Friday, 26 September 2014

Heavy Duty NL

I've moved! I'm no longer living in Maidstone, and am now studying at the University of South Wales, near Pontypridd. However, I am still going to keep the name that everyone knows me by.

It's been almost a week now since I picked up my Heavy Duty NL. It's a Dutch import from Royal Dutch Gazelle, and frankly, I think it looks stunning.

My bike outside my student halls

Since it is a Dutch import, there are features on it that are very uncommon in the UK. Firstly, the back wheel has a lock built in. Without the key, a metal bar goes between the spokes in the back wheel. This means no key, no movement.

I wouldn't leave it for long on the wheel lock, but it's great for going into a shop for a few minutes

The bike has front and rear racks. I'm yet to properly utilise the front rack, although I have used it to carry my jumper when I've gotten to hot riding (it's possible to multi-task, eating, taking off clothing ect!). I'm planning on getting a crate so that I can carry shopping or any other items. As a student, the front rack is also the perfect size for carrying a crate of beer!

Although today I used it to carry potatoes.

The back wheel has a seven speed hub. I'm probably going to do some modification to the gearing, as my student accommodation is on a very steep hill (welcome to the Welsh Valleys!) so it's a bit of a struggle getting up some of the hills at the moment. The chain is also fully enclosed by a chain guard, so no more oil or grease on my trouser legs.

Low maintenance, important for a bike designed for transport

So would I recommend a Dutch bike? Certainly. Although you can feel a little bit more vulnerable in UK traffic because it won't go quite as fast, riding one of these is by far more enjoyable than trying to ride a sports bike to the shops. I love my sports cycling and racing around in lycra, but that is a completely different activity to travelling to lectures carrying textbooks.
And yes, it just about gets on the train!
I bought my bike from Rob at Really Useful Bikes in Bristol. And the Royal Dutch Gazelle website is here.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The negatives of positivity

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post about the East-West Superhighway, entitled 'Get off the hype train'. I suggested that you only partially support, rather than fully support. This is despite it being probably the best cycling scheme to be proposed in London, and well, probably the rest of the UK.

Now I would like to explain my reasoning, with a little bit of help from Royal College Street.

Hooray for pointless conflict!
I'm sure most people know about the Royal College Street scheme. It consists of plastic armadillos and planters, which are are constantly breaking. There have been plenty of blog posts about the failings of the scheme, so I won't go into detail.

An Armadillo, working exactly as planned.

Last night, Camden Cyclists tweeted this:
Just like the original Royal College Street, there are things to be praised. Space is being given to cyclists, and often conflicts with parking have been removed.
Why the loading bay conflict?

But there is terrible stuff here. There are loading bays with door zone problems, the fact armadillos don't really work, and also an appalling bit where cycles and cars are expected to just merge together through a pinch point

This is incredibly dangerous. Why are Camden Cyclists supporting this?

The big problem here is the amount of praise and awards. Here is a tweet from a Camden councillor:
Why does Camden need to improve on the Royal College Street scheme. They know they got loads of awards and praise the last time, so why bother? There is no point working any harder if the results are the same. The level of effort required for praise has been set so low, the designers needn't consider proper cycling infrastructure. Just place out a load of armadillos, and the cyclists will be happy.

This is why I have my reservations about praising the East-West superhighway too much. Yes, it deserves praise. But too much praise, and it sets the benchmark too low.

London and the rest of the UK will never progress while praise is just given out on a whim.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Get off the hype train

Last week I went to the Netherlands, on one of David Hembrow's study tours. You can look at photos as long as you like, but to fully understand Dutch infrastructure I believe that you have to see it first hand.

Standard cycle path, with separate space for pedestrians.
I will do a proper blog post on the brilliant infrastructure I saw, however this post is more focused on the not so great infrastructure that came from London while I was away.

Feel the space, ignore the design

Don't get me wrong, the two new superhighway routes are a huge step forward. The amount of space being allocated to cycling is great and the chance to have safe cycling routes along Embankment and Blackfriars junction is a great proposition.

However, they don't deserve the hype that they have been given. The design of these routes is clearly lacking, and in many places, it's appalling. I fear with the amount of hype these routes are being given, we cannot progress. If TfL get the message that these are good enough, this is all we will ever get.

I think TfL has a surplus of traffic lights. Why innovate when there are solutions that work in other countries?

Take "early start" as an example. For years, cycle campaigners have been telling TfL that the addition of these to Bow Roundabout is not enough. With 60% of cyclists refusing to use the roundabout and continuing to use the flyover, it is pretty clear that it is an awful design. Yet I am still told that I have to wholeheartedly support the new superhighway, despite Early Start being used 3 times just on Parliament Square

Staying on the superhighway? Wonderful.  But it's a pile of crap if you are going anywhere else. This is one of the sections I recommend you say "no" when asked to support this in the consultation.

Tegelijk groen

I have actually already done plans for two parts of the superhighway, at Parliament Square and the end of CS7 at Upper Thames Street. However, these were made before I knew about the wonderful Simultaneous Green Junctions that exist in the Netherlands.

Simultaneous Green would solve many of the problems with the new superhighways, namely that the junctions are crap. The fact that TfL have gone with two way tracks leads to problems with connectivity. Simultaneous Green solves this without a dangerous two stage turn which kills in Denmark.

No problems with this two way track connecting to the other roads on this crossroads in Assen. Location here.
Below is a video of Simultaneous Green working at a 10 lane junction:

The first design I have done is on the East-West Superhighway, at Blackfriars. This junction has excessive traffic lights, with all movements through the junction but one, require cyclists to use two sets of traffic lights. By replacing these with a simultaneous green junction, at worst cyclists will only get one set of traffic lights here, and at best, zero.

Sea of traffic lights replaced by one junction., allowing cyclists to take the most direct route.

The second design is the junction of Embankment with Savoy Place and Savoy Street. I've replaced the two stage ASL with a simultaneous green junction, which is quicker for cycles. I've also made Savoy Place two way for cycles.

A new type of roundabout has to be test for months. A new type of ASL doesn't for some reason...

PDF files for the Blackfriars junction and Savoy Junction.

Sitting on the fence

So should you support the East-West Superhighway? Well, partially. The amount of space given to cycling here is great, and on some individual sections, I'll happily support completely. But there is just too much shitty junction design to give wholehearted support, and some sections where I have said no completely (Parliament Square and north of Hyde Park). So since TfL gives the option, I suggest people support partially. 

Too much hype tells TfL the job is done. It isn't, so don't give that impression.

Friday, 8 August 2014

TfL propose no worthwhile improvements. Tell them it's not good enough.

A few months ago I made a blog post with plans for Kings Cross. This was in response to a TfL consultation to improve the gyratory for cyclists. However, there was little improvements. Current cyclists may have benefited slightly from Advanced Stop Lines, but the plans were in no way attractive to anybody else.

A week or so ago, respondents to the consultations received an e-mail. Despite a large number of respondants citing safety concerns, TfL are going ahead anyway. However with one change. Semi-segregation will be used in places because:

[Semi-segregation] will allow cyclists to move onto the main carriageway and overtake stationary buses and taxis if necessary.
I think my reaction to this can be summed up in one GIF

This is not good enough. On Tuesday 12th August, come to Kings Cross Square for a ride around the gyratory, and tell TfL that their plans do nothing for cycling. There is a Facebook event page and a twitter feed.

Another design

As this junction was again brought to my attention via the e-mail TfL sent, I decided to give my design another go. When I made the original, I tried not to reduce traffic capacity, and I also didn't know about the wonderful simultaneous green junctions that exist in the Netherlands. So below, here is my second design for the Kings Cross gyratory.

My design, version 2
A simultaneous Green junction outside Kings Cross?

Design as a PDF (for zooming in without loss of quality)

My design isn't perfect. It has its faults and problems. However, there is one claim I will stand by, and that it is miles better than Advance Stop Lines and bits of paint on a busy gyratory. This area is the first impression of London for many people. Trains come to Kings Cross and St Pancras from Kent, the North of England, Scotland, Europe and beyond. A traffic sewer is not a good first impression for any city.

I don't want to London seen that way.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

An e-mail I'd like to share

This is the response of the cabinet member at Kent County Council for Environment and Transport, David Brazier, to someone's objections to the scheme that, in my opinion, will lead to a large decline in the use of the bicycle as a mode of transport in Maidstone. I've started a petition to stop this, which explains more, and it would be great if you could sign it.

I've added a few emphasises, these are my own. Otherwise this e-mail is unedited:

Thank you for your emails regarding the recent outcome of the public inquiry into the application for the Powerhub site in St Peters Street, Maidstone.

The application was subject to assessment by the KCC Transportation & Development Team.  It was recognised that the reduction of the wide footway on the northern side of the St Peters Bridge would be a disadvantage of the development proposal.  However, this would be offset by the additional capacity for traffic that would be gained by widening the carriageway over the bridge to four lanes.

The width available for pedestrians and cyclists on the northern bridge would be reduced to 2.5 metres.  This is too narrow to maintain the existing segregated space, so pedestrians and cyclists would have to share this space.  KCC recognises that this is an important route across the river for cyclists, and that it connects to cycle routes on either side, however the numbers of cyclists using the bridge have been fairly low; generally in single figures during peak hours.

Therefore, on balance, KCC did not make an objection to the regeneration proposal for Baltic Wharf, as the overall impact on the highway network could be mitigated by the off-site works. We accept that these measures are not helpful to cyclists in a location where cycling on the actual carriageway of the gyratory would be extremely difficult.  However, my officers did not consider that we could sustain an objection to the development on these grounds.

KCC does not hold cyclists in contempt. I ride most days, wishing the traffic would go away, but accepting the realities of life. 

I appreciate that this may not be the response you had hoped for, however I hope that the information provided is useful and fully explains our position on this matter. 

So it turns out KCC does not hold cyclists in contempt.  They just give off that impression because they accept the realities of life.

Please sign the petition to stop this scheme going ahead. This could be any town, please don't let it be mine. Thank you. 

Friday, 27 June 2014

Tottenham Court Road

The West End Project is a £26 million investment to improve the area around the Tottenham Court Road area. There is a desperate need to improve here, as fast traffic is encouraged, making it a terrible place to walk or cycle. While walkers and bus passengers will see a vast improvement, as the project stands, cyclists get nothing.

Yes, we get some small plastic blobs on Gower Street, but these fail to work effectively on Royal College Street, a lightly used road. Suggesting these on a main road is absurd.

The plans for Tottenham Court Road are essentially to create an Oxford Street v2.0. Cycles will share with 176 buses per hour during peak times, and then with general traffic in the evenings and on Sundays.

Therefore I've done a redesign of Tottenham Court Road, to include cycle tracks and floating bus stops to make Tottenham Court Road safe for cycling. Its a large bitmap and probably not clear, so click here for a link to a PDF you can download.

I've assumed that roads outside the West End Project will not change, and I've not really changed roads other than Tottenham Court Road. Therefore side roads may not be perfect.

The objection for proper cycle tracks was lack of space at a few points. There was objections for floating bus stops, as the carriageway isn't wide enough. These objections even came from a cycling campaign group, whom I won't name, who really should be campaigning for the best, and not making terrible compromises.

Firstly, a few narrow points should not compromise the whole design. These sections are short compared to the overall length of Tottenham Court Road, so it should be perfectly acceptable to compromise. Instead of a 2 meter wide track, a 1.5 meter one would have to be installed. This is substandard, but acceptable for short sections if it allows for excellent facilities elsewhere.

Floating bus stops also fit into Tottenham Court Road. Yes, some pavement space would have to be taken away. However, bus stops are not usable space for pedestrians anyway. Bus shelters create pinch points on pavements and lead to clutter. If these are moved out to an island, this is better for pedestrians, even if a small amount of pavement space is lost.

To conclude, cyclists are being ignored in the West End Project. Money isn't an object here, so if space for cycling cannot be created here, hope for it elsewhere greatly reduces.

On Monday 30th June, I'm going to an event organised by Camden Cycling Campaign regarding this project. If you are interested in the West End Project, I recommend you come too. And if you see me, say hi :)

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Tottenham Hale

TFL haven't consulted in a while and so I looked at the past consultation section, and saw Tottenham Hale.

This area was a busy gyratory and it needed to be changed. However there were cycle facilities here, and while they were crap, it was better than the usual crap. It didn't give up at junctions and had clear space for pedestrians and cyclists. However TFL have got rid of these, mostly replacing them with shared use and toucans.

The original consultation had four parts to it, so I am going to do four separate blog posts, because it then allows me to explain in more detail my changes (It also allows me time to finish it :P)

The first part is the south section of High Road (download here) The original TFL plans are below:
And my changes:
TFL wants High Road to be a place for motor vehicles. With two lanes in each direction and a bus lane, with a few shared use pavements, TFL is firmly stuck in the 70s with this design. I changed it to one vehicle lane and one bus lane in each direction, plus a bi-directional cycle track on the west side. The central reservation also has trees and other greenery, to make the area more attractive. I got inspiration for this from Lloyd George Avenue in Cardiff, which has a similar set up, although the junctions with the cycle track are done very badly.

Broad Lane does not have cycle tracks, since as you will see when I show the Broad Lane proposals, I have completely shut it off to through motor traffic. Therefore segregation is not required here, and traffic volumes and speeds will be low. 

I've also shut the exit from West Green Road to motor traffic. While this is currently a through road, it is not suitable for through traffic due to its width, which leads to narrow pavements and leaves no space for pedestrians or cycling. Other parallel main routes have more space available to provided protected space for cycling and walking. The removal of through traffic means that segregation is not required. Closing the exit also has the advantage of removing a traffic light junction from North-South cyclists on High Road.

The other parts of the consultation are being finished, so you should expect to see them sometime in the near future.

While TFL claims removing gyratories is about improving conditions for cycling and pedestrians, it needs to back up these claims with actions. It's just no good replacing a busy one way road with an even busier two way road.