Monday, 5 September 2016

Gateway to Clifton: The Christchurch Mini-roundabout

Today we celebrate the Bristol School run week, now combined with the FirstBus failure week, with very unexciting documentary of the "not quite a roundabout" junction at the end of Suspension Bridge Road. If you are expecting to see anyone nearly being run over, people on phones, etc. Look elsewhere. Sorry. This video is here just to look at what transport issues Clifton has which the Clifton BID and resident groups never seem to cover.

Clifton likes to be known for its village, its Bridge and one or two of its pubs. The real Gateway to Clifton is something never discussed: a mini roundabout at the top of the village, just by the church.

To get an overview without going to Clifton, look at it in streetview and rehearse approaching the roundabout doing a right turn in a car from every road. Work out: when you should give way, when are you technically "in the roundabout and so should expect others to give way", and "is it actually possible to do all the turns legally". The answers being "no idea", "don't expect anyone to give way" and "no".

If you are cycling over the bridge, or driving near it, you have to negotiate it. It's disconcerting on a bike, especially with a child, as you cannot predict what anyone can do. It's a collection of random actions, vehicles coming in at speed, nobody knowing who to give way to —or even what side of the roundlet(*) to drive on. It's not great on a car either. There may actually be some protocol for the locals, but if so they it isn't widely known. We don't know it, certainly. What the locals and regulars do know is not to expect anyone to treat it as a roundabout —and never assume that you have the right of way.

You can see all of this in this unedited 9 minute view of the junction. Keep an eye out for the black Range Rover coming out from the left, and count how many times it does it.

This junction is fundamentally the wrong shape for a roundabout, it has two left turns, one hard, one soft, with the hard one's give way markings about 90 degrees to the roundabout itself. No visibility for anything coming off Suspension Bridge as to what vehicles coming from their right are doing —vehicles which don't often slow down, and hence won't see any cars coming from the left until they pull out. Two manoeuvres can only be executed by driving completely on the wrong side of the mini roundabout. There's one car coming the wrong up the one way street, though it does execute the junction safely. Lots of vehicles going through without pausing, including one of the cyclists coming off Clifton Down. And a couple of times cars on the roundabout have to give way to vehicles pulling on in front of them. Note the lack of tension though —regulars are forgiving of what
happens in a junction of such ambiguity.

Meanwhile that Range Rover coming off the left hand side does it five times in a row: our reporter got bored and went off while they were still doing it.

Before the video recording started the RR driver had stopped in the middle of a zebra crossing to let someone out —presumably they were now waiting for that person to return. But why were they driving round in circles given that with the RPZ roll out there's enough free parking, parking they'd have driven by? Unless they enjoy driving in circles and don't pay for diesel, the only other possibility is they had/planned to use up the 30 minute free park elsewhere. But why not just pull over with your hazard lights on? This is just a sign that some Clifton residents really are different from the rest of the city. The rest of us have mobile phones to co-ordinate dropoff and pickup operations, and to offer something more interesting to do while waiting than making right turns at this mini roundabout.

Finally: consider what it is like to try and cross this junction on foot. While it's not near the centre of the village, at the end of Manila Road (where the BMW drives out from the wrong direction of a one-way street), there's a primary school, some other ones nearby. And at the end of Suspension Bridge road is of course, the Bristol Suspension Bridge —one of the key tourist attractions in a city after Stokes Croft and the M4/M5 motorway interchange. As part of "beautiful suburb of Bristol, tucked away from the hubbub of city life and located just a five-minute drive away from the centre." we'd expect more. Maybe the shops sell postcards of it or something.

(*), Yes, Roundlet is a real word.

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