‘Setting back’ cycling – why have the Transport Research Laboratory got junction design so wrong?

So the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) have published their findings into the safety of cycle track design at junctions – or, more specifically, Trials of segregation set-back at side roads [pdf], to give the report (PPR703) its full title. This report was commissioned by TfL.

I’m going to go into some detail about it, but in short –

  • Good (Dutch) junction design is completely ignored by this trial.
  • Confusing give way markings are employed – Dutch markings, employed the wrong way round.
  • The report recommends ending cycling tracks, and ‘merging’ cyclists with motor traffic, some 20 metres from junctions on roads with higher speeds.
  • It then suggests that this ‘merging’ corresponds to Dutch design practice.

It’s worryingly bad.

From the report summary –

This report provides an overview and interpretation of the key findings from four trials carried out by TRL on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) to investigate the effects of ‘setting-back’ a kerb-segregated cycle track at different distances from a side-road junction.

What do TRL mean by “‘setting-back’ a kerb-segregated cycle track”? There is an explanation in one of the photographs in the report –

Explanation of 'set-back distance'. (Note also the curious markings on the outside of the cycle lane)

Explanation of ‘set-back distance’. (Note also the curious markings on the outside of the cycle lane)

Clearly, ‘set-back distance’ is being used to refer to the distance from the junction at which the cycle track becomes a cycle lane. So, this TRL report investigates the different consequences of different ‘set-back distances’ – i.e., how far from the junction the kerb separation ends.

And nothing else.

No other forms of junction design incorporating cycle tracks (designs we’ll come to in a moment) are investigated.

Why was this study so narrowly focused? The explanation comes in the summary –

A review of existing international guidance and research on approaches for taking cycle lanes across side-roads identified two distinct design strategies. Either:

• Cyclists are returned to the carriageway level at least 20m before the junction, so as to establish their presence in the traffic, or
• Segregation is brought right up to the junction (typically <=5m) and very tight geometry (and often raised crossings) used to keep turning speeds down and encourage vehicles to cross the cycle lane at close to 90 degrees. [my emphasis]

Amazingly, these two strategies – ending the segregation more than 20m from the junction, or ending it 5m or less from the junction – are the only two distinct design approaches TRL identify, and consequently the only ones they investigated.

Both these strategies involve turning a cycle track into a cycle lane at the junction. The only difference is the point at which that change occurs. Other design approaches – those commonly employed in the Netherlands at side roads – have been completely ignored. These include –

Continuing a cycle track through a junction, at the same raised level, alongside a continuous footway. Not investigated by TRL.

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 00.18.07 DSCN0127 Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 00.19.30Setting back the cycle track from the carriageway, providing an area in which motorists can wait, both to enter the main road (without obstructing the cycle track) and also to pause, yielding to people cycling. Not investigated by TRL.


Cycle track set back from carriageway, without continuous footway


Set back cycle track, on a hump, with continuous footway.

This technique can also be employed with two-way tracks; again, set back from the carriageway, with a waiting area, and good visibility as cyclists and motorists cross perpendicularly. Not investigated by TRL.

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 00.27.36

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 02.02.53

To repeat (I can’t labour this enough) – these kinds of techniques are completely ignored by the authors of this TRL report. The only two ‘distinct design strategies’ investigated amount to nothing more than on-carriageway cycle lanes across junction mouths, with no investigation of designs that continue a cycle track through the junction at a raised level, with continuity, with or without ‘set back’ from the carriageway.

This despite the fact that Britain itself already has a few isolated examples of reasonably well-designed cycle tracks across junctions, that correspond approximately to Dutch design. One of them – this one – is only two miles from the Transport Research Laboratory!

With 'set-back distance' helpfully included.

With the proper use of ‘set-back distance’ helpfully included

I can’t begin to understand this oversight.

So the results of this trial are really very narrow in scope, and essentially amount to nothing more than discussion of where it is best to revert to an on-carriageway treatment on the approach to a junction.

The trial examined ending the physical segregation 30 metres from the junction, up to 5 metres from the junction, in 5 metres increments. The ‘tightest’ geometry still involved the cycle track ending 5 metres before the side road.

The study found that with the kerb divider continuing closer to the junction (but still 5 metres from it), drivers turned into the side road more slowly, and crossed the cycle lane (for this is what it is, and how it is described in the report) at an angle closer to perpendicular.

Surprisingly, perhaps, it seems that drivers in the trial actually preferred segregation that continued closer to the junction. This was even the case for drivers of goods vehicles who – you would think – would prefer a less tight geometry, to manoeuvre their larger vehicles.

The preferred set-back distance for 62% of the [goods vehicle] drivers (who expressed an opinion) was one that maximises segregation from cyclists on the approach to the junction

Yet –

cyclists were divided in preferences for short or long set-back distances. The differences reflect different views on the benefits of segregation, including cyclists’ concerns about being able to position themselves for passing the junction and that drivers wouldn’t give way when turning across their path.

‘Position themselves for passing the junction’ – i.e., compensate for poor design. These findings are reflected in this table –

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 01.31.32

While a clear majority of drivers preferred separation continuing as much as possible, a large number (nearly half) of the cyclists in this trial preferred to ‘join traffic’. The report comments

this suggests that cyclists may feel safer if the segregation ends before the junction so they can merge with the traffic before the turn.

So a large proportion of cyclists in this trial clearly like the idea of ‘merging’ with motor traffic before a junction. (At this point it is worth asking whether these cyclists are representative of the general population, or instead representative of a small subset of the population, namely the ‘traffic-tolerant’.)

However, on the other hand, the motorists in the trial didn’t really understand what on earth was going on with the concept of ‘merging’.

The purpose of the segregation set-back was not well understood [by motorists] – most believing it to be to make it easier for vehicles to turn [!], only a few referred to it providing space for cyclists and drivers to adjust to each other before the junction.

Could it be that the idea of ‘merging’ people cycling and driving isn’t all that intuitive?

This suggests that there is a lack of understanding amongst drivers of how cyclists will behave at the junction.

Well, quite.

Amazingly, however, this ‘merging’ technique is actually recommended by this TRL report on roads with higher speeds.

The findings from the off-street trials suggest that two different strategies can then be considered:

  1. Bring segregation very close to the turning (<5m), sufficient to reduce the turning radius and so reduce turning speeds and position turning vehicles at right angles to the path of cyclists (this is similar to the principles behind the use of ‘continental geometry’ at roundabouts). This approach would be most appropriate where geometry is already tight and vehicle speeds comparably low, or where other measures to achieve this will also be implemented.
  2. End the segregation at least 20 m from the junction, giving cyclists sufficient space to re-introduce themselves into the traffic flow and for drivers to adapt to their presence. This would be more suitable where traffic speeds are higher and tight turning geometry is not considered to be appropriate.

Before then stating

These two situations are consistent with the two distinct design approaches adopted in the design practice sin countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands

Well, I’m sorry, I have never seen anything like this in the Netherlands, especially not on roads with higher speeds. It’s just terrible design.

One of the recommended designs from this TRL study.

One of the recommended designs from this TRL study.

And we know that this is bad design, because Transport for London have built the junctions on Stratford High Street like this, with predictable consequences.

The final boggling issue are those markings! – which make no sense whatsoever. Here’s how the report describes them –

The surface of the cycle lane was coloured green throughout… additionally using triangular give-way markings to highlight the cycle lane for turning vehicles. These markings are not an approved road marking in the UK, however somewhat similar versions are used in the Netherlands as a ‘give way’ marking.

‘Somewhat similar’ – except completely the wrong way round.

The Dutch 'Give Way' marking in action.

The Dutch ‘Give Way’ marking in action.

The Dutch use ‘sharks teeth’ as a give way marking, but crucially with the ‘sharp’ bit of the teeth pointing at the people who should be giving way. This trial, however, has managed to get this completely wrong, with the ‘teeth’ pointing at the people on the cycle track. In addition, the ‘sharks teeth’ markings have been employed across the whole of the junction, rather than just on the ‘entry’ side, where drivers would be giving way. So, used in conjuction with a British give way marking, is it any wonder people driving didn’t understand this marking?

This failure to get even the basics right is symptomatic of the general failure of this trial to assess proven Dutch junction design in a British context. How is it possible for the Transport Research Laboratory to have what seems to be absolutely no clue about how the Dutch design well at junctions?

What on earth is going on?

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58 Responses to ‘Setting back’ cycling – why have the Transport Research Laboratory got junction design so wrong?

  1. davidhembrow says:

    Remarkable. They have fundamentally misunderstood the best junction design. As you correctly point out, cycle-patha need to be set back from the road and corner radii need to be small (in NL they’re often tangential and offer lower speeds for pulling into a side road than for pulling out – another design detail which is way beyond TRLs ideas).

    The shark’s teeth markings aren’t just the wrong way around – they have them all the way across a junction for two way traffic all pointing in the same direction, which makes absolutely no sense at all. The points are supposed to be aimed at who should give way. You’re never supposed to go over them backwards and they’re not ever applied in NL just as a line across a junction in this way pointing ineither direction.

    TRL have form, though. They also managed to trial several of their own re-imaginings of the wrong kind of Dutch roundabout.

  2. To reduce conflicts, local authorities will need to install chicanes at the end of the separated part (at the location of the cyclist in the first picture). You can’t have cyclists enter space that motorists may want to use, you have to make them slow down first.

  3. Smallpotato says:

    Amazing. It’s a sublime example of a cargo cult; by painting some markings (‘shark’s teeth’) on the road which vaguely resemble those of the Dutch, the TRL hopes to magically attract the same cycling modal share. It’s a kind of sympathetic magic! How the Empire has fallen.

  4. Dan B says:

    How were the subjects divided for this trial? Were ‘drivers’ and ‘cyclists’ self-selected, or randomly allocated to each group? Did those ‘drivers’ have a chance to cycle the options too, and how did they feel about it?

    Basically, are TRL designing (badly) for existing users, or with current non-cyclists in mind?

  5. Would agree the TRL research is almost irrelevant for most of the infrastructure that needs building which is nearly all on 30mph roads with 20mph side roads where there is no reason not to use dutch style treatments.

    Paper I’ve been working on looking at how to do this, comments welcome:


    • Comments on your paper: We should be testing and refining this kind of design for those cases where a cycle track cannot be fully set back from the road. Agree that raised and contrasting construction materials are better than road markings alone.
      I see that your example of a two-way track still has a 2m set-back from the road so it is more like a Dutch segregated track than Old Shoreham Rd which has no set-back. Are you advocating a minimum set-back or do you think hybrids which have no/minimal set-back are ok? Should size of set-back depend on whether track is one- or two-way?
      Are you specifying how much the kerb positioning should tighten the entrance radius? It seems to me that any design that keeps the cyclists in a lane, rather than letting them take primary position, needs to give motorists the tightest possible turn to make sure they are slow and perpendicular.
      Is a motorist exiting from the side road required to stop before the cycle track? What road markings do you propose? What about the visibility problems for those exiting the side road?
      Specify visibility requirements for left-turning motorists on main road looking, back along track for oncoming cycles?
      In many places our cycle lanes are narrower than even the minimum in LTN2/08. A raised treatment means the cyclist has to stay in the lane so it becomes more important that it is wide enough to avoid the threat from encroaching cars. Take extra width from the side road (by setting the give way line back a bit) or from the main road (by narrowing it as it passes the junction)?
      We need to understand which situations this design works for. For example: Side roads with 30mph limits -yes/no, how busy? Urban main roads where the cycles may move ‘unexpectedly’ faster than the cars? Very busy 30mph main roads? 40mph main roads?
      Do we have any studies on how well Old Shoreham Rd is working?
      Case study: How would you deal with this situation? https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.065689,-0.345079,3a,75y,134.55h,71.71t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s3YiHaWVcLMWEWD4zGmEkeA!2e0 Busy A road with buses in both directions, shared-use path with cycling in both directions.

      • Hi,
        there is guidance there on minimum / maximum set back in the dutch CROW manual (beleive it or not many local authority cycle designers have access to a copy) and corner radii + visibility are dealt with pretty extensively in Manual for Streets. What I’ve tried to do is write up the missing info on how to actually construct these treatments. Personally I’d like to see a local authority implement this without road markings, but they will find this difficult.

        The dutch often put parking bays as close as 5 metres to the junction I.e. they assume inter visibility starts to matter more once the motor vehicle has started braking.

        In my experience it would not be possible to get a UK highway engineer to give priority to cycle track over a 30mph side road. For a 40mph main road they would want the track set back 5 metres or further if buses or trucks were turning. This is why if you want good infrastructure you need speed limits reduced to similar figures that you would find for the same road types in NL first.

        • I agree that lower speed limits and filtered permeability are needed on many of our roads but I am confused that you say ‘not be possible to get a UK highway engineer to give priority to a cycle track over a 30mph side road’ -surely the Old Shoreham Rd hybrid cycle track has priority over (minor) 30mph side roads? There are also other examples eg Cambridge where there are Give Way lines before a cycle track. This is pretty crucial, because most urban side roads are 30mph and it is hard to get that changed.
          I am interested in your work because I think we need to address the current situation where we have either cycle tracks with frequent Give Ways (slow and inconvenient and encourage crossing without looking properly) or narrow ‘paint only’ on-road cycle lanes that cross straight in front of a side road eg http://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.0670793,-0.3289558,3a,75y,357.73h,80.8t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1skpjPQnDYWnYirDDGvLi3wg!2e0 which can make the junction more dangerous than having no cycle lane at all. Currently, raised tables are refused on ‘safety’ grounds even though they appear to offer more protection than the ‘paint only’ lanes. For example, we failed to get a hybrid track or raised table across a quiet cul-de-sac here: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.0656762,-0.3429429,3a,75y,237.53h,81.1t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sN8g1x5ztQBmud2b0uy87bQ!2e0
          -apparently because there is no a 5m set back. Setting the cycle track back the full 5m was rejected because of reduced visibility for motorists entering the main road. I suspect that the real reasons behind this may include a lack of confidence in introducing an unfamiliar design. Simply referring engineers to CROW is not enough; they have limited time and money and want confidence that designs are safe and backed by detailed UK guidance, especially given that, in the UK, left-turning vehicles don’t automatically give way to pedestrians (and therefore cyclists) crossing side roads.
          I would still be interested in your ideas on dealing with junctions I have linked to.

          • Hi,

            I’ve not been to Old Shoreham Road but as far as I know the side roads are all 20mph, 30’s are traffic signal controlled: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@50.8353985,-0.1596214,3a,75y,274.85h,78.62t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sZKUt5XUUKsJ2o23EOgTX0Q!2e0

            In both of the situations you link to you need to get the side road speed down to 20mph and then you have a chance of doing priority tracks. Higher than that and I don’t think it would be possible.

            I am very reluctant now to get involved in any more cycling schemes where speed reduction has not been implemented first. All that happens is that a good design fails safety audit and quality is compromised.

            If you can’t get the speed of the side roads below 30mph then you are left with the sort of solution tested by TRL.

            For your example with the two way track next to the footway I think you might struggle to get it done without a 5 metre setback. However the Old Shoreham Road scheme involved narrowing an A road down to 6.1 metres – this might create the room to get your setback with the right visibility. Alternatively by narrowing the road you might create room for unidirectional tracks on each side.

            If you live in an area which has not bought into the idea to 20mph then this obviously isn’t what you want to hear, and potentially you’ve got a whole campaign to win before you get good bike infrastructure 😦

            • Thank you for your interesting reply which highlights one of the reasons that genuine infrastructure improvements so often seem to be beyond our grasp.
              It is worrying for anyone looking to move beyond our standard ‘give way and dismount’ off-road cycle provision if we really need a legal 20mph limit to get priority across side roads. Most UK roads do not have 20mph limits so this would make most attempts to get priority across side roads futile. Even modern estates with 20mph design speeds still have 30mph legal limits (and our local authority certainly avoids TROs wherever possible to save costs and resources). I think formal 20mph limits are desirable but should not be a prerequisite where you can achieve tight geometry and low actual speeds.
              The stretch of road I showed you is a 30mph A-road (around 25,000 vehicles per day) with 4 short, narrow cul-de-sacs all with slow speeds and low traffic flow, mainly cars. They have 30mph legal limits (though I am not certain of the legal status of the road/driveway(?) to the cemetery/ allotments which has a 10mph sign part way along). There is also a busier 30mph road with the rear (cycle) entrance to a large school a couple of hundred yards along it (many young cyclists use the path). Our cycle infra ‘toolkit’ needs to be able to cope with this kind of situation.
              Instead, when cycling money came up to improve this area, we heard lots of reasons why we couldn’t have priority over these and similar side roads: lack of set back, visibility, direction of travel along the path, cost, time, can’t move kerbs, not necessary as side road is so quiet(!), main road too narrow. Improving this cycle path was put in the ‘too difficult’ basket even before anyone had raised the 20mph issue.
              We desperately need more ‘shovel ready’ UK-compliant solutions for local authorities, who are still focussed on motor vehicles and lack the time, specialist officers and enthusiasm to grapple with designing cycle infrastructure from scratch.

              • part of the answer is that you need more examples elsewhere which people can go and see. But the examples will tend to be 20mph, as by and large if an authority is progressive enough to build good infrastructure then they did a borough wide roll out of 20 to access roads some time ago. On a scheme I am working on the engineers have been talking to Brighton about OSR and the common feature of 20mph will have really helped them understand the similarities between schemes.

                It might be that you need to fight and win a 20’s plenty campaign as a way of building the alliance of sympathetic politicians that you will need further down the road. Getting and keeping bike priority is not easy, people can and will attack it as “dangerous” but if the god given right to drive at speed into quiet estate roads has already been lost you’ll be a step further down the way locally.

              • Tom, thanks for a useful discussion.
                Main conclusion:
                There is still a lot of unglamorous work to bridge the gap between solutions that the Dutch and others have shown can work and getting UK-compliant solutions that individual local authorities (short on time, money, expertise and political priority for this kind of thing) can use more or less ‘off the peg’.
                Good standard designs for where cycle tracks cross roads is a basic requirement if we want anything more than vehicular cycling for brave adults and stop-start cycling conflict with pedestrians for everyone else.

  6. Mike Chalkley says:

    Using filtered permeability so side roads are not used arterially thus cutting down the amount of traffic using the junctions – completely ignored. This is fundamental to the dutch approach and is never mentioned in UK planning.

  7. Paul Gannon says:

    I heard that TRL’s top engineers had to do some ‘flip horizontal’ of photos of Dutch junctions because they couldn’t get their heads around them continental types cycling (and driving too!) on the wrong side of the road. Then when (hoping to dispel the myth that they are slaves to the ‘not invented here’ syndrome) they came to borrow the sharks’ teeth markings, someone did a mental switch of direction, thinking that the ‘flipped horizontal’ photos must be showing them the ‘wrong’ way round.
    Such is the quality of British traffic engineers that this silly parody would be preferable to the truth – that the profession’s training and standards of working are simply not up to the job, as demonstrated by their performance in this report and by innumerable botched UK cycle ‘facilities’.

  8. Mark Hewitt says:

    While all your comments are spot on. Certainly in the North East we aren’t yet at a stage where the is widespread provision of cycle paths *at all* nevermind with proper junction design. Or if they are narrow, overgrown, are covered in broken glass, or are just a pedestrian footpath which gives way every 10 metres.

    There is the argument that we should get it right from the start, but from my point of view, we’ve yet to start!

    • Since there is a certain amount of resistance to the idea that what works overseas could work in the UK, it’s important that those areas with the political will and some established cycling implement the best version of designs, so that they can be copied by the rest of the country. If we spend the next 10-20 years on failed designs where we do have dedicated cycle infrastructure it provides ammo for those who don’t want change elsewhere.

  9. “all” probably pushing the point too far Mark, in amongst all the dross there are one or two gems in the North East like NCN10 in North Tyneside, or the stuff currently being built alongside A1058 / A193 near Tynemouth, lots of good(ish) stuff around Stockton too. We’re woefully short of good examples anywhere near the highway, but do seem to get the odd decent bridge: http://vimeo.com/104217824
    Infinity Bridge in Stockton.

    • Mark Hewitt says:

      Stockton is a good example of what you can do if you try. I walk south of Stockton every lunchtime and there’s always loads of cyclists out and about, precisely because there’s lots of traffic free, tarmac, cycling routes.

      But much like Mr. Hembrow says, this sort of thing should be entirely mundane and normal, the fact that a busy road has a cycle route alongside should be normal, not exceptional, that’s before we even get to the issue of junction design.

      As an aside Durham Council recently surface dressed a large part of the A177 between Coxhoe and Sedgefield, a very wide A-road, which would be an ideal route for cycling, plenty of space on the road for good with cycle lanes on both sides? So did they paint them in? Nope, all the space given often to motor vehicles just the same as before – it’s this sort of thinking which is what I mean by we haven’t even started.

  10. Zoe Whyman says:

    Surely this calls for a petition – let’s not put up with this half hearted attitude and short sightedness any more.
    Please start one…

  11. pm says:

    In a better world the TRL would actually respond to this and make some effort to explain what exactly they believe they are doing. Sadly, it seems that most institutions with any power in this country seem to live in a hermetically-sealed cultural-bubble.

  12. Simon S says:

    Once again, another thoughtful, informative and challenging piece. I take my hat off to you sir!

    Please can you set up a Facebook page so we can follow your posts more easily? I only knew about this because it was shared on there.

    Keep up the incredibly good work.

  13. Jon France says:

    TRL’s definition of “cyclists’ would be interesting.

    I have taken part as a cyclist in a couple of their trials; cyclist traffic lights and roundabout.

    Whilst 95% of driving participants would be regular drivers, I would estimate that less than 10% of cycling participants are anywhere near regular cyclists, and those that I met were more tourers than commuters. To base any reports findings on these cycling participants responses/preferences is laughable. My views are informed by cycling commuting since 1987.

    • I’d say the results point to the opposite. What ‘normal’ person on a bike doing the shopping is going to insist on sharing space with traffic? It’s vehicular mentality all the way, which means experienced cyclist.

      Your point about commuter/ tourer cyclists is interesting, though. Tourers willing to sacrifice convenience for ease?

      • I’d guess at them being the sort whose seen this sort of junction in the UK, in real life, rather than TRL simulations.

        To be specific, the sort that knows that the cars on the side road will be using the far edge of the bike lane as the de facto give way line. In this situation, it makes sense to have more space available to avoid the waiting car, rather than the shorter distance the closer segregation offers.

    • I think the motorists preferred the tighter turn because they were a self-selected group of people who are thinking about road safety who actively want to avoid killing cyclists. I think the cyclists were split on the matter because on the one hand making the motorists slow down for a tighter turn is generally safer, but on the other hand they want to be free to take primary position to protect themselves against 1) those careless or reckless drivers who may still left hook them even with the 5m gap and 2) those motorists who will shoot out or overhang the cycle lane when emerging from the side road.
      We have so many of these inferior cycle lanes that funnel cyclists straight across the mouths of side roads (including on the cycle superhighways) that it is understandable that TfL want to see if they can make these junctions safer. The problem is that a cycle lane running across the mouth of a side road is effectively asking motorists to turn left from a right hand lane -a recipe for conflict. On many roads that are busy enough to get these cycle lanes, the benefit of increased safety of the lane itself is likely to be less than the increased risk at the side roads.

      • Paul Gannon says:

        “On many roads that are busy enough to get these cycle lanes, the benefit of increased safety of the lane itself is likely to be less than the increased risk at the side roads.”

        Old style group think being handed down is that assertion. The Dutch experience proves otherwise, as established by comparative safety statistics.

        • No, perhaps I was not clear: I’m talking about the flaws of the UK-style cycle lanes here. The Dutch designs are completely different. In the UK around 70% of accidents occur at junctions and simply running a cycle lane across a junction mouth can cause extra problems

  14. Charles Ullman says:

    Could this maybe be raised with a London Assembly representative? They could at least pose a question at Mayor’s Question Time. Maybe Darren Johnson, as he seems quite switched on to cycling issues…

  15. Absolutely shocking, these engineers clearly don’t deserve to work for any transport lab. Why, when the Dutch offer loads of information and help to anyone wanting to copy their success in bringing safe universal cycling do TRL pirate a half arsed interpretation? To get it this wrong is unforgivable, a class of 11 year olds would come up with better.
    They all need to spend a month on bikes in the Netherlands as a minimum, preferably while being shown around the infra and ideas being developed. If you want to learn about how to ongoingly study and improve upon how to safely move vast amounts of people around, the Netherlands is the place to study.
    I know the UK suffer from an island mentality but this is insane, they are clearly not up for the job.

  16. platinum says:

    Surely in any other frame of work a failure of this magnitude should get you brought up for professional misconduct. If a doctor looked at some medical research from the Netherlands, misunderstood it, bungled his own attempt at a reproduction which ended up getting people killed and seriously injured, not only would he be out of a job but he would be thrown in jail!

  17. Andrea says:

    Isn’t this research purely about looking at what the set-back of a segregated cycle LANE should be? It’s not meant to be instead of a cycle TRACK set-back into a junction. I suspect those facilities haven’t been considered because there are already standards for them but there are no standards for the type of set-back they were looking at. If I recall correctly TfL is proposing two-way cycle tracks with junction set-backs as part of the CS5 proposals. I doubt there will always be scope to provide a cycle track with junction set-back for various reasons.

    • Dan B says:

      No – it’s deliberately misinterpreting what is meant by ‘set back’ so they can say “we asked cyclists about the type of set back cycle tracks should have and the majority wanted them to merge at junctions”.

      Dangerous, deceitful and damaging.

  18. rdrf says:

    I’m not going to get into the substance of the post. Just to point out that TRL have been criticised for (another) author’s report on helmets which led to the Jersey mandatory helmet law. http://lcc.org.uk/articles/whats-wrong-with-new-cycle-helmet-law

    • Andy says:

      Normally I’m in the ‘do not attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity’ camp, but there are a number of recent TRL reports which seem to have a conclusion in mind before they were written. In this case I wonder if TfL directed the research to only look at these two options, rather than give TRL an open brief to basically assess the CROW manual in a UK context.

      • Mark Williams says:

        `Recent’ as in: all the ones written since they were frozen in time at the point of privatisation? TRL was already an irredeemably motor-centric organisation for half a century before that. They always seem to come up with the result which favours homogenising all roads in the direction of DMRB for the exclusive benefit of motorists. Scientists subject to peer review they aren’t. They are only ever prepared to [resentfully] consider cycling through the window of their motor cars and are probably a bit mystified as to why it hasn’t died out decades ago. All of the evidence and assumptions are fitted around the pre-determined conclusion on that basis. From this perspective, it is easy to see why `set back’ is measured as it was and why motorist participants expressed the preferences they did. In both cases, it is the one which is least inconvenient to the motorist.

        Unlike all those in the comments section seeking to reform this moribund waste of oil (and money), I think a better prospect under a Thatcherite government would be for a bunch of cyclists to set up a rival outfit which charges half of what TRL does and always comes to the pre-determined conclusion of upgrading all roads along the lines of CROW. That way, it wouldn’t matter if the `research’ briefs are being nobbled by the `clients’. We could call it _Traffic_ Research Laboratory Ltd. or somesuch…

  19. Thank you for highlighting this issue. Stratford High Street is designed exactly in the way recommended by the TRL and it is dangerous. The evidence for my assertion is your night time video (ouch) and my own observations including a short video I presented to TfL last year which provoked a lot of discussion.

    To my mind there are four distinct approaches to design at junctions. First, to follow Dutch methods, separating cyclists using olive shaped islands on all corners and either signalising or using give way markings to give cyclists priority. This approach is well documented.

    Other approaches are to:
    – merge, where cyclists are placed by the road design in the primary position in front of drivers turning right (our left) in a dedicated lane. Sometimes the lane caters for straight on traffic but in all cases, cyclists are “caught” by a lane or track on the other side of the junction. The Danish do this. Unlike TRL, whose solution is at best other-worldly, the Danish make very sure that drivers are to expect cyclists in the near side lane, but conflict is managed through the design of the merge–quite simply, a nearside ‘nib’ which ‘fires’ cyclists into the traffic stream. My observation is that, despite my description, cyclists of all ages and abilities seem to manage fine in this situation and confidently continue through the treatment. To my amazement it works well at busy junctions with multiple lanes–I spent quite some time observing cyclists and interactions with motor traffic.
    – manage. Conflict in this situation is recognised and managed. On side streets, the Dutch and Danish do so by continuing the cycle track or lane marking unbroken past the junction and continuing the footway at the same level and with similar surface treatment. There is no ‘bellmouth’, instead of flaring out, the mouth of the junction flares in, ‘ending’ the carriageway. This creates a strong impression of pedestrian and cyclist priority. Materials used on the doorway continent across the side street. Treatments for motors entering the junctions vary, but one Danish trick is to use parallel parked vehicles to create the reservoir for drivers to give way to cyclists and pedestrians.
    – control. This means signalisation of junctions to give cyclists fully protected segregated movements through the junction. Ideally, such arrangements should be “with traffic” in order to minimise delays to cycles (which, by the way, are monetised in cost benefit analysis, with delays counted as a cost, see also draft LCDS).

    The UK context presents many opportunities to introduce Dutch inspired street design for cyclists, that should be standard in new developments where space can be created from scratch. But there are also many places where there are genuine physical limitations on what can be achieved. This is why we have to get merge, manage and control design approaches right first time. TRL has not achieved this objective, their experiment and conclusions are unhelpful and seem really quite alarming.

  20. Edward Winston says:

    Oh wow, whats that…..its a bandwagon, quick everyone lets jump on it!

    Blogs and comments such as the ones on this page make me ashamed to call myself a cyclist!
    Is there anywhere in the TRL report where they say ” the scope of this study is to look at the very best way to get cyclists past a side road”? Perhaps someone could point it out to me because I didn’t see that written in the report. As a result of this the comments suggesting that this research has missed the point are entirely wasted. Its pretty clear to me from reading this report that there was a focused brief looking at one particular design which I’m guessing when built is not that easy to change, hence the need for doing this as a test first. Likewise it doesn’t take an individual with much sense to be able to see what other work Transport for London and TRL are doing for cycle safety. Perhaps tests like this need to be viewed as part of a bigger picture.

    As someone with a keen interest in cycle safety I have read lots of work that TRL and Transport for London have produced over the years. As with any part of life its easy to sit back and pick holes in other peoples work, surely its better than doing nothing? Your blog states that there are designs that work in the Netherlands, great, that’s really good, but we are not in the Netherlands. The Dutch have a cycling culture that is vastly different to ours, to simply apply a Dutch design to all of the UK roads is surely not going to have the desired outcome. Can we learn from them? Yes, of course we can but applying it to our roads with our road laws and daily driving and cycling practice might mean these designs need to change.

    At the very least I suspect that the author of this blog has misunderstood how science works and indeed how the commercial world works. Transport for London commissioned this project, as such the TRL report will cover the things that Transport for London want to know the answers to…..not the things that you want to know the answers to. Additionally science is about testing things and arriving at a scientifically and statistically robust result, not copying what has been done elsewhere expecting it to work, not listening to the small minded opinions of people on the internet, science is based on numbers.

    It depresses me to read blogs such as these, its helping no one, its increasing the divide between those who cycle and those who drive. We all have a shared responsibility for the safety on our roads and for sharing the small amount of space we have. Rather than trying to disprove things you don’t agree with, or worse still hopping on the bandwagon of the original authors blog, cant we put our creative efforts into coming up with some constructive ideas? After all its us cyclists who will benefit!

    • michael says:

      Are we supposed to just accept your claims as the word of God? Or do you actually have some evidence to support it, seeing as you are so keen on ‘science’ and stuff?

      “The Dutch have a cycling culture that is vastly different to ours, to simply apply a Dutch design to all of the UK roads is surely not going to have the desired outcome.”

      Evidence? Oh, sorry. you don’t have any. This is just the word of God that we all have to accept.

      How do you think the Dutch achieved that culture, may I ask?

      Your final paragraph is just the same old same old tired nonsense about ‘shared responsibility’ between the killed and the killers. If we are to ‘share the space we have’, why do we give such a disproportionate share of it to drivers of overlarge motorised vehicles?

      • Edward Winston says:

        Sorry Michael I think my logical mind has taken you beyond the limits of your understanding. Allow me to try and and walk you through this.

        My whole post was aimed at suggesting that’s its the evidence we need, my problem with the original blog is that its not building on any knowledge or evidence its in fact taking us all backwards.

        With regards to your comment about how I think the dutch achieved their cycling culture I would imagine they probably used the international best practice at the time to ADVISE their designs I expect there was also some degree of science involved rather than simply building it the same way as someone else has. Which is exactly what my post suggested we should be doing!

        Finally you have brilliantly proven my point about blogs such as this and the disservice they provide in your choice of wording of your final paragraph. I think we can agree that deaths on our roads are entirely unacceptable, however dividing everyone into two categories either ‘killed’ or ‘killers’ is a gross oversimplification aimed only and stirring up more animosity between drivers of motorised vehicles and cyclists. As for the share of road space I agree this is something that does need to change, and I will continually support efforts in this direction. Hidden deep within your posts and comments there are some good points. This was the point of my post, we are not helping the cause by attacking one another’s opinion. If you have this much antagonism with a fellow supporter of cycle safety no wonder your thoughts and opinions fall on deaf ears with motoring groups and government organisations.

        • michael says:

          To be honest, I struggle to be conciliatory with regard to drivers, as I’ve spent decades as a pedestrian and public transport user (like most people I know was far too nervous of traffic to cycle for a very long time) and simply don’t like cars, I want far fewer of them on the roads. I’ve seen them grow both in size and number and I’ve seen pedestrians steadily pushed to the margins.

          I am tired of breathing in noxious traffic fumes and being constantly menaced by badly driven vehicles, and being held up in ridiculously long traffic queues and endless on-street parking whenever I take the bus, and having my way constantly obstructed with selfishly parked cars when I walk anywhere.

          I want to see more cycling largely as a means of seeing less driving. Others, including plenty on this blog, may well be more moderate, on account of being both cyclists and drivers.

          What the Dutch did was to work out what worked, but, crucially, while not being constrained by a desire to never, ever take anything away from the motorist. You yourself seem to have acknowledged that the work discussed in this blog was political, not scientific – it was answering a question strictly limited on political grounds. And as such was always going to just come up with an answer that didn’t actually solve the question of how to make cycing safe enough that normal people were actually prepared to do it. Because most of the time, to do that you have to be prepared to take something from the motorist. Its obvious that neither of the options in the study are going to be safe enough to encourage normal people to take up cycling. They are just minor variations on the same theme that we know doesn’t work (because we’ve cycled on such paths already).

          Its just frustrating to see wasted effort answering questions which have already been so constrained that we know the answer won’t achieve anything useful.

          And yes, the trouble with ‘share the road’ rhetoric is it misses the point that one side doing the ‘sharing’ has massively more lethal power than the other. It is, in the end, about killers and the killed, sorry, that is simply a reality, and the talk of ‘sharing’ you get in road safety adverts for example often completely evades that, pretending its about two groups with equal power (though, I will concede as you said ‘sharing the space’ rather than ‘the road’ you might not be coming from quite that place).

          • michael says:

            Oh yea, you said ‘shared responsibility’ – its not truly shared, most of the responsibility lies on the person with the lethal weapon, as the other has very little power to do anything about if that party does something wrong.

        • Dan B says:

          TRL aren’t looking at international best practice though – they’re comparing 2 things that are NOT best practice and that are so similar to be essentially the same in practice. They are then asking people who currently ride in the UK motor-centric environment which one they prefer. From there you can then say “x% of cyclists want this” when local councils look to install cycle infrastructure.

          Why not ask primary school children which makes them feel safer? Why not make the cycle track at just-below pavement level with speed-tables to protect the lane at junctions, with a proper internationally-recognised ‘set-back’?

          This isn’t looking for the best solution for cycling, or looking at how to encourage current non-cyclists onto bikes – it’s looking at how to do the bare minimum badly, or really badly. You say they aren’t looking at how to get cyclists safely past side roads -why not? What are they looking at? You cannot suggest that cycle infrastructure should simply vanish just where riders need it the most. It’s this piecemeal approach to infrastructure that leads to riders not trusting what is supplied, which is what the results of this study show.

        • fonant says:

          Edward says “dividing everyone into two categories either ‘killed’ or ‘killers’ is a gross oversimplification”.

          Edward, I wonder if you could give us a rough idea of how often car occupants are killed when their car is in collision with a cyclist or a pedestrian? Are they killed as often as the cyclists and pedestrians they collide with?

          If car occupants were as likely to be killed in a collision as the cyclist or pedestrian they collided with, then the idea of “shared responsibilities” would work very nicely. Motorists would take as much care around cyclists as they did around other motor vehicles.

    • fonant says:

      The Dutch have a “cycling culture” because cycling is an easy, safe, and pleasant mode of local transport. This is because their roads and streets have been designed, tested, and built to the best possible cycleway standards. Almost none of the Dutch would consider themselves “cyclists”, they just use bicycles to get around.

      In the UK we have “cyclists” who manage to get around on bicycles despite the really terrible road and street conditions we have to deal with. We have a “bicycle culture” in the extent that almost everyone has a bicycle, and more bicycles are sold than cars. But the UK population just don’t feel safe enough to use their bicycles for transport.

      There is no “shared responsibility” between a motorist and a cyclist or pedestrian. If a motorist runs over a cyclist or pedestrian, the motorist is never the one who is going to injured, in fact they probably will hardly notice the impact. The responsibility lies almost entirely with the people having the biggest impact on society: the motorist.

  21. michael says:

    Also, as for bandwagons – you appear to be on the ‘share the road’ bandwagon that has dismally failed to achieve anything whatsoever for nearly 50 years now. That’s a long time to be stuck on a stationary bandwagon.

    • fonant says:

      Not a bandwagon, a way of life. “Cyclists” enjoy “mixing it” with motor traffic and “taking the lane” and “sharing the road”. “Cyclists” are often keen to maintain the status quo, where they can play chicken with motor cars without ordinary people on bicycles getting in their way. It’s exciting, and an excellent way to get an adrenaline rush.

      I’m sure Edward would accept 50% of the blame if he was hit by a motor car. Perhaps he wasn’t visible enough, or wasn’t asserting his right to ride on the public carriageway strongly enough. Or perhaps his BikeAbility training was out of date? But of course, so long as Edward shares the road nicely he won’t ever be hit by a motor vehicle.

      Ignore the excellent solutions the Dutch have developed over 40 years, we don’t want that sort of thing over here!

  22. fonant says:

    The Dutch shark’s teeth are the same shape as a standard Give Way traffic sign: horizontal top, pointy bottom. The Give Way sign is a Regulatory sign: you MUST give way.

    The shark’s teeth proposed by TfL have a pointed “top” and horizontal bottom edge. This is the same shape as standard warning signs.

    So perhaps they’ve used the triangles in the “correct” way for what they want to achieve: warning motorists that there might be some annoying cyclists around, and not telling motorists that they must give way to the cycleway.

  23. Eric D says:

    “The shark’s teeth proposed by TfL have a pointed “top” and horizontal bottom edge.”

    Unfortunately they (but bigger ?) are already used to indicate ‘Speed Humps’, cushions or tables !
    See TSRGD ‘Diagram 1062’ in

    Click to access trafficsignsmanualchapter5.pdf


    Click to access lcds-chapter5-junctionsandcrossings.pdf

    One should not suddenly apply them to non-raised cycle-crossings !

    should not be used either.

  24. Eric D says:

    And here is the implementation

    I’ll also link to

    I take it back about the “Elephants’ feet”: it does need something – but drivers need educating – Highway Code update ?

    I note the original study used a solid white line to separate the cycle-lane after the segregation ended – that could make merging illegal ?(either bike into traffic or car into left-lane to prevent conflict when turning left).

    It’s still all horribly confused.

  25. Eric D says:

    PS Sorry – I was wrong – the solid white line would make it a ‘mandatory cycle lane’ :
    bikes CAN merge out into traffic, but cars can’t merge in, like they do for 20m to turn left through a bus lane.

  26. We already have examples from London showing these things in action, on the Stratford Cycle Sueprhighway. Results here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbCoq8xa5-8

  27. Yaina Reddy says:

    I love this post here is good information for us thanks for sharing with us.

  28. Paul W says:

    Noted this article is dated 2014, but even that long ago one could have HOPED for better from TRRL.
    Could it be that the personel were mainly “Car-Centric” non cyclists?
    Has their mind-set improved since then?
    Have they come to their senses?
    IMHO a week of biking in the Netherlands, with a well informed guide, should be compulsory for all “traffic engineers”, street designers, and local planners.

    (BTW – We’re trying to enable a short traffic free cycleway from our village to the nearest town – It’s an uphill struggle!)

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