Category Archives: England

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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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:

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

2012 New Year Fireworks in London

Last night I went to the centre of London near the South Bank to watch the fireworks for the New Year celebrations. In the past I have taken lots of photos of the fireworks, so this year I decided to try some video instead. When started using my camcorder, a Canon LEGRIA HF M32, I realised that my Panasonic Lumix TZ20 had a wider angle lens, so I was able to get much more into the same shot. The Canon camcorder on the other hand has a bigger lens, thus is able to cope with low light conditions better. I decided to create two videos. They both take high definition video at 1080p in the AVCHD format, thus I’ll let you compare the results below.

Pansonic Lumix TZ20:

Canon LEGRIA HR M32

Prior to the fireworks I took a few photos of the London Eye and the crowds:

Afore I headed out I had some filling haggis, neeps and tatties for dinner:

 

Cycling along Stratford High Street

Recently an article appeared on the LCC website about people being fined for cycling on the pavement of Stratford High Street where the Greenway is now diverted due to Olympic and Crossrail works. I decided to take a closer look on the ground on Tuesday evening to see if it was valid for people to cycle there.

Heading eastbound along the Greenway diversion when you hit Stratford High Street next to the Porsche garage, there is a sign directing cyclists an pedestrians to turn left. There is absolutely nothing there to say that you can’t cycle on the pavement there, it’s the kind of sign that suggests that you are allowed to cycle off road and on the pavement.

Continuing along the road to the pedestrian (not toucan) crossing you have a nice wide pavement where there is plenty of space for considerate cycling. The fact that there is not a toucan crossing suggests that cycling potentially isn’t allowed, but why isn’t there a toucan crossing there? It is where the Greenway, a cycling and walking corridor, crosses a major road. Normally I would expect a toucan crossing to be implemented in a location like this to minimise  inconvenience to cyclists, and promote the cycle route more. Also when heading in the eastbound direction there is no way to get to the Greenway without going along some of the pavement.

Once you cross the road and continue towards the Greenway you pass under some scafolding which has a sign with information on it about the work that is happening. It shows a map of the orignal closed route, and the diversion, then in the small print it states that cycling isn’t permitted on the diversion. What is the point of a diversion from a cycling route that doesn’t allow you to cycle along the diversion?

Heading in the westbound direction from the end of the Greenway, there are no signs telling cyclists to dismount. There is the sign above that I very much doubt people are going to read as it’s narrow and the route guides you fairly nicely without the sign to the pedestrian crossing. In this direction I could see any signage that suggests that the wide pavement allows or doesn’t allow cycling until you get just past the junction at the end with the Porsche garage.

Finally there is the TfL official map which shows that section of Stratford High Street as being a shared use cyclepath. (Thanks go to Diamond Geezer for pointing out their availability).

I feel that it is unfair to be fining cyclists when there is contradictory signage and design of the diversion that doesn’t make clear that cyclists should dismount. Secondly assuming that those who are cycling are doing so in a manner and speed that is appropriate for the slower moving pedestrians, especially considering the alternative road conditions that require large diversions, then I don’t see any reason why they should be fined. If it is a case of cyclists going too fast for the conditions such that pedestrians are complaining then I’d hope that we would be able to manage some education, hopefully with some better success than happened recently in Bristol.

London WordPress Meetup – 28th July 2011

On Thursday there was the July 2011 London WordPress meetup in the Headshift | Dachis Group offices. I recorded the presentations and have uploaded them to YouTube:

Ice-breakers & Introductions

Introduction to WordPress by Emily Webber

Beginner Theme Development by Keith Devon

Looking Under the Hood of WordPress by Chris Adams

If you’d like to come along to future meetups, please join the London WordPress Meetup group.

Bulk loading data into OpenStreetMap

Some of you who were at WhereCampUK, Nottingham in November 2010, may recognise the discussion in this blog post as it is based on my talk there.

Since the early days of OpenStreetMap, people have been bulk importing data into the database. There have been various issues with many of the previous import methods, which I’ll go through, before explaining the latest methodologies to be employed.

First up was the public domain TIGER data in the US, which is produced by the US Census Bureau. It varies hugely in quality from county to county and was seen as the only way to start the mapping in the US. The prospect of the data being imported delayed many people from starting to create the map in the US. However with the data not being great, it is difficult to improve the data as a newcomer, compared to using clean osm data.

There are on going projects to try and fixup the Tiger data. These were kick started by the CloudMade London dev team when it was realised that you could not route from one side of the US to the other, like you could in Europe. Tools were built to help highlight connectivity problems and make the road network routable.

After a Freedom of Information request the Royal Mail released the rough location of all of their post boxes (they didn’t have the exact locations). Matthew Somerville built an app for making it easier to locate all the post boxes and tick them off the list. The post box data from OpenStreetMap is regularly imported and checked against the list of post boxes supplied by the Royal Mail based on their reference number with the lists updated to show which post boxes we still don’t know the exact locations of. Some mappers have gone and made sure that whole postcode districts have all their post boxes in OpenStreetMap. Over time the novelty has worn off when playing the game of hunt the post box, or it has become an distance issue to try and find some more.

Naptan data is the public transport access point database in the UK. It has been generated by local councils using a GPS on the ground. This means that the data doesn’t have any issues with copyright from the ordnance survey, which they would have if they were positioned using ordnance survey maps. The Naptan data has been imported region by region into OpenStreetMap. There have been a few communities who have taken the checking of the Naptan data seriously to ensure that OSM has every bus stop in the correct position. They have often been in contact with local councils or the appropriate Traveline department to improve the original Naptan data where there are errors.

Novam is a tool that was built to make it easier to see which imported bus stops had been edited with various data added. A few different styles were generated as mappers came up with a consistent way that the data should be. It proved a very useful tool when working with local authorities, as they could see why OSM was valuable, and it highlighted the appropriate data. The tool is primarily used by mappers to see where they need to improve the OSM data.

When the Ordnance Survey Open Data was released on April 1st 2010, there was some discussion about how the data should be used. The consensus is that the data should not be blindly imported, rather local knowledge should be used to update the OpenStreetMap data. There are cases where the Ordnance Survey data that has been released is already out of date due to changes on the ground since the data was last collected or released. There have been cases where people have changed the correct OpenStreetMap data for the out of date or incorrect Ordnance Survey data. This is one of the reasons why you need to have local knowledge to be able to get good OSM data. Some tools have been implemented so that OSMers can improve the completeness of their dataset based on OSM. These tools are being used actively to increase the OSM coverage and accuracy.

The Bike Shop Locator was built by Andy Allan and myself as a tool to show a different method of importing data into OpenStreetMap for cases where there is significant portion of the data already in OSM, some of the data being imported may be inaccurate as the shop on the ground either doesn’t exist or has since changed name, and all of the data only having an approximate location to within a post code. The automation of the ticking off of this list is somewhat hard due to the fuzzy matching required for the names and other attributes. Also when visiting an area again to check to see exactly where the bike shop is you’ll spot other things in the OSM data that needs to be edited in the area.

WhereCampUK, November 2010 location:

For the presentation, I flipped between the following web pages in different tabs in my web browser:

Cycling: London to Dover overnight

With the English bank holiday weekend (Scotland has the August bank holiday on the first Monday instead of the last), I thought that I would go for one of my longer cycle rides and see if I could beat my previous record of 150 miles. On the Saturday morning I packed the 4.5 litre of water, home made pasta, chocolate and extra clothing layers into my panniers. I finally got going at 1pm, which was a lot later than I was expecting.

The first part of my journey was heading north to the River Thames on the Waterlink Way/National Cycle Route 21. Then I followed the Thames to the Woolwich ferry using the NCN4 and 1. I decided to add a little extra adventure to my journey by crossing the River Thames a couple of times. First using the Woolwich Ferry to get to the North bank, which is free. Then following a part of the new Cycle SuperHighway 3, which is a rebranding of the previous cycle path that it runs along, to head east towards my next crossing. To get back to the South bank of the Thames, I used the Dartford crossing. You can’t cycle over, however a free pickup truck service is provided to take cyclist and bike over to the other side.

After a nice chat about traffic and cycling with the traffic officer who took me across, I then re-joined the National Cycle Route 1 most of the way to Whitstable. I decided to follow a straighter new cycle route from just before Gravesend to Strood, which is part of the old A2 prior to it being upgraded.

Shortly after Sittingbourne while following the NCN1, I seen on the right hand side of the road a car with the two door windows smashed a couple of people and another vehicle, which looked rather unusual. I continued further up the road until I was out of sight, as I didn’t know how they would react and then reported the car break-in to the police via a 999 call. As I didn’t know how to describe my current location well, thus I took a photo of the screen on my phone (which ended up against my face while talking thus unable to look at the screen) with the latitude and longitude, and gave the lat/lon to the operator, which worked. On Sunday afternoon I got a phone call from the police following up with some clarifications to the useful evidence. They were pleased that I had phoned in the incident as a witness as most people would have just turned a blind eye.

A bit further down the road I stopped to eat some of my pasta, and suddenly some dark rain clouds came over and the heavens opened. Luckily it was just a fairly short shower and I had managed to find a bit of shelter for it to pass. It did worry me a bit as to how much more rain there would be for the rest of my journey. Luckily once that cloud passed it was clear for the rest of my journey.

From Whitstable I followed the coast, much of which was on the path or promenades that runs along the edge of the sea. As I was getting into Ramsgate at about 2 am after 107 miles, I was getting too tired to be able to continue the rest of the night further round the coast safely, so I found a nice bench and shelter overlooking the sea to put my head down for a few hours. Luckily I had a towel with me that I was able to use as a pillow.

Shortly after 5am I set off again slightly refreshed with the first signs of dawn. The route of the NCN1 down to Deal is quite nice. After Deal however it turns inland a little and into a very long climb that seems to just go on forever. It was nice to be able to get to the top and see the nice view across the English Channel. After a little decent there is the White Cliffs of Dover National Trust site, which has a nice view overlooking Dover ferry port. (Yeah, I’m sure you already know that I quite like travelling by ferry from time to time.)

From there I headed down the short and steep downhill into Dover, the downhill was over way too quick considering the amount of uphill. I then took the train home, going the full length of the straight track from Ashford to Redhill (with a change at Tonbridge). The reason I mention it, is because it does look quite strange or unusual at lower zooms on a map, when there generally is more curves in rail lines.

On the Sunday late afternoon/evening I took a nice 5 hour nap to catch up my sleep, before getting up for a few hours to catch up on a few things before heading back to bed for a full nights sleep.

In total it was 133 miles over 20 hours, which is my second longest cycle in one go. The Dunwich Dynamo was 127 miles including the ride to the start. At some point in the future I want to ride from Dover anti-clockwise round the coast, particularly to try hill out of Dover and the long downhill into Deal. I’d also like to do Dover-Brighton via the NCN2.