Monday, 20 May 2013

Danger junctions, that minor victory.

Cambridge Cyclist and I have recently had a minor success. One of the Police priorities set by the North Area Committee in Cambridge has been to target anti-social cycling. Some of this was about cyclists without lights (I approve) but more controversially pavement or more accurately footway cycling.

One of the areas that was being targeted for anti-social cycling was the shopping area on Milton Road close to Arbury Road. The issue here was unclear signage, where a shared use path ends without clear signs. Cyclist are supposed to move onto the road using the 1m cycle lane past the shops, and then just 200m later the shared-use path restarts on the other side of an awful busy junction with Arbury Road.

Milton Road is a major A road in and out of Cambridge and is subsequently very busy with traffic. It has a shared use cyclepath on its western side, starting at its junction with Gilbert Road and pretty much continues for 2.35km to the Science Park. I say pretty much, because it has two holes, one of those being the 200m at the Milton/Arbury Road shops. If you are a timid cyclist, would you want to cycle in that on-road lane?

Worse, if you are travelling in the other direction trying to get round the 200m hole legally, you would be expected to cross over the road, use the 1m on-road cycle lane going straight on at the roundabout while all the majority of traffic on your right is attempting to turn left. The Google StreetView visualises the conflict. This junction is statistically bad for cyclists too.

Cyclist using the legal route over the roundabout, rather than the  illegal footway on right.
Most vehicles turn left here, many cyclists go straight on.

As a result of the criticisms, we got involved with the local political process, explained our case - badly at the North Area Committee - but then better one-to-one. Targeting anti-social cycling has now been dropped as a priority with a view to improving cycle path signs and looking at road and path layout. This is summarised well in the Cambridge News.

The good news is that the Police and Councillors understand the issues more than they did before and that they are looking at the views of not just cyclists, but pedestrians too. It is certainly not my wish to have a solution that puts vulnerable pedestrians at risk. One outcome - proposed by Councillor Manning - is to look at the root cause of any issues they are asked to prioritise. That's a great result for all, not just cyclists.

Where next?

When I went to the North Area Committee I went armed with statistics of Cambridge's road accidents. I meant to get the cyclist accidents visualised on a map, but that's partly been superceeded by the DfT's collision map.  Here's a map of Cambridgeshire's collisions involving cyclists. This tool doesn't have a way to filter to pedestrian collisions - I've already put in a request to the authors get that improved.

My other task is verifying the OpenStreetMap view of the shared-use paths in Cambridge. When correct, it can be used to show where any problems are. I've been using two sources: the Traffic Regulation Orders and actual on-the-ground signage. I've reviewed the TRO's for Arbury so far, making a few minor corrections and mostly adding legal shared use that wasn't on the map.

An interesting example shared-use path runs along the south side of Kings Hedges Road. Almost the entire 2.7km length is shared-use, except for a dodge round a bus shelter next to Kirkwood Road. Could you spot the end of the cyclepath? Here it is from the other end.

A final example is some shared-use path on Campkin Road. This is genuinely shared-use. It looks like footway, isn't that clearly marked and probably causes bad feeling for some pedestrians. Some of them may have even complained about cyclists on the footpath. Shared-use cyclists in Cambridge often find themselves in close quarters with pedestrians, on routes that sometimes look like shared-use, sometimes like footway, regardless of their legal status.

Some of the shared-use looks awful to a fast rider, but even when poor quality, many people do value being able to keep off the road such as accompanying children cycling to school. But when the speeds go up in tight spaces, that's surely when the conflict and animosity starts.

These are positive things we can do to improve the situation for all.

  • Improve signs so people understand where is legal to ride.
  • Find a way to make longer shared-use cycle paths continuous. Dumping timid riders on the road in 1m cycle lanes is unacceptable.
  • Longer term, redesign the road and path layout.

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