Tag Archives: bad design

Cycleway removed, people are angry

Most people don’t like cycling amongst motor vehicles. It’s a simple concept which many somehow fail to understand.

A popular cycleway has been removed, so now people cycling are expected to use the carriageway. The people who cycle there are upset.

But the local cycle campaign think it’s great that everyone, from children to the elderly, must now cycle amongst cars, vans and buses.

Sounds familiar – could be Britain, right? Well, it’s actually happening in Hamburg.

You can watch a short video about it, from German TV, and below you’ll find a transcript which I’ve translated into English, with help from Katja Leyendecker at the tricky bits.


 

VOICE-OVER:

Cycling along the Alster [a lake] in Hamburg.

For some, a stress-free route to work. For others, simply relaxation. This, in the middle of the city.

Every day 4,300 people cycle along this stretch. But the joy of cycling here is now over for many. A long section of the old cycleway has simply been removed. Completely without reason, many feel.

 

MAN IN BLUE JACKET:

It was a wonderful cycleway along the Alster, where one could be really relaxed while cycling.

 

WOMAN WITH BEIGE HAT:

It’s a real shame, because it was separated, not squeezed together with people walking, it was really well protected and worked so well.

 

MAN WITH SILVER CYCLE HELMET:

It was an absolutely wonderful, great cycleway. And it is no more.

 

WOMAN WITH BLUE SCARF:

Cycling along here you could look out at the lake… and now we have to look at cars. What a pity.

 

VOICE-OVER:

Here, the Hamburg traffic department have planned something different. They want the road next to the existing cycleway to become a so-called “cycle-street” on which people cycling share with motor vehicles.

But it’s not entirely finished – and the cycleway has already been ripped up anyway.

 

MAN IN BLACK HOOD:

Completely stupid. It’s no fun riding on the road every day.

A view of riding along the cycle-street, between parked cars and oncoming motor traffic

A view of riding along the cycle-street, between parked cars and oncoming motor traffic.

 

MAN IN BLACK CYCLE HELMET:

It’s unacceptable, because cyclists now have to go elsewhere. And nobody wants to cycle on the road. I already saw a cyclist lying under a car.

 

WOMAN WITH FURRY HOOD:

I cycle that route a lot, and yesterday I was verbally abused, because I was cycling on the road.

 

WOMAN WITH BLACK HAT:

It’s impossible, you have to overtake parked cars, kids are expected to cycle here, on their way to/from school, people open car doors quickly, it’s impossible.

A so-called 'cycle street' full of moving buses, vans and cars.

The so-called “cycle street” which could easily be mistaken for any motor-dominated road

 

VOICE-OVER:

And so, this is how it looks further north, where it’s already a cycle-street: “20’s plenty” for everyone, people may cycle side-by-side, a peaceful mixing of car and bicycle.

Well, that’s the idea.

Some even think it’s good.

 

ERWIN SÜSELBECK, ADFC HAMBURG (local branch of national cycling organisation):

This street is optimally suitable for a cycle-street. It has little motor traffic, very little motor traffic, it has enough width. The cycleway was always too narrow, there was always conflict with people walking, and it works here, as anyone can see, cyclists are traveling amongst the drivers, it all works. On the road one can safely and comfortably travel, therefore it makes sense to put the cycle traffic there.

[Note that as he says this, behind him you can see someone choosing to ride on the footway rather than mix with motor vehicles on the “optimally suitable” road.]

The ADFC-Hamburg representative talks, while a person cycling in the background votes with their feet, choosing the footway instead of sharing the 'cycle street' with a car.

A person cycling in the background votes with their feet, choosing the footway instead of the motor-dominated cycle street, making Erwin Süselbeck look somewhat silly.

 

VOICE-OVER:

But while we were filming, several passing cyclists felt the need to stop and voice their concerns.

 

MAN IN GREY COAT:

Just this week, I’ve had three situations that were very close. You are lobbying for cycling, right? It’s a busy street, it’s no good for cycling.

 

ERWIN SÜSELBECK, ADFC HAMBURG:

That’s not correct, this road is optimally suitable for a cycle-street.

 

MAN IN GREY COAT:

When the drivers overtake at 30 miles per hour?

 

ERWIN SÜSELBECK, ADFC HAMBURG:

No, they shouldn’t drive that fast.

 

MAN IN GREY COAT:

But they do it anyway!

 

VOICE-OVER:

The city of Hamburg has spent around 20,000 Euros to rip out the old cycleway. But the cycle-street won’t be ready until at least 2017. So cyclists just have to use the road as it is.

Just what was the transport department thinking?

 

SUSANNE MEINECKE, HAMBURG TRANSPORT AUTHORITY:

We’re not forcing anybody. Cyclists are safe on the road here. And we want to offer something reasonable for cyclists, and the old cycleway wasn’t a reasonable offering.

 

VOICE OFF-CAMERA:

But you are forcing people, you’ve ripped out the cycleway already.

 

SUSANNE MEINECKE, HAMBURG TRANSPORT AUTHORITY:

Yes, but with that, we’re giving them a cycle-street.

 

VOICE OFF-CAMERA:

That nobody wants.

 

SUSANNE MEINECKE, HAMBURG TRANSPORT AUTHORITY:

[Long pause…] I honestly don’t understand your questions. There are very few people driving here, and cyclists are safe on the road. I don’t understand the problem.

 

VOICE-OVER:

Many citizens clearly see it differently.

 

MAN IN BROWN COAT:

You don’t travel here.

 

SUSANNE MEINECKE, HAMBURG TRANSPORT AUTHORITY:

How would you know?

 

MAN IN BROWN COAT:

Most people who cycle here laugh at your plans.

 

SUSANNE MEINECKE, HAMBURG TRANSPORT AUTHORITY:

That’s not true.

 

MAN IN BROWN COAT:

The people who do are in danger. Just look at the traffic. This type of vehicle [points at tourist bus] I’ve been endangered a few times myself. Look at this, they’re deadly dangerous. They travel along here one every minute, and they don’t care that it’s a cycle-street, or about the 20mph limit, or any such things. It’s deadly dangerous here.

A man talks to a Hamburg council representative, pointing to a tourist bus in the background, with which he is expected to 'share' the road.

“Look at this, they’re deadly dangerous.”

 

VOICE-OVER:

Many feel that instead of the controversial cycle-streets, they would prefer new cycleways to be built. Many roads in the city have none, and some of those that do exist are so bad that they barely deserve to be called cycleways.

 

MAN IN SILVER CYCLE HELMET:

I think it’s senseless planning. When there are so many potholes in Hamburg, frost damage, but there’s money for pointless stuff.

 

WOMAN IN BEIGE HAT:

I can’t believe that they’ve frittered away so much money – our money – on complete nonsense.

 

VOICE-OVER:

Even though the transport authorities may have meant well, for many cyclists this project has caused more problems than it has solved.

 


It makes me angry that some cycle campaigners continue to ignore the general public who repeatedly say time and time again that they don’t want to cycle amongst motor traffic.

Frau Meinecke may not understand the problem, but I can explain it to her easily: This debacle demonstrates the dangers of listening only to confident cyclists and ignoring the everyday users of cycling for transport.

 

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Picture-post: MORE terrible cycleways on York Road in Leeds

So in the previous instalment we headed west, from the Ring Road towards the city centre.

This time we’ll cross the road, turn around and head back eastwards to our starting point, but on the other side of the road.

The Superhighway begins here as a Superfootway, i.e. it used to be illegal to cycle here but the council have put up a sign so now it’s perfectly safe and OK.

What looks like a footway, but has been designated part of the Leeds-Bradford Cycle Superhighway, so now cycling is allowed here

The shared footway soon splits into a spearate cycleway and footway, and we then arrive at our first bus stop bypass:

A cycleway passes a bus stop but people walking are expected to cross cycleway twice, and both surfaces look the same

So if you’re on foot, you’re expected to look over your shoulder and cross the cycleway twice simply to walk straight on.

I assume the bin isn’t fixed, but the lamp-post and overhanging shrubbery – plus the sharp angles – make the cycleway feel uncomfortably narrow. There’s also little differentiation between the two, I imagine people getting off the bus will have no idea what all this means.

After the bus stop above, people walking are meant to leave the road (there’s a footpath on the left) and the old footway along York Road becomes a cycleway, though of course people will continue to walk here.

The next bus stop is a real doozy…

A narrow footway with bus stop has been converted into a shared-use footway/cycleway despite there being clearly too little space

I mean, come on, seriously? The photo above shows Leeds Cycle Superhighway in all its crapness. Imagine when there’s a few people waiting for a bus, perhaps someone with a pram or pushchair, or children playing around.

Utterly unacceptably poor. There’s no defence for this.

Here’s another bus stop further along, with added blind corner for extra thrills:

Another badly-designed bus stop bypass, this time with a dangerous blind corner

So people going to the bus stop will be coming from just behind that concrete wall, directly opposite the tactile paving you can see. A recipe for collisions (or it would be if more than a handful of people actually cycled in Leeds).

Later on, after more shared footway, we reach a junction which serves only a pet shop (and fire engine access):

Shared cycleway/footway crosses a minor side road, with confusing priority

The kerbing here is a mess, it doesn’t scream “give way to cycles” to me. I certainly wouldn’t trust cars coming off the main road to stop here, as the kerb line guides them smoothly around the corner.

I’m nothing if not fair, so here’s a photo of a bit that isn’t too bad:

A cycleway that isn't too bad, but has strange drainage undulations

It’s (fairly) clear, it’s free from obstructions, it’s a decent width, the drain covers are wheel-friendly. If it was all this good, I wouldn’t complain. But then, the straight bits should be simple to do!

Note how the right-hand side undulates, rising and falling where the drains are. Now I’m no drainage engineer, but shouldn’t this have been achieved with camber? I can’t say I’ve noticed cycleways elsewhere doing this, but perhaps there is a good reason for it (and this isn’t the case elsewhere). As least they’ve thought about drainage, a concept which seems to have escaped engineers elsewhere!

Another bus stop bypass now, which is ridiculously narrow given the width of the road here (almost 40 metres wide!):

Narrow cycleway past bus stop despite extremely wide road width

This is followed by a whole bunch of driveways to private business properties, each of which has been designed like to:

Driveways interrupt cycleway on York Road in Leeds

Does it look to you like the cycleway (or the footway) has priority over motor vehicles here?

Note also that, due to the smooth ride which King Motorist must receive, the cycleway undulates at each driveway (look at the kerb and you’ll see it). That’s not how to do it.

Nor is this:

Wide-radius junction for fast motor turning cuts across cycleway and footway, on York Road A64 in Leeds

Again, a cycleway junction this close to a 40mph road will never be safe. What’s odd is that elsewhere along the route, the space occupied by the old painted cycle lane has been taken, whereas here the entire new cycleway is within the old footway. Combine the old painted cycle lane with the space available on the left, and this junction could have easily been designed to be much safer and comfortable.

Instead yet again the protecting island ends too far back, the kerb line cuts across the cycleway and guides drivers smoothly around the corner at speed. No amount of paint will fix this. It needs redoing from scratch.

A little further on, the cycleway and footway are once more squeezed together at a bus stop, so that motor vehicles may pass unhindered:

Barely-used driveway interrupts cycleway/footway, after shared-use bus stop

And the driveway – for an electricity substation, so hardly a busy driveway – has visual priority over people walking and cycling.

Here’s a view from a footbridge, showing the narrow medieval route ahead:

Photo taken from footbridge over York Road in Leeds, facing east, looking over eight lanes for motor traffic (two of them bus lanes)

For a look back towards where we’ve just come from, click here.

Moving on, we’ll see how the old painted cycle lane is being taken away to provide more space for a cycleway:

Unfinished work on the Leeds Cycle Superhighway, with parked motor vehicles blocking the footway

I really don’t like the look of that junction though, and the plans show a mere painted cycle lane here (so not much different from what we see today).

The residents of this part of the road park their vehicles all over the footway, but formal parking spaces are being provided as part of the scheme, so I hope the cycleway and footway are kept clear of parked vehicles.

Further on – past more poor junctions and squeezed-in bus stops – we arrive at… shared-use footway and toucan crossings!

Cycleway and footway become shared-use at busy junction, with three separate crossing phases

Yes, this is how the Leeds Cycle Superhighway is treated at busy junctions. Legalised footway cycling and toucan bloody crossings. The very crap which has failed to do anything for cycling in the UK, but this time it’s Super.

Nothing says Cycle Superhighway quite like having to mix in a narrow space with people on foot, and wait at THREE separate signals just to go straight on across one side-road (it’s the access road to Asda, if you’re familiar with the area).

Truly dire.

Further up the hill at the next junction, the same treatment has been used:

A separate cycleway and footway turn into shared use area at junction with limited space

Once more, I ask: is there really enough space here? What if a family is waiting to cross the road to the right? This clearly is a bodge job, and not even nearly the best solution.

Moving on, we find that at an access driveway the cycleway disappears altogether:

Poor and dangerous cycleway design at service driveway, where motor vehicles appear to have priority

This is the access to the parking for a fire station (not the emergency fire engine exit). Given all the space available here, this is an awful design.

Next we come to what is probably my favourite section:

Insane junction design where cycleway and footway criss-cross each other multiple times

The design team were surely on some very strong drugs when this was drawn. It’s all a bizarre attempt to give access to the existing traffic island and toucan crossing on the left, without making any changes to the existing road layout.

From where I’m stood, the cycleway is on the left (coming towards the camera). I’ll let you trace the various paths yourself.

Turning around, we see that we’re back at the section where the cycleway is raised above the footway. This means that you’re now cycling on a long podium right next to fast-moving motor traffic. Don’t wobble!

Cycleway is a strange raised platform right alongside a busy 40mph road

Would it really have been so difficult to move the whole thing left by a couple of metres? That would have made all the difference. It’s just grass!

Another junction now, does it look like priorities are clear?

Very poorly designed junction of cycleway, footway and side road, with vague priority and mess of white paint

That’s a minor side road sweeping across both the footway and cycleway there. People will be cycling towards the camera (in theory, anyway) and will have to watch for cars approaching from three directions.

We’ve almost finished our safari now, just a few more things to see…

Here we have another side road with wide, sweeping junction, which is dangerously designed despite the amount of space available. (This is where the old York Road heads left, and is a popular rat-run.)

A car turns off the 40mph York Road directly into the path of the cycleway

Followed by the entrance/exit to a supermarket car park:

Car park entrance/exit with motor priority over walking and cycling

And finally, a shrug of the shoulders at a toucan crossing. I’m becoming numbed to this rubbish now.

Cycleway and footway merge at pedestrian crossing to form shared use footway

And that ends our walk along the eastern section of Leeds’ so-called “Cycle Superhighway”. I hope you’ve all enjoyed yourselves, and please – don’t have nightmares.

If anyone would like to see the whole 130-odd photographs I took, get in touch and I’ll make them available somehow.


 

Coming soon! The Superhighway in the West (of Leeds).

 

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Picture-post: Terrible cycle infrastructure on York Road in Leeds

I’ve covered the dreadful design and execution of the Leeds-Bradford “Cycle Superhighway” before, but I’ve never had chance to get a good look at it up close, relying instead on reports and photographs from concerned readers.

However, recently I got a chance to take a detailed look for myself, and unfortunately, even with the low expectations I had, I was disappointed. For the money spent, disruption caused, and time taken, this could have been great, but it’s rubbish.

No doubt the propagandists responsible for defending this shambles will once more repeat their favourite phrase, “it’s not finished yet,” as mitigation for the poor design you’re about to see. But a lot of the roadworks are finished, and some paint and a few signs aren’t going to make much difference.

So join me, if you will, for a stroll along the A64 York Road, Leeds’ main east-bound traffic artery, signed for a 40mph limit which is often ignored. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll shake our heads sadly. My dear readers, I present to you, Leeds Cycle Superhighway…


We’ll start at the eastern point of the scheme, next to the Ring Road, and head west into town. I’ve not included photos of every inch, but I’ve tried to give a sense of what’s been installed here (the junctions I’ve missed out aren’t much different to the ones I’ve included).

Firstly we can see that the definition of both the cycleway and footway disappear at every driveway for some reason, presumably because today’s motor vehicles couldn’t possibly mount a small kerb, right? (Though prams and wheelchairs clearly can…)

Clear cycleway priority over people walking, but driveways get smooth treatment without kerbs

What this will probably mean in practice is that drivers will continue to treat the cycleway as part of their driveway, and park their cars there. Why was red asphalt not used? Why is the kerb line interrupted? There’s no need for this, it should be better.

For some reason, beyond the junction the cycleway is raised up above the footway (i.e. the opposite to what you’d expect, and not what was promised by City Connect).

Soon the cycleway disappears altogether, and turns into shared-use footway, despite York Road being over 35 metres wide at this point.

Separate footway and cycleway end, turns in to shared footway. A car is parked on the footway in the distance, blocking it.

Note the car parked on the Superhighway/shared-use-footway in the distance, and the nearer cars parked on the footway too. (I’m told enforcement is due to start next month.)

After the parked car, the shared footway becomes a separate cycleway and footway again, but note what you’re expected to do if you’re walking straight on (the footway is on the left, by the way).

Shared footway ends, but people walking must cross the cycleway, which is on a raised platform

Yes, people on foot are expected to continue along the ever-decreasing footway, then cross the cycleway. (From this point on, the cycleway is a raised platform above the footway – you can see the hump just after the crossing in the photo above.)

Then, once you’ve walked past the bus stop, you’re expected to… cross again!

A strange raised cycleway, with a bus stop and foot crossing in the distance

This is a recurring theme – the cycleway and the footway cross each other constantly, which introduces unnecessary conflict, indirectness and delay. Of course, in reality, people will just walk along the cycleway here.

Next we come to the junction with Cross Gates Lane, which is a huge junction for what should be a residential street. The speed table and give-way markings are undermined by the kerb line and the double yellows, which both interrupt the visual priority of the cycleway.

A wide junction, with cars approaching from three directions, all of which appear to have priority over walking and cycling, thanks to poor design

The footway is also severed here, which makes it look even more like people driving have priority. To add to the danger, motor vehicles can approach from three directions, as there is a turning gap in the median along York Road.

Soon we arrive at a service road which runs alongside York Road but is for local traffic only. You might think that using the service road would make sense here, as surely it’s quiet enough?

People walking must cross yet again, and not use the cycleway which is much more convenient

Nope, instead we’ll re-route people walking across the road (again!) onto a narrow footway, then designate the existing footway as the Cycle Superhighway, put up some ‘no parking’ signs, job done.

Sign says 'no motor vehicle parking or loading on footway or cycle track'

The message is clear, at least. But will it be heeded?

At the bottom of the hill there is a petrol station, and here is how the crossover is handled:

A cycleway and footway cross the entrance to a petrol station, which disrupts them both

I crossed from the other side of the road to take the above photo, and I found I had no idea which side was footway and which was cycleway. I later deduced that the raised section (on the left) is the cycleway, and the footway is the bit with the road sign and advertisement blocking it.

Around the corner, after some more shared-use footway, we reach this ancient relic of an earlier attempt at cycling infrastructure.

Old cycleway and shared use area in Leeds, perhaps from the 1990s, in poor state of repair

So Leeds City Council are still installing the same bad infrastructure that they were back when this was fresh. It’s almost as if they want to suppress cycling…

Further along still, we find a long section on which work hasn’t even begun. I’ve been told that the route will open in Spring – I’m assuming that means Spring 2016 – but that’s clearly not going to happen.

I’m not even sure where the cycleway could go here, given that at no point so far has any space – not even one lousy millimetre – been taken from motor vehicles. More shared-use, perhaps? Or an on-road painted lane?

Very narrow footway with motorway-style barrier on A64 York Road in Leeds

Moving on, and we eventually arrive at a footbridge which crosses York Road, giving us this panoramic view of the narrow, medieval streets into which decent cycling infrastructure simply won’t fit.

Photograph taken on footbridge over York Road in Leeds, facing west, looking over six lanes for motor traffic

Again, note that work hasn’t even begun on the westbound section. It’s not looking good for a Spring 2016 opening.

Incidentally, even though the walk from end to end would take about an hour, it took me about double that, as I was stopping to take photos and switch sides. In those two hours I saw three people cycling – two children messing about, and one adult actually using a bike to get somewhere.

In that same time I must have been passed by many thousands of motor vehicles. You can do the maths yourself to estimate the modal share on this particular Saturday afternoon.

To prove that Leeds’ lone transport cyclist wasn’t a figment of my imagination, here is documentary evidence of this rebel, who helps to give some scale to the dreadful bus stop bypass:

A cyclist uses a narrow, badly-designed bus stop bypass

Three lanes of motor traffic and still the bus stops in a lay-by, meaning walking and cycling both suffer.

I don’t remember where he went next, but I hope he looked over his shoulder very carefully:

A shallow-angled slip-road, designed for turning off a fast road without slowing down much, cuts across a footway and cycleway

Yes, that’s a slip-road which exits off a 40mph main road and crosses the cycleway and footway at an oblique angle. The cycleway is apparently going to have priority over turning motor vehicles here.

This clearly isn’t safe. How do these so-called engineers sleep at night?

Just beyond that mess we reach another service road, which should be an open goal, right? Again, no:

Cycleway squeezed up against fast road, instead of using service road alongside

It’s still under construction, but that will be the cycleway on the right, squeezed up alongside a fast, busy road. Surely that space would have been better used as car parking, with cycling sharing the service road?

Finally on this wastbound run, we reach the extent of the current works, at the very edge of Leeds city centre, just after this masterful work…

Narrow cycleway and footway alongside three wide lanes for motor traffic


That’ll do for this post, there’s only so much you can take in one sitting. Once you’ve steadied your nerves, we can take the trip in the other direction, heading out from town back east towards the Ring Road. If anything, it’s even worse.

 

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More broken promises on Leeds’ so-called “Cycle Superhighway”

After the anger surrounding the dangerous new junction at Grange Avenue in Bradford, another kind reader has sent me photos of shockingly poor design on the brand new Leeds-Bradford “Cycle Superhighway”.

This time, the junction is at the A647 Stanningley Road (a busy motorway-esque road with a 40mph speed limit) and Houghley Lane (a residential street with some, but not much, rat-run potential). Here’s a link to the location on Google Maps, the junction in question is the one on the north (eastbound) side of Stanningley Road.

Like last time, the original plans released by City Connect clearly show a junction with priority for those cycling across the minor road:

A section of released plans for the junction of Stanningley Road and Houghton Lane in Leeds, clearly showing an unbroken painted cycle lane across the junction mouth.

Although it’s a very poor design, there is at least clear priority for people cycling across the junction. The original PDF is here.

Never mind that the design – used frequently in the Leeds-Bradford plans – shows the kind of junction at which cyclists are returned to the carriageway, meaning this won’t be attractive to people who currently don’t cycle.

Never mind that this is exactly the kind of junction design despised by German cycle campaigners for its role in many cycling deaths and injuries.

Never mind that this junction is where Kate Furneaux was killed in 2009 by rat-running lorry driver Peter McCurry. And never mind that the new design shown above offers no protection or benefit over the painted cycle lane that Kate Furneaux was using.

Never mind that the junction could easily be removed entirely, eliminating the danger altogether. Residents could instead use the signalled junction at Cockshott Lane, adding a mere 0.1 miles to their journey.

Never mind that Stanningley Road is over 30 metres wide at this location, with a huge grassy median and turning area, providing plenty of space which could be used for a top-class junction design.

So never mind all that information, which tells us that several far superior solutions were possible, desirable and necessary.

Let’s take a look at what has been installed:

A cycleway and footway next to a busy road, with a junction just beyond. The cycleway suddenly ends, the footway becomes shared use for walking and cycling, and metal barriers appear.

This doesn’t look continuous to me. And it certainly ain’t “super”.

I’m told that a safety audit flagged up the death of Kate Furneaux, and suggested that a painted cycle lane wasn’t safe here. It should have been clear from the start that this junction needed genuine improvements. Why must it come to a safety audit before anyone realises that painted cycle lanes are no good? Any cycle campaigner could have told them that years ago.

So I can see why the original plans were changed – but the delivered design is a terrible solution that does little to address the danger. There is so much wrong with it, it might even be worse than what was planned.

People riding along the cycleway are expected to join the footway, turn left, turn right, then cross the side road (without priority) as if on foot. At the other side, they’re expected to perform the same manoeuvre in reverse to join the next section of cycleway (which is being used as a parking bay in the photo above) just before a busy driveway cuts across it.

To add insult to injury, there’s two grates and wheel-grabbing tactile slabs just as you’re expected to make the left turn.

Unsurprisingly, many people are choosing to leave the cycleway at this point, and rejoin the carriageway – as is evidenced by the many tyre tracks in the mud. No doubt this will cause aggravation as drivers believe “cyclists don’t even use the perfectly good cycle lane provided.” This stuff doesn’t please those who already cycle, and it won’t entice many to begin cycling either.

The City Connect scheme was an opportunity to reconfigure the road to provide real cycling infrastructure, safe and suitable for all. Instead we’re left with another broken promise, another dangerous junction, another useless piece of pretend infrastructure squeezed into a tiny slice of land between the footway and a dangerous road.


 

Before publishing this blog post, I asked City Connect if they’d like to comment, and received the following:

“The design was altered following concerns raised through the safety audit. The concerns are around the junction layout and a cyclist fatality at this junction. In addition to this, the time and budget constraints on this project mean that we are unable to change the junction to a more desirable line due to 3rd party land constraints. Given that this scheme is the first one that’s sought to create a predominantly segregated cycle route, and the current cycle lane is on highway, it would not meet our aspirations to leave as is.

We are committed to reviewing the operation of these facilities and, if necessary, make any alterations, subject to funding availability. We are also reviewing the pedestrian guard rail at this point and the proximity and positioning of it in relation to the cycle track and there is also a speed table to be installed. We recognized concerns raised by local cyclists and are addressing them through the programme resource. It’s not yet finished and the consultation and review process for the whole scheme is continuing.”

I’m grateful for the swift reply, but I’m not convinced by any of the points raised. The safety audit rightly recognised the lack of protection offered by paint, but the chosen ‘solution’ is clearly encouraging many cyclists to use the carriageway, negating any benefits which a cycleway might bring.

While I accept that City Connect may well be “committed to reviewing” this farcility, it’s clear that the money has been spent and it’s pretty much going to remain like this for a long time. Enjoy using your Superhighway, folks.

As Leeds has just been outed as one of the worst UK cities for air pollution (air pollution costs Leeds £480m anually, and obesity costs £304m) you might expect the council to enable active transport, yet instead we merely get half-baked infrastructure and more hot air in the form of weak excuses.

Leeds may well have been the Motorway City of the Seventies, but it’s now Car-Choked City of the 2000s – and the council is doing everything they can to make sure it remains that way for a long time.

 


 

Does anyone have any genuinely good examples of infrastructure from this project worth sharing? Get in touch if so.

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London’s Super Danger Junction: A lesson in why cycle campaigners must demand the best

When Transport for London finished their new cycleway between Bow roundabout and Stratford two years ago, I was excited to go see it. I’d already seen photos of this apparently “truly super” cycleway, and it looked promising.

I’d also seen TfL’s video explaining how to turn right by turning left three times, crossing a footway, and waiting in an ASL, so I knew that it wouldn’t be perfect.

But nothing prepared me for how badly-designed the junctions were. I stood there stupefied. The cycle infrastructure stopped short of the junctions, meaning that they’re no better than any other junction in London. There’s only paint and crossed fingers to protect people on bikes from turning vehicles.

A dangerously designed junction on CS2, where there's no physical protection for people cycling

This is not a well-designed cycleway. This is merely a painted cycle lane, proven to be dangerous.

In particular, I focussed on the junction with Warton Road as an example of a particularly dangerous design. Charlie Lloyd and Mike Cavenett also pinpointed this junction in an article for the LCC. For some reason, the cycleway has been reduced in length since these articles were written, and it now ends even further back at this junction.

A van turns left while cyclists are green to go straight on, on CS2 at Stratford

Unsegregated junctions: proven to be dangerous

And the results are in

So it was no surprise to me when the junction of Stratford High Street and Warton Road was named as the most dangerous in Britain.

A screenshot from The Times' map of dangerous cycling junctions, showing 8 casualties at Wharton Road in Stratford, London, in 2014

It is with no joy that I write this article. It gives me very little pleasure to say “I told you so” – I’d much rather TfL had built a proper Dutch junction, proven to be safe. But instead a death trap was built, and people are now injured.

How was this missed by road safety auditors but picked up on by an enthusiastic amateur like me? How could TfL’s army of well-paid engineers draw such dangerous rubbish? I’m glad that TfL are finally installing cycleways, but their implementation still needs to improve. (The newest stuff is better than this section of CS2, but still has flaws which require criticism.)

Cycle infra must be done properly. Cycle campaigners should not be afraid to point out mistakes. Criticising dangerous design and suggesting improvements is not a negative thing to do. In fact it’s a very positive thing to do – it’s what brought about the London authorities’ willingness to consider cycling at all.

Sadly cycle campaigning has a history of applauding half-baked concepts, or even complete rubbish (here in Berlin local cycle campaigners recently wrote a eulogy to 1.3m-wide painted lanes on a brand-new main road).

By all means praise good design, and say thanks when space is claimed for cycling. But that doesn’t mean we must never criticise. Everything isn’t either perfect or dreadful, most things are usually somewhere in-between.

I can accept compromises, but there must be a level of quality below which we will not fall. We’re still being offered paint-only junctions on busy roads in London, and they’re still being praised by people who should know better, so it seems the message still isn’t getting through everywhere.

Camden's plan for Gower Street and Grafton Way junction.

This design is way over my red line of unacceptable infrastructure. The entire brown area will be just painted lanes, no physical separation.

I hope cycle campaigners can at least learn from this, and make sure that they have minimum standards which are good enough. It doesn’t mean that rubbish will never be installed, of course, but it will at least mean we have firmer ground for making requests for better infra in future.

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A Dane’s view of cycling in Berlin

Dieser Artikel wurde auch auf Deutsch veröffentlicht, hier.

This article has also been published in German, here.

Here is a guest post written by a Danish friend of ours who came to live in Berlin for five months this year. He’s now returned to Denmark, but before he left I asked his thoughts on cycling in Berlin, and transcribed his response.

I’ve edited our chat into logical sections, and changed some words for clarity – ‘pavement’ into ‘footway’, for example. The photo captions are also mine.

On the design of Berlin’s cycleways

One of the first experiences I had with the cycling infrastructure in Berlin was when I found myself walking on a cycleway without realising. The difference between the footway and the cycleway is so subtle, they’re at the same level and almost the same colour.

It’s only when someone passes you closely or rings their bell that you realise it’s a cycleway. When my parents visited I had to constantly watch out for them, tell them when they were walking on the cycleway. It’s so difficult to tell. You see tourists every day who are confused about it, they don’t see it.

The widths of the cycleways in Berlin make absolutely no sense. Some are only wide enough for one person, and even the wider ones are still not wide enough to overtake another cyclist comfortably, so people end up using the footway to overtake. It impacts on people walking, of course, as people are cycling more on the footway.

People walking and cycling closely on a cycleway and footway in Berlin, where a pavement café doesn't help matters.

Cramped footway and level cycleway – yet space for five lanes for motor vehicles, plus a wide central reservation.

So the width, they just get that wrong. You have to give 2 metres at least, like in Copenhagen, where some places you can cycle 4 abreast and there’s still room to overtake, although it varies throughout the city.

When you can’t cycle beside one another you can’t be social, so cycling becomes a solo endeavour. Many times I’ve wanted to say something to the people I’m with, but have to shout it from behind. Imagine travelling in a car in which you can’t speak to any of the other occupants.

Every time a cycleway or footway is too narrow, it kills the conversation that’s going on, as people have to go single file. Until I cycled in Berlin, I didn’t realise the importance of being able to ride socially in parallel, as opposed to serial mode.

People ride bikes on a very wide and smooth cycleway in Copenhagen

A cycleway in Copenhagen. Yes, it’s true: this entire smooth, wide surface is just for cycling (and related modes).

On the quality and maintenance of Berlin’s cycleways

I’ve come up with a theory that you can’t ride a bike for more than a few metres in Berlin without encountering a bump of some sort. Some cycleways are just constant bumps. My bike is now rattling due to parts coming loose on the uneven surfaces.

I really don’t understand why tiles were chosen to surface the Berlin cycleways. They’re really annoyingly uneven. It all adds up, in terms of friction and resistance, compared to smooth asphalt they take much more energy to ride on. And I can’t imagine they’re much easier to maintain. You’re basically cycling on waves – waves made of hard tile edges.

A cycleway in Berlin, where the surface tiles are coming loose, causing discomfort and danger. One tile is so uneven that the entire side of it can be seen.

People in cars get smooth asphalt to ride on, while people on bikes get loose tiles amongst many other ever-changing surface types.

On encounters with people driving motor vehicles

In my time here, I’ve come to realise that I don’t enjoy cycling in Berlin, especially after my near-death experience with a bus, followed by being cut up by someone driving an SUV.

It was a lucky thing that I was so awake and alert, and it was only because I’m so agile that I could jump off the road onto the footway when the bus almost hit me. And it was only because I was cycling slowly that there was no collision with the SUV – had I being going as fast as I often do, I’d have smashed into it.

You can’t really count on the drivers to stop here when they should. A Danish friend of mine who also lives in Berlin says that there is this culture of drivers not being aware of bikes. I would certainly approach junctions more carefully here, and be ready to stop, because I’d be the one to lose out in a collision.

A traffic-signalled junction in Berlin, where turning cars must give way to pedestrians who have a green light, but the driver has blocked the cycle route due to poor design.

The driver of the silver car has turned into, and is blocking, the cycle route. The junctions are designed in such a way that this frequently happens.

On the concept of vehicular cycling

I told that same Danish friend about Forester and Franklin and the idea of fighting for the right to the road, and he laughed out loud about it, just as I had when I first heard of it. It’s totally backwards.

He’s probably the kind of guy who – if he’d grown up in Berlin – would be a radical cyclist, fighting for that right. But it’s only good for the fast ones who can keep up with traffic. Children and old people can’t ride like that.

I guess it’s because of ignorance – you’d only fight for your right to the road when you’ve only known crap cycleways. I would probably be fighting for that right if I’d grown up here. And only if I was thinking about myself, of course.

Thinking about my grandmother, it makes no sense. She’s 81, lives in Denmark, and she cycles pretty much every day. Where she lives there’s a segregated cycleway a couple of metres away from the road.

I can only rarely remember having seen people in DK who have chosen the road over the cycleways. It could be that they were just tourists, or maybe I’m inventing that memory now I’m being asked about it.

I don’t think I’m unique, every Danish person would realise how ridiculous VC is. It’s not a thing in Denmark. It just couldn’t be.

On growing up cycling in Denmark

Where I grew up in Odense I had my own wide cycleway, it wasn’t even beside a road. That’s how I got to school – on my own road, only for cycling.

I grew up in an urban area, there’s a network of cycleways away from roads, all the way from home to school and everywhere else. We lived in two different parts of the city, and they both were connected to a safe cycling network.

I would say that Odense feels safer than Copenhagen. It’s a lot less crowded, and you’re not even near the road for the most part. I don’t think I valued it, I never thought it was unusual.

I could do things that I wouldn’t have been allowed to do otherwise, as my mum could trust me to cycle alone without worrying. As a child, while I was cycling home from school on these cycleways – cycle roads, really – I would play games in my head, it was so safe you didn’t have to concentrate hard and be hyper-alert.

It was entirely stress-free. Actually, that’s an understatement.

A wide asphalt cycleway flows away the camera. Grass can be seen either side, with houses beyond it. There are street lights and side-paths connecting the houses.

What stress-free cycling looks like in the suburbs of Odense, in Denmark. Unravelled cycleway through the very centre of a housing estate, with no cars anywhere nearby.

On the politics of cycling

Speaking of cyclists, I think it’s one of those self-reinforcing things. The number of cyclists relates to the quality of the infrastructure. Perhaps Berlin does better than the cycleways indicate, because so many people cycle on the wide footways, which is accepted here. You wouldn’t see kids cycling, for example, if they couldn’t ride on the footways.

I had never thought much about cycling before moving to Berlin, it was just something I had always done and taken for granted. I’m not sure if I’d have thought about it so much if I hadn’t happened to moved in with the author of this blog.

I’d have probably just not cycled much here and not really thought about the reasons why. I don’t cycle in Berlin anywhere near as much as I did in Denmark. It just feels unsafe here.

There’s a big difference in the feeling of safety, you have to be very alert when you ride around here, compared to Copenhagen. The difference is the cycleways, which in Copenhagen are protected from cars, and clearly separate to the footway – so you don’t find cars on them or people walking on them.

In Berlin, parking is prioritised over walking and cycling, it makes no sense. Just a few parking spaces are allowed to ruin the walking and cycling conditions for thousands of people. Even trees are prioritised over safe cycling!

A cycleway in Berlin suddenly narrows to around 0.5 metres wide because of a few trees. The wide multi-lane carriageway is undisturbed.

Notice how the carriageway remains unaffected by the line of trees.

In conclusion

Cycling around Berlin resembles the pod-racing scene from Star Wars.

A cycleway narrows as it wiggles sharply around a pole which is installed in its way. There are further barriers on the right too.

Go right… No, go left! Ah, just ride on the footway instead…

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Turbogate: Bedford and beyond

It’s difficult to know where to start when writing about the Bedford turbo-roundabout and everything that surrounds it. The whole scandal – and it does deserve that word – goes well beyond that one scheme, extends through the cycle campaign industry, right up to the government.

At one end of the scale, the finished Bedford turbo-roundabout has been scrutinised and has come up sorely lacking, and clearly falls into the “farcility” category that the CTC is apparently so keen to reject.

For a full picture of what we got for our £490,000 you can read this PDF report written by John Meudell (former CTC National Council member for the South East) and Graham Smith (who now holds that same role). It contains lots of photographs, so you can see for yourself how poor it really is.

Suffice to say, it’s not a glowing report: “Arrangement of cycle crossings maximises possibility of conflict between cyclist and pedestrian” … “Elimination of raised lane divider does not deter lane changing, undermining safety benefits” … “Cyclist trapped onto transition kerb” … “Incompetent!”

A photo of a zebra crossing, with a bicycle symbol on the path next to it. The bicycle symbol is next to a raised kerb, and is useless.

Remember, this is from a design approved by Sustrans, Cyclenation, British Cycling and CTC. It looks like the worst kind of “fiddly pavement conversion” to me.

The hype around this dreadful scheme is so intense that Patrick Lingwood was nominated for a “Smarter Travel Professional of the Year” award, which makes me truly despair, as one of the boasts of this so-called cycling scheme is that it has made journeys by motor vehicle much more convenient.

Lingwood is also giving talks about how great it is, as is Alasdair Massie who is proud of a similarly poor design on Perne Road in Cambridge (see here, here and here for more about Massie’s folly).

The level of delusion is massive. At 20 minutes 45 seconds into the presentation, Lingwood excitedly speaks of “children cycling across a very busy road” while the photo clearly shows a family who have dismounted and are walking across the road. Is this wilful blindness or blatant lying?

Photograph of a mother and three children walking with bikes on a zebra crossing.

“Children cycling across a very busy road” says Lingwood. Surely walking with a bike doesn’t count as cycling? Also, the central waiting area looks narrow to me. (Source: this PDF)

So nearly half a million pounds of public money intended for cycling was spent on a design where people feel it’s necessary to stop cycling in order to use it, but the man responsible considers this a success. Great work there, Pat. Nice emperor’s new clothes you’re wearing.

(As an aside, Lingwood also reveals that what gave the Motorcycle Action Group so much clout was that they have “friends in high places” – I assume this means that MAG head and former MP Lembit Opik was friendly with his fellow Lib Dems in governmental transport roles, and called in a favour.)

The bigger picture

But then at the other end of the scale, there’s the questionable way in which the Department for Transport funded this scheme. Why does cycling infrastructure receive such small amounts of occasional investment? Why are such tight timescales placed on these projects? Why was the money given to a charity to distribute, which then passed responsibility to an unaccountable group of individuals who rubber-stamped such poor designs?

Does the DfT fund motorways in this manner?

The Bedford turbo isn’t the only dubious project that was funded as part of this programme. Highlights include:

Brand new roundabout in Cambridge, where people on bikes are expected to mix with people walking. The footway has road markings painted on it.

Perne Road roundabout in Cambridge. £360,000 was wasted on this project, an incompetent design by Alasdair Massie, who was warned of the dangers years before. (Photo: Chris Rand)

I don’t have time to go through all of them, but were there any – with the possible exception of the short length of cycleway on Baldwin Street in Bristol – which could be considered money well spent?

But with such a ridiculous funding model – limited funds, short timescales, etc. – perhaps failure was built-in from the start. I can understand the view that that CTC, Cyclenation and co. were right to make the best of a bad situation, but I still feel it would be best to reject these hopeless crumbs outright. Getting involved with such dubious projects lends them a legitimacy they don’t deserve, and gives the campaigns a reputation for approving rubbish.

It seems that the whole episode is a good example of Britain’s failure to treat cycling as a proper mode of transport, and of how the major cycling campaigns are complicit in this cycle.

Every year or so, the DfT finds some loose change down the back of the sofa and throws it at the craven cycling lobby who then write a press release about what a great step forward it is and how the government is finally starting to take cycling seriously. Cycle campaigners are then sated for another year, until they’re given some more crumbs to shut them up again.

It’s the same story, time and time again. Crap is built, excuses are made, then a year or two later more crumbs are announced under a new name, and we all rinse and repeat.

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