Will Boris make TfL keep his promises?

If this redesign of the western side of Lambeth Bridge is anything to go by, then either Boris’ adoption of LCC’s “Go Dutch” campaign was nothing but a last minute attempt to gain some votes from Ken Livingstone, or the Go Dutch message hasn’t filtered down the hierarchy to TfL’s design department.

TfL's new design for the western (north) side of Lambeth Bridge. They've added raised crossings and some shared pavements, but that's it.

Where’s the Dutch? SHOW ME THE DUTCH!

Shared use pavements do not make a Dutch-quality cycling environment. It seems that TfL’s main goal here is to not remove even one inch of space from motor vehicle users. The new widened footways are currently tarmac with white paint on them – a bodge from when this junction gave even more space to motor vehicles than it currently does.

There’s tons of space here for a proper design. Why are TfL obsessed with keeping two lanes for each arm of the roundabout? All four roads are single-lane anyway so there’s no need to have two lanes for each road on the roundabout. As a driver I find this annoying and stressful – as soon as you have left the roundabout you have to merge with the other lane.

This whole design stinks of business-as-usual and if it gets installed as currently designed then it will be a massive missed opportunity. So I implore you to tell TfL what you think about their poor design!

In the spirit of offering constructive criticism I present to you my version of the junction. Consider this a work-in-progress version 0.1, but you’ll get the general idea. (The image below is rotated 90º clockwise, looking at the junction from the east. It’s not an aerial view either, but a 45º bird’s eye view.)

My alternative version of the Lambeth Bridge junction, with Dutch-style separated cycle paths

Even with my cack-handed graphical skills, this looks better already! (Original image taken from Bing Maps, click above for larger version.)

The red paths are the cycle paths, and the white bits are physical barriers – raised kerbs, I expect. It’s not perfect – and I expect it violates a few DfT rules – but it’s much better for cycling than TfL’s original design. I haven’t tackled what happens further along the roads, but Millbank (to the south) has Cycle Superhighway lanes on it which would link up nicely.

Note how no space at all has been taken from pedestrians. (I suspect the odd nibble into the pavement wouldn’t harm, there are some very wide pavements here already.) And no space has been taken from the acres of tarmac available to motor vehicles on the roundabout, either.

Little changes for pedestrians, but cyclists would have priority when going around the roundabout and only give way to pedestrians, once just before joining the roundabout and once just after leaving the roundabout, which seems fair enough to me. I’ve used roundabouts like this in the Netherlands – much bigger, more complex and busier ones, too – and they really do work, for everyone.

Feel free to suggest improvements – maybe we can make a submission to TfL if a technical enough drawing can be made?

I suppose the two main stumbling blocks are:

1) can this be achieved using current UK regulations, and

2) do Boris and TfL have the cojones to keep their promise and actually Go Dutch with junctions like this?

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Will Boris make TfL keep his promises?

  1. Mark

    This can absolutely work under UK regs. Cycle tracks can have priority over traffic lanes if on speed tables (they would be here) and I think TfL shows this at around p202 of its own design standards (it is in their somewhere). My only comments are that the cycle track and the zebra crossings need to have 2 zig zag between them to be within regulations and I assume cycles would give way to peds with the zebras coming right across – as for TfL engineers and engineers in general (me included) we are shackled by politicians and non-engineer managers who don’t like change and cannot understand cycling. There are risks with your scheme as cycle track priority is very rare and in this busy location, there will be collisions. But, if the design decisions are properly recorded, with a safety audit and possibly some temporary signs to bolster the message that cyclists have priority, then this will work. I personally hate 2 lane approaches to zebras because of masking by vehicles in one line and I would make this one lane in and now lane out. Finally, have a read of highway risk and liability (free to download) extremely unlikely to be sued over innovative designs if the design objectives and process are properly set out and recorded.

    • Thanks for your engineer’s input Mark, much appreciated!

      The two zig-zag requirement is the tricky part for me, as it would mean moving the pedestrian crossings quite far back from the roundabout, or moving the cycle path right to the edge of the roundabout. It’s a shame the cycle path can’t run alongside the zebra, as they often do in the Netherlands: http://goo.gl/maps/gyHEx

      It was my intention that cyclists would give way to pedestrians on the crossing before entering the roundabout, and after exiting the roundabout, just as motor vehicles do.

      I agree that if it’s designed properly, the cycle priority should be clear to drivers, and their speed coming off the roundabout and up onto the raised table should be low enough that any collisions are minor. (At the moment, drivers often zoom around those wide arcs! It’s far more dangerous at present.)

      I think this sort of thing is where Boris’ promise to ‘Go Dutch’ either lives or dies. Hopefully the TfL engineers can be un-shackled, at least a little bit, by the mayor’s promises. This is one of the most dangerous roundabouts in London, and an innovative (but proven, in the Netherlands) design here is the only option if the mayor is true to his word.

      • Mark

        http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1997/2400/schedule/1/made

        I have looked again at the Regulations. 10(4)(a)(b) in schedule 1 confirms my 2 zig-zag comment, but they can be 1m each, so this really reduces the gap between track and zebra. Interestingly (never noticed it before) regulation 10 seems to accept a bit of non-compliance, could that be to leave out the zig zags to get close to the track (with a given way for the track) or am I really pushing it – I need to play around with CAD one lunch time!

  2. 3rdWorldCyclinginGB

    Here’s something pretty similar in size:

    http://goo.gl/maps/zvU1D

    Doesn’t look much like the TfL design.

  3. TFL recently said in regard to this junction and their design that they believe cyclists are allowed to use zerba crossings without dismounting. This could be used as an alternative way to make the priority work. As Mar ksaus, you’d still need 2 zigs and zags between the roundabout and the crossing to be legal (although there are plenty of examples in London where this is not the case).

    I have roundabout diagrams you are free to use and adjust as needed on my blog http://pedestrianiselondon.tumblr.com/post/24151812132/roundabouts

  4. Here are some real Dutch examples (Google 45 degree angle images from Rotterdam)
    one
    two
    three

  5. And these roundabouts are no problem for larger vehicles!

  6. Mark

    I am aware of TfL’s view on cyclists using zebras. It is apparently a legal opinion which says cycles can be on the carriageway and the stripes of the zebra are on the carriageway. But, cyclists have no way of gaining priority by wheeling onto the crossing, by definition, pedestrians gain priority by physically stepping on the crossing. The cynic in me thinks this is a dodge to save money on toucan crossings as Boris is anti-signals. If the regulations where changed, then traffic could be made to give way to cyclists on zebras (and pedestrians) by default, or with cyclists, if the zebra is on a hump. But to be fair to TfL, they do push the DfT and therefore the government for changes to the rules. Of course, driver culture change is needed.

    • My main worry about using zebra crossings on a bike are that you have to stop at the edge, then wait for the cars to stop, then cross. This means that a cyclist would have to stop at each arm of the roundabout – quite a hassle if turning right.

      Even going straight on that would mean four pauses – once before entering, once for each way on the first road, then once when leaving. For turning right it would mean six pauses!

      You’re right about driver culture, cars in London don’t always stop at zebra crossings even for pedestrians. More than once I’ve waited while car after car speeds past – now I look as though I’m going to walk out front of them anyway, which makes them stop quick enough!

      I think a combined cycle path and zebra crossing (side by side, which they have in the Netherlands – http://goo.gl/maps/gyHEx ) is the best solution, but would the DfT approve such a sensible measure?

  7. Mark

    Oh, just responded to the consultation which mentions they are looking to start work this November – seems like their mind is made up. This is naughty as in the case of the shared use cycle track and speed tables, there are statutory notices to advertise and responses to consider before a decision can be taken – I hope the dates of the notices, decision making sign off and works orders don’t overlap. That would be really naughty!

    • D’oh! How long after a consultation ends would you normally expect work to start? Do you suspect they may be breaking rules by doing it so quickly?

      • Mark

        Section 90C of the Highways Act has lots of things that must be done in terms of consultation, but the minimum consultation period for road hump (including speed tables) is 21 days. Not sure quite how TfL decision making works, but they must have some kind of sign off before works start. I don’t think having a contractor ready is unlawful as they may have tentatively arranged the work which can be cancelled if they relook at the scheme. Many authorities have term contracts and it is normal to try and give some idea of works to contractors knowing things get moved about. My point was that TfL must make sure the follow statute and their own procedures otherwise they are at risk of challenge – BUT, they clearly have a scheme they wish to implement and didn’t appear to undertake any advanced discussion. I deal with such things at work and some simple schemes go straight to consultation and some have a period of informal discussion before consultation.

  8. According to the testimony Ben Plowden gave to the GLA’s Investigation into Cycling, the existing layouts of the junctions are as a direct result of a different set of priorities, inherited from an earlier generation. The short-term imperative is to mitigate the worst effects of this legacy. TfL started by looking at 500 junctions, but that was soon whittled down to 100 priority junctions. Ten of those will be upgraded this year, Ben said, and a further 15 by the summer of next year. What they are looking at are things like early start signals for cyclists, extending the depth of ASLs where this is not possible, segregation perhaps where circumstances currently allow.

    A couple of questions immediately suggest themselves. Firstly, is this design from TfL an interim measure, designed to provide some form of temporary relief until a better solution can be developed? And secondly, is this one of those situations where circumstances do not currently allow a separation of functions? If the answer to both of these questions is Yes, then I think that, at the very least, there should be some sort of timetable in place to ensure that temporary does not become permanent.

    The TfL design obviously takes the dual network approach. The speed merchants can stick to the road, and the mum with her kids can use the shared-use pavement. A typically ingenious British fudge!

    As regards your proposed design, it seems to me uncertain that the speedsters would use it in the way that it is intended to be used, particularly if they wanted to change direction. In that event, some motorists would most likely become aggrieved, and this might increase the antagonism they already feel towards (especially lycra-clad) cyclists.

    And how would mum feel about this new design, particularly if she was accompanied by her children? Probably she might be okay with it, but I don’t think it affords the same protection as is offered in the Dutch examples from bicycledutch. Maybe she would still prefer to use the pavement.

    You say that all four roads are single-lane anyway so there’s no need to have two lanes for each road on the roundabout. So why have you kept two lanes for each road on the roundabout? (I am fairly certain I already know the answer, but it’s as well to ask.)

    You also say that you haven’t tackled what happens further along the roads, but I can hardly blame you for that, since nobody really is thinking in terms of a network. (According to one comment I read on the LCC website, “Britain does not have that mentality. We do things piecemeal in practice.”)

    I can see that your design would better suit the type of people in these photographs. I can also see that neither the motorists nor the pedestrians are any worse off, and given that at this stage we have to be concerned that any plans to improve the cyclists’ lot do not become bogged down in lengthy consultations, it is probably not far off what would be an acceptable solution for the majority of cyclists in London, particularly as things currently stand politically. On the whole I agree that it is an improvement on the design offered by TfL.

    For myself, I have long accepted the view that the design process often takes many iterations or cycles before we are happy with the final result. That is to say, I do not believe it needs to be perefct first time around. But as your design is currently configured, I am not convinced it offers the best long-term solution, not least because quite a few cyclists would most likely cut the corners rather than go the long way around.

    Obviously the best long-term solution would be to reduce the amount of space given over to the motor vehicle, as the Dutch have done. But that aside, my preference has always been for segregated two-way cycle tracks. In this instance, it would need to be on the river-side of the road, as a few minutes’ study of this map would confirm. The problem is, of course, that you can’t always provide just little bits of this sort of infrastructure, and that would mean that you would need to look at the whole length of this route, something like this.

    In summary, my view remains that we do as much as we can now, London-wide, and then, whenever we get the chance, we revisit those bits which are still weak. Your design fits in well with the idea that we do as much as we can now, particularly given the political situation as it is. But as for what the young men in lycra would say about it, I can only guess.

  9. KEdas

    Why bother with reinventing bicycle? Dutch already wrote excellent „Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic“ with all the traffic schemes with exact measurements. In English.
    It would be nice if some Brits will advertise this manual. That way all the other world will benefit, because most google searches are made in English, and not in Dutch. Sadly.
    Order link: https://www.crow.nl/english
    Manual on internet: http://app04.bonpoo.com/cgi-bin/download?fid=D35F137CDF2A11E188E063668E215873

    It would be nice if you can resend this letter to other bloggers (Mark, Freewheeler, Joe Dunckley and others) I can’t find their email addresses, and don’t want to leave this link in comments sections to make it public.

    P.S. I hope blogs author will remove link ASAP, because this will be copyright violation. Linking it here, because can’t find bloggers email and don’t see other possibility to show how good this manual is and should be read and copied by engineers.

    • Yes, you’re absolutely right! I would happily shred every piece of paper and wipe every hard drive at the UK’s Department for Transport, and replace the whole lot with copies of whatever their equivalent in the Netherlands has. If we can clone some of your civil servants too then that would be great. (Ours would be sentenced to ten years of cycling around wherever the hell John Forester lives.)

      (The manual link was deleted before I even clicked on it, so no legal worries there!)

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