Tag Archives: buses

You wait ages for a bus, and then three casualties come along at once

Bus drivers are miserable gits, aren’t they, eh? All they do is sit there, driving around under pressure from a system that puts unreasonable demands on them, encourages them to drive dangerously, working unreasonable hours for low pay. Why don’t they just smile?

Or, if they have concerns or complaints, why don’t they report them?

Which leads me to the thrust of today’s post: There is no independent reporting system for bus drivers.

You should know that for almost 20 years, train drivers have had anonymous access to an independent system called CIRAS, which addresses concerns in a no-blame way. The goal of the system is to investigate concerns and eliminate the danger before something bad happens.

This is one of the reasons why Britain’s railways are so safe – drivers feel free to report concerns about safety, dangerous practice, unreasonable hours, or whatever. They can report to CIRAS, who will discuss with management and staff to resolve the problem.

The CIRAS scheme is clearly of use – Network Rail are members, as are TfL’s Underground, Overground and light rail services.

But for some reason TfL doesn’t use it for their buses. Why is this?

  • The scheme already allows buses, it’s not just for trains.
  • TfL already value the scheme, as they pay for their rail networks membership.
  • Adding the buses most likely wouldn’t cost any extra – what TfL pays for the trains would cover the buses too, as it’s one organisation.
  • And – probably the most important reason – is that TfL’s bus system is dangerous:

Every single day there are on average over 60 (yes, sixty) collisions involving TfL’s buses. (See this FOI’d data.)

A TfL bus is involved in someone being killed or seriously-injured on average more than three times every day in the first six months of 2014. (See TfL’s own bus data here.)

The number of incidents sharply increased when Mayor Johnson introduced bus performance contracts, and has been increasing ever since.

How many of them could be prevented by listening to the drivers?

If we listened to the bus drivers – and the system was changed so that they didn’t have to work over-long hours, so that they weren’t under pressure to complete routes in short timespans – then maybe we would all have reason to be more cheerful.

 


Thanks to Tom Kearney for most of the information here. If you don’t know about Tom, he was hit by a red-light-running bus on Oxford Street, was expected to die, woke up after two weeks in a near-death coma, and left hospital after ten weeks, to piece his life back together. He later discovered that TfL and the Metropolitan Police had failed to investigate the case (some might even say it was covered up).

This should come as no surprise, as the branch of the police which investigate bus crashes is funded by TfL – who are also responsible for the bus system! Talk about the fox being in charge of the hen-house…

Here are some links to articles on Tom’s blog, where you’ll find much more information and detail about TfL’s killer bus system:

How the police and TfL looked every which way they could to avoid investigating Tom’s near-death

Tom forced TfL – against its will – to publish bus collision data

The head of CIRAS tells us that TfL could add buses to the system

TfL and bus companies: Ignoring safety for profit

Guest blog post from a bus driver describing the system in which they work (there’s more of these, from various drivers – they’re in-depth but worth reading)

Finally, for now, can anyone tell me why the mainstream media has ignored this issue? It seems that Tom has uncovered dangerous practices which result in thousands of casualties every year, and yet few seem interested.

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Britain can do it!

My last post — the one about bus stops — turned out to be very popular for some reason. Thanks to all who shared it, and hello, new readers!

One thing that I discovered as a result of that post is that bus stop cycle bypasses already exist in the UK — they’re not a new thing, they’re just very rare. (Do they even have a more concise name? I think I’ll call them BSCBs.)

Here’s a new example in Brighton:

A bus-stop cycle bypass in Brighton. The bus stop is on a pedestrian island between the cycle path and the road.

New BSCB on Lewes Road in Brighton. (Photo courtesy of Mark Strong)

Three cheers for Brighton & Hove City Council for installing this, and for the cycling advocates (including Mark Strong) who pushed for it!

There’s another photo here. I don’t know what the rest of the road looks like for bikes, but this is much better than the old design, which can still be seen on Google Maps:

A photo of the same bus stop before the cycle bypass was installed. Buses crossed the cycle lane to pull in, and people riding bikes were expected to pass stopped buses on the outside.

If you prefer this then you’re insane. (Photo: Google Maps)

The old design really is awful. Buses have to cross the cycle lane to get to the bus stop, and bike users have to overtake a rumbling bus (which will almost certainly not be stopped perfectly within the bus stop, but sticking out across the cycle lane). That’s not going to convince people to start using a bike for transport.

I also received word (thanks to Ambrose White) of a BSCB in Sheffield:

A bus-stop cycle bypass in Sheffield.

A BSCB in Sheffield. (Photo: Google Maps)

It’s rather odd that this exists at all, as the road it’s on is very wide and yet there’s only a poxy advisory cycle lane for the rest of its length. (At least, that’s what it looks like on Streetview, maybe it has changed since.)

But this BSCB does the job pretty well. I like that the cycle path is red, which alerts pedestrians. And the priority is unclear but well marked, too – there are bike icons (as well as the red surface) which tell pedestrians that they’re crossing a cycle-path, but there’s also a give way which warns bike users to be careful of pedestrians. It looks fairly decent to me.

Either way, I know that one place which is never pleasant to be is on the right-hand side of a rumbling bus.

(Stop press! I found another BSCB example on CycleStreets.)

Cycles and buses and lights, oh my!

While I’m on the subject of Dutch cycle infrastructure which can be done in the UK but rarely is, here’s a traffic signal bypass:

A rare example of infrastructure which enables a bike rider to continue while motor vehicles are held at a red light. This is possible because the cycle path runs to the side of the lights, and a bike user is not interacting with the conflicting flow of traffic.

“Bloody cyclists, always riding through red lights! Oh…”

As Mark Wagenbuur explains, bike users heading straight on at a T-junction aren’t actually interacting with the junction so there’s no reason to hold them at the red light. (They should give way to, and merge with, bikes coming from the right, however.)

And it turns out there’s lots of other Dutch touches around the UK, too. Here’s an example of a “free left” in Cambridge, combined with separate signals for bikes heading straight on:

Traffic lights in Cambridge, with a bypass for bikes turning left so they don't stop. Bikes going straight on are held at a red signal while motor vehicles turning left have green to go, and vice-versa.

It’s a bit too British, but Dutch enough. (Photo: Google Maps)

So bike users turning left aren’t held at the signals (but they must give way to traffic coming from the right, ideally the bike lane/path would continue around the corner), while bike users going straight on have their own traffic lights. When the bike lights are green, motor traffic in the left-turn lane is held at a red signal. When the left-turning motor traffic gets a green light, straight-on bike traffic is held at a red. So no conflict – they’re segregated in time.

Again, it’s odd that such good infrastructure exists here at all (though it could be better). There’s nothing behind the camera but to regular vehicle lanes, and the only way to turn right is to get into the right-hand lane (one thing which I’m sure puts off many would-be bike users). But it’s still an improvement over the usual UK habit of ignoring bike users altogether.

So it seems that almost everything we desire is already legally possible in the UK, but there’s often just not the knowledge or the will to do it. If the DfT produced clear national guidelines on how to provide these facilities – and made them mandatory, too – we would start to see them appearing all over the place.


 

Sorry, Northern Ireland — this post should have been called “The UK can do it!” I’d change it, but once WordPress has sent out the feed to other blogs, Twitter, etc., it causes all sorts of problems. At least I didn’t just say “England” though, eh?

 

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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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