Sunday, 15 February 2015

More bollocks - A19/A1290 junction critique

One of the big manufacturing locations and success stories in the North East (despite it being a car plant) is the Nissan factory and accompanying infrastructure just to the west of the A19 at Sunderland.

Over the last year or so, works have been carried out and are still ongoing in some places, to remodel junctions and roads around the Nissan site to improve the road network and attempt to reduce pinch points.

From a cycling perspective, this has seen 3m shared paths on all the approach roads to Nissan, and some junction changes. Most of this work has been carried out by Sunderland council, and to be fair have been well executed.

At the northern most tip of this area, the junction of the A19 and A1290 has been extensively changed from a simple 2 roundabout interchange  (shown below). the roundabouts have now been removed and each replaced with a set of traffic lights.This work has been carried out by South Tyneside Council on behalf of the Highways Agency at a cost of £150,000 for the cycling portion (courtesy of this FOI reply)

The A1290 now has a 3 metre shared path along the south side of the road (from the bottom left looping around the junction and along the western carriageway to the bottom right of the picture)

A short section of 3 metre shared path has been built from the north exit slip road along the top right of the junction and terminates just short of where the cyclepath from Boldon colliery meets the road in the top right of the picture.
To the left the new shared path. To the right the bridleway/cyclepath north to the A184

Crossing points have been put in just to the west of the southbound slip roads, crossing the slips, and the main A1290 carriageway.

There are a few shortcomings with the cycling provision at this new junction, which I feel should have been resolved during the design.

The crossings are all multi stage, and to cross from the north of the A1290 at the eastern side of the junction takes 4 separate light controlled crossings & button pushes on the Toucan crossings.

4 separate crossings for one road. Council getting bulk discount for crossing button controls?

Whilst some of the crossings change automatically to green, this is at best a confusing crossing especially in the dark. A better solution would have been a single green phase crossing for pedestrians and cyclists, or at least to reduce the number of crossings.

The crossing of the northbound exit from the A19 is also a 2 stage crossing. Again, this should have been a single stage crossing

As most of the users of the crossings are people on bikes, then this crossing could have been a great opportunity for a "green wave" crossing across the entire junction. By contrast a crossing at the junction of Nissan Way & Turbine way only a short ride away on my route is a simultaneous green crossing, but that is Sunderland Council. It however proves it could have been done here though.

Access from the new junction to the cycleway/bridlepath has been ignored. The 3 metre shared path abruptly terminates and reduces down to 2 metre just short of where the bridleway and road currently meet.
Mind the gap! The bridleway/shared path junction is where the truck is parked

The most direct and shortest line to join the bridleway is via a set of muddy earth and mud steps down to the corner. of the bridleway. Ideally a  realigned and graded 3 metre wide shared path should have been provided north from the junction following the desire lines. Actually this is currently planned in as part of a larger scheme to rebuild the major junction just north of here at Testos (shown below), but that work is not scheduled to be completed until, approx 2019

Why was this not done as part of this work? Why do we need to wait 3 years?

There is no access onto the shared path from the minor road to the west of the junction. That road is a quiet lane leading to the A195/A194 junction and the Follingsby lane industrial park.
This seems to be due to the only focus being on north/south traffic towards the Nissan complex.
Improving junction access to Follingsby lane and subsequently improving safety along that road would have enabled a cycling corridor from East Gateshead to Nissan, Sunderland, and Boldon.
Whilst a 3m shared path along the north of the junction and an extra crossing point to join the path heading south would have been the ideal solution, even a dropped curb to allow cycles to be ridden across the A1290 and onto the path would have been an improvement.

The next alternative is the A184, which is a busy dual carriageway with very poor and limited cycling facilities.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Broadband for bikes! The revolution seems to be coming

This week has been quite momentous for cities at either end of England.

On Thursday Boris got his cycling superhighways as he calls them approved by the Transport for London board and they'll now be built.

Before that, on Wednesday, Newcastle trumped that by announcing plans to convert John Dobson Street to a cycling street from it's current urban dual carriageway. This will rip up one side and replace with a 2 way cycle path, whilst the other side will be 2 way for traffic, mainly buses.
This is John Dobson street currently

And this is what it will look like once converted

It's a huge change and significant certainly for the North East if not the country. Unlike London which has developed a large cycling share already, Newcastle hasn't to any large degree. I am hugely excited for both schemes, but particularly Newcastle

Boris calls his scheme "crossrail for bikes".

I prefer to think of both schemes as analogous to the start of the superfast broadband rollout across the UK.

Years ago, people using the internet at home (and often at work too) were enthusiasts and people interested in computers and technology for their own sake. The internet was accessed though slow dial up modems and only slightly quicker 1/2mb "broadband".

Normal people thought the internet was for geeks and freaks. "What would I use it for?" they'd shout.

Superfast broadband, and the advent of smartphones and tablets has changed all that.
All manner of people are now using the devices and the broadband for every thing from booking tickets, to shopping and banking. they're watching TV and movies streamed in real time and catchup.

Look at how services like Netflix have caught on. Superfast broadband made it possible and people just used it. A lot of the time it's less about the absolute speed but the convenience, and what is known as latency. Superfast Broadband removes a lot of the waiting and hanging around waiting for services to load.

These schemes in Newcastle and London (and elsewhere) are in the vanguard of super convenient cycling broadband with low latency as cycling traffic will be prioritised.

As an aside, latency is perhaps a good way of looking at and rating cycling infra. How long waiting at junctions & crossings? What's the congestion like with pedestrians etc? Because that's what slows people down and makes cycling unattractive in the UK when not on the road.

I expect that when these are  built & start being used, people in the city centres will start using the and cycling in ways we haven't really seen in modern Britain until now.

Hopefully, then other authorities will look at them and see that the societies haven't crashed, that lots more have used them, and will want a  piece of that for themselves.