Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 6 – British Cycle Infrastructure

Apparently, Brooks also dabbled in Surrealism whilst developing their prototypes before they settled on a traditional leather saddle.

According to Wikipedia,

‘Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur…’

‘As they [Surrealists] developed their philosophy, they believed that Surrealism would advocate the idea that ordinary and depictive expressions are vital and important, but that the sense of their arrangement must be open to the full range of imagination…’

Although the epicentre of the Surrealist movement is cited as Paris immediately following, and as a reaction to The Great War, I would argue that Highways Authorities in Great Britain in the late 20th/early 21st centuries are a worthy successor through their Surrealist installations across the land, never short on elements of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non-sequiturs.

Ceci n’est pas une cyclepath
(Pease Pottage, West Sussex)

One would have thought it simple to design for the bicycle. After all it’s so simple, a child can use it. A surrealist juxtaposition forms because Britain excels in making the most complicated mode of transport simple and the simplest modes of transport complicated.

Warrington Cycle Campaign started it’s always entertaining ‘Cycle Facility of the Month’ back in March 2001. They even have a book out first published in November 2007 (proceeds to CTC’s worthy Cyclists Defence Fund). The problem is that it’s a few years on and highways authorities across the land either still haven’t got to grips with the bicycle, or simply see the bicycle as an imposition to ‘progress’, or are utterly hostile to the bicycle based on prejudices that really shouldn’t be lurking in any professional environment. Local cycle campaign groups are only usually consulted when the plans are programmed for construction so even if they object it’s too late, but at least Officials can then say that they’ve consulted with those ‘cyclists’ whilst rolling their eyes and ticking another box.

No funny caption, just marvel at the surreal incompetence (from ‘Facility of the Month – January 2012)

When a new road is constructed, motorists are drawn to it because it offers speed, directness & quality of surface. It is often touted as the ‘solution’ to a problem that nobody seems guilty of creating but that doesn’t matter anymore because, thanks to the new road, the problem will never, ever occur again, apparently. When a new cycle path is constructed, cyclists shy away from it because they don’t need surrealism on the way to work or school. They are often ponderous, indirect and are often barely converted pavements with poor sight lines, overgrown vegetation and of course, pedestrians, who are probably wondering what they did to deserve such Hell.

There are four classifications of cycle infrastructure in Britain [as I see it based on observations at local cycle campaigning level]:

Dirt Cheap

Usually a ‘Town Centre’ route from an outlying suburb where you may get to your end destination in under three days – Directional signs only. Inexplicable Dropped Kerbs also fall into this category.

Cheap and You Should Consider Yourselves Grateful

Usually a ‘Town Centre’ route from an outlying suburb where you may get to your end destination in under a day – Combination of directional and ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs, some converted pavements and on road cycle-paths (paint only) – some of it possibly paid for by Section 106 money if it runs past a new development. Tactile paving is provided to catch bicycle tyres and trip the elderly (even more lethal in snow). This is to fulfill standards that the designer may have read. These facilities are defined by lycra clad experienced cyclists who correctly and pointedly use the road next to it, often armed with cameras to record abuse from motorists who think they should be using something that Salvador Dali couldn’t have thought up even after a bottle of ‘White Lightning’. Some ‘safe routes to schools’ often fall into this category – great ideas but the children still have to dress so they are visible from Neptune and are no match for a Land Rover containing children that are more important, apparently.

Ridiculously Expensive [According to Comments Section in Local Newspaper].

This is generally a scheme that has had money donated from an external source such as Sustrans. This fact of course goes straight over the heads of local newspaper letter writers and Wetherspoons Pub Frequenters who never let things like cold, hard facts get in the way of prejudice. Schemes vary from more expensive ‘Town Centre Links’ as mentioned above, ‘Railway Station links’ where at the end of a hard ride we are supposed to have a post-coital cigarette at seeing the amount of cycle parking provided (some of it under cover), converted paths through parks and lightly converted canal paths with strange gates at either end looking like the entrance to Narnia complete with dog walkers. Also Beeching-era railway lines that make great cycle paths accidentally.

F*ck me, HOW MUCH!!

The above phrase is often spoken by both cyclist and member of the general public, but for differing reasons. Still far, far cheaper than a road scheme, this is where we enter Grand Designs such as ‘Cycle Superhighways’ where painting the previous three categories a shade of Barclays blue creates continuity and changes it magically for the better for some reason. This is often the most tragic of categories as so much is often promised and some political will has been found before the cold hands of compromise and lobbying strangle the usefulness out of it, sometimes with the worst possible outcomes. This category also includes well used segregated bi-directional cycle paths that are in reality for unbelievably narrow people or the population of Lilliput, often going from somewhere to nowhere because they aren’t part of a decent, coherant network. These are generally routes that people currently use and would use because they follow the desire lines for the commuting public. As a result, they are generally heavily trafficked and therefore the stakes (and costs) are considerably higher. A lot of the money would have been spent on Feasibility Studies alone.

And we still haven’t mastered junctions.

British Cycle Infrastructure is the result of the end users being treated like flies on a cow – consistently being swatted away as tiny annoyances and occasionally being given dung to feast on (that’s also cheap to purchase). If you look at a Dutch Streetscape, you are often under no illusion what local and national Government thinks of the bicycle. It is also easy to conclude what local and national British Governments think by looking at our streetscapes and this is yet another factor which, to the general public, makes the act of riding a bicycle as appealing as Badger Baiting with Peter Andre. This is yet another reason that makes the simple act of riding a bicycle continue to be seen as a peripheral, specialist and potentially dangerous activity (no movement ever got anywhere telling the general public how they should be feeling. If it looks dangerous, then that, as they say, is that).

Having said that, I do wish to acknowledge at this point that we do have excellent cycle training and trainers in this country doing invaluable work (often for free). I am making the argument that infrastructure done correctly would amplify their efforts a great deal. It’s also worth acknowledging the biggest irony that, thanks to organisations like CTC, there are reasonably good cycle infrastructure guidelines already out there.

I leave you with a film I made for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain (our AGM is later this month – be there!!); the first three clips were shot on a David Hembrow Study Tour of Assen and Groningen whilst the final clip is of my everyday commute between Worthing and Brighton. When I arrived at the ferry port in the Netherlands, to make a train connection, I cycled the 37km from Hook of Holland to Rotterdam with a friend without consulting any maps or GPS and without hi-viz, helmets, hassle, fear or intimidation. Now think about the last time you rode a bicycle in the UK. Yes, surreal isn’t it?

Please also see:

Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 1: Class

Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 2: Culture of Fear

Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 3: DANGER!

Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 4: Driving is Easier

Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 5: Bicycle Maintenance

Local News

From Worthing Herald (10 April 2012)

‘DESPITE a no parking sign and a small picket fence, gardeners are still having their hard work ruined by cars.

The New Growth Garden Team is a voluntary group working under the Worthing charity – Storm, and it has recently started work on a small garden in Union Place.

Despite the group’s best efforts to keep people off the plot of land, which used to be used for parking, they are still coming back to find tyre marks through the middle of their seed beds.

Ginny Cassell, a member of the team, has been door knocking to tell everyone about the work being done and the parking restrictions, but said this “hasn’t stopped the problem”.

She said: “At the moment they are just seeds so we can cover it up and hope for the best, but we’re about to start putting in plants and if you drive over these you will kill them.

“We thought we would love to make something nice in the middle of the town where people could be peaceful instead of stressed.”

The group has been tending the area once a month since the winter, but has started making more regular visits now the planting season is in.

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, witnessed the group’s misfortune, and donated £20 so they could buy more seeds.

He said: “They’re setting a public example by improving a bit of open space where the police station used to be.

“I’m sorry that some people managed to park their car on the ground, but they took that in good heart.”

Ginny thinks that this could be a mistake coming from “old habits” when people used to park there, but she is now asking people “not to do it any more”.

From Shoreham Herald (10 April 2012)

A CAMPAIGN calling for a crossing to help children get to school more safely has taken a big step.

Candy Bromage collected just under 1,400 signatures, calling for a safe crossing point in Upper Shoreham Road, and handed the petition to West Sussex County Councillor, Angie Mills last week.

Mum-of-two Candy said: “I was really pleased with the number of people who signed. Everybody was in agreement with us.”

Two weeks ago, the Herald reported how Candy and fellow parents and neighbours wanted to see a crossing, between the Holmbush roundabout and Southlands Hospital, so children could use it on the way to Glebe Primary School and Shoreham Academy.

Parents said the stretch of road was so dangerous, they would not allow their children to walk to school, and so drove them instead.

Mrs Mills, who is also chairman of the Adur County Local Committee (CLC), which can allocate road safety priorities for the area, said she was happy to get on board  with the campaign.

“There are a lot of schools in the area, and it is a very dangerous road for children to cross,” she said.

“Most of the parents are taking their children to school by car, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid.

“Of course, it’s not just children who need to cross the road, it’s elderly and vulnerable people too.”

The petition will taken to the next meeting of the CLC,  on May 24, where solutions will be discussed,  but there was a long road ahead for the scheme, said Mrs Mills.

“It will not be done for a while, because it has to go through various procedures,” she said.

Any scheme would also need to be examined by the county council’s highways department.

Candy said it was “brilliant” that Mrs Mills had joined the fight.

“It is a shame they can’t get it done in six months, but we knew that was very unlikely.

“Hopefully, by this time next year, we will have something.”

She thanked everyone who had put their name to the campaign.

She said: “Just thank you for everyone’s support.

“We will carry on until there is a crossing there.”

At the start of the campaign, Candy, mum to 14-year-old Tadley, and Mitchell, 10, told the Herald:  “We want a tunnel, a bridge, a zebra crossing, and pelican crossing. We don’t care how they do it. As long as it’s safe.

Kim Lee, of Greenways Crescent, said she agreed with there was a need for a crossing: “I have two kids, and I won’t let them cross the road to school, so I drive. A lot of people do.”

Glebe head teacher Ann Walton also got behind the call, and wrote to the council’s highways department.

She said: “We want as many children as possible to walk, scoot or ride to school, but that’s impossible because of the dangerous road.”

A view of Upper Shoreham Road (looking toward the Holmbush roundabout which is incredibly fast and furious) may be found here

Note that there is enough space to have Dutch style cycle Infrastructure. And then some Danish style cycle infrastructure next to it. And some nice planting. And still have a nice road for car use.

Of course, my adopted home town of Worthing and neighbouring Shoreham by Sea are both in West Sussex – The Council with a Highways Authority that rewrites the dictionary definition of ‘draconian’, that regards the motor car not so much as a mode of transport but more as a masturbatory fantasy and regards the bicycle (the thing that would attract more tourism, health and wellbeing, particularly for the more elderly coastal demographic) as something poor people might do and really should be shovelled out-of-the-way. Anyway, I wish the group the very best. I’d love to see a new crossing and indeed proper infrastructure for all to use not just for the many schools in the area but shops and businesses too.

Here is a film by Mark Wagenbuur on 25 ways to cross a major road in the Netherlands partly because it contains an at-grade bicycle crossing which might be quite a nice addition to Upper Shoreham Road but also to highlight how The Netherlands is separated from us by a stretch of water but it might as well be another solar system. The full post is here. British viewers may wish to look away for fear of weeping.

To lighten the mood a bit more, further east on Old Shoreham Road, here is what Brighton & Hove City Council are doing for their schoolchildren here and here.

Finally, to completely lighten the mood to near hilarity, I leave you with this letter from the Worthing Herald published on 30 March 2012 that….well, I’ll leave you to judge.

’30’ limit is a danger’           

‘MY son recently reached the age of 16 and bought a motor scooter for commuting to school/college and socialising, etc.

However, according to the law, his machine must not travel faster than 30mph.

Limiting youngsters to 30mph may have been intended as a safety measure but in reality it is quite dangerous.

Any motorists/motorcyclist who thinks 30mph is fine, I challenge them to drive, for one week at 30mph, maximum everywhere, including roads like Goring Road which have a 40mph limit and the A24 and this dual carriageway is not far off being a race track.

It is nigh on impossible to keep to this speed  everywhere.

It produces a queue of impatient drivers behind you, which leads to some dangerous overtaking and allows no room for manoeuvre.

If, as most people agree, riding on two-wheels is less safe that four wheels and the law allows 16-year-olds to drive on two (dangerous), why not allow 16 year olds to drive on four (safer)?

If that is not acceptable, at least increase the maximum speed they can drive at to 40mph.’

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.