Monday 26 November 2012

Regent Street/Lensfield Road re-design?

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:

View Larger Map

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.


  1. The junction design doesn't even sort one of the worst experiences you can have driving a motor vehicle through there- going from Lensfield Road through to Gonville Place. Yes, driving straight ahead is actually really quite unpleasent. Mainly due to narrow lanes and traffic turning right into Hills Road.

    1. Would seem much more sensible (to me at least) to reduce Lensfield Road exit to single lane for cars and a bike feeder lane for an ASL - then give a cyclist lights phase followed by green light for cars. That would mean you can readily get out from Lensfield in any vehicle you like - at present many of the motorists trying to get out from there are clearly petrified. And I see a lot of cyclists dismount rather than face the junction - this proposal makes things in no way better for them.

  2. My response:

    Do you support Cambridgeshire County Council's proposed scheme for the Hills Road/Regent Street juntion in principle?*

    Why is this?
    It's just another design for people driving too fast.

    The design takes a lane away from people driving, which is no problem in itself, and seems to give it to no-one. So all I can assume is that it makes the lanes for cars larger. The result, people driving think they have more space so increase their speed. This is the last thing we need at this busy junction, busy with a high proportion of non-motorised transport (around 50%?).

    What is the most significant problem you currently encounter at the junction at the moment?
    When I'm cycling being squeezed off the road by poor driver behaviour.

    When I'm walking having to wait for ages to be able to cross.

    There are no issues when driving.

    Do you have any further comments that you would like to make about the proposed scheme?
    Hills Road approach is okay. 5/10 for that.

    Gonville Place approach has 1 lane removed (and had the island moved a bit for crossing). Give that space to cyclelanes. As the space narrows further away from the junction remove one car lane, just like Hills Road. Less cycle traffic comes this way because it is so hostile to people cycling. You're just staying with the status quo. The ASL whilst alright will be ignored by most motorists. 1/10 for that.

    Regent Street approach. Again, has 1 lane removed. Give that space to cyclelanes. Yellow lines all the way up along both sides the road into town. There's enough parking bays (without onstreet parking) for the few people who "need" it. Again, 1/10 for the ASL.

    Lensfield Road. Again, space has been taken from people walking. Restrict access on the junction outgoing lane and add in cyclelanes. And as the incoming lanes only occur within a short distance of the junction retain that cyclelane. Again, 1/10 for the ASL.

    Finally, protect all cyclelanes with raised kerbs.

    So, all in all, 8/40 or 20%. As any teacher for say, go back and try again.

    Can you tell us if you use the junction as a ....
    Car driver

  3. Here is my response:

    I do not support these proposed scheme for Hills Road/Regent Street. The proposals do very little to improve the safety and convenience of cyclists, and do not do enough for pedestrians. There are several positive details in the scheme, and it would not prevent future improvements, but it misses an opportunity to implement a fully Dutch-standard design with near-segregation for cyclists.

    I think that the approaches to the junction from Lensfield Road and Gonville Place should both be reduced to one lane, and a wide curbed cycle lane added in both directions on both sides. In the proposed layout, as with the current layout, the narrow lanes allow no room for cycles to reach the junction past queuing traffic, making the experience of the junction for cyclists (and drivers) very unpleasant and dangerous, and making the ASLs almost ineffective. I do not believe that the effect on traffic flow of reducing the width to one main lane each way would be too great. Coming from Lensfield Road, right turning vehicles have their own phases and in any case often cause the whole flow to stop when traffic is heavy. Coming from Gonville Place. very few vehicles actually turn right, and combining the straight and left lanes would have no effect. I would suggest that, during the consultation phase, a test of traffic flow be carried out by blocking one lane on each side.

    If a full width cycle lane is put in on all approaches, it would be possible to allow cycles to turn left without waiting for the traffic signals (though giving way to pedestrians).

    I do not think that the staggered crossings on Lensfield Road and Gonville Place are necessary. If the traffic island on Lensfield Road is removed (and especially if the approach is reduced to one lane) it would be possible to significantly widen the footpath on the north side of the road which is currently too narrow for pedestrians to pass each other comfortably and gets very congested with several restaurants and shops as well as the crossing and passing foot traffic. This would also have the effect of loosening the angle of right-turning traffic and tightening the angle for cars turning into Regent Street, thereby slowing them.

    If the staggered crossings are retained, I support the proposal to not install barriers.

    Regent Street should have cycle lanes on both sides. In the proposed layout, with the approach reduced to one lane, there is plenty of space. The cycle lanes should be 2m wide. Although Regent Street is limited to 20mph, most of the vehicles are through-traffic and often speed.

    I would support the idea of replacing the controlled pedestrian crossing on Regent Street with a zebra crossing.

    I strongly support the removal of the central reservation on Hills Road and the addition of a cycle lane on the approach (though cycle lanes on both sides should be 2m wide).

    The configuration of the Harvey Road crossing could be dangerous for cyclists. The traffic island creates a pinch point that brings vehicles and cycles into conflict in two ways: when traffic is queuing, the gap will be filled by a bus which will encourage cyclists to either squeeze up the inside or go round the other side of the island and into the 'car' lane; when traffic is flowing, buses will be accelerating aways from the bus stop to the south or attempting to get to the lights before they change, therefore driving much faster than cyclists at this point. If the island is removed, there would be room for a cycle lane and a bus lane along the whole of this stretch (i.e., removing shared bus and cycle lane entirely).

    I would support the idea we discussed of continuing cycle lane colouring across the junction between Hills Road and Regent Street in both directions. On the Lensfield Road-Gonville Place access, such a measure would probably be too confusing.

    Cycle lanes should be mandatory and not advisory, unless there is a very strong reason.