Tuesday, 8 March 2011

What have the Romans ever done for us?

To us, the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire, our enemy is the roadbuilders who stick up the new roads, widen the old ones, and add walking and cycling features as an afterthought -one that neglects our needs and is constrained by the inability of the roadbuilders to imagine the needs, care about them, or execute on their own plans.

We call them The Romans. For what have the Romans ever done for us, apart from the roads?

This is the A4174 ring road path, by the UWE entrance. 20 years ago you weren't allowed to cycle here, and as a consequence there was none of this traffic calming stuff up. It was easier to cycle down, and way safer than the ring road.

Since then, the ring road has got busier and wider. This week they opened a new priority lane for buses, one that avoids taking any space from cars.
That worked, didn't it?

Looking the other way, you can see that some of the pedestrians are wearing camouflage and not hi-viz.
This shows a conflict of goals. The motorists and the councils would like all pedestrians to wear hi-viz, obvously. But many of the MoD staff are wearing work clothes designed to keep you alive in war zones, and bright reflective clothing fails then. It went out of fashion when officers stopped wearing red jackets.

The combination of traffic calming and pedestrians whose lives depend on not wearing hi-viz makes for a higher risk environment.

Descending to the roundabout, you can see that it is too narrow to have separation from pedestrians, so we are grateful for the current lack of bollards. Admittedly, the various road signs don't help, and a wider path would actually eliminate the conflict entirely. This would good as the people cycling up the hill are all in uniforms.

Note the different roundabout crossings

1. MOD entrance: light controlled, safe.

2. MOD back entrance and shops -no lights, cars may coming off the main roundabout at speed. There is a traffic island designed for at most one bicycle to wait, limiting the cycle traffic flow to one bicycle every 30s maximum. Everyone cycling across has to look at the traffic, then keep looking in front to see its clear to get off the crossing.

3. Shopping centre entrance. There is a green strip here, and the driver coming off the roundabout did give way. This is unexpected and welcome, as a green line on the ground has no legal force. If you get run over, the car had the right of way.

What did the SGC get wrong here?

The key issue is a focus on motor traffic rather than pedestrian and bicycles, and not making it safe to cross the roundabouts. Pelican lights that would block both the entrance and exit of crossing #2 would make it safe to cross and eliminate the traffic island bottleneck in the middle. That or a zebra crossing would be good. But perhaps they fear the tailbacks created by stopping for pedestrians and cyclists.

3. Again, no formal cycles-have-right-of-way setup at the junction. This time someone was being generous, but you can't rely on it.

The biggest hazard is the main MoD roundabout
  • The main road has 50 mph speed limit, people are still in motorway-mode -and not expecting pedestrians or cyclists.
  • No pedestrian/cycle crossing lights or scheduled period in the main light sequence.
  • The traffic island has room for one bicycle at a time and is already saturated.
  • Pedestrians and bicycles are sprinting over, attention split between traffic coming off the roundabout and what they will run or cycle into.
The metric we ask is "would you trust an 11 year old child to use this bicycle path safely". Not with these crossings and paths we don't. 

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