Saturday 28 June 2014

Turbogate: the fuckup that keeps on giving

The Bedford Turbo Roundabout was already a fuckup-in-progress as soon as it was announced the cycle crossings at the roundabout exits were to be marked "cyclists dismount". Still, there were at least going to be the barriers to reduce cyclists being cut up by aggressively driving cars choosing straight-through routes

What's interesting is that -as David Hembrow regularly observes- the worst parts of Dutch Road infrastructure are being picked up and hailed as fantastic. Shared space is one example, turbo roundabouts the next. Not only are they mediocre bits of the NL roadspace, when brought to the UK they don't come with the rest of the system: bypasses and road blockings to reduce traffic flows into the shared space and viable alternative cycle routes for the roundabouts.

The South Gloucs shared space project ended up resulting in the Great Wall of Filton: a barrier added to stop motorcyclists getting through, and out of fear of pedestrians being hit by speeding cyclists. Even on a back road converted from a rat-run to a quiet road, cyclists aren't welcome.

The Bedford Turbo Roundabout is a mess spiralling down into a blatant abuse of cycling money. Sustrans should be backpedalling manically, using the death of the barriers as a way to exit without admitting that the original design was flawed the moment those blue "cyclists fuck off" signs appeared on the designs. Instead they are making things worse, issuing press releases claiming victory. If this is a victory, it is about as good as one as Blair and Bush's in Iraq, the one only those two still pretend was a a success.

It's not too late for the cycling groups to recover from this one. They need to go the council and say "no cycling cash unless the new proposed DfT signage "elephants feet" crossing goes in and those Dismount signs go out", with some raised road to indicate right of way alongside the belisha beacons. That's imperfect, but an improvement on the current debacle. Could we get it? Not while Sustrans is still giving its support.

Which is why Sustrans needs to be kicked into shape. They have got a good engineering department, and have apparently helped with some of the Bristol infrastructure development. But their campaigning group has got stuck in the late 1990s, giving the seal of approval to unacceptable mediocrity that is never going to encourage mass cycling.

They need to look at their goals and come with a nice metric: cycle routes good enough both for the 8 year old with their grandparent -and the commuter in a hurry. What is being proposed on the turbo roundabout doesn't suit either -and instead is theft of cycling money to improve traffic flow.

We get next to nothing for our infrastructure anyway -now the roundabout builders are stealing it in exchange for some cyclists dismount signs, with Sustrans saying "It's OK, take all of it". If the Bedford Turbo Roundabout gets to keep the cash, every civil engineer with a photo of a motorway junction on their wall be looking at their local cycling funding and thinking "How many cyclists dismount signs do I need to add to get that money for my junction?". Every project going over-budget can see the money and think "what little do I need to do get Sustrans approve me taking it".

And the worst part? Those civil engineers think they are doing the cyclists a favour. They will think the turbogate roundabout is an improvement; they do think that an unlit underpass with barriers and dismount signs acceptable facilities. And they will think that cycling groups that whine about this are ungrateful. Why do they think that? Because Sustrans encourages it.

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