|An aspiration for London|
I first saw this image a few minutes after returning from the centre of Assen. As it happens, on our most direct route to the centre of the city, I pass a junction which looks remarkably similar to a mirror image of what is being proposed in London and I thought I had to write about the similarity.
|Real life in Assen|
The Assen junction solves problems which the London junction will suffer from - notably the ability of drivers to intimidate cyclists and to turn across their paths. The design in London requires drivers to turn left immediately after the traffic lights, crossing the route of cyclists, in order to reach some destinations. Cyclists in London are also encouraged to take up position at the right in a wide bike box depending in order to turn across the motor vehicles to make a right turn.
London's junction actually has two sets of traffic light, virtually guaranteeing a red light for approaching cyclists in a vain attempt to make sure any bikes in this location get away before the cars. Assen's junction completely removes all conflict.
The Assen junction is not part of a roundabout. At no roundabout in Assen are cyclists expected to mix with No Assen roundabouts have lanes on road. Not one of them include a bike box. Not one of them puts cyclists in a position such as is proposed in London.
I don't much like advanced stop lines (aka "bike boxes"). Cyclists filtering through traffic to reach a bike box can find themselves an unpleasant situation on the wrong side of turning vehicles when the lights change. They can be subject to intimidation by drivers behind them, and upon reaching the bike box a cyclist can find that it is already full of cars or motorbikes. On a small road with few motor vehicles, they can just about work. On a multi-lane road like this, there are far too many points of conflict where cyclists and drivers will have to cross each others' paths and they should not be considered. It's a world away from sustainable safety principles which remove conflict and makes roads self explanatory in order to reduce the chance of collision.
|Bow redesign includes plenty of scope for conflict between cyclists and drivers "sharing" a giant roundabout together. Not only the routes but also the speeds are different, leading to many points of conflict.|
And that brings us to perhaps the most important difference between these two junctions. While the mega-city of London sees it as aspirational to install a badly designed junction like this on a roundabout on an incredibly busy and complex junction to give cyclists a very slight advantage on a route which is for some reason called a "cycling superhighway", plans are afoot in small towns right across the Netherlands to remove older infrastructure like the Assen junction and make further improvements to remove conflict and give cyclists more convenient routes. This is happening in the Netherlands even on small junctions like this.
Bike boxes are not something which should still be part of new designs, especially on busy junctions. Rather, they're an idea which both campaigners and planners should be looking beyond.
Lessons still need to be learned even from what will soon be removed in the Netherlands, so I've documented some details of the junction in Assen below, showing why this junction, despite its age, actually works quite well:
|Cyclists stop 13 m ahead of drivers. Click photo for larger size|
|All conflict is removed at this junction (some appears slightly later on, but it's certainly not comparable with Bow roundabout)|
|Drivers cannot turn right, but|
It is positive that TfL seems to be thinking about cyclists. We have to hope that their proposal of a redesign in the face of criticism is a sign that a positive change has taken place within the organisation. However, the proposal that they've put forward is inadequate.
|People feel relaxed enough to cycle|
through "no hands". Will this be true
at Bow roundabout in London ?
It's been shown more than once that not only cyclists but also drivers benefit from the building of cycling infrastructure and higher rates of cycling. No-one in Britain benefits from the low quality of infrastructure being installed in the country.
Exactly the same problems arise in the Netherlands as in the UK, however the approaches taken to deal with them are very different. In the Netherlands, cyclists are not put into the firing line. Practices here are very much more advanced.
We run infrastructure Study Tours here in Assen and Groningen to demonstrate how the infrastructure in this part of the world works to keep cyclists safe and make cycling popular.
If anyone from Transport for London is interested in seeing a very different way of designing cycling infrastructure they might like to book a tour. Avoid confusion. Avoid wasting money and time on implementing second rate dangerous designs. Stop trying to re-invent the wheel.
Update July 2013
The junction in Assen featured in this blog post, a rare surviving relic of older design, is to be replaced and updated in the next few months.
Very sad update 13 November 2013
This junction in London was changed in the way that the city said it would and since that time it has claimed another life. There is a protest ride tonight (but note that London Cycling Campaign's suggested fix is very far from what is really needed). Before London can become a truly safe place to cycle it has to do a lot more than fix just one junction.
Please TfL, send someone. We can show you how to create proper safe cycling infrastructure which works for everyone.
Update July 2016
The old Assen junction featured in the video above has been completely rebuilt and it is now possible for cyclists to make a totally safe left turn across traffic at the new junction. Please read a new blog post which includes a description and video of the new junction design.
Read more posts about Advanced Stop Lines ( Bike Boxes ). Also note that one of the most important interventions with regard to traffic lights in the Netherlands is enabling cyclists to avoid them altogether.