Advanced Stop Lines – The results

I said a few weeks ago that I was going to collect some data about ASL’s and how many people I see breaking the rules on them. I took the data from a 5 day commuting period, which resulted in 149.55 miles traveled, 11 hours and 30 minutes in the saddle.

I stopped at 88 sets of traffic lights which had an ASL. 7 of those ASL’s had no vehicles that shouldn’t be in there from the time I was in it till the time I left it on the green light. At 12 of those 88, I couldn’t filter to the ASL, either due to it being full with vehicles or because the filter lane and other access routes were blocked.

At those 88 sets of traffic lights I saw 154 vehicles in them whilst the light was red. 59% of those where there when I got to it, and 41% of them I saw move pass the first stop light whilst the light was red.

54% of the vehicles that where in the ASL’s where motorbikes, the other 46% where other vehicles on the road, be them lorries, vans or cars.
On average, there where 1.75 vehicles in each ASL that shouldn’t have been there.

The highway code states, Rule 178:

Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.

The highway code suggests that you should treat the ASL like a yellow box and pedestrian crossing. If you can move all the way passed it then fine, but if you will stop in it due to traffic ahead of you, then you should stop at the first stop line. This suggests that any vehicle caught in the ASL that shouldn’t be there, could be fined.

Lets see what the Road Traffic Act and The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions have to say about ASL’s. *reads sections outlined by the highway code* Well that would be nothing. Just the laws about stopping at the first stop line but nothing about ASL’s. Which means that the police can only fine someone if they see them cross the first white line whilst the light is amber or red (amber is a 50/50 ).

I’ve yet to see anyone get fined for crossing the first stop line whilst the light is red. There have been some tales told by cyclists, the police say they can only fine someone if they see them cross the first stop line whilst the light is on red. Even then I doubt the driver will get a £60 and 3 points for it, more a telling off.

TFL boast that they added new ASL’s and increased the size of the existing ones along the super highways. But what is the point in wasting tax payers money on facilities for vulnerable road users if motor vehicles just ignore them? I would have no problem with TFL boasting about them if they where actually enforced and useful to cyclists but I fear that they often act as a target for cyclists to filter to and can put them in danger.

Expansion to Croydon Tramlink Could Break the Town Centre

Tramlink stop at East Croydon railway station ...
Image via Wikipedia

The tram system in Croydon has been a fantastic addition to the town and an easy way to get around if you live near one of the tram lines. But in recent years it has been running at max capacity and was clearly visible when Tramlink decided to change the route that the trams took a few years ago to try to increase performance.

Croydon Council will soon decide if is to use some funding from Transport for London to add an addition 10 trams to the system in the hope to decrease crowding and waiting times.

This will clearly be a fantastic addition to the tram system if it is something you use, but what effect will it have on other transport across Croydon?

Outside the town centre the effect will be minimal. The tram system was built on disused railway routes and on the sides of roads, which means that there is a higher chance that you will have to stop at traffic lights whilst the a tram crosses. This increase is minimal and not a problem if you ask me.

The problem I see, and it’s a problem currently. Is in the town centre where the trams use the road way to and come to a junction with other roads. At present the tram always gets priority and the lights change in their favour on the next light change.

This currently affects all road junctions where by the trams are on the road, but mostly it is an issue by East Croydon station, West Croydon Station and the junction over the underpass. What this can mean is that you are waiting at a red traffic light for up to 5 minutes before you can continue. This does cause massive traffic jams at peak times for apparently no reason.

For example (see picture below) we have the junction of West Croydon Station. The 3 routes into this junction are Station Road, N end (from the north) and the trams/busses come out of Tamworth Road. Station road has lots of traffic coming through it, and is always busy. N End road is also busy but the traffic is often less as you can only go down Tamworth Road. And Tamworth Road should only have taxi’s, busses, cyclists and trams coming out of it. The usual traffic light rotation is Station Road, then N End then Tamworth Road.

But if a Tram approaches along Tamworth Road when the lights at Station Road are green, then the next light phase will be Tamworth Road. Once the lights at Tamworth Road have changed to green, it goes back to Station Road, and the road users waiting at N End have to wait for another rotation before they get a green light.

That is just one example of how the trams get priority at junctions around the town centre of Croydon. There at least 5 other examples of where this happens around central Croydon. And with the increase in Trams traveling on this route, it is only going to get worse.

There is an easy fix, and that’s change how the light phasing works when a tram comes, fine if it gets priority to keep the system running, but at least put the light rotation back into place rather than re-setting it.

As it is, cycling in Croydon is a pain due to the tram lines that have been put in. Most of the crossing are not at a right angle, and trying to cross them at a right angle will only cause conflict with motor vehicles. The addition of these extra trams and the dodgy light phasing will only cause all other road users pain. Especially a problem for cyclists in the colder months due to loss of body heat.

Advanced Stop Lines – The most useless cycling facility

Liverpool
Image via Wikipedia

Well they certainly aren’t useless in their design. The idea behind them is bold but it’s hard to find one that isn’t already occupied.

I have two issues with ASL’s, the first being that motor vehicles often breach the law on stopping at the first stop line and the fact that 99% of them force you to filter on the left side of the cars to legally enter them.

I’ll start of with filtering to the ASL. The ASL is designed to give cyclists the chance to take control of the traffic lane they are in by taking a central/primary position. This means they have the space they need to get started when the lights change and not get caught by traffic that is turning or moving around them.

This sounds great, but first you have to get to the ASL. To do this legally, you will more often than not have to filter up the left hand side of the traffic. This is generally a bad idea for many reasons, including passengers exiting cars whilst stopped and not looking and the chances of getting caught out and having a car turn left in front of you or being squashed towards the kerb.
I very rarely filter up the left side of traffic when approaching a junction, I will often filter on the right hand side much like a motorcyclist, this has many pro’s including the fact that motorcyclist do this and drivers are more likely to be aware something in that position.

The main issue is the problem with motor vehicles breaching the ASL and stopping in the ASZ.  With the knowledge that an ASL is at a set of traffic lights, cyclists filter to the front only to find that there are cars stopped in the ASL and there is no room to position them selves safely. This either leads to cyclists jumping the red light and riding through the junction, the cyclists crossing the last stop line (which is technically RLJing), staying in a position which is unsafe or stopping in a gap between cars.

The main problem is that ASL’s are rarely a subject covered in the driving test and since their introduction in 1986 there has been little information provided to road users about what they should do.

It doesn’t help that the police do nothing about vehicles that cross the first stop line when the traffic light is red. It is a punishable offence with points and a fine but it is deemed to be a minor offence and is often overlooked. What may be a minor offence in one persons eyes, is an offence in another persons that causes an expensive cycling facility to be a waste.

I’ve decided to do a minor study to see how many vehicles I come across stopped in the ASZ’s over a few days. I shall included all modes of transport that by law, should not be in the ASZ. It may be that they entered it perfectly legally when the light was green but due to traffic they could not progress further. I shall report back on my findings in the next week or so.

In the mean time, there are some figures to have a look at from the Westminster Cycling Campaign. Their research at 4 junctions shows that in 2009 53% of drivers stop before the ASL when the light is red or amber, which is the same as in 2002. So over a 7 year period, and with an increase in cycling traffic on the roads during that time, the drivers where not any better. I did miss out that in 2003 60% of drivers stop before the ASL when the light was red or amber. But that number is still awfully low. TFL worked on the bus drivers understanding the ASL from 2002 to 2009 and we can see an increase from 59% stopping in 2002 to 92% stopping in 2009, why can’t something be done with all drivers?