West Sussex County Council Gets It Kind of Right. Accidentally.

Absolutely no space for decent cycling provision here. Oh, no siree…

A little while ago, I wrote this post on the National Cycle Network Route 2 between Worthing & Brighton. More specifically, this point where the approach to a junction opens out to 3 lanes heading westbound into Worthing on a 30mph road, perfect for putting your foot down, sticking your finger up to ‘the man’ (or ‘society’ as I like to call it) and competing in testosterone fuelled gladiatorial combat for the road ahead. This stretch of cycle path runs along a converted pavement (sorry, ‘shared use facility’) and is wide enough to intimidate pedestrians or for two cyclists to pass with enough space for a Kleenex tissue, laid side on, between handlebar ends.

However,  extensive gas main works needed to be carried out recently and something so extraordinary occurred that West Sussex County Council and their private contractors could actually be praised for….well, kind of helping cycling a little bit, albeit on an accidental technicality. Firstly, this is how it looked before…

A Cavalcade of Crap

Anyone on a bicycle would have to negotiate a weird slalom of street furniture before picking up the segregated narrow cycle path along the beach. And here is a close up…

A Close Up of the Cavalcade of Crap

To reiterate, this is a National Cycle Network route. The on-road cycle path terminates in a left turn arrow directing a bicycle rider to cross a shared bit of pavement (coloured red) to then pick up the segregated route into town. The bi-directional seafront path is barely wider than the on-road strip of green paint you can see in the picture above but is always far more pleasant than the road and you get the bonus of a beautiful sea view.

However, when the road works had been completed and the barriers cleared away, just look at what they’d done….

Yes! They had realigned the street furniture to allow easier passage for cyclists (and even pedestrians as cyclists were no longer weaving about and the sight lines had improved)!

Still crap in Global infrastructure terms but Hosanna!!

…and the picture below is looking back towards Brighton, also showing what I meant earlier about the on-road path terminating in a left turn.

Staying with the photo above, what I personally would have done was reduce the carriageway to two lanes (one right turn, one straight ahead), removed the pedestrian refuge and widened the seafront path to not only improve the comfort of cyclists, pedestrians, parents with pushchairs and mobility scooter users (of which there are many in Worthing) but you could even add planting to create a far nicer and sustainable gateway into Worthing. After all, the road is 30mph all the way from Worthing to Brighton.

West Sussex County Council has yet to wake up to the genuine benefits to tourism and local businesses that the bicycle could bring as it remains stuck in a Thatcherite time warp. It provides cycle facilities that constantly look like they were designed as an afterthought or the result of a drunken bet, even despite the highways budget going up this year. That said, I wish to acknowledge that this realignment of street furniture is an improvement however trivial or accidental it may be.

Of course, for every positive action, there’s always a negative reaction, which is why a sculpture was installed right in the middle of the cycle path just round the corner.

Normality is resumed.

Advertisements

Nice Cycle Lane No 1

Signage at each end of the Prom

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that it has become a bit maudlin as of  late. To brighten the mood a little, I strolled in to Worthing Town Centre last Saturday with The Wife and The Boy and I thought I’d take a few photos for you to show a traffic free shared use facility that works. This is thanks to  a surprisingly positive and progressive Worthing Council, the brilliant volunteers in the cycle campaign group and of course the considerate cyclists and pedestrians of Worthing. Alas, the weather was feeling very maudlin so please believe me when I say that Worthing does actually look very nice when you chuck a bit of sunshine on it.

Above is the prom toward the western end looking east. The lines you can see are the original cycle path which was removed after a pedestrian sustained brain damage after colliding with a cyclist in 1994. The council had to pay £100,000 in damages and cycling was banned. It was a regrettable incident, make no mistake, but could you imagine if cars were banned from stretches of road after a death or serious injury?

We’re getting closer to the town centre now. The Cycle Campaign Group I established 2 years ago successfully argued that shared use in this instance would be better than reinstating the cycle path. This is because it was felt that a marked path would be too narrow – certainly too narrow for leisurely family cycling. In the photo above, please note the fact that in some places the prom is wider than the road that runs alongside it so there was no reason why cyclists and pedestrians couldn’t mingle quite happily. We also felt that if there was a marked path here it would increase the scope for conflict – it wouldn’t stop pedestrians drifting into it, or toddlers toddling into it. Above all it was felt that it would push speeds up as cyclists of a more vehicular bent would see it as their territory and woe betide anyone that strolls into their path. The local paper (Worthing Herald) tried to stir things up (sorry, ‘promote active debate’) printing letters promising an apocolypse if cycling were ever reinstated. It was if they were secretly hoping to report on a 19 bike pile-up. As a campaign group, we remained calm, stated that the incident in 1994 was regrettable but not commonplace and thousands have been killed and injured on our roads since then. Above all, we did our best to promote considerate cycling (even getting bells made with our website address on to hand out to lucky cyclists).

A couple of these signs were put up on the backs of beach huts that face onto the prom. It is to cover all bases from a Local Authority Health & Safety point of view. Toward the bottom it says, ‘Consider wearing a helmet and wearing conspicuous clothing’. One of the gratifying things I’ve noticed since I moved to Worthing is that, not only is there an above average amount of cyclists in the town, but hardly any of them wear helmets or high-viz. Sheffield Cycle Chic came down to the seaside earlier on this year and this fantastic post of happy cyclists in Worthing is well worth a look.

I just like the fact that they put shared use signs on everything, historical or otherwise! As I write this, I can happily report that there have been no  incidences, serious or minor. Every time I take a stroll along the prom [in fairer weather] I only see happy cyclists mixing it up with pedestrians, wheelchair users and mobility scooters. A cycle hire firm has opened up at the eastern end and Councillors have reported that they are doing very good business indeed.

The Eastern end of the prom is being developed and will link the prom with the Worthing to Brighton stretch of National Cycle Network Route 2. Our campaign group was even consulted on the design! NCN 2 is a Sustrans route that is supposed to stretch right the way along the South Coast (Folkestone to Penzance I believe). And that is where we shall stop before we get maudlin again.

I Have A Dream…

25 years ago, some friends and I, aged between 13 & 15 decided to go for a bike ride. We packed sandwiches and flasks of squash into bags and cycled from our home village of Elstead, Surrey to Bury Hill, West Sussex. We had intended to cycle further to Arundel or the sea but we decided to quit while we were ahead. We had cycled 40 odd miles (including the stout climb up the South Downs) and had another 40 to get home. The freedom was exhilarating.

The majority of our route was on A roads and it was still a pleasure. We were cycling outside of rush hour on a week day; drivers were courteous, when a lorry slowed down behind us we pulled over to let the driver pass safely and he thanked us with a wave and a toot of the horn. We did all this with no helmets, no high-viz and without fear. Little did we know that Mrs Thatcher and the road building lobby had other ideas.

25 years later, cyclists can still use A Roads (they have a right to) but they aren’t exactly filled with pleasure, unless you’re the Marquis de Sade. Many have been ‘improved’ and ‘engineered’ to the extent that they have become dual carriageways – motorways in all but name that now bypass the very communities the original roads were meant to serve.  They have become incredibly hostile environments for anything that doesn’t have a motor attached to it. It’s strange to think that you can’t cycle in or out of a seaside town such as Worthing due to the A24 being a fast dual carriageway unless you’re Mark Cavendish on amphetamines. There isn’t even a consistant path at the side for pedestrians or horse riders either.

Cycling as a result has become a very schizophrenic activity; on the one hand experienced cyclists claim that we must assert our right to the road and that if enough people do it we will reach some sort of tipping point or critical mass. Others believe that this will never happen all the while that cycling is increasingly perceived as a dangerous activity and that cycle lanes or shared use facilities are the way forward. 

All very engaging stuff, but I would like to propose another way in the same vein as the Conservative road building policy of the 1980s and 1990s. I don’t mean London Cycle Superhighways or the National Cycle Network. No way. That’s for wimps!!

I want Town Planners and Highways engineers cowering in my wake as I pursue with extreme prejudice Cycle Mega Highways across the land as much as 5 metres wide!! I want them to be fast (or slow. It’s not a race), direct, with priority at junctions. Yes! Priority at junctions! I want ruthless planting of hedgerows and trees to act as windbreaks and encourage wildlife (that won’t get run over). I want to see people of all creeds, colours and ages riding to work and school with stupid grins plastered across their faces. I want to see the mass burning of High-viz tabards and helmets when people realise that cycling isn’t a dangerous activity and that they had been lied to by the motoring lobby and ‘road safety’ groups. I want the designers of ‘Shared Use Facilities’ and other crap cycle infrastructure put in large wooden stocks placed at the side of the Cycle Mega Highways to remind them constantly how it should be done. I want all ‘Cyclists Dismount’ and ‘End of Route’ signs melted down and turned into statues of Tommy ‘Angel of the North’ Simpson, Beryl ‘Angel of the North’ Burton, Sir Chris ‘Angel of the Track’ Hoy and Victoria ‘Angel of Angels’ Pendleton.  I want people’s house prices to spiral upwards out of control when a Cycling Mega Highway stampedes nearby with its deafening levels of peace and quiet and obscene levels of fresh air. I want residents to attempt claiming compensation from the RSPB when the sound of birdsong starts becoming too much. I want pedestrians to worry about whether they’re wearing any deodorant due to no cyclists brushing past them on the pavements. I want towns and cities to become liveable and civilized again! I want local businesses, cafes and farm shops to enjoy rampant good trade due to happy people cycling past and local money staying local. I want the Chancellor to say at a budget ‘we don’t need to raise spending on the NHS because you’re all so fit and stress free. We’re diverting money instead to the treatment of the Top Gear fan base as they’re not getting any younger either.’

Like this. But a bit smaller.

Above all, I want a proper legacy for my son and his children to enjoy. Not a sloppily converted pavement. Nor a strip of paint that fizzles out at the precise moment a cyclist would need it most. I mean a proper sustainable transport network. And I bet it would cost less than the proposed High Speed Rail Link too.

Some people say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. Please look at this brilliant blog entry from David Hembrow comparing British & Dutch streets.

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.