Monday, 12 February 2018

Going one way in Hackney

Last year I wrote about the most dangerous junction for cycling in Hackney, locally named as Britannia junction it is located where Pitfield Street, Hyde Road, Whitmore Road and Hoxton Street meet, or if you prefer, where cycle superhighway 1 and the Central London Cycle grid quietway 16 meet. It was converted from a roundabout into a crossroads in 2011 and despite the space available no dedicated cycle provision was provided with people cycling expected to "take the lane" on a narrow carriageway, alongside gigantic pavements. Following its conversion in the three year period to the end of 2014 there were 14 casualties for cyclists at this junction, more than double the amount of cycling casualties than any other junction in Hackney. The times also reported that this was the 7th most dangerous junction for cycling in the entire UK.

Although I don't have collision statistics available I'm convinced that for the past year this junction has been much safer than it previously was. The reason for this is due to the Colville Estate regeneration, where Penn Street has been made one way for motor traffic but has been kept open in both directions for bicycles just west of Britannia junction

Whilst motor traffic continues to cross CS1 westbound, travelling from Whiston Road and the A10 to New North road, the only motor traffic going eastbound across this junction are from residents living along Penn Street and Hyde Road or those driving back from the Britannia Leisure Centre. The junction is still far from perfect and I've had a few near misses this year where drivers have failed to give way as they cross it but at least the majority of the time you now only have to beware of this happening in one direction, instead of two.

Once the regeneration of the Colville Estate has been completed it would be a real shame if the road was reopened in both directions and I would hope this long, enforced experiment would be enough to convince Hackney Council that keeping the road one way for motor traffic and two way for people cycling makes for a safer junction. 

A one way road for motor vehicles in Utrecht provides safe space for people of all ages to cycle. Imagine how worse it would be if driving were allowed in both directions and the cycle lanes were removed

Before and after in Rotterdam. An example of how to create space for cycling, along with new street furniture and trees, on a narrow urban street by converting the road from two way to one direction for motor traffic
Hyde Road, just west of Britannia junction, alongside the Britannia Leisure Centre car park. Not too narrow here as it has two lanes for motor traffic and two lanes for car parking 
This cycle track in Eindhoven links the university with the centre of the city, via the John Cleese "silly walks" Tunnel under the railway lines. It is one way for motor traffic and provides a direct, quick route through the centre of the city. 

Breaks in car parking provide space for trees, flowers and crossing points for pedestrians
The "still in experimental phase" redevelopment of  Tavistock Place in Central London, a lane of traffic has been removed to allow for cycle tracks on both sides of the road, rather than the narrow bidirectional cycle track which existed here previously
One of the great elements of this scheme is that the one-way arrangement is being used to reduce motor traffic levels by having opposing directions of traffic, meaning motor traffic cannot use this route as a through route from Tottenham Court Road to Clerkenwell, or vice-versa

Unfortunately the position of Hackney Council has traditionally been to oppose one way streets and convert them back to two way
This occurred on Pitfield Street as part of Cycle Superhighway 1, where people cycling previously had a protected lane to head south (albeit a narrow one with high kerbs), this was removed to allow motor vehicles to use this route southbound too

I find this particularly bad in the morning peak, where vans and taxis especially use it to cut down Haberdasher Street and onto Old Street via Coronet Street, something that was impossible to do before CS1. This scheme has created new routes for drivers and encourages rat running. Whilst the removal of large one way gyratory systems designed to enable more motor traffic capacity is welcome (ideally with protected cycle tracks, as is happening in Stratford), turning roads one way can be an effective way to reduce levels of motor traffic whilst providing a better environment for people walking and cycling.

Hackney Council have pledged to improve both Pitfield Street and Britannia junction and I hope making some or all of it one way for motor traffic will be considered. Certainly reopening Penn Street to motor traffic in both directions once the regeneration is complete and reintroducing the East to West 'quietway' motoring rat run through the most dangerous junction for cycling would be a huge step backwards.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Improved Central London cycle grid in Hoxton

In late 2016 Hackney Council consulted on improving a section of the Central London cycle grid in Hoxton, and I wrote about it here whilst the consultation was still open. This section of road was historically known as LCN+ route 16 but is now referred to as the Central London Grid, which forms part of the 'wider quietway route'.

The Central London Grid is a matrix of safe, connected quietway routes and is aimed at new cyclists and people who like to cycle away from heavily trafficked roads. The CLG network will provide continuous and connected routes for cyclists linking key destinations. The intention of the CLG quietway routes is that they will follow direct back-street routes, through parks, along waterways or tree-lined streets. The routes will overcome barriers to cycling, targeting less confident cyclists who want to use low-traffic routes, while also providing for existing cyclists who want to travel at a gentler pace.

These cycling improvements were fully funded by TFL, at a cost of £640,000, as part of the Mayor of London's vision for cycling in London programme but were designed and implemented by Hackney Council.

The main change on the quietway itself was the redevelopment of the crossroads where the quietway crosses New North Road. Previously you had to try and cross the main road with no assistance, although there was a pedestrian crossing around 30 metres south of this junction which did assist a little. The original consultation proposed to close both Poole Street and Eagle Wharf Road to motor traffic and then to install four pedestrian crossings at the crossroads, removing the one further south.

Whilst this proposal was a definite improvement it was clear on the plans that there was to be no physical closures of these roads, just "no entry" and "cycles only" signs. I suggested in this blog, and in my consultation response, that a physical closure of the carriageway should be implemented with entry maintained for cyclists, similar to this:

Which would allow a tiger crossing to be constructed instead

The Hackney cycling campaign also suggested physical closures of the two quietway roads at this junction. The response from Hackney Council to this suggestion was that

"The use of physical barriers to stop motorised traffic gaining access onto Poole Street and Eagle Wharf Road is not desirable as it can cause delays for emergency services in the event of an emergency"

However also part of these plans was to close Sturt Street to motor traffic, just around the corner. The London Fire Brigade responded to the consultation with concerns the barrier at Sturt Street would be an impediment for emergency services and the response from the council was that

"The road closure at Sturt Street will be implemented using fixed and lockable barriers that allow access for emergency vehicles and cyclists when required" 

Which is what has occurred, so I'm unsure why this was viable to do here but not at the New North Road junction. 

the newly filtered Sturt Street
However the proposed closure of these roads did not happen, as the council explain

"The London borough of Islington was consulted before the consultation document was distributed. After the consultation period the Lead Member for the London Borough of Islington submitted a formal objection to the proposals with concerns on the impact of rerouting traffic from Poole Street to Baring Street. A solution that does not negatively the London Borough of Islington road network was reached. A 'right turn' ban will be introduced at Eagle Wharf Road to allow left turning to gain access onto New North Road while left and right turning vehicular traffic will be able to come out of but not into Poole Street"

So, the layout remains almost exactly the same as it was and, crucially, the plans to close these two roads to vehicular traffic have been dropped. This means that motor traffic can, and will, continue to use Shepherdess Walk and Eagle Wharf Road as a shortcut from City Road and to the east of this junction car drivers can use the "quietway" as a route all the way from Hackney Road through to New North Road via the terrible lorry rat run Whiston Road quietway, which I have also written about previously here

It was pleasant to use this route whilst the works were taking place as the road was closed

The kerb has now been removed and replaced with a painted cycle lane, as can be seen in these 'before and after' pictures:

Additional car parking has been created and cars will have to drive over the cycle lane to get to it. The pavement has also been reduced in size to accommodate the additional car parking, paid for from the vision for cycling budget

But Eagle Wharf Road remains open for lorries to use as a shortcut from City Road

so, unsurprisingly, children prefer to use the pavement rather than mix with lorries

On the opposite side of New North Road the cycle contraflow has been removed on Poole Street to allow the road to become two way for motor vehicles

I'm not quite sure why this has been done. Under the original plans this was needed so motor vehicles could exit the parking and loading bays but under the revised plans motor traffic can still exit Poole Street onto New North Road. Surely the best intervention would have been to keep the road one way for motor traffic and then move the loading and parking bays further out to create a cycle lane behind the parking; there was certainly enough room to do this

and people wouldn't have to cycle between lorries 

A major flaw with the new design is that every time I have been here all traffic on Poole Street is turning right to travel north on New North Road, because if you wanted to travel south you would likely do so further back by driving south on the busy Pitfield "cycle superhighway" Street. However as traffic on Eagle Wharf Road is banned from making a right turn all traffic on Poole Street has to wait to give way to traffic coming out of Eagle Wharf Road. This can often be around a dozen vehicles which means motorists have to wait the entire cycle of the green light to turn right, quite often eventually doing so on a red signal. As I was stood here recently the black van pictured below took exception to having to wait for his third cycle of green light and instead overtook several cars to drive through the red light, nearly causing a collision

I've also noticed that nearly every time I have cycled this way I cannot use the ASL as there is a motor vehicle sat in it. I think that this isn't cars driving into the ASL on a red but rather that they are stationary there as the lights switch back to red

These traffic lights would work fine if the junction was cycles only but under these revised plans this is a serious design issue.

On New North Road itself I was surprised that on this very wide three lane road, used by over 20,000 motor vehicles per day, the plan in the original consultation was to simply paint a wide central hatching to replace the central lane when there was clearly the space to provide cycle lanes

However this did not occur in the final plans and instead the road is left with two very wide lanes, leading to high speed of motor traffic on this 20mph road

If you're cycling south on New North Road and want to turn right onto the cycle grid to cycle into Central London, as many people here do, then the original plan for the cycle waiting area in the middle of the road has also been dropped. This means you now wait in the middle of a very wide road with cars driving directly towards you, as they prepare to get into the right filter lane directly after this junction to turn into Baring Street. It is a really dangerous layout and best described in this forum post.

I'm afraid Phillip Glanville, the Mayor of Hackney, is wrong when he says these designs are "a far better more liveable set of crossings, junctions and filtering". The signals do make it safer to cross New North Road at this junction but the situation on both Poole Street and New North Road is worse with the protected cycle infrastructure removed and cycling on New North Road is now far worse than it was. A real missed opportunity to create safer cycling conditions, suitable for all.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands - Part Thirteen: Utrecht to Nijmegen via Veenendaal, Ede and Arnhem

I cycled from Nijmegen to Utrecht in 2016 and so, almost exactly a year later, I decided to cycle in the opposite direction, from Utrecht to Nijmegen. Obviously I wanted to take a different route and chose to go through Veenendaal, which I'd previously read about on Mark Treasures blog, and also use the fast cycle route from Arnhem to Nijmegen. This would be a long ride and so I scheduled it for Wednesday, knowing that I wouldn't have any other rides between cities left after this. Accommodation for these trips is booked months in advance and so the dates are fixed as to when I ride, which means I ride whatever the weather. Had I done this trip a week earlier, as I was originally planning to do, then I would have been cycling through very high temperatures as the Netherlands was experiencing a European wide heatwave. Every time I told anyone in Utrecht I was planning to cycle to Nijmegen the following day they responded that I would get caught up in thunderstorms. Thankfully after getting wet on the ride from Nijmegen last year I had come back equipped with waterproof overalls.

I began my journey out of Utrecht along Voorstraat, a street I had already had a bad experience on during my time in the City. This time was no different as I and others had to pause whilst a bus drove on the cycleway. I continued along Biltstraat with light rain beginning, not heavy enough for me to get my waterproofs out but it was for others. I cycled under the large roundabout where it met the ring road and came out on the other side of the road, as I exited Utrecht.

 I could also see from here there was another bidirectional cycle track on the opposite side of the road as well, and it was being well used, despite the rain and the frequent buses along here. The cycle track continued behind a petrol station, briefly becoming a service road for houses alongside afterwards, but then reverting back to a cycle track. I passed by a bus stop, with ample bicycle parking spaces provided for local residents in this rural area cycling to the bus from their homes. I cycled through an underpass as I passed under the N412, and thanks to google maps I can travel back in time to see before this was built and cyclists had to wait at the lights to cross, rather than the much more convenient grade separation that exists today. 

The cycle track ended after here to become a service road alongside the main road, although I noticed that a cycle track continued on the opposite side of the carriageway. Whilst the road continued straight ahead to go into Zeist the N237 made a left turn here to bypass he town, as did I. I continued along a bidirectional cycle track alongside the road, with light rain continuing but not heavy enough for me to get my waterproofs out of my bag. I took the first right, bypassing the traffic lights, to cycle along Panweg towards Zeist. As I passed over the A27 motorway I couldn't help be impressed by the gigantic sound barrier that existed here and stretched well into the distance to protect the residents of this town from the noise of the motorway. 

As I entered Zeist I came to a roundabout with a bidirectional cycle track running around it. I was to turn left here and did so by going the "correct way" around 75% of it, rather than just turning left - I still can't quite get used to going the "wrong way" around a roundabout! A used a bidirectional cycle track alongside the road for a short while before I turned right where it lead me onto a minor road. At the end this joined up with a cycle track running along the N224, which cars could use for a short while to access a couple of properties before a barrier stopped them going any furtherThis route would continue for the next ten kilometres, a very pleasant route with a smooth, well maintained cycle track with a busy road on one side and forest on the other

The rain soon stopped and I thought about how lucky I was that I had managed to escape the promised thunderstorms, in the end it was just a light shower from Utrecht to here that simply kept me cool and didn't get me too wet. As I arrived on the edge of the town of Woudenberg, my planned route was to continue south along the N224 but I decided to head into the town to have a quick look instead. For the first time in the Netherlands I used British style "staggered" crossings with barriers, but for bikes, rather than for pedestrians. I was now on the most direct road running through the middle of Woudenberg, and what presumably would have been the main road for many years, before the N224 was built to bypass the town to the South. The first section of this road had wide cycle tracks alongside both sides and then a "fietsstraat" sign to indicate cars were guests as I reached the centre of the town, with a traffic calming layout. As I came to the centre of the town and the junction with the N226, the main route north / south of the town, only people cycling or walking could continue across it. 

I turned right here on to a tiled cycle track, which then became a service road and crossed over the road onto another service road which took me out of the town. Turning left I used a series of country lanes to serve a small amount of houses and farms, before it became a cycle track which ran alongside the railway and then joining up with another country lane. At the end of this road I came to a T junction and turned right onto another country lane but with a narrow bidirectional cycle track running alongside it. I stopped for a spot of lunch at a bench alongside here, right next to where the A12 motorway passed ahead and as I sat there I was impressed by how many teenagers were out cycling along this road, a constant stream of small groups of them, presumably heading to or from college in Veenendaal, which was still a few miles away. After I had finished my food I set off again behind three teenage boys cycling ahead of me, we all turned left after a short while to cycle along a road, turning right onto another road and then left onto a cycle track. I was now on the outskirts of Veenendaal and the route took me through residential areas on quiet residential streets that were not through routes for motor vehicles but were for people on bike or foot, and also along cycle tracks, direct and separate from the road network. 

At this point I was still, by pure coincidence, following the same three boys that I had first cycled behind over three miles away but decided to head south as I reached a main road in the town, just to have a look at the suburbs, and cycled along some cycle streets and roads with cycle tracks. I then took a direct cycle route into the centre of the city and onto the main shopping street, open only to those walking, cycling or vehicles loading at the shops. I briefly headed into a shopping centre at this point to grab a coffee and emerged to the street where the promised thunderstorms had suddenly appeared. Exceptionally heavy rain was pounding the streets outside 

Barely anyone was cycling but barely anyone was walking either, as we all huddled under the canopy by the entrance to the shopping centre to escape the torrential downpour. After around 20 minutes the rain eased slightly (but it was still raining hard) and I put my waterproofs on and set off again down the main shopping street. As it was raining so hard I didn't take my camera out too much for the rest of the journey. I turned left at a terrible junction with ASL and a cycle lane in the middle. I cycled along a tiled cycle track, which then became a smooth bidirectional cycle track before it peeled away from the main road and turned south. It then became a road leading to some residential properties and then turned left, as I exited Veenendaal. I headed east along some country lanes, a pretty unpleasant ride but more to do with the constant rain. I then reached the outskirts of Ede and took shelter under a bridge at a large motorway intersection. Whilst my waterproofs were keeping most of me dry my trainers, socks and feet were soaked through and I just needed a rest from the constants rain pounding my face. After a while I carried on and cycled over the A12 motorway on a cycling bridge alongside the N781. The original plan was to spend an hour or so exploring Ede but as the rain was heavy and the streets were so empty it seemed best just to push on towards Nijmegen. I cycled through Ede on a combination of cycle streets and cycle tracks and a fairly long section on a stepped cycle track, which is a rare sight in the Netherlands, just a shame it was too wet to get any decent pictures of it! I passed by De Fietser, a gigantic bicycle warehouse showroom where you can go to try and buy all sorts of bikes. I had intended to go in and have a look but due to the weather I'll have to make do with looking at the inside of it on streetview instead. I cycled alongside the railway out of Ede and then onto a path through the forests. 

Now, this was an excellent route and would have been a fun ride but at this point it once again started to pour down with torrential rain, so I couldn't enjoy it as much as I should have done. The route continued like this for the next ten kilometres, a really pleasant route through the forests but the rain was constant here so I didn't enjoy my surroundings as much as I'd have liked to. The path was puddle free though, despite the terrible conditions and so cycling through the forest was pleasant and not like your typical British National cycle route! 

As I approached the town of Oosterbeek the cycle track went onto a road, but so wet was it I couldn't even risk getting my camera out so here is a streetview link of the location instead. I soon arrived in Arnhem, where there was little appetite from me to explore the city in this weather, and so I crossed over the railway tracks and soon found my way onto the fast cycle route to Nijmegen. Once out of Arnhem the rain thankfully stopped and I was able to enjoy the ride again, although with a very wet bike and feet! 

I soon arrived in Nijmegen and was happy to have both ended my ride and also to be be back in this great city, which is always a pleasure to cycle through

Distance: Approx 86km / 55 miles
Time: Approx seven and a half hours
Photos taken: 470
Map of the route
Gallery:  70 photos here

An analysis of this trip by Jitensha Oni:

Previous Posts:

Part One - Hook of Holland to Rotterdam / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Two - Rotterdam to Gouda via Delft / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Three - Gouda to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Four - Utrecht to Amsterdam / Photo Gallery of this journey
Part Five - Amsterdam to Hook of Holland via The Hague / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Six - Hook of Holland to Breda / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Seven - Breda to Eindhoven via Tilburg / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Eight: Eindhoven to 's-Hertogenbosch / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Nine: 's-Hertogenbosch to Nijmegen / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Ten: Nijmegen to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Eleven: Hook of Holland to Gouda via Delft and Zoetermeer / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Twelve: Gouda to Utrecht, via a different route / Photo gallery of this journey

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands - Part Twelve: Gouda to Utrecht, via a different route

I've cycled from Gouda to Utrecht before, back in 2015, a journey that was mostly along a cycle track beside the N228, just south of the A12 motorway. This time around I decided to plot a different course running north of the A12 motorway, which would turn out to be a much more interesting and pleasant route. Before departing I spent the first part of Monday morning cycling around Gouda, taking pictures of people cycling before returning back to my hotel on the edge of the city to post about the school run I had just witnessed. After checking out of the hotel I was able to immediately cycle on a cycle track, which ran directly behind the hotel and led me under the A12 motorway and N451 road. I turned right to cycle alongside the A12 motorway but was shielded from it by a row of trees 

I crossed over a road, where the school / college run was still taking place and then continued alongside the motorway, safely separated from the lorries using it. 

This route would proceed along the A12 for the next few miles, with a few other people using it to get about their daily business, dressed in their daily getting about kind of clothesAs I approached the town oBodegraven the cycle track gradually moved closer to the N459 road and as I briefly stopped to take pictures of a house on the outskirts of the town with an array of decorations, a man dressed in lycra on a road bike looked towards where I was taking pictures and stopped to whip out his mobile to take a few snaps as well. The bidirectional cycle track continued into the town and I then turned right onto another bidirectional cycle track alongside a road heading east through an industrial area in the southern part of the town. There were a lot of lorries using this road, so I was glad to be separated from them. As the road turned north along the edge of the residential part of the town I couldn't help notice that you could access several residential roads from here by bike but not by car. Direct routes for those on bike or on foot, whilst those driving have to go the long way round. I passed under the railway line and then turned right as I approached the Oude Rijn river to cycle along a narrow path along it. 

This route would continue for around the next five miles, nestled between the houses and the river, a very nice and relaxing ride. After briefly stopping at a bench to eat a sandwich I continued on to the village of Nieuwerbrug, where the riverside path was restricted to pedestrians only and so I joined the road through the village before rejoining the path, which was being used by more people fishing than it was cycling. 

As I approached Woerden I once again left the path to join the road, a road which had no cycling infrastructure on it and it felt very British, before I turned left to where a tiled cycle track was available. I turned right, onto painted cycle lanes and cycled behind a teenager carrying some long piping, before turning left to use one of the few crossings of the circular moat/canal to get into the very centre of the city. I could have bypassed the centre altogether of course but thought it was worth a look whilst I was in the area. Once in the centre I cycled around a section of the inner ring road, which was one way (anticlockwise) for motor traffic but two way for cycling. 

A bit of an odd arrangement and I didn't think much of the painted cycle lane for those cycling anticlockwise, who had to share the road with buses. I then cycled south down Rijnstraat, a shopping street accessible by people walking and cycling only. I then used a small section of the inner ring road again to access a walking and cycling only bridge over the moat and out of the centre. The cycle track directly passed outside the railway station before looping under itself and leading me to a bidirectional cycle track alongside one of the main roads East out of the city. 

There were a couple of secondary schools located alongside this road and so naturally there were students cycling along the cycle track all the way out into the countryside. As the road turned north the cycle track turned into a narrow access only lane and continued alongside the railway line. 

I then turned left to cycle over the filtered lane that I had just used. From here I cycled on a road for a short while before being directed onto a narrow, unmarked bidirectional cycle track on the other side of the road. It soon switched to the other side of the road and became a marked, tiled cycle track. Crossing over the next T-junction I turned right onto a bidirectional cycle track, which narrowed before a left turn onto a road with painted lanes at each side, although this was being used by a family of cyclists.

The countryside suddenly gave way to housing as I reached the outskirts of Utrecht and after navigating a large roundabout I used a cycle track which became a service road. I then crossed over the road onto a wide cycle track which ran between the main road and the housing alongside. As the main road elevated over a road, the cycle track stayed at ground level, giving way to the next road along but then climbing back up to run alongside the main road again. 

I turned left at a cycle crossroads and passed under the road and railway line to cycle alongside Utrecht Terwijde railway station, although I'm not sure why I did this as to continue directly along the lovely wide cycle track would have been the most direct and more pleasant route. I soon turned right to go back under the railway line and road and then left to rejoin the cycle track. 

As the track lifted up past Utrecht Leidsche Rijn Railway station I looked to my right to see construction of this new neighbourhood underway, completely unaware that I was also passing over the A2 motorway, which had been buried underground in this spot between 2007 and 2012 to make way for this new development. As I looked down at the building work I could see people cycling through the construction sites; clearly they had built the cycling routes long before they had built the shops and houses that will one day be here. I passed over the canal and a long descent down from the bridge, past a wide, main road that will soon cease to exist and into the centre of Utrecht. 

Distance: Approx 40km /  25 miles
Time: Approx three hours
Photos taken: 380
Map of the route
Gallery:  62 photos here

An analysis of this trip by Jitensha Oni:

Previous Posts:

Part One - Hook of Holland to Rotterdam / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Two - Rotterdam to Gouda via Delft / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Three - Gouda to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Four - Utrecht to Amsterdam / Photo Gallery of this journey
Part Five - Amsterdam to Hook of Holland via The Hague / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Six - Hook of Holland to Breda / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Seven - Breda to Eindhoven via Tilburg / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Eight: Eindhoven to 's-Hertogenbosch / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Nine: 's-Hertogenbosch to Nijmegen / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Ten: Nijmegen to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part Eleven: Hook of Holland to Gouda via Delft and ZoetermeerPhoto gallery of this journey