3 May 2007

London Road Cycle Path

What is it?
London Road Cycle Route will run off-road from Grosvenor Road to St Vincent Drive, making use of the wide footway (which is currently only used for car parking).
It will continue on-road on (quiet) Admiral's Walk to connect with the existing cycle path which continues to London Colney.
The design provides safe crossing places at junctions.
It will be a very significant addition to our modest cycling infrastructure as it will provide a continuous route from London Colney and London Road
estates to a very useful junction from which journeys can continue off-road along Alban Way or on quieter roads (Old London Road, Approach Road/Riverside Road) and the 30 mph section of London Road into town.
It avoids the need to use the 40mph(+++) section with central refuges which are too daunting for inexperienced cyclists.
Importantly it will make possible many safe cycle journeys to schools and to the City Station.

According to the Highways Partnership meeting of October 24th 2006, work would start about January 2007. - Not achieved.
So Wheeeen???
According to St Albans Cycling Strategy meeting on 16th April 2007, the work would most definitely start that very week. - Not achieved.
So Whe.e.e.e.e.e.nnnn ?????
According to STACC member Ollie's careful scrutiny, looking (on 2nd May 2007) for the smallest indication that something has started......
"There's no sign of any activity on this - not even a road cone! I thought Herts Highways were supposed to start as soon as the works in the High Street were finished. "
But see comments .......


Mike1727 said...

Time for letters to the local press?

steve said...

When? Actually I have seen people out surveying... Latest news from Sanjay is that work will definately start on 22 May 2007 and be complete by 31 July. Apparently there have been problems re the drains holding up the start!

Orbiter said...

There seems to be some curious work on the footpath East of the railway bridges which may be related to this. So far an 18" sand-coloured stripe on the pavement and a similar one in the gutter, with gaps at driveways. What on earth?

Meantime the potholes in the road alongsidethat I have to navigate round while dodging the traffic are still not filled up. Something wrong with the priorities here, I think.

I travel at 15-20 mph down London Road, so the shared-use path isn't useful to me. Will I find car drivers telling me I should be on the path when it's complete? We'll see. Sorting out the dangerous traffic islands would have been more useful. Top prority should be safe roads, not cycle separation!

Mike1727 said...

If they do you can always quote the highway code at them (hollow laugh).

Have you reported the potholes?

London road should be high prioirty, and if the potholes are on the riding line they're dangerous.

Safe roads are the aim, but we need some strategic (and affordable) bike routes too, to encourage novices and families who can be nervous in traffic.

STACC memsec Tom said...

The London Road Cycle Path is now Open.
It has been implemented in a very straighforward way, with very few 'CYCLISTS DISMOUNT' signs and making use of existing posts for other signage wherever possible, so giving the street scene much less clutter.
There is no line to segregate cyclists & pedestrians - nor is one needed - but on the narrow footway under the railway bridge, a sign advises cyclists to give way to pedestrians - all perfectly agreeable.
At Admiral's Walk there are two new diagonal paths across the grass to follow the desire lines which both pedestrians & cyclists will wish to follow - good thinking.
All the crossings of major side roads are light controlled - so all abilities can proceed safely.
More experienced users - on finding the delays of the traffic light sequence to long, can cross legally & safely by choosing other places nearby to cross - but study carefully - it's easy to be caught by the filter sequence at Drakes Drive.
Route signage is very good.
VERDICT: Very good, embodies much of what we asked for and more besides. Features which were no-can-do in the early design consultations have in the event been included. Clearly some common sense has been introduced into HH - a welcome trend.
RIDE TIME: From London Colney High Street (next to footbridge) to Grosvenor Road - 12 Minutes, plus another 2 minutes up to the City Station. This was at PPP (Portly Pensioner's Pace) & at all light-controlled crossings the Green-Man/Green-Bike was patiently awaited.

STACC memsec Tom said...

Now the Cycle Path is Open,
It's important to spread the word to a wide audience, through the local press.
We need a photo to accompany positive press letter/article about the completion of this project, showing a happy band of cyclists.
If you are available for a few minutes on Thursday, 16th at 4.30pm. please join us - by the London Road railway bridge.
The more the merrier, in particular we would like to see youngsters in the group - so try to bring or send them.

Orbiter said...

Tom paints a very rosy view of the new path. I have a very different one.

It is NOT continuous because of all the road crossings (Cunningham Hill etc) and requires two crossing of the main road; the 'desire line' at Admirals walk dumps you onto the road at a right-angle where cars will least expect a cyclist; it has 'Give-way' lines where it is impossible to see the traffic you are supposed to give way to; at one point there are signs saying 'No cycling' and 'Cycle path' side by side; the Grosvenor Road crossing requires you to ride a narrow pavement for some yards away from London Road, with a sharp left turn into the road (and Dismount sign!); the entry to London Rd W of Grosvenor Rd is another right angle, making no use of the traffic-light crossing beside it.

All in all, it epitomises the usual dreadful Herts Highways (Mouchel) design features for cycling. At least there's only one Dismount sign (that I've noticed).

Worst, for road cyclists, now that we have a cyclepath there will be no chance of getting the council to deal with the dangerous pinch-points at the bollards.

Thanks STACC!

Don't get me wrong. I'm pleased to see an off-road path for the slow and nervous BUT sadly it is at my expense as a road user.

Please remember the DfT's hierarchy of provision - improve the roads before adding off-road facilities!

PLEASE change STACC's priorities to press FIRST for safe roads. Otherwise you're just encouraging the 'roads for cars, bikes on cyclepaths' attitude. London Road is quite wide enough for a decent advisory cycle lane ON the road (apart from the bollards) which would be more useful and safer than the off-road path.

And yes Mike, I have reported the potholes -in April! - and they are still there. To add insult they laid new tarmac on the footpath right beside the holes!

Orbiter said...

...and browsing through the Cycling Strategy document I find....

HCS5: In general, and in accordance with the ‘hierarchy of solutions’ (see Annex 2), cycling will be encouraged on the carriageway rather than along special, segregated facilities, especially in urban areas. Where feasible, the council will encourage local journeys by cycle by:
........ ensuring that radial routes into town centres are cycle friendly and give appropriate priority and advantage to cyclists at junctions.

Staff dealing with planning, highways ..[may].. have unrealistic ideas e.g. that cycling is dangerous and provide facilities which actually make conditions more difficult for existing cyclists and fail to attract new cyclists.
How true! I weep.

rona471 said...

I share Orbiter's disappointment. I tried out the new facility the other day. Coming from Grosvenor Road, not very obvious how to get onto it, we certainly missed it so got on at next side road. That meant we were on road under the railway bridge, took central line through island pinch point, hope the many persons in yellow vests standing on the pavement were watching if they happened to be doing a safety audit.

My initial reaction is that this was designed by someone in a car, there are give way lines where there should not be ie every side road. If this is the London Road cycle route, then it should be as continuous as practicable along London Road for cyclists.
There is no give way line where there should be ie at the bus stop, where cyclists should give way to boarding or disembarking bus passengers.
There is a senseless 'Cyclist Dismount' sign. Is there a Cylists Renmount sign? No? So why would I be told to dismount. Because the junction design is not up to coping with a cycle route perhaps.
These signs are damnable, they are routinely ignored by cyclists because they are nearly always so stupid, which means that when it really matters that cyclists dismount, they don't.
The Admirals Walk paths are good, built on the desire lines as Tom notes. But the Drakes Drive junction should be done properly, with a toucan crossing - perhaps further along, away from the London Road junction. Although this would mean a diversion, it would give route continuity, which the current arrangements on the south side do not - the newly installed little path up to give way junction facing you into the guard rails at the junction, yeah right! And the existing end of route by Francis Bacon school with no drop kerb or anything could stand to improve.
The new provision is not without its merits, but it has significant defects and failings, which I hope the scheme audits will pick up on and action. For a new route to fall short on pedestrian and cycle priority and to include a cyclists dismount sign is not good enough. Come on Herts Highways, give us something we really can heap praise upon, I know the budget is tight, but let's get value for money, not waste it on give way paint and dangerous signs.

Mike1727 said...

Good points, which would go well on the Herts Advertiser letters page. This said, I'd like to see a notice's opinion of the route since this is the segment it's aimed at and my own opinion is biased because like Orbiter I don't often use cycle facilities.

Mike1727 said...

Novice's opion, even.

STACC memsec Tom said...

Well I agree with a lot of your comments (thanks - keep 'em coming) on the shortcomings of the completed route. However what you don't know about is the effort STACC went to, in the attempt to convince HH that the route should continue across the cul-de-sac side roads & other issues - which we are not giving up on. (Where were you all when that was going on?)
Orbiter (Aren't you PM?) when are you going to join STACC - we need all the push we can get? BTW the route does not make it worse for you - you, me, Rona & Mike and all road wise cyclists know how to deal with splitter islands, the route is essential for those who cannot, they will be able to cycle safely albeit more slowly even with the stop-go side roads; STACC action will continue to address this.
Splitter islands are essential for pedestrian safety. I would like to see a 2metre - no less - advisory cycle 'lane' through all of them brought in all over Herts - we are working on this.
Mike: it is counter-productive if we only moan publicly about the shortcomings; we want to encourage use of the route - hence my 'rosy' comments.
Rona: Cyclists Dismount signs are rectangular, so do not give an order or a warning (Ref Highway Code) they just inform - the world in general - that cyclist do dismount from time to time, so no need to fuss about 'em.
And the route is not the Addition of a new facility, it's using what was there for a better purpose than car parking - no-brainer really.
Whilst safer roads are a high priority, we don't want to lose the next 5 generations of potential cyclists whilst we wait.
Just step back a bit to consider the benefits of the route - hundreds of utilitarian journeys are enabled - can't be all that bad.
More cycling more often is the theme.

Mike1727 said...

This is a strategic route and an important pragmatic solution to have got in place so quickly (in HH timescales). As I said, I'd like a novice/nervous person's before passing judgement because most of the issues may be solveable over time given the right approach. I think the work that STACC has done in engaging HH on this is a good step forward.

Really, I'm just glad to see something there. That doesn't mean that HH shouldn't be given some feedback beyond what he 'safety audit' may say, or that they shouldn't ultimately be held accountable for problems with their implementation which they don't solve.

I mentioned the Hertsad because of this letter, which along with this one suggests some 'improvements' that certainly wouldn't make for a more usable route.

Meanwhile, London road does need sorting out at the pinchpoints. I'm loathe to say it but practically painting the area around them green or something and adding big bike icons (or 'share the road' icons) would be the easiest solution so far. Half the problem is raising driver's awareness of the hazard so they give some room in the first place.

By the way, where have all the ASLs (except one) gone?

Orbiter said...

Tom: You're quite right, I am Pete Milne and you'll be pleased to hear I refrained from responding to Liz's letter in the interests of solidarity.

I don't join STACC at present because they seem prepared to accept the wrong priorities and second-class work from HH. I appreciate that STACC members have probably worked very hard to make the implementation on London Rd less awful than the usual HH standard. We should be grateful there aren't CD signs at every crossing.

However, was it really worth the effort when the London Road pavement has always been well used by 'novices' without any paint & signs (so maybe not many extra journeys, Tom) and London Road hasn't even had its potholes mended?

I doubt the various 'cycle route' projects supported by STACC will encourage much increase in local cycling other than more pavement cycling. If some pavements are OK and signs can be ignored because they are stupid, then anywhere's OK as long as the roads seem dangerous to novices. Adults increasingly use the pavements between Alma Rd & the Peahen and along Alma Rd, even when there is little traffic.

STACC seem to take the view that encouraging more cycling of any type (e.g. off-road)is the priority. I, DfT and even HCC agree that the TOP prority is to make roads fit for cyclists. Otherwise, we're not encouraging people to use bikes as a real alternative transport, just teaching them that they don't belong on the road.

When STACC adopt the road-first priority (as DtF & HCC have!) and stop giving their approval to bad off-road 'routes' I'll be happy to give my wholehearted support.

Dealings with HH should be pressing them to implement
1) the HCC & DfT cycling strategies, starting with their top priority (as I mentioned earlier):
"cycling will be encouraged on the carriageway rather than along special, segregated facilities" and
2) DfT design standards, which specify for example that 'Give Way marks should be in line with the kerb of the road being crossed' and 'Cyclists Dismount signs should only be used where cycling is prohibited' . These are clearly defined in the DfT's Traffic Signs Manual. Bad signage just encourages novices to ignore the important signs - like red traffic lights!

I thoroughly support Tom's wish for advisory cycle lanes, which could pass right through the islands with no width reduction. This should have been implemented before an unnecessary pavement cyclepath. Rhona is quite right to say "I know the budget is tight, but let's get value for money, not waste it on give way paint and dangerous signs."

Let me know if I can help - when the priorities are right!


STACC memsec Tom said...

Mike: "in place so quickly" is not a term I would have used. I have a trail of emails on the subject which was started by the one County Councilor who is a STACC member in December 1999, this triggered STACC's interest in this particular route. The emails were to various HCC officers & other Councilors.
During the intervening years a series of HH staff were assigned to dabble with it. They tended to stay for a few months then disappear when some 'proper' highway work was needed elsewhere. Each one had to start afresh, no continuity whatsoever. I believe that much of the cycling budget is frittered away by this wasteful approach, nothing appears on the ground, but the money is spent on writing binned reports & attending futile meetings.
(In STACC's early days everyone would say, "Don't worry, there's lots of funding for cycling." They don't say that any more.)

Orbiter said...

I just have to add an extract from the latest DfT draft Cycling Infrastructure Design manual( http://tinyurl.com/yvfyd9 )

"1.2 Underlying principles
1.2.1 For existing urban highways, the preferred form of provision is to try to achieve conditions where cyclists are content to use the
carriageway. This is because in urban areas there is seldom the opportunity to provide a quality off-carriageway route that does not
compromise pedestrian facilities or result in potential hazards and loss of priority for cyclists at
side roads."

It is naturally attractive for local goups (like STACC?) to accept achievable, short-term gains while losing this important long term objective. Instead, we might use examples of good practice (e.g. from TfL) to push HH in the right direction.