Friday 31 January 2014

Salford Armadillos

The latest TfGM cycling Newsletter excells itself with a dreadful pun to introduce the armadillo demonstration installation in Salford. The tone of the item almost makes one wonder why they should be so enthusiastic about an untried cycle facility.

Where these have been installed they have proved to be rather less than ideal...

Is this the way to Armadillo?

Salford is to receive a cycling boost to fund new routes along main roads. The city will receive £2.1m through the Cycle City Ambition Grant (CCAG) – part of a package of £20m that has been awarded to Greater Manchester to meet the ambitious Velocity 2025 plans.

Over the next two years, the CCAG grant will be used to build a new network of cycle routes, which are segregated from busy traffic where possible and that link up to train stations. Several main arteries in Salford will see new cycle routes in the next two years:

Great Clowes Street/Blackfriars Road
Silk Street/Adelphi Street
Liverpool Street
Liverpool Road, Cadishead, and Irlam station access.

The plans kick off this month with a pilot for segregated cycle lanes along Liverpool Street and Middlewood using the Zicla Zebra traffic separators – known as ‘armadillos’ due to their unique design – which are already in use in America, Spain and France. It is the first time they are being used in the UK outside of London. The trial sections of segregated cycle lane along Liverpool St and Middlewood Street are due to be in place by the end of January.

Zebra Traffic Separator - photo via TfGM

Comments and feedback can be sent to

I will go an investigate as soon as they are installed.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Armadillos & Planters - a progress report...

A letter by cyclist Rob Cole in the Camden New Journal provides worrying new evidence of he failure of armadillos and planters in Royal College Street, Camden after less than 6 months in place.

Photo by Rob Cole via the Camden New Journal

In the letter Rob Cole says he has "been saddened to see how quickly motor vehicles have ruined this new lay-out."
He has documented:-

  • 10 plant pots affected by vehicle collisions, eight squashed / pushed over, one missing (mounting plate still in road), one empty of contents (looks like a contractor replaced a damaged container, but not the contents and it has no safety, reflective, tape unlike all the other pots);
  • Two plant pots with rubber edging strips peeled off, exposing sharp metal edge to oncoming cyclists;
  • Three armadillos affected by vehicle collisions – two missing (mountings still embedded in road), one twisted on mounts.
  • Numerous vehicles were parked into the cycle lane on the southbound lane, ignoring the white paint and armadillos, including a Camden Council van. Refuse bags were piled against the plant pots on the southbound lane.
He also reports that "As a cyclist I have had a number of near-collisions on the southbound lane in the past few months as this new design hosts car parking, with motorists and couriers with packages rapidly decanting into the cycle lane without checking for oncoming cyclists. I have also seen other cyclists have too many near-misses, despite travelling at safe speeds and using bells."

So, neither the armadillos nor the planters have lasted 6 months without damage. Vehicles can clearly breach the line of armadillos and block the cycle lane, so they offer limited protection against motor vehicles.

Clearly neither planters nor armadillos are suitable for a major, permanent scheme like Oxford Road.

Meantime lots of people are making excuses...

Sunday 19 January 2014

Design Options for Oxford Road 2

The Oxford Road Flashmob took place nearly nine months ago, a short demonstration of over 100 people with pedal cycles showing just how much we cared about the future plans for cycling in Oxford Road and the wider Manchester area.

So how are the plans progressing?

At last Tuesday's meeting at Oxford road TfGM asked the attendees to rate various options for the Oxford Road cycling infrastructure.

It soon became clear that they had only come up with a narrow range of options, many of which were completely unsuitable.

All the way through their options referred to "cycle lanes" not cycle tracks etc, implying on-carriageway provision. For simplicity I will stick to the same terminology in this post...

Cycle Lane Widths

We were only offered two options, 1.5 metre or 2 metre wide both of which seem too narrow, so I checked my copy of "Cycle-friendly Infrastructure" (1996) which I had taken along for reference.

Now this specifies lane widths as a minimum of 1.5m and 2m wide wherever possible and says that if cycle flows are heavy (above 150 cyclists in the peak hour) 2.5m may be necessary. (11.3.2 pg46)

So I asked what the projected traffic flows are for Oxford Road. The reply was that they were already around 200 in the peak and were projected to rise to around 600. So it is clear that if these were just cycle lanes then they would be too narrow at 2m. However, we are aiming for segregated cycle tracks along Oxford Road, quite separate from the road.

I have now found the section in Cycle-friendly Infrastructure that refers to "Off-carriageway but within the highway"

This states that cycle tracks should be a minimum of 2m wide, so the option of 1.5m is totally unacceptable for the Oxford Road designs.

Unfortunately Cycle-friendly Infrastructure (1996) is not available on line and Local Transport Note 2/08 October 2008 Cycle Infrastructure Design which is on line does not contain advice about cycle flows.

My conclusion is that the segregated cycle lanes on both sides of Oxford Road need to be at least 2.5m wide to cope with the cycle flows at peak time and preferably 3m where possible.

The TfGM officers did accept that it may be possible to find space for 2.5m wide lanes in some parts of Oxford Road...

Cycle Lane Carriageway Segregation

We were shown 8 options for the lane/track design, sadly none of them are totally acceptable...
The first issue I raised was the question of maintenance. This was acknowledged as a problem. If the measures were made from breakable materials then there would have to be ongoing replacement. The 8 options were:-

1 - White line hatch segregation

This is just a cycle lane with 0.7m of hatching between it and the bus lane. It offers no segregation from buses and taxis. Taxi drivers are very likely to drive into the cycle lane to collect and drop off passengers. This option is simply not what was offered in the consultation and is totally unacceptable.

Cycle Superhighway 2 - photo from London Cycling Campaign

2 - White line hatch/Flexible bollards segregation

These plastic bollards are a great way to quickly and cheaply convert an entire traffic lane into a cycle route. They have been used in parts of the USA to relocate road space to cycling. However, they are easily broken by motor vehicles, as they rapidly discovered on the NW Lovejoy Ramp in Portland.

"Soft-hit" bollards in San Francisco. Photo: Steven Vance

There is also the problem that they are very ugly. If these were installed on Oxford road en-mass it would not be long before there was a campaign to get rid of them, and we would be pushed back into unsegregated cycle lanes.

3 - White line hatch/Armadillo segregation

The armadillos are a new product from Spain that has not been in use for long so there is little evidence of their impact.

Photo from manufacturer's web site.

They are low plastic humps which would not prevent a bus or taxi entering the cycle lane and will provide very little feeling of separation for those on bikes. It is made from recycled plastic which means they are likely to be damaged and degrade over time.

They are also pretty ugly and easily removed.

Many of us at the meeting think that they may also be unsafe, particularly when placed at an angle to the cycle lane. Some free samples have been sent over which are going to be tested in Salford along Liverpool Street/Middlewood Street, so we will get a chance to see them.

4 - White line hatch / Armadillo / Planter segregation

This is the approach taken by Camden in Royal College Street.

Photo by The Alternative Department for Transport

It is a real dog's breakfast, whilst the planters may provide the feeling of separation they are a real safety hazard and maintenance problem. The planters are big solid objects with sharp edges which will do serious damage to anyone on a bike who runs into them. As for maintenance, is anyone going to look after the plants and remove all the rubbish that gets thrown in? Very unlikely.

5 - Combination segregation

This is just a combination of option 2 and option 4 with the combined problems of both. Just dreadful.

6 - Island segregation with gateways

This is a UK-style segregated cycle track, as you can already find along Hulme Hall Lane & Alan Turing Way in Manchester.

The big problems with this design is the height of the curbs on the sides of the cycle track make the rider feel hemmed in and reduce the useful width of the track. You wouldn't want to catch a pedal on those full-height curbs.

Also, even a full height curb wouldn't prevent a determined driver from getting onto the cycle track, but it is at least clear from the design that this is a separated part of the highway.

Cycle Superhighway 2 - photo from London Cycling Campaign

7 - Island segregation with gateways, combined with bollards

This combines the above with the plastic bollards. It helps reduce encroachment from drivers, but would look pretty ugly.

8 - Segregation by elevation

This is the most visually attractive option, and the only true, "Dutch Style" option on offer.

Photo from London Cycling Campaign

However, in the context of a main road like Oxford Road this is not the approach you see in the Netherlands, because it can easily be invaded by motor vehicles, and would be extensively used by taxis to drop off and pick up passengers.

Old Shoreham Road cycle track,
photo from As Easy As Riding A Bike.

How it should be done...

Raised cycle track with curb separation

One Dutch approach in this sort of context is to put a raised curb between the cycle track and the road.

Photo from As Easy As Riding A Bike.

This has the advantage of the raised curb in increasing segregation and meaning that the cycle track itself has only shallow, sloped curbs, making the full width of the track usable for cycles and reducing the feeling of enclosure.

This was the approach that I suggested durring the meeting and TfGM and MCC officers were receptive to the idea.

Raised cycle track separated by street furniture

This is how it should really be done.

The most common approach to busy wide main roads and cycle tracks in Amsterdam is to place the street furniture (trees, lamp posts road signs etc) between the cycle track and the road.

Photos from Sustainable Transportation in the Netherlands

This provides a complete separation between the motor traffic and pedestrians and bikes. This approach also creates a calmer streetscape for people and the separation is enforced bt street furniture which would otherwise clutter up the pavement.

I am sure that this approach would create a far more attractive and safer environment on Oxford Road than any of the options currently on offer.

This image of Vassar Street - Cambridge MA shows a cycle scheme in the USA which uses the same approach in a context that looks similar to Oxford Road.

Image taken from "Cycle Tracks: Concept and Design Practices"

I hope we can persuade TfGM, Manchester City Council, Corridor Manchester, the Universities and some cycle campaigners that this approach is the best solution for Oxford Road.

Friday 17 January 2014

TfGM annual budget briefing

Here is a chance to go and ask why cycling isn't being supported by the same long term high priority spending approach that Metrolink has.

The meeting is at Manchester Town Hall in the Council Chamber on Tuesday 21 January, from 11am – 1pm.

Councillors and directors from TfGM will be available for a question and answer session on the transport budget.

Sadly those of us in full time employment will be unable to attend...

To attend the briefing, email or telephone 0161 244 1000.

From the TfGM web site:-

Transport budget on the agenda at briefing

A briefing on transport spending plans for 2014/15 is to take place at Manchester Town Hall next week.

The Transport for Greater Manchester Committee (TfGMC) is holding its annual budget briefing in the Council Chamber on Tuesday 21 January, from 11am – 1pm.

Greater Manchester residents are welcome to attend the meeting, where leading councillors and directors from TfGM will be available for a question and answer session on the transport budget.

The briefing will be hosted by Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of TfGMC. He said: “Manchester has the fastest growing economy in the UK outside London and transport has a crucial role to play in supporting and sustaining that growth.

“We’ve achieved a great deal over recent years as we deliver the £1.5bn investment in transport infrastructure and services through the Greater Manchester Transport Fund. Equally as important is our day-to-day spending on crucial bus services and concessionary travel.

“As a local government body, we are acutely aware of the need to make ongoing efficiency and cost savings – while at the same time protecting our long-term investment in transport infrastructure.

“Anyone who wants to learn more about the challenges transport faces in the year ahead is welcome to come along to the budget briefing.”

The £1.5 billion Greater Manchester Transport Fund was established in May 2009 to pay for major transport schemes, including the Metrolink expansion programme, bus priority projects, park and ride and new transport interchanges.

In addition, transport spending in Greater Manchester focuses on supporting national and local concessionary travel schemes, funding the provision of socially necessary bus services, and providing improved passenger services and facilities.

TfGMC is a Joint Committee of the Combined Authority and the ten district authorities of Greater Manchester. The transport budget will be considered for approval by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority at the end of January.

To attend the briefing, please email or telephone 0161 244 1000.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Corporation Street - still open for cycles ---- (but only just...)

Update 25/1/14 - Seems to be getting worse...

This morning I cycled along the route and found that the contractors are now digging up the cycle track by Victoria Station.

The result is you are now forced onto the pavement.

Let's hope Operation Grimwald don't decide to stage a sting operation here...


Corporation Street is closed to motor vehicles between Hanover Street and St Mary's Gate/Market Street for the new tram works.

However, it is still open for cycling!

Cycles travelling south are sent right down into the car park, then left towards the tram tracks.

This contractor's van was blocking the way...

Then left again onto Todd Street where you rejoin the traffic and there is a set of traffic lights.

Through the lights you are back onto Corporation Street,

and past the traffic lights you can still get along Corporation Street

the route is well signed

and takes you all the way to the junction with Market street.

Despite all the signage some car drivers clearly can't see where they are going. This pair wend the wrong way down St Mary's Gate...

Bloody drivers!!

View Larger Map

Salford Cycle Forum

The next Salford Cycle Forum meeting will be held on Thursday 16 January, at 6pm in Committee Room 3, Salford Civic Centre.

These can be quite important meetings where you can challenge the council officers directly on cycle route design etc.

Is this the narropwest cycle lane in Salford?

The Agenda for the next meeting is:-

1. Welcome and Introductions

2. Action sheet from the last meeting

3. Matters Arising

4. Consultation on routes 2 and 3 of the Cycle City Ambition Grant (CCAG) Proposals.
Presentation on CCAG routes 2 (Silk Street / Adelphi Street) and 3 (Liverpool Street), with an opportunity for members to review and comment on the proposals. The routes are a combination of off highway shared use facilities and segregated cycle lanes on the carriageway.

5. Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF)
Update on progress of phase 2 (University to Quays Link) and presentation of initial proposals for phase 3 (Regent Road) which will be delivered during summer 2014, an opportunity for members to review and comment on the proposals.

6. Irlam’s o’ th’ height cycle safety scheme
Confirmation of finalised options, following the discussions at the last meeting.

7. Member Items / AOB

8. Future Meeting Dates

10 April 2014
17 July 2014
9 October 2014

For more details contact Lee Evans at Salford City Council

Sunday 5 January 2014

Who Pays the Piper?

The old saying goes, he who pays the piper calls the tune, and this is as true in the world of cycling and cycle campaigning as any other walk of life.

In the world of cycle racing the sponsor is emblasoned across the riders' clothing, bikes and cars. Nobody can miss the fact that British Cycling/Team Sky is funded by the Murdoch TV organisation and others, including £24m from Manchester City Council.

However, in the world of cycle campaigning it is not always obvious who is paying whom. It can be a real problem understanding what interests people have at cycle campaign meetings. There are may people who work in cycling based jobs in the UK.

There are many people working in cycle shops as mechanics or sales staff, people who work as cycle trainers, local authority officers and even professional advocates and campaigners as well as "consultants" who work freelance and then those employed by architectural and engineering firms and other organisations that design, manage and build cycle routes. There are also professional writers, photographers and artists and probably many more I've forgotten.

The problem is that it is difficult to remember who is being funded by what organisation.

Almost all bike shops and mechanics are entirely self funded, so whilst they will obviously want to see more people on bikes, because that should mean more sales, they have no worry about speaking their minds. However, people who's work is cycle training or route building will sometimes be funded through a local government scheme. Just think for a minute, if the local authority pays these peoples' wages, are they going to risk their funding by openly criticising the organisation that funds them? I think not.

So next time a "cycle campaigner" says that you shouldn't criticise the local transport authority or local council, ask whether they receive funding from that same local authority, either indirectly through the organisation they work for, or directly as an employee, consultant or pensioner. If they are funded by that local authority then it is perhaps best to ignore their advice...

Thursday 2 January 2014

High-visibility community punishment?

Sharp Edge Trip has recently pointed out that Manchester City Council has filed their pretty poor Cycling safety web page under the heading "Crime, antisocial behaviour & nuisance".

The parts that really piss me off are lines like

Always wear a helmet as this reduces the risk of head injury if you are involved in a crash.


wear bright or fluorescent clothing in daylight and in poor light and reflective clothing at night

Neither of these measures are proven to be effective, and are probably both counterproductive. The case for Hi-Viz is demolished by the Road Danger Reduction Forum as yet more victim blaming, and the case against cycle helmets has always been clear, as collated by the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation.

Thinking this through over the holiday I remembered a previous Hi-Viz news story, Labour Minister Jack Straw introducing compulsory high visibility orange vests for offenders serving out their punishment under Community Payback....

Photograph: Ministry of Justice

When will Manchester City Council and TfGM stop treating cycling as a nuisance behaviour to be punished, and start promoting it as a safe healthy activity which should be enjoyed whilst wearing normal clothing and build the infrastructure to go with it?