The Vogue Gyratory, Brighton

As you are perhaps aware, I visited Bow roundabout recently (as did a couple of other bloggers) to see first hand how Transport for London’s new ‘Cycle Priority Lights’ are working. My conclusion – indeed the universal conclusion – seems to be, they’re not working very well.

The principal issue is the turning conflict between vehicles turning left onto the A12, and cyclists wishing to proceed straight on. It is precisely this problem that TfL have attempted to solve, but their ‘solution’ is a complete fudge because it does not separate out sufficiently these movements. Far from being a ‘priority’ light for cyclists, the real purpose of the confusing array of traffic lights is to stop cyclists while all vehicles are moving across the roundabout, only letting them into an ASL-like area when the traffic alongside them is stopped.

The best solution, of course, would be to hold left-turning vehicles while cyclists,  pedestrians (who, let’s not forget, still do not have a crossing here) and vehicles going straight on or right proceed onto the roundabout. This would allow cyclists to be segregated from traffic right up to and across the roundabout, rather than the current partial and confusing approach.

I made this point in that post; that what really needs to be done is to put motor vehicles into two separate streams, so pedestrians can cross the road, and cyclists’ movements are properly separated. That is, the Dutch approach to these kinds of road designs.

Chris Juden left a comment -

The Dutch way. It would be nice, but none of us will live to see that Utopia here. To build that stuff – and to enforce the laws that make it work – you need political will. That needs votes. And not enough people cycle for that.

The argument being that we need to get more people cycling before we can start lobbying for proper infrastructure, or for the infrastructure that is currently being built to be designed to higher standards. Forget your ‘utopias'; it will never happen until we build a mass cycling culture all by ourselves.

I’m not sure that’s true. Even if we ignore the fact that infrastructure of greatly varying quality for cyclists is already being built, and that our standards can greatly be improved, effective lobbying can work. The most prominent example is London Cycling Campaign managed to get all of the mayoral candidates to sign up to Go Dutch. Now we can doubt Boris’s sincerity, and his willingness to act, but for the first time, politicians are making commitments, rather than fob-offs, or simply ignoring cycling altogether. The same is true of Pedal on Parliament in Scotland, where, like in London, people got out on the streets and demanded change.

The correct response is surely to demand better, to show how things can and do work elsewhere, and to campaign for it, not to make Eeyore-ish noises about the likelihood of success, and to give up before we’ve even started.

As it happens, there is an example of how turning conflicts on a busy gyratory might be eliminated right here in the UK, one that will involve reducing three vehicle lanes down to two to make space for a wider cycle lane and a separate traffic phase for bicycles – the Vogue Gyratory on Lewes Road in Brighton.

I visited it in May, cycling north from the city centre out towards the University. It’s a fairly horrible road layout of the kind familiar to those who cycle in London.

The video shows the problems. Narrow cycle lanes on entry and exit, placed right up against railings, with no real protection from vehicles which can pass very close. We also have a three-lane arrangement on the gyratory itself, which presents cyclists with the choice of sticking in lane 2 to go straight on, or sticking in lane 1 and then attempting to make it back across to lane 2 at the lights; rather dangerous, but I suspect the favoured approach for those not confident enough to ‘take the lane’ on a gyratory.

And here’s how it will – hopefully – change.

I cycled from the bottom of this map, to the top right. The cycle lane will be widened to two metres. This space will come at the expense of (queuing) vehicle lanes on the gyratory, which will be reduced from three to two.

The corner on the entry to the gyatory will be rounded off, to make room for the wider cycle lane.

On the exit, again the corner has been rounded off, and the cycle lane placed inside a new bus lane, which will come at the expense of one the vehicle lanes. This is a better arrangement (although buses could encroach into the lane as they take the corner – I hope the width and angle are sufficient).

Finally, at the point of conflict, cyclists will have a separate traffic phase. Vehicles turning left will be held, while cyclists going straight on can proceed, in safety.

It is precisely this kind of separation of motor vehicle movements that is required at Bow.

The arrangement is far from ideal, it is true; cycling close to buses in the bus lane is not a great experience, especially given that the cycle lane runs outside the bus stop in the gryatory itself, rather than behind it. I would have liked to have seen more physical separation. I also wonder about the timings on the lights, which might prioritise left-turning motor vehicles over cyclists wishing to proceed straight on.

Nevertheless, it is a great step forward from the previous arrangement, seen in the video, and shows what can and should be done at Bow. Change can happen, even with very low cycling numbers (it’s also happening on the Old Shoreham Road in Brighton).

Let’s not wait before asking for more.

Thanks to Mark Strong for some background to this post

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5 Responses to The Vogue Gyratory, Brighton

  1. monchberter says:

    I agree the Bow layout looks pretty confusing and really a bit of a mess, but I understand from ‘other blogs’ that TFL are monitoring and making ongoing changes to the set up as they know it’s something they are trying out. Hopefully it’ll get better but I am extremely sceptical of anything they turn their hand to now.

    I’d also like to bring to your attention the recently completed rework of the crossroads at Angel / City Road. Going north from St John St which is two lane as it has a bus lane into a now VERY tight one lane as they’ve widened the pavements and the pedestrian refuge at the middle of the road. I now see cyclists on the very busy strech having to compete with cars and buses to get through the narrow gap before the lights change again. It’s horrible.

  2. Don says:

    Chris Juden may just have been expressing his personal viewpoint, but I cannot help equating it with the CTC’s stance, given his position in the organisation. I am rather fed up with the apparent ‘fence-sitting’ that seems to be going on at CTC, regarding the Dutch solutions that are already proven to work. They call themselves “The UK’s National Cyclists’ Organisation”, but I am not at all convinced that they deserve to use this title.

    I have been a CTC member for many years but the temptation to quit gets stronger by the month. Are you listening CTC?

    • I had no idea who Chris Juden was when I read his comment, I’m so disappointed to find out that he’s the Technical Officer of CTC.

      The essence of his comment was “you can’t win, so don’t try” which is a depressing attitude anyway, but to find out that the guy is pretty high up in a cycling campaign group is very worrying!

      Perhaps the CTC has been infiltrated by the motor vehicle and fossil fuel industries! A quick look at a graph of cycle usage over the past 40 years would certainly back up that conspiracy theory… http://waronthemotorist.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/that-cycling-revolution/

      If you do quit the CTC, make sure to tell them why!

  3. nic says:

    I used to cycle this junction from the uni’s in the North but taking a right (travelling South). It was/is horrible with the three lanes of traffic, cars and vans all swinging from right to left and vice versa.

    There is still little offered to help you make that right turn, an advanced cycle light, ahead in time of the lights holding traffic heading north into the junction would a big bonus. That would allow you to swing around 180 degrees and join the north-bound cycle path…

  4. The only issue I can see is that some right turns may still present difficulty. It would be possible to mark out an area for northbound cyclists to make a “hook turn”, and this could be probably be done legally by moving the pedestrian crossing back slightly, routing a short cycle track through the traffic island, and placing a second stop line ahead of the pedestrian crossing. (I hope that you are able to understand what I mean, I will illustrate it if necessary). It is in my opinion that it is in many cases a fallacy that UK law will not allow certain preferred Continental designs to be implemented and yet allow an inferior bodge (eg a pavement cycleway with ambiguous start and end points) to be constructed. The most common fallacy is the idea that cycle tracks cannot have priority over side roads; and following that, that they cannot have separate traffic light phases. Obviously, hook turns can increase delay for cyclists, but they are definitely going to be more comfortable where there are multiple traffic lanes, and they could be used to allow right turns to be possible for cyclists where they are otherwise banned. (I have occasionally made hook turns to turn right at junctions in London with “ahead only” arrows).

    Having said that, there are differences that I am aware of, but it is possible to overcome them. For example, in the UK, traffic signals cannot be phased in such a way that would allow traffic to turn across the path of a pedestrian with a green man signal. It would be possible to get around this by using nearside indicators for the pedestrian signal and by placing a traffic island between the controlled road crossing and the uncontrolled cycle track crossing. Obviously the traffic island would take up space, but you may be able to forgo a central traffic island if the road width has been reduced by the addition of the cycle tracks. With minor side roads it may be possible not to have a pedestrian signal at all.

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