How to suppress bike riding #2: Bus stops (and also, the solution)

I wrote much of this post ages ago, but never got around to finishing it. Events have somewhat overtaken me in the meantime, with TfL announcing plans to implement this very solution! (Update, ten months later: Sadly, they botched it.)

This type of design have also been recently covered at As Easy As Riding A Bike, and David Hembrow has previously discussed this Dutch bike-friendly bus stop design too. I recommend following those two links to see excellent Dutch designs.

If you require physical, concrete proof that the authorities don’t care about cycling, take a look at a bus stop. The design will almost certainly give priority to private motor vehicles, with public transport a poor second and bikes a very distant third.

Consider this fairly standard bus stop design (although it’s lacking the yellow ‘bus stop box’ markings).

What will happen when the bus pulls in?

A bus about to pull into and therefore block the cycle lane, so that cars can pass freely

A bus about to block the bike lane so that cars can pass freely. (Source: Google Maps)

The bus pulls in and blocks the cycle lane, so that cars can pass freely.

A photo of a bus pulled into a bus stop, which blocks the cycle lane but keeps general traffic lane clear.

The bus has pulled in to the bus stop, which blocks the cycle lane, enabling those very important cars to pass freely.

Any bike riders must wait behind…

A photo of a bus from behind. The bus is stopped on the road, blocking the cycle lane but keeping the motor traffic flowing.

Come on children, take the lane! Do it for the Cycling Revolution™!

…or pull out to pass the bus. (Note to any VC evangelists reading this: NORMAL PEOPLE FIND THIS TERRIFYING AND WON’T DO IT, HOWEVER MUCH YOU TELL THEM IT’S SAFE.)

A photo of bus blocking a cycle lane, and a bike rider overtaking the bus which is about to pull out.

People riding bikes must either wait behind the bus, or pull out to overtake it. (Overtaking a bus while riding a bike is something most people don’t ever want to do.)

This is the contempt with which the UK authorities see cycling — and buses are given second-rate status too. For not only do people riding bikes have to pull out to pass the bus (a terrifying place to be for most people) but when the bus is ready to set off it has to wait until there is a gap in traffic before it can pull out itself!

There, in one pithy design, is proof that the private car comes above all else. And it’s the standard design for bus stops in the UK, and it’s one reason why ‘normal’ people don’t ride bikes for transport. The constant leapfrogging between bikes and buses is a terrible way to organise traffic flow.

Go Dutch, go behind the bus stop

Returning back to the top photo, here’s a better alternative:

An alternative bus stop design, the likes of which are being suggested by TfL. The bus stops in the carriageway next to a 'bus stop island' allowing bike users to continue without having to overtake the bus.

An alternative bus stop design, the likes of which are now being suggested by TfL.

This design enables people riding bikes to pass buses without having to ride around the outside of the bus in the flow of traffic. (Remember, dear Cyclists: normal people aren’t willing to do that. Like the woman calmly riding while drinking a coffee there.)

Note the shallow, angled kerbs. I’m a big fan of these. If you’re using a wheelchair or pushing a pram, they’re easier to roll across. If you’re riding a bike, running into them will cause you no harm. They’re often called ‘forgiving kerbs’ (and known as ‘splay kerbs’ to those in the trade) and they’re a tiny change which makes a big difference. (One of the major flaws of the Torrington cyclepath in central London is the high, straight kerbs which mean that you must ride well away from the edge. Making these into shallow, 45º kerbs would enable the full width of the path to be used… but that’s another post!)

But that’s just version one. The bus stop island is too narrow for my liking, but because we’ve moved the bus stop and ticket machine onto the island there’s now space on the pavement available to move the cyclepath across, so we can make the bus island wider:

A version of the previous 'bus stop island' design with a wider bus island

Plenty of space for people to get on and off the bus

There’s no loss of space to pedestrians, as the cyclepath would run over where the bus stop is currently located (i.e. you can’t walk there anyway due to the bus stop, ticket machine and bin). In fact, add the footpath and the bus stop island together and there’s actually more space for people on foot because the part of the road which was previously covered in stripes of paint is now the bus island!

TfL sees the light

I never thought I would praise TfL, but that is what we must do, for they have finally seen the light and realised that nearly everyone doesn’t like riding bikes amongst motor traffic. (Seems fairly obvious to me, but there you go.) Congratulations to whoever got this new design through!

More specifically to this article, they’ve realised that people don’t like overtaking buses while riding a bike. (Except for these selfish bastards, of course, but they’re extreme sports fanatics and adrenaline junkies, so we really shouldn’t base transport policy on their desires any more than we should design roads for boy racers.)

So it’s great that TfL are now planning this kind of design for the extension to Cycle Superhighway 2, and it’s the kind of thing which is normal in the Netherlands, and it works very well. Once you’re already dealing with a separate cyclepath it makes sense to put the bus stops on islands between the cyclepath and the road.

Here’s TfL’s artist’s impression of a bus bypass:

TfL's artist's impression of a cyclepath with bus stop bypass

TfL’s artist’s impression of a cyclepath with bus stop bypass. Note their fast Cyclist, no doubt about to collide with those innocent pedestrians.

It’s good but not quite right for me. Note the 90º kerbs and typical London Cyclist (capital-C intentional) complete with helmet, dropped handlebars, lurid jacket and probably gritted teeth (though he’s facing away so we can’t see that). (The Cyclist looks a bit too big to me too, but never mind.)

Here’s my slightly modified version:

My amended version of TfL's design featuring forgiving kerbs and female casual bike user!

My amended version of TfL’s design. I also changed the cyclist to a lovely middle-aged woman who isn’t going to run anyone over. “Please, go ahead.” “No, after you!” “Why, thank-you!” “You’re welcome. Have a nice day!” Etc. etc.

Nicer kerbs for starters – really, these are essential in any modern cyclepath design. I’ve also got rid of TfL’s Cyclist and replaced him with a middle-aged female who is merely using a bike for transport. (She doesn’t know anything about bikes, nor has she ever watched the Tour de France. She’s just going down the pub.)

I’m still not keen with how the cyclepath crosses the footpath – who has priority here? For me, this could be clearer.

If pedestrians have priority then can’t we add zebra-stripes to the cyclepath, or at least a ‘pedestrian’ icon on the surface? If bike users have priority then the surface should remain blue throughout the crossing area, which will make it clear to pedestrians that they’re crossing a cyclepath. (Also, maybe the footpath should lower to the cyclepath level rather than the cyclepath rising to footpath level as in the images above.)

While you’re here…

While I’m on the subject, here’s what the Cycle Superhighway looks like at the southern end of Southwark Bridge in London:

The bike lane at the end of Southwark Bridge in London stops suddenly and turns into a bus stop. Bikes are meant to pull out into the road to overtake.

TfL’s current solution: pull out into the stream of cars and vans to overtake the buses! (Photo: Alan Perryman)

That’s really dreadful, isn’t it? Expecting people to pull out into a lane of traffic which will be overtaking the bus? And we wonder why cycling is dominated by fit young men! (And I’m not going to talk about the awful pinch point in the distance there…)

So what would be better? Something like this:

A redesigned Southwark Bridge, where the bike-path continues and the bus stop is on an island between the bike-path and the road.

A better way to handle buses and bikes at Southwark Bridge.

The bikepath runs along where the bus shelter was, and the bus shelter has been moved to where the bus stopping area was. The bus stop markings are now in the main carriageway, which means – shock, horror – that cars have to wait behind stopped buses while people on bikes can ride past.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about bus stops for now.


 

If you like the sound of this you should respond to TfL’s consultation telling them how much you love this design.

 

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28 Comments

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28 responses to “How to suppress bike riding #2: Bus stops (and also, the solution)

  1. Paul M

    While I think you are absolutely right about holding traffic behind buses, the predictable riposte would be that this could caiuse significant traffic delays, and as an occasional motorist I would have to say I have sympathy with this. The problem of course is that buses are almost invariably single-operator these days, and passengers queue to pay or swipe their cards on boarding. It strikes me as improbable that we would ever go back to the days of bus conductors and open rear platforms which passengers could hop on and off very quickly – for one thing, it entirely ignores the needs of disabled passengers and parents with pushchairs etc. However many bus services I have been on in Europe solve the problem by having passengers pay in advance and then frank their tickets after they have boarded – they could buy blocks of tickets, like our Tube carnets, or individual tickets from a machine at the stop, or of course a season ticket or Oyster-type system. They get on quickly, and sort out their fares at leisure.

    Trouble is, at the moment we don’t really have any such system for casual bus users so queuing to pay the driver or swipe the oyester reader at the door will continue. You would think that TfL would deal with this issue anyway, as it is much more efficient, whatever the effect on traffic or cyclists.

    I also think it is great to see how the design standards for CS2 beyond Bow have improved compared with the first phase. Not perfect, but much better. The leader of Newham Council had refused to approve laying CS” in his borough before the Olympics on the grounds that the standards were inadequate. If his explanation can be taken at face value I woudl have to say he has been vindicated.

    • Bendy buses had much better methods for getting people on and off, as well as more space for wheelchairs and buggies. More common in Europe and (I assume) without any of the perceived problems that saw them withdrawn here.

      I’ll admit to being majorly against them when I moved to an area served by them. They seemed less comfortable, more crowded and to cause trouble at junctions down to their length. Now they’re gone I can see their merits more and know their bad rep was mostly undeserved. I suppose the solutions they brought were slightly out of sync with our streets when compared to the continent.

      I witnessed one get wedged across Walworth Road while trying to do a three-point turn. Comedy gold.

    • Paper tickets aren’t an issue: the red box next to the bus stop sign in the pictures above is for that. But Oyster is so universal these days that those vending machines are now being reduced in number, because they don’t get used. It’s entirely down to the single-door boarding. Bendy buses, with multiple-door boarding, worked… and also notorious for fare dodging.

      This is also about the fact that the DfT has an utterly absurd system for putting a value on the few seconds that motorists spend waiting behind a bus at a stop when they could instead be racing to the back of the queue at the next junction: http://waronthemotorist.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/dafts-deeply-regressive-fantasy-formula/

      The time cyclists spend waiting behind the bus breathing in fumes doesn’t matter, because cyclists’ time isn’t worth anything. Indeed, I doubt the effect on cyclists ever even crossed their minds…

      • I’m sure I read somewhere, recently, that TfL were against new bus stop arrangements where the bus had to pull in out of the traffic flow – presumably because they then had to try and pull out again.

        If that is the case, and I haven’t just made that up, then it ought to be useful extra ammunition for this sort of bus stop layout that does delay motor traffic behind the bus.

      • Paul M

        The boarding question could be addressed by the fact that all buses (?) have both front and rear doors and boarding could in principle be done through both. Passengers would, as in France etc, get on and then go to a ticket-punch of which there wodl be 2 or 3. Inspectors would check from time to time that the punch had been used/the oyster had been swiped, with a big fine for non-compliance.

        Of course that would require TfL to have a sizeable squad of enforcement officers, and that would cost money!

  2. Reading through the LFGSS thread there’s a funny moment of confusion when mandatory cycle lanes are assumed to be forcing cyclists into them, rather than cars out.

    Anathema to the integrationist. Maybe we should write a glossary for them.

    • Well, the naming just has inherent motor vehicle bias (mandatory for the car to stay out). I was confused, when I first saw the term used.

      Worse, if you use that term with those who drive cars, they too will think it means that the cyclist must ride in them when present.

    • Paul M

      Not sure that is a question of terminological confusion, or the long-held belief/fear expressed by the CTC that introduction of segregated lanes would inevitably lead to banishment from the roads. The finger is pointed the Netherlands where apparently cyclists are banned from some roads.

      Clearly not all, or many – only about 20,000km out of about 150,000km of the Dutch road nework has separate cycle tracks anyway, the rest being minor side roads and traffic calmed. Nor, as I understand, are ALL roads with parralel cycle paths off limits. You would expect it to apply to motorways (as it does here, with nothing below 50cc engine size permitted) and to a few specific bridges/tunnels etc, just as it does to the Hindhead Tunnel here.

  3. It’s vital with kerbs to ensure a good maintenance programme. Glass and other litter will gather otherwise — and such build-ups have been the curse of many UK attempts to ape Dutch infrastructure.

  4. 3rdWorldCyclinginGB

    In other news… Richmond Cycle Campaign have been trying to get concessions for cyclists out of the Borough Council and TfL in the authorites’ plans for changes to Twickenham Town Centre.

    Latest report:

    http://www.richmondlcc.co.uk/2013/01/08/twickenham-consultation-january-update/

    Not quite as encouraging.

  5. Just a few comments;
    (i) TfL is ditching the on-street ticket machines as Oyster has rendered them useless, but your second arrangement would allow a bus shelter which is pretty handy.

    (ii) The angled kerbs are standard in the UK and set at 45 degrees, but as they are a “normal” kerb, they haven’t the width to make a proper slope for wheelchair users and buggy users. Ramps should be laid at 1 in 12 or better 1 in 20 for these users to be easy to.

    (iii) TfL has UK-ized the layout here by raising the cycle track level to footway level (for the crossing point to the bus stop “island”) and shown blind/ partially-sighted users where to cross with the tactile paving.

    The use of flush crossing points for pedestrians means they are very accessible for all users, but the flip side is we need tactile paving to assist blind and partially-sighted people. I think TfL has set it out about right and I guess technically the cycle track has priority, but there will need to be a culture shift.

    We could put in stripes to indicate some pedestrian priority, but culturally we are used to Belisha beacons and legally, a proper zebra is needed for proper priority. I think that apart from tweaks, we should support the scheme and see where it gets us.

  6. One potential solution tried in Glasgow. http://goo.gl/maps/YTvYO

    You just have to make sure your friend cycling alongside you is paying attention and doesn’t cycle into the kerb (or bollard if it was still there).

  7. Murray

    Now we just have to find a way to deter people from walking on the cycle lane…

    Oh, and by the way, the comment that “when the bus is ready to set off it has to wait until there is a gap in traffic before it can pull out itself” is technically incorrect. The Highway Code says that other motorists should give priority to buses and allow them to pull out. Not that such things are enforced in any way, of course. (Just like motorists aren’t fined, as they should be (it is an offence after all), for stopping unnecessarily at the ASL.)

  8. The new style of running the behind the bus stop kind of scare me, especially in London. If there is anything more unpredictable than a motor vehicle it is a pedestrian. All it will take will be one aggressive rider to bowl over a granny getting off a bus.

    I have worked in Berlin a bit where there are cycle lanes on their generous footpaths everywhere. In the beginning I was forever wandering into them because I was not used to them being there. As I started cycling I would always have to watch out for tourists who would stop in the middle as they checked where they were going. London already has this problem without any changes.

    I realise people could say if you want to ride fast then stay on the road. But what if there is lots of traffic. A cyclist in a hurry will more than likely jump on to a cycle path to bypass the traffic.

    I think London is just too confined/angry/aggressive for this to work effectively in many places. It is just moving the conflict from the road to the footpath where the bicycles will become the bullies and the pedestrians the vulnerable party.

    London requires more than just infrastructure changes for it to be an even friendlier pace to cycle than it has become over the last 5 years. An attitude change from all road users, including cyclists, is required to reach the heights of cycling in places like the Netherlands. Strict liability like they have in mainland Europe wouldn’t hurt either.

    Just to add, I know not all road users are aggressive idiots, it is just unfortunate they stick out more than the vast majority who are not.

  9. Jason

    This:

    “(Except for these selfish bastards, of course, but they’re extreme sports fanatics and adrenaline junkies, so we really shouldn’t base transport policy on their desires any more than we should design roads for boy racers.)”

    really annoys me.

    I’m not a member of that forum, nor am I a stereotypical lycra lout that the daily mail and blogs like yourself love to demonise, I’m a relatively new cyclist (march last year) and I live 18 miles away from where I work. I need to ride at a decent pace in order to make it practical (not rich or lucky enough to live near work).

    I’m commenting here because I’ve noticed a number of blogs like this one do this recently. Don’t cyclists as a whole have enough to contend with without fighting amongst ourselves??

    Yes there are idiots who treat other roads user with contempt – 90-95% of the anti social cycling I see (red light jumping, not stopping at ped crossing and so on) is done by non racer casually dressed cyclists (cable st CS3 is a wonderful thing to see in the summer…not) but whatever you ride/wear, whatever you see yourself as (cycle racer/hipster/person getting to work) lets just chill and understand there’s a bad minority of all road users – no need to play the blame game constantly.

    Lets just get on together yeah?

    I really like this blog and the others out there that are fighting this cause, and I support 100% their aims even if some of it will mean slowing down my journey and even making it impractical – cycling is a great thing and London would be so much better if more people would do it.

    Anyway, sorry if you were just making a cheeky throwaway comment and I’ve overreacted, I do appreciate you giving up your time to write this.

    Peace ;)

    • Hi Jason,

      Thanks for your comment!

      What I object to is the attitude that some Cyclists-with-a-capital-C have, which is “I prefer to ride on the road because I’m fast and confident, and I refuse to even consider measures which might help other people start riding bikes, if those measures might slow me down in any way”. That kind of selfish thinking has been given far too much prominence over the years, and has seeped into official DfT thinking.

      Your comment “I support 100% their aims even if some of it will mean slowing down my journey” is the opposite of that attitude (indeed, some of the commenters on the LFGSS forum posted the same view) and I welcome it fully! Some of the best bike-transport bloggers feel the same way — David Hembrow and Mark Trasure are both “cyclists” into “cycling” yet also recognise the enormous benefits of mass bike use, Dutch-style, where riding a bike doesn’t make you a “cyclist” any more than making a journey by train would make you a train-spotter.

      I do think that the views of existing cyclists have to be taken with caution, and filtered to remove impractical sporty views. After all, these people are already riding bikes! It would take snipers and landmines to stop most of them, judging by the awful conditions they’re willing to put up with at the moment. So when some of them say “we’d rather pass buses on the outside as part of the flow of motor vehicles” or “the correct place for cyclists is in the flow of traffic” it must be recognised that that is an extreme point of view which will only ever appeal to the quick and the brave, and they should be ignored by the government when it comes to creating transport policy. To do otherwise would be like designing pavements based on the comments of a psychopathic endurance sprinter.

      It’s the bike-users-in-waiting who need to be listened to. They’re the ones who, in survey after survey, say “I’d love to use a bike for transport but it’s just too scary on the roads”.

      S.C.

      (The stupid thing is, the adrenaline junkies can still ride along the road if they really want to. Nobody is pushing for banning bikes from the road!)

      • Jason

        SC,

        Thanks for your very articulate and considered response!

        I actually agree with you 100%, so I’m thinking I maybe overreacted to a slight that wasn’t there :)

        cheers

      • Ian

        I can see a couple of problems with your approach. the first is the, I’m afraid, the usual complaint that when we are forced to mix on the roads neither drivers nor some cyclists will know how to behave. The second is that, frankly, almost all the paths in Highland Scotland are rubbish – badly maintained, break at every minor junction, poorly surfaced, and often too short to go anywhere useful. So while your ambition to replace road cycling by paths is probably sensible in London, I do wish you and others would remember what you’re wishing on the rest of us – carp provision intended to keep us out of the way of the precious motorists.

        • Ian

          Blasted predictive keying.”crap provision”, not free fish!

        • Seriously? You’ve read this blog — the calls for Dutch-quality cycle infrastructure, the calls to make it safe for people of all abilities and ages, the calls for £1.2bn P.A. to be spent UK-wide — and you’ve come to the conclusion that I’m asking for the usual UK-style crap, narrow token gestures which disappear at every junction?

          I think you need to read again. Or better yet, go to the Netherlands and use it for yourself.

  10. Pingback: Here’s what the future of cycling in London looks like

  11. Some of those designs look very good

  12. Pingback: More on bus stop bypasses | As Easy As Riding A Bike

  13. The designs look good, but we’d need to consider with some care how we would deal with crowds of pedestrians waiting for the bus, and possibly milling around on the cycle lane.

    Not impossible to solve, but needs addressing.

  14. Pingback: Aldgate gyratory and a separated cycle track gone wrong | Great Gas Beetle

  15. Pingback: Seriously now, what are Lambeth Council’s plans? | The Alternative Department for Transport

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