Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Portrait of an ASL

Looking at the Woolwich Road junction with the Blackwall tunnel approach overpass on google street view the other day, I was reminded of a cyclist who was killed at this junction almost a year ago.  This is what I saw:
The thing partially obscured under the silver car is a bike lane, the thing under the white van and blue car is an ASL (an Advanced Stop Line, for the use of cycles, and cycles only).  I don't know what date this view was recorded but it's before the fatality.

So what have the highway people done in the year since Adrianna's death to improve cycle safety?  I went along to see this weekend.
Have they made the cycle lane any clearer?  No.  Have they made the ASL more visible?  From the evidence of this picture, no.  All that they have done is to put up a ''cycle route ahead'' warning sign.

And how is the ASL line faring?
Well, it's not too clear is it!  The lorry, by the way, is not committing any offence because it was already there when the lights changed.  This, however, is the next step:

The blue car rolls up beyond the stop line with the lights still on red, perhaps taking its cue from the lorry already in the ASL and edging forward to get a better view of traffic approaching from the right.  Or perhaps it's so the car can get away from the lights in front of the lorry (both are heading for Greenwich).  Or perhaps because of inattention, deliberate disregard or ignorance.  Or any combination of these.

In the space of a few minutes I watched how traffic approached the ASL.  I ended up with so many pictures of infringements that it would take too long for me to upload all the photos.  So, just a handful. 

The did not see/did not know driver - note it's a left-hand drive vehicle so if you spot a beer can, it's actually in the passenger's hand not the driver's.
The follow the leader driver - ''well, he was there first:''
The ''I really can't be doing with these stop lines'' drivers:
And finally the ''I'm having my lunch not wearing a seatbelt with kids in the back (unbelted)'' driver:

I think a picture is emerging...


John said...

Marmoset, I hope I don't sound flippant but have you raised this with the highway authority? Going via ward councillors would be your best bet.

John said...

Marmoset, I hope I don't sound flippant but have you raised this with the highway authority? Going via ward councillors would be your best bet.

Marmoset said...

John, no it doesn't sound at all flippant, and in fact I haven't yet raised it with the highways people. The people who put ASLs and cycle lanes onto roads in inappropriate places, or remove them where the road becomes most dangerous for cyclists, well, these people don't cycle. Full stop. It's little more than tick-box planning.

And until the day when road planners have to get advanced level cycling tuition, or at least complete bikeability courses, nothing will change. Or until the day that road planners become criminally liable for designing death traps....

Also, the police are simply not going to enforce ASL rules - heaven knows, I've seen enough police cars abusing them.

Not living in the borough is also a consideration...I can't get things done in my own borough - what chance in a neighbouring one?

So, I suppose, in essence I'm highlighting dangers that will remain dangers. Never overestimate a driver's competence and never expect a road planner to have been on a bike since his (and yes, it is a male) first Chopper back when he was a kid. He'll now have a parking space at the council offices.

John said...

Marmoset, I understand your frustration, but a few points I should add. To be involved in the design of a cycle route paid for by TfL you must have attended the TfL cycle course. The appointment of consultants, who are often responsible for designing cycle schemes that transverse highway authority boundaries, is usually considered on various issues. One is the amount of cycling that the designer undertakes. I admit that this may not be the most important consideration when choosing a consultant but it is, at least, a consideration.

Don't lose faith in "road planners" or "traffic engineers" as they are generally called. There are many young engineers out there designing schemes and plenty of "policy" type people putting pressure on the older engineers. However, politics always comes into it. If you give a decent traffic engineer unlimited funds and a free reign to do whatever they want you will always (ok, usually!) get a decent scheme but this isn't the reality.

I'm a Traffic Engineer myself (I cycle to work everyday by the way!) and although I would love a situation where I could ban all traffic along a route this, in reality, isn't going to happen.

There is also, on occasion, situations where some cyclists don't understand the logic behind cycle infrastructure. I remember pointing out the "logic" behind some cycle infrastructure that you highlighted in some photos relatively recently.

Final point, under Construction, Design and Management Regulations, a designer does take responsibility for their highway design but it comes under corporate liability of the Council. If you can prove the design is at fault you could win compensation. Sadly, this won't bring any dead cyclists back to life.

Marmoset said...

John, first, apologies for being late in responding to your comments - I've been busy setting up another blog. But thank you - your comments provide a mine of information.

Mind you, keeping faith with anything to do with the people planning roads in Greenwich is difficult. When Greenwich conducted a recent public consultation on a proposed gyratory system around the town centre, they used out of date maps which did not show a shared pedestrian/cyclist route linking Deptford and West Greenwich via the ''Ha'penny Hatch.'' The public had no way of seeing that the council was proposing to stop direct cycle access to Greenwich High Road by making Norman Road one way. This route, more heavily-used by cyclists than many others, is the quietest, shortest nearby link into the borough.

To rub salt into the wound, in one of the gyratory proposals, having stopped access to the High Road, they drew a cycle path which started precisely at a point where cyclists would no longer be able to get to. It looked like cycling provision in the consultation - in fact, it reduced actual cycling provision.

How can you keep faith when you come across such convenient omissions?