Saturday, 15 December 2018

Quantum Cycling Design

In many parts of the UK, we provide for cycling in a way which seems to spontaneously switch from treating the mode like driving and walking. In some cases, it depends on the position of the observer.

We have a kind of Schrödinger's cyclist - that is, one which exists in two design states where they either have to keep up with motor traffic or slow down to walking pace. In some cases, we get both designs at once.

Earlier this week, I was in Crawley, West Sussex. I was having a look at some of the roads in the town and I took some photos which actually neatly show how we design for cycling. 

The town has lots of big roads, but for the purposes of this post, I am going to look at a short section of a gyratory which includes High Street which runs north-south and was once part of the main road between London and Brighton. In common with many towns, the current road layout is a legacy of the mid to late 20th Century fashion for building ring roads and gyratories. Anyway, back to High Street.


The photos above and below are taken midway along the link (looking north) and show part of the gyratory where drivers have a choice to turn left or right at a splitter island in the distance. The van is parked on a shared-segregated cycle track which is meant to be two-way. As you can see in the above photos, the man cycling is happy to stick to the road, whereas the woman in the photo below cycles on the footway.


From the other angle, we can see the cycle track on the right. The bollard is on the end of the splitter island and the green cycle lane feeds an advanced stop line. People wishing to cycle to the right (as we look at it) either stick to the road or the cycle track which becomes unsegregated just of shot to access a toucan crossing, before continuing off to the northwest with a shared-segregated cycle track that gives way at the side roads as you often see in the UK.


Below, is the view north again from next to the bollard on the splitter island. The ASL is for people wishing to stay on the road through an area where weaving drivers get into lane on another part of the gyratory. The dropped kerb leads to the splitter island through a pair of narrowing sections of guardrail which have been provided to slow people cycling to walking pace.


The dropped kerb is not quite flush and so it creates a risk of grabbing wheels which could throw people off their cycles. I jokingly called the guardrail the Crawley Fish Catcher on social media - because that's what it reminded me of frankly!


Looking north again (above), we've slowed people cycling down so they can use the toucan crossing to the rest of the High Street.


Finally, a view south looking at the fish catcher (above). 

The exact details of the layout are largely irrelevant, but the point is that over a relatively short distance of street in one UK town, we have found several of the features of 'traditional' UK cycling design which either has one squeezed in with people walking or having to blast along at traffic speed before being abruptly slowed to use a shared crossing in order to maintain motor traffic priority.

Unless you are fit and brave, you are not going to use roads like the one I have shown here - you are certainly not going to ride there with kids, or slowly with some shopping. The painting of the footway to provide for cycling is not direct and convenient, it forces people cycling close to people walking and above all, it's faff because you cannot cycle at a reasonable speed and you have to stop to cross roads all the time.

Cycling is not walking and it is not driving. It is a distinct mode which needs distinct design decisions and details. How to sort out places like the Crawley Fish Catcher? Well, that's another story!

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