Considerate Cycling 36: The Bristol Cycling Manifesto


Off to Work

I walked into Bristol city centre this morning feeling very cheerful. A couple of drizzly days had cleared and scatters of sunshine were sparkling off any puddle that remained. Among the work-bound there were lots of cyclists on al kinds of bike in every kind of clothing. Young and old, male and female, black and white.


Bicycle Rider’s Luncheon

From a shop window display a vintage cycling kit caught my eye. Sandwich box first, then the cycle pump. And then the ambitious globe for world navigation purposes. “An auspicious omen”, I thought.

I suppose that my destination (a press launch of the Bristol Cycling Manifesto) made me more attentive to such things than I usually am but the positive atmosphere felt real. It wouldn’t take much to get this city to a point where none of what I was noticing was remarkable. Even on the steep hill of Park Street, on sections of road that make no concessions (and offer several barriers) to cycling ,a lot ordinary folk were making their way to work on bicycles and a shop had chosen to use retro cycling as a fashion item to attract attention and promote sales. Cultural shifts were visible. I marched on in fine spirits.

At Cascade Steps, whence The Hispaniola set its fictional sails for Treasure Island, a large group of people with bicycles were gathering, with even larger numbers cycling across the shared space towards whatever their days had to offer. All ages, all types. I grabbed a couple of flyers from Eric Booth (the principal organiser of the event) and dodged about taking pictures and giving curious observers a flyer or two.

Media events have a strange place in our public life. Ministers put on safety gear and pose, chin jutting into the future, alongside men (always men) with hard hats. Expensive cameras are stroked while advisers tut and fret and someone scribbles shorthand and a recorder provides the backup. Later the stilted results appear in The Metro or Points West and those who are attentive note that “there’s something on The News about that” (whatever it is). Local press adopt the format, and so it goes.


Spokesman And Press Photographer

The thing is, the Bristol Cycling Campaign people are so friendly and so practical that there was no sense of pretence at all. No moaning about the problems and no false sense of importance. There was just a confidence that the message was honest and inclusive. In demanding the Freedom To Ride, the campaign is asking that everyone who would like to cycle as part of their everyday life should be able to do so. The stalwarts are already making the best of it but we all know lots of people who would love to cycle …if only …


Posing for the Press

As we gathered to help put that message into the local press, printing presses were groaning somewhere and copies of the full Manifesto documents (ambitious, realistic and detailed documents) will soom be distributed. A petition had already been put on line, outlining the basics. Bristol people are being asked to log in at http://www.bristolcyclingmanifesto.org.uk/ and put their names to the following proposals:

“Thousands already cycle but our Council needs to provide a comprehensive cycling network, enabling thousands more with the freedom to ride.

Sign this petition to demand that the council does these 5 steps

  1. Quadruple the amount of cycling in Bristol by 2025
  2. Lay down plans to deliver a comprehensive cycling network by 2025
  3. Invest Money to deliver the plan (£16 per person each year minimum)
  4. Employ a multi-skilled team to manage joined-up action across all areas
  5. Appoint an inspirational Cycling Commissioner to lead from the front

The morning’s work done, we wandered down to the coffee stand by the Burke Statue at the other end of the fountains and had a good old chat. Service and coffee were excellent. We were a lot of people and they did us proud. As I sat in the sunshine I pondered the advice from the Bicycle Rider’s Luncheon Box I had seen earlier: “Fortitude, Endurance and Invigoration” it suggested. Plenty of all those will be needed in the months ahead but the Freedom to Ride will be worth it. Treasure Island Ahoy!

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Considerate Cycling 35: Bristol Cycling Campaign’s “Stop Pinching Our Bikes”

The following text was written by the Bristol Cycling Campaign and was first published on-line by them in May 2013 I have republished it here with their kind permission.


Stop Pinching Bikes


20 of Bristol’s cycling pinch points

In celebrating the successes of the two and a half years of the Greater Bristol Cycling City project (2008-2011) it was suggested that one achievement had been to bring cycling to the centre of council policy. Bristol Cycling Campaign’s experience of changes to the highway network (on-road and off-road) over the last 5 years has been that the needs of cyclists are still being regularly overlooked in highway scheme design and implementation.

In this document we are making a renewed call to Bristol City Council to review its quality assurance processes for signing off highway scheme designs. We do this for two reasons:

1. to ensure that negative design features are avoided;

2. to make sure that all opportunities for improvement are fully exploited.

We are offering a collection of 20 examples of places where cycling has been pushed aside, restricted or otherwise left out of the plans (what we call pinch points). These examples illustrate the range of problems being ignored or inadvertently created by the council on a regular basis.

The wider Bristol Cycling Campaign’s Freedom to Ride Strategy includes a call for a comprehensive network of main road cycling freeways. The ongoing erosion of conditions for cyclists on the existing road system is working against this aspiration. We believe that there should now be a concerted effort to do things better.

The 20 pinch points

  1. Bottom of Park Street kerb build out

    The narrow traffic lane approach to this new build out results in cyclists being pinched and having to deal with additional conflicts. This was introduced as part of GBBN in late 2012.


  2. Pinch point at the top of Jacob’s Wells Road/Berkeley Place

    Near the end of the long haul up Jacob’s Wells Road and Berkeley Place there was, until recently, sufficient width on the approach to the give way lines to allow momentum to be maintained. This valuable bit of breathing space has recently been removed and cyclists are squeezed into sharing a narrow traffic lane.

  3. Anchor Road merging with Jacob’s Wells Road roundabout

    The set up here simultaneously gives a green light to outbound buses joining Hotwell Road and to traffic coming from the roundabout. Cyclists coming from the roundabout would expect to merge into the bus lane and cycle lane on Hotwell Road. They are, however at risk of being hit by buses that also assume a right of way. We are aware of at least one serious cyclist injury that occurred here. The two pictures show the situation and movement for a cyclist and then for a bus under an identical phase of the traffic lights.


  4. Clanage Road, badly engineered and dangerously positioned cyclists’ dropped kerb

    The original dropped kerb was positioned further away from the give way markings and operated well for many years. It was relocated to the shown location to accommodate a bus shelter in 2011. Cyclists now have to cross in front of the give way markings to use it. Further, water now collects (As shown in the picture) and freezes over in the winter adding to the hazard.

  5. Bath Road, Brislington Park and Ride

    Works for the Greater Bristol Bus Network amended the layout at the Hicks Gate junction and removed a dropped kerb from the cycle track. This dropped kerb had allowed cyclists to merge into the carriageway well in advance of the signals heading westbound. With the dropped kerb removed, cyclists either have to join the traffic earlier and thereby get squeezed in a narrow traffic lane, or they have to bump down the full kerb from the cycle track into the carriageway


  6. Northumberland Road, Easton pinch point

    Northumberland Road (part of Concorde Way at this point) has been narrowed to allow pedestrians to cross between the M32 footbridge and the Sports Centre. A short cycle lane marking has been placed to one side of the narrow gap. The gap, however, is not wide enough to allow a car and a bicycle to go safely through at the same time. A cyclist needs to take the centre of the lane, or pull over and wait for vehicles to pass.

  7. Restrictive permeability between Bristol and South Gloucestershire on Wordsworth Road

    As Bristol gives way to South Gloucestershire at the end of Wordsworth Road there is a barrier between the end of Wordsworth Road and the start of Eighth Avenue. There is a raised kerb, offset railings and large grey concrete bollards to prevent motor vehicles passing through and only a narrow passage either side of one bollard for cyclists to ride through. Tricycles, cargo bikes, or trailers need be to be lifted over the raised kerb. In dusk or darkness neither the bollards nor the kerb are easy to see. This non-standard design does not comply with Department for Transport guidance.


     

  8. Unsatisfactory Dighton Street cycle lane (and enforcement)

    The arrangement at the beginning of this cycle lane in Dighton Street is part of a well-used natural route from east to west near the city centre. The short illustrated stretch unhelpfully draws cyclists to a poor road position where forward visibility is reduced and a radical pinch point is encountered. Uncertainty over waiting and loading restrictions encourages vehicles to enter and stop on the mandatory cycle lane. Large waste containers also block the cycle lane from time to time.

  9. Unsuitable and narrow cycle lane on junction of Woodland Road and Park Row in Bristol

    Cyclists travelling south west along Woodland Road and intending to turn left into Park Row are offered a continuous (advisory) cycle lane that is less than 1.2 metres wide and paved with cobbles for half of its width. Given the need to avoid conflict with left-turning motor vehicles a cyclist should be further from the kerb and not at risk of being unbalanced by such an uneven surface.


  10. Advisory cycle lane onto Queens Road

    A twenty metre stretch of advisory cycle lane at the end of Whiteladies Road, from a zebra crossing to its junction with Queens Road, encourages cyclists to take a position near to the kerb as they enter and leave the junction. This puts them exposed to frequent buses turning immediately left into Queens Avenue and in a vulnerable position from which to continue a journey south west towards Park Street or Park Row.

  11. Coronation Road cycle path

    There is uncertainty among users of Coronation Road as to why cyclists use or don’t use the shared cycle path on its northern side.

    Cycling on the road or on the shared path are both legitimate, but people may not know the path is available or where to cycle or walk on it. It needs clear delineation and a smoother surface. The picture shows how the current state of markings makes uncertainty (and subsequent conflict) inevitable.

  12. Bus stop build out, Whiteladies Road

    A number of these have been built as part of Greater Bristol Bus Network. Cyclists get bunched in the queuing/overtaking traffic caught behind buses and this is risky and intimidating. Less confident cyclists are encouraged by the scheme to take evasive action such as bailing out of the problem onto the footway.


    Cycling stakeholders made strong representations to the GBBN project to clearly warn cyclists of these buildouts both during the project, when nothing was done, and for several months afterwards – when this woefully short “ladder” was added. Warning markings such as these need to identify the line that cyclists should be expected to take, in this case starting several metres further back, rather than having toswerve out at the last minute.


  13. Merchants Road bridge cycle route crossing point

    A new cycle track from the Portway/Cumberland Basin Road brings cyclists to a poorly designed junction with very limited visibility of traffic arriving from the right. A substantial amount of work was carried out to the general road layout in this area and with careful design the opportunity could have been taken to position the cycle track further forward, which would have provided better visibility.


  14. Cumberland Basin Road right turn towards Hotwells

    This is a tricky movement requiring positioning between fast moving westbound and right turning traffic. Until recently this movement was protected by a right turning lane for cyclists, the remains of which can be seen in the photo. It was obliterated when scheme 12 was installed, apparently without thought for cyclists turning right. No dropped kerb from the cycle track has been provided


  15. Anchor Road crossing

    Large numbers of cyclists and pedestrians are held for significant periods of time here so that priority can be given to motorised traffic. Once pedestrians and cyclists get their short slot, there is usually a certain amount of mayhem. In between times people cross in spite of red lights The council have widened the crossing in recent years, without success, simply because the delay (one and a half minutes) feels so long that it has become widely ignored.


  16. Clift House Road cycle track approach to Ashton Avenue Bridge

    A very fast and wide approach has been provided to join an existing fast section of route, at a point of very limited visibility without any warning signs to users.


  17. Portwall Lane shared use

    A common complaint from pedestrians and cyclists is lack of legibility on shared use paths/areas. This problem has been reproduced at Portwall Lane and was highlighted as an issue in a recent survey of cyclists and potential cyclists at Temple Quay (see https://sites.google.com/site/cyclingtotemplequaystudy/).


    A further issue on this path is the lack of priority where it crosses Phippen Street, a site of two cyclist injuries in recent years.


     

  18. M shed to Gaol Ferry Bridge link (proposed) through the Umberslade development site

    This link has been anticipated for a number of years. However Bristol City Council has given consent for a layout which is fundamentally flawed at its southern end. The layout brings cyclists to an unsafe location away from the existing Cumberland Road crossing, where they will interact with pedestrians using a narrow footway. At least one person made a written comment on this problem at the consultation stage although it appears that this was ignored.

    As this link has not yet been built, there is time to address this will the layout shown on the plan below.


  19. Winterstoke Road shared cycle/pedestrian path-enlarged access into new Imperial Tobacco offices

    This junction was quite difficult under the old layout as the user had to look behind to anticipate left turning traffic from Winterstoke Road. However the access has recently been substantially widened, making the problem worse. The opportunity to improve the layout with a flat top ramp or central island has been lost. There is also the oddity of just one line of studs rather than the normal two.

    c

  20. Clanage Road/Kennel Lodge Road crossings

    The signal controlled crossing on A369 Clanage Road is welcome. However, people heading towards Ashton Court have to make a second crossing over Kennel Lodge Road against a variety of motor vehicle turning movements. Very little has been done in the design to assist this.

Considerate Cycling 34: “What’s Wrong With These People?”

There are some things that we can do, lots of things that we ought to do and even more things that we have to do. Among them there are also some things that we want to do. But in practice there are, eventually, only things that we actually do. I have cycling on mind, of course, and I am interested in a kind of sociology that would make sense of the following situation.

It’s a practical cycling problem in a specific place: a short section of College Green in Bristol has a two way segregated cycle track that runs for about 100 metres on the rise up towards City Hall, with Clifton beyond. At the end nearest to City Hall it stops abruptly. The picture shows the options. There is a left turn into shared space on the Green itself, there is an easy continuation on the pavement towards a bike rack and City Hall and there is a right turn onto the roadway.

1

It’s the right turn in picture 1 that interests me. Sometimes I am going towards Clifton and want to join the road here. Sometimes I am coming the other way and want to turn right from the road onto the segregated track. Look at picture 2 and notice that apart from the ordinary light controlled crossing there are also three sections of dropped kerb. I have marked them with big red and white arrows. If you ride a bike you might take a moment to visualise yourself coming up the track and then down the road, in each case intending to continue in the same direction. What do you want to do? What can you do? What should you do? Is there anything you absolutely must do? The cyclist has chosen the middle approach and is waiting against the post that has no button to press. The car is approaching the first of two sets of studs that mark out the pedestrian crossing.

2

Picture 2a shows the three options from a different angle.

2a

In picture 3 we have the normal mêlée on a quiet sunny day. There are bits of all sorts going on.

3

Picture 4 starts to clarify my problem. A cyclist is travelling towards Park Street, on the segregated track. Until this point he wanted to go somewhere, had the wherewithal to get there, and would be happy doing what he knew he ought to do.

4

In picture 5 he is a little closer to finding that one of those things is changing. He is going to find that there are three dropped kerbs. One for the pedestrian crossing and one each side – possibly for cyclists.

5

Picture 6 has him heading across to the offside of the cycle track and over the pedestrian crossing. Seeing there was no one around he has taken the easiest route for that manoeuvre, as most people seem to do when conditions allow.

6

A few minutes later, (see picture 7) the move has become less easy. Someone else coming the other way wants to use that dropped kerb so he can get into the left hand cycle lane where he will feel comfortable. He’s in a hurry to stay clear of traffic approaching a green light at the crossing.

7

In picture 8 the other cyclist has hung back but then he goes. He chooses the first of the three dropped kerbs, uncluttered as it is by posts or standing kerbs. Basically it’s a lot easier than tacking round the posts.

8

As long as no one is around none of this matters much. But look at what happens in pictures 9 and 10. Notice the hidden fellow far left with green lining to his hood in picture 9. He’s on a bike and he turns across someone heading up the track in picture 10. Meanwhile a pedestrian is using his green light to cross the road while another cyclist is waiting at the red.

9

10

Two seconds later the lights are changing and more is happening (see Picture 11). The car is revving to go, the downhill cyclist has set off, our small-wheeled cycle has chosen dropped kerb 2 and someone coming more quickly off the cycle path to our left is already in the roadway and heading into the road space being approached by a cyclist and a car. Fortunately the car is holding back because a pedestrian has made a late appearance on the crossing while the traffic light has changed from red to flashing amber.

11

The crossing is often much busier than this, with heavy traffic at peak periods. It’s safe to say that traffic movements are unpredictable and the “correct” way for cyclists to use the lights and the dropped kerbs are not straightforward. This is a bus route with a frequent service and the roadway is used fairly indiscriminately by delivery drives at all times of the day (note the white truck with its back doors open in picture 11).

This fairly innocuous situation interests me because it’s an example of a common phenomenon. That is, it is a sophisticated bit of cycling infrastructure that offers a positive experience for a short span and then inflicts a difficult decision on what to do next. My suspicion that too many experiences like this lead both cyclists and sceptical road users who interact with them to become less co-operative and less confident.

My Venn diagram offers some insight I think.

The diagram isolates four background features of an individual’s action in a given context. Given that an action can be purposeful, personally satisfying, socially approved and skilfully achieved, each to different degrees, it offers a map of the balancing act that comprises any action and the zones of congruence that might be associated with greater or lesser social comfort. The denser the overlaps the greater the unity of purpose, expectation and accomplishment. The closer to the periphery an action falls, the less coherent and the more disruptive it is likely to be.

The “should” part is what other people want or expect to happen. Formally, informally, explicitly or implicitly there is usually some sense of what should happen in any situation. The “has to” part encompasses those parts of the context that cannot be gainsaid. Force or vital need might be involved. “Wants to” is the individual’s own desire to complete the action successfully. “Can” is the result of the individual’s ability, knowledge, instruction and resources relative to the inherent demands of the action itself.

So if things are a bit chaotic, what can we conclude? Assuming that the degree of chaos matters at all, how can we fix it? The diagram suggests we look at four sets of questions – not just the one or two things that first come to mind. And then it asks how a responsible person or body can evaluate the efficacy and efficiently of trying to improve the situation having considered each of the background features.

In our “end of the cycle track” case let’s assume that the general level of unpredictability and discomfort is higher than we want it to be. Let’s imagine there have been bumps and bruises (or worse) and some complaints that are spilling over into wider conflicts between different kinds of road user. How can the background features of the troublesome actions be adjusted?

Let’s not try to influence “has to” or “wants to” for now. They might be significant but fo this exercise let’s take them as given, or, at least randomly distributed. “Can” is more promising. “Can” implies knowhow. Do our pedestrians and cyclists know how this arrangement works? Do they know which buttons to press or which route of dropped kerb to take? Are they able to monitor all the other crossing users and where they might be coming from? Can they manoeuvre the bicycle confidently enough to make the tight turns necessary for some of the options? Is it clear which phases of the light sequence applies to cyclists who want to shift from track to road in a diagonal or convergent manner? Have they been able to read anything about this in the Highway Code? This last question leads onto the “should” section. If you are expected to do one thing rather than another it will soon become obvious if you are doing the wrong thing. At some point someone will call you up on it, formally or informally. Maybe a police officer will have a word. Or there might be a mass media flurry of disapproval like the red light jumping panic or even a campaign. In the case I have described it was clearly possible, and easy, for cyclist to just keep cycling and complete the journey up Park Street on the pavement. It says something about the strength of “should” among cyclists that most people did not do this. So much for my “Bristolians are all anarchists” theory.

Changing minds (“wants to”) is hard. Changing the geometry of those turns, putting some paint down, separating pedestrians and cyclists – one or all of these might improve things on the “can” front. People can be given information via simple signs on the ground and the manoeuvres can be made easier with gentler, more visible curves. Difficulties associated with perceptual overload can be reduced by moving the end of the cycle track much further away from the pedestrian lights. Eventually habit itself makes things more predictable and invests them with a sense of “ought to”.

Other situations will be different. But each one might benefit from using some sort of thinking guide like the one I started with. At least we would be dissuaded from shouting “What’s Wrong With These People?”