Monday, 8 September 2014

Get off the hype train

Last week I went to the Netherlands, on one of David Hembrow's study tours. You can look at photos as long as you like, but to fully understand Dutch infrastructure I believe that you have to see it first hand.

Standard cycle path, with separate space for pedestrians.
I will do a proper blog post on the brilliant infrastructure I saw, however this post is more focused on the not so great infrastructure that came from London while I was away.

Feel the space, ignore the design

Don't get me wrong, the two new superhighway routes are a huge step forward. The amount of space being allocated to cycling is great and the chance to have safe cycling routes along Embankment and Blackfriars junction is a great proposition.

However, they don't deserve the hype that they have been given. The design of these routes is clearly lacking, and in many places, it's appalling. I fear with the amount of hype these routes are being given, we cannot progress. If TfL get the message that these are good enough, this is all we will ever get.

I think TfL has a surplus of traffic lights. Why innovate when there are solutions that work in other countries?

Take "early start" as an example. For years, cycle campaigners have been telling TfL that the addition of these to Bow Roundabout is not enough. With 60% of cyclists refusing to use the roundabout and continuing to use the flyover, it is pretty clear that it is an awful design. Yet I am still told that I have to wholeheartedly support the new superhighway, despite Early Start being used 3 times just on Parliament Square

Staying on the superhighway? Wonderful.  But it's a pile of crap if you are going anywhere else. This is one of the sections I recommend you say "no" when asked to support this in the consultation.

Tegelijk groen

I have actually already done plans for two parts of the superhighway, at Parliament Square and the end of CS7 at Upper Thames Street. However, these were made before I knew about the wonderful Simultaneous Green Junctions that exist in the Netherlands.

Simultaneous Green would solve many of the problems with the new superhighways, namely that the junctions are crap. The fact that TfL have gone with two way tracks leads to problems with connectivity. Simultaneous Green solves this without a dangerous two stage turn which kills in Denmark.

No problems with this two way track connecting to the other roads on this crossroads in Assen. Location here.
Below is a video of Simultaneous Green working at a 10 lane junction:

The first design I have done is on the East-West Superhighway, at Blackfriars. This junction has excessive traffic lights, with all movements through the junction but one, require cyclists to use two sets of traffic lights. By replacing these with a simultaneous green junction, at worst cyclists will only get one set of traffic lights here, and at best, zero.

Sea of traffic lights replaced by one junction., allowing cyclists to take the most direct route.

The second design is the junction of Embankment with Savoy Place and Savoy Street. I've replaced the two stage ASL with a simultaneous green junction, which is quicker for cycles. I've also made Savoy Place two way for cycles.

A new type of roundabout has to be test for months. A new type of ASL doesn't for some reason...

PDF files for the Blackfriars junction and Savoy Junction.

Sitting on the fence

So should you support the East-West Superhighway? Well, partially. The amount of space given to cycling here is great, and on some individual sections, I'll happily support completely. But there is just too much shitty junction design to give wholehearted support, and some sections where I have said no completely (Parliament Square and north of Hyde Park). So since TfL gives the option, I suggest people support partially. 

Too much hype tells TfL the job is done. It isn't, so don't give that impression.


  1. Nice clean & simple.

    However there is the potential that the frequency of pedestrians crossing on the zebras would mean cycle traffic would be constantly stopped on the superhighway, which would lead to an unacceptable level of cyclists failing to stop for the peds on the zebras.

    At least with a puffin crossing there is the opportunity to regulate flow & ensure everyone gets a fair turn.

    1. Well, you don't have to have pedestrian priority crossings. Pedestrians can and do play well with cyclists where they don't have priority. And would it be any worse than crossing a busy road without priority?

      Also note that quite a few pedestrians would switch to bicycle, as would a lot of people using the train, as well as a considerable number of people using the car. Most school aged children would, as would almost all university students, if the UK and other places really went Dutch.

  2. These type of solutions would be brilliant if introduced into London road infrastructure. The critical issue is the potential conflict between cyclists and pedestrians. In the Netherlands this is much less of a problem because of the primary rule of the road that turning traffic gives way to straight ahead traffic and the acceptance of cyclists sharing space with pedestrians at junctions. This is clearly seen in the video from 0.19 sec to 0.21 sec the cyclist going from left to right cuts through the pedestrian flow - in this case the pedestrians slow down to let him/her through.

    We should be lobbying to allow this kind of interaction in the UK. If, however, it was proposed for the new cycle superhighways the TfL 'safety' auditors and all the nay-sayers would throw out the whole scheme. It is really important to get the hard infrastructure in now - then we can show the poor signal timings and priorities can be improved to provide even more benefit to cyclists.

    1. Are you talking about the priority in relation to pedestrians and cyclists on simultaneous green junctions? Assen already solved that problem: Same concept works elsewhere though.