Earlier this year ago I wrote about the Northgate gyratory in Chichester. This is a horrible roundabout, with very high motor traffic speeds, and risible, dangerous cycle ‘infrastructure’ around the perimeter; cycle lanes that put people cycling in hazardous positions and actually make it more difficult to negotiate the roundabout than by actually cycling with the flow of motor traffic.
This year £210,000 has been spent ‘improving’ this roundabout for cycling – an improvement that involved merely repainting the existing rubbish around the edge of the roundabout, and adding ‘innovative’ flashing signs that state THINK BIKE.
Last week I managed to pay a visit to this ‘completed’ scheme, to see just how well this turd has been polished.
It’s still a turd.
It’s hard to convey in words just how angry it makes me to see cycling infrastructure of such an appallingly low quality being superficially dressed up with a fresh coating of lumpy green paint and some stupid signs – a dressing up that the Council are, amazingly, actually proud of.
COUNCIL leaders claim the road network in Chichester has been boosted by a ‘Mexican wave’ of new signs at the Northgate roundabout.
New cycling technology has been placed around the gyratory, which the county council said made it safer for cyclists and drivers. The warning technology has been introduced to make motorists aware of the presence of cyclists in the cycle lane.
Rejoice! The driver of that thunderous HGV will now be aware of your presence – evidently he wasn’t before, which is reassuring.
“The new system is an excellent way of making sure motorists know when a cyclist is approaching a junction,” said Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, the authority responsible for the roundabout.
An ‘excellent way of making sure a a motorist knows you’re approaching a junction’ that somehow differs from just using their eyes to see someone cycling in front of them.
“I found it really useful to see for myself how the technology works and I hope cyclists will find it improves their journey.”
You won’t find anyone who thinks that. Because it’s nothing more than an ineffectual sign.
She was given the chance to cycle the route herself along with the newly-appointed cabinet member for highways and transport, John O’Brien. He echoed the leader’s praise of the new warning system.
“This is a really clever use of technology,” he said. “The sensors are normally used to detect cars and trigger traffic signals. But we’ve specially adapted them at Northgate to detect bicycles in the cycle lane. I hope the improvements will encourage more people to get out of their car and on to their bike.”
‘Hope’. We can always rely on ‘hope’ in the face of overwhelming certainty that this crap isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference.
The project has cost £210,000 for the signs as well as ‘updating the cycle lane and painting it green’, according to the county council. The council described the sensors and flashing signs as ‘state-of-the-art’.
‘State-of-the-art’. Jesus wept.
Of course the signs aren’t even the problem; the problem is the dreadful layout. Adding some flashing signs here is like attempting to save a house that’s about to collapse by putting up some fresh wallpaper in the living room.
As you cycle around the edge of this gyratory, at every exit slip you have to crane your neck back through 180° to see whether motor traffic is about to swerve left across your path at 30 to 40mph.
I was trying to think of how this might equate to designing for driving; perhaps it’s like expecting drivers who have no wing mirrors to set off from a stationary position parallel to a high speed lane of motor traffic, to cross that lane.
We would never design for motoring like this.
People have been seriously injured on this roundabout – and will continue to be seriously injured – not because drivers are failing to ‘think bike’, but because this layout is fundamentally shit. It’s that simple.
As I hope the photograph above makes plain, anyone cycling here really has to make sure that no motor traffic is coming at all, before venturing across the exit slip. You cannot rely on drivers signalling their exits, nor on where you think they might be going. You cannot take that kind of chance. That means you have to wait for the roundabout to be clear. At every exit. Even at the entrance to a car park.
It is so stressful, hazardous and unpleasant negotiating this roundabout on a bike I found myself involuntarily swearing at the stupidity and complacency of the people who think this is worth issuing self-congratulatory press releases about. It is a million miles away from acceptable.