Work in Progress

This week has been a real reward for those of us that ride our bicycles through all seasons. The clocks went forward to usher in British Summertime meaning no need for lights anymore and we had the sort of sunshine and warmth that made you insane if you weren’t on a bicycle.

Continuing on from my earlier post, I’ve taken some movie footage of the works going on just round the corner from my day job which I’d like to share with you. I’ve made some crude annotations using YouTube’s video editing facility as another five minutes with iMovie would have meant me smashing up my laptop whilst giggling like a maniac.

The first film is of the first section heading east to west. Dyke Road to Upper Drive.

You will note that the top section in particular is very much a work in progress and none of the junction works have been carried out yet along the whole route.

Here is the second film from Upper Drive to The Drive which is a very pleasant width.

I will keep stressing how crucial it is to get junctions right for a couple of reasons; firstly because I have yet to see one done correctly in Britain that contains safe motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian movements and also because of the next two films.

Getting segregated infrastructure along the wide sections should be the easy win, particularly when one considers that not one mature tree had to be removed. A bit different to this shocker from Grimsby which should just be placed in the ‘What The Hell Were They Thinking’ category.

Let’s now ride from the Old Shoreham Road down to the sea through Hove on the now infamous segregated path on The Drive/Grand Avenue.

The path here is far narrower with an elevated segregating kerb in places, even stopping for a pinch point (or, to use Council vernacular, ‘Pedestrian Build Out’). The point I’m making here is cyclists at the moment have to indicate and then try to maneuver back into the motorists consciousness across two lanes to make a right turn. I would imagine that this has put many cyclists off using this facility at all – it’s great if you are heading north-south, or wish to make a left turn. It is even worse heading north from the sea as it is uphill and so the speed differential is even greater between motorist and cyclist when a right turn is attempted. This is a critical deal in view of the fact that, for children wishing to get to the new [Old Shoreham Road] path from the old one [The Drive/Grand Avenue], they will have to make a right turn. Forgive the Ford by the way, the driver of which was caught helplessly out-of-place when the Ambulance shot through the junction. Anyway, let’s continue…

Here, we see that not only do cyclists have to move out considerably to make right turn but also from behind parked cars and large refuse bins. Let’s go back to the junction in the Netherlands that we encountered in my last post

Here we see one separate phase for all bicycle movements negating the need for ASL’s or having to move across lanes of traffic. Cyclists in this instance making a right turn (or left turn over here) don’t even have to enter the junction as it’s part of a high quality bicycle network. Many bicycle traffic lights in the Netherlands are triggered by pads so all the cyclist has to do is roll over it on approach to trigger a green light (more on traffic light controlled junctions in the Netherlands here). To do the same at the bottom of The Drive/Grand Avenue would involve the cyclist having to weigh about a ton and may therefore have to wait a considerable time before continuing their journey.

I will of course keep you updated on progress. If at completion, a path has been built that shows continuity of travel for bicycles with priority over side roads and a progressive (dare I say Dutch) attitude to junctions, Brighton & Hove City Council can give themselves a pat on the back. Even if there are niggles, they will be minor as opposed to the path being too narrow which would cost too much money and political will to rectify.

It certainly felt more pleasant cycling the nearly completed sections and it was lovely to see children playing out on the street whilst it’s closed to traffic. At the moment, the people coming to look and try it out are children, experienced cyclists and infrastructure nerds like you and me. Getting the rest of the local population to use it, cherish it and most importantly give feedback on it is the critical bit.

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Beyond the Sky Ride

 

Cycling. It's a sport apparently.

Yesterday was the London Sky Ride. A large circuit was closed off to all motor vehicles so cyclists could enjoy a traffic free ride around the sights of Central London. Approximately 85,000 people turned up for this event. I was there by accident; The Wife and I were staying in a hotel on Victoria Embankment overnight for our first wedding anniversary and completely forgot it was on until we saw the side roads being closed off. We checked out and decided to stroll to Victoria Station to burn off the Full English Breakfast and witness the spectacle.

The first instantly noticeable thing was that the vast majority of cyclists were wearing helmets. This also didn’t go unnoticed by many of the bemused European tourists that were also going for a stroll. They don’t need this sort of event in mainland Europe. If they want to go somewhere on a bicycle, they get on a bicycle and go somewhere. Sometimes the infrastructure is sublime; sometimes it’s almost as bad as ours. Above all, the bicycle is generally regarded as transport requiring no special safety kit. It’s a perfectly normal thing to do (just as it was for older generations in this country).

The Sky Ride website gushes, ‘Cycling is already one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and with our encouragement we want to help people understand the thrill of getting back in the saddle. We want to get more people healthier, fitter and happier and have set ourselves the target of getting one million more people on a bike by 2013’. I’m sure they mean one million people attending their events across the land as opposed to achieving a significant modal shift in transport terms. They clearly regard cycling as a sport,which is hardly surprising considering they sponsor a professional road racing team. It’s something that requires buying lots of specialised kit. It’s a lifestyle choice made by you, the consumer. It’s cycling™.

BACK TO REALITY!

The Wife and I strolled along  the edge of St James Park to the side of Buckingham Palace where one of the exit/access points was for the Sky Ride circuit. It you needed proof of the very sharp contrast between traffic free and traffic choked cycling, it was here. Look back down Birdcage Walk for happy people out for a relaxed ride (as you would see on segregated facilities across various European towns and cities). Turn toward Victoria Station down Buckingham Gate for occasional cyclists starting to look a little bit desperate as they mix it up alongside fast moving cars and vans (as you would see in all British towns and cities). Particularly parents trying to herd their brood alongside a tide of Audi’s and Volvo’s before giving up and using the pavements.

Last night thousands of bikes were probably returned to sheds to collect dust. This morning’s cycle commute also coincided with the beginning of a new school term so the roads returned to resembling a Blues Brothers car chase. The two can be reconcilled with decent, segregated cycling infrastructure designed and built to a Danish or Dutch model. Then everyday can be a Sky Ride. No lycra or helmets necessary. Just happiness.

Smokescreen

Road.cc reports this week on ‘crackdowns on so-called anti-social cycling, with initiatives targeting bike riders who commit transgressions such as ignoring red traffic lights and cycling on the pavement under way in cities such as Chester and Bath, while councillors in Middlesbrough are calling for police there to tackle the problem’.

As a cycle campaigner I certainly support such moves to a point. I passed my cycling proficiency in 1979 and have always carried the mentality that the safest place to be on the road is moving with the flow of traffic obeying all signs and signals. As soon as you break lights or hop on the pavement then in my opinion not only are you being selfish but you’re just creating more problems for yourself where you can be prosecuted (if caught by the law) or sued for damages. The Highway Code isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly a passport to relatively stress free cycling.

However, I wrote ‘to a point’. Many councils paint bicycle symbols on pavements, calling them ‘Cycle Infrastructure’. This conveniently gets cyclists off the roads and leaves those that persist with the roads open to abuse. The roads become more dangerous with fewer cyclists about and then everyone scratches their heads as to why novice cyclists would use pavements that don’t have cycle symbols on them too. I would class this as an irritant as opposed to something requiring such heavy handed levels of policing. My point is that if this level of policing is part of a wider clampdown in the name of road safety, then what is being done about the far greater problem of motorists breaking the law?

Not much, it would appear. In the same week, RoSPA (the organisation that originally set up Cycling Proficiency), along with CTC have issued a joint communiqué to councils that are considering turning off their speed cameras to reconsider.

We also read that Cycling England, a Government quango set up by Department for Transport with responsibility for Cycling Proficiency (or ‘Bikeability’ as it’s now known) may be abolished. The worst case scenario would see an end to cycle training in our schools with no-one able to administer it and a Government no longer wanting to support it.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond is said to be “far from convinced that it would be a good thing” to reduce the UK’s legal drink-driving limit and is set to reject an expert review that recommended that the country fall into line with the lower levels found in several other major countries in western Europe.

I can’t help but feel a that there is a little bit of a smokescreen going on here covering the fact that no-one is prepared to tackle the really big issues that kill and seriously injure every day. Making an example of cyclists that break red lights and ride on pavements is all very well. But speeding, drink-driving or mobile phone use whilst driving creates far more havoc for our society and its emergency services. Yet it’s ‘Demon Cyclists’ or ‘Lycra Louts’ or, even worse, ‘Middle Aged Lycra Louts’ that hit the headlines. Or Jon Snow being trailed by that tabloid Ku Klux Klan, the Daily Mail. Road safety, particularly for its more vulnerable users, is clearly no match for the motoring and drinks lobbies! 

Another recent example of victimising groups and creating a smokescreen is the surge of interest in ‘dole cheats’. These fraudsters are fleecing the innocent taxpayer of billions! That’s all very well, and £5 billion a year is certainly a problem. But what about the high level tax avoidance of the rich that’s costing the nation (it has been estimated) £50-60 billion a year? Again, the bigger issue disappears behind a smokescreen because it’s too difficult to face and the lobbying too powerful.

Think what could be done if that £50-60 billion went directly to cycling! A fully segregated cycle network could be created across the country linking villages with towns, children with schools, adults with shops and places of work. I have a dream, Brothers and Sisters. You’d have a lot of change out of that money too.

There’ll be a smokescreen though. With all the money snaffled by ‘consultancy fees‘ and used to plug other holes in Government & Council spending, so we’ll end up with this, this and this everywhere. Again

I draw two conclusions; firstly, this country simply doesn’t know how to deal with something like cycling because we have been so primed for ever bigger roads and car use that we cannot get our heads around catering for something so blissfully simple as riding a bicycle. As a result, it will always be treated like a stubborn stain that won’t go away unless there is a culture shift. Secondly, and pardon the language, but self confessed motor loving Philip Hammond MP seems to be about as much use as tits on a bull. I hope the lobbying perks are worth it.

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.