Tag Archives: Cycle Superhighways

That Bradford junction: some suggestions

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

You know, writing about the Leeds-Bradford “Cycle Superhighway” can be really difficult, because the information provided by the people running the scheme is so often poor and inconsistent.

Last year I wrote about being confused by the plans, which were full of mistakes and essentially unreadable. It was impossible to know what was intended due to the lack of detail provided and mistakes in the plans.

And that hasn’t changed, the plans provided are still too vague. So if I’m going to make my points about the now-infamous junction, dear reader, I must first explain some errors in the plans. Here goes…

Some hypothetical junctions, and some green blobs

The information provided by the PR people defines four types of junction, as you can see in the image below. Each type has an icon.

Four types of junction used on the CityConnect project - all of them have priority over side roads.

Note that none of these resemble the finished product. (Original PDF here.)

Even though these icons are meant to simplify things, they’re used so inconsistently that they might as well have not bothered.

Below are the four icons as shown on the plans in question. Note the cycle lane and cycle track icons have been switched, and that there’s a different icon for raised table:

Four icons used to denote four junction types, only one of which matches the previous image.

Only one of these actually matches the image above. Does anyone have any aspirin? (Original PDF here.)


Okay, fine, there are confusing green blobs. Get on with it!

Anyway this is a long and boring way of saying that according to the design, the junction of Dick Lane and Grange Avenue should look like this:

A computer-generated image of a two-way cycleway, which bends away from the junction mouth of the side road it crosses. The design is okay, but not perfect.

And not like this:

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.

Though I think we now know where the silly wiggle came from. It seems it’s an amateurish and foolish attempt to shrink down the example junction into the space available.

The example junction in the diagram isn’t actually too bad. There’s a few mistakes (the narrow cycleway, the cycleway curve and ramp are too sharp, the visual priority is poor, there’s no need for the tactiles, there’s no continuous footway) but it’s generally the right idea. There’s actually a British example of this with good visual priority (though no footway) and a not-quite-as-good example here. You can watch a Dutch version in action here.

It’s a good design, because it allows turning cars to deal with crossing the cycleway separately, in two distinct steps. It also gives people on bikes time to react to a turning vehicle if necessary, as they’re not riding right alongside the turning car. It also means that cars being driven out of the side road don’t block the cycleway while they wait for a gap in traffic on the main road.

Lost in space

But there’s clearly no space for that here! Well, there is space – tons of it, as you can see from above:

Satellite image of the junction of Grange Avenue and Dick Lane in Bradford. There's a wide grass verge and large grassed park over the road.

Narrow medieval streets, anyone? (Photo: Google Maps)

A lane could be removed from the gyratory (shock!) or the main road could be moved west to create space for a wider cycleway and proper junction treatment.

But I can hear the excuses already: there’s not enough money in the budget to do that, it would mean moving utilities, we’d have to cut down a tree, it will reduce the almighty motor capacity, and so on.

But if that’s the case, then why did CityConnect specify that type of junction here, where it clearly doesn’t fit within the space given? I suspect that’s the only bi-directional junction they had in their toolbox, so it was simply slapped on here without much thought.

So, let’s see what we can do within the current space.

No more complaining, here’s some suggestions…

Bear in mind, this option is compromised: the cycleway is already far too narrow, and two-way cycleways need to be designed with care to mitigate the additional risks they present at junctions.

A better option would be to make this cycleway one-way, and have the northbound cycleway on the west side of Dick Lane (as suggested by Jitensha Oni on Twitter). There’s certainly enough room between the carriageway and the park wall. I think that would be a better option, as it reduces the number of interactions on the east side.

But whether this happened or not, there are two things that could be done to improve matters:

• Make Grange Avenue (the side road) one-way, therefore becoming ‘no entry’ at this junction, or even removing the junction altogether.
• Give the cycleway and footway visual priority across this junction by using contrasting materials.

I can’t see a reason why Grange Avenue is a two-way through route, as it just connects back to the main road around the corner anyway. I’d suggest simply blocking it off altogether at this junction. Or, if it must remain open for some reason, it could be arranged like this (my suggestion in red):

Amended map of Grange Avenue in Bradford, showing potential one-way restriction

Original map: Google Maps.

If Grange Avenue was made a one-way street then people on foot and bike only have to worry about motor vehicles approaching from one direction. (At the moment, a 270° view is required when cycling southbound!)

More detail, please!

Okay, let’s do our best under the circumstances. It might look like this:

A possible redesign of the junction, which gives clear visual priority to people on foot and bike.

I’ll shout this: THIS IS NOT MY IDEAL DESIGN! THIS IS STILL FLAWED! Please read below…

The footway and cycleway should be surfaced in materials which contrast with the carriageway, to give clear visual priority to the footway and cycleway.

The footway will ideally be a light colour, using light paving slabs (reinforced to handle the weight of motor vehicles, of course) and the cycleway should be surfaced in red asphalt (specifically, machine-laid red 55/10 HRA).

Ideally the entire cycleway should be in red asphalt, but unfortunately black has already been used. So as we’re dealing with a remedial fix here, the surfacing must extend along the footway and carriageway beyond the junction in both directions for several metres in order to provide the visual priority required.

The footway and cycleway need to be at footway height across the junction – i.e. with an ‘upstand’ of around 12.5cm.

To achieve this, as the cycleway approaches the junction, it will need to very gently rise up, over several metres so it’s barely perceptible, until it becomes level with the footway for a few metres before and after the junction.

At the junction, therefore, motor vehicles will need to climb a ramp to mount the crossover area, then descend a ramp into the main carriageway on the other side.

A cycle symbol and an arrow should be painted on the cycleway where it crosses the junction. (Assuming the cycleway is still bi-directional, there will need to be one in each direction.)

Finally, a “STOP” line and sign could be placed before the ramp at the end of Grange Avenue, to reinforce the footway and cycleway priority.

The finished thing might look vaguely like this (use a little imagination):

Junction in the Netherlands with continuous footway and cycleway across junction mouth, giving clear priority to people walking and people riding bikes

I’ve flipped this so it makes more sense to UK eyes. (Photo: Google Maps)

The design is still not ideal, though the main problem now is that the cycleway is far too narrow to be bi-directional – making it one way, would be preferable. But either way we’ve solved the left-hook problem and made priority very clear.

Unfortunately, unless a lane is removed or the road is shifted, there isn’t enough space for a car exiting Grange Avenue to wait beyond the cycleway and footway, which will mean that it would occasionally be blocked by a car waiting for a break in traffic on Dick Lane.

Note that this actually looks a lot like CityConnect’s other design for where a cycleway crosses a junction, albeit much improved.

Now about my fee…

99 bottles of beer on the wall…

The frustrating thing is, this is just one junction out of hundreds, maybe even thousands, on the CityConnect project. How many more have been dangerously designed, or changed without notice?

I’ve been informed about several dodgy bits by concerned people in Leeds, and I’ve spotted many more on the plans that are either vague (just like this one was, pre-installation) or look like they’ll be very fiddly by bike (think multiple toucans and 90º turns).

It’s exhausting looking through all the information around just this one junction, so I do appreciate the scale of the work involved, and the time and effort that local cycle campaigners must have put in when reviewing the plans.

But, in some locations at least, the finished infrastructure is still far from good enough. Perhaps it’s due to the way the project was funded – a limited amount of money that has to be spent on a big scheme within a short time period. So the money was spread too thinly, and the plans were rushed. I don’t think we build motorways like that.

Or maybe it’s due to the lack of interest the local councils seem to have in the scheme now that the £18m cheque has cleared and the Tour de France has left town.

I’ve been told by several sources that people high up in Leeds City Council insisted that the “Cycle Superhighway” must not – under any circumstances – reduce motor vehicle capacity. That, apparently, is a red line that was not to be crossed.

What sort of attitude is that? It may be 2015 where you are, but it’s still 1970 in certain rooms inside Leeds Town Hall.

Under constraints like that, I can see why at least some of the route is turning out to be disappointing, and I do have some sympathy for the people behind the scheme as they try to achieve big plans with so little time, money and support from above.

Not all of it is bad, some sections do look pretty promising, and I’d genuinely love to see photos and videos of the good bits too. But the problems do need fixing – the junction featured here is a real howler. If there hadn’t been an outcry about this one junction, who knows how many times this awful design might have been repeated throughout the route?

As public money is being spent on this project, it’s only fair to scrutinise it in public too. If the conclusion is that central government’s bizarre funding restrictions doomed the project from the start, or that the council is choking bits of it to death, then this should be acknowledged rather than letting the PR department pretend everything is fine. This isn’t a witch-hunt, I just think the public deserves to know what went wrong, and why.


Still to come, one day: the canal towpath of doom, and a huge junction full of toucan crossings.

 

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Leeds-Bradford CityConnect: an update

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

Well yesterday’s blog post, and especially photos courtesy of local resident Lee, have caused quite a stir.

In case you’re new to the topic, here’s a good summary here on road.cc, but the short version is this: part of a brand-new cycleway is dangerous crap, a photo was taken which spread like wildfire, and as a result someone at CityConnect has presumably had a bad day at work.

The project’s mouthpiece has now issued a statement on their Facebook page, which I shall reproduce here in case it is taken down:

“Thanks for all the comments on the junction off Dick Lane, we appreciate the time taken to let us know your views and have got the following response;

The design for this junction has not differed from the design consulted on although we acknowledge that the design drawings for this junction may have been misinterpreted. Safety concerns from the safety Audit Team were one of the factors for the design of this junction.

This junction has been subject to the same sign off process by Advisory Group and Programme Board that all other designs have. Advisory Group includes representatives from Sustrans, CTC and Leeds Cycle Campaign as well as other interested parties. The design for this junction has also been subject to the same public consultation process on and off line.

However, in light of the considerable interest on social media and sections of the press, the design team have been asked to produce a position statement to be reviewed by the Advisory Group to ensure that the final design is the best possible outcome in this location.

If we have been quiet today it is because we have been looking at the issues raised and progressing a solution. The safety of cyclists and the provision of an ambitious piece of infrastructure remains our key priority.

We’ll keep you updated. Thanks”

Unfortunately, the two main claims are untrue.

“The finished junction matches the plans”

I’m not sure whether they’re suggesting that the cycle campaigners misinterpreted the plans, or that the installation team did. Unfortunately, as we’ve never been provided with detailed drawings, I have no idea what plans the installation team received.

If they’re suggesting that the consultees misread the plans, then it takes about 30 seconds to reveal this claim to be nonsense – it’s on their own website. Section A, sheet 4 (PDF).

Here’s the junction in question, as shown on the consultation plans. I’ve removed the parking restriction markings as they’re irrelevant here and just confusing:

Original plans for the junction in question, where the cycleway has priority over the side road

Modern art or engineering plans – or maybe neither?

One problem with the plans provided is that they’re not detailed enough. They’ve been over-simplified, in an apparent attempt to make them appealing to the public. The lack of detail was something I complained about before, but while I asked more than once for detailed plans, I got nowhere.

I assume that proper detailed plans must exist somewhere, as the installation crew surely can’t have worked from this vague doodle.

The plans are frustratingly unclear. For example, if the two parallel lines to the left of the junction mouth represent the incline of the raised table, what happens to the left-hand half of the cycleway? Also, where’s the segregating island to the north of the junction?

So the public plans are a vague mess, but one thing is clear: there is a give-way marking on Grange Avenue before the raised table, and there are no give-way markings on the cycleway. This doesn’t match the now-famous photograph of the finished junction.

This means that the plans were changed – but who made the changes, and why? CityConnect needs to provide the answers.

Also, is it only this junction that has received such a change, or have any others been altered too?

“The design was approved by CTC, Leeds Cycle Campaign and Sustrans”

Now, I’m not known for being kind to CTC – quite the opposite – but I strongly doubt that, in 2014, they would have approved this design. (If nothing else, to have given the thumbs up to such a junction would do more damage to their reputation than Turbogate and the Niceway Code put together.)

My contacts within Leeds Cycle Campaign tell me that they too insisted the cycleway must have priority at side roads, and I see no reason to doubt them. They have nothing to gain and everything to lose by accepting such unnecessary compromises.

Sustrans… Well actually, I can believe that Sustrans would approve such a thing, or even design such a junction, given their rather patchy reputation, but again my contacts, who were intimately involved in the consultation process, tell me that in this case the local Sustrans bods did reject designs which gave motor vehicles priority at junctions.

Anyway, the claim that cycling lobby groups approved the finished design (and not the design shown above) sounds to me like rubbish.

So what next?

What next indeed! Well I’m working on a blog post covering what should have happened at this junction, and what could be done to mitigate the current design. Whether any action will be taken is another matter.

Other parts of this project have also come under scrutiny, including the canal tow-path, which I shall be blogging about too (read the comments under the previous article for an overview).

And I also have another question for the CityConnect team: when does your funding run out? For at the moment, it’s very useful to have one point of contact to which we can address these concerns. I’m not always impressed with the answers I get, if any, but at least there’s something.

At some point this year this project will be considered closed. Will the website lapse into decay? Will the Twitter account go silent? Will the Facebook page be removed? Because if that happens, we’ll merely have two silent councils and the only answers will come from painfully slow and obstinate responses to Freedom of Information requests.

 

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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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Leeds and Bradford Cycle Superhighway: Confused? You will be.

The plans for Leeds’ “Cycle Superhighway” are so afwul that I genuinely don’t know where to start.

So I’ll start by saying this: As it stands right now, I would rather go full-Franklin and campaign against this scheme than risk any of this crap being installed. It really is so awful that I would rather see the whole project cancelled than have the current scheme approved.

Regular readers will know that I’m all for good-quality cycling infrastructure, and I’ve campaigned hard to get it. But there’s now a bigger danger to cycling in Britain than those old-school “cyclists’ proper place is on the road” types, and that is poor-quality infrastructure.

Nothing will derail the entire “Space for Cycling” movement more than the acceptance of rubbish designs, and Leeds’ plans are probably as good an example of rubbish designs as you’ll find anywhere.

A year of no progress whatsoever

It’s now over a year since I first wrote about Leeds and Bradford’s lacklustre plans, though I hoped at the time that the designs would be improved.

So, a whole year has passed, surely that’s plenty of time to come up with something at least vaguely reasonable?

Sadly, it seems not. While the latest plans are an improvement over the ones I last looked at (especially the sections in Bradford) they still fall short of the standard of infrastructure that’s needed here.

As is normal with such big projects, there’s a wonderful-sounding “vision” (PDF) and then there’s the grim reality of the actual designs themselves. They’ve got a name (“CityConnect”) and a logo, which must not be tampered with.

Visual guide to how you must and must not use City Connect's precious logo.

It’s interesting that they’ve been so exacting with the logo, yet extremely sloppy with the actual plans.

These big schemes always have plenty of lovely words about how great cycling is and how it benefits everyone and how brilliant it would be if people could use a bike to get around, but then the planned scheme makes it clear that cycling comes last, motor vehicles are more important, and the whole thing is going to be a botched job.

It’s all about the branding – PDF here, but make sure you have some incense sticks and a whalesong CD ready, it’s a wild ride of paradigm-busting colours and mutual touching.

(Incidentally, whoever is running the City Connect Twitter account is responsive and helpful, though they have been unable to provide me with simple and important pieces of information, such as the width of the planned cycle track. This fits in with branding being prioritised over content, I guess.)

It seems to me that whoever is in charge of this scheme either doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing, or they’re cynically and intentionally trying to appear modern and cycle-friendly while actually continuing Leeds’ reputation as the Motorway City of the 1970s. I’m told that there are some great people involved who really do want the best but are being hampered by relics of the past in powerful positions. Whatever is happening behind the scenes, the current plans are dreadful.

And that’s particularly annoying for me personally, as this scheme affects areas that are close to me. I grew up in Leeds and my family still lives there. My BMX was stolen from outside the very Halfords that this scheme runs past.

More importantly, my niece – just five years old, an age where Dutch children are regularly cycling around with their parents – lives very close to the planned route.

When it’s built, would my sister be able to use this cycleway with her daughter? In ten years time, will my niece be able to ride into town safely on her own, as millions of Dutch teenagers do today?

Looking at these plans, no. Not even close. It’s not a safe design, it’s a hack job. I would not advise my sister to use this “superhighway”. I would advise against it.

So who is this scheme for? Who is it aimed at? Existing cyclists – very few though there are in Leeds – surely don’t need this, as it will only slow them down. I can’t see how it would attract people to begin cycling either, as it’s just not convenient enough compared to the alternatives.

It seems to be aimed at some kind of day-tripping leisure cyclist who prefers huge arterial roads to greenery.

Plans of confusion

I was intending to dive into the plans themselves in this post, but due to the inconsistency of the images and icons shown to describe different types of cycleway, it’s difficult to know exactly what’s planned where.

For example, the blue circle icon for their “Type 1” cycleway seems to suggest that the footway, cycleway and carriageway are all at the same level, with raised kerbs separating them.

But then the cross-section diagram seems to suggest that the footway will be at the normal raised level, and the cycleway at carriageway level with a raised kerb as a divider (like CS2X in London).

And then they’ve used a photo of a section of CS3 in London to illustrate this, which is like neither of the other two suggested arrangements (though that photo does match their “Type 2” cycleway!)

Various images that Leeds Council have used to describe their Type 1 cycleway, none of which match up.

Do those behind this scheme even understand the difference?

Okay, so I’d read all this and decided that the blue ‘Type 1’ cycleway must be level with the carriageway, with a raised dividing kerb, like in the 3D image at the bottom and the cross-section diagram on the left.

But just when I thought I might be able to make sense of the plans, there’s more mess! The designs show triangles at the start and end of the blue ‘Type 1’ sections, which I’ve been reliably informed denote a ramp up or down (the point of the triangle being the bottom of the slope):

A section from Leeds Cycle Superhighway plans, showing apparently raised cycle track, also described as being at carriageway-level

The triangles suggest that the blue sections are raised to a higher level than the carriageway.

It seems that the people behind the plans are as confused as I am, because somebody has clearly spent a lot of time drawing these triangles in. Whoever sat at a computer and did this must have thought that the blue “Type 1” cycle paths are raised from carriageway level, or they wouldn’t have diligently spent time and effort adding ramps into the drawings.

I asked the always-responsive City Connect Twitter person about this, and they checked for me. It seems the blue “Type 1” cycleways are at carriageway level after all, and the triangles on the plans were “an error from [the] design team”.

An error? Look, I’m not an engineer, I’m just some schlub who would like people to be able to use a bike for transport easily and safely. How on Earth did nobody notice this before me? Is the communication within the project so poor that nobody is scrutinising the plans as much as untrained members of the public? Why are we paying people to make such obvious errors?

How many more errors – invisible to my untrained eye – are hidden in these plans, to remain there until the guys with the shovels turn up on site?

Note, added 20th September 2014: It’s also occurred to me that if the blue bits are indeed at carriageway-level, where’s the 60cm-wide segregating strip meant to go? The black line on the plans is nowhere near wide enough. How can people be expected to give informed feedback on such vague plans?

Nothing says “Superhighway” quite like the words “footway conversion”

There’s also inconsistencies such as this:

Confusing labelling on Leeds Cycle Superhighway plans, showing a footway conversion at carriageway level

They’re just putting labels on at random, now.

The image above shows a footway conversion while the icon used is for a carriageway-level cycleway divided by an island. We all know that “footway conversion” means nothing more than a few signs and some paint, so why have they labelled it as being at carriageway-level? (And I wonder if they intend to move the many lamp-posts and telegraph poles that are currently embedded in the footway?)

Photograph of footway to be converted into a cycleway on York Road in Leeds

Are they really planning to drop this footway down to carriageway level? I don’t think so. So why label it as such? (Image: Google Streetview)

At least, I hope the intention is to convert the entire width of it into a cycleway, although the icon suggests that one half of it will be turned into a cycleway, with the other half remaining a footway.

With such inconsistency, and with no width given anywhere, it’s impossible to tell. Isn’t that the whole point of plans, to answer these questions?

Finally for now, the icons for “cycle lane across junction” and “cycle path across junction” are used inconsistently, too:

Different parts of the plans show different icons for side-road treatments

So bikes go on the what, now?

The whole thing reeks of sloppiness. How are members of the public expected to give feedback when the designs are so unclear? Even those who are paid to work with them seem unsure about what is intended where.

If only they’d paid as much attention to detail on the plans as they have done on the logo.

Anyway, that’s enough for today, I reckon. I’ll have a deeper look at some of the plans very soon.

But for now, I’ll leave this question, which I sincerely hope someone from City Connect can answer: Why are there no widths given for any of the planned cycleways?

 

Update, Wednesday 23rd July 2014: A response was posted by City Connect on their blog, which prevents linking to anything but the main blog page, so you have to click here then find the blog titled “Section G Plans”, which should be at the top until they add a new post.

At least, I think it was a response to my blog post, or my tweets. It’s hard to tell, as there was no link to what was being rebutted.

 

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Boris Johnson is an arsehole

If you want to show your anger to the Mayor and TfL, please join the Stop The Killing campaign, which is rapidly growing into a campaign to improve our roads for everyone, however they choose to get around.

Though this probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, I’ll say it anyway:

What a complete and utter turd the current Mayor of London is.

Allow me to explain why I feel this way.

People’s deaths are not a call-to-action for him, but an opportunity to distract the population from discussing the real issues.

Just when it seemed everyone was talking about how the roads are dangerously designed and how much better they could be, Boris sees that this is making himself look bad, so he throws a dead cat on the table.

I’ll allow the Mayor himself to describe the ‘dead cat’ manoeuvre:

“Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case.

“Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre described as ‘throwing a dead cat on the table’.

“Everyone will shout ‘Jeez, there’s a dead cat on the table!’

“In other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.”

And that is exactly what he has done by talking about people wearing headphones while riding bikes after being asked about the many recent deaths while cycling.

What an absolutely shitty, cynical, cold-hearted thing to do. Tarnish the names of the recently deceased to save his own political skin. Classy.

Suddenly, all the focus is on those bloody cyclists, endangering themselves and everyone around them. It’s almost as if they want to die!

Of course, Boris wants to make clear that he’s not accusing the recently deceased of cycling dangerously. Oh no, perish the thought! But then by launching into some bullshit about headphones, what’s the average person in the street meant to think? Of course people will put two and two together, and are now happily blaming the victims.

And now he’s got hundreds of police standing on street corners stopping Londoners on bikes and giving them dubious “advice“. What does this look like to Denise Driver and Barry Busrider? “Ah, thank goodness something’s being done about those bloody cyclists!”

Anyway, the point of this post is to show you that we can’t trust a word the Mayor says. Promises are made but then conveniently forgotten about. Today he’ll be your best friend, but when you look back in six months you’ll see that he was actually your worst enemy all along.

It’s hardly headline news that the original section of Cycle Superhighway 2 is well beyond crap. But I wanted to do a post comparing the Mayor’s rhetoric with the delivered reality, so that’s probably a good place to start.

All the quotes are from this 2009 press release announcing how great the Cycle Superhighways were going to be. I guess the lesson is not to believe anything that the Mayor says, his words are meaningless.

Boris Johnson quote: "The Cycle Superhighways show we are serious about delivering real, positive changes that will benefit us all." Below, a photo of cars parked on a Cycle Superhighway, and a bike rider forced outside.

The real, positive change here is visible below the cars on the left, clearly benefiting us all.
(Photo: Mark Treasure)

 

Boris Johnson quote: "On these routes the bicycle will dominate and that will be clear to all others using them." Below, a photo of Cycle Superhighway 2 in action. A large van is loading on the left, a taxi is driving on the Superhighway itself, and cars are queued in the outside lane. A lone cyclist squeezes between the van and taxi.

Clear as mud, that is.
(Photo: Mark Treasure)

 

Boris Johnson quote: "No longer will pedal power have to dance and dodge around petrol power." Below, a photo of a bike rider overtaking a stopped bus while cars pass on the right.

This one is so false it’s beyond parody.
(Photo: Mark Treasure)

 

Boris Johnson quote: "The bike is the best way to travel in this wonderful city of ours." Below, a photo of a closed bike lane, with no alternative route provided, only "dismount" signs

If you enjoy being made to feel like subhuman scum, that is.
(Photo: Mark Treasure)

 

Kulveer Ranger quote: "I'm sure these routes will prove a hugely welcome addition to London's cycling infrastructure." Below, a photo of a large cycling protest, flowers laid on the Cycle Superhighway to mark someone's death.

Far from being “hugely welcome” the Cycle Superhighways were so bad that they drew large protests after a series of deaths.
(Photo: Caroline Allen)

 

David Brown quote: "The routes will provide safe, fast and direct routes into central London." Below, a photo of the aftermath of a fatal accident, with police in addendance.

Transport for London continue to claim their Cycle Superhighways are safe, despite many near-identical fatal collisions.
(Photo: Martin Donkin)

 

 


I wasn’t the only one thinking this way: Two Wheels Good blog on victim blaming, Operation Safeway and the dead cat.

 

 

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CS2 from Bow to Stratford: Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width (Part 2)

This is the second in a pair of articles about the new section of Cycle Superhighway 2 from Bow roundabout to Stratford. You can read the first part here.

First, a correction

In the previous article on this subject I stated that the length of the segregated “Superhighway” was one mile, not the two miles claimed by TfL. Since then I have done some further measurements (by drawing a line on Google Maps) and found that it is in fact even shorter than that.

The new CS2 cycle track is 0.7 miles (1.1km) long on the eastbound side, and 0.8 miles (1.2km) long on the westbound side.

But as much as I bleat about it here, the damage is done. All the news sites have reported it as being two miles long, so hype has won out over substance again, and that’s the main thing for Mayor Johnson and his PR man cycling czar Andrew Gilligan. But while two miles might sound like a long way, it’s a drop in the ocean.

Let’s do some back-of-an-envelope maths. TfL controls 360 miles of road in London all of which are wide, busy and hostile to cycling. Stratford High Street is actually controlled by Newham council, but let’s be generous to TfL and pretend that it is one of theirs.

The new segregated bit of CS2 makes up 0.2% of TfL’s road network. So it’s taken five and a half years since Boris Johnson became Mayor of London to get half-baked cycle paths on just 0.2% of London’s busiest roads. Given this rate of progress, it will take 2750 years for all of TfL’s roads to get cycle paths.

I estimate that TfL-controlled roads make up roughly ⅓ of London’s ‘main’ roads, so the CS2 extension covers around 0.07% of them, and it would take over 7000 years for all of the main roads in London to become safe and inviting for cycling. I can’t wait!

Anyway, on with the show…


Sending out the wrong signals

Moving on to the next weak point, we arrive at a large signalled junction. This is the junction shown in TfL’s laughably awful instructional video on how to make right turns.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the protecting kerb stops before the junction, and the demarcation continues as painted lines, handy for left-turning drivers to keep their speed up as they cut across the bike lane. Further on, the cycle lane widens to create an ASZ in front of the nearside lane.

The junction of Stratford High Street, Cycle Superhighway 2 and Warton Road, showing strange and dangerous layout.

Mysterious bike box and speedy left-hook set up.

You can’t use it to turn right, only for going straight on or left. So what’s that ASZ for? What purpose does it hold?

You may also notice that there are no separate traffic lights for bikes. This means that left-turning drivers and straight-on cyclists get a green light at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster. It is already causing conflict.

A cement mixer waits to turn left at a Barclays Cycle Superhighway junction. It will get a green light at the same time as people on bikes.

This cement mixer is turning left. Would you want your children cycling here?

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

Do you trust all drivers to give way to cyclists riding straight on here?

Again, this is a very fast road with lots of traffic. Plenty of vehicles turn left here, including buses.

And again, there is pressure on drivers to keep the main carriageway clear. If the light is green then it must be uncomfortable waiting in the road to turn left, knowing that speeding vehicles are coming over the hill behind you. That’s no excuse to bully through, but it is another example of designed-in conflict.

Why haven’t TfL separated cycling from motoring in time at this junction?

 

TfL’s pants

On the other side of the junction we find this:

TfL's attempt at a Copenhagen-style junction results in a strange short-trouser-shaped tarmac area on the footpath

It does look a bit like a pair of pants, doesn’t it?

I call it ‘the pants junction’ because it looks like a pair of boxer shorts, albeit with a very tight crotch. It even has a fancy logo on the left leg!

This bizarre construction is part of TfL’s “innovative” loop-de-loop right turn method mentioned above. The idea is that if you want to turn right here from CS2, you instead go straight on then turn sharply left onto the pants, then ride across a shared-use footpath, where you’ll find a similar bit of tarmac:

The edge of a footpath has a tarmac square with 'give way' markings on it, and a dropped kerb leading into an advanced stop box for bikes

Another one of TfL’s “innovations”

If you’re lucky enough to find the ASZ free of motor vehicles, the idea is that you can then wait at the lights to go straight on, completing your right turn.

One odd thing is that you can complete the right turn in any number of other ways. Testosterone-filled thrill-seekers can pull across into the outside lane on the main road, turning right in the traditional manner. The footpath all the way along Stratford High Street/CS2 is shared use, meaning it’s legal to cycle on the footpath. The crossings are all toucan crossings (for cycling and walking).

I get the impression that TfL didn’t really know what to do here, so they just threw everything that they could think of into the mix and crossed their fingers. There are even ‘Trixi’ mirrors, the cherry on this cake of kludges.

The pants arrangement above also enables those cycling from that side road to turn onto CS2 while the traffic lights are red, by turning sharply left across the footpath via the tarmac dropped kerb. The concept of a “turn left on red” for bikes is a good one, but the execution here is dreadful. Why do TfL continue to create new half-baked solutions to pre-solved problems?

This whole junction is a mess and should be redesigned from scratch.

 

Doing the Stratford wiggle

Continuing along the eastbound side, we eventually find ourselves at the end of CS2. The cycle path widens out here to a luxurious 3 metres or so, but that’s the best bit. (This is where the Mayor made sure he was photographed at the opening, of course.)

If you have eagle eyes you may notice this tiny sign:

A sign on Cycle Superhighway 2 at Stratford in London, showing a wiggly dance which must be performed by those using the route

“We will do things properly, or not at all” – Andrew Gilligan, breaker of promises.

If this junction was designed properly for cycling, signs like this would be unnecessary.

It’s strange that this sign has been put up at all really, considering that this is really the end of CS2 at present. Even if you manage to follow it you just end up in a bus lane. There’s no more blue paint beyond this point.

But the craziest thing is that it’s not actually possible to legally follow the directions on the sign anyway. There’s no dropped kerb so you can’t join the shared use footpath on the left anyway. The only dropped kerb is at the crossing itself, where people are waiting on foot. If the traffic lights are red then you can make the manoeuvre, but then you’d technically be jumping the red light. It’s a very incoherent end to CS2.

The eastern end of Cycle Superhighway 2 where users are expected to cycle onto a crossing where people are waiting.

To continue along CS2, simply pull left onto the crossing where that woman is standing. “Super” eh?

A photo of the bus lane which CS2 dumps you into.

Even if you follow the sign, you just end up in this contraflow bus lane anyway. Note that there’s no room for a bus to safely overtake a bike here. This is not all abilities, 8 to 80 provision.

 

Go West

The infrastructure westbound is pretty much the same as the eastbound side: a wide cycle path punctuated by poor quality bus stop bypasses and dangerous junctions.

But TfL have saved something special for the final stretch, just before the still-deadly Bow junction.

Cycle Superhighway 2 westbound, just before Bow roundabout. A dangerous side road treatment followed by a sharp bus stop bypass entry.

It must have been a Friday afternoon when they designed this bit.

There’s several things wrong here.

The first is the side-road treatment. Like the example in the previous post, the junction is dangerous. Despite there being plenty of space to take the cycle path away from the road here, it instead turns into a standard painted cycle lane. This is also the point at which the road widens to two lanes wide, so drivers aiming for the left-hand lane cut across the “Superhighway” to get to it.

This leads me to our second problem. The entry to the bus stop bypass is at an uncomfortably sharp angle, again for no good reason. The side road is one-way so there’s plenty of room to play with. Also, because the segregating kerb ends so far back, when motor traffic is queuing they can (and do) block the entry to the bus stop bypass, so people riding bikes must either wait in traffic breathing in the fumes or try to squeeze up the side of the queuing vehicles.

I shouldn’t have to do TfL’s job for them, but it should look something like this (although I missed the ~30º angled ‘forgiving’ kerbs off, they’re time-consuming to draw):

An altered photograph of Stratford High Street leading to Bow roundabout, showing how a cycle path and road junction should be done.

It’s really not that difficult.

 

In conclusion: Sigh.

This new section of CS2 is certainly a step forward from the rest of the route, which is not only extremely unpleasant but so dangerous that it has been the scene of several deaths.

And yet what has been learned from these deaths, nearly all of which have taken place at junctions? Seemingly nothing, as the junctions on the new segment of CS2 remain as deadly as those on the original section.

Kerb separated cycle tracks make for a more pleasant journey along the straight bits, but it’s the junctions which are the most dangerous, yet TfL have made no improvements there.

It’s been suggested that as this is TfL’s first ever segregated cycle track, we should be forgiving of mistakes made due to lack of experience. Sure, I’d be happy to forgive the odd small error, but this whole route is deeply flawed.

TfL’s engineers are not little kids who deserve a pat on the head for making their first Lego house. They are grown men and women, highly qualified, paid tens of thousands of pounds each year.

Sure we should praise TfL when they do stuff well, but the new CS2 is a third-rate cycling facility which is so poorly put together that it floods. What are they teaching highways engineers these days?

Two photos of rainwater flooding in the brand new Cycle Superhighway 2

I can’t wait to ride here in the winter. (Photos by @sw19cam: 1, 2.)

Those responsible for this should already know what they’re doing. The learning curve should be shallow, not steep. It’s not difficult to learn about cycling infrastructure that works for everyone.

There are British highways engineers out there who do know how to do this stuff properly, why weren’t they employed to do this? Or were there genuinely skilled people working on CS2 who were hamstrung by their bosses telling them to keep it cheap and keep the cars flowing?

 

Can the London Cycling Campaign claim victory yet?

The LCC posted two articles about this new bit of CS2.

The first post  is an honest assessment of what the authors found when they visited at the end of October. They point out many of the flaws of the new route.

The second post has a much more self-congratulatory tone, hailing this as a success of the LCC’s campaigning and protests.

But I don’t think the LCC should be patting themselves on the back, at least not very hard.

At the LCC’s 2013 AGM, a motion calling for “uniformity of provision and suitability for all ability groups” was passed by a huge majority. The purpose of this motion, as I understand it, was to finally kill off the bad-infrastructure-zombie known as the “dual network“. The flawed concept of the dual network has been hampering cycling design for far too long, and I’m glad to see another nail in its coffin.

But what this motion also does is commit LCC to push for infrastructure which is suitable for everyone – the fabled “8 to 80” cycling conditions. Allow me to paraphrase from the motion:

“The cycle network for London must be uniform, in the sense that there must be equal suitability, usability, and level of safety, of all the facilities, for all cyclists who might use them. It would be a mistake for the Superhighways or Quietways to be specified in a way that makes them less suitable, for example, for use by children, or by inexperienced cyclists.”

Surely this motion means that the LCC should only be crowing about facilities which are suitable for everyone? CS2 on Stratford High Street doesn’t meet these requirements. Not only are the junctions unsuitable for children, they’re also unsafe for confident cyclists. While I myself would always use the bus stop bypasses, flawed as they are, I witnessed several cyclists pull out onto the main carriageway to pass the bus stops, especially ones busy with waiting passengers, before pulling back in to the cycle path.

So we’ve got a facility with bits that experienced, confident cyclists avoid using, and bits that are unsuitable for those unwilling to mix with heavy traffic. Motion 5 means that the LCC shouldn’t be crowing about this as a success, but demanding that the flaws are fixed immediately.

 

Things can only get better

Having said all that, for all its flaws, the new CS2 is clearly an improvement on some previous attempts at cycling infrastructure:

A photo of CS2 next to a much older, faded cycling facility - a very narrow channel taking bikes off the road onto the footpath.

This must have been fun to use!

Well I guess we’re definitely progressing, albeit at a glacial pace.

 

 

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CS2 from Bow to Stratford: Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width (Part 1)

This was going to be one long piece about the new section of Cycle Superhighway 2 in east London, but I realised what a large task it is to cover all the weak points. So this is part one, you can read part two here.

I really want to be complimentary about TfL’s new flagship cycling facility on Stratford High Street, so I’ll start with the good stuff:

  1. The cycle tracks are generally of a good width*

So that’s the good stuff over with. I’m afraid to say that TfL’s highwaymen still have a lot of lessons to learn.

Never mind the accuracy, feel the length

Before I start banging on about all the juicy detail, I’d just like to point out that the route is around one mile long, and not the two miles which has been widely quoted by the BBC.

I don’t know where the idea originated that it’s two miles from Bow roundabout to Stratford – presumably a TfL press release has been stretching the truth by counting each side of the carriageway as a separate length.

It may sound pedantic, but Leeds and London are 200 miles apart. That does not mean the M1 motorway is 400 miles long. It’s 200 miles long. Each carriageway forms part of the same road. So the new bit of CS2 is one mile long, or around 1500 metres. (Credit goes to bikemapper for spotting that sleight of hand.)

The new CS2 is not what we have been campaigning for, is it?

So if the width is good, what’s bad? Well, nearly every detail of it is substandard, scoring from ‘less than ideal’ to ‘crap’.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Heading east from the deadly Bow roundabout (which I didn’t even attempt to use, by the way) the kerb-protected section doesn’t even start immediately. There’s a tiny bit of footpath-level cycle path round the edge of the roundabout but then it drops down to road level and runs for the first 300 metres or so as a mere painted cycle lane.

Here, this “Superhighway” crosses several side-roads and driveways, and there’s lots of construction traffic turning across the blue cycle lane. Large, fast, heavy vehicles pass within a few feet of you.

The footpath-level cycle path turns into a painted cycle lane. Note the HGV tyre marks have covered the blue within a day or two of it being painted.

The footpath-level cycle path turns into a painted cycle lane. Note where the HGV tyre marks have already covered over the blue at the junctions within a day or two of it being painted.

Soon we come up against our first bus stop, but as the segregating kerb hasn’t started yet (despite there being acres of space) it’s an old-fashioned one. The bus stop marking hadn’t been laid when I visited, but it was clear from the very narrow strip of blue paint that cyclists are expected to overtake stopped buses with no room for error whatsoever.

A photo of TfL's CS2 at Bow roundabout, with dangerous cycle lane and bus stop design.

Very disappointing. Imagine there’s another bus in this photo, stopped in the non-blue area on the left. That tiny gap is the “Superhighway.”

This would be a poor bus stop design even by 1990s standards. What the hell are TfL thinking installing this here, in 2013?

No cycle lane at all would be better than this, as the installed lane encourages riders to squeeze around stopped buses. And should a cyclist choose to ride further out, it will cause annoyance to drivers who are ignorant of why a cyclist isn’t using the “Superhighway” provided.

Dangerous junction design

For me, the biggest failure is the junctions. They all fall into the ‘crap’ category, many of them even into the ‘dangerous crap’ category.

It’s very important to get them right, but TfL have just resorted to painted cycle lanes rather than doing the job properly. Let’s have a look at one:

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

This isn’t what we’ve been campaigning for. Sure, cyclists have priority, but do you really trust London’s drivers not to left-hook here?

Anybody cycling along CS2 here needs the neck of an owl to pass this junction safely. Not only must they look behind to the right to make sure there’s no left-turning motor vehicles approaching from the rear, but a look forward-left is also required to check for vehicles emerging from the side road.

The segregating barrier finishes just below the bottom of the photo, so the only separation is white lines. Drivers turning left can then take a relaxed line towards the junction by drifting over into the cycle lane so they don’t have to slow down as much. Stratford High Street is a very fast road (and I saw no speed cameras) so some drivers will take this corner dangerously.

I expect that when driving along this fast road there is pressure on drivers to keep their speed up, so slowing down to take this corner safely – or stopping in the road to wait for cyclists to clear the junction – will not be a comfortable manoeuvre.

Why does the physical separation end so far back? Do TfL want to encourage dangerous corner-cutting by drivers here?

A far safer solution here would be to take the cycle path gently away from the road and for it to rise up to footpath height, so that anybody cycling across the side road here will be meeting turning cars at a right angle, which is much easier than the cars coming from behind. If motor vehicles have to mount a hump, and the corner radius is tight enough, then they will have to slow down and turn the corner at a much slower speed also.

This is more like it. Turning cars have somewhere to slow down and wait until the cycle path is clear, and the tighter corner radius and hump enforces slower speeds.

Something like this would be much safer. Turning cars have somewhere to wait until the cycle path is clear, and the tighter corner radius and hump enforces slower speeds.

Making Stratford High Street 30mph and installing some speed cameras to enforce it would also help matters, as drivers turning off the main road wouldn’t feel pressure to take the corner at speed to keep the carriageway clear.

Bust-up at the bus stop

Another poor detail is the bus stop bypasses. They are a compromised example of the concept.

On approaching the bus stop, the cycle path veers sharply away from the carriageway and narrows to as little as 1.5 metres. Due to the ridiculous decision to use 13cm-high vertical kerbs rather than the approximately 30º-angled, forgivingsplaykerbs, this narrow channel (or “gully” if you prefer) feels a little uncomfortable.

Also, due to TfL’s decision to keep the cycle path mainly at carriageway level rather than halfway between carriageway and footway level, the pedestrian crossing humps can be rather too sharp and steep, though this does vary from hump to hump. (There’s not much consistency along the route, except for the shade of Barclays-approved blue.)

Bus stop bypass on CS2 at Stratford

The cycle track width reduces from around 2m wide to 1.5m wide.

TfL have designed the bus stops this way to encourage lower speeds and force single-file cycling throughout them. I can understand why they’ve done this – there’s a lot of jerks who ride bikes in London, and we don’t want them hitting people crossing to or from the bus stop island.

But then there are a lot of jerks driving cars in London too, but TfL seem reluctant to apply the same logic to them, even though they can (and do) cause much more damage.

For some reason TfL are perfectly happy to let jerks drive two abreast at pedestrian crossings, but not cycle two abreast. I don’t understand why cycling gets stricter treatment than driving where there’s potential conflict with people on foot, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this (note the humps in the cycle track here, but complete absence of traffic calming on the parallel carriageway).

You may also notice the brown stripe along the blue paint in the photo above, which shows that the sharp bend doesn’t actually do the job of slowing cyclists down anyway – it’s possible to take the curve at speed.


*I say “generally of a good width” because it varies quite a lot along its length. I measured several points along the Stratford-bound side and the narrowest bit I found was a mere 1.3m where it narrows to accommodate a traffic light pole (though it is at footpath level so there are no kerbs, at least). The general width is usually at least 1.9m give or take a few centimetres and at the Stratford end it widens, bizarrely but luxuriously, to over 3m.

END OF PART ONE…

Coming up in part two (or three):

  • The “pants” junction and the loop-de-loop right turn
  • Signalised junctions with turning conflicts included
  • The bizarre ending
  • The ghost of the past
  • And other poorly planned cycling infrastructure

Don’t miss it!

 

 

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