Tag Archives: cycling infrastructure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

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

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Bedford Borough Council traffic department, you are a bunch of cretins

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

I have one word to say to the people who chose to spend cycling infrastructure money on a “turbo” roundabout – resign.

Please, resign now, and let somebody who knows what they’re doing take your job. For the good of those who live in the areas you control, leave and never go back.

That might sound like an extreme thing to say, but I cannot comprehend how anybody with even the most miniscule knowledge of Dutch traffic design can describe a turbo roundabout as “a significant improvement in cycling provision.”

There are only two possible conclusions. Either you know what you’re doing and are installing a design which was never intended for cycling and is dangerous, or you have no idea what you’re doing and think you’re actually installing something useful.

Neither option shows those responsible in a favourable light.

(I’m sure that not everyone at Bedford Borough Council traffic department is responsible for this, so this is only aimed at those who made the decision to install this thing. The rest of you aren’t cretins. If you had to work on this under pressure from your bosses, this isn’t aimed at you.)

What’s wrong with Bedford’s plans?

Firstly, turbo roundabouts were never meant for cycling on. The purpose of a turbo roundabout is to get motor vehicles through a junction as quickly and efficiently as possible. Part of the fundamental concept of the Dutch turbo roundabout is that cycling is kept away from it. It would be like allowing cycling on a motorway.

(If you want to know more about turbo roundabouts and why they’re not cycling infrastructure, then read these excellent posts: “Turbo Roundabouts: Be Careful What You Wish For” and “When ‘Going Dutch’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means” by David Hembrow, and “A Modern Amsterdam Roundabout” by Mark Wagenbuur, also inspired by this dreadful decision.)

Secondly, this design which benefits motor vehicles is being paid for with £300,000 of money from the Department for Transport’s Cycle Safety Fund.

That’s so insane that I can hardly believe it. It’s like the Church of England investing in arms manufacturers. It’s completely inappropriate and goes against the whole spirit of everything that money is meant for.

In a further bout of insanity, Sustrans – fucking Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity! – are actually supporting this thing (see this Word DOC) making bold claims that turbo roundabouts in the Netherlands “function like compact roundabouts, where cyclists take primary position in the lane”. What the hell, Sustrans? This is blatantly untrue, and you’ve used it to get £300k from a cycling safety fund. What’s next – are you going to suggest that London’s 1960s Ringways urban motorway scheme is implemented as shared space?

And all this at one of the busiest junctions in the borough!

Aerial-view design of Bedford's turbo roundabout

The clue is in the name, you jerks!

Failure designed-in

The worst thing is that they’re hyping this scheme as being good for cycling, yet go on to say that “cyclists will also have the option of using new shared paths around the roundabout leading to zebra crossings” (see this PDF).

If the turbo roundabout is so great for cycling, why would they need to install a shared-use footpath alongside it? (Also, what good are zebra crossings to someone riding a bike, which they cannot legally use without dismounting?)

What we have here is another case of the disastrous “dual network” concept, a proven failure. So the roundabout is meant for fast, confident cyclists taking the lane in front of lorries, and anybody not willing to do this can meander slowly along the footpath getting frowned at by people on foot. What we end up with is infrastructure which is no good for anyone.

They claim “Studies and experience in other countries have shown that this type of junction can improve pedestrians and cyclist provision while also reducing potential safety issues.” But if there is such a study, they have not provided a link or reference to it. I’d love to see these studies, especially with regard to people cycling on the roundabout, as that is not how it is done in the Netherlands, the world leader in mass cycling.

And yet they can’t come up with any convincing reason why a turbo roundabout is safer for cycling on than a regular roundabout, except the claim that “cyclists will find it easier to cycle through the roundabout due to the reduction in vehicles making last minute lane changes” which is rather weak, to say the least.

And anyway, if a driver really wants to change lanes where they shouldn’t, it’s still entirely possible. Look at the diagram. Imagine you’re in the straight-on lane and want to go right. It’s perfectly possible to cut across where you shouldn’t.

Designing for cycling, or designing for cyclists?

I also note that they’ve mis-typed the DfT’s Cycle Safety Fund as the Cyclist Safety Fund. I reckon this is a Freudian slip, which shows that rather than thinking about designs which the whole population can use to cycle on, they are thinking about the needs of the few “keen cyclists” who are the only ones brave enough to cycling in the UK right now.

This whole way of thinking is a throw-back to the past. It ignores the massive benefits that everyone from every section of society would gain if our roads were designed so that anyone could use a bike as a fast, direct and efficient mode of transport, as they do in the Netherlands.

Cycling isn’t just for enthusiasts, it should be for all of us. Designs like this are the reason so few children cycle to school. They’re the reason so many more men cycle than women. They’re the reason so few elderly people cycle. They’re the reason so few people cycle at all.

So while this new roundabout might slightly improve conditions for existing cyclists, the idea that Bedford’s design is good for cycling is absolute nonsense.

A montage of six Dutch cycling scenes: two young ladies, an older man, a woman with a child in a box-bike and another child riding alongside, a group of teenagers, an older woman, and two young children.

Will Bedford’s new £300,000 cycling roundabout enable people like this to cycle?

What now?

Bedford, it’s not too late to stop this and design something suitable. The work has not started. Do not spend £300,000 of taxpayers’ money on this.

Also, stop designing for cyclists and start designing for cycling. Ask yourself if you’d be happy for young children, or your parents, to use your completed schemes.

I’d also request that you stop cynically dressing up motor-centric designs as being good for cycling. If motor vehicle throughput is your main concern, just admit it.

But most of all, please resign, for the good of the nation. Quit your job now, as you clearly are either 1960s motor-centric relics, dedicated vehicular keen cyclists who can’t comprehend ‘normal’ people riding bikes, or clueless incompetents.


PS, added at 3pm: If you want an example of the real thinking behind this project, look no further than the new sign that Bedford wants to install at the zebra crossings:

A blue roadsign which says "CYCLISTS GIVE WAY or dismount"

This, apparently, is how Bedford council chooses to encourage cycling.

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