Friday, 24 July 2015

Command And Control

The London Cycling Campaign is running it's "end lorry danger" campaign which has three threads. Two I think are excellent and one, I think, is flawed.

As a member of LCC and a firm supporter of the #Space4Cycling campaign, I am definitely not here to bash them, but to perhaps encourage some wider thought and discussion. I do need to say that we are discussing an area where people are being killed and injured and so I understand the emotion, I just need to keep a little distance in what I write. So, the two threads of the campaign that I am happy with are;

Direct vision lorries - this essentially retrofitting, or prescribing through regulation, arrangements whereby lorry drivers can see what is going on next to them - think bus passenger doors, rather than normal lorry doors. This complements LCC's other idea for lorries cabs lower to the ground so the drivers have much better vision.

Stronger enforcement - this calls for a crack down on rogue operators, unlicenced and untrained drivers. Apart from dealing with these people, it means that responsible and professional operators aren't undercut by the cowboys. So far so good.

The other thread is a call for lorries over 7.5 tonnes to be banned between 8am and 9.30am on the basis that 40% of cycling fatalities occur during the morning peak and this would prevent the majority of people who cycle to work from sharing space with lorries (I assume a weekday ban).

The entirely selfish angle to my objection to the idea is that I am usually sitting at my desk by 8am, or at least making the tea. This idea would increase the risk to me on my cycle commute within which I do have to share the road with lorries. 

As it happens, in my corner of Outer-London, I have to mix with far more buses on my commute than I do lorries over 7.5 tonnes (and bus drivers are not always saints, even with direct vision to the nearside) and even more vans which are often driven poorly. Part of my commute is on a cycle track which isn't fantastic, but unless lorry drivers are going to all of a sudden bounce up and drive along it, means that I feel and am pretty safe. A lorry ban would make no difference to me on the cycle track (other than losing some fumes, but the cars pump out the most.

Mixing with lorries is no fun, but nor is mixing with
rush hour traffic generally
My commute is a snapshot and pure anecdote, but where the danger has been removed from "my" world (i.e., I have a cycle track), then I am safe. When I set off from home, the first 100 metres or so before I get to the track is on a pretty quiet street where lorries tend to be a refuse truck once a week and the odd delivery truck. 

My street has a 7.5 tonne weight limit (although there is little point for lorries to use it) and so this part of my journey is safe. I put up with the section which is on-road. While it doesn't feel "dangerous", the majority of other people I see cycling are on the footway which probably feels dangerous to those walking. My point is that the infrastructure is key.

An old "exempt vehicle" plate from the LLCS, which
was called LBTS at one point. From my shed!
The other issue I have with the idea is one of practicality and here is a bit of a history lesson. London has had its "Lorry Control Scheme" (LLCS) which the Greater London Council brought into force in 1985 using "The Greater London (Restriction of Goods Vehicles) Traffic Order 1985" which has been amended over the years and now managed by London Councils, it is a real geeky piece of London traffic history. Of course, it is controversial as it restricts lorry movements on most London roads at night and the weekends with the Freight Transport Association being particularly upset. Actually, it has been controversial for years, here is a report in the Guardian from 1994 from the dark years of fragmentation of transport in London. For everyone else, the scheme offers some respite to the noise of heavy traffic at night.

The LLCS is in force across the whole of London, including The City and parts of the TfL network, although only 29 boroughs are in the scheme - the LLCS website says "29 of the boroughs allow London Councils to enforce on their roads". Don't be fooled, this is a euphemism for the 3 boroughs who have withdrawn from the scheme to save paying annual fees to London Councils. The Order remains in force in these boroughs, it is just not enforced.

This trunk road is on the ERN. There is a cycle track
to the left, although some cycle on the road because it
is doesn't give way to side roads, there are no
pedestrians in the way and the surface is better.
Are the lorries the threat here or the traffic generally?
The LLCS bans vehicles of 18 tonnes and over from most streets in London overnight between 9pm and 7am during the week, with Saturday between 7am and 1pm unrestricted and Sunday restricted all day. Permit holders are excluded (for those who have a proper reason for travel at those times and have written prior permission which is essentially the permit). Those caught in the restricted times are fined, although there is only a small team of enforcement officers.

There is what is known as the Excluded Route Network (ERN) which comprises of major routes such as the big London Trunk roads (A12, A13, A1, A4 etc, but not into the core area) plus the North and South Circulars. In other words, freight can move through London (although not the centre) and can at least be on the road before the restricted time ends.

The sign on the left is the LLCS sign,
these are all over London just off the ERN.
The sign on the right is a local 7.5 tonne
weight limit.
So perhaps the proposed ban could be tacked onto the LLCS? Perhaps, the ERN comprises of roads which most people wouldn't dream of using anyway and so the ERN could apply as it does now. The LLCS has a hell of a lot of traffic signs - every side road off the ERN has them and they are huge and complicated now, plus many side roads have local 7.5 tonne weight limits now, so how is this going to work exactly? Perhaps a new sign is needed?

We also need to remember that 3 boroughs have jumped ship already because of costs and as the cuts continue to bite, how many more will also jump? How many are needed to keep the scheme viable? I suppose TfL could take over from London Council's, but this will probably need another piece of legislation to make the transfer.

The other problem is that the LLCS does have the ERN and so if the campaign is that all lorries over 7.5 tonne are banned between 8am and 9.30am, then the ERN still lets them in and so I doubt piggy backing on it will prove to be practical.

From the 1st September, TfL will be commencing its "Safer Lorry Scheme". This essentially creates a zone around London which requires all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes to be fitted with basic safety equipment such as better mirrors and side guards which reduce the risk of cyclists being dragged under wheels. Failure to comply will lead to fines. Have a look at the Traffic Management Order, it is rather complicated!

Current UK rules have many vehicles exempt from the rules and so London is effectively creating a higher requirement for the capital. The scheme has similar to the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) which required better standards of vehicle emissions than the UK at large. Again, failure to comply leads to fines.

The Safer Lorry Scheme essentially covers the same area as the LEZ and it will come as no surprise that the signs for the new scheme are being mounted with those for the LEZ. This involves far fewer signs than the LLCS, although quite a few do coincide with LLCS signs - there are going to be some big signs soon!. There are little gaps in the scheme around the edges of London which give those driving non-compliant vehicles to "escape" back into the Home Counties.

The morning ban could, in theory, piggyback on the Safer Lorry Scheme, although the mind boggles at the signage. A 7.5 tonne weight limit can vary by time of day and day of week and could be the sign on the left, although I think the sign on the right may be more in keeping with the idea.

The Safer Lorry Scheme is a joint effort by TfL, London Councils and Heathrow Airport (yes more historic London traffic reasons there) and it is enforced by the Metropolitan Police, City of London Police and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, so no worries for the boroughs about paying annual fees. In theory, if all agree, the Safer Lorry Scheme could include the morning peak ban and the legislative approach has been tested with the 3.5 tonne scheme.

A reminder of what a 7.5 tonne lorry looks like.
So, it brings me back to the practicality question. My industry is responsible for running a lot of lorries. Sadly, they are over-represented in collisions which kill pedestrians and cyclists (actually more pedestrians that cyclists). They are engaged all over London on construction sites doing all sorts of jobs and driving a lorry is hard work. The usual 8-wheeler lorry which is shifting muck or bringing in materials is rated at 32 tonnes. Many utilities run grab lorries which are pretty similar too - like any city, London needs its utilities to run. Of course, there is also all of the lorries of all different sizes delivering to shops, there are the firms who deliver TVs and sofas - the first drop is easily at 8am.

It is also worth touching on the planning system. It is pretty routine to impose conditions on developments to control the hours of work on site for the amenity of neighbours. A condition could read like this;

All building operations in connection with the construction of external walls, roof, and foundations; site excavation or other external site works; works involving the use of plant or machinery; the erection of scaffolding; the delivery of materials; the removal of materials and spoil from the site, and the playing of amplified music shall only take place between the hours of 8.00am and 6.00pm Monday to Friday, and between 8.00am and 1.00pm on Saturdays and not at all on Sundays and Bank Holidays/Public Holidays

The implication could be that lorries need to get to site before 8am (when the proposed ban would start), but after 7am when the LLCS overnight ban ends - a one hour slot to get lorries into site, concentrating movements. Alternatively, deliveries have to wait until after 9.30am, again creating a peak. These times are pretty common in this type of condition and don't forget, the highway restrictions trump planning conditions.

There will have to be exemptions for local authority vehicles and utilities who often need to react to emergencies or repairs to maintain services. Perhaps the Royal Mail would need an exemption for its lorries and of course, what about other mail companies? You can see the requests for exemptions!

Let's look at a supermarket as again, planning conditions often control deliver times;

No deliveries or servicing shall take place other than between the hours of 07:00 and 22:00 on Monday to Saturday and 08:00 and 22:00 on Sundays and Public Holidays without the prior consent in writing of the Local Planning Authority. 

Again, the same issues as for construction.

This proposed ban will do several things in my view;

  • Potentially create busier HGV periods before and after the ban which can potentially create additional risk to those walking and cycling outside of the banned period,
  • Put more pressure on lorry drivers trying to "beat the ban",
  • Lead to "stacking" of lorries outside of the ban boundary,
  • Create the potential (or at least pressure) for legislation to annul or amend (in a blanket way) local planning restrictions on construction and retail deliveries, so that life can continue outside of the lorry ban period,
  • Take focus away from safer lorry design,
  • Take focus away from changing our streets.
So, what would I do in reaction to the issue of people walking and cycling being killed by lorries, especially construction vehicles? Well, the Safer Lorry Scheme seems ripe for development and manipulation. In the same way the LEZ can be tightened with time. we could add all sorts of requirements in a planned and timetabled way to allow operators to catch up;
  • Physical changes to vehicles such as cameras, sensors, mirrors etc,
  • Leading from this, setting dates for the requirement of direction vision cabs for lorries operating in London,
  • Softer measures such as requiring registration of operators wishing to enter into London with registration forming the basis of regulation by training and inspection of operator procedures to a standard (FORS for example),
There are other things which could be done which are carrot rather than stick, such as working with businesses to create consolidation hubs to reduce the number of lorries delivering in the first place such as the Regent Street scheme which ran before the 2012 Olympics. We could have the boroughs collaborating to set up core, preferred lorry routes, so that where possible, certain routes have to be followed. Roads investment could then be aimed at these corridors to redesign the roads and junctions to make them safe for walking and cycling.

For me, the key principle has to be stopping the need for people and heavy machinery mixing and as I have explained, even with the peak time ban, there is still plenty of heavy machinery operating - being hit by a 3.5 tonne van and a 40 tonne lorry is not going to end well in either case. I understand the sentiment behind the campaign and I understand the urgency, but I think it is a red herring and one which could create safety risks for people travelling outside of 8am to 9.30am.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A Walk On The Wild Side

We are lucky in London, even if we don't know we are. I am talking about the often maligned Transport for London, which when not upsetting people by doing/ not doing something, undertakes an awful lot of research and data gathering.

Personally, London is better for having TfL trying to think strategically across the city and it is heartening to see other parts of the UK trying to go the same way. Perhaps if we could dismantle the borough structure and abolish The City, we might get somewhere (at least with cycling!). OK, I am digressing and being flippant again, this is a walking post! 

I was at CIHT HQ this week for a meeting of its "Walking and the Needs of Pedestrians Group" (the Walking Group for short) onto which I have been recently co-opted, where we received a presentation from the excellent Bruce McVean, who is working on updating TfL's walking strategy (which is for another day). He was giving us some background information from TfL's "Travel in London - Report 7, 2014" which looks at data for 2013/14.

One thing which struck me from the presentation was this map for the average time London residents spend walking each day. I don't think there is a single reason, but I don't think it is surprising that people in Outer-London are walking less than in Inner-London.

The core boroughs are compact and geographically, easy to walk around. It makes me smile to see that in pro-car Westminster more time is spent walking than in the supposed pedestrian-friendly Hackney. There is also the suggestion that with Inner-London, more people use public transport which itself is associated as being used by people who are more active as well. Of course, those walking in Outer-London could commuters traveling to their local station which would distort the averages against local walking as single-mode trip. 

Unlike cycling, walking generally has well-developed and mature networks, so lack of infrastructure is not a limiting factor. Of course, the quality of the infrastructure must play a big part in terms of the level of maintenance, safety (personal and threat from traffic) and opportunities to safety cross big roads. In Outer-London, there are many arterial roads and railways with limited crossing points which creates severance (as diversions are too far) and many town centres remain in thrall to motor traffic provision. There are also demographic considerations, Outer-London generally has an older population, especially in the suburbs which also have services provided in a low density way as the with the housing.

There is also a map for percentage of trips undertaken within the borough of residence. In Outer-London, it does perhaps reinforce the point that people may be commuters walking to the station! Newham does amazingly well for some reason, but Inner-London generally has less intra-borough walking trips which is suggested to be a consequence of good transport connections and smaller areas making trips outside of borough boundaries easier.

So how can we enable more people to walk further and walk more? I think we should start with our town centres and shopping parades - the areas councils fall over themselves trying to cram parking into, often cheaply and increasingly with free periods. Economically, pedestrians spend the most over time which is something which is always missed by businesses who have no idea who spends what and how they travel, but campaign for free parking. We also have councils who listen to the businesses and drivers who make the most noise and as usual, he car is seen as economic activity. Don't take my word for it, Living Streets has put the case far better than I ever could in this summary or full report

Of course, we also have the car-centric government pushing parking as a solution to the fall of the high street. This week's mouthpiece is so called High Streets Minister, Marcus Jones, who was reported to have suggested "that small town centres could become “parking meter-free zones” in an effort to save shops from closure". I think we need to start with these places because if they fail, there will be less reason to walk locally. Is your local town centre or shopping parade well maintained, or falling apart? Is is quiet and pleasant to walk around, or is it rammed full of through traffic going somewhere else? Would you happily sit on a bench watching the world go by, or have the benches been removed?

We also need to concentrate on the areas around our schools because walking is a habit to be learnt from a young age and covers so many areas such as independent travel, health and even just being sociable. All too often children walking to school have to run the gauntlet of other children being driven so that roads are hard to cross and footways are clogged with parked vehicles.

For our short trips of around a mile (about 20 minutes), walking has got to be the mode to prioritise and our politicians need to start waking up to it. When the free parking experiments at shops come and the shops go, when children no longer walk to school because it is not safe, where will we be? 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Liveable Leicester Part 2 : Kerb Crawling & The Small Stuff

In last week's post, I reported on some of the bigger projects we saw during our first day riding around Leicester as part of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain's AGM and Infrastructure summit. This week, I will look at some of the smaller (but no less important) things we saw, with a round up of thoughts at the end.

Our second day saw more relaxed riding with more stopping to discuss what we have seen. Starting at the Secular Hall again, in Humberstone Gate we headed west towards the city core. At this point, I will mention Humberstone Gate as it is pretty hostile to cycling being bus-central and the right hand side advisory cycle lane was not much fun to get into in order to proceed ahead into the core.

Typical Medieval street layout. No space at all for cycling here.

The city centre (which is apparently the largest pedestrianised area in the UK) allows cycling pretty much throughout, and it allows loading in the morning so that shops and businesses can be serviced (or by cycle any time!) In some locations, access is by rising bollards. There are also areas which allow more general motor vehicle access, but they don't go anywhere and so one cannot gain any advantage driving through the core.

The access arrangements for vehicles generally follow one-way loops, with cycles allowed in both directions. In short, one can cycle mostly anywhere and in any direction. It is lovely being able to cycle through the core and cycle parking is provided everywhere so highly convenient for activities and city visits.

One issue which has been the subject of debate is the impact large number of people cycling can have on pedestrians, especially those with visual impairment. In other words, some of the (valid in my view) arguments against sharing space* are presented as some people can feel intimidated. The routes we followed tended to be arterial to the centre rather than radial skirting the centre and there is merit in the suggestion that access to the centre is desirable as well as decent routes skirting the centre for people not stopping. The same argument for motorised traffic.

Personally, I liked the layout of Market Street which used parallel (but flush) channel blocks to mark out a "road" which was easy to cycle along. As with many towns and cities, there were too many adverting boards and many of the cafes along the street had their tables and chairs too far out. We were looking at Market Street reasonably early on a Sunday and so one can guess that it would soon fill up with pedestrians, making it less suitable as a through route for cycles.

Some of the older areas of the city had various little bypasses and contraflow cycle lanes (which in places had been curiously paved to give a bit of visual priority). For cycling (and walking), the places felt less comfortable compared to the newer stuff because there were more vehicles around (many taxis). And we saw one feature which could be tidied up, mirrored over all arms of a junction and called "simultaneous green" (sort of!). Here are some photos;

Gallowtree Gate approaching Granby Street. The paving guides
people riding cycles towards a signalised junction which has hybrid
Toucan/ cycle signal.

Granby Street opposite, has a contraflow cycle lane which is
entered via a short cycle track. To cross, a green signal will appear
on the Toucan display to the left.

There is a pedestrian crossing (under signal) just out of shot on the
right which runs when traffic leaves Granby Street turning right.
You must made sure you are looking at the left signal and not the right!

The flush kerbs and paved contraflow cycle lane on Granby Street.

It all runs out of steam at the dual carriageway ahead.

Belvoir Street, with Market Street on the left. You can't use the left
turn bypass here until the signal goes green because of conflict
with pedestrians on the crossing.

But, on turning the corner, there is a bypass to give a floating
crossing area with the signalised crossing on the approaching road.
All very confusing and a bit old, but could be tidied up to give the
concept of the simultaneous green when applied to multiple junction arms.

OK, it's no pocket park, but people are raving about this at the
moment - sorry guys, Leicester was there first.
Outside of the core, we visited a neighbourhood to the southeast of the city which had been subjected to a series of road closures (to motor traffic) around 20 years ago apparently to push out kerb crawling (not our kind, the other kind). What has actually been created from the grid of streets as a layout which one can walk and cycle around in safety, while maintaining access and parking for residents. It was wonderful to move around (although a bit tatty in places) and shows how traffic can be tamed on an area-wide basis without resorting to traffic calming (which still permits the rat-running). Here are some photos;

Contraflow cycle access (no the "except cycles" is not needed).

The kerb should be flush, but little impact on parking spaces.

From the other side.

Checking the centre to centre measurements (1.35m in this case)
This one is too narrow, should be about 1.7m.

Trees planted 20 years ago make a nice little space.
(they may even be a little big).

A series of closures making a series of no through roads for motor
traffic. This photo shows how areas to turn service vehicles
around have been left.

OK, a little narrow, but kerbs used to prevent motors,
rather than bollards.

So, there you have it. We had the opportunity to see all sorts of road and street layouts in Leicester, some good, some bad, and yes, some ugly! In one of the discussion sessions, we talked a little about the Dutch concept of "Sustainable Safety" and more specifically, we looked at single-function roads. That is;

  • Access roads - access to homes, schools, shops & businesses,
  • Distributor roads - taking traffic locally from through roads to access roads,
  • Through roads - carrying large volumes of traffic between centres of population
Leicester certainly has plenty examples of access roads with modal filters in the city core and some of the residential areas to give access, but no specific cycling infrastructure. There are also distributor roads (such as the ring road) where it is recognised that protecting cycling infrastructure is required as would be the case across the North Sea. 

This has certainly got me thinking on the application in the UK as we seem to try and make everything work in the one street (like Leicester's Golden Mile I mentioned last week). Often, "shared space" rears its head in situations like this, rather than unpicking and simplifying streets from a network perspective. Leicester has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go, but the city does show what can be done with political support and drive at the highest level. Oh, and it is a great place to visit and cycle around!

*I have now decided to used the term "sharing space" because "shared space" is now too associated with a type of scheme which tries to mix everyone together, regardless of mode and flows, with the assumption that it will all be fine. This couldn't be further from the truth. Sharing space implies that it has to be under certain terms (and those terms need to be defined on a case by case basis). Market Street is an example of where pedestrians are "sharing space" with cycles and (at certain times) essential vehicles. The sharing is on the pedestrian's terms (although some users may disagree with me, such is the debate raging).

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Liveable Leicester Part 1 : Extreme Kerb Nerdery

Last weekend (27th & 28th June) saw the annual general meeting and infrastructure summit of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain held in my current favourite place which is the City of Leicester.

First, a huge shout to the Leicester Cycling Campaign Group for looking after us so well. Elizabeth Barner and Grant Denkinson were our guides and this extended to making sure I was on the right (cycle) track to get back to my hotel on the edge of the city on Saturday evening! Extra thanks to Elizabeth who emailed me a description of the routes we took around the city and provided a Strava map of our route on Saturday.

This post will concentrate on some of the larger interventions we saw and next week's post will look at some of the smaller (but equally effective) stuff. Of course, a weekend isn't the same as living somewhere and so there may be a little of the rose-tinted holiday spirit involved, but I will try and keep it objective and if I get anything wrong, feel free to correct me!

Yours truly involved in some spirit level/ tape measure kerb face
height checking action. Photo, Mark Treasure.
The format for the weekend was a mixture of serious on-site tape-measure kerb action, more relaxed exploration and discussion sessions at the Leicester Secular Hall. Oh, and we managed a pub or two and a curry (well it is Leicester).

I also want to thank one of the City Council highway engineers, Idris, for giving up his Saturday to ride and chat with us; plus Deputy Mayor, Cllr Adam Clarke, who has been part of the political drive to make the Leicester more liveable and who joined us for a while. I also thank the CEoGB for being inclusive and allowing us evil engineers to attend, including the irrepressible Brian Deegan who gave a presentation of engineering tips for cycling infrastructure design which promoted a great deal of debate. OK, gushing over, you want kerbs and tarmac!

I stayed on the southwestern edge of the city which was within easy reach of the M1 (yes, it was the folding bicycle in the car). I had done some research for a car-based trip and I picked my hotel knowing that there was a greenway which I could ride into the city. National Route 6, "The Great Central Way", runs from outside of the city limits broadly in a north-south direction. 

Following the old Great Central Railway route, there are surfaced paths (of fair to good quality) of varying widths which did feel tight in places. The route was lit which was great on the way back to the hotel late on Saturday evening and there seems to be a good amount of direction signage.

There are other routes like this from other parts of the City and they certainly take one from the outskirts to the centre pretty rapidly. Of course, the criticism is that being shared, one does have to slow down for other people (including people with dogs on long extending leads). The Great Central Way is largely a wide corridor and one can see (subject to loads of cash) a true cycle superhighway is possible.

As I left National Route 6, I did get a bit lost as the signage gave up and I had to resort to the map app on my phone, but I got to the Secular Hall eventually. Being an hour early, I invested in a fry up where I bumped into representatives of Cycle Sheffield who had the same idea! As the small crowd gathered, it was pointed out that my rear tyre was going down and I had to repair a puncture from a piece of sharp grit - so much for National Route 6! Still, a repair took me 10 minutes which wasn't too embarrassing. We then went of for a ride.

The first place we visited on Saturday was the St Matthew's area to the north of the city where we passed though an small industrial area into residential streets of terraced houses with yards laid out on a grid, mainly with traffic calmed 20mph Zones and some one way streets before cutting through Cossington Recreation Ground. It was all very relaxed until we headed south onto Belgrave Road which was a typical British High Street which attempted to stuff all uses into one street with the outcome that it is hostile to walking and cycling and not at all fitting as its status as Leicester's "Golden Mile". 

We then reached Belgrave Circus which is a large roundabout which has had a flyover removed (as part of a deal with Sainsbury's which was moving out of town) and is being remodelled to reconnect the Belgrave area back to the city. The roundabout being signalised allowed Toucan crossings on the northern and southern side of the roundabout which pushes a wide path through the middle shared by those walking and riding cycles. 

To be honest, I didn't care for the surface. Although flat, it was covered in 3 - 6mm stone surface dressing which was still losing material (it takes time to bed in). The colour is attractive and a lift compared to black asphalt, but it won't be as hard wearing as bound materials which would have given a better ride quality. The shared path was wide by UK standards, but given the fairly blank slate, a separate cycle track could have been provided. We crossed back towards the city in the centre of the street which had been changed to continue the walking and cycling link.

A wide view of the centre of the roundabout
We headed back to the city, passing under the Burley Flyover and awful roundabout and with the roads being generally awful until we reached the clock tower in the pedestrianised core of the city centre - more on that next week, but suffice to say, cycling is allowed!

We quickly arrived at the western side of the city core (inside the ring road) at Jubilee Square which until recently, was a car park. The square had a level surface shared space area to one side which was relatively traffic free when we were there, providing some access to this part of the city and somewhere for taxis to wait. The "carriageway" area was demarced with tactile paving to assist visually impaired people, although I don't know what the views of local access groups are.

Jubilee Square in October 2012 (image from Google)

Jubilee Square now!

An interesting little point to note is that the square is a restricted parking zone with some loading and access provision, but with minimum signage and no yellow lines (which are not needed in an RPZ). It is a masterclass in how to do RPZs well!

RPZ repeater sign showing no parking or loading - nice!

Loading bay at the edge of the square, the loading area is marked
out by the small element paving and you can see one of two signs
mounted to the wall of the building showing the end of the bay.

We looped around the city edge passing the Richard III Visitor Centre, itself in a very handsome street before heading out to Southgates to look at a new bidirectional cycle track hewn from a paved area next to the ring road.

There were harrowing scenes as kerb nerds started to measure the width of the track (3 metres) and the upstand of the kerb as it was stepped down from the footway. The step down was 40mm and the kerb was a 45 degree splay. This has a splay which is 75mm high and so the surfacing had been laid higher to take the kerb face face down. 

Even on my small wheels, I easily popped up and down the kerb without coming off, but I will admit, it wasn't completely what we would call "forgiving". The track carried on for a bit and we skirted Jubilee Square reaching St. Nicholas Circle (part of the A47).

We continued west on a cycle track taken from a lane of the main road, crossing the River Soar before turning off the main road using a bollard separated cycle lane into Duns Lane and beyond through the edge of De Montford University where we rode a section of the National Route 6 which I first came into the city on.

We looped around some derelict areas on the edge of Bede Park before heading back to the city, stopping to admire the kerbs and tarmac of Newarke Street which had another bidirectional cycle track won from a traffic lane of the ring road. The track was on the north side of the street by intervention of the Mayor because it was the sunny side - serious political interest in my view!

The recently constructed cycle track is 3.4 metres in width (excluding kerbs), it is machine-laid, smooth and induces a grin when one uses it. Sadly it is all too short (although more is planned) and it is let down by toucan crossings which are a bit of a fudge for crossing the roads at junctions. I do recall one 2 stage non-staggered crossing going green on both sides which was enough to cycle across both roads (although I assume pedestrians won't be able to make it across both sides. It does mean lots of tactile paving where separated facilities become shared at the crossings which is a clumsy, but I can only think, pragmatic solution for now. 

The cycle rack is stepped down from the footway and this is ingeniously achieved by laying a standard half-battered kerb on its side with the batter creating a forgiving splay of about 15 degrees. 

The kerb nerds were soon bumping up and down with no fear of being thrown off. Even though there is a rounded edge where the kerb meets the surface of the cycle track, it is negligible and won't catch a wheel. I will stick my neck out and suggest that this is one of the UK's best. Pedestrians have no trouble crossing the kerb, the step up is low and people using wheelchairs or pushing buggies will have no issues with this kerb in my view.

There are a couple of issues with using the half-battered kerb on its back though. First, it can only be laid is straight lines or radii of over 12 metres (no curved units are available). In addition, the kerb will need to be properly bedded on concrete and in turn the bedding founded on a decent base otherwise any overrunning by the odd van (we saw one) or a mechanical sweeper will "pop" them out.

The machine-laid surface (I think) is AC10 (10mm asphaltic concrete), although the stone was a little duller than I expected - it may be a dark stone with a red binder which is being polished off, but I am not entirely sure.

There is a side road (Marble Street) which is a one-way into Newarke Street. The cycle track is continuous across the side road (although the dip down to the road might have been done better). The footway kind of carried on across, but blister tactile paving was provided - I assume because vision from the side road was limited by building lines.

As it turns out, there have been a couple of cycle vs car crashes (drivers are perhaps more interested in looking right for traffic as they enter the one-way road), although we were informed that the road is being planned for closure as access could be taken elsewhere. There are more plans for the area and so time will tell.

I'm not sure about that bollard!
After we had finished admiring Leicester City's handiwork, we cruised back to the Secular Hall where we were well fed with Falafel (a first for me) before getting into the serious business of discussing infrastructure which was kicked off by Brian Deegan's talk on 22 little things and 1 big thing he had picked up designing for cycling - the debate on the interpretation of S65 of the Highways Act 1980 may have been a little too much for some of the campaigners to bear (although I maintain that I was right!)

So, that was Day 1 - there will be a post next week looking at some of the less engineered features we saw, together with some personal views on the weekend. Finally, for this post, I do need to claim some Build a Better World Bingo points (#BaBWBingo):

 I claim a point for volunteering to write this blog post (and next week's!), a rode with a politician and I was in "normal" clothes (hat optional). I have also used my photos as a talking point with some of the people in my team too, so I claim the teaching point, plus followers of this blog might learn something too!

Friday, 26 June 2015

A Lazy Post

Look, I will level you, I have run out of steam this week and so this week's post is a lazy bit of navel-gazing.

It's been a bitter-sweet few weeks in London with more people being killed riding their bicycles, but some big schemes starting on site in Central London. There is also something very interesting being proposed for the Whipps Cross Roundabout in Waltham Forest. In London (well some parts at least) it does feel that things might be happening now - certainly far more interesting things than the splurges of blue paint which were passed off as cycling infrastructure when I started this blog.

Normal service will be resumed next week as I will be attending the reinvigorating weekend (tomorrow and Sunday) which is the Cycling Embassy of Great's Britain's AGM and Infrastructure Summit, being held in Leicester. I am looking forward to seeing more interesting UK infrastructure and I am hoping to show that perhaps we do know what we are doing only if we have money and political will. Of course, meeting people will be equally as interesting as will the kerb-nerdery which will take place (yes, my tape measure and spirit level are packed).

So, in the meantime, have a wonderful weekend, whether it riding bicycles or wandering about!

Looking forward to bicycles and cricket being the new definition of
Englishness (sorry rest of the UK!)