Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Segregation and Shared Use Paths

I'm a big fan of segregated paths for bikes. I think the Dutch and the Danes have it right, with roads for cars, paths for bikes, and pavements for pedestrians.

For the most part, Edinburgh Council don't seem to agree, and they tend to build shared-use paths for pedestrians and bikes, or they assume that bikes can mix OK with cars and lorries on the road.

In the Meadows, though, segregation is the norm, and I think it works very well.

But most of the NC10 from Porty to Leith is shared use. For some parts, it's either very wide (like parts of the Prom) or not used much by pedestrians (around Seafield) so it sort of works.

But a small part of it is now segregated. This section is next to St Mary's School on Leith Links, and it was done to reduce conflict with pedestrians.

Normally, I'd really approve of measures like this. But in this case I don't.

Why not?

Well, because the Council have added in chicane barriers that completely prevent you from staying in your segregated lane.

This clearly puts cyclists and pedestrians into conflict as they all try and squeeze through the narrow gap. And when kids are going into or coming out of school, lots of parents gather round the barriers, and lean on them while they chat. 

To make it worse, they've also put down tactile paving for the visually impaired, to advise them which lane to stay in. That's a great idea normally. But, as the image here shows, the tactile paving advises pedestrians to stay left, even though there's a barrier right in front of them, *preventing* them from staying left.

Tactile paving is not pleasant on a bike, but is much worse if you need to turn on it. Normally it is used to advise you which lane to stay in, and that's fine if you're going straight ahead. But on this section of path, you are prevented from staying in the right lane by the barriers, and you have to turn on the tactile paving. In wet weather, this means that your wheels slip out under you into the tactile tracks. 

So, as a result of this new bit of infrastructure, paid for out of the cycling budget, most cyclists just veer out on to the grass and cycle round the whole lot. 

Thanks, Edinburgh Council...

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Crazy Bloody Pedestrians

So I was wondering the other day what the world would be like if we'd never gotten round to building pavements...

(cue wavy pattern as we transition to the parallel world...)

Pedestrians have to walk on the road, and are expected to follow the appropriate rules and laws.

Hardy joggers and runners regularly take to the roads to get exercise, and have developed good stamina for keeping up with traffic. They know how to run and walk around lorries and fast cars. Many of them wear helmets and hi-visibility outfits. 

Despite this, many pedestrians are killed or injured as they walk or run.

Walking and running are largely regarded as sports. Certainly, the main group of people who regularly walk or run are sports people out in training, or keeping fit.

But a small number of people take to the roads just to get to the shops, or even just for fun. They walk, rather than run, and are seen as a complete hazard on the roads by most drivers. They don't always wear hi-visibility outfits, and some don't even wear helmets. 

There are calls for pedestrians to be better regulated. Most road users have to have insurance and a licence to use the road. But pedestrians can just take to the road without any training or insurance. Accidents involving pedestrians often cost drivers a fair amount, and many question why pedestrians should get away with this scot-free.

Campaign groups such as "Pedestrians On Parliament" start to spring up, calling for segregated infrastructure for pedestrians. They point out that in the Netherlands they've spent decades building "pavements" and people can now walk around safely. People walk to the shops, to work, and just for fun. Many even walk home from the pub! 

But many drivers are shocked by this. They complain that there are already pedestrians who don't wear helmets or indicate correctly when walking or running. Allowing them to get drunk and then walk would be crazy, they insist. Until they can learn to behave better on the road, why should "pavements" be built for them?

And many of the more experienced road runners also object to these ideas. They point out that as long as you train hard enough and keep alert, traffic isn't that dangerous for pedestrians. 

This division amongst the pedestrian activists allows most councils to ignore these calls for better pedestrian infrastructure. They do sometimes build small sections, merging back into the road sometimes, and these aren't well used. People who can already run in traffic ignore these sections, and people who don't want to run in traffic don't use them because of the on-road parts...

(cue wavy pattern as we transition back home)

Thankfully this is just a crazy dream...

Friday, 16 August 2013

NC10 Leith To Portobello

I work in Leith, and live in Portobello. My work is near to the Water Of Leith path, and the NC10 cycle route runs from the Water of Leith path to Portobello. So in theory, I should have a pretty much off-road route from work to home. 

But I don't use it.

Why not? Well, because the NC10 is only off-road from Leith Links. You have to cross Leith on-road, and the roads are nasty.

To start with, you have to go along Tolbooth Wynd. This is narrow, cobbled, very bumpy, and you often have a person in a car behind you trying to force their way past you. 

Tolbooth Wynd makes a sharp left, and this is when cars often take their chance to overtake. Queen Charlotte Street is off to the left, but it's no entry for cars. So drivers assume they can pull round and overtake safely enough. 

However, there is a small entrance for bikes onto Queen Charlotte Street. 

So on a bike, you have to indicate right while doing a sharp left on bump cobbles and braking, cut across the flow of traffic and move into the small opening. This is often blocked by parked cars...

Beyond that, there is a contra-flow cycle path on the left, as you can see in the image below:

This is always covered by bins and parked cars, so you are forced to cycle wide into the door zone of the parked cars, and into the oncoming traffic, who mostly think they're on a one-way street. I've had abuse shouted at me loads of times for going "the wrong way" down here.

After Queen Charlotte Street, the NC10 takes you on to Links Place. This is a wide road, which wouldn't be too bad if the council hadn't built pinch points. I assume these were put in to try and calm traffic and to give pedestrians an easier route across the road. 
In my experience, car drivers speed up near pinch points to get through before any oncoming traffic, or in order to overtake a bike. I don't like pinch points The council are obviously aware of this, so they helpfully built bike access route inside the pinch points. 
Here's the first one, filled with bins:

Here's the second one, with a car parked in it, and on the pavement too: 

The third one is blocked by a van:

The fourth one doesn't have any access:

And the last one has a disabled parking bay right before it. I think disabled parking bays are a great idea, but this one does make the pinch point access lane much harder to use. as you can see in this image, a car was pushing past me into the pinch point...

From that point on, it's pretty much segregated and pleasant cycle path the whole way home. But, with that half-mile of unpleasant road, the whole thing is unusable for me. 

Monday, 12 August 2013

London Road/Abbey Lane Pinch Point

The junction of London Road and Abbey Lane is one of the scariest on my road home. In theory, it should be not bad: there's a dedicated bus lane on the left, and the cars are in the right hand lane:

But... There's a bloody great pothole on the left of the left lane:

So I have to pull out to the right of the lane:

Again, this shouldn't be too bad. Except, if there's a car waiting to turn right down Abbey Lane, the cars behind it pull in to the left to get round:

And they'll often floor it to try and pass me, fail and pull left anyway. I get nearly hit here about once a week, I'd say. If I break to let the car go ahead, I get the same problem from the car behind it. If I pull to the left I get nearly thrown over by the pothole. 

Like I say, a horrible junction to cycle in rush hour. 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Seafield Pavement Cycling

The new path from Portobello to Leith is quite nice in places. When it was first opened, there was a sensible left turn from the shared pavement on Seafield Road to Seafield Street: a nice dropped curb led you across Seafield Road and on to Seafield Street

Since then, there have been some "improvements", and now you are asked to cross on to the pavement on the far side. You do a sharp right turn onto the pavement, taking care not to hit any pedestrians sitting outside the cafe. Then you make your left turn, looking out for people going in or out of the cafe, or coming round the blind corner. Then you can turn right back on to the road, turn left to face the right direction, and move safely onwards. 

I tried it this morning:

Given that there is increasing conflict between pedestrians and cyclists in Edinburgh, why on earth would the Council construct something like this, which is pretty much guaranteed to create conflict and tension, when such a good alternative already existed?

Update (22/8/13)

I received this response today from the Council (with thanks to Councillor Maureen Child for taking this up):

Dear Councillor Child
Thank you for your e-mail dated 8 August 2013 from your constituent, Barnaby Dellar, regarding the above location. 
I can confirm that cycle/pedestrian crossings were recently installed on all the arms of this junction as another phase in the delivery of the Leith – Portobello ‘family friendly’ cycle route. These are designed to enable less confident cyclists to be able to connect between Seafield Street and the shared use footway on the north side of Seafield Road, and also in the reverse direction.
In order to legally permit cyclists to get between the western crossing of Seafield Road and Seafield Street the footway on the corner of the junction was redetermined to permit its use by cyclists. This was designed on the basis that there was a relatively wide footway on the south side of Seafield Road (approximately 4m) and that pedestrian flows in this area are at the lower end of the scale. The footway around the corner was also widened as much as possible. 
It should be noted that a significant constraint to the width of the footway has been introduced by the unauthorised introduction of tables/chairs and erection of an ‘A’ board by a newly opened cafe on this corner. We have made contact with the proprietors to request that these are removed from the footway. 
On his blog post, Mr Dellar refers to a dropped kerb that he used to access Seafield Street from the Seafield Road footway. I note that this kerb remains in place and is still available for cyclists to use. However, cyclists should be aware that this could bring them in to conflict with pedestrians crossing on the Seafield Street arm of the junction or with vehicles exiting right from Seafield Street. 
Should you require any further information, please contact me on the details provided.  
Yours sincerely 
Brian Sharkie 
Strategic Planning Manager
This describes *what* the council have done quite well, but not *why* they did it. 

They seem to think there'll be less chance of conflict if cyclists ride round a blind corner on the pavement than if they cross a line of pedestrians with full visibility. Crazy. 

On a more personal note, I love cafes with seats outside. If my complaint about this stupid design means that the cafe are told to get rid of the seats, I'll be very annoyed.