Just spent several hours mapping widths of main throughfares in my area, Southend-on-Sea. What do you think?

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Just spent several hours mapping widths of main throughfares in my area, Southend-on-Sea. What do you think?

Been thinking about road widths and how to implement a top-notch cycle network in my area; that is, separate dutch-style cycleways with conflict-free traffic phases at junctions. Space for junctions is another matter entirely, right now I'm not too concerned about it. I made this map with Google Earth and GIMP.

See maps

The widths shown are the total (approx) usable width including parked cars: between walls of buildings/people's front garden fences/etc. I mostly rounded down, e.g. 14.2m became 13m not 15m. Dual carriageways count the complete total of both carriageways and spare space both sides.

Essentially these roads need to cope with cars, buses, cycles and pedestrians and width is concerning me... unless we want to make cars/cycles/buses/pedestrians take long detours I'm somewhat baffled.

The http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Bus_for_London is 2.5m wide, and the 1997 document "Keeping Buses Moving" states the minimum width for bus lanes is 3m. If we assume a minimum roadway width of 6m to allow buses to pass comfortably in opposite directions, that leaves us with

Cycleways: 2+2m to allow high cycle traffic and social side-by-side cycling

Footways: 1.5+1.5m or more

Roadway: 6m

Total: 13m without any physical distance separating walkers/cycles/(motor) vehicles. For dual carriageways this would be 6m extra so 21m. Assuming some separation between modes, that leaves us with around 14-15m... Can it be done narrower than this?

I went and measured Station Rd and the narrow section of Woodgrange Drive with a tape measure. These total 14.1 and 12.8m respectively. Google Earth shows Hamstel Rd as about 12.5m also.


  • Railway bridges are narrower at around 11 metres. Can we simply add width to them without having to demolish and build anew? Cyclists and pedestrians are relatively light compared to cars, buses and lorries.
  • Bus stop bypasses require extra width. With this configuration, we want more than 14.5m.
    • Buy up people's front gardens for this? If there are buildings in the way, I don't know. I suppose sacrifice some space from all modes. Buses could stop to allow each other to pass if we narrowed the roadway.
  • Some sections of roads get narrow in places, such as the black westmost section of Woodgrange Drive is about 12.5m in width. I went there and measured it, the total was 12.8 so say 12.5m.
    • Perhaps routing cyclists along the parallel residential Kursaal Rd? In this case, how can we get cyclists on the "wrong" side to swap over without significantly impacting motor vehicle flows?
    • 20mph limit and cycle lanes for this stretch of Woodgrange Dr? This would at least allow cars to pass cyclists... cars are 1.5 to 2.0 metres in width. Two cars passing would therefore be 4m, distance between them say 0.5, footways 3m leaves us with 5m spare, 2.5 on each side for cyclists!
  • The "parking problem" for residents on major throughfares especially on Southchurch Rd and Hamstel Rd. I'm sure this is a fairly common issue, what have the Dutch and others done about it?
    • Maybe one solution is to buy up one or more houses in a row, bulldoze them and install residents-only car parks. Has this been done elsewhere?
  • (I think) UK guidelines suggest minimum 7.2m roadway width (sorry, I can't find the document to reference right now) for lorries, such as N Shoebury Rd and Elm Rd to access the Vangaurd Way industrial estate. Lorries would go to/from A127 along the trunk roads (running east/west along the north side on the map).

I'm new here with various bits and peices of dutch CROW knowledge, please point out to me if these are answered elsewhere. Either way, a good debate about this kind of "network vision" / policy could be very interesting.


- Andy K / Justanotherandy


First point: That something is a through route now, doesn't mean that it has to be. The 'problem' of Woodgrange Drive can easily be solved by turning it from a thoroughfare into a residential street. Southchurch road and the seaside are nearby enough to give car traffic ample east-west connections.

Adding width to a railroad bridge sounds like a difficult operation. In many cases even adding a separate bridge for cyclists and pedestrians would be easier, I think. However, 11 meters sounds like 'just enough': this is exactly the kind of situation for which the CROW guideline has the possibility of making an exception to the 2 meter minimum width. Reduce the cycle track width to 1.5 meters, and use a purely vertical barrier (a fence) or even no barrier at all and just a 1.5 meter on-road bicycle lane, and provide a 1.5 meter pedestrian space on only one side, and it all fits, though not comfortably.

There's no roadside parking on thoroughfares in the Netherlands; there usually aren't any houses either. Houses either have their back to the road at some distance, or there is a parallel road. Southchurch Road seems from your map to have enough space for the latter kind of solution: From inside to outside: central road - small barrier - parallel road - pavement. The parallel road should be one way (same direction as the nearest part of the central road), 20 mi/h maximum and preferably have some hint of filtered permeability so it is not attractive as a rat run. The majority of side roads would open only to the parallel road, and some kind of streetside car parking would be possible there, not on the central road. Cyclists of course take the parallel road (with small bits of cyclepath where it is interrupted to avoid rat runs).

pete owens

To see how much worse 1.5 m cycle lanes make conditions for cyclists see:




Yeah, I guess you're right on that. So make that a protected lane, with something like a low fence or high double curb as separation. That removes that issue, though it does mean at that width that overtaking on the cycle lane itself becomes a bit of an issue.


things like armadillos (or lightweight bollards) mean that faster cyclists can pull out of the lane to overtake if they want to, rather than a solid curb. 

AKA TownMouse

Joe Costello

Of course, if the street is no longer a busy through route then the railway bridge can be treated as a pinch point for motor vehicles, either with signals or with traffic having priority in one direction (i.e. the "give way to oncoming vehicles" method).

That way, the footpath and bike track can continue under the bridge but motor traffic has to slow down and stop before passing through. 

Most highway authorities wouldn't even begin to consider such a sensible measure, however, as it would mean actually prioritising walking and cycling over driving for once. 


Looking at the Southend case, your solution looks sensible for Maplin Way - nothing serious gets broken if we take the bridge out of the main road network for cars.

This gives an interesting option for the area here to get into 'far separation', that is, completely different routes for different types of traffic: Pinch the Maplin Way rail bridge for car traffic, or even forbid it completely, and create high quality bicycle infrastructure there. On the Ness Road we do the opposite: No or almost no change from the current car-oriented situation. Furthermore, between Maplin Way and Elm Road, create a cyclepath (or mixed cyclepath, mixed existing residential street) north from and parallel to the railroad. Now the majority of cycle traffic can avoid the Ness Road bridge and take the quieter routes over Maplin Way bridge or Elm Road bridge; car traffic on the other hand gets diverted away from the Maplin Way bridge to the Thorp Hall Avenue and Ness Road instead. Remains the question about what to do with Elm Road Bridge. My first idea was to turn it into a 20 mph zone, but it would probably still attract so much car traffic that a treatment remains highly desirable.

pete owens

The dimensions you quote are all right on the absolute minimum - particularly for pedestrians.

Footways need to be a minimum of 2.0m wide (you need to allow enough for 2 double push chairs to pass). On well used sections - near shops, schools and so on you need at least 3m. 

The minimum space a single cyclist needs to make safe progress is 2.0m - that is 1.0m for the dynamic envelope (the physical space a moving cyclist occupies) + 0.5 margin for safety either side. This is not sufficient for overtaking or side by side riding so unsuitable for anywhere with high volumes of cycle traffic.

You can just about get down to 3m lane widths for general traffic lanes - and this is often done where they need to cram in extra lanes on the approach to junctions. It is just about wide enough for 2 buses to pass, but not comfortably - and there would be issues at bends. The standard UK lane width is 3.65m (12 feet in old money) but that is suitable for motorway speeds. 3.25m is probably a more realistic minimum - though that will be very intimidating for anyone cycling on the carriageway.

In addition to this you need to add somewhere to put street furniture (lampposts, signs and the like) otherwise they will be plonked in the middle of the cyclepath. A 1m median between the cyclepath and carriageway allows posts to be sufficiently clear of both.

Where there are parked cars then these will need to be catered for. Most of those streets are residential so there will be parking - and if the carriageway is too narrow then they will park on whatever is next to it - whether this is a grass verge, pavement or cyclepath. Cars are usually about 1.8m wide (and getting wider) so you need to design in 2m wide parking bays.  Any design needs to avoid directing cyclists into the door zone so you need at least a 1m margin between any cycle facility and a parked car. It also has implications for the remaining carriageway width - 2 buses might just be able to pass on a 6m wide road, but not in a 6m wide gap between lines of parked cars.

Add this all up for a stretch with parking on both sides and you get:

2.0 + 2.0 + 1.0 +2.0 + 6.5 + 2.0 + 1.0 + 2.0 + 2.0 = 20.5 m

 for the most basic level of provision. You will need more near shops and so on where there is significant pedestrian traffic.

For a short constrained stretch you can take away the parking on one or both sides, and if it is really tight and pedestrian traffic is low you could get away with a 3.5m shared use footway with a 0.5m margin next to the carriageway. This would need:

3.5 + 0.5 + 6.0 + 0.5 + 3.5 = 14.0 m 

but is an inadequate level of provision for all users.


If you're talking about my numbers, I was speaking about the specific case of an existing railroad bridge, with an already determined width. There will be no parked cars or shops in such a place. And widths will have to be reduced to their minimum, that's true.

Apart from that, in general in the Dutch system, through roads do not have shops or car parking on them. Through roads are just that - through roads. Shops and houses are on other roads.

pete owens

Actually I was replying to the original post - answering the question how much space is needed in order that a basic off-road solution is possible. For this you need to add the basic minimum requirements of all the provision you are seeking to make. I calculated 2 figures:

The first for how much space is needed generally along a single carriageway street with parking on both sides - which seemed typical for Southend - and this came out at 20.5m. This was not extravagently good provision just the basic minimum so you will need this along most of the length of the street.

The second was how much space you could get away with at a tightly constrained section with little pedestrian traffic and no need for parking (for example the bridges). This works out at 14m for rubbish shared use facilities. This would not be acceptable as a general solution, but would be OK in extremis to maintain continuity of paths approaching from wider sections.

These are both absolute minimum figures - if the roads are narrower then there simply isn't room for everything so something has to go. You cannot simply cram ever narrower separate provision in or you end up making things worse - for example the 1.5m cycle lanes you suggested to be installed. And that was almost entirely at the expense of reallocating space from pedestrians which I would consider unnaceptable. For an 11m wide bridge there is room for a carriageway and 2 pavements and that is it.

Also you need to keep in mind that finding the space between junctions is the easy bit. Tackling the junctions is where it really gets tricky. 


Could the Embassy come up with a suggested answer to this headache? Main throughfares with residents then bunches of shops every so often are really common in the UK. Due to residents on-street parking can't simply be removed to allow a two-way roadway.  My best thought for the moment is making the 0.9 mile stretch one-way (single lane) for motor vehicles (to retain access and some traffic capacity and 3.5m+ footways) with car parking on one side rather than both, but this creates problems for buses that ought to be able to run in both directions. It would take a bus user around 10 minutes to walk from Southchurch Rd to the nearest other East/West corridors (North/South/Central Ave to the north and Woodgrange to the south).

pete owens

Of course if you can prohibit vehicles from heading in one direction on a street they will have to find a different route. If they can find a different route in one direction then they can follow the same route for the return journey so you can remove all the through traffic - say by installing a bus gate at a critical section with no means of using back streets to rat run. Now the street ceases to be a throughfare - thus solving the problem at source rather than attempting to mitigate it.


The Dutch tend not to have those sorts of mixed use streets that are both thoroughfares, bus routes, residential roads and shopping streets. The answer might be some sort of reduced permeability for cars - with maybe bus bollards to allow buses through. That then reduces the need for segregation as the traffic which remains is local access traffic. As long as there's a reasonable parallel road for the cars to go onto, then it shouldn't cause too much disruption to anyone.

[Edit - I see Pete has suggested a similar approach...]

AKA TownMouse

pete owens

Of course if you do keep the thoroughfare, bus route and so on running through a shopping street you can organise this on pedestrian rather than traffic terms - as in this Dutch example:


Joe Costello

Haren?! Awful, awful design. One of the few town centres in the Netherlands which I really hated, and the only place I had to overtake a bus the British way. Not much fun to walk around either.

See David Hembrow's blog for more information about Haren: http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2008/11/shared-space.html

pete owens
David Hembrow

Pete, the area shown in your video is not a pleasant place to be. It's about 25 km from where I live, but I avoid it when heading in that direction. It's quite well known amongst local cyclists as a place to avoid. Even the chap who shot this video (and who has a professional connection to it) once admitted to me in private that he has doubts about how well Haren's Shared Space works.

Have you been there and seen it for yourself, ridden through it and compared with what the infrastructure is like either side of this small area ? Everything else around this street is more inviting for cyclists and allows you to ride more easily, efficiently, faster and safer than does the Shared Space.

We visit this exact location on our study tours in order to let people see this contrast for themselves. Joe Costello's opinion ("awful design" etc.) is based on his having seen it and used it, not just on what he saw on youtube.

Few places in the local area have been so controversial as this. Opposition has come from local residents, the cyclists' union, elderly people and parents. Due to the problems caused by this design, various remedial measures have been taken. For example, building of formal pedestrian crossings so that pedestrians can once again cross the road. However, it remains an unpleasant place to be a pedestrian and controversy remains. On one of my quite infrequent visits last year students were surveying people's opinions about the place (questions included "do you feel safe as a pedestrian" and "do you avoid this area by bicycle")  and counting how often drivers failed to yield to cyclists who had priority.

I assume that in posting the link to the video above you were trying to provide an example of good practice in the Netherlands. Sadly, you failed to do that. This is actually one of the very worst examples rather than one of the best. It's useful only in order to show that not everything from the Netherlands is worth copying.

pete owens

No, the purpose in putting the link was to show a practical way of vastly improving the environment for pedestrians and cyclists in a situation where busy traffic passes through a residential/shopping street in Southend. You may prefer segregation - but if you follow the thread from the start you will see this just isn't possible with a total width of 13m to play with. You will also notice that I have suggested blocking the road to through traffic further up the thread. However, convincing the local authority to stop up the A13 might be a bit tricky politically. 

So what we are left with is a road with a significant volume of traffic (both on foot and in vehicles), demand for parking spaces, retail activity including pavement cafes and the like, lots of junctions, bus stops and so on - all in a limited space. There simply isn't room to divide it up into narrow slivers for each class of user (and in any case people are just as likely to want to cross as to walk along the street) so we need to work out how we can organise it to meet everyones needs, rather than just those of motorists - with everybody else pushed to the margins.


Southend already has a (sort of) shared space since 2011, along the seafront (beach). It's similar to Exhibition Road, London. See Streetview. Plenty of people from the beach, tourists, arcades, ice cream, doughnuts, a theme park. There's basically a defined road but the surface looks the same as the pedestrian pavements. There's mostly a small kerb but not always. They're also shared pavements, cyclists can ride anywhere. Streetview.

A lot of people aren't happy with it.

In 2011, two collisions involving children hit by cars occured.

Under pressure the council agreed to add "informal crossings". They're supposed to work like zebras but a lot of motorists don't understand them. The architect probably thought real zebra crossings are ugly or "didn't fit" in a "shared space". They do advocate "removal of street clutter" including sensible crossings. I walked around there for weeks without realising they were crossing points. Picture.

In 2013, a teenage girl was left in a critical condition after being hit by a cyclist on the pavement and a cyclist collided with a car on one of the crossings.

Making Southchurch Rd any kind of shared space would make it worse. Right now it gets clogged with traffic at peak times, being the signposted route to Southchurch, Thorpe Bay and Shoebury. It would be a carscape. Right now it has push-button crossings for pedestrians, presumably those would go if it was shared. The real problem is high volumes of motor traffic.

I suppose the best idea is to make it Nearly Car Free, though with car parking on one side, with some bus bollards in the middle of the stretch (and other permeability measures on side-streets) to cut through traffic out.


Hello David, I like your blog by the way. Very useful.

Assuming this street is made into a Nearly Car Free zone (bus bollards / one way restrictions except buses & cycles and so on), would you regard something like this arrangement(Edit: here's a raw image if that link doesn't work), perhaps with a 20mph (32 km/h) speed limit as acceptable for a narrow stretch of Woodgrange Drive, one of the other east/west corridors? It's this narrow for 350 metres (this), I don't see much problem with eliminating all bus stops and sideroads (or rather, local distributor road junctions) for that distance. Camden-style armadillos, but without the planters.

Pedestrian Liberation advocate a minimum 2.0 metre width for pedestrian pavements, 1.5m where space is tight. I measured the street with a tape measure which added up to 12.8m, so I'm being pessimistic with 12.5m.

The rest of Woodgrange is nicely wide (18 metres or greater) and car parking is not allowed anywhere except a small block of shops where the road widens to 20 metres or greater; plenty to make 2.0 - 2.5 metre unidrectional tracks with separating distance too.


That would be lovely, but on the 100m narrow stretch at the east end of Southchurch Rd this space simply doesn't exist (13.0m width). Removing parking for 100m would be fine (there currently are parked cars down one side making things hard for cyclists!) There are houses/shops on both sides so there needs to be a footway on both sides. Buses go in both directions here so a 6.4m roadway sounds like a sensible minimum. http://streetmix.net/theAndyCC/9/southchurch-rd-narrow-section

Either the whole street is made one-way for motor vehicles (there is nowhere sensible to detour the motor traffic to for the 100m stretch), or this small section is one-way for bikes (cyclists dismount and walk for 100 metres). Annoying but a compromise. http://streetmix.net/theAndyCC/10/southchurch-rd-fixedish

However we could make a 3m bidirectional track on one side, this cuts down on the space used for separation and should give cyclists some opportunity to overtake. In the event of two metre-wide pushchairs on the narrower side one could move one into the cycleway; this should be pretty rare. I maintained the width on the other side as going into a busy roadway is unacceptable. http://streetmix.net/theAndyCC/13/southchurch-rd-narrow-section-remix

On the rest of the street this could lead to a nice 4m two-way track / parallel service road, with bike parking in the middle creating good separation. The idea of the parallel service road is there are frequent bollards along it and access points onto the main road, motor traffic will be allowed but very rare; only using it to get to/from parking or a sideroad on that particular section. http://streetmix.net/theAndyCC/12/southchurch-rd-most-of-remix :-)

That seems better than a 1.8m cycleway on each side: http://streetmix.net/theAndyCC/11/southchurch-rd-most-of which won't let bikes overtake easily. Bike racks could be placed next to the gaps between the bumpers of parked cars. The parallel service road approach I think shouldn't have a door zone problem if people are aware they need to look for bikes and only bikes - not a 'gap' in a constant stream of cars (leading to doors being opened when there's a gap in the cars but an unfortunate cyclist).

Edit: Slight "duh" moment, with a bidirectional track, stick the car parking next to the roadway on the far side. http://streetmix.net/theAndyCC/16/southchurch-rd-bidir-track


Either the whole street is made one-way for motor vehicles (there is nowhere sensible to detour the motor traffic to for the 100m stretch), or this small section is one-way for bikes (cyclists dismount and walk for 100 metres). Annoying but a compromise.

Dismounts are never a good idea, in my opinion. However, looking at Google Maps, unlike motor vehicles, I think one could sensibly detour eastbound cyclists by way of Surbiton Road and Glenmore Street. One could add some additional measures on Glenmore Street (perhaps a filtered permeability point at the eastern end?), and there is plenty of room to have cyclists turn left from Hamsted Road to Southchurch Boulevard well north of the actual crossing, reducing the actual amount of detour.


Good point. I do however really like the bidirectional track solution - along most of the road, more room for cycles overtaking, less room needed for good separation and no door zone. At the (remaining) sideroads (most would be blocked for safety and space) it could look something like this, if people wanted to preserve car parking:

2d overhead view

Somewhat different from what the Dutch would recommend as in my opinion British drivers (who aren't trained to look for cyclists when turning) need extra consideration. I like the 2.5m  footways and cycle parking.

I did have a look though the Policy Bashes, I didn't see anything relating to this particular situation (bidirectional track; access to opposite side)

Edit: Perhaps those footways are too narrow. I'm not sure how busy it gets, but I don't think really busy as it's a mix of residential and shops, unlike our High Street which was completely pedestrianised for as long as I can remember. Sorry about lots of edits.

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