BBC London News highlighting confusion of Bow traffic lights

The BBC London news this evening (27 January 2014), had a segment on the new eye level cycle lights being introduced at Bow Roundabout today. I think it’s great that they are starting to be used, however the design of the traffic lights at the junction needs an overhaul as it’s extremely dangerous.

The first part of the correspondent Tom Edwards talking about it, highlights the confusing nature of the lights, whereby an average person sees a green cycle light and believes that they can proceed through the junction, as is the case with most junctions in the UK, and doesn’t realise that they have to stop at the second traffic light a few metres later. This is a horrible design and needs to be changed urgently so that it is not confusing to the average user, before someone else is killed at this junction. If the design is not changed I fear there will be another death here as it’s too confusing for the average person. A random person should be able to easily understand the design of the junction and be able to safely navigate it, otherwise the designers have failed.

The current 4 second head start is split into two parts. It’s based on 2 seconds to let the cyclists set off and another 2 seconds between the motorists setting off and getting to the traffic line. If there is a lot of cyclists, there is still potential for a motorist to crush a cyclists if they are turning left.

Ideally a new design for the traffic lights is used, which makes it safe for cyclists and pedestrians. By holding motor vehicles while cyclists get a turn, and vice versa means that pedestrians will also get a chance to cross. It will add a very small delay to motor vehicles, however if the subjective safety of the junction is improved enough then the number of motor vehicles will reduce.

The separator between cyclists and motor vehicles needs to be extended to the final stop line before the roundabout thus increasing the safety for cyclists. Also the traffic lights should be able to be phased dynamically based on the traffic levels. For example if there are suddenly a lot of cyclists and not many cars, give the cyclists more time. If there happens to only be 1 cyclist, then it’s best to change for them with minimal waiting time, but you only need to stay green for a very short time so that they can clear the junction. It will require reliable detection of bicycles, which isn’t the norm in this country at the moment, however will make a huge difference.

Finally when there is heavy rain, giving cyclists and pedestrians more time is a great idea, as it means that they’ll get less wet, and be happier cycling. The people in motor vehicles will stay dry, thus can wait a little longer with no detriment.

BBC London News report:

ITV London News report:

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Bow Roundabout

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Bow Roundabout 51.529638, -0.013947

TfL proposed improvements at Nag’s Head on A1 are extremely dangerous

This is my response to TfL’s public consultation at Nag’s Head on A1 Holloway Road. For when the consultation disappears on the TfL site, I have uploaded it to my blog  Nags Head Junction Map and also to a Cyclescape thread.

Nags Head Junction Map
Junction design as proposed by TfL

 

As someone who has been involved with the London Cycling Campaign‘s Junction Review Group (now Infrastructure Review Group) from it’s inception, I’m appalled TfL are still coming up with dangerous designs such as this.

There are so many issues with these proposals I’m not sure where to start.

Advanced stop lanes are extremely dangerous and should not be introduced into any more junctions. They are the area of the blind spot of truck. Also many people riding bicycles find it scary to cross two never mind 3 lanes of traffic. Instead a protected cycle track of 2m width minimum plus separate timings to prevent left hooks. It is essential that left turning motor vehicles are not allowed to go at the same time as straight on cyclists otherwise there will be more deaths similar to the ones at Bow through left hooks. You also need to aid cyclists that are turning right in a protected Dutch style two stage turn.

Traffic lights need to be demand responsive. As cyclists are in their own track, this helps to tell when there are cyclists there rather than other modes of transport, and you can automatically adjust the timings for the demand of all traffic. This ties in with the previous point re separating left turning vehicles from straight on and right turning cyclists. This is standard practice in The Netherlands where signals will even turn red and straight back to green if there is still more cyclists there to promote cycling and reduce the probability of cyclists jumping the red light.

Dog leg crossing example
Dog leg crossing example

Why are TfL still introducing dog leg crossings? (Dog leg crossings are where you cross half way, walk sideways for a bit, and then cross the rest of the way). Have any of the designers or traffic engineers taken a look at how the current dog leg crossings are being used in London? Spending just a few minutes will show that they are not being used as designed. People don’t do the sideways walk as designed and just continue walking straight on as that is the fastest route to their destination. Adding railing back in is not a solution as pedestrians just walk around then, and also there is potential for pedestrians and cyclists to be crushed against them by motor vehicles. By building the crossings the way that users actually use them, will mean that the central reservation can be removed thus making room for a safe cycle track to be put in instead, and also make it safer for pedestrians. I don’t see motor vehicles having to do a sideways jump so why should pedestrians?

Why is the central reservation needed? Is it still there to make it feel safe for drivers to go fast along the road knowing that there won’t be a car coming the other direction on their side of the road?

Heading south east why does 2 lanes turn into a bus lane plus a very wide lane that may be wide enough for 2 small vehicles, which later turns into a cycle lane plus 3 lanes of traffic? The merging and splitting of traffic lanes causes traffic tailbacks and more collisions. Thus minimising the potential for lane changes would help to make the roads safer. Mixing cyclists in a bus lane is not going to encourage an inexperienced cyclist, or even an experienced cyclist who is scared of being run over after too many near misses in the past, to cycling in this location. This is why a protected cycle track is needed.

Why are the cycle lanes to the right of the bus stops and the loading bays? This creates a significant dooring and collision risk and will result in injuries or death of cyclists. Best practice  in other countries such as The Netherlands shows that the cyclists should be between the pavement and the motor vehicles, including parking and loading motor vehicles, as this is the safest location.

Why is a 1.5m cycle lane seen as sufficient width? This does not allow for space for cyclists to be able to overtake safely in the lane, especially if one of them has a cargo bike or trailer. 1.5m may be the minimum, as specified by the London Design Standards section 4.2.7, however it does also stipulate 2m or more where space permits in several places in the document. In this instance there is enough space here to allow the 2 or more metres width.

Would you allow your 8 year old child to cycle on this road, or be happy for your 80 year old mother to cycle here after the proposals have been implemented. Would that be happy walking here? If not, the design isn’t good enough and you need to go back to the drawing board. Please stop this consultation and go back to the drawing board before wasting more time and money on dangerous designs.

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Nag/'s Head on A1 Holloway Road

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Nag/'s Head on A1 Holloway Road 51.557016, -0.118189

How to get away with being a driver who is aggressive towards cyclists

[I mostly wrote this back in July, just finishing it now.]

Back on Sunday 16th June 2013 I was on my return cycle from the Bromley Cyclists camping weekend in Essex I was cycling along and getting ready to turn right at Langford to head north. After signalling to turn right and having 3 cars pass completely ignoring 2 cyclists with their arms stretched out to indicate that they wish to turn right, I gave out a scream to draw attention to the situation as the fourth driver was already starting to overtake, and I feared I was going to be frozen out and unable to turn, thus being stuck by the side of the road.

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Langford Aggressive Driver

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Langford Aggressive Driver 51.748820, 0.663214

The male driver wound down the window and claimed that I was frightening his child in the back, whom I couldn’t see due to the blacked out windows. He then got of the car and came round to my side and claimed that the road was to share, of which he didn’t seem to get, as if he did, he would have waited patiently behind us. He also said that you don’t scream to turn, though he obviously was blind to the fact I had my hand out as he suggested I should be doing.

I’ll let you watch it below:

I then reported it to the police, it was slightly complicated due to me living in Suffolk police’s area, and the incident occurring in the Essex police area, thus I had to give an initial report over the phone to Essex police, who then got Suffolk police to come and take a statement and a copy of the video above.

The police then had problems tracking the driver down as the vehicle was hired under the name of someone else and when they went to the address given to the hire company they found that the people who were there moved 3 months before and hadn’t left a forwarding address. The police had asked me if I just wanted them to talk to the driver for some driver improvement, or to take it to court, with them pushing the former. I foolishly accepted that, which meant that they didn’t pursue the case much further whereas had I said early that I wanted to go to court they said they may have pursued it further, but there wasn’t any point. However as far I was concerned they were failing to talk to the driver at all, which isn’t what I wanted. Ah well lesson for the future.

G4S van blocking cycle track in Birmingham

At the end of April I was in Birmingham for the Cycle City Expo conference. As part of one of the optional site visits and workshops on the first day I snapped the following G4S van to be blocking a cycle track on National Cycle Route 5 at a set of traffic lights on the return journey.

G4S Security van blocking cycle track in Birmingham outside Tesco

This was quite apt for the discussion about issues on the route.

I decided to quickly take the photo and to then send it to G4S to see what they would say. Seeing that their website had a section on social responsibility made me more interested in seeing what their response would be.

A day or so later I had short email to say that it had been forwarded to the branch manager. Then within a hour I had a call from the branch manager to confirm that it was definitely their van in the picture, and wanted to verify the date and time that the photo was taken so that they could find the particular crew involved. I also let them print the photo so that they could put it up in the depot as an example of how not to stop in front of a store.

About a week later I got the following great response from the branch manager explaining the situation:

Hello Shaun.

I have identified the crew of the vehicle and have interviewed the driver.

We have agreed the position of the vehicle is unacceptable and we both offer our apologies.

I’ve also spoken to other crews who service this particular customer as to where we should and should not park.

Whilst everyone here agrees this is a very poor place to leave a vehicle the reason for the driver parking in such a poor position was the drivers attempt at reducing his and the publics risk of an attack.

G4S Birmingham unfortunately has quite a high attack rate. Last year it was approximately one attack per week and at peak times up to three attacks per week. As well as our crews being injured in the past there have been bystanders injured also and one incident where a member of public was killed.

Crews have to decide on a site by site basis where the best and safest position to park the vehicle is and in this particular case we got it very wrong.

The driver had forgotten the risks and danger he was causing to traffic and he will be more considerate in the future.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention as it helps us all at G4S improve and maintain standards of driving and parking.

Also thank you for permission to use the photo for training purposes it will be on our notice board with an explanation of it.

If you have any further questions please reply or feel free to call either number below and I’ll be pleased to answer them.

Kind regards

Adrian

So it’s an extremely difficult balance to strike between parking in safe location and also parking in a location that minimises the risk of the crew dealing with the delivery or collection. With a decrease in parking and loading space, with the space in cities often being either pedestrianised or being reallocated for cycling does make it harder for these risky deliveries. It shows how hard it is create streets that cater for everyone.

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G4S Van Birmingham

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G4S Van Birmingham 52.473423, -1.895936

Does cheaper car parking really improve Ipswich town centre?

In the February 2013 issue of the Ipswich council newspaper, The Angle, which is delivered to local residents in Ipswich, they were proudly saying how the council was helping businesses by reducing car parking charges within the town. Ipswich Borough Council have reduced the parking tariffs in all of its town centre car parks “in a bid to boost retailers”.

Also in the same issue they were running a competition to win 12 months free swimming or a car parking season ticket for 3 months. The council also has a project called Travel Ipswich which is all about improving traffic management and promoting smarter and sustainable transport. I find it rather strange that one part of the council is trying to promote sustainable travel, yet another is doing the opposite of promoting more cars into the town centre. I’d be much happier to see one of the prizes to be a free bus pass for a family for 3 months. This is especially true if it went to a family who currently primarily uses a car, but could use public transport instead to try an encourage them to travel more sustainability.

I’m sure there are other ways that the council could help the local businesses such as with the business rates or other improvements to make it much nicer to cycle from the suburbs and out lying villages to the town centre. In some of the newer suburbs of Ipswich there is fairly high levels of cycling to school due to the road layout, with many cycle paths alongside the roads including past schools.

Here’s some photos of the relevant page in the newspaper:

P1100636

P1100637

P1100638

Update 2 April 2013: I’ve been contact by Ipswich Borough Council who have corrected some of the points in this blog post. Here’s what they have to say:

We’ve recently seen your latest blog post on cheaper parking and just wanted to clarify a few things you had mentioned.

The Travel Ipswich project that you refer to is led by Suffolk County Council, not IBC, and more information can be found here:http://www.travelipswich.co.uk/. One of the aims of the project is to improve traffic management, as well as improving pedestrian and cycle routes across the town.

Also, Ipswich Borough Council collects business rates but it does not set business rates in the town. The level of business rates is decided by the Government’s Valuation Office Agency, over which the Council has no control.

If you have any questions or want to check anything in future, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

The problem of closing toucan crossings for roadworks

Recently the junction nearest to where I live had some temporary traffic lights again for some roadworks. Unfortunately the toucan crossings on the junction had a sign added that states “Crossing not in use”. However the next nearest option for crossing requires going back on yourself and walking an extra 5 minutes. People who do come across the sign just ignore it as they aren’t going to do a big diversion as shown in the photo.

2013-02-26 14.10.11

In this case there didn’t appear to be anything elsewhere on the crossing that would cause an issue and it’s not a constant flow of pedestrians.

Surely it would be much better to use signage which turns the crossing into more of temporary zebra crossing where motor vehicles have to give way or at least slow down in case there is someone on the crossing? This would make the road safer than the motor vehicle drivers driving fast through the crossing as they assume that the crossing is clear thus making it more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. It would also reduce the annoyance of pedestrians and cyclists tripping over the sign and being rated as second class citizens.

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Junction of Stoke Bridge, Stoke Street and Vernon Street.

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Junction of Stoke Bridge, Stoke Street and Vernon Street. 52.051277, 1.153843

More cycle parking installed at Ipswich Waitrose/John Lewis

I was recently alerted to some new bicycle parking having been installed at the new Waitrose/John Lewis at Home in Ipswich after my recent blog post, so went to take a look.

2013-02-04 18.44.46

2013-02-04 18.41.51

They have almost doubled the cycle parking since the previous time I visited after I emailed as pointed out that it was well used. It’s great to see them take such swift action. I wonder how long it’s going to take Sainsburys to repair the cycle parking outside their central Ipswich store. After contacting Sainsburys via Twitter, who passed it on to the store manager, however Cycle Ipswich have been unable to get a response from him.

I also noticed another sign on the access roads which was added under the street names to say “These roads and footpaths are not yet adopted please refer to developer”. I presume that the council has had complaints about those roads, and has thus added them.

2013-02-04 19.09.53

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Ipswich Waitrose/John Lewis at home

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Ipswich Waitrose/John Lewis at home 52.033974, 1.203990

Of course I have updated OpenStreetMap. I used Vespucci to update the data while I was there so that I didn’t need to remember to update it once I got home.

Lack of cycle parking at the new Ipswich Waitrose & John Lewis at Home stores

Last Sunday I headed out to map the new Waitrose and John Lewis at Home stores in Ipswich that recently opened. I also took a look at what the cycling facilities of the new store were like and got them mapped into OpenStreetMap. The building outlines were in OSM already, as were the roads that were previously in OSM as being under construction had already been converted to active roads by someone else already.

2012-11-11 13.38.01

The access roads all have shared legal cycling on the pavement that are a reasonable width, which is a great start. There is however only 2 sets of 6 spaces for parking bicycles at opposite ends of the store.

2012-11-11 13.37.15

When I visited, there had been so much demand that people were tying their bike against the sign telling them where the bike park was on the currently more obvious one to park at due to it being nearer the entrance.

2012-11-11 14.10.32

I’d have expected there to be more cycle parking especially when the car park was over flowing and encouraging more people to cycle would reduce the demands for their over full car park.

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Ipswich Waitrose/John Lewis at home

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Ipswich Waitrose/John Lewis at home 52.033974, 1.203990

A Dip in the River Gipping

Unfortunately I can’t say that I’ve managed to get distracted by something and end up cycling into the river. Sorry to disappoint.

On Sunday afternoon, I went for a cycle ride with my girlfriend, Andrea out along the River Gipping following the river as closely as possible. We got some of the way out, then as river heads out of Ipswich past the sea defences the path narrows and is no longer suitable for cycling on so we found a nice spot in the bushes and locked the bikes to the bushes and continued on foot.

A couple of hours later we got back from the walk [map]. I noticed a helmet in the water, looked at the other side of the path and realised that it was the point that we had left our bikes, at which point my girlfriend pointed out that it was her own helmet that was in the water. On closer inspection I noticed that there were two wheels beside the helmet and that it was our bikes that had been thrown in.

Bikes in the River Gipping

I took off my shoes, socks, trousers and jacket and slipped carefully into the river. It was slightly scary as I didn’t know how deep it was going to be or what else was going to be in the river. The edge of the river turned out to be about waist height and the river got deeper going further into the centre. I was quite surprised at how warm the water was, as I was expecting it to be colder. With the help of Andrea on the bank we managed to drag the bikes that were still chained together back onto the river foot path.

The bikes have some minor damage: my Brooks saddle including the seat post, the rear light on the bike rack and the top of the bell are all gone. The light and saddle would have both needed tools to get off, as I’m sure the water wouldn’t have loosened the nuts and bolts. My girlfriend’s bike has lost the lights, and a tire has gone soft.

This tweet from Bromley Cyclists is rather useful advice, though rather a little too late:

Hopefully we’ll both have working bikes for our trip up to Scotland next week, particularly with Andrea not having a spare bike.

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Dip in the River Gipping

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Dip in the Gipping: 52.060460, 1.119490
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Dip in the Gipping

Barnet Great Divide Ride Review

Last Sunday I went on the Barnet Great Divide Ride in North London. The roads up there do seem to be scarier than what I’m used to for London. As an experienced cyclist, I was glad that I was in the middle of a big group of 80 people on bicycles and not cycling through some of those junctions on my own.

The lack of patience in London’s driver’s never ceases to amaze me. For example there were a few drivers, who through their impatience were causing more of a traffic jam, whilst had they just paused for a moment to let someone else out, everyone would be further on in their journey. Or a driver who thought that he would be able to hit the accelerator and make us suddenly stop as we were crossing a junction, rather than waiting for less than two minutes for us to all pass. By being impatient he caused himself to have even more of a delay, due to where he ended up stopping in the middle of the road in front of us.

 

Barring a few minor issues, it was really nice ride. There were some drivers who where nice and held the traffic for use to get out at junctions, which deeply contrasts to some of the other impatient motorists. At the end of the ride we had a picnic in the park in the middle of the last junction. It could do with better pedestrian and cycle access, some trees and benches, and it’d be a much nice place.

 

Video from my handlebar camera, a Drift Innovation HD170 Stealth
showing the ride in 7 mins:

Charlie the ride leader wrote a succinct blog post showing how on the way back to South London after the ride, when we tried to use the cycle infrastructure on one of the junctions, that we cyclists needed to jump up on a wall to let some pedestrians past. Is it any wonder cyclists don’t use it? Is it any wonder that cyclists get killed when they take to the roads instead with the traffic moving so fast?

My photos from the ride.