Thursday 25 August 2016

New Railway Bridge and Station Access

So the access to the "Carter" Railway Bridge and links through into the station have just been improved. Just how much better is it?


How It Was

This is the way it used to work (click images for video).

Over Railway Bridge from Devonshire Road
Showing limited access, conflict between directions travelled

From Railway Bridge to Devonshire Road
Showing limited access, conflict between directions travelled, and limited visibility

Station Carpark access
Showing narrow twisting space, conflicting between walking and riding

The Plans

Well the plans [PDF] have been around for a few years now. As well as some comments on Cyclescape, showing there were discussions over this plan in 2013. Interesting to note that there were limitations because of the Travis Perkins site. Given that's a time limited issue, were the plans compromised to get them in earlier (and is 3 years really "earlier"?).

So, 3 basic updates.
  • adding a segregated ramp following the same route that a lot of people on bikes already follow
  • widening the access points
  • ensuring reasonable segregation between walking and riding

In Reality

In reality, this has happened (general and markings videos below). Note that I've included the bit under the bridge into the railway station rather than the bridge, although the dimensions are a bit odd. This is the area of focus to start.

Rather than kerbed pavements, there's a lot of painted lines in the station car park. Not only under the bridge, but along the walking access to the station. I hope this is because this area of the station is under development and is likely to alter. I don't think it should remain like this. Kerbs are the best way of segregating transport modes, specifically people driving from those walking. Paint does diddly squat.

So the section under the bridge seems a little random with some interesting pavement issues. Note that all people walking are aiming for (or coming from) the section of "pavement" to the bottom right which leads into the station. On the video below, you'll see that despite the large area actually under the bridge, an amount of it is taken by motorbikes being parked (not particularly well). And there is no pavement to the right of the cycleroute under the bridge. It works it's way round 1 parking space, and 1 only. Finally, the red tarmac, usually denoting cyclespace seems to have spilled out over the pavement between the steps up to the bridge and Devonshire Road. This just adds to the confusion here.

Now, looking at where people walking have to cross people riding, the source of most conflict in a properly segregated scheme. So, if walking along:
  • Bridge - Devonshire (towards Tenison Rd, left of plan): C and D
  • Bridge - Devonshire (towards Mill Rd, above plan): A and B
  • Bridge - Station: E
  • Station - Devonshire (towards Tenison Rd): E, A and D
  • Station - Devonshire (towards Mill Rd): E, A, and B
  • Along Devonshire: B and D
That's a total of 13 crossings, 3 of which are doubles, and 2 are triples. There is an alternative to one triple, but it's much more likely that people will walk along their desire lines here, so are likely to walk a lot in the cycletrack (the video has great example at 0:56). So, even if not a triple, it'll be poorly segregated.

Carter Railway Bridge Update Video
Go HD see * at bottom

0:00 Devonshire Road onto Bridge
0:31 From Bridge into Station
1:08 From Station onto Bridge
1:50 From Bridge onto Devonshire Road
2:08 From Bridge into Ravensworth Gardens

And here's a brief look at the markings
Go HD see * at bottom

Markings from bridge around


First, the widening is a great relief. The small bollarded space was really difficult to negotiate when bikes are coming from both directions. This is made more important given pulling into the space from the road is not taken as a priority. This is because for those coming down from the bridge the cyclelane continues on. This potentially puts people pulling across a traffic lane at risk if suddenly they have to stop.

For someone walking, I think the width might increase the desire to look a bit more. I'm not sure it increases anxiety of crossing much. Whilst I could understand someone not liking it as much, I'm not sure if there's that much conflict here, given the numbers of people riding and walking isn't congested. It's not like a continuous stream of either mode.

Now, the additional ramp into the station. Again, this is clearly much better than before. Prior to this people riding either crossed Devonshire Road twice or, much more likely, stuck to the footway putting them in conflict with people walking. This ramp is definitely removing that conflict and inconvenience.

The section under the bridge is a big improvement on the old wobbly narrow route shared between walkers and riders, although that did go a while back. This has managed to get away from the rigid square system that is the unimaginative way of optimising car parking space. Having motobike parking here is a good thing, although it needs to be properly set up. They take up different spaces. Again, this needs to be monitored as the station develops.

Can This Development Be Done Better

So looking at the current update, what could be done better. A few simple things spring to mind.

Action 0! This is additional to the plan, but is needed whatever.

There is a parking bay on Devonshire Road just towards Tenison Road (left of plan) right next to the cyclelane. This appears on the video at 2:02.It is really dangerous and people riding should avoid being in the cyclelane here to ensure not riding in the door zone. I'd like to see the design of this parking bay changed. It'd be better if it swapped with the pavement, putting the any parked cars well back from the road with a high dropped kerb to get over to access it. This will ensure walker priority and remove the danger of the car door opening in front of someone riding. If this isn't good enough, remove the bay entirely, it's just not safe.

Action 1. Swap the cycletrack and footway towards the base of the ramp heading onto Devonshire road. This reduces the cycletrack crossings for anyone walking down the bridge and going on towards Tenison Avenue (to the left of the plan) from having to do it twice to doing it once.

Also, a slight kink in the cycle track may well act to slow some down. This should not be as much to mean different directions come into conflict. This does mean those travelling faster have to handle 2 places where walkers are crossing. So maybe understandable that it's not happened like that.

Action 2. Make sure the footway under the bridge to the steps is properly allocated. This means take out the wrongly placed red tarmac but also to make sure, by the final development of the car park, that footways are properly kerbed.

Action 3. Place a properly kerbed footway to the west (right) of the cycletrack under the bridge all the way to Devonshire Road. This reduces the cycletrack crossings for anyone walking from the station onto Devonshire Road toward Mill Road (above plan) from 3 down to 1 and stops desire line walking in the cycletrack. The video has great example at 0:56 of this desire line walking. This may result in losing a bit of one car parking space. Or converting it to two motorbike places?

Now, looking at where people walking have to cross people riding, the source of most conflict in a properly segregated scheme. So, if walking along:
  • Bridge - Devonshire (towards Tenison Rd, left of plan): C 
  • Bridge - Devonshire (towards Mill Rd, above plan): E
  • Bridge - Station: F
  • Station - Devonshire (towards Tenison Rd): F, A, and D
  • Station - Devonshire (towards Mill Rd): G
  • Along Devonshire: B and D
That's a total of 9 crossings, with just a double and a triple, much better than the current system.

Can It Be Done Better By Doing It Different

The comments on Cyclescape, thought up two more ideas.

Option 1. The latter was to place a ramp on the other side of the bridge to the steps. This massively reduces the number of cycletrack crossings by people walking, although there still is the important one at the base of the bridge ramp next to Devonshire Road.

One of the issues that might have stopped this is the amount of space needed for a ramp like this. Look at the length of the current ramp (in red). It would need to be that long to maintain a reasonable gradient. That takes the full car park in either direction (in yellow), taking a lot of car parking spaces. Addionally, it'd limit the space available for routes in underneath it from Devonshire Road (from the north). It may be possible to do it a little better by looped ramp (in green), but that may take out just as many car parking spaces.

Whilst we like to reduce the ability of car users to come in and congest the city, at some point we do need to acknowledge that the station makes money out of these people. So, I can see that this plan has more conflict over it, especially on non County Council land.

Option 2. The other idea was to make a route through Ravensworth Gardens. There is a path through the estate although it's not noted as a cycle route on the County Council cycle maps. As it's away from a road it's not illegal to ride here, unless there's some specific bylaw in place. Also, with the dropped kerbs it's clearly used as a vehicle access route, which would make it very difficult to legally stop riding here. The only fly in the ointment here might be that it's possibly a private development. In which case a number of issues may arise.

So the route round would look a bit like this. Note that the reduces the cycletrack crossings for anyone walking but almost certainly increases the crossings within the car park. The car park could be rearranged to reduce this again, but inevitably some crossings would remain.

Also, the most awkward part of this plan is the access from the base of the bridge ramp onto Devonshire Road. I'm not sure about adding in another well used route into this junction at the same place is necessarily a good idea. Especially considering the next point.

Another issue is that by opening the route up for people riding, it's also doing so for people walking, because this is on a desire line. So the walk through Ravensworth Gardens will have people in both modes side by side still. Quite how that works out, is not so clear. At the moment, it's a shared-use path to the north, which has limited development potential as it's an vehicle access as well.

Once of this path, it's back onto the road, albeit a very quiet one. There's a junction to negotiate and quite a bit of residential parking. This could be limited, with a level of resident discontent.

Once in the car park, there's a number of possible routes under the current configuration. It will involve a turn at some point, unlike the current system which is simply straight along teh main car park road.


So, there are some definite improvements on the prior arrangement. Time will tell as to whether the crossings, where people cycling and walking interact most, are sufficient and logical for both groups.

The station car park clearly needs a few simple updates, which is very possible given the mid stage of current development plans.

Whilst this has already happened, other schemes may have been a little bit better. Although they'd have to be some considerably larger change to make them the best they could be.

* How to go HD.

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