Thursday 19 June 2014

Forgiveness and Civility

The new London Cycling Design Standards have been published in draft form for consultation. I haven't had a full read of the 350+ pages yet, but I have been considering what to think about when reading it. One thing I will be doing is replacing the word 'cyclist' with 'child' and seeing how reasonable the measures appear in that light.

I will also be looking for designs that have 'Forgiveness' built into them.

Forgiveness is a key thing that cycling instructors assess when considering which streets to use, whether working with an adult or a primary school group of 9 - 11 year olds. We consider how much space is available, how much deviation from a line will be required (due for example to double parking), what the volume of traffic is and its speed (is the street a motor traffic rat-run). We are assessing how much latitude there is for a trainee to have a wobble or make an error of judgement, and we are assessing how stressful the street is for the trainees to use.

Today I was working with pupils in Trinity Street and Trinity Church Square, a wonderfully forgiving environment primarily because it is blocked to through motor traffic at one point. The children were relaxed and most of the other road users were on bicycles too. Traffic is light and speeds are low.

The likelihood of a collision and, due to the low kinetic energy of the other traffic, the likely severity of a collision are both low in such a location.

The question then is how to achieve a forgiving and appealing cycling environment on a more major road. Countries with a high modal cycling share which includes children and grandparents tend to provide a segregated space where there are substantial vehicle movements, traffic speed and/or many heavy vehicles.

Here's an example near Trinity Street where cycling infrastructure provides a forgiving space for cycling. It doesn't get parked on and the traffic is kept away from the cyclist

However the painted part of Cycling Superhighway 7 along Southwark Bridge Road - an unprotected cycle lane - is a disaster.

On the right side of the road in the photo above there's a short stretch of car parking instead of a cycle lane. Unsurprisingly a bordering taxi garage routinely parks taxis on the short stretch of cycle lane that leads into the parked cars as you can see above .

Having passed the taxis and the legitimate car parking, then illegitimate car parking, there's a Cooperative supermarket which occupies the cycle lane for deliveries during morning rush-hour. Here's a delivery this morning.

Here's yesterday. You can see a child (not one I am training) cycling to school, turning right from Scovell Road - but the Coop has stolen his cycle lane. 

When not being used for Coop deliveries this lane is currently used as a waiting zone for construction vehicles.

The other side of the road should have no such issues on the stretch between Great Suffolk Street and Borough Road. There are no shops on this side and no on-street parking (during specified hours). It should be clear space for cycling, somewhere adults and children can cycle away from the lorries.

Unfortunately there's a police building located here. The police can disregard yellow lines I am told, and they do.

Today this police vehicle was parked on the cycle lane at 12.15 when I went to lunch and was there at 3pm after I had left the school. I doubt it had been moved between times.

Yesterday at 12.42 a Patrol Supervisor was parked here

At 8.52 yesterday morning, as the child is cycling to school, this police car was parked in the cycle lane

while the previous day at 12.48 this police car was parked in the cycle lane

While the police may have the right to park here it would be civil of them not to. If they need cars to be ready to roar away Sweeney style then this is the wrong location to have those staff. If there isn't any parking then this is the wrong location for them, but I suspect the blue doors shown below lead into a police yard.

A significant part of cycle training involves teaching young and old cyclists to have respect for and give space to other road users, particularly more vulnerable ones. This is civil behaviour.

I think adults and children who wish to ride bicycles should have space away from heavy, fast or large volumes of motor traffic. I think that responsible retailers like the Coop and our enforcers of civil behaviour, the police, should respect the provision that has been put in place.

Failing that it seems that London's new cycling design standards need to prioritise more substantial measures to segregate motor traffic away from people riding bikes.