West Sussex and LSTF money – Albion Way

This is the second post in a series examining the ways in which West Sussex County Council are spending the £2.46m of cash they received from the Department for Transport, in the form of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF), for schemes to be implemented between 2012 and 2015.

The first post looked at the Northgate gyratory in Chichester, where £210,000 (£140k from the DfT, £70k from West Sussex’s road safety budget) will be spent repainting an existing dangerous and substandard cycle lane around the gyratory, and adding flashing warning signs.

That scheme – like most of the other schemes being funded in Chichester and Horsham by the DfT’s £2.46m – is being implemented right at the last minute, before the April 2015 deadline. This delay is symptomatic of West Sussex’s problems with knowing how to spend money properly, and developing schemes that will actually make any significant difference to how people travel in the county.

However, when it comes to spending that same LSTF cash on conventional motor traffc-centric schemes, West Sussex are quickly able to deploy it – and all of it.

In Horsham, well over a hundred thousand pounds of that DfT funding – remember, for allegedly ‘sustainable’ transport – was used rapidly and efficiently for new traffic lights at three junctions on the town’s inner ring road, as Horsham District Cycle Forum point out.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 00.24.52

New efficient signals for motor traffic, Horsham, 2014

These new lights appeared in spring 2014, well before the 2015 deadline, and involve ‘signal optimisation’ – a fancy word for increasing the capacity of the junctions on the ring road,  for motor traffic. So in essence –

Sustainable transport funding has been used to reduce delay for motor traffic in Horsham town centre.

The money has been spent on new MOVA traffic signals, which unlike the pre-existing standard traffic signals, will respond to queue length. For instance, if there’s a very long queue of motor traffic on one arm of a junction, the system will respond, and allocate more signal time to that arm of the junction, to disperse the queue. The system serves to increase the ability of these junctions to handle motor traffic, by ensuring more efficient flow of motor traffic. Driving in the town centre just got a bit easier.

Astonishingly this is against the background of falling motor traffic levels on the road in question, Albion Way.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 14.18.48

It’s not as if congestion has been getting worse – the money has simply been hoovered up for a project to reduce queues for drivers.

So how has this use of ‘sustainable’ funding been justified? Here’s the paragraph describing the scheme, in West Sussex’s DfT bid document

Access improvements around the town centre

Improving access to the town centre (HR4), that will reduce delays and improving safety at junctions with A281 Albion Way/Park Way. These will include Advanced Stop Line (ASL) for cyclists, as well as traffic signal optimisation. This will help improve and create an efficient transport network to support access for businesses by reducing congestion, and encourage investment in Horsham.

In what amounts to an unintentionally ironic nod to the way this scheme has been delivered on the ground, this paragraph positions the the real purpose of the funding (smoothing the flow of motor traffic, a.k.a. ‘reducing congestion’) behind some ASLs.

Of course, describing the improvements as

including Advanced Stop Line (ASL) for cyclists, as well as traffic signal optimisation

is a bit like describing a shopping trip as ‘including some Monster Munch, as well as a new car’, because the cost (and indeed usefulness) of the ASLs is absolutely negligible. They are just paint, as we shall see. The near entirety of the £127,000 West Sussex received from the DfT for this scheme has in reality gone on the MOVA system – new traffic signals, new induction loops, and assorted computer software.

The painted ASLs are simply window-dressing, a convenient fig leaf for a scheme centred on improving journey times for motorists. They will do little or nothing to make the three junctions they’ve been painted at any more more attractive, or safer.

They have been thoughtlessly applied, as the following examples will show.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 00.34.34

Money well spent.

Here is a typical example; a box three lanes wide, with no safe way to access it. Indeed, no legal way to access it, with a solid white line stretching from kerb to kerb, which can’t be crossed under a red signal.

Within a matter of weeks, it had evidently been decided that the green of these ASL were too lurid, and they were all repainted a darker shade of green. This same ASL now gained a hatched entry point.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 00.37.31

It’s under the car.

There was some vague talk of giving this new traffic signal system the ability to prioritise buses, by fitting them with sensors that would allocate green signal time to buses stuck waiting. This hasn’t happened, and even if it did, without the presence of any bus lanes it’s not at all clear how buses will really benefit, given that – as in the photograph above – they will remain stuck in the flow of general traffic.

This ASL technically allows you to position yourself in front of motor traffic to make a right turn, from lane three, but this is a deeply unappealing prospect under free-flow conditions, with motor traffic flowing in lanes one and two, and stopped in lane three.

Just manoeuvre across to lane three, and stop in front of that car, before the lorry arrives.

Just manoeuvre across to lane three, and stop in front of that car, before the lorry arrives.

This same junction has other dreadful examples.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 15.26.40

It is arguable that these designs actually increase danger, by encouraging people to cycle to the front of the queue up the side of large vehicles, which may then set off.

Any existing cycle lanes have simply been repainted, with no thought or consideration about how they could have been widened, or improved.

We couldn't paint this lane any wider - we need the space for hatching on the far side.

We couldn’t paint this lane any wider – we need the space for hatching on the far side.

Likewise this crap – a short stub of contraflow that ends in an absurd fashion – has again been given a fresh coat of green paint.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 15.38.40

This short bit of quiet one-way road is crying out for a properly-designed contraflow, to allow people to access the town centre. But West Sussex have failed to use the money they’ve received to design one; they’ve lazily repainted the existing crap, which people continue to ignore.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 15.41.39

Technically you are supposed to turn through 90°, cross the road, then use the pavement on the other side. Which makes no sense at all to anyone cycling.

The ASLs on the other junctions are just as bad. Another three lane-wide strip, with no safe access –

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 15.44.59

And these beauties –

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 15.45.57

 

Spot the ASL.

Spot the ASL.

The final junction, again, has ASLs that have the potential to encourage people to put themselves in danger –

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 16.09.48

The design of this junction was also altered, making it worse for pedestrians. A direct, single-stage crossing on the northern arm (captured on Streetview, below)…

Screen shot 2014-04-06 at 16.17.13

… has been replaced by a two-stage, staggered crossing.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.14.09To repeat, Local Sustainable Transport Fund cash has paid for this – less convenient pedestrian crossings, in order to increase capacity for motor traffic.

The pedestrian crossings at the other junctions remain dire. Merely crossing the road into the town at the first junction described can involve up to five separate crossings, because there are no crossings on the eastern side of the junction.

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 22.55.03

Despite West Sussex’s bid for the LSTF cash having the stated aim of ‘improving access to the town centre’, no new crossings have been added here. People continue to dash across five lanes of motor traffic, rather than hanging around waiting, pushing buttons on four separate crossings.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.37.40

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.39.12

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.40.02

The LSTF cash that West Sussex won could have been used to make this unpleasant road genuinely attractive for walking and cycling, with direct pedestrian crossings, and a bi-directional track on the ‘town’ side of the road, replacing a traffic lane. Something like this.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.47.32

But instead it’s been wasted on traffic signals to ease the passage of motor vehicles through the town, and (as at Chichester) on some paint that does very little to make the road safe or attractive for cycling.

How many people will be tempted to start cycling on Albion Way now it has got some green stripes on it, at the junctions? Very, very few. These ASLs might make life slightly easier for the people already cycling here – those who know how and when to safely use them – but in my experience, huge numbers of ordinary people continue to ignore the road, cycling on the pavement, like pedestrians.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.51.42 Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.52.11 Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.52.33 Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.52.51 Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.52.59 Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.53.19 Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.53.30 Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.54.01 Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 21.54.49

Bluntly, we need infrastructure that works for these people, not tokenistic bits of green paint for the handful of people willing to cycle on hostile roads like this one.

To remind ourselves, West Sussex received nearly two and a half million pounds from the DfT to spend on sustainable travel in Horsham and Chichester – over a million pounds, for each urban area. That money could have made a tremendous difference, had it been spent on meaningful, high-quality routes for cycling.

But instead it is entirely going to waste, hoovered up to ease the passage of motor traffic, or dribbled away in the form of ineffective projects like the Northgate gyratory, or hopeless ASLs like here on Albion Way.

UPDATE

One thing I forgot to mention in this post is that the induction loops in the Advanced Stop Lines frequently fail to detect bicycles. That means if you are sat in the ASL, and no motor traffic is queuing behind you, you will wait indefinitely until some motor traffic arrives behind you to ‘trigger’ a green. That’s how ‘sustainable’ transport works!

This entry was posted in Car dependence, Horsham, Infrastructure, Traffic lights, West Sussex County Council. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to West Sussex and LSTF money – Albion Way

  1. Simon GS says:

    This is such a clear an egregious misuse of public funds, this should be referred to the Local Government Obudsman. You have a clear, EXCELLENT description and plenty of evidence. Seriously, give it a try.

    Keep up the excellent work. You are an incredibly talented investigator and writer.

    • I agree, but a more general concern is it should not be up to members of the public to challenge this. Most people have no idea what funds are used to make road changes. The DfT provided the money and they should be monitoring its use, and demanding repayment if necessary.

  2. ORiordan says:

    I’m really not surprised. My local London borough has spent sustainable transport money on new traffic lights with the tenuous justification that “smoothing” traffic flow will mean less air pollution.

  3. gregoryiain says:

    Never enough money to do anything correctly but always enough to do it twice, three times and on and on…

  4. sheridan says:

    How do these people manage to avoid being arrested for fraud?

    • Andrea says:

      Because nobody challenges them.
      I echo Simon GS: “This is such a clear an egregious misuse of public funds, this should be referred to the Local Government Obudsman. You have a clear, EXCELLENT description and plenty of evidence. Seriously, give it a try.”

  5. Mike says:

    In my twenties, thirties and perhaps my forties I would get angry at this kind of incompetence and try to do something about it. But the years roll on and as I approach my seventies I have accepted we get the government we deserve. Until a generation of activists succeeds in shaking the system we are stuck in a rut of our own making. It’s a gloomy thought but I see no such generation on the horizon.

  6. Wow. That’s awesomely bad. One thing: bus prioritisation without bus lanes does actually work. The arm of the junction which has a waiting bus gets more priority than it would have (with a good system this will happen only if it’s required to remain on time) so the buses benefit while the effect on other traffic averages out so is neutral. I worked on this stuff in a previous ‘life’.

    That’s nothing to do with cycling of course, and it certainly doesn’t in any way excuse the awful cycling ‘provision’ which has built.

    • But bus priority might conceivably come under sustainable transport: I’m not sure how it is defined by the fund. It wouldn’t come under a cycling-specific scheme, like the Cycle City Ambition grants.

    • I have not checked but, as far as I know, the “bus priority hurry calls to minimise waiting times for any late bus” have been implemented as per the original plans.
      In a city with high levels of congestion and a lot of buses, I agree that this kind of bus prioritisation would help buses. However, compared with Cambridge, Albion Way has minimal congestion and few buses, so I believe that the effect here is likely to be limited. My information was that the local bus partnership was not consulted prior to the decision and I suspect the reason bus priority was included is the same reason that the ASLs were included: as a bit of ‘greenwash’ to make the funding bid look better.

  7. fonant says:

    Just when you thought you’d seen the depths that West Sussex County Council’s Highways department can reach, someone goes and shows you something even worse.

    Clearly WSCC think that “sustainable transport” money is general-purpose funding to spend however they like. I really hope that DfT ask them for a report on what they’ve done with two-and-a-bit million pounds, and how this has benefitted sustainable transport. I fear that DfT won’t even bother following it up.

    I can feel a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman coming on.

  8. Pingback: West Sussex and LSTF money – Horsham cycle parking | As Easy As Riding A Bike

  9. Pingback: Singletrack Magazine | Boom and Bust - Breaking The Cycle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s