Wheatfield Way Shared Space

On Wednesday 14th September, I attended a Residents Meeting at Kingston Guildhall. Much of this was allocated to discussion on the next tranche of Go Cycle [Mini-Holland] developments. However, the meeting soon became a heated debate focussed around New Malden and its fountain. Time went on, and I unfortunately had to leave before the rest of the programme was discussed at 11pm.

While I support much of the non-New Malden briefs in principle, there is much that needs to be cleared up before the building begins. In particular, the proposal to share space between people on foot and people on bikes must be changed. This bodge is done at practically every junction on the Wheatfield Way scheme, changing what should be a useful link route into a conflict-ridden mess.

So let’s look at this.

Background

Wheatfield Way is a busy road with often fast-moving traffic, being part of Kingston’s infamous one-way system. At one of its junctions it acts to cuts off small shops and a Wilcos from the rest of the shopping area. The crossing is typically busy, with pedestrians often struggling to pass each other and cross the three-lane road in the brief time they’re allocated. There is a cycle lane here, linking Old London Road with Eden Street.

 

Mini Holland

To recap, mini-Holland was provided to redress the balance of car-dominated boroughs. Money was provided to generate real change, providing high quality cycling facilities that would enable the latent demand of people who want an alternative to their cars, but are fearful of the present cycling environment.

Given that many journeys are short (a third are under 2km) shifting a reasonable proportion of short journeys out of cars and onto cycles has huge potential to reduce town centre congestion with the corresponding health benefits.

The Unacceptability of Shared Space

The present proposal has a two way cycle lane along Wheatfield Way, that merges with the pavement at junctions to provide shared space between cycles and pedestrians.

This is shoddy, lazy and invites conflict.

Bad for Cyclists

One of the major benefits of good cycling infrastructure is the ability for all riders to travel as fast or slow as they like away from the dangers of traffic or from pedestrians who travel at a very different speed, often stopping without warning. Conversely, poor infrastructure gives up at junctions, bundling people on bikes into conflict with either motorists or pedestrians, both of whom resent the interlopers for very different reasons.

This is that latter type of infrastructure. Confident road cyclists will simply avoid it, undoubtedly attracting the ire of drivers as they cycle on the road. And less confident cyclists or those accompanying children will simply take the car, rather than trying to “share” space that is already full of pedestrians. Certainly, attempting to find a route through people waiting for a traffic light to change will prove difficult for cyclists with trailers or cargo bikes: exactly the sort of practical bicycles mini-Holland should attract.

Bad for Pedestrians

Who loves waiting at traffic lights while people on bikes try weaving their way past you? You’re clearly in their way, but where else can you wait? Nobody likes this. It’s rubbish. A busy road in front of you and cyclists around you trying to get through a busy junction. It’s awful. The only possible outcomes from this are conflict and anger.

Appalling for Disabled Groups

Picture that inconvenience for fully sighted pedestrians. And now do it blindfold. You can’t see where cycles are; indeed there’s little indication for you that cycles should be expected in the same place. And you can’t hear bicycles either – one of the reasons streets can be more pleasant with bicycles than motor vehicles is the reduced noise.

You’re simply going to avoid this space. It’s dangerous and not somewhere to be if you can’t see. The same applies if you’re deaf and can’t hear people calling to let you know they’re passing on one side or another.  I ride a bike and would call myself a cyclist. I’m also deaf in one ear and frequently miss such verbal cues. Personally, I would not feel comfortable in a shared space environment and that’s with a disability I regard as an annoyance rather than debilitating. 

The Equalities Act 2010 requires that all UK Local Authorities have an obligation to ensure that all streets and public areas are accessible to everyone, including people who have physical or sensory disabilities (from here, retrieved September 2016).

While Kingston council believes this to be the case, I strongly disagree. This will be extremely uncomfortable, unpleasant and dangerous for the disabled and impaired.

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Kingston Council on Equalities Impact Assessment

 

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Kingston Council statement on accessibility

I do not believe, despite the council assurances, that this meets the Equalities Act requirements.

 

Fine for drivers

Naturally, this scheme is fine for drivers. No space is removed from those causing a polluted, hostile, environment for people. The council will continue to provide a three-vehicle wide space for motors that are frequently occupied by a single person.

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One person for three lanes of space. Contrast this with the space for many pedestrians.

 

A Better Option

Here are the current plans. The three lanes of traffic are retained and the light blue cycle path merges into the pedestrian space where this is orange. The existing cycle path to Old London Road – under the row of telephone boxes here – is lost to shared space.

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Existing plans. No change for drivers, shoddy for everyone else

And here’s what they could look like.

wheatfield-way-revised
As things good be. Good for cyclists, good for pedestrians. Still not terrible for drivers.

Both roads that feed into this space are widened from two lanes. So let’s instead widen them after the station, with early “get in lane” signage to prevent jockeying for position.

This allows a full two-way separated cycle lane through the junction. There is some question about the cycle route joins with Old London Road and Clarence Street. At present there’s a short cycle route that joins roads on each end of the cycle route. There needs to be some provision for cyclists travelling along Wheatfield Way to be able to turn into Clarence Street but this should be relatively easy to fix.

 

How this Works

  • This resolves the problem that shoddy infrastructure won’t be used.
  • This resolves the problem that bicycles and pedestrians do not mix well.
  • This resolves the problem that disabled people will feel excluded by the ambiguity of shared space.
  • And this redresses the balance in a fair allocation of space away from being dominated motor traffic.

In short, it’s a better project that’s worthy of the mini-Holland moniker and will works towards the goal of getting people onto sustainable means of transport

As an aside, the other shared space junctions along the road are equally appalling. They’re easily resolvable and I expect to see continuous cycle lanes in the final designs.

Housing without Cars

We recently holidayed in Cornwall, on a farm that had converted several old buildings to holiday homes and gradually built new buildings. It’s a lovely place; the farm is still working so there’s plenty of opportunity for children to feed the animals in the morning and go on nature trails.

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It’s clear that families are a big customer segment, with nearly thirty houses on site. There’s a playground, a soft play area and a store from which forgetful parents can borrow a bucket and spade for the day. Naturally, children run around the place with little care for any consequences. Yet despite so many families coming and going during the day and the resulting traffic movements on and off the complex, this doesn’t cause any problem for small children.

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The reason is that people are happy to not park right outside their homes. An exception is made for loading and unloading, but after this there’s an understanding that cars belong in the car park. And this isn’t an issue, despite the car being used every day (unlike at home). A walk of a minute with bags, beach paraphernalia and children on traffic-free paths simply isn’t a problem. The roads also lend themselves to dead slow driving. Narrow, weaving, paths and the odd sharp corner with prominent signs stating that children are roaming.

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Narrow, twisty, lanes

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This leaves the paths free to walk on and for children to play on. Bikes were ridden, scooters were scooted and skateboards skated. Best of all, children were free to charge around the place and let off steam. We didn’t have to worry about whether they’d be run over, we could simply let them shoot off to the playground and catch up at a sensible pace.

This approach isn’t difficult to replicate. Yet we still build new developments with space for driving and barely any space for families. Houses seemingly must have space for parking, where a communal car park would be a better solution. There are, of course, issues to be resolved. It’s far easier to wash a car that’s outside one’s house, for a start. But it doesn’t have to be the norm that houses must have space for a car attachment. Removing the motor traffic makes the pace more human, whether on foot or bicycle.

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Charging point for electric cars
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Busy car park, away from children and routes to play-areas

 

 

How to avoid cutting one’s balls off

The Dad-Joke

There’s a story about a man who suffers from appalling headaches. They started as a minor inconvenience, but after 20 years have worsened and now affect every part of his life: failed relationships, a series of sackings, etc., etc. So he finally goes to the doctor. After many tests, the doctor diagnoses the problem: the patient’s testicles are pressing against the base of his spine, causing pressure which leads to the headaches. There’s only one solution: castration.

The patient initially declines, but ultimately pain gets the better of him and he agrees to the surgery.

So the surgery happens and the patient feels like a new man afterwards. Without the headaches, he realises this is the restart his life needed. To celebrate and kick-start his new life and job hunt, he goes to buy a new suit.

He walks into a tailors and says he’s looking for a new suit. The tailor looks him up and down. “You’re a 44-inch chest”, he says. “Brilliant”, says our patient. “How did you know?”

“Easy”, replies the tailor. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years. And you’re a 16-inch neck”.

“Bang on”, says the man. “How about the trousers?”

“36-inch leg” says the tailor. “And a 36-inch waist”.

“Gotcha!” shouts our hero. “I’m a 34-inch waist and have been since university.”

“Oh no,” the tailor insists. “You’re a 36-inch waist. If you wear 34-inch trousers, you’ll wear 34-inch underpants. And they’ll be far too tight – they’ll compress your balls against your spine and give you terrible headaches”.

 

The Product Stuff

Without wishing to over-analyse an excellent Dad-joke, this is how many people approach product management. There are two issues here.

Finding the actual problem

Instead of identifying the root cause of the problem, we fix the local, obvious, issue. While this often alleviates the symptoms, it doesn’t resolve the underlying problem. Such a resolution is therefore sub-optimal and possibly even harmful in the longer term. Here, they appear to have found out the cause. But they haven’t uncovered what caused the cause.

So when we approach a problem, why don’t we always use techniques such as 5-whys to dig down to the root cause? Why do we tackle only the immediate cause?

Well, firstly it’s a tricky habit to get into. Fixing a problem is satisfying and that buzz can be obtained quickly with an immediate fix. We set our mindset on achieving small wins, failing to optimise for long-term gain. Our sprint is full, so we put in a quick fix and mark this done.

Secondly, we’re often busy, with many competing demands. Fixing a problem feels like it is detracting from our main goals. Why spend time on fixing this when there are quarterly targets to be hit? So we avoid the potential hassle of coordinating with other departments and spending time identifying a root cause by simply fixing the surface issue. It’s good enough, and we can get on with our main priorities.

Safe-to-fail Experimentation

The second problem is that cutting one’s balls off is quite clearly not a safe-to-fail experiment. While this resolved the immediate problem, it is an irreversible action. In the language of Chris Matts, it is most definitely a commitment rather than an option. One can imagine that at the punchline our patient would have preferred to be holding an option rather than having committed early.

The realm of product management is that of uncertainty. There are outcomes which we are tasked with moving towards, rather than a fixed set of features that we must implement. To meet these outcomes, we identify small, safe-to-fail, hypotheses that we can test to see if they move closer to our aims.

The safe-to-fail part is key. Given that we cannot have certainty in advance about which features will and what won’t move our metrics the right way, we must have the option to reverse the feature at low cost should it fail. As responsible product managers it is not acceptable to hold merely a hypothesis and yet to create a complete, fixed, product (this is the realm of mass-production). Instead, we validate the hypothesis via testing and we always have a rollback option.

Conclusions

So two lessons from a terrible joke.

Always check for the root cause of a problem. And be sure to run safe-to-fail experiments, rather than commitments you’ll later regret.

 

Response to Summer 2016 Consultations, Part Two

Here’s the follow-up to yesterday’s post. This covers the Kingston Go Cycle (was Mini Holland) consultations for the Kingston Station and the Surbiton-Kingston schemes. There’s a bonus response to the proposed road closure on Surbiton Crescent.

My initial thoughts on the schemes are here. This is going to be a long post, but please do respond to these consultations. Feel free to copy, adapt and share these responses: these schemes are promising but need work to make them truly useful.

 

Kingston Station

Link to consultation

My responses

To what extent do you support the scheme as a whole?

Somewhat favour

How likely are you to use the area for walking and cycling following the improvements?

Extremely likely
Further comments

The segregated cycle routes to the south side of Wood Street are a welcome improvement to the current mix of shared space and pedestrian only space. Similarly, the widened bridge alongside the railway station is welcome and provides a useful link for riding.

As a regular pedestrian in this area I have grave concerns about the use of shared space. This lack of clarity feels dangerous for pedestrians and is unwelcome for cyclists. This needs to be addressed.
The route under John Lewis along Horse Fair needs to be clearer: a separated cycle track should be provided.
The route through the bus stops outside John Lewis should be separated: the current mix of cycles and buses is dangerous, particularly given that buses and taxis are pulling out into cycle routes.

Station Forecourt

To what extent are you in favour of the proposed improvements to the station forecourt?

Neutral
Further comments

It is difficult to endorse this given that all the schemes within this box contain Shared Space.

The Wheatfield Way cycle route must continue to be separated past the station and into both the Wood Street routes and under the railway bridge. This is easy to achieve. The current station forecourt shared space is awful and should be removed. A “tiger crossing” will help pedestrians.
The shared space in Fife Road is unclear. Does this mean cycles, pedestrians and motor vehicles all sharing space? Given that HGVs use this road for deliveries, cycles must be separated from motor vehicles.
The 20mph restriction is welcome but the street layout must be such that this is a speed drivers naturally choose.

Hub and Storage

To what extent do you agree with the provision of the hub and storage facility within the station forecourt area?

Agree

Further comments

More parking at the station is welcome, as is a hub. However, the indicated size of the hub leaves little room for pedestrians and cyclists when heading toward the cinema. This is likely to cause pedestrian overspill onto the cycle route.

Green Link

To what extent are you in favour of the proposed improvements and the making of the Green Link to the riverbank?

Agree
Further comments
The two directional routes and separate pedestrian space are welcome, both north and south of Wood Street.
The bridge is likely to be popular with cyclists as well as pedestrians: space should be provided for separate cycle and pedestrian space.
The green link is a pleasant idea but the route should not be completely shielded from the road: visibility is important for subjective safety for all users.
The junction treatment from Wood Street to Fife Road (at the Bentalls end) is unclear. The cycle and pedestrian routes should continue, with inbound traffic ceding priority. Given that the inbound traffic will be joining from a 20mph road this should be achievable as traffic should already be slow.
The 20mph restriction is welcome but the street layout must be such that this is a speed drivers naturally choose.

Gateway to Kingston Bridge

To what extent are you in favour of the proposed improvements to the gateway to Kingston Bridge?

Disagree
Further comments
These proposals offer little to cyclists. There is no improvement to the shared route with buses and taxis pulling into the carriageway. A separate cycle route would be welcomed by both cyclists and motorists not having to worry about approaching cyclists.
The use of road space under John Lewis should be re-examined. With a rigidly enforced 20mph limit it may be possible to move lanes closer and fit a cycle lane under here. Removal of the road divider should also make the 20mph limit more self-enforcing.
The Horse Fair crossing to the west of the scheme should be single stage so that pedestrians and cyclists are not penalised: it is a nuisance to have to wait for two separate stages.

 

 

Surbiton to Kingston Area

Link to Consultation

My responses

Palace Road

To what extent do you agree with the proposals for Palace Road? (NB the Portsmouth Road junction improvements are already under construction)

Somewhat oppose
Do you have any comments on the proposals for Palace Road?
These proposals do not help cyclists.
While this is marked as a “Quiet Road”, the closure of Surbiton Crescent may very well increase traffic down here. With the road being open to motor traffic, there is nothing to prevent such an increase. Before stating the cyclists can share with motorised traffic, we should be very clear about both quantity and speed of that traffic.
The on-road cycle markings do little to add to cyclist safety and road bumps are an unwelcome distraction: they are difficult to cycle around (as the gaps are in the gutter and centre of the road) and awkward to cycle over, particularly when towing children.
Cycling provision should be made here: sharing space with motor traffic with no traffic reduction is inappropriate.

Claremont Road

To what extent do you agree with the proposals for Claremont Road?

Somewhat favour
Do you have any comments on the proposals for Claremont Road?
The two lane cycle route is welcome.
However, the junction treatment at Maple Road needs to have separate pedestrian, cycle and motor vehicle space. Creating shared space for cyclists and pedestrians does not help pedestrian safety nor convenience or safety for cyclists.
Along Claremont road, we need to see separated cycle tracks and pavement for pedestrians. Shared space should not feature in such a scheme; if necessary space should be allocated to the pavement from Claremont Road or narrowed motor vehicle space.
Specifically, the route past the bus stand and at the Surbiton Station end need separate space rather than shared space.
The space at the Surbiton Station end of the scheme is poor. Cyclists are directed over the road to nothing – not even an advisory cycle lane. This will not entice usage. At the least, the scheme should continue to the station rather than abandoning people just before it.

St Mark’s Hill

To what extent do you agree with the proposals for St Mark’s Hill?
Somewhat favour
Do you have any comments on the proposals for St Mark’s Hill?

The segregated cycle lane is welcome, as is its position between parked cars and the pavement.

The lack of a segregated route down the hill is of concern. On road cycle markings frequently do little for safety; some kind of cycle priority is required here.
The junction over Adelaide Road needs to have a continuous pavement and cycle route, with motor traffic being clearly obliged to cede priority.
As with the Surbiton – Kingston route, this should continue to the roundabout outside Surbiton Station.

Avenue Elmers

To what extent do you agree with the proposals for Avenue Elmers?

Somewhat oppose
Do you have any comments on the proposals for Avenue Elmers?

As the scheme stands, there is little to make things safer for cycling. Surbiton Hill Road is the main road for motor traffic; this road could be made far safer for cyclists by simply removing through motor traffic (cycle and pedestrian permeable). There would be little inconvenience for residents (max 5 minutes driving), but cyclists using this route would not have to share with rat running traffic.

This would make the complete lack of useful cycling facilities on this route understandable; the motor traffic would be low enough to justify this.

Overall

To what extent do you support the scheme as a whole (Palace Road, Claremont Road, St Mark’s Hill and Avenue Elmers?

Somewhat favour
Your comments

The segregated routes are welcome, but must include segregated junction treatment. The shared pedestrian and cycle space must be removed; it is not acceptable to mix these modes.

The routes down the “Quiet Roads” must be supported by removal of through traffic. Mere paint on roads and speed humps do not make cycling safer and will not attract people who wish to cycle but who do not feel supported by the current facilities.

How likely are you to use the area for cycling following the improvements?

Neutral
Your comments

As they stand, I would not use the facilities when on my road bike, nor would I feel protected enough when out with my children.

My four year old can ride a bicycle competently. He would be fine on the separated sections; however, the route does not extend anywhere useful so I would not let him use the present proposals.

How likely are you to use the area for walking following the improvements?

Unlikely
Your comments

The shared space with bicycles does not appeal to me as a pedestrian. The lack of pavement along Claremont Road is unhelpful.

As a pedestrian I welcome segregated cycle routes: these increase the distance between my family and motor traffic.

Bonus Questions: Surbiton Crescent

Do you have any comments on the trial bus / cycle / access only section for Surbiton Crescent (between Surbiton Road and Anglesea Road)?

This is an excellent plan; however this should be reproduced on Palace Road to prevent through traffic using that designated Quiet Road as a rat run.

If successful, this approach should be used elsewhere. Residential routes such as this should not bear through traffic.

 

 

 

 

Response to Summer 2016 Consultations, Part One

As promised, here are my sample responses to the first two summer 2016 Kingston mini-Holland consultations.

Here’s the link to my initial thoughts on these schemes.

This is a very bland post… feel free to copy, paste and add your own thoughts. But please do fill in the survey. Neither of these schemes are good enough and both need significant rework.

 

Fountain Roundabout

Click here to fill in the survey

My Responses

Overall, what are your views on the proposal to convert the roundabout into a crossroads junction?

Strong oppose

Your comments:

The shared space will induce conflict between pedestrians (particularly those with reduced vision) and cyclists. Shared space decreases subjective safety for pedestrians and slows cyclists as pedestrians impede them.

More confident / faster cyclists will naturally avoid this conflict and use the road, negating the point of rebuilding this junction.

There is a danger point where access to the cycle route towards the junction from Kingston crosses the bus exit. Bus drivers will block this in heavy traffic, causing difficulty for cyclists.

Cyclists and pedestrians wishing to cross more than one junction arm will likely have to wait several minutes for motor traffic. This does not entice people to use alternatives to cars.

The increased road lanes from Kingston means pedestrians must cross five lanes plus a central island. Will sufficient time be given, sufficiently often, to allow this crossing in comfort for a slower walker?

There is no provision for cyclists wishing to continue along Malden Road. Again, this will induce conflict.

None of these problems would be present had the original Dutch style roundabout been present. This option will neither improve cyclist safety nor encourage uptake of cycling. It must be completely revisited.

A Dutch roundabout has pedestrian and cyclist priority over the arms through zebra crossings. With present walking or cycling levels, this is unlikely to affect traffic flow. Should a high quality layout prove wildly successful, priorities could be revisited.

 

In what capacity do you most frequently use Fountain Roundabout? (Please select one)

Driver

Your comments:

I don’t tend to cycle this way as the present provision is so unpleasant. These proposals will do nothing to change that, whether I’m riding a slower bike with a child on the back or my road bike at 20mph.
How do you think the proposal to convert the roundabout into a crossroads junction will benefit you? (Please select all which apply)

None of these

 

How likely are you to walk or cycle in the local area as a result of the proposal to convert the roundabout into a crossroads junction?

Unlikely

Your comments:

How would making this less pleasant for cycling and walking make me more likely to walk or cycle here?

 

Looking at the red dotted line on this image please say which of the following elements you would like to see in the new arrangement. (Please select all which apply)

Other: I’d like to see a proper, segregated, cycle path leading to a Dutch-style roundabout.
Please tells us if you have any further comments about the proposals

This funding was allocated under the title “mini-Holland”, with the goal of improving cycle provision to that of Dutch standards.

It is clear that this has not been adhered to. This benefits neither pedestrians nor cyclists and continues to favour motorists.This funding was allocated under the title “mini-Holland”, with the goal of improving cycle provision to that of Dutch standards.

This must be revisited and the roundabout reinstated, with pedestrian and cyclist priority over the arms.

 

Wheatfield way

Click here to fill in the survey

My Responses

To what extent do you support the scheme as a whole:

Somewhat favour

Your comments

The segregated cycle route is useful; however, it is rendered useless for many cyclists by the cycle route disappearing at junctions.

This slows progress for people on bikes as they have to avoid pedestrians. Cyclists prefer not to ride among pedestrians; pedestrians prefer not to walk among pedestrians.

Again, faster cyclists will simply use the road which negates the point of the scheme. Potential cyclists are unlikely to wish to start riding among pedestrians.

It is also unclear what happens at these junctions: are cyclists and pedestrians given at least as much priority at drivers?

Given that there are a maximum of four lanes, the road crossing should be made in one go. It is horrible for pedestrians at present being stuck in the cage in the middle of the polluted road, waiting for a second set of lights to change.

The 20mph restriction is a noble concept; however, experience with other Kingston roads suggests it will not be adhered to unless there is significant change to road design. The central planters should be removed and the vehicle lanes moved closer together to this end.

The moved crossing outside Fairfield library should remain before the left turn into Fairfield Road. This allows traffic to exit Fairfield Road in safety and allows pedestrians to cross Fairfield Road knowing traffic will not enter from Wheatfield Way. The proposals remove this safety.

Regarding Clarence Street, the footpath level loading and taxi bays must be clearly marked to avoid confusion. The ambiguous Clarence Street crossing must have a declared priority – ideally for pedestrians.

The segregated route from Wilcos to Kingston Station is welcome. This should seamlessly join the cycle route that presently goes underneath Kingston Station railway bridge towards Richmond.

 

How likely are you to use the area for walking following the improvements?

We already walk to Kingston town centre through here. This doesn’t change the poor provision for pedestrians at junctions and adds conflict with cyclists forced to share the same space.

As a parent of two young boys, I do not wish to share walking (skipping, jumping) space with people riding bicycles any more than I wish to share it with people driving cars.

How likely are you to use the area for cycling following the improvements?

Neutral

Your comments

I live near here so have to use this if I wish to leave my house.

When on my road bike, I will be unlikely to use these facilities due to the poor junction treatment. Fix this and I’ll probably change my mind: I presently enjoy the Portsmouth Road facilities that free me from worrying about motor traffic without unnecessarily slowing me at junctions.

When carrying children on a slower bike, I will likely use the separated route, but swear unceasingly when forced to share the pavement with pedestrians. Or just bump onto the road at this point.

 

To what extent do you agree with introducing a 20mph limit?

Strongly Agree

Your comments

See above. The road design must be such that drivers feel 20mph is appropriate. Narrower lanes with sharper turns will aid this. At present, drivers frequently exceed the current 30mph limit. Simply changing the limit will achieve nothing.

To what extent do you agree with the improvements in the Brook Street area?

Somewhat oppose

Your comments

This doesn’t appear to improve anything.

There still appears to be a two-phase crossing for pedestrians and cyclists, which is an awful experience (especially in the rain).

The disappearance of the cycle route into a shared space bodge is woeful. Simply put the cycle route must continue distinct from pedestrian space. This has been done many times in the Netherlands so can simply be copied

Fix these two items and this element of the scheme has my support.

 

To what extent do you agree with the improvements in the Orchard Road area?

Somewhat oppose

Your comments

There is still a two-phase crossing for pedestrians and cyclists, which is an awful experience (especially in the rain). This creates a central divider which makes drivers feel safer and able to drive faster. This does not aid the proposed 20mph limit. Simply removing the divider and pushing the lanes closer allows pedestrians and cyclists to cross the road in a single phase.

The segregated cycle route must continue and not disappear into shared space.
To what extent do you agree with the improvements in the Clarence Street / Old London Road area?

Somewhat oppose

Your comments

By reducing lane space to two lanes on the approaching routes, a segregated cycle path could be accommodated throughout this scheme. This would be helpful given the high pedestrian numbers crossing from Old London Road to Clarence Street. The shared space at such a busy area is dangerous and will cause collisions between cyclists and pedestrians.

The new pedestrian crossing is welcome; however, the new unsignalised crossing is a danger point. This could easily be made into a zebra crossing or continue using the existing traffic signal controlled crossing.
To what extent do you agree with the improvements at Kingston Museum and Library area?Strongly oppose

Your comments
The main part of this scheme is relocating the signalised crossing to after the Fairfield Road junction. This increases danger for drivers attempting to leave Fairfield Road and pedestrians crossing Fairfield Road.

The segregated cycle path should continue through the junction. There is not clear route here across the junction and as such (with the relocated junction) this increases danger for cyclists and pedestrians. Frankly, it doesn’t appear that crossing Fairfield Road has even been considered for cyclists – this is poor for a mini-Holland scheme.

A single phase crossing of Wheatfield Way is welcome; however the central island should be removed and the motor lanes brought closer together to decrease traffic speed (and decrease crossing times).

 

Kingston Go-Cycle summer proposals, Part Two

Having reviewed the Fountain’s Roundabout and Wheatfield Way proposals yesterday, here’s my take on the remaining two schemes: Kingston Station area and Surbiton to Kingston.

Recap:

The schemes can all be found on Kingston’s website. They’re funded out of the £30m pot that Kingston won in March 2014.

 

Kingston Station Area

Sample response here.

Link to consultation: http://consult.kingston.gov.uk/portal/planning/go/consultations_summer_2016/go_cycle_-_kingston_station_area_consultation?tab=files

 

Kingston Station presently has a cycle path to the side of it, which peters out at the shared space plaza. There’s a direct route through the pedestrians into Fife Street, or along Wood Street on either the wide pavement or legally in the parts where this is called Shared Space.

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All these people are standing in front of the cycle path. Yay, Shared Space plaza!

 

The proposals enhance cycle parking at the station and provide an obvious link to the town centre and Kingston Bridge. And perhaps surprisingly, they’re not awful. There’s still shared space outside the station, which causes conflict and annoyance. And the bridge over Wood Street is ambiguous in provision. But on the whole, these appear to upgrade crappy shared space and offer genuine utility.

 

To summarise:

  • Better cycle provision is welcome
  • The shared space plaza outside the station remains unwelcome. It is unclear where cycles may travel and pedestrians frequently block the cycle route across the junction
  • The Wheatfield Way segregated space should join the existing cycle route under the railway bridge without being forced into conflict with pedestrians
  • The bridge across Wood Street needs to have clearly segregated lanes for two way cycling and pedestrians
  • The two way segregated route south of Wood Street is welcome. This route should have priority over Dolphin Street, but this is unclear from the plans (see good examples here).
  • The route around John Lewis needs to be looked at. A cycle path along Horse Fair toward the station should be provided through the underpass (to save crossing the road twice). And a safe, segregated route must be provided on the Clarence Street part to remove existing conflict with buses and taxis
  • The 20mph zone is unlikely to be observed without significant rework to the road environment such that 20mph appears appropriate to most drivers.

 

Surbiton to Kingston

Sample response here.

Link to consultation: http://consult.kingston.gov.uk/portal/planning/go/consultations_summer_2016/go_cycle_-_kingston_to_surbiton_area_consultation?tab=files

 

This scheme is just weird. A mish-mash of roads serving entirely different proposals where Something Has Decided To Be Done. So let’s look at each point in turn.

 

Palace Road

This is apparently a Quiet Road, that requires road humps. No explanation is given what a “quiet road” is; however, this is open at both ends to motor traffic and is therefore open as a rat run. Clearly there is some problem with speed as traffic humps are to be installed. With the planned closure of the end of Surbiton Crescent, this could easily become a rat run.

Screenshot (415).png
Clear, straight, road. No rat-runner will stick to 20mph here

 

Now, I hate traffic humps as a cyclist. They’re crap. Either full width, which means you have to go over something intended to be felt in a 1700kg git-panzer, or the nasty split hump which forces cyclists in the gutter or middle of the road. Humps are crap on a hybrid, crap on a road bike and I imagine particularly unpleasant on the kind of utility bike we wish to see pootling. In short, they’re a sign of failure. The road either has low volume, low speed, traffic suitable to mix with cyclists. Or fast traffic which requires humps and a separated cycle route.

To top it all, there are some signs on the road showing that bikes might be using the road. That’ll guarantee safety.

 

Claremont Road

This makes some sense. The segregated route is appropriate for the volume of traffic. However, the treatment at the junction with Maple Road is rubbish. Back to sharing with pedestrians. This is not mini-Holland.

The segregated route is also poor at the bus stand where cyclists and pedestrians are again forced to share space – at a point along a straight path where some cyclists may have picked up reasonable speed. Either the bus stand should be relocated, or a small amount of space reallocated from Claremont Gardens. Looking at the plans it seems appropriate to reallocate space from the gardens to the pavement along the length of the cycle path; it is not fair to expect pedestrians to take a circuitous route.

At the far end of Claremont Road, cyclists heading toward the station are guided to cross the road and then…? The cycle provision simply disappears. So the route takes cyclists almost to the station, then leaves them to battle alone past buses and taxis.

 

St Mark’s Hill

Space constraints mean that there’s only a segregated route up the hill. This is better than nothing and no doubt the cycle markings on the pavement down the hill will reassure cyclists of their safety. The unanswered question, of course, is whether this road is really wide enough for two-way motor traffic?

Again, the provision disappears before the junction. Back on the pavement, then.

 

Avenue Elmers

As with Princes Road, what on earth is a Quiet Road? At least this doesn’t have hateful humps down it.

Conclusion

My main thoughts from these schemes is wondering who the council are providing provision for? I wouldn’t bother using these schemes on my road bike; the shared space is slow and I don’t like the conflict with pedestrians. And I wouldn’t let my child use any of these schemes either: many of them still involve conflict with traffic at junctions. A good scheme can easily cater for both types of rider – this is exactly what happens in the Netherlands.

However, not one of these consultations provide something that would be acceptable in the Netherlands. Some are better than others: Kingston Station and Wheatfield Way will be viable with some tweaks as will parts of the Surbiton to Kingston route. Fountains Roundabout is simply crap.

Overall, this is an opportunity missed. If this is anything like the Portsmouth Road scheme, the council will now take more time and spend more money to come up with something obvious from the start.

In particular, the Surbiton to Kingston section is wide of the mark. Removal of through traffic is key to making a pleasant place for residents, pedestrians and cyclists. The designated quiet roads should be made impermeable to motor traffic – ie. open at one end only. This is entirely appropriate for roads intended for residents – here the Dutch road classification concept would be most welcome (See section 1 here).

I’ll put up some sample responses over the next few days. Overall, this is a “Must Try Harder” for Kingston Council.

 

Kingston Go-Cycle summer proposals, Part One

 

Kingston have unveiled the next phase of their Mini-Holland programme for consultation. Except it’s not Mini-Holland. A rebrand has resulted in this being branded Go Cycle. The cynical observer might suggest that this is because none of these schemes would be considered worth implementing in the Netherlands, but let’s keep an open mind and look at the schemes first. (Hint – they’re dire).

 

Overview

The schemes can all be found on Kingston’s website here. Following the farce of the Portsmouth Road consultation, where the original proposals were panned and required a hasty rework, one might have thought that the council had learnt from their past experience. Not a bit of it. These are crap. Shared space abounds, room for vehicles is frequently expanded and cyclists get a mix of separated space (good) and scrapping for space at junctions (awful).

It should be pointed out that none of the problems we encounter in the proposals is especially difficult for a skilled town planner to overcome. This is not rocket science. TfL have produced a guide for providing cycle infrastructure (hopefully now beyond draft status) that gives decent guidance which has evidently been ignored here.

It is worth looking at these schemes with some principles in mind. I plan to look at each scheme, then publish sample responses. Two of the schemes are examined below; I hope to have the remaining two up later this week. (update: added link)

 

Shared Space (cyclist and pedestrians)

TfL’s guide states:

Cyclists and pedestrians should not be forced together where there is space to keep them apart, creating unnecessary conflict which can only increase as the number of cyclists rises.

This conflict is built into several of the designs. One of the schemes has several junctions and shares space at each of these. At best this will be slow for cyclists, at worst it will introduce conflict, setting cyclists against pedestrians. It is also confusing: it makes cycling on the pavement illegal on most pavements except where the council have stuck a bollard in the ground with a bicycle sign. Having had pedestrians inform me to “get off the bloody pavement” in one such scheme in Kingston, I have reason to not welcome more of the same.

In particular, Shared Space makes things harder for the blind and partially sighted. They can’t see cyclists and can’t hear them either. While collisions may be rare, these don’t feel subjectively safe. This is important. People with vision problems shouldn’t be afraid of being knocked over by a cyclist when walking: for a council to propose solutions with this built in conflict is appalling.

Properly done bike infrastructure benefits pedestrians: simpler junctions, more distance from motor traffic and ultimately lower pollution as more people choose to leave the car behind.

 

Mixing with Traffic

Bicycles and cars are very different in size, power and potential for lethal injury. This is fairly obvious but needs to be stated because some planners do not seem aware of it. Subjectively, while I’m confident riding my road bike at 20mph on roads around Kingston, I much prefer riding away from traffic when taking my son swimming on the back of a utility bike. As he gets too large for the child seat I’d love to let him use his bike; however, while he can ride competently there simply isn’t sufficient safety offered by Kingston’s intermittent bike routes.

This is why mixing bikes with traffic doesn’t work: separate routes are not catering for those who ride anyway; they are for the greater number who wish to ride but won’t. Incidentally, despite confidence in traffic I’m still very happy to use the just-opened separated route along Portsmouth Road. Not having to worry about the single idiot out to punish you for being on a bike is rather enjoyable.

Considering the Needs of all Road Users

This has emerged as a requirement when the first mini-Holland scheme was announced. Apparently changes from the TfL-funded for bikes scheme should not be to the detriment of car users (quotes from Cllrs Hudson and Cunningham). This is a nonsense argument: decades of change have favoured motor traffic to the serious detriment of both cyclists and pedestrians. Mini-Holland / Go Cycle should be about redressing the balance, righting the wrongs of decades of favouring motorised transport above all else.

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Two stage crossing for pedestrians and cyclists, single stage for motors. A balance that needs redressing.

 

The Schemes

With these thoughts, onto the schemes.

Fountains Roundabout, New Malden.

Sample Response here.

Link to consultation: http://consult.kingston.gov.uk/portal/planning/go/consultations_summer_2016/go_cycle_-_fountain_roundabout_new_malden

 

Let’s start with these. Here are the images sold to TfL (both swiped from Kingston’s original mini-Holland proposal)

Screenshot (404)
Dutch roundabout behind smiling cyclist pulling a wheelie
Screenshot (405)
Not a crossroads

And here’s the proposal.

Screenshot (406).png
Spot the cycle infrastructure

 

Yes, that’s correct. The roundabout, with it’s separated cycle lanes, is gone. In its place we are offered an increased number of motor traffic lanes to the current situation. Both cyclists and pedestrians suffer, being shoved together in a shared space bodge.

This would be a bad scheme anytime; doing this with funding intended to improve conditions for cycling is brazen cheek. The stated objectives claim to wish to improve walking and cycling: the shared space section above should show that this is not the way to achieve this.

Frankly, it feels that cycle safety funding is being used to provide traffic management and improve the area around this rather run-down area. Not the ideal use of this funding.
To detail the objections:

  1. The route for the cycle path cuts across the exit from the bus stop. Anyone who’s observed how bus drivers move will know that they’ll happily pull out and block the entrance to the cycle path
  2. The cycle path is shared space. This doesn’t work for either pedestrians or cyclists.
  3. The crossings are all shared between pedestrians and cyclists. Observation of the shared space outside Kingston Station will show that this is dangerous: pedestrians and cyclists get in each other’s way as they try to scramble across the road
  4. A right turn for cyclists requires two crossings of a junction. There appears to be no option for all cyclists or pedestrians to be able to turn right in one go, as will be the case for motorists. This does not appear to be balance for all users.
  5. What happens to cyclists who wish to travel south along Malden Road? Does the current crappy paint job continue or will something adequate be put in place?

 

To summarise, this is piss-poor. It lowers subjective safety for the less-able pedestrian; creates conflict points between cyclists and pedestrians; and increases motor traffic lanes using cycling funding. Appalling.

 

Wheatfield Way

Sample Response here.

Link to consultation: http://consult.kingston.gov.uk/portal/planning/go/consultations_summer_2016/go_cycle_-_wheatfield_way_area

Now this should be good. Putting in a cycle route through Kingston’s urban motorway is a no brainer and there’s plenty of space. This route is five lanes wide in points and the centre divider serves to increase speed as motor traffic races and jostles to get to the Bentalls car park first. As a pedestrian it’s horrible to be near (particularly past Tiffin Boys’ Grammar School), as a cycle you hope to be quick. Or ride on the pavement.

Screenshot (407).png

So what have we got? Well, the proposal doesn’t touch the route past the Grammar School for a start. The obvious safe(ish) route from the Fairfield bike route to Richmond Park would be past Tiffin Boys and along Canbury Park Road. But you’ll still have to use the pavement for that.

Instead, this focuses on the lower section of the urban motorway, from College Roundabout to the station.

The consultation starts with a picture that doesn’t look much different to today’s situation. A cyclist in the road down Eden Street, so my son still won’t be cycling to swimming lessons. But there is a bright part: the Borough has already consulted on what we want. The top three concerns listed are:

  • separating bicycles from general traffic
  • improving the quality of public spaces
  • reducing congestion, motor vehicle noise and speed

So why the picture of a cyclist in the road?

 

Anyway, onto more positive things. The main proposal has a two-way segregated cycle route. Woohoo! The plans are unclear whether the current dividers between traffic directions will be removed. It is to be hoped that they are; if the motons wish to drive their designer crumple zones at each other, fine. But I bet speeds would lower if only magic paint was separating them from oncoming traffic.

 

However… the shared space around every crossing is crap. For all the reasons stated earlier, this is simply unacceptable. For a start, why would any faster cyclist use the separated path if they had to slow every junction while motor traffic had a green light? There are four incidences of this shared space bodge along the route. That’s four areas of conflict and four reasons for faster riders to ignore safer facilities.

Screenshot (408).png
Broken cycle lane: why not just use the road?

The 20mph zone is commendable, but how will these be enforced? Villiers Road is currently a wide 20mph road observed very much in the breach. I suspect that the centre divider and wide road (two lanes each way) will also not appear to be a sensible 20mph road to most drivers, who will ignore the limit. If this zone is intended to be observed, the street layout must be changed so it feels like 20mph is appropriate.

Screenshot (409).png
“20mph” on Villiers Road. Rarely observed.

So to summarise:

  1. The separated cycle route is to be welcomed, however…
  2. The junction detail needs work. Cycle traffic should not be treated like second class citizens at every junction; this will not encourage cycle takeup, nor use of the facilities.
  3. Pedestrian areas should be kept separate from cycle traffic. These crossings are busy, particularly near Old London Road where the pedestrian phase of the lights barely copes with foot traffic
  4. The plantings used as lane dividers need to be removed. If this is to appear as a 20mph zone, there should be nothing more than paint between the motor lanes.
  5. Pedestrian crossings should cross all four lanes in one go with adequate time to make the journey. The current system of forcing a wait on pedestrians for each direction (no matter how long since the previous use) clearly favours motorists rather than pedestrians.
  6. A zebra crossing should prove adequate for pedestrians crossing the cycle route. This can be reviewed over time.
  7. In particular, the moved pedestrian crossing outside the library removes the ability to cross Fairfield Road knowing that no traffic is coming off the one-way system. The lights are present before the junction; this moves them to after the junction. Not good for pedestrians or drivers wanting to leave Fairfield Road safely.
  8. The new pedestrian crossing at Old London Road is to be welcomed. However, the lack of separate space for cyclists is shoddy.
  9. One benefit of this scheme is that there is now a link from Old London Road to the station; this removes the need to use Eden Street (fighting buses), Castle St and Fife Road. So maybe I’ll forgive the lack of cycle route down Eden Street.
  10. Loading bays and taxi bays must be clearly distinct from the pavement on Clarence Street. Parking on pavements is not to be encouraged; this must be clearly marked and strictly enforced.
  11. Is the “unsignalised crossing” at the top of Clarence Street a zebra crossing, or an ambiguous mess?

 

Initial Thoughts

This covers two of the four schemes. One is appalling, the other has promise but serious flaws. Both of these schemes need a lot more work before being acceptable.

After the farce of the Portsmouth Road scheme, one might have thought the council would have taken this seriously. This is clearly not the case: to Kingston council cycling is still a joke and they treat it like one.