Segregated Cycling in Kingston

Given the watered down draft for Portsmouth Road in the mini-Holland programme, you might be forgiven for thinking that Kingston Council didn’t know what a segregated cycle lane is. Yet Kingston already has some segregated cycling infrastructure. These are by no means great, as they are typically short and often feature pedestrians walking down them. But they do get you out of the way of traffic for at least five seconds. So, let’s take a look at what exists right now.

Highlighted cycle routes
Highlighted cycle routes

Firstly, in blue, there’s the Richmond Road bypass toward  the station. Running parallel to the road leading into Kingston town centre, this allows cyclists to safely pass queuing traffic. The lanes themselves are fine, but crossings are problematic with the usual mix of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure that dumps riders out by the station in a shared space convenient for the police to ticket confused cyclists.

Richmond Road cycle contraflow
Richmond Road cycle contraflow
Kingston Station plaza
There’s a cycle route here somewhere

Interestingly, Kingston’s cycling document used a picture of the segregated lane as an area where pedestrians filled the cycle path. The solution was clearly to remove the cycle path and have nobody happy.

Crossing Kingston’s urban motorway leads to Fife Road, in orange on the map above. This road is mostly one way for car traffic, but suffers from having street parking next to the town centre and therefore a fair number of traffic movements.
The segregation here forms a narrow lane, coming on and off the pavement. Amusingly, this was rebuilt some time ago, having to hastily add ramps so cyclists could move up and down the kerbs from road to pavement level.

A half-done job
A half-done job

This is segregation done on a completely half-hearted manner. The segregation moves into a painted lane that comes between oncoming drivers and parking spaces, nicely placing cyclists in the door zone. Of course, when a driver absolutely must move across the cycle path into a parking space, it is the cyclist who is expected to brake.

Door zone cycle path
Door zone cycle path

And then, at the end of the road, the cycle path simply disappears. A tiny sign on a bollard indicates a shared path, but this is far from clear.

The final route runs past Kingston’s famous red phone boxes, which have a short cycle path running behind it. This drops into a car clogged cul de sac, with frequent conflict with lorries arriving for the various furniture stores and Wilcos.

At the other end of the road is a traffic island, with separate pedestrian and bike areas. It’s clear which traffic mode is preferred, as the double crossing makes it very rare for cyclists and walkers not to face at least one stop, unlike road traffic which stops once at most.

One set of lights for motor traffic, two for bikes and pedestrians
One set of lights for motor traffic, two for bikes and pedestrians

The short area of cycle path is particularly crap when heading into town. Cycles must give way to road traffic, which requires cyclists to turn their head right round to check for traffic behind them.
This sounds reasonable to a car driving road engineer, but it’s crap when attempted with a child on the back of your bike. Essentially, it’s a stop sign. Given that this road is a through road for bikes and a dead end for motorised traffic, this is extremely poor road design.

Poor design
Poor design: The road ends 10 metres to the left of this picture

Continuing past the school is more segregation into a quiet road, which makes up a largely unmarked cycle route. However, the segregation has been granted at the expense of pedestrians, making a mess of the pavement. Consequently, pedestrians frequently walk in the cycle path, rendering it pointless.

These isolated paths have potential. But they’re not well used right now because at best they only provide safety and convenience for part of a journey. At worst they are pointless and dangerous. Subjectively, it feels that the planner had a good idea, but never actually thought to test their design.

Clearly there was once a plan for cycling in Kingston. The goal now must be to finish the job, in a high quality manner that actively encourages cycling by people of all ages and speeds. The armadillo and magic paint proposal for Portsmouth Road will not move towards this goal and must be re-thought.

All images (c) Google Maps

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Author: Stuff Rich Writes

Cyclist and Product Manager. I blog about both.

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