Sunday, 20 July 2014

An e-mail I'd like to share

This is the response of the cabinet member at Kent County Council for Environment and Transport, David Brazier, to someone's objections to the scheme that, in my opinion, will lead to a large decline in the use of the bicycle as a mode of transport in Maidstone. I've started a petition to stop this, which explains more, and it would be great if you could sign it.

I've added a few emphasises, these are my own. Otherwise this e-mail is unedited:

Thank you for your emails regarding the recent outcome of the public inquiry into the application for the Powerhub site in St Peters Street, Maidstone.

The application was subject to assessment by the KCC Transportation & Development Team.  It was recognised that the reduction of the wide footway on the northern side of the St Peters Bridge would be a disadvantage of the development proposal.  However, this would be offset by the additional capacity for traffic that would be gained by widening the carriageway over the bridge to four lanes.

The width available for pedestrians and cyclists on the northern bridge would be reduced to 2.5 metres.  This is too narrow to maintain the existing segregated space, so pedestrians and cyclists would have to share this space.  KCC recognises that this is an important route across the river for cyclists, and that it connects to cycle routes on either side, however the numbers of cyclists using the bridge have been fairly low; generally in single figures during peak hours.

Therefore, on balance, KCC did not make an objection to the regeneration proposal for Baltic Wharf, as the overall impact on the highway network could be mitigated by the off-site works. We accept that these measures are not helpful to cyclists in a location where cycling on the actual carriageway of the gyratory would be extremely difficult.  However, my officers did not consider that we could sustain an objection to the development on these grounds.

KCC does not hold cyclists in contempt. I ride most days, wishing the traffic would go away, but accepting the realities of life. 

I appreciate that this may not be the response you had hoped for, however I hope that the information provided is useful and fully explains our position on this matter. 

So it turns out KCC does not hold cyclists in contempt.  They just give off that impression because they accept the realities of life.

Please sign the petition to stop this scheme going ahead. This could be any town, please don't let it be mine. Thank you. 

Friday, 27 June 2014

Tottenham Court Road

The West End Project is a £26 million investment to improve the area around the Tottenham Court Road area. There is a desperate need to improve here, as fast traffic is encouraged, making it a terrible place to walk or cycle. While walkers and bus passengers will see a vast improvement, as the project stands, cyclists get nothing.

Yes, we get some small plastic blobs on Gower Street, but these fail to work effectively on Royal College Street, a lightly used road. Suggesting these on a main road is absurd.

The plans for Tottenham Court Road are essentially to create an Oxford Street v2.0. Cycles will share with 176 buses per hour during peak times, and then with general traffic in the evenings and on Sundays.

Therefore I've done a redesign of Tottenham Court Road, to include cycle tracks and floating bus stops to make Tottenham Court Road safe for cycling. Its a large bitmap and probably not clear, so click here for a link to a PDF you can download.

I've assumed that roads outside the West End Project will not change, and I've not really changed roads other than Tottenham Court Road. Therefore side roads may not be perfect.

The objection for proper cycle tracks was lack of space at a few points. There was objections for floating bus stops, as the carriageway isn't wide enough. These objections even came from a cycling campaign group, whom I won't name, who really should be campaigning for the best, and not making terrible compromises.

Firstly, a few narrow points should not compromise the whole design. These sections are short compared to the overall length of Tottenham Court Road, so it should be perfectly acceptable to compromise. Instead of a 2 meter wide track, a 1.5 meter one would have to be installed. This is substandard, but acceptable for short sections if it allows for excellent facilities elsewhere.

Floating bus stops also fit into Tottenham Court Road. Yes, some pavement space would have to be taken away. However, bus stops are not usable space for pedestrians anyway. Bus shelters create pinch points on pavements and lead to clutter. If these are moved out to an island, this is better for pedestrians, even if a small amount of pavement space is lost.

To conclude, cyclists are being ignored in the West End Project. Money isn't an object here, so if space for cycling cannot be created here, hope for it elsewhere greatly reduces.

On Monday 30th June, I'm going to an event organised by Camden Cycling Campaign regarding this project. If you are interested in the West End Project, I recommend you come too. And if you see me, say hi :)


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Tottenham Hale

TFL haven't consulted in a while and so I looked at the past consultation section, and saw Tottenham Hale.


This area was a busy gyratory and it needed to be changed. However there were cycle facilities here, and while they were crap, it was better than the usual crap. It didn't give up at junctions and had clear space for pedestrians and cyclists. However TFL have got rid of these, mostly replacing them with shared use and toucans.
  

The original consultation had four parts to it, so I am going to do four separate blog posts, because it then allows me to explain in more detail my changes (It also allows me time to finish it :P)

The first part is the south section of High Road (download here) The original TFL plans are below:
And my changes:
TFL wants High Road to be a place for motor vehicles. With two lanes in each direction and a bus lane, with a few shared use pavements, TFL is firmly stuck in the 70s with this design. I changed it to one vehicle lane and one bus lane in each direction, plus a bi-directional cycle track on the west side. The central reservation also has trees and other greenery, to make the area more attractive. I got inspiration for this from Lloyd George Avenue in Cardiff, which has a similar set up, although the junctions with the cycle track are done very badly.



Broad Lane does not have cycle tracks, since as you will see when I show the Broad Lane proposals, I have completely shut it off to through motor traffic. Therefore segregation is not required here, and traffic volumes and speeds will be low. 


I've also shut the exit from West Green Road to motor traffic. While this is currently a through road, it is not suitable for through traffic due to its width, which leads to narrow pavements and leaves no space for pedestrians or cycling. Other parallel main routes have more space available to provided protected space for cycling and walking. The removal of through traffic means that segregation is not required. Closing the exit also has the advantage of removing a traffic light junction from North-South cyclists on High Road.


The other parts of the consultation are being finished, so you should expect to see them sometime in the near future.

While TFL claims removing gyratories is about improving conditions for cycling and pedestrians, it needs to back up these claims with actions. It's just no good replacing a busy one way road with an even busier two way road. 



Friday, 11 April 2014

Bow Roundabout

As always, a download link can be found here

I'm sure there isn't a cyclist in the country who hasn't heard of Bow Roundabout. There have been 3 deaths since Cycle Superhighway 2 was introduced here. It took two of those deaths to introduce an "innovative" early start system, which is about as innovative as the double ASL I made for April Fools. Personally I think this should be renamed to delayed start, since a red light is always guaranteed for cyclists.


If the lack of cycling facilities on a flagship route isn't bad enough, there is no safe way for pedestrians this busy junction whatsoever. This junction is probably worse for pedestrians, but they stay away because this isn't a flagship walking route, it's a flagship cycling route. 

Bow roundabout is a horrific car dominated landscape in the middle of a residential area, and involved knocking down whole houses and streets to build it. While this is an important junction and motor traffic capacity should be considered here, it should by no means be at the expense of pedestrian and cyclist safety.

There are two options at Bow Roundabout, sending cyclists over the flyover, or a separate light phase at the roundabout. TFL did a consultation when they introduced the delayed start system, with the other option being 4 toucan crossings at the base of the flyover. Diamond Geezer wrote about this concept at the time 

Not great, but better than what exists


However, I went for a segregated light phase on the roundabout. I feel this is better, because:
  1. There is no incline
  2. It doesn't give cyclists a guaranteed red light
  3. Pedestrian crossings are easy to add
The finished result
I've made the Roundabout more rectangular rather than round, which means that the wasted space in the middle of the roundabout can be moved out to the sides, where it can be used for a cycle track and more pedestrian space. 
Lots of wasted space which is no use to anybody

An additional light phase is needed to accommodate the cycle and pedestrian crossings, however traffic could still continue around the roundabout during this phase.

Red, Green, Orange, repeat.
Bow Roundabout is a deathtrap for cyclists and pedestrians, yet this continues to be ignored by Transport for London to keep the traffic moving. Changing this junction should be a priority, yet all that has been done is some superficial changes to make it look like something is being done. This isn't good enough.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Segregation at Tavistock Place

Yesterday I went up to London for a joint seminar organised by London Cycling Campaign and Living Streets. It was great to see these two organisations working together instead of working against one another, as they both ultimately want to achieve the same goal. I plan to write about the seminar another time, but I wanted to write about my route to the seminar in this post.

About 1/3 of the route I took was along the Tavistock Place cycle track. This cycle track was very popular, with Camden Cyclists saying that 1000 cyclists per hour use it during peak times. The basic concept is also a good one, a protected track for cyclists that goes direct from East to West and vice versa.
There are more cyclists in this picture than I would normally see during a whole day in Maidstone!

You need to get a bit fatter

However, the cycle track has many problems. Firstly the width is really bad throughout the whole length of the track. However at certain junctions, the track narrows to extremely dangerous widths. It was in these places I felt the most in danger at any point while cycling in London yesterday, even on roads where I was interacting with large amounts of motor traffic.



Climbing aboard

The second issue is joining the cycle track at either end. At the eastern end of the cycle track it really goes Dutch... by having cyclists travel on the right hand side of the track. This design isn't particularly dangerous, the switchover and priorities are clearly marked, but it is just a very bad design


The western end however, is a complete shambles. I don't think I even need to explain what is wrong with it, the video shows it quite clearly. Note also the Addison Lee taxi illegally stopped in the cycle lane.



Cross your fingers!

Lastly, the junctions that rely on Give Way markings rather than traffic lights also don't feel safe. Watch the following video and ask yourself if you would feel safe or confident here:




There isn't space for motor traffic to deal with cyclists and other motor vehicles independently, which means motorists have to deal with up to 4 streams of traffic moving in different directions at the same time. I drive myself and I know I would struggle with this during busy periods. The last video shows the sort of interaction that could happen here. Contains bad language.



I also didn't spot a turning vehicle until the last second turning onto the cycle track. This design is dangerous, it needs space for motorists to wait between the road and the cycle track, so motorists can concentrate on one stream of traffic at a time

What should be done?

In the short term, 45 degree kerbs could be used to increase the usable width of the cycle track. However in the long term, traffic needs to be reduced so that the cycle track can be widened, either by using one way streets or removing through traffic completely. This cycle track is almost a victim of its own success, and is in a desperate need of an upgrade 12 years after its original construction.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Crossrail through Parliament Square

Download link here

"Crossrail for the bike" is important. If this scheme can be done right, it should show that segregation is the key to get London cycling. However, the proposed route goes through some very dangerous junctions. One of these is Parliament Square.

Parliament Square is horrible in two respects. Firstly, it is bad for cycling, with multiple lanes, fast moving traffic. I have cycled it a few times when I've been in London and it is at best intimidating. What is worse however, is that the Square named after the birthplace of Parliamentary democracy is a roundabout. Even putting cycle safety to one side, this should be a good enough reason to reduce the dominance of motor traffic in this area.

Below is my take on the junction:


Bye bye roundabout

Clearly, the first step here was to remove the roundabout nature of this junction completely. I've closed off Great George Street to motor traffic completely, and replacing two sides of the square with wide cycle tracks only, and increased the pedestrian space as well. This means motor traffic navigates two T-Junctions as opposed to the roundabout, with one lane for each direction. 

Closing Great George Street to through traffic should also have the effect of reducing traffic on Birdcage Walk and Horse Guards Parade, which will make the surrounding area pleasant as well. 

Zebras

I've included a Zebra Crossing with a cycle track, to give priority to cyclists and pedestrians. These are better than traffic lights because they remove pedestrian and cyclist waiting time, as well as reinforcing the idea that motorists should wait rather than pedestrians. It bears similarities to the Zebra found in this proposal for Cambridge

Lights

Where cyclists do have to interact with traffic, it is best to include separate crossings for cyclists. This is similar to how the Dutch would handle a T-Junction, however the pedestrian crossings and the cycle crossings would swap places. Personally I don't feel as if this matters too much, as it means that pedestrians crossing the road twice don't have to unnecessarily cross the cycle track.


To conclude

Hopefully you'll agree this is better than the proposals from yesterday (which may have been an April Fool :P). While TFL are not consulting on changing Parliament Square yet, it is important this junction is done well, and that the "Crossrail" route is easily accessible. It's no good having a good cycle route if it doesn't connect to anything, or the surrounding areas are bad for cycling as well.


Monday, 31 March 2014

Crossrail through Parliament Square (April Fools 2014)

Download link here

If Boris is to be believed, then "Crossrail for the Bike" is going to be going through Parliament Square. This is an important route, and hopefully a chance to set some high design standards. I used satellite imagery to map out Parliament Square and used the same colours as TFL consultations to mark out pavements, road and road markings ect. My finished version can be found below:


Segregation to keep safe

One of the key features of my design is the use of segregation to keep cyclists safe on the busy gyratory. It is important that some segregation is provided to  keep cyclists safe when navigating such a junction. In other places, segregation has not been used because blue paint has been used instead.


Double or Nothing

Another key feature is my use of an innovative new idea. The double advanced stop line will mean that when the first advanced stop line is blocked by motor traffic, cyclists will still be able to get ahead of other traffic in complete safety. Quite frankly I don't understand why nobody has come up with this idea before.


To conclude

I feel that my design is the best that could fit into this location, after all there is only room for 5 motor traffic lanes around Parliament Square, so I feel I have done the best I could given the circumstances. I have shown my design to two other people (See responses from Rick and Eduard) and received positive responses, and I hope you agree.