Friday 29 May 2015

Bears Way: Not for Everyone

As you may have already read on my blog, East Dunbartonshire Council are in the process of putting in a segregated cycle lane on my commute. Yippeeee.....oh wait, not all is right as my previous blog suggests. That letter (go on, have a wee read of it) was sent and I have now received a reply.

I'm not going to post the reply in full, as I know the person who responded and there is some general chat in their to. The chap is decent and to be fair to him, he is listening. The reality of some of what he said though is definitely worth sharing. Here is the important section of the e-mail:

 ....the design is to provide for the following target user as provided by Sustrans.

Target user: design should be attractive and comfortable for the less confident cyclist a sensible 12 year old or novice adult who is trained to National Standards / Bikeability Level 2 ? but should aim to provide for the more confident cyclist as well. Where more confident cyclists choose not to use any facilities provided their needs should also be addressed with separate provision where appropriate; they should not be compromised by the design;

For the more confident cyclist the carriageway is being changed to be a uniform 3m wide (lining) therefore the cyclists who choose to remain on the carriageway can do so at a width promoted for a carriageway width in Cycling by Design. In your case this will mean you are taking the centre of the lane. (Reviewing your videos you seem to cycle 1.2 to 1.5m from the carriageway edge as I do)

Cyclists travelling north (B8030) have three options.
On activating the Toucan crossing they can then use the carriageway to travel towards the roundabout and proceed along the B8030 joining up with the advisory cycle lane.  The second option is to use the segregated cycle lane and enter the carriageway at the roundabout using the minor road.
Third option is to carry on using the shared footway and enter the advisory cycle lanes using the dropped kerbs or activating the signals and enter the advisory cycle lanes travelling north.

Cyclists travelling north on the (A81) Glasgow Road.
Although we would love to have changed the whole of EDC overnight, the scheme implemented at this time has a start and an end point.  Due to the current road conditions of Glasgow Road it was viewed that the carriageway would be used by competent cyclists and therefore the design allows them to continue to use the carriageway to undertake this journey.  They can enter the carriageway at the Toucan crossing and as vehicles will then be stopped they can make a manoeuvre to take the lane and undertake the roundabout.
The second option is to use the minor road to enter the roundabout and proceed to the A81. If people do not wish to cycle around the roundabout then there is an option of using the shared footway and then the signalised crossing before using the footway to access the A81.  However before you shout No!!!!, the design is constrained by this being the start/end point and the Waitrose design (roundabout and signal crossing) having been completed prior to the segregated cycle route design. I like you wish one day not to be constrained but this is the reality of cycle route design. I am aware this is providing an option which requires users to cross traffic either once or twice depending on which way you cross the roundabout roads but it does provide an option for less competent and less confident cyclists.

The signs that have been located on the bollards are a TSRGD 522 - Two Way Traffic - It is a warning sign to cyclists that there is two-way vehicle movement ahead and they should proceed with caution. The road lining will show that it is for vehicles to give way.

We are also happy with the 'floating bus stop' design. The hierarchy of users clearly indicates we should prioritise our design for pedestrians.
Cyclists will have to proceed with caution through the floating bus stop area and the design acts as a traffic calming measure for cyclists. The second floating bus stop design is placed on a gradient which acts as a calming measure and therefore the angle is not used on the uphill but used on the downhill.

Now I could pick at a few things here, but there are three fundamental issues. Here is the bulk of what I wrote back:

There are a few things that strike me reading your reply. Firstly I'm really disappointed to hear that this development is effectively part of a dual network, that is, it has not been designed for everyone. I really was looking forward to this section of infrastructure, as everything I had heard about it previously suggested that, whilst it wasn't going to be perfect,  that it was going to be a big step in the right direction. I didn't know though that there was such a restrictive target user as designated by Sustrans. I understand your suggestion that I and other users could still use the carriageway, however the reality is that this is actually going to be very difficult. On a number of occasions in the past I have had abuse from drivers for not using the very poor facilities that were there previously, including 'professional' drivers (see these two videos for examples and I can imagine the abuse I will now get on this new reduced width carriageway will be significantly worse when they see the segregated lane at the side of the road. Despite what some commentators suggest, I don't go looking for trouble so I will probably feel forced to use the new lanes despite what I might think of them.
You also mention Cycling By Design. I (and many others) have been trying to highlight for a good few years now that this document is outdated. I've seen this borne out recently when in discussions with Glasgow Council. They have been designing infrastructure that just meets the minimum standards set out in CBD. It's quite frankly rubbish. My heart sunk when you mentioned it here as once again it is suggesting a solution that, rather than making conditions better for cycling for everyone, will improve conditions for some whilst making it worse for others. Of course, you and everyone else in this project aren't to blame for CBD, but by being guided by it we are ending up with a compromised project that may solve issues for some, but will cause problems for others. I must admit I don't know the answer to this but, are you bound by the design principles of CBD or are you free to go beyond them?

With regards to the floating bus stops, I totally understand that there is a need to slow cyclists approaching the floating bus stops. However, I can't understand why a table couldn't be used instead of the zig-zag. I've had a quick ride on it, and it is quite tight, and will be way too tight for two way traffic. Why could a raised table not be used there instead?

Lastly, I'm concerned that, as far as I am currently aware, there is no physical effort to stop drivers pulling out onto the cycle lane at junctions. On the continent they often use raised tables at the junctions along with markings to encourage drivers to slow and stop. I'm concerned that road markings alone are not going to have the desired effect. Will there be anything to supplement the road markings?

Since I've written that, I've came across two further issues that are best demonstrated with pictures.

 The first shows an island that has been placed in the middle of the cycle lane. This looks like it will contain a bollard. This is obviously there to 'traffic calm' the cyclists, but there are much more elegant ways to do that. Instead we have an obstacle in the middle of the path, that, as was pointed out to me on Twitter, will stop road sweeper access.

The second shows the lane fading into a shared use path on approach to a junction. Why? Seriously, Why? This will almost certainly mean that cyclists will not have priority at this junction, and will conflict with pedestrians. Yes, at the moment there aren't many pedestrians that use this path, but that will change when the new housing development there gets the go ahead.

I got chatting with another cyclist today just along from here. He too was looking forward to this, and he too is dismayed at what he has seen. All of the issues I have highlighted could have been avoided quite easily, but once again we are getting a very poor compromise.

I really am quite disappointed about this.

Thursday 14 May 2015

Bears Way: Heaven or Hell?

I was like a kid before Christmas.

I was literally bouncing off walls.

Yes, the first potentially semi-decent segregated cycle lane on my route to work is now being built. I've talked about it before and you can find what I've said already here.

The keen eyed will have noticed that my first two sentences of this blog are however using the past tense. Why, well, now that East Dunbartonshire has started building the lane, the reality is starting to set in. If it continues to go in as planned it is going to be far from perfect. In fact, I might not even use it! Rather than explain it to you, let me share a letter I have sent to one of the council officers in charge of the project.

Hi xxxx,
I hope you are keeping well.

I have been watching the building of the 'Bears Way' segregated cycle route with some considerable interest and I look forward to trying it when it is finished. I am desperate for some good quality infrastructure.

In the past I discussed with the design team some of the issues with the designs, i.e. the need to cross over, the fact that it was a two way lane etc. However, since I have seen the work progress I have some new concerns. My first is the treatment of cyclist heading north as they approach the Burnbrae Roundabout. Previously the lane continued on north beyond the roundabout. It wasn't ideal, but at least it kept cyclists going in that direction away from what is a horrible roundabout. Now cyclists are abandoned on the pavement and are expected to then use the junction to join the join the roundabout. This is definitely a step in the wrong direction. Having also spoken to a few cyclist who head north (I head north east onto Glasgow Road), I understand that a new pinch point has been created at the new crossing. This is obviously concerning.

This morning I was also very concerned at some new bollard signs going up. They are placed just before junctions and the arrows suggest that cyclist must give way to traffic coming from side (minor) roads. Is this correct? I'll be quite shocked if it is, as this would effectively stop me and many other cyclists from using it. Why use a segregated lane that is significantly more inconvenient to use than the main road? Would a main road ever be built where drivers were expected to continually stop for cars entering it?

My final issue for the time being is the floating bus stop being put in near Burnbrae. First let me congratulate you on building the lane this way. I think the idea is excellent. However, I am concerned at the step angle that cyclists will need to turn to allow for this. This might not be an issue if the lane was one, way, but traffic is supposed to be using it in both directions. This area has a high potential for collisions, especially in the wet and when the council inevitable does not clear leaves and muck as often as it should.

I have attached a few images from my helmet camera that demonstrate the areas I am discussing.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your reply.

Best regards

David Brennan

 For me personally the biggest issue is the treatment of cyclists at junctions. If the priority isn't correct and it isn't properly signed and controlled (raised tables could be a solution) then the lane is very poorly designed and one I might chose not to use.

I'll let you know when I get a response, but feel free to let me know your thoughts.