Ideally I'd like to see most cycle facilities in the UK be off-road, wide, well surfaced, protected, direct, prioritised over side roads, etc. But that ain't happening yet.
We're primarily seeing roads and junctions considered with cyclists at least in the back of the minds of road planners - conceptually better than us not being considered at all, but still not at all good enough of course. Here's a classic example. This is the proposal for how Hills Road/Regent Street/Lensfield Road junction might be changed.
At present that junction is a killer - its congested, with far too many lanes of traffic squeezed in. Cars turning in any direction give no space for cyclists - and the cycle lanes that exist on Regent Street/Hills Road either disappear many yards before the junction or randomly appear on your exit from it - they're badly surfaced, barely wide enough, and so regularly chock full of cars, buses or taxis as to be frequently un-navigable. Here's what it looks like on Google Maps:
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|looking towards Regent Street from Hills Road - the plan is to reduce this
to two lanes for cars but, strangely, not give any room to anyone else...
It will come as no surprise that at present this is one of the most hazardous junctions for cyclists in Cambridge. It has big, wide sweeping corners to allow motorists to accelerate rapidly into the yellow hatched area - it therefore has two traffic speeds, static and far too fast. Cyclists can either wait in long lines of motorists who will try to muscle through them when the lights change or they can squeeze through gaps barely wider than they are to the front, wait in front of the cars, and at least put themselves in a place where the motorists have to knowingly kill them rather than carelessly pancake them on the curbside.
Here we've actually got rather wide roads, lots of space to design features to make this an excellent place to ride your bike or walk through the city. Right? When looking at this junction its obvious what needs to be done - we need to reconsider how the space is used and put pedestrians first, cyclists second, bus and delivery drivers third and cars fourth. We need to prioritise the safety of the most vulnerable and least polluting, and we need to tame the cars that turn this into a more of a survival lottery than a civilised junction.
|Clearly there's no space for bikes on Regent Street... At least, not
according to the new plans
You will of course be unsurprised to learn that proposed changes to the junction do not do this. There are some changes that have passing resemblance to good infrastructure, but that does not stand up to analysis. The junction is still smooth and fast - designed by motorists, for motorists. Pedestrians still have pointless extra distance to travel to get to crossings designed to corale them away from the cars - taming the car is clearly more than we can expect.
And cycling? Look, there are advance stop boxes. You'll have to scrape the paint of the buses and cars between narrow lanes of traffic to get to them; we're not actually taking any road space and giving it to you, we're simply putting a box at the front of the traffic and pretending we give a damn. I mean you won't be able to get to these bike boxes in anything like safety, and on current record they're not enforced anyway - they'll have cars in them when you get there. And from these boxes there's no evidence of an advance phase on the lights for cyclists - you can battle your way to the front and then f**k you. You'll have to put up with cars turning left through the space you're in, or wrestle across the traffic that wants to go straight on through you while you're turning right. And heaven help you if the lights change when you're stuck between two vans as you're shuffling towards the ASL - we'll send out a man with a mop to wipe you up. Well, we would if you weren't a cyclist. We'll let the hedgehogs eat you. Not that a hedgehog has the least chance of surviving this road either.
|What would you like here - an ASL for squeezing between the
taxi and the lorry, or reduction to one lane for cars and one for bikes?
I can't imagine what would possess planners to pitch this as a good design for cyclists, and I rather hope that Cambridge Cycling Campaign respond in a far more critical way than they've sometimes done. This isn't any kind of improvement for us - its re-branding a positively vile sea of cyclist and pedestrian mangling tarmac in such a way as to put a sheen of caring on it. It won't change anything, it won't make anything better. It exists purely to make it look like they're helping us.
What we need at this junction to make it safer is quite simple - direct, protected cycle lanes with their own light phase to allow transit for cyclists in space sufficiently safe that they will not feel pushed on to the pavement merely to survive. Direct routes for pedestrians - that means sorting out the wide, sweeping corners that currently encourage motorists to act as if they're indestructable. And lets be realistic about how long pedestrians need to cross the road - its unacceptable to tell people they'll either have to stand on a traffic island for several minutes or sprint in between the cars, all for the sake of making the motorists wait another few seconds.
This junction, as it currently stands and as it would be after these changes, is for motorists. Anyone else using it would do so under their sufferance - and that is short sighted nonsense. Lets have a braver, more realistic proposal for a junction that would be genuinely safe for pedestrians and cyclists. This proposal? Rubbish.