This is an unprecedented second blog in the same day, but I thought I should provide a quick update on the traffic calming issue that I blogged about here.
I visited the exhibition at Brockworth Community Centre last Wednesday and consequently have to correct one of my criticisms: the quarter of a million pound price tag for the work will be picked up NOT by the tax payer but by the building developers. Also, the initial scheme for one section of Ermine Street doesn’t look too bad, although there are further stages to come. I spent some time talking to one of the council guys and he made some good points, but I am a stubborn man and ultimately still came away unconvinced.
My main criticism about traffic calming is that one thing it does not do is induce calm. People generally want to get from A to B in as short a time and with as little hassle as possible. Throwing obstacles in the way just makes people irritable and impatient.
However, I found that I made most of my objections from the point of view of a cyclist. Those who know me, or who have read my previous blog on the subject, will know that I am not much of a cyclist, but there seem to be a few common sense issues that road planners never seem to take into account. I recently sat through a presentation by a former Department of Transport cycle advisor which re-enforced several of my views, but I would be interested in the perspective of my more cycling-oriented reader(s).
There are two general approaches to cyclists in these schemes. The first is to create joint cycle and foot paths. These always seem doomed to failure to me for a number of reasons:
– Pedestrians tend to stray about all over the place and get in the way. This is likely to result in inconvenience to cyclists and probable accidents. The council chap said there are few reported accidents to support this, but this is unsurprising as I guess they would mostly be very minor.
– Pedestrians don’t realise it is also a cycle path and assume that you are cycling on the pavement and give you grief for it.
– You have to stop and give way every time you come to a side road
– The lane is often blocked where there are bus stops or crossings
– Pavements are rarely as well maintained as roads.
Well, said the council guy, there’s nothing to stop you from cycling on the road still. And this is true, there isn’t. Except now, the impatient car drivers are going to be even less patient with you slow cyclist because you could be using that perfectly good cycle path and should get off his/ her road.
The second approach to cyclists is to put a bit of red paint down the side of the road and call it a cycle lane. This is little better. The main problem here is that they are too narrow, forcing you to ride in the gutter and over the drains. The Department of Transport speaker picked up on this, suggesting that the safest place to cycle tends to put you just outside the cycle lane where car drivers are very intolerant of you for straying out of your lane into their way.
Cycle lanes also tend to appear at the same time as road narrowing or the inclusion of traffic islands. This means that there is insufficient safe distance for cars to pass. But these car drivers are already irritated and frustrated by the traffic calming, so they’re going to give it a damned good go!
Of course I have seen no statistics to back any of this up and you could argue that the professional planners will have access to these facts and should know best, so I may be talking out of my arse – I’d welcome you views either way.