West Sussex and LSTF money – the Northgate gyratory

Last week I wrote a long post about how West Sussex County Council are proposing to use millions of pounds of ‘sustainable’ transport funding (distributed by the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership) on schemes that have negligible (or even non-existent) sustainable transport benefit.

Even those parts of the schemes that, by West Sussex’s own admission, have no sustainable transport benefit whatsoever, could obviously be designed to accommodate walking and cycling routes. But West Sussex have chosen not to do this. They want to build very large roundabouts on the edge of a major town that have absolutely no walking and cycling provision.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 17.25.23

In that post I described how this is symptomatic of a wider problem with cycling outside of cities in Britain – West Sussex in particular is just one many local authorities that have no consistent stream of funding for genuinely sustainable transport, no real enthusiasm for engaging seriously with cycling as a mode of transport, and little or no expertise on how to design properly for it.

What cash that is available for cycling from central government – either through these LEP channels, or through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund – appears to dribble away, used on schemes and projects of negligible benefit.

This post is the first in a series that will examine what West Sussex has done with the £2.46 million of cash the county was awarded by the DfT for sustainable travel projects, to be spent between 2012 and 2015.

West Sussex’s initial bid was for £5m, for four towns and cities – Crawley, Worthing, Chichester and Horsham. The DfT rejected that bid, and only chose to fund the schemes for Chichester and Horsham – about half the total bid (hence £2.46m). So these posts will cover where those millions of pounds have gone, in Chichester and Horsham. It should also be borne in mind that the total spend will be significantly higher, with matched funding from the local authority in many cases.

A case in point is the subject here. £140,000 of that DfT cash is being spent on the Northgate Gyratory in Chichester (with a further £70,000 coming from West Sussex’s own road safety budget). This is a very busy road system – dubbed ‘The Fire Station Roundabout’ (because it has a Fire Station in the middle of it) - just to the north of Chichester city centre. It is where the city’s inner ring road meets roads heading off to the north, out of Chichester.

What is that £210,000 buying?

  • A repainting of the existing cycle lane markings.
  • Some solar-powered flashing signs telling drivers to ‘Think Bike’.
  • A video.
  • A pdf.
  • That’s it.

It should be borne in mind that the Northgate Gyratory is a significant barrier to cycling in Chichester – to get in and out of the city centre from the north, this roundabout has to be used. And it also has a safety problem – despite its innate hostility obviously suppressing cycling, there have been six serious cycling injuries in the last nine years.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 21.36.10So this is a shambles. Frankly, the money has been wasted.

Here’s the video West Sussex have produced to publicise the repainting of the cycle lanes, and the new flashing signs.

The basic problem here is that the existing design for cycling is dire, and it isn’t being changed. The crap cycle lanes are being repainted, and the flashing signs smack of desperation, an attempt to mitigate the inherent flaws in the road layout (although, as we’ll see below, the signs appear to have arrived with an earlier, and even more hazardous, version of this scheme that has been abandoned).

As a Chichester local told me –

By definition if you need to have such signs, surely this means you haven’t designed your roads properly for cyclists.

It’s hard to disagree.

It should be noted that there are already signs at Northgate gyratory – signs that aren’t electronic.

Northgate Gyratory Think Bike

I doubt flashing signs will do much to address the risks for people cycling at this gyratory, any more than the existing metal ones do anything.

The problems are the result of poor design, on both entry and exit to the roundabout.

On entry, drivers will not be looking in the direction cyclists are coming from, which is almost from behind them. Their attention will be focused instead on the roundabout, looking for gaps in motor traffic.

Northgate driver looking angle

This problem is compounded by ‘masking’. Even if drivers are looking in these two different directions, those in the nearside lane will often have their visibility of the cycle lane obscured by motor vehicles in the outer lane.

Northgate 1To repeat, this design is not being changed. Just repainted.

Likewise on exit, collisions occur because drivers are unsure about where people cycling will be going (or make assumptions about their direction), while similarly people cycling will be unsure about whether drivers will be entering or existing the roundabout. For example.

Northgate exit uncertainty

 

The blue arrows represent a driver and a cyclist. At the positions pictured, neither has a clue what the other is going to do – stay on the roundabout, or exit it. That uncertainty is a recipe for collisions.

Safely navigating this cycle lane involves looking back over your shoulder, through  180°, in an attempt to observe what motor traffic behind you is doing.

Conveniently this is even demonstrated in West Sussex’s video.

Northgate looking back

Again, to repeat, this design is not being changed. Just repainted.

A recipe for collisions.

The problems described here are the kinds of problems that need to be resolved, yet won’t be. People cycling are not in visible positions, and when they are, there’s uncertainty about who is going in which direction.

Another local, Paul Wreyford, has this to say in the road.cc article on the gyratory plans

The cycle lane design remains very similar to the existing layout. There still remains the danger and conflict that I and many of my neighbours have experienced on this system.

This is; the high speed of exiting traffic at each junction, the lack of visibility for the kerbside driver when two vehicles are at a two lane entry, the failure of drivers to signal when exiting, and the lack of lane discipline/lane markings on the gyratory system.

I’d also add that even relying on drivers signalling their intentions to exit (or stay on) the roundabout, is simply not good enough, because if someone doesn’t signal, or signals in error, and their intentions are (mistakenly) assumed, the consequences would be catastrophic.

The black car isn't signalling an exit. Staying on the roundabout?

The black car isn’t signalling an intention to exit. Staying on the roundabout?

So there is a series of clear, identifiable safety problems, that are a direct consequence of the existing design, which is merely being repainted. The issue is not a general lack of ‘awareness’ of cyclists – awareness that needs to be ‘raised’ by a number of flashing signs -as the video and the poster imply.

Northgate Take Care

Pay attention.

Pay attention! That’ll do it.

Imagining that the remedy to the collision record of Northgate is ‘taking care’ or ‘paying attention’ represents a spectacular misdiagnosis of the actual underlying problem with the gyratory – crap design.

Here’s a video I’ve taken showing one of the exit points of the gyratory, in the south-west corner.

The video essentially speaks for itself, but a few things can be observed.

  • Traffic on the gyratory is pretty much continuous, even at this relatively quiet time of the day (the middle of the afternoon). Without knowing with certainly where drivers are going, you will almost always have to come to a complete stop to cross the exits if you are using the cycle lane.
  • Notice that many drivers do not signal their intention to exit – 0:28, 0:32 0:50, in just this short clip. Indication plainly cannot be relied upon, despite the implications of the West Sussex video. Assuming drivers are staying on the roundabout because they’re not indicating would be a very bad idea indeed.
  • Notice how the man cycling has to look directly behind him (1:03), even when not crossing the exit.
  • The pedestrian environment is also terrible; notice the struggles/uncertainty about how and where to cross at 0:35. The issues are essentially identical to crossing the exits by bike.

An extra insult is how the poor existing road markings – needless ‘Give Ways’ for people simply leaving the roundabout by bike, like these –

Northgate Give Way 1 Northgate Give Way 2Are just being repainted, without any apparent thought about whether they are even necessary.

A good use of £210,000

A good use of £210,000

Sensible advice would be to avoid these cycle lanes entirely, if you feel confident enough to do so, and to cycle with motor traffic on the roundabout, to minimise the problems of intervisibility described here. That’s a pretty dire state of affairs considering this is supposed to be a six-figure ‘improvement’.

But it could have been even worse. The initial plans from West Sussex for this gyratory proposed giving cycling priority on both entry and exit.

Northgate initial plansThis was really a dreadful idea, given all the aforementioned problems of uncertainty.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with giving cycling priority over motor traffic, but not with this kind of geometry, and with these kinds of speeds on exit. The flashing warning ‘Think Bike!’ signs were included as part of this scheme, again presumably in an attempt to make it slightly less lethal.

Northgate Think Bike

But this ‘priority with paint’ design appears to have been abandoned following a road safety audit, leaving us with the status quo. Plus the signs.

So £210,000 is going to be spent doing essentially nothing.

Unfortunately, I suspect that simply wasn’t enough money in the first place to come up with a serious, design-led solution to the issues with this roundabout, drawing on best international practice in designing cycling infrastructure that is safe and attractive to use.

There’s plenty of space at Northgate for a major redesign, accommodating cycling infrastructure of the type seen in David Hembrow’s video above, and described in his blog post here. But the aimless result we’ve ended up with has probably flowed from that initial problem of insufficient cash. Northgate needs a major physical redesign, and £210,000 was never going to be enough.

Maybe West Sussex weren’t ever that interested in examining serious alternative designs, or in devoting a large chunk of the money they won from the DfT on implementing one scheme, preferring instead to spread it thinly on a large number of schemes that look good, presented as a nice long list, but which are ineffective in practice.

Meanwhile the old paint is being scraped off, ready for new paint.

Northgate paintNext week I’ll be looking at another West Sussex scheme, also involving six figure sums of LSTF cash. Stay tuned.

Posted in Infrastructure, Subjective safety, Sustainable Safety, Uncategorized, West Sussex County Council | 15 Comments

Conflicting greens – the implications of a new Oxford junction for ‘simultaneous green’

The Dutch ‘simultaneous green’ junction arrangements allow people walking and cycling to progress through signal controlled junctions in any direction they choose, at the same time as people from all the other arms of the junction.

‘Simultaneous green’ works well on very large junctions, as this David Hembrow video shows –

As well as on smaller ones. My video this time –

In Britain, however, there is some confusion about whether these kinds of arrangements would be legal, particularly as they involve ‘conflicting greens’ – green signals running at the same time on arms of a junction that are an angle to each other. (See this thread on the Cycling Embassy forum, for example).

Now of course we already have examples of ‘conflicting greens’ in the UK – greens for traffic from opposite arms of a junction, which allow people to turn right across the opposing traffic stream. For instance, if I’m turning right in my car, or on my bike, I have a green signal to go, while someone heading straight through the junction from the opposite direction also has a green. We both have a green, yet our paths will cross! The answer is – the turning party yields, rather than assuming green means a manoeuvre can be performed without conflict.

So this seems to be a straightforward objection to the ‘we don’t do conflicting greens in the UK’ claim.

But what about greens from junction arms that are not directly facing each other? What about you having a green to go straight ahead, while the junction to your left – at 90° to your junction – also has a green?

I was told last year by a highway engineer, whose opinion I value, that there isn’t actually anything in UK traffic regulations that specifically rules out doing this. He explained that this option is technically available. You could give motor traffic green signals simultaneously on two arms of a junction at 90° to each other. This just doesn’t happen because, well, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and would probably be quite unsafe – for motor traffic, at least.

There is now a new junction in Oxford that seems to substantiate this – that you can allow ‘conflicting greens’ on a junction, at 90° to each other (or indeed at other angles). The Hythe Bridge Street junction lies between the city’s station, and the city centre. It used to be composed of two separate roads, with a cut-though in the middle diagonal for walking and cycling –

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 19.29.36But it has now been converted into a straightforward crossroads. Or, actually, a slightly less than straightforward crossroads.

The odd arrangement is on the western arm of the junction.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 00.21.58

Looking east, across the junction

The signals tells us that all motor traffic must turn left, heading north. Meanwhile, however, people cycling are exempted from that instruction – they are able to cycle off in any direction they please, north, east, or south.

So far so good, but allowing people cycling to do this actually involves a ‘conflicting green’. While this arm of the junction is green, it turns out that traffic flowing south out of the northern arm also has a green signal.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 00.25.55

Here’s another photograph, this one from Graham Smith, showing the same location, but from the south-western corner of the junction.

Picture by Graham Smith

Picture by Graham Smith

The man on the bike and the van driver both have a green signal. Note that at the time Graham’s picture was taken – January this year – there aren’t any road markings in the junction. Indeed, this was the initial plan, as below.

Hythe Bridge Street

Click to enlarge. I’ve highlighted, in red,  the paragraph that makes clear people cycling can progress in any direction through the junction from the western arm.

Some markings were then hastily added at the end of January, presumably in response to local complaints and actual collisions.

575470.fullA painted waiting area, right in the middle of the junction.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 09.28.17

This is, of course, still far from brilliant – if you are not familiar with the junction, it’s not entirely clear how it will work, and even if you are, you are still exposed to collision risk from motor traffic turning around you, without any protection.

But the main point of this post is that – regardless of the safety implications – it is apparently entirely legal to give green signals, simultaneously, from junctions at 90° to each other, as shown below – even if the ‘traffic’ coming from the western arm is cycle-only.

Hythe Bridge Street

 

The safety implications of this odd arrangement in Oxford – which involves interactions between bikes and motor traffic – are surely much greater than a clearly-explained simultaneous green layout, which will involve interactions only between people cycling.

So – what’s stopping us?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Compare and contrast

In 2011 Ghulam Murtza was stopped by the police, and issued a fixed penalty notice. He was prosecuted for committing an offence under section 24 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act, and fined £115. He was carrying his child on his bike, on a seat that may or may not have been strictly legal.

This is section 24 –

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 15.15.04

Section 24 of the Road Traffic Act 1988

As it happens, this is a fine I am at risk of receiving pretty much every single day, because I give my partner a ‘backie’ on my omafiets, like this –

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 15.12.13My oma isn’t ‘constructed or adapted’ for carrying more than one person – she just sits on the rack – so by the letter of the law we are both risking fines every time we do this.

This is the law Murtza fell foul off.

Compare this £115 fine with the cases of Michael Mason and Daniel Squire, who were both mown down from behind and killed by drivers.

In the case of Michael Mason, the driver faced no criminal proceedings whatsoever, despite the fact she ‘could not explain why she did not see Michael when many other witnesses had.’

In the case of Daniel Squire, the driver walked free from court, despite admitting texting while driving in the period immediately prior to the fatal collision, and (from the new reports available) a deeply unconvincing account of what transpired.

Two fatal collisions.

But no fines, not even any penalty points, in either case. Killing people apparently merits less punishment than carrying someone on a bike.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Cycling in Middle England – going nowhere fast

At the Big Cycling Debate on the 2nd March, one of the most astute questions from the audience came from Ralph Smyth of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. He wanted to know what the three political parties who had been invited to the debate would do to improve cycling levels in ‘middle Britain’ – those areas of the country that are not covered by ‘Cycle City Ambition’ money, the latest tranche of which had (conveniently) been announced that very morning.

Unfortunately the current cycling minister Robert Goodwill chose not to engage with the question that had actually been asked, instead deciding to talk about cycling in rural areas, waffling on about potholes, cycle routes along roads in rural areas that nobody is using because it’s too remote (apparently), the Tour de France in Yorkshire, and ‘cyclists’ preferring to use roads in rural areas.

This wasn’t what Ralph Smyth’s question was about. It was about what political parties should be doing to drive cycling across the country as a whole, not just in the city pockets that are fortunate enough to be granted funding. By focusing entirely on ‘rural’ cycling in remote areas the question was ducked by Goodwill.

And this is a serious issue – tens of millions of British people do not live in cities (let alone in those few cities that are getting DfT funding). They live in large towns, across the country, as well as in more rural locations.

Yet the story in most of these areas is one of rock-bottom cycling levels, and no sign on the horizon that things are going to change any time soon.

These areas will typically be the responsibility of local authorities that have –

  • little or no willingness to engage with cycling as a serious mode of transport, choosing instead to accommodate existing built-in patterns of travel, including a high percentage of short car trips, and further (predicted) growth in car travel;
  • little or no money to spend on cycling infrastructure, beyond the intermittent handouts they might get from central government through a bidding process;
  • little or no expertise in building cycling infrastructure, which means that – without any decent cycle infrastructure standards – what little money that is being spent is frittered away on poor schemes of questionable merit.

Although many areas – places like Bristol, Brighton and Hove, Leicester, Cambridge, and other cities getting to grips with designing for cycling – are showing ambition and a willingness to do things differently, the story is frankly pretty bleak across the rest of Britain.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 22.21.48

From West Sussex County Council’s ‘Local Transport Plan’.

One of these places is West Sussex. Although the County Council likes to imagine that the county is ‘largely rural’ (see right), the vast majority of West Sussex’s 800,000 residents actually live in urban areas, places like Crawley (population 107,000), Worthing (104,000), Horsham (55,000), Burgess Hill (28,000), Littlehampton (28,000), Chichester (27,000), East Grinstead (24,000), Bognor Regis (24,000), Haywards Heath (23,000), Shoreham (19,000), and other towns and large villages.

Yet cycling levels across this temperate, largely flat county are dismal. Cycling to work levels in the large towns to the south of Gatwick airport scrape to a 1-2% mode share –

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 00.18.17

And things aren’t much better in the towns along the south coast, with only pockets of Chichester and Worthing bucking the 1-2% cycling to work trend, reaching as high as 5%.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 00.28.56

These cycling to work levels – which we should remember are likely to far outstrip general cycling mode share – have actually fallen in many West Sussex towns since 2001.

I’m told that West Sussex’s cycling capital expenditure – from the council’s own budget – amounts to only a few tens of thousands of pounds a year. The council’s sole cycling officer has been made redundant; there is no cycling plan (the West Sussex Cycle Forum were asked to draft one themselves) and what money the County Council does receive from central government for sustainable transport, in the form of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF), has, and will, go to waste on poor schemes of questionable value. (To take just one example, over £100,000 of the £2.4m worth of LSTF ‘sustainable’ funding West Sussex won from the government has been spent in Horsham on… brand new traffic lights, specifically for motor traffic,  to reduce queues for vehicles and hence lower pollution.)

That waste of LSTF cash will be examined in a series of forthcoming posts. The subject here, however, is the latest source of transport funding from central government, one distributed through LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships). This new funding stream is, again, going to fail walking and cycling in West Sussex, unless there is radical change.

What follows will be long and probably a little boring, but I hope it will be valuable as an insight into the disastrous direction transport is heading in places where there is little or no engagement with modes of transport beyond the car, and indeed no apparent willingness to even think differently. I may not get all the details exactly right, but in my defence I am trying to make sense of quite a complex process.

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) were set up by the current government in 2011.

Local enterprise partnerships are partnerships between local authorities and businesses. They decide what the priorities should be for investment in roads, buildings and facilities in the area.

From a transport perspective, they are therefore obviously hugely influential, given that they are essentially determining what money should be spent on.

There are 39 of these LEPs in England and Wales. The pertinent one in this post is the Coast to Capital (C2C) LEP, which covers all of West Sussex, Brighton and Hove, a large part of Surrey, and Croydon.

The Coast to Capital LEP region

The Coast to Capital LEP region

As can be seen from the map, this a large and strategically significant area, covering the southern outskirts of London, as well as Gatwick Airport, several south coast towns and cities, and many major towns in Sussex and Surrey.

LEPs have no requirement for public involvement or democratic accountability. Here’s a select committee chairman, back in 2011 –

LEPs have a significant impact on their local community; they would be failing if they did not. Despite this, the ability for the local community to scrutinise their performance is patchy. If LEPs are to be held accountable for their performance, measureable indicators of that performance are needed. And they are needed in a format easily understood by local communities.

Four years later, in February this year, TransportXtra commented on ‘the lamentable efforts that most LEPs have made in opening themselves up to scrutiny’, pointing out that

the Campaign for Better Transport rightly criticised the LEPs last month, saying that decisions on the latest award of £1bn from the fund had been taken “behind closed doors”.

Funding is available from Coast to Capital for what they term ‘Sustainability and Resilience Schemes’ – a pot of £62.6 million, which was granted to C2C from central government, to be spent between 2015 and 2021. A list of current bids for portions of that funding is available here. Decisions will be made on who gets what on the 25th of March (i.e., next week) by the Local Transport Body – made up of these individuals. (The Local Transport Body’s role is to advise LEPs like Coast to Capital on what they think transport priorities should be).

I am going to look here at just one of those bids, put in by West Sussex – this is the West of Horsham Transport Package. This involves a substantial sum of money – well over £3m, to fund a £4m project. In essence it amounst to changes – major and minor – to four roundabouts on main roads to the west of Horsham.

These roundabouts –

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 14.43.12

The four roundabouts which this funding would be used to change. Horsham is to the east, only partly shown.

Three of these roundabouts – the larger ones – lie in a line on the town’s existing dual carriageway bypass, built in the late 1960s to divert the A24 (which runs from the south coast to London) away from the town centre.The other, smaller, roundabout – Five Oaks, to the west- lies on the main road towards Guildford, from the bypass.

The 14-page application form from West Sussex for this funding doesn’t provide a great deal of detail (not even any plans of these schemes!) so I’m going to run through the 62-page Supporting Document for this application for funding, prepared for West Sussex County Council by CH2MHill. Strangely, it does not appear to be available anywhere online (I’ve only seen a copy because a colleague emailed a West Sussex transport planner to specifically ask for detailed plans of the schemes), so I’ve uploaded it here.

Very early in the document, we are told the rationale for these ‘upgrades’ –

The Farthings Hill Interchange and Five Oaks schemes are linked to the wider delivery of the 2,000 home West of Horsham development

And…

The Great Daux Roundabout and Robin Hood Roundabout schemes are linked to the delivery of the 2,500 home North of Horsham development

That is, the two roundabouts to the south are linked to a large new housing development (currently under construction); the two roundabouts to the north are linked to another large (proposed) housing development, to the north of the town.

It is not clear why West Sussex are bidding for what amounts to funding from central government – through the Coast2Capital LEP – to mitigate the effects of increased motor traffic from these new developments. The developers are building (or are proposing to build) housing that is believed will generate more motor traffic, and yet it is the taxpayer that is being asked to cover the bulk of the costs of accommodating it. Indeed, 75% of the costs – the remaining 25% coming from Section 106 (developer) contributions.

Caption.

In each case, 75% of the funding will come from the LEP. The remaining 25% from S106. (I’ve highlighted that the person preparing this bid for millions of pounds of funding can’t even use right word.)

In an ideal world, the costs of any necessary changes to these roundabouts should surely be covered by the developer themselves. But perhaps that’s too idealistic in 21st century Britain.

This also raises the question of what happens if this funding bid is rejected by the Coast2Capital LEP – West Sussex will have a £3m funding shortfall for these projects that are (apparently) necessary to accommodate motor traffic.

The supporting document then moves on to a presentation of the cost:benefit analysis for the four roundabouts. This is where things get very silly indeed.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 16.32.39Notice here that two of these roundabouts (the two that happen to be exclusively focused on easing congestion for motor traffic) have extraordinary cost-benefit ratios (BCR). These are the two ‘capacity’ schemes, listed at the bottom. The Robin Hood roundabout will cost £465,000, yet will apparently net £322 million in Present Value Benefits, meaning the benefit:cost ratio for this roundabout scheme is 693:1. The Great Daux roundabout is nearly as ludicrous at 506:1. This really is fantasy economics.

The other two roundabouts are termed ‘connectivity’ schemes, which purport to make walking and cycling more attractive (more on that later) and have negative cost benefit ratios.

The roundabout plans with the extraordinary alleged benefits do absolutely nothing at all for walking and cycling. The Robin Hood roundabout currently looks like this.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 17.23.09

It’s a fairly straightforward crossing of a 70mph dual carriageway (running N-S), with the road to the west connecting with the village of Warnham, and the one on the right connecting to Horsham. There are (mostly) two lanes on entry and exit. Not much fun on a bike, or on foot, but the funding proposal aims to turn it into this monster.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 17.25.23

Four lanes on entry, signalisation, and hint at a ‘turbo’ format.

A similar arrangement is proposed for the Great Daux roundabout, a kilometre to the north. Here the bypass meets the A24 at a T-junction roundabout.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 17.45.55

This is to be replaced, again, by a signalised, turbo-ish roundabout with 3-4 lanes on entry. Again, no consideration of walking or cycling whatsoever.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 17.48.44

Both these schemes could address existing severance issues for walking and cycling between Horsham and the villages to the west, and north-west. They don’t, however.

The justification for the massive expansion of both of these junctions is as follows –

The Horsham District Transport Study which assessed the impact of forecast strategic development and background traffic growth up to 2031 concluded that both junctions would require mitigation.

That is,

The truth is that motor traffic flows in and around Horsham are either steady or declining, over the last decade. Motor traffic in the town appears to be falling, at least on the three main roads with DfT count points.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 11.36.05

And on the bypass itself – between these roundabouts – there has been very little change (perhaps even a slight decline) in motor traffic levels over the last decade.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 17.45.50

That’s not to say that there might be a case for expanding these roundabouts. What’s scandalous, however, is that absolutely no account has been taken of walking and cycling connections in the plans that are on the table. It’s like these modes don’t even exist. And it is acknowledge in black and white -

The proposed scheme is on the strategic road network and is primarily aimed at providing journey time benefits to motorised vehicles, there are no sustainable transport benefits.

But of course there could, and should be. Roundabouts like this should have connections for walking and cycling built into them at the design stage. Grade separation, or at-grade crossings with minimal delay, should be an absolute necessity. But it seems you can get away with completely ignoring walking and cycling.

On to the extraordinary benefit:cost ratios presented in this bid. They are derived simply by adding up the value of time savings accruing to motorists over a 60 year period, using the DfT’s WebTAG. Also bear in mind that the DfT’s aforementioned traffic growth forecasts are lying behind this modelling. The comparison in time savings for motorists (between the scheme being built, and the existing layout) is built around the assumption of large increases in motor traffic –

Using the opening year 2023 and forecast year 2029 traffic flows, the difference in highway network performance between the base model and the ‘with scheme’ models forms the basis of the Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA).

The assumption being that these roundabouts will become completely ‘saturated’ (that is, clogged) without widening.

But here’s what the authors of the bid have to say –

It should be noted that using outputs from a junction model, as opposed to a strategic model, will overestimate journey time impacts because it is unable to account for traffic reassignment. In reality, a change to a junction is likely to either induce extra traffic to use it or divert traffic away depending on the nature of the scheme, thus diluting the predicted journey time impact. [my emphasis]

The dilution effect, however, will be offset by the economic, social, and environmental benefits that have not been included in the transport appraisal. On this basis, the proposed methodology is considered to be robust.

A methodology that produces Benefit:Cost Ratios of 700:1 for schemes that completely ignore walking and cycling is considered ‘robust.’

Yet, later in the document, it is again acknowledged that this ‘time saving’ comparison is fundamentally flawed –

In reality, the delay predicted by the junction models [without the schemes going ahead] would not occur due to traffic reassignment and peak spreading (people choosing to start their journeys earlier of later, outside of the peak hours). This, in addition to the manually assigned 2029 traffic flows means the journey time benefits of implementing the scheme would not be as high as predicted. It should also be noted that the junction modelling software will not be providing reliable analysis of journey delays once significantly over capacity.

These two roundabout schemes are being considered only in terms of motoring. This is made plain by the ‘Journey Quality’ assessments, shown below.

It's all about motoring.

It’s all about motoring.

The ‘traveller stress’ of cycling across a four lane roundabout isn’t considered. ‘Traveller stress’ is framed only in terms of reducing drivers’ ‘frustration’ at delays and ‘fear of potential accidents’. Likewise ‘care’ for travellers is ‘specifically for the motorised transport users’. If you’re not in a car – we don’t care.

The neglect of walking and cycling is completely unacceptable. These are not roundabouts in the middle of nowhere. I’ve set them into context, below.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.16.04

The two roundabouts (framed in blue) lie between the Horsham and surrounding settlements, including a railway station on the line to London. These settlements are not any great distance from the town; Warnham to Horsham is 2 miles, as the crow flies. Likewise the railway station is just above the northern bypass, but essentially inaccessible if you are not in a car.

Moving on to the other two roundabout schemes, which purport to actually focus on sustainable travel. The Farthings Hill interchange is a grade-separated roundabout, sitting over the dual carriageway bypass.

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It’s huge, scary, and fast, with slip roads onto and off the dual carriageway, and multiple junctions to the west, including another dual carriageway, a petrol station, and the entrance to Broadbridge Heath village itself. There is a path across the roundabout, skirting around the inside of the northern bridge, but you have to dash across two lanes of fast traffic on either side.

The proposals are to signalise this roundabout, entirely.

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… providing toucan crossings and, erm, shared use footways.

While this will make the roundabout less lethal to cross on foot, or by bike, it’s hardly going to make it particularly convenient to cross. Whichever route you choose to take, you will have to wait at four separate toucan crossings.

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With a bit of thought (and a willingness to actually prioritise walking and cycling) the number of crossings should really only be two - for instance, a bi-directional path on the northern edge of the roundabout, crossing only the two slip roads.

It’s worth adding that an extra third lane for motor traffic is being added to the slip lane entries onto the roundabout as part of this scheme, and also that the ‘shared use’ footpath will remain at a substandard width, below 3m in most locations. Furthermore there are no plans to connect these poor routes up with Horsham – the shared use footway simply ends on the main road into Horsham a few metres south of the roundabout, with (nonsensically) people expected to stop using the pavement, and join a busy main road, at an arbitrary point.

'Rejoin'

‘use carriageway beyond this point’

So really the alleged ‘sustainable’ benefits of this scheme are negligible indeed, only a by-product of a pre-existing decision to signalise the roundabout to increase capacity. The claim

For pedestrians and cyclists, the scheme will significantly improve connectivity and reduce severance between Broadbridge Heath and Horsham

is highly dubious.

Yet the reason this roundabout performs poorly on the Benefit:Cost Analysis (minus 15:1, compared to 500:1 and 700:1) is blamed on these toucan crossings.

The significant journey time dis-benefit is a result of traffic reassignment following the completion of the West of Horsham infrastructure and the introduction of the Toucan crossings.

There’s also this extraordinary admission –

A safer junction would encourage more trips using sustainable modes for commuting purposes (via the train stations) or for leisure trips.

It has not, however, been possible to quantify these benefits. Accordingly, they have not been considered as part of the BCR appraisal.

In other words, we don’t know how to quantify the benefits of people walking and cycling; so those benefits are not part of our analysis. Precisely the same admission is made for the final part of the scheme, the Five Oaks roundabout.

This roundabout is being downgraded, because a new dual carriageway road has been built further to the south, bypassing it.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.15.21As far as I am aware, the ‘old road’ is being closed to through-traffic.

The plan at the roundabout is principally to rearrange the road arriving at the roundabout from the village, to the east. The existing junction, onto the roundabout, is being closed entirely, with the road being bent away to the east to a junction on the ‘old road.’ The intention is to increase the length of car trips through the village and hence to discourage ratrunning, which is a serious problem given that the village is (and remains) the most direct east-west route towards Guildford.

The new road in the darker grey, built to take the junction away from the roundabout.

The new road in the darker grey, built to take the junction away from the roundabout.

Whether this will work or not, I don’t know, but again the arrangements for cycling are pitiful. There is a shared use pavement coming out of the village (which is ridiculous, given that through-traffic is supposed to be being removed) which then extends around the roundabout like a conventional footway, with the opportunity to dash across two lanes of motor traffic. Just as at Farthings Hill, there is no attempt to connect this alleged ‘cycle provision’ up with places people might actually want to go. Despite plentiful space in the area the diverted road is being built, there are no plans to build either a cycleway or footway along this road.

The current (and soon to be 'old') road. No plans to provide any walking or cycling infrastructure in this verge; only the diversionary road

The current (and soon to be ‘old’) road. No plans to provide any walking or cycling infrastructure in this verge; only the diverted road junction from the village.

This failure is even more acute because the new road has been built without any cycling or walking provision.

No footpath, or cycle path. This is not the middle of nowhere - this road (as can be seen) runs through new housing.

No footpath, or cycle path. This is not the middle of nowhere – this road (as can be seen) runs through new housing.

These roads are the existing, and new, direct routes towards Horsham. Again, in context –

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Both of these roads will be surrounded by existing and new housing, and both run directly towards the centre of Horsham. Yet nothing is being done for walking and cycling on either of them, either as part of the planned development, or indeed as part of bid for funding from the Coast 2 Capital LEP. It’s another wasted opportunity to reap the benefits of a blank slate on the part of West Sussex.

Now a new bridge has been provided over the bypass. But the old bridge simply had to be go, because the bypass is being widened to eight lanes as it runs through the new development. The old bridge was in the way.

And the new bridge is a design failure.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.40.19 Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.40.49

With sets of barriers built into it, and wiggly ramps to access it in remote corners of car parks, far from natural desire lines, it’s hard to see how it could have been made less direct and attractive.

On top of these failures to build high quality cycling infrastructure into brand new development (or indeed any kind of cycling infrastructure), West Sussex are compounding their problems by hoovering up millions of pounds of LEP funding on road expansion projects that – again – take either absolutely no account of walking and cycling, or provide for it shabbily in piecemeal, tokenistic ways, around the fringes of existing road projects.

This is the state of cycling where I live. There is no willingness to think differently; no apparent expertise; no design manual to draw upon; no regular stream of funding. And what funding there is from central government is being used for the woeful projects described in this post, as well as many others.

It’s getting worse, not better.

Posted in Uncategorized | 37 Comments

Danger from behind

There was an intriguing (and revealing) detail in the thinking behind Lord Scott of Foscote’s strange intervention during a question about cycling safety in the House of Lords last week.

Lord Jordan asked the Minister of State for transport, Baroness Kramer, about the Government’s assessment of a recent YouGov poll, carried out for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Lord Scott saw this as the perfect opportunity to chip in, not with a helpful contribution to the debate, but instead with an evident personal bugbear – people cycling with headphones.

Does the Minister agree that a cyclist’s main protection should be his or her own eyes and ears? The eyes are there to warn against impending danger from the front and the ears ought to assist in identifying impending danger from behind. I cycle regularly from my flat in Camden to Westminster—it used to be Lincoln’s Inn, then it was the Royal Courts of Justice and now it is Westminster—and I am appalled by the number of cyclists who bicycle with earplugs in their ears listening to music. If they listen to music, they cannot possibly hear any danger approaching from behind. There are regulations to ensure the use of lights on bicycles in dark or dingy weather. Should there not also be a regulation to prevent the highly dangerous practice to which I have referred?

I say this is intriguing and revealing because of the form of the response to ‘danger from behind.’

Lord Scott of Foscote’s preferred approach to dealing with ‘danger from behind’ is to bring in legislation banning people from using headphones, so they will have a better chance of… hearing it coming. Great.

Worse still, the mere act of listening to music itself is described – apparently in all seriousness – as ‘highly dangerous’. By the same logic, someone who is deaf daring to cycle on London’s roads would be ‘highly dangerous’.

The misdirection is extraordinary. Listening to music while riding a bike is in no way dangerous, in and of itself. Indeed, I’ve compiled a picture post of all the things Dutch people do while riding bikes that aren’t the least bit dangerous.

DSCN9946But these are activities that, in the UK, are framed as somehow ‘dangerous’, thanks to our lovely way of loading blame onto the vulnerable road user.

What is actually dangerous isn’t a pair of headphones – it is, literally, the thing that’s coming ‘from behind’, be it an HGV, bus, van or car.

What's dangerous here? Music, or thunderous motor traffic?

What’s dangerous here? Music, or thunderous motor traffic?

The proper response to that danger should either be to provide people cycling with their own parallel route, separate from those vehicles, or to limit the speed, volume and mass of that motor traffic on routes that are shared. This is called ‘Sustainable Safety’, and it explains why Dutch users of bicycles are far, far less likely to be killed or injured than their British counterparts, despite engaging in all kinds of allegedly ‘dangerous’ activity.

Rather than loading yet more responsibility onto the person most at risk, we need roads and streets that are designed to keep people safe, even when they’re engaging in harmless activities.

Posted in Uncategorized | 25 Comments

Quietways are meaningless if they don’t deal with difficult junctions

Westminster Council recently announced plans for improvements to Cambridge Circus, at the heart of the West End. Unfortunately these proposals – which do amount to some benefits for people walking in the area – make cycling through this already hostile junction even worse.

The plans primarily involve the addition of a diagonal Oxford Circus-style crossing, across the middle of the junction. Presumably this will run at the same time as the four crossings on the four arms of the junction.

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However, they also involve the complete closure of the junction with Moor Street, just to the north of the main junction, which at present is a very convenient (and safe) exit point in and out of Soho. It’s currently cycle-only, on exit.

The cycle-only exit and entrance of Moor Street, looking towards Cambridge Circus

The cycle-only exit of Moor Street, looking towards Cambridge Circus

This is all the more strange given that Westminster are marking the route of Quietway 19 on these plans. 

Red markings added by me.

Red markings added by me. The proposed route of the Quietway is the red arrow; the Moor Street closure in the red rectangle

Westminster are proposing that the Quietway should take the route indicated in red, before going straight across Cambridge Circus, rather than using the logical cut-through of Moor Street, which will be entirely closed. In fact the diagonal markings represent bike stands, presumably a (futile) attempt to stop people cycling across this area. Rather than closing this road completely, it could of course be turned into an appropriately designed cycle-only cut through, with little detriment to the public space. It’s an easy road to cross, even now.

The current Moor Street crossing. I'm standing in the road to take this picture.

The current Moor Street crossing. I’m standing in the road to take this picture.

The road could be narrowed down to a cycle-only route, with a raised table, and even an informal zebra, to give pedestrians priority.

A complete closure, however, would mean people will have to cycle some distance up Charing Cross Road, which is hardly an attractive prospect.

Looking north up Charing Cross Road. You will have to cycle in this, on the 'Quietway'.

Looking north up Charing Cross Road. You will have to cycle in this, on the ‘Quietway’.

Indeed, I cannot see this Quietway route being the least bit attractive for anyone, given that no substantive changes are proposed to the actual junction at Cambridge Circus. Coming from the south, the Quietway (again, indicated by the blue marking) involves crossing from Litchfield Street, onto Charing Cross Road.

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Here you are simply dumped into two lanes of motor traffic. There is an ASL there, but good luck reaching it (and I would probably advise you not even attempting to do so).

Charing Cross Road, from Litchfield Street. Again, 'Quietway' users will have to cycle out into this traffic, and sit in it, to get through Cambridge Circus.

Charing Cross Road, from Litchfield Street. Again, ‘Quietway’ users will have to cycle out into this traffic, and sit in it, to get through Cambridge Circus.

This is a really horrible junction, a place I can’t imagine the target market of Quietways – alleged novice/nervous cyclists – feeling the least bit comfortable cycling through. Even hardened users like me – used to cycling on these kinds of roads – find it unpleasant and intimidating. Yet the Quietway simply gives up here. It makes the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling description of Quietways sound rather hollow –

a network of direct back-street Quietways, with segregation and junction improvements over the hard parts [my emphasis]

And

Where directness demands the Quietway briefly join a main road, full segregation and direct crossing points will be provided, wherever possible, on that stretch[my emphasis]

Yet instead of ‘segregation and junction improvements over the hard parts’, Westminster don’t appear to be bothering to do anything at all here, simply dumping people cycling into the existing hostile junction, and indeed making their journeys more inconvenient and dangerous than even the current situation, by removing the Moor Street cycle-only route.

What hope is there for the Quietways programme if significant barriers on their routes – junctions like Cambridge Circus – are not being dealt with?

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Picture post – Veenendaal

By British standards, the Dutch town of Veenendaal has some exceptional infrastructure, but this is really a rather quite unexceptional Dutch town, in many ways. When I mentioned to Dutch people that I intended to visit Veenendaal while I was in the country last year, they couldn’t understand why.

From a distance – through the haze of a Dutch spring morning – it looks rather Soviet.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 14.12.00

Veenendaal is the equivalent of a British new town, expanding rapidly from a very small post-war settlement into the large town it is today, which accounts for the rather featureless architecture. It was, however, winner of the Fietsstad (best cycling city/town) award in 2000 – more detail (in Dutch) here.

As it happened, I couldn’t book accommodation in Veenendaal, so I stayed in the nearby town of Wageningen, and only briefly passed through Veenendaal on my way to Utrecht. Nevertheless I hope the pictures and video I managed to take convey a flavour of the town.

The approach from the countryside to the south east is typical. A quiet rural road merges into cycling infrastructure. Here the cycle track passes over a canal, then under the ring road, in one smooth transition.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 19.59.48This is how cycling through and around the town felt – seamless. The path alongside the ring road is of a similar standard.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 20.00.02As are the paths through and around the town.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 20.03.12

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 20.03.23The road pictured below is access-only for motor traffic – it ends at this point for drivers. Only cycles can progress further, either through the underpass on the right, or the cycle path on the left.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 20.04.43

Paths through neighbourhoods are straight and direct, and without interruptions, with priority over roads, and with bridges and underpasses where they are are needed.

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Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 20.04.04The railway station lies (literally) on one of these paths, which connects with it, and passes straight underneath the station platforms.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 20.03.45The town centre itself is a combination of bicycle-only streets (with rising bollards to allow deliveries) -

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 20.00.23… and cycle streets, on which motor traffic is allowed to drive, but only for short stretches (and in one direction only) meaning those routes are only used for access by drivers, while forming straight, useful routes for cycling. (Notice the block, however, which has obviously been added because Dutch drivers were not obeying the ‘turn right’ sign).

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 20.01.52Here’s a video flavour of this environment. It’s totally safe and inviting.

This really is a network that anyone can use, and would choose to use. When I passed through, at mid-morning, the people cycling in the town were all in normal clothes, going about their business as if they were casually walking. At this time of day, cycling was dominated by the elderly –

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Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 20.05.22and by females, in particular.

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Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 20.05.37It’s not uniformly excellent – some of the roads I cycle on in the town had no infrastructure at all, and felt distinctly British.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 20.06.03It may not be much to look at, but the town felt extraordinarily safe, friendly and peaceful. It’s a model of how the cycling infrastructure in our own new towns could have been constructed, with safe, direct and attractive routes everywhere you need to go, rather than discontinuous bits and bobs that abandon you unexpectedly.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 12.46.49

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 12.49.48

Here’s a final video, showing the continuity of the infrastructure, from the railway station, right out into the countryside.

I’d like to go back to Veenendaal – I just need to persuade my partner it’s a suitable holiday destination…

 

Posted in Fietsstraat, Infrastructure, Subjective safety, The Netherlands | 33 Comments

Using a flexible mode of transport to break rules designed for an inflexible mode of transport

The other week I spotted a driver attempting to drive the wrong way down a one-way street in Horsham.

It’s tempting to do this, because it represents a big shortcut.

Caption

The one-way section marked in red.

Starting from point A, driving illegally (south) down the road marked in red means that getting to point B is only a distance of 0.3 miles. Driving the legal route is over twice as long, and also involves waiting at several sets of traffic lights, which don’t exist on the ‘illegal’ route.

Here he is, setting off the wrong way down this one-way street…

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 12.08.30… only to meet a bus coming the other way.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 12.09.18With – literally – nowhere to go, the presumably chastened driver had to reverse back, all the way he had come.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 12.12.43This incident got me thinking about why ‘cyclists’ have a bad reputation for going the wrong way up one-way streets, and drivers don’t.

Often this is explained in terms of ‘cyclists’ being able to ‘get away with it’, because they’re apparently not identifiable, with number plates, or fluorescent jackets with their names printed on, or some other nonsense.

Of course, this ‘explanation’ fails to account for how drivers consistently break laws in vast numbers, despite having number plates.

But there is actually something to this explanation. It is hard to get away with driving a car up a one-way street – much harder than riding a bicycle up a one-way street. However, this isn’t because you’ve got a number plate on your car. It’s because it’s physically hard to drive a car up a one-way street. There’s a strong chance you’re going to meet a vehicle coming the other way, and if that happens, you’re pretty much screwed, as in the case of the driver in the example described above. It’s a big risk.

By contrast, when you cycle the wrong way up a one-way street, it’s relatively easy to negotiate your way out of difficulty. For a start, you’re only the width of a human being, so you can simply stop against the kerb. Or you can become a pedestrian.

I’d estimate that, every day, around 50-100 people cycle the wrong way down the street this driver got caught out on. However, none of them will have encountered the kind of problem he did. There are some examples (and more background explanation) at the start of this post here.

And here’s a chap on a Dutch bike, cycling the wrong way, at precisely the position the driver met the bus.

Yes, I am also cycling 'the wrong way' here.

Yes, I am also cycling ‘the wrong way’ here.

Here’s another.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 13.14.00And here’s someone cycling the wrong way, and actually meeting a bus, at this same location. No problem; he just waits out of the way, for the bus to go past.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 12.47.45

We’re all cycling the wrong way precisely because we can get away with it. We can stop, walk on the pavement, get out of the way, and so on. Drivers can’t do this, because they’re cocooned in a much bulkier vehicle that is much, much harder to manoeuvre out of the way.

So the apparent ‘lawlessness’ of cyclists isn’t related to a lack of a number plate, or identification, but instead to the fact they’re much more like pedestrians, than drivers are. On a bike, we’re nimble and flexible; in a car, we aren’t.

I will often take short cuts in Tube stations, down passages that are ‘one way’ for pedestrians. I would think twice about this, however, if I was carrying a very large six-foot-cubed cardboard box. Because there’s a strong chance I’m going to get into difficulty if people come the other way.

This basic human psychology also explains why ‘red light jumping’ is associated with cycling (even if drivers actually jump red lights in roughly similar proportions). Drivers tend to jump lights by ‘gambling’ – nipping through the junction after the signals have turned red, on the (often mistaken) assumption that they’ve got just enough time to do so before traffic emerges from other arms of the junction. Here’s a gamble from a lorry driver.

People cycling, however, engage in a form of jumping that you rarely see drivers engaging in; creeping into the junction, looking around, seeing if it is clear, and progressing carefully across in stages.

It’s quite obvious why drivers don’t engage in this kind of behaviour, and again, it’s not because of number plates (because, again, that fails to explain why they’re jumping lights in vast numbers already). It’s because it’s risky to get yourself into the middle of a junction in a big bulky object, leaving yourself nowhere to retreat to, if things go wrong. You’re going to end up causing an obstruction.

On a bike, however, you can move onto the pavement, or you can position yourself against an island, or simply dismount, if things start going wrong. You’re small, nimble, and flexible.

One-way streets and traffic lights only exist in our towns and cities to accommodate the flow of big, bulky objects that can’t easily negotiate past each other. By contrast, present-day streets that carry tens of thousands of people a day on bikes (with very few, or even none, in motor vehicles) do not require traffic signals, or one-way systems, to accommodate flow. They are far, far more efficient.

So should we really be surprised that people using a flexible and nimble mode of transport will often ignore rules put into place to ease the passage of bulky and inflexible modes of transport? It’s their very flexibility that allows them to bypass those rules, without getting into difficulty – rules that came about because the drivers of motor vehicles were getting into difficulty.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 44 Comments

Secured by Design – ACPO’s blanket recommendation against permeability

I’ve been meaning to write a few words about ‘Secured by Design’, which is a national police project focused on reducing crime through the design of buildings and the built environment.

Established in 1989, Secured by Design (SBD) is owned by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and is the corporate title for a group of national police projects focusing on the design and security for new & refurbished homes, commercial premises and car parks as well as the acknowledgement of quality security products and crime prevention projects.

… Being inherently linked to the governments planning objective of creating secure, quality places where people wish to live and work, Secured by Design has been cited as a key model in the Office of Deputy Prime Minister’s guide ‘Safer Places – The Planning System & Crime Prevention’ and in the Home Office’s ‘Crime Reduction Strategy 2008-11′.

Their guidance on new housing development [pdf] came to my attention last year, when a developer took out the paths they had proposed in a local housing development from their plans, on police advice – referencing… Secure By Design.  These paths would have connected their development to surrounding cul-de-sacs.

And it’s surfaced again recently, with Avon and Somerset Police recommending against permeability for walking and cycling in a new development in Bristol.

Picture by @JonUsher

Picture by @JonUsher

An explicit association is made here between walking and cycling routes, and crime – indeed, between ‘excessive permeability’ and crime.

Here’s another example, found at random, from an ACPO consultation for Lincolnshire Police, in response to a planning application – again referencing Secured by Design.

Caption

‘denial of Permeability’

‘Permeability is perhaps the greatest threat as it has the capacity to facilitate both Anti-Social Behaviour and act as a classic ‘attack and escape route’ for criminals’.

Permeability as ‘threat’.

What does Secure by Design actually have to say on this issue?

There are advantages in some road layout patterns over others especially where the pattern frustrates the searching behaviour of the criminal and his need to escape. Whilst it is accepted that through routes will be included within development layouts, the designer must ensure that the security of the development is not compromise by excessive permeability, for instance by allowing the criminal legitimate access to the rear or side boundaries of dwellings or by providing too many or unnecessary segregated footpaths (Note 3.1)

And Note 3.1 states

The Design Council’s/CABE’s Case Study 6 of 2012 states that: “Permeability can be achieved in a scheme without creating separate movement paths” and notes that “paths and pavements run as part of the street to the front of dwellings. This reinforces movement in the right places to keep streets animated and does not open up rear access to properties”.

The clear implication here is that movement by people walking and cycling in new developments should not involve ‘separate movement paths’ (i.e. stand-alone walking and cycling routes), but should instead be on routes that ‘run as part of the street’. That is, alongside routes for motor vehicles. Limiting walking and cycling to these routes  apparently ‘reinforces movement in the right places’.

The guidance goes on –

Cul-de-sacs that are short in length and not linked by footpaths can be very safe environments in which residents benefit from lower crime. Research shows that features that generate crime within cul-de-sacs invariably incorporate one or more of the following undesirable features:

  • backing onto open land, railway lines, canal towpaths etc, and/or
  • are very deep (long)
  •  linked to one another by footpaths

If any of the above features are present in a development additional security measures may be required. Footpaths linking cul-de-sacs to one another can be particularly problematic

Again, permeability between cul-de-sacs, exclusively for walking and cycling, is disparaged as ‘particularly problematic’.

From the perspective of anyone interested in reducing car dependence and in making walking and cycling attractive and obvious ways of getting about, this is really dreadful advice. Actually recommending cul-de-sacs without permeability is just about the worst kind of design imaginable, if you want to discourage walking and cycling.

To take an example, plucked at random. Here’s a residential area in the east of Horsham, composed of bog-standard 80s-90s detached housing, with one of the paths that is disparaged by Secured by Design.

This one - of course - has zig-zag barriers.

This one – of course – has zig-zag barriers.

From this location, it’s possibly to walk to the main road, using this path – a distance of 360m.

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 15.23.52But without this cut-through path, anyone walking or cycling would have to follow the driving route, which is nearly three times longer.

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 15.23.52 copy

These kinds of distances are fine if you are driving – you’re not exerting any effort – but converting what should be very short walking and cycling trips into long ones is plainly bad policy.

The advantages of walking and cycling are that they are much less space-hungry modes of transport than driving; consequently trips by these modes should be made as direct as possible. Lumping them in with driving – using the design of cul-de-sacs to effectively keep walking out – is deeply unsympathetic. But that’s what this policy amounts to – keeping burglars on foot out by keeping everyone else out.

Lurking behind this ACPO advice appears to be the assumption that driving routes are used by everyone, while walking and cycling routes are used by barely no-one, meaning that they are attractive to criminals.

But a route is just as a route, whether it is carrying motor traffic, walking and cycling, or whether it caters only for walking and cycling. Limiting access to just one route in and out of developments works (or ‘works’) because it concentrates activity (and hence natural surveillance) on that route. But there’s no reason why walking and cycling routes can’t work in precisely the same way, even if motor traffic is excluded from those routes.

What matters in preventing crime is that natural surveillance and activity; that can surely be achieved, with good design, on walking and cycling routes. The answer cannot be just to block these routes off.

The Dutch new town of Houten near Utrecht has plenty of permeability for walking and cycling; walking and cycling routes go pretty much everywhere. Indeed, the spine of many of these routes runs along what might be seen by ACPO as ‘the rear’ of properties, while car access is at the front.

However, I can’t really see these routes being hotspots for crime, because they are almost certainly busier than the car access at the front. They are routes people want to use.

A route running by 'the rear' of properties in Houten.

A route running by ‘the rear’ of properties in Houten.

It may be the case that there is a connection between design that involves acres of disconnected cul-de-sacs and lower rates of crime; and indeed a connection between higher rates of crime, and the presence paths connecting these cul-de-sacs, in Britain. But that’s almost certainly because we design permeability very badly in this country; we make these routes indirect, unattractive and/or intimidating, as I’ve written about here. Consequently they are not used in great numbers, and are seen as ‘crime hotspots’.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 12.44.35

Not an attractive route.

But we don’t have to design like this; we can design routes that people want to use, that are naturally busy, and naturally safe, with good visibility.

Another walking- and cycling-only route, in Zoetermeer

More permeability in the form of a walking- and cycling-only route, in Zoetermeer

This is, seemingly, a distinction that the ACPO guidance is not picking up on, with its deeply unhelpful blanket recommendation against permeability, that doesn’t distinguish between crap routes that nobody wants to use, and busy walking and cycling routes that could actually serve to lower crime, by increasing eyes on the street. Instead, permeability is framed almost entirely as a network for criminals, with footpaths ‘generating crime’.

Is it time for a rewrite? I think so.

Posted in ACPO, Permeability, Police, Secured by Design, Social safety, The Netherlands | 31 Comments

A Superhighway that isn’t

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with ‘backstreets’ routes for cycling. Some of the highest quality routes I have cycled on in the Netherlands have been of this form, running away from main roads, passing through residential areas and parks.

A fietsstraat in Nijmegen

A fietsstraat in Nijmegen

A fietsstraat in Utrecht

A fietsstraat in Utrecht

These routes are excellent because they are direct, continuous, and involve little or no stopping. This is, in fact, an advantage over routes on main roads, which because they will be accommodating more traffic tend to require traffic signals, which unnecessarily delay cycling. They also have filtering, either in the form of physical blocks to stop motor traffic (the street in Nijmegen is closed at the far end to motor traffic), or simple signed exclusions on motor traffic, as on the pictured section of the Utrecht fietsstraat. Motor traffic can drive on this fietsstraat up to this point, but must turn left at the junction. The purpose is to keep motor traffic levels low enough for cycling on fietsstraats to be a comfortable experience for everyone.

I haven’t had a great deal of time to look in detail at the newly-released proposals for Superhighway 1, but it is quite obviously ‘a backstreets route’, running away from the A10, the most direct, north-south route that Superhighway 1 parallels – and indeed the road that CS1 is in fact an the obvious and explicit substitute for. Some parts of it – especially in Haringey – appear to be desperately poor. Meandering through the backstreets, Superhighway 1 has to take a turn up this tiny alley to avoid the A10 –

This can't really a route for a Superhighway, can it?

This can’t really a route for a Superhighway, can it?

… and when it does run alongside the A10, it looks particularly shoddy, nothing more than a minor tidying of the existing (and deeply substandard) shared use arrangement on the footway.

That stuff on the western footway is apparently a 'Superhighway'

That stuff on the western footway is apparently a ‘Superhighway’

The route in Hackney is a little better, but it is still meandering, it loses priority when it crosses major roads (a broader issue with Quietways), and, while there is some new modal filtering, it does not have a great deal of it. For instance, there is no filtering at all between the new closure where Pitfield Street meets Old Street, and Northchurch Terrace, a straight road of over a mile, open along its length to all motor traffic, in both directions. It’s not clear how quiet this route is actually going to be.

And of course there is the issue of whether this route even deserves to be called a ‘Superhighway’ at all. From the Mayor’s 2013 Vision for Cycling

We will offer two clear kinds of branded route: high capacity Superhighways, mostly on main roads, for fast commuters, and slightly slower but still direct Quietways on pleasant, low-traffic side streets for those wanting a more relaxed journey.

From this definition, Superhighway 1 is most definitely a Quietway, not a Superhighway. It runs on low-traffic side streets for almost its entire length, barring a short stretch on the footway of the A10 at Seven Sisters. It is not ‘mostly on main roads’.

I think this risks damaging the whole concept of Superhighways, and indeed opens the door to a return of the failed LCN+ approach of routing cycling onto wiggly backstreet routes that are less attractive than main roads, and (because of an absence of provision on main roads) don’t form part of a coherent network. Read this from David Arditti on the failures of LCN+, and it all starts to sound eerily familiar.

Since the LCN+ strategy was basically not about segregation, or even road-space reallocation, there was no coherent picture to put to councils, be they pro or anti-cycling, of what was supposed to be put in place on proposed main road routes like LCN+5 on the A5, and in the end it became a strategy just to spend the money somehow. The money for the A5 route just got spent on a few blue signs, cycle logos on the road, and speed tables on side-roads in Brent – none of which did anything to make cycling no the A5 any better.

For ‘A5′, substitute ‘A10′.

To repeat, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with routes away from main roads. High quality routes on minor roads can make sense. But they certainly should not be used as a substitute for addressing barriers to cycling on what should be more attractive, direct routes. And this appears to be precisely what is happening with Superhighway 1 – it has been shunted onto backstreets because of political opposition (and probably because of opposition from within TfL) from running it on the A10.

I don’t think the distinction between Quietways and Superhighways is particularly helpful, in general, but if these terms are going to be used, then in its current form, this route through Hackney and Haringey simply shouldn’t be labelled a Superhighway. It should be called a Quietway, because that’s what it is.

Calling it a Superhighway opens the door to other boroughs putting ‘Superhighways’ on fiddly back streets routes as a convenient way of avoiding the barriers to cycling on their main roads – a return to the LCN+ strategy of avoiding hard choices. That’s really not acceptable.

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