Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Railway Station to Broadgate

I make no apologies for returning to matters concerning the city centre. Big changes are being made to the area's traffic arrangements. Thankfully there doesn't seem to be any which are negative for cyclists.

On 28th November Edward Healey (Area Manager, Sustrans) and myself were briefed by Mike Waters and Nigel Mills of the council's Transport Planning department about the improvements to the pedestrian route between the Railway Station and Bull Yard. Cycling will be legal along most of the route.

Currently there is no reasonable cycle route from the station to Broadgate.

The only legal cycling route means dodging the cars on the gyratory. Cyclists have two illegal choices, the pavement or the wrong way along Eaton Road (shown).

The council is considering widening the pavement shown in the left of the image. The footway would then be suitable for shared pedestrian/cyclist use. Unfortunately that might cost more than the council is willing to spend on a scheme which will only last until the Friargate development starts, probably within the next 20 years.

On a more positive note, the Department of Transport is now more willing than ever to allow low-cost contraflow cycling schemes. The civil engineering works might involve little more than the addition of a small "except cyclists" sign underneath the main red "No Entry" signs.

At the ring road the subway is being replaced by a Toucan crossing. At Toucan crossings cyclists have the same rights as pedestrians.

To calm motorists before they reach the new Toucan crossing, there will be traffic signals to the right of the point shown; at the end of Manor Road, on the slip road from the westbound ring road carriageway and on the roundabout itself.

Cycling towards the city centre from the new crossing over the ring road towards the city centre will be legal:

The subway under Greyfriars Road will go, replaced by a seven metre wide Zebra crossing. North of Greyfriars Road, Warwick Road will be reduced to a single carriageway with a lane in each direction. So all the space filled with buses and cars in the image to the right will be given to pedestrians and cyclists!

I understand that the giant planter at the end of Warwick Lane (between the British Heart Foundation shop and Methodist Central Hall)  will go, encouraging cyclists to divert to the right when travelling towards Broadgate.

A problem with an alternative route through Bull Yard and around the Barracks car park is that it would encourage cycling though the narrow passage between the car park and the Upper Precinct and in the Upper Precinct itself.

If a route were provided using Warwick Lane, a cyclist's contraflow would have to be provided on Greyfriars Lane south of its junction with Salt Lane.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Coventry's "Cycle Lane" Review

Following representations by members of The Earlsdon Wheelers cycling club, Coventry Council has decided to conduct a review of "Cycle Lanes" in the city.

Traffic engineers use the term "Cycle Lane" for an area on the carriageway, marked by white lines, from which motor traffic is barred. Other people might have different definitions, but I'm not sure what they might be.

Many regular cyclists agree that while parts of Coventry's road network are reasonable for cycling, there are far too many places which are unacceptably hazardous. So many places in fact that few journeys in Coventry can be completed by bicycle without ending up in locations which feel too risky for comfortable cycling.

If Coventry were like many a city in the Netherlands there would 30 kph (18 mph) speed limits on the side streets. Main roads would have cycle paths alongside the carriageway. Cyclists on the paths would have priority over traffic turning into or out of the side roads.

YouTube clip showing Cycle Routes in Dutch cities

While I see the lower speed limits on Coventry's side streets as a practical option in the coming years, I don't think the same can be said about cycle paths on the main radial roads. To build those sort of paths, car parking or traffic lanes would have to go. Given general public attitudes and the small numbers of cyclists in the city, that's not an option.

So, by and large, we will have to work out ways of sharing the road with motorists. That's not to say that cycle paths alongside Allard Way, the river Sowe, Coundon Wedge Drive or any of the "A" or "B" class roads in the countryside aren't practical. It's in the built up areas where cycle paths will rarely work.

I understand that part of the review will involve asking cyclists which parts of Coventry's road network are particularly bad. I'll publicise how people can submit their views when I find out myself!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Connect2 Kenilworth Opens!

Or at least the cycle & pedestrian path between Kenilworth's Coventry Road and Abbey Fields:

View Kenilworth Connect2 in a larger map

Opening Ceremony

The path between Warwick University campus (Sports Pavilion) and Cryfield Grange Road is due to be completed by the end of January 2012, while the path between Cryfield Grange Road and the new bridge is expected to be completed before June 2012.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Holyhead Road

Coventry Council has published a "Street News" stating that they plan to change Holyhead Road, but don't give much detail. Link to what they do say.

I've commented saying that the junction should be improved to make it legal, safe and convenient to cycle from one section of Barras Lane to the other.

That would encourage people to switch from car to cycle when wishing to travel between the area served by Coundon Road and that bounded by Holyhead Road, Butts Road and the Coventry-Nuneaton railway. It would also make cycling between Albany Road (Earlsdon) and Barkers Butts Lane a more convenient option. The alternatives of the B4107 (Four Pounds Avenue with its 40 mph traffic) or going into and out of the city centre are rather inconvenient and cycle unfriendly.

I'm told that part of the Holyhead Road scheme involves the removal of some cycle lane, but I don't know how much. The council says they will advise me of any proposals relating to the cycle lanes.

Cycle lanes can sometimes do more harm than good, a lot depends on how wide they are. These Binley Road lanes are on the offside of parked cars with no buffer zone for opening car doors.

The Street News promises the introduction of Advanced Stop Lines for cyclists at the Grayswood Avenue, Barras Lane and Four Pounds Avenue junctions. Advanced Stop Lines seem to be "flavour of the year" at the moment. They are popular with cyclists in congested cities as they give a space for us to wait where we can be seen by motorists while the lights are on red. However there are problems. How to reach the Line? If you undertake traffic on the left you face the risk of car passengers opening car doors or motorists lurching to the left into a side road. Overtaking on the right (like a motorcyclist) gets around those problems, but there is oncoming traffic and the possibility that the motors on the left might start moving before you can reach the Advanced Stop Line.

Sometimes approach cycle lanes are provided, leading to hours of argument over where they should go! Some motorists regard cyclists undertaking/overtaking as queue jumpers.

I think it's not worth passing traffic waiting at a traffic light unless there's a long queue. Best to join the queue at the end, in the middle (not the side!) of whichever lane is appropriate. Advanced Stop Lines are only of use where a cyclist joining the end of the queue during a red phase will often miss the next green phase.

Here's a barrister's view of Advanced Stop Lines. I'd suggest the best improvement to Advanced Stop Lines would be to add a new phase to the signals to allow cyclists to leave the junction 10 to 15 seconds before the motors.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Fairfax Street - Are we being squeezed?

Last Thursday (28 July) council officiers and some local cyclists visited Fairfax Street to see whether the road layout could be improved for cyclists.

There used to be two traffic lanes in both directions, but recently the carriageway has been narrowed. Westbound there's sufficient room for a motorist to over-take a cyclist:

Eastbound, the road has been narrowed to about three metres, leaving insufficient room for a motorist to overtake a cyclist:

To pass through this narrow section, cyclists should first check that there is no problem in moving out to the centre of the lane, move out and remain there until they have passed both pinch points. Unfortunately some cyclists won't want to "take the lane" like that and will have problems with the new road arrangement.

Moving the kerb or central lamp posts is probably out of the question on cost grounds. One possibility would be to provide a "cyclists' by-pass" like the one on Coat of Arms Bridge Road:

For this to work, parking would have to be banned between the two pinch points. That would mean moving the short term coach parking (ie tourist pick up and drop down) elsewhere. The car park on the north side of Fairfax street is an obvious alternative.

There are differences to the environment at the Coat of Arms Bridge Road. The route there is for children going to Stivichall Primary School; few cyclists on Fairfax Street will be children. Furthermore the pinch point on Coat of Arms Bridge Road doesn't also serve as a pedestrian crossing. On Fairfax Street a cyclists' by-pass might increase the possibility of crashes between people walking across Fairfax Street and people cycling along Fairfax Street, as the pedestrians would have to look out for traffic at three places instead of two.

There would also be a problem of cyclists who wish to turn right into Cox Street using the by-pass:  they would be at risk from traffic turing left into Cox Street:

Another alternative would be to widen the central reservation and remove the build-out, widening the eastbound lane to the same width as the westbound (4.5m).

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Bus Lanes

Coventry council is reviewing bus lanes in the city with the intention or removing those which "cause undesirable congestion or pose hazards".

Bus lanes also serve as useful cycle lanes, ensuring that drivers allow sufficient space when overtaking cyclists. So if any are removed consideration should be given to providing a wide cycle lane as a replacement.

On some single carriageway roads there's a bus lane in only one direction, with the rest of the traffic squeezed into two narrow lanes (one for each direction). Such narrow lanes pose a hazard to cyclists travelling on the opposite side of the road from the bus lane as motorists cannot safely overtake without encroaching into the oncoming traffic lane. Motorists are often wary of doing this and are tempted to pass cyclists too closely.

Whilst recognising that bus lanes often allow bus passengers to avoid the worst of the congestion caused by motorists, there are places where they are not much use. Just as a number of things labelled "cycle facility" don't really benefit cyclists, it would not be a surprise to me if there were a number of useless bus priority measures.

Send any comments for the bus lane review to

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Shared Space?

On 20th May I met Colin Knight (Head of Coventry Council's Planning, Transport & Highways Department) who briefed me on how Coventry Council's plans for changing the city centre in preparation for the 2012 Olympics would impact cycling.

With all such meetings it's very much the council telling us what they are going to do. It's unlikely that Cyclic could affect the outcome on any issue which the council regards as closed. Nevertheless the changes do look positive for cycling. One of the fundamental ideas is the concept of "shared space" .

From at least the 1950's, if not earlier, the big idea for handling traffic in towns was that differing types had to be separated. Motorists should have their own roads; not only motorways but also roads like Coventry's ring road. Pedestrians would have pavements and walkways. Where paths crossed, the pedestrians would be carried over or under the motorists' route. As for cyclists, received wisdom was that we would disappear. By the 1980's and 1990's we hadn't quite disappeared, but were thought to be pedestrians on wheels who could easily fit onto the pedestrian paths.

When there was a problem with road safety the answer was usually more segregation; railings on the kerb to pen pedestrians in, subways to take them under the most minor of roads. Back in the 1970's there was even a subway in Broadgate and another between the two pavements on either side of Fairfax Street; the road between Pool Meadow and Sainsbury's!.

As fewer pedestrians and cyclists used the roads in towns and cites, motorists started to drive faster, treating the roads as their own. The severity of crashes increased and the roads became barriers blocking one area from another (Sky Blue Way and the A45?).

It was time for some new thinking. Perhaps traffic levels should be cut, speeds lowered and people allowed to move slowly without being bullied out of the way? The proposals for Coventry's city centre seem to fit into this new mode of thinking:
  • Most private car traffic to go. It takes up too much room
  • Keep speeds below 20 mph
  • Expect buses, taxis and pedal cycles to share the carriageway on equal terms
  • Where there's no carriageway (or traffic speeds make cycling hazardous), allow cyclists to use pedestrian areas. Cyclists will be expected to give way to pedestrians. If a cyclist abuses the situation, it's an issue about that particular person rather than every cyclist.
  • Separate pedestrians and motorised traffic with the conventional carriageway / footway approach but expect drivers & riders to give crossing pedestrians a reasonable chance at key points. Not for bus drivers and cyclists to barge across junctions at speed without a thought for pedestrians but also not to expect them to wait minutes for a seemingly unending stream of  pedestrians to pass.
It might be argued that cyclists should have their own paths. However experience in Coventry and elsewhere is not positive:
Cars parked on a cycle path. Trinity Street. 2008.

A pedestrian using a cycle path. Warwick Row 2011

Note the upstands. These are an attempt to keep pedestrians and cyclists separate but in practice pose a safety hazard. If a cyclist makes a turn to avoid a pedestrian and hits the upstand at a shallow angle, they will come off!

A number of roads will be one-way for taxis and buses. We hope that they will remain two way for cyclists:
Hales Street a few years ago. As shown in the Department of Transport's recommendations (LTN 2/08 see Figure 7.6)

Monday, 2 May 2011

Cycling Allowed!

Recently the gap in Ansty Road's central reservation at Mellowdew Road/Wykley Road has been closed to motor traffic. But not to pedal cycles.
Looking at the google satellite view, the reasoning behind the closure is clear:
There wasn't room in the gap for more than one motorist to wait. So if a car
were already waiting in the gap when a second motorist arrived wishing to turn
right from Ansty Road, the second vehicle would have to wait in one of the
traffic lanes. Leaving only one lane for the main Ansty Road traffic. Given
that the rest of Ansty Road has two lanes on each carriageway and the speed
limit is 40 mph, there was plenty of scope for dangerous incidents
As a matter of fact pedal cycles have also been banned from making right turns from Ansty Road at the junction. But it's quite easy for cyclists to turn left into one of the side roads, make a U turn and then cross into the central reservation and wait there. There's plenty of room:

There was a suggestion that cyclists should also be banned from crossing, presumably from the traditional policy of making life difficult for cyclists. It would have lead people to cycle on the pedestrian crossing facility. Cycle routes which are shorter than car routes are commonplace in cycle-friendly Netherlands, it's a pleasant surprise to see one being created here.

An alternative might have been to keep the route open for motorists but make it safer by reducing the speed limit on Ansty Road. That would have brought problems of enforcement, besides there's a vocal minority of motorists who resent any reduction in speed limits.

Friday, 1 April 2011

More barriers

Spotted on the cycle path outside Jaguar Whitley.

I suppose the justification for these barriers is that they will slow cyclists approaching the road - to make sure that they give way to motorists.  Three points:
  1. There's an upward gradient on cycle path as it approaches the road, so cyclists will slow anyway
  2. Most cyclists will surely avoid the barriers by cycling on the pedestrian path
  3. If this were the Netherlands, the motorists would be expected to give way to the cyclists
At least the distance between the barriers is the minimum recommended, rather than considerably less (see previous post dated 14 November 2010).

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Coventry 2012

Coventry Council has applied to the European Regional Development Fund for money to revamp a number of sites in the city centre. The council have posted artist's impressions of their proposals here. The website also shows photographs of the existing street layouts.

As the price of petrol and diesel rises and as more people become aware of how everyday cycling can improve physical fitness we are likely to see more people cycling, yet the council's proposals don't give much indication of how cyclists will use the redesigned junctions.

Railway Station to Greyfriars Road

At junction 6, the council proposes that one of the subways is replaced by a pedestrian crossing. This will be much more inviting to visitors arriving by train than the current murky hole:



The published proposals give no indication of what will happen to the shared pedestrian/cyclist route which currently goes through the junction.

Access to the railway station could be greatly improved by adding a cycle path along Eaton Road (currently one-way) and allowing cyclist-pedestrian shared use at the crossing shown and through the gyratory.

The council proposes to remove the subway under Greyfriars Road:



What will cyclists do here?

Currently there's a ridiculously narrow cycle path though the subway. This could be replaced by a convenient transition from cycle path to carriageway. Cyclists traveling eastwards would cycle down New Union Street whilst those destined for the West or North would cycle to Queen Victoria Road.

Other junctions

The proposals for the junctions at Little Park Street / High Street, Jordon Well / Cox Street and Bishop's Street / Hales Street appear cycle friendly:

Some people believe that Dutch style cycle paths separated from both pedestrians and cars are ideal for cyclists. Yet how much public support can you expect for that solution,  given the general attitude towards cycling in this country? There would be a battle over every single square inch of space which might otherwise be used for cars.  Providing for cycling by sharing the carriageway, reducing traffic speed and volume, seems a much more practical option for Coventry's centre.

Broadgate and High Street

For years Coventry Council has been attempting to pedestrianise Broadgate and High Street. Its commitment to Sustainable Transport has its limits!  Just in case anyone gets the wrong impression, in Coventry Pedestrianisation means No Cycling and thus is to be opposed by anyone wanting to promote cycling.

The visualisations do suggest that some types of traffic will be allowed:

However it seems likely that Broadgate & High Street will be made one-way with no exemption for cycles. This will lead to more cycling in the pedestrian areas, which in High Street will be quite narrow.

I fear that the recent cuts will mean that the few people left at the council who understand cycling will have little opportunity to help design cycle routes.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

West Midlands Local Transport Plan

"WITH an estimated quarter of Coventry adults tipping the scales as obese, health chiefs have urged residents to start tackling weight problems during National Obesity Week." Coventry Observer 18 Jan. 80% per cent of Coventry adults take less than the recommended level of exercise.

Fifty years ago there was no obesity problem. Fifty years ago people would think nothing of walking or cycling to work. A mile walking or five cycling. The decline in daily physical activity, as well as junk food, is a major factor increasing waistlines.

While the strategy in the West Midlands Metropolitan Area's Local Transport Plan has some fine words to say about getting people to walk and cycle more (that's active travel in the jargon), when it comes to proposals for action things are rather different.

According to the Implementation Plan, the transport priorities for Coventry over the next few (2011 – 2026) years are:
  • Regeneration, road maintenance, the north/south transport links, highway management and local congestion.
These are mostly about getting from A to B faster. The problems of physical inactivity, air pollution and road casualties are just ignored. Nothing is mentioned about residents parking schemes, rat-running or on-verge parking either.

Yet a 2009 Cabinet Office Strategy Unit report on urban transport found that while the costs to society due to congestion were £10.9bn, the costs of road casualties (£8.7bn), poor air quality (£4.5-10.6bn) and physical inactivity (£9.8bn) were in total about three times as much.

Some more detailed points about what the Local Transport Plan says about cycling:
  1. While its good to see school pupils being targeted for promotion, it seems to me that opportunities to influence the over-16 market, students in particular, are overlooked. Student parking is a significant issue for residents while active modes are attractive to students on tight budgets. An exclusive focus on under 16's may increase the perception that cycling is something for children.
  2. Cycle civil engineering infrastructure. Why not
    • Remove all anti-motorcycle barriers which are not Disability Discrimination Act compliant? These are a hinderance to all cyclists as well as being an insurmountable barrier for many wheelchair users and disabled cyclists.
    • Assess every one-way traffic scheme for its suitability for conversion to cycle-contraflow?
  3. Training. There's a national aspiration to give all children the chance to achieve BikeAbility Level 2. For anyone unfamiliar with BikeAbility, traffic light controlled junctions, roundabouts, multi-lane roads, hazard perception and route planning are not covered until Level 3. While it's reasonable to say that a "safe cycle route" doesn't need BikeAbility Level 3 skills to use it, the unfortunate reality is that most journeys under 5 miles currently made by car do require Level 3 skills. Route planning skills are needed to discover BikeAbility Level 2 routes! While it may be the case that it's too much to give Level 3 training to primary school pupils, it should be regarded as standard for teenagers and adults. Level 3 training not only gives people more confidence and reduces their exposure to risk, it's also a tool to combat pavement cycling.

Monday, 3 January 2011


The updated proposals for the Friargate development have been published. Link (ref no: P/2010/1915)

The proposals for cycling look like this:

This is a great improvement on the current layout of junction 6. The gyratory is a death zone for cyclists and the alternatives involve "dog legs" disappearing into holes in the ground. Also good are
  • the greatly improved link between the railway station and the end of the pedestrian/cyclist bridge at Grosvenor Road
  • the decision to design the road environment for a maximum vehicle speed of 20mph
  • the removal of the subway under Greyfriars Road at its junction with Warwick Road. I hope this will enable any cycle tracks in the area to reach the minimum width recommended in the Department of Transport's Local Transport Note 2/08 "Cycle Infrastructure Design".
  • As Warwick Road rises to go over the railway, it's divided into three narrow lanes. So narrow that motorists can't overtake cyclists without encroaching into another lane, which leads them to overtake too closely. Thus a reduction to two lanes, without significant loss of carriageway width would be desirable for cyclists.
  • The idea of a "Get off and push cycle route" is just not realistic. In reality people with cycles will not dismount, so these routes need to be designed to ensure that people who do cycle in these areas do not cause problems for pedestrians.
Some things to add
  1. Widening of the footbridge across the ring road (currently linking Friars Road and Manor Road) to safely allow shared pedestrian/cyclist use. That would provide a direct cycle route between Coventry University and the station.
  2. A cycle only link between Warwick Road and Friars Road, running just north of the ring road. To allow cyclists to avoid the main pedestrian flows to/from the station and the traffic signals on New Union St. and Warwick Road (at Greyfriars Lane, Bull Yard and Greyfriars Road).
Various turns are going to be banned to counter the danger of motorists rat-running down some of the side roads. These bans should not apply to cyclists, to make cycling more attractive. In general roads which would be rat runs for motorists provide very good cycle routes.