Tinkering, bodging, and fudging – money down the jug handle

Is it possible to build 4 miles of ‘cycle route’ with £300,000 of investment?

Obviously not; the answer is plain from a brief glance at my post from Monday. Spreading small amounts of money thinly will unfortunately achieve absolutely nothing. Problematic junctions and genuinely hostile roads will remain problematic and hostile, and crap bodges put into place in a half-hearted attempt to deal with those roads and junctions will amount to a waste of money; redundant, confused designs that would immediately be ripped out and replaced under any genuine cycle-friendly design.

Sadly, in most of Britain, this is where the ‘investment’ in cycling (what little of it there is) is going – down the plughole, on these crap bodges. There are undoubtedly countless examples of this kind of waste, but for me one design in particular exemplifies it. The ‘jug handle’ turn.

The 'jug handle' turn, as shown in the DfT's LTN 2/08, Cycle Infrastructure Design

The ‘jug handle’ turn, as shown in the DfT’s LTN 2/08 , Cycle Infrastructure Design

The ‘jug handle’ also features (inevitably) in Sustrans’ latest design guidance –

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 13.06.28

From Sustrans’ Cycle Friendy Design Guidance

… and in a slightly different context (but equally ‘bodge-like’) in Transport for London’s new Cycle Design Standards.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 13.08.18

From TfL’s LCDS

Here is the description of this piece of design from LTN 2/08 –

Where cyclists travelling along a busy carriageway need to turn right to join a cycle track on the opposite side, it may be appropriate to get them to the central refuge via a jug­handle turning on the nearside (see Figure 10.4). This gives them a safe waiting area away from moving traffic and provides good visibility for crossing the carriageway.

I’d disagree immediately with the final part of this paragraph; waiting in an almost parallel position to motor traffic thundering over your right shoulder does not give you ‘good visibility’. Genuine ‘good visibility’ would be supplied by a perpedicular crossing arrangement, like this –

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 12.02.08

… and not by something that requires you to crane your neck to look backwards over your shoulder.

But this isn’t my main issue with ‘jug handles’. It’s that, in their own terms, they are set up to fail; to be redundant pieces of design.

Note first of all that they are to be employed on ‘busy roads’; roads where it is difficult to make right turns. Allegedly the jug handle makes it easier to cross, but in truth all it does is provide a safer place to wait than simply parking at the side of the road (as shown in this fairly horrific British safety film from 1983).

So, really, these are roads that should have some form of cycling infrastructure alongside them. If they are busy (and hostile) enough to merit a ‘jug handle’, then – in the interests of making cycling genuinely safe and attractive – these roads should have cycleways running alongside them, or motor traffic levels should be reduced to make cycleways (and indeed ‘jug handles’) unnecessary.

The ‘East-West’ route in Horsham has a number of new ‘jug handles’. The one that has been installed on North Street by the railway station is clearly somewhere that needs cycleways instead of ‘jug handles’.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 13.12.01

This road is very busy; the main route north out of the town centre, carrying HGVs, buses, and plenty of general motor traffic. So the small number of people who are confident enough to cycle along it in the existing 80cm cycle lane will not be slowing down to bump up onto a cruddy piece of tarmac plonked in the verge, coming to a complete stop to make a right turn; they will just turn right regardless, avoiding it. And anyone who doesn’t fancy cycling on this road (the vast majority of people) won’t be helped by this new bit of infrastructure, because they won’t be cycling here in the first place. The ‘jug handle’ is therefore utterly redundant; a complete waste of money.

And there’s another ‘jug handle’ on Blackbridge Lane. This road is not as busy as the former example, but still carries enough motor traffic to merit (in my view) some kind of protected space for cycling, or (failing that) measures to reduce through traffic.

This particular jug handle requires you bump off the carriageway, give way at a minor side road…

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 13.49.39… before executing a swerve around a tight corner, to wait to cross the road.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 23.41.29

But as with the North Street example, I cannot see anyone actually using this bizarre bit of design. Why? Because anyone cycling along Blackbridge Lane will, by definition, be confident enough to make right turns from the carriageway itself, without inconveniencing themselves by going onto a bit of ‘infrastructure’ that requires them to give way to traffic from four directions (two on the side road, two on the main road), rather than just one.

This much is plain from the approach to this ‘jug handle’, where people cycling are already expected to cycle in the middle of the road, to negotiate a parking bay.

The 'jug handle' arrangement, highlighted. But to get to it, you are already have to cycle in the middle of the road, past these parked cars

The ‘jug handle’ arrangement, highlighted. But to get to it, you already have to position yourself in the middle of the road. Anyone confident enough to cycle here (like me) will not choose to add inconvenience, to make a manoeuvre they are already capable of making on the carriageway

The hostility of this road means that the people the ‘jug handle’ is intended to help simply won’t be cycling on it. They will be on the footway here –

Footway cycling at this spot on Blackbridge Lane

Footway cycling at this spot on Blackbridge Lane

… or they simply won’t be cycling at all.

Perhaps ‘jug handles’ – like similar kinds of bodges – allow councils to pretend that they are actually achieving something, or making  a difference. But in truth money is being poured down the drain. Do it properly; or don’t bother.

Update

I should, of course, have included an example of how the Dutch would design for travelling along busy roads, and how to cross them. This cycleway in Rotterdam fits the bill.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 14.57.46

It is continuous along the length of the road; turn off it are made via pockets, which allow people to wait perpendicular to the road, with good visibility.

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13 Responses to Tinkering, bodging, and fudging – money down the jug handle

  1. Tim says:

    Hmm…

    3rd photo down, with the toucan. My understanding would that the ramp onto the footway is not intended to be waited in (“in an almost parallel position to motor traffic thundering over your right shoulder”), but purely to provide access to the shared-use footway, so you can wait at the toucan in a perpendicular fashion, “with good visibility” (because that’s the right direction to cross the road).

    Conversations with Manchester transport people indicate to me that a Toucan is intended to be used footway-to-footway, in “pedestrian” mode (so interestingly there’s no legal requirement to wait for green man/bike when crossing). The vehicle stop line at the ASL/crossing cannot legally be crossed when the carriageway light is red whether cycling in “vehicle mode” or “pedestrian mode”, so a legal way to get onto the toucan via the footway is required. I don’t pretend to understand the give-way lines at the top of the ramp. Also, apparently the limits of the shared-use footway should be indicated with signs and tactile paving.

    As for the Blackridge Lane example, I would personally cycle down that road, pulling carefully round the parked cars in primary, and most of the time I would just turn right in the carriageway as you suggest. But there are certainly occasions when there are streams of large motor vehicles bearing down on me way too fast (in both directions); no amount of waving my right arm will slow them and if I continue riding as they pass I’ll miss my turn. It’s one thing to be passed, but another to move right across in front of that kind of traffic. In that situation I might well think “screw this” and take the “escape route” up onto the verge. (Similarly I admit I might sometimes cower behind the parked cars instead of taking primary if it seems safer).

    I would agree that none of this is right. The toucan example might make legal sense but it’s unnecessarily over-engineered, confusing and inconvenient for cycling. It’s farcical that people on bikes should have a choice between “vehicle-mode” or “pedestrian-mode”; an admission that both options are bodged compromises. And me cowering on the verge fearing for my life, waiting to turn right, is also not pleasant or conducive to cycling.

    • Notak says:

      Conversations with Manchester transport people indicate to me that a Toucan is intended to be used footway-to-footway, in “pedestrian” mode (so interestingly there’s no legal requirement to wait for green man/bike when crossing).
      Useful to know. I’ve never been quite sure of this. Clearly if you’re pushing your bike across the crossing, you’re a pedestrian and there’s no obligaton to stop for the red man. I’ve never been quite sure of the legal status of the green/red bike lights.

      • Tim says:

        The email correspondence about this was about a particular signalised “crossroads” junction in Manchester which now has toucans on each arm. Another interesting point is that a cyclist can legally bypass carriageway red lights by using the ramp to get onto the footway, behaving like a pedestrian and then using the ramp on the other side of the red lights to get back onto the carriageway. This could be particularly useful when turning left (because no road crossing is required).

        The relevant excerpt which I received from TfGM is as follows:

        “· With some exceptions, cycles are legally classed as vehicles and are bound by different rules to pedestrians. Cyclists cannot cross a red light/stop line which is one example of how pedestrians and cyclist are treated differently. Instead, if they intend to use the toucan crossing at the Wilbraham Rd junction they must exit the carriageway using the dropped kerb and the shared-use footway/cycleway. The carriageway should then be crossed using the toucan crossing. On the far side, the cyclist may exit the shared-space using the dropped kerb.

        · However, whilst using a toucan crossing in this manner, cyclists like pedestrians may if they wish cross on a red toucan (cycle) signal. Under these circumstances cyclists are treated as a pedestrian. Given the nature of this junction however, I would not recommend crossing the carriageway either as a pedestrian or a cyclist under a red toucan signal.”

  2. rdrf says:

    The perpendicularity bit is interesting. If you are waiting to cross and stationary, the time taken to cross (and exposure to motors) will be longer than if you just move over to the centre of the carriageway – and then across it – if you have been travelling along it. So in that sense it is actually more hazardous for cyclists to use it.

    Although if you don’t use and are hurt, that may be used against you in legal proceedings.

    Does that make sense?

  3. Andrew L says:

    They seem to be among the most over provided, and equally most pointless, examples of cycling infrastructure that we are given in the UK… As if the fact that a jug handle is there at all should be enough to make us feel grateful for any kind of provision.
    To me they are as bad, and as useless, as an advanced stop line that you can’t guarantee reaching, or a brief cycle lane that leaves the main carriageway when there is a traffic island, only to rejoin it (with inevitable give way markings) 5 yards later.
    It’s a bodge that just wouldn’t be necessary if there were proper cycle lanes, with a proper priority system, to begin with.

  4. Notak says:

    So the small number of people who are confident enough to cycle along it in the existing 80cm cycle lane will not be slowing down to bump up onto a cruddy piece of tarmac plonked in the verge, coming to a complete stop to make a right turn; they will just turn right regardless, avoiding it.
    Until I read this sentence, I had been puzzled as to the purpose of the jug handle in the photo above it. I simply hadn’t connected it with the roundabout we see a sign for (but not the roundabout itself – it must be some way off)!

  5. Sustrans’ Option 2 in the diagram looks good to me: a smooth cycleable curve (as long as the radius is big enough) to bring you perpendicular to the main road. I think the main problem with it is not the concept, more that I’m not sure any actually exist. If they do, perhaps someone could send in pictures and user comments?

    • Colin Smith says:

      If you want to get general engineers to follow it as they should then it really needs some absolute minimum radii marked on there, Most of the design guides in the UK are not altogether terrible if you work to desirable minimums and understand why some things are not the best option in some places, but they don;t do a lot to actively prevent bad/misunderstood choices.

  6. Andy K says:

    A jug handle – our almost-good Southend cycle track has one of these! (but the jug handle part ain’t good.)

    https://goo.gl/maps/8PV35JWPWvx

    Not for turning right, but for accessing the (narrow – 2.0m wide) 2-way kerb-separated (it has bus bypasses and lasts for 3.5km / 2.2 miles!) cycle track on the opposite side. I would say exactly the same thing you just have – the road you are on before using this jug handle is a hostile road with parked cars on both sides – people just turn right off the carriageway in the conventional way here – there is even a wide central hatched “safe” area where you can do so. The jug handle only exists because the road further east of here is inadequate, it is a failed attempt to stitch the two together.

    However – as far as I’ve seen most people take _neither_ of these options. The hostile road with parked cars on both sides is unappealing enough that most people who do bother to cycle here just semi-legally cycle along the wide pedestrian pavement area next to the beach, far from the road, which is on the same side of the road as the cycle track, and then just directly proceed onto it without having to cross any road.

    This: http://i.imgur.com/YJPQnyE.png

  7. Ian H says:

    I’d never understood the purpose of these “jug handles” until now. I think the give way marking at the end of the “run off” lane confused me – didn’t look joined up. Are there any follow up studies of how often they actually get used? I don’t remember ever seeing one in use.

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