As long standing readers know, the Road Danger Reduction Forum has worked alongside our cyclist and road danger reduction partners with Transport for London on this matter. Our aim has been to have only properly worded warning stickers on the right kind of vehicles, in the first instance on vehicles of TfL’s Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme.( See here for the longest account and history of this story, the follow up and how members of the public can engage with TfL/FORS on this matter.)
Some of this – replacing wrongly worded stickers on FORS member HGVs and on buses in London has progressed well. But there remains a substantial problem: a number of vehicles without blind spots (cars, vans, small lorries) belonging to FORS members (like the van above) are still displaying these stickers. Our understanding in meeting with TfL/FORS has been that they would try to get these removed and they have indicated in their guidance that they are not intended for vehicles below 3.5 tonnes (e.g. those without blind spots).
But is TfL actually doing what it can – and should be doing – here?The issue of stickers on vehicles without “blind spots”
One of the key issues has been the use of such stickers on vehicles where the driver has the ability and requirement to see cyclists on their near side. There is a major problem of drivers not using nearside mirrors (in contravention of Highway Code Rules 159,161,163, 169, 179, 180, 182, 184, and 202) associated with a significant proportion of incidents where cyclists are hit by motor vehicles. Even the AA has shown awareness of this issue through a campaign encouraging drivers to look in their wing mirrors. Accordingly representatives of The Association of Bikeability Schemes (TABS), the national cyclists’ charity (CTC), the national road crash victims’ organisation (RoadPeace), and the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) along with the London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group (BCOG) have met with TfL to get this issue addressed.
FORS specifically prescribes that warning signage should be fitted to vehicles over 3.5T (requirement V7 Vulnerable road user safety); In Mayor’s Question Time the Mayor (Question No: 2015/0852) the Mayor responded:
There have been several communications to FORS operators concerning the display of appropriate signage, and accreditation criteria has been updated to reflect the new advice. Operators who do not have the new reworded blind spot warning sticker on their vehicles will receive a minor action point in their next FORS audit.
The FORS programme firmly advocates continuous improvement, therefore any unaddressed points in an audit will be escalated to a major action point in the next audit and this would result in a failed audit result for the company. Cyclists, or any other road users, can report FORS vehicles displaying incorrect stickers through the FORS website (http://www.fors-online.org.uk/cms/contact/) and on the FORS helpline.
In addition, at the meeting of stakeholders with TfL/FORS last year, we suggested that if a robust justification of the instruction was made on a FORS web page, members of the public could contact non-FORS members explaining to them that the foremost fleet registration scheme in London (FORS) was opposed to stickers of this type on “non-blind spot”. This would spread the word to a large number of vehicle operators – FORS members are only part of the problem – and would also be a collaborative action introducing non-members to FORS.The problem now
So there have been a number of complaints in the last few months to the FORS helpline about FORS vehicles such as these:
And many others, including those belonging to supposedly pro-cycling Councils like LBs Camden, Islington and Brent).We believed that these complaints would assist TfL and FORS. However…The response…
Responses to those who complained from the FORS helpline contained the following justification for FORS not intervening to get the removal of these stickers from their members, vehicles:
Whilst FORS specifically prescribes that warning signage should be fitted to vehicles over 3.5T (requirement V7 Vulnerable road user safety), we cannot enforce the application of warning signage to vehicles of 3.5T and under as a number of clients contractually require signage to be displayed on those smaller vehicles. Where this is a contractual requirement of another organisation, it is outside of the remit of FORS and should be addressed with these companies / clients directly. Therefore I am sure you can now appreciate that FORS is not in a position to contact these companies to ask them to remove warning signage.…and our reaction
We were gobsmacked by this reasoning. We enquired as to who these clients were (are there many of them?) and why they would require the use of an unjustified sign with a reputation for being both intimidatory and excusing of careless driving. After various communications with TfL and FORS management, we were told that despite FORS Standard ‘V7 – Vulnerable road user safety’ requires approved blind spot warning signage to be fitted only on vehicles over 3.5 tonne gross vehicle weight,
“We are aware that other organisations contractually require their operators, as part of their measures to manage work related road risk, to use warning signage on vehicles below 3.5 tonne gross vehicle weight. However, we do not hold information about which of these operators are also FORS accredited. We strongly encourage other organisations to actively managing road risk and are committed to working collaboratively to provide support, guidance and to promote good practice However, neither TfL nor FORS have a remit to enforce prescriptive and onerous rules, such as the ones you appear to be suggesting, about how other organisations manage road risk in their supply chain. “
The ”prescriptive and onerous rules” RDRF suggested were that:
(a) FORS assess how many cases (approximately) have there been where clients of FORS members have contractually required them to display cyclist warning stickers on vehicles without blind spots as a necessary condition of employment.
(b) In these cases, TfL/FORS may inform the organisations in question that the stickers were never intended for vehicles without blind spots.
(c) Also in these cases, our strong request is for TfL to write to all FORS members, advising them that the use of these signs is contrary to the conditions of their FORS accreditation, and urging not to sign up to any similar contractual conditions in future, as this could lead to the loss of their FORS accreditation.
(d) In general, we would request that TfL write to all FORS members advising them that the use of these signs is contrary to the conditions of their FORS accreditation, and urging them to remove any such signs, as failure to do so could result in the loss of FORS accreditation and/or reduction in FORS accreditation level.
We don’t see such rules being enforced as onerous or prescriptive (except insofar as any rule is prescriptive).So what happens now?
RDRF has consulted with our partners:
The Association of Bikeability Schemes (TABS), the national cyclists’ charity (CTC), the national road crash victims’ organisation (RoadPeace) the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) along with the London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group (BCOG).
The consensus is that, while we acknowledge that TfL cannot over-ride any existing contractual conditions imposed on FORS operators by their clients we don’t accept that this renders them powerless to deal with this situation.
We will ask TfL/FORS to do the following:
(A formal letter, by the cyclist and road danger reduction organisations mentioned above, to TfL/FORS management making our requests is due to be sent after the General Election, and should then be found on their web sites. The link to this post has been sent to TfL/FORS. )
Dr Robert Davis, Chair RDRF 6th May 2015
This post is about London TravelWatch, but it could really be about transport in Britain more generally, and about how ‘transport users’ are conceptualised – in particular, those who use bicycles, or might want to use them.
London TravelWatch describe themselves as follows –
London TravelWatch is the official watchdog organisation representing the interests of transport users in and around the capital. Officially known as London Transport Users Committee, we were established in July 2000.
They also state
Funded by the London Assembly, we speak for all London transport users on all modes of transport.
But what does this actually amount to? Who are the ‘transport users’, using all modes, that they claim to represent?
As we’ll see, the interests of ‘transport users’ in London are not particularly well represented by London Travelwatch if the mode of transport they happen to be using is a bike. They’re even less well represented if these transport users might want to use a bike, but are discouraged from doing so because of hostile conditions for cycling.
Children getting to school are ‘transport users’. If they are using the bus, their interests are well represented by London Travelwatch, If, however, these same children are attempting to get to school by bike, their interests are essentially ignored.
To take one example, London Travelwatch responded to Camden’s consultation on their West End Project, last year. This is a major scheme, costing tens of millions of pounds, and involves major changes to the roads in the Tottenham Court Road area. There was a significant opportunity to improve conditions for cycling in the area. Yet from the summary of responses collected by Camden Council, London Travelwatch essentially had nothing to say about the comfort, convenience and attractiveness of cycling in the scheme. Indeed, their only mention of cycling appears to be
Concerns about the use of light segregation and the potential for this to be a hazard to pedestrians crossing the street.
Namely, concern that the only (inadequate) separation from motor traffic initially proposed by Camden could be a hazard to pedestrians. London Travelwatch had nothing to say about the safety or comfort of cycling on either of the main roads in the scheme, particularly cycling mixed with motor traffic on Tottenham Court Road, which will be a busy two-way road open to all motor traffic after 7pm, and all day on Sunday.
Similarly, in their response to Transport for London’s proposals for Superhighway 5, between Oval and Victoria, which involves (for the most part) a bi-directional cycle track physically separated from motor traffic, London Travelwatch opposed these proposals, arguing instead for cycling to be accommodated within ‘4.5 metre wide bus lanes to facilitate buses overtaking cyclists’.
This is in accordance with London Travelwatch’s latest policy update on cycling, from September last year, which states that
The best practicable solution for cycles on many of London‟s roads would be to accommodate them in wide bus lanes (4.5m) or wide (4.5m) inside lanes in order that cycle can pass wide vehicles and wide vehicles can pass cycle
So a group which professes to represent the interests of ‘transport users’ suggests that the best way to accommodate cycling is… mixed in with motor traffic on main roads, in lanes that will often be busy with taxis and large, intimidating vehicles.
Some ‘interests’ may be being represented here, but it’s doubtful that it includes those of people who might want to cycle for short trips in London, but are put off doing so because they are reluctant to share space with large, fast-moving vehicles, like buses.
This failure of representation flows, I think, from a failure to reflect on whether existing patterns of transport use in Britain are natural. By ‘natural’ I mean that those patterns arise out of a genuinely free choice between modes of transport. It is more than likely that bus use (and indeed driving and walking) is much more popular than cycling in London (and other towns and cities across Britain) because cycling is quite a scary and intimidating mode of transport for most ordinary people. Many ‘transport users’ who might opt for the bicycle if it were a safe and attractive choice are consequently not doing so, even if that mode of transport would make a great deal of sense for them, not least in terms of time and money saved. Their interests are not being represented because of a lazy assumption that the interests of ‘cyclists’ correspond to the behaviour and habits of the minority of existing users.
The interests of the young girl in the picture above – a genuine ‘transport user’ like anyone else – are being represented by the road layout she is riding a bike on. She can navigate otherwise hostile road environments, like the large junction shown in the picture, because that environment has been designed with her interests in mind when she is riding a bike, just as the footways here are designed for young girls to walk on, or buses that pass through this junction are designed for young girls to use.
By contrast it is extremely unlikely that her interests would be represented by shared bus lanes, even if they are slightly wider than normal.
We know this because young children are not seen riding bikes in these kinds of environments. They, and their parents, haven’t made a free choice between cycling in this kind of environment and walking, driving, or getting the bus through it. Instead, riding a bike in this kind of environment with young children is genuinely unthinkable to most people, just as it would be to walk with young children along a busy road that doesn’t have a pavement.
Indeed, more broadly, framing the debate in terms of specific ‘transport users’ is an unhelpful way of defending interests, because people are, essentially, multi-modal. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense to present the interests of ‘bus users’ in opposition to ‘cyclists’ (as London Travelwatch appear to do) because with a sensibly designed transport network everybody would be a potential bus user or bike user, every single day. Indeed, this is typical in the Netherlands, where cycling and getting the bus are extremely well integrated.
Dutch people use bikes to cycle to bus stops, and then catch the bus for the longer stages of their journeys that would be less convenient to cycle.
Nobody is born a ‘bus user’ or a ‘pedestrian’ or a ‘cyclist’ – they are all human beings who happen to be choosing a particular mode of transport at a particular time. On that basis a proper defence of ‘transport users’ interests’ should examine whether people have a genuine choice the modes of transport that would make most sense for them, for the trips they make on a daily basis. To take just one example, if it turns out that cycling (for instance) would make a great deal of sense for children to make their way to school, and yet few children do actually cycle for these trips, then quite plainly the interests of these transport users are not being represented, even if they are not ‘cyclists’ at the present time.
To ignore this and other ways in which choice of transport mode is constrained when examining the kinds of improvements that could be made to our transport environment would be a fundamental failure.
Here’s a quick post on what the Conservative’s promise for cycling in the 2015 election. We have had a pop at the Labour promises (and take a recent look at Labour’s claims against those of the Lib Dems ) Above all, take a look at the CTC’s excellent summary of the Manifestos.
We note:1. The target of “doubling cycling by 2025”.
That is some time off, there is no way of checking if we are on target – and penalising those who are judged responsible for failure. That never gets mentioned. We have had doubling (and quadrupling) targets before, and they were not only met, but there was often no increase at all.
2. “£6 per person” being spent.
No, this is only in 8 specified cities and London, not for the vast majority of people in Britain.
3. £200 million
This is an aim. As the CTC point out…” As pointed out by Ralph Smyth of Campaign to Protect Rural England however, this figure comes from the Highways England Road Investment strategy launched in December 2014 and is unfortunately nothing new.” Also over what period? £200 million is just over £3 per person, over a Government that is some 60 – 70 pence.
4. “Cut red tape”.
The localism agenda again. How many local transport professionals see this as away of shifting responsibility away from central Government on to those without resources or commitment to achieve objectives?
5. Trialling “cycle streets”.
An interesting idea but trialling something in a even quite a few locations doesn’t really deal with the vast majority of cycle safety issues. The problems of motors overtaking cyclists are associated with highway engineering in general, a lack of understanding by motorists about the space necessary and the willingness of the police to work in this area to get the kind of behaviour motorists seem to be able to achieve more frequently in other European countries .6. Changing design features of ASLs and pedestrian/cycle crossings
Are these changes seriously expected to make a significant difference to the ease and safety of cycling?
7. Role models
Actually, here at RDRF towers we think Mayor Johnson cycling in normal clothing because he obviously thinks cycling is a sensible way of getting about (as opposed to the usual politician photo-ops) is excellent. But the role models selected are mainly sports cyclists. I also love cycle sport – but the issue is cycling as TRANsport, not as sport.
On new roads only – and we don’t know what the design standards used would actually be.
There has been plenty of criticism of the parties’ manifestos on the web, with a focus on the nature of what “spending on cycling” is actually going to mean in terms of what happens on the ground. There are plenty of grounds for fearing that . Any programme which is going to work for cycling needs:
Basically we have political parties, with the possible exception of the Greens, that are going along with a car-centric system which has a variety of obstacles and dangers to cycling. Issues such as the costs of motoring to society need to be raised both for producing a sustainable transport policy as well as attacking the mythology of the motorist paying “road tax”. Steps have been made by cycling campaigners like achieving the Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Bill, but don’t expect there to be any change in the UK lagging way behind nearby European countries on cycling whoever gets in on May 8th.
This hit and run incident at the junction of Tower Bridge Road and Abbey Street has been featuring in the new recently.
Andrea McVeigh posted on the SE1 forum last week to describe what happened when she and her husband crossed Tower Bridge Road near the Abbey Street junction at about 6pm on Tuesday 14 April.
As they stepped onto the pavement on the western side of the road, a cyclist who was on the pavement collided with Ms McVeigh causing her to fall.
This is as ongoing case; the person cycling still doesn’t appear to have presented themselves to the police so it can be resolved.
But from the version of events we have, it’s plainly not a great idea to have people cycling whizzing about on pavements, especially when it’s not obvious to pedestrians that they might encounter someone cycling on a footway. (In this case – because cycling on this particular stretch of footway is not legal.)
However, just 200 metres from this junction, a little further south down Tower Bridge Road, Transport for London have designed a junction on a new Quietway between Greenwich and Waterloo that involves… people cycling on the footway.
People crossing the eastern side of junction on foot, in a north-south direction, will encounter people cycling along the footway, in an east-west direction – a perpendicular conflict on a footway, very similar to the kind of conflict in this hit-and-run incident.
Yet in this junction with Rothsay Street/Webb Street, just down the road from where the collision involving Andrea McVeigh and the unknown man took place, cycling here will be entirely legal, planned for by this new design.
Quietways like this will (or should) be attracting lots of potential users on bikes. But there’s going to be very little to indicate to anyone crossing the road on foot that the footway on the other side is, effectively, a busy cycle route. It will look like a large area of pavement.
Hit and run collisions involving people cycling on pavements are shocking, but isn’t it just as shocking that we’re designing precisely that kind of conflict into new junctions just yards away?
This post is part of an ongoing series examining how West Sussex County Council are managing to spend £2.4m of Local Sustainable Transport Fund cash (won from the DfT back in 2012) on schemes of negligible ‘sustainable’ benefit, with a particular focus on cycling.
The aim is to show how the money that councils receive for cycling from central government is being dribbled away, thanks to a combination of tight timescales, limited or insecure funding streams, no continuity of local expertise, poor or non-existent guidance, and local prejudice.
Two previous posts have described how
In other words – two schemes that do next to nothing to make cycling a more viable and attractive mode of transport, at a total cost of £310,000.
The focus in this post is on a further £30,000 of that LSTF cash, which has been spent, badly, on cycle parking in Horsham town centre.
This sum is as large as it is because of an underspend in a proposed LSTF funded cycle route across the town. The original budget for this route was £320,000; this was scaled down to £180,000 once it became apparent that very few interventions were actually planned. That underspend has consequently been redistributed to projects like the parking described here.
£30,000 would buy you an awful lot of sheffield stands – the kind of parking that is appropriate in a town centre location. However, most of this £30,000 appears to have been spent on three two-tier cycle parking stands, of this type –
This kind of cycle parking is unsuitable for a town centre location, where people will generally be locking their bikes up for short periods of time – to visit shops, restaurants, friends, and so on.
Two-tier parking only really makes sense at locations where people will be leaving their bikes for longer periods of time, and where demand is particularly high. At transport interchanges like railway stations, two-tier parking like this is an obvious choice, because people won’t mind so much the effort of lifting their bikes into these racks if they are leaving the bike for an entire day.
It doesn’t make any sense at all, however, if you are just popping into a supermarket. Yet this is the kind of parking that has been chosen.
Worse still, the locations for these stands have been selected by Horsham District councillors, quite deliberately, with the intention of discouraging cycling in the town centre.
Helena Croft (Con, Roffey North, HDC’s cabinet member for Horsham town, said: “I am delighted that the provision of town centre cycle parking is being improved in this way, making the centre more accessible by a more sustainable form of transport.
“There are currently no covered cycle shelters in the centre of Horsham and cyclists are often seen penetrating areas which should only be used by pedestrians. These new shelters will help clear the pedestrian zones and motivate more people to cycle into town. It will also contribute towards less traffic congestion in the centre so it’s a win win all round.”
The idea, presumably, is that people will lock their bikes up at the edge of the town centre, then walk to the location they want to visit, then walk back to the cycle parking on the edge of town, and then cycle off again, instead of just cycling directly to the location they want to visit and locking their bike as close to that location as possible.
Cycling in Horsham town centre is unfortunately viewed as a problem, and sustainable transport funding has been used to place inconvenient cycling parking in inconvenient locations in a futile attempt to keep cycling out of it.
I say ‘futile’ because most of the town centre is already legally accessible by bike, and where people are cycling in genuinely pedestrianised areas, they are usually doing so either because a contraflow has not been provided on the sensible alternative, or because the parallel road is deeply hostile. Placing cycle parking at the extremities of the town centre will do nothing to change this behaviour, and it’s unsettling that tens of thousands of pounds of DfT cash is effectively at the whim of councillors who can make stupid decisions like this.
Here’s where the parking has been placed. One of the racks has been located behind one of the town’s car parks, tucked away in a corner.
These racks remain empty, while the pre-existing sheffield stand parking nearer the shops (on the sensible side of the car park) continues to be busy.
The second of these two-tier stands is an even more ridiculous location, plonked right next to a busy shared use path, meaning getting bikes in and out of the rack blocks it –
… and also sited well away from the two obvious nearby destinations, the library, and a Sainsbury’s supermarket.
Again, this rack remains empty, while the parking at Sainsbury’s and the library is in use – because that parking is near where people want to visit.
But again, it’s being almost entirely ignored, with people opting for the existing (easier to use) railings –
None of this should be surprising. The Horsham District Cycle Forum consistently argued against these types of two-tier racks, and the principle of locating them in out-of-the-way areas. Yet these stands, in these locations, were implemented regardless.
They’re not even very good stands. In fact they’re dire. My (fairly standard) Dutch bike won’t even fit in them.
There’s also nothing to actually lock your bike to, which needless to say is a problem if you want to leave your bike for any length of time and expect to come back and still find it where you left it.
It’s difficult to roll your bike into their upper tier (thanks to those metal bars that mean my bike doesn’t fit) – the manufacturer’s own video shows that bikes have to be lifted some height off the ground, and deposited in the rack. Not easy for most people, especially those with utility bikes.
And without any hydraulic or spring assistance, you need to be pretty strong to lift your bike back up to a horizontal position. I can barely manage it, like this commenter on the local paper website –
I’ve just come back from looking at the new rack installed in Medwin Walk. I’m an active, fit, burly, six-foot-two-er, and my bikes are light. I’d struggle to load one onto the top deck of the new rack. Unlike the racks at the front of Horsham Station this new one has no spring or strut assistance on the top deck and is missing a dedicated locking point on each rack. So how someone smaller, less strong, and with a heavier bike than me is supposed to cope with using the rack is beyond me.
The final nail in the coffin is that they’re actually quite dangerous.
Which means that they are now taped off, out of use, awaiting some kind of solution. (Entirely different cycle parking, perhaps?)
What is frustrating is that some of the LSTF cash has actually gone on good new sheffield stands, in sensible locations, which I have noticed are already well-used, despite only being in place for a matter of days. These ones were being used even before the cones had been taken away.
£30,000 could have bought a lot of this kind of parking, in the right kind of places. But instead it’s been spent almost entirely on impractical parking in inconvenient locations, of such a poor quality I can’t see a solution without the stands being entirely replaced. It’s depressing that something as simple as cycle parking can’t even be get right. The waste continues.
A large development is set to go ahead to the north of Horsham, on the other side of the town’s northern bypass. It will cover (approximately) the area shown in red.
There’s nothing intrinsically right or wrong with new development. Indeed, it can solve existing problems with previous poor design, and can ‘build in’ sensible patterns of land use and transport. Kloosterveen – a new town in a similar location outside the city of Assen’s ring road – has achieved this, with cycling and walking made the obvious mode of transport for short trips in Kloosterveen, and in and out of Assen. Some pictures of connections with Kloosterveen will feature later in this post.
The signs are not at all hopeful, however, that this new development is going to be beneficial in those terms. Existing patterns of travel, dominated by private motor traffic, will continue to be accommodated, while walking and cycling are almost entirely being ignored, with tokenistic attempts at provision.
Thanks to a previous planning disaster when the northern bypass was built in the late 1980s, there are currently no grade-separated crossings for people walking and cycling (and indeed for motor traffic) along the entire stretch of this 70mph dual carriageway – the A264 – that skirts the current northern edge of the town. Country lanes were severed, with no safe crossings.
The mind boggles at how this was pushed through so recently, with absolutely no thought for how people would cross this road on foot, or on bike.
Crossing from one side of the bypass to the other on the route of these two lanes shown above involves dashing across four lanes of 70mph+ traffic.
The other two crossing points are fast roundabouts – no help for pedestrians here either, and if you are cycling, you have to cycle on the roundabouts themselves. Again, the limit across both of these roundabouts is 70mph.
In effect, the land to the north of the bypass is a complete no-go area if you are on foot or bicycle, unless you want to make lengthy detours (and the same goes for accessing the town from this area). It is next to impossible to cross safely or comfortably.
This new development to the north of the town – in precisely the area that is currently severed from the town – should represent a golden opportunity to deal with these severance issues. However the plans released so far are desperately poor.
The developers boast of a ‘Sustainable Masterplan’ – but, tellingly, there is no mention of short-trip transport on the developers own page here. ‘Sustainability’ is framed entirely in terms of ‘natural space’, ‘green buffer zones’, ‘woodland’, ‘ponds’ and ‘allotments’, and not in terms of how people are actually travelling about – a typically British oversight.
Depressingly, the details of the plans reveal that the developers are almost entirely concerned with accommodating existing and projected motor traffic associated with the new development, while very little consideration has been given to how easy, safe and convenient it should be to cross the bypass that separates the town from the development, or indeed to travel around in the development on foot or by bike.
Let’s look at the proposed crossing points for people walking and cycling, one by one, starting with the one to the west.
This is one of the country lanes severed back in the 1980s, that is now going to be expanded into a very large (signalised) roundabout. (You can see the former country lane on the left of the plan below.)
The road to the south of the roundabout, connecting with an existing residential area in Horsham, will be a cycle- and bus-only road. It’s not clear, however, how many people will be willing to cycle on the road to get this connection – it will involve cycling in the middle of three lanes of motor traffic, accelerating to join the bypass, on the entry to the roundabout from the north, as shown in blue, below.
Given the scale and design speed of this roundabout, and the projected amounts of motor traffic using it, it seems far more likely that people will use the combined toucan crossings that are proposed, along with pedestrians. That, however, will involve FOUR separate toucan crossings.
The picture is much the same at the next crossing point. Here an existing at-grade roundabout is going to be enlarged considerably. Again, you can see the current roundabout, underneath the proposed new design.
This roundabout is going to be even busier, as it represents the main direct crossing point for motor traffic going into and out of the town (more on the potential problems this will represent later). Again, no grade-separation for walking and cycling is proposed; only a series of toucan crossings. In this case, FIVE of them.
It should be noted here that the developers and their associated transport planners are insistent that people would ‘prefer’ this kind of arrangement to a simple underpass, or bridge. The Transport, Infrastructure and Flood Risk Report carried out for the developers by Peter Brett claims
‘At grade’ crossings are generally more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists due to reduced distances and the avoidance of ramps or stairs, so are the preferred solution.
But this assertion that at grade crossings are ‘generally more attractive’ is not supported by any evidence. What it seems to trade on instead is the legacy of poor underpasses and bridges that have been constructed for pedestrians and cyclists in Britain. Underpasses that are dark and gloomy, with corners, multiple flights of steps, and poor drainage. Underpasses that are (rightly) avoided by most people because of their unattractiveness, which in turn makes them even more socially unsafe. Underpasses that are used in unsuitable locations, within dense urban areas, to allow inappropriate volumes of motor traffic to flow uninhibited.
But this area isn’t a town centre location – it’s a crossing of an existing major road, a bypass that also serves a through-route function, connecting major settlements like Guildford, Crawley and Worthing. Grade separation is exactly the kind of treatment that should be employed on this kind of road, and it can and should be done well. The first picture below shows the direct cycle route between Kloosterveen and the city of Assen, passing under the city’s ring road.
Would people honestly ‘prefer’ five toucan crossings to this kind of arrangement?
Underpasses like the ones pictured above do not involve any delay, or any interaction with motor traffic whatsoever. They would make walking and cycling into and out of the new development an absolute breeze, compared to a series of 4 or 5 separate crossings in the middle of a large, busy and noisy roundabout.
By contrast, the current plans would make cycling and walking less attractive than driving, which is truly disastrous for an allegedly ‘sustainable’ development. Underpasses would redress that balance, making walking and cycling a more obvious option.
Now the developers are proposing a grade-separated crossing for walking and cycling between this large new roundabout and the eastern end of the development. However, they have chosen a bridge, which is a poor choice, because this section of the bypass is built on an embankment, high enough to take it over the railway line connecting Horsham to London (incidentally, this picture also shows another desperately unsafe at-grade crossing of the 70mph dual carriageway bypass).
That means that any bridge will have to gain not only sufficient height to clear the road itself, but also the height of this embankment. It turns out that this will amount to eleven metres of height gain.
… And that means a 240m long plod up a steep 5% slope.
By contrast, an underpass could slip easily under the bypass here on the flat, given that the bypass is already 3-5m higher than the surrounding land. It could look like this.
There are surely very few people who would choose to climb and descend for 250m on each side of an exposed bridge, instead of walking or cycling through a straightforward underpass like this. Or indeed, very few people who would prefer a series of 4-5 separate crossings on busy roundabouts to the other good underpasses pictured in this post.
Getting this right is vitally important, not just for people walking and cycling, but also for those people who want to drive. The more trips that can be made to and from this new development, with the town itself, on foot and by bike, the less congestion there will be on the existing (and new) road network.
The road that has been chosen to form the sole direct connection between the new development and the town centre is already desperately congested at peak times, even before several thousand extra houses are built, with planning that accommodates car trips by those new residents and funnel them onto existing, congested roads. The red arrow, below, marks the only crossing point for motor traffic along this stretch of road – the largest roundabout, already described.
Unfortunately the road into town south of this crossing is really not suitable for accommodating more motor traffic.
I hope the picture above gives a bit of a flavour of Rusper Road – it’s pretty narrow, narrowed even more by residents parking. To top it all off, in the background of the above picture (looking north towards the new development) is Littlehaven railway station, which not only has a large amount of on-street commuter parking associated with it…
… but also has a level crossing, across this road, which closes for eight trains every hour, for one to two minutes. Remember – this road is already congested at peak times. This bottleneck is going to be made even worse.
So it really doesn’t make a great deal of sense to funnel more motor traffic down this road, adding more danger, congestion and pollution to a route that already has too much motor traffic. Alternatives to travel by car are desperately needed.
The Transport Assessment for the development notes that
Horsham town centre is accessible within a 10-15 minute cycle ride of the centre of the site.
A short distance, in other words. The centre of the development is just two miles from Horsham town centre. But unfortunately very little is being done with these plans to make cycling a genuinely attractive mode of transport. I don’t want to sit and wait at five separate toucan crossings just to get across one road; nor will anyone else. That means people will plump for the car, clogging up local roads even more.
And that’s not all. The plans will erode the primary function of the bypass, to carry through traffic on a quick route, away from the town centre. If they go ahead, along with the plans for roundabouts on the bypass to the west of Horsham, there will be five separate sets of traffic lights for drivers to negotiate on the bypass.
With lower speed limits, and delay at these sets of lights, driving through the town itself will become an increasingly attractive option, clogging up the town with traffic that should properly be taking the bypass. Driving through the town is already nearly as attractive as using the bypass for many trips; adding multiple sets of traffic lights and lower limits may tip the balance.
So there is a strong case for grade separation at these junctions, not just for walking and cycling, but also for motor traffic – to ensure that through traffic is kept out of the town. This will cost more, but the cost in the long run will inevitably be higher if these junctions are not designed properly now.
The final connection under the bypass already exists – it’s a 2m wide footpath running alongside the aforementioned train line.
Unfortunately this path doesn’t actually connect up with anything on the northern side of the bypass, and the path to it from the town is in a disgraceful condition.
This is the only safe crossing of the northern bypass, and the condition of paths to and from this underpass (or, rather, the lack of paths) is a decades-old issue, unresolved by West Sussex County Council. Local campaigners are putting pressure on the council and the developers to sort this issue out.
This is an absolute no-brainer – it just requires surfacing of the existing boggy path, and a tarmac link running alongside the existing railway line. But the developers publicity material only states, weakly, that
There is currently an underpass which we could improve to provide better access for pedestrians and cyclists and we are also assessing the feasibility of providing a foot / cycle bridge across the A264. [my emphasis]
‘Could’ improve. By contrast, the large new junctions for motor traffic – without ambiguity – ‘will be provided’.
This difference in language is symptomatic of the lack of consideration of walking and cycling in this new development, and the failure of West Sussex County Council to force the developers into providing safe, attractive and obvious connections for these genuinely sustainable modes, along the length of the northern bypass.
A planning disaster in the making.
Out on my bike earlier in the week I came across a road closure on a country lane just south of Ashington in West Sussex – Hole Street.
As you can see, a diversion has been put in place. Not a problem, you might think, except that this diversion sends you directly onto the A24, which is a national speed limit dual carriageway, with no cycling infrastructure.
Not an enticing prospect, even at this relatively quiet time of day, even for someone relatively hardened like me. I just do not want to cycle on a road with vehicles like this bearing down on me at 60mph. (For the record, the road at this point carries about 35,000 vehicles per day, and – amazingly – about twenty very brave people cycling).
Essentially the authority (or individual) responsible for putting the ‘diversion’ signs out was only thinking about drivers. It’s simply not acceptable to divert people cycling onto a road of this character, even if – thanks to British road design and policy lagging somewhere back in the 1960s – the A24 is legal to cycle on, with no parallel provision.
I took my chances and ignored the ‘road closed’ warning, reasoning that even if resurfacing was taking place I could, at a push, walk past it. (As it happens, I didn’t encounter the closure before I turned off this lane, about a mile further on down the road.)
But as I pedalled along the deliciously quiet lane (with no through motor traffic) I dwelt on whether those ‘diversion’ signs should actually be permanent. After all, why should motor traffic be using this country lane as a through route, when there is a fairly expensive dual carriageway trunk road running in parallel? Indeed, would there even be that much difference in time if you asked drivers to take the longer (but faster) route?
When I got home, I took a look at Google maps. Here’s the section of country lane that was closed, with point A being where I encountered the ‘closure’ sign, and point B where that lane meets another ‘A’ road – the A283.
The ‘closed’ length of country lane here is 1.5 miles. What would be the alternative? Well, this is the ‘diversion’ that drivers are being asked to take while this lane is closed – the A24 (which I chickened out of cycling on) and the A283 – two sides of a triangle.
But what about in terms of time? The country lane, Hole Street, has a mixture of 40mph and 60mph limits, but really, it should be 40mph for its entire length, at most. At 40mph, travelling from A to B would take around 3 minutes.
Using the ‘main road’ route involves 1.5 miles on the 70mph A24, and then 1.8 miles on the 50mph A283, for a total time of around 4 minutes.
So – despite the extra distance – really not that much more time. And these are the roads that are designed for the through traffic – built and engineered to take heavy traffic. The country lane would be quieter and safer, not just for people using it on foot, horse, or bike, but also for the residents. Really – the kind of diversion that is currently in place should be permanent. Hole Street should be access-only, at all times.
This might sound radical, but it’s a common intervention in the Netherlands. While cycle paths alongside roads (main roads) are a visible and obvious intervention, the approach is quite different on country lanes, which are stopped-up, or simply signed as ‘residents only’, with drivers who are travelling through expected to take the long way round.
One of these examples featured as a Cycling Embassy ‘Good Facility of the Week’ – a country lane closed to motor traffic, except for residents, on the outskirts of the city of Utrecht.
It’s worth placing this example in context.
People cycling are obviously exempted from the closure – that means they can cycle from point A (where the photograph was taken) to point B, in a fairly straight line.
This isn’t really much of a hardship, however – the motoring route is a fast road (equivalent to a British A-road), with the added benefit for drivers of not having any slow vehicles on the road. Agricultural and bicycle traffic shares a separate path along this road (again, this featured in a Good Facility of the Week).
The system employed by the Dutch in this context isn’t about ‘punishing’ driving, but more about putting cycling and driving on separate systems, for safety reasons. On the main road, cycling has its own parallel provision, but on the narrow country lanes, motor traffic is cut out, and forced to use the longer route. Very often, that ‘longer route’ will in any case be more attractive than the direct route that has been closed, because it is wider and faster, and designed specifically take through traffic.
For instance, if you want to drive between the city of Delft and the new town of Zoetermeer, you are forced (or ‘forced’) to take the A12 motorway. An ‘as the crow files route’ is simply not available to you.
Naturally enough, the country lanes between the two urban areas, joined up with cycle-specific paths, form a direct cycling route.
But you wouldn’t really want to use these country lanes in your car, even if you were allowed to, because you have a very fast motorway to connect you – it doesn’t really matter that the route is less direct.
Diversions of this kind are an excellent – good for safety, good for drivers (who don’t have to worry about pedestrians, cyclists or horse riders on their faster routes), good for residents of the country lanes, and good for the people using those lanes to get about, or simply for recreation.
Perhaps we ought to look more closely at whether we can convert our temporary diversions of through motor traffic away from country lanes into permanent diversions – and indeed more broadly about what our country lanes should be for.
There was a revealing detail in Bicycle Dutch’s post last week on a (failed) attempt to create a cycle street in Utrecht in the 1990s.
One of the main cycle routes to the Utrecht University, Burgemeester Reigerstraat, was completely transformed and re-opened as a bicycle street in November 1996. The street got a median barrier to prevent motor vehicles from overtaking people cycling.
Here’s a picture of that arrangement, from Mark’s blog.
Emergency services also complained and they warned about dangerous situations because they were held up. Impatient car drivers were seen overtaking cyclists with two wheels on the barrier. [my emphasis]. This scared people cycling onto the narrow side-walk and that in turn frightened pedestrians. A good two years later (in January 1999) a new Utrecht council terminated the experiment. The centre barriers were removed and so were the signs that forbade to overtake people cycling.
In fact you can clearly see a driver doing this in the photograph above – squeezing past, driving up on the central median.
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Dutch drivers really are just as bad as British ones when confronted with design that puts them into conflict with people cycling. The reason why we have a skewed impression of the quality of Dutch driving is that – by and large – Dutch road design separates cycling from driving, and insulates people cycling from the consequences of driver misbehaviour. In trips across towns and cities you will encounter a tiny fraction of the number of drivers you would on an equivalent trip in Britain. On main roads you will be physically separated from drivers, and on side streets you will encounter few drivers because these streets are not sensible routes for through traffic.
And in these few places where you do come into contact with drivers, design ensures that priorities are clear and unambiguous, and that drivers behave in a slow and careful manner – for instance, by placing side road crossings on steep raised tables that drivers have to drive over.
However, just as on that failed design in Utrecht in the 1990s, when Dutch drivers are confronted by design that doesn’t make sense, they will behave badly.
On busy through roads that have little or no cycle infrastructure, they will squeeze past you, into oncoming traffic, in precisely the same way that some British drivers will do, confronted by the same situation.
On country lanes (that are access-only roads) they will drive very close to you at high speed, just like some British drivers will.
On busier rural roads – without cycle tracks – they will squeeze through at speed, into oncoming traffic –
They will even squeeze through at the same time oncoming traffic is overtaking someone cycling the other way.
Many of these streets allow contraflow cycling (like the example above). It is often quite an unnerving experience attempting to hold your ground as a driver rushes past you in the opposite direction.
This also happens on a narrow street in the centre of Utrecht, which is a through-route for taxis, buses and delivery drivers.
And of course Dutch drivers will happily park on footways, on cycle lanes, and on cycle tracks when a suitable parking space isn’t available, or nearby. Even obstructing junctions to do so.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s nothing particular special about Dutch drivers. They will behave in anti-social ways like British drivers, and drive just as badly as them, when confronted with the same types of design.
All the familiar problems that people cycling in Britain encounter – close passes, squeezing through at pinch points, left hooks, and so on – would undoubtedly occur in the Netherlands too, on a large scale, if their roads were not designed to eliminate those kinds of problems from occurring in the first place.
Attempting to change the ‘driving culture’ of Britain without changing the way roads are designed would be a futile experiment – we can see this in the way Dutch drivers behave on roads that put them into conflict with cycling, like the failed bicycle street in Utrecht in the 1990s, and countless examples of poor driver behaviour on ‘British-style’ Dutch roads.
Back in November 2010, a cement mixer crashed through the parapet of a bridge over the (branch) railway line between Guildford and Waterloo, close to Oxshott station in Surrey. The mixer fell onto a passing train. Miraculously, no-one was killed, although several people were injured, including the driver of the mixer, and a person sitting on the train directly under the point of impact, who was seriously injured.
The driver of the cement mixer, Petru Achim, played a large role in this incident. He crashed his lorry into the end of the parapet of the bridge, losing control, and then (in an attempt to avoid oncoming traffic) swerved it through the parapet itself and onto the railway, with serious consequences.
You may or may not be surprised to learn that Achim escaped relatively lightly in court. Charged with driving without due care and attention, he was fined £100, and given five points on his licence.
More significantly, because this crash happened on the railway, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) produced a full report on the incident. The background; how the collision occurred; how it unfolded; how it could be prevented. It’s 36 pages long, and you can read it here.
I stumbled across this incident a few days ago after re-reading Joe Dunckley’s brilliant post, 7 years, 4 months and 18 days, about the safety record of British railways, how that has been achieved, and the extraordinary difference with the safety record of Britain’s roads. As Joe writes,
The last time anybody died on a train that crashed in Britain was on the evening of 23 February 2007 when a Virgin Trains express to Glasgow derailed on mistakenly unmaintained track at Grayrigg in Cumbria
Perhaps the 2010 Oxshott incident was the closest someone has come to dying on a train since 2007.
It’s well worth reading the RAIB report, which produced five recommendations – two for Surrey County Council, two for the Department for Transport, and one for Network Rail – all with the intention of preventing such an incident ever occurring again.
The recommendations for Surrey County Council were that they should ensure the parapet ends of bridges in the county are visible and well-marked, and that they should review ways of protecting the ends of the parapet of this particular bridge in conjunction with Network Rail, and implement the best method for doing so.
The recommendations for the DfT were to issue guidance to highway authorities on how best to highlight the unprotected ends of bridge parapets, and also
to prepare guidance for highway authorities on identifying local safety hazards at bridges over railways which could be mitigated by measures such as signage, hazard marking, white lining or safety barriers, and include consideration of previous accident history and the causes of those accidents.
Finally, the recommendation for Network Rail was that it should
include, within its annual examination of rail overbridges, the requirement for the structures examiner to identify and record any highway features which may increase the risk to the railway such as absence, obscuration or poor condition of parapet end markers.
… and to improve its ways of reporting these issues to highway authorities.
The tone is neutral, without setting out blame. Essentially the approach is to recognise that human beings are fallible, and will fuck up, and sets out the ways to prevent that fucking up from causing injury or death.
I’m not at all familiar with how the Dutch investigate deaths on their roads, or whether they go into this amount of detail after collisions in an attempt to ensure that type of collision never occurs again, but there is a strong parallel here with the Dutch system of Sustainable Safety.
Since humans make errors and since there is an even higher risk of fatal error being made if traffic rules set for road safety reasons are intentionally violated, it is of great importance that safety nets absorb these errors. Behold the Sustainable Safety approach in a nutshell! A type of approach that, incidentally, has been commonplace in other transport modes for a much longer time under the name of ‘inherently safe’. [my emphasis]
As this passage points out, Sustainable Safety is relatively new – it only started being applied in the Netherlands in 1997, much, much later than the air and rail industry began developing techniques to ensure that failures (either mechanical or human) did not snowball into death or injury – the techniques employed in the RAIB report described here.
It’s so new, in fact, that it obviously has not been applied everywhere in the Netherlands. Their crap, unforgiving road designs are still being removed and updated; their country lanes that carry too much motor traffic are still awaiting a systematic downgrading (or upgrading); bypasses to take through traffic away for the places that people live are still being built; the process is ongoing.
There are five strands to Sustainable Safety, but perhaps the two most important in this context are homogeneity and forgiving environments.
Homogeneity in essence boils down to not putting slow and fast things in the same space; and not putting light and heavy things in the same space. If you want motor traffic to go faster than bicycle traffic, then you should not put bicycle traffic in the same space. You should provide for it separately.
Likewise if your road or street is going to carry heavy traffic as well as bicycle traffic, then something has to give – either that bicycle traffic should be separated, or heavy traffic simply shouldn’t be allowed on that road or street.
This hasn’t been achieved everywhere in the Netherlands yet, but it is being aimed at, everywhere. And this principle, even in isolation, ensures that Dutch roads and streets are considerably safer than British roads and streets, where we think nothing of mixing bicycle traffic with heavy motor traffic, or fast motor traffic (and usually both).
It is – appallingly – pervasive and normal.
The principle of forgiving environments corresponds to the approach to rail safety. It recognises that human beings are fallible, incompetent, or inattentive, and attempts to ensure that the environment people are travelling can cushion those mistakes.
A typical British example of unforgivingness is the failure of a lorry driver to look in his mirror, at a particular moment, as he sets off from some traffic signals, just at the same time as someone cycling travels down a cycle lane on their inside.
A failure to spot someone travelling down the inside of a vehicle at a particular moment, in a mirror, coupled with a failure to appreciate the danger of using a cycle lane, should not result in death or serious injury. This is an unforgiving environment.
By contrast a forgiving environment separates movements, and/or ensures good intervisibility, and time to appreciate what the other party might be doing. It also allows rules to be broken (willingly, or unwittingly) without serious consequences. Because that’s what humans do – we break rules.
We don’t appear to have anything like Sustainable Safety in Britain. We therefore shouldn’t be surprised that collisions happen, again and again, in the same way, to the same types of people, involving the same kinds of vehicles, even at the same junctions, over and over again, and nothing appears to be learnt.
We blame individuals for their failures – their failure to look in a mirror; their failure to appreciate that some types of cycle provision should be treated with extreme caution; their failure to not react quickly enough – without apparently ever stopping to realise that it’s the broken system that should be fixed, not the fallible human beings who are using it.
Maybe it’s because life is cheap in Britain – but that’s too simplistic. Life is selectively cheap in Britain. As the investigation that features at the start of this post shows, we take life very seriously when it is at risk on the railways, or in the air, and develop rational policies to structurally eliminate deaths and injuries from occurring in the future.
Yet on the roads, that concern for life apparently evaporates. Death and injury almost seems to be taken as an inevitable characteristic of our roads themselves; that they are innately dangerous.
The most telling manifestation of this assumption is the continual grumbling about the lack of personal protective equipment on the part of (a particular) vulnerable road user.
This kind of grumbling goes hand-in-hand with a blinkered view of Britain’s road environment as almost naturally hazardous – that our roads present spontaneous danger, to which the proper response is to don protective equipment before venturing into it, without even questioning the effectiveness of that equipment, or more pertinently whether our public space should even present such danger in the first place.
Other transport systems are designed in such a way that protective equipment is not needed, and make allowances for stupidity, incompetence, or inattention. Yet the British road network remains an inhospitable jungle, where mistakes mean death or serious injury for vulnerable users (and indeed even for those protected within motor vehicles).
The Dutch have appreciated this difference, and moved to put road design and road safety on the same footing as other modes of transport. Why haven’t we?