Bus shelters again

This article was published in 2001, in Newsletter 36.

‘The only acceptable solution may be for an alternative source of funding to be found, so that bus shelters without adverts can be installed’

In Newsletter 35 we reported how the advertising panels on new bus shelters being installed on shared-use paths around Cambridge are causing visibility problems for bus passengers and for cyclists.

The City Council has a contract with the advertising company Adshel, which entitles Adshel to install a certain number of new bus shelters around the city, and which requires Adshel to fund some developments, like the improvements to the public toilets at the Drummer Street bus station.

What’s in it for Adshel is, of course, future advertising revenue. The Council in turn spends less residents’ money on these facilities.

Our problem is not with the agreement itself, but with its hazardous consequences in some locations. We asked to see a copy of the agreement. The Council’s lawyers have responded that it is a confidential commercial document, and is therefore not in the public domain.

Image as described adjacent
L-shaped shelter on Trumpington Road (opposite Bentley Road)-advertising panel blocks visibility completely. (This shelter will be replaced by a cantilever design.)
Image as described adjacent
Cantilever shelter on Newmarket Road-note the clear visibility from either end of the shelter

Two designs

We have been told that the legal agreement specifies only two possible designs for the new shelters being funded by Adshel.

Most of the new shelters are a so-called L-shaped design. These have a solid panel at one end, with an advert on either side, meaning that a cyclist approaching from one direction has no idea whether anyone is about to walk out from behind the panel. Needless to say, advertising companies prefer this design, as the adverts are more visible to motorists.

The other design is the cantilever shelter. This has two adverts parallel to the kerb, and may have transparent end-panels, but visibility from either end is never blocked. Because the foundation is a mirror image of the roof, these cannot be installed where there are cables and other services below ground. There must be a gap of about 70 cm between the kerb and the front of the shelter to avoid buses hitting the shelter!

Perhaps the ideal solution for shared-use paths would be rotated cantilever shelters, where the vertical panel is at the back. We have been told that this can’t be done, because waiting passengers would block the adverts.

Progress at one site

At the end of March we received a list of modifications to shelters, which had been agreed between City Council officers and Adshel. The most notable change was that the L-shaped shelter on Trumpington Road (opposite Bentley Road) would be replaced by a cantilever design, thus removing the obstruction.

In various other locations, a gap in the back panel of L-shaped shelters would be filled in, preventing people from walking out of the back of a shelter into the path of cyclists.

For each of the three locations which most concerned us (Milton Road by Green End Road, Cherry Hinton Road at the entrance to Cherry Hinton Hall and Hills Road/Long Road junction) the council said:

The shelter will be relocated [or erected] tight to the property boundary wall, thereby increasing the width of the shared-use path. A guard rail will be erected at right-angles to the advertisement panel, between the shelter and the shared-use path. Users will then leave the shelter at a point with oblique visibility of approaching cycles. A warning sign, reading ‘Beware cycles when leaving shelter’, will be placed on the half end glazed panel.

Moving the shelter backwards gains a few tens of centimetres in each case, and does not remove the obstruction. The proposed guard rail looks rather like a Sheffield cycle stand, with an extra horizontal bar. Great fun to play on – but toddlers will easily be able to get under the rail and into the path of cycles. We doubt that signs warning of cyclists will have much effect.

We responded that (except for Bentley Road) the proposed changes would not solve the problems of inadequate visibility, or of obstruction of cycle routes.

‘For the sake of visibility at one or two driveways, many more cyclists and pedestrians are inconvenienced’

Meeting and site visits

We have since met representatives of the Council to try to find a mutually acceptable solution. It was agreed that there was a problem at Green End Road, Long Road and outside Cherry Hinton Hall, and that we would have a site visit to see whether cantilever shelters could be installed. This happened at the end of April.

At the time this is going to press (early May) we do not yet know the result of the site visit. However, it appears that one stumbling block for the installation of cantilever shelters at each of the sites is that the City Council uses standards for visibility for motorists, but does not believe there are any for cyclists! For more on this, see Visibility Splays elsewhere this issue. For the sake of visibility at one or two driveways, many more cyclists and pedestrians are inconvenienced. See Milton Road bus stop cycle and pedestrian counts.

Solution still needed

These advertising panels mean that every cyclist passing these shelters is required to assume that there may be someone about to walk out in front of them. A solution is required urgently. First choice must be for cantilever shelters to be installed. Where this is impossible, the only acceptable solution may be for alternative sources of funding to be found, so that bus shelters without adverts can be installed.

Clare Macrae