Monday, 7 September 2015

To cross a superhighway

A short section of the East-West Superhighway has opened on the Embankment in London. And it is fantastic.

There are plenty of informal crossing points for coach passengers, but this blog post is to focus on how TFL have designed the pedestrian crossings at junctions, since we now have one operational example of it.

And they are terrible.

Great to see TFL designing cycle infrastructure to the same standard as the road alongside, but we don't need
car specific infrastructure here.

TFL has opted for signalised pedestrian crossings where the road alongside also has one. I can see why this approach is necessary in some locations, such as on Cycle Superhighway 5, where space is limited

I can see why TFL would opt to signalise the cycle track here on CS5, even if I don't agree with the decision
But this treatment on Embankment is bad for cycles and pedestrians.

They are bad because they cause unnecessary delays for cycles and pedestrians. While cycles have to wait a short period for the signal to turn green after pedestrians have crossed, when I timed how long it took for pedestrians to cross it took 57 seconds for pedestrians to get a green man. With a zebra crossing here pedestrians and cycles would barely have to wait for each other at all.

Pedestrians who wait for a green man may have to wait up to 57 seconds to do so.
Also, few people wish to use TFL's stagger arrangement, because it is unnecessary and indirect. Most pedestrians vote with their feet and don't use it. This isn't some form of protest, it is just people following the most direct route. Fully expected behaviour that TFL attempts to deny the existence of.

Pedestrians who want to walk Eastbound here aren't going to go in the wrong direction to use a staggered crossing

Even for westbound pedestrians, the crossing is unattractive and off the desire line.

This is a negative blog post about an otherwise fantastic piece of infrastructure, but problems like this need to be addressed, because otherwise this will become the standard design for London. We can't ignore problems like this just because it is better than before.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Maliciously bad cycle facilities - UPDATE

You probably saw my blog post about this maliciously bad cycle facility put in by Kent Highways during my time at University. I wanted to make an update because the understanding of what happened on Old Chatham Road has changed since my blog post.

Really not acceptable, even if only temporary
It turns out that this scheme is a 6 month experimental traffic order, and therefore only the minimum amount of cycle provision was added. It strikes me as bizarre that when considering what would be the minimum amount of effort required for cycle provision, the empty space wasn't considered as usable. Kent Highways are even going to the effort to source money to widen and resurface the footway, when there is a wider and well surfaced area right next to the footway.

 However, since this is an experimental traffic order, it is up for consultation.

The consulation page is here -


To respond to the consultation, you'll need to send an e-mail. Feel free to write your own response, however I've provided a template below if you wish to respond quickly

Address -

Subject - TRO/Experimental/Chatham Road

Message -
Dear Sir/Madam

I would like object to the experimental traffic order on Old Chatham Road in its current form. The completely unused space between the southbound traffic lane and the footway should be used for a cycle facility, because it will provide a much more suitable space for cycling than the current narrow footway. I understand that KCC intends to widen and resurface the footway, however it would still be narrower than the unused space on the carriageway, and there are other shared footways on this route that would benefit from money to widen and resurface the footway.

[Your name]

Thinking inside the box

It seem to me that the highways department at Kent County Council seem to think it is acceptable to shove cycling onto a footway the minute any sort of difficulty arises. Hopefully a large response to this consultation will change their minds.

Use this space, this space here!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Maliciously bad cycle facilities

EDIT - I've removed the link to report this to KCC. I believe they've got the message.

I'm not a massive fan of the Kent Highways department. Therefore to say I've never been so angry at them about something means quite a lot.

Old Chatham Road used to be the main road between Chatham and Maidstone, but was bypassed by the construction of a dual carriageway to the west, before I was even born. The old road was kept for access, and is part of the National Cycle Network Route 17.
The previous situation. The road was two way, with a lorry park on the left. 
While I was at university, this road has been changed to one way, with bollards used to prevent parking. It also has a 40mph limit.

The part of the road my road my bike is on is wasted space. It does nothing at all. Therefore the logical thing to do would be to use this space to accomodate the pre-existing National Cycle Network Route.

Instead, Kent Highways have decided that the best place for cycling would be on the pavement. And an incredibly poorly surfaced and overgrown footpath at that.
Compare the cycling surface vs. the smooth tarmac of the bollarded of space that does nothing.
Thanks to the new signage introduced in the 2015 TSRGD, this pavement can also be used by horses. Big barriers are used to prevent cycle access to this now useless section of road.

The barriers also exist at the other end, forcing cycles to use the overgrown, and badly surfaced footpath.


This goes above and beyond the usual crap provision that cycling gets. I can only see this as an actively malicious attempt by Kent Highways to prevent cycling here. I simply cannot believe that the people who design Kents roads for a living could see this as acceptable, even by British cycling infrastructure standards.

You know you are a second class road user when nothingness gets better provision than you

Monday, 4 May 2015

Remove the barriers to cycling

Sign the petition to remove access barriers in Rhondda Cynon Taff 

Access barriers are a common sight on cycle paths across the UK. They are particularly prevalent in Rhondda Cynon Taff, my local authority.

Lifting 23kg of Dutch bike above your head twice isn't fun
For me, the barriers are at best irritating, meaning I have to dismount and lift my 23kg Dutch bike over my head. At worst, they mean I avoid the traffic free route altogether and ride along the main road instead. I'm relatively hardened when it comes to cycling in the UK, most people would be put off cycling completely if this was the case.

For other people, the barriers will completely prevent access. Anyone who is elderly or has a disability wouldn't be able to lift their bike over their head. Wheelchairs and pushchairs may be equally denied access. It isn't right that a large group of legitimate users should be blocked from using a facility in an attempt to block motorised access.

Yes, I emphasise attempt because these barriers do not block all motorised access. Some motorbikes can still get through these barriers. It is incredibly frustrating that I, as a legitimate user am denied access while the very people the barriers attempt to block pass through with ease

 This is why I've started a petition to get these barriers removed. While the petition relates to my local area, please still sign. Maybe in the future it will gather enough momentum to put pressure on other local authorities too.

Access barriers are, and never have been, appropriate for a cycle route and should be gone, and never, ever installed in the future.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

A light at the end of the tunnel?

There has been a lot of media coverage recently about plans to turn an abandoned railway tunnel at the top of the Rhondda Valley into a cycling and walking route linking the towns of Blaencwm and Blaengwynfi. Much has been made of the tourism benefits of such a scheme, however I am more interested in the possibilities to cycling as a mode of transport that a project like this presents.

The tunnel is over 3 kilometres long, which would make it the second longest cycling and walking tunnel in the world. The shortest road route between Blaencwm and Blaengwynfi is currently about 17 kilometres. There is no public transport between Blaengwynfi and the Rhondda Valley, meaning that if you don't own a car in Blaengwynfi, this is currently a near impossible journey.

Red line is roughly the Rhondda Tunnel. Blue line is existing traffic free cycle route. The Rhondda Valley is the urban strip consisting of Treherbert and the railway stations
Google Maps link
The Rhondda Valley on the other hand, is very well serviced by public transport. Although only a having single track branch line, the Rhondda Valley has a half-hourly service into Cardiff and beyond to Barry Island and Bridgend. Accessing this service from Blaengwynfi currently involves a 20 minute drive to Treorchy station along the A4061, and as mentioned previously, is a journey only possible by car.

However, cycling through the Rhondda Tunnel puts Treherbert Station, further up the same train line, also a roughly a 20 minute cycle away from Blaengwynfi (averaging 15kph). This means cycling can compete well with driving here, potentially becoming the naturally better option for accessing train services. This follows the Dutch method of the carrot rather than stick approach to achieving mass cycling.

It is therefore of great importance to link the tunnel to Treherbert station with a further traffic free link, otherwise the transport potential of this project would be lost.

Future cycling and walking route?
I guess the important question is how feasible is this project. The society certainly has a large following, and the project has the backing of Plaid Cymru. It would certainly be an expensive project (although pales in comparison to the £1bn for the M4 Relief Road), and the project currently hinges on a survey currently being carried out this week about the safety of the tunnel.

Overall, I think this is a project to be supported. The potential for providing independent mobility to the residents of Blaengwynfi without reliance on cars is huge. The important task now is ensuring that this project is done correctly, with the cycle facilities being constructed to a high standard, without relying on shared use or access barriers that plague the other cycling routes in the Welsh Valleys.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

National Cycle Network in Pontypridd

My first attempt at a video with narration, following National Cycle Network Route 4 through Pontypridd. I spend more time off the bike rather than on it.

This is not cycle provision.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Superhighway? Super disappointment.

TFL have released plans for the East-West Superhighway (EWS) from Parliament Square to Lancaster Gate. And I'm angry. Let me go through the reasons below:

The route

The route of the EWS though this section goes along West and South Carriage Drive, though Hyde Park Corner, along the Mall and then Horse Guards Parade. This means taking large detours off the most direct route.

Sending the EWS along the Mall instead of along Birdcage Walk adds an extra 500 metres for the route via Parliament Square.

But the main detour is from the northern end of Horse Guards Parade to the eastern end of Northumberland Avenue. The most direct road route between these two points is about 650 metres according to Google Maps. The route of the EWS takes 1,600 metres to get between these two points, meaning nearly a kilometre added onto the route.

Actual route in red. This is almost one kilometre longer than the black line
What would be good is a link between these two points along the direct road route, while obviously still keeping the planned route too. But we don't need to imagine what this could look like, because Westminster Council have already done it for us!

Yes, the connections are extremely poor, but the route itself keeps together well.
Yes, these plans were only ever created in an attempt by Westminster to completely derail the EWS project. However, I feel it would be an awful shame for the effort put in by Westminster to go to waste, as these are probably the best cycling plans the council has ever produced. Yes, compared to rest of the superhighway these plans are crap, but I feel the hilarious irony of using Westminster Council's attempt at derailing the EWS to instead improve it would be worth it. 

The plans by Westminster also don't involve any of the next thing that annoys me about the new plans.

The shared use

Shared use in busy urban environments is a bad idea. We already knew that the shared use at Hyde Park Corner would be staying but this is an existing environment, and while proper segregation would be best, maybe it is slightly acceptable given that this is already a popular cycling route.

Some improvements, but still pedestrian and cycle conflict galore.

What is not acceptable is shared use on what will be brand new sections that are being created from scratch. Carrying on from the traffic signal fetish that was apparent along Embankment, a zebra crossing with a separate (non-priority crossing) for cycling is being replaced by a toucan crossing. Not only will this cause extra delays for pedestrians crossing, it will bring cycles and pedestrians into conflict. This would be a perfect location for the new cycle zebras but instead we get this.
Why not have one of the new cycle zebras rather than conflict and delays?
The section exiting the park into Lancaster Gate can only be described as complete and utter bollocks. It simply looks like the engineers gave up here.

"We need to design the section leaving the park"
"Yeah, OK then"

Horse Guards

As this tweet from @nuttyxander points out, TFL have backed down from the plan to close Horse Guard's Parade to through traffic:
This means that cycles will now share with motorised traffic using a cut through. This was a chance to create a pleasant environment at one of London's tourist attractions, but never mind, eh?

The missing gap

As someone who is studying in South Wales, but spends time in between term in Maidstone, it is common for me to use my bike to travel between Paddington station and either St. Pancras or Victoria stations. My route between Paddington and Victoria is generally pleasant except for the section outside Buckingham Palace, trying to get from Buckingham Gate to the existing segregated cycle track along the Mall.

This remains a large gap in cycle provision. Getting from point A to point B on this map will remain terrifying, despite there being cycle infrastructure at these two points.

It seems that this section is being blocked by the Royal Parks for some, currently unknown reason. This is ridiculous and we need to put some serious pressure on the royal parks here.
This will remain terrifying for cycling

Should I support?

I am seriously finding it difficult whether to recommend supporting these plans or not. I may have written a negative post about the original EWS plans, but I was very clear that I partially supported the plans, and recommended that others do the same.

But the plans here have serious shortcomings that need addressing. However while this post focuses on the negative there are some positives here too. Should I partially support or not at all? I will need time to decide.