Sustainable Safety in Horsham

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As Easy As Ridi...
Sustainable Safety in Horsham

Paul James has had the bright idea today, on twitter, to suggest we apply our 'sustainable safety' principles to Horsham, looking at how we can classify the streets and roads in the town, and redesign them.

I have remembered that Urban Practitioners were commissioned quite recently to do a Horsham Framework report, that looks at redesigning a lot of the horrible mistakes that have been made over the last 30-40 years. It's quite a big pdf - you can download it here.

The thing that leaps out at me is their proposals for Albion Way - the horrible dual carriageway inner ring road, built in the 70s and then extended in stages in the 1990s. 

It's kind of exactly what we would do - reallocation of carriageway space (back down to a single carriageway road), with wider pavements, and cycle tracks behind car parking, with planting. Very Dutch. The detail is on pages 63-69 of the report; the sketch is actually featured on Horsham District Council's website

This passage on page 61 is also bang-on - 

If Horsham is to create an even more people friendly town centre with less car domination, extra commitment has to be given to provision for sustainable transport. Towns of Horsham's size are ideal for cycling as most people live within a short ride of the town centre. Most cycle routes, however, are shared with cars which discourages many cyclists. If safe, dedicated cycle routes are provided combined with increased cycle parking, more journeys will be made by bicycle.

Illustrated with a picture of a (Copenhagen?) cycle track.

So we already have a Consultancy, commissioned by the council, telling them to do pretty much the right things.

My concern is that there is a total disconnect between these kinds of plans - which propose good solutions for promoting the bicycle - and the DfT's Cycle Infrastructure Design guidance, which effectively vetoes off-carriageway cycle tracks that run parallel to roads. 

In fact I suspect that the LTN 2/08 has torpedoed many a sensible scheme that includes cycle tracks, just like Urban Practioners proposals for Horsham. 

pete owens

The general thrust of the report is good- but they really don't get cycling. They need to talk about permeability rather than "cycle routes" - Cyclists like pedestrians are not routable; we need to be able move throughout a town  - not just to a designated cycle route which is unlikely to lead anywhere useful, but simply along spaces where there has been room to spare in the past. The Duch most certainly do not think of cycling as confined to a limited set of designated routes. However, it does understand pedestrian needs and generally we benefit from designs aimed at helping pedestrians.

Yes, changing an awful 70s ring to a boulevard is absolutely the way to go... Slowing the traffic, stripping out the cycle hostile roundabouts, reallocating road space to pedestrians, planting trees, using wider traffic lanes, tighter geometry at junctions, etc. will all go to help cyclists - for the same reason they help pedestrians. But putting a sub-standard width cycle path in the door zone of parked cars is plain daft. As is arranging for cyclists to cross the path of turning cars from a position hidden behind parked cars. And remember any cycle path in the UK WILL give way to every side road and access point because that is how our regulations say it must be done - otherwise it will fail the safety audit. And a design like that really does need cyclist dismount signs.

And don't worry that LTN 02/08 is doing absolutely nothing to discourage the highwaymen from their enthusiasm for forcing us off the roads. They don't refer to cycle standards at all when they are designing roads - which is the point they should be refering to the hierarchy of measures. What they refer to is the "Design Manual for Roads and Bridges" - a very cycle-hostile document that always assume that cyclists should be provided for away from the carriageway. The only thing they refer to the cycle standards for is as an afterthought to see how little space they need to re-allocate from pedestrians to create a shared use pavement in the space left after they have carefully crafted the design to optimise the flow of motor traffic. And unfortunately LTN 02/08 usefuly lists tables of minimum standards to ensure they universally design down to worst possible they can get away with.

The hierarchy of measures actually feauterd in the predecessor document "Cycle Friendly Infrastructure" in 1996. And the subsequent 15 years have hardly been noted for traffic reduction measures, speede control and cycle friendly junction design. 


As far Pete's comments on Albion Way are concerned, I would rather see a quality separate cycle lane with buffer from the door zone as opposed to 'wider traffic lanes'. Otherwise one is simply expecting cyclists to mix it up with heavy traffic again. Novice cyclists will invariably put themselves in the door zone (or as far into the gutter as they can get) and wider lanes for traffic will mean greater speeds. You would also be putting cyclists into direct conflict as motorists compete for the new parking spaces. As an Inner Relief Road, Albion Way will always be seen as Strategic and therefore 'immune' from 20mph.

As far as cyclists having to give way at every side road, I would rather campaign to get the law changed for improved standards than just accept the fatalistic 'we're just going to get crap anyway' or 'you'll get what you wish for' argument, particuarly as crap continues to be built whether the Embassy, CTC, or any local cycle group wants it or not. That Inner Relief Road is probably the only road in the centre of Horsham that would benefit from segregation with much scope for a permeable network/20 mph speed limits for many more.

I do agree completely with Pete's sentiments about current design documents.


pete owens

But good  facilities are not on offer. The plan shows crap facilities 1.5m wide and entirly in the door zone. If we are to have any hope whatsoever of achieving good design standards we have to resolutely oppose rubbish such as this - and not start off by saying:

It's kind of exactly what we would do - reallocation of carriageway space (back down to a single carriageway road), with wider pavements, and cycle tracks behind car parking, with planting. Very Dutch.

How are they ever going to get the message that their standards are unacceptable if everytime they come up with crap designs some cyclists lavish them with praise. As I said the plans do have a great deal going for them - but those cycle paths are not one of them

Now, I haven't come reached this position lightly. I have spent years trying to campaign for good quality infrastructure design - both on and off carriageway. It used to be that in every consultation meeting we had with local traffic officers on ANY new road scheme they would point to the segregated cycle facilities such as this designed down to the absolute minimum standards possible. We would spend hours pointing out the very many flaws and thus run out of time to discuss the really important things such as why they were building an enormous multilane giratory roundabout in the middle of town - or that the local distributor roads were subject to national speed limits. to which the answer is always "but why would anyone want to use the road when we have built thoise nice facilities for you". Sometimes, we would succeed in getting some designs changed at the margins - mayby there was a bit of spare space to add 20cm to the width. Sometimes we would even persuade the designers that a cycle path should have priority over side roads - but thius would always be overturned by the safety audit. And then when it appeared on the ground we would see more faults such as the wrong time of wheel grabbingladder paving. 

The very first Cycle Facility of the Month came about following such a consultation on a cycle path which we had supported since it follows a dual carrageway with few junctions thus was actually an appropriate place for such a scheme. (unlike a short boulervard interrupted by side roads every few metres) When it was implemented it turned out to be the usual white line painted along the middle of the existing pavement with absolutely nothing done to make it ridable. I wrote a four page letter to the council listing its many faults - and all I got in reply was the standard brush off (I'm sure you know the feeling). The next week our local MP appeared in the local rag on a bike on the "facility" praising the council for the wonderful work they had done. FotM was done purely to relieve my blood pressure - It was done as a one off - I never dreamed that 11 years on it would be still on the go. But, the bin has been removed (as have several other of the facilities) and this made us realise that to be taken seriously we needed to actively oppose the crap - rather than ask nicely for something a little bit better.

A few years later we were arguing that some cycle lanes needed to be at least 2m wide - the minimum cyclists need to avoid making things worse. The attitude of the officers was that in asking for anything more than the absolute minimum that the standards permit that we were asking for gold planted facilities. They pointed out that there were other road users to consider and that compromise was nescessary. As far as they were concerned there simply wasn't space for anything wider. They asked us "Would we really prefer them not to install cycle lanes at all?" - expecting to shut us up. They were rather taken aback by our  answer: "Yes". Now we didn't win that battle, but we at least persuaded them that we were serious about the need for better quality - and since then 2m lanes have appeared in Warrington occasionally when space permits.

Now for traffic lane width - this is absolutely critical for cyclists comfort. With wide lanes - sufficient to permit safe overtaking removes the conflict between same direction traffic. A large part of why our town have become steadily more cycle hostile over recent decades is by traffic engineers cramming more and more narrow lanes into the road to maximise traffic throughput. So, taking traffic lanes out to convert multiple narrow traffic lanes into single wide traffic lanes is a big act of roadspace reallocation for the benefit of cyclists (though the reports authours do not seem to realise this). If you then take out this space you are reallocating space from cyclists and would actually make the road worse than before as overrtaking vehicle would no longer have the option of changing lanes. 

Also lane width has virtually no effect on vehicle speeds unless it is very tightly constrained. There are stretches of motorway with 3m wide lanes and lanes this wide are very common on national speed limit A roads. 

True, some inexperienced cyclists may endanger themselves by riding too close to car doors - but the solution to that is to set the parking back behind a buffer zone to discourage this rather than put a cycle facility in the door zone to force everyone to ride there.

Yes, we should campaign for the regulations to change with respect to priority at side road crossings. But until they do change cyclist dismount or give way really is inevitable (and that is not being defeatist but realistic) Pointing to one or two extremely rare examples does not change this.




but the cycling embassy has never been about making the best of a bad job and working within the existing mindset of UK traffic provision that's given us the crap you've done so much to expose. We were formed out of exactly the same frustration with the crap and the determination to campaign for something better, without compromise. It's not as if good, safe infrastructure can't be built - we've seen it in the Netherlands and it is both safe and pleasant to cycle on - so there's absolutely no physical reason why we can't have the same quality in the UK, just a lot of political ones.  You may think we're misguided in asking for that kind of provision - and there are risks, we acknowledge that - but we are working on the assumption that if you don't ask for the absolute gold standard in proven safe cycling infrastructure, then you won't even get halfway decent stuff, instead you'll get the kind of dross we've all seen - at best useless, at worst dangerous. And we DO believe that what the Dutch are building represents the gold standard - from every meeting we've had that's been the consensus right across the room, even if we might quibble over the details of how we should try and bring them about. 

There are plenty of worthwhile battles being fought at the local level by cycling campaigns within the prevailing conditions which have led to incremental improvements in conditions for cyclists - things like ASLs which can make life a tiny bit less dangerous for existing cyclists if they use them correctly - and we totally support those efforts but we're trying to work at a national level to change the weather so that the gold standard becomes a possibility on this side of the North Sea. It may be a long shot, and it may be hopelessly idealistic, but that's what we're about.


AKA TownMouse

pete owens


I don't think you would be misuided in campaigning without compromise for good standards - its just that I see very little evidence that anyone here is - and plenty of people here arguing in favour of the compromises that that result in rubbish such as on this particular proposal.  And a cycle path barely half the width of an acceptable minimum such that its entire width is within the door zone really falls into the category of dross. And if you really want to see good standards rather than segregation at any cost then you really do have to oppose the crap. 

The arguments I see here are the very same ones I get from traffic engineers week in week out and fall into basic catregory that cycling on roads is SO horrible that any alternative however poor must be an improvement. And if you read what is written in some of the posts above they really do fall into that category. Indeed I am often suspicious that they deliberately disign in cycle hostility to the roads in order to encourage us onto their facilities. Whenever I argue against the construction of rubbish infrastructure I get shouted down by people who claim to be in favour of good standards... if only there was space. But, rather than defend the dross they are designing directly they argue as if I was opposing the principle of cycle friendly design.  It is really depressing when those of us who have been arguing for good standards for a very long time start to get this sort of flak from our own side.

I do think you are misguided in ignoring the roads as what is even in the NL the basic and most important part of any cycle network. The way they design roads is so much better in the NL and again it is not about ASLs or cycle lanes, but about the basic geometry of the junctions, the speed control and designs to control rather than accomodate traffic. There is a lot that can be done in the detailed design of roads to make them better - anybody who cycles regularly will come across specific places that are unpleasant while other roads can be entirely conflict free. If you look carefully these issues usually come down to the detailed design and can be tackled so long as you are prepared to sacrifice some motor capacity, reallocate space and address speeds.


in the design and that's what the policy bash work is all about. I certainly agree that the way Dutch roads are designed does seem to be much better for all concerned. I suspect we may never agree whether it's the geometry or the cycle tracks which are most important in making roundabouts safe and I'm not going to keep batting this one back and forth. I'm pretty certain I'd never want to cycle round a three-lane roundabout in the Netherlands or here, however tight its geometry is - though I also wouldn't want to use a track around a roundabout unless the geometry is right, otherwise it would simply be unsafe. In a sense, it's irrelevant as to whether the tracks around the outside make it subjectively safe or just safe - but a multilane roundabout, and other big junctions, without decent separated cycle facilities is a barrier to cycling for me, for my mum and for my 7 year-old niece and that at the root is the real problem. 

AKA TownMouse

Dr C.
Dr C.'s picture


Straw man much, Pete?

There is a clear and blindingly obvious distinction between, "This looks generally along the lines of what we are asking for," which is the gist of As Easy As Riding's sentiment seemed to me and, "I agree with every single detail within this plan." The problem with shooting down a whole scheme because of one detail is that rather than getting to correct the detail, you get ignored. It gets built anyway and we end up with another candidate for Facility of the Month because we wasted an opportunity to fix the issues with a scheme which is has laudable aspects but needs some improvement. 

pete owens

Which is pretty much what I said in my original post. Indeed I explicitly listed many of the features of those proposals that would make it a vast improvement for cyclists.

However, when I point out that the very good scheme would be betters sttill without the minor detail of crap cycle facilities I seem to get shot down in flames.

As Easy As Ridi...


I am not going to resolutely oppose those plans. I am going to support them, with the minor qualification that the cycle path should be slightly wider, and with some separation from the parking. The principle is sound; it just needs some minor tweaking. A wide vehicle lane alongside parked cars would be an absolute disaster; an intrinsically hostile environment for cycling that no-one nervous about riding a bicycle would go anywhere near. 

You should also consider that a cycle path in a door zone is far from as bad as a cycle lane in a door zone, for a number of reasons. A) the conflicts with moving traffic that occur as a result of 'dooring'  are not present. B) the cycle path runs on the passenger side, rather than the driver side, of the vehicles. C) An opening door can be swerved around without the danger that comes from swerving in the carriageway. D) You can cycle at the left edge of the cycle path, away from doors, without concern for your safety. 

My point is that not all door zones are equivalent in danger. A door zone outside cars on a fast dual carriageway is very different from one that runs on the kerbside of vehicles, alongside a pavement. Most uni-directional Dutch cycle paths (which are admittedly wider, 2m+) frequently pass through door zones, with little if any separation. 

In any case, given that on-carriageway provision has just such a track record of being sub-standard and appalling, I'm surprised that you think the issue is off-carriageway versus on-carriageway. It is not. The issue is crap standards for both cycle paths, and cycle lanes. 

The vast majority of people do not want to share lanes with fast-moving vehicles, no matter how wide those lanes are. They want their own space. When it is available, as it is here, we should give it to them. 

Dr C.
Dr C.'s picture

"Now for traffic lane width - this is absolutely critical for cyclists comfort. With wide lanes - sufficient to permit safe overtaking removes the conflict between same direction traffic. A large part of why our town have become steadily more cycle hostile over recent decades is by traffic engineers cramming more and more narrow lanes into the road to maximise traffic throughput. So, taking traffic lanes out to convert multiple narrow traffic lanes into single wide traffic lanes is a big act of roadspace reallocation for the benefit of cyclists (though the reports authours do not seem to realise this). If you then take out this space you are reallocating space from cyclists and would actually make the road worse than before as overrtaking vehicle would no longer have the option of changing lanes."

Wide lanes are somewhat better than narrow lanes for cyclists, but they still fail to address the issue of subjective safety; cyclists are still put in close proximity to motor traffic and it is this which deters so many. Upper Brook Street in Manchester is an example of what you have suggested, where two narrow traffic lanes have been converted to one. The result is that the LA feels it is appropriate to allow parking during off-peak hours forcing cyclists and motorists into direct conflict. At peak times, parking is restricted to remove this conflict, but the wide lane means that the queuing cars double up and the road becomes either impenetrable or extremely dangerous for cyclists. Narrowing the lanes and putting in segregated cycle paths with appropriate priority over side-roads and appropriate changes to turning radii and grade, would improve objective safety for cyclists and motorists whilst also addressing the important (and often overlooked) issue of subjective safety. there would even be enough space to allow parking on one side of the road (on the outside of the cycle path) whilst giving an appropriate buffer zone to address the door zone. The result would be a road which has been vastly improved for existing cyclists and effectively 're-opened' to 'people-on-bikes.'

"Yes, we should campaign for the regulations to change with respect to priority at side road crossings. But until they do change cyclist dismount or give way really is inevitable (and that is not being defeatist but realistic) Pointing to one or two extremely rare examples does not change this.",

Without an organisation asking clearly and loudly for exactly this, instead focussing solely on being 'realistic,' how do we expect to ever go beyond mitigation. Calls for changes to the law to facilitate this kind of infrastructure are directly supported by calls and specific examples of infrastructure such as this which would require the law to be changed. Otherwise it is too easy to dismiss all requests for quality cycle infrastructure, with the reult being that more Facility of the Month fodder is constructed instead.

As Easy As Ridi...

There are separated cycle paths in the Uk that do not give way to side roads. Off the top of my head, I can think of Tavistock Place, Royal College Street, and Grand Drive in Hove. Joe Dunckley has just documented some being built in Glasgow. Doubtless more exist.

So it is plainly not inevitable that 'any cycle path in the UK WILL give way to every side road and access point' - examples exist already, even with our woefully substandard guidance, which itself is the issue, having practically nothing to say about how these paths can and should be constructed, and actively urging against their construction.

Like Jim, I would much rather have well-built, continental standard cycle paths, than a wide nearside lane on a straight road that will have a high volume of traffic. As Jim says, wide lanes encourage faster driving. It is also very hard - not to say impossible - to implement tighter geometry at junctions when you have wide traffic lanes. Tight geometry is dependent upon narrow lanes - wider lanes simply negate any tight geometry you build. 

PaulJames's picture

So at the bash we talked about doing a virtual cycling town, what we would want if we had unlimited budget to do our own cycling demonstration town. My thoughts of using Horsham are because Mark lives there and knows the streets well and has documented many of the problems, and that it is of a small enough size that it wouldn't talk a lifetime for a few of us to thrash it out.

The plan would be to follow a planning process to apply the principles of Sustainable Safety to the town, something like the following:

1. Identify the types and roles of streets (through routes, distributor roads and access roads)

2. Identify traffic volume along these streets

3. Identify major nodes/locations of activity (schools, shops, etc.)

4. Identify possible road/junction closures/openings

5. Identify suitable intersection types for the junctions

6. Plan routes for all vehicle types

7. Visualise the results

To kick things off, I've created a Google Map at which we can scribble on.

As Easy As Ridi...

Paul, I'm a little unclear on the cut-off point between through routes, and distributor routes. Is there a good definition of the two different types? How do they work in practice? 

A good way of approaching this might be to look at Assen - which is reasonably analogous to Horsham - and see how they classify their roads there. 

pete owens

If you look at the blog post Assenizing a street in Horsham:

and scroll down to the last comment -  I have made a bit of an analysis comparing the town centres - in order to explain how the hierarchy of provision is the key to good dutch design. Look at the two links to google map views of the middle square km of both 

Basically Assen town centre doesn't cater for through traffic at all - there simply isn't an Albion Way there thus no call for segregated infrastructure. 

As Easy As Ridi...

'Basically Assen town centre doesn't cater for through traffic at all'


pete owens

Hasrdly Albion Way...

and what is that narrow strip of red painted tarmac on the left hand side?

As Easy As Ridi...

It's a through road for vehicles, in Assen - something you were maintaining didn't exist.

The reason it is hardly like Albion Way is because nearly 50% of all journeys are made by bicycle in Assen. There is consequently not the motor vehicle volume along this through route to justify dualling - but it exists nonetheless. Albion Way could like much like this road - there is already a strong case for removing the dualling, even with the low proportion of journeys made by bicycle in Horsham.

The 'narrow strip' of red painted tarmac is a 2m wide cycle lane. As it happens, this whole area is due for redevelopment in the next few year, as the frontage of Assen station is changed. That lane will be replaced with a segregated track.

pete owens

That is a 1.5m on carriageway cycle lane (significantly thinner than the width of a car) - ie the absulute minimum permitted by c**p UK standards - as are pretty much all the cycle lanes in that square km. There are examples of door zone cycle lanes too. ie It is an excelent place to cycle not because of the facilities that are just as bad as many of ours, but because of the people freindly roads which have not been designed for the sole purpose of moving as much traffic as possible.

And I didn't say it was impossible to drive though Assen at all - just that Assen was not designed to cater for through traffic. That scale of road would be the sort of thing we would put in as a distributor for a residential district - not a major town centre through route. Yes, you can find a way - but the engineers haven't converted it into a dual carriageway with multilane roundabouts to make it easy and attractive for motorists at the expense of everyone else.  And it is a chicken and egg thing. In Horsham there is a high volume of traffic in the town centre because the roads have been put in place to encourage it - not vice versa.

As Easy As Ridi...

Pete, you are confused.

How can the centre of Assen not cater for through traffic if it has a through road? This is nonsensical. 

I've walked - and cycled - along that road. It is noisy, and busy, and carries a lot of vehicular traffic. You can see this for yourself on Streetview. I have videos of it, if you are in any doubt. Yes, it's not a dual carriageway, but it is a through route for vehicles. (The reason it isn't a dual carriageway - at the risk of repeating myself - is that sufficient volumes of through traffic, and journeys throughout the rest of the town, are made by bicycle. Albion Way could resemble this road).

On the matter of the cycle lane - it's not 'significantly thinner' than the width of a car. It's about the same width. Indeed, it's very similar in width to an on-carriageway cycle lane that features in your 'best practice' page, in the UK. Is this crap or not? I can't tell. You need to make your mind up.


PaulJames's picture

That's a great comment Pete full of very valid points and exactly why we knew we needed to look at the whole town and not just a street here or there.

PaulJames's picture

Have been reading the CROW bicycle manual and the SWOV sustainable safety guide, they actually use different terms for the different types of roads. To save confusion, I still like to refer to them as through, distributor and access as Mark Wagenbuur does.

Here's descriptions I've put together from notes from the CROW manual.

Through roads are the large roads that are designed to ensure a continuous flow of traffic from one place to another. They should have the following characteristics:

  • Separate directions of flow
  • No crossing traffic
  • Homogeneous group of road users
  • High traffic speeds (40-70mph)
  • Uncrossable carrageway separation
  • No parking or stopping on carrageway

In the UK, through roads are trunk roads, dual carrageways, or bypasses, or what would be described as a “road”.

Access roads are local roads that provide access to houses, shops and other amenities. They should have the following characteristics:

  • All groups of road users must be able to use them
  • Speed of motorised traffic must be kept low
  • No carrageway layout
  • No separation of traffic types
  • No through motor traffic

In the UK, access roads are residential roads, or what would be described as a “cul-de-sac”, “back street”, “alley”, or “lane”.

Distributor roads are smaller roads designed for moving traffic from through routes to access roads. They should have the following characteristics:

  • Designed for flow and exchange
    • Flow in road sections
    • Exchange at junctions
  • Road sections similar to through roads
  • Medium traffic speeds (30-40mph)
  • At junctions speeds should be low enough to avoid conflict
  • Crossable carrageway separation
  • Single level junctions
  • No parking on carrageway

In the UK, distributor roads are what would be described as a “street”.

It is important that distributor roads do not offer through access for traffic that is more efficient than using the intended through routes.

Distributor roads can sometimes provide access houses and businesses where the road layout does not allow for an access road.

As Easy As Ridi...

Thanks for that Paul - that's helpful.

I would guess that I have misclassified Worthing Road as a 'through-route' - towards the centre of town, it's a residential street/road, with a 30 mph limit. It should more properly be classified as a distributor. 

Realistically, if we're following that classification, only Harwood Road and (maybe) the Guildford Road to the west should be through-routes, although Guildford Road already has a 30 mph limit, and is largely residential. Brighton Road - at least near the town centre - most certainly shouldn't be a through-road. But there's really no other way into the town from the east.

I'm thinking about compiling a flickr set of photos of these streets, just to give an idea of what they look like - we're obviously going to be constrained by the existing environment.


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