Wednesday, September 28, 2016

More jams not fewer on the new A133 roundabouts?




The two roundabouts that form the Ipswich Road junction. Making it one large roundabout is likely to mean more jams, not less


Looking at Essex County Council's plans to "modernise" junctions on the A133 in Colchester — which seriously downgrade cycle facilities — it is apparent that the design could mean more frequent jams.


Common sense says that going from two small roundabouts to one large roundabout at each junction could lead to more not fewer "traffic locks" — even with minor incidents such as breakdowns and shunts. 

At present, each junction consists of two double roundabouts, as in the picture above. These ensure that in the event of a breakdown or collision, at least half the junction is able to function.

Essex Highways plans to replace the two sets of double roundabouts with two single large roundabouts, essentially reverting to the layout that existed before 1972, but with three lanes around each roundabout.

The larger junctions may have more traffic lanes but the town is growing fast and new road capacity is quickly filled by extra cars — the M25 is the prime example.


This is the last thing Colchester needs: a £10m system that doesn't work.

CCC is especially worried about 999 vehicles getting through in an emergency, so we have flagged up the issue in a letter to key people (see below).

Why are schemes like this coming through? Because the council hasn't listened — see Colchester Cycling Campaign's call for a fundamental rethink of local transport.


If the single to double roundabout idea worries you, review the scheme yourself, then write to the councillor in charge, Rodney Bass, and make your views clear. Write to him again till you are happy. Don't be fobbed off.

Will Bramhill, September 28

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Dear Sir or Madam

I am writing on behalf of Colchester Cycling Campaign in relation to Essex Highways’ £10m plans to modify the A133 junctions at Harwich Road and Ipswich Road, Colchester.

EH’s aim is to increase traffic capacity in an attempt to deal with peak-time congestion. We are worried about this on several points but we may share concern over the resilience of the scheme, especially in relation to everyday use by 999 vehicles and also how the junction would function in the event of a civil emergency.

Has your organisation been consulted about the plans to date?

At present, the junctions each consist of two double roundabouts. These ensure that in the event of a breakdown or collision, at least half the junction is able to function.

EH’s plan is to replace the two sets of double roundabouts with two single large roundabouts, essentially reverting to the layout that existed before 1972, but with three lanes around each roundabout.

Our fear is that the greater capacity will simply encourage more traffic and the new single roundabouts will affect the performance times for emergency vehicles; even a minor incident, a shunt or breakdown, will lock the entire junction (rather than just part), leading to longer delays in reaching incidents.

I would appreciate your view on this issue.

Yours sincerely

Will Bramhill
Planning officer
Colchester Cycling Campaign

Colchester is desperate for a fundamental rethink of local transport

More than seven in ten car journeys are 1-5 miles long

Many people ask us if Colchester Cycling Campaign is just about cycling.

Well, yes, we like using our bikes ... but we're also interested in how cycling can solve society's ills, notably those caused by cars and lorries.

Don't get us wrong. We appreciate that motor transport is very useful. Some of it is even essential in our modern world.

You have to admit, though, it has taken over a teensy little bit. The exhaust pipe is wagging the driver, so to speak.

Before you ask, most of CCC's 400 members and supporters are drivers, too, but we tend not to use cars every day or for short journeys. This means that when you really need to use your car, there's at least one less car in front of you.

Short journeys are the curse of towns the length and breadth of Britain. Nearly 20 per cent of trips under one mile and 70 per cent of trips of one to five miles are made by car. Many of these are made at peak times. To put these figures into context, an ordinary able-bodied person of virtually any age should be able to cycle a mile in five minutes, or five miles in 25 minutes, and there are now power assisted ebikes for those for whom pushing pedals is just too much effort. You can zoom up those hills!

We understand that some people have to make longer trips, and others like the comfort of their car, and listening to Emma Bunton while sat in a jam.

But wouldn't it be marvellous if a good number of those people making short trips were on bikes on separate, protected cycle routes next to main roads, just like those in London, where they have taken space from the car?

Even a small number switching from car to bike would make the world of difference. Imagine if the town's children could get to school by bike rather than in Mum's Taxi.

So what is the solution?

We want to see a town where people, young, old and in between, can ride safely and confidently. To achieve this, we need a high-quality cycle network.

Some say "build it and they will come" and in London that has happened. In Essex, it might mean less carrot and more stick, but then the county's dinosaurs are still thinking mainly about the car. (Look for instance at the plans for the A133 road: £10m spent on making cycling and walking worse, not to mention scarier.)

Colchester is growing at a huge rate. CCC believes that the issue of local transport in Essex needs a rethink at the most fundamental level.

We ought to be addressing the matter with a combination of managing motor traffic demand (filtering to discourage short trips by car and/or congestion charging) and installing high quality alternatives for bus users, cyclists and walkers.

At present the priority given to motor transport and the hazards this creates (both subjective and real) mean we have a dangerously skewed transport system.

Also, Essex County Council is not taking a holistic view. At its recent A133 consultation an officer was asked about why the plan wasn't better for bikes. His response was: "Bikes? No, this is all about cars."

ECC's deliberations are not taking proper account of issues like combating climate change (it has a "team" you can email but not one officer to take responsibility) and public health in relation to transport (this includes issues such as quality of life, greater independence for young and old, air quality, mental health, obesity, heart disease and diabetes).

It is even promoting wider roads like the A120 and A12 which would have unfettered use —without considering that most journeys start or end in towns. It will be chaos.


At the same time ECC is dancing to the tune of its business pursestring-holders in the nondemocratic, unaccountabhle local enterprise partnership, made up mainly of business people who, naturally, don't take a rounded view. It doesn't like challenges from people such as CCC so it tries to keep its schemes secret for as long as possible to minimise criticism.


We need a complete, fresh approach. Please send a link to this blog to your local councillor to say why you'd like to see more people cycling. Mention that high quality cycleways are needed, not the usual British rubbish. Then press them. And press them again and again and again.

Good luck with making your voice heard.

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PS: The Dutch are still tidying up after the car. See this link.

If you live outside Essex and want more information on campaigning organisations nationally, contact Cycling UK and the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain.

William Bramhill, September 28 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Please get to this meeting!


Eighty four years ago, teams of labourers picked from the 1930s dole queues were put to work on the Colchester bypass — the road that was going to free the town's historic High Street of traffic.

It never did do that, of course.

In the 1970s the powers-that-be bypassed the bypass with a dual-carriageway bypass, and are now talking of widening the bypass's bypass (that's the A12; do keep up!) to take more traffic.

Today comes news that the bypassed bypass (that's the A133 Cowdray Avenue and St Andrew's Avenue) is going to need extra work ... yes, to take even more cars and provide extra space that will encourage more people to use more cars. (Did I mention that the poor bypassed and re-bypassed High Street is still full of traffic?)

You'd think that by now Essex County Council would have realised its transport planning was a little awry. For example, in the time from the building of the first bypass in 1933 to now, cycle use has gone down from 37 per cent to just six per cent.

Medical care, meanwhile, has come on by leaps and bounds but Essex Highways doesn't worry overmuch about public health, turning a blind eye to the hundreds of premature deaths in the county caused by poor air quality, and the epidemics of child obesity, diabetes and heart disease that will bankrupt the NHS by 2030.

So what can you do about it?

Kick up a fuss, that's what!

You can start by attending the public information event for updating Ipswich Road, which is being held from 4pm-7pm tomorrow (Sept 22) at The Rose & Crown Hotel, East Street.

We're sorry about the short notice but Essex doesn't like letting people know early — they may get double figures turning up.

What does CCC want to see? As this is likely to be a once-in-80-years change, we'd love to see Dutch-style roundabouts, which are being tested by the UK's road transport laboratory even though they've worked well in Holland for years and not caused jams.

The bad news is that Essex has ruled out such roundabouts and is being its usual secretive self (the Pentagon could learn lessons here) about what it is providing.

We'd also like to see cycle routes that are segregated from pedestrians and priority over side roads such as those that lead to Waitrose and Homebase.

London is leading the way with cycling provision, so why should we in Essex put up with second-best?

Please go to the meeting, ask questions and be tough on ECC officers. Hold them to account.

All that said, we may be pleasantly surprised, but we doubt it. Essex has spent 80 years  cocking up local transport and some of the dinosaurs there see no reason to change.

Will Bramhill // Sept 21