Considerate Cycling 47: Thinking About Walking, Helping Cycling

lQueens-Road-and-Park-Street

This section of a CycleStreets map focuses on one lively part of Bristol. It’s where I go shopping sometimes. It also includes my favourite uphill ride in the city, a gradient that suits my 65 year old sense of fun. The best known section is called Park Street. Lots of people ride up and down Park Street despite the well-rehearsed myth that Bristol is “too hilly”.

Park Stret Bristol

But never mind the gradient. Look at the RTC data from CycleStreets brilliant search tool. In the map reproduced above  I used a mouse to click round the blobs of shame that mark all the failures of gravity, attention span, entropy and other abstractions that ended up with someone in A&E. Towards the north west end of the marked area is a mess of ill-made streets called “The Triangle” On its hypotenuse is Queens Road.

Once the area has been drawn, click on the submit button and CycleStreets delivers a more or less instant comma separated file for inspection in your browser. Downloading is recommended – it can be opened with Excel or SPSS  or whatever other gimlet you use  for data mangling.This is what I did with mine in Excel:

Graph-2005-to-2013-casualty

So there you have it. Pedestrians have a rough time of it on Bristol’s liveliest streets. What do we make of it? What do A&E make of it? What could we do about it? Here are some bullet points to start an argument:

  • Reducing speeds to 20 mph would be good.
  • Stop casual street parking (there’s a massive empty car park very close by – make the first hour free)
  • Re-balance traffic lights to favour pedestrians
  • Widen footpaths
  • De-clutter the footpaths
  • Add more crossing places
  • Persuade shops to use more “last mile” cycle deliveries
  • Make a two-way cycle track up one side of Park Street where the parking used to be
  • Pedestrianise the rest of Park Street
  • Improve lighting at night
  • Talk to taxi drivers about what they see at night and what ideas they have
  • Look at the two major junctions off Park Street
  • Narrow the very wide exit from Queens Avenue onto Queens Road
  • Ask the Government for some proper money

It seems to me that most of these could make a difference to the casualty stats for people on foot. As a big bonus they would also make life gentler for anyone riding a bike. I looked for pedestrian casualties where a bicycle had been involved. The data run from 2005 to 2013. There was just one. It was a slight injury collision in 2012. It was at quarter to three on a Sunday morning and both parties needed treatment..

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Considerate Cycling 41: Why Are Some Cities Cycling Or Walking More Than Others?

Blog 39 graphed the provisional cycling figures for Bristol as a member of the the “core cities” group of comparable cites outside London. I also included data for neighbours in what was once called Avon. Now that confirmed figures have been published (see here) I have abstracted a table and graph that includes Cambridge and uses this year’s updated figures. For most places the data are derived from a reliable sample of 500 residents. I have added walking to give a broader picture of active travel.

Percentages of selected Local Authority residents reporting that they cycle or walk at least once a month 2010-2011

Cycle%

Walk%

Walk-or-Cycle%

Local Authority Walk % Cycle % Walk or Cycle%
Cambridge 94 58 96
South Gloucestershire 92 20 93
Bristol, City of 92 24 92
Newcastle upon Tyne 91 12 92
Bath and North East Somerset 91 18 91
Leeds 91 11 91
Nottingham 91 13 91
Sheffield 89 10 90
North Somerset 88 15 89
Liverpool 89 11 89
Birmingham 88 11 89
Manchester 84 13 87

I have been reading (and fascinated by) the recently published “Promoting Walking and Cycling” by Colin Pooley and others and I would  be very interested to hear from anyone who has observations about the cultural, geographical and infrastructural variations that might be associated with the wide range of walking and (especially) cycling levels across this group of urban areas.  One clear truth is that English cities are not all doomed to the same low levels. One obvious question is whether sheer campaigning effort can  generate the big changes in the patterns that the natural and built environments seem to be crying out for.

Considerate Cycling 38: Zen And the Art of Cycle Path Maintenance

There are some very nice cycle tracks being created in South Gloucester, on the north fringe of Bristol. Housing, a retail park, a railway station, a University, a Hospital and large Ministry of Defence buildings are all close by. Signage is pretty good – with some outstanding advertisements for cycling in general.

Isn’t that a thing of beauty?

However, if I were Robert Persig, I might be looking for the nail in the broom head that marked these very good things as excellent facilities. Are South Gloucester really up to Zen Master standards? Well… what do we make of this?

Not ideal, is it? But look a bit further on as the track meets the Big Fat Roundabout and Persig might be even less happy. His careful eye might notice a lack of attention to the basic necessity of a harmonious life: sound maintenance routines.

That approaching heavy lorry is nearly on our (unmarked) crossing point and it’s only just visible from a forward position. It did occur to me that if I had brought my garden shears I could have improved things there and then. Maybe it will be done by tomorrow? The evidence from a 2012 satellite view suggests that the problem might have been left rather a long time. The red arrow in the next picture marks the blind exit.

Bushes notwithstanding, the cheap solution of tipping cyclists straight off a well-made track onto a big arterial road with no more than a dropped curb is the sort of thing that cycling campaigns are starting to make a fuss about. Cycling provision must be integral to all new traffic developments. Tacking some nice bits along the edges isn’t good enough. Building them in from the start and quality assuring their design and implementation against national standards would make them less costly than having to go back later and correct the mistakes.

In the absence of a national standard, one might give this exit the 11-year-old test: “would you send your child to school along this path on her first day at secondary school in September?” Or as Persig would say “has the broom head been given a new nail to stop it falling off the handle?”

Considerate Cycling 37: Custom and Law Are Good Friends But Bad Enemies

The Downs in Bristol are one glorious open area with over 400 acres of grassland and trees. A Committee protects the ancient right of all Bristolians to enjoy them, unspoiled, in perpetuity. Among the prohibitions that assures that right is a ban on cycling. It applies on all grassed areas and on the well-surfaced footpaths that cross the Downs

There is one exception. A good wide track has been added along Durdham Down adjacent to Stoke Road and bicycle logos have been painted at intervals along it. It covers quite a lot (but not all) of a route between student residences to the north of the Downs and Whiteladies Road to the south. A narrower pedestrian path runs in parallel to it, but closer to the busy road that also serves as a car park for visitors to the Changing Rooms and Tea Shop beyond the cyclist in my picture.

I went there today to take some photographs of happy cyclists enjoying the good weather and the excellent facility. As I sat down by a tree I took a first picture (see above) and settled down to consider how to go about getting the shots I had imagined. After about fifteen minutes only two other cyclists went past, and none came from the direction that would allow me to get the sunlit smiling faces I had hoped for.

It was a puzzle. Behind me I had noticed several cyclists on the road. Eventually a mother and child came past on the cycle track. I took the next picture as they approached the mums with pushchairs who had been chatting for the last five minutes and who barely looked up as the child rang a polite bell of warning.

Another five minutes passed and while no more cyclists came by, several pedestrians did. Along the cycle track. The pedestrian path remained empty. I gave up my mission and set off homewards along Ladies Mile, one of the roads that cross the Downs. Crossing Ladies Mile was a footpath, a metre of so wide, with NO CYCLING painted in large white letters on each side of the road. I stopped to look and within a minute several cyclists had already arrived, crossed the road and departed, making confident use of the forbidden track.

I spotted this well-dressed woman in smart clothes on a smart bike, flagrantly disregarding the NO CYCLING instruction beneath her very wheels. What was I to make of the conundrum? These weren’t odd random events. I’ve actually noticed it happening before. People were using the forbidden track to cycle on, and the dedicated cycle track to walk and talk on. Both sets seemed content with the arrangement.

My theory is that people are happier when what they want to do is legal and grumpier when what they are doing isn’t allowed. Even when the converse is true, wise legislators adjust the law to marry practice if no harm comes of it.

Dear Downs Committee,

I think that some of the cycling restrictions on the Downs could be lifted, and some of the paths could be adjusted or shifted so that most Downs users felt even happier about their enjoyment of such a wonderful resource.

Yours faithfully

Sam Saunders

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!

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.

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  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.