Tag Archives: bad design

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

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.

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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Bradford’s new Cycle Super Deathway

You can read all the posts about this particular junction, in order, here.

In July 2014, Henry Lang was killed when riding along a cycleway on Twickenham Road in Richmond, London.

The junction is dangerously designed – turning motor traffic has priority over the cycleway at side roads. The junction is unclear, people on foot and on bike are expected to look left as well as backwards to the right, simultaneously, and so the design is dangerous.

The junction of Twickenham Road and Kew Foot Road, where the separate cycleway, and footway, cedes priority to a minor side road

This design is inconvenient and dangerous. (Photo: Google Maps)

This is exactly the type of design which all cycling campaigners hate, from the hardened road warriors who love mixing with motor vehicles, to those who dream of the stress-free cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands.

Nobody wants cycleways like this. They don’t suit the fit and confident, and they fail the rest of us. They’re crap, and they’re dangerous.

So why is Bradford building brand new inconvenient death-traps like this – with the added complications that come with bi-directional cycleways?

The photos below show freshly finished work, part of the Leeds-Bradford “CityConnect” “Cycle Superhighway” project, at the junction of Dick Lane and Grange Avenue.

New junction design at Dick Lane and Grange Avenue in Thornbury, Bradford, taken in May 2015.  Turning motor vehicles have priority over people walking and cycling.

This design is proven to be dangerous. This is not acceptable. (Photo courtesy Lee @d0tdash)

New junction design at Dick Lane and Grange Avenue, taken in May 2015. The new two-way cycleway has to give way to side road traffic, as do people on foot.

Does this look super to you? Or even like a highway? (Photo courtesy Lee @d0tdash)

Shockingly bad design.

It doesn’t even match the published plans, which show the cycleway and footway having priority over the side road. Why were the plans changed, who changed them, and when? These are reasonable questions, can the CityConnect team answer them?

Why does Grange Avenue even need to be a two-way through-route, considering it merely connects back to Leeds Road around the corner?

If the person responsible for this is reading, then please quit your job before you kill someone. Let someone else do it, as you’re clearly incompetent.

Or if your bosses forced you to create this monstrosity, then please contact me anonymously so I can name and shame them before somebody dies. Let us know where the blame lies. This is a waste of public money and a hazard.

The time for this kind of crap is over. It’s 2015, we know that designs like this are dangerous, and we know what works.

I’m pleased to see that Cyclenation and CTC have both criticised it, and it clearly falls well below the CEoGB’s expectations. Leeds Cycling Campaign and Sustrans Yorkshire are also not happy, especially as they were consulted on the design, which has since been silently changed. This junction is exactly the type of thing all campaigners should be opposing.

There is lots of space here to get this right, tons of space (have a look across the road). The two-way cycleway is too narrow, the curve at the junction is too sharp, and there should be clear visual priority for the cycleway and footway.

This is all possible, there’s no physical reason why good design doesn’t happen in Britain. Is it a lack of knowledge? Is it managerial incompetence? Whatever the reason, it needs fixing.

And I’m sure excuses will be made about timescales and budgets, but these are all part of the problem that needs addressing, they’re not a reason to install dangerous designs like this.

This project should be put on hold now, and a thorough appraisal made before it is open for use by the public.

This junction is just one of many problems that I’ve been made aware of in this project. I’m planning a blog post covering some of the others, but there’s only so many hours in the day and this whole scheme seems full of dangerous flaws.

If you know of other poor-quality or dangerous parts of this scheme – or if you know of any particularly good bits that should be commended – then please get in touch.

PS. Of course, there’s the obligatory promotional video, which bears little resemblance to the actual engineering.



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More ‘pretend infrastructure’ – Gudvanger Straße, Berlin

There’s a sign which is used on some streets around here, which looks like this:

Share nicely, everybody! (From Wikipedia)

I assumed this means something like “home zone” and it turns out that’s pretty much right.

It marks the start of a “verkehrsberuhigter Bereich” which translates as “traffic-calmed area”. It means:

  • Pedestrians may use full width of the street.
  • Children are allowed to play anywhere.
  • Vehicles must travel at walking pace.
  • Drivers must not hinder or endanger pedestrians. They must wait when necessary.
  • Pedestrians must not unnecessarily hinder drivers.

There are also some parking and loading restrictions, but the headline is: this should be a place for people who aren’t using a vehicle.

But like the last post about Berlin’s pretend infrastructure, this sign is used on motor vehicle through-routes, and as such is entirely useless.

I’ve seen these all over Berlin. I’ve never seen children playing in them, nor have I seen people walking along them. They’ve all been rat-runs.

Here’s the nearest one to where I live. On one side there’s a park, and on the other there’s a school:

Gudvanger Strasse in Berlin. Where the traffic-calmed area is, the road narrows and is raised up.

The authorities clearly saw there was a problem here, as the current situation is an improvement over how it was in 2008. There are lots of bike stands, and the road has been narrowed which must discourage some drivers from using it, as they’ll have to wait for any oncoming traffic to clear, but it’s clearly not good enough:

The traffic calming treatment is so weak I can’t understand it. Why isn’t this section of the road closed entirely, and permanently? There’s no need for it to be a through-route at all, as the roads either side of it are also two-way through routes.

Even the local children can see the problem, as they’ve written messages such as “walking speed”, “playing allowed” and “3 – 7 km/h” on the road, in chalk:

The local kids can see what the engineers can’t.

I find this really sad.

The children are telling us that there’s a problem here, they recognise that there’s a traffic problem – but the city isn’t listening, so the kids are trying their best to solve it the only way they know how.

Then their chalk pleas are worn away by car tyres.

Luckily, some of the local people are listening, and have set up a weekly “play street” event every Tuesday from the 26th of May. Let’s hope it leads to permanent change.

Perhaps they were inspired by what the children of Amsterdam did in 1972?

“You can keep asking, but if the city doesn’t act you have to do things yourself.”



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Visual Priority

I wrote this post about how the visible physical appearance of a junction should emphasise the legal priority that exists (unlike in the UK where design often contradicts priority). But while clear visual priority is an essential part of junction design, it’s merely a way of emphasising the legal layout. It is not enough to create a safe junction on its own, as David Hembrow explains here.

I’d like to discuss something which is often done wrong: priority.

I’m not talking about the legal sense, but the visual sense. We need to change the way we think about minor junctions.

You see, you can have all the laws and paint you want, but if a junction looks like the cars have priority, then drivers will take advantage.

Here’s an example, on Cable Street in London:

A junction on the Cable Street cycleway in London. The cycleway has priority, but everything suggests otherwise: the kerb and yellow lines cut across the cycleway, creating confusion.

This is really poor. (Photo: Google Maps)

Let’s ignore the many, many failings of this poor-quality cycleway (we’d be here all day) and concentrate on how the junction is arranged.

The cycleway has priority here, but so many things suggest otherwise. The kerb-line, for example, curves around and across the cycleway. The yellow lines do the same, creating vagueness in priority.

Note how there’s no kerb running along the edge of the cycleway as it crosses the junction, either – the carriageway is constant, while the cycleway is interrupted. This is a confusing mess.

Considering that many, many more people will walk across this junction than drive across it, it’s crazy that the footway isn’t also continuous.

These conflicting signals are often designed in by whoever draws up these plans. Perhaps the belief is that people will follow the rules like robots, ignoring things like kerb lines and parking restriction markings. But people don’t work like that, and this junction is unclear and dangerous as a result.

Further along the same road, a different junction is much better. Yes, it is still flawed, but the priority is much clearer:

A different junction on Cable Street, this time the cycleway is unbroken by kerbs or painted lines, and priority is clear.

Note the unbroken surface of the cycleway. (Photo: Google Maps)

Note how the surface of the cycleway is unbroken by kerbs or painted lines. (This junction would be much better with a continuous footway too.)

Here’s a poor example from Berlin:

A junction in Berlin where bikes have priority, but there's only two broken white lines on the tarmac to suggest so.

Technically, bikes have priority here, but I really wouldn’t trust that paint. The cycleway simply ceases to exist across the junction. (See it on Google Maps)

People cycling along this road have priority at this junction, but does it really look like they do? The asphalt surface of the carriageway is unbroken, the sweeping kerb (designed for fast turns by car) cuts across the cycleway, and the footway and cycleway both drop down to carriageway level.

There’s no inconvenience at all for people in cars. There’s nothing but two fading, broken white lines to suggest to drivers that they should give way. Can those lines even be seen in wet weather? What about when it’s dark?

This isn’t sustainable safety. It’s paying lip service to cycling and walking, and it’s the reason so many cycle campaigners believe cycleways to be dangerous at junctions.

They’re right – badly-designed infrastructure can be dangerous – but that’s not an inherent flaw with cycleways, it’s simply bad design. Well-designed cycleways are proven to be safe.

The junction above could – and should – look like this:

A cycleway and footway continue, unbroken, with clear priority across a minor junction

This is clear. There’s no mistaking who has priority here. (See it on Google Maps)

This is real cycle infrastructure, and real walking infrastructure – genuine, proven to be safe, tried-and-tested design, quite unlike the type of tokenistic rubbish we’re used to getting.

Here, the whole area doesn’t look like a road, it looks like footway, with a cycleway running through it. It’s clear that this isn’t the domain of motor vehicles. Nobody is “on the road” when cycling or walking through here – quite the opposite, it’s motor vehicles that are guests “on the path”.

The whole junction area is raised up to footway level (rather than people on bikes and on foot having to drop down to carriageway level) and motor vehicles must mount a ramp to enter the junction.

This ramp, plus sharp corners, slows cars right down. It also provides better visibility between drivers and those whose path the drivers are crossing – nobody needs to look back over their shoulder. It works in all weather, 24 hours a day.

At the risk of pushing the point too much, here’s another example:

A junction in Berlin where the cycleway has priority. The cycleway continues across the junction with priority, but it is still broken by a sweeping kerb line and change in surface.

Better, but still not right.

This is better than some of the other examples, but still flawed. The kerb line cuts across the cycleway, so the surface is broken. The surface of the cycleway is different as it crosses the junction. The corner radius is too large. The footway should also have priority across the side-road.

Here’s what it looks like from a driver’s point of view:

The junction shown previously, but from the view of a driver exiting the side road.

Not as clear as it could be.

It’s better than the paint-only examples, but the kerb still guides your eye around the corner. It’s good that the surface is different across the junction, but it still looks like the road has priority.

It could be much clearer, like this:

The view of a minor road junction, from the minor road. The footpath and cyclepath both sever the minor road's connection to the main road, and therefore it's clear that vehicles leaving the minor road do not have priority.

Much clearer.

To a driver leaving the minor road, it’s clear that they do not have priority here, that the road is severed by the footway and cycleway. People driving have to drive up a ramp and over the cycleway and footway in order to pass through this area the main road.

Anyway, I hope I’ve made the point. Failure to make priority clear and obvious is a design flaw which I see all the time, both in Berlin and back in the UK. To create truly inviting conditions for walking and cycling, highways designers must change the way they think about how junctions should look, and make a positive decision to make walking and cycling a clear visual priority.


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These people are not criminals

Footway cycling is such a hot topic in the UK – completely out of proportion to the danger it poses – whereas here in Berlin it seems pretty much accepted.

Maybe it’s because the demographics of who cycles are so different here – a footway cyclist in Berlin is more likely to be an old woman with shopping than the UK’s stereotype “yob in a hoodie.”

It doesn’t help that nobody under the age of 8 is legally permitted to cycle on the road, however quiet that road may be. How the German lawmakers expect parents to cycle with their young children, I don’t know.

Also, like the UK, the authorities sometimes put up a sign permitting cycling on a footway, for no discernible reason. This, like the under-8 rule, accustoms people to cycling on the footway.

I expect the main reason for this rule is that those responsible for designing Germany’s streets don’t have to consider the needs of children. And it shows.

The main roads in Berlin are fast and hostile, while many of the quieter residential streets are surfaced in horrible bumpy cobble stones with huge tyre-swallowing gaps between them. (And this isn’t just historical – these stones are renewed.) And very few streets are filtered, meaning two-way through-traffic uses the back streets as a short cut.

So every time you see someone cycling on the footway, instead of cursing the person on the bike, contact your local representative asking why there is nowhere safe to cycle.

Nobody cycles on the footway because it’s faster, or smoother, or more convenient. It’s not, it’s usually slow and inconvenient and fiddly. People only cycle on the footway when the conditions on the road are too unpleasant.

To stop footway cycling, we have to create the right conditions away from it.

The people in these photos aren’t criminals. They’ve been let down by a criminally negligent government that has failed to provide somewhere safe and attractive to cycle.

A grandmother, mother and child cycle on a footpath in Berlin

Three generations using the footway to avoid cycling on a rough cobbled surface with rat-run drivers.

A father and son cycle on the footway, as the city of Berlin gives them no other safe option.

This road has seven lanes dedicated to motor traffic – four lanes for car parking, two travel lanes for cars, and an access lane for the central car parking. For bikes, there are only badly-designed painted cycle lanes.

A bird's eye view of a street in Berlin, where a late middle-aged couple cycle on the footway, while a lorry uses the carriageway.

The choice for the middle-aged couple in this photograph was to take their chances with a rat-running lorry, or use the footway.

Two children cycle on a footway in Berlin.

Due to Germany’s laws on footway cycling, this may be the only place these children are allowed to cycle.

A woman with a tag-along trailer rides on an extremely wide footway in Berlin. Despite the acres of space available, the road only has white painted lines.

Is this woman and child endangering anyone here? Should she be using the dangerous painted lanes on the road instead? Don’t let anyone tell you Berlin doesn’t have enough space for Dutch-quality infrastructure.

A family cycle on a wide path in Berlin. The road alongside has parked cars and tram tracks.

The alternative to cycling on this wide footway for these families, would be to ride single-file between the tram tracks and parked cars. No wonder they chose to avoid that.


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