A contraflow was needed in College Road, Harrow, to help cyclists avoid the busy and unsuitable ring road system around Harrow town centre, and was campaigned for by Harrow Cyclists. Cyclists were using this section of wide footway anyway, to avoid a short one-way stretch of road which prevented direct cycling from west to east across the town centre, and were getting fined for it. It was a sensible and easy move for the council to put in a contraflow here, and, after a lot of campaigning, which included a publicity stunt where Harrow Cyclists laid a section of fake green, cycle track, they agreed, and earmarked £15,000 to be spent on the scheme.
|Publicity stunt by Harrow Cyclists in 2010 showing what they wanted: the excess pavement width used for a legal contraflow for cycling in a section of College Road
|Exit of the new cycle contraflow in College road, Harrow
There really should be no excuse for this kind of thing. We know that UK highway engineers seem often to lack any understanding of the requirements of cyclists, but there are guidelines for them to follow even if they don't personally know one end of a bike from the other. Sometimes these guidelines are inadequate themselves, but too often they are far better than what is actually delivered.
The London Cycle Design Standards document (Transport for London 2006) Appendix C contains a drawing of how a cycle lane at carriageway level can be turned into a cycle track at pavement level and back into a cycle lane at carriagway level (Drawing C4). Here it is:
This is absolutely clear and sensible. It also corresponds to the sort of thing I encountered on the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain study tour in Assen and Groningen last year, where we often saw Dutch cycle routes that would swap from segregated to unsegregated style because of changing road constraints, but always maintaining a high degree of continuity and smoothness for the route. Cycle routes in dense cities with many pre-existing street constraints are always going to have to adapt in this fashion, so it is critical that the transitions between on-road and off-road paths are got right.
Strangely enough I have come across an example even in the Borough of Harrow where a track-to-lane transition has been done correctly. This short facility, which can be found in Whitchurch Lane, Stanmore, at the junction with Marsh Lane, actually works effectively (probably quite by chance) to allow cyclists to bypass the queue of traffic at these lights.
To get the path to road transition right in College Road would have not have required any extra thought or research, it would have just needed the existing TfL guidelines to be followed. It would have required more digging, as possibly a phone box and some other street furniture would have needed to be moved, and a larger section of footway reconstructed. Whether this could have been done for the £15,000 allocated, I don't know. But you do have to actually do things to create properly-engineered cycle routes on existing streets, not just paint lines on pavements, put up signs and put in the easiest possible dropped kerb. Isn't it worth councils spending enough that their attempts at the simplest cycling infrastructure do not turn out as absurd fodder for the Cycle Facility of the Month website?
Come on Harrow, if you are serious about encouraging cycling, you should be able to do better than this.