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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.35.21

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.39.12

… 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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.41.37

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 –

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.33.52

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.

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37 Responses to Cycling in Middle England – going nowhere fast

  1. Greg Collins says:

    Whilst I agree with almost every word written, a couple of extra details would help inform the debate. I suspect WSCC and HDC will answer that pedestrains and cyclists wishing to cross the A24 at Robin Hood already have the underpass via the golf course and those wishing to get cross the A24 to and from Broadbridge Heath already have the recently upgraded/replaced “Tesco’s” bridge via Tanbridge School. Both of which are very well used at present. Using Warnham Road to approach the Robin Hood roundabout isn’t pleasant or safe (for an unaccompanied 8 year old) to cycle to on. I’ll got that way on a Sunday morning if leading experienced cyclists, but peak times or with new riders? Forget it. The Guildford Road to approach Farthings Hill even more so. I’ve tried to cross that flyover once on a bike and swore never again. I think the vast majority of non-motorists already use the longer routes. Some pedestrains still cross at Farthings Hill but I’ve never seen someone on two legs at Robin Hood.

    Bottom line is WSCC & HDC don’t like cycling and they don’t like cyclists. Poor people who can’t afford cars or middle-class types who generally don’t vote Tory would be their take. And probably not a million miles off the mark either.

    • Mark says:

      CBC don’t like cyclists either – they spent millions upgrading all of their shopping parades to move cycle parking as far from the shops as possible so they could get cars closer to the shops. And then made it illegal to cycle to the cycle parking.

      Crawley is about the only town I know of where the council made it illegal to cycle in the bus lanes, so they have to ride with the 40 mph traffic.

      Regarding the roundabouts west of Horsham highlighted in this article, there’s another new one that WSCC built a couple of years ago further up the A264 between Crawley and Horsham, where anyone cycling to Crawley has to get into the middle lane of a 70 mph dual carriageway to carry on to Crawley, or risk being taken out by anyone turning into the new housing development there.

      No point writing to your local MP in Crawley hoping for support on cycle issues either – he used to be WSCC’s leader!

  2. Great article. I can say first hand that there is a severe lack of adequate cycle lanes in Chichester. Don’t see things changing anytime soon either.

    • fonant says:

      West Sussex County Council are still planning to spend hundreds of thousands of Local Sustainable Transport Fund money on turning the sub-standard Northgate Gyratory cycle track into a positive death trap.

      One might almost think that WSCC want to discourage people from using bicycles. In fact that is exactly the case: the county Highways and Transport people think cycling is a minority sport of enthusiasts, and that cyclists just jump red lights and get in the way of proper people in motor cars. They are happy to spend a little on token cycle training to try to get cyclists to behave better, but they have no intention of investing anything to make cycling safer or more attractive as a mode of transport.

      It’s a major scandal, and a huge missed opportunity to solve the county’s congestion problems.

  3. Terry says:

    The ducking of questions (and the lack of accountability) that you describe show just how democratic this dysfunctional country really is. These things put people off politics. But of course when a politician doesn’t answer we all know the reason is because his party has no plans whatever to enable more people to cycle.

  4. Kie says:

    Robert Goodwill has the easiest job, £134k per annum to sit on his a**e and do nothing for five years. All of this £x amount per head crap completely misses the point – all (non-motorway) roads should have cycling infrastructure as standard. All road designers should be trained in how to put in proper cycling infrastructure. The road budget should be the cycling infrastructure budget. If a new road or alteration doesn’t have cycling built in then it shouldn’t go ahead.

    • Mark Williams says:

      <sarcasm>What about all the work he and his predecessors have put into the `cycleproofing’ agenda which Diddy David Cameron invented a few years ago? It looks like West Sussex will be almost completely `cycleproof’ as soon as those last four roundabouts are done!</sarcasm>

      Last year, there was a TV fly-on-the-wall documentary about Broxbourne council’s planning department. The transport planner, from the seat of his motor car, said something like `it might come across as a bit hypocritical that I’m shown going everywhere [in the programme] by motor car when I’m also supposed to be the planner for walking, cycling and public transport’. Yes, it did, rather…

      p.s. Why limit accessibility to non-motorway roads? For example, you cannot get to the British terminal of the Euroshuttle other than by motorway.

  5. Paul M says:

    Of course Goodwill could have given an honest answer – big cities are the low-hanging fruit of cycle development. That is where the issues of parking, traffic pollution and congestion are at their worst, where distances between home, work, shops, leisure etc are at their shortest, where safe cycling has the greatest utility appeal, ie as the fastest, most convenient, and cheapest mode of transport rather than as greenie save-the-planetism or health promotion.

    It is also where, on grounds of densities, a well-laid 4m segregated tarmac cycle path would get the heaviest regular use. You only have to look at existing, now-inadequate schemes like the Torrington Place route in Bloomsbury. In one of the best-provided provincial boroughs, with one of the highest national cycle modal shares – Gosport, Hampshire – a better facility might see one cyclist pass every several minutes.

    Much as I would like to see improvements to my home town and its links to neighbouring market towns and villages, I reckon the money would go further and to better effect in big city centres. When the point has been forcefully made there, towns and villages can follow.

    Where did the Dutch start?

    • fonant says:

      Where did the Dutch start?

      Everywhere: they simply decided to invest in sustainable transport, and to deliberately make motoring less attractive, as a national policy. Once that decision is made at the top, everything else follows naturally.

      We in the UK got close at the end of the last Tory government in the late 1990’s when we saw the Road Traffic Reduction Act gain Royal Assent, we had a National Cycling Strategy, and much talk about modal shift away from car use. The following Labour government started well too, with some useful policies from John Prescott, but then it all slowly slipped back to “build more roads for cars”. We’re back in the 1970’s again now, as far as transport planning and investment is concerned.

    • Har Davdis says:

      We never completely lost our love-affair with the bicycle, which made implementing new cycle-policies easier than they would be in the UK. And we don’t have a Jeremy Clarkson and the like who can’t stop denigrating cyclists as a kind of sub-human sub-species, unworthy of any kind of respect. Top Gear is on Dutch TV, of course, but we’re too much into bikes to become the kind of obsessive petrol-head many Brits seem to be.

  6. ORiordan says:

    Very depressing and it exposes the whole self-perpetuating system based upon the house of cards that predicted savings of seconds result in benefits of imaginary pounds.

  7. How on earth can this article ignore the excellent conditions for rural cycling at 7am on Sundays, which the minister highlighted he regularly takes advantage of?

    Seriously, besides the democratic deficit of LEPs, the big issue is how bad the national planning policy framework is. Under its rules, development cannot be refused for breach of transport policies, unless the residual impacts are ‘severe’ (para 32, NB not actually defined anywhere!). Positive mentions of cycling are caveated more than Swiss cheese has holes in. That’s why developers can get away with increasing motor traffic and ignoring cycling & walking.
    http://planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/blog/policy/achieving-sustainable-development/delivering-sustainable-development/4-promoting-sustainable-transport/

    It may be a bit geeky but calling for a rewrite planning policy on transport needs to be a key priority for campaigning.

    PS thanks for the flattering description of my question!

  8. fonant says:

    At least the Horsham “Sustainable Transport” scheme has a tiny little bit of investment for cycling in it.

    Here in Worthing, West Sussex County Council are spending millions of LEP money on the “Worthing Sustainable Transport Package” that consists of re-paving Montague Street. This street has been pedestrianised for decades, and, while new paving and trees will be very nice, they do nothing at all for “transport”, let alone “sustainable transport”. Cycling in Montague Street is not allowed.

    Worse, the dubious economic justification relies on generating 1.6 million more visits to Montague Street every year, or over 4,000 more people travelling into the middle of Worthing and then back out again every day of the year! There is no word on how WSCC expect these new visitors to travel into town, but they’re not investing in cycling infrastructure and they’re cutting bus services, so apart from people lucky enough to live within walking distance these people must be travelling by car.

    So millions of “sustainable transport” funding is being spent on a project that will create even more motor traffic congestion on Worthing’s streets.

    It seems that West Sussex County Council’s Highways and Transport department actually want to create *more* motor traffic congestion on our roads. Perhaps they have friends in the road building industry?

    • Andrea says:

      CH2M HILL is an American company with a long history of defrauding the taxpayer in the US. It would not be surprising if it is adopting the same tactics here:

      §LA Utility Controversy[edit]
      In 2007, CH2M Hill was accused of over-billing the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power by $3.3 million on contracts to control dust on the dry bed of Owens Lake. An audit “found that CH2M Hill allowed subcontractors to pass on improper markups for services to the department. The audit also found that the company lacked effective oversight of cost controls, subcontractor management and construction management,” the Denver Post reported.[43] In 2008, the department filed a lawsuit against the company for $13.5 million, plus punitive damages and $10,000 for each false claim submitted by the contractor. The lawsuit accused the firm of breach of contract, fraud, and providing negligent representation.[44] The lawsuit was settled in July 2009 for an undisclosed amount.[45]

      §Hanford Nuclear Project Scandals[edit]
      Time Card Lawsuit: In September 2012, the U.S. federal government became involved in a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging that CH2M Hill over-billed the government for the number of hours worked at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Hanford Nuclear Site.[46] CH2M Hill allegedly hired employees for eight-hour shifts but allowed them to leave early, because it was reportedly unable to recruit workers otherwise without losing a profit. CH2M Hill then submitted the falsified timecards to the federal government. The Justice Department alleged that upper management knew about the practice but failed to stop it. CH2M Hill settled the case by agreeing to pay $19 million (including a $16.55 million civil penalty; disgorgement of $1.95 million in profits, and $500,000 to improve accountability systems at Hanford). The settlement also included a three-year non-prosecution agreement, the hiring of a corporate monitor, and an agreement they would cooperate with the government’s ongoing fraud investigation. CH2M Hill agreed to a statement of facts that it had committed federal criminal violations.

      §Fine for Kickbacks[edit]
      Between 2003 and 2005, two CH2M Hill employees allegedly defrauded taxpayers by making over 200 purchases of substantially marked-up goods from companies owned and run by the employees’ spouses, then charged the cost to the DOE. Despite being alerted by internal audits to the misuse of federal funds, CH2M failed to address the issue, allowing these schemes to go undetected for years. Four individuals were indicted on charges of fraud. The company agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle the allegations.

  9. Schnauzer Minelli says:

    I cycled from Hassocks to Brighton last year and was scared to death. I have been cycling in London for 10 years now but was shocked as to how little cycling infrastructure there is on the country side. Such a beautiful place, so much space yet so little provision for safe cycling. We have a long long way to go.

  10. Very good piece, Mark. Truly damning of the local authorities who allow places so close as one mile away to be completely cut off so far as walking and cycling are concerned. I found similar road designs in the UK a couple of weeks ago, right down in the south west of the country. It took us ages to drive by car to a new housing estate outside a small town of 30000 people or so, so I assumed the distance we’d covered was fairly substantial. But no, when I looked on Google Maps I could see that the total useful distance we’d travelled was little over one mile, that because the plans included no direct route by any means of transport we’d actually taken a detour of more than 3 miles on busy cycle unfriendly roads to get there, and that it took so long only because we were stuck in traffic the likes of which I’ve never seen in the Netherlands even in cities.

    It’s often forgotten that conditions for drivers improve when you build proper infrastructure to support cycling and walking.

    You’ve seen how efficiently Kloosterveen is linked to the centre of Assen. The distance is further than any of the distances in your article above. It’s efficient to make the journey by any means of transport.

  11. canamsteve says:

    Well, yes – and all somewhat depressing. Who would have thought London would be a bright spot for cycling infrastructure. Since the article is exhaustive and the previous comments illuminating, I have but a tangential comment – when you add traffic signals to a roundabout, is it not an admission that in some locations roundabouts (and especially motorway access roundabouts) just don’t work? Since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, may I suggest a cloverleaf (with cycleways below)?

    (Well, what did you expect from a town with a “carfax”?)

    • When traffic flows become too large fr a roundabout in the Netherlands the roundabout is removed and replaced by a proper traffic light junction. That’s just happened in Assen. Roundabouts never reach the sizes seen in the UK nor are they retrofitted with lights.

  12. Matthew Plummer says:

    Good post, but if you think Weat Sussex is largely flat you’ve never been to West Sussex.

    • Yes, it is largely flat.

      There’s the South Downs, of course, but very few people actually live there! The towns where the vast majority of people live are flat.

      • Matthew Plummer says:

        When did you last ride around East Grinstead? Classic High Weald landscape – rolling hills. High Weald covers a decent chunk of West Sussex…

  13. rdrf says:

    A very thorough article making a good point about how everywhere outside a few (generally inner) urban areas is forgotten about by those in charge when it comes to cycling as everyday transport.

    But I wouldn’t dismiss the issue of the rural road or lane which is not going to have cycle tracks along it. You have to think of methods like law enforcement, engineering of vehicles, reduction in car dependency etc. as methods to e employed for cyclist safety on these roads. Does anybody in charge have any real interest in this? I would say not.

    My only experience of any engineering on these kinds of roads in the Netherlands was on what would appear to be quieter B-type roads in Limburg, which seemed to have 2 meter or so wide red paint jobs like ACLs without the marker lane. I don’t know what their effect is.

    • Cyclestrian says:

      Rdrf: We do get some roads like that in the UK, a rare example is here: https://goo.gl/maps/sybUC I do believe it is very important for councils to take very cheap steps that send a message that our roads are not just for adults in cars, they are also for (1) pedestrians (2) cyclists and (3) children and if anything, these outed groups should be given priority. Sending this message is cheap and easy: paint on roads (or not – remove centre lines), more crossings (especially zebras), lower speed limits, signs (or not, e.g. remove bend signs in <=30mph limits), filtered permeability. Subtle environment changes that counter motor dominance (whether paint or advertising) can only help motivate funding for proper investment in segregation and political will for non-pro-motor measures.

      A sad British meme of a child or a cyclist on a road is someone that could easily meet their death, and likely deserves to do so. A child cyclist should be seen as someone going to school actively and independently, not as an accident waiting to happen.

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  15. Notak says:

    “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.”

    Whether it’s Horsham or Hanoi, severance by large roads tends to be very little recognised and even less addressed by planners and local government.

  16. Bill says:

    This is all so typical of the UK, making the most sensible choices to cover 1-2 miles the hardest. I find it all so dispiriting.
    Seeing that verge without a pavement is like looking at States in the USA where there is no sidewalk and walking is viewed as aberrant, suspicious even, by the police.

  17. Colin Tweed says:

    Very interesting blog Mark. I live in East Grinstead and I find it equally depressing about the total lack of decent infrastructure. I would love to just ride into town or to the Leisure Centre with the mrs and the kids. I cycle around town on my own for sure, but no way would I subject my family to the poor driving I encounter. Even though the quality of driving in EG is a massive improvement on anywhere I’ve cycled in London, it’s still bad enough not to risk my family’s lives.

    Have you read anything about the powers of the “Cycle-Proofing Working Group”. Do they have any power to put pressure on Local Authorities to come up with better solutions than the ones you describe?

  18. Greg Collins says:

    Have spoken to several local cyclists about the new bridge

    “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.”

    They are all very happy with it, say it is an improvement on the previous bridge and it is getting heavily used by cyclists.

    Anecdata I know but people’s lived experience counts for something.

  19. bikemapper says:

    As I have heard, there are certain roads in the Netherlands which cyclists are forbidden to use. I imagine that this idea would never be adopted in this country, at least not formally, although I take the point that in practice cyclists are effectively banned from some roads. Still, the idea that certain parts of the road network are only suitable for motor traffic is not an unreasonable one.

    A good question to ask, I think, is that if Horsham was in the Netherlands, how would these four roundabouts be treated?

    The Great Daux roundabout is not currently, and almost certainly never would be, part of any meaningful route that would be useful to cyclists. The situation regarding the Five Oaks roundabout is more equivocal, but even so, depending on where you have started your journey, or where you are trying to get to—Billingshurst or Slinfold are the most obvious places—the proposed treatment of the Five Oaks roundabout is likely to be the least of your worries.

    You make the point that between Five Oaks roundabout and Farthings Hill roundabout the village is “the most direct east-west route”. The planned treatment of the Five Oaks roundabout would “discourage ratrunning” through the village, you say, which means that the “old road” would effectively serve as a by-pass, and the most direct route would substantially be traffic-calmed. In many parts of the world, it must be said, this would be regarded as a positive.

    Regarding the “new road”, the original Guildford to Brighton road used to go through Broadbridge Heath, through Horsham, through Mannings Heath, and through Lower Beeding. All of these places will soon be by-passed (if they haven’t already been).

    As for the bi-directional path on the northern edge of Farthings Hill roundabout, surely this would be shared-use in the Netherlands also? How many pedestrians are likely to want to go this way? I think crossing point 4 would work better as a zebra crossing, but apart from that I wouldn’t change much.

    This brings us on to consider the Robin Hood roundabout. Greg Collins says: “Cyclists wishing to cross the A24 at Robin Hood already have the underpass via the golf course.” That’s as maybe, but it is not a very good solution.

    Again, we have to look at the bigger picture. Most people using this route would have started their journey in Warnham and would want to get to Horsham. The problem with this route is some pretty big hills. Bailing Hill is a bugger, and the Horsham-side of Boldings Brook (Spencers Place / Kempshott Road) ain’t that much fun either.

    As often with hills, the main road route tends to be the least worst choice. That is certainly the case for Spencers Place / Kempshott Road versus Warnham Road. Indeed a friend of my mum’s cycles into Horsham via Warnham Road and only uses Spencers Place / Kempshott Road on the return journey.

    But how to avoid Bailing Hill? In the olden days, people would have gone through Warnham Park, but unfortunately that option is no longer available.This means that the only alternative is Dorking Road / Daux Hill. (Daux Hill would have been the original Dorking road, so it’s not as bad as it sounds. Also, as this map shows, the route from Warnham Post Office into Horsham would be shorter by about half-a-kilometre this way than via the golf course.)

    Now, I would still want for cyclists to avoid Robin Hood roundabout—an underpass, perhaps?—but this is largely academic, partly because we’re not thinking in terms of a network, but mainly because we’re not prepared to accept that introducing the rest of the network to the point where it functions, warts and all, is “a prudent course to follow”. If the authorities tried that approach in the UK, there would be uproar.

    Finally, it upsets me when you say that Robert Goodwill chose not to engage with the question that had actually been asked. How many times times have I asked you for your opinion about the best option going forward? It must be ten or twelve times at least, and every single time you avoid answering. So please, Mark, network first, and then a separation of functions? or high-quality bits-and-pieces, and then join them up later on?

    @ Greg Collins The recently-published International Cycling Infrastructure Best Practice Study points out on page 23: “It shouldn’t need saying, but UK experience suggests that it does: if a lane or track is meant for cycling, then, quite simply, it should be possible to cycle in it. This relates to issues such as width, freedom from obstruction or incursion, and availability at any time.” The barriers on the new bridge need to go.

    • pm says:

      “As I have heard, there are certain roads in the Netherlands which cyclists are forbidden to use.”

      As I understand it (though I’ve never cycled there – I was exclusively a pedestrian/public transport user when I last went there), those roads will have an quality cycle path running parallel to them.

      Would be useful to hear AsEasy confirm that this is always the case, though.

      If my understand is correct though, its a matter of semantics whether cyclists are truly “forbidden to use” that road, rather than it being a road divided into separate parts for different vehicles

      As it stands, all road users are ‘forbidden to use’ the lane for oncoming traffic, for example. Nobody finds that a huge problem..

      • bz2 says:

        Yes, this is more or less true. Roads that ban cycling will pretty universally have a parallel route for cyclists which is safer, quieter and generally nicer. As a hard rule, roads that ban cycling will not have any properties facing directly onto them, as those would be come unreachable by bicycle.

        There are a few places where this isn’t true. The most notable example I can think of is the N445 road between Leiderdorp and Roelofarendsveen. This is an 80 kph interurban road where cycling, mopeds and tractors are banned. Those types of vehicles will have to take the alternate route via Oud Ade and Rijpwetering. That route is about 400m longer (on a total length of about 6km). While this is clearly not great, it does allow for the N445 to be built to a higher motoring safety standard: it is built with narrow lanes (which discourage speeding) and there is an overtaking ban (!) along its full length. Building a cycle path alongside the N445 would be possible, but it’d cost an incredible amount of money (the soil is extremely poor, the N445 itself had to be built on an abandoned railway embankment) and it would not attract that many users who’d prefer it over the alternate route (not many people like riding through 6 km of nothing but open fields, especially in such a windy country).

        Mind you, I pay very close attention to this kind of thing, and this is the most egregious example I’ve been able to come up with in two decades of regular cycling in the Netherlands.

    • Mark Williams says:

      Poor old Robert Goodwill😦. Still, at least he has you sticking up for him :-)…

      Your specific question to the poster seems a particularly mealy-mouthed one to be asking `ten or twelve’ times without reply: just take the hint, already. I am declining to respond individually to your unsupported assertions, dubious assumptions and loaded questions because I am sceptical that you are in a position to assimilate a detailed answer directed towards those points.

      But I will say, in order to get your journey of discovery started, that for every pair of addresses (including ultra-urban and ultra-rural) I’ve ever wanted to travel between in the Netherlands there has been an obvious, direct, fast, safe-feeling, adequately capacious, unobstructed, uniformly-designed (?), well-constructed, suitably-lit cycle route which has never involved riding on an autoweg or snelweg and without having to resort to forensic cartography. There is no dichotomy between `bits and pieces’ and `network’—`separation of functions’ is just one of your red herrings. Fonant has already outlined the `best option going forward’. Whether you choose to accept this is entirely a matter for you.

  20. You could drive a (sustainable) bus through the holes in the business case for the W of Horsham package. I thought it was so risible that I didn’t bother to make detailed comments, but at the LTB meeting today the LEP officer stated that the BCR of 205 was so high that, whatever faults needed to be adjusted for, he didn’t think the BCR could fall below 2 (the cut off for acceptance).
    This is a fundamentally flawed argument: the BCR case is based on completely unsound foundations, so proves nothing at all about the results of any meaningful BCR calculation. I am not going to query the discount rates used to get to a present value or the monetisation of delay or journey redistribution or anything technical like that, I just want to point out a couple of howlers.
    If I understand correctly:
    1) The calculation relies on the time savings that come from reduced queues for peak traffic passing through the widened junctions. It totally ignores the fact that, for the whole of the rest of the day outside that peak period (maybe 22 out of 24 hours?), traffic is not speeded up, it is actively slowed down due to the multiple stops for traffic lights and the slower speeds required when approaching signalised junctions. Instead of subtracting these delays form the benefits, all 24 hours worth of traffic is assumed to benefit.
    2) The scheme removes the old A264 bypass from Five Oaks roundabout -making it safer- and the BCR includes the value of the reduction in accidents. However, an intrinsic part of the scheme is to open up the new A264 and attach it to a new roundabout. The inevitable collisions here (where most of the traffic will be diverted to in the future) have not been included in the BCR.
    3) The safety benefits of the scheme rely on a reduction in accident levels by signalising a huge roundabout, Farthings Hill. However, there is a disproportionate number of cycling injuries here (despite the minuscule number of people cycling on this horrible junction). The analysis does not distinguish between motor vehicle and cycle casualties or the, very different, causes of them. Although signalising will not cause a big increase in the number of cyclists crossing, the injury rate is high enough that even modest increases in cycling will cause the accident figures to RISE. There are many reasons to believe accident rates per cyclist will be high: 40mph speed limit, but high accelerations and higher actual speeds with motorists looking at the road ahead and not looking for cyclists right in front of them. Impatient red light jumps by motorists who fail to anticipate the relatively high speed at which cyclists suddenly appear at the junction. Cyclists who get fed up of waiting for 4 sets of toucans to change and cross on red misjudging the speeding motorists etc etc.
    I understand that, in the real world, these ‘business cases’ are retrofitted to favour the preferred schemes, but it is very worrying if such flimsy and flawed calculations are taken even half seriously by the people in charge of deciding how to spend many millions of pounds of our very rare and precious sustainable transport money. (Sorry for the long post -got that off my chest!)

    • fonant says:

      The BCR cases are meaningless, just boxes that have to be ticked before this sort of money can be allocated. The people involved just don’t care, they have a big wad of cash and they spend it on whatever they want. There is no meaningful oversight, and the big consultancy firms have very close personal ties to the local government members and officers, so they all scratch each others backs. Normally no-one notices, and most people aren’t actually that bothered about what we see as inexcusable misspending of public money. But it really is thinly-disguised corruption on a pretty big scale.

      The “Worthing Sustainable Transport Package” has an explicitly stated BCR of zero for transport, and yet it was the LEP’s top priority for funding with “sustainable transport” money. The title of the scheme is completely fraudulent, as it the scheme explicitly has no benefits for transport at all, let alone sustainable transport!

      All of the benefits came from the highly dubious assumption that new paving slabs in Montague Street would result in 1.6 million new shopping trips in Worthing per year and an increase in turnover for the shops of £17.7 million per annum. If repaving shopping streets generated that sort of increase in turnover, I’m surprised we’re not repaving every shopping street in the country!

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  22. @bikemapper Thanks for the responses, appreciate them. As to the bridge “barriers”, I’d rather they weren’t there but they don’t stop anyone from cycling on the birdge. As you’ve pointed out: “if a lane or track” and I guess in this case bridge “is meant for cycling, then, quite simply, it should be possible to cycle in it. This relates to issues such as width, freedom from obstruction or incursion, and availability at any time.” It is entirely possible to cycle on the bridge. Even on a panniered up touring bike. I’ve tried. Not tried yet with a trailer, I admit.

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