must mention that one clear drawback and that is a lack of homogeneity in the bicycle network. The diversity the design of the infrastruture is such that without a strong knowledge of the city, you can easily lose track of the network. For instance, bicycle lanes are randomly designed. They are in the middle of the street, on the right of car traffic, on the right or left of the tram, shared with buses or pedestrians suddenly for a few metres, first monodirectional then bidirectional. It's a guessing game at times.


Despite the consistency of the orange colour and the creation of two main routes - north-south and east-west- the network remains very complex and not at all intuitive. It makes it quite difficult to get a clear mind map of the bike route you’ll be riding. Moreover, the bi-directional bike lanes already show some limits as this infrastructure is too narrow to host the cyclists at the intersections during rush hour.

The physical complexity of the bike infrastructure has two main impacts. First, the speed of the cyclists is reduced, which turns cycling into a less competitive solution compared to other means of transport (12 km/h in Nantes vs. 15,5 in Copenhagen and 20 km/h on the “Green Wave Routes”). We know for a fact that a bicycle user wants to ride from A to B as quick as possible.


Secondly, the difficulty to visualise a clear cycling itinerary can become a serious deterrent to getting new cyclists onto the infrastructure. This might challenge the ambition of the city to increase the modal share. Can Nantes really reach their declared target of 15% model share for cyclists without making cycling the most practical and easiest choice? Not likely, as it is now.

This challenge is common in many French cities that, on the one hand, develop ambitious cycling networks but, on the other hand, make them too inconsistent when it comes to the type of infrastructure.

Increase the 
Diversity of Services
Like so many French cities, Nantes implemented a bike share scheme – the Bicloo – relying on user-friendly stations (880 bikes and 102 stations). But the city also offers the commuters the opportunity to combine bicycle and train through the development of a bike-train-bike concept (similar to the BiTiBi project). Indeed, let's imagine that an inhabitant of Nantes Métropole cycles from home to a nearby suburban train station, he/she can park the bike under a shelter (or, even better, in a secure bike parking facility at the main train station in Nantes). Then, he/she gets on the train and upon arriving in the city-centre, he/she can rent a bike for a day and return it to the same place before taking the train home.  The City of Nantes has also developed secure bike parking, long term rentals and air pumps and they allow folding bike on the trams – the Cyclotan - as well as offering citizens €300 euros subsidy for buying a cargo bike. allowance when buying a cargo-bike.








Important information for our followers attending Vélo-City 2015 - we have already found the Copenhagenize HQ  - near the conference venue. A lovely place on the Erdre river. See you there in June 2015.


VERSION EN FRANÇAIS

Nantes – Une ville qui a compris !


La Ville de Nantes (France) accueillera en Juin 2105 la conférence mondiale Vélo-City. Avant de venir y participer, Copenhagenize a décidé d'aller y faire un petit repérage.
Nantes, 600.000 habitants à l'échelle de l'agglomération, est l'une des villes françaises qui a mis en place une ambitieuse politique cyclable et qui n'a pas hésité à innover en la matière et prendre des décisions politiques fortes. De quoi inspirer.
Pour commencer, visionnage de son clip de présentation de Vélo-City 2015, où Nantes montre qu'elle a compris que créer une ville cyclable c'était avant tout créer une ville humaine où les vélos ne sont finalement qu'un des éléments d'une ville active et agréable à vivre. Nantes y présente majoritairement ses habitants, ses espaces publics, ses activités urbaines.
Ensuite, il faut bien avouer que nous avons été impressionné sur la diversité des éléments de sa politique cyclable. Loin de s'être uniquement focalisée sur la construction de pistes cyclables, Nantes a élargi ses initiatives concernant le vélo sur tous les fronts : services aux cyclistes, parkings, vélos publics, travail avec les associations locales...
Résultat, la part modale du vélo est passée de 2 % à 4,5 % entre 2008 et 2012 (5,3% dans le centre-ville), mais surtout les cyclistes sont des usagers de la rue comme les autres et non des hard-core du vélo, de vrais « Citizen Cyclists » (cf. le blogpost sur Copenhagen Cycle Chic).
Deuxièmement, des kilomètres d'infrastructures cyclablesNantes a construit des kilomètres de pistes cyclables complètement séparées de la circulation automobile. Orange pâle, c'est la couleur choisie pour marquer les pistes cyclables. Aux carrefours, cette couleur affirme la place des cyclistes et des bandes peintes le long des pistes vient parfois judicieusement renforcer la lisibilité du réseau.
Les pistes sont actuellement assez larges pour accueillir les cyclistes (3 mètres de large mais en bi-directionnelle), mais qu'en sera-t-il quand le nombre de cyclistes augmentera véritablement. Toutes ces infrastructures seront-elles adaptables?

Une ombre au tableauToutefois, il faut tout de même signaler un bémol : le manque d'homogénéité du réseau cyclable. La diversité du type de pistes cyclables est telle que sans être un fin connaisseur de la ville, on en perd très vite la lisibilité. La piste cyclable se situe parfois au centre de la rue, parfois à droite des voitures, à droite ou à gauche du tram, partagée sur quels mètres avec les piétons ou les bus, elle peut-être mono- ou bi-directionnelle...Le réseau est trop complexe et malgré la signalisation des axes majeurs nord/sud et est/ouest, difficile d'avoir une carte mentale claire de son itinéraire. Par ailleurs, les pistes cyclables bi-directionnelles montrent déjà leur limite aux heures de pointes, les endroits d'attente aux intersections autant rapidement saturés.
La complexité physique du parcours alternant entre différents types de pistes cyclables à deux impacts majeurs. Il réduit la vitesse des cyclistes et rend ainsi ce mode de déplacement moins compétitif face aux autres modes de transport (12km/h à Nantes contre 15,5 à Copenhague et 20km/h sur les « Green Waves »). On le sait, un cycliste utilise son vélo principalement parce que c'est rapide et pratique. Par ailleurs, la complexité de lecture du réseau peut dissuader certains usagers à se déplacer à vélo et limite l'augmentation de la part modale. Est-ce ainsi possible d'atteindre 15% de cyclistes ?
Cette remarque est en fait la principale critique que l'on puisse faire aux villes françaises de manière générale. Elles innovent mais complexifient leur réseau.

Une diversité de services Comme des dizaines d'autres villes en France, Nantes dispose d'un service de vélos partagés – le Bicloo – et de bornes facilement accessibles (800 vélos et 102 stations). Mais elle permet également la combinaison de transport – vélo-train-vélo (cf. le projet européen BiTiBi). En effet, imaginons qu'un habitant de la région nantaise se rende de son domicile à sa gare locale à vélo, il trouve – à défaut d'un parking sécurisé – un abris à vélo. Il prend ensuite le train et une fois arrivé à la gare de Nantes, il empreinte pour la journée un vélo public et le retourne à la gare lorsqu'il vient reprendre son train.
La Ville de Nantes a développé également des parkings sécurisés disponibles sur la voie public, des pompes à vélo, un vélo pliant autorisé dans le tram – le Cyclotan -, une aide àde 300 euros à l'achat d'un vélo-cargo, un vélo à disposition des étudiants...

Information à tous nos lecteurs participants à Vélo-City 2015, nous avons déjà trouvé notre QG à deux pas de la salle de congrès, un lieu unique au bord de l'Erdre où nous aurons plaisir à vous retrouver.
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Swiss Family Cargo Bike

Copenhagenize - 13 October, 2014 - 20:47

No big bicycle urbanist article this time. Just a simple tale of what happens when you loan out your cargo bike. During the summer, a Swiss family from Lausanne checked into my Airbnb room. I have had only wonderful experiences with being an Airbnb host. Half of my guests know my work through the company or through this blog or had the link sent by someone who does, so I get to meet many likeminded people. The other half just like the look of the place so I get to meet fascinating strangers and welcome them into our home.

The Swiss family were cool. They kind of just rocked into Copenhagen without any definitive plan. They just wanted to come here to see this cool, bicycle-friendly city. They even brought their kids' bikes with them on the plane. They had vague ideas of renting a cargo bike - preferably a Bullitt - and riding around the region but were disappointed to discover that Bullitts couldn't be rented and the other places that rent three-wheelers were booked. I was using my own Bullitt at the time, so they enquired about the Triobike three-wheeler I have in the backyard. I said that it probably wasn't THAT great to ride on longer trips, what with the wind and whatnot, but they just shrugged and smiled. They were up for anything. And off they went.

They cycled up the coast north of Copenhagen to the north coast of the island of Sjælland that Copenhagen is on. Then back down again. Then over to Malmö in Sweden to ride around the region. The kids rode their bikes and when one got tired - they were four and six - they just put the bike and kid in the cargo bay and continued.

I heard about their journey but I just received the photos in my inbox. It was, by all accounts, an amazing, epic journey. There are, of course, cycle tracks criss-crossing the nation - especially the island of Sjælland - so THAT was no problem, but respect for doing a few hundred kilometres as a family on a three wheeler, two small kids' bikes and one extra adult bike.

Pit stop at a gas station. Not for gas, obviously.

Heading north from Copenhagen. Stopping at Charlottenlund.

They had camping gear with them, too.

Always fun with some off-roading.

Ooh. And picnics.

Lakeside camping with pre-requisite Danish beer.

Old building-visiting.

Off to Sweden.

A break back in Copenhagen at Baisikeli's café.

Thanks to Simon and Sonia for the photos so I can see what they got up to on my bike!



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

My Top 5 Tips for Cycle Campaigning with Social Media (You won't believe number 4!)

ibikelondon - 13 October, 2014 - 08:30
The London Cycling Campaign is supported by an army of volunteers who work tirelessly away behind the scenes to improve conditions for cyclists.  A number of them were honoured on Saturday with Campaigner Awards recognising their outstanding contribution, and I was honoured to be asked to present them.

Before the awards I gave a short, fast and furious presentation on the increasing importance of social media, and some advice on how to use social media to increase the strength of campaigns.  Of course, it would be contradictory of me if I encouraged campaigners to embrace sharing everything online if I didn't then do the same myself.  So, here's my Top 5 Tips for Cycle Campaigning with Social Media...



Special congratulations should go to Jean Dollimore from Camden, who received the Outstanding Contribution to Cycle Campaigning Award to recognise her years of tireless and successful work. Congratulations Jean!

Do you have some tips for effective campaigning? Don't forget to share them below!

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Categories: Views

Motion on buses and modal share in Central London

Vole O'Speed - 10 October, 2014 - 21:16
I've got a motion with my name on it in the London Cycling Campaign AGM tomorrow, so I thought I would say something about that (to practice the arguments, as it were). Here it is:
MOTION 4Buses and modal share in Central LondonProposed by David Arditti, seconded by Tom Harrison and Mustafa ArifNoting:
  1. The history of cycling campaigners supporting provision for buses as beneficial for walking and cycling (by reducing demand for private car use).
  2. Figures published by the Greater London Authority showing that buses now cause more cycling KSIs per km travelled than HGVs. Reference: "News from Darren Johnson AM: Buses as dangerous as lorries for cyclists, but not as fatal", 11 April 2014,https://www.london.gov.uk/media/assembly-member-press-releases/green-party/2014/04/news-from-darren-johnson-am-buses-as-dangerous-as-lorries-for.
  3. Figures published by the Greater London Authority in the Mayor's Air Quality Strategy (December 2010) showing that buses are a significant, and growing (as a percentage of total particulates) source of air pollution in Central London.
  4. Recent road schemes in Central London, such as Camden's proposed West End Project have sought to justify inadequate provision for cycling on the need to improve or maintain provision for buses and existing bus and cycling modal share.
Defining 'Central London' as the area within the "Inner Ring Road", LCC resolves to:
  1. No longer automatically assume that increasing, or even maintaining, provision for buses in Central London is beneficial for walking or cycling. Nor to automatically accept that such provision for buses is a legitimate reason to accept poor provision for cycling.
  2. Campaign for TfL and London boroughs, in every Central London road scheme, to actively consider opportunities for modal shift from buses to cycling, through the provision of high quality 'Space for Cycling'. Highway authorities should design cycling provision for the modal share likely when there is high quality provision, not based on current modal share, which is suppressed by poor provision.
  3. Seek integration of tube and bus fares (including daily Oyster / Contactless price-capping and Travelcards) with TfL Cycle Hire so as to eliminate the financial incentive that commuters have in choosing to get a bus over hiring a cycle for the final part of their journeys into Central London.
So what's the background to this? Do I not like buses or something? Actually, I do quite like buses, and use them quite a bit. I often use them for journeys when I am transporting equipment which would be impossible on a normal bike, such as the 100mm aperture telescope and motorised equatorial mount that I take to the public astronomy events organised in Regent's Park by the Baker Street Irregular Astronomers, and at Ruislip Lido by West of London Astronomical Society. It wouldn't be worth me having and housing a cargo bike for these occasional needs, and such journeys on the London cycling infrastructure as it stands would be very difficult on a cargo bike. My partner, who is disabled, and cannot get far without a wheelchair, also benefits from buses. She gets free travel on them (also on the tubes, though, of course, most tube stations still lack lifts, so that's largely academic) and with help from an able-bodied person can use them to get wherever she wishes. (One major success of Transport for London in the last 8 years has been to get the bus companies to actually maintain their wheelchair ramps properly so they now work about 97% of the time, whereas, before, it was about 50% of the time.). No, I recognise that the buses are a hugely important element to London's transport infrastructure.
However, I have a pretty clear view of what cycle campaigning should be about, and what it should be doing, as well. Cycling campaigns should promote cycling. They need to start from the view that cycling can and ought to be be a major component of the transport mix, and that a a large transfer of journeys currently made by all motorised forms: trains, tubes, trams, cars, taxis and, yes, buses, to bikes is possible and desirable. The people involved in them need to have the courage needed to articulate this as a serious point of view and actually be able to picture what it would actually mean. Dave Horton (one of the authors of the important Understanding Walking and Cycling sociological study) put this point clearly:Meetings about cycling inevitably involve different agendas and compromise. But is our struggle to make cycling mainstream so difficult because we – it’s strongest advocates – still haven’t learned how to speak about it? Are we yet to find our voice? If so, other people, understandably, would struggle to hear it. So perhaps ‘people don’t get it’ because we’ve yet to tell them?When proposals are put forward that look like they would really make a difference to the urban environment, people react strongly (as they are doing now to the Mayor's Central London Superhighway proposals). They will like them, or they will hate them. They will get involve, and lobby one way or another. The lobbying process and the public debate will through up arguments that will be had, taken-on, and resolved, and, as I believe the case for mass cycling, and the infrastructure necessary to make it so, is unanswerable,  will lead to progress towards the vision, if, that is, as Horton points out, we have the boldness to articulate it clearly in the first place.

How the bus system would look in a cycle-ised London (to use a phrase even Boris Johnson has used) definitely has to be considered, and built into our visions of what a future cycling London would look like. It would, no doubt, still be very extensive, but it would not have to bear the large burden of short trips that it now does. A cycle-isd London would involve a transfer not only of some general road space to dedicated cycle space, but some bus space as well. However, this should not negatively the bus experience if we also at the same time succeed in reducing the general chaos and congestion on the roads. I think it would actually impact on buses positively. They would no longer be slowed down by cyclists.

To be, there is nothing particularly stunning in the motion. It is just saying that London Cycling Campaign is a cycling campaign. Full stop. It's not a campaign for less cars, and it's not a campaign for less buses. It's not a campaign for 'active travel', and it's certainly not a campaign to 'reduce the need to travel' (whatever that could possibly mean: to me, the need to travel is fundamental to the human species, and indeed locomotion is one of the defining features of all animals). It's just a campaign for more cycling, achieved through transfer from all other modes. And more cycling that's an extra to all existing modes, if you wish, as well (in other words, more leisure as well as utility cycling). And when I say 'all other modes', I include walking as well. You do see this, in cycle-friendly places like the Netherlands and Denmark, that cycling takes a lot of he very short journeys that are walked in the UK, because it is so easy to do.

Part of the recent background to this motion is Camden's West End Project (but there have been other similar but smaller and less-high profile examples) where, in a major rebuild of streets in central London, the need to enhance bus provision was given as a reason to provide only somewhat half-hearted cycle provision. I discussed this extensively before, and some LCC members did not agree with the line I put. As Easy As Riding A Bike (who had a similar view to mine on the scheme) mused on this as follows:
What is quite fascinating to me is how cycling campaigners – people who think that cycling can and should play a significant role in making our towns and cities more attractive places – are often happy to sacrifice the quality of the transport mode they want to see more of, in the interests of wider scheme objectives. This isn’t necessarily a comment about the Camden scheme in particular; it’s more an observation about how cycling campaigners almost expect themselves to be selfless. I can’t imagine pedestrian user groups arguing something along the lines of ‘well, the pavements in this scheme are a bit awful, and not suitable for children. But bus users get a great deal – let’s support it!’ But effectively that’s what’s happening with this scheme, and has happened many times in the past. It’s almost expected. People wanting to see more cycling will defer to those wanting to see improvements in the bus network (for instance) in a way that would never happen in reverse. Of course a large part of this is due to existing mode shares in London, and other British towns and cities. It seems unreasonable to demand more for a mode of transport that, while increasingly visible, and on the agenda, doesn’t really exist, at least compared to bus travel and walking.He hits the nail on the head here. it's Dave Horton's  'vision thing'. It only makes sense to argue for great conditions for cycling if you believe that they really will work, and really will lead to a modal shift that will post-hoc justify the decision by reducing the need for capacity on other modes. It's a leap of faith. But if it's a leap of faith that dedicated campaigners are not prepared to make,  then we have no chance of convincing anyone else either, and the status quo remains.

I can see where campaigners for improved, or at least maintained, but provision, like Vincent Stops, are coming from. I can see that they are very sincere in what they think. They view the bus, collective public motorised transport, as the transport of the disadvantaged: the poor, the sick, the disabled, the very young and very old, as a good instrument of socialism, and a social leveller. Hence the more buses the better. Why should fit people on bikes have the right to inflict damage on the system that these people depend on?

Of course, the answer to this is to look at how it actually works in the most bike-friendly cities in the world. Nobody has been disadvantaged by the extensive allocation of street space to bicycles (apart from possible the most die-hard 'I have the right to drive door to door everywhere petrol-heads). On the other hand, vistas of transport, for exactly those groups the bus campaigners see themselves as defending, vistas of independence and mobility have been opened up which are undreamed of here. Cycle infrastructure is great for those in wheelchairs and mobility scooters, and of course enables inclusive cycling, ages 'eight to eighty', as they say, and including a vast range of physical and mental disability.

We'll always need buses, or something like them (though maybe trams or trolley buses would be more comfortable and efficient in the long term), and I am sure a comprehensive bus system can co-exist with a comprehensive, safe and effective cycling system (because I have seen it). But the latter just won't happen unless cycle campaigners actually make the case. We have to point out that getting people cycling is better in so many ways than getting them on buses: better for road safety, better for both physical and mental health, better for the atmosphere, better for noise and stress levels, better for the planet. That means that cycle provision has to have a higher priority than bus provision, which should itself have higher priority than provision for private motor traffic, taxis, lorries and vans. Most of the London boroughs already claim this is their policy, but in practice cycling has in very few cases ever been genuinely prioritised. We may be seeing a start now on doing this on a significant scale with the proposed Central London Superhighways, and Cycle Superhighway 2 and 5 proposals. I think this progress has been brought about by effective London-wide campaigning for proper, safe, dedicated, practical space for cycling.

Motion 4 doesn't really say anything different about that campaigning. It is simply a reminder of a principle. While not wanting to make any unnecessary enemies, we are what it says on our tin. We are believers in the greater good of cycling over all motorised transport modes for the quality of city life. We are explicit about that, and we need make no apologies for it.
Categories: 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

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