Cycling to the station

Yesterday afternoon I caught a train to Brighton from Three Bridges station, in Crawley. On the platform, I was one of three people with a Brompton. Each and every one of us had, presumably, arrived at the station by bike. And that probably meant negotiating Haslett Avenue to get here. Below.

This is the road I cycled on, from Crawley town centre; it is three lanes wide for quite some distance. At this point Three Bridges station is hoving into view – you can just see a train on the bridge, above the yellow HGV. As the station requires a right turn, this leaves a cyclist with something of a dilemma about which lane to take here. The left lane would be the meek option, and you would be storing up trouble, requiring you to shunt yourself across three lanes of traffic in a short space of time and distance. The right lane would be the most ‘advanced’ option, but requires pace and stamina to keep up with traffic in the ‘fast lane’. The middle lane, perhaps the most sensible, but unnverving, with traffic passing you on both sides. That was my chosen option.

Taking this middle lane leaves you, beyond the junction in the first picture, in the left hand lane shown above. Three Bridges station is the brick building on the right. I have to get into lane 3 (the right-hand filter lane) at the lights ahead, which is no easy task, with motor vehicles racing towards the M23, barely a mile away. There is no other way of getting to the station, short of cycling on the pavement.

I made it! I’m still alive.

Despite these appalling conditions, people are still cycling here – as shown by the numbers of Bromptons at mid-afternoon. But they are being forgotten about in the way our streets are laid out. I don’t really appreciate having to negotiate my way across two or even three lanes of fast traffic simply to to make a right turn into a station – it’s not pleasant, and for anyone who doesn’t cycle regularly, I am sure it would be seen as extremely hazardous.

It’s not much better on foot, as you can see from this satellite image.

The station is marked at the bottom of the picture. If you live to the north of this road, Haslett Avenue, your only way to cross from the station is to walk to the railway bridge at the extreme right of this image, cross there to the centre island, cross again to another central island, and then finally make yet another crossing to the north side of the street. You will have to wait for motor vehicles at each and every stage. Note, by way of contrast, that if you are exiting the station in a motor vehicle, and you wish to turn right, you have your own dedicated single-phase traffic light, that will take you across the road in one go.

Just to discourage any ‘walking’ nonsense, the rest of the central reservation has been fenced off to stop you crossing anywhere else, even at the junction 50 yards to the west with Hazelwick Avenue, shown below. Extraordinarily, there is no north-south crossing for pedestrians here.

The forlorn-looking lady standing on the island in this streetview image is not on a pedestrian crossing; she has simply skirted the barriers and is attempting to cross the six lanes of this road in stages. To repeat, this is by a railway station.

Cycling to the station in Horsham is less hazardous, but equally inconvenient.

The approach to the station from the town centre, along North Street. The building in the distance, on the right, is the station itself. There is a cycle lane painted on North Street (it is of reasonable width for the UK, but totally substandard by any Dutch measure, certainly for a road of this traffic volume, where you would be segregated from motor vehicles). Naturally enough, as soon as any conflict with motor vehicles arises, rather than design a proper solution that might allow you to cycle to the front of the station, the ‘provision’ simply evaporates, and you are forced onto the pavement.

Where the cycle path ‘ends’ for good. From here you have to dismount, wait for the signalled crossing, and walk the hundred yards to the station entrance. This is so time-consuming that I continue to the busy roundabout in front of the station, and use that to gain access.

Several million pounds are currently being spent on a redevelopment of the station forecourt and entrance area. Are things being improved for cycling?

No.

You will see, to the left of North Street, that the pisspoor ‘cycle route’ is being kept precisely in current form, except with the addition of a brand new blue ‘END OF ROUTE’ sign. Brilliant. The simplest way to access the station by bicycle will continue to be by looping around the roundabout. The new pedestrian area (marked in brick on the drawing) is fenced off from the roundabout, so presumably I will have to continue across the pedestrian crossing into the motor vehicle set-down area, before walking back.

Several complaints were made in the consultation (pdf) about the total lack of cycle routes to the station. The response?

These form part of the cycling strategy for Horsham

i.e., proper cycle routes to the station are not part of our remit, and will be covered by the ‘cycling strategy for Horsham.’

Sounds fantastic. Except there is no cycling strategy for Horsham. There are no proposals to do anything, anywhere, in the district, in West Sussex County Council’s latest Transport Plan for 2011-26. All we get is this mealy-mouthed paragraph –

Working with the local community and interest groups to identify priorities and encourage sustainable travel by improving the cycle and pedestrian network. This may include: new or improved cycle and pedestrian routes; signing; changes to speed limits; cycle parking; repairing and maintaining surfaces.

‘May include.’

And so there are no improvements to the station for cycling, and there won’t be for the next fifteen years, unless our governments and councils have some kind of epiphany. The important question is, why was a proper cycle route to Horsham station not considered to be part of the actual improvement works to the station in the first place? The report by the Direction of Operations for the improvement works (the pdf above) notes that

The objectives of the forecourt scheme are to establish an improved interchange at Horsham station that will facilitate modal exchange between rail and cycle, bus, taxi and car.

But nothing has been done to ‘improve the interchange’ for cycling, beyond some extra cycle stands. A grotesque missed opportunity.

If I lived in Assen in the Netherlands, and I wished to cycle to the station, not only could I do so in safety and with ease, I would also find a subway cycle path that allowed me to cycle directly onto the station platform –

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Indoor, monitored cycle parking –

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Both the bicycle repair shop and the cycle parking stay open until two in the morning (the time of the last train) –

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Naturally there is also plenty of outdoor parking –

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Or, if I lived in the larger city of Groningen, I would have a dedicated bicycle bridge to carry me across to the station –

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Dedicated traffic lights, with an indicator, telling me how long I have to wait until I can cycle across (not long) –

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A sign telling me in which sector of the cycle parking complex I am most likely to find a free bicycle space –

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And lots of cycle parking –

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With more, direct, bicycle-specific routes to and from the station –

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In short, cycling to the station in a Dutch town or city feels safe, easy and convenient. Interactions with motor traffic are minimal or non-existent. The routes take you directly to the station entrance, or even onto the platform. Meanwhile, in the UK, it feels exceptionally dangerous, unpleasant and inconvenient. I have to cycle on fast roads that are three lanes wide, and take the outer third lane, to enter Three Bridges station. I have to fiddle around on tiny little paths that evaporate just when they are needed in Horsham, and therefore walk, or risk cycling all the way around a busy roundabout.

And nothing is being done to change it.

This entry was posted in Car dependence, Cycling policy, Infrastructure, Road safety, The Netherlands, Town planning, Uncategorized, West Sussex County Council, WSCC LTP. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Cycling to the station

  1. Richard Mann says:

    Yup. Pathetic. At the very least, there should be a cycle track on the south side from opposite Three Bridges Road to the station. This probably requires the removal of a traffic lane, but it’s probably got more capacity than it really needs anyway.

  2. Barrie says:

    A great way of highlighting the problems!

    ( Given that the people making decisions about cycling infrastructure waste too much money due to not understanding what it is that they’re trying to do ).

  3. Wonderful detail. Your patience is exemplary. The same story, in larger or smaller measures is repeated in every town and city in BrItain, with “policy” tucked away in a document and honoured with left-overs, unexpected “pots” of money, gestures with paint, a couple of signs and press releases with smiling cyclists on showcase stretches of leisure cycling. Wherever motor vehicles are at issue the bicycle is relegated especially when the declared policy “prioritises” walking and cycling. And cycling fatalities rose in the last 12 months where all other modes saw decreases.

  4. Bryan says:

    Who didn’t do their job to allow this sort of plan to reach final planning stages? They should be ashamed when they left their desk to leave it with such gaping holes in their work. And to flog off the concerns about cycling to a non-existent Cycling Strategy either shows incompetence or a bold-face lie. Next they’re claim that they were only following orders. Shame on you, council employee.

  5. Dave H says:

    Horsham arrangement has at least 2 serious hazards likely to bring down a cyclist, and cause injuries.

    First the visible vertical mislaignment in the dropped (sic) kerb at an oblique angle to the cyclists’ direction of travel. Ridges like this are notorious for knocking tyres sideways. An A&E survey in Southampton revealed that around 30% of cycle casualties presenting fell joining or leaving the carriageway to or from footway or cycle path (or illegal) riding.

    Then the end of route treatment well concealed (and presumably not that well lit at night) set up perfectly to send a rider over the ‘bars.

    Sounds like we could write a small treatise on the hazards present along any of the ‘cycle routes’ in your area.

    Do try a Brompton count on your train trips, given that an off-peak train can often be carrying less than 150 passengers you might have added 2% of that number as cyclists, solely as boardings from Three Bridges. Off peak counts can be very interesting, the reverse commute on the Severn Beach line can see 17 bikes (including Bromptons) on the 2-coach 102-seat train, on one day cyclists were counted as 37% of the fare-paying passengers.

  6. A very good exposé of standard UK transport “planning”. It’s useful to get such coverage from somewhere that isn’t London or a major city. As has been said, this pattern is repeated in towns across the country.

  7. Mark Strong says:

    To Barrie and everyone here:

    There has been more than enough work to provide ample understanding of the problems facing cyclists at both these locations. Working for Sustrans (NCN 21 runs just e of Three Bridges) and more recently as a consultant (Horsham cycle network study (not strategy)). I have been advising on what to do and I hope everyone would agree that my proposals would have made things better for cyclists. However almost all recommendations have been dropped for various reasons. I say reasons, but the main cause is a lack of will to deal with the priority given to motor vehicles, or as the local authorities would say, recognising the majority of road users.

    I completely agree with the detailed analysis but what it fails to address is how to get decision makers to think that doing ANYTHING for cycling is a good idea. At present they feel that the votes of drivers outweigh those of cyclists, and no amount of good examples from anywhere else will overcome this – in fact it often makes things worse.

    It’s not just cycling. The guided bus network (Fastway) in Crawley was supposed to go to Three Bridges as the major interchange for trains to London. This would have meant a bus lane under Haslett Avenue railway bridge. Even this project which (over)spent millions, wasn’t able to overcome the car-dominated mindset. And try walking under the bridge – the footway is hardly wide enough for two people to pass.

    There has been one relatively minor success. We managed against all odds to get some cycle friendly traffic calming in Bilinton Drive, parallel to the railway east of the station – see http://g.co/maps/ce7d9. Despite repeated calls over 15 years for it to be removed (as it slows cars down – duh!) it’s mostly still there. True, the cycle lanes are too narrow. But at least it’s the cars that have to give way to each other at the narrowings, not cycles.

    Although the conditions are atrocious, the cycle parking at Three Bridges is always full and has been extended. Imagine what the usage would be with a connection to good UK standards, let alone anyone else’s.

    For your next article, how about a piece on the Three Bridges – Gatwick section of the National Cycle Network?

  8. Mark, I agree with a lot of what you say. It is tremendously difficult to push through even very minor improvements, ones that have little or no impact on motorists, as your example shows. So the issue is indeed about how we persuade those with responsibility to change things, in the face of a public who are for the most part indifferent (or, worse, hostile) towards cycling as a practical mode of transport.

    That’s not an easy issue to address – it’s a topic I will make some attempt to deal with in a future post. But I think it is important that we draw attention to how bad things have become, and how things could be so much better, not least because it might get some of those non-cyclists who are potential cyclists on board, and give more weight to our demands. That’s a large part of the way forward. If people feel that they could cycle, or might want to, then they become part of the solution, not part of the problem.

    (Incidentally I am interested in your statement ‘no amount of good examples from anywhere else will overcome this – in fact it often makes things worse.’ Could you illustrate further?)

  9. Martin says:

    How many West Sussex town planning Officers actually cycle? None by their off hand attitudes and utterly crap designs and contempt for pedestrians and cyclists trying to negociate Three Bridges Station. Are Council officials waiting for pedestrian & cycle fatalities to occur before doing anything positive to restrain motor traffic speeds and dangers at this station?

    This has been the atitude of many local authorities in London and even then, there are further delays to improvements on safety for pedestrians & cyclists.

    Martin WCC

  10. I am the CTC Right to Ride rep for Crawley. I must commend you on an extremely well documented article. All of which I agree with. I have also lived in the Netherlands so I know what things could (should) be like.
    The problem with Three Bridges is ‘political’. WSCC are the highways authority and year after year their capital budget for cycling infrastructure in Crawley is 0, yes zero. This is despite Crawley being the largest town in West Sussex (by population). We have a cycle forum in Crawley and Three Bridges is high on the list as needing attention. But it needs a lot of attention and will be expensive. So guess what happens….
    There has not been a CTC RtR rep in Horsham for some time, and I think that WSCC do whatever they like.
    The final icing on the cake is that since the ConDems took over in May 2010 the WSCC have removed the role of Cycling officer and now have (the same individual) working as Community support or somesuch nonsense. This is very sad as working with her we have developed quite a few improvements for cyclists in Crawley over the last three/four years and it looks like this is coming to an end. She has been an exemplary cycling officer but can only do what the politicians permit/finance.
    I would be very happy to receive support/assistance/help with working with Crawley Borough Council and WSCC in Crawley. And I am very happy to share further details/information about Crawley cycling etc with anyone that is interested. And I will continue to try to get improvements. But it is pretty unlikely anytime soon, quite honestly.

    Contact me here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/123008357770954/

  11. Bob Nox says:

    My daily commute sees me approach Three Bridges Station from the west every morning (on a Brompton as it happens). To avoid the hassle/danger of crossing all the lanes of traffic I acquire the crown of the road some 400 yards before the station, where the road is just one lane in each direction, and travel close to the central reservation through the traffic lights and then into the filter lane for the station. So far this has proved a safe option and ironically ALL my traffic incidents on this stretch of road have been when travelling in the opposite direction and in the normal position 2 to 3 feet from the left hand kerb (clipped handlebar on 3 occasions, managed to stay upright!).

  12. Pingback: Signs of a Bike friendly society « 42 Bikes

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