Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Blackfriars new design

The problems around Blackfriars have been going on for a while.

Now the LCC has come out with a new design, which many people have blogged about already:

By British standards, it is quite remarkable that a campaigning organisation has felt the need to put itself out there so visibly in order to try to influence for the better. They've achieved a good amount of publicity. This is all commendable.

The poor design originating with Transport for London.
The design they've come up with appears on the face of it to be quite good. Cyclists are kept from most conflict situations (watch the animations). This is of course "just" a first draft from a campaigning organisation, not a "professional" design from the local government in London. However, it is a lot better for cyclists and pedestrians than the equivalent from Transport for London.

Junctions are critical, and LCC's design could do these better. I have a few comments which perhaps could feed into the process:
  • Given how much space there is around these roads, why have cycle-lanes right next to the other traffic ?
  • Left turning cyclists are required to make too sharp turns and are not adequately protected from left turning motorists. Why not use some of the "cool café culture" area for left turning cyclists ?
  • Why a two stage right turn ?
  • Advanced stop lines / bike boxes should not be part of an improved layout ? They're no longer a part of modern design here. If people feel a need to ride on the road instead of in the cycle-lanes then the design has failed.
  • Why can't cyclists turn left on red, and in some instances also go straight on red ?
Also a few details are missing (or perhaps I've simply not seen them). For instance, how wide are the lanes ?

The LCC recently held a poll in which the majority of their membership voted for a proposal called "Go Dutch". The language of the proposal was unfortunately rather woolly, suggesting for instance that only "main roads" should be targeted for segregated infrastructure, and that these should be rolled out rather slowly. What's more, it illustrated this with something far removed from best practice. The response from members seemed to suggest that the membership knew exactly what they wanted, and that they have something altogether more "Dutch" in mind than what the LCC was proposing.

This new design also has been described in some quarters as being "Dutch" in style. However, modern Dutch infrastructure doesn't really look like this. The LCC's proposal looks not entirely different to how some Dutch provision might have looked 30 years ago. There was a lot to like about 30 year old Dutch cycling infrastructure, so this isn't entirely a bad thing. However, in the second decade of the 21st century, I really think that London should be copying 21st century solutions and not looking quite so far backward.

Actually, my criticisms are relatively slight. Overall, I support this design. It's far from perfect, but it's a huge improvement on what was proposed by TfL.

The real criticism
All that is above is minor criticism compared with what Transport for London deserve. How on earth did this situation ever arise ? This fight should never have been necessary because nothing as ludicrous as the original TfL plan should ever have been proposed by TfL.

In a modern city, the proposed design from the LCC should look pedestrian. Maybe it should even look old-fashioned. However, Londoners are describing it as "ambitious" and "visionary". The reason why they see it as such is that TfL has let Londoners down. How did London get to be so backwards in its thinking ? Why is TfL still designing and building new infrastructure with a 1960s mindset ?

Works at Blackfriars should mean new excellent infrastructure to link up with existing excellent infrastructure. What is being faced is perhaps managing to build modern infrastructure here, but due to decades of inaction, it won't link up seamlessly with what is around the corner, and across the rest of the city, because everything else is of prehistoric design.

If the LCC plan, or something based on it, goes ahead, this could be a new dawn for infrastructure design in the UK. But please, in future, let's see British engineers and planners taking an interest in what has already been achieved in the Netherlands and not trying to reinvent the wheel.

The banner reads "Cyclepath must stay - where it is now."
The Fietsersbond was previously known as ENFB

A surprising precedent
There is actually a good precedent to all this debate over the Blackfriars area, and some readers may be surprised to find out that this earlier fight was over a bridge in a very similar situation in Amsterdam.

It's perhaps a good omen that the campaigners won and that conditions are now good.

The Berlagebrug in Amsterdam was built in 1932 but didn't receive cycle lanes until 1982. In 1984 they were threatened with removal and the Fietsersbond had to fight to retain a decent level of cycle access over the bridge.

The bridge now looks like this:

Grotere kaart weergeven
The cycle-paths are narrower and not as well separated from the road as would be ideal, but they link with proper segregated cycle-paths at the end:

Grotere kaart weergeven

Mark made this great video about the Berlagebrug to go with this blog post. Perhaps a little inspiration for those fighting at Blackfriars:
And finally...
If you're in London, go on the flash-ride at 5:45 pm Wednesday 12th October 2011.


Maarten said...

Junctions are critical. This table comes from "Ontwerpwijzer Fietsverkeer" the handbook that describes the design principles of real Dutch cycle paths.

The number of dead and seriously injured cyclists in 2002 in accidents involving bicycles and motorized vehicles:
speed limit 50 km/h
Road Junction
Dead 15 56
Injured 303 842

speed limit 80 km/h
Road Junction
Dead 19 31
Injured 104 179

What you see is that in residential areas (50 km/h = 30 mph) the ratio for road vs junction is about 1:3. For higher speed roads, the number of injuries is lower, because cycle paths are almost always fully separated here. Still the number of injuries and fatalities is much higher on crossings than on the roads themselves.

In short: you pretty much have cracked the real safety issue if you have the design of you junctions correct. This is much harder to do than for roads themselves (separate cycle paths are easy, crossings never are). The subjective safety issue is another story, but something tells me that if the junction is designed with real safety in mind, the subjective and social safety will probably improve as well.

Anonymous said...

"The language of the proposal was unfortunately rather woolly ..."

I'm sure that the language was deliberate: it seems that the LCC officers themselves do not believe truly Dutch-style infrastructure is possible, and therefore offered members only a watered-down version of the ideal, which strongly suggests that they are really not in tune with, or representing, LCC members. Whether they deserve to stay in their jobs, I leave others to decide.

Neil said...

Interesting that thisislondon.co.uk says "which is based on road schemes in the US,". Hmmm.

Disapointing that LCC twitter say - "ASLs are for those who ride on roads." and "The ASLs aren't redundant in this design: they're there for people who want to ride on the road"

So, yes I was disappointed with the LCC design, but it is hugely better than the TfL design.

David Hembrow said...

Maarten: Your numbers seem very much on the high side. Perhaps you mean "since 2002" ?

Anonymous: I do hope they're not deliberately doing this.

Neil: In Britain, everything has to be based on what happens in the USA. I pointed this out in a previous blog post when the Guardian was (once again) going on about cycling in New York. In the last few days, the BBC has had several stories about cycling in the US. They both still do almost nothing about the Netherlands, though.

JdeP said...

A good account of the LCC's deliberately wishy-washy language is here: http://voleospeed.blogspot.com/2011/08/going-dutch-maybe.html where it is pointed out that the phrase "Going Dutch: Clear space for cycling on main roads in every borough" was watered-down further to "Going Dutch: cycling space on main roads" (no longer "clear" space), and that the LCC wants "... a progressive cycling vision for London alongside other Dutch-style facilities such as cyclist priority at junctions, reduced speed limits in residential areas, shared zones and ambitious parking facilities." -- notice that it is tacitly assumed that cyclists will continue to share roads with cars, and there is no mention of separate or segregated facilites.

Maarten said...

@David: No unfortunatly I really mean "in 2002". I just confirmed the total number of dead cyclists from the database that is maintained by SWOV.

David Hembrow said...

Maarten, the link you give says that the total number of deaths on the roads of the Netherlands for all road users in all types of collision was 987, of whom 167 were cyclists. However, your figures as posted before suggested that 1556 cyclists died on 50 km/h roads and a further 1931 on 80 km/h roads.

I think I understand what you meant. There were supposed to be two columns. Deaths on roads in the first situation were supposed to read 15, while at junctions it was supposed to be 56.

Is that right ? Was that your intention ? Unfortunately, posting as you did made it look like something two orders of magnitude worse than the reality. I think many people will go no further than looking at what the numbers appear to say.

Maarten said...

@David: Sorry for the late reply. Yes, it is a table. For the 50 km/hour, it reads: 15 dead on a road, 56 killed on a junction. The number of injured are 303 on a road, and 842 on a junction. I guess the other table is easier to read now.

So, yes, that was my intention, sorry for the confusion.