Brighton Rock

Looking west along Old Shoreham Road

A little while ago, I went for a lunchtime stroll with the always cheery and knowledgable Mark Strong (Professional transport Consultant who tweets at @ibikebrighton). My day job is just round the corner from a new cycle path being constructed in Brighton & Hove and, being unashamed cycle infrastructure nerds, we decided to check it out (I’m going to be 40 this November). Firstly, I’ll show you the plans that formed the consultation.

Here is the Eastern (Brighton) end – BHASVIC is the abbreviation of Brighton, Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College

And now the Western (Hove) end

Western (Hove) End

You will note that the ‘Scheduled  Junction Improvements’ were missing. Junction solutions are the eternal Holy Grail to British Engineers – Like trying to find a Wetherspoons pub that doesn’t contain someone with an opinion on UK immigration laws. However, it must be reiterated that these were consultation documents so too much detail would have created the Devil indeed.

Here is the artists impression..

I like the impressions above because, unlike other artists impressions I’ve seen, there’s a decent amount of honesty here; the pictures aren’t afraid to contain cars and the width of the cycle path in the diagram is set at 1.5m (which is actually the bare minimum you will encounter and not often). It also doesn’t try to deceive by suddenly showing billions of cyclists and pedestrians, a developing ‘cafe culture’ or a water trough for unicorns.

Old Shoreham Road was the original main east-west thoroughfare for Brighton & Hove until a new bypass was built to the north (A27) demoting the Old Shoreham Road to the A270. Being Britain, no effort was made to reduce traffic flow and as a result, as you head further west, it remains a nasty urban dual carriageway before rejoining the new A27 at Southwick. This means that congestion (particularly at peak) is high, especially with the infamous school run that bedevils all British conurbations. This road might be considered an ‘easy win’ in infrastructure terms being wide, as former trunk roads are. Some [‘expert’ British] cyclists might say that this was an excuse to have no infrastructure at all but, from experience, motorists tended to drive this section of road in an ethereal, vague, ‘wait a moment. Are you sure those brownies contained just chocolate’ way, particularly when it splits again to two lanes for a junction with no need to widen the approach.

This new cycle path is an attempt by the Council to link schools and colleges along the route with the now infamous segregated route on The Drive (where an attempt by the Council to rip it out was made a wee while ago) which links the seafront (NCN2) to the South Downs (I’ve always loved this website about cycling the South Downs Way – well worth a look).

Another remarkable thing about this scheme is that the Council went for a complete instead of partial road closure to speed up the works programme. As you can imagine, the local newspaper comments pages were full of fire and brimstone. I was able to complete my ‘I-Spy Book of Anti-Bicycle Bullshit’ with wondrous ease with such cheeky and rib-tickling gems as ‘why are we wasting taxpayers money?’ (Despite Sustrans putting up £330,000), ‘they are a menace’, ‘I nearly got knocked over by one this morning’, ‘they don’t pay road tax’ etc etc. Really, if these people went for a bike ride to go and buy their Vehicle Excise Duty and poured as much creative vitriol commenting on similar stories involving motorists where people and objects actually do get hit, often with graver consequences, they might realise why ‘they’ do it so much. Here is a plan of what happened next..

IT'S MAYHEM I TELL YOU! APPARENTLY.

Anyway, back to this lunchtime stroll (Heading west from the Dyke Road junction)

Above is where Chanctonbury Road meets Old Shoreham Road. There is already bicycle permeability here. With bollards as standard.

Setting out. At this point, the cycle path is 1.75m

Above is where the cycle path meets a junction to a residential street. Very tight radii to prevent fast cornering. Cyclists will have priority.

Above is a bridge where the road narrows and the cycle path and pavement merge to become shared use. The width of the path at this point is 2.34m. My primary concern is the fact that cyclists speed will be above average as they head down the hill. However, the sight lines are very good and space has been taken away from the main carriageway even at this point.

Work hasn’t started yet on the other side but significant space has been taken from the main carriageway.

Above are two pictures of a junction treatment. There is just a simple bicycle symbol and no other indication that it is a cycle path running across the face. The junction is on a gradient so the kerb is flush for cyclists using the cycle path and is elevated from the main carriageway. Whilst Mark and I were discussing the junction a car pulled out turning left and drove over the raised kerb to cut the corner. Oh well, it’s his suspension.

As usual trees become before people in Britain. As you can see however, there is ample room for Mark.

At this point the path is 2.4m. Bear in mind this is with flow and not bi-directional (I have seen bidirectional cycle lanes this width and narrower in Britain). You can even start to imagine young students riding side by side here when it’s completed.

I think there is much to applaud here. I have said before that when you look at a Dutch streetscape, it tells you exactly what local and national Government thinks of the bicycle as a transport mode – and exactly the same for a British streetscape too with narrow in-the-gutter-where-you-belong cycle paths, circuitous routes, vague signage and a constant feeling for the end-user that the designer and Government clearly hate them.

This scheme however has taken a lion share of space from motorists as opposed to pedestrians and sends out a subliminal message ‘we take the bicycle seriously here’.

I shall update you with more pictures as things progress, focussing on the other bete noir of British designers, ‘The Bus Stop’, as well as junctions as I would love to see what solutions they have in mind. Below is a picture of a junction I took in Assen last September whilst on the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain Study Tour. It shows a separate bicycle green phase in all directions (and bicycle riders making a right turn don’t even need to enter the junction). Just a hint.

NOTE: This is NOT Brighton & Hove

Which reminds me. For those that still think they can comment on Dutch Infrastructure from Google Streetview, David Hembrow apparently still has places on his Study Tour for May. I severely advise anyone involved in infrastructure design and policy implementation to go and see how it could and should be done.

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Why People In The UK Don’t Cycle No 4 – Driving is Easier

 

Still simpler than cycling through Guildford

‘Driving a car is simpler than riding a bike, why that’s ridiculous!’ I hear you say dear reader. You’re right of course, but in the UK we persistently go out of our way to make the more complicated mode of transport simpler, and the simpler mode of transport more complicated.

I received a thought provoking response to an earlier post from a Lo Fidelity reader in Swindon who wrote the following,

‘….I think most people use their car because their car is more convenient. I’m a cyclist and even I do this. Two real world reasons for not cycling I’ve heard in my office:
– I have to drop the kids off at/pick the kids up from school on time
– I can’t be bothered to maintain a bike
Cars keep you dry and warm/cool, get you places quickly, don’t make you sweaty, don’t need any special clothing, don’t find hills a struggle, easily carry other people, kids and luggage/shopping.

I actually have to go to a lot of effort to cycle. If I wanted to make the 1.5 mile trip to my parents’ house right now I’d have to remember to take the lock, put some hi-viz on, put my gloves on, walk to the shed, unlock the bike, walk back down the garden, lock the back door, tuck my trousers into my socks, take stuff off when I got there and lock the bike only to have to unlock the bike and put it all back on again for the journey home. To drive I’d have to remember to put my glasses on, walk out the front door, get in the car and go.

YES, some of that is because of the bike I use and choices I make. But it’s a real faff!…’

Unfortunately, I think he’s right and has summed up British attitudes perfectly. Here is how I start the day as a cyclist;

Wake up, change The Boys’ first steaming nappy of the day, put on Endura Base Layer and Shorts plus jersey and three quarter length Endura baggy shorts (ironically to look less like a cyclist) with reflective Buff and Altura Night Vision jacket (in black) & Mavic MTB shoes, prepare lunch, get bike out of shed, walk it through house (ignoring The Wife gritting her teeth), put on helmet (only to make my wife feel better even though she doesn’t mind me not wearing one when I’m riding the Brompton) & gloves, check lights, ride to work, carry bike into office (I’m allowed to keep it inside as there is no covered parking so no need to carry a lock), shower (we have one at work), sit at desk.

Here’s how it could be if I decided to drive to work;

Wake up, change The Boys’ first steaming nappy of the day, shower (we have one at home), put on regular clothes, prepare lunch, grab keys, get in car (parked outside in the street at no cost), drive 12 miles to work, park in visitors bay, walk up to office, sit at desk.

The car sounds simpler doesn’t it? However that is me overcomplicating the simple and over simplifying the complicated.

Let’s now see how much simpler things would be if I adopted my Grandfathers cycling routine

Wake Up, wash, dress in work clothes, pick up lunch, get bike, ride to work, leave bike outside building.

All of a sudden cycling starts to look easy doesn’t it? I also bet that most cycle commuters on the European Mainland have a routine more similar to my Grandfather than me (even though he has been dead for decades), and that if they were to read my routine they would bury their heads in their palms.

My routine also allows for no spontaneity; I can’t just stop off at a pub to meet a friend because that involves finding somewhere safe to park my bike and not looking so much like a ‘cyclist’. Even stopping at a shop becomes a tiresome chore because I (and I’m sure any others in the UK through no fault of their own) become ‘locked in’ on the commute. In trying to get free of the rat race, I’ve created my own one.

The reason it’s so easy in a car is that UK politicians and society has bent over backwards to make things easy for the car from roads to parking to cost to out of town convenience. This has come at massive expense to communities, businesses and all other forms of transport that are often shoveled off the road onto crap infrastructure in the name of safety. What should be a simple bike ride into the centre of town often looks dangerous, circuitous and not worth the effort.

However, let’s look at my full routine for driving to work.

Organize finance, look for correct car, purchase car, buy insurance, check that car has MOT and the correct Vehicle Excise Duty (based on emissions), change The Boys’ first steaming nappy of the day, shower, put on regular clothes, prepare lunch, grab keys, get in car, check that there is enough fuel, pull out (although I’m loathe to surrender the space as I know it will be a struggle to park near my house when I return), get fuel, join queue of frustrated drivers trying to join A27, drive along racetrack that is A27 between Worthing and Brighton within the speed limit with full concentration thus incurring the wrath of  ‘expert’ drivers of more powerful cars, leave A27 at Devils Dyke and join queue on slip road, watch other motorists drive alongside the queue slowly to nip in where a gap appears increasing the levels of rage and frustration of motorists immediately behind, make sure radio is on Classic FM to ease frustration and wonder how and why people do this every day at great cost to their health, wellbeing and environment, park in visitors bay, walk up to office, sit at desk.

Not so easy and pleasant put that way is it? Motoring advertisers will of course gloss over a lot of that last paragraph (many new cars come with ‘free’ VED too to save you the hassle but often calling it ‘Road Tax’ even though it hasn’t existed since 1937 and doesn’t pay directly for the roads).

We need to make motoring the expensive, dangerous pain in the arse that it actually is. We need to make our towns and cities civilised again by making walking and cycling more pleasant. We need to improve the nation’s sense of health and wellbeing. We need to reduce the amount of people killed or maimed on our roads day in day out. It has to be addressed in a positive way (because it is) or else it will be deemed by the Complication Merchants as ‘A War on the Motorist’.

By the same token, I am doing my bit to make cycling simpler for me – My bike is in my local bike shop to change it to a pleasing hub geared tourer/roadster. It’s time to enjoy the commute again – and cycling.

We have to make the complicated complicated and the simple simple. It’s really very simple. Not complicated at all.