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Amsterdam vs Copenhagen (part 1)

Really think that the way we design roads in the UK is somewhat stuck in the 1970s. I still think we prioritise parking too much over creating good healthy streets that work for everyone, not just cars.

Nicer cities, liveable places

Amsterdam vs Copenhagen…
…Netherlands vs Denmark

Part 1 – Basic urban cycle track anatomy

Despite the provocative title this blog post will have a relatively technical focus – comparing some features of infrastructure found in the Netherlands with what’s found in Denmark – and comparing both to the UK. But it’ll not be too technical. What I’m aiming for is to convey my overall impression of the differences in infrastructure design where this is intended to support cycling.


All being well, this will be one part of a two or three part series.

Note that the images in this post are simple sketches, illustrating my overall impression of the differences in relatively standard infrastructure in each place.

typical_Neth2.svg_sml

These images are not to scale, and almost certainly contain errors when compared to real infrastructure. Inevitably actual infrastructure varies hugely in reality too. What I’m drawing here is simply an idealised image…

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Isochrons and Potential Modal Shift

This one is going to get very technical, but stay with me. I think the way we have been deciding where to build cycle infrastructure is fundamentally flawed. My day job is as a software engineer with a smattering of data science. I also play around at hackathons and winning a few.

At the weekend I won one in Bristol with this analysis

Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 18.22.41.png Given a ward, how many people living in the ward drive to work in the ward? How many people living 5km or less away drive to work in the ward and from what direction?

So what does this tell us?

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 23.11.15

A good segregated cycle route from Headley Park and Hengrove to Brislington would have a huge impact.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 23.11.26 Avonmouth probably could do with some really good infrastructure.

Huh? But nobody wants that?

BaNES once asked Sustrans to identify a series of routes in various areas. They asked people. I mean why? What do you gain by asking people? You get people that already cycle affirming certain routes. Anybody already in a car doesn’t really care anyway.

So what should Councils be doing?

Isochrons are the measurement of something as a unit of time. In terms of cycling, 5km is about 20 minutes of cycling and we really don’t care about people already cycling. Yes the infrastructure could all be vastly improved, but let’s ask a simpler question.

Time is money, and congestion costs time

Given that congestion is estimated to cost Bristol £43.7 million a year can we use 20 minutes of travel time to determine the maximum Potential Modal Shift (PMS) for road networks and choose to develop infrastructure to maximise reduction in congestion?

Yes we can!

The work at MSOA level (ward) that I have done indicates that an LSOA (smaller than a ward) commuter flow exclusively using travel to work by car and limiting it to 20 minutes travel by bike applied using route finding, should enable identification of key routes with high PMS. This analysis should define the investment we need to do.

Implication

This method unfortunately absolutely shafts rural investment. Neither does it take into account the school run. However neither does it preclude using school travel plans to add the data into the mix.

Focusing on the problem

Let’s be honest, we could keep on spending money on cycle infra for the next 50 years and still not catch up with the Netherlands, however if we actually want to maximise the shift away from cars to bikes, then let’s identify the maximum PMS by focusing on the actual problem. The private car and the cost of congestion.

Why we need all professional drivers to pass Bikeability Level 3 training

This morning I was walking along Chaucer Road towards Beechen Cliff and observed a mini-bus driver overtake a Beechen Cliff Pupil riding his bike to school. Chaucer Road is a typical Bath residential road with cars parked either side and about 3m of width between. The driver chose to pass the kid at less than 0.5m.

I lost my cool. Stopped the driver, told him in no uncertain terms that that was a dangerous close pass and then called up his company to lodge a complaint.

I later had a call back from the company, where the manager initially apologised and then started to go into a story about how a cyclist up at the top of Wellsway didn’t ride properly across a roundabout. An 11 year old boy was placed in a phenomenally dangerous situation because a professional driver could not wait 10 seconds and his manager tries to use collective responsibility and blame “cyclists”.

W T F?

He did say he would have words with him.

This is where it gets interesting

I suggested that a better solution would be to ensure he gets Bikeability Level 3 training from the council so he understands how bad what he did was. The manager stated that he couldn’t ‘punish’ him that much as bus drivers are quite rare and he would leave to work for somebody else.

All professional drivers must have Bikeability training

The reality is, within a gig economy, we must ensure that the companies that hire these drivers take responsibility for their behaviour. Requiring companies to only be able to hire drivers that have had Bikeability Level 3 training would be a simple step in ensuring the safety of people choosing to cycle to school or work or the shops or just for fun.

I think, particularly taxi and bus companies need to ensure all their drivers have Bikeability training.

Bad driving should require a Bikeability Refresher Course

Let’s be real, there are economic and time pressures on drivers to deliver goods/people as quick as possible. Having to wait for an annoying cyclist can cost them money. However they should realise that the company they work for will put them on Bikeability Training if complaints are received about their driving around vulnerable road users. Evidence of the training should be published.

Driving is what they do

Professional drivers spend their lives on the road and should be held to a high standard. Ideally I’d like to see Bikeability Training as part of passing your driving test, but with a significant number of KSIs related to HGVs, maybe, just maybe, getting those drivers that spend all day on the road trained up as cyclists, we will save lives.

One more thing…

The school drop off at Beechen Cliff has to be seen to be believed and the reality is that closing Chaucer Road at Kipling Avenue to vehicular traffic using bollards would create a quieter, safer residential area and control the speeding traffic that piles along Chaucer on a regular basis. Each resident would still have 3 exits onto Wellsway. A modal filter cell here would have huge benefits to the community and to the safety of children.

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Stands up for cyclists.

Get your free Sheffield cycle stands here!

BATH NEWSEUM

Well, B&NES cannot replace even the missing cycle stands outside the Guildhall but there’s more independent help for cyclists in  a new initiative which – ironically – is funded by the Council.

Cycling charity Life Cycle UK is offering community groups and small businesses in BANES the chance to apply for FREE cycle stands, thanks to funding from BANES Council.

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The charity thinks installing stands will:
“Encourage employees and visitors to travel the healthy way by giving them safe cycle parking.
Increase customer footfall whilst helping to reduce road congestion and pollution.
Landlords can avoid bike-related wear-and-tear by installing the stands outside their properties.
Sheffield stands are sturdy and secure, minimising the risk of tampering and theft.”

Take A Stand® helps organisations with limited resources to install safe cycle parking at their premises. The stands are provided and delivered completely FREE of charge – all you have to do is…

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The problematic philosophy of ‘shared use’ footways

“‘Shared use’ isn’t future-proof.” I think this problem is one that also pervades our the design approaches that architects use. There is an immense amount of shared space going in to some of these new developments and are based on the premise of cycling just being non-issue rather than a key solution to urban transport as is being demonstrated by London, Cambridge and many other UK cities.

As Easy As Riding A Bike

An old post from Joe Dunkley that resurfaced yesterday in the wake of some comments about Christopher Chope – a former transport minister in the Thatcher government and helmet law enthusiast – has prompted me to reflect on some of the intrinsic problems with ‘shared use’ footways.

The history of ‘shared use’ is itself rather murky, as that post from Joe Dunckley explains.

I understand the “cycle tracks” — that is, crappy shared pavements — that [the Thatcher government] introduced in the 1980 Highways Act were not intended to encourage and enable cycling, but to improve road safety by getting cyclists out of harm’s way while the poor things saved up to buy a car of their own.

This is a good explanation of the background assumption behind the Act – namely, an assumption that cycling was an insignificant mode of transport, one that would either remain insignificant, or…

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Removing separation between walking and cycling does not reduce conflict

I’ve been in a working group looking at the new Bath Quays Bridge (a major new transport corridor for Bath), where architects stated, without any hint of irony, that they are designing in shared space so they can use pedestrians to slow down the cyclists. Our group was shocked that this approach to designing public space was acceptable and considered ‘clever’ and reasonable. This idea that you can ‘control’ cyclists by throwing pedestrians at them really needs to die. It creates so many issues.

As Easy As Riding A Bike

The Royal Parks agency in London has a bit of an issue with cycling. The actions it takes – whether it’s adding cobbled speed humps to popular cycling routes in Hyde Park, or attempting to remove a popular cycle route from that same park, or chasing after a cycle taxi service – give the impression of an organisation that views cycling as something a bit… undesirable. For the Royal Parks, cycling is a problem to be managed, rather than an opportunity, and it appears to be actively trying to discourage it.

What’s even more unfortunate is that the policies the Royal Parks are implementing to manage this ‘problem’ are actually making the Parks worse for everyone, whether they are cycling or not.

A sensible strategy for managing cycling on the existing routes in Hyde Park would be to separate walking and cycling from each other, and to give…

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What if we’d never built pavements?

Wholly and totally copied word for word from this blog post but illustrates, I think, the level of persuasion we need, as cycle campaigners, to somehow justify good cycle infrastructure that just seems common sense in places like the Netherlands (and even Cambridge).

Let the craziness begin:

Pedestrians have to walk on the road, and are expected to follow the appropriate rules and laws.

Hardy joggers and runners regularly take to the roads to get exercise, and have developed good stamina for keeping up with traffic. They know how to run and walk around lorries and fast cars. Many of them wear helmets and hi-visibility outfits.

Despite this, many pedestrians are killed or injured as they walk or run.

Walking and running are largely regarded as sports. Certainly, the main group of people who regularly walk or run are sports people out in training, or keeping fit.

But a small number of people take to the roads just to get to the shops, or even just for fun. They walk, rather than run, and are seen as a complete hazard on the roads by most drivers. They don’t always wear hi-visibility outfits, and some don’t even wear helmets.

There are calls for pedestrians to be better regulated. Most road users have to have insurance and a licence to use the road. But pedestrians can just take to the road without any training or insurance. Accidents involving pedestrians often cost drivers a fair amount, and many question why pedestrians should get away with this scot-free.

Campaign groups such as “Pedestrians On Parliament” start to spring up, calling for segregated infrastructure for pedestrians. They point out that in the Netherlands they’ve spent decades building “pavements” and people can now walk around safely. People walk to the shops, to work, and just for fun. Many even walk home from the pub!

But many drivers are shocked by this. They complain that there are already pedestrians who don’t wear helmets or indicate correctly when walking or running. Allowing them to get drunk and then walk would be crazy, they insist. Until they can learn to behave better on the road, why should “pavements” be built for them?

And many of the more experienced road runners also object to these ideas. They point out that as long as you train hard enough and keep alert, traffic isn’t that dangerous for pedestrians.

This division amongst the pedestrian activists allows most councils to ignore these calls for better pedestrian infrastructure. They do sometimes build small sections, merging back into the road sometimes, and these aren’t well used. People who can already run in traffic ignore these sections, and people who don’t want to run in traffic don’t use them because of the on-road parts…

 

The makings of a successful cycle street

Cycle streets/filtered streets/modal filtering are key to achieving more liveable environments. The counterargument is that you are making people drive further creating more pollution, but the reality, as shown by Walthomstow Mini-Holland scheme which boils down to 14 filtered streets is 10,000 less car journeys a day and a modal shift to walking and cycling.

It’s key to realise that in many cases it really is simply a couple of planters and a Dead End Sign or two. They can also be really quickly and cheaply implemented using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders and trialed between 1-18months.

More expensive rising bollard systems can also be used where more flexible access is needed, for example commercial vehicle access is needed at certain times of day. The city of Nijmegen in effect created a car free zone in the city centre using ‘cycle streets’ https://vimeo.com/225412908#t=220s

You are simply stating, if you are here in your car, on this street, you are here because this is your destination not just a convenient rat run.

I’m really surprised many of councils are just picking up on this.

As Easy As Riding A Bike

The ‘cycle street’ concept is a familiar one to cycle campaigners – a street where, it is claimed, cycling has priority, and ‘cars are guests’, sometimes with added rules about ‘no overtaking’.

I think it’s easy for British campaigners to get excited about ‘cycle streets’ primarily because the concept corresponds largely to existing cycling behaviour on busy British roads. Wouldn’t it be great – they might think – to cycle along this road without drivers attempting to overtake, and with those drivers knowing that they are ‘guests’ on it.

But the most successful ‘cycle streets’ don’t have any of these kinds of rules. The key ingredient is simply ensuring that the street in question isn’t a through-route for motor traffic. Markings, rules and signs are largely superfluous – indeed unnecessary – when this key condition is met. In fact they often aren’t even ‘cycle streets’ in any formal sense.

This…

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Fighting over scraps

I swear two of those pictures used in this article are from Bath which really isn’t saying much for Bath. We really need to change the conversation around road design. If we want healthy, efficient, safe urban streets, we must treat walking, cycling, and driving with equal importance and provide separate space for each with no one mode getting priority. Sharing really is bad.

As Easy As Riding A Bike

This week, it’s evidently the turn of ‘the joggists’ to be the folk devil in the media, helpfully standing in for ‘the cyclists’ who traditionally take on this popular and coveted role.

One isolated incident, in which a man committed what appears to be an unnecessary and unprovoked assault, has proven fertile territory for journalists and opinion columnists to veer off into stereotypes and ludicrous commentary, in much the same way they do following an incident involving someone on a bike. (It’s perhaps no surprise that it’s some familiar faces making precisely same kinds of arguments).

There was rich competition for the most absurd take, but a strong contender surely has to be Sky’s Adam Boulton, who weighed in with this gem –

With an inevitable dig at cyclists

Closely followed by Julie Bindel, who, on Radio 4’s Today Programme, implied that jogging on pavements in cities should be banned…

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The knock on effect of just making infrastructure for cars – the Marksbury A39 example

Myself and some of the people in the Timsbury Cycle Group has been writing to BANES and various parish councillors – Timsbury, Corston, Marksbury, and Compton Dando to try and get some help for vunerable road users for the works that will affect the Marksbury dual carriageway.

Adam asked me to write a piece about it so here goes.

Hopefully many of you have experienced ridden the A39 Marksbury dual carrisgeway in rush hour. Its pretty horrible, however it is the most direct route to get from Marksbury to Keynsham. Many cyclists who commute to Keynsham and Bristol ride through Marksbury, then have to brave the dual carriageway for about half a mile to then turn off to Keynsham.

The dual carriageway is a 70 mph speed limit, so you often have a speed differential of 50mph+ between bicycles and cars/vans/lorries. If someone decides to punish pass you. It is utterly terrifying.

Should a driver be distracted by their mobile phone and not see a cyclist, I don’t think it will end well for the cyclist.

At peak rush hour however, this dual carriageway grinds to a halt, and often a bicycle is the fastest way to proceed along it.

BANES is proposing to adjust the junction at the Two-headed man, to include two lanes. I quote “peak time queues will be substantially reduced. Cutting the queues will speed up journey times, reduce emissions and alleviate pressure on minor roads which currently experience rat running.”

http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/parking-and-travel/transport-plans-and-policies/a39-junction-improvements

Over the years I have written to BANES, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Timsbury Councillors about how I have been seeing more and more cyclists using the dual carriageway. I’ve seen children cycling down it.

I thought with the plans for this junction and how it will speed up journey times, the council would surely have considered the knock-on effect on vulnerable road users. I wrote to them again. I was wrong.

BANES keep telling me its “out of scope”. Even though changing the junction will affect the speed of traffic, and turning the road into two lanes will surely mean more danger and the continued difference in speed between bicycles and vehicles.

Anyway, myself and other Timsbury cycle group members and also Somer Valley CC have been writing to as many councillors as we can think of to get at least some kind of safety consideration for vulnerable road users along that stretch. We’ve written to BANES, Marksbury, Compton Dando and Timsbury councillors, plus a councillor in the Chew Valley Area who rides the junction each day.

Ideally there would be money for putting the dual carriageway on a road diet. There are several hundred metres of unused pavement that could be slightly widened and made dual use.

The huge central reservation could be slimmed down to make the road usable for cars and bicycles to be separated completely.

We’ve been told again. There is no money. And the dual carriageway is “out of scope”.

So, it feels like we are clutching at straws. I’ve asked for at least some signage telling drivers to watch out for cyclists and to share the lane. I don’t think we will get any, even though the junction is costing £500,000 to alter. They won’t even pay for signs. It is quite depressing to be faced with such an attitude, especially as the councils of Bristol and South Gloucester have a much more cycle-friendly approach.

I just hope I am wrong and nobody gets seriously injured or killed along that stretch.