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.