Monday 25 November 2013

London Cycling Campaign and Lambeth Cyclists response to draft Nine Elms plans

Transport for London held a consultation, now ended, on the draft Nine Elms South Bank (or Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea Opportunity Area in old speak) Design for Cycling strategy document.

This is the response, in full, jointly submitted by London Cycling Campaign and Lambeth Cyclists

London Cycling Campaign and Lambeth Cyclists response to draft
‘Nine Elms on the South Bank – Designing for Cycling’ strategy by TfL

Overall, we commend this as a hugely encouraging document and one that, in its final form, will hopefully set a standard for the future of London as it ‘goes Dutch’.

We applaud the use of the Dutch criteria, the intention to use filtered permeability; segregation where there are high motor traffic volumes; and the need for the cycle routes to be direct and efficient, and the provision of a finely grained cycling grid throughout the area.

Page by page comments are below, but there are some general points that we would like to raise:
  1. It has been said that the best cycling policy is a motor-vehicle policy. This document majors on cycling infrastructure but is light on detail concerning locations of filtered permeability and matching vehicle turning locations; taxi stands; loading/unloading bays; drop off points of passengers by drivers, and location of cycle parking in relation to car parking by shops. The design needs to ensure that space intended for fantastic cycling by the widest range of ages is not subsequently compromised by poor design for essential motoring needs, while reducing the need for motor vehicle journeys and making cycling the obvious choice for most journeys.
  2. There should be a map with local schools showing how Dutch quality cycle routes will reach them and permit independent travel.
  3. Given the length of time before the Northern Line Extension happens (if it is approved) and the indeterminate time-scale for completion of an uninterrupted linear park and Thames path, Nine Elms Lane should be made very cycle friendly as a priority in order to inculcate a cycling culture as soon as developments come on stream. We recommend considering making this part of a realigned CS8.
  4. The policy should be to design for clear pedestrian and cyclist priority over turning traffic at minor side roads and building entrances.
  5.  Where segregated tracks are used alongside a road, great care must be taken to make turning right using the track as efficient as turning right through being on the road. Hopefully a resolution will be identified as part of the revised London Cycling Design Standards with regard to the different rules for turning traffic that the Netherlands and Denmark have. Signal timings and banning certain turns for motor traffic may facilitate this.
  6. An appendix giving details on planning policies with regard to cycle provision (e.g. cycle parking for visitors) and motor-traffic reduction, with a statement on their quality in terms of the ‘Go Dutch’ ambition, may be useful.

P5 – ‘Characteristics of successful cycle routes’
Add to point 2) Directness: Where traffic lights for cyclists are required, the time on red should be kept to the minimum. There must not be more green time for road users than cycle path users.

P8 – ‘Initial Observations’
Should 2) Secondary Roads be amended to read ‘…well used by adult cyclists’?
Amend point 3 within Opportunities: Make cycling the easy option, whether adult or child’ for local journeys to shops, schools, friends and local services

P9 – ‘Diagram of principal through routes’
Should include Wyvil Road on secondary routes

P10 ‘Routes – existing’
Pts 1 and 2: CS8 and CS7 – add ‘not designed to be used by children under 14’
Pt 4 LCN route 37 – amend to very low quality. The bus lanes however are well used by adult cyclists.
Pt 6 cycle lanes on Vauxhall Gyratory ‘ Their low quality and time inefficiency compared with being on-road means they are under-used.
P11 Photo labelled 6: change under-used to ‘un-advantageous’

1 CS5 – State whether or not this is designed to be used by under 14s.
3 Thames River Path – This has provision to be an excellent leisure cycling route, as long as faster/commuting cyclists are given a route they prefer to use, in order to avoid pedestrian conflict’

P14 ‘Cycle Parking’
Requirements – add ‘conveniently’ to cyclists needs list
Proposed – is sufficient cycle parking at grade for visitors and at commercial and retail developments being designed into developments?
Potential – Extensive secure and convenient cycle parking provision needs to be designed into proposed Northern Line Extension stations

An exemplary cycling network  - Amend to include ‘makes walking or cycling the obvious mode for short journeys’
Objectives – Direct Routes – amend as on P1

Add to potential options:
CS8 – re-route proposed alignment of CS8 along Nine Elms Lane and the Albert Embankment

P18 ‘Main Roads’
Treatment, Both
‘Junctions designed to ensure that cyclists on cycle facilities are not at a time disadvantage to being on road’

P20 ‘Quietways: Side Roads’
Treatment: 20mph speed limit; Motor traffic restricted to local access (filtered permeability).

P22 Greenways: Off-road tracks
Intro: Remove redundant ‘can’ or ‘to’
Coherent paths that are not linked to each other but seamlessly link to other parts of the cycle network

P24 Treatments – common to all routes
Signposting – Signs should be attractive, incapable of being swung around by wind, vehicles or the mischievous, and readable while on the move

Surfacing  - needs to be immediately recognisable as a place for cycling

Demonstrates requirement to include Wyvil Road within this strategy

P38 ‘B’sea Pk Rd / Nine Elms Lane’
Make it CS8
Easy right turns onto side roads
Consider two-way cycle tracks on each side

P40 ‘Wandsworth Road’
Priority at side roads for main road cycle tracks
Consider banning certain turns by motor vehicles

P41 ‘Albert Embankment’
Make it CS8
Review options for stopping this being a traffic-choked A road, making it an attractive cycle and walking promenade with caf├ęs etc.
Remove coach parking on river side of road

P42 ‘Queenstown Rd etc.’
Chelsea Bridge Road
Replace Queens Circus with a cross-roads

P45 ‘Phasing and Delivery’
Every effort should be expended to making this area cycling friendly from now onwards, whilst acknowledging that there is a high level of construction activity. To this end Nine Elms Lane should have Dutch standard cycle provision implemented as quickly as possible.

In conclusion, we hope that the above comments are constructive and helpful, and again wish to commend TfL on an excellent draft document.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Planning with our children in mind

The tragic deaths and injuries to people riding bikes and walking in London over the past week will have put a huge dent in the Capital's aspirations to get more people undertaking active travel.

We must not turn our back on these aspirations, because nurturing active travel is the easiest way to reduce congestion, tackle public health problems, cut CO2 and air pollution, improve people's finances and create a less noisy, calmer environment all in one. In short, create a more liveable London.

It is absolutely crucial that all parties involved in use of, or management of, the roads pull out all the stops to make our roads safe for adults and children to use, but I saw yesterday how far we are from that.

Around school ending time, I rode my bicycle along a short part of Lambeth's London Cycle Network route 3 (LCN3) from St Mark's Church of England  Primary School next to the Oval cricket ground up towards Oasis Johanna Primary School by Baylis Road in Waterloo.

London Cycle Network 3, mainly on back streets and with segregated space for cycling on busy streets, should be a prime example of a child-safe cycle route - important given that Lambeth Council intends the borough to be London's most cycle-friendly borough with cycling to school the norm.

I found that adults - certainly the builders perhaps with a council officer's consent - had facilitated the construction of Ethical Property's 'Foundry' development in Vauxhall Street through blocking the contra-flow cycle lane and directing children to cycle into oncoming traffic

On Baylis Road a delivery driver (employed by Kuehne and Nagel to deliver on behalf of Whitbread to, I suspect, Whitbread-owned Costa Coffee) had decided it suited him/her to park the lorry in the child lane forcing them to share the lane with lorries like the one passing
 I took the photo above at 15.10 and the lorry, below, was still there on my return at 15.26, still in the cycle lane on the double yellow no-parking lines right by the no-loading lines.

A little further along the road, construction work has led to the closure of the pavement, but an alternative has been found - the child lane can be closed:.
This allows the child lane to be taken over for pedestrians, while the children gather their wits about them (TM Boris Johnson) and jostle with the buses, vans and lorries.

On the other side of the road a driver for the official London Highways Alliance has decided to park his van to block the child lane. Clearly concerned that his van may be damaged by children who have not noticed his parked van, the driver has taken prudent precautions:

Could not the multitude of fencing have been put to better use by creating a child lane diversion around the van?

In the light of the appalling deaths and injuries this week,  I'm inclined to suggest that the professional, trained adults responsible for all the decisions above are guilty of child abuse.

After all, through their actions they either;
a) deter parents from letting their children cycle, impacting on their mobility, health and the planet they will continue to live on after us
b) place those children who do cycle in clear and evident danger.

It need not be like this. David Hembrow gives the Dutch example . In the meantime it is up to all of us to challenge the shoddy behaviour such as that I show above. To this end, I must commend Richard Ambler, Lambeth's Cycling Officer, who sent the following email to a colleague in Highways as soon as I sent him photos of the contra-flow blockage in Vauxhall Street:

 I have been sent the attached photos of Vauxhall Street. They show that the contraflow cycle lane is completely  fenced off, forcing people on bikes into the narrow lane of oncoming traffic. Not only is it dangerous, especially to children using the route,  it is also inconvenient and increases journey times for people cycling.
Given our road user hierarchy, our approach in this situation should be to maintain the pedestrian and cycle routes and close the road to motor vehicles except for access to the supermarket and estate.
We've been criticised in the past for our lack of consideration of cyclists at roadworks (Akerman Road; Baylis Road; Greyhound Lane) but I thought we had begun to remedy that. There are lots of examples of good practise regarding cycling at roadworks  across London which we could learn from, for example recently on Union Street outside Palestra.
Will you look into this urgently? It is important that we sort it out quickly as the current situation is unacceptable and I expect we will receive many more complaints.
I wonder if his colleague arranged for the hazard to be removed today?

Monday 11 November 2013

Would one radical change improve walking and cycling in the UK?

On 3 September 1967 traffic in Sweden switched from going along the left-hand side of the road to the right. What I'm proposing isn't as radical as that.

In the past months I've visited Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark as a pedestrian and as a cyclist. It seems to me that those walking and cycling in these three countries gain great advantage from the different priority rules these countries seem to have at junctions.

Our Highway Code tells pedestrians,
If traffic is coming, let it pass. Look all around again and listen. Do not cross until there is a safe gap in the traffic and you are certain that there is plenty of time. Remember, even if traffic is a long way off, it may be approaching very quickly.
At a junction. When crossing the road, look out for traffic turning into the road, especially from behind you. If you have started crossing and traffic wants to turn into the road, you have priority and they should give way
Motorists are told,

The implication is clear that pedestrians on the pavement and cyclists on pavement tracks approaching a junction should give way to road users wishing to turn.

As a consequence of this ruling, pedestrians walking or jogging along a main road have to slow down and check it's safe to cross, stopping and giving way to traffic wishing to turn. This burns a huge amount of energy, and also forces people chatting while walking along together to interrupt their conversation. 

In contrast, drivers going straight on maintain their speed and continue chatting with their passengers.

When the Highway Engineer designs a cycle track on a pavement, s/he will prudently place give-way markings wherever the main road intersects with a side road, however minor.

This makes the cycle track slow, uncomfortable (requiring the cyclist to twist their neck to see if traffic is turning in from behind), and demanding of great energy as Wikipedia explains:
Kinetic energy may be best understood by examples that demonstrate how it is transformed to and from other forms of energy. For example, a cyclist uses chemical energy provided by food to accelerate a bicycle to a chosen speed. On a level surface, this speed can be maintained without further work, except to overcome air resistance and friction.
The requirement to slow down at a junction then get back to cruising speed saps a cyclist's energy.

Given the disadvantages it is unsurprising that cyclists frequently prefer to use the road over cycle tracks in the UK.

The priority rule also has an impact on a parent's willingness to let a child walk or cycle along such a road, in fear that the child needing to cross a side road may incorrectly judge the speed or distance of a turning car, or even neglect (forget) to look at all. This impacts on children's mobility and their fitness and likelihood of walking or cycling in later years.

In comparison, as I understand it, countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany give all traffic (including pedestrians on the pavement and cyclists on a track) equal priority going straight on. The onus is on the person who wishes to turn to ensure that there is nothing approaching that they may turn into, whether they're on the road, pavement or cycle track. The walker, pedestrian, jogger, cyclists or driver going straight on needn't vary their speed, strain to look back, or interrupt their conversation at the junction.

To achieve this, those wishing to turn pay greater attention to pavements/cycle tracks and to lanes, including cycle lanes, so slow down to a greater extent than is customary in the UK. Equally drivers behind a turning vehicle seem much less likely to beep impatiently at a driver who is waiting for a reasonable gap.

This priority ruling brings further advantages at traffic light controlled crossings. In the UK we often have one phase of lights for road users going east-west or turning off, then one for those going north-south or turning off, then a separate pedestrian phase.The separate pedestrian phase means a long wait (two other light phases) for any user before it's their turn to go

The Danish don't use roundabouts, favouring cross roads as a safer option, and I observed a wonderful simplicity and efficiency in their system, due to the prioritisation I have described.

When the east-west road users have a green light, so do the pedestrians and cyclists on their pavement or track. The lights then change in favour of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists in a north-south orientation. This allows those going straight on, by whatever means, to make rapid progress, having only to wait one light phase before it's their turn.

Taking the junction above as an example of a typical crossing,  the cyclists and any pedestrians approaching us from the north have priority over the lorry driver wishing to turn right. If the cyclist coming towards us wants to turn left he will stop alongside the cyclists waiting at a red light to go west-east.

The prioritisation means no separate pedestrian lights phase is needed, and as light phases in each direction are designed to be frequent but not overly long, cyclists are less inclined to jump the red lights as there is little if any time advantage in so doing. Equally the rapidity of traffic light changes means that cyclists are happy to use the cycle track against an occasional and marginal time advantage in using the road and the hassle of mingling with and working their way across lanes of motor-traffic..

I'm not sure that the UK can achieve the levels of cycling that it aspires to, or better facilitate pedestrians, without a switch in priorities at junctions such as that described. It's got to be easier than switching the side of the road we drive on and that's been done successfully before.

TfL have recently sent engineers and planners to look at countries making real progress with cycling and it'll be interesting to find out their take on this issue.

To the best of my knowledge none of the campaigning organisations are asking for such a change. What do you think?