Building new roads is not good for the local environment, for the planet or, thanks to induced demand, even for motorists, but from plans I’ve been shown it may seem that some of the major construction schemes in George Osborne’s £15.2bn road building splurge will benefit from the provision of separated cycleways, writes Carlton Reid.
Significantly, the new cycleways won’t be paid for out of the small pot of cycling cash announced in the Chancellor’s recent spending review; they will be paid for out of the road construction budget.
Let’s examine just one of these new-builds, a £221m five-mile between-motorways link road in the parliamentary constituency of Tatton. The A556 “improvement scheme” near Knutsford in Cheshire was given the nod in 2014 despite fierce local and national opposition. However, the local MP was very much in favour of the scheme.
Quite what influence the MP for Tatton was able to bring to bear on the Department for Transport may never be known but as the MP for Tatton controls the nation’s pursestrings it’s likely that this is one road scheme that was destined to be built no matter how eye-watering the costs. As you can see above, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and MP for Tatton, even helped to cut the road’s first sod.
As road schemes have been known to go over budget it’s possible that the five-mile dual carriageway in Osborne’s constituency may eventually cost £300m. It just so happens that Osborne’s small pot of cash for cycling, to be eked out over five years, is also £300m.
But, looking on the bright side, that £300m cycling budget won’t be used to build the cycleways being planned to run beside, or close to, the trunk roads in the Government’s £15.2bn road building programme. It’s not yet clear how many of these new-builds will be “cycle proofed” to high standards by Highways England but perhaps if the A556 “improvement” is anything to go by, cyclists (and pedestrians and equestrians) can look forward to some decently separated routes.
The current four-lane A556 Chester Road dual carriageway will be superseded by a new four-lane highway arcing through Cheshire’s greenbelt, bypassing the villages of Over Tabley, Mere and Bucklow Hill. But the new road isn’t just a bypass of these car-centric villages (with their motorist-dependent petrol stations) it’s a short-cut for the affluent residents of Cheshire to enable them to drive faster to and from Manchester. Dualled in 1960 the A556 was formerly the toll road between Chester and Manchester, fully turnpiked by 1769. However, the road is much older than this: it’s Margary’s Route 7a, the Roman road between Chester (Deva) and Manchester (Mamucium, so named because of the pre-Roman name of the settlement which probably refers to a hill shaped like a breast). This Roman road – confusingly known locally as Watling Street although it’s not the real Watling Street, which ran from Dover to Westminster and on to Wroxeter – was 13 metres wide in part.
When this “modern” road is downgraded following the opening of the new-build there will be a separated and protected “non-motorised user track” for cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians. This will be four metres wide, part of a “roadspace reallocation” scheme. The four-lane dual carriageway will be “de-trunked” and split in three. There will be two lanes for motorised use, a central grass berm with a wooden barrier, and a route, in transport-wonk-speak, for NMUs.
It will become possible to cycle, in comparative safety, four or so miles from the Little Chef at the M6 roundabout to the Swan at Bucklow Hill (this Brewer’s Fayre pub is a former 17th century coaching inn built for the travellers on the newly turnpiked road). While this is a route largely from nowhere to nowhere it links in with the area’s country-lane network, including the waymarked on-road 176-mile Cheshire Cycleway.
How the “non-motorised users” will interact with the motorised users of the de-trunked A556 remains to be seen. The businesses on the road will be hoping there will no decline in trade. The Mere, a four-star hotel with spa and a Championship 18-hole golf course, is just off what will be the de-trunked road, and motorists exiting the M6 to find it may struggle to reduce their motorway speeds.
An independent report found that the narrow country lanes linking in to the new A556 would be used as rat-runs, with projected vehicle movements increasing from around 150 a day to between 2000-3000 a day. “All this on lanes barely wide enough for two cars to pass one another,” said the Campaign for Better Transport’s Sian Berry in 2012. “These lanes are also popular with cyclists as they form a part of the Cheshire Cycleway and are criss-crossed with public footpaths and bridleways. We can only imagine the number of accidents which may occur should this bypass get planning approval.”
The new A556 is one of the “zombie roads” brought back from the dead by the Coalition Government. It had been originally killed by the then Transport Secretary Alistair Darling in 2007. Throwing out the plans he ruled that a motorway-grade bypass would be too environmentally-damaging.
The last Government resurrected the road, naming it the “A556 Knutsford to Bowdon Environmental Improvement Scheme.” The Department for Transport claimed a “short bypass was needed, at the request of the local community around Mere to prevent local environmental damage.” The DfT also claimed the new road would “address the significant congestion problems and will reduce accident numbers within the area.” Perhaps rather surprisingly the DfT also said that “the air quality within the area will also be improved.”
The word “environmental” has since been dropped, with the scheme now called the Knutsford to Bowdon Improvement Scheme. Builders have been on site for a year, with the new A556 due to open in 2017. The “de-trunking” of the old A556 will be the last works to be completed.
David Owen, design manager of the A556, told me that the construction of the “non-motorised user track” would be paid out of the scheme’s budget not from national funding for cycling schemes.
There are three treatments planned for the route – one is separated with wooden fencing, two others will be separated by a grassed-over berm, one of which is more substantial than the other.
“Each different type will be used on the de-trunk, however nearly half to two-thirds will be Type 1,” said Owens. (Type 1 is the most substantial of the separation methods.)
Clearly, it would be preferable for cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians to also be separated but as pedestrians already have footways along some of the A556 there may not be as much mode mixing as some might fear.
Martin Key, campaigns manager for British Cycling, said:
“Highways England has shown real commitment to implement the principles of cycle-proofing – where cycling is accommodated in roads – and we’re beginning to see the results.
“They now have a dedicated budget and will soon have a long-term strategy, a training programme for engineers and new design standards. The proof will be in the pudding when the new roads are being developed and upgraded but they have made a good start. The encouraging thing is that many local highway authorities take their lead from Highways England, so the steps forward in design standards and training should spread throughout the country.”
To end here are some extracts from the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges – Provision for Non-motorised Users of 2005 and its audit section.
These are the guidelines road builders are supposed to follow when working out how to accommodate cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians on trunk roads. I’ll leave you to work out whether the current guidelines are ever followed to the letter. (A new standard forming part of “DMRB”, Cycle Traffic And The Strategic Road Network, will contain a great deal more meat, and will be published in 2016.)
Design Manual for Roads and Bridges – Provision for Non-motorised Users
NMUs are considered to be pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians. Particular consideration should be given to the needs of disabled people, who may use any of these modes or other equipment such as wheelchairs.
For the purpose of this Advice Note users of electrically assisted pedal cycles or powered wheelchairs and invalid carriages, that conform with current Department for Transport regulations and may legally be used on pedestrian or cycle facilities, are also considered as NMUs.
This Advice Note should be used forthwith for the planning and design of trunk roads and motorway improvement schemes, currently being prepared, provided that in the opinion of the Overseeing Organisation this would not result in unreasonable expense or delay to the progress of the scheme.
Cycling currently accounts for a low percentage of all trips in the UK, yet many people own bicycles. Nearly three quarters of all journeys are less than 5 miles in length, distances that could easily by cycled by the majority of people. However, the flow of traffic on major roads, together with the environment and design of these roads, often deters people from cycling.
Cycling is used for accessing a variety of different destinations, including educational facilities, shops and places of work, up to a range of around 5 miles. Cycling is also undertaken as a leisure activity, often over much longer distances. As well as being a mode of transport in its own right, cycling frequently forms part of a journey in combination with cars and public transport.
Inevitably, the differing needs of NMUs will sometimes conflict. There is also likely to be a significant variation in abilities and experience within each NMU group; for example, novice cyclists may require OCRs [off-carriageway routes), while experienced ones may prefer on-carriageway provision. Similarly, many NMUs will be unable to drive, and hence cannot be relied on to correctly comprehend highway signing. Design Organisations should aim to provide appropriate facilities that balance the needs of each group.
Facilities for NMUs should offer positive provision that reduces delay, diversion and danger. Five core principles common to NMU routes have been identified in draft LTN 1/04, as follows:
• Convenient: NMU facilities should allow people to go where they want, and new facilities should usually offer an advantage in terms of directness and/or reduced delay compared with previous provision.
• Accessible: NMU routes should form a network linking trip origins and key destinations. The routes should be continuous and as direct as possible. There should be proper provision for crossing busy roads and other barriers.
• Safe: Not only must facilities be safe, but for the well being of users, they must be perceived to be safe.
• Comfortable: Facilities should meet appropriate design standards, and cater for all types of user.
• Attractive: Aesthetics, noise reduction and integration with surrounding areas are important. NMU facilities should be attractive and interesting to help encourage their use.
Where off-carriageway facilities are proposed, it is recommended that they are provided on both sides of the road. Where space is limited, it may be acceptable to provide a two way facility on one side of the road. However, in unlit areas, cyclists with headlights may cause confusion when heading directly towards motorists. It is therefore recommended that where routes are provided on one side of the road only, a high degree of separation between the carriageway and cycle route should be provided, or street lighting at an appropriate level
Where no provision for NMUs is made as part of a scheme, it will be important to ensure that appropriate alternative NMU routes and suitable linkages are provided and signed.
Shared use is an important consideration in designing for NMUs. It will often be beneficial to accommodate equestrians separately from pedestrians and cyclists. There may also be some value in providing for pedestrians and cyclists separately, although in isolated areas adjacent or shared facilities can give users a greater sense of security due to the number of people using the facility.
Traffic calming features such as pinch points, build outs and refuge islands reduce the carriageway width for vehicles and cyclists alike. Often this leads to ‘squeezing’ of the cyclist which makes them more vulnerable. These features should therefore be accompanied by a cycle by-pass wherever possible.
Cycle route crossings of roads are normally configured so that the road has priority over the cycle route. Where appropriate, the priority may be reversed by placing the cycle track on a flat-topped speed hump and providing give-way markings on the side road
(see Figure 6/2). All speed
In particular, cyclists are less likely to use the OCR surface if it is inferior to that of the carriageway. Surfaces should be machine laid where practical.
Access barriers may be used to prevent unauthorised access by motorised vehicles onto rights of way and OCRs. However, these should be avoided wherever possible and only installed if there is either high likelihood of, or existing evidence of, misuse. Metal or timber bollards can be used successfully as access barriers as long as they are designed to allow wheelchair access (refer to Inclusive Mobility (DfT, 2002) for further details). Alternatively, motorcycle barriers may be used; Sustrans have developed a design which is suitable for cycle routes. However, these are unsuitable for routes with equestrian use, for which barriers developed by the British Horse Society would be acceptable.
NON-MOTORISED USER AUDITS
Scheme designs should reflect the principle that people using a non-motorised mode have the same basic concerns as any transport user. For routes to be viable for NMUs they should:
• not give rise to road safety or personal safety concerns;
• directly facilitate the desired journey without undue deviation or difficulty;
• link origins and destinations;
• be attractive and comfortable to use;
• be accessible to disabled users and people with children and pushchairs;
• be continuous and not subject to severance or fragmentation.
An individual’s transport needs may also vary depending on other factors such as journey purpose. For example, the desire for directness is likely to be much higher on a commuter trip than on a leisure trip. Moreover, in contrast with designing for motorised users, the designer cannot assume any given level of competence, recognition of signs or familiarity with traffic law and conventions on the part of the NMU.
While pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians share a number of characteristics, the optimum solutions for meeting their needs may vary significantly. For example, a cyclist’s desire for speed may be in conflict with an equestrian’s desire for a calm environment to keep horses under control. Therefore, in addition to variation between individuals, the designer must also consider variation between the types of user.
Particular consideration should be given to the needs of the most vulnerable representatives of each type of user.
When conducting a site visit, the member of the Design Team should walk any NMU routes to be affected by the scheme. Where appropriate the route should also be cycled and if practicable ridden by an experienced horse rider …
User groups can contribute significant information, particularly in cases where use of a mode, or the needs of people with certain disabilities, are not within the direct experience of those undertaking the design. It is recommended that such groups are consulted at every appropriate stage of the design process in order that the Design Team is aware of their views as designs are progressed. Local representatives should be contacted where possible. These may be affiliated to national groups …
These prompts are intended to assist in the NMU Auditing of trunk road schemes. The prompts provided are not prescriptive but merely indicate a sample of the NMU issues that should be considered at each stage of a project.
Examples of difficulties that may arise for NMUs within scheme design include:
A. Issues common to more than one group of NMUs:
1. Inadequate provision of separate routes/tracks
2. Lack of continuity of routes
3. Inadequate crossing facilities
4. Crossing facilities not sufficiently responsive
5. Inadequate crossing times
6. Fear of ‘stranger danger’
7. Fear of motorised traffic danger
8. Inconsistent width of routes
9. Inconsistent width of routes through crossing facilities
10. Lack of segregation of different NMUs
11. Inadequate headroom
12. Inadequate width
13. Obstruction of routes by:
• overgrown trees, hedges and low branches
• insufficient headroom under signs, subways, structures etc.
• motor vehicles parked/loading
wheelie bins, rubbish awaiting collection
• shop display boards, canopies and furniture
• street furniture
• temporary street furniture and roadworks
14. Inadequate turning radius for cycles, pushchairs, wheelchair users
15. Designs that do not support effective maintenance, e.g. leading to poor cleaning, sunken gully grates, graffiti etc.
16. Trip and slip hazards, e.g. drain gullies, pot holes, slippery surfaces (when wet) including chamber and inspection covers
17. Dropped kerbs missing or insufficiently low.
18. Gullies located in crossing areas
19. Water ponding in channels at crossing points
20. Routes and crossings away from desire lines
21. Schemes requiring additional NMU deviation from desire lines in comparison to existing routes
22. Poor access to public transport and poor design of bus stops
23. Poor lighting
24. Dazzle by vehicle headlights
25. Lack of NMU direction signs or maps, particularly at complex junctions
26. Poor signing (information, warning and regulatory) along routes
27. Inadequate inter-visibility with other users for personal safety
28. Scheme features or vegetation obscuring NMUs from general view or provide potential hiding places for assailants, giving rise to personal security concerns
29. Subway designs that promote personal security concerns
30. Sensitivity to environmental elements such as graffiti
31. Potential conflicts between different NMU groups, e.g. cyclists and pedestrians
32. See-through for NMU signal displays at staggered crossings
33. Inadequate height of bridge parapets
34. Inadequate height of fencing on approach to bridges
35. Requirement to negotiate steps on the route
36. Gradients too steep
B. Additional Issues for Pedestrians
37. Particular sensitivity to additional distance
38. Crossing facilities at junctions not provided for all movements
39. Crossing layout too complicated for some users
40. Crossing layout leaves pedestrians ‘stranded’ between motorised traffic streams
41. Inadequate segregation from other modes
42. Inadequate segregation from cyclists and equestrians
43. Guardrailing obstructs inter-visibility between drivers and young pedestrians
C. Additional issues for cyclists
44. Gullies acting as wheel traps on or off highway
45. Facilities provided inadequate (on-carriageway and off-carriageway) for all the different types and numbers of cycle users
46. Poor detailing of design – designer hasn’t visited or cycled the route
47. Provision for crossing of side roads inadequate
48. Interruption of routes where private accesses are given priority within a scheme
49. Dropped kerbs not at suitable level
50. Narrow motorised traffic lanes
51. Narrow cycle lanes
52. Speed and volume of motor traffic
53. Poor detailing where cyclists move from on-carriageway to off-carriageway and vice versa
54. Signing and lining incorrect or misleading
55. Inadequate routes through traffic calming features/schemes
56.Inadequate width at refuge crossings
57.Inadequate capacity of refuges serving substantial generators, e.g. schools
58.Pinch points at refuges/parking or where kerb lines change
59. Failure to provide Advanced Stop Lines where they would be beneficial and lawful
60. Roundabout layouts that do not restrict motorised traffic entry and circulatory speeds
61. Lack of provision of wheeling ramps at steps
62. Lack of provision of facilities at junctions
63. Lack of secure and convenient cycle parking
64. Discontinuity of routes
65. Inadequate skid resistance of surfaces, particularly in the approach to points of potential conflict
66. Failure to sign available alternative routes
67. Accumulation of debris in facilities
68. Cycle lanes passing in front of bus stops, parking bays or loading bays, leading to conflicts
69. Incorrect approach angle of facilities for road crossings
Additional Issues for Visually Impaired People
82. Inadequate segregation from cyclists and equestrians
Additional Issues for Equestrians
99. Inadequate height of bridge parapets
How have NMU routes been designed to optimise the balance between safety and convenience?
What priority has been given to NMUs throughout the design of the NMU route?
125. Are widths along the whole route, including crossings, adequate for all classes of NMU
Are NMU routes given priority over private accesses?
129. Are cyclists and horse riders able to use the routes without dismounting?
How have NMUs been separated and protected from motorised traffic throughout the design of the NMU route?
How has personal security of NMUs been provided for throughout the design of the NMU route?
How may greater segregation between different types of NMUs be provided?
How may greater separation and protection from motorised traffic be provided to NMUs?