Best practice made official Government policy at last?

Cambridge Cycling Campaign has submitted its response to the Government’s Consultation on the draft of two new Local Transport Notes on Walking and Cycling. These are:

  • LTN1/04 – Policy, Planning and Design for Walking and Cycling gives the expected overall framework and technical standards for provision for walking and cycling;
  • LTN2/04 – Adjacent and Shared Use Facilities for Pedestrians & Cyclists.

We strongly welcome these documents. They gave the clear impression of having been written by people who cycle regularly and who actually understand the needs of cyclists.

If implemented, these notes would promote to the status of official government policy a vast range of best practice. Many of the recommendations in publications such as Cycle-Friendly Infrastructure have been included. Indeed, we feel that if the advice in the Notes were consistently translated into practice on the ground, the UK would arguably have some of the best provision for cyclists in Europe.

Our main concern, of course, is the extent to which the recommendations in the Notes will actually be translated into practice on the ground. Even in Local Authorities such as our own, which have historically had a reasonable degree of commitment to the needs of cyclists and walkers, best practice is rarely adhered to, particularly with regard to widths of cycle lanes and tracks and to the priority given to cyclists on the roads, and we have often had to press extremely hard to get even basic standards implemented.

LTN1/04 – Policy, Planning and Design for Walking and Cycling

We felt this document was of particularly high quality. We explicitly outlined the large range of areas which we particularly welcomed. It is rare that we see advice framed along the lines of increasing convenience rather than just safety. Only in this way will increased levels of cycling become likely, both in Cambridge and beyond.

If implemented, these notes would promote to the status of official government policy a vast range of best practice.

We very strongly welcomed the explicit statement of a hierarchy of provision, which recognises that ‘cycle facilities’ are often not necessarily the best way of catering for cyclists and that at other times the question of ‘whether’ rather than ‘how’ cycle provision is needed is important.

Instead, it makes clear that other measures such as traffic reduction and reducing speeds should be considered a first priority. On-road provision is seen as something which should be considered before off-road provision is proposed, and the latter is specified as requiring justification – rather than being the default that so often seems to be the case.

Other areas we liked were:

  • The emphasis on ‘Permeable Infrastructure’;
  • That provision for cyclists should be in the form of an ‘accessible, barrier-free environment’;
  • Restatement of research which demonstrates that ‘there are no real factors to justify excluding cyclists from pedestrian areas’;
  • Recognition that ‘removing on-street parking can help to release road space’ for cyclists;
  • That ‘scheme designers should take care that the carriageway width is not reduced to such an extent that cyclists’ safety is compromised’. (Clearly, this document is something that proponents of the bus lane schemes in Milton Road and Hills Road should read.)
‘An accessible, barrier-free environment…’
Image as described adjacent

Pedestrians, too, would benefit from many of the proposals in the document, such as removal of guard rails and the removal of staggered pelican crossings.

We felt the document needed strengthening in a few areas:

In the hierarchies of provision table, we felt that ‘cycle lanes’ and ‘segregated cycle tracks constructed by reallocation of carriageway space’ should be split from, and should precede, ‘cycle tracks away from roads’, which would reflect better the statements elsewhere in the guide as well as mirroring our own view here.

We felt there was a desperate need to strengthen the section on the width of cycle lanes. Far too often, lanes of inadequate width are installed, often totally unnecessarily. We felt that the statement that ‘cycle lanes should preferably be a minimum of 1.5m wide’ is too weak.

We wish to see improved emphasis on the need to prevent loss of priority at crossings of side-roads which occur on many off-carriageway cycle tracks. We feel current unwillingness to maintain such priority is a particular disbenefit of such tracks.

LTN2/04 – Adjacent and Shared Use Facilities for Pedestrians & Cyclists

In general, we felt the advice in this document is sound. Our main comment, however, was that the presence of a whole document on a form of provision which is lower down in the hierarchy of provision, when there is no equivalent for on-road forms of provision, may set the wrong impression. We do feel there is a lack of best practice and understanding of on-road forms of provision, which should take higher priority. We remain concerned that engineers in practice see shared-use as provision of first resort.

We strongly welcomed the document’s statement that there should be documentation of decisions where ‘an on-carriageway solution has been rejected’.

We welcomed the summary on pedestrianised areas, although the need for effective enforcement partnerships against ‘rogue’ cyclists should, we felt, be mentioned here.

Cycle tracks merge smoothly with the road at minor junctions (near Aarhus, Denmark).
Image as described adjacent

Most importantly, perhaps, the document stated that ‘a footway crossed by many driveways, and where sightlines are very poor, would normally be unsuitable for introducing cycle use’, again something which our local councils would do well to take note of.

Our main comment for this document is that we want to see a clear statement that the creation of off-road forms of provision should never harm (inadvertently or otherwise) those who, for whatever reason, choose to exercise their right to remain on the road. This is known locally as the ‘Milton Road effect’, where some motorists’ impatience means cyclists are abused, harassed and in some cases even assaulted.

We also wanted to see discussion of what might be termed ‘hybrid provision’. We feel this sort of provision would provide the best of both worlds – a degree of segregation from traffic whilst still being ‘on-road’. One example is junctions like the one in the picture from Denmark.

Changes to regulations

Wouldn’t left turn filters for bikes be useful? This example is from Germany.
Image as described adjacent

Whilst writing to the Department for Transport, we took the opportunity to propose a few changes to regulations which would simplify implementation of a few important aspects of cycle provision. Our proposed changes would, we feel, make such provision more widespread:

  • The old chestnut of allowing an ‘Except Cyclists’ sign underneath a ‘No Entry’ sign, for use in exempting cyclists from one-way streets. Without this common sense approach, a precedent for which already exists for buses, there is little chance of widespread adoption of such a measure.
  • Introduction of a new ‘cycle left’ filter light at traffic lights. This would allow cyclists to turn left into a side road whilst preventing other traffic (including cyclists) from proceeding while lights are red, purely by the use of signing/lights and without the construction of an extra lane. This would be useful for locations such as the left turn from St Andrew’s Street into Downing Street. Other countries do this, so why can’t we?
  • Consideration of regulations which would allow a ‘pedestrians and cyclists may cross phase’ at signalled junctions, as works well in other European countries.

Our full 14-page response is available online in our new campaigning letters section online (see article in this newsletter) at www.camcycle.org.uk/campaigning/letters/ and paper copies are available on request as usual.

What next?

We will keep members informed of what happens next with what could be very important documents.

Martin Lucas-Smith