Roger Houghton’s explains Upper Bristol Road Cycle Route Changes

Under direction from the new Deputy Leader, Cllr Sarah Warren, B&NES Council have significantly changed the design on the consultated cycle route on the Upper Bristol Road, Bath. The new changes to the cycle route seem set to diminish the much needed standard set by Government for cycling. For full details of these changes see Roger Houghton’s analysis.

Westward route from Charlotte Street/Monmouth Place
1) No clear start – doesn’t link into existing infrastructure, e.g. how about a contra-flow cycle lane on Monmouth Place to link to National Cycle Route 4?
2) Cycle lane width reduced from 2m to 1.5m.
Falls foul of LTN 1/20: “Desirable minimum width = 2m… The absolute minimum width [of 1.5m] should only be used for sections where there is a physical constraint on an existing road.” N.B. Even the “absolute minimum” of 1.50 m should be after allowing extra width for kerbs (+ 200mm) and drainage gullies and gratings (LTN 1/20, sect. 5.5).
Under original scheme vehicle carriageway width was between 5.90m and 7.95m, already consistently greater than the minimum 5.5m width suggested by Manual for Streets 1 (figure 7.1, p.79) as adequate for two passing HGVs.
3) The loss of the floating island at the bus stops. This means that bus passengers will now step off the bus directly into the cycle lane while waiting passengers will board directly from the cycle lane. It is claimed that this “is in line with the DfT’s guidance on cycle infrastructure design”. Yet LTN 1/20 states that “this layout is best suited to bus and tram stops with less frequent services and lower passenger and pedestrian volumes (6.6.14)”. That’s not a description of the Upper Bristol Road.
It is also claimed that this revision is due to “lack of available space”, although there appears to have been adequate space in version 1. The vehicle carriageway will instead be increased to around seven metres width or more.
4) The provision of parking spaces west of Nile Street necessitates the relocation of the signalled crossing (at what cost?) and the loss of two trees. (These trees are presumably sacrificed to improve visibility yet won’t visibility on the south side of the crossing be seriously impaired by the introduction of parked and manoeuvring cars in the new bays?)
5) Another three parking spaces have been provided ahead of the relocated crossing, inside the controlled area marked by the zig-zag lines. Is this not in contravention of Section 27 (2) of The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002? “Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4) and without prejudice to regulation 28, a zig-zag line shall convey the requirement that the driver of a vehicle shall not cause any part of it to stop in the controlled area in which it is marked.” At the very least a manoeuvring vehicle will block sightlines, defeating the object of having a controlled area.

6) The farther side of the crossing has the zig-zags across the entrance to Nile Street. This appears to be in contravention of Section 27(1) of The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002.
7) Nor is the crossing’s close proximity to the junction compatible with Section of LTN 2/95: “Crossings should be located away from conflict points at uncontrolled junctions… a minimum distance of 20 metres is suggested for a signalled-controlled crossing”.
8) Six parking spaces are now to be provided west of Nile Street (despite the provision of five new spaces just metres away on Nile Street). These will be inside the cycle lane.
It is asserted that “there is not enough space to take the cycle lane behind the parking” without making it clear why it takes up less space one way than the other. LTN 1/20 sect. 6.2.20: “…it is preferable to place a cycle track between the parking and loading provision and the footway. This arrangement provides greater protection for cyclists and does not occupy any greater width.”
9) Instead it creates a situation where:
a) “a frequent turn-around of use during the day, which would enable drop-off and delivery” will mean a constant supply of vehicles crossing the cycle path to enter and leave the spaces;
b) vehicles will be stopping on the cycle path in order to reverse into a space;
c) vehicle doors will open directly onto the cycle path;
d) there will be no barriers between the cycle path and the main carriageway.
10) Three new parking spaces west of Victoria Bridge Road, raising the same issues as oulined above. (Why not put these spaces in Victoria Bridge Road itself? The carriageway there is almost 5.0m wide with no through vehicular traffic. Not ideal maybe but far safer than that proposed.)
11) These spaces require the relocation of the south side bus stop which then requires the relocation of the north side bus stop. Both lose their floating islands (see 3, above) although it’s not clear why the south side need lose its one; instead the design opts for increasing the pavement width.
12) As the government’s Gear Change points out, “A scheme is only as good as its weakest point”. The weakest point here must be when about 17 metres of the cycle path disappears completely, replaced with a loading bay and a short stay disabled parking bay outside the Hop Pole. Apparently this is okay because “for the most part of the day” the bays would not be occupied (although it means that there will now be no separation from the main

carriageway even at these times). How the riders (that’s “everyone from 8 to 80 and beyond”, remember) avoid the occupied times is unclear though.
13) The original scheme included raised crossings across minor side roads (“It gives much more priority to pedestrians, makes it easier for people to cross as it’s a level surface”, Paul Garrod). These have now been abandoned, supposedly because of the fear of high maintenance costs. Yet these are minor roads with light traffic. Why not just change the design, perhaps to that used on Camden Road where they cope with a far greater traffic flow? The ramp effect of a raised crossing is a crucial indication to car drivers that they are crossing a pedestrian route and for pedestrians a level route is both easier to manage and an indication of their right of way. As Paul Garrod said, this priority is expected to be adopted for the Highway Code.
14) It is proposed to increase the spacing of cycle wand separators from 1 metre to every 15 metres. This, apparently, is to allow lorries and other vehicles to enter the cycle lane, despite their purpose being to prevent such intrusion and, equally important, indicate to cyclists that vehicles are not going to be entering the cycle path.
Someone at Avon Fire & Rescue, it seems, believes that every road must be wide enough to accommodate a bus, LGV and fire tender simultaneously (i.e. 7.58m). As the B&NES officer points out “There are many main roads across Bath that are not wide enough for emergency vehicles to overtake traffic, either due to the physical width of the road or the presence of parked vehicles”.
How common might such a need be anyway, with cars unable to pull back to allow a fire tender through? Set against this the additional risk to cyclists 24/7 of the loss of visible separation from the carriageway together with a reduction in the cyle path width and the knowledge that vehicles, including lorries, are now being encouraged to enter the cycle lane.
And if there was a real emergency fire tenders could drive over the plastic separator wands. (BTW, couldn’t fire crew be taught to check before opening a door?) There also seems to be an assumption that neither cyclists nor car drivers will notice firefighters in hi-vis clothing standing next to a fire engine with its blue lights flashing.
Is this the official view of Avon Fire & Rescue or just of one person there? It’s noticeable that South West Ambulance had no objection to the original proposals despite presumably facing exactly the same issues.
And haven’t we all been held up by refuse vehicles, buses and white vans elsewhere in the city? It’s part of city life. For refuse vehicles it’s for a brief period one day each week; for cyclists the loss of continuous separation will be a 24/7 penalty.

No one really knows the level of suppressed demand for cycling on the Upper Bristol Road. Nor will anyone ever know if the scheme implented does not at least approach the standards set out in LTN 1/20. On the basis that a route should be suitable for anyone from 8 to 80, this scheme as amended falls woefully short.
Who would send their child along a cycle route that weaves between parked cars and moving HGVs, with vertical separators spaced 15 metres apart rather than just one, with refuse lorries and delivery vehicles pulling on to it, car doors opening into it and with stretches that disappear completely at random moments?
A successful experiment – and this is, after all, intended to be a trial – will most likely deliver more customers to Mr D’s by bike, more users will cycle to their exercises at Phase One and more residents may receive deliveries by cargo bike.
Instead, though, this cycle route will be a failure because a significant proportion of potential cyclists will continue to see it as an intimidating and dangerous route. Not only that but it will mean a reduction in future government grants for highways’ infrastructure.
Gear Change and LTN 1/20
“The Government intends that all proposed schemes will be checked by a new inspectorate against the summary principles before funding is agreed, and that finished schemes will be inspected as appropriate to ensure that they have been delivered in compliance with them.”
“Not only must cycle infrastructure be safe, it should also be perceived to be safe so that more people feel able to cycle.”
“Cycle infrastructure should be accessible to everyone from 8 to 80 and beyond.”
“Cyclists must be physically separated and protected from high volume motor traffic, both at junctions and on the stretches of road between them.”
“Cycle infrastructure should be designed for significant numbers of cyclists, and for non-standard cycles… We also want to see increasing numbers of cargo bikes to replace some van journeys. Cycle routes must be accessible to recumbents, trikes, handcycles, and other cycles used by disabled cyclists.”
“There will be a presumption that schemes must deliver or improve cycling infrastructure to the standards in the Local Transport Note.”

“Routes should be planned holistically as part of a network. Isolated stretches of provision, even if it is good are of little value.”
“There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that cycle and pedestrian-friendly streets can boost footfall and retail sales,”
“A scheme is only as good as its weakest point.”
The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002
Road marking shown in diagram 1001.3: zig-zag lines—no stopping 27.—(1) In this regulation and regulation 28—
“controlled area” means a length of carriageway—
(a) which is adjacent to a signal-controlled crossing facility and has a zig-zag line marked along each of its edges (with or without zig-zag lines also marked down its centre); and
(b) in or near which no other signs or markings have been placed except ones comprised in the combination of signs and markings indicating the presence of the facility or shown in diagram 610, 611, 612, 613, 616, 810, 1029 or 1062;
(2) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4) and without prejudice to regulation 28, a zig-zag line shall convey the requirement that the driver of a vehicle shall not cause any part of it to stop in the controlled area in which it is marked.
Local Transport Note 2/95: The Design of Pedestrian Crossings
2.1 Proximity of Junctions
2.1.1 Approach to a Side Road Crossings should be located away from conflict points at uncontrolled junctions. This will give drivers an adequate opportunity to appreciate the existence of a crossing and to brake safely. The ‘safe’ distance will depend on the geometry of the junction and type of side road. However, a minimum distance of 20 metres is suggested for a signalled-controlled crossing and an absolute minimum of 5 metres for a Zebra crossing. It is suggested that the distance be measured from the position of a driver waiting at the give-way line of the side road. Where it is impossible to obtain a ‘safe’ distance, consider banning turning movements towards the crossing or make the side road one way away from the junction.

It is a requirement of the fund that schemes are built in accordance with the latest design standards for cycle infrastructure, Local Transport Note 1/20.
The DfT has advised that future funding may be reduced to authorities that do not follow the standards.
The Rapid Cycleway Prioritisation Tool identified Upper Bristol Road as being one of the top routes in the West of Engalnd with greatest potential for increasing the volume of cyclists.

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