Tag Archives: Segregated cycle facilities - Page 2

A new understanding of Dutch Bike Bells

For a quite a while I have been a fan of the Widek Ding Dong Bell that I have bought from David and Judy Hembrows Dutch Bike Bits website.

David is a friend and a very thorough person so I am grateful that he took the time to test lots of bike bells to be able to sell us the loudest.

It works really well. I find with pedestrians in the UK I need to ring it while I am some way away from them or they jump out of their skins.

However, it has one flaw for the UK. It tends to ring by itself when you hit bumps. British cycle tracks are full of bumps and holes that are big enough to make my bell ring which I find irritating.

So I was wondering how the Dutch put up with this and why David does not mention it in his thorough testing.

After a few days of riding with the bell in the Netherlands my conclusion is that the reason nobody here reports this problem is that they don’t experience it. I am approaching 100 miles riding in the Netherlands and the bell has not rung by itself once.

So in addition to the white trouser infrastructure test we can add another.

If a Widek Ding Dong Bell rings by itself while cycling on your infrastructure then it is not up to Dutch standards.

 

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Lycra clad fast cyclists in the Netherlands?

So today was over 34 miles from Bladen to Eindhoven as a family. An opportunity to check whether the frequent claims by UK cyclists that cycle tracks in the Netherlands are only for slow cyclists.

After discussing it with Jane and Stephen our conclusions are:

  • We saw more cyclists on fancy road bikes who were fully clad in lycra than we have ever seen while out riding in the UK.
  • All these cyclists were using the cycle paths
  • A number of lycra clad cyclists overtook us
  • We saw many more lycra clad cyclists going across our route than along it.
  • We saw a much closer gender balance in the lycra clad cyclists than in the UK. I guess at least 1/3 were women compared to maybe 1/10 in the UK.
  • While there were more lycra clad cyclists out today than we ever see in the UK (and remember this is not a weekend and this was during office hours) they were only a small percentage of the total number of cyclists that we saw (certainly less than 10%)
  • As well as lycra clad cyclists on road bikes we have also seen quite a few lycra clad cyclists on mountain bikes, again on cycle facilities and again going fast. No idea where they were going to/from.

Soon after getting back to the campsite I noticed a mum and her pre-teenage son going out for a ride. Both were on “proper” road bikes, both in full lycra. I have never seen that in the UK before.

 

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Planning family cycling

I assume that many parents in the UK will be like us.

We routinely reconnoitre routes before taking our sons cycling anywhere in the UK. In our experience you just can’t rely on cycle infrastructure to provide a safe route from A to B. This is one of the reasons why driving to an off road cycle friendly place with bikes strapped to the car is so popular.

Typically I do the same thing on holiday. I go for rides by myself to scout out where we might go and the best routes to take. Especially when the boys were younger it made family days out much less stressful.

Last nights ride demonstrated that things don’t have to be like this.

Certainly in this part of the Netherlands if you want to go somewhere then all you need is a rough idea of the places you want to go through. For example going to the Hovenring from our campsite it helped to know that there is a quiet lane signposted as a cycle route that takes a short cut in the right direction, thereafter I just followed the signs for Eindhoven confident that there would always be a safe cycle route.

When following the signs around here it seems to me there is a hierarchy.

  1. Signs specifically marking a cycle route (ie that connects places or provides a scenic tour). These seem to be numbered with green on white.
  2. Cycle specific directions with red lettering on a white background
  3. Ordinary road signs

This hierarchy worked well getting me from Bladel to Eindhoven. If I knew I wanted a specific cycle route I followed the signs for that. If the cycle track was well separated or the cycle route was more direct there would be a red on white sign to follow. If I couldn’t see any other sign I used the normal white on blue road signs.

Discovering that we can simply decide to cycle to a place and follow the road signs knowing that all the routes are going to be safe for cycling is incredible, from a UK perspective it seems totally improbable and impossible. Yet the Dutch take it for granted.

I didn’t believe it myself as we were driving here on Monday evening. We came from Antwerp on the A67/E34 motorway, signposted Eindhoven, and there was no cycle track. Then we took a link road to Hapert, the N284 and there was no cycle track. However, last night I discovered that as a cyclist you are not even aware of the N284 as you go straight under it using an underpass. The cycle network is so complete and so connected that you are completely unaware of the roads without cycle tracks.

In the Uk it is completely different. Endeavouring to get from A to B cyclists frequently end up crossing motorways at their junctions with no cycle infrastructure at all. A long distance cycle journey as a family (even using a Sustrans route) is a very scary prospect in the UK but would be straightforward in the Netherlands.

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Evening ride to the Hovenring wasn’t scary

So this evening I rode from Bladel to the amazing Hovenring at Eindhoven. Thanks to the power of twitter I met Mark Wagenbuur of @BicycleDutch and the Bicycle Dutch blog.

The ride was 28 miles and I averaged 14.1 miles per hour. You can see the route and details on Strava.

For a British cyclist there are many incredible, almost unbelievable aspects of this ride. The most important thing though is that not once in 28 miles and 2 1/2 elapsed hours did I feel unsafe. I had zero scary encounters with cars, hgv’s, buses or vans.

Let me say that again. I had zero scary incidents in a 2 1/2 hour bike ride.

This is entirely unheard of in Britain. You never ride anywhere without unpleasant incidents. You never go a day without someone passing too close, or cutting you up, or not noticing you at all, or threatening you, or parking in a cycle lane, or running a red light, or driving into an ASL or overtaking when it isn’t safe or …

Nothing like that happened at all on this ride.

The key reason for this is the infrastructure. I didn’t go anywhere without appropriate cycle infrastructure. This evening it included:

  • Tiny roads which are narrow enough for cars to be slow and where signs tell them to expect cyclists (these could be rural or a housing estate).
  • Very quiet roads with no central line painted instead a cycle lane is marked on both sides.
  • Newer quiet roads where the cycle lane at the side is a different colour or texture.
  • Segregated cycle tracks
    • on quiet roads right next to them
    • on busier roads with a verge or at least a painted lane between me and traffic.
    • special treatment on roundabouts normally with a protected lane around the outside or full separation or underpasses

So there was basically no interaction with cars. At side roads and at roundabouts they gave way to me. At traffic lights I always had my own signal (instant and automatic on the newer junctions).

In the whole ride I gave way to a car once when the cycle track changed from the right hand side of the road to a two way track on the left.

As for the destination. Yes the Hovenring is awesome.

P8060084

P8060085

But it only works because everything connects to it. You can get to it from any direction using routes that will feel safe and that you won’t have to plan/reconnoitre in advance.

P8060086

 

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Transport planners missing visibility

I met a professional Transport Planner today. He showed some pretty pictures of a new street design which included lots of shared space. He wanted to tell us how great this was for cyclists and it was only late in the discussion that my brain clicked in and I pointed out that there was not a single person on a bike anywhere in any of the images we were being shown.
If you are not showing people on bikes as a normal part of all your street scenes then do not try to pretend that this is a cycle friendly design!!!
A cycle friendly design will show people of all ages on bikes.
We should see young children on their parents bikes and in trailers, we will see young children riding alongside their parents, we will see older children riding to school, people doing their shopping, people collecting their pensions, people socialising, people commuting, people exercising, people touring the county, people cycling to tea shops, people cycling to restaurants, people cycling to Church, to cinemas, kids hanging out with their friends on bikes (and scooters and roller blades), cargo bikes being used for deliveries, cargobikes being used as mobile shops and lots of bikes simply parked.

 

When your street scene shows all these then I might believe that you have designed cycle friendly streets!

Note that of course we should also see people using mobility scooters, people in wheelchairs and pushchairs. Without these the street is still just for cars and agile pedestrians rushing to and from cars.

What is not shown cannot have been given any priority!

 

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Better nights out when you go by bike

Last night we went out with friends for a film (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: I fell asleep, 2 hours of my life lost for ever) at the Phoenix followed by a great meal at Bobbys on the Melton Road.

All four of us cycled and it made the evening so much better than any alternative.

First, with us travelling from Syston and our friends from Birstall it would have been a slow detour at each end for either of us if we tried to share a car.

Second, there is no parking at the Phoenix or at Bobbys. So I guess we would have parked in the Lee Circle multi-story (and paid) and walked to the Phoenix. Then we would have chosen a different place to eat that had parking. So we would have missed out on some fantastic food.

As it was we rode gently from Syston along cycle paths including sections through parks. Took us 35 minutes to the cinema where we parked right outside.

After the film we rode as a group of 4 along some shared use pavements, through the Sainsburys car park and about 200 metres along the Melton Road before locking our bikes up right outside Bobbys (in fact we could see them from our table).

They were getting ready to close by the time we left Bobbys so we went our separate ways. We came home sttraight along the Melton Road, using the cycle path where it exists and going through Thurmaston Village.

It was relaxed and easy, but more importantly we had a better night out than would have been possible by car. If only the City made it possible for more people, many of whom currently find the roads and traffic too scary to use a bike.

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Gaining freedom of the City

In the last few weeks our middle son has suddenly realised how much more freedom he gets from his bike. There is no doubt that having a girlfriend who loves to cycle and it part of a cycling family has been a significant encouragement 🙂

So now he rides off to the other side of Leicester to meet the girlfriend, then together they rode to swimming at Beaumont Leyes.

We are fortunate that there is some cycle infrastructure here, it is of a poor quality (lots of sharing with dog walkers, terrible surfaces, narrow obstructions, overhanging brambles) and takes approximately twice as long as the straight route down the Melton Road.

However, poor quality though it is he feels a lot safer using it and now intends to switch from commuting to College by train to using his bike (I suspect a secondary motive that he thinks he will get to pocket the train fare).

Having the confidence to set out to places you have not cycled to before (as Beaumont Leyes swimming pool today) knowing that you will be able to get there ok is the key to having your freedom.

Sadly as our son is gaining the freedom of Leicester many are being denied the freedom of London as Transport for London are about to start work on making Blackfriars less safe for cyclists and less convenient for pedestrians. This goes against a vote in the London Assembly and against 1,000’s of people protesting.

More details at Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest: Blackfriars Bridge: the battle against TfL’s anti-cycling, anti-walking agenda commences.

 

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Funding bike facilities

In a comment on Leicester on a Saturday evening JPR said:

what do the authorities say, is there no way to privatise a project that will build and maintain such schemes… cos the council ain’t gonna do it are they

Funding anything is very difficult when the costs and benefits are not aligned. There are plenty of great benefits that come from implementing great cycle facilities but it seems to me that the departments responsible for the funding will not gain many of the benefits. This is exacerbated by timing issues. The cost benefits of cycling facilities will take time to appear while most of the costs are up-front.

Let’s imagine for a moment that Leicester (and Leicestershire) invested in a high quality cycle infrastructure.

A high quality infrastructure would include the following:

  • Segregated cycle facilities into the city from all directions. These would be wide (over 2 metres for single direction travel), they would have priority over all small side roads and driveways. They would be level across all junctions with clear markings and safe crossings of all junctions. For some this would be fully grade separated (see Multi-level roundabout – the safest solution for a junction).
  • The City Centre closed to private cars with cycle facilities separated from buses and taxi’s.
  • Safe routes to all schools including bans on parking within a 1/2 mile of all School Entrances
  • City wide 20 mph speed limit. Slower speed limits in residential streets and outside schools
  • Rat runs through residential streets closed off to motorised vehicles with short & direct routes provided for pedestrians and cyclists
The experience around the world is that when a high quality cycling infrastructure is created that feels safe from door to door then the take up is very significant. For a relatively compact city like Leicester 30% of all journeys to be by bike is a reasonable target.
Notice also that all these changes make the city a better place for everyone, not just for cyclists. We all benefit from reduced casualties on the roads, reduced pollution, reduced congestion etc
In hard financial terms a great cycling infrastructure will generate considerable savings:
  • Lives would be saved. There would be a significant reduction (as we have seen in the Netherlands) in the number of Children (and Adults) killed on the roads. There can be a debate about how much money should be spent to save lives. However, at present the road system is by far the largest external cause of child death in the UK.
  • Emergency services would cost less. If less people are severely injured on the roads then we will save money both in the initial emergency and also in the longer term care and rehabilitation of victims of crashes.
  • Health care savings will be made in three areas (reduced illness due to reduced pollution, reduced obesity will reduce the load on the NHS and the reduction in injuries in crashes)
  • Education. Many studies have shown that children who walk or cycle too school are more awake and do better.
  • Reduced congestion would generate savings for many businesses
  • Reduced oil dependency will see significant savings in the money going abroad to buy a dwindling resource
  • Employers will need to pay lower expenses to staff who cycle rather than drive for work
  • Employers will save money through needing to provide less expensive space for car parking.
In addition to savings, a quality cycle infrastructure will generate income:
  • A study in Melbourne demonstrated that if you allocate the same size space to cycle parking as for car parking in a retail area you generate significantly greater sales income
  • People who cycle save money which would be spent mostly on imports (cars and fuel) and they spend it in the local economy.
  • Cyclists and Pedestrians are more likely to spend money in the local area rather than drive somewhere else. This helps local businesses.
What we now need is politicians who can recognise all these positives and be willing to divert resources into creating a quality infrastructure. We also need people who can help us better align the costs and benefits so that better decisions can be made.

 

 

 

 

 

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Leicester on a Saturday evening

IMG_20110528_180651 by Dave 42 If the whole route into Leicester was like this bit (just passing Birstall) then maybe other families would also cycle into Leicester for a meal on a Saturday evening (especially when approaching a deadline for using up Tesco vouchers).

For us it is just over 7 miles from Syston to the Pizza Express in St Martin’s Square. Much of the route is off road.

However, none of the off-road elements are dedicated cycle routes, they are all shared with pedestrians and worse with pedestrians who have dogs with them that are not on leads.

Also the off-road elements are generally a poor surface, occasionally a very poor surface (such as south of the Space Centre which is still very bumpy despite some recent very minimal “maintenance” – which consisted of pouring some tarmac down some of the wheel swallowing canyons). There is also a lot of glass around on the off-road sections.

Unfortunately, the on road sections are much worse than the off-road.

On the way in there is:

  • The junction from Grafton Place to Abbey Street (crossing the Central Ring with a left then right). The traffic lights make this reasonably straightforward but both our sons feel unsafe doing this.
  • The junction from Abbey Street turning right into Belgrave Gate. The right turn is clearly marked as being for buses, cycles and taxi’s only but that is totally ignored despite being only 50m from a Police Station. Due to all the parked cars and aggressive driving getting into the lane to turn right is not easy and cars want to rush past you through the junction before they get to the roundabout.
  • The roundabout on Belgrave gate where we need to turn right at to continue up Haymarket. Buses and Taxis all feel they can and should push cyclists out of their way while car drivers who are trying to go where they know they are not allowed are very unpredicatable.
  • At the Clock Tower we join the pedestrianised area which is generally ok.

On the way out we take a slightly different route as Haymarket is one way. So we go along the pedestrianised Humberstone Gate and then turn left into Charles Street. The problems are:

  • Charles Street is very clogged with buses who ignore cyclists (however hard to try to make sure you are visible in their wing mirrors then seem to ignore you totally).
  • Charles Street also has a number of cars despite no cars being allowed. I guess that as the car drivers are already breaking the law it is no surprise that they often show very dangerous behaviour to cyclists.
  • From the end of Charles Street we turn right at the roundabout and then left into Abbey Street. As you go around the roundabout you can be sure a car or taxi will ignore you and pull out just in front of you while a bus tries to ram you from behind.
  • At the end of Abbey Street we go straight across the Central Ring into St John Street. As the traffic light phase is so short that car drivers get very impatient here and try to force their way past.

Of course at the Syston end we also have the horrors of the traffic calming on the Wanlip Road (all of which are bad for cyclists) and the aggressive behaviour typical of the Melton Road.

So we have a ride which is 7 miles long. 5 miles of which is safe and traffic free but the mile at each end does not feel at all safe.

With some basic work it could be made much more attractive for people to ride into Leicester from Syston, Thurmaston, & Birstall. Work such as:

  • enforcing the existing law eg
  • speed cameras are much better for cyclists than the style of traffic calming on Wanlip Road
  • traffic light cameras to catch cars turning right into Humberstone Gate
  • cameras to catch cars using Charles Street
  • connecting the national Cycle Route 6 into the centre of Leicester in a safe way
  • 20 mph speed limit in Syston and inside the Central Ring of Leicester
  • training bus drivers to be safe to cyclists
  • Of course if we were at all serious about attracting cyclists then in addition to sorting out the on road sections the whole route through Watermead Park and Abbey Park would be twice the width, a smooth surface and woith a very clear segregation between cyclists and pedestrians (different surface treatments and a kerb between).

    More of the route would also be lit at night and the bollards under Watermead Way and the barriers at Birstall, Bath Street and Thurcaston Road would all be removed.

    Finally the bizarre signs & route for cyclists at the Wanlip Road exit to Watermead Park should be improved (at the moment new signs have been added that contradict the white markings painted on the surface and cyclists are directed to use a narrow cycle entrance that is painted as a one way entrance as the exit as well).

    Sadly many people seem to believe that Leicester has a legitimate claim to be a cycle city and that it can expect to see significant increases in the number of cyclists. No doubt much of any increase will continue to be people riding illegally on the pavement because they feel the roads are too unsafe and they can’t find the cycle facilities (or indeed tell them apart from the pedestrian pavements).

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    Crazy politics in Syston

    We have had leaflets delivered from both the Conservative and Labour parties ahead of the local elections on Thursday.

    When it comes to transport they are both completely crazy. Both are making impossible promises that they will not be able to keep and if they could keep them it would only make things worse.

    The Conservatives are promising something about making parking in the town centre easier. Yet the roads are constantly clogged due to the levels of traffic trying to get to the parking places already. Unless they are going to start demolishing shops or homes there is no more land for parking unless they concrete over the park.

    Labour are promising something about providing the opportunity for everyone to park outside their home. Clearly they have not looked at the local roads which are totally chocked by parked cars. Try walking along St Peter’s Street, cars fully parked on both sides with those on the left completely blocking the pavement.

    The solution for transport in Syston cannot be the car. The town is too small. I have checked on Google Maps and the furthest you have to travel to the junction of the High Street and Melton Road (essentially the town centre) is 1.4 miles from some houses of the end of Anthony Close. That is only because there is no cut through which would reduce the distance to about a mile.

    With the provision of a couple of short cuts there could be nobody living in Syston more than 1 mile from the town centre. How is it a possible that Syston town centre can need any but minimal parking for disabled visitors from neighbouring villages. Remember:

    • Nobody in Syston lives more than 1 (flat) mile from the town centre
    • Nearly all the shops in Syston town centre serve the local community
    • Syston is itself only 1.5 miles from an out of town shopping centre
    • Syston is only 6 miles from Leicester City Centre or about 9 miles from Loughborough Town Centre
    If they want to make access to the shops more convenient then:
    • remove all on street parking on Melton Road, High Street, Fosse Way and Wanlip Road
    • install 2.5m wide mandatory, separated cycle lanes on Melton Road, High Street, Fosse Way and Wanlip Road.
    • make sure than the cycle lanes have priority at every side road & driveway
    • make sure the cycle lanes are safe and suitable for mobility scooters
    • provide plenty of good cycle parking spots by every shop
    • close off rat runs such as Broad Street to through traffic
    • install real traffic calming on all residential roads
    • setup an enforced 20mph speed limit on the main roads eg Melton Road, High Street, Fosse Way and Wanlip Road
    • setup an enforced 10mph speed limit on all other roads
    • ensure the cycle paths/lanes get gritted and cleared of snow and leaves
    • start charging for residential permits for on street parking. Costs should start at £1 per day and be set to use by 10% every year.
    • Reduce the numbers of on street residential car parking spaces by 2% a year
    Change is possible, reduced congestion, reduced pollution, reduced deaths and injuries are all possible. But nothing can be improved by encouraging more cars.
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