The bit in between

NICE released a d(r)aft consultation on combating traffic related air pollution. It was widely misreported across the media.

One of the more lurid headlines came from the Telegraph, a bastion of anti-science. 

The NICE report is very weak on this. Indeed, they felt compelled to put out this statement:

The committee looking at the matter found only weak evidence from 2 Dutch studies, so the recommendation is only desirable.

There still is a problem with the recommendation.

Speed bumps force motorists to slow down. What they don’t do is force motorists to speed up. They are not meant to. 

Motorists speed up after a speed bump because the road in between is designed to driven down at 30mph or more. 

Typically, speed bumps appear for 2 reasons: firstly, to cut drivers’ speed near a school or in a residential neighbourhood; secondly, to make a street less attractive to ratrunning.

The road where the speed bumps were installed was most likely a 30mph road beforehand. It probably features corners with wide radii, all optimised to move cars quickly.

Look at thon flares…

The junction above has speed bumps on each of its three arms. But drivers quickly speed up in between, because it has corners you’ll more likely find at Brand’s Hatch. It is the road design that induces fast driving.

Putting in speed bumps is pointless if the road in between does not induce slower speeds. If that junction had tight corners, then drivers would drive more slowly. With chicanes, alternative road surfaces a slower speed is induced. 

And all things considered cars going at 20mph or less in residential areas is much better for everyone concerned.

Cycle routes

The report makes another recommendation regarding where cycle routes should be sited:

1.5.1 Avoid siting cycle routes on highly polluted roads. Ideally use off-road routes or quiet streets. 

1.5.2 Where busy roads are used consider: 

  • Providing as much space as possible between the cyclist and motorised vehicles. 
  • Using dense foliage to screen cyclists from motor vehicles, without 
  • reducing street ventilation so that air pollution can disperse. 
  • Reducing the time cyclists spend at busy sites, including some junctions, where this can be done without increasing the time that other groups spend exposed to poor air quality.

I’m all for quiet routes if only they went somewhere and afforded the cyclist a safe environment to cycle in. At present UK quietways are generally a normal street with some modal filtering at best, often merely a recommended route with no dedicated cycle infrastructure. And they tend to give up when traffic is busier. Hackney in London is a prime example.

The motivation for this recommendation is weak:

The committee was aware from members’ own experience that air pollution concerns were among the factors putting some people off cycling.

The Sustrans Cycle to Work Survey said:

Even if all 281 respondents who said “Other” meant concern about air pollution that still pales into nothing compared to the 3723 who said “Distance” or “Safety”.

To be fair, had air pollution been an option some would have picked it.

Elephant in the Room

The main problem with the report is its addressing symptoms, not the root cause. The root cause is the number of  polluting vehicles on our roads. The measures in the report amount to mitigating the effects of polluting traffic. 

NICE fail to adequately address that our cities are designed for moving people by cars, where commuting by another means is not or very poorly planned for. Belfast is such a city.

This week, Belfast has once again found itself at the top of an unwelcome table:

(Illustrated with a picture of York Street.)

The answer lies not in using screening foliage, though it would be nice way to stop motorists encroaching on cycleways. It lies in getting people out of cars, by improving access for public transport, for walking and cycling. 

It is better for us (improved health), for our city (liveability), our region (economically) and our world (climate change).

There is no alternative; Chris Hazzard, NI Minister for Infrastructure says:

“Moving people in and out of Belfast city is good for business; moving cars is not.

What are we to do after York Street? Are we to bulldoze half of Great Victoria Street because we need two extra lanes in Great Victoria Street? Are we to demolish Belfast City Hall because we need a bigger roundabout at Belfast City Hall?

We need to talk about moving people, not cars, in and out of Belfast.”

Roundabouts

Twitter:

Stranmillis Roundabout in South Belfast is used as an alternative route for commuting cyclists accessing the Towpath in winter when the Botanical Gardens are closed.

It also serves as a route from the residential areas of Stranmillis to the Towpath. A nearby desire line bears this out:

The roundabout has 5 arms, clockwise from the north: Stranmillis Road (N), Stranmillis Embankment, Lockview Road, Stranmillis Road(W) and the entrance to Stranmillis College.

(Google)

The roundabout is a standard UK circle with two rings, a central island and has zebra crossings across all the arms. There are 2 bus stops: just north of the college gates for city bound Metro services and at the start of Stranmillis Road(W) for outbound services.

A small Belfast City Council run car park is situated between Stranmillis Road  (N) where you also find a bottle bank.

The area to the south is mainly residential with a few small business at Lockview Road, including 5a, a cycling themed café. To the west is the Stranmillis College estate; the Lagan to the east and Stranmillis village and Queen’s University to the north.

The roundabout has no dedicated space for cycling. Stranmillis Road has a painted cycle lane, but this stops well short of the circle.

Space for cycling ends here (Google)

There is a short shared use path from the roundabout along Stranmillis Embankment towards the Lagan. A marked crossing takes cyclists to the segregated path on the other side of the Embankment. Most cyclists ignore the shared use path and instead cycle down to the river on the footpath on the other side of the road and follow the track used by the cyclist in the photo above.

The circle has been the scene of a number of collisions involving cyclists:

Each dot is a collision involving a cyclist

Read more here.

Because it is directly adjacent to one of Belfast’s busiest cycle routes the roundabout’s layout should be altered to accommodate cycling.

We can make the circle safer by making it look a bit like this “monstrosity”. (Like calling a lifebuoy at a scenic seaside beauty spot an eye sore.)

It’s European, so therefore it’s mad, bad and dangerous to know, even if it saves lives…

For a more detailed report see the TRL report (pdf) and the view of the LCC here.

In real life a Dutch roundabout looks like this one at Laaghuissingel in Venlo, where cycling has a modal share of ~30%:

Roundabout with priority for cyclists in Venlo

Going around in circles, going nowhere fast
Currently Stranmillis roundabout is set up to improve traffic flow. In contrast, continental designs of roundabouts have road user safety in mind.

The most significant change would be reduction in number of lanes approaching the circle, and reducing the circling lanes from two to one.

Maximum traffic levels for 3 types of roundabout

At Stranmillis there is an over-provision of vehicle space. Most of the day the circle is quiet. At rush hour the roads in the area grind to a halt. Either way, the present circle is not meeting needs.

The traffic levels in Stranmillis fall within the first category: a roundabout with one circling lane and single approaches should suffice. The area sees a peak flow of approximately 1400 vehicles per hour, and 14,000 vehicles a day.

There are significant numbers of pedestrians and cyclists using the circle, due to its proximity to the University, Stranmillis College and the Towpath.

For what it’s worth here’s the Strava heat map:

At present northbound traffic is split between two lanes, which past the roundabout are merged on Stranmillis Embankment. Why? The merging causes delays for traffic leaving the area. It is an area of conflict between drivers, and it should not surprise most collisions involving cyclists are here.

Car culture

Reducing vehicle traffic space will increase available space for pedestrians and cyclists. More space can be found by realigning the arms and make the entries and exits less flared.

(TRL 2015)

Reducing vehicle space is something guaranteed to raise hackles within the NI Department of Infrastructure. Despite the pro-cycling leadership proposals to reduce speed limits, impose filtered permeability, bung up rat runs, remove vehicle access, etc are met with Departmental opposition.

Typical Response from Department of Infrastructure

If we want to grow cycling in Belfast we need to rearrange our road space, and start thinking about moving people rather than vehicles. So more bus lanes, not fewer and segregated safe space for cycling along main arterial roads.

Belfast City Council in their response to NI Bicycle Strategy Draft welcome “Dutch style roundabouts”

Elsewhere

Other roundabouts in south and east Belfast where cyclist will benefit from a re-design are Ormeau:

Cregagh:

And Belmont:

And away from Belfast’s cycling heartland, Carlisle Circus:

And what are Dutch roundabouts like for cyclists?

 ***Latest***

Blocked by HGV

Seamus doesn’t like me. Probably, because of my tweeting things like this:

And:

The FTA in NI are proud of their initiative to send HGV drivers into Belfast on their bicycles. It is a good initiative, facilitated by Sustrans.

No surprise then that River Ridge Recycling won a prestigious road safety award in September ’16. Well done!

You might consider working for such a fine company:

But there’s a problem. Look at the photos. River Ridge Recycling operate mainly in urban areas, with vehicles fitted with standard cabs and lacking guard rails.

Cabs

No guard rails

So I asked Seamus how it came about that a company that operates a fleet of vehicles unsuited to an urban environment could win a road safety prize. Where are the cabs that allow a driver to see pedestrians and cyclists directly? Why does it not operate vehicles like these:

Belfast City Council bin lorry

The FTA in NI have long argued that road deaths, drivers and vehicles breaching regulations are down to a few rogue operators; that the majority operate within the law.
This is what RSA Ireland found:

Quite apart from the aforementioned 56% of HGV drivers who drive whilst using mobiles.

The industry and its representatives have a choice. Either, address road safety issues by, for a start, removing unsafe vehicles from our streets, arguing for stricter fines and punishments for operators who break the laws and adopting safer lorry designs.

Or block people on Twitter.

Still No Space For Cycling Here

Following on from a Facebook post where cyclists were informed of road works on Albertbridge Road to facilitate the Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) bus system, I queried what improvement this represented for Belfast cyclists.

BRT team responded stating that no space could be spared for cyclists, but omitted to say that local residents can still use the existing parking bays along the road. In short, space cannot be spared because drivers need it to store their cars.

The plans are available here.

Cyclists in East Belfast can look forward to a painted cycle lane running not quite the length of Albertbridge Road from Templemore Avenue to Newtownards Road. A couple of Advanced Stop Lines and that is it.

City bound cyclists can use the rapid transit bus lane.

I put in a request to the Department of Infrastructure where I asked the following:

  • The terms and references of the initial BRT consultation pertaining the impact on cycling along BRT routes;
  • A summary of the assessed impact of BRT on cycling as part of the consultation;
  • Whether contact was sought with cycling stakeholders (for instance, Sustrans, British Cycling or Cycling UK) regarding cycling specific design and implementation of the BRT scheme;
  • Whether the impact on cycling has been reassessed since the consultation exercises given the increase in numbers of cyclists, the building of the BBNP, and the implementation of the Belfast Bikes hire scheme – the date(s) and outcome(s) of any review(s);
  • The length and location of all segregated cycleways, mandatory cycle lanes and shared use paths along BRT routes (planned and realised). Segregation may be achieved by, for instance, wands, planters, armadillos and/or kerbs. Advisory cycle lanes and shared use bus lanes should not be counted;
  • The number of bicycle parking spaces at BRT halts and terminals (planned and realised.

Here is their response:

I welcome the BRT. I think it will change the commuting habits of people in East Belfast and North Down. With the Comber Greenway running parallel to the BRT route it can provide a good alternative route for cyclists who do not wish to share bus lanes with rapid buses.

Sustrans, in their BikeLife Survey found that of all options to increase cycling uptake sharing bus lanes was the least favoured option. Physically separating cyclists from motor traffic was the most favoured option.

Sustrans BikeLife Belfast

Indeed, segregated cycling infrastructure is the Department of Infrastructure’s vision for cycling. It is a pity that the vision is not being implemented.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we won’t get a urban cycling network overnight. However, as each brick of the BRT is put in place, the less space remains for cycling along Albertbridge Road.

The Mythical Mystery Tour

The Comber Greenway stops abruptly at Holywood Arches. The junction is named after the railway arch which took the Belfast and County Down Railway over the busy Newtownards Road.

Holywood Arches, Old Belfast (Facebook)

The route, theoretically, continues onwards over the Connswater, through Ballymacarret, across Dee Street, to Titanic Railway halt, across the M3 and there joins the Sydenham Road cycleway. And then you have still a mile to go to the city centre.

Google

The above route is not the most direct way into the City Centre. It is not encouraging people from Ballyhackamore, Knock, King’s Road, Tullycarnet and Dundonald to get cycling, especially to destinations to the South and West of the City Centre.

The direct route goes along the Albertbridge Road, across the Albert Bridge, East Bridge Street and from there into Belfast City Centre.

It speaks volumes that Andrew Grieve from the Cycling Unit chose the Albertbridge Road route for his race against a motorist from the Holywood Road area into town, not the scenic route past Samson and Goliath, the Titanic Quarter and the Odyssee. 

From a cycling perspective nothing will change for Andrew as he cycles to work. 

And that is bad.

What is good is that work is about to start on the Eastern section of the Belfast Bicycle Network Plan from the City Centre to Titanic halt. This will at least cut out the dog leg through Belfast’s mythical quarter, but will still leave cyclists who need to be south and west of the City Centre with a lengthy detour.

The BRT has blazed ahead, with the approval of Sustrans, without considering cycling as a serious transport option.

The Department of Infrastructure BRT project team always presumed that cyclists can be lumped together with rapid buses. The original BRT consultation report mentions that consultation responders asked how bus lanes would benefit cyclists. The department’s response is that cyclists can use bus lanes. Which is in my view is not sufficient in answering the questions raised during the consultation, or my FoI request.

It leaves the impression cycling was not considered at all. The 12 bicycle parking spaces at the Dundonald Terminus are really adding insult to injury. The lack of bus stop bypasses in the entire plan is totally ignoring best practice on combining cycling and public transport.

The latest figures put cycling commuting levels in Belfast at 3%, but we know from the 2011 Census levels in South and East are above 5%. This has been achieved without much investment in infrastructure. 

To lift cycling uptake higher we need to see segregated cycling routes along our arterial roads, where people need to go to work, to school or college and to shop. Cycling routes should not be put down glass-strewn, poorly lit alleys.

The plans for the BRT along Albertbridge Road are lazy, perfunctory. The parking bays are maintained on Albertbridge Road, even expanded. Cyclists get a painted lane countrybound, but no bus stop bypasses. 

There is no protection at the Templemore junction where two eastbound traffic lanes merge and cyclists are expected to jostle for space with motorists.

There is no protection for cyclists at the Newtownards Road junction. Motorists still get their slip road to avoid the lights. Can this space not be better used for a segregated cycle path?

In the latest road safety report NI cyclists are more likely to get injured than car occupants. The blame for the crash lies with the other road user in 2/3 of cases. And in 3/4 of those careless driving is the root cause. This design should protect vulnerable road users and it fails.

Every design should be put through a review and be scored on safety. Without protection cyclists are still endangered at junctions. Paint won’t stop a careless driver straying into a cycle lane. 

The plans should also be scored on their efficiency. I doubt these plans increase or improve the flow of buses. At Templemore Avenue and Newtownards Road junctions the bus lane still stops short of the junction in favour of an extra car lane.

The BRT is meant to shift car commuters towards public transport. An important victory was won when the preferred route was announced as the Newtownards Road. This meant the Comber Greenway was saved for active travel.

However, at every turn in the implentation of the project the BRT team have bent over backwards to give cars the same amount of road space as they were given before. This is a doomed exercise. BRT will not succeed without removing car traffic. And the only way to reduce car traffic is to remove their road space. 

Cycling Revolution

Should we, cyclists, rejoice at getting a piece of tarmac painted green, with a cute bicycle motif? 

Those days are over. If Belfast is really serious about cycling these plans would have been radically different. 

How different?

What if countrybound traffic was directed up Short Strand and then up Newtownards Road and citybound traffic down the Albertbridge Road?

Countrybound (green); citybound (red)

The current configuration of pavement, parking, 4 motor traffic lanes, parking, pavement could become pavement, cycle path, parking, bus lane in, general traffic lane, bus lane out, parking, cycle path and pavement.

We must bear in mind that urban roads should be optimised to move people, not cars. Cars are incredibly inefficient in urban environments. They take up too much space and most of the time they sit still. Parked somewhere.
Where to look for best practice?

One cannot help but peek at Utrecht where they found space for rapid transit buses, whilst giving cyclists, cars and parked cars their own space. Buses have pride of place in the middle of the road. Cars (if allowed) are reduced to one lane with a parking strip protecting the bicycle paths.

They got their priorities straight for the 21st Century when Belfast, despite Belfast on the Move, is still worshipping at the altar of King Car.

Belfast Parking Strategy and Action Plan

Belfast City Council has produced the draft for the Belfast Parking Strategy and Action Plan. You can have your say here.

Last year I blogged about the various issues surrounding parking in central Belfast. I am pleased that Belfast City Council is thinking along the same lines and in many ways goes much further.

In the draft, put together by AECOM, there are various parking management tools, such as live parking information boards, online payments, phone apps, variable tariffs to discourage all day on-street parking, and encourage turnover by automated parking bay monitoring. 

These tools will be employed to make more efficient use of parking spaces, to reduce congestion due to people circulating for spaces and better monetise the available spaces.

The draft recognises the blight caused by off-streat surface car parks; the invitation to drive by over-provision of parking; the congestion and harm to the local environment caused by excessive road traffic; the burden placed on local residents by all day parking by city centre workers.

My blog post grossly underestimated (by 2/3) the amount of parking available. There are 40,000 spaces. Worrying is that my total was derived from official Belfast on the Move reports. If the Government was unaware what was happening on the street how could they ever address it properly?

The draft makes for positive reading from a cyclist’s point of view. 

  1. Belfast Bikes docking stations are to be situated at or very near new multi-storey car parks around the city’s inner ring.
  2. Cycle parking will be increased across the City Centre, with security and covered against the weather.
  3. Residents only cycle parking will be provided.
  4. A feasibility study will be carried out for a Cycle Hub in the City Centre.
  5. Active Travel and Park and Ride schemes are to be promoted to discourage people using cars to access Belfast City Centre. Cycle infrastructure and parking will be enhanced in “quality and volume”.
  6. Cycle parking at railway stations is to be increased to encourage bike-train commuting to Belfast City Centre.
  7. Belfast City Council fully signs up to the NI Bicycle Strategy and so this Parking Strategy will be used to deliver the aims of the Bicycle Strategy.
  8. Planning applications for city centre developments will need to show “sufficient” amounts of cycle parking.

It has to be noted that some of these points cannot be delivered by Belfast City Council alone, but need involvement from various NI Government departments. 

For instance, providing and increasing the number of covered and secure bicycle stands at (for argument’s sake) Lurgan railway station is outside Belfast City Council control. 

The building of cycle paths, Dutch-style roundabouts, etc, will be led by the Department of Infrastructure. Whilst their Cycling Unit’s heart is in the right place, the budget definitely isn’t.

In Northern Ireland regional bus travel is important, because the railway network was  dramatically reduced in the 1960s on the recommendations of the Benson report. I’d like to see more cycle parking at bus stations and important halts outside Belfast, but also along the Belfast Rapid Transit routes, and so encourage bike-bus as an alternative to car travel.

Bus stop with bicycle parking, Lingewaard, Netherlands (Wikipaedia)

The draft has one central failing. Having recognised that a significant proportion of parking is always vacant, it then does not set about a strategy to reduce provision to more realistic levels. It moves surface spaces to new multi-storeys, but never at a significant reduction of overall numbers. 

The only way to stop cars entering the city centre and to relieve congestion is to stop providing for cars. Encouraging uptake of active travel and increasing patronage of public transport is doomed if car use is not discouraged.

Similarly, environmental benefits will fail to realise if Belfast city centre continues to roll out the red carpet for car drivers, be they commuters or leisure visitors.

The draft should therefore contain targets and a timetable for reducing number of spaces. A reduction of 30% (wiping out the excess provision) in 10 years overall is ambitious, but achievable.

If, for instance, a 500-space Park & Ride facility were to be opened  at Knockmore Halt  in Lisburn, then the number of Belfast city centre spaces should be reduced by at least 500, and ideally by many more to achieve real reduction.

Also, the draft doesn’t fully recognise that on-street parking hinders rolling out of cycleways across the city. Dublin Road, for instance, should have a separated cycleway considering the volume of traffic and numbers of cyclists. Such a path cannot be accommodated because of on-street parking on both sides of the one-way road.

Similarly, cycleways along Lisburn Road and Albertbridge Road are impossible as long as on-street parking is considered more valuable than moving people.

Conclusion

The draft strategy has highlighted the obscene over-provision of car parking space in Belfast city centre. It sets out a variety of good measures to make more efficient use of the available provision.

The strategy sees cycling as a viable transport alternative to 1) replace car commuter journeys; 2) to move people from outlying car parks to their place of work in the middle of town. 

The strategy fails to address the over-provision adequately, and more effort should be made to reduce the number of spaces available.

No Space for Cycling Here

The Department of Infrastructure Cycling Unit posted on Facebook:

Improvements are on the way for cycling and public transport on the Albertbridge Road. The benefits, which are being delivered as part of the Belfast Rapid Transit works, include improvements to drainage, resurfacing of the road and footpaths, enhanced street lighting, and additional lengths of bus lane which, of course, can be used by cyclists. The works are due to start on Monday 29 August.

In order to deliver these benefits the works will necessitate the suspension of the section of existing cycle lane over the length of the works. We would ask cyclists to extra care for the duration of the works, which are due to be completed by summer 2017.

They decorate their announcement of the bus lane improvement on the Albertbridge Road with pictures of Belfast’s best bits of cycling infrastructure: segregated cycleways and Belfast Bikes.

Stranmillis Embankment (Cycling Unit)

Alfred Street (Cycling Unit)

I questioned why cyclists are made to share with buses. Perceived lack of safety is a constant complaint from colleagues who don’t cycle into work using the Lisburn Road’s peak time bus lane.

Here’s the BRT team response:

‘Along the BRT routes we have endeavoured, where physically possible, to provide 12m carriageways (4 x 3m lanes) with 2.5m footways on either side. To provide dedicated cycle infrastructure on these corridors would require at least a further 3m of roadwidth, which is simply not available along much of the routes, including this section of the Albertbridge Road’.

The Cycling Unit adds:

From the Cycling Unit’s perspective: we have been working on a draft Bicycle Network Plan for Belfast which we hope to consult on very soon.

We are striving to create separate cycling provision where possible over the next ten years, however, we see bus and cycle lanes as an interim measure until such routes are available.

It is a scandal major pieces of traffic infrastructure are given the go ahead without considering cyclists. The plans for Belfast Rapid Transit barely mentioned cycling and now it’s being built across Belfast it is clear the routes are not made suitable for cycling. We have unforgiving high kerbs, especially at bus stops, and pinch points. 

In the years since the BRT was consulted on, cycling in Belfast has changed dramatically: numbers have increased; there is the highly successful Belfast Bikes hire scheme.

But still the BRT continues as if it’s ten years ago. It contains no plans for cycleways or infrastructure that will entice more people out on their bikes, even where space allows to construct these. People don’t want to cycle with a bus right up their backside. It is intimidating, however well the driver is trained.

And is there no space as the BRT team assert? Like here on the Albertbridge Road, where ample space is afforded to parking:

Oh.

The only lack of space for cycling is in the imagination of the Belfast Rapid Transit team. They obviously value storage of private vehicles on public roads more than moving people from A to B.

Knockmore Road, Lisburn

Cycling in Lisburn has been in the news again, and again for all the wrong reasons.

Bob Harper has mapped all Northern Ireland’s cycle collisions between 1998 and 2014.

image

Red dots on this map of western Lisburn represent clusters of collisions involving cyclists.

On 23 March 2016 a cyclist died on Knockmore Road at its junction with Ballinderry Road. The victim was Mr Mahfouz Balid, a Syrian refugee and qualified dentist, who worked in a window blind factory earning money to become a practicing dentist in the UK.

His story was featured on BBC Newsline at Christmas.

In the past 4 years 3 cyclists, including Mr Balid, have died on Lisburn roads.

In November 2012, Donal Lucey, age 48, from Clonkeen, Co. Kerry died following a collision on the B49 Old Ballynahinch Road to the east of Lisburn. A ghost bike was placed near the spot where he was fatally wounded.

image

Donal Lucey's ghost bike (Ulster Star)

At the time of the collision planned road works to improve safety were on hold following objections from people in Cargacreevy.

In response to this and many other collisions, the speed limit on the B-roads coming into Lisburn from Co. Down was reduced from the National Speed Limit to 50mph and 40mph in places. It has to be noted that in a collision with a vulnerable road user at these speeds they will still most likely die.

In November 2014 a bleak 24 hour period brought two traffic deaths. Adam Gilmour, age 8, was knocked down walking along a country road just outside Cloughmills, Co. Antrim, on his way to school. The second death was that of John Flynn, age 51, who was killed in a crash involving a HGV on the A1 between Dromore and Hillsborough.

In the aftermath there were calls for cycle lanes on the hard shoulder of the A1.

Mr Balid’s death also involved a HGV.

image

Photo: Gary Philpott Facebook

Knockmore Road: the problem

Local politicians were vocal following Mr Balid’s death, pointing out a plan for traffic lights at the Ballinderry Road junction had been unnecessarily delayed.

Traffic lights are perhaps needed there, but more work needs done to make the junction safe for pedestrians and cyclists.

Traffic lights alone won’t remove the risk of a collision between a cyclist and a turning HGV. I am not sure traffic lights would have prevented Mr Balid’s death.

Speed kills

Firstly and obviously, a 50mph speed limit is inappropriate along Knockmore Road, or on Prince William Road. Since these roads were constructed many more residential developments have sprung up along both roads changing the roads’ character. A lower speed limit of 40 or -better still- 30, might be safer.

To accommodate these high speeds the junctions along Knockmore Road flare considerably, with a wide turning radius. This allows cars to leave the road without slowing significantly, not allowing drivers enough time to react should there be a cyclist or pedestrian crossing at the mouth of the junction.

No footpath or cycleway

Cyclists are expected to share this 50mph road with numerous HGV in an area of Lisburn dominated by industry. Yet, there are no dedicated cycleways.

Also, recent residential development along the Ballinderry Road have brought more pedestrians to the junction.

The footpath on the southern side of Ballinderry Road stops just short of the junction and asks pedestrians to cross to the other side. A well-worn track shows where pedestrians have continued on the road’s verge:

image

There is no footpath on the western side between Ballinderry Road and the Moira Road:

image

Desire line

That pedestrians would rather continue walking on a verge than cross a road demonstrates the need for a safe crossing and a footpath.

The shared use pavements along Knockmore Road stop on the northern side of the Ballinderry Road junction. Going south from the junction cyclists are compelled to use the 50mph road or use the narrow, poorly surfaced, footpath on the eastern side.

No safe pedestrian or cyclist crossing

There are few safe pedestrian or cyclist crossing points along Knockmore Road, the only pedestrian crossing is at the Ballymacoss Avenue junction, linking a residential area to a nearby supermarket.

The solution

At the eastern end of Knockmore Road, along Prince William Road, there is a very good bit of cycling infrastructure. And it has to be included as part of the solution. A fully segregated bidirectional cycleway, extended along the entire length of Knockmore Road.

image

As good as it is, the above junction is also incredibly poorly thought through. There is a pedestrian underpass under Prince William Road from the cycleway, but it offers no direct link to the shared use path along Knockmore Road. Instead, cyclists are expected to use the lights and cross the roads at the junction. Why not have a link marked with the red arrow-like squiggle?

There is ample space along Knockmore Road for a bidirectional cycleway. The junctions with side roads should be designed so as to allow a car turning off the Knockmore Road to stop and yield to cyclists, without interfering with traffic going straight ahead.

Provided it is set well enough back from the main road cyclists will be protected from turning articulated HGV.

image

Hastingsweg, Dordrecht, NL

Summary

1. Complete the shared use path along the northwest side of Knockmore Road from Prince William Road to Moira Road.
2. Construct a bidirectional cycleway along the southeastern side and connect to existing cycleway at Prince William Road.
3. Reduce speed limit to 30mph.
4. Provide traffic lights and safe pedestrian and cyclist crossing at Ballinderry Road junction.

Alfred Street Junction Design

Work on the new Alfred Street cycleway continues apace.

Bollards have now appeared, but it is now clear only half of them have been installed. With rather predictable results:

image

Poppo goblin keeping the spirit of "bin lane" alive

DRD are monitoring the situation. Even if the remaining wands are placed drivers can simply drive into the Cycleway at any of the conveniently placed access points for alleys, loading bays, car parks and side streets.

image

As much as I hate the bollards for their potential hazard to cyclists, DRD need to install them, as they did at Ormeau Avenue:

Another consequence of using fewer wands than planned is the lack of protection at junctions.

The Cyclesaurus is dead. It is replaced with a broad green track across the junction. However, at present, only paint separates cars and cyclists.

I urged DRD to install more protection for cyclists at junctions, but there appears to have been a change in the plans meaning there is now less protection:

image

The red dots mark where wands should have been placed. The separating white line extends up to the raised junction with two wands on the raised section of the road.

Here’s what’s been installed:

image

The line now stops at the incline with the final wand some way before the junction. According to the plans the final wand should have been roughly where this pedestrian is crossing.

image

What the picture also shows are the tyre tracks of cars turning into Franklin Street.

image

Motorists marking their territory

The lack of wands gives the corner a wide radius, so drivers need not slow down as they turn across the cycleway. This is not safe.

At the Ormeau Road end the junction is simply terrible. Southbound cyclists are positioned to the right of Alfred Street. Car drivers coming off eastbound Ormeau Avenue turn in and pass to the left of the cyclist.

I called it a “fudge” at the consultation event in May 2015. It is worse than a fudge. It is dangerous.

Practically, it is impossible for cyclists to turn right on to Ormeau Avenue. The design of the cycleway should have included some means of crossing safely.

Again, the wide radius of the corner gives the driver no incentive to slow down. The driver will be disconcerted to see cyclists emerging onto the shared space section of the junction.

I understood that the Ormeau Avenue entry was meant to be a continuous footway.

The above is a continuous footway. What we have here:

This Alfred Street track is still being built. I hope enough time remains to fix the errors and increase the track’s safety.

This plan is meant to set a new standard for cycleways across Northern Ireland. It does already, despite serious shortcomings. It needs to be better.

Cycling Revolution in Belfast?

Strava Labs have released a tool to compare the heat maps of 2014 and 2015.

You will all respond saying how unrepresentative it is of utility cycling and the gender imbalance and all that. Also, Strava could have become more popular. All true, but it throws up interesting stuff anyhow.

I’ve looked at central Belfast.

Lagan Developments

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Laganside Development

The new bridge at the Lagan Weir is many more times popular than the old bridge, without it affecting cycling levels on the nearby Queen’s and Queen Elizabeth II bridges.

Also noticeable is the detour needed to avoid the works to add the oversized ugly shipping container to the side of the previously iconic Waterfront Hall.

The majority of NCN9 users have chosen not to cross the Lagan at the railway bridge, though there is considerably more cycling traffic between Queen’s Bridge and the railway bridge, than between the latter and the Albert Bridge.

City Centre

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Cycling levels have increased across the City Centre. Again, the right side of the picture is 2015.

Especially at Franklin St in the Linen Quarter the number of cyclists has increased. Any attempts to reduce cars travelling through the Linen Quarter should not impede this flow of cyclists. Filtered permeability and allowing two way cycling on one way streets must be considered.

The BBNP path from Grosvenor Road to Bridge End will pass through High Street. Cycling levels there remain well behind those on Chichester St and May St. My main criticism of the BBNP is that it is not where cyclists are. The hope remains that, as with the new Weir Bridge, the new infrastructure will increase cycling overall, without displacing traffic from Chichester St.

Bus Lanes

In the absence of cycleways in the City Centre, bus lanes act as a poor substitute. The implementation of bus lane restrictions was met with loud wailing and gnashing of teeth by car drivers. But not by cyclists.

Donegall Square East and West have become more important for cyclists:
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A similar increase is seen in Queen Street. Are bus lanes encouraging more cyclists into the city centre? It appears so: the before and after surveys for BotM show a decreasing number of cars, but more pedestrians and cyclists, with overall visitor numbers increasing.

The Belfast Bikes dock at Donegall Square may well be driving the increase near City Hall, which means people are logging their hire bike journeys on Strava. Surely not?! Was it not an app for MAMILs to boast about their 100 mile rides around the countryside?

Elsewhere

Elsewhere in Belfast cycling is growing. Noticeable is Mountpottinger Road in East Belfast:

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This gives more encouragement to the idea to close off this road to HGV, but ideally close off the rat run altogether.

Across Belfast more journeys are being recorded by cyclists. Even in the west of the city. This could point to an increase in popularity of Strava, but also to a year on year increase in cycling levels.

Gasworks Bridge

I don’t listen to Nolan. I never do. It’s bad for your health.

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Apparently, there was no consultation with residents...

Whilst I was penning my suggestion for a ferry link prior to the bridge being built, Councillor Chris McGimpsey of the Ulster Unionist Party was on the show, complaining how no one from the Ravenhill area came to him supporting the Gasworks Bridge.

Quickly, a number of residents of the Ravenhill area responded they’d love to see the bridge.

There is now an open letter, and a petition all supporting the Gasworks Bridge.

The case for the bridge needs no restating. But let’s do it anyway: It’s good for Belfast, good for relieving congestion, good for the Ravenhill and the Lower Ormeau. It is good for office workers in the Gasworks. It is good to encourage cycling and walking and therefore good for all of our city’s residents’ health and wellbeing.

The bridge will cost £7m to £9m, but the return for our city will be many, many times more.

So, prop up the Bridge. Support it. Sign the petition.

***100 signatures in 23 hours***
***200 signatures in 61 hours***

I have emailed Councillor McGimpsey saying I’ll be arranging a petition handover next week. Keep your eyes out for an announcement about when and where. And I hope to see you there!

Thank you.