Kerbside activity

The issue of ‘kerbside activity’ and cycling infrastructure comes up intermittently.

In plain language, this is loading, and dropping off/setting down, and how it works with cycle tracks between the loading/drop-off point, and the footway. Just last month, the Freight Transport Association responded to Transport for London’s detailed proposals for the N-S and E-W Superhighways in London, with a particular focus on this point.

FTA’s message to Boris Johnson is that whilst it supports the development of infrastructure which improves safety for cyclists, the association is also asking him to remember that the people of London depend on goods being delivered and collected.

Natalie Chapman, FTA’s Head of Policy for London said:

“FTA supports the development of new cyclist infrastructure which is targeted on improving safety for cyclists, and believes it can provide real benefits. But cyclists are only one user of the road and the needs of all must be considered – Londoners depend on the goods our members supply every hour of every day. It is important that these schemes are carried out in such a way that they do not unduly disrupt traffic flow or prevent kerbside access for deliveries to businesses and homes.”

FTA added that it must be recognised that delivery and servicing activity does not only take place in high street locations but on many different street types including residential streets, therefore full segregation in these locations may hinder access for deliveries. In such areas, FTA favours the use of other measures such as ‘armadillos’ or giant cat’s eyes, which provide partial segregation stronger than painted white lines, but at the same time enable vehicles to access the kerbside. [my emphasis]

My understanding of this passage is that the Freight Transport Association favours the kind of cycling infrastructure that HGVs and vans can park on, obstructing it, so they can park right next to the kerb. In other words – cycling infrastructure that, while nice in theory, is functionally useless, if it’s going to be used as a parking bay.

Armadillos, and 'kerbside activity'. Picture by @the_moodster

Armadillos, and ‘kerbside activity’. Picture by @the_moodster

Similar reasoning appeared recently from Hackney councillor Vincent Stops, who argues that cycle tracks are not appropriate where there is kerbside activity.

Likewise the British Beer and Pub Association had this to say in response to the House of Commons Transport Committee on Cycling Safety –

Segregated cycle lanes already cause particular issues for pub deliveries. Manual handling of bulk beer containers such as kegs and casks (as specified in current Health & Safety Regulations) ideally requires the delivery vehicle to be sited at the kerb-side outside the premises. Physically segregated lanes prevent this access

Given that loading and parking has to occur pretty much everywhere on main roads – where cycle tracks will almost always be necessary – then if we take these objections at face value, continuous cycling infrastructure, separated physically form motor traffic, is an impossibility.

But is this really true? How does the Netherlands manage to cope? Deliveries and loading still take place on their main roads, as well as people parking, and dropping off passengers – and these are roads that will often have cycle tracks.

Well, it’s not really that hard. HGVs and vans park in marked bays outside the cycle track, and then load across it, and the footway.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 19.13.29You can see this happening in this recent picture from Mark Wagenbuur –

Courtesy of Mark Wagenbuur

Courtesy of Mark Wagenbuur

The delivery driver has put a home made ‘watch out’ sign on the cycle track as an extra (albeit slightly obstructive) precaution. But it’s clear that loading across a cycle track is hardly an insurmountable problem – it’s not really any more difficult than loading across a footway, provided that the cycle track is well-designed, with low level, mountable kerbing between it and the footway, as in both these Dutch examples.

I suspect the objections from these groups are based partly on assumptions about existing patterns of cycling behaviour in places like London – cyclists are perceived as fast and silent car-like objects, whizzing around like vehicles, rather than as the more sedate mode of transport it is in places where cycle tracks are commonplace in the urban realm. It’s easier to imagine loading  across a cycle track with these kinds of people moving along it –


… than one with people clad in lycra, riding on racing bikes, in cycle-specific clothing. That’s not to criticise this latter group – it’s just that perceptions can be skewed, because the existing environment tends to exclude other types of cycling.

Their objections are probably also based on their understanding of existing UK segregated infrastructure, which will often  present loading issues, due to the use of unforgiving, high kerbing, which is an additional obstacle for drivers to load objects across.

A poor example in Camden, with high kerbs that are difficult to load across - as well as being bad for cycling

A poor example in Camden, with high kerbs that are difficult to load across – as well as being bad for cycling

But this is poor design – cycle tracks shouldn’t be constructed like this, not least because it’s bad for cycling, as well as for people loading. Cycle tracks can and should fit seamlessly into the urban realm, allowing easy loading across them. It can be done – just look at best practice, across the North Sea.

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12 Responses to Kerbside activity

  1. Clare says:

    I made a complaint about a lorry delivering beer and blocking the contraflow cycle lane on Long Acre and was told that the union of draymen (the the beer delivery drivers’ union) refuses to deliver across a road or pavement and will only deliver onto the kerb outside the delivery address. The company was aware that they were parking illegally but had no power against the union who threatened to strike if they pushed the issue. So I suspect TFL could work with the delivery companies to get a better solution, as the one I spoke to was definitely frustrated by the illegal parking – and fines that came with it. Getting the union to change their minds will be the tricky thing…

  2. Paul says:

    This seems an excellent argument for “half height” cycle tracks where kerbside activity is expected It seems a pity that TRL
    seem to have concentrated on kerbs vs Armadillos vs wands to demarcate lanes at carriageway level. The problem comes when these tracks come to a junction.

  3. bz2 says:

    Out of all the objections one could have to cycle facilities, this seems like one of the most facetious ones. This is a solved problem everywhere but the UK.

  4. Andrea says:

    Excellent. The CEGB should really collect these myth-busting articles and and challenge TfL and DfT to publish them.

    Also, have you thought of

    1. Asking the FTA and BBPA to respond to the article
    2. Asking the relevant trade publications to publish this article

    It is probably the case that the FTA and BBPA hold their views because they don’t know how it could be done.

  5. Kevin Love says:

    Other places in the world have magical mystical items called “loading docks.”

    If someone is running a business on a property that is unsuitable for the business activities, that should be 100% their problem.

  6. I think the first Dutch example you show, which is very flat, would not work in the UK. I think there does need in the UK context to be some grade separation between the track and the footway, otherwise it gets walked on willy-nilly by pedestrians. This is because pedestrians in the UK are not used to significant flows of bikes, as they are in the Netherlands, and do not expect bikes. Here, in our (London) experience, a pretty clear step to the kerb is needed to separate cyclists and pedestrians. Also the kerb on the carriageway edge needs to be sufficient to prevent vehicles driving over it. Certainly angled kerbs to the tracks would help everyone.

    • Tim says:

      Thank you David for beating me to it and making this point. Personally I would certainly prefer a kerb – at least a small one – to make the distinction. Otherwise it’s just another shared use pavement in my experience.

      This segregated contra-flow cycle path (on a one-way road) in Manchester is really handy – I think I’ve linked to the streetview before. It could be a bit wider, but the segregation does have lower sections, some of which I am given to understand were added for loading purposes – see the pub’s cellar access. I don’t know why the footway doesn’t have a dropped kerb, but I presume it was like this before.

      So the main point of the post – segregation should be no barrier to loading – stands, even with kerbed segregation.

  7. Laura Laker says:

    A “cycle track used for parking” example from the segregated CS2 in Stratford:

    I received the following reply: “I have spoken to the driver and he said that was the only place he could park, he apologised and won’t do it again.”

    Which struck me as excusing it as impossible to avoid, while saying it will be avoided in future. Agree with Arditti re: distinction needed in height. In Olympic Park you end up feeling pushy dinging your bell when people are walking all over the pavement height cycle tracks.

  8. Pingback: Cycling fallacy…“shops won’t get deliveries” (infrastructure)

  9. Pingback: The Advocates’ Resource: Evidence you’ll need to build a case for cycling in your area – Cycling Industry News

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