Is it time for a quieter neighbourhood between Bramford Road and Norwich Road in Ipswich?

Suffolk County Council are making many changes to increase active travel to prevent a significant proportion of people switching to driving a private car and causing gridlock and additional pollution after the lovely low air pollution and traffic levels during the lockdown.

One of the proposed changes is to make Bramford Lane a little more pleasant for walking and cycling by closing a rat run where Bramford Lane goes under the railway bridge. Bramford Lane is part of a local cycle route from the edge of the town centre (you’re left to fend for your self for the last kilometre into the real part of the town centre) from the Whitehouse area of Ipswich.

Bramford Lane is currently a horrible road to cycle along (particularly on a cargo trike or bike with no suspension) due to the speed humps and the excessive car parking. Very few houses have off street parking which doesn’t help. It’s signed as a local cycle route, and a short section is part of National Cycle Route 51.

On the highway authority’s plan is to close Bramford Lane at the railway bridge, which is a good step in the right direction. This will help to reduce the number of people driving a significant distance along the road, and instead move them on to the main roads. I however think we should be going much further with a quieter neighbourhood scheme where every property is only accessible from one main road. This would make the whole area much quieter, making it more pleasant for walking and cycling. All motor vehicle journeys can still be done, however for short journeys they are likely to be longer by motor vehicle. If people switch to walking, cycling, and other similar modes then the short journeys become more pleasant based on evidence elsewhere.

Map showing my proposed cells in the area around Bramford Road and Norwich Road.
Map showing my proposed cells in the area around Bramford Road and Norwich Road.

In all cases this is an idea up for discussion, details of the exact locations blockades could be moved to have the same effect.

Working through the proposal from the town side.

A block on Bramford Lane between All Saints Road and Windsor Road. This creates a group of roads between All Saints Road, Bramford Lane, Norwich Road, and Chevalier Street. I’m not aware of rat running between Chevallier Street and Norwich Road, if there is, a possibility is a few short one way streets.

The next blocks would be Richmond Road (Norwich Road end), and between Surbiton Road and Kitchener Road. This would create a larger block that would only be accessible from the Bramford Road side. Richmond Road could have the the no through motor vehicle access at any point on the road, allowing access on to Norwich Road instead for that section of Richmond Road.

The following section would be a closure on Bramford Lane between Springfield Land and Putney Close, making Kitchener Road and Springfield Lane only accessible for motor vehicles from Norwich Road.

The last section to the railway bridge would only be accessible from Bramford Road. Putney Close could be accessible from either Norwich Road or Bramford Road depending on the where the block would be placed.

On the west of the railway bridge to prevent rat running and through motor vehicle access from Bramford Road to Norwich Road, I’d close Cromer Road between Bramford Lane and Westbourne Road. The Bramford Road side of this split would be a cell that would cover up to just before the junction on Marlow Road.

The next section becomes more difficult due to the bus routes. It’s possible for a split with only 3 further closure points. There’s a lot of fast traffic on High View Road, thus a closure on High View Road between Diamond Close and Bramford Lane is needed. Marlow Road next to Ulster Avenue is the second point. Finally Bramford Lane to the east of Ulster Avenue is where the bus gate would go.

Lovestofts Drive and Bramford Lane would get a reduction in traffic making it far easier for parents with kids and kids on their own to be able to cross the road to school.

Ulster Avenue probably needs cycle tracks added. Waterford Road could become one way for motor vehicles, northbound same as the bus route, and a cycle track added for southbound people cycling.

Marlow Road has 2 schools, and urgently needs school streets too. I’d also include Galway Avenue in the school streets. School Streets are where a group of roads around a school are closed to motor vehicles with some exceptions (primarily residents on the specific streets and blue badge holders) for around 30-60 minutes around the school arrival and departure times. School streets have been very successful in Edinburgh and other locations, with parents in other schools asking for their school to be included too. Most children don’t need to be dropped off right at the school gate, they can either walk or cycle the whole way to school, or be dropped off a few streets away to then walk the final section. Deliveries can be schedules outside of the school arrival and departure times, a cargo bike used, or parking the van outside the zone and walking the last bit. It may add to the cost, however the safety of children should be the priority.

To support the above, I’d also add a closure on Jovian Way near Bramford Road as there’s a lot of rat running through this residential area instead of using Sproughton and Bramford Roads.

20mph should be introduced on all of the residential roads to make it safer and quieter for residents.

Throughout all of the above walking and cycling would still be possible, making short journeys much more pleasant when walking and cycling. Motor vehicle access to every property would still be possible, with minimal difference for longer journeys. The main roads would get a little busier for a while, however as modal shift happens, the motor traffic would evaporate way, as short journeys are less likely to be done by motor vehicle.

I realise this is quite radical, however it’s the sort of things that’s really required to reduce air pollution, obesity, inactivity, concentration of workers & school kids, and motor vehicle congestion.

5 minutes and 4 crossing to cross the main road outside Royal Infirmary Edinburgh

Last month I was up in Edinburgh visiting family. Whilst on a wander I came across a crazy long crossing over the main road outside the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh. The 4 crossings took just under 5 minutes to cross with a button press at each crossing.

I used the most direct crossing possible, following the pedestrian crossings, to be able to get across the main road from the walking and cycling route that runs past the hospital from the walking routes from the back of the hospital and Greendykes, to the Moredun/Craigour side of Old Dalkeith Road.

Anotated map showing the crossings
Annotated map of the crossings. (Google Satellite view).

I’ve recorded a video walking across this road (just the crossings):

Video of the slow pedestrian crossing.

Is 5 minutes too long to cross a main road? I think it is. Is it any wonder why pedestrians walk across roads without waiting for a green man when it take so long? Edinburgh is investing in active travel, though I’m sure reducing the time it takes for pedestrians to cross main roads would be a cheap and cost effective way to improve pedestrian safety and make walking and cycling more desirable. Maybe more people would walk places if the waiting time wasn’t as long?

Maybe it’s time car drivers had to wind down the window and press a button several times to get through junctions like this?

For the eagle eyed, after completing the crossing I reported the red men on the crossings as not working via the Clarence hotline.

Roll out of flexi season rail tickets in the UK

There has been much talk of a drop in rail season ticket sales in the UK, whilst overall journeys are increasing. Much of the commentary has been around the change in working patterns where people are working from home more often.

Many shorter distances season tickets are only worthwhile buying if you are travelling 4 or 5 times per week on the same route (or anywhere between those 2 stations). Any less and it can be cheaper to buy tickets on the day, especially if you are a shift worker and some tickets are off-peak, for example with late shifts. Some longer journeys can be worthwhile getting a season ticket if you are doing the journey only 2 days per week, as the working pattern has already been taken into account in the pricing.

Many of the rail franchises have been required to roll out flexi season ticketing. Some operators have special business travel carnet tickets. Both of these can have restrictions meaning that they are only valid on one train operator, unlike the normal season tickets which are normally valid on any operator on the route. There’s some season tickets which are cheaper due to being operator specific where there is competition, partly due to the revenue not being split between operators when going through the Rail Settlement Plan.

Graphs showing change in UK train ticket sales. Source: Office of Rail and Road Passenger Rail Usage 2018-19 Q2 Statistical Release

Is the recent drop in season tickets number in part due to the move to Flexi season tickets with people moving to part time commuting? Do the Flexi season and carnet tickets need to be included in the season ticket numbers or have their own category to show the trend of the switch of ticket type?

I’m also of the view that the Flexi season tickets need to be standardised such that they are available across the whole country to and from any station, and have the same standard rules of validity as ordinary daily and season tickets. We are hopefully now at a turning point where there has been enough trials about how the Flexi season tickets should work, that a wider rollout could be done.

On the pricing of the Flexi season, I’m thinking they should they be a standard multiplier from the standard anytime daily ticket prices meaning that you can easily buy the tickets from any station to any station, rather than them only being available on a limited number of routes.

Another option to reduce the desire or need to Flexi season tickets, would be to reduce the cost or multiplier for season tickets by making season tickets cheaper, especially considering many people are no longer travelling to work 5 days per week, and longer route specific point to point season tickets in the UK are often more expensive than the whole country Bahn Card 100 in Germany. Is it time for a UK equivalent to the German Bahn Card 100 as a means to encourage more public transport use, and reduce private motor vehicle congestion and pollution?

Being a part time commuter (rest of the week working from home), Flexi-tickets are of particular interest to me, including their interoperability across operators since my commute generally involves multiple operators.

Rail fare anomaly between Ipswich and London

I recently seen a at Cambridge station advertising cheap weekend returns to London so I thought I’d check the fare splitting via the longer route.

This is looking at the super off-peak day returns or nearest equivalent.

On the direct Ipswich to London Liverpool Street ticket there is only an off peak return valid for a month at £42.20 or the off peak travelcard for a single day at £47.50.

The most common split is at Manningtree as some trains don’t stop at Colchester.

IPS-MNGOff peak day return£6.60
MNG-LSTSuper off peak day return£29.20
Total£35.80
Saving compared direct fare£6.40

Splitting in Colchester is cheaper:

IPS-COLSuper off peak day return£8.30
COL-LSTSuper off peak day return£25.90
Total£34.20
Saving compared to direct fare£8.00

Weekend return via Cambridge turns out to a whopping £11 cheaper compared to the direct single ticket, or £3 compared to the cheapest split ticket, if returning the same day:

IPS-CBGOff peak day return£18.20
CBG-LSTWeekend Super Off Peak Day Return£13.00

Total£31.20

Saving compared to direct fare£11.00

Saving compared to cheapest direct split£3.00

However this involves a much longer journey time. Ipswich – Cambridge is around 1 hour 20 minutes. There’s one train per hour. Cambridge to Liverpool Street on direct trains takes around 1 hour 26 minutes to 1 hour 38 minutes with 2 trains per hour. Due to the timings, and long layover in Cambridge, particularly towards Ipswich, the total through journey time is around 2 hours 50 minutes towards London and 3 to 4 hours towards Ipswich.

In comparison the typical journey times on the direct route from Ipswich to London on trains stopping at either Manningtree or Colchester is around 1 hour 07 mins to 1 hour 23 minutes. Thus it’s very much faster on the more direct route for a tiny saving. If planning far enough ahead advance fares would be cheaper than the above walk up fares.

Hopefully the current UK rail fares review run by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

The horror of “cyclists dismount and use footway” signs at roadworks

On the 13th January 2018 walking with my family from Ipswich town centre to the railway station I came across some roadworks on Princes Street including some dangerous signage around some roadworks

Roadworks in bus stop and cycle lane

First was the “cyclists dismount and use footpath” sign:

Sign in cycle lane saying “cyclists dismount and use footpath”

I very much dislike the use of this sign for a number of reasons. First it indirectly causes drivers to complain about cyclists not following the rules or signage.

Second with some bikes (including the cargo trike I was pushing that day, as my daughter wanted to walk) its extremely hard to stop and lift it on to the pavement. I would probably be causing more delay to the traffic by doing that compared to taking the lane.

Third some people with disabilities and other medical issues such as back pain, find it very difficult mount and dismount a pedal cycle, however find cycling alleviates the pain compared to walking.

Fourth this section of pavement already allows cycling so why would people need to dismount to travel along it? Though it does add conflict with pedestrians.

Fifth there was a sign after the roadworks to say that the cycle lane was closed. Surely by that point the cycle lane was open again to use.

Cycle lane closed sign after the roadworks

Finally, even back in November 2011, London had better signs saying “Narrow lanes do not overtake cyclists”, as shown below. Why can’t these signs be used here in Suffolk?

A third sign on Tooley street telling drivers not to overtake cyclists near London Bridge station

P.S. When will there be signs saying “Drivers get out and push”?

Edit: Reworded item 3 to be more encompassing about other medical issues. Added map.

An unexpected filtered permeability trial in Ipswich

Lower Brook Street Sinkhole

Lower Brook Street Road Closure

On 12th May 2017 a sinkhole appeared in the street that I work on in Ipswich. The road was closed to motor vehicles for a few weeks until the repairs were completed. After the initial period while people got used to the road being closed, I noticed a significant change in the traffic patterns in the local area.

The level of traffic on the closed road and several surrounding streets was significantly reduced. I’m wondering if the reduction was enough for the bus companies to notice an improvement in the running times on the core towns centre bus routes that run along Dogs Head Street, Upper Brook Street, Tacket Street, and the Cattlemarket bus station. See the map below.

Map showing location of the incident and streets that were quieter.

The ambient noise level was lower due to the lower level of motor traffic.  People were much more likely to walk on the road than the narrow pavements.

Repairs in progress

After the road was repaired and quietly reopened the traffic levels stayed low initially, slowly rising over a few weeks as the rat running and evening parking returned.

Completed repairs to the sinkhole.

The Lower Brook Street, Turret Lane, Rose Lane, and Cutler Street combination seems to be used as a rat run to avoid the Star Lane gyratory, particularly when there’s problems on the A14 meaning that it’s very slow moving. I’ve seen several trucks getting stuck on the narrow Turret Lane. There’s also been several buildings around the junction of Lower Brook Street and Turret Lane damaged by vehicles. I’m of the opinion that Turret Lane should be closed to through traffic to stop the rat running.

Around the time of the incident traffic speeds or counts were being collected, (based on the various black bands across various streets), so I’m also curious if Suffolk County Council have stats correlating the change in traffic levels.

The dilemma of highway rules vs friendly drivers

Fiona on Infento trike.

I’m currently teaching my 1½ year old daughter how to cross the road on various trips out, including the 5 minute walk along the road to or from our childminder.

She is very good at staying on the pavement, and when it come to crossing the road will wait and look for vehicles that are coming. Then when there is a gap we will cross together. She’s very good at following the verbal instructions. Of course I don’t let her do it on her own yet, though it’s important when time permits to talk through all of the steps involved.

The highway code rule 7 is the Green Cross Code. In summary the steps are:

  1. Find a safe place to cross
  2. Stop just before you get to the kerb
  3. Look all around for traffic and listen
  4. If traffic is coming, let it pass
  5. When it is safe, go straight across the road – do not run

The dilemma comes when friendly drivers are being nice waiting and waving us across the road. However I’ve come across several occasions over the years where drivers have done that, without realising that there is another vehicle coming where the driver won’t give way. This can be exceptionally dangerous.

The Green Cross Code does not mention anything about drivers waving you across the road, likely due to the above complexity of having to be extra careful about other drivers who haven’t seen you.

It would be much quicker for all concerned if we followed the priorities set out in the highway code, as I will just wave people on to wait for a gap in the traffic. The gaps appear fairly frequently, especially on quieter residential roads. It’s common for a dozen vehicles to appear at the same time, and then there to be a big gap when there are no vehicles coming.

 

I’ve had a similar situation recently when cycling home at a set of traffic signals when the driver in front of myself and another cyclist decided to slow down and wave across another oncoming driver. The oncoming driver was waving to point out that we were cycling close behind. The small uphill just after the traffic lights means that cyclists try to keep up momentum to get up the small hill easier, and avoiding stopping at the bottom of the hill at the traffic lights.

The Ipswich grass verge debate

On Monday 3rd April 2017 BBC radio Suffolk had picked up on the story about grass verges being torn up by car parking, and there will be a crack down on people parking in the verges and pavements in some areas in Ipswich.

The Ipswich Star covered the story at the end of the previous week, highlighting the various problems with pavement parking.

As someone who doesn’t have a motor vehicle in the household and has a toddler who is walking about,  sometimes in a buggy, pushing her buggy, walking beside me while I’m pushing my bike before or after my commute; or now starting to use her trike; I find pavement and grass verge parking particularly inconsiderate as it can be difficult to get past.

One of the comments by Mark Murphy was “there’s no chance that we’ll ditch our car any time soon”. I found this highly ironic when Ipswich Star on the very same day launched their excellent Ditch the Car campaign.

It also prompted me to check the stats on the car or van availability from the last census in 2011 to see what proportion of people in Ipswich and Suffolk don’t have access to a car. The results table “KS404EW – Car or van availability” has the information and is available on the Nomis part of the Office for National Statistics site.

Within Ipswich 27.8% of households have no access to a car or van, which is a rather significant proportion likely due to the closeness of various amenities such as schools, shops, and work to where people live, and the frequent local bus service.

value percent
All categories: Car or van availability 57,298 100.0
No cars or vans in household 15,906 27.8
1 car or van in household 26,112 45.6
2 cars or vans in household 12,254 21.4
3 cars or vans in household 2,340 4.1
4 or more cars or vans in household 686 1.2
sum of all cars or vans in the area 60,701

For Suffolk the percentage of households without a car is lower at 17.9%.

I very much look forward to the success of the Ipswich Star’s Ditch the Car campaign and seeing the number of households without a car increasing in the next census.

Football matches at Portman Road banned due to congestion

Every match day or evening match at Portman Road there is significant congestion and air pollution increases in Ipswich. There have also been reports of parents getting stuck in the traffic and having to pull over to comfort their young baby until the traffic calmed down, with the town now being a no-go area on match days.

Suffolk County Council as part of their greenest county strategy, have decided that football matches at Portman Road are to be banned until such time that Ipswich Town produce and implement a travel plan to cut the amount of motor traffic coming into the centre of Ipswich on match days/evenings.

Suggestions for the travel plan include:

  • subsidising the Park and Ride bus, which already pretty much goes past the stadium, including extending it’s running times to cover evening matches;
  • banning the use of car parks surrounding the stadium by cars and using them for cycle parking instead; and
  • chartering special trains so that there is enough capacity to cope with demand.

Cycle theft advice that could hinder cycle use

Last week I noticed a couple of tweets from Edinburgh South Police suggesting that you should remove the seat or a wheel when you store it in a shed on the grounds that many bikes are cycled away.

I can see why the advice would help to reduce the probability of a theft as it would make it harder to cycle away, however I was rather annoyed with this advice. On my bicycle it’s not easy to take the saddle or wheels off. It would likely add an extra 10 to 20 minutes each day, with the additional risk of the front wheel not being connected on correctly, or the electrical connector to the hub dynamo for the lights and USB charging wearing out.

Where I live, I have to go through 5 auto closing doors, and find it extremely annoying, especially when you can’t get the bike through the door unless you hold the door open. It’s something small which has discouraged me from using the bike as often as I have in the past, especially for the more spontaneous journeys, and taking the wheel off would make it even less likely.

Knowing the above I fear that the advice would discourage people from choosing the bicycle for many journeys, particularly the shorter journeys.

For people who have quick release wheels and/or saddles, the advice may work, however for others this is likely to discourage the owner from cycling instead.

On my Dutch bike, and my wife’s Pashley, we have frame locks which stops the back wheel from moving when locked, and you must have the key in the lock to use the bike. I’d really like to see more bikes in Britain with practical wheel locks as they are a useful and discrete security device that is always there. Ideally frame locks should be supplemented with another lock to attach the cycle to an immovable object, some frame locks allow you to insert a cable lock, so you don’t need to carry a separate lock.

© Trelock: RS450 frame lock

© Trelock: RS450 frame lock

I wonder what the root causes of cycle theft are? I wonder if there’s any link to the benefit sanctions and other cuts the government are making… Hopefully some day we can revert to the good old days where you don’t need to worry about things being stolen, as is currently the case in some rural areas.