Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The motorway in all but name

Today, an article on BBC News appeared showing the attempt of one cyclist to use the M25 as a shortcut home. The police officer explains how the cyclist was spotted on the M25 and how he got him to safety on the A30.

The A30.

This road here:


Essentially the cyclist was removed from a dual carriageway with hard shoulder, to a dual carriageway without hard shoulder, for his safety. It would be mad to cycle in either of these places, but if I had to pick one, I know where I would prefer to cycle.
Surprisingly, its not difficult to find some examples of cycling infrastructure on these type of roads:
Why is it that cycling is accommodated on these sorts of roads at all?  I assume providing this sort of infrastructure is a box ticking exercise. Unless there is a Cycling on Dual Carriageways pressure group which would appear to have more success than the #space4cycling campaign. The fact that this infrastructure even exists suggests that Space for Cycling isn't just needed in the urban area, but it needs to link them too.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

How did the chicken cross the road?

I'm sure you've heard the "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke enough times that you don't need to know the so called punchline. However, for people living in Allington, a suburb of Maidstone to the north west, it is pretty clear why people would want to cross the road:

The great Allington divide
I've circled in orange places that people from either side of the A20 would want to get to, the Supermarket, two primary schools and a GP. I've also included the location where the speed limit changes from 30mph to 40mph. Note that the only change is that the road is wider, pedestrians will still want to cross here and there are still houses with driveways directly onto the road. 

Look right and cross your fingers

You've two lanes to cross before your little oasis in the middle, good luck!

The preferred method for allowing pedestrians to cross this road is the traffic island. Simply stick a load of concrete in the middle of the road and leave a gap for pedestrians. The best thing from a a motor-centric point of view is that there is no disruption to motor traffic whatsoever. Simply allow the pedestrian to have their wits about them and leave it up to them to find a safe gap in the traffic, essentially playing chicken with the traffic.

Keep. The Traffic. Moving.

Make sure you aren't crossing when the lights go green

Even worse is that this method is used at junctions that are signalized for motor traffic. There are two lanes of traffic on each side of the pedestrian island. One one side you have traffic coming at you from 3 different directions, and on the other, a line of traffic waiting for their chance to go. Considering that this would be the only road to cross between two primary schools makes this situation even more incredibly negligent on behalf of Kent County Council. I'm pretty sure the only reason for not including a proper, signalized crossing here would be causing delays to motor traffic.

Where there is a crossing, there it is only provided on one arm of the junction, and in the standard cattle pen arrangement. If you want to cross the A20 you may need to cross two other roads to get to this crossing, both with traffic coming from three different directions. Good luck.

Wait twice so traffic doesn't have to!

The 1960s wet dream

Later down the road another signalized junction for motor traffic. But this one has barriers to keep those pesky pedestrians in their place, on the pavement. Even better, this junction uses a footbridge to grade separate pedestrians
For their own safety of course, not because we want to keep motor traffic moving quickly
We are keeping pedestrians safe, speeding up motor traffic is an unintended side effect

Now, I am all for grade separation of pedestrians on motorways, or busy trunk roads. But do pedestrians really need to walk 140 metres to cross a road 8 meters wide. This is a 30mph road in a residential area, and while this is one of the roads that motor traffic should be encouraged to used as opposed to residential rat runs, there should be absolutely no reason why proper pedestrian crossings cannot be installed at this junction. If you want to have a look for yourself, the junction is here: http://goo.gl/maps/hRrDZ

It is this sort of road design that really highlights why people drive ridiculously short distances to places such as the supermarket highlighted in the first satellite image. Walking in Allington as a whole is actually quite pleasant, but trying to cross the main road is a horrible experience, and while this is the case, nothing will change.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Seeing sense

Here is the location on Google Maps - http://goo.gl/maps/QLvEr

A few months ago I made a video showing a new cycle contraflow that KCC had installed. Essentially the no entry signs at the end of a 70mph slip road had been replaced by No motor vehicle signs
Nothing else had changed for oncoming traffic. Road markings still showed that motor traffic could use both lanes. While knowing the road personally meant I knew that using this would be suicidal, others might not. The shared use path to the right is part of the National Cycle Network, so it was likely that people would end up here not knowing the area.

At the time I made a complaint to KCC, warning them about this, and questioning  why this was changed. I was told that no fault was found, that the signage was correct. 

When I returned today I found that the no entry signs were back
It seems that Kent County Council finally decided that allowing cyclists to ride head on into traffic coming off a major dual carriageway at 70mph might be a bad idea. But you have to question, who thought it was a good idea in the first place?

Friday, 7 February 2014

Why don't we cycle to school?

I often hear excuses as to why cycling to school is so low. Obviously us cycle campaigners know full well its because of a fear of motor traffic, a fear that is quite frankly, understandable. However I often hear people say that the UK is too hilly, or that we don't have a developed cycling culture, like the Netherlands.

I'm going to focus on Maidstone to show why these factors don't have an impact on cycling to school, and the main, if not only reason, for low cycling rates is traffic. I'm going to be using the data from here: http://hfcyclists.org.uk/s4c-maps/

The map above shows all the schools in Maidstone, and their cycling rates. As you can see, only 3 schools in Maidstone have a cycling rate higher than 0.2%. Many have a cycling rate of 0%. Of the 3 that have higher cycling rates, 2 are primary schools and 1 is a secondary school, called Maidstone Grammar School. I am currently in the final year of their Sixth Form

Maidstone Grammar School has a cycling rate of 8.9%. Considering that every secondary school has a less than 0.2% cycling rate, this is very impressive. But the question is, what is so different at Maidstone Grammar School? In terms of similarities to other schools in Maidstone, much is similar:

  1. The area around the school is no less hilly than the rest of Maidstone
  2. The students live in the same area as other students from other schools, so "cycling culture" is going to be no different to that of students in other schools
  3. Roads around the school are no less busy than other schools, and it has 30mph through traffic outside the front gate.
But there is only one main difference:
  1. The school has an entrance outside a park
I have added the extent of the traffic free routes from the school onto a Satellite image. No other school in Maidstone has a traffic free route from the school:

This is the only reason Maidstone Grammar School has a much higher cycling rate than the rest of Maidstone. Now just imagine how many more would cycle if the school got rid of its compulsory helmet policy.