Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bedford "Turbo" Roundabout

I had the pleasure of a visit to Bedford this week and took the time out to have a look at this scheme - one of the "cycle safety" schemes that were intended to improve conditions for existing cyclists. This was a flawed process - councils had to submit schemes, and a committee from cycling organisations evaluate them, in a very short timescale. The final decision was that it should be be funded but that the shortcomings to the scheme should be made clear.

Traffic lanes are separated out as you approach an exit making lane switching impossible - this was identified as a reason for collisions with cyclists. Less confident cyclists can use the shared use pavements and cycle lanes alongside zebra crossings as well as linking into the cycle lanes on adjacent roads which are advisory but mostly of a reasonable width.

Criticisms of this scheme seemed to be based on the following:-

It's not what the Dutch would call a turbo roundabout. True, but the rest of the cycle network in Bedford isn't very Dutch either, with the possible exception of the riverside routes.

Cycling Safety money was spend on a scheme for motor traffic - but it's hard to see how you can create space for cycling without re-arranging the flow of other traffic. The intention was to make the road safer for both on and off-road cyclists.  

It promotes the concept of a 'dual network" - the Dutch have a network of bike routes that is suitable for all. This is where we want to get to but one roundabout isn't going to achieve that. 

Motorcyclists complained that the original design was hazardous for them and the final design has been modified as a result of that.

(This is taken from a traffic island - the Belisha beacon isn't blocking anyone's route)

The first cyclist I saw using the scheme used this non-cyclised ped crossing to access the road opposite - clearly a trick was missed here.

Using the crossings,traffic which was moving pretty slowly stopped immediately. The ares was pretty congested it being around 5:30 and a lot of traffic coming out of the station car parks which are not far away. There seemed to a lot of scope to increase cycling in the area.

Bedford does seem to have a mixed economy as far as cycling goes  - roughly equally balanced between pavement cyclists who were generally moving pretty slowly and not causing a problem and faster roadie types. So the roundabout seemed to fit in with the existing cycling culture.

All in all there was a feeling of calm about the area and I came away wondering what the fuss was all about. Elsewhere in Bedford the main roads had advisory cycle lanes that were a decent width - I didn't have my tape measure on me - and it seemed like it would be a fairly pleasant place to cycle although as I had a puncture I spent the rest of my stay pushing the Brompton around. May I also say that I found the people of Bedford very helpful and friendly, in sharp contrast to the folk of North London mentioned in my last post.


Aaron Trevena said...

IIRC a lot of the "histrionics" were about using cycling funding on a roundabout for motor-vehicles, and the false claims about it being either 'dutch' or good for cycling.

It's just more of the usual british mediocrity that neither encourages more cycling nor would cope with more cycling. On road it would be unpleasant and unsafe, even if you take the lane, on the pavement you're mixing with pedestrians and giving way on each leg.

In short it's just pretty mediocre and a waste of cycling funds - you can hardly argue that's not true

Tim said...

"...the rest of the cycle network in Bedford isn't very Dutch either..."
" roundabout isn't going to achieve that..."

Your defence against the criticisms seems to centre around "we haven't bothered to do it elsewhere so why start here". And that argument could be used indefinitely to avoid doing any individual piece of infrastructure to a high-quality Dutch standard.

Surely the point is we should start somewhere, and as soon as possible. And this would have been as good as anywhere - a location with funding to make changes for cycling?

Basically your attitude doesn't fill me with confidence.

Simon Geller said...

Confidence in what exactly?

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