This video shows ten of the bus stop bypasses for bikes in Assen. They're not especially good "cherry picked" examples but simply the ten nearest my home. Most are alongside normal roads, one is alongside a bus road. All are within a couple of km and they were videoed in half an hour early last Friday morning. They're entirely typical of normal cycling infrastructure quality in this area. Note that these are all designed to be convenient for cyclists to use. They do not narrow or have raised sections to slow cyclists because cyclists are already slow compared with motor vehicles and we need to encourage efficient cycling not to slow cyclists down.
Don't combine buses and bikes
|Dutch bus-stop with no obvious bypass.|
Bicycles don't travel on this road at all
but are behind the noise barrier. Watch
this video to see how it works.
Where bus and bicycle infrastructure is combined on a long road it often leads to leapfrogging as buses repeatedly overtake bikes and cyclists are given a choice either to wait behind the bus, wasting time and making cycling less attractive, or overtaking the bus while it is stopped, which can be dangerous for the cyclist.
|Decades old and unimproved, the least|
good example of a bicycle bypass in
Assen still has a place for passengers
to stand before crossing the cycle-path.
New-build doesn't look like this.
Bus passengers also clash with cyclists. If a cyclist tries to pass the bus on the "wrong" side between the stop and the bus then this puts cyclists directly into conflict with those who are boarding or alighting the bus. This is avoided in the Netherlands as shown in the video above, though you'll note that in the oldest example, pre-dating modern practice, cyclists are routed on the wrong side of the bus shelter which could cause conflict. No modern bus stop would be designed like this, with conflict built in, but note that even in this example there is somewhere to stand after leaving the bus and before crossing the cycle-path.
Why doesn't Britain copy the best examples ?
After making the video above and while writing this piece I discovered that new bus stops claiming to deal with the problem that the Dutch were had already tackled more than 30 years ago were being introduced in London. Unfortunately, instead of copying from the best tried and tested examples, attempts have been made to design something new. Time will tell whether these are good examples, but there would seem to be reasons to expect them not to be as successful as normal Dutch practice:
|New design for London. Will cause clash between cyclists and bus passengers. Why didn't they copy from best practice in NL ?|
|Bus passengers clashing with|
cyclists in Royal College St
(Thanks to @AlternativeDfT)
Also note that at just two metres wide, the bicycle lanes shown here are narrower than any of the examples in Assen. The high kerbs and the planters between the cycle-lanes and road reduce the safely usable width of the facility.
Even the oldest example shown in my video from Assen is 2.3 m in width. That's on a relatively quiet residential access road and it is just one small weak link in a very dense grid of high quality cycling facilities within a small city. It deals with far fewer cyclists than could be the case in a larger city with fewer facilities.
(a few days later, The Alternative Department for Transport blog included an interesting blog post about how this bus-stop has worked out in practice)
|Another compromised design for London. Sharp bends on the cycle-path which is not wide enough. Opened several months after this blog post was written and immediately caused problems due to bad design. Why doesn't London copy best practice from the Netherlands ?|
|Dutch example from 1981. Not angular|
and you could expect the cycle-path
to be of usable width.
It can be difficult to pass other cyclists safely within just two metres and if the route is well used this will be a problem. Given that "superhighways" in London are few and far between and that even with the low cycling modal share of London there is a huge population to draw cyclists from, this route probably will be well used.
|The real bus stop bypass under|
construction. "barely 1 m wide"
(Thanks to @AsEasyAsRiding)
The idea of a bypass is to make cycling convenient. It should not cause cyclists to slow down or place them in danger. It should not cause conflict between cyclists and bus passengers. It should also not cause frustrated cyclists to use the road in order to bypass the bypass.
(Hackney Cyclist wrote a very good blog post giving more details of the HS2 route extension)
"40 years behind" is a choice
London is "40 years behind" by choice not by accident. Even now, after supposedly having "gone Dutch", the city is still designing and building inferior infrastructure as seen in the two examples above.
This simply isn't good enough.
Why is London still not learning from the best examples ? Why is the city still trying to find its own novel ways to solve problems which were identified decades ago in the Netherlands and the solutions to which have since been refined to a very high standard ?
Instead of continuing to make costly mistakes, why not send planners to find out what proper cycling infrastructure looks like ?
|Thanks to @EdinburghTom|
An amusing blog post from The People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire reminded me of another idea for passing buses which has appeared in Scotland recently. The rightly much criticized "Nice Way Code" suggests that cyclists should never pass buses on the left and on the right only "if you must".
Sadly, the "Nice Way Code" campaign has consumed a considerable fraction of the not very generous funding for cycling in Scotland. Instead of making it easy for bikes to pass buses safely and without conflict, they're using cycling money to tell cyclists not to pass buses.
This is just one of the many errors made by the "Nice Way Code", an organisation which sadly is backed by both CTC and Sustrans amongst other organisations who really should have known better.
Campaigners need to campaign effectively.
There is also excitement this morning about the British government having announced the "largest ever investment in cycling". This is apparently a figure of 77 million pounds to be spread amongst eight cities "in an effort to put Britain on a level footing with countries [...] such as [...] the Netherlands".
Unfortunately, this sum of money isn't nearly enough to achieve that aim. The Netherlands spends roughly €30 per person per year, every year in order to improve the cycling infrastructure and continue to expand the network. The total funding available over the next two years is about £148 million and this will allow investment in just eight cities to be at around £10 per head for just two years. This low figure of £10 per head is the figure which CTC actually asked for a few months ago and it's also the figure which will be debated in parliament on the 2nd of September.
Why is there so much complacency amongst campaigners ? Why such low ambitions ? Why do they offer support for inadequate policies and why do they not fight for what is really needed ? When you are already decades behind you cannot catch up by doing a third as much so why are campaigners putting their names to calls to do so little that the UK will inevitably remain in "dark ages" so far as cycling is concerned ? Low aspirations will not result in mass cycling and campaigners working with such aspirations are very much part of the reason why the UK is behind.
|"Armadillos" in Assen. These have sometimes featured on|
the study tour as an example of what not to do. They get
bumped by passing vehicles.
The "armadillos" in Royal College Street are a failure. If we had been consulted we could have told TfL in advance that this would happen. It's not something you find often in the Netherlands because it doesn't really work. There are just a few old examples like that shown in the photo on the right. When copying from the Netherlands it's important to look for good examples.
The "Armadillos" shaken loose over the last few months by large vehicles which have been accessing a site on this road have been re-fitted and broken examples replaced. Much tidier now.
You'll see from the photo that the cycle-path is generous enough that it doesn't feel cramped and also that cars pass at a reasonable distance. Nevertheless, this is outdated infrastructure. We were originally told there would be a proper cycle-path in this location by 2009.
Each Assen concrete block "Armadillo" is 1 metre long, 25 cm wide and 12 cm tall. When some were loose, I tried picking one up. It was heavier than I thought I could lift without damaging my back. These are not the insubstantial plastic used elsewhere. Nevertheless, this is not adequate.
Also see Hackney Cyclist for more and The Alternative Department for Transport for more about Royal College Street. This post was updated to include the words "floating bus stop" because this newly invented term has become commonly used to refer to bus stop bypasses.