Category Archives: Transport

Cargo bike with baby and shopping on board

Suffolk Looking to make Transport Carbon Neutral

Suffolk Council Council as part of Transport East, who represent Suffolk, Norfolk, and Essex highways and transport authorities, are looking to reduce the carbon emissions of transport in the region.

Here’s some of my ideas of what could be done to reduce the carbon emissions in the region.

Local

The majority of journeys people make are short, under 5-10 miles, and so are ideal candidates for changing from private motor vehicles to walking, cycling, public transport, or other active travel modes such as scooters. It’s also one of the area that can have a huge impact with several things such as reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality and the health of people in the county. Just small reductions in motor traffic can have a big impact on congestion, you can see this by comparing the school term time vs school holiday traffic levels.

DfT stats on journey length, distance, etc.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Over the past decade with the introduction of the mobile phone and sat nav with dynamic routing, the level of motor traffic on minor roads and residential streets has doubled. Many new rat runs have been introduced with no consultation, with air pollution and road danger ever increasing on what should be quiet residential roads. Previously people would use an old style map to navigate, and in doing so would generally keep to the main roads.

As shown in the graph below, there has been an increase in motor traffic at the regional level over the past few decades, more detailed data analysis of the raw DfT traffic data, over the past few decades is required within urban areas. The partly rural nature is likely to mean that people are able to get on to the faster A roads much quicker, thus less of an increase is shown on local roads at the regional level, but could be more evident at the local level within urban areas, like has happened in London.

DfT stats for Annual traffic by road type in East of England

The count points can be seen in the map below for the Ipswich area:

Map of count points in Ipswich.
Map of the DfT motor vehicle count points from the filtered raw data (large zip of a CSV).

In London the change in motor traffic is much more pronounced on minor roads showing a near doubling in motor traffic over the past decade. The level of motor traffic on A roads has stayed fairly steady, this is due to the though motor traffic spilling on to local residential roads. I see no reason why this should be any different in other towns and cities such as Ipswich. The main cause of the change is the introduction of the smart phone with dynamic journey routing in mapping apps. Sadly some of the optimisations are shaving a few minutes here or there by getting people cutting through residential streets.

Graph highlighting huge increase in motor traffic in C and unclassified roads between 2009 and 2019.
Dft stats for Annual traffic by road type in Londo

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are an excellent way to generate modal shift on short journeys from the private motor vehicles to more active and less polluting modes of transport. Research by Rachel Aldred and Anna Goodman shows that low traffic neighbourhoods reduce car use, car ownership, and increase the levels of active travel. They are a key component to reducing the carbon emissions from transport.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, or to give them another name active neighbourhoods are not a magic pill that magically transforms them overnight. They take several months for things to bed in and people to get used to the changed layout of the streets and for a the modal shift to happen. There is some pain during the initial phase, however once implemented and in place for 6-18 months it’s rare to find residents asking for them to be removed.

There already exists some areas of Ipswich which meet the basic principles of a low traffic neighbourhood. I’m not aware of any campaigns to open up the streets to more motor traffic as people like to live on quiet streets. For example the area between Bramford Road and London Road only allows through motor vehicle access at one point, go the other direction, and you will have a significant detour in a motor vehicle.

Map showing the need to go the long way around when driving due to now through access.
Want to drive? You’ll need to go the long way around from Ainslie Road to Rendlesham Road.

On the other hand walking or cycling is much more direct.

Map showing the shorter walking route.
It’s a lot shorter to walk from Ainslie Road to Rendlesham Road.

Another similar example is Ravenswood in the south west of Ipswich, where there is only a single private motor vehicle access, with the other motor vehicle access being a bus gate. Occasionally there is a suggestion about opening the bus gate to motor traffic, due to the congestion at the single motor vehicle access to the area, however it’s quickly shot down as would just generate yet more motor motor traffic and pollution. The real solution is improving the public transport and active travel infrastructure as they are far more efficient at moving people around than private motor vehicles.

There is a significant cycle to school rate, in part due to the cycle route through the estate, however private motor vehicle usage is still high with complaints of congestion. There needs to be a review of what’s stopping people from using the bus, walking, and cycling for their journeys off the estate. Does there need to be protected cycle tracks implemented on nearby roads such as Nacton Road, Ransomes Way, Felixstowe Road, and fast direct routes into the town centre and to the railway station? This network of cycle tracks would make people feel safe to cycle with shopping and children, and hopefully provide the mode shift to reduce the congestion.

Map of Ravenswood
Map showing National Cycle Route 51 and the motor vehicle access.

Kesgrave is similar, with there being no through access between main roads, and any access will take you back to the same main road, thus there’s no incentive to cut through. Kesgrave high school also has the highest cycle to school rate in the country. How can we replicate this across the rest of the region/country?

All properties in a low traffic neighbourhood is accessible with a motor vehicle. Each property is normally only accessible from a single main road, whilst people who are walking, cycling, or using public transport. Emergency vehicle access is maintained, and evidence shows that the response times get faster after a low traffic neighbourhood is impelemented due to the reduced delays caused by motor vehicles.

Breaking car dependancy

To reduce carbon emissions from transport one of the areas that needs to be looked at is the issue of car dependancy. For this section, I’ll pose a series of questions.

Why is it seen as ok that people need to drive for so many journeys?

Why is it seen by many to be able to park on the pavement?

Why is it ok to for dropped kerbs to go the full width of the footway, making a horrible sideways wiggle when using mobility aids or trikes (where it’s shared use)?

Why can’t children travel independently like the used to be able in previous decades?

Why is it seen as acceptable that children can’t play in their street any more or travel and significant distance from home on own their own?

Why is public transport so expensive compared to the marginal cost of using a car?

Why isn’t cycling seen as a normal mode of transport for short journeys like in places such as The Netherlands, Denmark, and various other towns and cities that are implementing cycling infrastructure and making it hard to drive short distances? (The answer isn’t culture).

Why are there so few bikes available in bike shop that are good for utility cycling and carrying luggage?

Why is walking or cycling a few miles seen as a long distance that’s hard to do?

Why do we allow the pavements, that are meant to be for people to travel, to be used for the storage of metal boxes on wheels?

School Streets

The number of children who are driven to or from school has dramatically risen over recent decades. This is making the roads outside schools to become dangerous in terms of road safety, and also in terms of high levels of air pollution. The lack of exercise is also causing issues in terms of obesity, concentration level, and attainment.

School Streets opens the street directly outside the school gates (and sometimes neighbouring streets) to people who are walking, cycling, scooting, etc so that the parents and pupils don’t need to cram on to the pavement, which is ever more important during the current pandemic. Motor traffic to the street is normally restricted to a very limited set of vehicles (such as emergency vehicles, buses, and residents) during the hour or two per day when the road is needed for the school arrival and departure.

Residents often prefer having a restricted time of access to their property during the school arrival and departure times to the chaos of parents and carers parking on the pavements and grass verges. When school streets were first implemented in Edinburgh, there were lots of complaints from parents with children in other schools that their school was being included too.

Sustrans info on School Streets

Publicity photos/videos

In the UK cycling is often seen to be a sport rather than a mode of transport for general getting around or utility cycling, and this perception really needs to change urgently.

Photos and videos that are used to show people cycling in publicity should include more normal people cycling without plastic hats and other advisory, but not required clothing. I’d also like to see more photos of cargo bikes, people carrying shopping, and children on bikes to help show that it’s normal to carry shopping and children on a bike, and that it’s possible to do these very ordinary things without a car. This would make more people think that they could start cycling as the people in the pictures look like them, and are doing journey that they need to do. Many cargo bikes are now available in e-assist variants which makes it a lot easier to climb hills or move large amounts of luggage or more children with ease.

Cargo trike with shopping and baby on board.
Cargo trike with shopping and baby on board.
Child carrying xtra cycle.

Try before you buy

Some local councils are providing cargo bikes on a one month trial so that people who live, work, or study in the area can see how it works before actually buying one. This is a good way to support families who want to use a car less.

Camden Council provide cargo bikes to try before buying.

Car clubs

Sometimes it’s just easier to use a car for some journeys. Rather than having everyone own their own vehicle and having to deal with the storage issue, which is particularly difficult in the centre of towns and cities, there is an alternative, which is a car club. These allow the use of a motor vehicle at short notice, and with an automated system compared to normal car hire. Vehicles are usually positioned across the town so that they are close to where the people live and are hopefully within walking distance.

Integrated public transport

The cost of public transport at the point of use is high and fares are complicated compared to the marginal cost of a car. There are multiple bus operators in Ipswich with minimal cross operator ticketing (primarily plus bus which also requires a train journey). Why can’t we have a tap and pay system with automatic capping, and the capping working across all operators?

Deliveries

Last mile deliveries in urban areas need to be moved to electric and/or pedal power similar to what Pedal me in London, and Zedify in several cities across the country including Brighton, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Norwich, Southampton, and Winchester, have done already. Zedify operate under a franchise model, and have shown an interest in having a base in Ipswich.

Pedal me also support passenger carriage, and specialised cargo deliveries and contracts. They are very vocal on Twitter about highlighting their employee training, pay (hourly rather than self employed pay per delivery that many delivery companies have moved to), and highlighting the various items that they are able to carry including comparing them to other other modes of transport.

Cycle deliveries can allow for a larger delivery window for pedestrianised zones, with them being setup to allow the cycle delivery access.

Regional

There are some items such as rail and how to travel between towns which needs to be looked at regionally.

Rail freight

At the regional or longer distance transport level there needs to be more capacity to move more freight on to the electrified rail network. This needs a rolling programme of electrification starting with Felixstowe to Peterborough, which will allow for electrified freight to travel from Felixstowe to the East Coast Mainline and beyond without going via London.

Passenger rail services

There needs to be an increase rail speeds on routes avoiding London so that journey times are reduced. The journey time between for example Ipswich and Cambridge (comparing the rail stations) by rail and car is about the same. Door to door time from housing in Ipswich to the northern employment zones of Cambridge is significantly different and I see the journey time on what should be a reasonable commute (after the pandemic) as the biggest factor at stopping people from shifting from driving to public transport on this corridor. The frequency of services is also a factor with it currently being hourly, a higher frequency in the peak could help with some of the modal shift.

What needs to be done to increase the line speeds between Stowmarket and Cambridge and Peterborough?

The new Stadler trains have noticeably faster acceleration when operating using the overhead wires compared the diesel power. This can help to reduce the journey times.

National and regional cycle routes

Cycling between towns in the regions isn’t particularly easy, especially if you are on a non standard bike, have children with you, or are doing a cycling tour holiday. It’s frustrating that I struggle with the idea of cycling with luggage to the port of Harwich, yet on the other side of the North Sea, I’ll happily cycle any distance given enough time. This is all down to a lack of quality walking and cycling infrastructure on key routes, without big diversions.

Being able to cycle to the next town is one of the things that needs to be considered to be able to help break the issue of car dependancy and discourage car use for journeys in the 5-20 mile range, which are easily doable on a bike.

Sustrans over recent years have got a lot of complaints due to the poor quality of the national cycle network. We don’t build motorways or major through A roads which turn to mud in the winter, or have pedestrians wandering over them, why do we allow this for cycle paths? Recently they have dropped sections which don’t meet a minimum standard. This is a good thing. How can councils help to bring the reduced network up to the newer minimum sped, and to expand the network further meeting the newer standard.

Stop road building projects

Building more roads just induces more demand, and more motor traffic in the longer term. There is generally only a short term reprieve in the level of motor vehicle congestion. I would recommend no more road building, with the exception of access roads into new buildings, until the mode share of walking, cycling, and public transport for journeys under 10 miles is over 70%. If The Netherlands is anything to go by, dual carriageways can end up getting downgraded due to the low usage by motor vehicles. Other cities have been known to do this too.

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).

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.

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 Ipswich Infrastructure Tour May 2015

On 30th May 2015, I led a Cycle Infrastructure Tour around Ipswich. It was an excellent day where we had people from Cambridge, London, and Edinburgh, along with locals including Andrea McMillan who is writing the Cycling Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for Ipswich Borough Council.

There’s a route map shown at the bottom, and photos are clickable to either a larger version, or through to the Mapillary page so you have the location and nearby photos too.

We started at Ipswich Railway Station and had a discussion regarding the future plans, including the change to the layout inside Ipswich Station, and some of the current issues, such as the cycle parking being tucked away around the back, and not sign posted, which should hopefully be improved as part of the station redevelopment.

On departing the station, a couple of police officers noted that it was the first occasion that they had seen the Bike and Go bikes out in use. This isn’t surprising considering you can’t rock up at the station and hire a bike, instead you need to plan at least a week in advance to sign up online. There is no automated process at the station either, so you have to wait in the queue for a member of staff to get the key for you.

On departing the station we crossed the road and headed along to the cycle path on the pavement, to the side of the Encore hotel. It was noted there is a lot of cycle parking, however it’s not sign posted, sheltered, nor in an optimal configuration as some of the stands wouldn’t be able to be used when there were bikes in some of the stands. It’s almost as though the developer was required to include some cycle parking for the site (which includes residential and shops), so placed in one corner, rather than spread around the site.

Suboptimal cycle parking layout

Suboptimal cycle parking layout

We then headed over the Sir Bobbie Robson Bridge, which is a cycle and pedestrian bridge which was put in as part of the developer to the south of the river. At times it can be a bit on the narrow side thus significantly slowing down cyclists. A wider bridge would reduce the level of cycle/pedestrian conflict. After the bridge we turned left to join NCN51 westbound.

Sir Bobby Robson bridge

Sir Bobby Robson bridge

At the 2 large London Road junctions we had a short discussion highlighting that the junctions are designed for large amounts of motor vehicular traffic, with pedestrians and cyclists significantly inconvenienced by having to way 2 or 3 times to cross the road. On some of the lights it was difficult to see the red and green man when standing close to the signal due to the angle they were looked at. Due to the time that pedestrians have to wait they often cross in a gap in the traffic instead of waiting.

On heading up London Road, the visitors from London noted that there were already bus stop bypasses in existence as you were cycling along the pavement legally. However few people recognise them as such.

London Road bus stop bypass

London Road bus stop bypass

Just past the London Road allotments there is an pedestrian access route into the residential areas, however there are some significant barriers in the way, which make it difficult to use. Enabling this for cycle use and sign posting the route would mean that people have a mostly traffic free route from Chantry via London Road and NCN51 into Ipswich town centre.

At the junction of London Road and Robin Drive there was a discussion regarding the double dog leg crossing which makes it difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to cross as they have to wait 3 times to cross London Road. Also if you are on a bike with a long wheelbase or have a trailer, extreme care is required to get the corners right for the dog legs.

The parallel residential part of London Road is generally nice to cycle along due to the low levels of motor traffic, and the hedge between you and the main road. This separation is a common design element that is used in The Netherlands. However the road could do with being resurfaced as it’s getting uneven, so can be tough to cycle on.

London Road parallel residential road

London Road parallel residential road

At the next junction it was noted that the cycle path (on the pavement) that leads from Suffolk One just stops at the traffic lights, rather than there being a toucan crossing to allow people to cross the road safely. There is a significant issue where the students at Suffolk One drive there and there is no car parking for students. This was a deliberate decision to discourage driving, however due to the distances that students need to travel and little alternative transport, they just park in the local to the annoyance of the neighbours. Small things like a missing toucan crossing at the end of a cycle path contribute towards people not walking and cycling.

Cycling along Scrivener Drive, Shepherd Drive, and the start of Hawthorn Drive was rather intimidating due to the narrow road width and heavy traffic, particularly coming from the A12 and A14. Something needs to be done to make friendlier alternative routes in the area for people on bikes.

Shepherd Drive

Shepherd Drive

The rest of Hawthorn Drive has a significant issue which is resolvable with minimal impact on motor traffic. The road is wide with a houses on both sides, and occasionally shops, amenities, etc, with grass verges which are often parked on, even so there is space in most front gardens. There is also a problem of traffic islands, where drivers will try to squeeze past you. It’s a rather intimidating experience, especially if you are not able to cycle fast.

It would be possible to remodel the road such that there is the pavement, separate cycle path, parking, traffic lanes, parking, separate cycle path, and finally the pavement on the other side of the road. There would be some points where there would only be cycle parking on one side of the road only, or not at all near junctions. This design would be typical of a Dutch distributer road, and would mean that the local school children have a safe route to walk and cycle to school. There are many schools within a small area, so this would be a big impact, especially with the current significant complaints about the school run problem.

Hawthorn Drive

Hawthorn Drive

Hawthorn Drive

Hawthorn Drive

At the Hawthorn Drive/Mallard Way roundabout we had a discussion regarding the roundabout, as it’s significantly larger than many other busier roundabouts in the town, yet has very low traffic volumes, and has very wide corners so drivers can go round it with only small reduction of speed, and could easily injure a pedestrian or cyclist. Someone pointed out that the roads were probably originally designed so that the grass verges could be changed into an additional car lane instead at a later stage. Mallard Way could get a similar treatment to the suggestion for Hawthorn Drive.

Hawthorn Drive Roundabout

Hawthorn Drive Roundabout

We then heading along Stone Lodge Lane West, Birkfield Drive (which has the space for similar treat meant to Hawthorn Drive and Birkfield Drive), and into Carolbrook Road, where we followed a cycle path through Ellenbrook Open Space to reach National cycle network route 1 to head back into town. This section of NCN 1 is off road, and one of the better sections through Ipswich, however it’s very short before you are back on the road again.

Heading along NCN1 on Stoke Park Drive can be rather scary, and isn’t somewhere I would be keen on taking young children due to the cycle lanes stopping for traffic islands where motor vehicle drivers regularly try to squeeze past you. I’ve seen occasions where car drivers accelerate past on the other side of the road on the wrong side of the island, or cut in just before the island. The cycle lane is less than the 1.5 metres wide, and it’s hard to fit a bike in never mind  including some passing distance. Towards the end there is a right turn into Bourne Park, which wouldn’t be easy for less experienced cyclists.

Stoke Park Drive

Stoke Park Drive

The cycle path through Bourne Park is pretty rough gravel, and is tough going for adults, and extremely difficult for young children to learn to ride a bike. If there was a smooth surface through the park, and around it to make a circuit, there would be an ideal environment for children to learn to ride a bicycle, and play in the park. This is something that is really needed in this part of town, as there are few places which are safe traffic free environments for children to learn.

Bourne Park

Bourne Park

On heading out of Bourne Park the NCN route swings north just to run parallel to the rail line along a narrow path which is overgrown with vegetation, and sometimes has flytipping at the north end. It’s not a pretty sight considering it’s the flagship national cycle route 1, and non standard bikes would struggle to get along the route.

NCN1 by railway near Bourne Park

NCN1 by railway near Bourne Park

To save us going up and down a hill, and to also see another bit of cycle infrastructure, we headed off the NCN1 temporarily and headed along Wherstead Road. This is one of the main routes into town from the south, and connects with the A14. The road starts wide and gets narrower, particularly at the point where it goes under a rail bridge (for goods trains to get into the Port of Ipswich). Shortly after the rail bridge, there is a cycle access off on to the quieter residential streets and a toucan crossing. The cycle slip road requires you to come off the road at an angle which means that you either have to slow down and/or swing out in the middle of the road. Alternatively you can follow the route many in the group choose and head on to the pavement early which was a more natural route to follow. It would be a fairly cheap change to remove the railing and increase the dropped kerb, which would make it safer. The point where the cycle path joins the road is rather tight and there would be problems for people with cargo bikes or trailers.

Wherstead Road 1

Wherstead Road 1

Wherstead Road 2

Wherstead Road 2

Wherstead Road 2

Wherstead Road 3

Onwards we rejoined NCN1 again briefly and headed quickly to The Brewery Tap via the waterfront as we were running a little behind schedule at this point. The waterfront has some traffic free sections, and has some heavy pedestrian use. This makes is problematic at weekends and in the evenings when there are heavy pedestrian flows. I have come across a regular local cyclist who didn’t realise that it is two way for cyclists, whilst only one way for motor vehicles.

 

After lunch we headed up Cliff Lane and followed National Cycle Route 51 out to Ravenswood. At the junction of Cliff Lane and the entrance to Holywells Park we stopped for a chat. There’s a significant school run problem in the area (which has been on BBC Radio Suffolk in the past). There is also a similar issue with people driving to visit the park often with children.

During the cycle along NCN51 to Ravenswood, the Londoners on the ride noted how quiet the residential streets were. This is in part due to the route being filtered, and the residential roads being the furthest possible from the main access routes to the residential area. It is a much longer route, and many locals will choose shorter routes, such as Clapgate Land and Nacton Road instead, especially into town downhill, as it’s much faster and more direct. The NCN51 route is quieter, safer, and sign posted.

At the point the Morland Road joins to the cycle path through to Raeburn Road there is currently a confusing NCN51 sign for people coming from the east, which suggests the route is into town only. Either that sign should be taken down, or it should be updated to show the route goes in both directions. Turning right takes you into town, and left towards Ravenswood and Felixstowe.

Morland Road

Morland Road

Ravenswood is a fairly new build housing estate, built on the old Ipswich Airport (final flight January 1998). The estate was designed to be environmentally friendly with many cycle and foot paths, limited car space, traffic calming measures and a frequent bus link into the town centre.

Through Ravenswood the NCN51 cycle path is very good if you are passing through the area, as there is minimal interaction with motor vehicles. However if you are trying to get from the main cycle paths on to the residential streets, it is very difficult to do so, and the cycle paths are around half the width they need to be. Often you have to cycle on the road where drivers can be rather intimidating. Ravenswood has one of the highest cycle to school rates in the county.

Ravenswood

Ravenswood

On the edge of the Ravenswood estate there have been 4 new major chain restaurants built in the past year. Sheltered cycle parking has been provided, however little consideration has been given to how you get from the cycle paths of the car park to the cycle parking. It’s as though it’s been stuck in some unused corner as a requirement of the planning permission, rather than properly planning the cycle parking in so that it is easy to get to.

Ravenswood restaurant cycle parking

Ravenswood restaurant cycle parking

The staggered toucan crossing on Ravenswood Avenue by The Thrasher roundabout is quite tough to use on a bike, especially if you are in a group of people on bikes, have a trailer on the bike, or a cargo bike, the crossing becomes very difficult. Some of the tight corners at junctions within the estate are also very difficult with non-standard bikes.

We then headed through Futura Park which is a new retail area built in November 2012. There were some additional racks added by Waitrose and John Lewis shortly after they opened as they were fully utilised in the first week of opening. There is legalised pavement cycling for people to get to and from the shops, however once you get to the main road, Ransomes Way, the pavements get rather narrow. Also the plans for the junction outside the Sainsburys and Homebase will require people to plan ahead if they want to cross with the toucan crossing. Ransoms Way is also having the 2 lanes (1 each way) turned into 3 lanes (2 towards roundabouts, and one leaving roundabouts). I’d rather a cycle track or possibly a wider pavement to be implemented instead to reduce the conflict with pedestrians, and encourage more people to cycle to the shops.

Heading along Felixstowe Road back into town, cyclists start on the pavement, and around the borough boundary cyclists are taken on to the road in a cycle lane with heavy and fast (40 mph speed limit) traffic and no protection between cyclists and the motor vehicles. Just after the roundabout we stopped on Bixley Road for a quick discussion. I have seen families walking their bikes around the roundabout and then getting back on to cycle on the pavement afterwards. This roundabout is a stumbling point for encouraging more people to cycling due to the crucial link it provides with various parts of the town, including being on the main ring road route of the town.

Felixstowe Road

Felixstowe Road

Due to the heavy motor traffic on Bixley Road, I chose a route that took us on to quieter back roads pretty quickly along Princethorpe Road, Temple Road, Chilton Road, Foxhole Road, and Heath Lane where you get to a cycle path, which is a back entrance to Copleston High School, and the end of the back access road to the hospital. However it looks from the signage that you can’t cycle in this direction to get to the hospital, even so it would be a useful link to the hospital avoiding the main roads.

Hospital back entrance oddity

Hospital back entrance oddity

We stopped within the hospital grounds on NCN1 to discuss the hospital cycle access. The main A&E has some good quality sheltered cycle parking, however cyclists are expected to share the road with motor vehicles. Other departments have large cycle parks near their entrances, however it’s generally of the wheel bender designs, so people will try to lock their bike in a similar manner to a Sheffield stand, such that the bike is supported. Some of the cycle parking could be better sign posted for example similar to a bus stop flag post to encourage usage, and so that people can see the cycle parking from a distance. The north cycle path on to Woodbridge Road doesn’t connect with other cycle routes well, nor gives a nice transition back on to the road.

Hospital cycle parking 1

Hospital cycle parking 1

Hospital Cycle parking 2

Hospital Cycle parking 2

Hospital Cycle parking 3

Hospital Cycle parking 3

From the hospital we followed National Cycle route 1 back into town, on the way we stopped off on Rope Walk, which is seen to be one of the best cycling facilities in the town as through motor traffic stopped on this section of road, and it means there is a safe reasonably quiet route from here into town. Just beforehand, Kings Avenue and Milner Street are a significant rat run in the morning peak, and need to have the rat run closed to through traffic to make the route more pleasant and also reduce motor vehicle congestion since drivers on St Helens Street are letting drivers out which then reduces the flow of vehicles from entering the traffic lights at the bottom of Grove Lane, Spring Road, and Warwick Road.

Rope Walk

Rope Walk

At the junction of Rope Walk, Waterworks Street and Bond Street, there is an interesting arrangement whereby cyclists just have to give way to traffic from the left and don’t need to wait for the green light. It can be a bit narrow to get through if you are on a wide cargo bike or have a bike trailer.

Rope Walk and Waterworks Street Junction

Rope Walk and Waterworks Street Junction

We headed through the town centre which was quite quiet with it being the end of the day. We stopped off in Arlingtons Cafe to have a final discussion and review of the day.

The was a lot to look at, and several other places I’d have liked to have gone to discuss too. I’m planning to run some more rides at a slower pace so that there can be more discussion at the stops.

Suffolk Roadsafe to bring road safety campaign to many more travellers

After complaints about significantly increased levels of aggression on the roads, I’ve heard about some radical new plans by Suffolk’s Roadsafe team to make sure that their education programme gets to every road user in Suffolk. The poster campaigns, tv adverts, the website, and road shows are only allowing them to talk to a very small proportion of people who drive, cycle, or walk in Suffolk.

From today, 1st April 2015 the Suffolk Roadsafe team will be out running roadblocks on every entry point to the county, with some other roadblocks at strategic locations. Minor roads on the county boundary will be closed to motor traffic. At the roadblocks drivers will be asked random questions from the driving theory test. If the driver passes then be allowed on their way.

If drivers struggle with the questions the driver will be held to get some additional training. This is likely to affect people who have forgotten the rules of the road since passing their driving test, or passed it a long time ago and not kept up with the new rules since.

They are also planning to provide a variety of pedal cycles so that drivers can experience what it feels like to be someone on a bicycle. Random drivers will be selected for this to encourage more mutual respect between modes, through experiencing what it’s like using the other modes of transport.

Train passengers are not forgotten about either as the Roadsafe team will be working with Abellio Greater Anglia to broadcast information over the tannoy, and road safety information leaflets being given to passengers.

There will be long delays on the roads, however they are hoping this scheme will make the roads a friendlier place for all road users. If drivers continue drive without courtesy to others the Roadsafe team are looking to work with Westminster to pass some new laws, which mean that anyone who can’t pass a driving test at a random point in the future will have their driving license revoked.

Happy April Fools Day.

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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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.