Tuesday 24 November 2015

#CamRideHome on November 27th 2015

Join us on #CamRideHome this Friday for a leisurely social ride starting at 6pm at The Mill, Cambridge. Then a pint after to talk about anything worth a good natter about!

The Ben Hayward Cycles led #CamRideHome is to see the Christmas Lights and succumb to the joys of the season (without that tiresome "shop, shop, shop" mantra!).

Also, we'll go along a few useful links that help riders get through awkward places.

And here's the video of the route, with pictures along the way!

The Fairy Lights Tale Of Cambridge (Go HD see * below)

0:00 Leaving The Mill
0:25 Emmanuel College
0:54 The Grafton Centre
1:46 Mill Road
1:59 Petersfield
2:09 Parkers Piece Fair
2:38 John Lewis
2:50 Kings Street
3:22 St Johns
3:32 Trinity Street
3:44 The Guildhall
3:53 Sidney Street
4:00 Green Street

* How to go HD.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Pavement Parking, Costa Coffee Tax Dodging

Pavement Parking

I was very glad to receive a letter from our MP, Daniel Zeichner, saying he will support the Pavement Parking Bill when it goes through parliament in a couple of weeks time. It's long been the bane of people's lives that some people choose to place their personal property in a position that will endanger other people getting about. From wheelchair users and parents with children in buggies being forced into the street to just anyone wanting to walk down the pavement, this is a positive move.

It may, I hope, give the local police force a bit of a kick in the right direction. With their spectacular social media backfire on #BadlyParkedBike campaign, where they failed to understand that a aesthetically displeasing position of a bike (which were most of their tweets) is nothing like as dangerous as a badly parked car. They even got confused what it was their social media campaign was trying to do, with the right hand thinking something different from the left.

I suspect the big issue is that the simple prevalence of badly and dangerously parked cars is so much that the police cannot even consider trying to tackle it. It'd be tantamount to stopping bees visiting a local meadow with one officer and a dog.

That's not a bad analogy as many people would get angry about it as well. "Why are you trying to stop me (the bees)?", "Why shouldn't I do this (the bees pollenate)?". It's so part of our national subconscious to "let ourselves off" when we have to do it as there is no alternative. It's mostly we haven't thought about how easy the alternative is. And the below brings this into sharp focus.

Unloading Rules

Anyhoo, it is one particular form of pavement parking that this is about, the unloading van. And in particular, a look at one specific nearby international chain shop.

Now the rules for where to stop for unloading are different [PDF] from general parking regulation. You can, for instance, stop on a double yellow line for a short period of time. Although with some examples, you'd had thought all regulations are moot. They aren't.

Sadly, I've watched as local parking attendants laugh and chat with people stopped in cyclelanes, specifically banned by law as noted in the Freight Trade Association guide [PDF]. This despite their being a legal place for them to stop just 20 metres away.

So, looking at the advice from the FTA, they give specific places where you cannot stop (and by using that wording it's matching Highway Code implying it's illegal, not just to be avoided).

That last bit, "causing obstruction" and giving the example of near a junction. And "dangerous position" as well.

Costa Coffee Breaking the Rules

So here's a Costa Coffee lorry. Note they are unloading, near a junction. Precisely what the FTA guide says not to do. On top of that, can you see the traffic lights on the left side of the road (different from the red light on the right)? No, they are obscured by the parked lorry. Surely this would also fall into the category of "dangerous position"?

From Cambridge CycleStreets

This picture shows how close to the lights anyone needs to get before they can see them. Also, please note that this isn't a different picture of the same parking offence, it's a completely different time. As are all the photos below (note the Co-op shop past the green lights, it comes up later!).

From Cambridge CycleStreets

I do note that Costa Coffee are not the only abusers here, however they are the most frequent and use heavier vehicles than any others.

Another example. Again, no traffic light visibility to people on the road.

From Cambridge CycleStreets

And yet another example. Again, no traffic light visibility to people on the road.

From Cambridge CycleStreets

I think you get the picture now. Unlike anyone on the road.

From Cambridge CycleStreets

Now this would be bad enough, but it gets worse. Sometimes the delivery driver doesn't get all the way onto the pavement. Ah good, lots of space for people walking. But that's not an issue here, and rarely is.

What has become an issue is simply space for traffic to pass. The junction has two separate light phases: one for straight on, and one much shorter one for turning right.

In the picture below, the stopped lorry is sufficiently in the road space that with right turning traffic stopped, there is no room for the Cambridge sightseeing bus to pass. Forgive me, but I think the tourists were a little less likely to want to see stopped traffic outside an international chain shop than the jems of the one of the top tourist destinations in the UK. Just look at the queuing traffic!

From Cambridge CycleStreets

This really does tick the "causing obstruction" box!

Here's another example, this time small traffic can just get past. What happens when a bus or lorry turns up?

From Cambridge CycleStreets

Now, one thing that Costa Coffee might say is "Well, where can we unload?". Here's where. Just 10 metres away. Note the double yellows mean it should be clear of parked cars.

From Google Streetview

Sometimes there's a variance from the above examples of illegal unloading. Sometimes the delivery drivers go on the other side of the street, in the cyclelane. Again, this is illegal. It's noted second from bottom on the FTA guide above.

From Cambridge CycleStreets

Tax Dodging

So, why am I bringing up the concept of tax dodging. Well, it simply comes down to two factors.

First, a company like this knew that they needed to take deliveries, they knew that they'd have to take up space to make sure their business can keep running. Remember the Co-op shop nearby? They have set aside space for delivery. That cost them money. They accepted this as a reasonable cost of them doing business here.

Have Costa Coffee done anything similar? No. Maybe they couldn't get space in the planned development. But howabout co-ordinating with the Co-op and giving them some money to use the space they have set aside?

Second, and this is where the dodge really kicks in and cost us. It's estimated that pavement parked vehicles do around £3m damage in Cambridgeshire annually (so £200-300m in the UK). We all have to pay for that (or accept the bills for not fixing it) out of our local and national taxation. Costa Coffee have passed on their cost of delivery to us. Yes, our taxes are used to pay for Costa Coffee's delivery process.

Click on the square box bottom right to get full screen, well worth it!

Vibrant businesses help our city. I don't want Costa Coffee and/or their drivers to be punished. I just want them to behave according to the law, their Trade Association advice, and in a socially acceptable manner.

Saturday 14 November 2015

The WI on BBC Radio 6 Roundtable with Steve Lamacq

Yes, many of you will notice this isn't about cycling. Actually it's a bit closer than you may think.

Last year I had the luck of meeting loads of fantastic Women's Institute members as part of a project to knit little jerseys for the Tour de France visit to Cambridge. In February I had tweeted a picture of what Yorkshire was doing and bemoaned that the only thing that seemed to be happening in a city full of commuter cyclists was a few long distance cycle club rides. The BBC picked it up and suddenly I found myself with a project to run.

Key to the success was Jo, who asked me ot come along and pitch the idea to their WI AGM as a brief 5 minute fun piece before the serious meeting took place. Little did I know that the county chairperson was present and loved the idea so much that she took it to all the county's WI groups.

16 weeks later 400 volunteers had knitted 2000 jerseys that the council put up along the route and the local business development group helped get into shop windows along the way and in the city.

Anyway, on the way I also met Joanne who was full of boundless enthusiasm that sucked in many a volunteer and created a buzz of excitement all aroudn the project.

Both of whom have been shakers and movers in the WI, creating a slightly different* brand to the Jam and Jerusalem we all know. As such, they went on BBC Radio 6 Roundtable with Steve Lamacq last Thursday (12th November 2015) and had a wail of a time.

*And when I say "slightly different" I think that Steve summed it up perfectly when he said "I'm going to have a meltdown" in response to Joanne's current play list!

The WI on BBC Radio 6 Roundtable with Steve Lamacq

00:00 Intro
00:46 Cult Review
07:00 Daughter Review
11:14 Prodigy Review
14:01 Aurora Review
16:18 Santigold Review
22:10 Beans on Toast Review
27:32 Guy Garvey Review

Monday 2 November 2015

Riding Hills Road at Night, Including the New Segregated Section

On Friday, the #CamRideHome trip included looking at the new Hills Road infrastructure. Here's a clip (at the bottom) showing the experience of riding Hills Road, from the Addenbrookes Roundabout all the way to the city centre end at Lensfield Road/Regent Street/Gonville Place junction.

One reason was to have a good look at the new segregated section, one of the early trials of this kind of infrastructure in the country. Not the first of course, but an interesting experiment nonetheless. Some will ask why are we experimenting when it's been done well for decades not very far away, why don't we learn from them, but there we go.

The idea of segregated riding is to encourage those who are not confident about riding with traffic and to get them off (shared-use) pavements to free them up for people walking. It's not really for those already riding, as they've already figured out how to deal with vehicles, although it does add a level of comfort that is beneficial.

from Richard Taylor's blog post

We start all the way down at the Addenbrookes Roundabout. Not the farthest limit of Hills Road, but a junction where the use of it by people riding does pick up a lot. It's an awkward start as it's difficult to use the shared-use path here. There are too many crossings to negotiate near the roundabout and no obvious way to getting onto it. There are side junctions from the hospital, although that can be a bit difficult to access.

Approaching the Long Road traffic lights is awkward whether on the shared-use path or on the road. I'm used to road riding and show what it's like with the left turning inside lane on a different light phase to those going straight on. I suspect any riders that the segregated section is designed to encourage will be on the shared-use path here. That entails crossing a road where the drop kerb position makes it very awkward to see if it's clear to cross from left turning Hills Road traffic. That's not very convenient.

Long Road Junction Approach

After the junction there's a bus stop. But the segregated section doesn't start until well after this. The original plans where to make this bit take riders away from buses, to encourage riders who don't like mixing with big vehicles. Clearly something has been lost here. It does seem that the original plans have been watered down.

And then, the new segregated bit! Woo hoo! Well, apart from the largish puddle right at the join. That needs more work as it's not been that wet recently, what will be the size of the puddle if it pours? And as it's at a road join, water will quickly get under the surface and make this a pothole.

The surface of the segregated bit is great. And it's fantastic that it's so wide, keeping single riders well away from traffic and allowing faster riders to pass. However, the kerb separation seems low and doesn't give much distinction between road and cycle section. I can imagine experienced riders will find this good to allow them to pull out ot turn right out of Hills Road. However, it's doesn't offer much feeling of protection from passing traffic, especially for those not so comfortable. And I can see that people driving may well stray into the segregated section to avoid being held behind right turning vehicles. Not really very segregated is it!

Then, the controversial bit, a floating bus stop. It works quite well from the perspective of someone riding. I did get the idea of taking it a bit slower but not having to scrub off loads of speed. True, the Dutch solution would not include the wiggle. I'm not convinced that detracts from the riding experience too much.

from Amanda Taylor's blog post

As far as bus users are concerned, I'd suggest that we look at the bus stops on Barton Road and Green End Road. They both have shared-use paths behind them, the former with quite a lot of bike traffic. We seemed to have coped with them reasonably well in the past. At least these new floating ones will clearly show where to expect people riding.

Barton Road Floating Bus Stop

Then, passing the end of Luard Road. The previous shared-use path had an unclear priority here with indications that both bike and crossing motor traffic should give way. Of course this results in "who's biggest wins". The segregated section definitely looks like the priority, a much better result. It'll be interesting to see how people in motor traffic respond, especially in rush hour.

Old Luard Road Side Turning

After just 1:27 on this 5:13 clip, the segregated section merges back in with a bus lane. This isn't exactly a very long section of Hills Road. The argument will say "well it's all we coudl do". But how will that help those riders with less confidence? They get to do a quarter of the trip along Hills Road?

If people are uncomfortable riding along Hills Road, I'm pretty sure they are just as uncomfortable in this section and especially over Hills Road Railway Bridge. This bridge has some of the highest level of cycle use in the UK (near end). I've certainly had quite a lot of unpleasant experiences here (video clip).

Hills Road Bridge Behaviour

At the bottom of the bridge, there's a similar issue to Long Road, having to cross left turning traffic. Or, more importantly, left turning traffic having to cross people riding straight on. At least the lighting phases are more in line with going both directions. Still expect experiences like the one above, people driving rushing to cut across people riding.

At Brookland Avenue lights further conflict is guarenteed. The exit along Hills Road has a pinch point to enable a central pedestrian island. There really isn't space to ride and drive next ot each other here. Confident riders will talk about holding primary/control position in the middle of the road. I'm not convinced that will be much encouragement for those less confident. And there is no alternative shared-use path here.

Brooklands Avenue Junction

The conflict is highlighted by the person driving the car on the right. As the phase continues, they edge into the ASL (an illegal move) simply so they can race past anyone riding and get to the pinch point first. This kind of behaviour really shows up the limitations of the ASL here.

Then the Station Road lights provide another pinch point. Recently this has been developed. I'm still at a quandary to work out what the objectives are with the development. The only thing that seems to have happened is to add a pedestrian crossing in. Like the Brooklands Avenue junction it's to an island with separate controls for both lanes. Neither are any kind of an improvement on the two sets of pedestrian lights just away from each junction. They've been there for years and cope with crossing the road much better in a single phase.

Old Station Road Junction (not changed much though!)

The big reason why this isn't helping is that it retains a central island where there is no need. That space could be much better used. The whole road layout aims to push people riding wide before bring them back into a narrow space. This is a classic case of poor infrastructure from a cycling point of view. Swinging to one side only brings conflict when trying to come back in. Drivers will be eoncouraged to speed through here, despite the curves. It's not enough of a swing to slow people driving down sufficiently and it's quite easy to exceed the speed limit.

Dept for Transport cycle training says to use the middle of the lane all the way through this junction in either direction. Sadly, this isn't something shared to those responsible for road markings, which simply confuses people driving when people riding avoid following them for their safety's sake. Yet again, this doesn't do anything for the less confident riders.

Finally, shared space with buses for the remains of the route up to the final junction. At least there's a sign of good cycle provision at the end junction with the first-in-the-UK advanced cycle lights!

In conclusion, it's great to see a bit of new infrastructure move the whole cycling process a bit further forward. However, I'm not convinced that with the low kerb separation and the shortness of the section compared to the full route is actually going to encourage those less confident about riding with traffic. I do see lots of compromises have taken place ot get this in place. Has it been a compromise too far? We'll just have to wait and see.

A Early Friday Evening Ride Along Hills Road (Go HD see * below)

0:03 Starting at Addenbrookes Roundabout
0:22 Approaching Long Road traffic lights
0:40 Left turn light phasing
0:55 New segregated section approach
1:20 Floating Bus Stop
1:45 Side Road Priority
2:00 Floating Bus Stop
2:22 Merging Back into Bus Lane, segregated section finished
2:55 Railway Bridge dodging left turning traffic
3:20 Car edging into ASL to beat pinch point
4:05 Station Road junction, lots done recently, nothing for riders
4:25 Sharing with buses again
4:35 Conclusions
5:00 First Advanced Cycle Lights

* How to go HD.