Yesterday evening, this week's Study Tour group, a mix of campaigners and planners from Australia, Britain, Canada and the USA, ate their evening meal with us at a nice restaurant in Groningen which happens to overlook the most dangerous junction in the whole of The Netherlands.
|Why the shocked expression ? Read on|
Is this the world's first cycle junction design to accommodate the needs of those people who are not "ambiturners" ? This junction design not only includes the appalling right turn design but also on-road cycle-lanes and advanced stop lines. These are also examples of old-fashioned and dangerous provision. Astonishingly, people actually get paid for this standard of work. If you're a Londoner it comes out of your taxes.
I've criticized two stage turns before because even if done well, they're hardly optimal to encourage cycling. Not only do they keep cyclists on the road, but they extend the amount of time that a cyclist spends in the junction area. Quite apart from any physical danger, this is certainly not good for subjective safety. A two stage turn is an admission of not knowing how to deal with cyclists. It results in delays, it's difficult with a cargo bike, when carrying children or towing a trailer to spin on the spot and enter the correct position to make the turn. If you're an older person or have a disability then the problems will be even greater. This design is particularly illogical, quite the reverse of the self-explaining streets which the Dutch strive for. It will not be easy for people, especially children, to understand so it will be used in ways the designer did not intend.
|Some ASLs still exist in NL, but they're|
amongst the things you should not copy
despite being "Dutch"
"Being aware of each other" is not infrastructure, it's an accident waiting to happen. Crashes occur when people are not paying attention and it is the function of correctly designed infrastructure to be forgiving of mistakes, not to rely on people behaving perfectly in order to be safe.
Questions for the designer: Who is the target audience for this ? Who is it that requested their journeys be made longer and less convenient and who wanted to spend more of their time when cycling around junctions with motor vehicles ?
|It won't necessarily be safe, but I expect|
anyone running late for an appointment
will be tempted by the convenience of
the red line over the longer orange line
Would you let a five year old ride across this junction ? Would you even let a teenager ride unaccompanied here ? If not, why not ? Is it not easy enough to understand ? Can errors easily be made ? These are admissions that the junction is not sustainably safe. Accidents will happen and injuries and deaths are likely to result from the building of infrastructure like this.
It's not just a sketch
According to the description on TfL's youtube channel, this is going to be reality in London as of October 2013. It is to be part of London's "superhighway" network.
Frankly, it's amazing that someone can do work of this quality, that they can pass it to their boss, it gets approval to be built, people can make promotional videos of it and the promotion department can let people know about it, and all of the people involved should have been paid for their efforts without anyone noticing how dreadful it is.
Transport For London, is this really the best you can do ? Do you honestly imagine that this will enable you to catch up with The Netherlands ?
What should they have done ?
The most advanced treatment of a traffic light junction in the Netherlands now is the Simultaneous Green junction. These junctions remove all conflict in both space and time. No-one has to find their way to the front of a queue of motor vehicles. No-one has to wait twice to make one turn. Everyone gets to take the most direct route across the junction, no matter what their skill level and without any risk of being run over. Children can ride safely across because it is obvious how to ride safely across such a junction. It's even possible to incorporate right turn on red for cyclists only and to make the phases of the lights such that cyclists' average delays are half that of motorists. There is a lot of inbuilt flexibility in Simultaneous Green junctions.
|Yesterday, hours before dinner and hours before I'd seen TfL's video, our Study Tour group rode over this simultaneous green junction in Groningen. It's somewhat larger than the junction that TfL are planning for but extremely convenient and easy to use. Because no-one from TfL was in the Study Tour group, no-one from TfL saw this far superior and proven design of junction for themselves.|
|Simultaneous Green works for large|
and small junctions. This road has
nothing but a short on-road cycle-lane
feeding into the junction and has on-
road car parking. It still works well.
Before wasting money on doing the wrong thing, why didn't TfL send people over here to find out what real cycling infrastructure was, so that they were equipped to do a better job than they have ?
Not just London.
Southampton is also getting in on the act. More bad infrastructure design for a "superhighway", again making the mistake of separating "less confident" cyclists and giving them an inferior solution and again in a location which could very easily accommodate a Simultaneous Green junction which gave all cyclists both safety and convenience:
|Complete with the three dangerous features of a bad bus stop design, on-road cycle-lanes and advanced stop-lines as well as supporting "less confident" cyclists in a different and less convenient way than those who are "more confident", this junction design which Southampton claims is "Dutch" is actually absolutely nothing like real Dutch infrastructure. Why do British councils take tax-payers' money and use it to pay people who do such shoddy work as this ? Again, this would be far superior, far safer and more convenient for cyclists and also far more representative of real Dutch infrastructure if it had been designed as a simultaneous green junction.|
|Click here to book a study tour|
Let us help you to avoid the costly mistake of building infrastructure which causes the conflict, danger and inconvenience which you have designed into the Itchen Bridge junction.
Saturday 31st August update
I've just found out that London Cycling Campaign actually approve of the ridiculous design shown at the top of this page for Stratford High Road. In fact, they're taking credit for it. This is one of two things they describe as "solutions proposed by our Love London, Go Dutch campaign" (note that in response to this criticism they changed their web page at this link to say that it's a "poor implementation", but the headline remains as positive as before and comments under the blog post still refer to their enthusiasm).
Londoners, you've got to seriously think about this. You are represented by a campaigning organisation which sees "Love London, Go Dutch" as merely a slogan and nothing to do with actual Dutch infrastructure. Sadly, this has been obvious from the very start of their "campaign" when they admitted that one of their "Dutch" ideas was not Dutch at all and that they'd actually made up something they thought of as a "hybrid" of ideas from several countries but which actually doesn't appear in any other country.
|I covered this a couple of weeks ago.|
This one metre wide bus-stop bypass
with a post in it which is being praised
by LCC is not remotely the same as
"thousands in the Netherlands"
So long as the LCC continues to have such low aspirations for London, they will continue to be a part of the problem regarding cycling in the UK rather than being part of the solution.
I have invited people from London Cycling Campaign to join us on one of our Study Tours so that they can see and use real Dutch cycling infrastructure and have it explained to them. Thus far, they have declined the offer.
3rd October update
It's disappointing to see that instead of admitting that they've made an error, the LCC continue to try to spin this issue.
An LCC representative writes in a response to this blog post that "Well-designed two-stage right turns are approved of by both Dutch and Danish authorities and are common in Denmark". In fact, nothing remotely like the video from TfL above, which LCC says "could make cycling safer and more convenient" exists in The Netherlands. Remember that the campaigning position that LCC was forced by their membership to adopt was called "Love London, Go Dutch", not "Go Danish". This is not the first time that LCC has tried to confuse Dutch and Danish practice and their repetition of assertions like this one doesn't make them into facts.
It's not good enough for LCC to appropriate the language of change (as has happened with subjective safety and Go Dutch) but to carry on as usual, continuing to promote second-best solutions in London. While this continues, LCC remains part of the problem rather than part of the solution. These things need to turn into real policy and real change not just slogans.
I also note a comment made in the LCC response about not having been on our tours but going to "experts" instead. What LCC have actually turned down is the opportunity to take part in the only cycling study tours in this country run by people who speak English as a native language, who have lived and cycled in both the UK and the Netherlands and understand both countries and who are completely independent. We do not use the tours to sell the services of Dutch companies (note that employing a Dutch company is no guarantee that you'll get a Dutch quality of infrastructure). We demonstrate what does not work and why it does not work as well as showing those things which work very well. We don't give a false impression by visiting highlights but we aim to give an honest appraisal. We point out that not everything "Dutch" is worth copying, we don't rubber stamp anything and we won't be polite about bad ideas.
Frankly, I find the attitude of the LCC quite puzzling. If they were genuinely interested in furthering cycling, they would have investigated all possible sources of information, and that includes us. But they did not. Some people in LCC value our work enough to have asked us to do unpaid work for the organisation. They've also been happy to use our photographs and videos for free. But their interest extends only so far as what they can take. Apart from that, LCC has not made any contact at all.
We run our tours in order to try to educate people in organisations like LCC so that they can make better use of their funds and be more effective. Yes we do charge for the tours but this does not make us wealthy. In fact, we've barely done better than break even over the six years that we have operated study tours. That is as planned. This is not a self-serving exercise. Thankless as it often feels, this is something we invested a great deal of time and money into in order to try to make the world into a better place. When we've been able to afford to do so, we've even often offered free tours (i.e. at our cost) to people who thought would especially benefit.
If LCC staff are going to try to slight us, then it's only fair to point out that an independent source pointed out a couple of years ago that "70% of its budget goes on staff salaries and that the search for more funding is seen as an important LCC goal".
If anyone has their snout in the trough, I can assure readers that it's not us. We receive 0% of LCC's budget.
November 2013 update
In November, LCC returned to praising the CS2 extension of which this junction is a part, claiming it to be "a major success for LCC" before turning around and criticizing it a couple of days later after there had been fatalities on CS2. This is not good enough.
In case you're wondering, the most dangerous junction in the whole of the Netherlands is much less dangerous than several junctions in London. Nevertheless, this junction is an example of bad design and our study tours visit it because it is one of several places where we can demonstrate how conflicts are generated by bad design. TfL really would have benefited from this.