London Road, an example of bad BaNES management.

There are a lot of people wading into the London Road issue. Many of them believe, now they are elected, that they are able to come up with quick fixes to a broken design. Mostly this is focused around removing the “dangerous” cycle build out that was specifically requested by transport experts to protect people cycling along London Road. As an amateur who spends most evening reading up on best practices I’m going to try and have a go at fixing London Road.

Current Implementation

To begin detailed analysis we need to try and understand what has been delivered. As the council doesn’t feel the need to generate 3D models of the streetscapes it can become extremely difficult to visualise what the final scheme will look like. The council officers also allowed residents and business groups to design out cycle provision which then was redesigned in AFTER a major protest from people.

The process of selecting a design was then given to a council officer (who thankfully has left). Cycle Bath petitioned strongly for protected cycle lanes and use of bus islands at the time, however these were rejected by the officer. I cannot impress upon you how much power Highways had in forcing this design. We tried. We really tried. Nigel Sherwin had multiple meetings to try and iron out a better design.

The key bit to take away from this is that the council officers initially LET the local residents and businesses design out all of the existing cycle path.

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 15.31.48
London Road – What is being implemented
Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 15.31.01
London Road – What is being implemented

I could go on at length about the design and how bad it is but honestly I’ll let the pictures do the talking….

Rust Patches already staining the pale brickwork.
Rust Patches already staining the pale brickwork.
Bus Stop marking showing widening of footpath.
Bus Stop marking showing widening of footpath.
Pedestrian crossing where the road is narrowed creating a dangerous pinch point for cyclists. They MUST take the lane at this point.
Pedestrian crossing where the road is narrowed creating a dangerous pinch point for cyclists. They MUST take the lane at this point.
Cones showing the width of the to be painted cycle lane. Note cones by Snow Hill are crushed as people push round cars trying to turn into Snow Hill.
Cones showing the width of the to be painted cycle lane. Note cones by Snow Hill are crushed as people push round cars trying to turn into Snow Hill.
The infamous
The infamous “sticky out bit” that people keep hitting. This was installed to protect cyclists. Note Bin other side of cycle track. Pedestrians trying to use bin will need to step in front of cyclists….
Businesses putting signs in the cycle track. Not unnecessary work sign in the cycle track.
Businesses putting signs in the cycle track. Not unnecessary work sign in the cycle track.
Pedestrian path blocked by road sign so pedestrians forced into cycle track.
Pedestrian path blocked by road sign so pedestrians forced into cycle track.
30 minute loading bay interrupts cycle track and forces dangerous interaction between cyclists and pedestrians.
30 minute loading bay interrupts cycle track and forces dangerous interaction between cyclists and pedestrians. Cars are parked there almost 24/7.
Everyone ignores the end of the cycle track and rides round to St John's Road. You'd be suicidal not to.
Everyone ignores the end of the cycle track and rides round to St John’s Road. You’d be suicidal not to.
More rusty skips. Seriously ridiculous waste of space.
More rusty skips. Seriously ridiculous waste of space. Note these are not on the plans!
Turning out of Snow hill
Turning out of Snow hill

There are some serious fundamental problems with this development and they are not because of “the sticky out bit”.

My proposed solution

People can criticise and jump on the band wagon but the reality is to truly fix London Road you need to start by working out what the actual problem with London Road. I’m going to cheat by identifying that the actual issues are outside the scope of the Bathgate scheme. It’s the traffic lights. They need replacing with “dutch” roundabouts.

Dutch Roundabout: Zero accidents in 5 years between cars and pedestrians or cyclists.
Dutch Roundabout: Zero accidents in 5 years between cars and pedestrians or cyclists.
Close up of the space the pedestrians and cyclists interact with the vehicles coming off/on the roundabout. Good visibility at all times.
Close up of the space the pedestrians and cyclists interact with the vehicles coming off/on the roundabout. Good visibility at all times.
Roundabout segregating pedestrians, cyclists and motorised traffic.
Roundabout segregating pedestrians, cyclists and motorised traffic.

With the traffic lights removed you suddenly gain a left/right turn lane. This frees up an immense amount of space for loading bays, parking bays, wider pavements, and bus islands.

Brighton Bus with Cycle Bypass aka
Brighton Bus with Cycle Bypass aka “Bus Island”
London Road - Black = road, yellow = pedestrian crossing, blue = protected cycle track, green = parking, orange = space for safe island.
London Road – Black = road, yellow = pedestrian crossing, blue = protected cycle track, green = parking, orange = space for safe island, red = barrier.
londonroadprt1-better
London Road – Black = road, yellow = pedestrian crossing, blue = protected cycle track, green = parking, orange = space for safe island, red = barrier.

With two roundabouts in place either end, I would only allow side roads to turn left. I would block the ability for motorised vehicles to turn right. This would solve the issue of people having to pull across lanes of traffic with a minor delay for residents in cars.

Now before people go on about what a disaster for congestion this would be. This type of scheme has already been done in the UK and is wildly successful. It’s called Poynton. Watch it and learn. It’s amazing.

[Street View]

So where do we go from here?

In reality the Snowhill junction is bad. The design only allows one car to turn right before other cars need to drive into the cycle lane to get round them (as shown by the two crushed cones).

Council officers need to come up with a vision document for Bath. You don’t “just” deliver a little section without recognising that there are big issues each side of the development. The development was designed to fail before even one spade was put in the ground.

Mostly however, I feel the council officers, and particularly the upper management of BaNES need a serious kick up their arses and trained in modern street design.

Councillors need to start looking further afield at other cities around the world and how they are solving their congestion issues. Hint, it isn’t making it easier to travel around the city by car. It’s about giving people the ability to safely cycle and walk. To be able to use public services easily.

The councillors could do an exceptionally simple thing to solve all this. Implement the cycle and walking audit tools as provided in the Welsh Active Travel Design Guidance. Get officers using these tools when delivering projects. Dictate that certain schemes must reach 35 out of 50 on the cycling audit tool. They take about 5 minutes to fill out. 10 minutes time on a £1.5million scheme does not seem unreasonable.

Note I had one senior officer state that they would only use these tools IF they were instructed to. I’ve had officers tell me that Newbridge Park and Ride was only a car scheme with a school and river path right next to it! The stall street scheme has a shared cycle and pedestrian path outside a pasty shop and a couple of benches! Apparently WE the public should have picked up on this. Well excuse me, WE the public are not paid to be experts in street design. This type of silo thinking has to stop.

If councillors want to change BaNES for the better they need to come up with simple ways to get officers making better schemes. I would strongly urge that the councillors implement key performance indicators around those two audit tools and would even go so far as to require the use of the Welsh design guidance or look to London and their design guidances because whatever the council officers are using right now is bloody awful and will get people killed.

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12 thoughts on “London Road, an example of bad BaNES management.”

  1. You my friend, seem to be a single handed sailor with mast head light in an dark ocean of complete madness! What can we do to help you get this message across?

    The council do need a massive kick up the arse and worrying the public are probably the only ones to do it. We need a way for that to happen. Could you set up a 38 Degrees type petition for the people of Bath, which shows everyone the brilliant Poynton film?

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with everything in the above comment. I do wonder though if there is evidence out there that a Poynton-style scheme could cope with the traffic density at the Cleveland Bridge – London Road T-junction? If there is, let’s go for it.

      I commute down the London Road out of Bath by bicycle every day and have watched the new scheme materialise with ever increasing concern (and disbelief given today’s pro-cycling zeitgeist) that it hasn’t been planned with cyclists in mind. Going East, the road now narrows approaching the Esso garage, preventing cyclists passing congested traffic safely on the right – passing on left is particularly dangerous given the chances of a motorist suddenly deciding to fill up their car and turn into the garage without due care. This is a similar situation to pinch point you illustrate at the pedestrian crossing traffic lights. I agree cyclists must take the road to survive, but why force cyclists to sit in traffic inhaling exhaust when a cycle lane could so easily have been accommodated? A key advantage of cycling is not being forced to be stuck in a traffic jam.
      Do you know if there is going to be any provision in the current scheme for cyclists travelling East?

      1. Believe Poynton has a similar level (26,000 vehicles per day) as the Cleveland Bridge junction. I think however the CB junction has skewed traffic and would potentially need temporary traffic lights. A SCOOT controlled set of traffic lights could still be implemented.

  2. “Councillors need to start looking further afield at other cities around the world and how they are solving their congestion issues. Hint, it isn’t making it easier to travel around the city by car. It’s about giving people the ability to safely cycle and walk. To be able to use public services easily.”
    Adam, this quote hits the nail on the head. The only thing I would add to councillors is highways officers. It is highways officers who have the final say in any programme to improve roads and they continuously look at how cars can be accommodated to the exclusion of people on bikes and on foot.

  3. You don’t have to publish this comment, I just wasn’t sure how else to contact you… Some hopefully useful sites for ePetitions:

    BaNES’ own ePetition site, seems to be open to anyone:
    http://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/mgEPetitionListDisplay.aspx
    The lowdown:
    http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/your-council-and-democracy/councillors-and-how-council-works/petitions-scheme

    Other larger sites include:
    https://you.38degrees.org.uk/ – usefully I think they have quite a big mailing list that presumably you can tap into locally?
    https://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/about
    https://www.change.org/en-GB

    Interesting the BaNES site says that if they achieve 1% of the electorate, it has to be referred to the full Council for debate. According to their website, the population is 180,100; which I guess is more than the “electroate” as it also includes young people under voting age. But as a target 1800 signatures seems possible…

    Of course the risk with these things is if you failed to get 1800 signatures, the council could argue that the people in Bath are happy with traffic lights, congestion and danger… even through the conservatives were voted in on a promise of sorting out the traffic in Bath, including promoting cycling around the city to reduce car journeys.

    Anyway I’m sure my friends and family would sign, so there’s a few signatures to start with!

    1. Published it. It’s worth putting out there and I have been thinking about putting together a 38 Degrees campaign, however focused around what I’m unsure. “Dear council, ffs put walking and cycling at the top of your council officer’s priorities!”

      1. I think any campaign would need to focus on something specific and tangible. The London Road junction redesign (as per Poynton) would be a good focus. This would make a great start as it is a) counter-intuitive and b) if it worked as well as Poynton would offer great win-wins for everyone living, working, driving, cycling and walking on the London Road.

        Also it is do-able. Much as the current scheme has many hateful elements, it would lead in fairly well to a Poyton style redesigned junction. It frankly probably unlikely the council will rip up the whole thing and start again, but with a decent core redesign at the junction end, any tweaks they do make to the new London Road scheme would hopefully then be done for the right reasons to fit in with the junction.

        And finally I have noticed the road around the junction is getting tired, so perhaps now’s the right opportunity to do it.

  4. Adam, your article is spot-on. London Road is my daily cycling route in and out of Bath. And it is now truly terrible for cyclists. It is worse than it was before this ugly redesign was completed – particularly, as you state, at the choke point near the Esso garage. The short segregated “cycle lane” leading west up to Cleveland Place is a joke; it is always blocked by parked cars & signs, and cyclists must mix it with pedestrians. There is so much space wasted by the rust-box monstrosities, especially in the central reservation towards the eastern end of the rebuild. The grey-coloured cobbles/sets/whatever-they-are clash horribly with the Bath stone of the buildings, so not only is it a disaster in terms of its utility, but also in terms of its aesthetic appeal (or lack of it) as well.

    I do like your redesign, and I think the Poynton-style roundabout at Cleveland Place just has to be tried. At the moment Cleveland Place is dangerous for cyclists, highly unpleasant for pedestrians, and it must be God-awful for people living in Anglo Terrace.

    I don’t know about a kick up the arse, I think the people responsible for London Road ought to be sacked. I cycled through the Netherlands in the summer, and coming back to the UK was depressing after experiencing such excellent cycling infrastructure. German and Belgian infrastructure wasn’t as good as the Dutch, but was still far superior to the rubbish we put up with here. I think it will take some kind of mental leap for our road designers and council officers to get with the programme.

    I have a car, and a motorbike, and a bicycle. I would never dream of driving the car into Bath, it takes ages and parking is a real struggle. I only rarely go by motorbike (usually if I am going straight on to somewhere like Bristol afterwards). I take my bicycle because it is simply the most efficient and quickest way of getting into town, and then getting around town. It would be even more efficient if I had a smooth uninterrupted run into the centre – which I would have if I was in Holland. If a Dutch-standard, flat cycle lane extended out to Batheaston and Bathford, then I am sure that a large proportion of able-bodied people from these areas would cycle to Bath. If only the road designers would realise this…

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