Friday 16 November 2012

Cycle Superhighway 9. My observations.

Hounslow Transport Department is consulting informally on the plans in the Hounslow area.  the route goes west from Hyde Park Corner to The Bull in Hounslow Town Centre (an historic coaching inn which must still be a popular pub as the superhighway does a special dogleg in Hounslow to end there).

An example of the plans is here

I have written to the Highways Officers at Hounslow as follows:

Dear Sirs,
Cycle Superhighway 9 – Outline Designs

My interest
                I commute by bicycle from home to Central London through Hounslow and along the A315 following the proposed route of CS9.  I have been doing this for around 10 years.  I am in addition a senior lawyer who is often consulted by cyclists and their families following serious collisions resulting in the death or serious injury of cyclists.  I have a deep commitment to improving the safety and popularity of cycling.
The Outline Designs
                The designs of the proposed CS9 have some merit.  In particular the square blue box cyclist markings placed mid carriageway are useful in indicating to all road users that a cyclist can be expected to ‘take the lane’.  Comprehension of this is, in my experience, often lacking in motorists particularly in the Hounslow area.  However care needs to be exercised to place these on the approach to all junctions and bus stops sufficiently far back to encourage cyclists to move out well in advance of the hazard.
                Equally the improved advanced stop lines are useful though you will need to exercise your influence with the local police to enforce these so that they do not continue to be widely flouted.
                Also tightening up the parking restrictions along the road will obviously benefit cyclists.
                The problem with the outline design, though, is the widespread reliance on the use of narrow (1.5m wide) with flow cycle lanes.  These are positively inimical to the safety of cyclists and it would be far better to save the paint and omit these altogether.  The relevant design standard, Cycle Infrastructure Design (Local Transport Note 2/08) states that cycle lanes should be 2 metres wide on busy roads.  I attribute my survival after thousands of journeys on the A315 in part upon always travelling at least one metre from the kerb.  The distance from my centre line to my right elbow will take up almost the whole of the remaining 50cm.  All the 1.5m lanes will achieve is to encourage very close passing by motor vehicles, including buses and lorries, on the rare occasions when they are able to outpace a bicycle.  When stationary, as they often are, they are likely to have their wheels hard up against the cycle lane with the dual disadvantage of a narrow strip with poor visibility on the nearside and a reduction in the amount of room available for cyclists to overtake on the offside.  An appropriately trained/experienced cyclist will ignore the narrow cycle lanes, positioning him or herself as though they were not there.  This means that not only is installing them a waste of money, but that they may lead to unwelcome hostility from other road users who do not understand the principles of bikeability.  There is a particularly poorly designed section on map 9 where a kerb side cycle lane continues past an informal crossing where it would not be safe for a bus or HGV to overtake.
                The A315 is a busy road.  Traffic is frequently congested.  When it does move at speeds approaching 30 mph, that is only for a short distance before the next traffic light or traffic queue.  The designs appear to proceed on an utterly false premise that motor traffic is faster than bicycling.  This premise is not accurate over any significant distance along the A315 save in the dead of night.  What is clearly needed along this route is a 20 mph speed limit.  This would not increase journey times during the day; it would simply slow down the surges and it is a solution that is supposed to fit higher in the hierarchy of design than attempting to banish cyclists to a 1.5m wide strip alongside the kerb.
                I trust you find these comments helpful.  I hope you will share them with Council Members and TfL, who I assume also have some input into the design and financing of this project.  It would seem to me sensible that you consult with cycling groups such as CTC before investing considerable sums in a scheme that appears to me to avoid both proper segregation and proper integration, managing the worst of all worlds.
Yours faithfully,

Martin Porter