Tuesday 3 September 2013

The New Hills Road Junction

Recently, there's been a new junction installed in Cambridge at the intersection of Hills Road, Regent Street, Lensfield Road, and Gonville Place. It's a really busy junction with a large proportion of that travel either by bike or by foot.

Safety was considered an important part of the new junction design, and after consultation, the Cambridgeshire County Council came up with this design. Here's how that works in practise.

Of course the 5 second advanced light from the south is welcome. Although it only gave me 20 yards that was enough to be well ahead across the whole junction. Left hooks should stop, which is a big thing. And once across the street out is wide enough (without parking!).

But then the access to all the ASLs seems to be very dangerous to the point of not safe to do so. This means most of this change will do nothing for people cycling.

Now the costs of these "safety" improvements were estimated at a total of £900k with £450k coming from a cycling budget.

Although many local cycle advocates and the Cambridge Cycle Campaign said this was well below the needed safety changes, many local people who cycle approved of the change because it was at least better than the previous 1980s design. This seems to have moved into the 1990s safety wise with a useful but potentially very dangerous 2013 advance.

I'd suggest that the advance light might well encourage riders to do exactly as I demonstrated and try to pull alongside and past the left side of big vehicles. I did it well aware that I might need to jump off the bike onto the pavement at a moments notice. Will others think like this?

Some are already saying this needs additional work to make it safe, notably segregated lanes up to the lights. As I commented (on the clip):
This was brought up in the consultation, but it wasn't thought possible for the space and money. Many disgreed but the big important thing that needed to happen was to remove space from motor vehicles. This was baulked at by the council.
Again, measuring this against a £10 per head budget, this would have swallowed 36% of that. And this has delivered very little safety for that investment. David Hembrow brings up this ludicrous level of cost (on the clip):
That's pretty bad. And it cost 450K out of the cycling budget ? How was that possible ? What exactly did they spend the money on ?
For a comparison see my video response of a whole road transformed five years ago here in Assen for €200K from the cycling budget. Not only does Britain need to match Dutch spending on cycling, you also need to rein in the ludicrously high costs of doing anything so that the funds available can be used effectively.
So, what was the money spent on?And why is it 10 times what they'd spend on junction improvements in The Netherlands?

Ultimately, a lot of people are quite irritated by this development with Cab Davidson saying (on the clip):
You're too polite about this junction Rad Wagon. Its a disgrace - half a million basically stolen from cycling budget and spent on making the junction smoother for motorists. Cambridgeshire County Council just spat in our faces. Again.
And @hesterkw (on Twitter):
.. Non-mandatory cyclelane completely useless, then.
And Gareth Evans (on Twitter), although some suggested the urine has some helpful uses (compost, etc):
So this is the lauded new top quality facility? I look forward to them pissing away the next £8m
And Dave Brennan, from Pedal on Parliament (Scotland), called into question the benefits of ASLs (on Twitter): 
Prob[lem] is adv[ance] light encourages you to the front. Not safe to get there.

I've had a response from the County Council saying the time advance can be changed, and that they've yet to paint the lines on the Hills Road section of the junction (the south), and that should remove the buses. But looking at 0:11 and 2:13 (hit pause as the window opens), I still cannot see the space needed to clear out the cyclelane. We'll see, of course.

UPDATE: The lanes have been painted on the Hills Road section (from the south) and it DOES allow space for a northbound cyclelane, 2 lanes of northbound traffic, a lane of southbound traffic, and a southbound cyclelane. So, this northbound cyclelane is a lot less dangerous than my first clip above. However, it's clearly pretty tight and I've had reports that often the cyclelane is encroached upon, leaving those narrow but inviting danger lanes.

Again, this is still only one direction, the other three approaches still are pretty unpleasant and arguably no safer than before.

1 comment:

  1. The maneuvers that you have to do to get yourself into the correct part of the ASL are inherently error-prone and dangerous. Not a criticism of your cycling, but of the design of the junction. It could have been made easier for everyone, including for drivers concerned about crashing into cyclists, if the design had been better.

    You can embed the videos from here if you want. This similarly sized junction in Assen was transformed to work really well for cyclists at a cost of just €32000 out of the cycling budget (yes, 32K, somewhat less than 1/10th of what the Hills Road junction took from Cambridge's much smaller cycling budget).

    This is the sort of stuff that Cambridge ought to be learning from, rather than still building ASLs and other outmoded ideas into new junctions.

    Transforming the whole road cost €200K from the cycling budget.

    I'm not suggesting that either €32K or €200K were the entire cost of either of these things. It was a major redevelopment involving digging up all the roads and everyone was involved. New electric cables, new water and gas supplies, new cable TV, new drains etc. went in at the same time as a good length of road and cycle-path were rebuilt and all the junctions along it renewed.

    By doing it this way the costs were shared and everything wasn't loaded onto the cycling budget.