Saturday, 21 May 2022

The Versatility Of Modal Filters

This week, I return to the London Borough of Hackney to have a look at a pair of very different modal filters, but ones which really show that the technique represents a spectrum of (motor) traffic management and where we can tailor things to the local context.

My trip made use of Cycleway 1 which runs from near Liverpool Street Station (Wilson Street) up to Church Road in Tottenham. This is not a post about C1, suffice to say that unlike the first proper set of main road cycleways in London, C1 mainly avoids the parallel A10 and as such remains incongruous from a directness perspective as well as being poorly signed in places.

Still, it was a handy route for my trip and for certain, it does pass through several "low traffic neighbourhoods" (LTNs) which were built before it became a catchy term. In particular, it passes through De Beauvior Town which was originally filtered in the 1970s as documented by Hackney Cyclist in 2015.

A view of the filter which has trees to the left, bollards and traffic signs stopping motor traffic and planters to the right.

Despite running through old filtered estates, C1 still suffers from drivers cutting through and so the first filter I stopped at was part of more recent work to deal with that issue. The junction of Culford Road (on C1) with Ardleigh Road (above) was closed to motors as a trial in late 2016 (as an experimental traffic order) along with another closure just north on Culford Road itself. This was part of a wider traffic reduction plan for the area which essentially built on the original 1970s work. 

As we have come to expect, there were campaigns against the proposals, but the London Borough of Hackney, working with Transport for London, decided to make the filters permanent with a permanent traffic order coming into force in March 2018. The design swapped the junction priorities of the old layout where Ardleigh Road was the main road with Culford Road as the side road. This means that Culford Road now has priority which makes for a more legible C1 route. 

A view from the other side of the filter showing the planters and cycle parking to the left.

The filter design is a "hard" filter in that there are actual bollards (above) to stop driver access (and they can be unlocked in an emergency). I prefer this approach to filters managed by enforcement camera because bollards add to the subjective safety of the location where you know you're not going to be bothered by drivers - these are the type you'll most often see people of all ages lingering.

The layout has created space for new trees and hire cycle parking (below) with a couple of planters thrown in for good measure. One thing which is missing is seating - this would be a perfect location for people to pause a while and enjoy the peace and quiet the LTN has brought.

A view of the cycle parking which is a pale blue metal frame with horizontal parking hoops. There is a post sticking up with a "hire cycles" traffic sign on it.

One thing I haven't worked out yet is why there is an area of carriageway which has seen planters added and the double yellow lines pushed out round them (below). There is no Google Streetview for the initial experiment and so maybe there were more bollards to start with rather than realigning the northern corner of the junction. As the area is closed to motors, there really isn't any need for the yellow paint in any case. What was good to see is that care has been taken not to block the pedestrian dropped kerbs.

A view across the side street with planters either side of a dropped kerb crossing point.

After pausing to take some photographs, I headed north on C1 once more looking for a very different filter on a very different street layout. Despite being just a couple of kilometers away, I did manage to lose the C1 signage, but I eventually arrived at Stoke Newington Church Street which has C1 doglegging through between side streets.

A narrow section of street with shops on both sides, narrow footways and the the restriction signs. There is a rainbow painted on the road and a bus coming towards us.

The view from the Marton Road side.

The modal filter I had come to see is essentially a 20 metre section of the street between Lordship Road and Marton Road which has been closed to most motor traffic between 7am and 7pm. Buses are exempt as are holders of the "HAC01" permit (which I'll come back to in a bit) as are emergency vehicles. Businesses can continue to take deliveries during the day and people can be dropped off, it's just they will need to go a different way. The filter stops the peak hour driver commuter use of the street, so it's safer for cycling and during the middle of the day it's quieter for those shopping or visiting.

The scheme was introduced experimentally in September 2021 and is part of the borough's general push to get longer distance motor traffic back onto the A-road network, along with making local neighbourhoods better for walking, cycling and buses. What I hadn't appreciated is that this filter was only part of a wider scheme which has created 5 low traffic neighbourhood "cells" in the greater Stoke Newington Area.

The HAC01 permit is an interesting addition. It is actually a blue badge permit exemption for certain modal filters in Hackney. In general terms, there is the ability to exempt all blue badge holders from modal filters, but Hackney has taken the decision to restrict this to permit holders.

A view from the other direction of the same thing as a the previous photograph.

The view from the Lordship Road side.

This approach is a local policy decision and applies to filters on classified roads such as Stoke Newington Church Street which is the B104. There is a little more complication with other streets which take through traffic and so Hackney considers the same exemption to be applicable to bus routes. The point here is the borough has tried to ensure blue badge holders are not impacted by filters on the local strategic road network while maintaining the integrity of neighbourhood filters (even where camera enforced) by not applying permits there. 

The use of permits also means that blue badge holders from out of the borough do not get the exemption, keeping it very local and essentially a "reasonable adjustment" for the borough's disabled residents who rely on cars for trips within the borough. This is a very subtle use of traffic powers, but it really demonstrates how schemes can be constructed to try and deal with the main issue of a local high street being used for long distance traffic, while maintaining necessary access for those most in need of it.

The Stoke Newington Church Street scheme opens up significant future possibilities because the current road design sports main road features such as pedestrian refuges, wide sections of carriageway, narrow footways and signalised pedestrian crossings. If the scheme is made permanent, there is the potential to rebalance things back towards walking which is a key high street mode, while maintaining access for buses and cycling. It's hard to sum that up in a photograph and so I shall leave you with a video which really shows the incongruity of a road managed for motor traffic where the motor traffic is removed.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

The Amazing Electricity Trickery: Supercharged

Electric vehicles were on my mind again recently as I walked along the street and saw a cable running from a first floor window of some flats and across the footway to plug into an electric vehicle.

I of course tweeted out a photo and thinking my caption of "this is fine" was a little dry, I added 

"This is bullying. Subsuming public amenity for private gain and there's little people walking and wheeling can do about it. If you buy a car, make your own arrangements for fueling it."

I partly post these sorts of things through general annoyance at what I consider to be basic unthinking behaviour, but because it will always get a reaction and so spark debate.

A footway with a yellow cable draped down onto it from a wall on the left and plugged into a grey car on the right. A small rubber mat covers the central section of the wire on the footway.

As you can see in the photograph above, the owner had some idea that their choices did create a problem for people walking along the footway, but it's was a pretty half-hearted attempt to mitigate the problem they were causing. 

Let's not be under any allusions here, cables left like this are trip hazards for anyone and particularly those with low or no vision. They can also create problems for people using sticks, crutches and rollators as well as wheelchair and mobility scooters. In general highway engineering terms, anything over 6mm is very likely to constitute a trip and for people using wheeled mobility aids, smaller wheels can get caught at this level difference.

The problems with my example didn't start with the lazy draping of the cable though, this is actually the end point of policy failures which didn't foresee the shift from petrol and diesel to electric power, or if it did, a policy position which is predicated on people driving as they always did. I wrote about EVs in 2013 and 2017 where I explored these (ahem) disconnects and now in 2022, we are at the position where the government seeks to ban new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030 as well as pressing on with roads expansion in England. Throw in car-dependent development and the demand for driving will continue to grow as well as pressure on recharging facilities.

A red London bus at a bus stop with a crowd of people waiting to get on. There are shops behind.

A fully electric London bus

My favourite transport planning model is "avoid, shift, improve" (ASI) which essentially looks at ways in which we can avoid travel in the first place, then shift it onto sustainable modes and then decarbonise what is left (including service, delivery and construction vehicles). It isn't just transport theory, it is interlinked with spatial planning so as many people as possible can live and work within walkable and (more often) cyclable distances, with electrified public transport talking up the slack for medium and long trips.

The policy failures in my example also extend to my local authority which has so far refused to countenance any on-street charging facilities. Those people trapped in electrifying car dependency without access to off street parking are going to find things potentially more difficult going forward. There is a wider risk that with car-dependent development, we're simply going to carry on expecting that roads between such places and city centres end up being kept mainly for moving low occupancy vehicles for commuting trips and for those who can afford cars (whether easily or by struggling) and the significant maintenance costs therein.

A parking bay in the road with a footway and housing beyond. To the right end of the parking bay, there is a kerbed island on the road edge on which a large pillar for car charging is placed.

I've mixed views as I would rather we didn't clutter streets with charging kit at all, but pragmatically I guess we'll have to facilitate it, but let's take the space from the run of parking bays with a build-out and not the footway as with my example from the City of Westminster in the photograph above. I'd prefer to see much of the charging provided in repurposed petrol stations and destination parking. An "electric forecourt (below) could have a place, especially as part of a mixed use development which has retail elements. Even the fastest fast chargers take longer than filling up with petrol and so those needing them could plug in, do a small shop, and then be ready to get underway again.

A row of electric charging car parking spaces with cars parked next to each other. They are covered by a partial canopy. There is a large sign to the left advertising the charging facility.

As well as local politics, the shift from private forecourts to public streets relies on local authorities which are under resourced for management of charging kit, even if the day to day operations are privately managed. It will be interesting to see how charging costs change as electricity costs rise because home charging will always be cheaper as it doesn't need the on-street kit, maintenance contracts, local authority management etc.

Some have suggested solutions to the wire over the highway problem (and thanks to those highlighting the initiatives). In Oxfordshire, a small pilot has been running to install channels in the footway to provide somewhere for cables to run. This of course assumes the user can park reasonably close to their home and in this pilot, it needed people to be on good terms with their neighbours. Interestingly, they found people only needed to charge up once or twice a week.

A close up view across a footway from a front garden to the wheels of a car in the road. There is a concrete channel with a rubber strip running through the middle into which a cable has been pushed. The rubber strip leaves a level footway over the cable.

The photographs above and below are of a Dutch scheme which used a street reconstruction to add modular channel blocks within which to run a charging cable. As with the Oxfordshire scheme, this relies on neighbourly goodwill, but it deals with the tripping issue. Thanks to Sjors van Duren and RoyalHaskoningDHV Netherlands for the photograph and background. 

A general view of a concrete channel across a footway containing a cable covered by a rubber strip. The cable goes from a charging point in a front garden to the left to a car parked on the right.

This is a pretty tidy solution, but in situations where on-street parking is dense within a controlled parking zone and where people can't often get to park in front of their dwelling, it's going to be a struggle. Potentially, permits could be developed to reserve bays for EVs near where the private chargers are located, but eventually we'll have an EV fleet and the same problems unless we reduce the number of cars people need through planning and transport policy levers.

It's also worth mentioning another Dutch solution to the problem which uses an arm swung over the footway to dangle a cable down to the vehicle. Have a look at this website for something which is way less practical than a cable channel and way more ugly in the street scene.

There's probably not a single solution to these problems and having multiple solutions is probably more resilient anyway. At the heart of this, though, remains the very real problem that policy is playing catchup and until or unless it does, we are going to get cables run over the footway. Because most people are at home at night, it will be overnight charging which makes it tougher for local authorities to deal with and what then? People have cars to charge and while it's very easy to say it's their problem to solve, some of the problem is created through policy. Expect this subject to rumble on for years to come.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

The Missing Link

I'm back cycling the London Cycleways this week with a look at an addition to the Central London network which opened a couple of weeks back and has overnight made life so much easier.

At the western end of the A11 Whitechapel High Street, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets becomes the City of London. This is also where Cycleway 2 (formerly Cycle Superhighway 2) ends and you're thrown back with traffic. Around a 1000 metres south, Cycleway 3 also runs east-west and people wanting to carry on to Westminster, have had to get from C2 to C3. There are a couple of north-south routes available, but they are awkward with poor wayfinding.

I was therefore pleased to see Transport for London consulting on connecting the two via Mansell Street, right where C2 ends. In fact, I'd say you could call the new route an extension to C2. Mansell Street is one-way for general traffic and is part of a larger gyratory wedged between The City, Whitechapel and St Katherines & Wapping. This has always been a tricky area to cycle around. In fact, there were plans to build this scheme in 2016, but it all went quiet.

TfL's scheme is actually experimental and part of the transport body's Coronavirus recovery response. After a short period of construction between the start of January 2022 and the end of April 2022 (26th to be precise), the scheme opened for use. The original notification for the scheme was made in August 2021 which just shows how quickly things can move. I should add at this point is because the scheme is experimental, it's construction is from simple, demountable materials and has a minimal amount of traffic signals work, but I'll come to the detail shortly.

A streets with a 2-way cycle lane on the left side of the carriageway protected with plastic wands.

It's a scheme of two halves. North of the junction with Prescot Street and Goodmans Yard, the three northbound general traffic lanes (part of the local gyratory) has been repurposed from a a bus lane and two traffic lanes with the eastern traffic lane converted to a two-way cycle lane protected by wands and bolt down islands at the crossings. The photograph above is looking south with the cycle lane on the eastern side of the street, with general traffic lane to the right and bus lane on the far right.

The cycle lane passes a signalised pedestrian crossing which has a bolt-down rubber island between the cycle lane and general traffic holding a traffic signal.

The photograph above shows an existing pedestrian crossing which has had bolt down traffic islands added to relocate traffic signals for northbound traffic with a new cycle signal for southbound cycle traffic.

Same arrangement with a side street to the left and a white car turning across the cycle lane.

Access to side streets is maintained as it was before and given that the scheme is largely paint and wands at this end of the road, it does still feel exposed where drivers turn across the cycle lane (above) or if access is needed for cycle traffic to a side street on the opposite side of the road, the latter being a disadvantage of two-way provision.

The cycle lane ends with a ramp up to pavement level. The pavement has been widened, but with pub benches to the left, space is tight. A shared walking and cycling crossing is ahead.

At the Prescot Street / Goodmans Yard junction, the cycle lane moves up to shared space at footway level. This has been achieved with new kerbs and an asphalt infill against the existing kerb line. This junction is an odd diamond shape with a signalised crossing on each side. The northeast crossing has been switched to a toucan to carry the cycleway link south, the southeastern crossing already being a toucan feeding a toucan on the northwesten side which goes on to a two-way cycle track on the northern side of Goodmans Yard.

A aerial photograph with suggested routes for cycle tracks through a complicated junction. The cycle tracks are picked out in light blue.

This is the least successful part of the scheme because people walking and cycling are in conflict with each other, especially on the northeast corner of the junction where there is a busy pub and where the new toucan has been added. It could be argued that the existing toucans also created this risk but this new link is going to make this location much busier. Above, is a very quick sketch of what I would like to see happen at this location, although with this, I haven't tweaked the pedestrian crossings, but we'd essentially have parallel crossings keeping everything legible.

The shared area becomes a cycle track once again with a ramp down to road level.

To the south of this point, Mansell Street is one-way southbound (towards Tower Bridge) and the three traffic lanes have been swapped to continue the two-way cycle lane on the eastern side with two traffic lanes remaining. In general, traffic movements have been adjusted in the wider area for many years and although the key roads remain, some have had space repurposed through development and new cycle routes. Just south of Prescot Street, an old two-way cycle track has been rebuilt and the footway widened (above).

A cycle track crossing a side street by bending left to cross away from the main road on the right. The crossing point is painted bright blue.

Next the cycle track (we are now at footway level) bends out from the Mansell Street carriageway with a cycle priority crossing over Chamber Street (above). This is actually just an upgrade of the old layout which implied cycle priority, but it wasn't explicit. I would have preferred a continuous treatment here, but the experimental nature of the work probably didn't justify the expense.

A piece of road with the protected two-way cycle lane back at road level in a tunnel.

Just south of Chamber Street, you can see that the nearside of three lanes have been given over to the two-way cycle lane (above). As a consequence, the old two-way cycle track has been removed giving much more space to people walking.

The cycle lane has a spur pealing off to the left. A large blue sign explains a two stage right turn ahead.

At the far south of the link, the former left turn for traffic accessing Royal Mint Street has been removed. There is a two-way cycle track link to Cycleway 3 which runs on the northern side of Royal Mint Street (above). This allows two-way cycle traffic to flow between the northern and eastern arms of what is now a connected network. One annoyance here is there is a dropped kerb across the cycle track link which really should have been asphalt to asphalt because the turns are not at 90° to the line of travel which is a slip risk on the kerbs.

A close view of the layout of the two-stage right turn. There is a cycle logo with a right turn arrow above it giving cyclists the place to wait.

Just beyond, the scheme ends with the ahead movement merging with traffic after the Royal Mint Street junction. For those wishing to turn right to head west on Cycleway 3 on Shorter Street, there is a slightly awkward two-stage right turn (above). People need to hover by the cycle logo with the turn right arrow above it and watch for a green cycle traffic signal on the far side of the junction. The first time I tried it, I didn't realise it was a two-stage right and I waited between the two traffic islands!

We still need to look at how the scheme links at Cycleway 2, so let's head back north. For cycle traffic turning left from C2 onto the Mansell Street link, a pair of dropped kerbs have been cut in for access, which makes the eastern corner shared with people walking. It's not clear and it took me a minute to work it out. I assume it has been done like this to give a "free left" behind the pedestrian crossing over Mansell Street (below)

A dropped kerb from a road to a shared path on the left.

I'm not a fan of sharing like this but given it's an experimental scheme it would be a waste of resources digging this corner up now. In the fullness of time, I think this whole junction needs looking at because something like a CYCLOPS would be so much better.

For cycle traffic arriving at the north of Mansell Street, a cycle gate awaits and this one is an interesting layout (below).

The two way cycle lane meets a junction. The road is on the right and bolt down islands protect cycle traffic. There are various traffic signals ahead. A cyclist can be seen going ahead.

Generally, cycle gates feed from the nearside. They operate essentially as a traffic-signal controlled advanced stop line whereby cyclists enter a large reservoir with a stop line under a green signal while general traffic is held back (and a different traffic stream runs elsewhere. You can see this in the photograph below at the Bow Interchange.

A cycle lane protected by a kerbed island to the right with traffic further right. There are separate signals for cycles and general traffic.

The cycle entry signal then goes red. The signals on the exit of the reservoir then go green to give cycle traffic a head start (already being spatially ahead) with general traffic being released just after which you can see in the photograph below.

Same as the previous image with traffic signals at different stages.

The Mansell Street cycle gate operates in the same way, just from the offside. The arrangement allows easy cycling ahead into Middlesex Street which has a with-flow cycle track just after the junction or right to head east on Cycleway 2. There is no left turn for any traffic (including cycles) because of a conflict with a pedestrian crossing on the western arm (you can just see it in the photograph below). This is likely to lead to cyclists turning left in any case and so needs looking at and I think it would be acceptable to exempt cycle traffic from the ban and have a supplementary stop line and low level cycle signals for the crossing.

The two way cycle lane meets a junction. The road is on the right and bolt down islands protect cycle traffic. There are various traffic signals ahead. Traffic is moving through the junction.

So look, there are issues which need to be sorted out, but after years of waiting, there is now a very useful and much needed link in Central London's cycling network. At a wider level, TfL has shown that it can develop and install a scheme very quickly which should give confidence to others that it can be done. 

It's also worth remembering that the point of an experimental scheme is to test, monitor and consult on a scheme which the authority has ever intention of keeping and I really hope TfL does in this case and then returns to add kerbs and better junction treatments.

I'll leave you this week with a video of the new link;

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Bracknell Bygones

I've often said that nothing is new in traffic engineering and in this week's post, I have a look a some old techniques which probably look new to many people because we simply forgot how to do them.

The location of these engineering oddities is the town of Bracknell in the unitary authority of Bracknell Forest, to the west of London. I have a rolling list of interesting pieces of infrastructure which I plan to see and so a trip out this way was an opportunity to see a couple of things on my list, although as every, there was more to it than met my eye.

The modern town of Bracknell was developed as a New Town to provide post World War 2 housing for bombed out Londoners and businesses with the development taken forward by the Bracknell Development Corporation. The New Town was originally planned to be self-contained to allow people to work locally, as well as having all of the various services on their doorsteps. 

In common with other New Towns such as Stevenage, the town was developed with walking and cycling networks developed separately to the motoring network and with spatial development having separate residential, industrial and town centre segments. Like other New Towns, Bracknell also turned out to be fairly low density and very easy to drive around which meant that for many people a car became a necessity because walk distances were too long and despite the separated network, cycling didn't provide sufficient time advantages as well as some of the network being very lonely places to travel.

The features I wanted to see were in the Easthampstead part of the town, one of the originally envisioned neighbourhoods which subsumed the village of the same name. A fair bit of the area was built in the Radburn style with vehicular access and car parking to the rear of houses and front doors opening onto car-free areas of open space and footpaths.

Ringmead is a distributor road which connects local streets to longer distance through roads and here lies a handful of curious junctions. This part of the town has a network of cycle paths, some shared and some with separate footways. Ringmead is the former and forms part of the more recent "red route" for cycling between the Coral Reef and Lookout leisure sites to the south and the town centre to the north. Even though the route is fairly direct, it will never be quicker than driving on the A-roads it runs parallel to.

The western end of Ringmead gives walking and cycling priority over the side streets by bending the 3 metres wide shared path out from the main road and with the shared path being placed on a road hump such as at the junction with Cottesmore (above). This arrangement means drivers turning off Ringmead can do so into a little pocket before they need to cross the shared part (below) The movement being broken down into stages reduces the burden on a turning driver. This is an example of sustainable safety. Drivers exiting the side streets can cross the shared path and then wait in the same pocket before completing the turn.

From a walking and cycling point of view, the layout does mean diverting from the desire line a little (below), but having priority compensates for this as well as being inset into the side street means there is less need to look behind you when crossing.

It's hard to see from the photographs, but the surfacing is red (now very faded) and remains reasonable smooth and in good condition. Given the location, the pedestrian and cycle traffic flows would have been planned to be reasonable low and so would probably be reasonable against LTN1/20 as being appropriate where both modes are under 300 people each at the peak (Table 6.3). The junction with Birch Hill Road gives general traffic priority as it is another distributor road where homes would generally be accessed from other locations by cycle.

It's an interesting curiosity and the regulations permitting such an arrangement go back decades. This was adjusted in 2016 (Traffic Signs Regulations & General Directions 2016) to remove the need for the road hump, but I would generally advocate using in any case one to force driver speeds right down. LTN1/20 suggests that for a cycle priority crossing like this (Table 10.2), the flow to be crossed with such an arrangement would be up to 4,000pcu (two-way) a day (passenger car units - a traffic flow converted to standard cars) with a maximum of two traffic lanes crossed at 30mph or below. This also means around 400pcu at peak (two way). 

Every case will be different and personally I'd like to see lower flows. With Ringmead, this is also a shared path which means people walking will find it less easy to find gaps and take longer to cross, so I'd estimate flows need to be around half.

As I mentioned earlier, there are also cycle routes with separate footways. Just down the road, there's another section of Ringmead which is still a distributor, but it meets the A3095 Crowthorne Road in an interesting way. At this junction, it's not possible for general traffic to access Crowthorne Road and so it's effectively pair of no-through-roads. There is a left turn from Crowthorne Road onto Ringmead which I assume fits the wider motoring network plan.

From a cycling point of view, Ringmead is quiet here and so cycling is on the carriageway connecting to local streets to other cycle routes to the north, although some of these seem rather lonely. Crowthorne Road is not for walking or cycling and the crossing of it is rather interesting.

Walking and cycling cross via an underpass which drops gently under Crowthorne Road which is itself at a higher level than the adjacent residential areas. Ringmead rised to meet Crowthorne Road at a signalised crossroads which is essentially a pair of bus only roads with a bus crossing of Crowthorne Road. In theory this means that an approaching bus can be given priority at the crossing point (I didn't see a bus cross myself).

I'll come back to the underpass shortly, but the eastern approach to the bus crossing has a section of bus and cycle road which carries a warning "sump trap ahead" (above). Just beyond the entrances to the underpass on both sides, we the get "no entry, except buses" signs (below).

A short distance after the no entry signs and just before Crowthorne Road, we see what a sump trap is. These are essentially large diamond-shaped blocks of steel which stick up above the carriageway surface in the centre of each running lane, with a traffic island separating each direction (below).

On closer inspection (below), the sump trap is recessed into a kerbed hollow which essentially gives access to vehicles with a suitable wheel track width and combined with the steel block, vehicles of a certain ground clearance can cross.

The reason this is called a sump trap is because the steel block will damage the underside of any vehicle which is too small to traverse it including the oil sump of ICE vehicles. Of course, if a bus can get over this, so can lorries, although unless delivering, these would be on Crowthorne Road. I'm sure there are drivers of some four wheel drive vehicles which would give this a go with two wheels on the adjacent verges as well as motorcyclists.

These sump traps are actually modern and were installed in 2010 to stop abuse of the bus only section by drivers. Because camera enforcement is only available in some parts of the country (and is was certainly much rarer in 2010), this was about the only way to discourage the abuse. This type of feature is incredibly rare in the UK, perhaps numbering less than 10 locations. 

In the wider network, this layout also gives us an insight into a separate bus network which could provide a better level of service than driving, although this has to include bus lanes and priority through junctions on main roads to genuinely provide options, along with high frequency and direct bus routes.

As I mentioned above, the underpass is worthy of note. The local topography means the ramps to it are very shallow and there is a clear view through it for a long distance before one arrives at the portal (above). this means that the ability for people to hide there is somewhat limited, although ideally, a wall on each side extended out would reduce that further.

The bollards preventing people driving through (above) are not placed well on the eastern side (the far side in the photograph above) and they really should be a conspicuous colour. However, it's a pretty good example by UK standards and it means that people walking and cycling don't have to wait to cross a busy 40mph A-road. This design where the road is lifted to minimise or eliminate ramps really should be a standard approach in my view because there is no delay for anyone and conflicts are removed. Social safety is important of course and so clear views without hiding places are vital.

The footway though the underpass simple carries on along Ringmead with the cycle track meeting with a simple give way. There really is no need or advantage to cross the actual carriageway of Crowthorne Road.

So there you have it. Some interesting relics (with a modern twist for the sump busters) of the New Town movement which proves that the UK can and did plan for different modes, it's just that we still made driving aspirational and easy for trips within these towns leaving these interesting design details.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

The Return Of The King

My post this week comes from Hammersmith in London. I was actually on my way to an event for something which I'll cover another time, but as I was in the area, I took a look at how some Pandemic cycle lanes were being consolidated.

First, I'll mention Chiswick High Road, where I visited back in September last year. The London Borough of Hounslow, helped by Transport for London, has taken the pop-up cycle track which created Cycleway 9 and converted it into a permanent scheme - well, nearly, it was still being worked on during my visit!

I'll go back later in the year to ride along the updated scheme, but as you can see in the photograph above, a pretty familiar type of layout is being constructed which is following the trend set by the earlier Transport for London schemes on Cycleways 3 and 6. This particular photograph shows the cycle track at footway level and this will because the space is being taken from the footway. If you look at this Google Streetview link, you'll see the pop-up cycleway on the other side of the green utility cabinet. 

This change is to allow car parking spaces to be reinstated just before Netheravon Road (behind me where I took the photograph looking west) and the reinstatement of a section of eastbound bus lane (above). The cycle track will have been designed at footway level to avoid having to divert buried utilities.

Elsewhere the cycle track is at carriageway level with it being lifted at junctions onto speed tables within the junctions (see below at the junction with Homefield Road).

A view along a cycle track crossing a side street. To the left, the footway is interrupted by the side street whereas the cycle track carries on through.

These treatments maintain the cycle track priority over the side streets, but unfortunately, pedestrians aren't afforded similar priority with continuous treatments. This would have been a great scheme to use entrance kerbs with to reinforce the "people moving ahead get priority" clarification in the recent Highway Code changes. One other thing which grates is the kerbs forming the junction sweep into the bellmouth which hints at driver priority. Still, a retrofit to all of this would be pretty simple.

Anyway, things on Cycleway 9 are moving forward nicely and it's fantastic to see the start of a serious attempt to give people another travel choice and one which directly serves shops and services as well as providing easy access to Tube stations and the residential areas either side. At the eastern end of this scheme, Chiswick High Road becomes King Street on entering the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham at the junction with Goldhawk Road.

Hammersmith & Fulham also had a bits and pieces of pop-up cycle lane, but it was not particularly coherent. However, the council is currently upgrading it to a new semi-permanent scheme which will essentially extend the C9 work east towards Hammersmith gyratory which itself is going to have decent cycleways pushed through it.

The eastern end of King Street is one-way west, but there used to be a contraflow cycle track. This has been subsumed into the current project which protects cycling in both directions with a lightly protected 2-way cycle track. The photograph below was taken at Holcombe Road looking east. General traffic is one-way towards the photographer and the old contraflow cycle track used to be on the left hand side.

A view of a street. There are light coloured footways on both sides and a dark carriageway. The left side is is for general traffic and the right side is for 2-way cycling.

A general view along the eastern end of the street.

Oddly called the "Safer Cycle Pathway", the scheme creates a two-way cycle track which includes bolt-down kerb/ wand units (below), floating buses stops and cycle signals. It seems the council will then look at further tweaks and upgrades later based on feedback. The cycleway runs on the north side of King Street from the gyratory and then swaps to the south near Macbeth Street where it continues west to meet Cycleway 9 at Goldhawk Road. Just call it Cycleway 9 and be done with it folks!

A white plastic kerb protection unit with three black wands sticking up from it. The wands are black with two white stripes neat the top.

Bolt-down kerbs with wands.

The scheme is tidily constructed and claims a decent width for cycling. The crossover point (below) seems a little odd, but because of the one-way section for general traffic at the eastern end, it makes sense to have general traffic on the correct side of the street leaving rather than having to swing left.

A view of the cycle track changing sides of the the street within a signal controlled crossing.

One thing which could be done a little better is the junctions. Two-way cycle tracks in environments like this are always a compromise and and in some cases I felt a bit exposed at side roads with drivers not looking properly and the protection ended too far either side of the junction. As an immediate response, some additional wands could make the turns tighter and may some coloured surfacing could assist with conspicuity.

A view along the two way cycle track. A mobility scooter is parked on the left of the cycle track next to the footway.

Gripes to one side, Hammersmith & Fulham is doing a good job and seeing a mobility scooter parked at the side of the cycle track (above) gave a hint that this might be infrastructure that is going to help more people than you might otherwise think. 

At the eastern end, the cycleway will pass Bridge Avenue which provides a link via a crossing of the nearby A4 to Hammersmith Bridge which is currently being stabilised and will soon allow cycle traffic to cross it in the interim while a decision is made on the future strengthening scheme. For my mind, keeping it closed to general traffic gives a great route south to Barnes. That of course is another story.

I'll leave you this week with a video of King Street. It's a little shaky as I had to use my phone because I ran out of battery on my video camera!