More on the Bike Tube proposal

It’s important to bear in mind this proposal is designed for enabling the majority of people in NE Lincs to use a bike instead of a car for everyday local transport, as well as commuting to the main industrial areas along the Humber bank.

This means literally thousands of people cycling every day! The proposal isn’t to accommodate present levels of cycling. As discussed in the earlier Vision posts, people don’t cycle at present because it’s perceived as being unsafe, uncomfortable and inconvenient. By making it safe, comfortable and convenient, as well as low-cost, healthy and enjoyable, I believe literally thousands of people would cycle instead of drive. The aim of this proposal is to get the majority of people making the majority of their local journeys by bike instead of car.

The Tube could enter into Freshney Place parking area directly. Image from velo-city.ca

The Tube could enter into Freshney Place parking area directly. Image from velo-city.ca

In the proposal, the centre of Grimsby the section has five junctions: Welholme, Grimsby train station, Cromwell Road, Ellis Way and Freshney Place. The junction at Freshney Place is unique in that it runs into the building itself at the first (or second) floor level. There would be no need for entry/exit ramps. That entire floor would be given over to cycle parking instead of car parking. The number of bikes that could be parked there would be in the region of 25 times the number of cars that presently park on that floor (ten bikes fit in one car space, which would be double stacked, plus extra space for bikes due to less space taken by access space).

The whole idea of the Bike Tube is to make it safe, comfortable and convenient for people who currently wouldn’t consider cycling to use bikes for their everyday transport. That’s the majority of people living in NE Lincs! The prospect of being able to cycle straight into the shopping centre directly from the Bike Tube increases the convenience and practicality of the scheme to such people. This would also provide secure bike parking for other users, not just shoppers, those coming into town to work, for instance. The present parking facility at the Cycle Hub would be wholly insufficient hence the parking in Freshney Place, but the Cycle Hub at the train station could be expanded to provide increased facilities to the town centre south area.

Likewise there would be junctions at each of the main superstores, with the exception of Sainsbury’s (unless the Tube could be routed across Corporation Rd Bridge with a junction at Sainsbury’s then on to Freshney Place, instead of directly from Asda to Freshney Place).

Another aspect of the Tube concerns the dock areas in Grimsby and Immingham. Because the Tube is enclosed and secure, there is no security issue for the dock operators as people can only enter or exit at the junctions, as on a normal motorway. Hence, the Tube could be routed through dock areas (with all the necessary permissions and agreements, of course) with no security issues. The route which crosses the lock at Lock Hill in Grimsby would need to be sufficiently high as to ensure the passage of all vessels through the lock. At Immingham Dock, if the Tube is routed through the dock and featured a junction there (I believe there should be access there as it is an area of major employment), there could be a new security gate at this junction to deal entirely with cyclists arriving/leaving the dock.

Nomenclature and Junctions

A map of the proposed Bike Tube network in Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

A map of the proposed Bike Tube network in Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

If we were to number the Tube sections following the motorway numbering convention, then we could number the Grimsby/Cleethorpes area as follows:

T1: Meridian Point to Europarc (and on to Humber Sea Terminal (HST), at Killingholme)

T2: Europarc to Waltham

T3: Waltham to Meridian Point

T4: New Waltham to Riby Square

T5: Ellis Way to Grimsby Auditorium

T6: Pyewipe to Wybers Wood

T7: Blundell Park to Scartho

T8: Laceby Acres to Laceby

List of proposed junctions by Tube section, as indicated on the map:

T1: Meridian Point, Cleethorpes Leisure Centre, Seaview St, Cleethorpes Train Station, Blundell Park, New Clee, Riby Square, Moody Lane, Pyewipe, Woad Lane, Europarc.

T2: Europarc, Great Coates, Aylesby park, Wybers Wood, Laceby Acres (Morrisons), Bradley, Scartho Top, Springfield, Waltham.

T3: Waltham, Toll Bar, New Waltham, Humberston (Tesco), Country Park, Meridian Point.

T4: New Waltham, Peaks Parkway (YMCA), Welholme, Ellis Way (Asda), Riby Square.

T5: Ellis Way (Asda), Freshney Place (north) / Grimsby Train Station (south), Cromwell Rd, Market Hotel Roundabout, Auditorium.

T6: Pyewipe, Gilbey Rd, Auditorium, Little Coates, Wybers Wood.

T7: Blundell Park, Queen mary Ave, Runswick Rd (Ploggers), Weelsby Rd (behind Beverley Cres, not at St Andrews Hospice as shown on the map), Peaks Parkway (YMCA), Scartho.

T8: Laceby Acres (Morrisons), Laceby.

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Vision: a revolution in urban transport

I concluded the last post in this series by saying:

As things stand, massive amounts of money have been allocated to the budget for implementing the vision for our roads over the years. But what if, having seen the huge benefits cycling brings, a large part of the transport budget was devoted to implementing the new vision of healthy, sustainable urban transport? What if, instead of integrating the car into all the planning decisions, it was the bicycle that featured in the centre of the planning decisions? And by doing so, as well as the existing cycling benefits of health, wealth and environmental goodness, we could add safety, comfort and convenience?

The Dutch have demonstrated how to integrate cycling into existing road infrastructure, and by consistently designing this into their road plans, they have created a very desirable network of relatively safe cycleways. I say relatively, because, although he Netherlands is without doubt the safest country in the world to be a cyclist, I was surprised to read the following statistics on cycling accidents and deaths in the Netherlands:

In 2009, there were 185 cyclists killed on Dutch roads. In 2010, that number was 162 killed and in 2011 there were 200 cyclists killed.

These figures surprised me, I expected them to be lower, given the excellent cycling infrastructure in The Netherlands. This reminded me of a BBC documentary I saw in the mid 1990’s about the Russian Federation following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was a time of economic crisis and difficult transition. The question was though, a transition to what exactly? One young profession Russian was interviewed on the streets of Moscow and his comments struck me. He said that Russia had left the Communist days behind, and many in the country were looking to become like the West. But he said, if Russia aimed at where the West was then, by the time Russia had arrived at that point, the West would have moved on and Russia would still be behind. Rather than imitate the West as it was then, he suggested why not look to the direction the West was heading in and aim there instead.

This was an insightful comment and we can apply it to our cycling vision for the future. What the Netherlands has today has taken decades of consistent planning and funding, and we are not going to be able to replicate it here in the UK overnight. So, instead of copying where the Netherlands is now, why not look beyond that and plan for the future, something better than exists today?

What the Netherlands has done is demonstrate how to incorporate cycling into everyday life, sharing the road space with other traffic by building separated cycleways. However, I believe this is only part of the “ideal”. Cycling on these cycleways is still unpleasant when the rain is pouring down and the wind howling in your face. And the statistics show people are still being killed whilst cycling in the Netherlands.  So, as good as it is there, and it is the best in the world at present, it’s still far from perfect.

I believe there is a way to build both on the Dutch shoulders, so to speak, and to incorporate the thinking of architects like Chris Hardwicke and Steven Fleming, to create something that is truly a step into the future, a giant stride forward instead of nibbling around the edges of minor infrastructural improvements.

Taking all these thoughts and factors into account, what then is the way forward? By taking the ideas of Chris Hardwicke in Toronto and developing them further, I propose a completely new and radical approach that incorporates all the existing cycling benefits of health, wealth and environmental goodness, and combines them with safety, comfort and convenience. A network of urban “motorways” for cycling! This vision is for a low-tech urban mass transit system, far more cost-effective, efficient and environmentally friendly than the alternative of ever increasing levels of motor vehicle use. It is a system of enclosed, one-directional back-draughted tubes, elevated above existing roads and rail lines, forming a perfect environment for urban cycling, fully protected from the weather. We could call it the Bike Tube!

Velo-City proposal in Toronto. In NE Lincs, this would be 3m wide enclosed, uni-directional tubes, with a constant back wind enabling comfortable and safe urban cycling .

Velo-City proposal in Toronto. In NE Lincs, this would be pairs of enclosed, uni-directional tubes, with a constant back wind enabling comfortable and safe urban cycling. Image from velo-city.ca

_________

 Imagine the scene: It’s a cold, wet and windy Monday morning, and you’re about to leave for work. You put on your coat, hat and gloves, and cycle the short distance from your home (for example, on Middlethorpe Road), along the separated cycleway to the nearest junction of the Bike Tube at Humberston, near Tesco’s. Your keyless-entry fob in your pocket opens the automated gate and you proceed up the entry ramp, assisted by the moving elevator up to the Tube itself. As you enter, you’re suddenly in a different world.

Riding along in a 3-4m wide transparent tube, you’re protected from the wintry conditions outside. Instead of riding into a head wind, you’re now riding along comfortably at 15-20 mph because of the continuous back wind flowing throughout the length of the Tube. It’s not at all cold in the Tube, just a pleasant ambient temperature, perfect for cycling. There are no motorised vehicles here, no traffic lights and no pedestrians, just cyclists, hundreds of them, all moving comfortably, safely and quickly around the network to their destinations. Each of the various junctions you pass, with their ramps down to the streets below, are signed and laned off, and other cyclists move into those lanes to  leave the Tube at those junctions, just like on a motorway for cars.

Many exit in the centre of town at the train station, others have branched off to head for the major indoor junction on the first floor at Freshney Place, but you carry on. You’ve still got another 15 minutes until you reach your junction at Immingham Docks, but it’s no problem. Far from it – you’re comfortable and enjoying the view as you ease along the elevated Tube, the rain pounding against the Tube while you serenely cycle above the train line out of town before cutting through the industrial areas and on up to your exit junction, just half a mile from your place of work.

_________

OK, it’s just a scenario, but it’s trying to paint a picture of what it could be like. The Bike Tube is a network of elevated tubes, one in each direction, with a flow of air throughout the length of the Tube in the direction of travel. This provides a perfect environment for cycling even long distances. Each terminus of each tube would have a fan generating the back-draft, and this could be supplemented by smaller thruster fans along the route. The ceiling of each tube could incorporate solar panels to generate all the power required during daylight hours, with renewable energy used during the hours of darkness. During darkness, sensors detect the presence of cyclists and ensure each forward segment is lit for their passage through that section, thus saving power.

The Bike Tube has a small ground footprint (the support column) and features two "carriageways" of tubes, one in each direction, just as in a motorway for cars. The NE Lincs Bike Tube would incorporate solar panels along the ceiling of each tube, and could be screened when passing through sensitive areas by tall trees such as Poplars.

The Bike Tube has a small ground footprint (the support column) and features two “carriageways” of tubes, one in each direction, just as in a motorway for cars. The NE Lincs Bike Tube would incorporate solar panels along the ceiling of each tube, and could be screened when passing through sensitive areas by tall trees such as Poplars. Image from Velo-City.ca

Such a network of Bike Tubes would elevate cycling, with all its inherent benefits, to the level of use that we see cars have today – a stunning urban transport revolution. At the junctions of the Tube, there would be a connected network of Dutch-style (ie, separated from the road) cycleways, including an exit/entrance cycle roundabout (as with motorways today), so that the Tube is integrated within the overall network, much as motorways are connected to urban roads. It’s exactly the same principle, only this time for bikes!

The main routes for the Tube in NE Lincs would initially be built over existing rail lines and along Peakes Parkway (previously a rail line), with additional routes added to complete the network. Main termini would be at Waltham and Meridian Point in Cleethorpes in the south, with a spur from Peakes Parkway to Scartho and a longer spur from Laceby Acres (Morrison’s) to Laceby. Nowhere within the Grimsby/Cleethorpes area would be more than a mile from a Bike Tube junction.

A map of the proposed Bike Tube network in Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

A map of the proposed Bike Tube network in Grimsby and Cleethorpes. (click to enlarge)

The Bike Tube would continue along the Humber bank from Europarc, serving the main industrial areas there, spurring off to connect Stallingborough, then continuing onwards to Immingham Dock, Immingham town and on to the oil refineries and northwards to HST and, very importantly, the huge forthcoming Able UK development. It will be massively important to be able to accommodate the large numbers of people commuting to this area in an environmentally friendly way. The Bike Tube would realistically enable mass commuting to these areas from Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Immingham by bicycle.

The running costs could be covered, at least in part, by an annual charge, for instance, of £30 for access to the Tube network. Initial development and funding would of course be major issues, but given the huge potential ongoing benefits such an innovative solution would provide (improved health for all cycling instead of driving, reductions in road maintenance costs due to reduced volumes of motor traffic, increased tourist interest in the area, etc) such costs (which could partly be borne by central Government and private industry) would surely be more than justified in the long term. The Bike Tube footprint on the ground would be minimal (just the support columns and entry/exit ramps), and where it passes by housing (kept to an absolute minimum) or other sensitive areas, such as close to the cemetery, it could be screened by planting tall trees such as Poplars.

Of course, this would be a radical development and no doubt would be controversial. I believe its significance is on a par with the development of the railway back in the 1800’s. However, as I described in earlier parts of this series, we need a radical rethinking of urban transportation. This solution is a sustainable, clean, green, quiet, low cost, health-inducing form of mass urban transit.

The Bike Tube network would be a landmark structure, a tourist attraction for the area. It also would be an innovative solution to the various aspects of urban transport – environmental, noise pollution, petrol/diesel fume pollution, and congestion on the roads. By making it practical and convenient for people to leave the car at home and go by bike, the roads themselves would be quieter with fewer cars, and subsequently fewer traffic accidents. It represents a solution that I believe would take us forward as a society.

Making cycle lanes safe

The painted on cycles lanes on the roads of NE Lincs offer no protection at all, and are frequently parked over and ignored by drivers. For example, yesterday I was nearly knocked off my bike whilst riding in a cycle lane. An unmarked grey Ford Transit (registration FV12 EOK) taking a left turn from Weelsby Rd into Ladysmith Rd far too fast, cut across the cycle lane and came within a couple of inches of me. It was extremely dangerous.

The cycle lane itself is badly designed, forcing traffic turning left to cross it. Designing-in conflict like this will only lead to problems, as I experienced yesterday. Much better to have taken this particular cycle lane to the left of the junction and provide a crossing with cycle right-of-way at the lights, with drivers turning left having to give way to cycles.

The painted on cycle lane goes straight on, forcing traffic turning left to cross it.

The painted on cycle lane goes straight on, forcing traffic turning left to cross it.

How much better it could be! I came across this page on peopleforbikes.org this morning, showing how various cities provide a degree of separation to their on-road cycle lanes. These various designs provide a level of safety from vehicular intrusion that we simply don’t have! Can we have some please? I don’t like feeling I’m in danger when I’m in a cycle lane, even with a flashing rear light in daylight! There are numerous different styles shown on the linked page but they all provide separation and safety.

Half-wheel bollards in Seville separate the cycle lane from the road, giving the cyclists protection from careless drivers.

Half-wheel bollards in Seville separate the cycle lane from the road, giving the cyclists protection from careless drivers.

Stolen bike?

One of the uses of this blog can relate to stolen bikes. Obviously, if you’re a bike owner you’ll want to record the serial number and any other identifying features of yours and your families bikes. What I also recommend is, take a photo of your bikes as well. Should your bike be stolen, as well as contacting the police of course, also send the photo of your stolen bike in to this blog by email (cyclingnelly@yahoo.co.uk) and we will feature the photo(s) of your bike in a ‘Stolen Bike Alert’ post.

It’s a way of visually alerting all local readers of the blog to the fact that the bike in the picture has been stolen, and should they come across it anywhere they can contact the police and, through the blog, get in touch with you so that hopefully your bike can be retrieved.

It’s an idea to try and combat the threat of bike theft. I hope it helps!

Take clear photos of your bike, like this example, then should it ever be stolen, send the photo(s) in to us at the blog & we'll feature your photo in a Stolen Bike Alert.

Take clear photos of your bike, like this example, then should it ever be stolen, send the photo(s) in to us at the blog & we’ll feature your photo in a Stolen Bike Alert.

Sixhills Street Superhighway!

Actually, I intensely dislike the term ‘Cycle Superhighway’. It’s so over the top when all you need is to call them is Cycleways (if indeed they’re actually properly designed and separated from traffic, which many so-called Cycle Supehighways are not!)

Sixhills Street is part of the councils so-called Humberston Pedalway, their designated route from Humberston into Grimsby centre for cyclists. Taking this route to cycle into Grimsby town centre, it takes you along Humberston Rd, across Durban Rd and left down Julian St. You have to give way at Weelsby St and Ladysmith Rd, then follow Sixhills St, giving way at Convamore Rd, Heneage Rd and again at Hainton Ave, finally arriving in the town centre via Pasture St rail crossing.

Facing north up Sixhills Street: the junction with Heneage Rd and a traffic-calming bump in the background.

Facing east up Sixhills Street: the junction with Heneage Rd and a traffic-calming bump in the background. (click on picture to enlarge)

At the moment, Sixhills Street is not very cycle friendly. Even though it’s a narrow road it is shared with two-way through traffic and it’s very uncomfortable to ride on due to traffic-calming bumps.

Heading into Grimsby town centre: the junction with Hainton Ave.

Heading into Grimsby town centre: the junction with Hainton Ave.

Continuing into Grimsby town centre along Sixhills Street.

Continuing into Grimsby town centre along Sixhills Street.

However, Sixhills Street presents a perfect opportunity to create something very good. If it’s NE Lincs council’s preferred cycle route into town, then make it something special, something people will want to cycle on. As it is, it’s not a very pleasant experience!

  • Make it closed to vehicular through-traffic, using bollards to allow vehicular access for residents. These would prevent through-traffic for cars and trucks but would allow cyclists a through-route.
  • Make traffic access one way and use the road space freed-up to create a separated two-way cycle lane.
  • These measures would then allow the traffic-calming bumps to be removed, allowing for a smooth, comfortable surface on the cycleway.
  • Put in crossings at Ladysmith Rd and Hainton Ave, and give Sixhills St priority over Weelsby St and Heneage Rd.

These modest measures would allow someone cycling into town on the Humberston Pedalway a degree of continuity, making it feel a bit more like a fully-fledged cycling route, and they would be another step to prioritising cycling.

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!
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