Saturday 6 February 2010

2010 Bristol Traffic Antibicycle Awards: Gloucester/Zetland Road

We hinted recently that the Gloucester/Zetland Road junction would get more coverage. It is time. This is Bristol council's entry our 2010 Anti-bike awards, the ones that one of our commenters, maliknant, said of UWE's entry: "UWE has put in a tremendous effort here. If they don't win, the vote has definitely been rigged." Perhaps. This last minute entry could be the rigging by a transport department reluctant to be forgotten.

Here is a view of Gloucester Road: at 0:09 you can see the new bike stands that the Cycling City funding just put in. But that is not why this junction merits a mention. What merits a mention here is the new sign "signal priorities changed" stuck up by the lights. Yes, they have changed.

They have changed the junction priority from "getting cyclists across alive" to "getting cars through and so helping firstbus schedules". This is a major change, and one that only took a bit of signal reprogramming -software, rather than expensive infrastructure. The best bit, being just a software change, no need to announce this change in advance to any of the cyclist complainer groups -the cycle forum, the cycling campaign, whatever. They just got to sneak it in and present those tax dodgers with fait accompli.

First, watch the video.

Note how the cars turning right get a green light, and off they go. Either into the city, or turning right-then-left onto Cromwell Road, and off to St Andrews or East Bristol, perhaps even the M32. That option is the best rat-run route from Redland to the M32 of a weekday morning, after all.

Note how a few seconds after the cars get their green light, some tax-dodging cyclist sets off cycling over a pedestrian crossing, then veers away from the pavement, turning into the paths of the cars. He is lucky that nobody is in a rush to get to the M32, or his hi-viz top and helmet would be no use whatsoever. Just another statistic to show that cycling is dangerous, more proof that red-light jumping cyclists are the great problem of the city, more evidence the local police need to crack down on dangerous A38 cyclists. See that: something goes wrong -the cyclists gets the blame and people stay scared of it. Which is how it should be.

Only here's the best bit. The cyclist, this reckless fool, actually thinks that they are doing the right thing. Because they've just come off the Elton Road contraflow, the "safe cycling" route out of Bishopston, and have sat there, patiently, waiting for the crossing light to give them a green bicycle, a "go" light. They don't know they are being reckless, they are just naive enough to believe that waiting for a green cycle light means that it is safe for a bicycle to be on Bristol's streets. Wrong. They are not welcome. We in Bristol Traffic know that. The city's drivers know that. The Bristol council traffic department knows it too -and have set out to show the cyclists how dangerous their activity is, and how unwelcome they are. The fact that Bishopston is the target more-bums-on-bikes area for cycling city, and this junction something everyone cycling into the city centre would encounter, only makes the change that much richer, the irony more delicious. With a quick change of the signal priorities that didn't even get mentioned to the bike/pedestrian groups, the engineering team managed to push back on all the pro-cycling initiatives coming down from the councillors, from central government. One team -fighting back!

With this entry we now close our entries for the antibicycle awards. Three entries: UWE, Rolls-Royce and now this one Bristol Council Traffic Department. Before voting begins, we are getting some comments from the candidates and some final snaps. Please take the opportunity to nip down to the candidate sites and see what you think. Remember: as well as excellent chocolate croissants, The Bread Store does really good pizza dough.


Jon Rogers said...

Dear Bristol Traffic

It is good to see the council's strenuous efforts to reduce waiting time for cars, buses, pedestrians and cyclists showcased in this way!

If there is an award ceremony, may I have the honour of accepting the award as I struggle to get any media attention. I promise I will wear a tie!

For the record, officers have previously responded to questions on this from myself and others...

"The sequence was changed recently to improve capacity thereby reducing the cycle time and reducing delay to pedestrians. We have also introduced SCOOT to better coordinate the signals.

"A right turn filter was installed on Zetland Rd so that when the green man at the bottom of Elton Rd runs traffic from Zetland Rd is allowed to turn right - traffic cannot turn left. When the green man goes out traffic from Zetland Rd is allowed to turn right and left.

"Cyclists will therefore only be in conflict with traffic from Zetland Rd that is turning right and they will not be in conflict with traffic turning left from Zetland Rd. Although this sounds a bit pedantic cyclists should remain between the studs - although this is not really a good idea as the opposite pavement is too narrow for shared use. Prior to the changes if cyclists turned right from Elton Rd into Zetland Rd they would have been in conflict with the green man. This indicates that the cycle crossing is essentially there to allow cyclists to go inbound on the Gloucester Rd not right into Zetland Rd.

"This was a minor change to signal timings so we did not go to TAA as there seemed little point. I can understand that this is not perfect for cyclists but I do not feel it is particularly unsafe as cyclists have good visibility of right turning traffic and can merge in with it.

"Signal priorities/sequence changed signs have been erected around the junction to inform people that the sequence has changed.

"Whilst in hindsight it would have been beneficial to inform cycle stakeholders of the proposed changes I do not think we would have changed our proposals in any significant way. There are significant benefits to all users of the junction aside possibly from cyclists from Elton Rd. Buses have seen significant improvement in their reliability and after the changes all buses were running on time between the St James Barton roundabout and this junction. Similarly as the capacity has been improved the cycle time is lower and pedestrians experience less delay. It is also likely that rat running will be reduced over time due to the increased capacity. Cyclists have also benefited on most approaches due to the increased capacity and shorter cycle time. In particular the outbound Gloucester Rd movement receives significantly more green time, this is a movement heavily used by cyclists.

"I apologise for not informing the cycle stakeholders but we did not consider this a significant change. The benefits to all road users including cyclists are clear. There are no similar signal phasing changes planned in the near future. Let me know if you need any more info.

I hope this response doesn't disqualify us?

Best wishes


Adam said...

Tis whole junction is a mess. I had the honour when walking Gloucester Road to Cheltenham Road of being beeped at for not having crossed the bottom of Cromwell Road quite quick enough to get out of the way of someone using the Zetland Rd to Cromwell Rd chicane to practice his racing and cornering skills the other day.

Truth is I was struggling with the pushchair I was pushing which had become stuck against the curb. I looked around to check it wasn't some kind soul beeping trying to tell me that I or my son has dropped something (as had happened recently) to be greeted by the driver who screeched to a halt in order to wind his window down to shout abuse at us. Words I'd rather my two year old didn't learn just yet.

Seemed strange for someone in such a rush to take the time to stop to vent abuse. I wasn't about to explain the highway code and priorities for pedestrians already in the road when you trun into it, as he didn't seem like the sort of guy who'd appreciate it and his friend with him didn't look too friendly either.

Nice to know you can be a victim of random abuse and agression just for trying to cross roads in Bristol.

For the record it's something of a pattern I'm beginning to see too. Often two men in a car who have had to wait at lights or a junction, getting frustrated and then letting off steam at anything that gets in their way. Third time within a year. Luckiliy this time not so violent with their car as the last couple of times.

Chris Hutt said...

Jon, with reference to the officer's comments which you helpfully reproduce, you need have no fear of it counting against your council.

The reference to cyclists only being in conflict when turning south towards the city centre (or Cromwell Road) as if that were the exception is clearly a cynical ploy which ignores the obvious fact that virtually all cyclists using the lights will be making that very manoeuvre.

The use of such a cynical ploy will undoubtedly count for extra points and may well tip the balance in favour of your council winning the 2010 Antibicycle Award.

Jon Rogers said...

Very reassuring - thanks Chris!

Bristol Traffic said...

1. Cars turning in to Cromwell Road are a problem, because the primary tactic to do this from Cotham Brow is go up the oncoming lane and turn in at speed -having pedestrians in your way is always a problem as they aren't visible until you are mid turn, at which point you are committed. We think pedestrians should be banned from this side of the road to simplify this operation.

2. I think we need some hard data of a weekday morning on where people coming out Elton road go. Except of course now the lights have changed that data will be less valid. Nobody, for example, will be attempting to do Elton to Zetland, not any more. Please, please please can your staff collect "before" data before making such changes, as you can't do proper A/B testing without it, and if they are going to sneak in changes without warning us, we can't go down and collect the data ourselves.

Jon Rogers said...

Adam, sorry to hear of your recent experience.

Ideas on how to encourage people to be less aggressive and more tolerant towards each other would be welcome.

SteveL said...

1. I am pleased to point out that having received a note from the DVLA today regarding my driving license, I will not be performing the Cotham Brow to Cromwell Road manoeuvre a car for the next twelve months. This will be a valuable contribution to road safety and another success point for the project.

2. Someone I know who does the push-chair run from Monty to Colston's primary is never happy about bikes running the pedestrian crossing by the arches; they shoot up the bus lane and don't stop for pedestrians. Not nice. Me, I find the delay it takes for those lights too long.

Slug said...

As someone who uses the Elton Road contraflow every time I go to town I think this is going to cause problems. Most (?all) cyclists who wait at that contraflow usually go down the Gloucester Road towards the town centre. Of the cars that turn out of Zetland Road turning right, a significant number turn off to Cromwell Road.

So the council have created a situation where cyclists will be "left hooked" except the car driver won't actually have had the benefit of seeing the cyclist ahead of them since they will appear from the side.

Will the council reconsider after the first accident or wait until a serious one occurs?

I also think it will increase antagonism between cars and cyclists, who will believe that the reason the cyclist is there in the first places is that they have jumped the lights.

Chris Hutt said...

Linda "I also think it will increase antagonism between cars and cyclists, who will believe that the reason the cyclist is there in the first places is that they have jumped the lights."

That is the beauty of this scheme. Not only does it put cyclists in a highly vulnerable position but it leads motorists to think that the cyclists are jumping the lights and 'deliberately putting themselves at risk' - the scene is set for some nasty violence.

South Glos may be potential winners of the Antibicycle Award when it come to sheer ineptitude but Bristol's approach wins hands down due to its subtlety.

Adam said...

@Jon Rogers "Ideas on how to encourage people to be less aggressive and more tolerant towards each other would be welcome."

Not allowing infrastructure to exist that can give opportunity for confrontation would be a step in the right direction. However, some people are just wound up an looking for trouble and will find any small reason to vent on (innocent) others. I'm not sure what you can do about those people. It's more an issue to do with their character rather than anything to do with traffic or roads. Road layouts do seem to both give them opportunity to get into confrontational situations and also fuel their frustration too though.

My advice to anyone sitting frustrated in a car would be to get their lungs working and blood flowing by walking or cycling whenever possible, burning off some adrenalin. I'm sure that wouldn't be something they would want to hear though. IN fact I think if I had suggested it to the gentleman the oter day he would have been out of his car and after me very quickly. As it was I walked off and ignored him, slightly shaken that those situations can occur without doing anything to prompt them.

There are some strange and aggravated people around.

SteveL said...

The trouble with driving is that there is a big gulf between your theoretical journey time "60-70 mph between city points" and your actual. First the speed limits force you to slow down, especially where the cameras are. Then all the other traffic does. It builds up resentment, especially as you know exactly how long the commute did on some day 3 years ago during the school holidays, or that school run day when you actually found somewhere to park and the kids didn't scream in the back of the car all the way.

As it is you are mostly held down by enforced speed limits, held back by the queues at every light. Then when you do get a chance, there's bikes in the way. Sometimes they shouldn't be there -like when you get the green turn right light under the arches to cotham brow, and some cyclist RLJ'ing the cars coming out of cromwell road is right in your way. Sometimes they have the right to be there, but it doesn't stop them slowing you down on the one chance to put your foot down and sprint between queues.

Now, on a bike, your journey time is a function of fitness and exertion. Fitter = faster; nobody to blame but you. Yet even there a lot of people run red lights as a substitute for fitness. These are the ones who shout at pedestrians crossing roads and on zebra crossings, because it is only those cyclists who are exempt from red lights that get held up. They should be more mellow too.

maliknant said...

I'd just like to say I am absolutely chuffed to have my comment mentioned in the latest Bristol Traffic blog.

I love BT. I just wish I'd have found it earlier than I did.

That is all. :`)

Unknown said...

Hi Jon and all, glad to see Adam has raised the issue of danger to pedestrians crossing that unnamed cut through beside Maplin, from Glos Rd to Cromwell Rd. Intimidation there is very common, from car drivers turning into it from both left and right. The Highway Code needs help here.
One simple infrastructure change would probably solve it - put in a raised 'table' across joining the two pavements so car drivers will concede pedestrians priority and have to proceed slowly. Also no kerb to get the pushchair stuck on, Adam!