Saturday, 14 July 2018

Filtering The City : The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain's AGM 2018 (Part 3)

In this week's post, I conclude my recent Mancunian adventure with the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain's AGM. I take a little look at some of the other interesting stuff which caught my eye.

For my visit, I stayed in Trafford, right next to some stadium or other at which I assume a football team play. I might be wrong.

Well, if it floats your boat. The thing that caught my eye was some work in progress just down the road from the stadium where the junction of Wharfside Way/ Sir Alex Ferguson Way/ Sir Matt Busby Way was being remodelled. I think it might have something to so with the Metrolink Trafford Park Line scheme, but I'd be interested to know.

In any case, the junction has been remodelled making it straight-forward for people to cycle across the wide Wharfside Way between the two side roads. It's not a pretty layout or anything particularly world-class but it is quite useful and is part of National Cycle Network Route 55. The photo above is the view looking south towards the stadium and the photo below is the view looking north towards Salford Quay.

Heading south, you are taken towards the stadium on NCN55 which passes through a plaza which I assume is part of the stadium because of the bollards either end;

After I rode through, I managed to get lost because after a couple of signs to Manchester City Centre, the wayfinding disappeared and I ended up using my smartphone to navigate. Mind you, I still found more interesting stuff.

The photo above is Phoenix Way which doesn't really make sense. It's a one-way street (south to north) with an apparent one way island protected cycle lane on the offset (also south to north). The first section also has a nearside mandatory cycle lane (see below);

It's all rather curious, but the islands offer plenty of protection. A little further north and the lane gives way to a cycle track;

The track (with the Brooks Building of Manchester Metropolitan University on the left) is again one-way and very nice to use. To the right is a drop down to Princess Road, a dual carriageway which you really don't want to cycle one!

At the end of the track, you go through a bit of shared space, apparently dismount to cross Stretford Road and then you're terrifyingly dumped in the the end of Princess Road where you get to cycle through an interchange with the A57(M)! There is north to south route for cycling on the other side of Princess Road, but in reality, both sides need to be 2-way to make in sense next to such a large road.

Over in Salford, we paid a visit to Coronation Street with it's solid old houses forming part of a wider and mainly filtered residential area.

Trees have been wonderfully woven into the street using build-outs into the carriageway so keeping footways clear.

At the street's western end, the filter (below) wasn't cycle-friendly and so needs upgrading. Further on, there are still fairly busy roads and so some more filtering to keep traffic on the main roads would be welcome.

The city has definitely been up for filtering schemes in the past and there are some creative layouts. Taylorson Street is at the back of the Tudor Ordsall Hall, home (there is debate) of the Gunpowder Plot.

The street is filtered with a pedestrian zone which is always in operation with exceptions for access to the residential dwellings (below).

The pedestrian zone is supplemented by an "no waiting at any time" restriction which is essentially double yellow lines done without paint and so as well as the terminal signs (as you enter and exit - used in pairs as above), there are also yellow repeater signs within the zone.

Being a pedestrian zone with the "no motor vehicles" sign, you are allowed to cycle here. And we did (fillings permitting);

Speaking of filtering, we found a bit more outside Heald Place Primary School. A few simple bollards had turned a section of Heald Place into a place for walking and cycling. The bollards and signs used to close the street to motor traffic will have cost less than the traffic calming they have made redundant (below);

I don't know the history of the street, but it's gone through the 5 stages of grief (kind of) where the old layout was just a street which it is fair to guess acted as a rat-run and lawless school drop offs, to a street with parking bays and traffic calming to try and encourage some drop off sense and finally to the acceptance that safety at the school gate should be the priority.

The last thing to show you is this temporary bridge next to Trinity Way. It was built as a service bridge as part of major rail works in the area, however, it was decided to keep it and is gives a much better alternative to cycling on Trinity Way itself.

At the southern end of the new bridge, there is an access to the towpath along the River Irwell. It's a nice design which combines steps with a zig-zag ramp dealing with the change in level.

The canal path is a good way to miss the adjacent roads, but I'm not convinced it's useful for mass cycling and the social safety is poor - that where we came in - there are big plans for walking and cycling in the city!

The first and second parts of the series are here and here.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

All Roads Lead To Manchester: The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain's AGM 2018 (Part 2)

In this week's post, I continue my report from the recent Cycling Embassy of Great Britain's AGM in Manchester.

Last week, I looked at some of the ongoing work in Salford and this week's post, I take a look at a route through Manchester itself. In fact, the route is split into two schemes - Oxford Road and Wilmslow Road (aka The Curry Mile). With us were Dave, Andy and Jonathan who gave us insight from a design, funding and campaigning point of view.

Oxford Road
Starting in the city itself, the Oxford Road scheme runs for around 2.3km south/ southwest and passes close to Oxford Road Rail Station and the Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Manchester and the Manchester Infirmary complex, as well as commercial, retail and residential areas. It's a genuinely useful route for utility cycling. 

The first part of the route (above) is very light touch with car parking floated into the carriageway and a buffered cycle lane provided between it and the footway. There are no physical measures, but at least when we were there, driver compliance was good.

Drainage is provided along much of the route with combined kerb drains, although being half-battered it does mean you cannot use the full width of the route.

The main drawback with the scheme is that at large junctions there is no protection for people cycling and so turning on and off the route has you mixing with general traffic.

The links (sections between junctions) have kerb protection which is a combination of skinny islands (above) and bus stop bypasses (below).

The floating bus stops have a central zebra crossing to assist people who need a formal crossing to move between bus stop and footway.

The bus stops also have informal crossing points. One feature is that each approach to a crossing point has rumble strips. We were informed that this was to generate some noise to assist visually impaired people in detecting approaching cycles. I'm not convinced and they just made cycling uncomfortable.

The bus stops have planting at each end and the use of red surfacing for the cycling track definitely looks nicer than black asphalt.

An interesting addition was solar LED lighting in the cycle track surface (above) which helps pick out the edges at night.

In some places, there are traffic signal bypasses which only stop cycles when someone wants to cross. Given that we are able to provide simple zebra crossings on cycle tracks I think this is perhaps obsolete. 

It's a nice section of route, but the lack of help at junctions really does let it down. During the day, access controls mean that for most of Oxford Road, there are only buses (and some access) which makes the route essentially a massive bus lane. The protection is welcome from a cycling point of view and it must be less stress for the bus drivers. Anyway, here is a little video of the route;

Wilmslow Road - The Curry Mile
At the end of Oxford Road, the route changes to Wilmslow Road which is also known as The Curry Mile, a name which speaks for itself, although in reality it's only about half-a-mile long! We cycle around 900m through an area stuffed full of restaurants and small retail stores. 

We heard that one of the biggest challenges was the businesses who wanted to keep the heavy on-street parking and this informed a fair bit of the layout.

Much of the route has a bollard/ island-protected cycled track which is a bit tight in width and for being in the door zone. It is very similar to the layout on London's CS2.

The kerbs are mainly vertical, but in places a 45° kerb has been used with a nice low upstand.

As with Oxford Road, there are floating bus stops (above and below). Being a Saturday afternoon, the place was packed, but conflicts between modes seem to minimal and plenty of people were out on their bikes.

The footways looked narrow in places, but if you look on Google Street View, you'll find that the case before the cycle track was built and when parked cars took up the space.

Above and below - a side road treatment giving cycles priority. A continuous cycle track and footway would be better.

In some places, there are useful little cut throughs for cycling which give access advantages over cars.

We heard that most of the funding was concentrated on this section of the road and as one got further away from the city, the protection got more sparse and sporadic. However, for a UK scheme, it was pretty good - we just need to face down the need for so much parking and go a little more Dutch in the details. Again, here is a video;

In next week's post, I will round up the visit to Greater Manchester with some other interesting things I found while cycling round the city.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Sunny Salford SuDS: The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain's AGM 2018 (Part 1)

I was pleased to be able to attend the CEoGB's AGM which took place over the weekend just gone in Greater Manchester. This is the first of three posts which will explain some of what we saw.

The event followed the positive news from Andy Burnham, the Mayor of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and his walking and cycling commissioner, Chris Boardman, of a plan to invest in new cycling routes and walking infrastructure across the region. You can read more about the vision, Made to Move and the Beeline proposals on the Transport for Greater Manchester's website (TfGM).

The weekend also saw the Women's Festival of Cycling on the Saturday (30th June) and the 2018 Let's Ride cycling festival (photograph below) on the Sunday with streets closed to motor traffic and all manner of events going on around the route. If you'll forgive me, there was a real buzz in the city.

However, we are interested in Greater Manchester which is a group of 10 boroughs which each deal with their own road networks, but with TfGM providing a strategic overview (but not running any roads itself) - if I have got any of this wrong, then feel free to let me know!

I'm going to start with what we saw in Salford, which is to the west of Manchester. Our guide was Catriona Swanson, the lead for walking and cycling with Salford City Council and as well as seeing some recent work, we also had some of the City's plans explained to us such as ambitious transformation of Chapel Street.

The street is currently having huge amounts of development taking place and as you might expect, cycling features heavily in the plans. Above is a photograph taken from Bury Street, looking east towards Sacred Trinity Church. The plans are radical;

Space for motor traffic is squeezed a bit to provide space for buffered cycle tracks which, along with the footways, will be continuous and drivers accessing side streets will have to negotiate ramped kerbs so the footway and cycle track levels are maintained - could we get some Dutch-style kerbs made in the UK? Watch this space!

The City has also installed a couple of "implied" zebra crossings along Chapel Street such as this one at the junction with Barlows Croft. The idea is to test behaviour at the side roads because trying to roll out continuous footways across the whole city is going to be expensive. Implied because they don't meet the regulations which require Belisha beacons and zig-zags. There is a risk that drivers won't stop and by not seeking Special Authorisation from the Department for Transport, there might be liability issues with the local authority in the event of a collision.

That said, it's a layout used in other countries and if used in situations where drivers are having to slow down because of a tight geometry and perhaps in a 20mph zone (akin to other relaxations in the rules), this could be an innovation worth pushing.

It's not all theoretical. On Oldfield Road, the City has built a complete layout to give a feel on how some of its main streets could look;

The layout is only around 70 metres long, but in taking advantage of some work which was going to be done anyway in terms of public realm improvements linked to development, the team took the opportunity to add a cycle track and floating bus stop. It looks very similar to the drawing above for Chapel Street, but the beauty is people can be physically shown how their street could be transformed.

By UK standards, the cycle track is wide as it passes the bus stop which would allow (just) side by side cycling, and with none of the tight turns and annoying humps we've seen on other schemes.

The levels have been designed to shed surface water into planted rain gardens which act as infiltration basins in combination with buried attenuation crates. Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) seek to reduce the speed of run-off entering the sewer system and in many cases prevent it getting that far with infiltration into the soil. With climate change and storms getting more intense, SuDS is vital to reduce urban flooding risk.

Water either flows as a sheet into the planted areas or is directed through notches in the kerbs surrounding them. 

The paving is quite expensive and unlikely to be possible everywhere, but in the places where some extra polish is needed, it's a great addition.

The cycle track is finished with a red 6mm asphalt and it has been machine laid to ensure a superior riding quality. The only issues with the scheme (apart from only being a short section) is that there are some low kerb upstands in places which could grab wheels if people strayed too close and so would definitely benefit from forgiving kerbs. However, as a proof of concept for a UK scheme, it is wondrous!

SuDS is a recurring theme in Salford. Here on New Bailey Street, another public realm scheme being delivered with development has incorporated another SuDS scheme.

Surface water is directed through notched kerbs into the little rain gardens which slow and retain flows.

If flows become too great (and it would take a while), water can overflow into the drainage system via a gully set above the surface of the planted area, although in this case, the grating is rather narrow and will be prone to blocking.

At East Ordsall Lane, another SuDS scheme has been delivered and it's a bit of fun with a serious message. The scheme adds some trees to a pretty boring piece of street, but there is some interpretation to explain how it was built and how it works.

Using drainage kerbs, the run-off from the carriageway and the permeable footway is directed into a large tree pit which slows flows and allows infiltration into the soil. Again, if it gets too much, then there is an overflow to the existing drainage system. I made a quick video which you can see below;

In my next post, I will have a look at some of the cycle routes we saw in the city and the post after that will deal with some of the other interesting things seen along the way.