Considerate Cycling 33: Cycling Over Prince Street Bridge

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Prince Street runs North-South and crosses one of Bristol’s several waters on a swing bridge, helpfully known as “Prince Street Bridge”. The bridge is guarded by traffic lights and is sometimes closed to all traffic (even bicycles) and swung round to allow boats to pass along the channel. The first picture in this sequence, with its bright yellow bendy bus, looks north from the bridge itself. Local political processes are currently struggling to decide on how or whether to make this bridging place part of a new scheme for bottling quarts of travellers into pints of road space.

My narrower interest in Prince Street Bridge is in the pedantic but immediate question of how I should use it as a considerate cyclist. Let’s imagine I am crossing it from the south.

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Picture 2 shows my approach. Ahead of me is a blocked advisory cycle lane, traffic lights, swing bridge lights, some cast-iron bollards and a Shared Space sign. A black car has moved across the centre line and is waiting for a green light before moving into the right hand lane and crossing the bridge.

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Inching past the parked van, another vehicle is parked in front of it. The black car is still waiting for the green light to cross where oncoming vehicles are currently moving. My cycle/pedestrian route seems to be between cast-iron bollards. I notice that the bollard directing the car is plastic and well-lit.

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Moving up to the line I see that another cyclist is using this side of the bridge and that the road-painted symbols indicate pedestrians and cyclists can use the whole lane.

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Looking back I can see the end of the advisory cycle lane emerging from underneath the van and car. On another day that would be the approach I should adopt. I also note the wisdom of high-visibility clothing.

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Picture 6 show the view from the opposite side of the bridge. It looks south. Traffic lights and bollards reflect those on the other side. There is an advance stop line for cyclists to get ahead of the pack. but it is not very clear. The bike symbol itself is very faded.

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Looking back there are marks leading up to the bridge that might once have been an advisory cycle lane across the cobbles. Back at the junction we can see a hint of a bike symbol on the tarmac that might confirm the hypothesis. The row of bollards is impressive. Its lack of reflective properties rather less so. Let’s see how a cyclist negotiates this northern approach.

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During my brief observation this crossover tactic was used many times. The nearside cycle lane in ignored and the cyclist crosses the road to go “contraflow”. Here is an interesting example of the same thing:

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While his mate has cut across early, a second cyclist, pushing a third bike, is manoeuvring towards the lethal bollards. A motor cyclist is waiting at the white line in front of the traffic lights.

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And a final hurrah from a determined pavementeer. Wobbling past me ( I was standing on the footpath) he wobbled off into a happy cluster of pedestrians.

The conclusion I draw from this (and so many episodes around Bristol) is that many accommodations have been made for cyclists at the expense of creating further conflicts that can only be resolved with ingenuity and/or unpredictability. It would be nice if the next wave of progress is done with reference to guidelines that have this kind of muddled situation designed out.

Considerate Cycling 32: Roads And Circuses

At the centre of the top half of this Google capture a white car is passing the end of an advisory cycle lane at the top of Queens Road in Bristol. I went there yesterday to photograph and observe the lane as part of ongoing efforts to identify cycling infrastructure that seems to create as many problems as it solves. My impression was that the lane encouraged unwary cyclists to approach the imminent junction and the subsequent lane narrowing in a vulnerable road position. I noted that while I was there buses, delivery vehicles and cars often made left turns that included encroachment into the cycle lane and that an old-school vehicular cyclist would opt to approach that junction further away from the curb than the cycle lane allowed. My observations indicated that nearly all cyclists stayed in the lane and that none of them suffered as a consequence. However, they also made me more confident that moving out of that lane before its end would be a sensible thing to do for anyone not making a left turn and that using it to undertake slower moving traffic would be a bad idea, given the increased possibility of a collision with a left-turning vehicle on the junction itself.

As I watched and took photographs I noticed a number of non-standard improvisations by people on bicycles. Most of these were the ordinarily annoying pavement cyclists of Bristol. One, however, stood out as exceptional. I noticed him opposite the zebra crossing in the outside lane in the spot marked with the red cross nearer the top of that Google picture. He ended up at the red cross in the shadow of the building at the bottom of the picture. His progress is captured in this sequence of 6 photographs.

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The six pictures cover the space of a minute, most of which were spent expertly balancing the bike on the narrow island between the lanes of briskly moving traffic. A gap in the north-bound traffic coincided with the arrival on the footpath of a baby buggy and a determined gentleman in a suit.

I wonder what the impact of the cyclist’s display of circus skills was on passing drivers, on the woman with the baby and the man on foot? My first guess is that they did not make any of them feel more calm, more safe or more well-disposed to cycling in general.

I would rather not have to say this, but this kind of thing is not hard to find in Bristol and it does harm the cause of sustainable and inclusive traffic rather than help it. Circus tricks might entertain the easily entertained, but (just as with Jeremy Clarkson) the improvement of public life is not advanced one bit.

Considerate Cycling 31: Cycling Safety Data. More Questions Than Answers

Dighton Street Looking South West

Last month, The Department for Transport published an extensive set of comparison tables of road safety data from all of the English Local Authorities. http://road-collisions.dft.gov.uk There are hours of fun to be had clicking around the regions, looking for surprises and trying to make sense of it all. Tables can be created dynamically on line and downloaded as comma-separated variable (csv) files.

What I have done is focus on Bristol, where I live, walk and cycle. I chose to move to Bristol from Leeds a couple of years ago, partly because I don’t have and don’t want a car. Bristol is a compact city with less than half a million people, and walking and cycling are the most effective ways of getting about for most of my journeys. When I see people trying to use cars for similar trips I sometimes wonder why they bother. I suspect some of them ponder the same question.

Maybe safety and security are part of the story? What follows compares Bristol with Leeds, and the other core cities outside London and with two county authorities bordering on Bristol. I hope that I can make some sense of the comparisons, and say something about the way that comparative data ask more questions than they answer.

Look at Figure 1 for example. Note that Bristol is sown in bright red. I have left London out of this because London is so much bigger and because London has a completely different set of problems with very different structures. As far as mileage goes Bristol is a tiddler. Only Newcastle and Nottingham have less. There’s a question right from the start. Wasn’t Bristol the place where they made Concorde? Surely it must be huge? Maybe it should be? The elected Mayor George Ferguson probably wishes it was. But the fact is that Concorde was made in South Gloucester and at least some of the people who worked on it lived in North Somerset. Commuter village Backwell in North Somerset is only 15 miles by road (mostly Highways Agency roads) from Filton Airport in South Gloucester. To all intents and purposes there are both part of Bristol, in the same way that Bramhope and Rothwell (though different) are both parts of Leeds.

Figure 1 Total length of roads managed by each of ten local transport authorities 2012

Another view of road mileage can be seen in Figure 2, which shows how many yards of local authority road there are per person.

Figure 2 Total length of roads in yards, per person, managed by ten local transport authorities 2012

The nature of South Gloucester and North Somerset looks clearer. They are both large in area relative to their population. Bristol is less like them and more like the other core cities. Only Birmingham looks odd, given its population. Major trunk roads and motorways account for more proportionately of Birmingham’s road network, and those roads are managed by the Highways Agency.

Figure 3 moves on to the heart of the question about safety. The measure is “KSI” (people killed or seriously injured). KSI is the brutal statistic for assessing the consequences of badly managed or carelessly used roads. The bars of Figure 3 are Cyclist KSIs on the roads of each Local Authority, per 100,000 people in the Authority, for the year 2011. In each case the “seriously injured” considerably outnumber the fatalities.

Figure 3 Number of cyclists killed or seriously injured per 100,000 people in each of ten local transport authorities in 2011

As I used to ask my A Level Sociology students: “What stands out in this graph?” The choice of colour emphasises Bristol’s figures of course but only Nottingham comes close to it in scale. Bristol’s neighbours in South Gloucester and North Somerset have numbers that are a quarter of those experienced just up the road.

How can this be so? Are Bristol cyclists mad? Should I leave my bike in the shed? Should I stick to walking? Figure 4 shows comparative results for pedestrian KSIs

Figure 4 Number of pedestrians killed or seriously injured per 100,000 people in each of ten local transport authorities in 2011

The scales are different, so don’t be mislead into thinking pedestrians are better off (except in Liverpool and South Gloucester). What shows up in Figure 4 is that Bristol’s comparatively bad record for cycling KSIs is not matched for pedestrians.. The question arising here is why does Bristol look so bad for cycle casualties compared to the pedestrian result? What about car occupants? Some answers on that score are shown in Figure 5 below.

Figure 5 Number of car occupants killed or seriously injured per 100,000 people in each of ten local transport authorities in 2011

More questions! Bristol is now outstripped by all the core cities. Even the North Somerset numbers for car occupant casualties are worse than Bristol’s. What is going on? Do people do more travelling in some places than others? Figure 6 shows the average number of miles travelled by road per day per person.

Figure 6 Number of miles travelled per person per day by road in each of ten local transport authorities in 2011

The suggestion from Figure 6 is that journey distance isn’t a factor either. A blogger worth her readership would, at this point ask “Have I made a mistake?” The quick answer would be visible in the source (in this case, the DfT Comparison data from which the graphs were drawn). Table 1 is a copy of the relevant figures for the years 2005 to 2011.

 

Cyclist KSIs per 100,000 people per year

Local Authority

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Birmingham

2.49

2.11

2.88

3.45

3.45

4.41

4.41

Leeds

3.42

5.20

5.07

3.93

4.18

3.93

5.83

Sheffield

4.03

6.40

4.57

3.66

4.39

4.03

3.29

Manchester

5.86

4.60

5.02

4.60

6.28

7.95

8.16

Liverpool

4.52

3.84

3.39

2.94

3.84

6.56

6.33

Nottingham

8.52

8.52

9.18

9.51

8.85

7.87

11.15

Newcastle upon Tyne

5.28

3.17

3.87

3.52

5.98

4.93

3.87

 
City of Bristol

6.27

5.80

8.13

5.34

7.20

9.29

11.38

South Gloucester

1.49

1.49

2.24

4.10

4.47

4.10

2.24

North Somerset

3.29

2.35

3.76

2.82

1.41

3.76

2.35

Table 1 Cyclists killed or seriously injured per 100,000 people resident in each of ten local authorities 2005-2011

It’s clear enough. Nottingham and Bristol have had more than their fair share of serious and fatal cycling casualties over six years, and both have been returning data that suggest a turn for the worse. We do know (see ) that the year 2011-2012 saw Bristol’s toll of KSIs down to 41, with no fatalities among them. The big question we are left with is “Why have the figures got so much worse in Bristol since 2005?

Answers might be found in the ways that data are collected, recorded and analysed but I suspect that they are more likely to be provided in practical professional efforts to observe and improve the basic infrastructure and management of Bristol’s roads. There are plenty of examples of cycling provision (or lack of provision) that run counter to Department for Transport guidance (see LTN 2/08 Cycle Infrastructure Design downloadable from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-transport-notes )  and there are plenty of places that have been identified as in need of improvement in the next few years. New facilities as they go in will need to have a more robust cycle safety audit.

One more graph might be of interest. It compares the sums of money spent by each of the ten Highways Authorities on road safety measures in 2011.

Figure 7 Amount spent per person per year on road safety measures in each of ten local transport authorities in 2011

I would be pleased to hear more questions about the subject but there is one big one that I want to start a fresh blog with, and that is “How significant are the casualties that arise when no other people or vehicles are involved?” Nearly all the data behind this report are taken from standard Police Road Traffic Accident (RTA) Reports. An additional set of cyclists end up in A&E after tumbles and collisions with no one else around.

Principal Reference

2011 Census: Method of travel to work, local authorities in England and Wales” http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/key-statistics-and-quick-statistics-for-wards-and-output-areas-in-england-and-wales/rft-qs701ew.xls (Office for National Statistics 2013)

Appendix

I was unable to find the “casualties per billion miles” data for each local authority. But this comparison of percentages cycling looks very interesting.

percentageofsurveypoulation

Figure 8 Percentages from population sample surveys in ten local transport authorities in 2011 saying they cycle at least once a month.