Cambridgeshire defines high quality as shared-use

Back in August Cambridgeshire County Council promised us a “high quality, safe and accessible cycle infrastructure along Cowley Road” as part of its Transport Assessment for the proposed Science Park station and I expressed my skepticism about what “high quality” would mean on the ground.  Now an illustrative proposal shows a shared-use with five give ways in ¼ mile.  So high quality = shared-use to the County despite people on foot and on cycles hating it and cyclists being fined or getting a criminal record for being confused about where they can and can’t cycle on pavements.

I’m not going to dwell on how rubbish this is, it’s a design from the last century.  Instead I will highlight the high risk of death and serious injury that people on cycles will face at the junction where Cowley Road turns north while the station access road continues east.

Here’s the proposed layout:

Cowley Road/Cowley Road junction with proposed shared-use path in mid gray.

Cowley Road/Cowley Road junction with proposed shared-use path in mid gray.

The priority is changing so the north arm of the junction will have to give way, as will people on cycles traveling to the station, which is east of this junction.

Here’s the proposal with the lorry and bus movements superimposed.  Note that the Stagecoach bus depot is to the north while the Hanson aggregates terminal is on the north east corner so there are a lot of large and heavy vehicles at this junction.  Most of this traffic turns the corner.

Proposed junction layout with lorry and bus flows in orange and cycle and pedestrian flow in blue.

Proposed junction layout with lorry and bus flows in orange and cycle and pedestrian flow in blue.

There is a fence adjacent to the north west corner so visibility is poor.

This is the view you will have as you cycle east on Cowley Road.  Note the fence obscures the view of the road to the left

This is the view you will have as you cycle east on Cowley Road. Note the fence obscures the view of the road to the left

Maybe you thought the road was clear?  Suddenly a bus appears from around the corner.

Maybe you thought the road was clear? Suddenly a bus appears from around the corner.

Poster on lorry blind spots.

Poster on lorry blind spots.

As part of the THINK! campaign, Transport for London are advising cyclist not to go on the left on lorries because of lorry blind spots.  As @NotDanEllis (strong language) pointed out “Good point TFL. So why did you build a … cycle lane there then?!”.  (The low visibility is disputed, at least for modern lorries.)

A lorry turning left on Cowley Road with cyclist on proposed cycle route.

A lorry turning left on Cowley Road with cyclist on proposed cycle route.

The junction on Cowley Road will have a similar layout with people on cycles using the shared-use path likely to be in the blind spot of turning lorries.  As the lorry slows to turn the corner a cyclist could move alongside it and become invisible.

The illustrative proposal is neither safe nor high quality, I look forward to the next iteration.

The black mat indicates the area that is invisible to the driver

The black mat indicates the area that is invisible to the driver

Buses overgrowing the current shared-use path push people very close to traffic, such as the lorry visible on the edge of the picture.

Bushes overgrowing the current shared-use path push people very close to traffic, such as the lorry visible on the edge of the picture.

Update: The planning application for the station was approved at the Joint Development Control Committee on 18 December 2013 subject to various conditions (as recommended by Tim Watkins, Head of Planning Services) including:

The development shall not be occupied until details of the footways/cycle ways have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority and have been implemented including a route to a minimum width of 2.5 metres along Cowley Road.

Although this does mean the County has to agreed details with itself it is very disappointing that the minimum width specified is less than Department for Transport guidance.

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Cowley Road: no place for cyclists

Warning: This post contains a shocking picture.

Lorries on Cowley Road artistic

The simple fact is that if you mix lorries and people on cycles then there are likely to be serious injuries and deaths, which is why I am particularly concerned about Cambridgeshire County Council’s plans for access to the proposed Science Park station.

People cycling from the Science Park and from Milton will travel along Cowley Road to reach the station.  According to the Transport Assessment:

…the development proposals include for high quality, safe and accessible cycle infrastructure along Cowley Road that connect to the existing wider sustainable infrastructure… [pp84]

Which is all very well if it gets built, however according to that document Cowley Road is between seven and 10 metres wide, so with two 3m road lanes and a footway there’s not much left unless the highway is to be widened.

I also have a concern over what Atkins (the County’s highway engineers) think is high quality cycle infrastructure.  If we replace “high quality” in the text above with “world class” then we have a better benchmark.  A world class cycle track here would be 4m wide (for a bi-directional path) with a separation of 1.5m from the motor vehicle lanes.  There doesn’t seem to be room for this.

Let’s face it Cambridgeshire County Council hasn’t built any world-class cycle infrastructure.  There is the busway path that is very popular with cyclists but that was built as a maintenance track, it floods and has many hazardous bollards.  Atkins designed a dreadful shared use path for the station underpass in Ely.

Cyclists will go straight on here while lorries turn left, what could possibly go wrong?

People walking and cycling to the station will go straight on here while lorries turn left, what could possibly go wrong? (Cowley Road eastern end)

No details are available for this “high quality” track, nor how it will connect with the Milton Road crossing, nor for the layout where the station access road leaves Cowley Road (pictured above).  If the cycle track is on the north side of Cowley Road it will have to cross Cowley Road at this corner.

Cycle under truck at the corner of High Holborn and Kingsway

Cycle under a truck at the corner of High Holborn and Kingsway, London. Photo: @veloevol

Cowley Road has the Lafarge aggregates terminal on it.  The road sees a large number of lorries moving and turning and if the cycle infrastructure is not world class then cyclists will use the road and be at peril:

The black mat indicates the area that is invisible to the driver

The black mat indicates the area that the driver cannot see. Photo: CycleStreets

It doesn’t matter if the cyclist or the driver made a mistake or who was at fault, the consequences of a collision between a person on a cycle and a truck are too often horrific.  Lorries like this have very poor visibility, some cyclists foolishly pass on the left of trucks, and sometimes there is a collision.  The consequences of a collision between a person walking and a lorry are just as bad.

A tipper lorry on Cowley Road.  Want to cycle next to one of these?

A tipper lorry on Cowley Road. Want to cycle next to one of these?

Unless world class cycle infrastructure is built along Cowley Road I fear there will be serious injuries caused by collisions with lorries.  Cambridgeshire County Council must come forward with detailed plans, it is quite simply irresponsible to expect cyclists to share Cowley Road with lorries.

Update: The County has come forward with a disappointing illustrative proposal.