Monday, 22 December 2014

Renfrewshire Council, Please Stop Building Dangerous Rubbish

Some Context

London's a really interesting place for cycling campaigners to look to. There's a large number of cyclists by British standards, especially in Central London, yet most roads remain hostile to cycling. The mayor, after a poor start, seems to finally be 'getting it' and the latest plans are genuinely ambitious. The latest guidance in the London Cycling Design Standards is very promising and cycling is a big part of the political debate at City Hall.

One thing Johnston has said is that

“I want more of the kind of cyclists you see in Holland, going at a leisurely pace on often-clunky steeds”

Making infrastructure that's compatible with leisurely paced cycling will doubtless lead to modal share increasing (getting towards targets, such as Scotland's 10% by 2020) as cycling becomes a viable mode for everyday transport by people of all ages, genders and abilities.

It's in stark contrast to the dangerous bollocks planned by car-centric Renfrewshire Council, who have designed some cycling lanes that will be unattractive to everyone, lead to conflict for the few who chose to use or ignore them (the latter may well be the more sensible choice) and do nothing to increase the pitiful modal share we have.

The Junction

The junction in question is on the A8 at Inchinnan village. From a distance, it should just be a T-junction, but it complicated by the presence of a large bus garage, several bus stops (including one which the bus company regularly use to swap drivers, which takes a good few minutes), a car park exit and a few parking spaces in front of the local Post Office. The existing junction, which I know well as a driver, car passenger, bus passenger and cyclist, is a dog's dinner. The 50mph speed limit is excessive (and of course, we know limits aren't always adhered to), the layout isn't terribly intuitive and the geometry encourages speed. CrashMap indicates that between 2005 and 2013 there were 15 incidents, two of which were serious (thankfully none fatal) at this junction. As for cycling, it's for the brave and mad (I count myself firmly in the latter category). 

Here's an annotated Google Maps snapshot to give an idea of the starting point.

The Redesign

The southern part of the 'dual carriageway' becomes a two-way road, wth the northern part remaining for Eastbound traffic only, with the part on the West being for traffic accessing Inchinnan, and the part on the East allowing for a new bus stand and also allowing buses (and cyclists, but not taxis) to bypass the new traffic lights. Two new pedestrian crossings are introduced, one of which is staggered (hurrah), but they serve no very useful purpose, only leading to a bus stop on the south of the junction that only a handful of buses service. There's also a change in speed limit on the northern half of the old dual carriageway (30mph), which seems sensible.

In redesigning the junction, there may be safety improvements for motorists (though it still looks awfully overcomplicated to me). The council have, at the same time, introduced some cycling provision. It doesn't really link to anything else, but we have to start somewhere I don't think that should stand in our way. This should be a post of joy. But sadly, the schematics show dangerous rubbish that I can't quite believe anyone has planned in this century

Let's take a journey through this mess and identify the hazards cyclists will face.

(All diagrams are taken from an original available at Renfrewshire Council's website)

A Cyclist's Trip

Travelling Westbound, nothing much changes. No cycle-specific provision, though maybe we'll get some ASLs at the new traffic lights (spoiler: waste of time). The traffic lights may make it easier to turn right into Inchinnan (which is more useful on bike than car since Inchinnan is a dead-end for drivers, but a through road into its bigger neighbour Erskine for buses, and with a small law break or push of the bike, for cyclists too) depending where in the light sequence you reach the junction, but it's basically nothing. Worth noting that of the few cyclists there are around here, many understandably opt for the pavement anyway, so this is all a bit academic.

Eastbound is where things get interesting. A cycle lane appears from nowhere as the new road layout approaches. It's advisory at first and then gets protection from what looks like a traffic island, but it's only paint that separates bikes from motor vehicles after the island. No widths on the diagrams, but I'm not optimistic. This is crap, but sadly far from unusual on Britain's roads.

This advisory lane then continues, as a new lane forms on its left. The left lane's purpose is for buses leaving and entering the bus garage (these buses include lots of double deckers, and I think they have a couple of bendy-buses too at present) as well as a (seldom-used) bus stop. Buses leaving the garage will have to cross the cycle lane to get in the outside lane, and buses coming from the West will need to cross the cycle lane to enter the garage. The latter movement is often known as a 'left hook', where traffic turning left misses a cyclist in a blind spot. Buses can have awfully large blind spots, and a reminder that this is one of the largest garages in Renfrewshire. What are they thinking? This is dangerous and unpleasant for cyclists. If you can't be arsed doing it properly, just ignore cycling completely. The brave/mad will continue to suffer having to cycle defensively, the non-mad will use the pavement or (much more likely) jump in their car. I don't see who benefits from this kind of substandard provision.

What comes next ticks off some more of the classics - a lane in the door zone and a narrow and advisory lane. It's unclear how cyclists travelling straight ahead are supposed to approach the give way, since the motor traffic on their right could well turn left into them (another 'left-hook' example). Again, experienced cyclists will likely ignore the paint (leading to frustration from ignorant motorists) and any inexperienced cyclists will be put into danger. So, who is this lane for? 

Inexplicably, two new car parking spaces on the right of the carriageway have been created, alongside a new loading bay. It doesn't affect cycling directly, but drivers would be much safer in the car park, rather than having to manoeuvre into a space and cross a road. It shows where priorities lie.

Assuming a cyclist has managed to continue straight ahead, they'll find their lane has disappeared (good luck merging back into traffic) to make way for hatching, a bus stand (where driver changes will now happen), more hatching and finally the lane re-appears (bus stop bypasses, apparently unheard of - that grass can be removed for car parking only!). Perfect for those who can break the space-time continuum, but not so much for the rest of us.

If you've made it this far, your challenge is just to merge onto the 50mph road! And your lane will, of course, disappear again immediately after you do.

Stop Building Dangerous Rubbish

If it's not fast enough for Lycra clad club cyclists, it's not good enough.
If it's not safe enough for an 8 year old, it's not good enough.
If it's not convenient enough for everyday journeys, it's not good enough.

Renfrewshire Council, if you don't have the will, the expertise or the desire to do it properly, just don't bother. Those of us who tolerate crap will continue to, and the rest won't. But please don't make any more rubbish for cycling like this. Box-ticking does nobody any favours, except those who can boast of how many boxes they've ticked.