Saturday, 12 October 2019

Where is Chapter 6?

In a week where the government has proudly said it will fund £13m for bikeability training in a press release that as usual just drones on about cycling being a good thing I am still looking at tumbleweeds rolling past on design guidance.

For a rounded rant about the lack of funding for cycling infrastructure, have a read of Karen Gee of Cycle Sprog's blog post on the press release which I wholeheartedly endorse. However, there is something else missing that only geeks like me tend to worry about and that's the guidance to help what little money appears for infrastructure to be invested properly.

I have been trawling through lots of walking and cycling design guidance for my day job recently and it's apparent that the UK isn't short on help, the problem is that much of it is an abject mess. There are good documents to be had, but it's almost an industry of redesigning the wheel which we really could do without. The significant issue we have is the usual government position of expecting this stuff to fall to localism. One of the key Dutch principles is to make layouts legible and this requires a level of consistency. It doesn't mean everything looks identical, it means it should read the same.

It's a far cry from how we run our motorways and trunk roads (at least from a design point of view) because the groundbreaking (for the UK) Interim Advice Note 195/16 "Cycle traffic and the strategic road network", has now been fully Incorporated into the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges as CD195 "Designing for cycle traffic".

I do have some criticisms of CD195 because there are some layouts which to me would still feel very unsafe to use even though they are for lower traffic flow situations - how people feel is a very important part of designing along the Dutch method of Sustainable Safety. However, it's now a mainstream document and in theory, those working on motorway and trunk road schemes across the UK (it covers the whole UK) will start using it. These schemes have a long lead in time though, so don't expect change overnight.

For a more central approach to non-trunk road situations, we are a waiting on the replacement for Local Transport Note 2/08 "Cycle infrastructure design". As far as many of us in the industry were concerned, we were expecting to see this published last month with an announcement by the Government. Unfortunately political focus remains on wrecking the country with the EU withdrawal and so the replacement remains under wraps for now.

There is one document, however, which should have been published a long time ago and that's Chapter 6 of the Traffic Signs Manual (TSM). While designing for cycling along links is reasonable straight-forward, junctions and crossings get a little more complicated. The TSM is an important document for designers as it helps explain how traffic signs and road markings should be used and Chapter 6 will deal with traffic signals, zebra/ parallel zebra crossings and other control methods (traffic in the widest sense. It will also incorporate and update other design advice on signal and crossing assessment/ design.

The document exists in draft because I still have a reviewer's version;

The reason why this frustrates me so much is that the UK sign rules changes in 2016 with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 which itself came after a long review of the 2002 regulations, although it was still rushed out for political popularity and is no easier to read than the previous version. In order to more easily understand the legislation, the TSM provides detailed advice and given we were given the gifts of traffic tools such as cycle signals and parallel zebras, it would have been nice for Chapter 6 to have come out in 2016 with the new legislation.

I should point out that there aren't many people working on this in the Department for Transport and with the pressures of Brexit, it's unlikely to improve soon. I place the blame on the delay squarely on the Government as it's certainly not the fault of DfT staff.

So, we sit here in 2019 still designing with one arm tied behind our backs with national guidance which is 11 years old and regulations which have been in place for 3.5 years with no help on how to interpret them. Meanwhile, Highways England with the devolved governments are able to update their design standard with no fanfare or announcement from the politicians. But that's OK, bikeability is being funded for another year. Go us.


  1. I sometimes think that the revision cycle of things like the TSM is so long the the front end forgets where the back end is.