Category Archives: Bad Road Junctions

Leicester City failures create more danger

Yesterday evening I went to the Leicester Cycle Campaign Group’s regular meeting.

On the way it was nice to be able to celebrate a triumph over the idiocy of Leicester City Council and Sainsbury’s as after over a year, numerous letters, mentions at every Cycle City meeting and a Freedom of Information request they have actually removed the posts from the middle of the shared space around the new store on the Melton Road.

However, as I approached Belgrave Circle (where the flyover used to be) a bus nearly sideswiped me off my bike (First Buses, number 26 at about 6pm). This was in the two lane section approaching the roundabout, where the new cycle infrastructure has not yet been opened. The bus was in the outer lane, over taking me and approaching static traffic (closer to us in my lane). When 2/3 of the way past me he suddenly came sideways into my lane (about 1/3 of the way across the lane) before weaving back into the right hand lane.

I was already slowing because of stationary traffic ahead at the red light. He knew I was there as I was in the primary position, lit up with 3 very bright front lights and 3 very bright rear lights, he had pulled out around me.

The City Council website still says

3. What provisions are being made for cyclists and pedestrians during and after the project? 

Safe pedestrian and cycle access will be maintained throughout the works. Once complete, improved cycle and pedestrian access will be provided. There will also be marshals on site to direct cyclists and pedestrians to safe routes.

This is untrue. Despite a number of complaints to customer services there has never been any support for cyclists throughout these road works, this incident is but one of many which is unsurprising on a roundabout with 2 lane approaches and 4 lanes on the roundabout.

Since November the Leicester Cycle Campaign Group have been trying to discover from the City Council what is actually being built for cyclists at this junction. It is clear that it is significantly different from the drawings we have been shown (which included a central segregated cycle track) but it is not at all obvious how it will work (for example there are trees planted in what looks like shared space and how northbound cyclists will use it is very unclear). So far our requests not been answered.

My route was:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
03:53:19 00:51:47 10.49 12.15 21.70 341.21
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

They should be banned!

This morning was cold, foggy and very icy! I rode to Rothley to take their annual Methodist Covenant Service. Despite the -2.5 degree temperature, fog and ice all over the road most car drivers did not slow down, they did not give me more space (I was lit up like 3 Christmas Trees), they did not take more care to only overtake when it was safe. Many had no lights on. In my view they should be banned!

If you drive so that it is only good luck that meant you didn’t kill someone then we should be able to take away you license.

In my view at least six drivers this morning were so bad they deserved to be stopped and have their vehicle confiscated immediately.

That included the driver of a Corsa heading towards Rothley at well above the 40mph speed limit. How they didn’t crash as they tore round the bend to the bridge over the river Soar.

It included the drivers of two cars who felt their journey was so important that they just had to overtake me without lights on when there was an oncoming car. With a frozen gutter puddle to my left it was terrifying.

It included the drivers of two Range Rovers and one big Volvo SUV who all swept past without moving out of their line at all to give me any space. Note that nobody was coming the other way, this was indifference, laziness and some kind of entitlement.

Volvo claim to be interested in improving safety. So why are they not developing black boxes to record their drivers behaviour and to stop the car if it is driven dangerously. They claim to be able to be able to detect cyclists so why don’t then they immobilize the car immediately if it passes too close to a cyclist or pedestrian. The driver could be made to get a release code from their insurance company (and pay an increased premium each time).

By contrast my thanks to the 3 drivers who politely and properly waited until there was proper space to overtake and the 2 drivers who did obey the law and wait for me to pass a parked car on their side of the road before proceeding.

Sadly Leicestershire County Council believe that only motorised vehicles matter. My leading worship and visited elderly people in their homes does not have any value because it was not done by car, hence they are uninterested in working for safer roads for anyone other than drivers.

Anyway, here is my slow and cautious route from today.

[Ride id=236619907]

Practical combinations that only a bike can facilitate

Some Christmas traditions appear to have been lost. This year nobody bought me any socks or toiletries. Although remembering the choices of some, now long departed, Aunts maybe this is not all bad.

So I needed to get both some new socks and some shower gel and shaving cream. Plus I’m trying to lose a few mince pie remnants from my middle.

The practical answer was to wait for the rain to stop and then cycle to Next at Thurmaston Shopping Centre for some socks. Nice and quick with the only delay being all the cars circling the car park looking for a space and not looking for anyone else at all. Unlike those car drivers I was able to find a space to park, under cover, less than 20 yards from the shop entrance. I guess that by the time I got back to my bike with my socks some of them were still trying to park or taking their life into the hands of others as they walked across the car park danger zone towards the shop.

Anyway, for me onwards. I continued into Leicester along the Melton Road/Belgrave Road. I apologise for the frustration is causes car drivers when they are holding each other up and I carefully nip past them. Some take that as a challenge and with lots of revving engines scream past me, only to slam their brakes on again at the next lights or turning car. What they forget is that even if they get ahead of me I’ll more than make up for it as I’m allowed to cycle right up to the shop I’m visiting. In fact I lock my bike up about 3 small shops away from Lush and go straight in. Meanwhile all those car drivers will still, at best, be walking out of the car park at least 1/2 mile from the shop.

It did amuse me in Lush when the lady at the til said “Oh you must really like our ‘Dirty’ products”. Not especially but I don’t like the smell of strawberries enough to shave in them and you have very few ranges of products for men – no maybe not very few, maybe only one ie the aforementioned ‘Dirty’. Still the products are made in the UK, are made by a company that does not try to avoid UK taxes and are made without animal testing. Always good when the money I spend can be recycled around our own economy generating jobs and income so that we can fund our NHS etc.

From Lush I decided to get a little exercise so I came home via

  • a quick look at Jubilee Square (yes I do hate the name, wish it had been named after something local or worthy). The long queue of cars did seem to mean that it is fairly traffic calmed at the minute, although one taxi seemed to be on a tour of the pedestrian areas of the square by driving around the new monument thingy.
  • the new cycle track crossing of the Southgates slip road at St Nicholas Circle. The post with the toucan button and indicator is appallingly positioned for cyclists coming from Jubilee Square and heading for DMU (or vica versa)

20141203_150241

  • A quick flypast Jane’s site. See Planning Permission At Last
  • I then tested the shared use cycle facility along Bennion Road. It has been “finished” for months and yet there is still not a single sign to show that it is shared use.

My rather roundabout route was:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:45:11 01:25:27 17.48 12.27 33.78 652.89
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

By the time I got home the temperature was just below freezing and my feet in old trainers were just starting to notice it, although overall nice and comfy.

Total elapsed time was 1 hour 45 minutes and I’ll bet that with just the two shopping stops it would have been hard to better that much by car – and there would have been all that expense of fuel, parking as well as the running costs of the car.

Compare and contrast a US Safer Route to School with the Netherlands

I have just seen this post: Bike Lane SUCCESS! A Safer Route to Middle School | One woman. Many bicycles.

Go and read it, then come back and watch this 5 year old video of cycling to school in the Netherlands by David Hembrow

Note that it was -2 degrees Celsius when this video was recorded.

So which would you prefer your child to use as a “Safer route to School”?

David has written a long and detailed post critiquing rubbish design such as the “sharrows” praised in the first link which is well worth reading: A view from the cycle path: Ontario Traffic Manual “Bicycle Facilities” draft edition. How not to design for cycling.

Sainsbury’s show consideration for Cyclists safety

After my warnings ab0ut the dangers of the posts at the new Sainsbury’s they have now done something to make it safer for cyclists.

No, don’t be daft! Of course they have not removed the posts!

Instead they have implemented a way of making sure they can blame the victim (the cyclist being the victim in case that wasn’t obvious).

ie they have added some paint.

20131130_153011

and

20131202_215928

The second is worse than just adding the paint. When you look, the junction of the segregated cycle track and the shared space has been bungled in a big way. Tight corner, odd surface and a sign hidden behind a tree.

20131202_215902

20131202_215842

If it wasn’t for the flash bouncing off the sign would you see it?

20131202_215811

Hard to be anything but lost for words really isn’t it!

 

Note that this is part of a collection of blog posts about the infrastructure (paid for by Sainsbury’s, designed by Leicester City Council) around the new Sainsbury’s store on the Melton Road in Leicester North. I have written about the postsother problems with the junctionthe failed safety auditthe process questions the City Council want to avoida simple way to have radically improved the junction at very low costwhat a good design process might have come up withhow they have forgotten to tell cyclists how to get into the store and Sainsbury’s and lost desire (lines)

The story has also been picked up by the Leicester Mercury.

Despite all the posts Sainsbury’s forgot some signs

I have been getting at Sainsbury’s and Leicester City Council for the mess they have made of the junction of Melton Road and Troon Way/Watermead Way. See

Anyway, we went shopping there yesterday (yes by bike, traffic on a Friday afternoon is terrible, we would have been crazy to drive).

We were trying to find our way in and find the bike parking. It turns out that my original guess (south side of the vehicular entrance) was wrong. The best way in on a bike is off Troon Way. But despite all those posts there is not a single sign anywhere to tell cyclists how to get to the store. DUH!!!!

I wonder how a large company like Sainsbury’s can work so hard to promote themselves as having excellent environmental policies, how they can have huge posters everywhere explaining how this new store is so brilliant for the environment while being so totally useless about supporting staff and customers arriving by bike.

 

What Leicester City Council and Sainsbury’s could have done (2)

In my previous post What Leicester City Council and Sainsbury’s could have done (1) I took a minimalist approach to providing a safe infrastructure for the Melton Road junction with Troon Way/Watermead Way at the site of the new Sainsbury’s. Now I want to take a little more radical approach.

Political Support

Both Sainsburys and Leicester City Council make bold claims for their political support for the environment and for carbon reduction.

Sainsbury’s on the environment

Let us imagine the sort of design that would fit with a Supermarket chain that claims the following:

Respect for our environment

At Sainsbury’s, respecting the environment is about doing the right thing. We aim to be the UK’s greenest grocer, which is great for our business but even better for the environment.

Making a positive difference to our community

For us, retailing is about more than quality products and great service. It’s also about supporting and helping the communities where we work, and being a good neighbour. We aim for our stores to be at the heart of the communities they serve

Further more, let us imagine they wish to build a flagship store that is their most environmentally efficient:

Sainsbury’s new supermarket in Leicester is one of two ‘Triple Zero’ stores the retailer has just opened. It is Sainsbury’s most environmentally friendly store to date and uses the very latest technologies available to complement its industry-leading standard specification.

Neil Sachdev, Sainsbury’s Property Director, said: “We aim to be the UK’s Greenest Grocer and achieve our 20×20 target to reduce our operational carbon emissions by 30 per cent absolute. To do this we’re now building and running highly sustainable, low carbon stores.

Such a store would of course take into account the environmental impact of it’s customers travelling to and from the site, sadly though all their public messages about the environment ignore transport, it is the elephant in the supermarket.

Of course if you want to build a very environment friendly superstore it helps to do it in an environment friendly city, so let us consider Leicester City.

Leicester City on the Environment

Leicester makes bold claims:

Setting sensible targets

So with a Supermarket chain and City both committed to a sustainable and low carbon environment, to the local community and to healthy and active travel, what might they do for transport at a site with 1,000’s of homes within a couple of miles, a site at a major junction where there is a lot of congestion and which is at the junction of key routes into and around the city.

  • They would presumably have targets for the percentage of staff walking, cycling or using public transport to get to work. They would do all they could to encourage this to reduce congestion, reduce car parking needs and increase the health, wealth and productivity of their staff.
  • They would presumably have targets for the percentage of customers walking, cycling or using public transport to get to and from their store. They would prioritise access to the store for these customers recognising that by doing so they benefit the local community by reducing congestion, pollution and health care costs.
  • They would presumably recognise how key the junction next to the store was for access into and around the city. They would note that it is the most direct route into the city for the communities of Thurmaston and Syston (and beyond). They would note that alternative cycling and walking routes into the city are far less direct and are through unlit parkland that is on the flood plain and thus inaccessible at night and when flooded. They would note that the crossing of the river Soar from the junction is one of the few that does not flood (the next nearest to the North is the A46 which is 3 miles away, to the south it is Loughborough Road 1.4 miles away) and so is important for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • They would note how close schools were to the site and the safety issues that come from having an attractive supermarket across a busy road from schools.

Noting all these things creating safe, attractive and convenient walking, cycling and public transport routes to, from and past the Supermarket would be of the highest priority.

Designing the transport links

The roads by this site are all very busy. For example the Melton Road is a dual carriageway that has 5 lanes heading south into this junction. Troon Way has 4 lanes heading east into the junction. There are frequent tailbacks on all 4 arms of the junction.

The London Cycling Campaign has helpfully adopted a simple formula for when cyclists should be provided with high quality protected space. If speeds exceed 20mph (based on 85th percentile actual speeds not the speed limit) or 2,000 PCUs per day (passenger car units, a weighted measure see this pdf for more detail. Here is a bit more detail. The London Cycling Campaign claim this is similar to Dutch requirements although it seems to me that theirs are more finely grained and consistently applied which no British standard relating to safe cycling infrastructure has been. See the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain for some analysis of Dutch standards.

However, every road at this junction way exceeds both the 20mph speed limit and the 2,000 pcu per day measure. The suggestion from a City Council officer I met at the safety audit that cyclists heading out of the city should ride on the dual carriage way shows a worrying lack of interest or understanding of safety for people on bikes.

So, idiot engineers from the City Council aside, it is clear that this junction should have fully protected cycle infrastructure on every arm. Consider the map

If Sainsbury’s and Leicester City were serious about their environmental policies then they would be looking at making the following cycle journeys safe and convenient:

  1. North/South along Melton Road A607 to provide good access in and out of Leicester (especially for the Golden Mile) for people in Thurmaston/Syston (and the villages beyond). Also to the Rushey Mead Secondary school on the Melton Road.
  2. East/West along Watermead Way/Troon Way A563. This is a critical east/west connection for cyclists, especially at night and in winter when many will not want or be able to cross the river Soar in Watermead Park. It provides critical connections between work places, hospitals and residential areas
  3. North/South to East/West due to the strategic crossing of the Soar and the direct route of the Melton Road there are many routes that will turn at this junction. For example from Syston to Glenfield Hospital is from North to West. Syston to the General Hospital is North to East.
  4. Local Routes to Sainsbury’s. The closest homes are behind the store in Thurmaston and across Troon Way. However, access from Melton Road (North and South) as well as Watermead Way (Birstall is from 1 mile away) will also be popular.
  5. In the summer connections into Watermead Park and the Sustrans route along the River Soar would probably be popular for people who are less confident cyclists.

With roads as busy as these I believe that grade based segregation is the best solution. Toucan crossings are slow and inconvenient. In the UK these are never very responsive to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists due to the focus on maximising motorised traffic flows. Nor do they provide attractive options that encourage school children to cycle (especially they do not encourage parents to allow their children to cycle to school).

However, the UK also has a very poor history when it comes to the design of grade separated segregation. We build subways that feel dangerous and which flood. We build bridges that are eyesores as well as narrow with long detours on the steep ramps. There are examples close to Sainsbury’s and they are frequently ignored by pedestrians and cyclists like this:

The Dutch do things differently and the best recent example is the Hovenring at Eindhoven that I rode over this summer. (although Mark also mentions a somewhat similar roundabout in Norway).

Note how the Dutch solution is attractive (no more than that, beautiful)!

hovenring

Not only is it beautiful it also feels very safe. The ramps are gentle and wide, for the most part with grass banks rather than railings. The roundabout gives you a choice of directions so you can avoid other people to feel safe. There is great visibility from all directions and the road which also makes you feel safer.

There are other practical advantages to the Hovenring, installation was quick as large segments were simply lifted into place. Cyclists and pedestrians never have to wait and never delay motorised vehicles. Maintenance is easy as the Hovenring is wide enough and strong enough for normal maintenance vehicles to drive on it.

Imagine how Sainsbury’s could have used this in their publicity and as a sign of where their most environmentally friendly store was. What a great gateway into the City the Council could have made this.

Things would have been done very differently. Instead of all the roads rising upto the junction it would have been lowered by a couple of meters, this would have provided the material for the ramps. It would have made the slopes easy for cyclists and pedestrians. One exit ramp could have curved gently down to the store canopy (where no doubt Sainsbury’s would have thought of providing more than 19 Sheffield stands for bike parking). One ramp could lead to a new cycle bridge alongside Watermead way where currently cyclists have to ride with no protection on a very busy road with a 50mph speed limit.

With imagination and a commitment to their public policies Sainsbury’s and Leicester City Council could have produced something to be proud of, something that would have gone a long way to transform the way that people get around Leicester and to/from this store. With that imagination they would both have gained huge visibility just as Eindhoven is currently reaping the benefits of being see the world over as a leading city for cycling.

 

 

What Leicester City Council and Sainsbury’s could have done (1)

I have written a lot of blog posts now on the failures of Leicester City Council and Sainsbury’s in the design and implementation of the new junction on the Melton Road at Troon way/Watermead Way because it is appallingly bad. There is probably at least one more critical post to come about actually getting to the Superstore by bike. So if you haven’t seen these posts have a look:

The thing that is really frustrating is that it could easily have been so different. On the east side (where Sainsburys is) there is lots and lots of space.

So my first suggestion for what Sainsbury’s could have done is very simple. They could have re-connected the old 1930’s segregated cycle track alongside the Melton Road so that it stayed as a segregated track running all the way through the junction.

They could have copied the design of the new segregated cycle track they have put in on Newarke Street where there is a colour and grade separation between the cycle track and the footway. See that in this video:

Then at all the crossings they could have copied the design of the “super crossing” near the station where a toucan crossing is both very wide and straight as it crosses the Central Ring dual carriageway.

The cycle track and footway would have needed to curve away from the Melton Road slightly from just north of the Sainsbury’s entrance to just south of Troon Way in order to allow the toucan crossings to be straight. This would have also allowed the cycle track to bypass behind the bus stop as they always do in the Netherlands.

The new left turning lane into Troon Way would have needed to be made a little more separated in order to line up the crossings. The central refuge of the Troon Way crossing would have needed to be a little wider so that the cattle pens could be removed and the crossing be straight.

None of this would have cost very much in the context of the whole junction.

The problems with the other side of the junction could have also been solved very simply by

  • upgrading the existing 1930’s cycle track on the Sainsbury’s side from Thurmaston to Belgrave.
  • upgrading one Melton Road crossing north of the junction and one south to supercrossings (with linked lights)

As part of this the Council could have reasonably resurfaced the 80 year old segregated cycle track on the east side of the Melton Road all the way from Manor Road in Thurmaston to the entrance to Rushey Fields in Belgrave (just south of the vehicle entrance into Rushey Mead Secondary School). Most of that cycle track has not been resurfaced in 80 years and now the concrete slabs have big steps between them. While resurfacing it could have been widened into it’s grass verge, been given priority over side roads and entrances by running it across a hump as existing standards allow (there are only about 4 needed) and bus stop bypasses installed.

If that work had been done then I am confident many people would be content to use this as a fast two way cycle route along the Melton Road and when travelling North would cross from the west side to ride the whole length on the east side. Therefore a crossing of Watermead Way would no longer be an issue.

[Update]

I feel I should have made it clearer that my suggestion is not just about this junction but about how it connects and how it can contribute to a wider network.

My suggestion connects at the north end with a scheme (that has a significant number of design issues itself) provided by Leicestershire County Council. With a naff bit of shared pavement you can get past the health centre and shops at the Humberstone Lane junction and then use the route along the Thurmaston bypass which is partially on a 20mph limit road (a speed limit that is widely ignored) and then on a shared footway to Thurmaston Shopping Centre. From there the quality goes down again and you have a section of poor shared footway to the mini roundabout at Fosse Way where you are abandoned.

At the south end of my suggestion there is the possibility of using Lanesborough Road to connect to Bath Street and join the Sustrans route through Abbey Park. There are only two problems with this. a) the bit between Thurcaston Rd and Abbey Pumping Station floods a lot and b) there is no safe route into the City once you get to the Central Ring Road.

A signposted alternative for cyclists at the southern end is to go through Rushey Fields and along Harrison Road. I only recommend this if your destination is on Harrison Road and you are a confident cyclist with a death wish. It is horrible!

More frequently these days I tend to go straight along the Melton Road/Belgrave Road. It is unpleasant but it is fast. I find it easier going towards the city than away from it though. This is the Golden Mile in Leicester, it has exciting vibrant shops and restaurants but ends being dominated by a combination of parked and speeding motorised vehicles. The road could be made so much more attractive to visit by reducing it to a single lane of motor vehicles in each direction with protected segregated cycle tracks and wider pavements with outside seating for the restaurants in the summer.

The questions Leicester City Council don’t want to answer

In a three month period Leicester City Council have opened three new pieces of cycle infrastructure:

  • A new segregated cycle lane on Southgates
  • A new segregated cycle lane on Newarke St
  • The Melton Rd/Troon Way/Watermead Way junction at the new Sainsbury’s

All have been built with posts in the middle of the cycle infrastructure. The ones on Newarke Street have now been removed, we are promised the ones on Southgates will be removed in the new year (4 months after it opened) and today I was promised that some of them at the Sainsbury’s junction will be removed – but no promise of when.

However, this leaves a number of questions for Leicester City Council:

  1. How did these posts get put in the middle of cycle infrastructure in the first place?
  2. What policies and procedures at the City Council have been changed to make sure this does not happen again?
  3. What new training has been given or is planned for the City engineers involved in these projects?
  4. When the Cycle City Workshop was shown drawings why were these posts not on them?
  5. How much has it cost us to correct these errors?

At the same time the City Council has published a new design for the Haymarket Bus Station. This has lost the segregated cycle track that was shown to the City Cycle Workshop and now has no provision for safe cycling (while adding a number of features that the Cycle City Workshop have made clear increase the danger for cyclists).

So why is the City Council not making it a design brief requirement that all new infrastructure is safe and convenient for cyclists?

 

Leicester City Council Safety Audit failure

On my way into Leicester I noticed a large volume of high vis safety jackets at the now notorious junction at Leicester’s new Sainsbury’s where the Melton Road crosses Troon Way/Watermead Way (see my three previous posts).

It turned out that inside the high viz jackets were a team doing a safety audit, so I stopped to talk to them.

The good news is that Sainsbury’s are going to move the smaller posts that are dotted all over the paths (but I don’t know when and I have no specific assurance that this will be all the posts).

The bad news is that a man who seemed to be talking for the developer said that none of the posts supporting the road signs will be moved. There are 3 sets of posts:

PB190106

PB190108

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(note this last one does now have a sign on it).

I was told that these cannot be moved because the posts have to be in these positions due to the large number of services running under the footway and the verge at this point.

This is a failed excuse!

It is an excuse that would never be acceptable in a road used by motor vehicles! Can you imagine saying “We are sorry that we have put this post in the middle of the dual carriageway, but there was nowhere else it could go because of services under the road”.

I could accept them saying “we clearly made a mistake and it would be very expensive to correct now. We have changed out design standards and our policies, we are sending our engineers and site managers on training courses to make sure this never happens again”.

What I do not accept is this excuse which says cyclists and pedestrians do not matter to us, we are not willing to invest any skill, any resources into creating and implementing a design that will be safe and convenient for them.

There is so much space around the signs. The posts on the Sainsbury’s could have been placed up to about 4 metres more away from the road. When the whole area has been dug up and relaid in a new place it is entirely unacceptable to claim that the position of services prevents safe positioning of these signs.

 

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