Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Outer London Junctions

I've ummed and ahhed over the investigation by Caroline Russell AM into walking and cycling at Outer London junctions for the Greater London Authority Transport Committee.

One the one hand, I think it could almost end up in stating the bleedin' obvious. On the other hand, it's fantastic that someone is finally talking about my part of the city when the central area seems to get most coverage. We know there is huge potential for cycling and in places walking has great growth potential if it wasn't for barriers.

The difficulty for me is that I could go through a selected number of junctions and point out what's good or bad about them, but I'm not sure that's helpful. So, I'll answer the specific questions being posed by the investigation and also, to remind you that if you wish to submit evidence, then you've got until the 11th of August. 

I'll try and stick to junctions, but there also needs to be thought about the approaches and indeed, if the links are terrible, then even the best junction scheme may not help. However, junctions are the right place to start because that is where risk to people walking and cycling is highest and where physical barriers can be most significant. My thoughts are a bit rough and ready, but I've a lot on at the moment, so I'm just putting them out there! 


1. What lessons can be learned from previous junction improvements, either in London or in other cities?
"Improvement" is a loaded word and is often taken as shorthand as increasing capacity for motor traffic, rather than something which will also properly take walking and cycling into account. The greatest lesson should be recognising this and thinking about walking and cycling as modes which need proper consideration and integration in junction schemes.

2. How successful have recent junction improvements been in improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists?
There are certainly some great examples being implemented as part of the Waltham Forest and Enfield Mini-Holland schemes which have properly considered cycling. But there have also been schemes which have not considered cycling at all; and walking remains a mode to be fitted in around capacity for motor traffic capacity. Where walking and cycling is properly thought about, then people can move through junctions in experienced and actual safety terms.

Ruckholt Road. Cycling is designed for.

3. How successful have recent junction works been in increasing the take up of walking and cycling?
This is a tricky question to answer. Change to a single junction is unlikely to create conditions which will increase walking and cycling alone - this is a network level issue often needing mass action at junctions and links. Again, the Waltham Forest Mini-Holland scheme leads the way in dealing with all types of junction appropriately. Whether it is the large signalised type such as Ruckholt Road (above) or continuous footways/ cycle tracks across a side roads which have been deployed all over.

4. Are there any examples of low cost solutions that could be rolled out across a large number of junctions?
It's a big "depends on context". With large Outer-London junctions such as those involving TfL trunk roads, then walking and cycling need space and time provided within traffic signal staging - parallel crossings are also preferable to shared Toucan crossings, unless flows are very low and it's just about crossing the road. Signals work is never "low cost", but it's relative - the image below provides a parallel "simultaneous green" crossing treatment for people walking and cycling (at least by UK rules) and this is scalable.

Where side roads meet larger roads, then continuous footways and cycle tracks can be provided (although the rest of the link would need treatment for protected cycling in due course). A good model is for the side road to be one-way out onto the major road.


5. What are the biggest barriers to people walking and 
cycling in Outer London?
People simply don't feel safe interacting with traffic. TfL has shown this in its "Attitudes Towards Cycling" (2015) report where it is stated that;

Cyclists naturally don’t feel as safe when cycling on busy roads. 56 per cent feel unsafe compared with 44 per cent who feel safe.

This is the attitude of existing people who cycle. The British Social Attitudes Survey (2017) states;

In 2015, 64% of respondents agreed that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the road, the same level as in 2014.

We keep asking this question and we keep getting the same answer. We will continue to get the same answer as people do not want to cycle with heavy traffic. This is "experienced safety" and no matter how much we tell people cycling is "safe", unless they feel safe, they won't cycle.

Walking is similar in terms of people feeling safe and it is at junctions where people walking are most likely to interact with drivers. Many junctions are designed for motor traffic capacity and/ or large vehicles. Most junctions are laid out so that people walking have to find a gap in traffic - even in side streets. With larger signalised junctions, people walking sometimes have traffic signals. However, many require crossing to take place in several stages which can take a long time to traverse - especially on the diagonal. The photo below shows a typical Outer-London layout.

6. What would enable people to walk and cycle more in 
Outer London?
I'm pleased to see the word "enable"! We need to make walking and cycling easy and this means treating the modes with proper respect, especially at junctions. In many cases, this will require a rebalancing of road space because the modes have all but been designed out.

7. What changes to roads and paths would make it easier of 

more appealing for people to walk and cycle in Outer 

TfL trunk roads should have (by default) decent footways and cycle tracks along them. The width and method of separation will vary (often by how busy for walking). In some locations, a 3.5m shared-use path might be appropriate if walking flows are very low (bus stops tend to draw more people to them). When flows are higher, then they should be separated. A decent basic standard would be a 1.8m footway, 2.5m (3m is better) cycle track and a verge buffer of a decent width (2m is ideal). 

Parts of CS3 along the A13 show a good minimum standard and the separation between walking and cycling is helpful and there are often busier areas of footway where bus stops are provided.

This approach isn't just needed on TfL trunk roads. There are still dual-carriageway borough roads and also borough A-roads which need similar treatment. Although this investigation is about junctions, we should not lose sight of decent road crossings as from a walking and cycling point of view, these are essentially junctions for those modes.

Outer London high streets are probably the most difficult places to deal with because we often try and run them as shopping streets and strategic roads at the same time. If we are to enable walking and cycling, then it is likely that we will need to decide that these will need to operate for people and not motor vehicles.

At the smaller end of the scale, we need to filter out motor traffic from residential and local streets. People like to walk and cycle in quiet streets (as shown in the TfL report mentioned under question 5).


8. Are there any examples where the needs of pedestrians 
have come into conflict with the needs of cyclists at 

Areas where walking and cycling are lumped together (unless flows are very low) is built-in conflict. Many TfL trunk roads use "sheep pens" at junctions for people walking and cycling to cross which also builds in conflict (and are difficult for some people to use). There are plenty of examples around the Gants Hill area on the A12.

9. How might junction improvements that help pedestrians 
and cyclists affect other road users?
Some schemes can be designed to be neutral to other road users (the term here must mean drivers and bus passengers). If a junction has an all green pedestrian stage, then cycling can easily be accommodated with toucan crossings or parallel signaled crossings. In other situations, rebalacing will mean giving capacity to walking and cycling. 

10. What needs to be in place to support the needs of 
those with disabilities and visual impairments? 
Many signalised crossings have push-buttons placed in hard to reach locations for those using mobility scooters and indeed non-standard cycles. The photo below is a bit of fun, but as the rider of this cargo cycle, I can't reach push buttons without dismounting - many people cannot dismount.

Staggered crossings are also really difficult to use for people using mobility scooters and non-standard cycles because of the awkward turns. If there really is a strong motor traffic capacity issue (which I have to accept in certain places), then the answer might be decently laid out 2-stage non-staggered crossings;

Where continuous footways are being provided across side roads, there is little design guidance or debate on what visually impaired people require. On the one hand, continuous footways (and cycle tracks) can reinforce priority for walking (and cycling) as the footway takes priority. However, some visually impaired people are concerned that despite priority, they feel unsafe walking into an area where they will more likely interact with drivers. This means that tactile paving might be useful such as this arrangement in Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex;

Where walking and cycling space is being provided through junctions, then clear demarcation will be helpful for visually impaired people. Stepped cycle tracks can help with detecting them and if forgiving kerbs are used, then those using adapted cycles can easily leave the track (to enter premises). The photo below shows a footway with a full-height kerb where visually impaired people might need help detecting edge of footway. Beyond, the track is stepped and separated by a forgiving kerb.


11. What would be the main challenges of improving Outer 

London’s junctions for pedestrians and cyclists, and how 

could these be addressed?
There is significant political resistance to schemes which might actually or perceptively seen as reducing motor traffic capacity or the ease of driving. This resistance is extended to many people living in Outer London who see walking and especially cycling as marginal activity; despite many households or those in households not having access to cars (for example a parent may drive to work, but another parent may do the school run and shopping without a car). I would say this is the principal challenge. The resistance to rebalancing streets applies whether we are talking about building infrastructure on main roads or trying to filter side streets.

We also have issues with a shortage of engineering skills and knowledge in London generally, as well as senior officer leadership in the boroughs being vested in non-technical people who can sometimes have similar views as councillors with no desire to enable change.

Funding is also a significant issue for many Outer London boroughs where walking and cycling schemes are funded hand to mouth, rather than as a programme - the Mini-Holland schemes seem to be the exception with Waltham Forest being class leaders.

12. Should spending be prioritised, for instance on certain 

areas of Outer London or certain types of journey?
The Watham Forest Mini-Holland model is definitely the way forward to allow a mass-action deployment of measures. I would advocate looking at areas of perhaps 2 to 3 miles around the Outer London Metropolitan Centres as this will help with commuting (to the centres, plus railway stations within), shopping and leisure facilities plus schools and other community hubs.

13. Is there a need for a bigger overall budget to improve 

junctions in Outer London?
Absolutely. There also needs to be investment in the Transport for London road Network in Outer London which presents a significant barrier in many parts of Outer London.

Sticking with junctions, there are some really large junctions, ring roads (with awful junctions for walking and cycling) and gyratories in Outer London. Some are on TfL roads, some borough roads and some where they meet. Some places which would benefit from review are as follows (and are by no means exhaustive, because they're in the east!) Many are good examples of situations where you might treat people walking and cycling through the junctions better, but the roads around them are just as hostile.

The north side of the junction is passable for walking, but the south side is hard work with multiple crossings. There are some cycle tracks (on footways), but they are indirect and not in any way legible. Cycling through the junction is frankly terrifying.

These town centres have ring-roads (partial in the case of Ilford). Most of the junctions are purely design for traffic flow and so walking routes are convoluted and cycling provision is sporadic. Cycling on the dual carriageways is reserved from the fit and the brave.

There are at least toucan crossings through this junction, but they require crossing many arms and so it can take ages to get through.

This is a standard example where walking and cycling next to a TfL trunk road means stopping to check behind oneself when crossing to check nobody is turning left from it at speed.

Both are large roundabouts with trunk road flyovers. Lodge Avenue is larger and signalised as so there are Toucans available to cross. As is common with many locations, it takes several crossings to get through and some parts build in pedestrian/ cycle conflict. Gallows Corner is smaller, but as only two arms has signalised crossings, it is tricky to get round for people walking and cycling (who are lumped together).

There are quite a few large suburban roundabouts like this. There are some zebra crossings close to the roundabout, but the geometry promotes high driver speeds into and out of the roundabout. There is absolutely no thought given to people who may want to cycle.

This roundabout was signalised some years ago and now has Toucans around it with shared footways. The problem is, the crossings are two stage and frankly, nobody would really want to cycle on the dual carriageways which converge on the roundabout with painted lanes.

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