The village of Warnham in West Sussex has long been plagued by ‘rat running’ – drivers taking inappropriate routes through the village as a shortcut, to avoid a lengthier (but probably, in reality, quicker) journey on more appropriate A-roads.
I’m not actually a fan of denigrating drivers in this way, as ‘rat runners’ – they are making rational decisions about the best routes for them. And even if we are willing to label them, it doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. In reality ‘rat running’ is a strategic problem that can only be solved by planning and engineering decisions, ones that simply remove the ‘rat runs’ as potential routes, or that make the appropriate roads much more attractive, and the inappropriate roads much less attractive, in combination.
The village of Warnham is an interesting case study in this regard. Looking at a map of the area, we can see why there is a problem.
We can immediately see that the village (at the top centre of the map) lies in the middle of a path running east-west across the map – a path formed on the left by the A281, heading towards Guildford, and to the east, the A264, heading towards Crawley and Gatwick Airport.
Zooming in closer, I’ve drawn on the route that drivers are expected to take, following the main roads, if they were heading from Crawley towards Guildford.
I suspect the majority of drivers do follow this route – and in the opposite direction too. But it’s clearly a long way round, and there are a couple of tempting ‘direct’ routes, which cut off the long southward diversion, both of which run through or near Warnham, marked in red, below.
This problem has got, or will get, even worse, with the expansion of the village of Broadbridge Heath (now essentially a connected suburb of Horsham), to the south.
The old bypass of Broadbridge Heath is the yellow road; the new bypass has been built even further south, making the east-west route even longer.
That means fairly urgent action is required to alleviate, or remove entirely, the problem of drivers using some fairly narrow rural lanes as a shortcut alternative to main roads.
One of these interventions has taken place at the junction to the west, where Strood Lane (a narrow rural lane to Warnham) meets the A281. At this junction, people taking a short cut will want to turn right if they are heading west; conversely, they will want to turn left into this side road, if they are trying to drive east.
These movements have now in fact been banned, in conjunction with some minor engineering works that should support them. I went over to take a look at them a few days ago. I’m not entirely sure they will be effective.
Here we are looking west – the A281 is the main road running across the picture, while I am standing on the minor lane, Strood Lane. As you can see right turns have been banned, but there isn’t an awful lot to stop people from ignoring the sign and just turning right, as this driver is doing, literally within 30 seconds of me arriving. The following two drivers did turn left, but I suspect people habituated to using this ‘rural lane’ route as their best option will not be deterred.
To the right of the photo, we can see an encouraging bit of engineering. The island simply wasn’t there before – it’s a big build out which I think will (almost) completely stop people turning left of the major road – the corner is far too tight to be taken at speed, and it will involve coming to a complete stop, and swinging out into the opposing lane on a fast, busy road. The best feature from my perspective is the cycle bypass – a good touch. There’s no need to ban cycle turns, and we have a nice bit of engineering to support that movement. Here’s the view of the junction looking south, from the A281 main road.
The minor oversight here is some ‘except cycles’ need to be added to both the banned turn signs.
The real question is how to properly discourage those right turns out of the side road. I suspect the engineering could have been far more severe, to truly force people into turning left out of Strood Lane.
In any case, if the turning ban is wholly effective, the ‘desired route’ will involve adding about 600m to people’s journeys, as they turn left onto the A281, circle around a roundabout, then resume their journey in their intended direction (and vice versa in the opposite direction).
Will that be enough to make this route unattractive? Again, I suspect not.
Another intervention appears to be taking place at the same time, on Byfleets Lane, one of the ‘red’ routes through this area (and in my view the more tempting of the two). On the section highlighted with a black border, this already narrow lane is being deliberately narrowed, and having a ‘hard’ margin added.
It’s not particularly clear from my poor photo, but this is about a four-inch high continuous metal ‘basket’, full of gravel, which will be difficult or impossible to drive over, hence restricting this lane to basically one vehicle’s width. Passing places are being installed at intervals. This will be quite effective, I think – it will reduce the temptation to charge through here, knowing that you will be forced to confront oncoming traffic, and may have to reverse to a passing place.
The slight irony is that these works are taking… three months, during which the lane is completely closed to motor traffic (see the orange barriers in the photo above). This suggests to me that a permanent closure halfway along – one which would still permit resident access – might be an option worth exploring.
Any thoughts welcome in the comments below!
Last year I wrote about a section of the A23 – a Highways England-administered road – that had been widened (or ‘upgraded’) from a four lane to a six lane road, matching the motorway-like nature of the rest of this road as it runs south from Crawley (an extension of the M23 motorway) to the south coast at Brighton.
The subject of that post was principally the cycling and walking facilities that had been built as part of those construction works.
Prior to construction (between 2011 and 2014) this road was essentially a complete no-go area for walking and cycling, with no alternative but to cycle on a carriageway with a 70mph speed limit, carrying nearly 70,000 vehicles a day. There is now an alternative that is – for the most part – very good.
As I write this, a similar construction project is underway on another Highways England road, a section of the A21 between Tunbridge and Pembury, on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells. This road is not as busy as the A23, carrying nearly 40,000 vehicles per day, it involves converting a single carriageway road into a dualled four lane road, rather than a six lane road.
But it is very reminiscent, in that it involves adding a lane in each direction, and in the fact that parallel walking and cycling provision is being provided alongside this new ‘upgraded’ section of road. Again, like the A23, there was no cycling (or walking!) provision along the (single carriageway) pre-construction A21.
Last week Tunbridge Wells Bicycle User Group were invited to take a look at how construction of this parallel provision was coming along, with completion of the whole project due in September, and I was kindly invited along too.
As you will see from the photographs that follow, the whole scheme is very much a work in progress. But the cycling and walking provision looks like it will be of a high standard.
Starting at the southern (Tunbridge Wells) end, the path runs northwards parallel to what will be a motor traffic slip road, joining the main A21.
The path here is something like 2.5-3m wide, which I think will be wide enough, especially given that, along this southern stretch, there will be parallel provision on the other side of the dual carriageway (but we didn’t get to see that, because of the nature of the construction work).
I suspect, going by what we saw, this will actually be the worst part of this path alongside the A21. The biggest issue here will be the proximity of the path to the carriageway; it certainly felt quite exposed walking along here, even with the lower traffic speeds on the A21 through the roadworks. There is definitely a need for some kind of barrier and (ideally) one that has some noise abatement function.
Further north, the path will be further way from the road.
Here we can see the new northbound carriageway, serving as a two-way A21 while construction takes places on the southbound carriageway, at the extreme right. We are walking on what is left of the old A21, which will form the foundations for the new path. The separation is much better here, although again it would be good to have something between the path and the road for more comfort.
Approximately one quarter of the way along the upgraded section of road, there is a an underbridge junction (helpfully marked as ‘underbridge’ on the map, above!), connecting up some rural lanes on the eastern side of the road. This bit of road also serves as the access point, off the A21, for the existing houses along the former road.
The road is (deliberately) bendy, to slow drivers down as they enter this new environment. The path will continue northwards alongside it, without interruption, although we were told it will be slightly narrower here, and closer to the road. The photograph above shows approximately where it will go, to the left of the road. There will (theoretically) be very little motor traffic here, and a lower speed too, so this proximity is not too much of a problem.
If you continue cycling north, you will then be using the former A21 road, which we walked along.
This will now serve as the access road for the handful of houses (four or so) along this old section of the A21 – you can see one of them to the left, in the photograph above. Although people who live here will now have slightly longer car journeys (this ‘service road’ will be a dead end to motor traffic, meaning they will have to drive back to the previous junction to join the A21) these residents will have a much better environment, living next to a very quiet lane instead of next to a fast, busy trunk road carrying 37,000 vehicles a day.
I shot a short video at this spot to give some idea of the change in nature of this road. You can still hear the A21, behind the bank, but it’s possible to talk quietly, and hear birdsong.
This service road continues northwards, running in parallel to the new road. For me the most impressive part of the new route is this cutting.
Again, we see motor traffic running in two directions on what will be the northbound carriageway. Meanwhile we are walking on what will become the dead-end service road, or cycle path (it will be gated at approximately this location, to stop drivers using it to continue northbound). Clearly, an enormous amount of ‘extra’ earth has been removed here to create a wide path, with good separation from the new A21.
The path will also be fenced off from the A21; we could see the fence under construction as we walked northwards.
In the distance here is the extent of the route we were able to walk; construction is still taking place. But even so we were able to get within a few hundred metres of the junction to the south of Tonbridge; this will form a very useful link between the two towns, which are only about four miles apart.
The real problem is going to be ensuring that Kent County Council (and the local borough councils) manage to build routes of this quality right into their town centres. This route will only connect up the outskirts of both towns; for people to cycle between them, they need the same high standard of facility along the length of their journey. If they have to battle along motor-traffic dominated roads just to reach this new path, then its potential will not even be remotely fulfilled.
Of course, in one sense it is relatively easy to build cycling infrastructure alongside this kind of road scheme. For a start it is something of a blank slate; the cycling infrastructure can simply be delivered with the project. And in addition there aren’t the kinds of issues that make building cycle routes in urban areas more problematic. To take just one example, there aren’t many junctions to deal with – the cycleway simply runs alongside the road. These are problems that will have to be overcome at a local level.
That said, it is very encouraging that a scheme that was developed many years ago is coming to fruition with what looks like a very useful piece of cycle provision embedded within it. Even within the last few years, Highways England have been moving forwards on the design of cycling infrastructure, so it is good to see something of this quality that dates from before those improvements. Highways England standards like IAN 195/16 – Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – represent one of the best avenues for ensuring that cycling is properly designed into our road network, at every level.
The challenge is going to be ensuring that provision of this quality is built into the existing Highways England (and regional equivalent) road network, not just into new schemes like this one, and even more importantly, ensuring it happens outside of the Highways England road network – where these new routes bump against the remit of local authorities who may have little or no experience, enthusiasm, or funding. If that doesn’t happen, then routes like this one will be isolated and underused – a waste of their potential, which would be a great pity.
My thanks to TWBUG, and to Alison from Balfour Beatty and Tom from Highways England for showing us around.
Here is our response to Transport for London’s consultation on making lorries in London safer, made with our fellow organisations on the Action on Lorry danger working group:
Why is it that cycling is regarding as a serious potential risk in ways that motor traffic travelling at greater speeds (and with much greater momentum) is not?
Part of the explanation must lie in the fact that we have lived with motor traffic travelling at great speed around our urban areas for so long that is simply seen as ‘normal’. We don’t even notice it – it’s simply background wallpaper, a fact of life. Cars, lorries, vans and buses travel at 30mph along our roads and streets, and that’s just the way it is.
Meanwhile cycling – a mode of transport for which users rarely attain more than 20mph, and which weighs little more than the human being cycling – is something that has to be controlled; slowed down; enforced.
This isn’t helped by lazy urban design that all too often lumps cycling in with walking, placing it on pedestrian-specific infrastructure that is a recipe for conflict.
But I suspect there’s a little more going on behind the scenes here than simple bad design. As we shall see later in this post, even on high-quality cycling infrastructure that clearly separates cycling from walking, there is an expectation that cycling should be slowed down and controlled in ways that are simply absent on the adjacent road network, where motor traffic continues to thunder past at 30mph (or more).
Of course, the ‘controlling’ mentality has been most powerfully exhibited by the Royal Parks in the last week, who, having already installed a series of cobbled ridges in the western half of Hyde Park, are now proceeding to add another series to the (long-established) cycle path along the Broad Walk, which indirectly connects Hyde Park Corner with Marble Arch on the eastern side of the park. There will be 28 humps on this 1 km section of path.
The justification for doing this is (as always) people apparently cycling too fast. A speed of 32mph has been cited, but notably this is just one person, on one occasion. By contrast 93% of people surveyed by the Royal Parks are cycling below 20mph. A comment from a Royal Parks spokesman provides a little insight into the mentality of the organisation –
“If we have cyclists racing up and down a pathway at speed with pedestrians trying to cross that really doesn’t make for a pleasant visit, especially when we also have cases of pedestrians being shouted at for walking on pathways in the way of cyclists.”
What is deeply inconsistent about this attitude is that the roads running through Hyde Park continue to have 30mph limits, with very little to stop drivers from (entirely legally) travelling at this speed, and with little or no assistance to help pedestrians cross the road at key locations.
The speed limit for drivers in the park is exactly the same as the single cycling outlier that has justified the installation of these cobbles, and the evidence from other Royal Parks suggest that speeding is rife, with 54% of all drivers exceeding 30mph in the Outer Circle in Regents Park. (The Royal Parks interest in tackling ‘speeding’ in this particular park only seems to have materialised with the prospect of it being closed as a through route to motor traffic, with new cobbled ramps to slow cycling).
Equally there is absolutely no priority for pedestrians attempting to cross these roads, nor any apparent concern in the face of motorists ‘racing’ (not that this word would be used by the Royal Parks) at 30mph or above. Naturally, these are ‘roads’ where that kind of speed is completely fine, while cycling on the Broad Walk is a mere ‘path’ where 10mph is the desired speed.
The inconsistency is even more obvious when we consider that the Broad Walk itself isn’t a particularly direct or convenient route for anyone cycling along the eastern edge of the park – it involves a series of convoluted crossings at both ends to leave and rejoin the road network. The most direct route is of course Park Lane itself, a fast and unpleasant road that (incredibly enough) was built on the park in the early 1960s. So Park Lane is effectively a route through the park, a route where motor traffic travels at great speed and in large quantities, a route where people are killed and seriously injured in numbers, and where pedestrians have to wait minutes to cross the road.
When I cycle on the Broad Walk (for instance, to go to Westminster University) it is not out of choice, but because I have been pushed off Park Lane by the dangerous and inhospitable character of the road.
Five lanes of traffic to choose from on Park Lane and yet people still cycle through Hyde Park. I wonder why? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/AKpoTBIt9S
— Alex Ingram (@nuttyxander) March 14, 2017
To punish me (and everyone else cycling on this route) is perverse, given it is a route of last resort. The best way to tackle this issue is not to make all our lives worse, but to provide clear, consistent space for cycling, be it in the park itself, or reclaimed from Park Lane – space that sensibly separates people cycling from people walking. (It’s notable that these latest proposals for the Broad Walk actually create new environments where walking and cycling are pushed into the same space, with no clarity for either type of user). The humps will not solve the ‘speeding’ problem (if it did, people on racing bikes would not cycle through the Arenberg Forest at close to 30mph), and they will create new problems.
The underlying issue here seems to be that pedestrian comfort and convenience only seems to be a matter of concern when cycling is involved.
A textbook example of this is the installation of zebra crossings on new cycling infrastructure in London, giving people on foot priority when they need to cross to bus stops. Now I think these are a good idea. They can now be installed without zig-zag markings and ‘Belisha Beacons’, making them a low-cost and low-hassle intervention that makes walking a bit easier and will barely inconvenience cycling at all, given the dynamics of these two modes.
But where is this degree of concern for ease of crossing on the rest of the road network? Central London boroughs are chock-full of junctions where people are sent on circuitous routes to safely cross the road, or where there are signals for motor traffic, but no separate green signal for pedestrians. Even bog-standard unsignalised junctions can be totally inhospitable for all but the most able-bodied pedestrians.
There doesn’t appear to be any particular concern about this neglect of pedestrian safety and comfort, widespread across the capital, yet crossing four metres of tarmac which only carries people cycling necessitates a zebra crossing. That’s fine, of course, and worthy, but it seems a curiously backward approach to leap into action when pedestrians have to deal with cycling, but to leave them totally helpless when they have to cross rivers of motor traffic travelling at 30mph.
London puts simple zebra crossings on cycle highways (a good thing). But not on roads, by schools, or bus stops (which is rubbish) pic.twitter.com/j44eBYuuZi
— cyclistsinthecity (@citycyclists) December 21, 2016
I walk a lot in London, and I would love to see a great deal more care and attention paid to pedestrian comfort and convenience. I am not encouraged, however, by a reluctance to install things like zebra crossings anywhere on the road network, except when it involves crossing cycleways. Nor am I encouraged by an enthusiasm to tackle ‘speeding’ by one particular mode, largely travelling at under 20mph, while roads administered by the same authority continue to have 30mph limits, with the majority of drivers exceeding that speed. Is it too much to ask for a rational and consistent approach on these kinds of issues?
We think road traffic law enforcement is a key element in potentially reducing danger on the roads. Whatever changes in highway and vehicle engineering occur, the safety of all road users will depend at least partly on how the law is enforced. Of course, what happens with sentencing is also key, but here we address the way the police operate. Most importantly, how the police behave should be seen as a central element of how society accepts or stigmatises behaviours.
Our view is that the attitudes of the police will at least partly reflect the prejudices of ordinary members of the public in what is a motor-centred society. We have criticised elements of policing in the past and suggested ways in which it can be improved. In the worst cases we have argued that the response (or lack of it) to rule- or law-breaking driving makes this society “nothing less than fundamentally uncivilised”.
But we have recently seen what appears to be a fundamental change in some police forces with the adoption of policing of close passing of cyclists .We will be monitoring and reporting on developments in this area. Most importantly, along with what happens with other elements of the legal system, we note that the way policing is done is a reflection of whether road danger is seen – as it would be in a civilised society – as the problem it is.
Below we comment on the good and the bad in police services at the beginning of 2017.The good…
The key development is the close passing of cyclists operation devised by West Midlands Police. For us it has key ramifications for policing to protect all road users in that it:
(a) Addresses danger at source. There is a clear statement that while errant behaviour is a feature of people using all modes of transport, the potential to harm others is central to specifying what problem behaviour should be targeted – and that means prioritising misbehaviour by drivers.
(b) Goes beyond KSIs. While contributory factors in manoeuvres leading to cyclist Killed and Seriously Injured casualties are considered in identifying close passing as a key problem, the simple fact of intimidation is seen as a problem requiring the attention of the police.
(c) Considers the transport policy implications. Law enforcement policy, as with all interventions affecting safety on the road, has transport policy implications. The West Midlands Police (WMP) initiative was clearly and correctly based on supporting not only people who cycle now, but also those who may wish to do so and are deterred by behaviours like close passing. The views of at least some WMP officers expressed here show that traffic police officers may be willing to give a high level of commitment towards a road danger reduction agenda.
I was privileged to address a training day on close passing policing by West Midlands Police, along with the Police and Crime Commissioner (former Road Safety Minister David Jamieson):
As a consequence of the WMP initiative, we have seen a similar initiative from Camden Metropolitan Police Service , and the following forces are near or in the process of developing their own programmes:
In addition, WMP are actively taking 3rd party video reports (2 mins before and after a close pass) on a private link. (WMP also place their close passing policing alongside the introduction of 20 mph areas and cycle-friendly infrastructure in Birmingham).
Camden MPS have also been shown explaining to drivers the road positions that cyclists may need to take here: ITV London News, Evening News: 24/01/2017 and have publicised the Met’s online road traffic incident reporting site
(On a minor point, I note the somewhat loaded connotations of descriptions including “undercover” and “sting” – these operations should not be seen as in any way underhand simply because an officer is in plain clothes).
All this indicates a substantial move towards road danger reduction policing. And more police services are asking WMP for information: apologies to those developing close passing policing that I haven’t included, as more are coming on stream.
Against this, we have to consider the negative elements of policing, present in all too many police services – even some of those carrying out close passing and other road danger reduction types of policing…and the bad
First of all, let’s be clear about traffic police officers. They have one of the toughest policing jobs, frequently criticised by sections of the media. More importantly, there is the risk they face from errant drivers on the roads, leading to injury and death: it is a good reminder to use a search engine to see how often this happens. (Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on “British police officers killed in the line of duty” excludes “those who die in more regular circumstances such as traffic collisions”!). Most of the traffic police officers I have met are appalled at, and passionately committed against, rule- and law-breaking driving. Our basic position is therefore one of respect and support.
However, there are two issues. Firstly, their views may not be shared by senior officers managing them.
More importantly, we have a general problem of how their views will inevitably be formed by the society they are a part of.
The question of “institutionalised discrimination”
Throughout the eighties and onwards, staff in public services – the NHS, local government and also the police and armed services – have been told to be aware of the prejudices they may hold. These are primarily prejudices against people on the basis of their sexuality, gender, ethnic group or disability, the central point being that people will tend to reflect the beliefs of the society they are brought up in. If these beliefs are discriminatory, people will hold prejudices, often quite unwittingly, which will result in disadvantageous treatment of some people, and resultant failure in the effectiveness of the services they are required to provide.
That is a very brief definition of the equal opportunities policies that public service professionals are required to adopt. The emphasis is on getting public servants to question basic ideas that they may not even be aware they hold. It is not about blaming people for holding these views – rather, it is about assisting them in their work by showing how they may quite unwittingly be mistaken. It is critically important to remember this point: far from being “political correctness”, this is about remembering that people reflect the belief systems of the society they are brought up in.
And in this area, we are talking about the various ways in which most people have accepted the dominance of the car and motorised transport, specifically in tolerating everyday rule and law breaking by motorists.
There is of course, the “choice” question. It is often argued that an equal opportunities model doesn’t apply as the issue of, for example, riding a bicycle, is essentially a question of choice. It is self-selected. One does not have to ride a bicycle. While this is correct, it is also true that one does not have to drive a car – or at least not in a rule- or law-breaking manner.
Anyway, there is also the model of Health and Safety regimes in areas such as Health and Safety at work. Under these regimes, workers – or people who have chosen to work as, for example, construction workers – are protected by regimes where it is ensured that the environment they work in is as safe as possible. If that idea were to be dominant on the public highway – with the danger from motor vehicles to other road users treated in the same way as danger to workers on a construction site – we would have a completely different attitude prevailing. On that basis it seems that we are entitled to expect that police officers should question the dominant car-centric views that hold sway in British society, in the sort of way that they are in West Midlands Police.
Against this, it might be felt that traffic police officers – who, it must be repeated, are often putting themselves at a high level of risk in their work – have good intentions. But good intentions are not only not enough, but frequently “pave the road to hell”. Traffic police officers are the first to know that most road crashes are caused by otherwise good people doing bad things. Being a good person is simply not good enough when it comes to the causes of road danger.
Let’s see how prejudice against cyclists and in favour of rule/law-breaking drivers exists with the examples of just one county police service and the Metropolitan Police Service.Hampshire Police:
I asked the author of an analysis of one police service over six months, comparing them to West Midlands Police, what the problems might be:
“Fining cyclist for riding through amber, urging cyclists to wear hi-viz and be considerate to other road users after a cyclist wearing hi-viz is left for dead after a hit and run , criticising cyclist killed in broad daylight for not using lights , spending winter evenings pulling over entirely law-abiding cyclists, presiding over one of the highest rates of increase of cyclist serious injuries in the country, refusing to look at video evidence of bad driving, unilaterally failing to include close passing of cyclists in their definition of dangerous driving, never engaging in related discussions on social media—shall I go on?”
This is a selection of cases in one police service. It is not too cynical to suggest that similar problems may exist in other police services in the UK. Also – noting that Hants Police have made a commitment towards close passing policing – it is quite possible that some good work can be done at the same time as questionable attitudes prevail elsewhere in the same force.
The Metropolitan Police Service:
As the largest police force in the UK by far, it’s worth having a look at some current issues with the MPS. This is not any kind of systematic analysis, rather a selection of some views expressed at the highest level which give cause for concern.The strange case of cyclists not using cycle facilities
Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Rickett is OCU Commander of the Roads and Transport Policing Command (RTPC). Jointly funded by Transport for London (TfL), the RTPC is the largest operational command in the MPS, comprising 2,350 officers and staff, whose role is to provide safety and security across London’s road and surface transport infrastructure.
On 24th January 2017, at the centenary conference of the London Road Safety Council, he highlighted and denounced: “A symptom of post-modern libertarian democracy” which troubled him. His concern? “I can’t believe that cyclists are not required to use the Cycle Superhighways”. I think it’s worth spending some time on this issue and DCS Rickett’s vexation with what may be happening on some 0.145% of the roads he oversees.
There are of course numerous laws which require behaviours of all road users. The 30 mph speed limit in most of the Metropolitan Police area was set in (the modern) 1935, and has been broken by either a substantial minority or majority of motorists whenever they can, ever since. Behaviours which can be prosecuted as careless or dangerous driving are visible to anyone observing London motorised traffic. Indeed, law breaking (and certainly rule breaking threatening other road users as specified in the Highway Code) is so commonplace as not to excite much public attention. One would have thought DCS Rickett was concerned enough with the amount of persistent breaking of existing rules and laws by the motorised not to feel the need for additional laws. Take the following two incidents reported in the four days either side of his comments, in just one of London’s 33 Boroughs:
The first is described by the Fire Service, which as an emergency service frequently partners the MPS, as “Elderly man helped out of his car by firefighters after the vehicle reverses into a priest’s home in Hounslow”. (Note the lack of human agency.)
In neither case were arrests made. So why the need for new laws, when existing ones are routinely flouted with a minuscule chance of arrest?DCS Rickett at the APPCG hearing
In his evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group on 22nd February 2017 (you can hear it here ), DCS Rickett was asked if the current suite of offences was adequate. His only suggested addition was, yes, the problem he has that he cannot enforce the non-use of Cycle Superhighways, and that the CSH outside his office is often “empty and the road filled with cyclists”. You can hear his evident vexation and the amount of time expressing it from 30 – 36 minutes. I think this tells us something about the attitude towards cyclists and cycling of the officer overseeing policing of London’s roads, and it’s worth looking at in detail.
It troubles him that the CSHs are there “at huge expense”. But the expense, certainly nationally, is trivial compared to the spending on other road infrastructure. Even in London, there is plenty of new road building, and the usual spending on “safety engineering” to accommodate rule- and law-breaking driving. One can furthermore argue that motorists impose massive external costs with regard to their danger, pollution, space consumption etc., which they don’t pay for, and are therefore subsidised “at huge expense” .This is not an abstract academic issue: in a culture where drivers see themselves as paying tax (“I pay road tax”) and cyclists not, emphasising the spending on CSHs feeds into a commonly held prejudice.
There’s an echo of the Secretary of State’s infamous remarks about cyclists “not being road users” . All transport professionals know that the CSHs are part of the public highway or “road” – yet DCS Rickett persistently describes them as being distinguished from “the road”.
Now the likes of DCS Rickett should be answered using rational argument. For example, the building of segregated cycle lanes on CSHs seems to have generated more cycling – which rather contradicts the idea that cyclists are using “the road” instead. Or it can be mentioned that there are often obvious reasons for not using a CSH lane: most are bi-directional, requiring additional movements across traffic to enter and leave if going from or to the other side of the road. These additional movements increase delay and also possibly danger.
But while rational argument is necessary, as with so much else, it won’t win the day because what is at issue is essentially ideological. The matter in hand is essentially about something unspoken: who the roads are for and how, when and why they may be used. My suggestion is that for DSC Rickett and much of mainstream culture, the roads are for motorised traffic, with almost all driving (including rule and law breaking driving) being acceptable. On the other hand, cycling is seen as suspect and problematic, with cyclists as a problem.
“Getting them out of the way”
There is a long history of cyclists being concerned about segregated cycle lanes/tracks on the basis that they would marginalise and “ghettoise” them. Part of this is based on the fact that much supposed “provision for cyclists” has been inadequate by today’s standards: inconvenient and potentially more hazardous for cyclists. Part of it is that, even with a network of high quality protected cycle lanes, most cycling will still be on the public highway in the immediate vicinity of motor vehicles: so drivers still have to be aware that they cannot expect cyclists to be somewhere else on most of the roads they use.
This worry is that provision for cycling based on the principle of segregation on main roads holds a fundamental danger for cyclists. It will allow drivers to think that cyclists are a problem to be got “out of the way” (e.g. where drivers feel they have a right to proceed at whatever speed they feel is right for them). The RDRF view is that we should proceed with the current nominal official commitment, most notably in London but also elsewhere, towards networks of segregated cycle lanes as a means of encouraging people scared of the hazards of cycling to cycle. That doesn’t stop us from being wary and watchful of attitudes based on seeing cycling as a problem to be got “out of the way” of drivers.
There are other reasons for cyclists not using existing cycle “facilities”. They may be blocked by parked cars or debris. As such, Cycling UK has successfully defended the right not to use them . Many will not be fit for purpose under the current best practice design standards. Many cyclists have had the experience of being hooted at by irate drivers for not using a supposed “facility” which it was not appropriate for them to use. Indeed, DSC Rickett notes in his APPCG evidence that any legislation requiring cyclists to use segregated cycle lanes would have to be very specific.
I think that even with carefully drafted legislation, it is likely that plenty of drivers would still feel that a cyclist would be required to be “out of their way” even with a cycle lane /track which didn’t get covered by such legislation. Again, we are dealing with prejudice rather than rational argument.
Indeed, even just restricting campaigning to achieving the objective of a network of high quality segregated cycle lanes, such negative attitudes pose a threat to the well-being of actual and potential cyclists. And it seems that they exist at the top of the MPS with the officer (who reports to the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, who plays a key part in overseeing provision for cycling).
A special present?
I think there are other things to be said here. I get the impression that the installation of protected cycle lanes on some 0.154% of the capital’s roads, with the (now questionable) hope of this rising to some 0.45% during the current Mayoralty, is seen as some sort of special present to cyclists. But it is not. It is there to attract potential cyclists rather than those who are proficient and willing to cycle on London’s roads. One could argue that it is there for motorists, so that they don’t have to worry about the presence of cyclists (as explained above). Above all, allocation of dedicated space to cycling is supposed to be there to provide part of the solution to London’s problems generated by excessive dependence on motor vehicles, particularly private cars. It might be worthwhile seeing any favours as being done by, not for, cycling and cyclists.
Some other issues
I’ll spend less time on some of the other views expressed by DCS Rickett. Suffice it to say that they betray inadequate or negative views of cycling.
“There is lots of evidence out there that lots of lives could be saved if helmets were made mandatory” (1 hour 7 minutes). It is clear that there is no evidence to justify a mandatory helmet law, and little if any of beneficial effects in reducing serious injury rates. As Bez has concisely argued:
It’s also worth looking at some comments in a recent tweet by Jamie Juggins on the mandatory helmet law in Australia:
DCS Rickett seems cool on policing 20 mph areas (37 mins), seems to be more concerned with policing cyclist behaviour – as with “cyclist rideouts”, whatever they are – (59 minutes), and unaware of the discussion raised about use of Section 59 of the Police Reform Act (discussed among officers at our award event last year).
Finally, we have the case of Barry Mason, killed while cycling in London in February 2014, which we have discussed here and here . The case is notorious because of the decision of the MPS to not pass the papers on to the Crown Prosecution Service. The family raised funds for a private prosecution. DCS Rickett defends this decision (49 minutes 30 seconds); our view is different. We’ll see what happens in the private prosecution, which is due next month.
A(nother) case of non-prosecution
Before we leave the Met, let’s have a look at a case reported last month where a woman cyclist knocked down by a van driver suffered “bleeding, bruising and a black eye and said that it was only because a black cab had been following at a distance that it was able to avoid running her over as she lay sprawled in the road.” And once again there was a failure to prosecute for even the charge of careless driving. It is worthwhile reading the account of this case in detail – including the comments below – here .
Suffice it to say that we agree with Cycling UK’s view:
“If this represents Met Police policy they might as well say that they are just not bothered about careless driving, as long as nobody suffers a life-changing injury. This driver’s lack of attention and bad driving was no less careless just because Ms Singh was lucky, and was merely bloodied and bruised rather than paralysed.
Careless driving is driving below the standard of a careful and competent driver. This was way below that standard. The Met however have applied their own “nobody died” interpretation of the law, and offered a re-training course. Somebody should be asking themselves what message they are sending regarding road safety and the standard of driving they expect on London’s roads”
Of course, this is just one case – albeit reported recently and following persistence from the victim. It’s unlikely that we even hear about most such cases. We need to repeat the point: what kind of messages are the MPS sending out about the standard of driving that should be – and legally is – required on London’s roads?
Conclusion: The good and the bad
In the past we have criticised the Met about its traffic policing Sometimes this has been a little unfair – for example, some of the prejudice against cyclists may have come from officers drafted in to Operation Safeway who don’t have the expertise of traffic officers. We repeat our support for traffic officers throughout the UK, and feel they deserve recognition for the necessary – and often hazardous – work they carry out. In particular, we look forward to the close passing of cyclists policing that is developing throughout the UK following the West Midlands initiative.
Nevertheless, this will be only part of the work that the police can – and more importantly in our opinion should – be doing to reduce danger from careless, dangerous, criminally negligent, rule and/or law breaking driving that increases danger to other road users. Some good features of policing do not remove the failures in attitude and practice that we refer to above.
Obviously this review is not a systematic study of the MPS and all other UK police forces. It also does not address the fundamental issue of what happens after policing, with courts giving lenient and non-deterrent sentences to offenders. That is a matter deserving of separate attention – although we feel that a senior police officer giving evidence to the APPCG could at least suggest the need for deterrent sentencing.
But we believe that we have highlighted areas of concern that need change if we are to have the civilised approach to road danger of which policing is an integral part. The close passing policing initiatives show that there is a desire for road danger reduction measures among traffic police officers of all ranks. That will require eliminating old prejudices, and we are here to assist with this.
The Mayor is giving boroughs money to build Quietways for cycling and the boroughs are misappropriating it. Exactly as history told us they would.
My commute these days takes in a section of the Mayor’s new “Quietway 3” as I go an extra mile trying to avoid as much as possible riding on the roads of the City of Westminster, one of London’s 33 local government boroughs.
Although TfL has been advertising Quietway 3 as “complete” for some time, it’s only in the past few weeks that barriers have come down to reveal the first physical hints of its existence.
At Boundary Road, on the Westminster/Camden border, the Quietway crosses the busy Finchley Road, the main arterial road to the M1. The Quietway here benefits from a mode filter which prevents through motor traffic on Boundary Road from crossing the Finchley Road.
A filter has existed here for many years already, built as part of a route in the failed London Cycle Network. But for the Quietway, it has been expensively rebuilt with a very slightly different alignment, and with a replacement set of traffic signals that include low-level cycle signals.* The only thing that is really new here, and which is highlighted as one of the big boons for cycling, is an additional banned turn to further filter motor traffic from Boundary Road.
They've taken the fencing down to reveal Westminster's brand new freshly installed Quietway…. pic.twitter.com/ardtgNTLzb
— Joe Dunckley (@steinsky) February 9, 2017
Less prominently highlighted is the other big benefit of this banned turn, which reveals the real reason for the existence of this mode filter. The new banned left turn means that traffic on Finchley Road doesn’t need to be stopped for pedestrians to get a green man signal across Boundary Road. Like the LCN-era mode filter before it, this scheme has been designed to smooth and expedite traffic flow on a major arterial road by removing potential junction conflicts and minimising its red signal time. It is a motoring scheme dressed up as a cycling scheme in order to use up a cycling budget.
Elsewhere the evidence of Quietway 3 is even less forthcoming, but we can see from the consultations what is planned.
— Joe Dunckley (@steinsky) June 28, 2016
After Boundary Road, the Quietway heads into Westminster borough on Ordnance Hill. At times when the parallel Finchley and Avenue Roads are busy and congested, Ordnance Hill becomes the motorist’s ratrun of choice for racing to Swiss Cottage, and it’s crossed by a series of other popular ratruns. So what are Westminster proposing to do to transform this busy motoring racetrack into a Quietway that can deliver on the mayor’s vision for cycling?
They’re putting pedestrian crossing lights on signalised crossroads and replacing some footway paving with fancy stone. That will be the junction between Ordnance Hill and Acacia Road, two unclassified residential streets, both paralleled on each side by major through roads, but which have somehow become so busy with motorists cutting through that they need signals to manage the traffic and help people cross.
But it’s definitely a cycling scheme Westminster are spending the cycling money on, because alongside the expensive traffic signals and fancy stone paving, they’re going to paint advanced stop lines for cyclists.
Needless to say from schemes like these, Quietway 3 is going to be crap. Quietway 3 is not going to do the slightest to transform these streets into somewhere that, to quote the objectives of the scheme, people who are less confident in traffic will want to cycle. That these streets need signals and advanced stop lines to manage the traffic is shouting that they are a failure even before the letter ‘Q’ has been painted all over them. They are not, and will not be, the “quiet roads” that the mayor claims.
But that’s not what’s infuriating. Westminster misappropriating cycling funds is what Westminster does. It’s barely worth a sigh of resignation. What’s infuriating is that their behaviour could be seen a mile off, but the mayor has chosen to ignore every warning.
Reinventing the wheel
The rhetoric behind the Quietways is that this is some kind of innovation the likes of which we’ve never seen before, a radical programme that will deliver the transformation needed to make the mayor’s vision for cycling a reality. We’re told to wait and see how well it works rather than make premature judgements on twitter.
But we can see from Quietway 3 that there isn’t the slightest innovation between this and the the early 2000s London Cycling Network that failed before it — and which it largely follows. We know how well it will work because we have tried this countless times before. We know it doesn’t work, we know exactly why it doesn’t work, and we know what needs to be done differently to make it work.
The Quietways are failing for the same reason the London Cycling Network failed, and why the National Cycling Strategy before that failed, and why most of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund failed, and almost every one of the dozens of cycling policies since the 1970s that have proclaimed the same vision as this one have failed. They are being delivered piecemeal by nearly 3 dozen different local authorities and agencies few of which have the resources, expertise or adequate guidance to deliver it, few of which entirely share the mayor’s stated vision for them, and several of which are actively hostile to the objectives of the schemes they’ve been asked to deliver.
When we analysed how the City of London had spent its LCN grant money from TfL over the last few years, we found that typically the budget disappears down three roughly equal sized holes. One is the physical, tangible (for what it is worth) expenditure on paint and asphalt and — very occasionally –kerbstones. The second is spent on feasibility studies, impact assessments, traffic counts, yada yada yada, maybe even the occasional engineering design, carried out by consultants. The third, startlingly, is in effect a subsidy of the City’s own planing and highways departments’ salary bills.
This is the lesson that was learned from the 1996 National Cycling Strategy in an extensive report in 2005. It’s what led to the short-lived Cycling England, set up because the DfT discovered once again that trying to implement the National Cycling Strategy through grants to local authorities, who had their own agendas, didn’t work:
Weaknesses of the existing arrangements: Local authorities as delivery bodies
The first is how to work with local authorities, at present the main delivery agents, to deliver. Our main performance management system for local transport – the Local Transport Plan (LTP) system – identifies cycling as one of a large number of “products” that central government is purchasing from local government in return for the capital investment. But, in practice, our work with local authorities reveals that cycling, in most cases, is a significantly lower priority for transport investment than other outcomes, such as better public transport or small-scale highway improvements. Despite the transformation in the availability of local transport capital since 1997 and the increased investment in cycling under the LTP regime, levels of expenditure on cycling still lag well below those in successful cycling cities outside the UK. Central government cannot insist that local authorities adopt a particular cycling programme, nor would it want to, given that the direction of local government policy is to increase the autonomy of local government; however it can influence authorities through the LTP process.
This suggests that, if cycling is genuinely a national priority, more diverse delivery mechanisms need to be introduced, to complement and increase the impact of what local authorities are doing.
Cycling England was created to stop our wasting money on an inefficient and ineffective way of delivering cycling projects through grants to local authorities. (It was abolished to save money, by, er, going back to that inefficient and ineffective system.)
None of this is news. We know very well what doesn’t work in delivering mass cycling, and the mayor has been warned again and again. But Sadiq Khan seems thoroughly determined to learn this lesson the hard way.
The 'Quietway’ on Exhibition Road is a total, total joke. pic.twitter.com/PixVGl9BGz
— Mark Treasure (@AsEasyAsRiding) January 23, 2017
*This section has actually been a TfL scheme, so one department of TfL is happy to rip another just as much as the boroughs are.
There is a form of discussion in cycling campaigning circles on the types of policy required to enable cycling in Britain. This discussion ranges along a continuum from (at one end) a belief in what I would call ‘motoring-hostile’ measures, and at the other end, ‘cycling-focused’ measures.
Motoring-hostile measures include things like congestion charging, increasing parking charges, removing parking spaces, and so on; policies that, in and of themselves, don’t do anything to make cycling more attractive, but (it is argued) may force people to consider other modes of transport, including cycling. Meanwhile cycling-focused measures involve ensuring that cycling is a safe and attractive mode of transport, from door-to-door.
I don’t think it’s any great secret that I tend to lie towards the ‘cycling-focused measures’ end of the continuum. I don’t think making driving more difficult will increase cycling to any great extent, principally because –
In this post I’m going to look at just one aspect of this debate; namely, whether making journeys for drivers more inconvenient (allegedly, like those journeys might be in the Netherlands) would have any effect on cycling levels.
Back in January I plotted a Dutch network onto a British town (and wrote a blog post about it!). To my slight surprise, it turned out that a very large proportion of the road network of Horsham is composed of access-only roads – roads that are cul-de-sacs for motor traffic, or that make no sense to drive on unless you are a resident, or visiting a property on that street.
Why is this important? Well, it means that the town of Horsham already has what I would describe as a Dutch-style motoring network.
The way drivers will move about the town is very similar to the way they would move about an equivalent Dutch town. They will not be using residential or access roads to make journeys, because it is impossible to use them (they are dead ends!) or because it makes no sense to use them (there is a ‘main road’ route that is quicker, or less circuitous). Their journeys will not be direct. Here’s just one example – driving from a residential street, to join a main road to the north.
A substantial part of the town has this kind of road network. Like many other towns across Britain, it has expanded rapidly since the mid-twentieth century, and is consequently largely composed of a dendritic highway pattern, designed to create safe, quiet streets in the age of the motor car.
Exactly the same kind of road network for drivers that you will find in the Netherlands.
Driving in Horsham will involve the similar kinds of journey patterns (and journey lengths) to equivalent trips in Assen.
Now, the cycling mode share in Horsham is, at best, something like 2% of all trips (cycle to work share in the 2011 census was 1.6%), while in Assen it is around 40%. So, given this intrinsic similarity in driving patterns, how do we account for the large difference in cycling mode share between the two settlements?
There are no stunning geographical differences between Horsham and an equivalent Dutch town; it is flat and reasonably compact – no barriers to cycling in this regard. So if driving in Horsham is just as circuitous, arduous and difficult as it is in Assen (if not more so), then what is the principle reason for the difference?
My view is that it has to be that cycling is too difficult and unpleasant, rather than driving being too easy.
Neither of these barriers will be tackled by making driving more circuitous; indeed, it is hard to see how driving could be made substantially more difficult in this regard, given that the town is already largely composed of a dendritic highway pattern for drivers.
The obvious conclusion – if we are interested in increasing cycling levels – is that sensible policy should focus on creating safe and attractive conditions for cycling, and on opening up (or improving) connections for cycling between currently different parts of the town, rather than expecting drivers to be prised out of their cars by making their routes longer – we’ve already done this in Horsham (albeit through historical accident) and we have negligible cycling levels.
Andrew Jones MP – the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, with specific responsibility for cycling, spoke (and answered questions at an All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group meeting on Tuesday last week. A video of that meeting was recorded by the APPCG – you can see it here.
The full video is 36 minutes long, but at about the 4:45 mark, Jones has this to say –
One thing I think we do need to do, and that’s change some of the music around the whole sector. At the moment it is I think often quite negative. And I think we need to change that. In fact I am slightly puzzled by people who say that cycling is such fun always seem to have such a negative social profile. Social media sometimes lends itself to that. But we won’t encourage more people to making these choices unless it is a positive choice. And it is a positive choice. It is positive because it is fun. It is good for the environment. It is good for you. There aren’t that many things that are good for you and that are fun, but cycling is one of those things. It also helps tackle congestion within our streets. So the upsides of cycling and walking are just fantastic. So I want this to be a very positive moment. I want the Cycling and Walking Strategy publication to be a bit of a landmark, where we start to see more support going in, but we start to talk about things in a more positive way, and try to encourage people to make that trial if they haven’t been cycling for a while, or to make that switch to a more permanent choice.
These are curious comments. The implication is that if people who have enthusiasm about cycling as a mode of transport somehow fail to be ‘positive’, we won’t ‘encourage more people’ to cycle.
Now I wouldn’t be a cycle campaigner if I didn’t think cycling was a fantastic mode of transport – I am positive about it, in that sense. It’s a straightforward, cheap, fun,fast, and convenient way of getting about, almost certainly the fastest way of getting about in urban areas. It is an enabling mode of transport that will make our lives better.
But that does not mean my enthusiasm will extend to cycling in any conditions; nor does it mean my enthusiasm has to extend to any initiative, from government or otherwise, that alleges to be ‘for’ cycling. Nor does my enthusiasm mean that I won’t be critical about policies that will have negligible effect, or will be useless, or actively harmful.
Equally, I resent the implication that being critical (or ‘negative’) will in some way keep anyone from cycling. There is an overwhelming body of evidence that the main barrier to cycling uptake in Britain is an absence of safe, attractive cycling environments; people do not want to cycle on motor-traffic dominated roads and streets. No amount of sunny ‘positivity’ is going to change this; likewise, no realism about the fact poor cycling environments are a serious barrier to cycling is going to stop people from cycling.
I am more than happy to be positive about policy that will genuinely enable cycling; to be positive about policy that does lead to changes to the way our roads and streets are designed, to allow anyone to cycle. But the blunt reality is that government has a consistent, long track record of failure in this regard, particularly when it comes to leading on the matter of design.
In this regard it is particularly noteworthy that, in the very same APPCG meeting, the Minister described the frankly woeful LTN 2/08 Cycle Infrastructure Design as ‘fit for purpose’. It is nothing of the kind – instead it is out of date, filled with half-hearted (and often mistaken) advice, a document of low horizons and lazy compromises, one that has very little to offer in the way of inclusive design.
In the face of such complacency, negativity is precisely the right response.
While there are plenty of honourable exceptions, I think it is fair to say that presenters, journalists and broadcasters in the UK do not do a particularly good job when it comes to covering cycling as a mode of transport.
Some of this might well be down to outright malice, but a large proportion of poor journalism and broadcasting is simply down to laziness and an unwillingness, or inability, to address these issues from someone else’s perspective, or even to think slightly differently.
With that in mind I’ve drawn up a fairly simple list of rules and advice for covering cycling in a sensible, constructive and fair way. There may be others – let me know in the comments – but I think if journalists, broadcasters and presenters are following these rules it’s more than likely they will be doing a good job.
1) Do not use them/they language
By this I mean referring to people who are using a mode of transport as ‘them’ or ‘they’, and everyone else as ‘us’. One example (and this from a BBC radio journalist) –
For starters, this kind of language is incoherent. It makes no sense to divide human beings up by mode of transport when we will all use different modes of transport on a daily basis.
Someone who is cycling at one moment will of course have been walking the same day, and will drive or use public transport. Someone who is on a train or a bus may well have cycled to the station, or to the bus stop. Human beings – all of them – are multi-modal. Referring to ‘cyclists’ in this way is exactly equivalent to asking what it is about ‘trainists’ or ‘busists’ that annoys your audience. If you think that would be deeply silly, then you should reflect on why you think it is acceptable to do so about another mode of transport. Your audience will not divide up neatly into ‘trainists’ and everyone else; nor will it divide up neatly into ‘cyclists’ and everyone else.
But much worse than this incoherence, using this kind of language is divisive and unpleasant. It contains the starting assumption that people cycling aren’t ‘us’; that your audience have some kind of grievance against ‘them’, and indeed that your audience isn’t composed of ‘them’. There is no ‘them’.
2) Do not engage in antagonism; focus on solutions to problems
This kind of antagonistic ‘journalism’ takes many forms when it comes to cycling. It might be of the form above – how do ‘they’ annoy ‘us’. This could be cycling on pavements, or cycling in ‘the middle of the road’, or breaking rules in general. Alternatively it might take the form of a ‘war on the roads’ or ‘who is to blame’ narrative.
As above, this is divisive and unpleasant, but perhaps even worse it is not constructive. Once you’ve written your piece about how cyclists annoy everyone else, or about how there’s ‘a war out there’, or once you’ve decided ‘who is to blame’, everything will carry on as before. Nothing has changed; the same problems still exist, and you’ve done nothing to solve them. In fact, you’ve probably made them even worse, because of the antagonistic way you have framed the debate.
Some examples –
In other words, focus on long-term solutions to problems, rather than the usual merry-go-round of antagonism.
3) Empathise rather than demonise
This flows naturally from the previous two points of advice. Instead of focusing on the behaviour of ‘them’, become one of ‘them’ yourself to understand why people are behaving in a certain way. This might not even involve actually cycling; it merely involves trying to imagine what you would do if you were cycling in a specific context, or if someone you care about was trying to cycle.
4) Don’t generalise from anecdotes
Seeing someone on a bike doing something a bit silly is not a good basis for an entire article about people cycling in general. At all. People do silly things all the time, in all walks of life, using different modes of transport. What you saw was an individual being stupid, not something that was indicative of ‘cyclists” (whoever they are – see point 1) behaviour.
5) Focus on sources of danger, and how that danger should objectively be reduced
Not all road users are equivalent. They do not pose equal amounts of danger to others; consequently they do not share equal responsibility.
That doesn’t mean anyone cycling has no responsibility at all – rather, that the degree of risk posed by different forms of transport should be assessed objectively. This should also mean distinguishing between the degree of risk someone is posing to other people versus the risk someone might be posing to themselves.
If we start looking at risk objectively, then we will come up with constructive, long-term solutions to danger on our roads and streets. (See Point 2). If, for instance, it is allegedly ‘too dangerous’ to cycle around in ordinary clothes (or indeed to walk around in ordinary clothes), then start asking why that should be the case, rather than focusing on the people wearing ordinary clothes and how they are being ‘irresponsible’.
6) Finally, you don’t always need to provide ‘balance’
Not every article or piece about cycling has to present an opposing view. You just need to let the facts speak for themselves; you certainly don’t need to give airtime to an idiot arguing black is white just to ‘even things up’ in the face of those facts.
This post is the last in a series looking at the new Highways England standard on designing for cycling, Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network, or IAN 195/16. The previous three posts can be found here, here and here.
As mentioned in my previous post, designing for cycling at junctions is important, and consequently junctions (rightly) occupy around half the length of the Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network. I’ve split my coverage of junctions into two posts; this second post will look at roundabouts and ‘grade separation’, or in layman’s terms, ‘putting cycling at a different level from the road network’. That means bridges or underpasses – or a hybrid of both.
Given that this is a Highways England document, grade separation will naturally be particularly important, due to the type of most of the roads covered by the Highways England network – fast, busy roads where grade separation is likely to be the most appropriate option. As IAN 195/16 itself states –
Grade separation of cycle traffic from motor traffic is the preferred solution for the crossing of all high speed road links and junctions.
Referring back to Table 2.4.2 in the document (covered in the previous post) we can see that grade separation is the only option for crossing roads with a speed limit of 60mph or higher.
It is also the ‘preferred’ type of crossings of 40mph and 50mph lanes of traffic with over 10,000 vehicles per day (or crossing two or more lanes with >6,000 vehicles per day), and for 30mph roads (or single lanes) carrying more than 8,000 vehicles per day. As mentioned in the previous post, designers ‘shall’ use the ‘preferred’ type of crossing unless other options make more sense in terms of route continuity. So clearly grade separation is important (and required) in situations with fast and/or heavy flows of motor traffic.
Naturally the two types of grade separated crossings are underpasses and bridges, although this document describes them respectively as ‘underbridges’ and ‘overbridges’, which I think is an important reframing. Good underpasses will resemble bridges, in that the cycle traffic is passing under a bridge carrying the motor traffic above it.
As in the photograph above, these ‘underbridges’ are clearly a much more attractive proposition than the kind of subterranean tunnels that ‘underpasses’ usually resemble in Britain. Explicitly framing this kind of grade separation as a ‘bridge’ is therefore very helpful. The photograph of an ‘underpass’ included in IAN 195/16 makes this obvious too.
The minimum width for cycle traffic through this kind of underbridge is set at 3m, with only a suggestion that designers should ‘consider’ increasing this dimension to increase natural light. I don’t think that’s good enough; it allows ‘boxy’ underpasses of this type –
These are much less attractive than the Dutch stipulation that ‘walls should recede towards the top’. Here’s a path of equivalent width, but with sloping walls, in the Netherlands –
Much more open – so it would be good to have some stipulations about tunnel dimensions, beyond the 3m width recommendation.
We have similar width stipulations for overbridges – at least 3m, with 0.5m margin clearance at each side. There are useful recommendations on gradients; ramps approaching or departing grade separation should meet the design requirements set out earlier in IAN 195/16 –
It is recommended that the steepest part of a ramp (if it is unavoidable should be located at the start of the ramp, where people are likely to be carrying most speed. Given that this has been taken into account, it is slightly disappointing that IAN 195/16 does not have anything to say on the matter of overbridges versus underbridges in general.
Underbridges should generally be preferred, mainly because the speed anyone cycling carries into them (on the downslope) can be used on the upslope; this isn’t the case with overbridges. Underbridges should also be preferred because they require less slope in general; they only need to accommodate the height of a human being, rather than the height of the large vehicles a bridge has to pass over. This is missing from IAN 195/16.
At the rear of the document there are extensive ‘grade separation’ diagrams, showing the appropriate way to separate cycling and motoring at junctions, particularly those with slip roads, which present a major safety hazard. Here’s just one example, showing cycle traffic (the dark line) routed under the slip roads, and under the roundabout.
This kind of design removes any interaction with fast motor traffic altogether, something IAN 195/16 requires for 60mph+ speeds and for heavier flows of motor traffic. So we should expect to see this form of grade separation at new junctions being built by Highways England (but unfortunately not retrofitted to old junctions, as yet).
The one final ‘junction’ element covered by IAN 195/16 is roundabouts. Britain has a long history of failing to design for cycling altogether at roundabouts, and we still haven’t really managed to do so in the last few years, despite increasing design attention being paid to cycling. So the advice (and indeed requirements!) contained within IAN 195/16 is welcome, even if (unfortunately) there is very little UK good practice to draw upon.
Happily, on-carriageway perimeter cycle lanes on roundabouts are explicitly ruled out –
On-carriageway cycle lanes shall not be provided on the perimeter of the circulatory carriageway, as they encourage cyclists to take up a nearside position where they are vulnerable to being hit by vehicles exiting the roundabout.
The only options are a ‘compact’ (i.e. a continental-style) roundabout with no lanes or markings, combining cycling with motor traffic, or a ‘separate cycle track’ around the perimeter of either ‘compact’ or ‘normal’ roundabouts, with a recommendation that the latter is preferable ‘because most cyclists will prefer off-carriageway provision as they will perceive it to be safer and more comfortable.’ Indeed, off-carriageway cycle tracks ‘shall be provided’ once the total throughput on a compact roundabout exceeds 8,000 vehicles per day.
There are all the elements in place in IAN 195/16 for Dutch-equivalent design of cycleways around roundabouts; how wide cycleways should be, when (and when they shouldn’t) have priority over motor traffic when crossing the arms of the roundabout. Unfortunately all this good advice (and requirements), much of it covered in previous posts, does not appear in the form of a useful diagram. There are no illustrations on how to design for cycling at priority roundabouts (i.e. roundabouts that are not signal-controlled).
This isn’t too much of a problem for Highways England roads, where I doubt these kinds of designs would be used, but it is a design gap that needs filling, and this document could have provided design requirements and advice that local authorities could have copied.
As it is, we have some diagrams on how to design for cycling at signal-controlled roundabouts, including complete signal-separation, the use of holding exit motor traffic (the approach used at the ‘Dutch’ roundabout in Wandsworth) and the ‘cycle gate’ ASL (or ‘always stop’ ASL), favoured by Transport for London at a number of locations. IAN 195/16 has some useful suggestions on the appropriateness of each of these, in turn – pointing out, in particular, that the ‘cycle gate’ ASL
introduces a time penalty for cycle traffic and will therefore be less suitable for cycle traffic movements that pass through a number of signalised nodes
… but it is unfortunately hampered by the UK not doing any of this particularly well, anywhere. The only concrete example it can draw upon is the Wandsworth ‘Dutch’ roundabout, which is far from ideal.
And that’s pretty much it for IAN 195/16! I think this has been a fairly comprehensive overview. However, there may have been some elements or aspects of it that I have missed, and (in particular) I think there is some scope for examining how useful it might actually be in practice – so there is potential for a ‘summary’ post covering these kinds of issues, including those raised in the comments to all four posts.