Monday, 29 July 2013

Why Can't We All Just Be Nice?

The "Nice Way Code" website and campaign, which fortunately (for those of us living below Hadrian's Wall) has only gone live in Scotland is a terrible piece of patronising drivel, which has been widely criticised by anyone with a serious interest in cycling.

My comments weren't exactly the most complimentary that I have written, but it looks like a few of us have tried, but not yet been published.

So, for the record, this is what I have to say about the #nicewaycode:

There is nothing nice about this at all. It is just patronising drivel and a complete waste of money.
What is needed is well designed space for all road users, and that includes double segregation so cyclists have their own space, safely away from traffic where needed and also where there is no space conflict between them and pedestrians.
Simply telling us to stop jumping lights will have zero effect on the minority that do this, as they will keep doing so anyway. However, you can learn from what the Dutch do and design out the need to do so by creating traffic light bypasses on t-junctions, and massively shorterning wait times at junctions, or replacing terrible toucans with zebras.
Equally, this campaign will have no impact on the minority of drivers who pose a serious threat to other roads users by speeding or driving aggressively.
It will just appeal to those who are already “nice”, and is therefore totally pointless.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Bus flags or Bicycling Nirvana?

The bulk of this post has been moved to -

My visit to Centro towers for the Transport Planning Society's discussion on local sustainable transport funds revealed a great deal about how the organisation currently prioritises its work. 

The first piece of evidence was the row of just 4 cycle stands outside their offices, with only one of them actually being used, despite the event being specifically about local transport infrastructure, of which cycling is a very major part (in our defence, the two of us known cyclists at the event came from Coventry and Wolverhampton - a distance which might be child's play on the Dutch network, but which is torture in the West Midlands). 

Let's hope that next time Centro give us a slide on the issue, they include some or all of the following as absolute bare essentials for a cycle friendly city:

  1.   Fully segregated routes.
  2. Cycle lanes on roads (where the 3v's are lower than above – volume, velocity and vehicle size).
  3. Junction improvements (essentially more important than both of the above).
  4.  Filtered permeability – without understanding this crucial part of the urban planning process, the more visible cycle lanes are a waste of time).
  5. Secure cycle parking.
  6. Green corridors and linear parks.
  7. Using the planning process to get the best quality urban environment.
  8. Automated cycle hire.
  9.  Integration between cycle networks and public transport.

When these core issues are each addressed, then we are well on the way to developing a cycling Nirvana. At this point, I would love to see Centro install some solar powered cycle counters, as these are the our equivalent of those bus flags.

Centro cycle schemes to result in 2 million bike trips per year

According to figures given by Centro at last week's Transport Planning Society debate, the combined benefits of all the local sustainable transport fund projects across the West Midlands will be an increase of 2 million bicycle trips per year. As a headline figure, anything with millions in it always looks good, but let's break this down:

The West Midlands "County" covered by Centro has a population of 2.7 million, so the net gain from this investment will be less than one trip per person per year.

To break it down by modal share, if the average person in the West Midlands makes 3 trips per day overall, then there are just under 3 billion trips per year across the Centro network, so these new schemes will add less than 0.1% modal share gain in the bicycle's favour.

We still have a VERY long way to go!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Alvis Retail Park breaches planning guidelines

Earlier this month, a planning application was submitted to Coventry City Council to remodel the facades and parking areas at the Alvis retail park, which is situated on the Holyhead Road, about a mile to the west of Coventry city centre.

This is not just a sprucing up, this is a major retrofit, and as car parking spaces are being modified, there is no reason why long overdue cycle parking cannot also be provided.

This is a full planning application, and it should therefore be subject to the supplementary planning guidance issued to cover provision for cyclists in 2009. Even this guidance is in addition to the Coventry local plan, which states in policy AM11 that consistent cycle provision should be made, and that the needs to disabled people should also be considered.

Moreover, I write as someone who is currently unable to drive due to a long-term health condition, so if blue badge car parking is provided, where is my blue badge cycle parking, or more to the point, any cycle parking at all? 

This failure to provide is a clear breach of the Equalities Act 2010, which states that companies must make reasonable adjustments to ensure that they do not discriminate against customers because of their disability.  Given that the traditional Sheffield cycle parking stands cost from just £30 plus VAT each to install, it is perfectly reasonable to expect the retail park to do this.


If you are someone who rides a bike in Coventry, please take a moment to add an objection to this development going ahead without consideration of the basic needs of cyclists. 

The reference is here – FUL/2013/0350

You can either fill in the form online or e-mail quoting FUL/2013/0350.

Please make sure your comments are made by 29th March 2013.


James Avery

Monday, 18 March 2013

Pickles' Parking Practicalities

Eric Pickles' suggestion that car users should be "let off" parking fines for "only" stopping for 10 minutes has naturally been derided by the cycling community, together with many others who have an interest in maintaining quality urban environments.

This article has now been moved to:

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Time for Coventry's first Straight Through Crossing

One of my pet hates when cycling is having to deal with an army of "Cyclist Dismount" signs, followed by endless diversions up some side spout going away from where I want to be, only to be forced across a tight crossing and into a sheep pen, before waiting again to cross to the other side, turn around, go through the routine again, and finally start heading in the direction I want to go.

There are some much better solutions to this problem, especially with the Dutch or Danish "outer ring" style roundabouts, but it looks like these will have to go through a bit of testing first before they get approval.

A half-way house is to design crossings that enable pedestrians and cyclists to proceed through in one move, without all the horrid staggering.

Early next month, Coventry City Council will discuss a planning application for two new restaurants on the edge of the Arena Park retail development. Whilst the proposal itself is nothing contentious, and it will no doubt be nodding "straight through", the transport plan is sadly lacking, just as can be said for the rest of the site.

As freehold owners of the Arena Park site, Tesco could do something different here, and install the first "straight-through" crossing, at a point where it is much needed, on the western side of the main internal roundabout.

This is whatt I have suggested to the council:

Although Arena Park has two segregated cycle routes, they are inconsistent at junctions. Whilst the lack of integration with the Longford Road is a long held concern, the prospect of more development near the entrance can only increase the loading on the larger internal roundabout, where no crossing facility is provided on the western side. This is particularly dangerous[1], given that there is a huge variation in speed limits on each side, with wide approach lanes ensuring that the 30mph limit can frequently be broken. As part of the proposed development, the cycle route should be given priority over the minor access road to the catering units and the filling station, whilst a light controlled crossing is needed at the roundabout.
 Best practice for such crossings is to ensure that they are straight-through, with a small island if needed, but no staggering, as this creates a pinch point for pedestrians and cyclists, and increases wait times. There is no traffic management reason to introduce a stagger at this location.

[1] Accident rates for cyclists on roundabouts are approximately 2-3 times higher than at traffic signal junctions - Sustrans.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Walsgrave Hospital Access

Walsgrave Hospital Access for Cyclists and Pedestrians

Walsgrave Hospital has just confirmed its plans to open up a second entrance onto Brade Drive, which will be used by emergency services and a select number of key staff. This is part of a long-term plan to create a better access onto the hospital site, which would also eventually include an access road leading directly onto the A46 dual carriageway. Unfortunately, it looks like the trust has failed to seriously consider the root cause of the access and parking problems the hospital suffers from.


This is the same problem that applies to many industrial estates, business parks and housing developments across the country, namely that local authorities seek to limit car use by restricting the number of car parking spaces which are available, without providing a sufficiently high-quality range of alternative transport options. Thus, from day one, car drivers are complaining that access is insufficient, and the inevitable complaints about car parking charges soon follow suit, as there is little reason to justify dropping prices if the car park is already overflowing.


Whilst hospital mandarins may be able to boast that the Walsgrave site currently has a speed limit of just 15 mph and that cycle parking provision for patients and visitors outside the main entrance is currently adequate, such a statement would miss the key point that speed limits alone are not enough to create a more cycle friendly environment, especially given the extremely high volumes of traffic coming in and out of the hospital. Additionally, the hospital main entrance junction is thoroughly dangerous from a cycling perspective, and the Homebase roundabout is even worse (arguably the second worst in the city after Allesley Village / Holyhead Road).


Meanwhile, despite hundreds of thousands of pounds being provided for a planning agreement to contribute towards bus lanes on the Binley Road, there is only one hourly bus service between the hospital and the city centre which uses this route. Most of the other buses to/from the city centre go via the strangle point of Ball Hill, guaranteeing the car will always win on speed, for those who have the option.

Worse still, from where I live to the west of the city centre, there used to be three direct buses going to either Walsgrave hospital or the nearby Walsgrave church, and now there are none!


First and foremost, the transport priority of a hospital should be to provide safe and fast access for emergency vehicles – but that should be taken as a given. Once such corridors have been provided, planning should revolve around creating the highest quality access for the pedestrian and the cyclist first, then for bus users and finally for the private car.

Access for people with restricted mobility is also a natural part of transport design, but this isn't just about creating disabled parking bays – all transport modes may include people with limited mobility, including cycling. Meanwhile, pedestrian paths should follow natural desire lines, rather than forcing people to make shortcuts through verges, as is the case in several places around the site.

Provision of a more people friendly environment usually also means that far more pleasant open spaces in which to dwell are created. This perhaps is the real disappointment of the new Walsgrave Hospital – despite being designed and built by Swedish company Skanska, it does not resemble a Swedish Hospital in terms of design. Unless you are unfortunate enough to be an inpatient in the Caludon Centre, there really is nowhere to go on the hospital site to just spend some time being outdoors in a pleasant, landscaped environment.

With regards to catering for the car, arterial roads are regularly clogged, and car parking provision is naturally over-subscribed, as almost all of it is in flat surface car parks, which are a waste of land. There is a suggestion that the new designs will feature a multi-storey car park, which would be welcome, but the new car park adjacent to the Caludon Centre is just another sprawling surface facility, squandering land which might have been much better designated for clinical use, especially as mental health provision in the region continues to be grossly inadequate.
I strongly urge the trust to take a look at some of the more enlightened designs for hospital campuses in cities such as Utrecht. This particular Dutch city has a very similar geography to Coventry in terms of both size and population, yet around two thirds of traffic to and from this campus is either on foot or by bicycle.

Suggestions for improvements:

·                     The hospital trust should make a firm commitment that it will lead by example when it comes to active transport (walking and cycling) provision, and that this is vital in order to get the best return on health promotion efforts.
·                     A huge opportunity exists to improve access to the hospital with the proposed Cycle Coventry route along the Sowe Valley from the Homebase roundabout to Bell Green and beyond. However, this proposal must not be viewed as a substitute for a high-quality direct route to and from the city centre, as to use this route and to turn at Henley College would be a very long way round.
·                     Any new route on the Sowe Valley would need to be supplemented by suitable junction upgrades at the Homebase roundabout.
·                     The access road between the Caludon centre and School Lane should be designated as an official cycle route, with appropriate signage provided.
·                     In the medium term, funding for a continuation of the Sowe Valley route may be provided from the Coventry Gateway scheme. Space for an interconnection between these two sections of the Sowe Valley route should be safeguarded.
·                     Farren Road is an ideal quiet road on which to encourage cycling towards the city centre and other destinations. However, if using this road to approach the hospital, it is impossible for cyclists to make a safe right turn without using the pavement and then doubling back across the main entrance junction. This whole junction area should be upgraded to enable easier crossing for both pedestrians and cyclists.
·                     Cycle parking should be upgraded in anticipation of increased demand, especially outside the medical school, which is already extremely busy.