Monday 28 June 2010

The most dangerous cycle crossing in the UK ?

Freewheeler recently pointed out to me that the London Cycling Campaign had used some of my photos in this video. They asked before-hand and were polite enough to include credit. This makes a difference. Also, it's a very good thing that they are publicizing the danger due to this dreadful infrastructure.

The video shows what is a remarkably common situation in the UK - of cyclists having a choice of riding along a horrifically busy road or of taking to a narrow, badly designed cycle path with crossings of the same road. Sometimes the speed limits on such roads are 70 mph (112 km/h) and they are not well enforced. Indeed, the new government in the UK says it is ending the "war on the motorist" - something which never actually existed, of course.

There are very similar situations all over the UK. This one is near where we used to live in Cambridge. While I lived there I tried both riding on the road, and on the shared use path. Neither could be described as pleasant experiences:

View Larger Map

This example is on the A3, a dual carriageway road which in most countries would be classified as a motorway. However, cycling is legal on this road, and indeed it gives the most direct route, so some cyclists use it. Note the cycle symbol in the remarkably narrow on road cycle lane on the left hand side of the road:

View Larger Map

But what happens when you get to that upcoming junction on a bridge ? Well, you have a choice. Either have nerves of steel and carry on in a straight line, or join the slip-road exiting the dual carriageway as suggested by the cycle lane marking:

View Larger Map

There is then some help for cyclists who want to go straight ahead. Part way along the exit ramp, cyclists can pull into a waiting area on the left before crossing the slip road, and re-joining the main road. Very small signs warn drivers that they may find cyclists doing this:

View Larger Map

The Wikipedia article about this road puts it as follows: "Between Thursley and Milford (near Guildford), cycle crossings of the slip roads have been constructed on both sides of the carriageway for the few cyclists travelling on this dual carriageway." It is of course no surprise that "few cyclists" would use such a route ? It's hardly a glowing example of subjective safety.

Indeed, this lack of comfort when cycling is exactly the reason why cycling is flatlining in the UK.

Thursley and Milford are just four miles (six kilometres) apart. However, the direct route means taking a trip along this road. Who but the most dedicated cyclist is going to do that ? It may as well be a thousand miles, and indeed people often believe as a result that the distance is "too far to cycle". Such infrastructure is extremely effective at preventing cycling.

Also read an article which compares the most dangerous junctions in London and the whole of the Netherlands.

Britain has many problems with cycling. Cycling there has flat-lined for years and conditions remain hostile while policies continue to fail. And the rest of the English speaking world is doing much the same...


Camilla said...

"War on the motorist?" Dear God.
I find it intriguing that the gov't intends to keeps fuel prices stable by lowering taxes if prices rise. Presumably down to zero and beyond? The Market is king in all things except where it might make people cut energy consumption, I suppose. Once again Peak Oil is not on the radar. NOt surprised though...

Sirius7dk said...

Sad thing is that that design is not special in any way as it is the same on all A-roads with junctions that way.

I remember travelling south on the A40 between Oxford and Swindon and I saw a footpath/cycle path but it started at a services and ended in the middle of nowhere without even providing a safe way for cyclists to get from the path and onto the road.

The only A-roads in Britain that are safe to cycle on is in my view the A-roads in northwest Scotland as they are single lane with passing places :)

Rasmus Jensen

David Hembrow said...

Camilla: It is a bit crazy. The countries which survive peak oil best will be those who start preparing for it first.

Rasmus: You're absolutely right. This is normal for British road design around large A road junctions.

And I agree on the A roads in Scotland (but only if you go north far enough and find a really empty one. I definitely do not include the A82). They're so empty that it's like cycling in a car ad on the TV. I took a few photos on my LEJOG ride.

christhebull said...

I am in Munich. Although not "fit" to cycle (drink), I live near Guildford and have been on that bit of the A3. (in a car, understandably)
As I understand, the new Hindhead Tunnel will see the old A3 closed and become bridleway north of crossroads. But to GET to the old Devils Punch Bowl, you either risk A3 or use A286 to Haselmere which has blind crests/ bends :S I would rather just cycle offroad in Witley Common (at least Webb Road is blocked off) :S
TBH the people chundering out of the balcony are LESS queasy than I would be cycling the A3.

Kevin Steinhardt said...

That A14 junction is an accident waiting to happen, and the cheek of the County to sign it as part of the local cycle network. :/ The NW and SE crossings are acceptable, as they are signalled; when the A14 slip road traffic stops, the roundabout traffic goes and the shared-use traffic goes also. Where traffic leaves the roundabout to get onto the A14 is the lethal part; no-one signals... almost never. The old Cambridge Road is still there in two parts (north and south of the A14); how long did it take the County Council to build the bridge between Milton and Cowley Park?; a similar situation may make Histon and Impington a slightly more cycle-friendly commuting borough.

Karl McCracken (twitter: @karlonsea) said...

Yep - I can think of half a dozen of these crossings around here.

The question is, what's to be done about them? After all, we can't all "do a Hembrow" & emigrate!

Unknown said...

You should try the junction of the A580 and the M60 in Manchester then!
The inside lane is the entry road to the M60 and a 50mph speed limit. The cycle route follows this road BUT there are NO signs to warm the motorist of cycles crossing and in the heat of the rush hour it is a deadly place to try and cross the road. You then have the SAME problem on the other side of this section for the traffic LEAVING the M60 for the A580 aka the East Lancs Road.

Unknown said...

Me and my dad try to cycle every Sunday. We usually do about 100 miles, depending on factors such as weather, altitude, and factors around our lives as well (for example, I had a bunch of exams recently, and we didn't cycle as much during this period).

We have cycled down some of these roads; we have familiarized ourselves, over the course of years of training, to dual carriageways. They're not a problem for us; 2 lanes is fine, albeit sometimes boring. However, 4 lanes gets a little bit scary. We were cycling down the A3 - I think we were trying to get to leatherhead - and it split into 4 lanes. We were cycling along the left side (as you do) with 3 lanes, and all of a sudden a 4th lane appears from the left, probably leading from a round about somewhere. The traffic was quite dense, although still moving faster than us (we travel at an average of 20 mph, give or take a few miles) by quite some bit. It was terrifying - who wants to cycle in between lanes when there are gazillions of cars traveling at 50mph in a relatively densely packed environment?

A couple of miles later, we were off the A3. But that was probably one of the most terrifying experiences I've had in a long time. That was more terrifying that cycling on the damn motorway- a few years ago, before me and dad got a good navigation system, we ended up getting ourselves in a sticky situation where the motorway to Brighton was the only way to go. We were on it for 1 mile and then we were in Brighton. There was plenty of space on the left, the cars didn't bother us one bit.

TL;DNR - the A3 sucks.

Simon said...

It would be better if the UK just made roads like the A3 and A14 actual motorways. At least then they would have to provide something for cyclists (and tractors).