Category Archives: infrastructure

Bypassing traffic lights using off road cycle tracks

On my commute to work I very rarely stop for traffic lights, even when they are red I normally just cycle straight on past the queues of cars waiting at the stop line. I do this all perfectly legally and safely without breaking any rules.

How can I do this? Because I cycle on an off road cycle path where these traffic lights do not apply.

This cyclist doesn't need to worry about sitting in the queue of cars at the red light

This cyclist doesn’t need to worry about sitting in the queue of cars at the red light, he’s using the shared use path at the side of the road

The traffic lights on Penistone Road in Sheffield do not apply to cyclists using the off road cycle path. There are 18 sets of traffic lights that I miss by choosing to cycle along this 1.5km stretch of Penistone road. Even if the lights are red I can pass them safely and am simply permitted to bypass them on the cycle path because the lights that apply to the adjacent road do not apply to the cycle path.

This is a big big advantage that cyclists have over other vehicles, my journey is quicker, I don’t need to start and stop which makes cycling less strenuous, and I make excellent progress along this road.

Don't want to wait at the lights like the cars? Just use the two way cycle track and sail past.

Don’t want to wait at the lights like the cars? Just use the two way cycle track and sail past.

Lots has been said about cyclists being allowed to turn left on red lights, I do not support this because I think it will encourage cyclists to move up the inside of left turning traffic. However if cyclists are provided with dedicated off road facilities (as I use every day) then left turns and some straights simply do not need to be controlled by lights, cyclists are simply given a path through the junction without ever encountering a stop line.

There are (almost) 5 sets of traffic lights controlling the road in this photo. A person using the cycle track checks that it's safe to cross the side road and just goes.

There are (almost) 5 sets of traffic lights controlling the road in this photo. A person using the cycle track checks that it’s safe to cross the side road and just goes.
This convenience could be improved by providing cyclists with priority over other traffic when crossing the side road.

The concept of bypassing taffic lights is discussed as applied in The Netherlands by Mark Wagenbuur in this blog post

I’m glad that Sheffield City Council decided to ignore their policy of designing roads for confident cyclists only for Penistone Road because I use this cycle path every day, it feels safe and there are  only two points where I sometimes need to wait.

Main roads in Sheffield – for confident cyclists only

P1050814.resizedI attended the Sheffield City Council Highways Cabinet Committee meeting earlier in the week and asked a question about a new preliminary junction design in Broomhill. A pedestrian crossing with a mid island is being introduced along with a new slip road to allow left turns.

Broomhill preliminary junction design - approved without any consideration being given to people on bicycles

Broomhill preliminary junction design – approved without any consideration being given to people on bicycles

“How have the needs of people riding bicycles been taken into consideration when evaluating the preliminary design options? I can find no discussion on this in the report”

The answer was very long winded and didn’t answer my question directly, so I replied

“So you haven’t given any consideration to cyclists at this stage?”

“No” was the answer.

A local councillor suggested that the council should place signs advising of alternative routes on quieter roads. Dick Proctor, Transport Planning Manager at Sheffield Council agreed and added that,

“We (Sheffield City Council) design main roads for confident cyclists only”

Others have long argued that this strategy will not encourage people to use bikes and I strongly agree. David Arditti wrote about this in his blog Vole O’Speed recently in relation to the London Cycling Network, I shall quote him.

But there were no answers to the simple observation that the minor roads are minor because, in general, they are not the most useful through-routes to anywhere that people need to go. Cycle route planning does need to start from the recognition that cyclists, or, should I say, people on bikes, are normal human beings who need to do the same things that everybody else needs to do: go to the same shops, schools, offices, stations, that are all linked, most usably and efficiently, by the main roads. Forcing an invariable, inevitable compromise between directness (and priority) and safety was never going to be a route to success. As I have said before, fundamentally, cyclists no more belong on the minor roads than do motor vehicles or pedestrains, and successful route planning in both the Netherlands and Denmark, to my knowledge, has been based on the procedure of looking first at where cyclists go already, and then providing safe infrastructure for them in those places: quite the reverse of the LCN approach.

It doesn’t look like this junction will be made safe for cyclists any time soon, Dick Proctor thinks there is no need because only confident cyclists will use it. This is the reason 1.9% of people’s journeys to work are by bicycle in Sheffield 🙁

The preliminary design was approved at the meeting.

No need for cycle infrastructure - it's a main road only confident cyclists will use it

No need for cycle infrastructure – it’s a main road only confident cyclists will use it (this is not the junction in Broomhill but another one in the centre of Sheffield)

Cycle City Ambition Grants

dft-logo-portraitEarlier in 2013 Norman Baker, the Transport Minister, announced the £30 million Cycle City Ambition Grant. On the 15th February guidance on applications was published for the 28 cities eligible to apply.

The guidance document is an amazing publication and I believe it should be a model for how transport funding is allocated. In the introduction along the report states that across OECD members there are “ambitions for cycling are growing to move cycling to the mainstream offering it as a realistic choice for quick, reliable and convenient short journeys within cities”. It supports the idea that we are “facing declining levels of physical activity together with a range of public health impacts” and that these are “influenced in part by car dependency and sedentary lifestyles” and that  there is “a significant opportunity to improve integration of transport and health”.

It identifies that “mainstreaming cycling and walking offers a cost effective way to relieve congestion and improve the quality of life within the city”.

These are big statements and idea’s that I fully support however they are not backed up by the levels of investment required. There are 28 cities eligible for funding however there will be a maximum of 3 Cycle City Ambition Grants awarded, the DfT expect to “provide funding to successful applicants of the equivalent of around £10 per head of population over 2 years”, they also “expect a commitment to longer-term support from the cities themselves”. The Netherlands is recognised as one of the world leaders in cycling, the Dutch are estimated to spend £30-£40 per head on an ongoing annual basis. The Cycle City Ambition Grants will provide £10 per head for 3 cities for 2 years, the Dutch spend £30 per head in all places every year and has done for a long time.

The list of benefits of cycling given in the document is impressive, it outlines the case for investing in cycling really well.

The Government sees more and safer cycling strategies as important tools for cities to unlock a range of cross cutting economic and social benefits that enable growth. These include:
a.Unlocking capacity on road and public transport networks through large scale shifts to more active commuting patterns.
b.Better linked communities enabling more choice for getting around within and between neighbourhoods.
c.Higher productivity through improved fitness and consequently reduced absenteeism and better workforce performance
d.Improved public realm capable of attracting high value business
e.Direct savings to NHS through better health
f.Better access to jobs for disadvantaged groups
g.Revitalising streets through encouraging more spending on high value services and retail through improved access by foot or bike
h.Magnifying within city agglomeration benefits
i.Creation of new social enterprises and businesses to create new services in support for more cycling

It is very clear from the guidance that any new cycle infrastructure must be “fit for purpose and designed to a high standard as set out in the Cycle Infrastructure Design Guidance” and a link is given to LTN2-08. This is excellent, all too frequently local authorities install sub standard cycle infrastructure pointing out that LTN2-08 is just guidance (even though LTN2-08 really is the bare minimum we should be aiming for). This clear advise that this investment in cycle infrastructure needs to adhere to best practice.

The guidance points to the Manual for Streets publications and draws particular attention to the hierarchy of users. I like this!

Hierarchy of users - Manual for Streets

Hierarchy of users – Manual for Streets

So, will my home city of Sheffield be applying for this funding? I’m not so sure. At a recent Fair Deal For Sheffield event I spoke to Leigh Bramall who is Chair of the Highways Commitee at Sheffield City Council. We spoke about the various grants available to local authorities for cycling, he put forward the idea that Sheffield City Council were cutting jobs in the Highways department and that they wouldn’t be able to provide project support for large cycling infrastructure projects with current/future levels of staffing. In response I’d like to suggest that they allocate resources in line with the Hierarchy of Users diagram in the manual for streets with pedestrian and cyclist projects taking priority over all others.

I look forward to reading the proposals from the cities for this funding.

For further discussion, Cambridge Cycling Campaign have discussed this in detail here http://www.camcycle.org.uk/blog/2013/02/23/city-deals-cycle-city-ambition-grants/

New A57 Dual Carriageway – Cyclist facilities and provision

The A57 between Sheffield and Worksop is one of those roads you dread to come across as a cyclist. It is a very busy single carriageway road with very little room for vehicles to overtake.

There is a scheme currently being constructed to make this road a dual carriageway, a couple of the ojectives in the planning statement are:

  • Promote and improve safety for all road users
  • Improved facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians

I’m interested in this as a cyclist, so what are the improved facilities for cyclists and how will safety be improved?

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Gritting/clearing of icy cycle paths – The twitter perspective

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For the past week I’ve not been cycling to work, I’ve been using the tram. I cycled in on Monday but the cycle path alongside the dual carriageway was icy so I used the road. It wasn’t much fun. Many cycle paths in Sheffield are still not cleared/gritted, even the ones adjacent to trunk roads. The cycle path is still covered in ice.

How about the rest of the country? Here are some perspectives from Twitter.

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The police try to justify parking on mandatory contraflow lanes

I’ve just had a talking to by a police officer for taking photo’s of a police van parked in the contraflow cycle lane on Castle Street.

He wasn’t too keen on me doing this, he said that I was very conspicuous and perhaps putting myself in danger, he understood that I was there because of the taxis. I was stood outside the police station, scoping out current behavior, not taking photos, there are still plenty of taxis parking illegally, I saw 4 in a 15 minute window, I started taking photos when the police van turned up. He said that the police have to park in this location to drop officers off at the station, I asked about their car park, he said that the vehicles could not fit because of low clearance.

I said that cyclists had been given assurances at Council Meetings by police representatives that they understood it was dangerous and a hazard for cyclists if vehicles were parked in the contraflow lane.

He said that the city centre was busy and if they had to park in normal spaces they’d never be able to get anything done.

This police officer was trying to justify the parking in this location… We have a long way to go in making Sheffield a good place to cycle if this is the attitude shown by South Yorkshire Police 🙁

Pictures/conversation at 12:28 today.

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A commitment to cycle audits in Sheffield

In Sheffield we’ve seen a number of transport schemes that have not adequately taken cyclists requirements into account. The council conduct Road Safety Audits on most highway schemes but these do not have a specific section where cyclists needs are considered.

Sheffield Council have committed in many places over the years to conducting cycle audits for highways projects however this has never been implemented and none have ever been done.

The DFT have published guidance on how to integrate cycle audits into the normal RSA process (already in use in Sheffield), and I beleive Sheffield council should use this guidance.

So, my question to the council. When will you implement cycle audits for all highways improvement schemes as promised?

Council 4th April 2007, the following motion passed:

(ix)    requiring all transport schemes over £50,000 in value to undergo a Cycle Audit to ensure the needs of cycle users are considered;

Sheffield Cycling Action Plan July 2006:

Action Point 10: All transport schemes over £50,000 in value will undergo a Cycle Audit to ensure that the needs of cycle users are considered.

South Yorkshire Cycle Action Plan April 2011:

 

6.22 … In addition, we will undertake a cycle audit of all highways improvement schemes to ensure they improve the safety and convenience of cycling.

The standard of brand new cycling infrastructure in Sheffield

2013-01-06 11.16.25

Sheffield City Council has in the past given cyclists assurances that they will design new infrastructure for cycling in line with best advice.

At a full council meeting on 4th April 2007 the following motion was passed.

x) requiring the design of cycle routes and facilities to be in accordance with advice and recommendations contained within the Draft Local Transport Plan.

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UK Investment In Local Sustainable Transport – The vision (or lack of!)

A few years ago the Department For Transport announced £600 million investment for the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, the LSTF.

The biggest funding source for local transport authorities for Sustainable Transport is the LSTF, the fund was designed to pay for projects from 2011 to 2015, there are 96 projects across England. What did the Department for Transport hope to achieve with this? They set out their vision for ideas in this helpful illustration. The suggestions for cycle infrastructure don’t give me any confidence that the LSTF will have much of an impact on cycling.

LSTF Packages DFT

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Cycle Training – The best solution for bad infrastructure

Paul Blomfield

Paul Blomfield

Paul Blomfield, a local Sheffield MP, has recently written an article for the Yorkshire Post entitled “Tour fires starting gun for a cycling revolution”, a reference to the news that the Tour De France will be vising Yorkshire in 2014 for the Grand Depart.

This is excellent news and seems to have been well received, I’m really hopeful that the tour coming back to England, along with all the recent positive (and negative) press cycling has been getting will help to increase the number of people using bicycles.

Paul says that cycling has seen huge growth in Sheffield over the past decade and that a long term aim should be that cycling should be considered for all new road schemes, a view that I strongly support and have previously stated here.

Blocked - The taxi drivers use the cycle lane as an extension of the taxi rank

Blocked – The taxi drivers use the cycle lane as an extension of the taxi rank

Unfortunately it seems that some new schemes in Sheffield still include dangerous cycle facilities. Sheffield City Council needs to do more to protect the existing cycle infrastructure from abuse, even from the organisations we expect to be protecting it.

The real crux of Paul’s article is that the government should start investing in cycle training schemes. He states that cycle training helps cyclists to be safe and confident on the roads, that cyclists don’t need to stick to the edge of the road and that using the road in a confident and assertive manner will help to keep you safe.

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