When signs matter

Above is a photo taken on Saturday, the road in question is Mitchem Road (A236) in Croydon. To this date there is still no reason why this cycle lane should be closed, a positive side to this, it has solved the issue of the door zone which Croydon Council is not interested in changing.

I do find the ‘NO PARKING THIS SIDE OF ROAD’ rather amusing, not only is the grammar rather poor (coming from someone who is dyslexic) but there also isn’t any chance of parking on the other side of the road as it has been dug up.

This image was taken only days before on CS7, further up the road are some gasworks which have caused the road to be narrowed on either side which means that cyclists and motor traffic can no longer co-exist.

TFL Reviewing Priority Junctions

Yesterday I got a press release from TFL stating the priority junctions they will be looking into as part of the cycle safety review. Read the press release here >

I recall raising issues with regards to CS7 and several of the junctions, I wasn’t the only one. Oval, Stockwell and the left turn down Clapham common spring to mind. In fact I recall my concerns got the attraction of the project manager, who invited me to talk to him about CS7. We rode along sections of it and spoke about various things, I highlighted the issue with Oval and Stockwell but it got ignored.

Those of us using the routes long before the superhighways came into play knew exactly what was wrong. We knew exactly how poor the facilities where when they where first put in. It’s funny how those of us who use the roads daily are not asked for their opinion on potential changes that will affect us greatly or what we think the issues are.

If Chicago can do it, why can’t we?

Chicago have installed a protected bike lane that offers plenty of space to cyclists, keeps them visible and safe and it has seen a two-fold in the modal share.

TFL are currently reviewing the superhighways, something which has been marketed as super and safe to use. Unfortunately two cyclists have found out that they aren’t safer than other London roads, RIP.

So Chicago has taken space away from general traffic and given it to cyclists, installing wide cycle lanes, with buffer zones and flexible bollards. The space for cyclists is clearly laid out and is ‘protected’ from other traffic. Obviously a vehicle can go straight through one of those bollards and plough through a bunch of cyclists but that can happen at all kinds of cycling infrastructure. I would say that it was less likely to happen here.

The superhighways that TFL have installed on 4 routes in London are generally a bit of paint, sections of them are on quite back roads or on specific shared use cycle paths and the blue paint (faded in some areas) does clearly show the space that is allocated to cyclists. 90% of the time this space is only wide enough for one cyclist (not taking into account bus lanes) and is very rarely segregated from the general traffic. Watch the video below to see just how close the traffic can get to a cyclist in these blue lanes.

I don’t think installing similar lanes all the way along the superhighway routes is practical, there are certainly places which are quieter and don’t have the space for such facilities (sections of CS3 spring to mind). Sections such as alongside Clapham common still have 2 general traffic lanes with a popular left hook spot. At present motorists rush past as many cyclists as possible and then slow down to take the left turn which can be very dangerous.

Why can’t we implement similar lanes?

Do ASLs help cyclists?

As I was cycling home the other day, I was looking at how other cyclists use the ASLs and filter lanes. Do they help us in situations where there are vehicles waiting at the lights.

The ASL is meant to provide cyclists with the space to take a controlling position in the lane and be in a position where they can easily be seen by the driver behind them. Providing them with safety whilst they set off .
But there are several issues with this;

  • There are often other vehicles in the ASL
  • Most of the time there is only one legal way to enter the ASL
  • The filter lane is often on the left of vehicles
  • The filter lanes can often be blocked
  • Most cyclists don’t understand where you should position your self

The first 4 points are self-explanatory but what do I mean by cyclists don’t understand where to position themselves? As I said further up, the whole point of the ASL is to let cyclists position themselves in a position where they are in control of their lane as they set off and they are in a position to be seen. I see far to many cyclists that use the filter lane and ASL to get in front of the traffic but then stop on the left by the pavement. This means you can get the usual close pass when you start again.

I also see issues when using the ASLs on the Cycle Superhighways. The amount of cyclists that you can have around you whilst you are commuting is approaching 40. Even with half that number you will have issues as people don’t use the whole length and width of the ASL. If you get 2 or 3 that stop on the left then the entry to the rest of the ASL will be blocked and lots of cyclists are stuck next to vehicles, which is the worst place to be when setting off in traffic.

The ASL has one major flaw, have a look at this image and see if you can see it.
The blind spot of the lorry is highlighted in black and that shape looks a lot like an ASL and feeder lane.

The ASL should be avoided if there is a large vehicle at the front of the queue!

I’ve had a few problems recently where I need to hold a primary position for quite some time after the ASL. This can often anger drivers, even when you are going near 30mph! And it can result in a dangerous situation.

In some cases I will filter to a point where I can fit into to traffic, several cars from the front. This will mean that I can take control of the lane, get through on the next phase and it will be easier to prevent an overtake from the behind vehicle if I keep up with the vehicle in front.

It is certainly possible to live without the ASL and I think in some cases it is a cause for concern as many cyclists have the ‘must get in front’ mentality, putting them selves in a dangerous situation because the lights have changed or because they stop somewhere they shouldn’t.

What do you think about ASLs?

Delays at crossings in the United Kingdom

This is a response to David Hembrow’s post ‘Delays at traffic light controlled crossings’

Crossing roads in the UK as a pedestrian or as a cyclist is generally a pain! The roads really are aimed at the traffic traveling along it. Pedestrians are often forced to wait a substantial amount of time after they have pushed the button to cross the road and even then, you might not have much time to cross.

For example, the video below shows the traffic light sequence at hyde park corner, plenty of cyclists and pedestrians use this daily.

As we can see from the video, pedestrians and cyclists have 6 seconds on green to cross, 8 seconds of no light and 82 seconds of red light. Pushing the button actually has no effect at this junction as the phase is designated and is based on the traffic light sequence on constitution hill.

David Hembrow shows us what it could be like!

As David says in his post. The delay caused to motorists for this ‘priority’ to pedestrians and cyclists is actually very minimal.

I cycled the route for the up coming Barclays Cycle Superhighway Route 8 that will be launched in July. Work is being done on the route at the moment but it takes advantage of some already in place facilities. These facilities include several traffic light controlled crossings and the time you have to wait at these is very different to what cyclists and pedestrians expect in the Netherlands.

The first crossing is a 24 second wait. No so bad but could be better. The second crossing however is appalling, we waited nearly 50 seconds but nothing. And we both decided it was best if we cycled across the junction whilst no traffic was coming.

This act of crossing whilst traffic isn’t coming is actually very common in the United Kingdom. Because pedestrians are often forced to wait a large amount of time to wait. This actually has a repercussion on the traffic using the road. As the crossing request from the pedestrian is not cancelled, the lights will change at some point and there may not be anyone there to cross, so vehicles have to stop for nothing.

This also has an effect on cyclists when these types of crossings are involved with building off-road routes, they become a pain to use as they can take several times longer to travel a set distance when comparing it to using the road.

For example the Vauxhall Gyratory has an off-road cycle path that goes all the way round, but again pedestrians and cyclists are forced to wait long traffic light phases. I can cycle around the gyratory and leave the exit i want in under 30 seconds but using the off-road route takes over 5 minutes in the test run I did! [The video is 1min 47 seconds long and is sped up by a factor of 4.]

With crossings like these, off-road cycling routes are hardly appealing to cyclists. I personally know that I would, and do, prefer to cycle on the road where I can get to my destination in a reasonable time!