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.


  1. Interesting information and I agree with your analysis of the Eastbound route and the problems it presents.

    A am going to disagree with you regarding the Westbound traffic however. I do think that in that direction, the addition of the traffic lights will be a decent improvement over the current situation for those of us who turn right here towards Inchinnan or Erskine (I do see a lot of cyclists in addition to myself going this way). Currently this can be a nightmare, trying to turn right by crossing a busy 50mph lane of traffic to get to the filter lane. This point is easily the worst bit in my daily 20 mile cycle into Glasgow from Erskine. Putting a traffic light controlled junction here would break the flow of traffic along Greenock Road, making it easier and safer to execute this turn on a bike.

    1. If you hit the traffic lights when they're at red (or just changed from red, creating a queue), then it'll certainly help you to get to the outside lane. And I suppose when the lights are green if you can't reach the outside lane you could hop onto the pavement and use the new pedestrian crossing. But these are minor improvements by accident more than anything else.

  2. You might want to try an FoI request to Renfrewshire Council concerning their mandated (ie they MUST do this) duties under Section 39 of RTA 1988. s.39.3.a the Roads Authority MUST investigate crashes. So clearly there should be some reports about the 15 crashes at the site which, if these are properly conducted investigations will identify causal factors and other detail relating to the speed limit, layout of the road etc.... Then, showing how badly flawed this legislation is s.39.3.b says thet the Roads Authority MUST use the results of s.39.3.a to tell ITSELF what to do to make the existing road safer, and likewise any new roads they may build in the future. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?....

    I wouldn't hold your breath awaiting a satisfactory answer - for s.39.3.a Glasgow's effort consisted of 2 'pages' listing the crashes and locations over a period of 4 years. A good highers candidate could write a better report.

    I'd challenge your left hook claim though the plans show the gradual 'merge' at the standard(?) 10 degree angle. This is a dsign used in Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland to my knowledge and is set o9ut to actually avoid the left hook manoeuvre, where a left turning motor vehicle moves like a sliding door across the cyclists' path at 90 degrees, having turned from a lane further to the right. Laid out properly the motor traffic moves into the same alignment and direction of travel as the cycle traffic. the move is gradual and allows for either the driver or cyclist to speed up or slow down to slot in to position, and if trhere is an error of judgement any impact is made obliquely and at usually similar speeds, and an application of brakes by one or even both parties avoids any impending collision.

    50 mph is a bit too fast - especially for traffic signals - anyone who recalls the old A80 at Moodiesburn will remember that the traffic signalson the dueal carriageway were on the speed limited sections.

    1. Interesting on the crash investigations; it may be worth looking into. I'd be curious to see the Road Safety Audit too (The Ranty Highwayman blogged about its uses and limitations here -

      As for the left hook, I may be using the terminology incorrectly. Apologies if so. However, the safe thing to do would be to keep the cycle lane on the left and have a separate light phase allowing cyclists to proceed with potential left-turning vehicles held at red. This could be triggered by a sensor (since there are few cyclists at present). The idea of being between two buses in a narrow advisory lane is deeply unappealing. The Dutch may have built these kind of lanes in the past, but they're certainly far from best practice.

      I agree that 50 is too fast for traffic lights, I'd convert that whole road to 40 until segregated cycle tracks are added, then increase back to 50 away from the junction.

  3. I've got nothing else to do this morning, so I've done a wee doodle to show how I think this junction could be dutchified sorry I'm no artist. I've also never heard of this place until now (my great-grandfather was from Erskine, but that's before my time), so I'll defer to local knowledge if I've gone hopelessly wrong!

    I've made all traffic use the south carriageway, but instead of keeping the north open, I've closed it off at both ends, except for cycles, who get proper, wide, prioritised bidirectional cyclelanes all along the A8. The bus garage gets its own dedicated t-junction onto the main road, well away from the shops. The road into the village is also changed into a simple, clear t-junction, and the former trunk road past the shops is now a quiet wee, friendlier side street.

    Through traffic to Erskine shouldn't be going through here at all, so I'd also disconnect Old Greenock Road from Newshot drive, except for cycling, to force cars to take the long, inconvenient way round, that's what Dutch cities like like Groningen or Houten do.

    Although this is pie in the sky, I think this could all actually be achieved quite cheaply, if the road is already being made single carriageway on the south side, all it would need is the placement of bollards in key positions to achieve a similar positive result.

    1. FYI, Old Greenock Road is a dead end except for buses, cyclists and emergercy services.

    2. Interesting design, I especially like the simplicity of it. I'd let buses use the East part of the North carriageway to give them a shortcut and have a good place to do driver changes, but have a segregated lane for bikes with a bus stop bypass (there's plenty of room to play with here).

      There's (genuinely!) no room for your bidirectional bike lane on Old Greenock Road, but with a 20mph limit and a removed centre line it'd be just about OK since there's minimal through traffic (there are a fair few buses, but I'm really not sure how you could solve that problem without serious negative impact for bus users in Inchinnan and Erskine).

      Also worth noting that trying to reduce traffic in this area would be a good thing, since traffic from Erskine/Bishopton going on the M8 (Eastbound, towards Glasgow) can join at J26 or J29. Encouraging (or forcing) the use of J29 would reduce traffic here and, more importantly, traffic in the very congested Renfrew Town Centre.

    3. Actually just noticed the signs say no entry except buses at the top of Old Greenock Road. Should be a cycling exception allowed, but in any case plenty cyclists do it and the police who sit and watch for drivers trying to skip through have never said anything to cyclists. Renfrewshire Council should change to No Entry except buses and cyclists.

      I've done Old Greenock Road numerous times on my bike on the run from the Erskine Bridge back through Paisley. The Old Greenock Road section is good for cycling on. Traffic is fairly light, as no through traffic and you only get buses every so often, but the road is straight, wide and quiet enough for them to pass you quickly and easily.

      I'd agree with the centre line removal, but don't really see the need for 20mph limits on roads like that one. It has speed humps where needed and I don't think you'll get much compliance. I'm happy enough if people stick to 30mph and get past me safely, than tailing me at 20mph.

      On the reduction of traffic, the traffic signals in Renfrew do act as a significant dis-benefit to traffic using this route to J26. The problem is the M8 can queue at night at J29-26 so people still try to jump off the road here. The addition of a new junction in Bishopton (J29a) in about 3 years time should help take Bishopton traffic (and perhaps some Erskine traffic) away from here in the morning at least.

      There would be plenty of room for a segregated track between the airport and here ( I never use the cycle/footway between the airport and the swing bridge- too narrow, bumpy and busy with pedestrians)

    4. "I've done Old Greenock Road numerous times on my bike on the run from the Erskine Bridge back through Paisley. The Old Greenock Road section is good for cycling on."

      As someone who cycles already, you're already an exception (as am I). For you, dealing with 30mph traffic may be acceptable, but from the fact that modal share for cycling in Renfrewshire is <0.5% we can see that you (and I) are in a very small minority. While there's no traffic (except buses, and you can expect 10 buses an hour in each direction Mon-Fri daytime), 'sharing' with vehicles in 30mph limits isn't acceptable for mass cycling. Rachel Aldred has written on the need for 20mph or lower speed at the 85 percentile AND fewer than 2000 PCUs for a road to be suited for cycling (more PCUs or higher speed requires proper separation). I'd guess Old Greenock Road in Inchinnan meets the latter requirement, but certainly not the former. Link here: . It'd also be much safer for pedestrians who have to stick to a narrow pavement.

      Agree with the rest of your post, though.

  4. Overall I think the council have had a good idea here.

    Generally the traffic signals is a good idea, the segregating the bus garage movements and the stand and overall will probably have a improvement on accident levels. The 50mph limit is fine too as it is appropriate for the overall road which is rural in nature. So far so good.

    The cycling facilities are box ticking and worthless. This makes the mistake of designing a junction for 99% of users then adding tokenism cycling infrastructure. It should have been nothing or proper infrastructure over a much wider length than the junction.

    In my view, having a lovely cycling friendly junction is useless if it feeds into nothing (although there may be a case for build now, connect later, but only if you do actually programme it and intent to do it).

    I've cycled along here loads of times and I suspect I'd just keep to the main A8 road. I wouldn't use that lane, I wouldn't use a segregated lane at a junction which just disappeared afterwards. I may use the minor roads and the cycling provision if I was turning left from Erskine to Renfrew to skip the lights however.

    I've also designed loads of junctions in my time as an engineer. The design manuals for cycling are needing a 21st century revamp to allow councils to introduce innovative measures, better traffic signal solutions for cyclists (look how messy Waterloo Street route is in Glasgow), and recommend large scale segregation. Designers design with litigation in mind these days, and as a result if a design manual doesn't recommend it, nobody will do it.

  5. heard the City Deal projects are going to provide new off road routes in that area