Considerate Cycling 11: The False Friend

False Friend Part One

Whiteladies Road in Bristol has had a lot of work done to make it usable as part of the Greater Bristol Bus Network (GBBN). At the southern end there is a strange intersection with Queens Road (and others) which has just had a very short piece of advisory cycle lane added. This first picture shows the lane sweeping to the right across what used to be a continuous forward lane (the straight ahead arrow is still dimly visible). It has been changed into a left exit (as if from a roundabout).

The cyclist in this first picture is planning to stay in the advisory cycle lane around the curve and take the next exit into Whiteladies Road. The #8 bus (one every 12 minutes on weekdays) is going to follow its usual route, straight over those two sets of dotted lines, and the driver is  indicating left.

False Friend Part Two

The cyclist had suddenly realised what was happening. He hadn’t looked round, indicated or moved out but at this point he was slowing to a halt. He put his left foot on the kerb and he waited as the bus went past.

False Friend Part Three

OK. Once the bus had gone he set off again. His wife had already cycled ahead and was waiting for him at the other side of the intersection in Whiteladies Road.  She had  approached the intersection in the right hand of two lanes, and gradually moved into and across the left hand lane as she passed the beginning of the cycle lane, just in time to turn left into Whiteladies Road without interference.

False Friend Part Four

A minute or two later two more cyclists are showing how the intersection might be used. One is on the outside lane that has a right turn arrow painted, the other is on the inside lane that has (I think) a straight ahead arrow. Neither has indicated so far.

False Friend Part Five

Late on Sunday afternoon, with traffic pretty quiet these two looked pretty safe as they swung round the turn. They are well away from the advisory cycle lane.

False Friend Part Six

And off they went  into the distance, with the last of the GBBN roadworks twinkling a red light.

To see a map of the junction as it used to be, Google Satellite is very useful. I was standing on the footpath for less than ten minutes as I watched and took a few pictures. There was a steady stream of traffic but nothing like midweek busy times. Motor vehicles were approaching at 30 mph or more and only about half were indicating, whichever way they left the junction. It seemed to me that the probability of a collision between a vehicle and a bicycle on that few metres of advisory cycle lane, sometime bewween now and next year, was high.  It would be safer to just remove it, allowing the confident and skilled cyclist to occupy the primary position, indicating first right, then left, to get into Whiteladies Road. Anyone more timid or inexperienced would do well to stop and wait for a break in the traffic, or even to dismount and use the small island to walk across in two stages.

In other words this advisory cycle lane is use to man nor beast. It offers an illusion of safety to the unwary and a nonsensical road position to the experienced. It is what we might call a False Friend and we already have far too many of those. I am pretty sure that First Bus drivers will have noted the problem and warned their colleagues already.

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13 thoughts on “Considerate Cycling 11: The False Friend

  1. They’ve really messed this up. I was up there as a passenger in a taxi the other day and the road layout nearly caused a collision between the taxi and another car. This kinda of non standard layout is lethal for both cars and vehicles not familiar with it. Was this thought up by a work experience person at the highway agency perhaps?

  2. I have emailed and requested an on site visit, but I have just checked out the CRISP report Cycle Route Implementation and Stakeholder Plan Dec 2010. That recommends for Clifton Triangle West …

    “A cycle lane could be introduced along Triangle West into Queen’s Road and around to Whiteladies Road. Some cyclists may prefer to take a more dominant road position but the lane could prove useful as heading northbound the gradient is quite steep.

    “This lane would pass across the junction entry, indicating the potential presence of cyclists as well as indicating that cyclists have right of way.”

    There are certainly legitimate questions though, even if once the road markings are clear it is improved.

    PS. The people who were involved in creating and signing off the CRISP were not just council officers.

    1. HI. I’ve been in discussion with Francis Mann, the cycling officer on the project. Apparently the roundabout is under review and will probably be changed. Not clear when or to what or who they will involve. I’d like to be involved if there is a sire meeting or anything. regards Martin McDonnell, Secretary, Bristol Cycling Campaign

      1. Hi Sam and Martin

        Here is the feedback from the officers. They acknowledge that the junction needed to change, and will be discussing options next week.

        “By way of an update for you, (as you have all collectively expressed interest/concerns), we wanted to let you know we have removed the cycle lane at the Queens Road junction outside the Victoria Rooms. This is after a recent site visit by Highways Services Officers and our subsequent advice to the GBBN Design Team. It was burned out last night by contractors and is awaiting a further design team meeting next Tuesday (21st Feb). Officers have put forward two options, which will be discussed further at the meeting. We believe both options provide for cyclists more adequately through the gyratory, we now require feedback from the wider design team to ensure it works for all highway users and all road safety angles have been fully considered.

        “Despite the lane being a CRISP recommendation (Cycle Review) as a part of the Greater Bristol Bus Network project, (produced by independent consultants Camden Consultancy and endorsed by cycle stakeholders), there is a belief the facility could potentially pose a serious hazard to users. The decision to take out the facility was due to an opportunity for redesign within GBBN budgets and timescales and confirmation internally there is no chance any new design option will include a similar facility.”

  3. Ultimately the issue is not with the cycle lane but with the junction geometry, and even without a cycle lane this is going to be a dangerous layout. The junction was originally built with the specification that motorists should be able to rush straight on into Queens Road. That doesn’t just mean that the lanes were painted that way, it means that the kerbs and pavements and islands were aligned that way, with wide lanes and sweeping curves. Without changing the geometry of the road, to a driver this is always going to look like a junction designed for a quick and direct exit into Queens Road. It needs to be rebuilt as a city street instead of a race track, with a sharp turn into Queens Road, so that people are forced to slow down and mirror-signal-manoeuvre.

    The common theme in these crap cycle lanes is that councils have tried to make a major change to the way a road works without actually spending more than the cost of a tin of paint, which is obviously never going to work. You can’t just paint a new road on one that is built to operate completely differently.

    1. This comment has a clear ring of truth about it Joe. Richmond Hill, Queens Road, Whiteladies Road, Queens Avenue and Queens Road going south are all options from that first approach. So it is a very complicated intersection. For ordinary road users like me it’s very hard to see how a plan will translate to a real bit of road. My first visit on a bike gave me a physical sense of something being not right. Walking down and seeing the bus and older cyclist together like that, within a minute of arriving, gave me a real jolt of anxiety. Both managed perfectly well, but I’m not the one one to ask how it should be. Geometry never was my strength.

  4. I think the biggest problem with it is the changed priorities of the road lanes too – they’re not properly marked at the moment so drivers in the left had lane assume they go straight on with no give way and the right hand lane assume they go up Whiteladies Road. I cycle through this junction daily and am waiting to pass judgment until all of the changes have been made to the road markings and signage locally.

  5. This is one of those reasons I dislike cycle lanes. What possible help are they? They re-enforce the idea of the vulnerable and passive cyclist, along with that of the dominant and invulnerable (and thus unaware) motor vehicle.

    An aware, confident, and sensible cyclist would stay well out of that lane. We should get used to the idea that cyclists can and should be aware, confident, and sensible (like we do with other people, even though we know not everyone is), instead of infantilising them.

    My philosophy in using cycle lanes, when I do, is to try and cycle outside them, and consider them a useful escape route should I need to manoeuvre suddenly.

    It comes down to relative speed, and I am fortunate in that I can match the speed of most inner city traffic. We need to see the speed limit come down to 20mph, and enforce it vigourously.

    That said, a bit of redesign of the corner, plus colouring the cycle lane could work, I guess.

  6. One of the main troubles here is that there is no notice re ‘Changed junction ahead’ , or none that I have seen. So some cyclists (myself included the first time) are still using the right hand lane, which used to be the Whiteladies Rd lane if you stayed on the LH side of it. Now you can stay in the left hand lane (once past all the buses on the Triangle) but clearly must not use that ridiculous and ill-thought out cycle lane. I will make a confession. I was invited to the CRISP meeting before all this work started and complained bitterly about the anti-cycling measures being planned. Perhaps I didn’t shout loudly enough because no one listened, and they went ahead with it all anyway. Grr

  7. I had another look round this afternoon. It isn’t just the cycle lane. There are all sorts of odd things going on that I’m not qualified to understand or describe. But it doesn.t look right to me. Lots of drivers seemed uncertain and there were all sorts of lane/indicator/exit combinations.

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