Poor infrastructure leads to accidents

It’s simple: poor infrastructure leads to accidents. The pathway along Ploggers, between Love Lane Corner and Humberstone Rd in Grimsby is simply not wide enough. It’s supposedly a shared path between cyclists and pedestrians, but when it’s full of parents walking their children to school in the morning, there’s nothing else a cyclist can do but to ride on the grass.

Of course, council vehicles also drive along here to empty the waste bins and they leave ruts in the soft ground. As the weather warms, the grass grows and the ground hardens and these ruts become concealed and become a serious hazard to cyclists, as proved the case this morning:

The bike where it was brought down causing the fall onto the pathway along the Ploggers near Old Clee School and King Georges sports stadium.

The bike where it was brought down causing the fall onto the pathway along the Ploggers near Old Clee School and the King George sports facility.

In passing a group of people walking along this path this morning, my wife had to ride on the grass, but her wheel got caught in one of these ruts and this brought her crashing down, hitting the concrete pathway. She could easily have broken her arm in the fall. As it was, she suffered painful cuts and bruises.

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There's ample room for the necessary improvements to be made here.

There’s ample room for the necessary improvements to be made here.

I’ve written before about this pathway. There is ample space to put a separate cycle lane alongside the path, so that cyclists can actually have their own space. Having just been to the Netherlands and seen how much cyclists are cared for there, it’s disgusting to see how little provision there is made here. There’s simply no excuse for not giving space for cycling. It’s time the local authorities woke up to their appallingly neglectful attitude in this regard!

This is an example of what is needed along the Ploggers - it's not rocket science! (This stretch of pathway links Beverley Crescent with Weelsby Rd.)

This is an example of what is needed along the Ploggers – it’s not rocket science! (This stretch of pathway links Beverley Crescent with Weelsby Rd.)

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Bargate

Cycling along Bargate, an arterial route into and out of Grimsby centre, is truly to take your life in your hands. There is simply not enough room to squeeze four lanes (and at one stage five lanes) of traffic into this road. The route heading out of town becomes two very tight lanes of traffic between Welholme Rd and Nuns Corner. In the other direction, there is a bus lane for a short distance.

Reclaim the inside lane for space for cycling. At present there is nowhere for cyclists to go. Is this really acceptable?

Reclaim the inside lane for space for cycling. At present there is nowhere for cyclists to go. Is this really acceptable?

This is the same road linking the University Centre of Grimsby College with the town centre, and is frequently filled with students. Yet amazingly there is almost no provision for people wanting to use a bike along this road.

Instead of cramming Bargate with four lanes of traffic, why not make it three lanes and a space for cycling? Reduce the outbound direction to one lane for traffic and convert the other lane into a separated cycle lane, from just before Welhome Road (where it becomes two lanes) through to Nuns Corner. This would create a safe space for people to cycle towards the college.

Begin the separated cycle lane here, just before Welhome Road junction (outbound from town centre)

Begin the separated cycle lane here, just before Welholme Road junction (outbound from town centre)

By also providing a cycle path from Chantry Lane through St James Square to Wellowgate and on to Brighowgate, this would then create a usable through-route for people commuting to & from the industrial areas of Pyewipe and the Humber Bank factories through the town centre and on to the residential areas beyond Bargate.

The sign says "In the interests of safety, cyclists please dismount." What is so unsafe in having a cycle lane on one side of this underpass and through St James Square?

The sign says “In the interests of safety, cyclists please dismount.” What is so unsafe in having a cycle lane on one side of this underpass and through St James Square beyond it?

Riding into town from the college cyclists have the Bus & Bike lane as far as the junction with Westward Ho. What happens when a bus wants to pass a cyclist or group of cyclists? At least it’s meant to be a car-free space. From Westward Ho junction onwards there is no Bus & Bike lane, so create a separated cycle lane by taking space from the two lanes of traffic up to Welholme Road junction, and extend it from there on up to the junction with Dudley St.

At present there is no provision along this stretch for cyclists. The road space does squeeze up as it passes Westlands Ave and onwards, but that is no reason not to provide a space for cycling. The present arrangement of squeezed lanes on Bargate between Welholme Rod and Nuns Corner sets the precedent for ‘thin’ lanes, so there’s no excuse for not having a ‘thin’ lane in each direction between the Westlands Ave junction and the junction with Dudley St/Cartergate/Deansgate/Grosvenor St, so that space for cycling can be accommodated. This stretch of thin-laned road could also incorporate a 20mph maximum speed limit to increase safety.

These changes would make cycling along Bargate safer and would therefore encourage people to use their bikes more to come into town and to commute through it. The changes would not cost a vast amount and could be implemented quickly. They would also show the council are serious about prioritising cycling in North east Lincolnshire.

 

Transport Planners please watch this

A picture is worth a thousand words, and this short video absolutely shows why we need better cycling provision. I really hope the transport planners do indeed watch this. If the Government and our local councils are really interested in getting more people cycling (and the levels of obesity and poor general public health, costs of fuel and polution, levels of traffic gridlock etc etc, clearly demonstrate we certainly need more people cycling), then we quite clearly won’t achieve this with roads that are unsafe for cyclists. And most roads in NE Lincs are unsafe for cyclists!

Lessons from London

There have been a number of high profile deaths of people killed by trucks whilst cycling  in London recently. At the recent inquest into the deaths of Brian Dorling, 55, who died in a collision with a lorry on the notorious Bow roundabout, and French student Philippine De Gerin-Ricard, 20, who was hit from behind by a lorry on CS2 at Aldgate Gyratory, Transport for London were heavily criticised for ignoring multiple warnings.

Philippine De Gerin-Ricard and Brian Dorling, who both died whilst cycling on London's streets. (Photo from iBikeLondon)

Philippine De Gerin-Ricard and Brian Dorling, who both died whilst cycling on London’s streets. (Photo from iBikeLondon)

At the inquest, Transport for London were exposed for having ignored warnings from the Police and various cycling campaigns. Not only that, it was shown they had instructed their own consultants to ignore cyclists at one particular junction, and that they had ignored their consultants report that stated Bow Roundabout was so dangerous that traffic signals and separated cycle lanes should be installed. (Read a full report from iBikeLondon here)

Even yesterday, there was another “accident” in Camden, where a woman was knocked off her bike by a truck. Thankfully she wasn’t killed, but that’s not the point. She could have been. I say “accident” but in reality these aren’t accidents at all. They are the natural consequence of bad design, and as such they are completely predictable.

Locally, last night there was a serious accident at the junction of Peaks Parkway and Hainton Ave at evening rush hour. I don’t have any more details at this point, but on our own roads we have plenty of examples of bad design leading to hazard for people walking or cycling.

The more one looks into this whole subject you begin to realise just how much death, injury and carnage is caused by road accidents in this country, but also that much of it could be avoided by better design.

Some say the problem is cyclists riding dangerously, getting in the way. I’ve no doubt some do. You do see people cycling without lights in the dark. You do see people (usually youths) riding dangerously across roads without any regard for anyone else. I accept that. People should certainly ride safely and appropriately.

But I also see so many more examples of people driving dangerously, of drivers ignoring the safety of people walking or riding bikes by driving far too fast. Only last week, a stupid driver almost hit us by racing around in a residential area.

A typically dangerous situation, familiar to many cyclists. (Photo from London Cyclist, originally BBC)

A typically dangerous situation, familiar to many cyclists. (Photo from London Cyclist, originally BBC)

What can be done to improve matters? There are many things that can be done, some for minimal cost, that will greatly improve matters. These will be looked at in a future post. The question is: do our planners really want to improve things, or are they happy with the status quo? Are they prepared to change things in order to improve things? Will they be like Transport for London, who compromised their designs knowing that would result in death and injury, or will they be like local authorities across the Netherlands, who actively value the quality of life of their residents by prioritising cycling in their planning?

Prioritising cycling: roundabouts

As the penny slowly drops and the various benefits of cycling begin to be recognised at national government and local authority level, there are simple ways in which cycling can begin to be prioritised in NE Lincs. It’s not rocket science and by progressively improving the cycling infrastructure the message that cycling is being taken seriously will come across and more people will feel it’s safe to cycle.
The crossing at Hewitts Circus on Taylors Ave.

The crossing at Hewitts Circus on Taylors Ave.

Look at roundabouts. This is a photo of Hewitt’s Circus near Tesco’s, on the Humberston Pedalway. The pedalway (actually a shared walkway and cycleway) meets the roundabout with a pair of painted broken lines. What do these mean? Who has right of way? It’s not clear. The usual practise is they are ignored by motorists, and cyclists and pedestrians have to wait for a gap and take their chance to cross. The car has priority and everyone else has to wait.

These are dangerous places for cyclists and pedestrians, as the tragic death of Lynne Dring, who was killed at this very roundabout whilst trying to cross in January this year, so sadly demonstrates. These crossings are examples of bad design and it’s past time they were changed!
Bad design creates unnecessary danger.

Bad design creates unnecessary danger.

My suggestion therefore is this:
  • Make these clearly inadequate painted lines a raised crossing, at the same height as the pedalway that leads to and away from them. This would effectively make it a ‘sleeping policeman’,  a speed hump, forcing the approaching motor traffic to slow down;
  • Give priority to cyclists and pedestrians by making the approaching motor traffic give way on these crossings;
  • Make the speed limit on larger roundabouts 20mph, and on smaller roundabouts such as Hewitts Circus a maximum 15mph.

These simple measures will help to save lives, reduce casulaties and make cycling on the pedalway safer, smoother and quicker. It will also send the message that people walking and cycling (ie. those who are vunerable to being injured or killed when hit by a vehicle) take priority over cars and trucks.

I’ve used Hewitts Circus as the example, but this can be applied to all roundabouts where there is a cycle lane. Toll Bar roundabout between Waltham and New Waltham is another prime example. Have you tried getting across there on your bike? It’s extremely busy and dangerous. Replace the painted broken lines with raised crossings prioritised for cyclists and pedestrians, and slow the traffic. Please. It won’t cost much but it will speak volumes and make a huge difference!

No doubt some will object: “You can’t do that, it will slow the traffic and have cars backing up around the roundabout!” Well, what is so bad about that? Drivers driving more slowly at busy junctions? Sounds like a safer situation to me! I’m sure the delay would be minimal, and as these changes become more widespread and familiar, they would simply be accepted, accommodated, and I believe, appreciated for the benefits they bring!

Update: To see how the world leaders in cycling infrastructure do roundabouts, click here!

Crossing the A180 (or trying to!)

Part of the route for commuting between Grimsby and Immingham brings you to the A180 at the roundabout with Moody Lane and Pyewipe/Boulevard Ave.

The pathway from Adam Smith St leading to the roundabout.

The pathway from Adam Smith St leading to the roundabout.

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IMG_00000271The pathway on Moody Lane is signed as a shared pedestrian/cycle path, but actually getting across the A180 is extremely dangerous! There’s no priority for cyclists or pedestrians, and you usually have to rely on the goodwill of drivers to get across.

It's even harder getting across the  carriageway coming off the roundabout!

It’s even harder getting across the carriageway coming off the roundabout!

This route is important for access onto Moody Lane and the sea wall. By making a number of alerations, crossing the A180 could be made much safer. Instead of putting a crossing point at the roundabout, move it away from the roundabout approximately level with where the pathway exits from Adam Smith St further along the road.

The pathway leading from Adam Smith St.

The pathway leading from Adam Smith St.

Put the crossing here, with stopping lights in order to enable crossing the A180.

Put the crossing here, with stopping lights in order to enable crossing the A180.

Taking the example of Hull’s through-road, this stretch of the A180 should have a speed limit of 40mph. This would make a stopping point (Pelican/Toucan) on this stretch perfectly practical for motorists, as they would already be travelling at a reduced maximum speed, unlike the 60mph which is currently allowed.

On the other side the crossing would connect with a new  cycle path coming from the Grimsby docks area (as suggested in another post here), which would lead to Moody Lane.

This solution would enable commuters to safely cross this dual-carriageway. The present arrangement is hazardous and unsafe.

 

Pinch-Points

Bill Clinton’s comment, “It’s the economy, stupid”, became famous for pointing out the obvious during one of his election campaigns back in the 80’s. As far as our roads are concerned here in NE Lincs, we can definitely say “It’s the design, stupid!”

So many of the issues we as cyclists have directly result from conflict being designed-in to our roads. Hazards are built in to our roads by design. What do I mean by this? There are many “pinch-points” around our area, places where the road narrows so much that there is not enough room for both a bike and a car.

An example of this is on the approach to Corporation Rd bridge in Grimsby heading away from the junction with Victoria St, as the following pictures demonstrate. This is a stretch of road used by many cyclists. It becomes seriously dangerous for cyclists unless the flow of traffic hangs back to allow space for the cyclists to proceed. In my experience this doesn’t happen very often and consequently a dangerous situation arises.

IMG_00000229IMG_00000232Whose fault is it? The cyclists?  They’re just cycling along the road. The motorists? They’re just driving along, probably not aware of the danger the cyclist is experiencing. The real fault lies with the design. Conflict has been designed-in, resulting in real hazard for the road users, both bike and car, but especially the cyclist, who could easily be knocked off his/her bike and suffer injury. Who wants that? Nobody of course. So why is it OK to design-in such danger?

Another example of this same problem is on Weelsby Rd by the junction with Hainton Ave. The central island pinches the space available and creates a hazard.
The "pinch-point" on Weelsby Rd by the Hainton pub.

The pinch-point on Weelsby Rd by the Hainton pub.

This picture also shows there’s space for pedestrians and for cars, but at this particular point there’s nowhere for cyclists! How can this be OK?

Problem: Sections of road designed with “pinch-points”,  where the space for cyclists suddenly disappears creating hazard and danger.

Solution: The solution is simple – design-in adequate space for a separate cycle lane, so that cyclists don’t have to take their lives in their hands at these places.

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