Consultation

Concept Drawing by Craft:Pegg

The barriers have gone up along a section of Worthing seafront. Splash Point is being redeveloped to a design by Craft:Pegg Landscape Architects. It could have been a bone of contention for cyclists and pedestrians as it links the point where the Brighton – Worthing stretch of National Cycle Route 2 meets the promenade where the Borough Council recently voted to reinstate cycling.

However, the scheme that’s going ahead has a greater chance of succeeding than most for a simple reason.

The Landscape Architects directly consulted cyclists!

If that doesn’t make you reach for a paper bag to ease the hyperventilating then read on…

They listened and adjusted their design accordingly!

Craft:Pegg gave a presentation at a Worthing Cycle Forum (which is open to the cycling public) which was impressive enough and then they listened, in particular to the fact that a marked narrow cycle path would be undesirable as it would encourage people to cycle more quickly thereby increasing the scope for conflict.

I think one of the representatives said she was from Denmark, she cycled extensively around London where she now lives and works and wanted to make this scheme work for cyclists. I think it was that level of excitement that triggered my nosebleed.

This was of course just part of a range of consultation exercises being carried out but it just goes to show what happens when a bit of effort is made. In this instance, the end users feel as though they are part of the process, we learn what the designers aims and ambitions are and the designers pick up advice for free to guide their design. In this case [and in my humble opinion] it was already a great design that we merely helped make more robust.

Which begs the question as to why County Councils seem incapable in actively engaging cyclists in the same way, leading to this, or this, or this or all these. They do try in all fairness but there has to be a more clearly defined consultation route so cycling facilities can have proper input from cyclists as well as others that may come into contact with a piece of infrastructure such as pedestrian and disability groups.

 A lot of architects I know are cyclists, and it shows. Highways Departments aren’t cyclists, and it shows, often dangerously.

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Crap Cycle Lane III

Yes, Crap Facilities Fans, welcome to the next instalment which is a real saucy seaside shocker!

 You may have noticed a common theme running through the crapness you have seen so far here and here. Pavements are being converted bringing all the non-motorised forms of transport into direct conflict.  Yet nothing is done to the roads. We never see the road space being ceded to pedestrians, cyclists, mobility scooters or wheelchair users. We never see road markings and street furniture being removed forcing motorists to slow down and actually think about what they are doing. It’s as though we want anti-social forms of motoring and higher casualty rates in our villages, towns and cities.

 The following junction is a prime example, and it’s a shocker as it’s on a major part of Sustrans’ National Cycle Network. It is on the NCN 2 running between Brighton and Worthing.

Here is the approach from Brighton. The road is the A259. Bear in mind that although the road on either side of the junction is single carriageway, here it opens up to three lanes (two to progress to Worthing and a right turn lane). This gives motorists ample opportunity to try and overtake at speed or just put their foot down because the road opens out.

Note that the pavement (sorry, ‘Shared Use Facility’) doesn’t open out. In fact, it gets very narrow at this point with foliage and beach huts to the left.

Here is the cluttered approach. There is an on road advisory lane that feeds in from the right – this is I assume for those that preferred to stay on the road to this point. Although the Shared path is wider further back, it is still not for the faster commuter or road cyclist as there are entrances to properties along it. Please note that absolutely no attempt has been made to realign the street furniture resulting in a slow, narrow and dangerous slalom. Pedestrians are also feeding into this from the pelican crossing.

To reiterate, this is National Cycle Network Route 2.

And this is it from Worthing.

Now you’ve had time to reflect you can cycle on to Worthing. The path here climbs slightly to give a glorious view of the sea (and the road below) but it is a narrow segregated path which is slightly too narrow for two cyclists to pass.

My humble suggestion is as follows; Narrow the approach to two lanes, remove the central pedestrian island if possible and extend the shared use path out, with additional planting. After all, the traffic was single file leading up to the junction from all directions. It would make this gateway to Worthing more pleasant for local residents, pedestrians, cyclists and slower, safer motorists.

In fairness, I have no doubt that Sustrans did the best they could with the resource open to them. I also have no doubt that they would have been told blankly by the Highways Department (the Fascist wing of any County Council) that there would be NO WAY that space could be taken from motorists and that it would cost too much anyway.

This same department also designed the cycle facilities I’ve highlighted in earlier posts. Please can someone stop them? I don’t care how or by whom. They are operating without any formal consultation route with cyclists which is badly needed as they clearly aren’t cyclists. The end result is like having a motorway network designed by the Chuckle Brothers.

Copenhagen and Amsterdam are just across the sea, yet they seem on a different planet.

Cycling to School

School days are the happiest days of your life apparently.

I remember being at First School when we were given cycling proficiency training. Some fire hose was laid out on the playground to recreate a T Junction and we learned how to cycle on the road. I did so well I received a copy of the Highway Code as a prize. That was in 1979.

In 1988 I decided to cycle to my Secondary School. Taking the school bus on its long circuitous route to get to the village where I lived was a soul destroying experience.  Above all I wanted the freedom to be with friends after school. The bicycle gave me that freedom. As I hadn’t cycled any distance for a while the weight had piled on a bit but I saved hard bought a Muddy Fox Courier and started to cycle the 7 miles to school. The weight fell off me and as I grew upwards and inwards my confidence and self belief grew which I badly needed as an adolescent. In 1989 I participated in the Grundig Mountain Bike World Challenge achieving a World ranking at the age of 16.  That year, I also cycled 100 miles in a day with two friends raising funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was fun, but it hurt!

Let’s fast forward now to 2010. A London couple who let their children cycle to school by themselves have been warned they could be reported to social services unless they supervise the journey.

According to Road.cc, ‘today’s Daily Mail highlights the case of Oliver and Gillian Schonrock, who let their five year-old son and eight year-old daughter cycle the one-mile trip to school unaccompanied. They say it helps to teach the kids independence, self-confidence and responsibility.

But other parents and teachers at Alleyn’s Junior School in Dulwich are said to think the practice is irresponsible and dangerous. Head teacher Mark O’Donnell has told the Schonrocks that the school is obliged to consider the children’s safety and has a legal responsibility to refer the case to Southwark Council’s Children’s Services department if they fear the kids are being put at risk.

The children cycle on the pavement from their home in west Dulwich to the school. Their route takes them alongside roads that become busy with traffic during the school run. At the halfway point they cross a road where there is a lollipop lady on duty.

Mark O’Donnell said: “If a school feels a child in their care is at risk, they have a legal responsibility to notify the local authority. Is an eight year old responsible enough to come to school with a five year old and take responsibility when it comes to crossing busy roads? Or what would happen if the five year old has a tantrum?”

The Schonrocks say rules on child protection are to blame for the predicament they find themselves in. Mrs Schonrock, who as a girl took the bus to school from the age of four with her six year-old sister, said: “The question is do the government have the right to put an obligation on schools to not allow any level of risk whatsoever?”

London Mayor Boris Johnson today said the Schonrock’s should be applauded for showing faith in their children. In a column in the Daily Telegraph he said: “They have taken the sword of common sense to the great bloated encephalopathic sacred cow of elf and safety, and for this effrontery they are, of course, being persecuted by the authorities (who are now probably consulting a dictionary to see what encephalopathic means).

“If Mr and Mrs Schonrock have carefully assessed the route and considered the advantages and disadvantages, then they should overwhelmingly be given the benefit of the doubt and the freedom to make up their own minds.”

Although schools are not responsible for children on their journey to school, guidance from the Department for Children, Schools and Families says if a school “believes or suspects that a child may be suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm” then it must refer the case to social services.

Catherine McDonald, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Southwark Council, told the Mail: “As this is an independent school, it is for them to decide how they arrange transport to school with the parents of their pupils.

“However, if an independent school does contact us, we’d give them the same advice as we do to our own schools, that they should develop a school travel plan with parents and children so they can get to school safely and in a way that promotes healthy living and is good for the environment. This would include both cycling and walking.”

Cherry Allan, CTC Campaigns Information Co-ordinator told road.cc: “CTC is very disappointed to hear that Oliver and Gillian Schonrock’s decision to let their children cycle to school on their own has been described as “irresponsible”. All children should have the right to cycle to school: it allows them to travel quickly and independently through their local areas, providing not just autonomy, but a daily sense of achievement. To describe the Schronrock’s decision as irresponsible sends out a message that roads are for adults only, and undermines the health benefits of cycling to children – such as greater cardiovascular fitness and reduced levels of obesity – which far outweigh the risks.’

So there you have it. For what it’s worth I believe it is our duty to create safer streets for children to cycle in whether it’s through 20mph limits, segregated (and well designed for a change) cycle paths or redesigned streetscapes that are pleasant for the residents, as opposed to the rat runners. If all else fails, I’d simply stop all motor traffic between 8- 9am and 3-4pm so children can cycle or walk between school and home unhindered (and adults could improve their lives too). Then just watch the obesity levels plummet and the happiness levels soar.

Basically, adults need to bloody well grow up. At least the children are having a go.

I also think that encephalopathic means a disease of the brain. I love Boris Johnson!

Crap Cycle Lane II

Goodness! What’s this? A cycle path to the centre of Worthing AND the Seaside AND all for another eye-watering sum of money! I bet it’s wide and continuous and paved with gold!

I’m focusing on this roundabout because I think it best illustrates where UK cycling infrastructure differs from best practice examples in the Netherlands and Denmark. This facility was completed early 2010 to show off just how advanced our designers have become in trying to kill cyclists and pedestrians.

This shows the first sign in context. The plucky cyclist having just come to the end of a side road now has to cross the entrance to the junction (I assume by dismounting on to the pavement and crossing the road). Traffic can swing in quite quickly to get to a nearby Industrial Estate.

So far so good! The cyclist now has this bit of pavement to negotiate (providing no-one steps out from the house behind that hedge or anyone opens their car door). West Sussex Council Engineers must have spent whole minutes on this.

Here the cyclist has the option of trying to cross this fast roundabout exit to get to the town or straight on to further delights!

What’s that you ask? Priority for cyclists? Don’t be silly dear reader, this is the good old UK!! According to the new Transport Secretary, ‘The War on the Motorist is over’ because they’ve had it really tough for the last few decades. That converted pavement (Sorry. ‘Shared Use Facility’) takes you to the Town Centre and Seafront but more about that in a moment. Lets go round the corner to the next roundabout exit.

The cyclist wishing to continue west has to cross this fast moving entrance. Please note that this roundabout is in a residential area with a 30mph speed limit yet has a dual carriageway section running into it to allow the school run mum or our baseball capped friends in converted Vauxhall Novas the chance of a good run up.

The other side at the exit point. Also, please note the word ‘End’ put at various points to denote End of Route. Because novice cyclists are going to stop cycling on the pavement now aren’t they? It took the Council Engineers about 5 seconds to type ‘End’ on their drawings yet I think they missed a bit of trick. I think they could have written something better like LOOK OUT!!!!!’ or ‘PISS OFF! IT”S A PAVEMENT NOW, CAN”T YOU TELL??’ or just a stylish ‘FIN’.

Moving swiftly on to the next exit (because cycling is quick and easy and fun don’t you know), the cyclist (now filled with adrenalin) crosses this fast exit, around the weird chicane to the next exit which is conveniently right next to a petrol station exit.

Yes! Not only does this exciting roundabout entrance split to two lanes (to get the speed up that motorists desperately need in a built up area) but this car is pulling out from a petrol station. Ironically, they also sell alcohol which you may need if you made it this far.

If you’re coming across from the petrol station you connect with the Shared Use Facility I pictured earlier streaking off in to the distance toward the Town Centre and Seafront. Having cleared the roundabout (congratulations!) you can now head to the sea! You can start to hear the seagulls. And start wishing you also had wings.

There now follows a piece of engineering brilliance that  Brunel would have, well, laughed at. The hedge obscures a pavement stretching back to a small cul de sac (I nearly got clobbered by a fellow cyclist while taking pictures there).

And here we are at the glittering end of a sparkling cycling facility! The cyclist has to cross the pavement on to the end of the cul-de-sac and then onto the road toward to aforementioned Town Centre and Seafront.

There are further delights further along the route but I didn’t want to exhaust you.

The roundabout is still it’s original size allowing cars to continue flinging themselves round at speed. Now that they think cyclists are out of the way they can go even faster which is exactly what you need with two junior schools (both with ignored 20mph zones) and a Family Centre for pre-natal check ups and baby classes just off one of the exits.

I’m sure that in the Netherlands the profile of the roundabout would have been narrowed with a separate segregated path built away from pedestrians and giving cyclists priority over motorists. But this isn’t the Netherlands.

For all intents and purposes, we might as well be on Mars.

Cycling in the UK

Copenhagenize has written a blog post highlighting, or should I say sneering at, Vehicular Cyclists. For those not in the know, this is a style best illustrated [because I’m in the UK] by John Franklin in his book, Cyclecraft, whereby a bicycle holds a more prominent position in traffic to be seen – in effect to be treated as traffic. This instantly brings to mind every regular cyclist in Britain.

According to this thought provoking blog, Vehicular cyclists are ‘a small, yet vocal, group that is male-dominated, testosterone-driven and that lacks basic understanding of human nature. They expect that everyone should be just like them – classic sub-cultural point of view – and that everyone should embrace cycling in traffic and pretending they are cars. They are apparently uninterested in seeing grandmothers, mothers or fathers with children or anyone who doesn’t resemble then contributing to re-creating the foundations of liveable cities by re-establishing the bicycle as transport’. A little harsh I think and a massive disservice to all the men and women across the UK that campaign and fight for the rights of cyclists.

Because in the UK it is a fight. I believe that to be a cyclist in the UK you have to comprise:

One part Bloody Mindedness (for dealing with today’s road network, and in particular, its users) plus

Two parts Stoicism (for dealing with the options open to us which are often well meaning but nearly always badly designed) with

A smidgeon of Persecution Complex (for dealing with the constant feeling of being erased off a road network that cyclists and pedestrians have more right to).

The interesting point however is that he believes that vehicular cyclists are against cycling infrastructure of any kind. This is massively oversimplifying the issue and is wide of the mark for this simple reason; British Cycle Infrastructure is Utterly, Utterly, Utterly Diabolical. It is designed by people who don’t know anything about cycling but clearly know lots about squiggly lines and dismounting. People are already ripping into the new London Cycling Superhighways, but not because they don’t want the infrastructure. It’s because the designers honestly believed that painting the same crap blue would somehow change everything, whilst ignoring the issue of what actually makes a decent piece of cycling infrastructure work such as priority at junctions.

I would love to see Danish and Dutch style infrastructure here, I really would. I live by the sea and work by the sea with a 12 mile ride in between. I would have the golden opportunity to justify buying a Pashley Guv’nor to The Wife, I could throw my helmet into the sea whilst cackling like a maniac. Above all, I could really enjoy cycling again, as opposed to being part of the Rat Race. I know that Sustrans have created NCN2 between Brighton and Worthing which I could use but it’s nowhere near European standards.

The golden question is should we be really be campaigning for cycling facilities such as those best typified in Groningen as opposed to the constant struggle to maintain a presence on the roads? Should we be fighting for a European Directive on cycle facility design influenced by Denmark and the Netherlands? Should Cycle Campaigners be forging greater alliances with Masterplanners or pedestrian and wheelchair user groups along with movements such as Transition Towns to create more accessible and liveable towns and cities?

It can’t be any worse than the realm we find ourselves in where the car is king and the poor cycle paths are for the wretched serfs.

Crap Cycle Lane I

On Saturday I needed to run an errand so I unfolded my Brompton and decided to check out the new Findon to Worthing Cycle Route installed by West Sussex County Council. It runs along a single carriageway stretch of the A24 (which has a 40 mph limit being a suburb of Worthing). This ‘Shared Use Facility’ cost the local Council Tax payer an eye-watering £221,000 so surely for that kind of money it must be brilliant!

Alas, this is Britain dear Reader. I don’t know how they did it but yet again they made cycling look ponderous, dangerous to cyclist and pedestrian alike and a bit of a waste of time if you actually want to get anywhere.

Slow, apparently

Here is a stretch at the Southern end (facing back toward Worthing). Please note the slalom round the tree, the need to write ‘Slow’ at repeated intervals along the pavement (sorry, ‘Shared Use Facility’). Also, please note all the driveway entrances with loss of priority at these plus all the junctions. Meanwhile, the cars flash past regardless on a nice wide road which is what you need in an urban setting.

Russian Roulette. On a bike!

Here’s an interesting conundrum! Not only do cyclists have to give way but the exit to this petrol station is obscured by the hedge so you won’t know if a car is pulling out until they are on you (pardon the pun). You also have to give way for the entrance too (can’t be inconveniencing motorists now can we!) and then give way at the junction a bit further up, and again at the junction a bit further up………….

At least the trees are nice

This is a personal favourite. The Bus Shelter Slalom. Just pray that a pedestrian doesn’t step out to see why their bus is late! Did I mention that lovely wide road that’s perfect for cycling?

Of course, if you try cycling on the road now, you might get abuse for not using this dangerous dross that would make Evil Knievel think twice.

The path, despite being billed as the Findon – Worthing Cycle Route, actually fizzles out about a mile before Findon but the Council seems to think that just putting up an ‘End of Route’ sign will stop novice cyclists continuing on the pavement anyway.

This is one of my [many] pet hates regarding this type of facility – it encourages cyclists to use any pavement regardless of whether the Council has painted a bicycle symbol on it or not. Everyone else frowns, shakes their head and then complains to the local paper but you can’t blame novice cyclists for doing this – after all, if the Council have said it’s OK to cycle on a particular pavement (sorry, ‘Shared Use Facility’) then what’s wrong with cycling on all the others?

Motorists are happy because it gets bicycles off the roads allowing them to speed up which seems to be what people want in their built up areas.

Who would have thought that designing for something so simple could be so difficult? And this isn’t even the worst ‘Shared Use Facility’ in Worthing, but more on that another day.

The Mighty Wind

I’ve been having problems with different types of wind recently.

Whilst commuting to work the wind seems to be against me in the mornings and as the day warms up switches to a strong westerly making warm work of the 12 mile cycle back to Worthing.

Another area where wind is a problem is with regards The Boy, who is now 7 weeks old. The Wife and I took the view that if we fed him and then tried to get him to sleep, we could then feed ourselves in the evenings. Experienced parents may give a hollow laugh at this point as the end result is always The Boy waking up as we are about to put a fork to our mouths. We end up bolting our food, or taking it in turns to bolt our food while the other cajoles The Boy who has obviously smelt cooking and could hear a bottle of wine being uncorked. As a result, I’ve got indigestion to the point where apparently during the night I sound like a Scuba Diver using a Vuvuzela instead of a snorkel.

The Boy at the moment contains enough wind to power a small market town. We’ve tried Infacol, a homeopathic remedy from Neals Yard, walking up and down stairs with him over my shoulder, showing him pictures of Danniella Westbrook to scare the wind out of him (yes, I made that up although now I read it back it seems like quite a good idea). All have varying degrees of success but there’s simply no escaping the fact that he has a little digestive system that’s trying to develop. What’s particularly strange is when we think we’ve got him to sleep only to put him in his Moses Basket for him to start making noises that I can only describe as a 60 year old 60 a day smoker clearing their throat in the morning.  Although there’s nothing more soul destroying than having a newborn grizzle his way to the next feed when he could have had a nap in between (magnify that feeling by a thousand times at night) it’s just a phase. It’s nothing personal. The Boy isn’t judging our parenting by grizzling. The poor little mite is just very uncomfortable.

All food for thought as I grind out the miles to work and back. Sometimes a cyclist will loiter behind me thinking that I haven’t noticed them. They will sit on my back wheel so they are shielded from the wind without taking their turn in front which is extremely annoying (one time I even slowed to walking pace and the rider still didn’t take the hint). However, with the levels of indigestion I’ve been having recently, people don’t seem to be as keen.