This isn’t a Cycle Safety Fund, this is Space for Motoring

This is part two in a series of three posts about the Bedford turbo roundabout and the funding behind it (AKA “Turbogate”). You’ll find part one here, and part three here.

So what have we learned since Tuesday’s article about Bedford council spending £300,000 of Cycle Safety Fund money installing a design intended to speed motor traffic?

Well, David Hembrow got in touch with Sustrans to ask what the hell they were thinking to support such a scheme. Their reply was mealy-mouthed but also illuminating.

Paul Hilton of Sustrans is essentially saying “don’t blame us, we only recommended spending £300,000 on a turbo-roundabout.” But he did point the finger at various other individuals who apparently share responsibility for this decision.

You can read the full exchange here, in the comments of yesterday’s post.

Franklinstein’s Monster

For me, the most surprising thing was that John Franklin – yes, that John Franklin – is part of the team which decides on which schemes the DfT’s pot of Cycle Safety Fund money will be spent.

This is the John Franklin who wrote, amongst other things, that:

Photo of a young girl (aged about three?) riding her bike without any fear as there are no cars around, with John Franklin quote: "The extra care enforced by the presence of motor traffic, generally results in the safest cycling environment overall."

If only there were more vans and taxis around here, this toddler would be truly safe from all those cycle paths!

That’s right: a man who believes that you’re safest cycling while surrounded by cars, vans and lorries is making decisions about how to spend millions of pounds of Cycle Safety Fund money.

I was surprised at this because he is Cyclenation’s representative on that board, and I’d previously been told that John Franklin didn’t have anything to do with Cyclenation these days beyond looking after their website.

I mentioned this on Twitter and then the following short but hilarious conversation took place between Cyclenation and Mark Treasure:

A Twitter conversation. Cyclenation says: 'Actually John Franklin no longer manages our website or membership database. The only connection between ourselves and JF is that he is a member of Cheltenham Cycle Campaign.' Mark Treasure says: 'But - just to clarify - he is your representative on the Cycle Safety Stakeholder Group?' Cyclenation says: 'Yes, sorry had overlooked that.'

Oh, that guy? He just speaks on our behalf when deciding where millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money will be spent. Apart from that, there’s no connection.

As Cyclenation is not just one body but a federation of local cycling campaigns across the country, it really does need to explain the reason for this bizarre situation to its members.

For a group which is a leading part of the national roll-out of the Space for Cycling campaign, it makes no sense to give such a position of influence (and thus power) to someone who believes that the only place for cycling is on the road mixed up with the cars and lorries.

Luckily, some conscientious Cyclenation members are already asking the right questions.

They Named Names!

Other members on the Cycle Safety Stakeholder Group include Chris Peck of CTC, Tony Russell of Sustrans, Ruth Jackson of British Cycling, Ralph Smyth of Campaign to Protect Rural England, and Robert Semple of TfL.

Now I don’t know the views of everyone on this panel – I have no idea of Ralph Smyth’s stand on urban roundabouts, nor whether Robert Semple gets involved in decisions about places outside London – but I would suggest that members of CTC, Sustrans and British Cycling should contact these bodies and demand to know what their decision was, and their reasoning for it. (Indeed, it seems some CTC members understandably feel this way already.)

Update: Chris Peck of CTC has written an article explaining his side of the story. I think it was written before this one was published, as he refers to Patrick Lingwood’s explanation as if it’s a good one (see below). I appreciate that the whole funding situation is far from ideal, but I’m still not convinced that they took the best course of action by approving such projects. At least Chris Peck has taken the time to respond, however flawed it may be – but there has been word as yet from Cyclenation or British Cycling.

Out With The Old Rubbish, In With The New Rubbish

The more I find out about this turbo roundabout scheme, the less sense it makes that cycling organisations should support it.

One of the architects of this scheme, Patrick Lingwood, Cycling Officer for Bedford Borough Council, defended the turbo-roundabout on Mark Wagenbuur’s blog last year.

His main justification for it seems to be that what is currently there is awful, which he spends a lot of time explaining in detail. This may well be the case, but it’s irrelevant as nobody is suggesting that current layout is great. We’re criticising this specific new design, not defending the existing layout, so trying to re-frame the debate to be about old versus new is distracting and false.

He sounds like a dedicated believer in the supremacy of Vehicular Cycling, just like John Franklin and John Forester. His language is typical of those who see “cyclists” as some special breed which excludes most of the population. He believes in the failed “dual network” concept of providing for two classes of cyclist. He clearly sees his job as being to cater for the few existing cyclists rather than provide safe cycling transport conditions that everybody could use.

For someone who is a cycling officer, he has designed a scheme which increases motor vehicle capacity at this junction by 40%. Rather than create something which is suitable for all users, this is a design which only the confident few can use efficiently, and which will be slow and awkward for others. He’s taken a Dutch concept which is intended to speed large volumes of motor vehicles on trunk roads (and which cycle routes are intended to bypass altogether) and has applied it to an urban location with high pedestrian flows.

And the cycling lobby has waved it through in your name.

And There’s More…

Finally, for now, it seems that this isn’t the only dubious project that Cycle Safety Fund money has been spent on. Cycling campaigner Alex Ingram has begun to compile a spreadsheet of Cycle Safety Grants so we can see where the money has gone.

Pretty quickly, he found this £70,000 Cycle Safety Fund scheme in Hereford:

A diagram showing a roundabout in Hereford, with eight cycle symbols painted on the road

A bargain at only £8750 per cycle symbol painted on the road.

It seems that all a council planner has to do is drop a few cycle symbols into their latest design (or simply claim there’s something “Dutch” about it) and Sustrans will recommend that money intended for cycling will pay for your motor-centric scheme.

As Private Eye would say, trebles all round!

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29 Comments

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29 responses to “This isn’t a Cycle Safety Fund, this is Space for Motoring

  1. Pingback: Bedford Borough Council traffic department, you are a bunch of cretins | The Alternative Department for Transport

  2. I don’t understand why you are so unhappy, they’ve done something Dutch haven’t they?…………Actually maybe that’s the point “Look, we’ve done something Dutch and you’re still complaining, Now grow some cojones and follow that truck little girl!”

  3. GareThugHowell

    Inviting disaster putting bicycle signs in the middle of a car roundabout.

    “That’s right: a man who believes that you’re safest cycling while surrounded by cars, vans and lorries”
    This geezer just does not have powers of expression like what Schrodinger does. The remark had implications unmentioned perhaps.

    Perhaps the Bedford Turbo-r has got an unrevealed alternative route for cyclists as much as four hundred metres away, although sustrans would probably know it somewhere. How can the area now be traversed safely using a different route?

  4. This is not Dutch, is it total crap.

    Great work this is outrageous. I am disgusted and I do not even have to cycle in the UK and more.

  5. Things learnt this morning – google docs needs a fresh link to share a spreadsheet with a new tab. So, this link shows my explanation of what I’ve got on sheet and sources (few queries on twitter). Basically it’s cities, parks and then cycle safety fund. Cities and Parks is the next phase we’ll see, through a slightly different process. Will write up my own blog on this tomorrow – there’ll be a gallery.

    Oh, and that link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsDqPa7OFCHbdE5OQjZRekU2RlBJUV9QME1pZ0hjUHc&usp=sharing#gid=0

  6. I really, really don’t give a rat’s arse whether the Bedford scheme is “Dutch” or not. Arguing about its Dutchness sounds like various religious sects arguing about which is the one true faith – a bit like the schisms between the Scottish Free Presbyterian Church and The Free Presbyterian Church and the “Wee Frees” etc ad nauseam.

    I don’t really much care whether the scheme caters primarily for motor vehicles, or pedestrians, or vehicular cyclists rather than a wider body of actual and potential cyclists. We have been here before. We know that road schemes are designed primarily with motor vehicles in mind, in direct conflict with the preferred road user hierarchy (which starts with pedestrians). Patrick Lingfield’s spiel on Mark Wagenbur’s blog betrays the real thinking here – the roundabout was hazardous (as distinct from dangerous) for motor vehicles as there were numerous conflicts and collision involving vehicles entering the roundabout and vehicles already on it. It needed to be fixed. Fine.

    He also lets slip that pedestrians were the second priority in redesigning this roundabout, making the entry/exit arrangements fit with pedestrian crossings around its perimeter. OK, I think pedestrians should have been top priority, and certainly there are a lot of them here by all accounts, but hey, better second than third or fourth priority like most British road layouts.

    He evidently thinks that the solution for those cyclists who don’t worship at the altar of Johns Franklin and Forrester is that they should get off and walk around the footpath – it might be “shared use” but we all know that if pedestrian density is high it would be safer and probably quicker to dismount. OK – it’s a solution, of sorts.

    What really, really pisses me off is that a highways scheme costing £300k which is predominantly for the benefit of motorists and secondarily for the benefit of pedestrians is not being paid for out of the local authority’s standard highways budget, as it should be, with the cost being borne by the council tax precept. It is being paid for by a raid on a national fund which is supposed to be applied to cyclists. A fund which is no doubt finite in size, and indeed minuscule when compared with the funds available for motor-oriented highways schemes. That in my view is tantamount to theft.

    What then really, really, really pisses me off is that not only does John Franklin have his fingerprints on this scheme, but that Sustrans is a co-conspirator. I have been a Sustrans supporter and donor from before the millennium. I think I may have been the one who alerted them to the concept of gift-aid tax relief (which they didn’t appear to know about until I asked whether my standing order could be gift-aided). My monthly debt has been rising steadily since then. Not any more. I have been quite disturbed by what I have read, about this particular situation but also more generally about how they have morphed into a quango, a kind of Uncle Tom of the cycling world. I suppose when you have sums like £300k available at the drop of a hat you might not miss my £180 pa, but they aren’t going to get it any more.

    • Paul M: You are right, of course, that what matters to cyclists is the quality of infrastructure being built and not whether the word “Dutch” is associated with it.

      However, I still object strongly to the word “Dutch” being applied to schemes which quite clearly are of designs which would never be built in the Netherlands. This is not because there’s anything special about “Dutch” but because attaching this word to things which are of lesser quality than would be built in the Netherlands is deceitful and confusing.

      Attaching the word “Dutch” to projects is a way of trying to jump on the “Go Dutch” bandwagon which originated with bloggers and the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain.

      The band wagon has been jumped upon to describe the appalling London and Southampton two stage junction designs described as “Dutch”, Royal College Street described as Dutch, LCC’s desperately substandard idea of what “Dutch” infrastructure should look like or even Boris and Gilligan’s preposterous claim that their lacklustre plans for London would result in the city “competing with Amsterdam“.

      The idea of “Going Dutch” only has value if it is representative of best practice. In each case above, these organisations are attempting to attract praise and deflect criticism simply by using the word “Dutch” to describe lesser infrastructure designs. This may well be good marketing, and may well be enough to satisfy people who know no better, but in each case they add a little more to an increasingly thick fog around the understanding in the English language of what the Dutch have actually achieved for cycling.

      • Paul Gannon

        David,
        I agree that going ‘Dutch’ is important only if it means getting high-quality, Dutch style cycling infrastructure (which needn’t be only Dutch as some other European countries also can do it well). Where I would disagree with you is in your characterisation of all the UK projects you mentions as ‘attempting to attract praise and deflect criticism simply by using the word Dutch’. This is an error of fact.

        I will refrain from any comment on Royal College Street 2nd phase until we see how it works over a reasonable time, but I can say that RCS 1st phase was definitely not ‘jumping on the bandwagon’. There was no such wagon rolling at that time – which preceded ‘Go Dutch’ by a decade. In fact it’s true to say that we were consciously trying to get the wagon rolling. Maybe our wagon wheels were a bit rusty and didn’t revolve for long and we certainly didn’t get the quality we wanted. But it was a serious attempt to get in something much better than average UK cycle infrastructure and that I think we did succeed in.

        I think it would improve the perceptiveness of your analysis if you were to distinguish between our approach and that of others who don’t seriously share our objective of working towards quality implementations. That would enable you to understand the variety of motives better and avoid making erroneous assertions.
        Neem mij niet kwalijk, Paul

        • Hi Paul,

          I’m sure David was referring to the 2013 make-over of Royal College Street, not the early-2000s version, as he linked to my article about it.

          I think he’s right in that there is a problem where “Dutch” has become this word which means “will shut the bloody cyclists up” and has no relation to quality.

          The 2013 RCS scheme was initially described as “London’s first truly Dutch” scheme, for example, and this Bedford turbo roundabout nonsense is another, more extreme, example of using the word “Dutch” to describe something that really isn’t.

  7. bz2

    Painting markings on a roundabout is a bad idea anyway, especially markings that big, because they cause motorcyclists to wipe out when it’s wet… although knowing the UK, the paint will be so shoddy (and gone in a year) that it doesn’t make a difference to the friction coefficient.

  8. D.

    So its “Dutch” in the sense of “they have them in the Netherlands”, but not “Dutch” in the sense of “it’s like the Dutch would use for their world-class cycling infrastructure”.

    So, can we say that any infrastructure that a local authority chooses to put out there is Dutch infrastructure if they have it in the Netherlands? Cool – we can have Dutch roads, and Dutch bus-stops, and Dutch traffic lights, and Dutch benches…

    If Bedford wanted to build this, fine, but they shouldn’t be using the Cycling Fund to pay for it.

    • bz2

      No, there is literally no place in the Netherlands where cyclists are forced (or even allowed!) to use a turbo roundabout. They are built either out of town, or within town on roads that skirt well around where people live and shop. None of the dozens I reviewed just now even had a pavement, since they were all in areas with no pedestrian demand. The occasional stray dog walker would be allowed to use the cycle paths, which all stayed well clear of the roundabouts themselves.
      The first of these motorist monstrocities opened in the year 2000, well after the Sustainable Safety guidelines came in, and almost everything in those guidelines warns against mixing cyclists and vehicle traffic in such a way. While I guess it’s not technically impossible for Dutch authorities to do so, it is so far outside the norm that they would probably be liable for any damages if a cyclists were to be hit on such a roundabout.

      • I absolutely concur with bz2. This idea of putting cyclists in the lanes of a turbo roundabout is so alien to Dutch ways of building cycling infrastructure that it does not exist and I can’t conceive of how it could ever exist. It is at the very least misleading to describe the Bedford roundabout as “Dutch” as there is no equivalent in the Netherlands.

        There are examples of real Dutch turbo roundabouts with cycle-paths highlighted, here.

  9. A Dutch rowboat is not a Dutch goods lorry. A Dutch roundabout for high-speed, high-throughput motor vehicle traffic is not a Dutch roundabout for cyclists.

  10. Jitensha Oni

    +1 to PaulM’s penultimate paragrah. More technically, though, the situation across the country is actually worse than the individual treatments being Dutch or not Dutch. Each of the designs: Bedford, Southampton, and Hereford, are fundamentally different in how the cyclist is supposed to negotiate them. While David Hembrow and others have shown that different junctions have different path-carriageway topologies in the Netherlands, the detailed treatment at user level remains consistent. Having got used to infra in one place, Dutch cyclists will not have to spend time working out how they are supposed to use the infrastructure (and thus potentally getting into difficulty) elsewhere, whether they are cycling in Vlissingen or Delfzijl. In contrast, if a cyclist got used to, say, the Southampton design, they couldn’t then go to Hereford or anywhere else it seems, and expect to find the same. So going Dutch should also mean consistency of treatment. And of course the more you fragment the designs, the harder it gets to change to a consistent model in the near to middle future. Not good.

  11. Tim

    Lingwood’s reply to MGFW seems to indicate that he expects “less confident” cyclists to (illegally) use the pedestrian crossings, and most of the time drivers will probably stop for them. I could try and make excuses for him that the national legislation doesn’t provide the required tools, but either way this approach seems asinine to me. As a cyclist how can I possibly be aware of this expectation?

    And of course you already make the very good point that a “dismounted cyclist” is a pedestrian.

    So cyclists get the crumbs from the table, and then the crumbs are fed back to the roads-for-cars gang anyway…

  12. Peter Stevens

    It’s a conspiracy I tell ya, a bloody conspiracy! I can see it now, “we tried Dutch infrastructure and people died. Experiment over.”

  13. platinum

    Stop the rot. Cycling orgs have the power to stop giving crappy dangerous infrastructure *free passes*. Stop telling designers that what they’re doing is “good enough”, send them away with their tails between their legs and they’ll quickly learn to come back with real infrastructure on the agenda.

    Is this so hard to comprehend?

    Powerless human beings like me are RELYING WITH OUR LIVES on cycling orgs to have some balls and stand up for decent principles.

  14. I don’t have an issue with the building of a “turbo” roundabout for motor vehicles and I can see the logic of the officers in enforcing lane discipline which is often lacking. If it works (and it’s a big if) then that will be a good thing.

    What I do have an issue with is the fact that it is being built with cycling money with very little real protection. The CTC and Officers replies do indicate that they were hamstrung by regulations, but this seems like a smokescreen and get out for a crap design in the first place.

    I’ve said for a long while now that the first thing that is needed is quality, intuitive national standard design standards. Carrying on spending cycling money on rubbish like this is worse that not building anything as people won’t use, and then everyone else continue banging on about the provided infra not being used.

  15. “Okay, everyone, gather ’round. Now, you all remember the mauling they got down in London over the CS5 route, don’t you?”

    “Yes, boss.”

    “Mr Johnson, would you care to remind us of some of the things that were said?”

    “Yes, boss. David said, ‘Bottled it.’ And this is from someone called Simon. Ahem. ‘The new route is absolutely not going to be safe for a child or pensioner to cycle on. If you’re not going to design infrastructure that is worth building, then simply be honest and say, “We can’t be bothered providing a safe route”‘. And then this is from —”

    “Yes, okay, Mr Johnson, I think we get the idea.”

    “Right you are, boss.”

    “Now, it seems absolutely clear to me that this new scheme absolutely, positively must be safe for a child or a pensioner to cycle on. Got it?”

    “Yes, boss.”

    “Right, get to it.”

    Meanwhile, over in Hereford. …

    So what is wrong with mini-roundabouts all of a sudden? Roelof Wittink, the Director of the Dutch Cycling Embassy, said in his testimony to the GLA’s Investigation into Cycling that he had taken a look at some of our roundabouts, and noted that they allowed car speeds of 30-40mph. This would be impossible in the Netherlands, he said. Mini-roundabouts are much more effective in reducing car speeds, he added.

    He also said that we should not expect to solve all of our problems with engineering, and that education also has an important role to play. A large part of this education—as I remember it—is making sure that you are in the correct position relative to the motor traffic. Indeed, as it is pointed out in the EU publication, Promotion of Cycling, “It is vital that cyclists are visible at junctions.”

    I am not here to defend what is being done in Bedford, but just because some of you ride a bike to work, it doesn’t make you expert on developing an amenable cycling environment. So keep it real, you know?

  16. As Joe Costello has chosen to quote the twitter exchange we had, I feel I should explain that I picked up the reference to John Franklin being our webmaster without having read the entire thread and wanted to clarify that point. No doubt you would expect the secretary of Cyclenation to be more professional than that, but the reality is that like all the Cyclenation Board I am a volunteer, and have a full time job so the time I can spend engaging in .twitter discussions and the like is limited. I am looking into our involvement in this and and will post our response in due course – however I won’t indulge in trial by twitter or assumptions of guilt without looking at the full evidence, as some of you seem keen to do.

    Simon Geller
    Secretary, Cyclenation.

    • Come on Simon, you can come up with a better excuse than that!

      This isn’t trial by Twitter, anyway – it’s trial by blog. I look forward to your response.

      I think it’s entirely appropriate that people are asking why an organisation spearheading the national “Space for Cycling” campaign is employing a man who has spoken out against space for cycling on so many occasions that he’s famous for it.

      As David Arditti said recently, that’s rather like making Tony Blair the Middle-East Peace Envoy!

      • That wasn’t an excuse – it was a reason. Obviously had I waited a bit before replying I would have looked through the thread a bit further and twigged want you were on about – but then I would had to wade through the “Cyclenation still haven’t replied, what are they hiding?” comments (incidentally, we are hiding nothing, we just think it’s reasonable to give us a bit of time to investigate) Plus you need to change the tense of that comment – JF did represent us on that committee, which didn’t have the power to make the awards, just advised the DfT on them – but the Cycle Safety awards have been made, it doesn’t look as though there are going to be any more, and JF isn’t representing us on any more committees as far as I am aware. He’s not representing us on #space4cycling which isn’t just about segregated space – have a look at the agreed policies on the site that LCC has put up. You should judge JF on what he actually said about this scheme, which we will make public when we’ve completed our response, not on your prejudices and selective comments you’ve posted from him.

        • http://cyclenation.blogspot.com/2014/02/bedford.html is Cycle Nation’s explanation of their part in this with a link to the hurried analysis that says things like “Much will depend upon to how slow a speed traffic is slowed” and “The expectation that cyclists can use zebras is not satisfactory” then concluded with the lukewarm “worth trying but probably not the best way to change this kind of junction”. Come on Schrödinger’s Cat, admit that you were taking aim at the wrong target and JF wasn’t the worst culprit for once!

  17. Pingback: As Turbogate trundles on, people wonder what is being done in their name | The Alternative Department for Transport

  18. paulc

    http://departmentfortransport.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/cyclenation-franklin-tweet-0.jpg

    well now I know why the cycling infrastruture where I live and commute to work is such rubbish…

    Live in Matson, Gloucester and cycle most of the way to Cheltenham to the light industry estate where I work… nasty 50 mph road with just a narrow cycle lane marked on it, or else a nasty unmaintened shared path with loads of give ways and cyclists dismount signs…

  19. Pingback: Bedford’s turbo roundabout plans get even worse | The Alternative Department for Transport

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