Wednesday 25 June 2014

A Sunny Southern Seaside Safari Part 3: Cycle Track Bliss(ish)

I have had a good load of material from the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain's AGM and Gathering which took place earlier this month and this week is my third and last post on the infrastructure safari part of the weekend. (Part 1; Part 2)

At the junction with The Drive looking east onto the hybrid track.
I have said before that engineers need to live their designs, but the next best thing is to live other people's designs, or at least ride them. Apart from New Road, the highlight (for me) of the infrastructure we rode was Old Shoreham Road, although it is not without its problems and compromises.

Operational for a couple of years now, the scheme was aimed at improving walking and cycling along a road which although classified (A270) it was bypassed years ago by the A27 which was built to take long-distance and heavy traffic. What was left was a very wide and now firmly suburban road which was still dominated by and for the convenience of motorised traffic.

Passing a bus stop.
The space has been repurposed for hybrid cycle tracks which has some hints of what is done in Copenhagen - there is a one-way (or uni-directional) track on each side of the road. A hybrid track has a kerb upstand between the carriageway and cycle track and then a second upstand between the cycle track and the footway. The tracks run from The Drive to Dyke Road, the former being the end of a route of variable quality from the seafront.

The junction of The Drive and Old Shoreham Road is a crossroads and for cycling, has a four-arm (not staggered) set of Toucan crossings whereby pedestrians and cyclists cross on all arms at the same time. From memory (and I stand to be corrected) traffic runs in two stages north - south and east - west and so the method of control is relatively simple. It did seem a long time to get green on the Toucan though.

The cycle track interrupts vehicle accesses to private homes, but
the stepped arrangement means the vertical alignment changes
remain smooth and comfortable.
To join the cycle track, one is given the two tier approach whereby you use the dropped kerbs to use the Toucan and turning right from The Drive means doing this in two parts (unless you just go diagonally!). Alternatively, one can stay on the carriageway. 

As the footways around the junction have been designated shared-use cycle tracks, left turns can be made without waiting for signals, but 3 of the 4 corners are so narrow, I can see conflict with pedestrians being the issue.

At some side roads, a kerb is carried round into the side road, but
the set back give way line shows that the cycle track has priority
over side roads. The track is 2.5m wide here.
The corners are narrow because although Old Shoreham Road is one traffic lane in each direction, they flare out to multiple lanes at the junctions at each end of the section with the hybrid cycle track and the signalised junction half way along (The Upper Drive). This means that on most arms of the 3 junctions concerned, there are short sections of narrow on-carriageway cycle lanes and two traffic lanes approaching (left lanes being left/ straight on and right lanes being right). 

The scheme could have maintained the cycle track through the signalised junctions and provided cycle signal stages. I don't know if a radical layout was proposed or if Toucans at the signalised junctions was the original concept because of traffic impacts, but they are certainly a blight on the scheme from a cyclist and indeed pedestrian point of view.

Eastbound, approaching The Upper Drive. The wide cycle track drops
down into an increasingly narrow mandatory cycle lane to provide
space for a right turn vehicle lane. Those cycling straight on can
stay on the carriageway or use the Toucan crossing which has little
space for people on bikes and on foot. Right turns would be with
traffic or over two arms using the Toucans.
The cycle tracks are mainly 2.5m wide, going down to 1.8m in places. Where wide, people can easily cycle next to each other and chat, although this would block anyone wanting to overtake. The narrower sections can still take riding two abreast, but the outer person starts to get close to traffic. There is one short section of shared-use, unsegregated track where the route passes over a railway bridge. To have prioritised cycling, traffic could have been taken down to a single lane with traffic signals or "give and take" priority signs. I assume traffic flow made that unpalatable (my second guessing might be a bit unfair of course).

Here is a uni-directional cycle track in Copenhagen by way of a
comparison. It is notable that pedestrians get squeezed in many
places to provide cycle tracks rather than taking traffic lanes.
Side roads either have kerbs continuing into them (with tight radii to keep left turns by vehicles slow) or they are made very tight with quadrant kerbs (we call them "cheeses" in the trade!). In both cases, the give way line in the side road is set back to give priority to the cycle track and the "cycle" area is kept a little higher than the main traffic lane - almost, but not quite a hump. 

Where the cycle tracks pass opposite a side road, there is a section of flush kerb (with the carriageway) to allow riders to turn right into or out of the side road. Turning right off the cycle track would mean stopping on the right hand side and then looking over one's right shoulder to find a gap in the traffic.

The cycle track is dropped flush with the carriageway when passing
a side road opposite. In this view, the dropped area is in the shadow
of the bus.
Bus stops on the route have been made accessible, but passengers board and alight from the cycle track. In response, the layout provides for the area passing the bus stops to be shared. The layouts get messy in my view as the kerb between the footway and the cycle track is maintained, but but the footway and cycle track portions are both marked as shared.

Perhaps it would have bee simpler to accept the compromise and make the sections passing bus stops just shared with (yes I know) a bollard at each end to guide cyclists back to "their" side. Tactile paving is provided to guide blind and partially-sighted people to the "footway" side at each end of the bus stop area anyway. The bus stops weren't busy when we rode the route, but I can see conflict here. This is kind of similar to some (narrow) layouts in Copenhagen where passengers use the cycle track to board and alight although I understand that passengers have priority. Time will tell I guess.

One of the narrower sections. Even at 1.8m, it is pretty good, but
overtaking gets one a bit close to traffic. I must preferred the wider
sections which were 2.5m!
The other feature of note is a zebra crossing at the eastern end of the scheme, outside the Brighton & Hove 6th Form College which is built on a large speed table and seems to act as a link to Chanctonbury Road which is closed to traffic (but not bikes).

Surfacing-wise, the cycle track looked like machine-laid 55/10 HRA for the most part (I may be wrong!) which basically made up of 55% 10mm sized stones with binders and other smaller stones and fine material. In other words a great surface to cycle on.

In conclusion, there are big compromises for cycling at the signalised junctions which are arranged for traffic capacity which does affect user experience, but the cycle tracks are great, especially at 2.5m wide. I might have liked a 45 degree chamfered kerb between the cycle track and the footway, but I think the original kerbs were mainly used (and left in place on the whole) and replacement would have cost a lot. Really, this scheme gives the minimum standard for cycle tracks and as I cycle around, my mind starts to project what cycle tracks like this would look like in places I know. 

Trying to write a post a week is challenging to say the least and so I welcome those days or weekends when I see lots of different stuff, so thanks to CEoGB for the weekend, it has given me plenty to blog about. Perhaps more importantly as a designer, I have some new ideas on how things can be done and I will able to share my photos and experiences with others in my field. I will leave you with a shaky video!


  1. How was drainage of the cycle track and road handled?

    1. Yes, I did miss that. Basically, the "old" road gully position is maintained and the cycle track falls back towards it. The carriageway is drained by a new gully which is piped back to the old one. This view shows more

  2. Have any accurate costs for this scheme been made public? Campaigners can seem to take it as a cop-out when we talk about costs, but that seems a decent example of minimum provision, as you say, and it evidently involved new kerbing, drainage and surfacing (never mind messing with buried services).

    1. According to the Council's website - £330k which seems a little low to include signals work.

  3. That does seem a bit light. I wonder if the £330k was just a small contribution or matched-funding?