September 2nd looks like being a critical day in the history of attempts to achieve the aims of the RDRF – reducing danger in the roads as part of a sustainable transport policy. Here are three things for you to do:ONE: GET YOUR MP THERE AND IN SUPPORT:
Get your MP to attend the debate and make them aware of the issues and the need to support the motion: That this house supports the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report ‘Get Britain Cycling’; endorses the target of 10 per cent of all journeys being by bike by 2025, and 25 per cent by 2050; and calls on the Government to show strong political leadership, including an annual Cycle Action Plan and sustained funding for cycling.
A list of organisations has supported a briefing to MPs (RDRF has so far been missed off the list for some reason, but even if don’t get put on we support it). You can use this briefing to write to your MP on templates that the CTC and BC have set up, or just do your own. Here is my off-the-cuff effort:
Dear Ms Jackson,
As one of your constituents and Chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum, I urge you to attend the debate on September 2nd.
This is the current text of the motion to be debated on 2 September 2013:
“That this House supports the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report ‘Get Britain Cycling’; endorses… and sustained funding for cycling.”
I ask you to speak in favour of this motion. Our view is that a civilised society should aim to reduce danger to cyclists through a variety of means such as:
* Good quality highway engineering
* Reduced speed limits on roads where people live work and play – and which are enforced
* Increased road traffic policing and deterrent sentencing, primarily through endorsement of driving licences
* Engineering of motor vehicles to reduce the potential to endanger others
These measures would be of benefit to the safety of all road users, particularly pedestrians , as well as cyclists. They would also encourage more cycling, to the benefit of public health and alleviation of a variety of social and environmental problems.
The ringfenced funds required may appear large at a time of austerity – but viewed in the context of the fiscal costs of the problems that can be alleviated by cycling, and the massive expenditure on less sustainable and healthy forms of transport, they can be fully justified.
I do hope you can attend the debate and support the “Get Britain Cycling” report’s reccomendations.
Dr. Robert Davis, Chair RDRFTWO: SIGN THE PETITION
It is here . You should have already signed it, but you probably have friends and social media contacts who haven’t.THREE: GO ON THE RIDE.
London Cycling Campaign have organised a protest ride on the day of the debate. It is London specific, but that shouldn’t stop it from being linked into the national issue of the need to support cycling.
It is directed at Mayor Johnson, but if – like us – you see a lot that is positive in his Vision for Cycling - you can see the ride as helpfully urging him to move forward in the directions he and Transport for London have indicated they wish to progress on.
I personally wouldn’t have organised it around “dedicated space for cyclists” – a bit on road traffic justice would have been nice , but I didn’t organise it. And the segregationism is tempered by “Local streets should be transformed into spaces that are safe for cycling and walking by removing through motor traffic and reducing its speed”.
The point is the show of numbers. And you might want a “We ARE the traffic”; “Yes, we DO pay for the road” slogans on banners, although carrying banners on bikes is always a little clumsy.
One excuse for the continued discrimination against cycling as a mode of transport is that supporting cycling requires money. I will address this excuse in the next post.
In the wider policy context of how cycling should be catered for on London’s streets, there’s some fairly astonishing guidance being drafted by Southwark Council on cycle lanes. It’s so weak that I think it is fair to say, as Southwark Green Party are arguing, that it represents a ‘U-turn’ on the council’s prior commitment to Going Dutch.
Cllr John [Labour leader of Southwark Council] promised to change the council’s approach last year following a campaign of tens of thousands of cyclists calling for more protection on main roads. In March 2012, Cllr Peter John appeared to sign up to the “Go Dutch” principles, telling Southwark News that the existing policy of integrating cyclists with main traffic “was not the best strategy”, and said his change of heart came “since the meeting with Southwark Cyclists” where they presented a new set of policies including proper, protected cycle lanes.
Last year’s change of heart does not appear to be reflected in this guidance, which seems to go out of its way to ‘integrate’ cyclists in Southwark with motor traffic.
On the very first page, we have this table, setting out Use Requirements.
The important points to note here are that, in principle, no cycle lane is to be provided at all on any street with a 20 mph limit, apparently regardless of the volume of motor traffic on that street. Worse, on 30 mph streets cycle lanes are only to be used ‘potentially’, on a ‘case specific basis’ – and that if employed they should only be advisory, rather than mandatory, meaning motor vehicles are free to drive and park in them.
These proposals are explored in greater detail in the guidance, which states, in Section 2.2 -
With-flow cycle lanes should not generally be necessary on two-way 20mph streets. Other methods to improve the carriageway environment to make it safe and comfortable for cyclists should be used in preference.
‘All alternatives’ to cycle lanes on these streets should be fully explored, and indeed if cycle lanes are encountered in a project area, ‘they should be reviewed with the intention of designing them out if appropriate’. The only reasons given for actually retaining cycle lanes on streets with a 20mph limit are if other options are prohibitively expensive, or for ‘legitimate safety reasons’. And the sole permitted exception for cycle lanes on 20 mph streets is purely for bypassing mode filters; these cycle lanes ‘should not be longer than around 6-8m’.
It’s worth reinforcing, at this point, that cycle lanes on 20 mph streets (good cycle lanes, of course) are extremely common in the Netherlands.
This residential street in the city of Assen, which has a 30km/h (19mph) speed limit, also has wide, continuous cycle lanes. One of the main purposes of this kind of arrangement is to ensure vehicle speeds are kept low, by narrowing the carriageway and removing the centre line, which creates uncertainly with oncoming motor traffic. But these kinds of arrangements – highly beneficial for cycling – are being explicitly ruled out in this Southwark guidance. 20mph limits mean no cycle lanes.
Indeed the guidance seems really quite keen to do away with cycle lanes on 30mph roads too; it states that ‘it will need to be demonstrated that… – on balance – a lane is the best means of addressing the needs of cyclists’. Likewise
any existing instances of mandatory or advisory cycle lanes encountered within a project should be reviewed to check that they remain both necessary and are still the best way of meeting cyclists’ needs.
In a cop-out, the guidance states that mandatory cycle lanes (lanes that are illegal to drive in, unlike advisory lanes) should not be introduced, because they are
problematic in terms of cost, street clutter, order making and enforcement. They are also unlikely to provide substantial additional benefit compared with advisory cycle lanes.
Why mandatory lanes cost more, or create more clutter, than advisory ones is not explained.
Concern with visual appearance extends to cycle lanes being painted a particular colour -
Generally, this is only likely to be permitted where cycle lanes on 30mph roads pass side road junctions and an evidenced safety need that could not otherwise be avoided (else addressed via less visually intrusive means) can be demonstrated
And the Appendix states that
guidance also emphasises that – even where providing cycle lanes or cycle tracks would appear justified – they may not always be appropriate for design and safety reasons. This is especially so in urban streets where the road environment can be very complicated because of the frequency of side roads, vehicle crossings, parked vehicles and other turning movements. This is supported by research. In relation to cycle lanes, this suggests that lanes encourage riskier overtaking of cyclists by other road users in some circumstances – even when cyclists are not using them.
Well, the road environment need only be as complicated for cycling as you are willing to make it. Bad cycle lanes will have problems with turning conflicts and parked vehicles, as well as encouraging close overtakes. This isn’t, however, a universal problem with cycle lanes, which can be designed properly.
The hostility to cycling provision that seeps from this document extends to the ‘segregation’ of cycle lanes, using kerbs. It states
In instances other than [the use of splitter islands to provide occasional physical separation] cycle lanes should not be separated from other vehicle lanes by lengthy kerbs or extended reservations/traffic islands. [my emphasis]
The reasons given for this policy are quite remarkable -
Creation of kerb separated cycle lanes is generally discouraged by national guidance owing to the considerable road safety issues that they pose – both for cyclists themselves and other road users. In addition, feasibility is likely to be limited within busy London streets owing to various factors. These include: spatial and engineering constraints; the considerable additional cost of adapting roads to accommodate such facilities (compared to other interventions to assist cyclists); and likely opposition from other street users to proposals (for instance in relation to loss of parking. [my emphasis]
At a time when separated tracks are now being adopted as policy across London (and indeed at a national and international level), Southwark have chosen to insist that they pose ‘considerable road safety issues’, based presumably on the opinions of dinosaurs like John Franklin.
The second part of the explanation essentially amounts to ‘we can’t be bothered.’
It is most interesting that the justification in this guidance for the refusal to build infrastructure, or to provide cycle lanes, lies with the Hierarchy of Provision (cited, wrongly, in “LTN 1/10 Cycle Infrastructure Design”, rather than LTN 2/08). Southwark’s guidance refers to it as follows -
Designers are encouraged to consider first reducing traffic speeds and volumes so that cyclists can share the carriageway with other vehicles without the need for any form of special facility. Designers are advised to consider the reallocation of carriageway space to create cycle lanes or the creation of segregated off-road routes only where reducing traffic speeds and volumes would not be possible
I think this is a textbook example of how the Hierarchy of Provision is open to exploitation by councils who find it difficult to bring themselves to cater for cycling in any meaningful way. They can point to LTN 2/08, and reference it, copying its argument that cycle lanes and tracks should only be considered last after other measures like speed reduction or traffic volume reduction – conveniently ignoring how 20 mph limits, in and of themselves, do little to create subjective safety, and how (as in this document) no mention is made of traffic reduction, or removal. Southwark seem to think that a 20mph limit on a given road is enough, and that nothing else is required to make cycling a safe and pleasant experience.
The Hierarchy desperately needs replacing by a network-based guidance approach, which sets out precisely how cycling should be accommodated on a given road street, with a certain volume of motor traffic travelling at a certain speed, and a particular function. That is, guidance which maximises the degree of separation of people riding bikes from motor traffic, either through the removal of through traffic from side streets, or through the physical separation on main roads. I’m hoping this will come in the new revised version of the London Cycle Design Standards; but, at the moment councils like Southwark seem to be able to get away with it.
A visit to the Transport Research Laboratory on Friday gave me the opportunity to cycle through Bracknell, a New Town designated in 1949.
A gentleman named Pete Owens of Warrington Cycle Campaign (perhaps most famous for the Facility of the Month site) would have you believe that Bracknell – like many other New Towns – is, in effect, a small piece of the Netherlands, parachuted into Britain.
For 50 years our planners have bought into the “build it and they will come” segregationist hypothesis. Ever since Stevenage, every new settlement in the country has been built around a segregated cycle network. And it is not just Stevenage and MK – though those are probably the most comprehensive examples, but we have a whole premier leagues worth of “baseball stadia” that have been unremitting failures in terms of encouraging cycling. Indeed they have tended to be the most car dependent towns in the country. They built it and they didn’t come … to Stevenage, to Milton Keynes, to Harlow, to Bracknell, to Hatfield, to Telford, to Livingston, to Warrington … the list goes on.
And it really doesn’t wash claiming that this somehow doesn’t count because these were “botched”. They may not quite be up to the standard of the best examples from the NL (although in the ’70s the Dutch took our new-town planning guidelines as their model), but they certainly meet the central requirement that the segregationists claim is stopping people cycling ie people in these towns do not need to mix with busy traffic. [My emphasis]
The broad thrust of this thesis is that we have already tried the Dutch approach in Britain – specifically, segregation – and that it has failed to bring about mass cycling. Instead, so he argues, we should look instead to places in Britain that eschew cycle tracks – places like Hackney, among others – for how to increase cycling levels.
… it is the constraint on motor vehicles (or lack of it) that is the key to getting folk cycling and that building cycle paths (or not) is entirely irrelevent. This is why mainstream cyclists organisations have been making all along and why limiting traffic volumes and speeds (as they do in NL) are at the top of the hierarchy of measures and cycle specific infrastructure as a last resort.
It is notable that those places in the UK that do have some success at encouraging cycling are those that follow this approach and have reputations as anti-car towns. Hull – with the early take up of widespread traffic calming (though they are now slipping), Oxford – which actively discourages through traffic, Central London – with the congestion charge – and particularly Hackney (the only traffic authority in the country where more people cycle to work than drive) where they explicitly reject the segregationist approach.
Regardless of the relative degrees of success of these two different approaches (not something I wish to get bogged down with here), I have to say that Pete Owens gets it very wrong – astoundingly wrong – when he writes that places like Bracknell are ‘not quite up to the standard of the best examples from the NL’. In reality Bracknell is far, far below the standard of even the very worst Dutch cycling infrastructure.
There are, of course, cycling underpasses in Bracknell, that run under the large roundabouts. This means you can cycle across these roundabouts, without interacting with the heavy traffic on them.
This is exactly the sort of thing the Dutch do at roundabouts carrying a similar volume of motor traffic (although to a much better standard) -
So far, so good.
There are also some cycle tracks running around the town. In the main they seem to be some distance from the road network (indeed, if you were driving around Bracknell, you probably wouldn’t ever see a cycle track).
When these cycle tracks have to cross a major road, the solution seemed to be – just as at the large roundabouts – to put the track into an underpass. And in most cases, that means the cycle track has to slope down, then back up again. (You can see how the cycle track in the picture above undulates up and down – this is so the path to the left can pass under a road.)
Note how the cycle track – looking quite tired – slopes down substantially into an underpass, while the roads remain flat and continuous.
Underpasses like this are actually rather rare in Dutch towns and cities, and are typically only employed when a very large junction, usually on the periphery, has to be negotiated. In Bracknell, however, I found myself constantly cycling up and down, through numerous underpasses, just to get around. The picture above is taken only a few hundred yards from the shopping precinct in the centre of town. A flat town has been converted into a hilly one.
Indeed, it was while musing about the large number of underpasses in Bracknell – and why they are so rare in Dutch towns and cities – that I realised why cycling in New Towns was always going to be doomed. And why, despite claims to the contrary from the likes of Pete Owens – they bear absolutely no resemblance to the Dutch approach.
The only form of ‘segregation’ available to their designers, back in the 1950s and 60s, was precisely of this form – placing roads and cycle tracks on different levels. A kind of vertical segregation, that the Dutch employ only when they have to (crossing railways, for instance) or when the volume of motor traffic necessitates it.
By contrast, where cycling is designed (or ‘designed’) at the same level as a particular road or street, Bracknell is just as pitiful as most other towns and cities in Britain.
Where cycle tracks meet distributor roads on the same level, they just give up. They end. Proper provision ceases if you want to cycle along this road.
Indeed, I was struck by the complete absence of cycle tracks alongside all but the most major roads I encountered, despite copious amounts of space being available (this is a New Town, remember).
Where cycling ‘infrastructure’ does exist directly alongside roads in Bracknell, in almost all cases I saw it took the form of a shared use pavement.
These have all the horrible design flaws you would expect at junctions.
As I have already said, where cycling infrastructure in Bracknell exists at road level, and directly intersects with the motor vehicle network (rather than being placed below it, or far away from it), it is pitiful, with very few exceptions. I did come across this nice junction treatment, but it is a two-way track, shared with pedestrians, and rather over-engineered for the entrance to a cul-de-sac.
The cul-de-sacs themselves – which should theoretically prioritise cycling, by making driving more indirect – are themselves a problem. In many cases, they are impermeable to cycling; they don’t form through-routes, so the most obvious route is the distributor road, which usually doesn’t have any provision at all, beyond a shared use pavement.
Other cul-de-sacs do have access through them onto the cycle track behind, but it’s not particularly obvious.
Typically, in trying to find the most direct route, you will find yourself bumping along a bit of tarmac, unsure of whether you are on a cycle track, a shared use route, or a footpath, until it becomes clear that it’s the latter.
The ambiguity of these (foot?)paths is obviously problematic, with people apparently cycling in places that were not designed for cycling. Guardrail provides a clue to difficulties or collisions that might have occurred in the past.
And in Bracknell the rule when it comes to guardrail seems to be ‘too much is never enough’.
The pedestrianised centre of Bracknell is enclosed by two concentric rings of road, neither of which have any provision for cycling on them. The outer one looks like this -
Did someone say ‘Dutch’?
The final irony is that in ‘cycling friendly’ Bracknell cycling is not permitted at any time in the shopping precinct at its centre (although a van was driving through while I took this picture).
It is a sick joke to pretend that Bracknell – or indeed any other New Town that put in similar ‘infrastructure’ to a greater or lesser extent – is anything like a Dutch town, transplanted to the UK. At the time these places were built, there was only a very limited kind of ‘segregation’ on offer, the kind that places cycling far away from roads, either vertically or horizontally, and that has little or nothing to offer whenever cycling provision has to come into close contact with the road network. Given the way cycling was designed for, the only way in which cycling in New Towns could ever have been a comfortable or viable experience would for it have to been placed entirely on a different level from the road network, which would have been monstrous, as well as impractical.
This shouldn’t really be news; as long ago as 1978 Mike Hudson’s Bicycle Planning Book described how the cycling network in a number of New Towns, including Bracknell, was ‘incoherent and incomplete, and often inconsistent’. (Hudson also states that ‘cycle tracks are absent from Hatfield and Warrington’, which contradicts Pete Owens’ claim that they ‘built it’ in these two towns). That incoherence and inconsistency must surely be a direct consequence of the failure to design cycling in – with both objective and subjective safety – at ground level, and across the entirety of the town, not just the provision of underpasses at the biggest roundabouts.
It would be a little unfair to blame the original designers for these problems. In a way, the networks they built did partly function in the way a Dutch cycle network functions today, in terms of insulating anyone cycling from interactions with motor traffic. This is because, back in the 1960s, there was not the volume of motor traffic there is today. Cycling around on the distributor roads (the ones that have horrible shared use pavements today) would most likely have been fairly pleasant and traffic-free, in much the same way you can cycle around Dutch towns and have very few direct interactions with motor traffic. And in the places where motor traffic would have been substantially heavy and off-putting in these New Towns – at the large roundabouts and alongside the dual carriageways – the cycle tracks (albeit limited and circuitous) were usually provided.
But this kind of separation was fragile, and could never last, because it relied upon people not adopting the car as a mode of transport. As increasing numbers of people began to own cars, so the distributor roads would have become less and less subjectively safe, and less pleasant to use by bike. Over time, these roads have been converted to ‘provide’ for cycling, but only by the apparent legalising of cycling on existing pavements. Modern Dutch-style measures to separate cyclists from motor traffic are almost entirely absent. To that extent Bracknell is essentially no different from any other town in Britain, and not in any way an example of how segregation has failed, or will fail, in this country.
From the Lancashire Evening Post. Presented without comment.
The number of cyclists killed and seriously injured on Lancashire’s roads has almost doubled in a year.
Police said that between April 2013 and July 2013, 53 cyclists were killed and seriously injured on Lancashire’s roads compared to 29 in the same period in 2012.
Now officers are urging cyclists to wear helmets and appropriate safety clothing when riding their bike.
Chief Insp Debbie Howard said: “We have seen an increase in the popularity of cycling in recent years so there are now more cyclists on our roads.
“Despite falling trends in the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads, the proportion of casualties which cyclists account for is an increasing one.
“Cyclists can leave themselves vulnerable when riding on our roads and we want to remind them of the importance of wearing a cycling helmet and appropriate safety clothing when riding their bike.
Pedal cyclists accounted for seven per cent of all casualties in Lancashire in 2012.
I did a video, because I was too lazy to think about and research and write up a topic properly, and because I needed something for testing editing software. It’s about shared use foot/cycle paths in parks. I know! Super exciting, right?
This means that I now not only hate the sound of my voice, I hate my mannerisms generally. I was not entirely unaware that smiling/grinning/laughing doesn’t look good on me, but, damn, I do all those other things as well?
But in a fit of reckless impulsiveness I thought I’d go ahead and publish it anyway.
It starts with an apology, but I’m really not sure that one is ever enough.