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.

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The Most Green/Greening/Greenery Government Ever?

100% more Greening. Being Green. With Greenery in the background (Picture from Wandsworth Cycling Campaign)

These are fascinating times we are living in if you’re into Greening issues. I think the Government actually meant to say it is ‘the most Greening ever’ as, in a sense it has delivered 100% more Greening than the previous administration.

However, Wikipedia defines ‘Greening’ thus;

‘Greening is the process of transforming artifacts such as a space, a lifestyle or a brand image into a more environmentally friendly version (i.e. ‘greening your home’ or ‘greening your office’). The act of greening involves incorporating “green” products and processes into one’s environment, such as the home, work place, and general lifestyle.’

So the Coalition has taken things a bit too literally and transformed a space (The Department for Transport) by putting a Greening in it. I hope the Secretary of State for Transport is settling in to her new role and the Brompton pictured is not neatly folded away collecting dust with the Prime Ministers hybrid bicycle.

Yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the Infrastructure Plan. From a transport perspective, it contained yet more Very Big Plans For Britain such as Superspeed Broadband allowing one to see the economy contracting live from an iPhone whilst riding in new railway rolling stock (although a new season ticket will cost about the same as purchasing Wiltshire) or driving on lots more roads and improvements to roads and different funding models for roads and an end to bottlenecks on roads. And widening of roads, of course.

A sane person that knows how to look at a long term plan that actually works might think, ‘well, this could be a wonderful opportunity for cycling infrastructure as it gives an excellent proven rate of return with reduced obesity and greater health and wellbeing and greater freedom of mobility for all ages, classes, genders, colours and creeds and reduced air pollution meaning no more fines from the EU for failing to meet emissions targets and a greater feeling of not just subjective safety from traffic which is the greatest intervention to get the masses cycling but also greater subjective safety in the communities that they are cycling and walking through as more people are out and about accomplishing more than CCTV ever could whilst giving the public peace of mind that we are decreasing our reliance on oil in an ever more volatile market’. It would appear that in times of desperation, sanity is given short shrift.

Cycling features once in the 173 page document – 

3.49 The Government’s £560 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund will also help to reduce emissions from vehicles, improve air quality and rural transport connections, by helping local transport authorities do more to encourage walking and cycling, improve public transport and make better connections between different forms of sustainable transport.

I’ve already commented on this before though (as have many others) as its simply retreading old ground so there’s really not much to say other than a superb opportunity has been missed to spend money on infrastructure which if done correctly, could produce an astounding rate of return. It would also make ‘soft measures’ such as cycle training and promotion even better value for money (if that’s possible as much is accomplished already on a shoestring) as the number of new bicycle riders are retained as opposed to someone having training, having a close call with a motorist and putting the bicycle back into the shed until the next Skyride.

It also means a lack of national strategy and cohesion as money is thrown out to the provinces that treat cycling as something that might look nice in a brochure but is really a hindrance to local growth.

Kermit the Frog - Greener than West Sussex County Council (although slightly less hilarious than their Local Transport Plan)

So I don’t think this is the Greenest Government ever or the most Greening. Maybe it’s the most Greenery Government ever? Oh no, wait. It looks like the reforms to the Planning system might see more natural habitats destroyed in the wake of unsustainable development.

It ain’t easy trying to be green, or Greening, or greenery.

Crap Cycle Lane V

On 15 November 2010, BBC News published the following..

A railway station in West Sussex is to benefit from improved transport links as part of a £5m scheme.

The work at Southwick railway station, which starts on Monday and is expected to last 11 weeks, will see improved access for pedestrians and cyclists.

Other improvements include a drop-off and pick-up area, and an improved cycle link from the South Coast Cycle Route.

Station Road will also be realigned so that it lines up more closely with the railway bridge.

‘Further improvements’

At the same time West Sussex County Council will resurface the whole length of Station Road, put in new dropped kerbs, road markings and paving.

Improvements will also be made to the area’s drainage.

Deputy leader Lionel Barnard, who has responsibility for highways and transport, said: “This scheme is part of an overall £5m investment in transport links along the A259 corridor and at local railway stations from Shoreham to Brighton and Hove.

“In addition further improvements are also being carried out at stations by Southern, including new cycle racks, platform waiting shelters and CCTV.”

The £5m was awarded by the government’s Homes and Communities Agency to support the Shoreham Harbour Regeneration Project.

And at last the work is finished! Let’s check it out…

The One Where NCN2 Meets The A259

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club is going to assume that you have already sampled the [slightly vague] delights of NCN2 and it’s circuitous tour of Shoreham by Sea. In the picture above you are now approaching the coast road (A259) where you are encouraged to join the new widened and resurfaced pavement….sorry, ‘Shared Use Facility’. At least, I think that’s what they want.

This photo is too boring to put a witty caption too

Here is a newly resurfaced and widened [and assumed] Shared Use Facility. Please note the very wide road that could have accomodated infrastructure based on the Netherlands model [or similar] as well as the HGV’s that use this road for Shoreham Port (which runs along the right of the picture above).

May the fun begin...

Further up the trail, we come to a Pelican Crossing where cyclists may cross to continue along NCN2 through the Port to Brighton. 

The Gateway to Brighton (and Hove actually)

 

Once you’ve navigated round the second set of bollards (because a piece of work is never actually finished in the UK as the workmen would already have been moved to the next job and the contractor would have already been paid the majority of the money so can afford to come back and complete the work only when the Client starts screaming), you will notice a bus stop.

Did we mention the wide road?

Of course you will have to cycle through the people that use the bus stop particularly at peak times. Please note the black bollard with the reflective ‘Shared Use’ roundel on it. Or not.

A new path has been created. Beside the by now incredibly wide road and junction that is supposed to be 30mph.

Here we are at the junction complete with sign and more incomplete works.

Nice isn't it? If that's your sort of thing. Look at the nice shiny wide road.

I’m afraid the Southwick cycle improvement gets even more vague here. Novice cyclists are left wondering whether to join the main carriageway where the T-Junction is, or dismount and walk the rest of the way or try and join the pavement on the other side of the T-Junction to keep cycling toward the Railway Station. The road has been changed into a slalom with double yellow lines, I assume to reduce speeds, with new car-parking alignments provided for the station with pick-up/drop-off point.

The little girl stood on the right is wondering what she did to annoy the Highways Engineers.

There is a chink of sunlight in this however. The new bicycle parking for the station is covered, in view of CCTV, and is convenient for the ticket machines.

Above is the view back down the slope to the road scheme. Wide enough to be convenient.

Anyway, let’s head back to main coast road. Please note that this road is also wide enough to take full properly designed infrastructure based on a continental model. Also please try not to note the old bunch of flowers tied to the traffic lights on the left – traffic speeds tend to get a little ‘enthusiastic’ through the night.

I think it’s pavement on the left and shared use on the right but West Sussex County Council are keeping its cards close its chest. According to Wikipedia, ‘Abstract art uses a visual language of form, colour and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world.’ Which sums up the UK’s approach to designing and implementing cycle infrastructure too.

Salvador Dali. Could have been a UK Highways Engineer if he'd done more Acid and White Spirit

West Sussex County Council – So 1980’s

Ah-Ga-Doo-Doo-Doo, Push the bypass through some trees.......

West Sussex County Council has just published its Transport Plan 2011-2026 (or LTP3). [It] sets the strategy for guiding future investment in West Sussex highways and transport infrastructure, and sets a framework for considering transport infrastructure requirements associated with future development across the county’.

This supersedes their LTP2 document, ‘which had the key aims of delivering safer, less congested and less polluted roads and improved accessibility.

Yes, I know. Please try to stay awake.

The main document runs to 80 pages and is filled with real treats if you like verbose greenwash barely concealing an utterly car-centric doctrine stuck firmly in the past. In their Long Term Strategy, this is what they have to say about cycling (Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club shall attempt to give a commentary in bold),

Cycling is one of the most sustainable transport modes and offers tremendous potential for improving our society’s health, economic efficiency and mobility, in addition to helping us tackle climate change. Maintaining or increasing the levels of cycling in West Sussex is, therefore, very important and will contribute to each of our objectives.

Cycling is also a popular leisure activity particularly in the rural area where the public rights of way network provides and extensive facility for cyclists to use.

The key aspects of our approach to cycling are:

Cycle Network Construction – Gaining a better understanding of, and overcoming, barriers which deter people from cycling (such as their current policy of not regarding the sheer volume of traffic as a problem but as an economic driver that needs to be catered for further to the detriment of everything else). Using a wide range of physical infrastructure, construct and improve joined up town networks and public rights of way which are linked in to new development. While balancing the needs of all users of the transport system ( should read, ‘While putting the motorist first’), cycle network infrastructure could include; cycle lanes, cycle tracks, signing, cycle stands, shared surfaces, toucan crossings, reduced speed limits, traffic calming, and refuges to suit local circumstances (or put simply, the same dangerous, cheap, poorly designed, compromised drivel that they’ve always provided).

Maintaining Cycle Infrastructure – maintain infrastructure to a good standard using an asset management approach which considers whole life costs, making improvements where these are needed and affordable. (No, the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club has no idea what ‘asset management approach’ means either. The ‘and affordable’ bit  probably makes the rest of it meaningless anyway as there’s never any money for cycling projects as local campaign groups are all too aware. To quote ‘The Day Today’, this is clearly written by people who have ‘an Armitage Shanks Defecation Interface Scenario’ as opposed to just taking a shit).

Travel Behaviour Change Initiatives – travel planning and promotional initiatives to encourage cycling and to identify local issues in schools, communities, businesses and new developments (issues might include the fact that no-one rides a bike to school or work because the roads are regarded as dangerous thanks to previous Transport Plans and the ‘cycling infrastructure’ provided was clearly designed by someone who had a childs Kaleidascope crudely sellotaped to each eye).

Skills Training – Bikeability cycle skills training to equip our community, and particularly the most vulnerable, with the skills they need reinforced by education delivered through school travel planning. (with this Transport Plan, the most vulnerable are going to need all the skills and travel planning they can get, which is quite strange considering we are talking about riding a bicycle which I always thought was quite a simple activity)

Community Involvement – involving the cycling community to highlight local priorities and to develop cycling infrastructure and initiatives to meet local needs (and then ignore them as it will involve cost implications. Whilst it’s good that they at least mention ‘involving the cycling community’, surely the whole community should be involved too as they are potentially cyclists).

Promoting Cycling – communicating the benefits of cycling through our Staff Travel Plan and by supporting national and local awareness events with our partners.

Phew! So what are the main priorities of West Sussex County Council?

Our priorities will tackle the key issues we face and bring about radical improvements to quality of life for the people and businesses in the County. Our highest priorities are:

1 Improvements to the A27 trunk road and complimentary public transport improvements to the current bottlenecks at Chichester, Arundel and Worthing (not currently programmed) to increase capacity, improve reliability and safety and increase the competitiveness of local businesses and attract investment. (increase traffic volume and create more congestion)

2 Programmed improvements to the A23 trunk road at the current bottleneck between Handcross and Warninglid to increase capaacity and improve the safety record. (increase traffic volume and create more congestion)

3 Maintain the highway network (to assist in the increasing of traffic volume and creating more congestion)

4 Whilst major schemes are a high priority for us, they are likely to take many years to deliver. It remains important that alongside these priorities we continue to work with our community to improve the safety record on our local roads, increase usage of healthy and sustainable modes of transport, and provide access to services (which is all lumped together at the end because it won’t happen all the while they persist in car-centric policies that increase traffic volume and create more congestion).

I can’t wait to see what other LTP3 documents across the country look like! It’s a plan for 15 years into the future that somehow manages to look 25 years into the past.

Here is another film of cycling in the Netherlands. Just because, really.