The garden bridge at night

BicycleDutch - 7 August, 2017 - 23:01
The first garden bridge of the Netherlands, the Paleisbrug (Palace bridge) of ʼs-Hertogenbosch, is well over two years old now. In these two years the garden has really developed impressively. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Tackling some Westway misconceptions

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 7 August, 2017 - 13:00

The routing of the extension of Superhighway 3 along the Westway has now been formally cancelled, as reported by Ross Lydall, confirming what had already appeared to be a certainty as long ago as last year.

The news has been greeted with the re-hashing of some misconceptions about that Westway route. Given this bit of (potential) cycling infrastructure is now destined to never appear, there is an element of ‘flogging a dead horse’ in tackling those misconceptions – but despite the cancellation, I think it’s valuable to look at them in turn, because they have relevance for cycling infrastructure in general. So here we go.

‘Cycling on the Westway would be unpleasant’

The Westway is undeniably a very busy road, and cycling in close proximity to dense flows of motor traffic on an overpass sounds, at face value, like a pretty unpromising experience. Indeed, the initial visualisations for this route were problematic, with people cycling on this section of CS3 separated from motor traffic by an armco barrier, and nothing else.

But later visualisations – and indeed design details – showed that the separation would be much more substantial, consisting of a concrete base and glass noise screen.

From the cross-section design detail, this barrier would have been higher than the height of someone cycling, as described in this post from last year, by Alex Ingram.

As it happens, I have some experience of cycling along an almost directly analogous cycle path – a relatively exposed cycleway, on a bridge over the Waal river, beside a very busy road, with precisely this kind of barrier between me and motor traffic.

I can report that it was definitely not an unpleasant or horrible experience. You are certainly aware of motor vehicles (including HGVs) whizzing towards you on the other side of the screen, and can hear them, but the noise is enormously reduced. You are essentially insulated from them, and I was free to enjoy the views across the river to the city of Nijmegen as I pedalled across. If the Westway route had been built like this, then it would have been absolutely fine, at least in terms of separation from motor traffic – certainly much more pleasant than, to take an example, the existing separation on CS3 along Upper Thames Street and Blackfriars Underpass.

A related criticism of the Westway route is that it would be socially unsafe due to the length of route without any entry or exit points – just under 2 miles between Westbourne Terrace and Wood Lane, all on the overpass. Again, the bridge shown in the above photograph is almost directly analogous, running for 2.7 km without any entry or exit points, with the exception of one pedestrian step access point, to a man-made island in the middle of the river.

I am, of course, a man, so not best placed to judge social safety, but on the times I’ve cycle across this bridge – including late in the evening, as in the photograph, it was far from my mind. The bridge was relatively busy with people cycling in both directions, and I suspect the same would be true for the Westway cycle route, had it ever been built. Given the total lack of safe routes into and out of central London from the north-west of the city, it would have been in demand, and I doubt it would have felt as isolated (and therefore as unsafe) as critics have implied.

‘The Westway isn’t the best route for CS3’

This is a slightly better objection – if we want to enable people to cycle from the Lancaster Gate area north of Hyde Park, over to White City, then surely there must be a better route – one on the surface – compared to sticking people up on a 1960s flyover?

Indeed, I’m inclined to agree – I would in all likelihood prefer to cycle on a genuine high-quality, Dutch-style cycleway (of the quality of CS3 and CS6) through Kensington and Chelsea. Likewise, I’m sure Transport for London were inclined to agree too – so why did this route end up on the Westway in the first place?

The simple answer is that the ‘Westway route’ runs entirely along roads controlled by Transport for London. They would therefore have had control over implementation, and wouldn’t be at the mercy of recalcitrant boroughs and their potential objections. The Westway route was chosen specifically because it allowed the cycleway to completely bypass the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and roads controlled by that borough.

For context we should recall that Superhighway 9 – also running west, but on RBKC roads, has been completely canned in that borough because the council objected to protected cycleways of any form running along Kensington High Street. This doesn’t inspire confidence for any potential East-West superhighway route running through Kensington and Chelsea on borough-controlled roads, and largely explains why TfL opted to take an easier path and avoid the borough completely. This is confirmed by Andrew Gilligan.

Now, of course, it turns out that the newly-proposed alternative to the ‘Westway route’ is precisely on those RBKC roads – past Notting Hill Gate (where a recent ‘vision’ consultation failed to consider cycling altogether) and down Holland Park Avenue, before heading across the Shepherd’s Bush gyratory and up Wood Lane.

It is entirely possible that a high-quality scheme can be delivered along this route – these are, for the most part, very wide roads – but the history of RBKC and cycling infrastructure doesn’t do much to foster optimism.

The other problem with this objection – that the Westway isn’t the best route – is that the Westway clearly shouldn’t be the only ‘route’ in this part of London. Discussing where ‘the route’ should go misses the point that enabling cycling involves delivering networks, not just isolated routes from A to B. To that extent, the Westway should be just one route among many. All the main roads in this part of London should also have cycling infrastructure on them, and we shouldn’t be forced to choose between them. Putting a cycle route on the Westway doesn’t mean giving up on all other roads in the area. It should complement other ways of getting around this area, not be the sole way of doing so, and should therefore be considered on its own merits.

For instance, for people who live in and around White City, and who might want to head east towards Regents Park, Euston, and Bloomsbury, the Westway would obviously be a useful cycle route (and likewise for people heading in the opposite direction).

The new proposed ‘Superhighway’ route would be rather less convenient for these kids of trips, taking people south towards Shepherds Bush, before leaving this new ‘Superhighway’ route at a point of their choosing to head north again. There also remains the awkward question of what happens to people cycling north from Lancaster Gate on the existing stub of CS3, who will now arrive at a motorway-style junction with nowhere else to go.

So in answer to the objection that ‘the Westway isn’t the best route’, perhaps the best answer is that ‘the Westway should simply be one route among many, not the sole route’.

Or, given it isn’t going to be built now, would have been one route among many.

‘The Westway should be torn down, not have a cycleway put on it’

Maybe it should – it’s a ridiculous stub of motorway-centric planning, one of the small bits that actually ended up being built in central London. But as ‘tearing down’ doesn’t appear to be on the cards any time soon, the most immediate short-term choice is not between tearing the Westway down and keeping it up, it’s between having a Westway as it is now, or a Westway with less capacity for motor traffic and a useful cycle route on it.

Or, at least, that would have been the choice. In any case, the notion that putting a cycle route on the Westway is ‘bad’ because the Westway shouldn’t even exist in the first place is, frankly, deeply silly. (If anything, putting a cycle route on the Westway would partially strengthen a case for removal, by permanently reducing traffic capacity on it).

‘This was a route driven by ego, not by practicalities’

This is an objection that is almost entirely addressed by the ‘route-based’ point above.

The East-West Superhighway didn’t end up on the Westway because of ‘ego’, but because it was a route of last resort. While it did generate headlines, partly because of the symbolism of putting cycling infrastructure on central London’s most car-centric piece of infrastructure, this was actually the path of least resistance, the one least likely to generate difficulties and opposition. Indeed, almost the complete opposite of an ego-driven choice. By contrast, attempting to create a high-quality cycleway route on roads controlled by the London borough that – until now – has proven extremely hostile to high-quality cycleways on main roads is, on the face of it, extremely impractical.

I remain hopeful, of course, and I would absolutely love to see excellent cycling infrastructure come to fruition along these roads in Kensington and Chelsea (and in Hammersmith and Fulham). The Westway, however, would have formed a useful route in its own right, and could already have been under construction, in parallel to any proposed plans for roads in these boroughs.

Categories: Views

Finishing the Rotterdam Station area reconstruction

BicycleDutch - 31 July, 2017 - 23:01
The Rotterdam station area reconstruction has yet to be finished. This may come as a surprise to some, because the king already reopened the station more than three years ago. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Lambeth Bridge shows us that TfL still needs a fundamental shift in design philosophy

At War With The Motorist - 30 July, 2017 - 10:54

Catching up with the latest TfL consultations, I was a combination of delighted and exasperated to see the proposals for Lambeth Bridge.

Delighted, because they reveal the political will to provide for cycling and walking, even if it means sacrificing a tiny bit of motoring capacity at these junctions.

Exasperated because even when the will is there, the technical capacity clearly isn’t. Just look at it.

Click to download fullsize diagram from TfL (PDF)

Look at that splurge of tarmac.

TfL had a blank canvass here. They’re completely rebuilding the junction, which is currently a roundabout. The kerblines are going, the trees are moving, the drainage will have to be redone. It’s not like any compromise is being made to work within the constraints of what’s there now.

It reveals a lot about how TfL’s designers are approaching these problems. They had a blank canvass and they filled it with tarmac. Then they asked where they needed to fit some kerbs into it. Walking and cycling is still being designed to fit around the edges of motoring, which remains the natural rightful state of our streets.

And look at the absurd mess that has led to.

Look at the entry to Lambeth Bridge. They’ve painted an arrow on it to tell motorists to get out of the cycleway. How on earth did that happen? According to the diagram, there is only ever one lane of traffic able to head onto the bridge at any time. How did they get themselves into a situation where people might be driving in the cycle lane and need to be told to get out of it?

Look at the entry into Albert Embankment. What is that lane merge arrow painted on that grossly distended carriageway space for? Again, there is only one lane of traffic entering this street at a time.

These kinds of tarmac oceans, with arbitrary shifting kerblines and unclear routes through them, are why British junctions are confusing, stressful and dangerous — whatever mode of transport you’re using. There is a large area of tarmac here that in theory should never ever be used, even by the largest and longest vehicles, because there are no legal manoeuvres that would use the space, or at least, that wouldn’t normally and more safely and sensibly be performed using some other space. But what that tarmac does do is provide opportunities for people to make mistakes, to perform illegal manoeuvres, or to behave dangerously. The gaping wide entries into Lambeth Bridge and Albert Embankment do nothing for a law-abiding motorist except create confusion about where they’re supposed to be, but they do invite idiots to use the turn lanes and cycle spaces to jump queues or to make illegal turns.

What might this junction look like if designed with a less motor-centric philosophy?

Instead of washing an undercoat of carriageway all across the blank canvass, you’d start from the opposite default. The canvass is blank and the only carriageway you add to it is the carriageway that’s needed to accommodate the manoeuvres that are possible here. Who are the users who need to move through the junction, and where do they need to move from and to? Draw the paths that they will need to take through the junction.

Draw the paths that motorists would take through this space if following the turn restrictions and if following the most rational routes. Work out how you’d cycle around it, and how you’d walk around it. The result looks a lot like Dutch crossroads do.

Click to embiggen. (This is just a 5 minute scribble, exaggerated in places, to illustrate the concept. Please don’t tell me the turning circles are too tight for HGVs or the cycleways too narrow or there are white lines in the wrong place, I’m not trying to propose this as a working plan for the contractors.)

This kind of design enables all of the same turns that TfL’s design legally allows, and has exactly the same number of motor traffic lanes feeding into and out of each arm of the junction. Capacity for legal manoeuvres should be the same (but the illegal turns, lane misuse and simple mistakes encouraged by TfL’s original design become much more difficult). I’m not saying necessarily that this is what I’d want the junction to look like, because I wouldn’t necessarily accept the same demands of motor capacity as TfL, but if you do accept the demands TfL are working to, this is roughly how the junction would work if cycling were properly designed for.

The one impact I haven’t addressed with my crayons is that they would have to address turn conflicts across the cycleways — something that wouldn’t be an issue if we had normal priority rules. But there are multiple options available to solve that problem TfL could call upon — indeed, they already solve it in their own design, for traffic/cyclists exiting Albert Embankment, with a separate turn signal.

Categories: Views

A curious kind of safety

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 27 July, 2017 - 22:13

Recently I found myself digging for some statistics on the relative risks of modes of transport in Britain. It turns out that (according to Department for Transport statistics) cycling is approximately twice as ‘dangerous’ as walking, if we are looking at the casualty rate per distance travelled.

Table RAS30070, showing relative risks of different forms of transport, based on NTS data

I use ‘dangerous’ in inverted commas because neither walking or cycling are, by themselves, intrinsically dangerous modes of transport – the risk involved comes almost entirely from exposure to motor traffic, rather than from just walking or cycling about in isolation.

Of course, by this metric, cycling (and walking) are both considerably more ‘dangerous’ than being a car driver, but to a large extent that’s because – to illustrate – it takes a very long time to walk 100 miles, and relatively little time to drive that distance. In the time it takes you to walk 100 miles, you will be exposed to many, many more hazards and dangers than you would be in the time it takes you to drive it. So it’s probably better to express the casualty rate as a function of time, rather than of distance, because then it would show more how much risk you were exposed to over that fixed period. In doing so we would find that being a car driver is less obviously ‘safe’ relative to walking and cycling, if we were considering casualty rates by time spent travelling – but the DfT doesn’t measure casualties like this.

However, whichever measure we choose to use, these statistics are still a very misleading measure of actual safety.

Why? Because they fail to account for the fact that the vast majority of the population simply won’t be cycling anywhere near Britain’s roads. They are too intimidating, hostile and dangerous for most of the population to even consider using cycling as a mode of transport. The ‘safety’ of cycling in Britain is therefore of a particularly curious form; much of it simply results from the fact that our roads are simply too terrifying for most people to cycle on. Our cycling safety statistics don’t account for the fact that the most dangerous roads and streets – which will in many cases be useful routes for ordinary journeys – are complete no-go areas for cycling. Nor do they account for the fact that what cycling that is taking place in Britain is heavily skewed away from children and the elderly in particular, both groups that are more vulnerable in different ways. Children are inexperienced, less able to judge speeds and distances, more likely to make mistakes, while the elderly are less able to react and avoid collisions, and more prone to suffering injury when they occur.

If we had a ‘neutral’ distribution of cycling, across all age ranges, combined with all these people cycling on the most direct routes – be that busy urban roads, or fast intra-urban routes, then our cycling casualty statistics would be appalling.

What would our cycle safety statistics look like if young children, and elderly people, were cycling on our busiest roads, mixing with motor traffic?

We can frame this another way. Let’s imagine a town with a bus service. All the buses in this town are fitted with shiny wooden bench seats, so well polished that they’re extremely slippery, and hard to stay seated on as the bus goes around sharp corners. There aren’t any seatbelts. And while these buses do have roofs to keep the sun and rain off…

… they don’t have any sides.

Obviously a tricky prospect, what with those slippery bench seats with no seat belts, and the twisty roads in the town.

For some reason, it turns out that only a very small number of people are prepared to use the town’s buses as they zoom around, from stop to stop. Maybe that’s because at least once a year someone gets killed or seriously injured as they fly sideways off the bus as it negotiates a corner. In any case, the elderly – who find it hard to cling onto the bus seats, to balance their weight and brace themselves – simply don’t get the bus. They use other modes of transport.

Likewise children – who most likely aren’t very aware of the risks of these kinds of buses, and find it hard to concentrate and stay focused on staying on the bus at all times – are also a rarity on the buses. Sadly, despite all the town’s primary schools offering free Busability lessons – including Busability Level 3! – only a handful of parents are prepared to let their children take the bus.

If our public transport was like this – too dangerous a prospect for most people to even consider using – I doubt we would even begin to think it was ‘safe’, or even use language like ‘statistically safe’. We wouldn’t be convinced that buses are safe to use, even if statistics showed that bus passengers were only slightly more likely to die than car drivers. We would say that that is a ridiculous metric, because so many potential bus passengers are simply too scared to use that mode of transport in the first place.

It doesn’t even have to be public transport. We could imagine a different town, one where all the pedestrian crossings only gave people walking a couple of seconds to cross the road, before motor traffic started speeding through again. Footways are also intermittent, giving up at random, forcing people to walk out into streams of heavy motor traffic.

Once again, as with the bus example, it turns out that in this town, only a small, fit and able minority are actually able to walk anywhere, those people who can sprint across the road in the short amount of time allocated to them, and are prepared to negotiate with motor traffic. Everyone else – again, most likely the elderly, people with disabilities, children – will either stay at home, or get ferried around by other modes of transport. Walking is simply too dangerous an option for them.

Under these circumstances, would we say that walking in the town is ‘safe’?

But I think the situation with cycling in Britain is almost directly analogous. We have a mode of transport that simply isn’t viable for most people – not for any intrinsic reason, but because of hostile conditions. Cycling in Britain is the equivalent of the bus that you’ll slide off of if you don’t keep paying attention, or have the strength and ability to cling onto. It’s the pedestrian crossing that only the fastest and the fittest are able to use (and even then with some degree of risk). And because these hostile conditions have existed for a very long time now – since the advent of mass motoring – we’ve grown extraordinarily complacent about them. Danger and risk are seen as almost innate elements of making journeys by bike. Yet if we introduced the level of hazard and risk involved in cycling for ordinary journeys in Britain onto public transport – the kind of hazard and risk that simply prevented most people from even using public transport in the first place – there would be a justifiable outcry.

This outcry is almost entirely absent when it comes to cycling because we’ve become completely accustomed to our road network being totally unfit for ordinary people to use. We even acknowledge this when we boast about a mere eight miles of ‘family-friendly’ cycling conditions, for just one day. 

The place to be this Saturday is @RideLondon FreeCycle – 8 glorious miles of traffic-free family-friendly cycling

— Transport for London (@TfL) July 26, 2017

By direct implication, the other 364 days of the year, and the near totality of the capital’s road network, is entirely family-hostile.

Perhaps cycling is ‘safe’, but it’s certainly a very curious kind of safety.

Categories: Views

Rail electrification and HS2? You need some better hot takes

At War With The Motorist - 24 July, 2017 - 23:57

Readers with no interest in the nerdy details of UK railways can look away now. This post is one very long, tedious “actually I think you’ll find” reply that I didn’t have time to make fit into a tweet.

So the railway electrification programme has been cut back, with the entire Midland Main Line electrification scrapped, plus relatively small chunks of the Great Western (at Swansea) and Northern (at Windermere) projects.

And predictably enough, the worst takes roll in trying to blame this on HS2, from people who will believe absolutely anything you say against the high speed project. These are terrible takes. And they’re a problem, because these are the kind of terrible, childishly simplistic takes on complex policy issues that stop you doing anything useful about them.

I can’t claim to be an expert on the situation with electrification — take everything I scribble here with plenty of salt, and factcheck it before you go citing any of it — but I know it’s a bit more complicated than almost any of the takes on twitter.  So, since you asked, here are some alternative takes for you, which I hope might help to shed the tiniest bit of light on just the surface of that deep complexity.

Electrification hasn’t been cut

The first thing you need to understand is what has actually happened, and what Grayling’s announcement is tiptoeing around. The budget for electrification hasn’t been cut to pay for HS2 because the budget for electrification hasn’t been cut. It has been massively overspent.

Railway investment is planned in 5 year chunks (the announcements are happening now because now is the deadline for DfT to send their draft investment plan for the next 5 year period to the relevant organisations for comment).

In the current 5 year period, 2014-19, Network Rail were asked to electrify a lot of things:

  • Great Western (GWML) from Paddington to Oxford, Bristol and Swansea, including Thames Valley commuter lines;
  • Midland (MML) to Nottingham, Sheffield and Corby
  • The main TransPennine line between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and York, plus associated Northern lines around Liverpool and Manchester
  • A couple of comparatively short commuter lines elsewhere — London Overground’s GOBLIN and Birmingham’s Chase Line
  • (Plus a lot of Scotland’s Central Belt. That’s separate, devolved to Scotland, but it’s relevant later.)

Network Rail gave an estimate for these jobs, the government liked them and made the funds available.

So Network Rail got to work on the GWML and immediately began massively overspending and falling behind schedule. So the budget hasn’t been cut. It’s just that Network Rail have spent all of the money before it has delivered even half of what it was supposed to deliver.

This wasn’t even really about electrification

The next thing you need to understand is that electrification is just one part of a much bigger, more complicated modernisation plan which is primarily driven by the need for new trains. It’s no coincidence which lines were chosen for electrification: they’re the ones that need the most new trains, or which maximise the opportunity to bring in new trains so the current ones can be sent elsewhere.

The country already has a chronic undersupply of diesel trains, because we haven’t bought any new ones in years despite passenger demand growing. But the situation is about to become dire, because deadlines are looming for the mass withdrawal of a substantial fraction of the fleet.

On the GWML, and a few other parts of the network, the Intercity 125s are reaching 40 years, a heroic service for an intensively used intercity train. They’re brilliant but they can’t keep going forever. Meanwhile, in 2020, new accessibility regulations come into force. Lots of trains won’t be compliant with the new law, so they either need expensive modifications, or withdrawal. Since nobody is going to waste money modifying the hated 1980s Pacers, those are off for their long-overdue trip to the scrapyard.

So, 10 years ago, people started realising we were going to have a rolling stock problem and something needed to be done about it. They could have just bought a load of new diesel trains. But somebody looked at the problem strategically, and the case was made for killing many birds with one stone. Electrify some lines and then you can solve the rolling stock problem with cheaper to buy, cheaper to operate, faster, cleaner and greener trains.

This was an excellent plan.

The plan all depended on the electrification happening in time for the 2020 deadline, so that a complex cascade and shuffle around of fleets could happen. New electric commuter trains in the Thames valley, for example, will displace Paddington’s diesel commuter trains to Bristol, so Bristol’s can in turn replace the condemned Pacers elsewhere.

Now those timelines are all fucked, so a load of new diesel trains have had to be ordered anyway.


When you see that this is a rolling stock project, dropping the MML — and Swansea and Windermere — at this point makes perfect sense. The MML has a relatively small fleet of intercity trains — most of them relatively new — and no diesel commuter trains to displace for use elsewhere. Rushing to try to electrify it will do relatively little to solve a rolling stock problem. Effort needs to be focused on finishing the Thames Valley and Northern areas, where there are the greatest number of diesel trains to release and cascade per mile of electrification, before 2020.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t electrify MML, only that it doesn’t make sense to do it right now, when there are obvious higher priorities.


This mess all happened because we bit off more than we could chew — or rather, Network Rail was asked to do, and agreed to do, more than it could possibly do at once. The last time Britain did any substantial amount of electrification was a quarter of a century ago, and suddenly we decided to try to do 6 or 7 projects simultaneously.

That led Network Rail to make a lot of mistakes, spread themselves too thinly, and made it a seller’s market for their suppliers and contractors as Network Rail.

One of the big problems that has been encountered is that electrification is interdependent on other projects, like re-signalling in the Britstol area and rebuilding Oxford station, which have encountered their own problems. Slowing down could enable projects with dependencies to be delivered in a more rational and coordinated way. That would be particularly important on TransPennine, where there are still projects in development to improve line speed and capacity.

The significance of Grayling’s announcement is that he didn’t cancel the rest of GWML, TransPennine and Northern or GOBLIN. That implies that finishing these projects will be what Network Rail gets asked to do in the next 5 year period — 2019-24.

That doesn’t mean that Swansea and MML will never happen, but they won’t happen in the next 5 years.

We’ve recognised that everything can’t happen all at once in 5 years, and asking for it all to happen at once in 5 years is a recipe for disaster. Dropping some projects should make the others more secure.

But you’ll still need to fight for them

That said, it’s still a very bad sign that the projects have been explicitly cancelled. There’s nothing to force Grayling to say cancelled. He could have said: there’s only so much we can do at once, so MML, Swansea and Windermere are shelved for this period and we can look at them again the next time we do this funding specification exercise in 5 years time. Instead he chose to call them cancelled.

That’s because Grayling, and perhaps equally importantly the chancellor, don’t get railways.

Take a look at their policies and track records and it won’t take you long to find Hammond’s notorious question about why trains don’t give way to cars at level crossings, or Grayling’s clueless playing politics with London’s suburban rail.

Blaming HS2 would let them off the hook, and they both probably want an excuse to cancel that project too.

But the real problem, and POTENTIAL solutionS to all this, is with the system

We concentrate power centrally in a few hands, and then change the leadership frequently through reshuffles and changes of government. The recent fashion for electrification rose and survived due to support from Transport Secretaries and Chancellors like Andrew Adonis, George Osborne and Patrick McLoughlin (who’s constituency just happened to be on a branch of the MML).

It’s a real bugger that in the game of musical chairs, Grayling and Hammond happened to be in the seats when the music stopped for this crucial phase in the funding cycle. We can at least take comfort that neither will be in the same seats in 5 years time when this exercise next happens.

But we will still be planning investments in a stupid and wasteful way.

With the last major electrification projects having been quarter of a century ago, to make the current projects happen we’ve had to rebuild our expertise, retrain our workforce, and rebuild our supply chains. That’s yet another of the reasons why so much has gone wrong and gone overbudget. We had huge start-up costs. We didn’t have the expertise or information to make accurate estimates. Rookie mistakes were made. And the politicians set Network Rail up for failure by ordering them to do 20 years worth of work in 5 years, because that’s the maximum horizon politicians work to.

Now we’ve flipped political leadership and policy, and we risk losing the expertise and supply chain that has just been built up from scratch, so next time electrification comes back into fashion, as it surely will, we’ll do it all over again.

Slowing down electrification, could be a great opportunity to do it better, more rationally. While the 2020 big bang deadline for rolling stock retirement has now been solved by ordering new diesels and bimodes, there will be a continuous trickle of other diesel train fleets reaching the ends of their operational lives over the subsequent years — alongside continued growth in passenger demand, if current trends continue. It would make perfect sense to continue, at a slower but more consistent pace, a rolling programme of electrification to pave way for electric trains to replace fleets as they reach retirement age.

With the security of a rational, long-term plan, we could retain a committed workforce which builds up the experience and expertise to do an efficient and competent job, and to innovate in delivery. We could support a supply chain that invests in a long-term steady return, instead of handing out a brief bonanza and leaving them bust. And we could plan delivery alongside dependent projects.

(Scotland looks to be slightly closer than England and Wales to having such a plan, with an ambition to electrify their remaining commuter and intercity lines in a 2 decade rolling programme, though even that will be at the mercy of future Scottish ministers who may not share the ambition. Alas, we don’t even have the ambition, and will remain stuck swinging between ideological extremes until somebody fixes the system.)

Blaming HS2 isn’t going to fix any of these underlying issues that stand in the way of electrification continuing.

ELECTRIFICATION’s failures are exactly why hs2 is happening

Your final hot take: everybody complaining that HS2 is to blame for this is clueless not just about electrification but also about what HS2 does.

Electrification is being cut back because it’s massively overbudget. All those people like Richard Wellings at the IEA pulling cost estimates for HS2 out of their ass? The overruns they invent are nothing compared to the 300%-500% overrun on the GWML.

And that just cements the case for HS2. Whatever you think of HS2 (and I say this as somebody who certainly wouldn’t have put it as #1 transport capital priority, or chosen many of the design specifications it has been given), the fact we’ve seen time and time again is that trying to upgrade and add capacity to existing transport routes — by modifying their old infrastructure while trying to work around a live, intensive service — is massively more expensive compared to building something brand new for the equivalent capacity added, and is substantially more likely to run massively more overbudget than the newbuild.

Just as electrification was really a rolling stock replacement programme, HS2 is similarly not what it seems. HS2 is not a high speed intercity programme. It’s a getting intercity trains out of the way programme. The West Coast Mainline out of Euston, MML out of St Pancras, and East Coast out of King’s Cross all need more capacity. There is unmet demand for more local rail commuting in the cities served by these lines, for more regional trains to and between towns on them, and for more freight on the railways. There isn’t capacity to meet that demand because mixing frequent-stopping commuter and regional trains, lumbering freight trains, and high speed intercity trains makes for an inefficient use of a railway line. HS2 creates a disproportionately large amount of capacity for local and regional services by getting the intercity trains out of the way.

People who argue that what the railways need is better local, regional and commuter services instead of faster intercity trains need to explain how those services will be possible without HS2. The only alternative is by making extensive modifications to 3 different Victorian mainlines, on a scale no smaller than HS2 itself, while trying to work around a live, intensive service. The fuck up of electrification has only made HS2 look even more like the preferred option over the terrifying prospect of that alternative.

Categories: Views

Houten in the rain

BicycleDutch - 24 July, 2017 - 23:01
Houten is one of the often-chosen destinations when people visit the Netherlands to learn more about cycling in this country. A right choice, Houten is a great little town to … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Close passing policing starts up in London

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 21 July, 2017 - 18:53

The main RDRF activity this year has been supporting the roll out of police operations targeting close passing of cyclists and related behaviours. Today we were pleased to attend and support the launch of the Met’s initiative in this kind of law enforcement, called “Space for Cyclists”, in south London.

RDRF Chair Dr Robert Davis with Duncan Dollimore of CyclingUK and Sgt. Andy Osborne of the Met’s Cycle Safety Team

Readers of will know why we support close passing policing: it addresses danger at source, and it regards intimidatory behaviour as a police matter whether or not a casualty results (although close passing is associated with the main kinds of manoeuvre which result in cyclist Killed and Seriously Injured casualties). It can be extended into other forms of policing addressing danger at source. In London, there is a timely link with the persistent reference to the phrase “road danger reduction” in the Mayor of London’s draft Transport Strategy .

In London the strategy originates in the MPS’ Cycle Safety Team – the UK’s only bicycle based traffic police team. (For a look at how it has developed and the approach behind it, see Laura Laker’s report on the pilot here)

The Metropolitan Police Service’s Cycle Safety Team at the launch today The launch of “Space for Cyclists”

For the launch today, see the account in today’s Press Release from the Met:

“We can’t be everywhere, but we could be anywhere,” said Sergeant Andy Osborne from the Met’s Cycle Safety Team of their new tactic to improve cyclist and driver safety, which has launched today, Friday, 21 July.

Cycle Safety Team officers from the Met’s Roads and Transport Policing Command will go to any location, at any time, on any borough, based on intelligence and complaints, to ensure drivers properly obey the rules of the road.

The officers will now be working be in plain clothes, wearing video cameras and riding unmarked bicycles donated by BMW, to identify and deal with the offences that most deter people from cycling:
o Unsafe following (tailgating)
o Unsafe overtaking (close passes)
o Unsafe turning (left or right turns across the cyclists path)

If officers encounter a driver committing any of these offences, they will identify them to a nearby, marked police motorcycle rider who will stop and engage with them.

In line with any police roadside stop, the driver will be required to provide evidence of insurance, a driving licence, pass a roadside eyesight test and have their vehicle checked for roadworthiness.

The driver will be reminded (through a short presentation) of the Highway Code rules regarding the offences and the standard of driving that they should reasonably be expected to attain (in particular, rules 126, 163 and 179,180 & 182).

Professional drivers, especially those subject to certificate of professional competence requirements, and those who display examples of particularly bad driving will not be offered the roadside engagement and will be reported in the usual way, which may lead to a court appearance.

Thanks to the support of Havebike and London Cycling Campaign, 2000 car stickers with the words ‘I give space for cyclists’ will be given to motorists on the day and at Exchanging Places events to remove perceived pressure on the driver from cars that might be following very closely.

Sergeant Andy Osborne, Cycle Safety Team, said: “We want all road users to obey the Highway Code. This tactic is about education and encouraging motorists who do not comply with the rules of the road to start doing so – for everyone’s safety and protection – theirs included.

“There is a lot of traffic in the capital and we all need to share the roads and be mindful of other road users. In its simplest form, it’s about being courteous to one another.

“By all road users obeying the Highway Code, collectively we can help lessen incidents of people being killed or seriously injured on the roads.”

Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, said: “We know that safety concerns are one of the biggest barriers to cycling in London. That’s why we’re working hard to build high-quality safe routes to encourage even more people to cycle, and why I’m so pleased to see the Met tackling some of the dangers that we see on our roads.”

Lord Berkeley, The president of the Road Danger Reduction Forum, said:

“The Road Danger Reduction Forum was pleased to support West Midlands Police when they initiated the policing of close passing of cyclists last year. We are very glad to see another initiative in the same spirit being pursued by the Metropolitan Police, and look forward to seeing it being rolled out across London.”

Ashok Sinha, Chief Executive, London Cycling Campaign said: “Drivers passing too close is terrifying and off-putting to people cycling. Most people cite road danger and near misses as major reasons why they don’t cycle. The Highway Code requires drivers give safe space to cyclists when overtaking. This welcome operation on close passes will send a message to drivers in London to obey the Highway Code and stay wider of the rider.”

First results and iceberg tips

During the time we were there six drivers were pulled over for their bit of education. Right from the beginning we got a glimpse of how close passing is often only the tip of an iceberg of rule and law breaking: the first one was found to have no licence, 3rd party insurance, or vehicle excise duty paid. This reminds me of the accounts of traffic police like the tweets from West Midlands Police on @Trafficwmp – so much traffic policing involves picking up drivers who have failed in the basic legal obligations, as well as often being involved in non-traffic types of crime.

Indeed this seems to raise an important point: although the most obvious forms of law breaking need to be addressed, it is crucial to remember that we mustn’t allow them to serve as “lightning conductors” diverting attention away from the central fact. And that is that most rule and law breaking which endangers others is done by more mainstream and “normal” drivers. As a classic case: drink-driving has to be targeted, but don’t forget that the overwhelming majority of behaviours – 95%? – endangering others on the road are those of the sober driver.


The next steps

In partnership with West Midlands Police, RDRF will be running a training day in September for police forces in the UK on recent developments in close passing policing We think that there is a lot to be gained from having a training day: we need to share the experiences of those Police Services that have been doing this kind of policing, looking at issues such as:
• Numbers of stops
• Proportion involving prosecution, and for which offence
• Proportion/numbers of stops that lead to “chats on a mat” and similar educational processes
• Not Guilty pleas
• Use of different kinds of visual aid such as mats
• Numbers of officers used in operations
• Use of non-police staff for education, such as fire fighters, army personnel etc.
• Experience of collection of 3rd party video footage.
• Extension into intimidatory driving re-pedestrians
• Etc…

We are hoping to showcase the latest from West Midlands Police; the new initiative about to start by the Met, and the experience CyclingUK have had with their mat initiative.
My – very strong! – feeling is that we need to keep the momentum up. Our concern is that not enough police services are carrying out this kind of policing. Also we worry that there are other issues about policing as it affects cyclists and pedestrians in particular which need consideration.

Watch this space…

An interview with London Live


Categories: Views

London’s enormous cycling potential

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 20 July, 2017 - 12:53

Back in 2010, Transport for London published an Analysis of Cycling Potential. – an assessment of many trips could be cycled by Londoners, but weren’t being cycled now. It was quite a conservative analysis (as will be described below) but even so it found that 4.3 million trips per day were potentially cyclable by Londoners, which amounted to 23% of all trips, and 35% of all trips by ‘mechanised modes’ (cars, taxis or public transport).

Now that report has been updated, released in March this year with a less restrictive assessment of what kinds of trips can’t be cycled. This new report has found that 8.17 million daily trips could be cycled by Londoners – that’s 41% of all trips, and 62% of all trips  made by motorised modes.

It should also be noted that this figure doesn’t include those trips that are already cycled, and those trips that are currently being walked.

On the left we see the total number of daily trips made by Londoners; the red bars are ‘deducted’ from that total, and are formed of ‘already cycled’ trips, trips that are walked, and some 5 million trips made by mechanised modes that, according to this analysis, can’t be cycled.

How has this 8.17 million figure been arrived at? It’s worth looking first at which trips were excluded under the 2010 analysis.

Significantly, any night-time trip was completely excluded, as was any trip by a person with a disability, any person under five or over 64, and any trips longer than about 5 miles, or that involved a heavy or bulky load, or any trip that took 20% longer to travel by cycle than by the previous mode.

Quite properly, these filters have been completely changed for the 2016 analysis; those changes account for the enormous increase in the number of potentially cyclable trips.

Notably –

  • The ‘encumbrance’ filter has been adjusted – bulky or heavy loads can now be cycled, with only ‘heavy work equipment’ or pushchairs excluded.
  • The ‘trip length’ filter stays the same, but has been increased from 8km to 10km for commuting trips
  • The ‘journey time’ filter has been removed altogether, mainly on the grounds that cycling journey time is reliable, so the potential extra time required to cycle can be deducted.
  • The age filter has been adapted to be distance-based; age no longer excludes trips altogether, but there is a recognition that older and younger people will not be so willing or able to cycle longer distances. It’s notable that trips by under 5s are still completely excluded though.
  • The ‘time of travel’ filter has been removed completely – trips at any time of day should properly be cyclable.
  • Likewise the ‘disability’ filter has also been removed completely – disability should not be a barrier to cycling.
  • Finally, a ‘trip chaining’ filter has been added– to include cycle stages forming part of longer trips.

There’s an acknowledgement these filters may still actually underestimate potential, particularly the distance filter. But it’s worth observing that the majority of ‘potentially cyclable’ trips are not very long, in any case.

More than half (55%) of all potentially cyclable trips are less than 3km (1.9 miles). 80% are less than 5km (3 miles), which the analysis says could be cycled in less than 20 minutes by most people. This amounts to 6.47 million trips, which is a third of all the trips Londoners make. To repeat, these figures don’t even include all the walking trips Londoners make; add those in and we find that 64% of all trips Londoners make are either already walked, or could be easily cycled in twenty minutes. London might be a large city, but a large proportion of the trips its residents make are relatively short and easily walkable and cyclable.


But what does all this ‘potential’ amount to in practice? What difference could it make? There’s a good amount of detail in the report on where ‘potentially cyclable’ trips are being made, who is making them, and how they are making them.

58% of these potential trips are trips that are currently made by car – this is 4.7 million daily trips, or around a quarter of all the trips Londoners make every day.

The rest is mainly composed of bus trips – 29% of the potentially cyclable trips are made by bus. The report also looks at these modes from the opposite perspective – how many trips by each mode are potentially cyclable.

A full two-thirds of all car trips Londoners make are potentially cyclable under the terms of this analysis – there is clearly enormous scope for reducing the amount of pollution, congestion, and improving public health, across the capital, provided cycling is designed and planned for, to enable these trips. In addition over 80% of current bus trips are cyclable. Given that 40% of London bus trips are completely free for the user – that is to say, subsidised – there is clear potential for reducing both costs and pressure on the London bus network too.

How about where these potentially cyclable trips are located? The report reveals, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the most potential is in outer London. 54.7% of all the ‘potentially cyclable’ trips are made within outer London.

But there are still enormous numbers of trips within inner London alone – 24.4% of all the potentially cyclable trips. There are well over a million daily trips by private motor traffic in inner London that could be cycled, and the report also notes that

While the overall number of potentially cyclable trips across central London and parts of inner London is lower than in outer London, there is a high density of trips in these areas. Combined with the number of potentially cyclable stages, this shows why interventions in the heart of the city are important to increase cycling.

To give some indication of the importance of inner London, even if we just look at Westminster alone, there are 600,000 daily trips that either start or end in that borough that could potentially be cycled.

While inner London does perform slightly better than outer London in terms of cycling modal share, only 9% of potentially cyclable trips in inner London are actually being cycled – the figure is, of course, even worse for outer London (4%). Given the recent controversy over the desperately poor new Five Ways proposal, it’s worth flagging here that Croydon has 400,000 potentially cyclable trips by residents that aren’t being cycled at the moment – the largest potential of any London borough.


Finally, it’s worth looking at what kinds of trips would potentially be cycled, and who would be making them.

The report shows that the vast majority of potentially cyclable trips would actually be cycled by females.

This isn’t actually all that surprising, given that it aligns with the kind of cycling share we see in countries where cycling isn’t suppressed by conditions, like the Netherlands, where trips by women outnumber those by men. As for ages, this graph also shows that around one-quarter of all potentially cyclable trips are by those under 16 or over 65. The number of potentially cyclable trips by children under 16 is approximately double the number of all trips currently cycled in London.

Cycling potential is evenly distributed across ethnicity, age, gender and income – for instance, it almost exactly aligns with the current ethnic profile of London. In other words, the report shows clearly that ‘cycling’ is not something that is intrinsically limited to any particular age, gender, ethnicity or class – it is only limited by current conditions. Unlocking this enormous potential has to involve tackling these conditions, because

The most significant barrier to realising this potential is that most cyclable trips are made by people that do not cycle at all

The kinds of trips that could potentially be cycled would also be much more evenly distributed by purpose.

As can be seen from this graph, commuting is disproportionately represented among current cycling trips – a full 28% of all trips. But under potentially cyclable trips, the figure drops to 17%, just 1 in 6 of all trips. This is why we need to move on from just catering for commuting trips, and developing networks that work for all types of trips. To take just one example, 82% of all trips for education purposes are potentially cyclable.

Indeed, the report notes that

Much of the potential identified is different to current cycling behaviour – only 2.54 million of the potentially cyclable trips are similar to current cycling trips

In other words, the kinds of ordinary day-to-day trips that are seen in Dutch towns and cities are grossly underrepresented in London.

Now of course not all of these 8.17 million trips – or 41% of total London trips – will necessarily end up actually being cycled, even if London does have a Dutch-quality comprehensive network built across it overnight. This study is only a measure of potential, and even if a trip is potentially cyclable, people may opt to use other modes of transport. So this won’t translate directly into a 41% mode share.

However, there are strong reasons for thinking that London could have a mode share approaching this kind of figure. For one thing, in addition to these 8.17 million trips, there are 1.55 million ‘stages’ (parts of trips) that could be cycled as part of a longer journey by other modes. These are mostly made by bus or underground. That’s a total of 9.71 million trips and stages that could potentially be cycled. Secondly, as already mentioned, this report also (quite rightly) excludes walking trips, but it’s reasonable to assume that a reasonable amount of longer walking trips would be transferred to cycling. And finally, these figures only cover Londoner residents – they don’t cover people who travel into London – so again will likely underestimate cycling potential, particularly in inner London.

In summary, this is a fascinating report that deserves to have a serious influence on transport policy in London, and indeed across urban areas in the United Kingdom, which are of course much more car-dominated than London. If there is such enormous potential in a city that has relatively low car share (at least compared to the rest of the UK), then it is surely even greater in other UK urban areas. Indeed, the potential for the largest shifts away from driving is already acknowledged to be greater away from London.

I’ve only covered some of the highlights here, so it’s worth digging into this report yourself!

Categories: Views

Squeezing out walking and cycling for a few extra car parking spaces – local planning in action

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 18 July, 2017 - 09:03

Why do we want people to walk and cycle for short trips, instead of driving? One of the main reasons, of course, is public health. If we cycled as much as the Dutch and the Danes in urban areas, figures typically suggest we would trim tens of billions of pounds off the NHS budget over just two decades. Physical inactivity is a huge economic burden.

We can attempt to encourage people to exercise more, and to do more physical activity, by providing facilities that people can use to play sport, or to engage in leisure activity. But the best way to increase physical activity is simply to build it into everyday life – to make walking and cycling obvious choices for ordinary day-to-day trips. Physical activity then doesn’t require any ‘extra’ effort or planning on the part of individuals; it will happen without people even thinking about it.

Kids cycling home from an event in Amsterdam’s Westerpark. This is physical activity; but for these people it’s just everyday life.

Unfortunately this kind of strategic planning is almost entirely absent when we look at how transport decisions are actually made on the ground in Britain. We talk about boosting physical activity and getting people to exercise, but then we go right ahead and put walking and cycling last in our transport planning.

There’s an excellent example of this awful kind of decision-making brewing in Horsham, where the council is planning to expand the amount of car parking at (ironically enough) the town’s leisure centre – Pavilions in the Park – at the expense of walking and cycling, and trees and green space.

The leisure centre is located almost exactly in the centre of the town, on the edge of the town’s park – so it is, theoretically, in an ideal spot for people to walk and cycle to. Most of the town, and its tens of thousands of residents, are within just one mile of it.

Circle showing 1 mile radius from the town’s leisure centre (courtesy of freemaptools)

There is already a fairly large car park in front of the leisure centre, with 208 spaces. The council wants to add 30 or so car parking spaces to the site, while (quite literally) squeezing out walking and cycling access to the centre from the north in order to do so.

At present, there is a fairly attractive pedestrian path that runs directly towards the leisure centre from the main road. It is in the middle of the car park, but you are effectively screened from it by hedges, trees, and planting. There are zebra crossings to give you priority as you enter the site.

Looking towards the leisure centre, in the distance, from the main road. This path is the wide, direct pedestrian access.

The main element of the new plan is essentially to sacrifice this path altogether to add in extra parking spaces, along with the removal of trees and green space at the margins – again, to squeeze in more car parking. A path will still remain, but it will be just 1.2 metres wide (yes, 1.2 metres), and unpleasantly sandwiched between two rows of car parking.

The new path, running roughly horizontally across this diagram, sandwiched between car parking.

As you can see inn the diagram above, the path is explicitly the width of three tactile paving slabs, a Scrooge-like degree of consideration for pedestrian comfort, convenience and safety.

This narrow width will be compromised further by street lighting and inevitable ‘overhanging’ of the path by parked cars. I’m grateful to a member of the Horsham District Cycle Forum for supplying these photos, below, of overhanging parking in the current car park, illustrating just how much a 1.2m path would be narrowed by parking on both sides.

If anyone manages to make it down this narrow corridor between dozens of parked cars on either side, they will then have wiggle through this insulting little maze (still only 1.2 metres wide) around some more car parking, before they finally arrive at the leisure centre.

Compare this path with the existing pedestrian path, which is direct, wide, and attractive at this point – a good piece of public space, albeit one that sits in the middle of a car park.

This bit of public realm will be replaced by extra car parking spaces. This circular space is just about visible to the right on the plans above, obliterated by new parking and asphalt.

Yet this is going to be torn up and replaced with the tiny, circuitous narrow path shown above, all for the sake of squeezing in a handful of extra car parking spaces. In an attempt at justification, it is claimed that the existing central path is little used, but

  • a) no evidence has been presented that that is the case, nor does it sit with my experience, or that of people I know, and
  • b) this is, and will be, the only pedestrian access to the leisure centre from the main road. Justifying desperately low-quality provision on this basis amounts to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In short, walking is treated with complete contempt in these plans – the background assumption seems to be everybody drives to this leisure centre, and will be driving to it, and therefore won’t even bother using this bit of path. Likewise, it appears to be assumed that very few people will walk and cycle here to the centre, and those peasants that are willing to do so will just have to lump it – either walk among the cars in the car park, or wiggle along this very poor, narrow route.

As for cycling, it isn’t strictly permitted on the existing path, and will be utterly impractical on the tiny new path, so again the assumption seems to be that people will have to cycle with the cars, just as they are expected to walk with them. I only managed to pop out to take photos for about five minutes yesterday afternoon, but there were plenty of families and young children cycling to the leisure centre after school either on the existing path, or on pavements.

A child cycling to the centre on the path that will be sacrificed for car parking

A father and daughter cycling to the leisure centre on the pavement. These people exist already and their needs should be catered for, not ignored.

This may or may not be legal, but they are obviously expressing a preference for cycling away from the car park. Forcing people with young children to cycle on the road through the car park will clearly reduce the numbers of people willing to cycle to the leisure centre. A serious disincentive to active travel – all to accommodate more car parking.

The final obstacle is that, as the plan involves adding automatic barriers for drivers on entry and exit, anyone cycling will have negotiate a narrow bypass, again only a metre or so wide, and shared with motorbike users.

The cycle and motorbike entry and exit channel, indicated by the arrow. 

From the scale of these plans, this bit of path will be approximately 1.5m wide, clearly not sufficient for two-way flow. And note that, while this channel is desperately narrow, it sits alongside two exit barriers for motor traffic (in red). An extra exit has been added, with cycling squeezed (just like walking), to allow motorists to make a quick getaway.

These kinds of plans completely undo any public health benefit accruing from the leisure facilities on the site.

Sensible, joined-up planning to improve public health, to reduce congestion and pollution, to make our towns better places to live, should obviously involve planning safe and attractive routes for walking and cycling as a first priority, with space for motoring accommodated around those prioritised walking and cycling routes. Yet here the complete opposite is planned. An already large car park is set to be expanded further, pushing walking and cycling to the margins, removing any incentive people might have had to make healthy transport choices to visit the centre.

These plans are so bad that even the fairly car-centric county council, West Sussex, has flagged up both the awful design of the pedestrian access to the centre –

There is also the matter of the footpath leading through the centre of the site. This is the only segregated pedestrian access from Hurst Road into the site. At present this is generous in terms of width (over 3 metres). The proposed route however is 1.2 metres wide with pinch points due to lighting columns. A width to allow two way movements and the needs of all users should be used.

… and the narrow width (and poor design) of the cycle bypass –

Cyclists/motorcyclists would effectively have to give way to traffic emerging behind them. The narrow width would also make two way movements through this very difficult.

Councils that voice commitments to strategic planning and environmental priorities cannot be taken seriously when they are simultaneously producing awful schemes like this one, plans that stand in direct contravention of local, county and national planning policy.

This scheme simply has to be binned.

Categories: Views

An ingenious cycle detour in Utrecht

BicycleDutch - 17 July, 2017 - 23:01
A surreal cycle detour, in the depths of the largest shopping mall of the Netherlands, through the underground warehouse area that is normally closed to the public. The city of … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Rotterdam from above

BicycleDutch - 10 July, 2017 - 23:01
So much is happening this summer that even in the no-post week I have a new video for you. I was in Rotterdam again just a few weeks ago. This … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Who is to blame

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 6 July, 2017 - 16:47

As soon as this video went viral earlier this week, it was clear it would only be a matter of time before it was picked up by tabloid newspapers, with an equally inevitable and predictable framing of the incident.

That is to say, the standard ‘who is to blame’ format.

So, so predictable

Naturally, this involves inviting readers to pass judgement on one of the parties involved, which in practice amounts to a two minutes hate on the people cycling.

Now clearly mistakes are made by the people in the video. It isn’t sensible to position yourself here.

It isn’t sensible to maintain that position, right in front of the HGV, through the junction.

It certainly isn’t sensible to drive such a large vehicle assuming that there isn’t anyone in that kind of position.

But this is all very banal. Focusing on the personal failings of the people in the video means spectacularly missing the point. Minor mistakes should not result in the scene shown in the photograph above – a person very close to death, or at the very least serious injury.

I don’t think either the man cycling, or the man behind the wheel of the HGV, are ‘to blame’ here, in any meaningful sense. The driver in the cab is clearly having to deal with motor traffic on his right hand side, as the two queuing lanes going ahead merge on the far side of the junction. Meanwhile, the (well-known) dreadfully limited direct visibility from the driver’s position means it is far too easy for him to fail to spot multiple human beings immediately in front of his vehicle. There isn’t even a mirror that would have revealed them indirectly.

The driver literally had no idea the man was there until the collision occurred.

Meanwhile the man on the bike clearly makes what, in hindsight, is a bad decision. But it’s a bad decisions that is actively encouraged by the way we paint our roads. We put painted lanes by the kerb on the run up to junctions. We paint Advanced Stop Lines in front of HGVs. It’s entirely natural, therefore, to expect human beings to cycle up to the front of a junction, both because that’s instinctive, and also because the way we paint roads promotes this kind of behaviour.

Now it turns out that this junction didn’t have an Advanced Stop Line. But how are you supposed to know that when you are approaching it?

By the time you arrive at the junction, it is too late, and you, and several other people, are effectively trapped in an extremely dangerous position, with the best option probably being to bail out onto the pavement, or to jump the lights.

Is that really something we can expect people to do? It seems to me to be as unlikely as expecting HGV drivers to never fail to spot human beings in close proximity to their vehicles. We have a dangerous situation, created by design.

So who is actually ‘to blame’ here?

It’s not the individuals – it’s the system. A system that thinks it’s acceptable to mix human beings and enormous vehicles with very limited visibility, and hopes that nobody makes a minor mistake. There simply isn’t any excuse for designing roads that create situations like the one in the photograph above. Those people should be separated from that HGV entirely at this kind of junction.

If that isn’t possible, then HGVs of this scale simply shouldn’t be permitted to use that junction. We have graphic evidence of just how dangerous it is to combine human beings and HGVs in that space.

So we know what the solutions are. Every time an incident like this happens and we blame the individuals concerned for making mistakes, rather than the system that means those mistakes are inevitable and lethal, we will fail to prevent incidents like this from happening again. It has to stop.

Categories: Views

Perth: cycling infrastructure innovation and upgrades

BicycleDutch - 3 July, 2017 - 23:01
Under the Safe Active Streets program some streets in Perth and its neighbouring municipalities are truly changing. The Government of Western Australia is investing AU$3 million (€2.02/£1.77) in this program. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Bicycle Superhighways in Copenhagen Capital Region

Copenhagenize - 30 June, 2017 - 15:31

The Bicycle Superhighway Network in Copenhagen Capital Region. Orange: Built. Black: Planned and financed. Dotted: Planned but awaiting financing.

The Capital Region of Denmark is continuing its investment in Supercykelstier - or Bicycle Super Highways. With five new routes completed on May 2, 2017, 115 kilometers have been added to the three initial routes. The goal is to make inter-municipality bike trips easier for the citizens of the region. The super highways are being developed on largely pre-existing cycle tracks.

In the Capital Region, 60% of all trips less than 5 km are made by bike. This falls to 20% for trips more than 5 km. While the region is great for intermodality, connecting bikes with trains, the plans for the Bicycle Super Highway network target increasing the latter number through constructing 28 routes that connect and pass through 23 municipalities. These will give bicycle users newer, wider cycle tracks, better street surfaces, pre-green lights, in addition to better lighting and traffic calming measures where needed. This will create 3 million more bicycle trips a year, which has the potential to reduce the number of car trips by 720,000 a year. This will save the region 34,000 sick days and give a 7.3 billion DKK (€1 billion) economic gain per year.

New routes, building on success
206km of the network will be finished by 2018, out of 467 km in total. The first two routes, Farumruten and Albertslundruten, have experienced a growth in the number of bicycle users of 61% and 34%, respectively, since they were built in 2012. Those two routes, in addition to the third one, Ishøjruten built in 2016, are hub to tip routes connecting Copenhagen Municipality with surrounding municipalities. The new five routes help shape the network; adding not only more hub to tip routes (Allerødruten and Frederikssundruten), but also ring routes (Indre Ringrute connecting Sundby to Østerbro, and Ring 4 ruten from Albertslund to Lyngby-Taarbæk) and a route between outer municipalities (Værløseruten).

The five new Cycle Super Highways have cost 154 million DKK (€20.7 million), while the same road length for motorist highways would cost 17.71 billion DKK (€2.38 billion). Municipalities expect an increase of 1.5 - 2 million bicycle users with the new routes running.

Copenhagenize Design Company's Idea Catalogue for all the municipalities in the Region, as commissioned by the Capital Region in 2014.

Dialogues and Efforts
The project came with challenges on both regional and local scales. Funding the superhighways required a particular approach; normally municipalities are totally financially responsible for building their bicycle infrastructure, but some of the municipalities couldn’t afford building the superhighways or preferred to cut it from their budgets. This caused a threat that more municipalities would leave the project as its rationality depends on its continuity through all municipalities.

The solution that overcome this, so far, has been a 50% state subsidy so that municipalities only have to cover 50% of the costs. However, challenges for this approach will rise again in the future as no municipal funding exists for the project after 2019. The experience of the two initial routes also highlighted responsibilities for the municipalities during the operation of the superhighways; the Gladesaxe and Furesø Municipalities - both on the Farumruten - improved lighting conditions, asking bicycle users what their favored type of lighting was. While the Allerød Municipality focused also on traffic calming measures; building a “2 minus 1” way on Bregnerød Skovvej, a road with one track for motorists and traffic in both directions.

The municipalities have reached an agreement where each of them is responsible for running and maintaining its own part of the route(s) in close dialogue with the others. The success and rationality of a superhighway is achieved by the success of each of its individual parts in different municipalities, which raises the question of what form this superhighway will adapt to in rural, forested or urban areas along the way. It also highlights the importance of bringing all municipalities on board and keeping both the inter-municipality and citizen-government dialogues ongoing.

The Mayor Challenge
In an attempt to convince some of the more sceptical mayors in the outlying municipalities, seven of them were invited to switch to the bike for their transport needs for one month. Their health was measured before and after and, based on existing cost-benefit models, the result was clear. On average they were 11 years younger, based on their improved health.

The Copenhagen Capital Region Bicycle Superhighway Network projected on Barcelona and London. This does not included the vast network of existing cycle tracks in the various municipalities, of which there are over 1000 km.

The Copenhagen Capital Region Bicycle Superhighway Network projected on Paris and Toronto

The Copenhagen Capital Region Bicycle Superhighway Network projected on Montreal.

For more information about the routes, check the website:

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

Egyptian Cycling History - Then and Now - Subversive Photo Series

Copenhagenize - 29 June, 2017 - 13:06
In this latest installment of our "Subversive Cycling Photos" series, we travel to Egypt. The same utterings are heard here as most other places. About how "it's too hot to cycle" and "oh, but we never had urban cycling here..." With these historical photos, we once again bust some myths, like we've done for Singapore, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, New South Wales, Vancouver, Oslo, Dublin, Canberra, etc.

Copenhagenize Design Company has had the pleasure of hosting architect and urban planner, Ahmed Tarek Al-Ahwal, on an exchange from Egypt. He curated these photographs highlighting a long and proud history of using the bicycle as transport in his country.

By Ahmed Tarek Al-Ahwal

In the recent memory of some Egyptians, cycling used to serve a much wider group of users than today. Residents in Port Said, a port city on the Suez Canal, are proud that cycling used to be their main mode of transportation. Indeed, during rush hour, the ferries were loaded with the bicycles of employees going to work. It´s a narrative that is heard in many other cities, usually followed by remarks about how women and children used to feel much safer cycling in cities and how there used to be many more bike shops - especially those serving a double-purpose. Shops that were also garages that would clean, repair and store bikes overnight.

Stories of huge bicycle racks next to office buildings, factories and schools are heard across the nation, from the north to the south. The textile factory in Shebin, a city in the northern Nile Delta used to host one of those, which was removed after cycling disappeared under the weight of car-centric planning.

A bicycle rushing past an omnibus, Port Said, late 19th century.

Cairo, early 20th century

College Saint Marc students, Alexandria, early 20th century

Left: A magazine article about the opening of a factory in Qena, south of Egypt. Factories were associated with bicycles in the 1960s.
Right: Bike shops used to be a very common sight, catering to many clients. Port Said.

Caption reads: “University girls in Asyut are more practical than their colleagues, overcoming traffic problems by using bicycles” a quote from a magazine. Asyut 1960s.

Street scene, 1935.

Bicycles were a normal sight on the streets, at least through the 1980s.

See more historical photos from Egyptian cycling history here.

Cycling Persists in Egypt

“Change the way you commute” An advertisement in Tahrir square for vacation houses on the red sea coast. Summer 2016.

For many Egyptians, like other places around the world, cycling has become something unusual. Something subcultural, something done by poor messengers to transport goods, something for kids to do or a tool for advertising luxury, gated communities (photo, above).

Bike parking at a school in Assiout, Southern Egypt. Photo credits: Yusuf Halim.

In many areas in the south of Egypt and the Nile delta, one can, however, still witness a wide variety of bicycle users. In Assiout, in the more conservative south, one can still see huge bike racks in schools (above) and public buildings.

Bicycle user on a vintage bike. Photo credits: Osama Aiad

While in other cities, men in their 50s or 60s riding vintage bicycles serves as a reminder that cycling is not alien to Egyptian minds and culture.

Bread delivery man riding in a Cairo street while holding wooden trays and reading a newspaper. Source: facebook page; Everyday Egypt

When former bicycle users from this generation are asked about the reasons for the decrease in cycling modal share, they talk about the change of time, about the era where cars were much less and streets safer and you could feel safe about your kids rushing on their own through the streets. They also talk about the availability of bike racks near homes and work, and services around the city. All practical reasons that could easily be addressed by cities that aim to have less congested, less polluted streets with a better quality of life that is not exclusive to luxurious gated communities. Not to mention a healthy density and an economic alternative to sprawl.

Unlike the old era, attempts to build bike infrastructure in the few last years in Egypt haven’t achieved the required goals. Instead of being used as an example of how cycling doesn’t fit the Egyptian culture, these projects must be addressed critically.

A symbolic stretch of bike lane.

The bicycle lanes painted on the Shahid corridor, an 8-lane highway in the desert, 14 km from the center of Cairo and 3 km from the nearest residential low density suburban area doesn’t seem to be a logical location to start.

The UNDP project of cycling lanes in Shebin are often ignored by bicycle users; the lanes deal poorly with intersections, also they don’t provide enough safety for bike users from traffic and are very vulnerable to be overtaken by car parking.

Safety and the perception of safety is a main issue keeping down the numbers of bike users and, if not addressed properly with infrastructure, cycling will not rise again as transport in Egyptian cities.

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

Getting side roads right

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 27 June, 2017 - 15:59

A bit of a picture post this one. Below are twenty photographs of cycleways crossing side roads, all from my week in the Netherlands earlier this month. In order, they are in Delft, Gouda, Den Bosch, Nijmegen, Arnhem and Amsterdam. They are from a mix of suburban, city centre and rural locations.

They’re a mix of bi-directional and uni-directional cycleways, and some form part of raised humps, while others are flush with the road surface. But beyond that, they are all very similar.

Firstly, although it might not be clear from the photographs, all the side roads being crossed will have limited flows of motor traffic. They all run across access roads; roads that are carefully designed to only allow motor traffic for access purposes. These are not roads that people will be turning into to drive off somewhere else – they will be accessing properties on that road, or just off it. In some cases the roads are either exit-only (as in the last example) or entrance-only – all part of this system of limiting the amount of motor traffic on these kinds of streets. This is important, because it limits the number of interactions anyone using these cycleways will have with motor traffic.

Secondly, all these cycleway crossings are designed in precisely the same way. All are composed of uniform red asphalt, with absolutely no markings or ‘breaks’ across the cycleway as it passes the side road. There is absolutely clear visual continuity, and this goes for the footways that in some examples run in parallel across the side roads. This is important because it shows precisely who has right of way at these junctions, with absolutely no ambiguity.

Unfortunately this is something we aren’t quite getting right in the UK. Here are some side road examples from Mini Holland schemes in London – in Waltham Forest and in Enfield.

Side road treatment Enfield A105

— brian deegan (@bricycle) April 14, 2017

Lured onto this path while heading east I had to bunny hop to the road as I saw priority disappearing! Incomplete or by design? #miniholland

— Streets for people (@BrendaPuech) April 2, 2017

Enfield mini-Holland. The calmness of the main road compared to neighbouring streets was palpable. The modal filer is old but improved.

— Maps Man (@don_dapper) April 1, 2017

This is it in action. Slightly cautious as it had barriers obscuring sightlines.

— Hal Haines (@halhaines) May 24, 2017

Rode Enfield's new #miniholland A105 cycle tracks yesterday – could do with some some minor tweaks, but overall pretty impressive!

— Paul Gasson (@AnalogPuss) May 24, 2017

To be clear, these all look like very promising cycling schemes. But they are being let down by this minor technical detail. Namely, those kerbs across the cycleway where it meets the road, and the changes in colour, simply shouldn’t be there.

They suggest that the cycleway is temporarily ‘intruding’ on the road, instead of clearly continuing across it, and to that extent they introduce an element of dangerous ambiguity. Drivers might assume that because the cycleway ‘stops’ at the road (it changes colour, and has a line across it) they have priority, while, at the same time, someone cycling might be assuming the exact opposite, that they have priority. That’s a recipe for collisions.

Of course if we want people cycling to give way, instead of having priority, then that should be made clear too. This is more appropriate on faster and busier junctions, typically on roundabouts in rural areas in the Netherlands.

But either way, we need to make it absolutely clear who has priority. In urban areas, crossing minor side roads, that absolutely means cycleways shouldn’t have breaks or interruptions in them, at precisely the point we need to make priority clear.

Let’s get this right, so those promising schemes work for everyone.

Categories: Views

Utrecht’s transport policies explained

BicycleDutch - 26 June, 2017 - 23:01
Utrecht is getting more and more international attention as a city where interesting things with respect to urban transportation are taking place. I have already written a lot of posts … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

On a Dutch Cycling High

BicycleDutch - 19 June, 2017 - 23:01
“Everyone is on a Dutch cycling high after VeloCity 2017” tweeted Australian cyclist/journalist Michael O’Reilly yesterday. If you could see my Twitter Timeline you would understand he hit the nail … Continue reading →
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Weeks of cycling related activities

BicycleDutch - 12 June, 2017 - 23:01
Now that was quite a week of cycling related business I just experienced! I am glad this is a week without a normal post, because I would not have had … Continue reading →
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