Sunday, 17 February 2019

Power to the Little Wheels

With the continued obsession with getting people out of their fossil-fuelled cars and into electric cars, we continue to ignore the short trips that people make every day with perhaps too much focus on commuting.

Despite the 'official' approach of pumping money into subsidising EVs and EV infrastructure, some people are voting with their feet and their wallets and taking control of how they want to travel, rather than continuing to buy into the top down push to maintain an addiction to the car.

The use of scooters is a growing phenomenon whereby the ubiquitous school-run favourite of the nippers has grown up and in some cases, received a battery boost. Scooters are available from the usual retailers for not very much money and even the electric variants are relatively affordable - certainly cheaper than a daily commute bus. Scooters are easy to store, easy to carry onto a train or bus (for multi-stage trips) and let's face it, they're quicker than walking.

Uneven footways are awful for little wheels.

The problem is that our highways are not designed for scooters, and especially not for e-scooters. As far as I can work out, anyone can use an unpowered scooter on the highway (usually along a footway), whereas e-scooters are not permitted because they are (in essence) motor-vehicles. This isn't stopping firms dipping a toe into the UK with dockless e-scooter sharing, although they are limited to non-highway locations such as the Olympic Park in London. Anecdotally, I've heard of employers in city centres purchasing pool e-scooters for employees to help with short trips.

Having small wheels can make scooting a difficult and possibly risky endeavour on our uneven footways (although those with pneumatic tyres and suspension. are a little more forgiving, but it seems to me that proper cycleways would be the ideal place for people to scoot along because smooth surfaces and dedicated space for faster moving people (especially e-scooters) has to be better than using the footway.

We're told that EV cars are coming whether we like it or not and so we have to provide charging infrastructure on our streets to accommodate them. On e-scooters and similar devices, Government interest seems to extend as far as reminding us that they are illegal, mind you, mobility scooter users aren't allowed to use cycle tracks which shows how much the Government is bothered about people who are not driving.

Forget the law, powered mini-vehicles will be
used whether or not the Government likes it.

For my mind, we should be embracing scooters and using them as another reason to change how our streets are designed and managed. E-scooters should be regulated with a maximum powered speed and like mobility scooters, a lower speed on footways; with cycle tracks being somewhere that both e-scooters and mobility scooters can be at home on.

As ever, we face an ever-present choice for local trips, despite the march of technology. We either want people to be out in the fresh air getting about under their own steam (with an electrically assisted boost if that's what they need) or we can carry on helping people drive a couple of miles (so long as they can afford it). Vehicle autonomy can never replace human autonomy and if little wheels can help get people moving, then I'm all for it.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Sign Make It Better: Duke Street, Chelmsford

I generally have little sympathy for people who are 'caught out' at 'point' restrictions because on the whole they are laid out logically and to miss the restrictions takes quite a lot of effort.

However, sometimes they are not always clear and despite the signs, people still drive through. A 'point' restriction is in essence a line across the road over which only some people are allowed to travel (or if we are being pedantic, it could be a very short section of road). Bus gates are a common type of point restriction and the are used to give passengers a journey time advantage over general traffic where drivers have to take a long way round.

A news item caught my eye today regarding a bus gate at Duke, Chelmsford. Essentially a driver has successfully had a PCN (penalty charge notice) overturned by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal on the grounds that the signs were inadequate. An adjudicator apparently visited the site and felt that although the signs for the bus gate were large, they were with other signs which made the installation cluttered.

The driver is a psychologist who thinks there are too many signs for a driver to process at once and that drivers are getting trapped in the area and "panicking". So we don't have enough signs, but we have too many at the same time. Essex County Council has said;

Before turning on enforcement cameras in 2017, we increased signage at all junctions, sent more than 3,000 warning notices and painted the words "BUS GATE" in five-foot high letters on the road at both entrances to help make drivers aware of the restrictions.

I do like the sarcasm at the end of the statement in relation to the five-foot high letters!

So what is going on because there are actually plenty of signs in the area and there are indeed five-foot letters saying "BUS GATE" painted on the road. Perhaps more to the point, why am I having an off day by having any sympathy at all?

Chelmsford is a typical UK city which has become a victim of car-centric spatial and transport planning. There are lots of big roads around the place and lots of congestion and the pace of development in the area doesn't seem to be letting up as some of the old industrial areas become out-of-town-but-in-town retail parks. 

However, there is quite an important cycle/ bus/ rail interchange at Chelmsford Station which sits on Duke Street. The bus gate has been placed at a low bridge where the railway crosses the street. As an interchange, there are lots of local and long-distance bus routes converging on the station, there are taxis and private vehicles being used for drop-offs/ collections and the large cycle parking facility helps add to the transport mix.

The bus gate itself actually allows passage by buses, cycles, taxis and motorcycles and the headroom of the bridge restricts larger vehicles (maximum height of 3.8m). The bridge is also narrow and so it operates as a "priority pinch point" which has relevant traffic signs and so therefore, it is fair to say that there is quite a bit going on.

I think the issue with the layout is perhaps less about there being too many and too few signs, it is an issue with both the design of the immediate road layout and how the wider network operates. On the approaches to the feature, the roads are laid out to move motor traffic as efficiently as possible and so from a driver point of view, it is easy to see how people can be swept up by making progress, rather than realising that the layout is changing.

Take the view on Victoria Road South, which is just round the corner;


Victoria Road South is the A1099 and takes traffic from the A1060, a large dual carriageway which skirts the south of the city centre, and feeds it north in the city centre. Victoria Road South is dualled for a short section, then it gradually narrows. The station is signed from the A1060 and so people who don't know the area are going to be relying on the signage.

As you can see on the image of the map sign above, you can see that the station can be accessed to the side road to the left after negotiating a left then immediate right turn at a double mini-roundabout. There is then the ability for general traffic (and taxis) to stop to drop off/ collect people.

Back to Victoria Street South. The map sign does warn of the bus gate (and height restriction) and so perhaps some of my sympathy is misplaced. Perhaps. Turning left at the mini-roundabout takes you into Duke Street and you need to remember to turn right at the next mini-roundabout to get to the station. Another sign is provided to help you;


For some reason, the mini-roundabout traffic sign hasn't been put in here (it should have been, it is a requirement). If you do manage to see the direction sign, you are again warned about the bus gate and height limit ahead, although the arrow on the sign might perhaps be taken as an instruction to proceed ahead at a glance?

If you get it wrong and carry on ahead, you'll be approaching the bus gate at the railway bridge;


As you approach the bridge, you can see that you have priority over oncoming vehicles (circled in red) and the bus gate can be seen at the bridge with signs circled in blue. As you reach the point of no return, you could turn left and then do a U-turn in Park Road, although it (through design) doesn't really seem to be a place one should drive into;


So we end up with people driving through. If the person knows the area, then perhaps they should know better. If they don't well, perhaps we can see how they go to this point.

From the other side, things might be a little more straight forward as there isn't a double mini-roundabout to deal with, but we do have a map sign telling us about the bus gate ahead and that the next turning on the left is for through traffic;


As one approaches the left turn, there is another sign point ahead to tell us about the bus gate, although there is a bus stop which might mean you can't see the sign;


If you miss this sign, you end up continuing to the station, but one could turn around in the bus interchange, although there being lots of buses might put one off from doing so and in fact, one might even just be following a bus thinking it is part of general traffic flow;


Finally, we have the bus gate with the sign telling people to give way to oncoming traffic with the bus gate signs circle in blue;


One thing which is missing in Google Streetview is the BUS GATE road markings, although the image with the BBC report shows that they might not be that conspicuous in a wet road surface (which is a road marking issue).

Interestingly, Google Streetview shows us how the area looked. Go back to 2009 and there isn't a bus gate; there is a no entry sign right on the mini-roundabout with an exceptions sub plate (which at the time wasn't a standard sign) and a dubious yellow access sign;


From the other side, we have a similar "no entry" arrangement at the bridge;


I'd be willing to bet that the old layout might have stopped more people coming through because the no entry sign is more recognisable than the bus gate sign in by view. The context with the no entry approach (despite not being permitted at the time) is you cannot come through here, except these vehicles. The bus gate sign is these vehicles can come through but you cannot.

The reason this is newsworthy at all will stem from the fact that in 2019, we have now had 10 years of cuts to local authority funding and that some local authorities have taken on the civil enforcement of moving traffic contraventions which (I am not ashamed to say) raise revenue; although it is ploughed back into the enforcement/ highways/ transport service. The media love a story of a driver getting one over on the enforcing local authority who are just making money out of the law abiding motorist.

So, what is my take because I have just shown that the bus gate is, in fact, comprehensively signed. Well, I think this is a good example of trying to use traffic signs (including road markings) in a situation where nothing else is changed on a street and expecting behaviour to change. The problem with Duke Street is that the road layout invites people to make mistakes with the result being a heavy reliance of pointing at the signage to say that the people are at fault.

The better way to influence behaviour is by designing street layouts which are legible and readily understandable by users as what is being expected of them. The traffic signs are then used more sparingly and are just there really to give effect to the restriction. In the case of Duke Street, the best option would be to close the road under the railway completely so the restriction isn't needed, but it is a bus route and so that's not feasible.

We need to step back from the bus gate position and look at redesigning the road layout. For example, at the double mini-roundabouts we could get rid of them and simplify the junction to make the part of Duke Street serving the bus gate subservient to the A1099 (a side street) so that the "natural" route will be for through traffic to pass through and those accessing Duke Street making a conscious decision to turn off the A1099.

From the other side, there could be some separation to create a similar arrangement or even move the bus stop to the other side of the side road and change the sign to have an arrow pointing to the left saying "through traffic". There are probably other layouts which would help. I guess my message this week is that it is right to point and laugh at people getting fined for their own stupidity most of the time, but it is also worth pondering if the design approach in the situation has magnified or aided the stupidity.

Update
With big thanks to the 2 Wheeled Wolf, we have an update on the sign situation fresh from the site contained in a Twitter thread, here.

So, here are a couple of the photos from site;


This is Victoria Road South which replaces the first image in the post. There is now a panel at the top mentioning the bus gate with a tweak to the through traffic message.


This is the view of the bridge from the Park Road side. We can now see the bus gate signs now have yellow backing boards to make the more conspicuous and we also see the "BUS GATE" carriageway marking.


This is from the bus turnaround side of the bridge - again, the yellow backing boards have been deployed along with the carriageway marking.


Finally, a view a bit further back with the through traffic sign that I suggested might help (as long as the view isn't blocked by a bus). Have a look at Wolf's thread for the full set.

So, where does that leave us? Perhaps I was being too charitable - but even with all of these signs, people are going through. Some will be taking a chance, but what about the rest - poor drivers or does the design play a part? So much for what I know!



Sunday, 3 February 2019

Traffic Signal Pie: More Partially Protected Turns

So last week, I looked at 'partially protected' turns at a crossroads and this week, I thought it might be helpful to look at a T-junction variant.

The reason I looked at the crossroads was that on the side streets, there simply wasn't space within which to build cycle tracks which would allow a fully protected junction and so people cycling into/ out of the side streets would have to join/ leave the carriageway.

Where we have one side street with the same issue, then we've a couple of options, but here's a layout;
As before, cyclists move at the same time as pedestrians. Cyclists turning left will be held on a red low level cycle signal (LLCS) until the walking/ cycling stage ends and they will get a green just before side road traffic is released.

On the other side of the junction, you will see a little right turn 'pocket' inset from the main cycle track - for right turning cycle traffic of course. In the same way as people could turn right from the cycle track in last week's example, people could turn right from the pocket at the same time as the cycle traffic.

People cycling from the side street would just turn left for the northbound cycle track and cycle to the far side and just turn right to head southbound. For any cyclists waiting at the right turn pocket, people leaving the side street would pass behind them. If it was a popular right turn, then space becomes a little more complicated and it may be that southbound cyclists have to have signals to allow people out of the side street (but this is quite heavy engineering for cycle traffic - circled red below);


This variant complicates matters a little, but it means that southbound cyclists are held on a red when the side street runs on green. This is of course far less convenient for cycling and perhaps overly cautious.

One other slight tweak of the first layout about can be seen on CS6 on Farringdon Road in London (which is not quite on Google Streetview). The right turn pocket has the stop line to the right of the cyclist and people coming from the side road have a little give way point as they join the southbound (in my example) cycle track;


The stop line is in an unusual position, but it's still intuitive in my view - here's a still from a video I made of this part of CS6;


The thing I'm tending to see with designs such as these is that the pedestrian crossings are often being installed as staggered 2-stage variants and often only on one arm of the main road. I've shown single stage and crossings on both main road arms. While I acknowledge the whole "don't make perfect the enemy of good" argument, we should be pushing for single stage crossings; especially if the provision of cycle tracks upset the pedestrian desire lines as they sometimes do.

There are clearly lots of different ideas and elements at play and so it is important to work out where the main cycle traffic flows will be. If we have heavy movements from a side street to a main road, then we may well be looking at a different signalling arrangement than where cycle traffic is generally on the main road.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Traffic Signal Pie: Partially Protected Turns

There was a photo of a drawing doing the rounds earlier this week on Twitter showing a crossroads in Cambridge where there was a debate about how to fit cycling into a situation where the side roads weren't wide enough for cycle tracks.

The official designs for the junction showed a cycle track with parallel crossings (where people walk and cycle next to each other, but in separate space) over the side roads. All well and good, but with people cycling to the right of people walking (in the direction of travel), left turns for cyclists would be banned which is pretty useless if you need to turn left.


The photograph above shows what I mean - you can see the parallel crossing over the side road, but you can just see the banned left turn sign at the bottom of the traffic signals which are for cycle traffic (full-sized and low level). In this case, left turning cycle traffic actually turns off before the crossing and pops out in the service road in the distance and so is a kind of 'free' left turn. A closer view of the signals is below.


So, how could we provide for left turns in this sort of situation but where there is no opportunity to turn people in advance and where there's no space to turn people behind the pedestrian crossing points because the side road isn't wide enough for cycle tracks?

I don't think that doing nothing is the answer because apart from being a cop-out, people moving under their own power are just going to turn left anyway; not because they are reckless criminals, it's because it's an unreasonable requirement. If we are providing for cycling, then we need to do it properly by anticipating the likely (and desired) behaviour and accommodating it.


We could use toucan crossings such as the ones outside Hatfield Station in Hertfordshire because essentially, there is nothing technically illegal about turning left out of a toucan crossing; but, we are sticking cycling into walking space which is a fudge.

I think the answer might be what I will dub the "partially-protected left turn" (because I don't know if it has an official name); the protection being a combination of physical measures and clever user of traffic signals. Compare this idea with a fully protected left turn where a cycle track would continue into the side road to permit fully protected left turns.


The photograph above shows a Dutch junction which I've mirrored to show an approximation of what a UK protected left turn would be - mainly because I don't think I have a decent UK example in my photo library! The green arrow simply shows that the left turn can be made without worrying about general traffic - it's also called a free left turn (from the UK point of view).

So, here is my partially-protected left turn (above). The main road runs north-south in this example, with the side roads forming the crossroads east-west. As on the photograph above, we've one-way cycle tracks which cross the side roads on parallel crossings (which is key), but the difference from the parallel crossing photograph above is left turns for cycle traffic are catered for. In fact, right turns are also catered for because with this particular layout, the parallel crossings running together allow it; not forgetting that pedestrian crossings are also running at the same time on the north and south main road arms. Perhaps with the right turns, some further guidance markings might assist.

In truth, there is still some fudge about this design because the idea is that cyclists turning left or right from the main road cycle tracks (the north and south arms) will have to stop at a second stop line in the side roads immediately before the pedestrian crossing, depicted by the red circle in the image below;


This stop line would be accompanied by a low level cycle signal (LLCS) to be in the eye line of a turning cyclist. Once the parallel crossings and crossings of the main road end (all together, remember), the the LLCS on both side roads will go green and the turns into the side roads are complete.

In fact, we can be even more clever. If the LLCS from the partially-protected turns run before the side road traffic is released (using what is called 'early start') then the turns are completed way before other traffic gets into the side roads from behind them. Early start would also allow people cycling out of the side roads to turn left from the advanced stop lines (ASLs).

The other important feature is that in order to allow cyclists to turn right from the side roads, we really need to be releasing the side roads on their own stages otherwise cyclists potentially have to wait for a gap in oncoming traffic. It isn't vital we do this from a traffic signalling point of view, or even from a 'conventional' safety point of view, but it is a lower collision risk and would feel so much safer. Ideally, the side roads will be coming from low-traffic areas and so the green time needn't be too long which would allow them to run separately.


The sequence above shows how some of the signal stages would work. I've not bothered with the north-south general traffic stage; so starting with the parallel crossings/ main road crossings, you can see left and right turning cycle traffic stopping in the side roads at the stop line. Right turning cyclists would give way to oncoming cyclists as they would if this was general traffic running together.

Next, the green comes in for the road to the east. This allows the cyclists waiting in the entrance to the road on the east to proceed west and complete their turn from the previous stage. Cyclists coming from the eastern arm can turn left onto the cycle track to head south or to turn right to the far side to go on the other cycle track to head north.

There is also a green on the LLCS for the entrance to the side road on the east because there may be cyclists from the previous stage who are completing their turn - I've highlighted this in yellow (but it's a green signal). The last stage is just a reversal with the western arm getting a green, but we don't have the LLCS for previously turned cyclists as we did in the previous stage because there wouldn't be anyone left waiting (yes, it's complicated).

If the two side roads ran together, then the movements could be as I described, but the LLCS on both side roads would come on together, definitely with an early start to allow cyclists who turned on the previous stage to complete their movement. This would then essentially run as a 3-stage junction. With the stop lines in the side roads, there is a risk that some cyclists won't stop (don't write in) - we are dealing with people after all. However, is this any riskier than the toucan fudge or people ignoring a banned left turn on a parallel crossing?

I appreciate that this is fiendishly complicated to understand - it was to write down and I'm hoping I've got it right myself. I'm sure someone is going to spot a flaw which means I end up either rewriting or trashing this post (joke - hopefully).

Now, this isn't pie in the sky. There is a similar layout to this on the CS2 cycleway in East London. The junction of the Whitechapel High Street/ Commerical Road/ Leman Street has this layout. Well sort of, because Leman Street is one way going away from the junction. I think there are other similar junctions on CS2, but this one does show LLCS in the way I have described them, but to be fair, I should probably go for a better look and make a video!

The junction is much larger than in my example because left turning drivers are held when cycle traffic and ahead moving general traffic runs together (called 'hold the left turn'). Where cyclists get a green, they are permitted to turn left or move ahead; the right turns for cycle traffic is banned because because of the way the staging is set up (I'll come back to that in a minute).


The top image (above) shows the eastbound cycle track on Whitechapel High Street. As luck would have it, cycle traffic has a green on both full-sized signals and LLCS (circled green). In the side road (Commercial Street) you can just see a stop line and a red LLCS. Left turning cyclists would have to stop at the red as with my drawing above and the bottom panel shows a view once one is around the corner.

Right turning cyclists here would actually move ahead to the far side of the junction and then wait on the nearside to complete the right turn as a two-stage right turn - I'm not suggesting this at all in my layout, although you could do it - although the first time I used one in the UK, it went a bit wrong! The LLCS green to clear previously turned cyclists is still a two stage right turn, but you turn right before the second stage without having traffic thundering past you. In my view, this is far superior because you will be looking at a LLCS right next to you rather than a signal on the other side of the junction.

As well as the concept from a signalling point of view, there are some other features which are kind of nice to have and they can be applied in other places. First, we have the flare;


The cycle tracks approaching the junction are under some space constraints - whether this is actual width, a desire for a buffer (with planting) or some other issue. However, because of the more open geometry of the junction compared to the roads before the junction, we actually have a little more space to play with. The flare allows people to queue side by side at the stop line which increases throughput of cycle traffic. People turning right can also move to the right in readiness.

The left turn also flares a bit to help slower left turners to get out of the ahead/ right cycle traffic and the radius of the kerb here is designed to be comfortable for people using non-standard and adapted cycles. The other features in the close-up image above is the point that the cycle track surface ties into the carriageway surface - no kerbs to fail and throw the rider. The dotted white line is simply there to help show drivers the edge of carriageway. There is also the 'mini-zebra' which keeps priority with pedestrians who cross to the 'floating' crossing point for the signalised crossing of the carriageway.


The image above shows a set of the "elephants" feet which are designed to help show the route through a junction for people cycling. The markings are not parallel, which is a reflection of people being able to occupy the wider area before the stop line and then fall in tighter as they move through the junction and back onto the cycle track. As people move off at different speeds, they will naturally filter in.

The image also shows one of the disadvantages in that the pedestrian crossings are off the main walking desire line and the arrangement also means there couldn't be diagonal pedestrian crossings if walking and cycling run together in the same traffic stage.

Now, the layout can be tightened up for motor traffic because we don't design for the largest lorry which theoretically might turn into a side street and so with a bit more development, the pedestrian crossing points could be pushed closer to the walking desire line.

I think the problem we have in the UK is the lack of national design guidance. I know there is some good local guidance out there, but even there, we don't get enough example layouts on how we can deal with common problems. In fact, the reason this layout has made it onto my blog has come from a request for help from a campaigner on how the left turns at parallel crossings could be dealt with and the layout developed from a bit of back and forth discussion. I also tweeted out a request for an example of the arrangement at Whitechapel High Street because I was convinced I had seen one.

Obviously, I am interested in this stuff and so we now have a fairly accurate schematic and thought process (I hope) which solves the problem, but you are not going to find this in any design manual in this country. This is a problem because where we have designers working on projects who may not have the interest or knowledge in what is still a pioneering design subject in the UK (in a modern sense), we will struggle to think beyond what we are used to.

Engineers are very good at copying (what works or doesn't work to be honest) and so that is why we still see some really poor designs because they are applying layouts in old (and often discredited) national guidance. The government always tells us that local authorities are best placed to develop their own guidance, but that is nonsense because most don't have the resources or knowledge. We still need a big book of layouts and case studies. Anyway, have fun thinking about this one and feel free to criticise, because the layout is still on paper and it's easier to change than the kerbs!

Sunday, 20 January 2019

On The Cheap

Building cycling infrastructure is often touted as an expensive thing to do, but this would mainly apply to street retrofits where a significant part of the costs are sunk into undoing layouts which were designed for motor traffic.

This does apply to walking infrastructure, although probably not to the same degree because most people walk and don't give footways and crossings a second thought.

In very rough terms, on a greenfield site where the land is already owned and there isn't much additional work to be done, the broad, all-in costs for building new is as follows;
  • Footways - £100 to 150 per square metre
  • Cycle tracks - £150 to £200 per square metre
  • Carriageways - £200 to £250 per square metre
This is very broad, is subject to wide variation and depends on all three being built together. If a footway and a cycle track is built next to a carriageway, then the assumption will be that the costs are lower because they will benefit from carriageway drainage and lighting, whereas with a standalone footway and/ or cycle track, some of the costs go up a bit because of drainage and lighting. 


It's also down to the structural design. Carriageways need to carry motor traffic whereas cycle tracks and footways don't, although in the Design Manual for Roads & Bridges, there is recognition that they sometimes take motor traffic (usually over-run). In other words, a cycle track which can in theory be mounted by a delivery truck, needs to take this into account (whether or not people should be parking a truck on it). 

If the design doesn't appropriately take this into account, even the over-run by a single HGV could actually cause damage. The photograph shows a cycle track which cunningly doubles up as a fire path. If it wasn't built to take occasional over-run by a fire engine (which could be full of water and so very heavy), then the first time it is used, damage could result. The photo below shows the same scheme being built, demonstrating some serious thicknesses of material going in.


The other issues is that of frost. In the UK, we often have soft soils such as silts where the first half a metre could be damaged by freezing temperatures. We also have clays which can shrink and expand in dry and wet weather. 

We will always be building on the underlying soils and while the structural requirement for a footway or cycle track won't normally need to be too thick, the condition of the underlying soil might require us to dig more out from below. The point I am making is that building footways and cycle tracks require the same level of technical know how and site information as we would with a carriageway.

Where we are not building across a field, then we are definitely into reworking what we have. One useful principle is that it is easier to convert a carriageway into a cycle track or footway than the other way round. The main reason for this is utilities. 


The table above is from some industry guidance on the depths utilities should be laid - the full document can be downloaded here. Have a look at the last two columns which give depths within footways and carriageways. A cycle track would generally be treated as a footway in this case. Some utilities are the same depth, such as water which has to be out of the way of frost. Others have a different depth on the basis that those under a carriageway need protecting from traffic loading.

Telecommunications kit is one which can be a massive pain to deal with because there is so much of it and we have the differential depth. I'm often dealing with developers who need to build a new junction or access across a footway where a carriageway construction is needed and all of the utilities are too shallow. If there is optical fibre, then best you have plenty of space for zeros in the amount box of your cheque book.

The other thing to consider with a scheme is that getting utilities diverted away from your scheme or lowered within your scheme is that it can take ages. On an important road or street, any work that will take over ten working days will generally need a 3 month notification period before it can start. This is to give proper notice to the utilities or others who might have works which need coordination (and could be a blog post in its own right). 

Street lighting is a classic item that takes ages to shift because of the need to disconnect, shift and reconnect. Traditionally the power works are undertaken by the power company and the column works by the local authority, but thankfully we now have contractors who are permitted to do both which makes coordination a bit easier.


The photograph above shows a trench being cut into the carriageway for a new kerb line for the interface between a cycle track and narrowed carriageway. This generally doesn't affect utilities (unless a chamber is in the way) and as the levels are being raised, we won't have to think about lowering utilities. In the situation where we have a very wide footway and we are taking some of it for a cycle track, even building a stepped cycle track (the cycle track lower than the footway, but higher than the carriageway) may reduce the cover to utilities enough for them needing lowering.


The photo above shows the southern side of Vauxhall Bridge in London. The footway and cycle track are at the same level (with a tactile kerb between) because the cycle track has half come from the carriageway and half from a wide footway. Dropping the footway half to carriageway level here would probably have had an impact on utilities. Further north, the cycle track as at carriageway level because the cycle track fully takes space from the carriageway.



The pair of photographs above are on the western side of Westminster Bridge in London. They are actually showing two different bus stops (one after another), but again, the cycling space and floating bus stop comes from the carriageway and so the cycle track can be kept at carriageway level. 

Part of the work included resurfacing the main carriageway after the works and a rebuild of the central reservation, neither of which were required for the cycle track. In the event of someone looking at the project costs from a criticism of investing in cycling point of view, all of these costs will be lumped in and so this really can skew how people see the costs of just providing for cycling. 

In my view, renewing the whole street is often a good idea from a maintenance point of view, but we need to be honest about where the costs are apportioned. 

The other piece of street kit to talk about is that of traffic signals. Costs vary with site of course, but replacing the equipment on a simple 4-way signalised junction might cost around £60k. Installing the same kit first time at the same junction might cost over double that because of the ducting, installing tactile paving and possibly moving lighting or other utilities round.

What we should remember with traffic signals is that the are there in order to manage the dominant flow of motor traffic. They give drivers coming from side roads a chance to get on the main road, or they protect people walking and cycling.


The photo above shows the junction of Ruckholt Road and Orient Way in Waltham Forest. Without the traffic signals, nobody cycling is going to have a fun time trying to get across the main road. The signals are not there because a cycling scheme was built per se, they are there because of the motor traffic and so the investment in the scheme is skewed towards dealing with motor traffic.

Finally, lets compare the costs of a zebra crossing over a carriageway and a cycle track. The first is perhaps £15k+ and the second is perhaps £5k. They will both have tactile paving and dropped kerbs in common, but the cycle track doesn't have to have Belisha beacons and it doesn't need high grip road surfacing to help speeding drivers slow down. Again, the extra cost is because of the motorised traffic and skews the budgets accordingly.


So, despite what some people might have you believe, building for walking and cycling is cheap, it's just that at the same time we have to blow a load of cash to accommodate motor traffic in doing so.