Friday 11 October 2013

Perne Road - Planning to make a bad roundabout unrideable.

UPDATE: If you want to tell the County Council that they're stealing cycling funds to make the road a bit better for motorists AGAIN then you need to do so by THIS FRIDAY. That would be here.

If my article doesn't convince you to oppose this crap, read this one from Cottenham Cyclist and this one from Radwagon. Lets be clear - using cycling funds to pay for yet another resurfacing to make things better for motorists while shovelling us on to shared use pavements we've got to give way from at every side road is an affront to every principle of good practice in cyclist safety or convenience, and we must hope that Cambridge Cycling Campaign stand up for their principles by vocally and openly opposing this scheme in its entirety. It will only be by fighting and defeating bad schemes like this that we may ever get anything better.

I'd like to introduce you to Perne Road, in Cambridge. I last rode it yesterday, coming home from Addenbrookes, and then spent some time later discussing it in the pub during a four hour 'setting the world to rights' session. Here it is, as ridden by RadWagon.

Its a pretty crucial route for cycling. If you want to get from the hospital to Romsey, Cherry Hinton or Fen Ditton, or even if you want to cut out the city centre from up in Chesterton, Arbury or Kings Hedges, you'll end up there. Yet strangely I never seem to see as many cyclists there as on many of our other Cambridge roads.

Its not hard to see why that is - lets look more closely at a roundabout thats about to be re-developed...

So its wide, its spacious, and its strangely awful. If you turn around there and look the other way, you'll see there's a cycle lane down both sides of the road - it could be a lot wider of course but there is an ample grass verge either side that is jealously guarded by locals who 'need' it to park the third or fourth car that won't fit on their driveways. 

And when you get to that roundabout you'll see that the cycle lane funnels you to the left of the traffic - fine if you're turning left. If you want to go straight on or turn right you're boned - you've got a motorist to your right who has other ideas. And its a big, wide roundabout - drivers pick a racing line in and out of it. 

So its not satisfactory - it really does need improving for cyclists, and its a superb location to try out the Dutch style roundabout they're experimenting with in London. But, no. Thats too good for Cambridge cyclists. Have a look at a PDF of the engineering sketch for the detail but basically the aim is to give us four off road, shared use paths around the edge of it - and yes, we'll have to give way at each road. So if you want to turn right you've got to go on the pavement three times, off the pavement three times, and you've got to give way to cars twice. We've got to use shared use routes that both cyclists and pedestrians hate, which causes conflict - or stay on the road where motorists knowing that there's a shared use facility will attempt to bully us for being in their way.

But you know what the bitch of it all is? How its being paid for. Cambridgeshire County Council seem to have become pretty good at getting funds to spend on cycling - from their site:

This project is being funded from several sources: 
  • £240,000 from the Department for Transport’s Cycle Safety Fund. 
  • £103,000 from Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County Council’s joint cycleways budget.
  • £70,000 from the European Bike Friendly Cities project.

Or in other words £413,000 to be spent on cycling 'safety' that directs us on and off shared use facilities, creating conflict with other users of the space, with no priority.

Now it isn't all bad - the cycle lanes will be widened, but thats of limited use unless we deal with the vehicles parking in them and on the grass verges. But you'll also note they're making the roundabout smaller - so the racing line across it will be yet faster. Great. Just... Great. London looks to Go Dutch. Cambridge looks to Go 1980s.

I wonder why they don't just put up a bunch of 'cyclists just buy a fecking car' signs and be done with it. I mean, seriously - who the hell wants this roundabout?


  1. "... just put up a bunch of 'cyclists just buy a fecking car' signs ..."

    I like it, I like it. Now, were some enterprising individuals to do such a thing after such a feature goes in....

  2. Speaking of "signs" has any one noticed the proliferation of "Cyclists, Stay Back" signs appearing on vans lately. WTF is that about? Am I expected to sit in traffic with them and not pass?

    1. Ahh, yes, the sign that tells you a vehicle has such a broad blind spot that it shouldn't be considered road worthy. Institutionalised victim blame.

  3. Traffic on main carriageways are still offered flared entry/exit = no improvement?

    The proposed entries and exits to off-road space need to be changed, re-entry especially needs to be protected as is easily arranged. Wider splitters are not bad.

    The roughened edge to the inner island need to be rough! This is roundabout (click right to Roundabout photo 7) looks good and acts strongly:

    The DYLs across cycle paths are in contravention of TA 2004, section 86. No requirement to be marked.

    Oxon's 'Cycle Safety Project' design is ineffective in my view.

    And here it is with the explanation of the need but a failure to resolve:

    Graham Smith

  4. Could you imagine for a moment the shared-use wasn't there, i.e. it was just a pavement. The scheme designer didn't include the shared-use - it apparently has been added by a County engineer later. So, supposing the shared-use had never appeared in the design. What are your views then? The blog post doesn't cover this much.

    The designer worked to a specific brief to achieve Dutch CROW-25 geometry for the first time in Cambridge, as a way of proving that this would work for roundabouts here, to avoid the current roundabout's racetrack effect. He has been "tirelessly campaigning to get UK roundabouts built to Dutch Geometry" Do you have views on the geometry tightening change?

    There seem to be conflicting views from people I've spoken to whether the Dutch would include an annular ring, something I would really like to see applied to UK roundabouts, following the TRL trial. The flows here are apparently 20,000 per 24hrs, which seems busier than Dutch roundabouts using it that I've used.

    However, the designer says that the following page of the CROW manual from the "separate annular ring, cycle priority" has almost the same design, *but without priority* - and that he believes that at this sort of location (high motor vehicle traffic) that is what Dutch designers would use. I can't see much benefit of an annular cycle lane without priority.

    What really is the ideal here? A traffic light -controlled junction, maybe? No-one seems to have put forward specific proposals.

    Martin L-S (personal view)

    1. Without the shared use I'd still oppose this scheme as it is currently stands and is funded. But my opposition would be less venomous.

      The money comes entirely from cycling budgets and, lets be honest, slowing the traffic down marginally is good but not VERY good, and this is scant improvement considering the cost. Seems to me we'd still have drivers cutting the corners and cutting up cyclists at the corners.

      If we don't draw a line in the sand and start requiring that we get cycling put first -somewhere-, we'll continue seeing bad schemes where we're an afterthought. Lets not kid ourselves that this is a step to better. We've heard that before and I don't believe its yet been true!

      Without the shared use there's nothing for cyclists, which in my view makes this better than the current proposal that makes things worse for us. But paying for this from cycling funds, when its for cars, for controlling and slowing cars, is flat out wrong - cycling budget should never be spent on cars!

      imho there is plenty of traffic there for a fully segregated Dutch style roundabout to be viable - and there would be a heck of a lot more folk cycling there if we got that than if they're bullied off the road at a slightly changed roundabout.

    2. The dutch RBT without priority is for rural areas. If this is in an urban area then you prioritise cycling simple....

    3. Martin, the designer (Alasdair Massie) got in touch with me more than three years ago about proposed "Dutch" roundabout design which would not include cycle-paths. It was clear that he had completely misunderstood how and why Dutch roundabouts are safe for cyclists. I described his plan to him at the time as being like proposing to make "a cheese sandwich which didn't include any cheese".

      The only roundabout near here which does not have a properly separated cycle-path also just happens to be quite easily the most dangerous roundabout in Groningen. Because this roundabout, with CROW geometry but no proper cycling provision, is so very dangerous, we take people to it on study tours specifically to show it as the bad example that it is and to discourage anyone from building anything similar.

      Alasdair made an objection to me that it wasn't possible to have cycling infrastructure on a roundabout which links to a road without. This is why during this email exchange I cycled to a Dutch roundabout which had no on-carriageway infrastructure at one side and made a video specifically to show Alasdair how well this worked if well designed.

      I also wrote a second blog post on the same day, again specifically for Alasdair to read, to dmondestrate that all the roundabouts in the city where I live most certainly do have proper cycling infrastructure. There are no cheeseless cheese sandwiches here in Assen. Nor are there in most other Dutch cities, because such a thing simply isn't a good solution.

      This is a terrible design, proven in the past to be dangerous, when actually there is plenty of information out there about how the safest Dutch roundabouts are designed.

    4. Yet, strangely, such is the norm on many roundabouts in the Netherlands and the world doesn't end. people aren't mowed down in their thousands, and the towns don't clog up to nothing. It can be done - it is being done, with great success, right down there just over the water at the end of the A14. Lets not kid ourselves that British people are too thick to make such a facility work.

    5. The dutch road safety institute SWOV studied the relative safety of giving cycle tracks priority or making cyclists give way at roundabouts - and found that giving cycle tracks priority doubled the risk of crashes. So it is now the norm for cycle tracks to give way (cyclists had to yield at most roundabouts in any case).

      The only reason either arrangement works remotely safely is down to the low speed low volume geometry with single lane perpendicular entry arms. Of course this benefits all road users - pedestrians, drivers and cyclists whether they are on or off the carriageway. It would be really good if the TRL re-ran the trial of the roundabout with cyclists riding on the carriageway.

      It terms of safety, whether the off-carriageway cycle facility is separated from of shared with pedestrians is a red-herring. The danger comes from the multiple conflicts at the unnavoidable road crossings that are common to both.

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