This article was published in 2013, in Newsletter 111.
Recently there has been a second round of consultations regarding safety improvements to the roundabout at the junction of Radegund Road, Perne Road and Birdwood Road. Many members of the Campaign were disappointed that a fully-fledged ‘Dutch’ roundabout with segregated cycle lanes had not been proposed as it seemed there was sufficient space. Even more were unhappy with the proposals for a new shared off-road path for cyclists and pedestrians round the roundabout. Nevertheless, the Campaign decided not to object to the scheme but has written explaining that we will only be able to support the proposals if our recommendations regarding the details (see below) are implemented.
Here I explain why we reached this consensus and why we feel the scheme is worth supporting.
A group of members met with Mike Davies from the Transport Team at Cambridgeshire County Council and Alasdair Massie, the engineer from Hannah Reed who designed the scheme. Alasdair is also a member of the Campaign, cycles round the roundabout daily on his way to and from work, and has provided us with much expert advice on the Gonville Place crossing, among other matters. That meeting clarified a number of points and, in particular, assured us that the proposals change the geometry of the roundabout to a design that meets Dutch (CROW) standards. Dutch roundabouts have a much better safety record than their British equivalents for all road users. If the scheme goes ahead it will be an opportunity to demonstrate that roundabouts built to Dutch geometry will work in the UK, that the traffic will not grind to a halt, lorries will not get wedged and they will perform safely and efficiently. This will make it easier to get improvements at junctions like the Sainsbury’s roundabout where there is both the space and the need to put in a segregated path around the perimeter.
So we welcome the changes to Dutch geometry and believe that the scheme will offer significant benefits to cyclists coming from all directions, particularly by slowing down motor traffic entering the roundabout.
Benefits of the scheme
If the details are got right, the benefits of the amended scheme will be to:
- slow down motor traffic, particularly on Perne Road;
- minimise the length of the ‘conflict zone’ where motor vehicles entering or exiting the roundabout may cross paths with cyclists on the circulating carriageway;
- extend cycle lanes on Radegund Road;
- make crossing all four roads via the footway safer and easier by providing traffic islands, in addition to the two existing pedestrian crossings;
- restrict car parking on the roundabout and at the eastern end of Radegund Road;
- provide more space off the road that children and less confident cyclists can use;
- demonstrate that ‘Dutch’ geometry will work at roundabouts in the UK; and >
- set the scene for a comprehensive Dutch roundabout at any appropriate location.
Concerns about shared use
We have considerable reservations about the off-road path, as we do not favour unsegregated shared-use provision. We believe that it is generally preferable to separate cyclists and pedestrians to avoid conflict between them, and that unsegregated shared-use paths create confusion regarding footway cycling. But we recognise that even with the changes to the roundabout some cyclists will find the road too intimidating and will prefer to be off the road.
Alasdair explained that the original proposal had no explicit off-road cycle provision, as there is no off-road infrastructure to connect into. Isolated off-road provision is rarely popular and can encourage belligerence towards cyclists using the road. It was however recognised that many people do ride on the footways here and so the proposals deliberately addressed the difficulty of crossing the entry and exit arms by reducing crossing distances and introducing wide islands.
The original proposals aimed to ensure that people who do cycle on the footway could do so safely and without endangering other path users, but without encouraging or drawing attention to it. Explicit shared-use came about as a direct result of requests made during public consultation and was not part of the original recommendations.
It was explained that segregated shared-use paths would be more costly, as the Disability Discrimination Act requires tactile paving wherever pedestrians and vehicles (including bikes) meet, and that they might exacerbate the tendency for some motorists to think that cyclists should not be on the road. It is perfectly feasible, but to provide ‘the full Dutch’ would require more radical changes to the roundabout in order to provide the necessary width and visibility for a peripheral cycle track. This would have put the scheme well beyond the available budget.
Getting the details right
However, as with most schemes, it is vital to get the details right. In particular,
- on-road cycle lanes must not deflect cyclists off the road, as cyclists have the right to remain on the road;
- the existing cycle lane markings should continue beyond the start of the off-road provision towards the roundabout;
- there need to be good lengths of flush kerbs so that cyclists do not have to turn sharply to get on and off the off-road paths;
- flush kerbs must be properly flush;
- the points where off-road paths rejoin the carriageway must be carefully chosen to minimise risks from vehicles leaving the roundabout;
- the crossing islands must not be reduced in size but need to be as designed: at least 3m at the narrow part of the taper – ample for a bike + tag-along or a bakfiets; and
- any temptation to make the entry lanes less radial and more tangential must be resisted as this would tend to increase entry speeds, which is undesirable.
Looking further ahead
We hope that, were further funding to become available, more improvements to cycling provision in the Radegund Road/Birdwood Road/Perne Road area could be made.
Some of us see this scheme as a phase one, with the prospect of a phase two which would improve it further, if the County Council obtained greater DfT funding. We recognise the difficulties that the County has in delivering schemes to get more people cycling when DfT funding is, as at present, inconsistent and insufficient.
We hope it will set the scene for bringing forward a scheme that applies the comprehensive Dutch model at an appropriate location as soon as circumstances permit.
The Campaign’s full response is on our website.