Friday, August 26, 2016

Richard Branson and the claim that "a helmet saved my life"

When I saw the pictures of British tycoon Richard Branson battered and bruised after a bicycle fall on a Caribbean island this week, I wondered for an instant if Jeremy Corbyn, the UK’s Labour party leader, had pushed a stick through his spokes.

The two had clashed in the #traingate row when the businessman refuted the politician’s claim that there were no seats on a Virgin train and he’d had to sit on the floor.

One can only imagine Mr Corbyn’s fury over Mr Branson’s claims. However, barring a poltergeist-like power that works over several thousand miles, or an exceptionally long stick, Mr Corbyn is probably not guilty of causing this bicycle mishap.

Mr Branson, meanwhile, blames a rogue “sleeping policeman” speed bump for his fall, which happened while he was going downhill during a ride with Holly and Sam, his grown-up children.

Both Mr Branson and Mr Corbyn appear to agree on one thing though: the power of cycle helmets.

Mr Branson told the Daily Mirror newspaper that his life was only saved because he was wearing a helmet, even though his only facial injury was to his cheek.

The fact that a helmet would have been next to useless if he’d gone off the cliff, where his bicycle ended up, seems not to have occurred to him.

Mr Corbyn, meanwhile, always wears his silver-and-black helmet, which serves as a  counterpoint to his grey goatee beard.

Mr Branson’s claim is bound to upset the growing number of cyclistas in London who are riding bare-headed — putting their faith in the data at cyclehelmets.org rather than a relatively flimsy piece of polystyrene.

Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director of Cycling UK, Britain’s national cycling charity, wished Mr Branson a speedy recovery but cautioned that helmets were made only to withstand simple falls not high-speed impacts. He said: “One cannot safely assume that a cycle helmet would have ‘saved Mr Branson’s life’

“Some evidence suggests that helmet-wearing may make cyclists more injury-prone, possibly due to riding a bit less cautiously.”

Mischievously he pointed out that the British billionaire had been stopped by police in Australia three years ago for not wearing a helmet.

As to the future, Mr Branson will, no doubt, be developing a Virgin-branded suit of armour that will protect cyclists’ entire bodies in any situation. In fact it may just make him his next billion.

Mr Corbyn, meanwhile, is probably reflecting that his helmet gave no protection from particularly vicious silly-season political fallout.

Will Bramhill, August 26, 2016

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Essex up to its old anti-cycling tricks





What's the difference between three seconds and nineteen? Wake up at the back! What's that? Sixteen?

Yes, you're right, but it's also the difference between a good council (Colchester when it was highways authority in the 1980s) and one that pays lip service to the idea of being cycle-friendly (the car-orientated politicos and officers of Essex in the 2010s).

That 16 seconds is the extra time it takes for cyclists to get a green light at East Bay, Colchester -- on Route 51 of the National Cycle Network -- after Essex replaced the traffic lights and a nearby mini-roundabout.

Over in Denmark, Holland and Germany, traffic engineers are implementing "green waves" so  cyclists can complete their journeys across town efficiently and in comfort.

The idea is that once you hit a green, it will be go, go, go at all the other lights on your route so long as you're riding at 12mph. By and large such plans don't inconvenience drivers ... it is the classic carrot rather than a stick.

Here in Colchester, East Bay was the one junction where cyclists could press a button and have the lights change instantly. If you started counting and got to "three" you thought you were hard done by, or you realised someone else had triggered the crossing in the 60 seconds before you arrived.

Then Essex hit the jackpot. It won a wedge of cash from the Department for Transport, the distribution of which was carried out by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, in reality a Quango of businessmen (who like cars) and politicians (most of whom can't say no to people who like cars)  which refuses to accept that the public exists.

The rationale was to improve the town prior to the explosion in new homes expected before 2040. The result, however, has been a hotchpotch of schemes that has included Mile End Road, moving the Cymbeline Way crossing ... and the little matter of widening Colne Bank Avenue, St Andrew's Avenue and Cowdray Avenue to squeeze in, you've guessed it, more cars.

Back at East Bay, cyclists press the button and have to count to n-n-n-nineteen. On the way to work and school; whatever the weather, and all the time while chewing on diesel particulates next to one of the worst pollution hotspots in south-east England.

And does it help drivers? Response from motorists suggests not. They say the jams are still pretty much the same.

Is there a safety reason for the longer wait?  Well, Essex will try to spin a story about how drivers have to see you waiting before the lights change, which is a nonsense: most drivers can't even see the lights when a cyclist presses the button.

In the meantime, the Bike Committee's attention is turning to the Cowdray Avenue works and whether we can expect Dutch-style roundabouts at the junctions with Ipswich Road and Harwich Road.

Don't hold your breath, though.

Rodney Bass, one of Essex's transport chiefs, was asked recently by CCC's Paul Avison if he thought Essex was doing enough to double its pathetic cycling levels, as promised in the county's spanking new Cycling Strategy. "Probably not," he said, and moved on. To talk to someone about cars, we presume.





Saturday, July 02, 2016

Balkerne Hill — a bridge too wide?

The Balkerne Hill footbridge from the west
This week Colchester Council granted planning permission for a wider footbridge across Balkerne Hill. While we welcome the scheme, we were amazed when, last autumn, Essex County Council announced the plans. ECC sneaked in the idea as part of its project to change the flow of traffic on Priory Street on the other side of the town centre, and it was down to luck that we noticed Balkerne Hill among the paperwork on show at an "information event".

The idea is an old one: back in the late 1990s and early 2000s we tried to get a contribution for a wide plaza to replace the bridge as part of the scheme for new homes at nearby St Mary's Fields. We thought a wider structure would present the Romans' Balkerne Gate (the oldest Roman gate in the UK) at its best.

That came to nothing but then the Labour government gave Colchester £4.2m and made it a "cycling town"  with the aim of "bridging the gaps".

Widening the Balkerne Hill bridge was immediately considered but we were told the abutments would not be strong enough for a broader structure (ECC said engineers had to take into account the maximum load should the bridge ever be full). The cycling town group (councils, campaigners, public health people, police, army, etc) then concentrated on creating a route along Crouch Street.

As a halfway house, however, and because cyclists were already using it, the railings on the bridge were raised to a height that complied with national best practice — and made it less likely that a rider would tumble 12m to the busy road below.

ECC also said it would remove the order that banned cyclists from riding on the bridge.

And there the matter stayed until last September — because the supervisory organisation, Cycling England, went up in flames as part of David Cameron's "Bonfire of the quangos".

As a former CCC chairman, I thought the cycling ban had been removed, but it turned out this was only because I ride almost exclusively east to west. Essex did not remove the sign for cyclists going west to east. This is typical of the legal confusion left behind by Essex Legal Services in the wake of cycling town.

Personally, I believe the Balkerne Hill scheme will be like Lower Castle Park: a lot of hands raised in horror at the idea which then settle down. There are examples of wide areas like this being used with no ill effects and very little conflict, including this one in Queen Street, London, which handles thousands of pedestrian and bike journeys a day with very little conflict.

Yet, I hear you say, the cycling campaign opposed Mile End Road: why is that different?

There are several reasons, but these are the main ones:
1) cyclists in Mile End Road will be going up to 25mph downhill
2) driveways mean that cars will be clashing with cyclists
3) parked cars raise the risk of "dooring"
4) it's too narrow, and
5) the road is a reasonable alternative: there are very few cars and most travel well within the speed limit (Balkerne Hill bridge, by contrast, is on a desire line with no reasonable alternative.)

Like Mile End Road, ECC allowed very little input from the cycling campaign. In fact we've been kept totally in the dark. If we had been consulted, we would have advanced the idea of a bridge with splayed sides such as this, below.

Note how the sloping sides add to the feeling of safety
with this bridge in the Netherlands (Courtesy Mark Wagenbuur)


That's probably academic now, although it is yet another reason why Essex should listen to cyclists, no matter how much it hates us.

Between now and the time the new, wider bridge opens, probably in early winter 2016, I'd like to explain a few things.

Every bicyclist rides an inherently unstable machine. Even hitting a bumble bee can be enough to cause you to lose balance and suffer injury. That's why most cyclists ride considerately. When cyclists encounter pedestrians, they tend to slow down. Video studies show that virtually all riders reduce their speed to that of pedestrians: cyclists don't want to hit anyone nor do they want to fall off themselves.

Lots of people say that cyclists can "get off and walk". over the bridge. This is the equivalent of expecting motorists to "get out and push", or even drop off a passenger, drive 25m then pick up the passenger again. Walking for a section of the journey ruins a utility ride in terms of overall speed and convenience. We want people to cycle for health and for the environment: spoiling the advantages of their journey will not achieve that aim. As an aside, there is also the issue of disabled or older cyclists, for whom getting off and back on to a bike can be a struggle but they do it because cycling is a faster means of transport. Why penalise them?

Pushing a bike can also be more dangerous that riding slowly and considerately. For a start, you take less of the width of the path. Also, take a look at a bike, with its sticky-out pedals, handlebar ends and brake levers. Any cyclist can explain the agony of a pedal coming into contact with a shin bone. It hurts! So long as you can control a bike at slow speeds -- and most riders can -- it is better to stay in the saddle with feet on pedals and hands covering bar ends and levers.

A Santander hire bike in London. Note the registration number.
So what about bells? Up until the Coalition government's "bonfire of red tape" in 2011, all new bikes had to have bells fitted when sold. However, bells are not a legal requirement and the human voice "Excuse me" or even the grossly rude "Get out of the f*&%$£g way" are means of warning of approach. Personally, I like bells. I have a Lion bell on my favourite bike and its sonorous "ping" is my pride and joy. That said, some people like being "pinged" while others hate it. I've lost count of the number of times that a pedestrian has sworn at me just for ringing my bell while I've been riding slowly and considerately.

Many anti-cycle people point to cyclists not paying road tax or having registration plates. For starters, there is no such thing as road tax, and many low-emission cars are also exempt; why should cyclists pay when some drivers don't and they require far less investment and cause far less wear and tear on the road surface? Registration schemes have been tried many times and never worked; they have been far more expensive to administer than their worth (just like the UK dog licence); London's hire bikes have had serial numbers in 112pt type on their rear stays. In five years, no one has used a number to report misuse of a bike by a particular cyclist. 

All this said, you always get idiots. Idiots are idiots whether they're on foot, on bike or, worst of all, in a car. It's a social problem. They're inconsiderate people; full stop. Please feel free to shout at them, to cuss at them, to flip them the bird, but don't reserve your ire just for cyclists: do the same for bad drivers, especially those on the phone and fiddling with their satnav, and bad walkers, too.

Will Bramhill // July 2, 2016





















Friday, April 15, 2016

The formal complaint: the cycleway that even cyclists don't want


It is terrible when your local highways authority is so shockingly bad at listening to people that you are forced into making a formal complaint.

Fortunately, Colchester Cycling Campaign has the strength in depth to be able to research, collate and present a good argument.

Our complaint went to Gavin Jones, chief executive of Essex County Council, on April 13, and he has promised a response in ten working days.

We're waiting to see what ECC's response will be before looking at whether and how to take the issue to the local government ombudsman.

In the meantime, thanks go to local councillors Anne Turrell, Dominic Graham, Martin Goss and Ben Locker, and Myland parish councillors, for their support. We might have crossed swords with Alan Lindsay, see below, but he has remained unfailingly polite throughout — a true gentleman.

Mile End Road, Colchester, looking northwards. Wide road with cars parked beside each kerb.


FORMAL COMPLAINT TO ESSEX COUNTY COUNCIL CONCERNING MILE END ROAD SHARED CYCLEWAY/FOOTWAY, COLCHESTER, ESSEX

13 April 2016


Dear Sir or Madam,

Attached is a formal complaint relating to the Mile End Road shared cycleway/footway, which is at present under construction. We urge Essex County Council to halt work with immediate effect. Whether or not the work is stopped, this matter, including procedure, application of guidance and application of equality legislation, should be the subject of a full inquiry by an independent party and a report issued.

The complaint, below, is supported by Cycling UK, the national cycling charity; councillor Anne Turrell (LD, ECC); councillors Martin Goss, Dominic Graham (LD, Colchester Borough Council); Ben Locker (Con, CBC); Pete Hewitt, chairman of Myland Community Council and various residents of Mile End Road.

We look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely,

Paul Avison, vice chair, CCC

Will Bramhill, planning officer, CCC




The complaint

ECC has spent up to £750,000 on a scheme to convert a 1.2km-long footway into an unsegregated shared cycleway/footway. With the exception of the construction phase, the scheme fails in its stated aim of assisting economic generation. The path itself is not fit for purpose.

Our concerns cover the rationale and imposition of the scheme; the path’s design, including its unsuitability for utility cyclists; the increased potential for fatal and serious injuries, and the irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money.

We question the judgment and direction of ECC, Essex Highways, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership and Ringway Jacobs. Various people were directly involved with the scheme and/or copied into key correspondence:
    •    Cllr David Finch, leader of ECC 

    •    Cllr Rodney Bass, ECC cabinet member for infrastructure 

    •    Cllr Ray Gooding, ECC cycling champion 

    •    Mr Paul Bird, ECC director for commissioning (retired, April 2016) 

    •    Mr Alan Lindsay, ECC transport strategy and engagement manager 

    •    Mr Chris Stevenson, ECC head of commissioning 

    •    Mr Dominic Collins, Greater Essex Business Board, SELEP 

    •    Mr Adam Bryan, interim director, SELEP 

      

The outcome

  • The path is not suitable for use by utility cyclists — the very people such a scheme should be for. Mr Lindsay said the path is most likely to be used by a parent escorting a five-year-old child (Alan Lindsay, meeting convened by Myland Community Council)
  • A leaflet promoting the scheme was entitled “Improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians”. The reverse is true, however, and accidents are more likely. The dangers are: collisions between pedestrians and cyclists (especially on the hill) and collisions between cyclists and cars (vehicles emerging from driveways, and car doors opening). Drivers will also expect on-road cyclists to be using the shared cycleway/footway, not knowing its unsuitability, and react to such cyclists accordingly; the narrowed road will also make it harder to overtake cyclists
  • The apparent reluctance to follow guidance means that ECC is less likely to be successful in any legal action following any collision that leads to death or injury
  • Taxpayers’ money — given by the Department for Transport under the Colchester Local Sustainable Transport Fund — has been wasted

The rationale

  • The initial idea was flawed
  • Appraisal was poor
  • The development of the scheme was hurried and opaque, especially when compared with schemes during Cycling Town (2009-11) in which ECC encouraged CCC’s involvement
  • The “consultation” process reached too few people and was of limited scope
  • ECC admitted that the scheme was pushed through to “save face” with the funder (Alan Lindsay, meeting convened by Myland Community Council)
  • No data was collected to enable a “before and after” comparison

The procedure and design

  • ECC appears to have disregarded aspects of the law and key guidance, meaning that the path is substandard 

  • ECC hasn’t kept a record of why it disregarded guidance and/or who authorised this (See section on Detail, below) 

  • The path wasn’t requested by anyone (FoI) 

  • No research was carried out before construction began (FoI) 

  • No research was carried out into the number of cyclists on the route and their average speeds 
(uphill/downhill) (FoI) 

  • Options other than an unsegregated shared cycleway/footway do not appear to have been 
considered despite repeated requests and the fact that this is part of the Essex Cycling Strategy 
(FoI)
  • The “public consultation” was billed as an “information event” and was little more than an 
exhibition of the scheme that ECC had decided would be implemented. No options were presented and ECC verbally made clear that no alternative to a shared cycleway/footway would be considered. 
 


Involvement

  • Mr Bass did not directly respond to CCC’s concerns
  • Mr Gooding replied to emails when pressed but did not reply to an email to set a date for a site 
meeting
  • Mrs Turrell asked to meet cabinet members over the proposal but her requests were declined. 

  • Other individuals were copied into CCC’s emails querying why guidance wasn’t being 
followed; they could and should have stepped in (and been seen to have stepped in) to question 
the scheme
  • Mrs Turrell requested a copy of the business case for the scheme from SELEP to be told that (as of April 6) it has still to be published. SELEP also ignored all correspondence from CCC. These points together constitute a lack of public accountability, a lack of transparency and also raise questions over its role and its suitability to supervise a vast amount of government money (See Detail) 

 


The law that has not been interpreted properly

  • ECC complied with the Equality Act 2010 by completing an equality impact assessment (EqIA) on the overall project, which involves several schemes 

  • Under the Act, ECC has to be able to show that it has paid “due regard”. It seems likely that it has failed to apply its ongoing duty at a scheme level. This was shown when we asked Mr Lindsay to prove that ECC has paid “due regard” with respect to this scheme.
He merely referred us to the top-level EqIA

The guidance that has not been applied

  • ECC appears to have dispensed with the expert advice of its own safety auditor (November 2015) to switch to an on-road solution (See Detail) 

  • ECC hasn’t paid attention to its own cycling strategy (See Detail) 

  • ECC hasn’t paid attention to its own cycling design guide (See Detail)
  • ECC hasn’t paid attention to Department for Transport Local Transport Note 1/12 (Mr Lindsay 
claims that this was considered but he cannot quote any section that would support the scheme 
as finally built) (See Detail)
  • ECC hasn’t paid attention to Department for Transport Local Transport Note 2/08 (See Detail) 

  • ECC disregarded the advice of CCC (September 2015) to consider an on-road solution (See 
Detail) 




The detail 



1.0 Background

1.1 Colchester Cycling Campaign has been lobbying for utility cycling infrastructure for more than 25 years. We were a key partner (with ECC and Colchester Borough Council) in the government- led Cycling Town project. We had a productive relationship with ECC until about 15 months ago when, for no discernible reason, the council’s approach to us changed.

1.2 Colchester is Britain’s fastest-growing town and the design and effectiveness of new transport infrastructure is of paramount importance. To avoid gridlock affecting the economy, and to improve public health, the little money that is available should be spent wisely on “modal shift” which is best encouraged by providing high quality provision for alternatives the car.

1.3 CCC favours Dutch/Danish-style infrastructure where motor traffic speeds and/or weight of traffic makes it preferable. Such provision needs to be high quality both to draw cyclists from the carriageway and to reduce danger; the infrastructure currently being installed in London (the north-south and east-west cycle superhighways, pictured left) is high quality. Transport minister Robert Goodwill acknowledged the need for high quality provision in the UK following a visit to Copenhagen (video)

1.4 The campaign has expressed concern over several schemes within ECC’s current projects either because of poor appraisal, lack of data, safety factors or because they will not encourage
cycling. We have expressed broad support for three schemes.

1.5 We heard about the Mile End Road shared cycleway/footway at an informal meeting in August 2015. We saw the initial plans at the end of September; these featured a shared use unsegregated foot/cycle route which ran on the western side of the road for 0.5km, and the eastern side for 0.7km. The “information event” was held in October. In February 2016 the road was marked by surveyors. A final scheme (it had been “tweaked” to run only on the western side of the road) was unveiled in March, a week before construction began. During the entire period we were highlighting the pointlessness and dangers of ECC’s proposals, and drawing officers’ attention to how they were ignoring guidance. From the start, CCC favoured a 20mph limit with light-touch traffic calming. Mile End Road as it exists is eminently suitable for cycling (low traffic levels and generally low speeds).

1.6 Our experience with Cycling Town enables us to compare the management of that scheme with the current scheme. During Cycling Town, DfT was insistent that the cycling community was involved and kept an eye on schemes as they were developed; SELEP has excluded CCC by ignoring our correspondence.

2.0 Government guidance

The Department for Transport provides local authorities with a series of guidance notes on designing schemes for cyclists.

CCC comment: ECC and Ringway Jacobs do not appear to have taken sufficient notice of guidance. If guidance had been followed, it is likely that the current scheme would have been abandoned at an early stage and substituted by a scheme that would have benefited all cyclists. In an email, Mr Lindsay said his team had not recorded when it departed from guidance or who took the decision to do so. He claimed that ECC had followed LTN 1/12. When we asked for examples of which parts of the guidance ECC had followed, however, he was unable to provide any.


2.1 Local Transport Note 1/12

LTN 1/12 can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/ attachment_data/file/9179/shared-use-routes-for-pedestrians-and-cyclists.pdf

Paragraph 1.3: “Shared use routes created through the conversion of footways or footpaths can be controversial. There are many such examples that have been implemented inappropriately and/or poorly designed, particularly in urban areas. It is essential for designers to understand that shared use is not the ‘easy fix’ it might appear to be.”
CCC comment: The warning is here, right at the front of the main national document on shared paths.

Paragraph 1.4: “The design of shared use routes requires careful consideration and is best carried out by someone experienced in planning and designing for pedestrians and cyclists. A poorly designed facility can make conditions worse for both user groups.”
CCC comment: We query the expertise of the team responsible for the design of the Mile End Road scheme (note the total unsuitability of that first “split” design). You would expect experienced designers to be aware both of guidance and the problems caused when insufficient attention is paid to guidance.

Paragraph 1.5: “Cycle route networks often include a mixture of on-carriageway and shared use routes. It might therefore be necessary to divide schemes into route sections to assess each one in its appropriate context for design purposes.”
CCC comment: We favoured a footway/cycleway scheme around the Station roundabout, with cyclists and pedestrians separated from traffic and from each other; our view was that Mile End Road would benefit from a 20mph limit and minor traffic calming, which would have been in accord with Para 1.5.

Paragraph 3.1: “The initial appraisal will help to establish the need for improved provision for cyclists and to identify the types of cyclist any improvements are aimed at. The first step is to consider the strategic requirement for cycling (including greater permeability) on an area-wide or corridor basis.”
CCC comment: There is no evidence of any such appraisal (FoI).

Paragraph 3.3: “Routes linking existing and proposed trip attractors/generators should offer good conditions for cycling. In general, improved provision should only be made where there is (or will be) a demand for cycle trips and where existing conditions are unsuitable, not simply because an opportunity exists to do so.”
CCC comment: Existing conditions were suitable for current use. Planning for a future increase in the number of cyclists should have involved considering all options for the route, not just a shared cycleway/footway.

Paragraph 1.8: “This LTN focuses on routes within built-up areas, where the predominant function of the route is for utility transport, and where use by pedestrians and/or cyclists is likely to be frequent. As such, it expresses a general preference for on-carriageway provision for cyclists over shared use. However, it is not meant to discourage shared use where it is appropriate.”
CCC comment: Note the “general preference”, an option that was not considered in this scheme (See FoI to Sam Turner).

Paragraph 1.14: “Disabled people and older people can be particularly affected by shared use routes. Ultimately, however, it will depend on the quality of the design.”
CCC comment: The design is poor and all pedestrians and cyclists using the facility will be “particularly affected”. If ECC had followed the procedure intended by equality legislation, this would have been noted and could have been resolved at a very early stage.

Paragraph 4.6: “The road network is the most basic and important cycling facility available. In general, cyclists need only be removed from the road where there is an overriding safety requirement that cannot be met by on-carriageway improvements, or where providing an off- carriageway cycle route is an end in its own right.”
CCC comment: There was no “overriding safety requirement”. Encouraging greater use of this route by cyclists could have been achieved with a 20mph limit; signing it as a cycle route which, in itself, could have reduced motor traffic.

Paragraph 4.7: “For cyclists, the potential disadvantages of leaving the carriageway include poor route continuity and increased potential for conflict with pedestrians (who may also be disadvantaged). There are also safety issues at side road crossings to consider.
CCC comment: While the “tweak” made to this scheme following the information event reduced the number of side roads to one, there are still numerous conflict points from driveways, as highlighted by the safety auditor.



2.2 Local Transport Note 2/08

LTN 2/08 can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/ attachment_data/file/329150/ltn-2-08_Cycle_infrastructure_design.pdf

Paragraph 8.2.1 (design speed): “On commuter routes, cyclists usually want to be able to travel at speeds of between 12 mph and 20 mph, preferably without having to lose momentum. Frequent road crossings, tight corner radii, the presence of other users and restricted width or forward visibility all affect the speed with which cyclists can travel and the effort required. Cyclists tend not to favour cycle routes that frequently require them to adjust their speed or stop.”
CCC comment: Our judgment is that any speed over walking pace (4mph) would be dangers on the path as designed and built.

Paragraph 8.2.2: A design speed of 20 mph is preferred for offroad routes intended predominantly for utility cycling. This provides a margin of safety for most cyclists. The average speed of cyclists on a level surface is around 12 mph.
CCC comment: No account appears to have taken of the danger of the steep gradient.

Paragraph 8.2.3 Where cyclists share a route with pedestrians, a lower design speed may be required. Routes with design speeds significantly below 20 mph are unlikely to be attractive to regular commuter cyclists, and it may be necessary to ensure there is an alternative on carriageway route for this user category.
CCC comment: Reducing the design speed reduces a path’s attractiveness. In the case of Mile End Road, this makes the council’s scheme pointless.



3.0 The safety audit

A stage two safety audit was carried out in November 2015. The auditor was an ECC employee trained in assessing highways safety. The audit was made on the original scheme (shared cycleway/ footway split in two). Putting the path on to one side of the road mitigated some issues but not those flagged up with the overall scheme. (Note that the audit checks the scheme against road safety issues but not its compliance with design guidance.)

People pulling out of a private driveways on the western side of Mile End Road
People pulling out of a private driveway on the western side of Mile End Road
3.1 The auditor expressed concern that “numerous private accesses throughout the route” were potential conflict points and “there is an increased risk that cyclists may collide with vehicles crossing the shared use path, resulting in injury”. It also highlights an issue with echelon parking at the Lorraine George School of Dancing: “Vehicles accessing to and from the parking area ... may pull out in front of cyclists, resulting in collisions.”
CCC comment: The auditor several times makes a key recommendation of an investigation into on-carriageway provision. We query whether this was given full consideration by ECC.

3.2 The auditor notes the gradient of Mile End Road and says: “This could lead to high cyclist speeds, which could result in loss-of-control type collisions and collisions with pedestrians and vehicles crossing the shared use path.”
CCC comment: Again the recommendation is for an on-carriageway facility — or speed reducing measures for cyclists (but see LTN 2/08, above, on how such measures lead cyclists to stay on the carriageway).

3.3 The auditor notes “inadequate width resulting in conflict between shared path users”.
CCC comment: In the final scheme, path width falls below 3m, the very minimum recommended for a path on open land, let alone between garden walls and parked cars. In at least one location it is 2.6m (on the hill outside No 61),

3.4 The need to comply with design standards is mentioned throughout the audit.

CCC comment: ECC has disregarded design standards when it has suited its intention to push
through with its scheme.

3.5 The audit mentions problems with “the level difference caused by various dropped accesses” which could lead to cyclists losing control.
CCC comment: The danger of different levels “causing loss of control” would appear to discount safe use of the shared cycleway/footway even by “by a five-year-old child” (see previous reference).




4.0 ECC Cycling Strategy

4.1 Paragraph 2.13: “Standard roads carrying light volumes of traffic travelling at low speeds are perhaps more of a natural resource for cyclists than purpose-built cycle tracks which take many years to plan, fund and implement.”
Paragraph 4.2 SE1, “In practice use of suitable standard roads assisted by the introduction of traffic management, speed reduction and junction improvements can help cyclists as much as more obvious cycle infrastructure.”
Paragraph 4.2 SE5, “... only introduce joint cycleway/footway facilities after all other options have been evaluated and rejected.”

CCC comment: These paragraphs show that a road such as Mile End Road can be considered part of a cycling network and they point to the need to prioritise spending on schemes where cycling conditions are poor.

4.2 Paragraph 2.28: “Cycle route design [should] avoid problem junctions and the proximity to private drives.”
CCC comment: This scheme suffers from a high level of off-road parking and private driveways.

4.3 Paragraph 3.3 ‘Objective 1: To improve facilities for cyclists; These include traffic management measures that reduce the speed and/or the volume of traffic ...”
CCC comment: Clearly these are options that should have been explored given the difficulties exposed by the final design.



5.0 Equality Act 2010

ECC has a legal duty to prove that it has shown due regard to “people with protected characteristics” — which includes women, children, the elderly and the disabled (note that Mile End Road has a care home for head-injured people at No 81, on the hill). A summary of the Equality Act is given here: http://www.thompsons.law.co.uk/ltext/127-case-law-public-sector- equality-duty.htm

Note, too, the Brown principles from case law: http://bit.ly/1S6LAFZ, especially in relation to considering guidance and keeping accurate records. More case law is given here: http://bit.ly/ 1SuiiBk

5.1 An equality impact assessment is a tool to demonstrate compliance with the public sector equality duty. The SELEP project is covered by an umbrella EqIA but individual schemes do not have their own EqIAs. This is accepted practice in ECC. It should be noted, however, that EqIA guidelines state that “where an EqIA relates to a continuing project, it must be reviewed and updated at each stage of the decision”.

Rowena Macaulay, a disability campaigner, points out:
“EqIAs should be completed as intended, fully and meaningfully, in accordance with guidance provided by the EHRC as a means of meeting the Public Sector Equality Duty. Doing the relevant research and providing argument and evidence for decisions taken is key to any serious completion of an EqIA, and involving/consulting with those people likely to be affected by proposed changes, or with the local groups representing them (in addition to collecting data etc) is [...] central to that process.”

Ms Macaulay adds:
“Even though ECC acknowledge the SELEP project as a ‘new decision’ and one relating to ‘transport schemes contained within Essex County Council’s Local Transport Plan (2015-21)’ the EqIA refers to a consultation with relevant user groups conducted prior to 2011 — at least five years out of date .”

Hilary Reed, another campaigner, adds:
“An EqIA on each scheme would be the best way of ensuring that ECC can prove it has shown due regard. A desktop EqIA is not sufficient. Evidence of live scheme consultation — evidence gathering — is needed, which requires a community development approach.”

Ms Reed also queries whether the safety auditor is trained how to assess/embrace the public sector equality duty and whether that forms part of their remit. Whichever way ECC decides to apply equality law, officers must be able to show that they have paid “due regard” in each and every scheme. Mr Lindsay, the officer responsible for the Mile End Road scheme, merely pointed us to the umbrella EqIA three times.

5.2 We requested clarification of ECC’s approach to the Equality Act and Paul Turner, ECC corporate lawyer, replied:

“In the highways context this [the Equality Act] can be discharged by a high level equality impact assessment on a programme and a detailed safety design which ensures that any redesigned highway is safe to use for all users.

“I understand that shared cycle facilities are to be constructed to standards identified within the ECC Cycle Strategy, ECC Cycle Design Guide, LTN 1/12 and Sustrans guidance to ensure that the facility can be shared safely with other users. If the scheme meets safety
standards then it would not be likely to have a disproportionate adverse impact on highway users with one or more protected characteristics.”

CCC comment: As seen in this complaint, ECC has departed from guidance and appears not to have taken proper note of the key recommendation of the safety audit. Bearing in mind that ECC has apparently disregarded guidance, we wonder how this sits with Mr Turner’s interpretation of equality law, and whether he still considers that ECC has shown “due regard”.




6.0 The Essex Cycling Design Guide


6.1 Section 2.2 (Planning new routes) stresses the importance of assessing existing cycling conditions before deciding on appropriate measures and says: “Even if these procedures are not fully adopted, it will be important to address the issues that the guidelines raise.” It adds: “Early consultation with local cyclists is recommended wherever possible.”
CCC comment: Essex appears to have disregarded its own guidance in this scheme.


6.2 Section 2.4 (Providing for cyclists in traffic and highway schemes) says: “At the very least, new schemes should not make conditions worse for cyclists.”
CCC comment: This scheme will make conditions worse for all cyclists, both on the new shared cycleway/footway and on the carriageway. Cyclists can continue to use a carriageway even if a cycle facility is provided (R v Cadden). Carriageway cyclists will be affected because road lanes will be narrower, meaning that drivers may become frustrated if they are unable to overtake easily.

Advert on back of London bus warning cyclist to ride at least 1m from parked cars to avoid being doored.
Safety advert on back of a London bus
6.3 Section 3.1 On Street Parking says: “Cyclists should not be expected to cycle close to parked vehicles where opening doors are likely to cause a hazard, particularly where passing traffic further reduces the available road space. Neither should cyclists be expected to cycle alongside parking bays where vehicles are required to reverse out, such as echelon parking bays.”
CCC comment: Car doors opening will be a hazard to cyclists. The fact that Essex is designing infrastructure that incorporates this danger is at odds with local authorities such as Kensington and Chelsea, which is spending money on bus advertisements telling cyclists to give parked cars at least 1m space.

6.4 Section 7.2 refers to LTN 1/12 and stresses: “Recent Department for Transport guidance has emphasised that shared use should only be used if there is no alternative.”
Section 7.3 says: “The conversion of footpaths and footways to permit bicycles [...] should be confined to specific links and locations where clear benefits can be derived. In such situations it is vital that the benefits to the cyclist are balanced against the increased risk and inconvenience to pedestrians.”




7.0 Other relevant details


7.1 Liability: As part of opposing the Mile End Road shared cycleway/footway, we drew ECC’s attention to a warning from the Urban Design group about the legal liability of local authorities that insist on maintaining/installing poor or outdated provision of infrastructure. We are mentioning this here for the record.

Rubbish on the footway in Mile End Road, Colchester, on "bin day"
7.2 Refuse collection: At the meeting hosted by Myland Community Council, Mr Lindsay’s attention was drawn to the problems posed by rubbish collection each Friday. Colchester has an excellent scheme where waste is collected in 1) a black plastic bag for nonrecyclables; 2) clear plastic bags for paper, plastics and clothing; 3) a caddy for food waste; 4) a plastic box for glass and cans. This is left at the roadside and gathered in large piles by refuse collectors before being taken away by lorry. It was felt that this would drastically narrow the width of the path. Mr Lindsay said it was not a traffic planner’s job to consider waste collection.

Car illegally parked on footway in Mile End Road, Colchester
7.3 The other issue raised was the problem of cars parking on the footway.






Friday, April 08, 2016

Looking ahead for Rowhedge


Colchester Cycling Campaign today lodged the following comment on planning application 160551, which is for the former Rowhedge port, across the river from Ferry View in Wivenhoe. You can see the site (hatched in red on map below) by looking right while having a pint in the Rose and Crown on the riverfront at Wivenhoe.

The application is for "demolition of existing vacant commercial units and comprehensive residential redevelopment comprising 86 no. new residential dwellings,together with associated hard and soft landscaping, access, car parking and servicing".

Any further thoughts welcome!



-----

Dear Sir or Madam

CCC welcomes the thought that the developers have put into this scheme.

As part of permission we would hope to see:

• A s106/CIL contribution towards the Rowhedge Trail for cycles/pedestrians connecting Rowhedge village with the Hythe, Colchester
• A s106/CIL contribution towards connecting the cycle route through the estate to Fingringhoe (together with practical help from the developer)
• The southern end of the north-south cycle route left open for possible future continuation to Fingringhoe
• A "design feature" or "gathering point" at the extreme east of the site to allow for community interaction
• The riverside footway given bridleway status

We welcome the north-south cycleway/footway but we would suggest that cyclists and pedestrians are segregated from each other by means of a low kerb. The cycle part of the route could also be used by the elderly/disabled in mobility scooters.

We would like the southern end of this route left open for possible future continuation to Fingringhoe. It is important to stress that this route would not be just for residents but for current villagers who ride for leisure.

We would like to see the build quality exceed current Essex standards and the developer could look at the north-south cycle superhighway in London (Blackfriars Bridge) for treatment/ideas. (more information on the proposed Fingringhoe link from neil [at] colchester-cycling.org.uk, who would be happy to talk to the developer)

The riverside footpath should be given bridleway status and opened to cyclists with similar segregated treatment -- the more attractive this scheme is, the better it will be for house sales.

The access road corridor should be limited to 20mph in line with Essex Design Guide and Manual for Streets; we would suggest alternating centre-of-road low hedging with kerb build-outs to enforce lower speeds. Young cyclists should be given access to the recreation field via this route.

Secure cycle parking should be provided at the western end of the access road if this is intended to be the pick-up/drop-off point for school buses.

Cycle parking within homes is touched upon in 5.5 of the transport statement, but only in the chapter title. Cycle parking should be provided to the Essex Parking Design Standard. Again, we are happy to advise the developer.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Find out how Essex Highways is wasting £750,000 of your money ... and getting away with it




Do you care about the wages you never see that disappear in income tax?

The money that disappears monthly in council tax?

The 20 per cent of your hard-earned cash you pay in VAT every time you buy a "luxury" in a shop or a restaurant?

If so, read how Essex County Council is wasting £750,000 of YOUR money and email the people listed below. There's a little more background from September.

Essex is spending it on a cycle scheme that residents don't want and councillors don't want.

It is so poorly designed that us cyclists don't want it. We say most riders won't use it — and the road is so quiet they'll stay on the road.

Even the leading council officer working on it* admits it will be virtually useless in achieving its aim of "economic generation".

If you care, please email the people below this week ( 5-12 March, 2016).

Tell them how disgusted you are that your money is being spent in this way. Ask them to Stop the Scheme in its current form. This is urgent because work began late last week (March 3).

Note that The Bike Committee of Colchester Cycling Campaign doesn't usually campaign like this, but we've run into a brick wall and we're sick to the stomach that our money is being spent in this way.

You should be able to cut and paste the run-on addresses below into a new email in one swoop.

The people to email are:

cllr.david.finch@essex.gov.uk,cllr.rodney.bass@essex.gov.uk,paul.bird@essex.gov.uk,
chris.stevenson@essex.gov.uk,alan.lindsay@essex.gov.uk,rob.macdonald@essex.gov.uk,
sonia.davidson-grant@essex.gov.uk,dominic.collins@essex.gov.uk

Or if you want to email them individually:
cllr.david.finch@essex.gov.uk
cllr.rodney.bass@essex.gov.uk
paul.bird@essex.gov.uk
sonia.davidson-grant@essex.gov.uk
dominic.collins@essex.gov.uk
chris.stevenson@essex.gov.uk
alan.lindsay@essex.gov.uk
rob.macdonald@essex.gov.uk

A message could be as simple as:

I am a hard working person who pays tax to central and local government. I support the principle of cycle routes but the project proposed for Mile End Road, Colchester, is poorly planned and will not achieve the aims set. Please Stop the Scheme now.

The council is Conservative-controlled and the key councillors are above.

However, you may also like register your strength of feeling by emailing

Will Quince MP (will.quince.mp [at] parliament.uk)
and Labour party leader Julie Young, Lib Dem leader Mike Mackrory and Ukip leader Jamie Huntman. (same email format as for David Finch, above)

* Alan Lindsay, Transport Strategy & Engagement Manager: "I agree that commuters to the railway station are unlikely to use it, but a dad out for a ride with his five-year-old might."



Sunday, February 28, 2016

A letter to Will Quince, MP, on the Mile End Road saga




Saturday February 27, 2016
To Will Quince, MP for Colchester
Copied to ECC party leaders and others


(Updates following this letter are given at the end of this post)

Dear Will

I am writing to you regarding the £750,000 Mile End Road cycle route.

I don’t know whether you are familiar with the latest situation but work is due to start on Monday, when roadside trees will be felled.

Urgent action will have to be taken if it is to be stopped.

Please step in — and if there is resistance, do consult the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and Local Government: they are the ultimate source of the funds gleaned from hardworking taxpayers. I am sure they will be most interested in how Conservative-controlled Essex Highways (EH) is wasting our money.

Should you be unsuccessful and the scheme go ahead, I will be making a formal complaint to ECC against ECC/EH and Cllr Rodney Bass prior to a report to the Ombudsman; writing separate letters to key people in both government departments; issuing press releases (including to magazines for local authorities and transport professionals), and consulting the Taxpayers’ Alliance with a view to highlighting this matter at a national level.

The secrecy and arrogance of ECC/EH, as well as the lack of engagement with community stakeholders and reliance on “gut feeling” rather than data, also applies to other schemes in the current funding round, notably the Lexden Road bus lane, the shared route on the busy approach to Colchester station and the Priory Street flow reversal.

Please see the detailed background to the Mile End Road issue, below my sign-off.

ECC/EH’s attitude and performance leave a lot to be desired.  Perhaps the council should hold an independent inquiry into the culture, direction, capabilities and overall strategies of ECC/EH, especially given that managing local transport is key to a healthy economy and how every public pound should be made to count. Professor John Whitelegg would be an ideal chairman.

The original plan for Mile End Road was unworkable and should never have seen the light of day; the current scheme is not much better. This calls into question the abilities and competences of Ringway Jacobs, ECC/EH’s service provider, in relation to cycling schemes.

With best wishes,

Will Bramhill



BACKGROUND TO THE MILE END ROAD CYCLE ROUTE PROPOSAL

1) No one asked for this route
(FoI response by ECC/EH to Sam Turner)

2) No research was carried out into whether it was wanted or necessary 
(FoI to Sam Turner) It appears that portfolio holder Rodney Bass or senior officers at ECC/EH decided that it was a way of spending the SELEP funding, and it went from there.

3) No research was carried out into the number of cyclists already on the route and their average speed 
(source: FoI to Sam Turner) This should have been a prerequisite to spending so much money.

4) Essex Highways ignored DfT local transport note 1/12.
(LTN 1/12) This recommends that local authorities proceed with care with shared use footways. Point 1.3 says: “Shared use routes created through the conversion of footways or footpaths can be controversial. There are many such examples that have been implemented inappropriately and/or poorly designed, particularly in urban areas. It is essential for designers to understand that shared use is not the ‘easy fix’ it might appear to be.”

Point 1.4 adds: “A poorly designed facility can make conditions worse for both user groups.”

5) Essex Highways ignored the sequential test in LTN 1/12

The DfT flow chart (point 2.4, pp8)  is intended to ensure that an LA reaches the right conclusion for a particular scheme, especially on a lightly trafficked route such as Mile End Road. (For instance, making Mile End Road — together with Nayland Road and Mill Road west — a 20mph area would have cost less and served all road users and, therefore, helped the economy more.)

There is no evidence that ECC/EH applied this test; most certainly no stakeholders were involved at a sufficiently early stage. The response to Question 8 in Sam Turner’s FoI says: "No other schemes were discounted in favour of the planned shared footway/cycleway scheme.”

The DfT is also encouraging local authorities to introduce demand management policies and measures. There is no indication that this was considered for this particular scheme or indeed any of the schemes in the current funding round. See also Table 6.2 on pp103 of the Welsh national design guidance (acknowledged as the best in the absence of a similar document for England)

Point 2.2 of the LTN says: “Suitable on-carriageway solutions are sometimes ignored in favour of inappropriate conversion of footways.” LTN 1/12 also says that: “Stakeholders could be involved throughout the process.”

6) Danger to cyclists and pedestrians
Colchester Cycling Campaign flagged up the dangers of the scheme at the ECC/EH announcement event. (It wasn’t a consultation. CCC was told: “This is what you are getting.”) The dangers include potentially mixing pedestrians (some elderly) with fast-moving cyclists, especially downhill. Cyclists will also be at risk from car doors being opened in their path (so-called dooring) and cars coming out of driveways. The feeling of safety of being off-road can be deceptive. These issues are well known following deaths and injuries in similar poor quality installations in the 1970s and since. ECC/EH officers and RJ staff should be familiar with these.

My understanding is that this path is going to be 3m wide. This would be insufficient given that there are parked cars on one side and walls/hedges on the other. The Sustrans Handbook for Cycle Friendly Design (April 2014, a summary of best practice) covers unsegregated shared use but not the Mile End Road kind of facility — possibly because these have been so widely discredited.

The closest comparison in the handbook is for urban traffic-free routes (think Wivenhoe Trail) which says that 3m is the minimum and 4m preferred, and that segregation of cyclists and pedestrians should be considered (Table H8) — and this is before the issues of gradient, parked cars and driveways enter the equation.

There is also increased danger to cyclists and pedestrians using/crossing the carriageway. The presence of a cycle facility will lead motorists to expect cyclists to use it but riders who want a comfortable, efficient and safe journey will avoid it. There is no compulsion on them to do so (R v Cadden). Pedestrians and cyclists can reasonably expect this road to be 20mph.

The Urban Design Group warns that some local authorities are using out of date approaches to highway design. This applies particularly in relation to lack of commitment to area-wide 20mph which would be the ideal treatment for Mile End Road. The UDG says that LAs who resist area-wide 20mph (rather than isolated zones or just on new developments) could, in the event of certain deaths or injuries, face prosecution for gross negligence, manslaughter and corporate manslaughter. A similar argument could be made with regard to Essex’s unwillingness to apply the experience of providing cycle infrastructure from the Netherlands and, increasingly, from forward-thinking LAs in the UK, especially London.

7) Essex Highways and Essex County Council have ignored the council’s own cycling strategy
The Essex Cycling Strategy 2015 says:
"Cycling infrastructure options have expanded rapidly since 2012, with continental-standard facilities being rolled out across the country. These represent a huge improvement on previous provision and have led to significant increases in cycling. For our major routes on high-demand corridors which serve important trip attractors [ie, just like Mile End Road], we will include continental standard segregated facilities, where appropriate.” [NB: CCC doesn’t believe Mile End Road needs this treatment and it would also require the removal of residents’ parking spaces, which should only be considered when absolutely necessary, which is why we opted for a 20mph proposal.]

The strategy points out that cycling can be the quickest mode over short distances and promises “a step-change in the … quality of cycling infrastructure” that “caters for all users and abilities”. It also mentions the possibility of “Quietways”, for which Mile End Road would be eminently suitable.

Despite the strategy’s emphasis on the need for efficient bike journeys for utility cycling, the Sam Turner FoI says: “The facility will have features which will naturally check the speed of cyclists: these include road signs, treeslighting columns, bus stops and deviation of route at side roads.” The FoI response also incorrectly implies that most cyclists use the footway at present (ECC hasn’t made a study).

The strategy promises that ECC will "support cycling clubs, groups and the volunteers that run them” — but the county has cut Colchester Cycling Campaign out of its considerations and even the regular local cycling forum, which lasted for 15 years, appears to have become so irregular it might as well have been dropped.

8) Essex County Council & Essex Highways and equality impact assessments (EqIAs).
ECC/EH has a public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010 which requires a set process to be followed to tackle discrimination and provide equality of opportunity for all people with “protected characteristics". There is no EqIA on the website for the Mile End scheme (lack of transparency again).  I have previously challenged ECC/EH’s tick-box attitude to EqIAs and warned that their process is not of a sufficiently high standard, especially when compared with EqIAs conducted by Colchester council. Again, this matter should be drawn to the attention of Essex County Council as part of an inquiry.

9) The role of SELEP
My understanding is that the funds for this and other schemes in the current funding round have come from Whitehall to ECC via SELEP. You would think, then, that SELEP would be interested in how the funds are being spent. I have copied every email in connection with this scheme to SELEP and have not received even an acknowledgment. I have also twice filled in a form on the SELEP website asking whether it is receiving my emails, but no response. Surely it is vital that any organisation handling a huge amount of public money knows how it is being spent, and is publicly accountable. Again, the DfT and the DCLG need to inquire into this.

10) Ignored by councillors
Both councillors Rodney Bass and Ray Gooding were invited to site meetings to discuss this issue. Mr Bass did not reply. Mr Gooding — the council’s appointed “cycling champion”  — replied when pressed but did not return an email to set a date.

UPDATES

Update, March 5, 2016
John Thompson of the national cycling charity CTC visited the road today and walked the route with Mile End councillor Dominic Graham. He agreed with our concerns and will be writing to ECC. He also flagged up the issue of the eventual width of the carriageway, especially between numbers 53-61, where two buses may have difficulty passing. We have tipped off the local bus users' group to alert the bus companies.

Update, March 4, 2016
Tree-cutting began today, so the serious work cannot be far away. Since the last update, we have asked Essex Highways to tell us which parts of LTN 1/12 they actually followed. They have tried to wriggle out of it. Their brass neck at wasting taxpayers' money takes your breath away.

Update, March 2, 2016
Colchester Cycling Campaign and councillors met Essex officials last night, prompted by Will Quince's intervention. They said they had followed the guidance in LTN 1/12, and that "some people" wanted the cycle path. They acknowledged that the path could be "used by a dad and a five-year-old" but said they expected most cyclists to stay on the road. They were amazed by the fact that people put out their bins on Fridays but said thinking about how people deal with their rubbish "is not part of a highway engineer's job". The FoI response "had been very poor quality" and the person who put it out had been spoken to. The scheme is going ahead. Money -- our money -- is being poured down the drain.

Update, Sunday February 28, 2016
Will Quince, replied earlier today to say he would be raising the matter with Essex County Council.