Cool reception for "hugely complicated" London segregated roundabout plan

"Confusing" design not up to Dutch standards and "like a traffic light engineer's dream"

by John Stevenson   August 21, 2014  

 

The London Borough of Wandsworth has announced plans for London's first roundabout with segregated routes for cycling, but critics have said it does not meet Dutch standards of cycling provision and have called it "hugely complicated".

The Queen’s Circus roundabout in Battersea is being revamped as part of a plan to overhaul large sections of the street network in Nine Elms on the South Bank to prepare the former industrial area for a major increase in the residential and working population. Wandsworth Council says the long-term aim is to make Nine  Elms one of the most cycle and pedestrian friendly districts in central London.

The roundabout design puts a cycle path round the perimeter of the roundabout, separated from motor traffic by kerbs and traffic islands.

Progress through the roundabout will be controlled by traffic lights. Stop Killing Cyclists co-founder Donnachadh McCarthy was one of many critics pointing out that this was not up to the standards of cycling provision at roundabouts in the Netherlands. He said: "in Dutch designs, the cyclists would have right of way."

It's this feature of the design that has that has attracted criticism, with campaigners saying the proliferation of lights is "confusing", "hugely complicated" and "like a traffic light engineer's dream".

In a blog post the London Cycling Campaign said: "London Cycling Campaign expressed serious concerns about this design when we saw them last year.

"Currently cyclists make up about a third of the morning peak hour flow on the roundabout. Often there are so many that they fill a whole traffic lane and cars give them space.

"The new design gives less space to cyclists with added delay… That can only lead to congestion and risk taking behaviour.

"While the proposals at Battersea provide segregation from motor traffic at the busiest points it is at the cost of a confusing set of signals which are likely to increase the number of times cyclists have to stop and increase the waiting time, especially for those coming out of town in the evening peak."

The LCC's Charlie Lloyd told Kaya Burgess of The Times: “Our view is that it’s far too complicated and people won’t understand it. Dutch designers would not put traffic lights on a roundabout in this position. More likely, it would work better to take out the roundabout and have a crossroads, especially because of the massive north-south flow.”

Wandsworth transport spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “This is an innovative design and we expect it will be the first major roundabout in London which separates cyclists from other traffic in this way. There will be segregated cycle lanes and the points at which riders cross the road will be controlled by traffic lights to avoid any potential conflict. We hope this will be a blueprint others can follow."

More detailed critiques of the design came from Danny Williams on his Cyclists in the City blog, and Stop Killing Cyclists co-founder Donnachadh McCarthy.

McCarthy said that making provision for cycling at all was an improvement on Wandsworth's "terrible record on cycling provision (zero segregated cycle lanes over last 4 years built)" and noted that the new roundabout design has "protected left-hand turns at all relevant points… This is the key pinch-point where trucks kill cyclists most often."

However, he said, "It is NOT a segregated cycle lane - the vast majority of it is just the usual paint on the ground and so not child friendly. If infrastructure fails the 8 year old test - it is not up to Dutch standards.

"The design at present is quite confusing, which makes it more dangerous.

"The design requires the cyclists to stop at lights, whereas in Dutch designs, the cyclists would have right of way. This could add up to one minute to a commute, which is a lot for just one junction.

"Ideally they would have removed car-access/egress from the minor roads to make the junction simpler."

Danny Williams writes: "What we have here is have a heavily-engineered and heavily-managed splurge on traffic-lights to manage motor traffic queues, with bike tracks and pedestrian crossings working around the motor flow. It feels like the traffic light people gatecrashed a party that would have worked much better without them."

According to Williams, the design's problems have their roots in the council's choice of which road users are being given most weight in the plan.

He writes: "The clue is in the Wandsworth council committee papers. Three of the five justifications for this design are related to motor traffic flow and guess which is the top priority?"

According to the committee papers: "There is limited means of managing queues that develop or ensuring equitable discharge of traffic around the roundabout."

Williams adds: "There's no getting away from the fact, this roundabout has been designed to manage motor traffic flow first and foremost. It does create significantly better crossings for pedestrians. And it does create a Dutch-"style" approach that gives space for safer cycling around the roundabout. The whole thing feels over-complicated for both pedestrians and cyclists who could have benefited better from a proper Dutch roundabout. This would have given people on foot and on bikes priority over motor vehicles."

57 user comments

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Can anyone imagine WVM or a taxi driver going from 6 o'clock to 12 o'oclock.

Carnage Silly

CycCoSi's picture

posted by CycCoSi [22 posts]
21st August 2014 - 19:20

2 Likes

A major problem with this design is its 'schizophrenic' nature.

Queenstown Road and Prince of Wales Drive - entry and exit controlled by lights. Carriage Drive South, Service Station access and the Retail access are not.

I fear there will be blood if this design is implemented as it is.

Take a good look at the exit from the retail between Queenstown [North] and Prince of Wales Drive [East], cars have to cross two lanes of cycles to get to a car lane. Cars entering this retail have to cross over a chevron 'ghost' island. In case your wondering look at picture 1, this retail access/egress is at the bottom of the picture.

posted by levermonkey [378 posts]
21st August 2014 - 19:40

32 Likes

motor-centric knob-jockey designed fuck-shambling omni-shite twattery that will kill people.

and when it does the same knob-jockey will re-design it to make it even more motor-centric and even more dangerous for cyclists.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [388 posts]
21st August 2014 - 19:57

38 Likes

zanf wrote:
vanmildert wrote:
Looks ok to me as a first effort- cyclists are segregated? The point is drivers need to start to learn cyclists have priority in these situations.

Looks ok as a first effort? This is the design that is going in. It is considered the final design.

It is a fucking shambles.

Why mix traffic lights with roundabouts: have either but mixing them is an instant cause of confusion.

There is no real segregation: its just more paint with a few islands that creates more points of conflict.

vanmildert wrote:
This kind of segregation is part of that education process. It has to start somewhere.

Better solutions have already been devised that iron out all of the issues that this design introduces (and fails to eradicate from the current roundabout).

The price to pay for that learning process (which should be on the drawing board and testing centre, not on the roads) is going to be collisions involving, and injuring, cyclists.

The bottom line of why this design is so shit is because it comes from a mindset where traffic flow is paramount and everything else is an afterthought.

First effort as in future years we will hopefully develop it to make it better. The people that design these things are not idiots.

Not sure you need to resort to abusive language in your post- discredits your point I'm my opinion.

posted by vanmildert [50 posts]
21st August 2014 - 20:04

22 Likes

It is being built, the work has started.

posted by alexb [50 posts]
21st August 2014 - 20:46

20 Likes

zanf wrote:
Why mix traffic lights with roundabouts: have either but mixing them is an instant cause of confusion.

To be fair, there are stacks of roundabouts (and gyratories/one way systems which work on the same principle - stay right to keep going round, left to come off) with traffic lights on them, especially in London. There are two on my commute. No-one seems to have a problem with the concept of two road features at once. As said above, with appropriate masks on the lights, this could work perfectly safely.

If nothing else, it's a step in the right direction simply because they've thought about specific cycle provision beyond some paint on the road. Even if they get it wrong, it starts the process of education.

posted by step-hent [694 posts]
21st August 2014 - 22:16

20 Likes

vanmildert wrote:
Not sure you need to resort to abusive language in your post- discredits your point I'm my opinion.

My language was neither abusive, nor aimed at you. Please do not think it was.

vanmildert wrote:
First effort as in future years we will hopefully develop it to make it better.

Unfortunately, we can not allow huge swathes of money to be spent on half baked schemes that are 'valiant attempts' at thinking of cycling provisions, and hope that they get better in the future. I absolutely refused to put up with second best. Too many people have been killed on the roads because of shoddy, negligently planned infrastructure.

As the saying goes: measure twice (or thrice), cut once.

As I said before, the additional issues this design introduces, and fails to solve from the current situation, have been dealt with elegantly by engineers in other European countries. If the planners had actually spent a short amount of time examining those solutions, and had correctly prioritised vulnerable road users, we would not be looking at this joke.

vanmildert wrote:
The people that design these things are not idiots.

Unfortunately, that is not true.

I know someone who works within Surface Transport in TfL and if you heard some of the stories they have told about the 'discussions' had with engineers about provisions for cycling in upcoming infra designs, you would march to the offices at Southwark and wring their bloody necks.

We have engineers planning our roads that are stuck in the era of Ernest Marples, where they need to get in the era of the likes of Jan Gehl.

zanf's picture

posted by zanf [555 posts]
21st August 2014 - 22:45

39 Likes

vanmildert wrote:
The people that design these things are not idiots.

Well they're not doing a particularly good job of demonstrating that.

posted by dp24 [193 posts]
21st August 2014 - 23:18

40 Likes

zanf wrote:
vanmildert wrote:
Not sure you need to resort to abusive language in your post- discredits your point I'm my opinion.

My language was neither abusive, nor aimed at you. Please do not think it was.

vanmildert wrote:
First effort as in future years we will hopefully develop it to make it better.

Unfortunately, we can not allow huge swathes of money to be spent on half baked schemes that are 'valiant attempts' at thinking of cycling provisions, and hope that they get better in the future. I absolutely refused to put up with second best. Too many people have been killed on the roads because of shoddy, negligently planned infrastructure.

As the saying goes: measure twice (or thrice), cut once.

As I said before, the additional issues this design introduces, and fails to solve from the current situation, have been dealt with elegantly by engineers in other European countries. If the planners had actually spent a short amount of time examining those solutions, and had correctly prioritised vulnerable road users, we would not be looking at this joke.

vanmildert wrote:
The people that design these things are not idiots.

Unfortunately, that is not true.

I know someone who works within Surface Transport in TfL and if you heard some of the stories they have told about the 'discussions' had with engineers about provisions for cycling in upcoming infra designs, you would march to the offices at Southwark and wring their bloody necks.

We have engineers planning our roads that are stuck in the era of Ernest Marples, where they need to get in the era of the likes of Jan Gehl.

I'm just saying surely it is better to have something than nothing, start somewhere rather than not start at all, which as far as I can see is the current situation.

posted by vanmildert [50 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 0:04

19 Likes

vanmildert wrote:
First effort as in future years we will hopefully develop it to make it better. The people that design these things are not idiots.

1 - We will live with today's mistakes for decades. Solutions are proven and available in a number of countries. A 'first effort' is both unnecessarily dangerous and financially wasteful

2 - I refer to the new Elephant and Castle layout. Yes, they are idiots, and right there you have lots of money wasted to prove that exact point

posted by jacknorell [456 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 0:05

39 Likes

Can't see why the hysteria because it's not "Dutch". There appears to be a growing presumption that if the dutch do it then it's perfect, a assumption that at times verges on dogma.

There is nothing wrong with this design, it's logical , easy to follow and, with the use of lights, most conflicts have been designed out. If you can't figure out which lights to look at you shouldn't be on the road, or frankly let out on your own

Where's the problem?

posted by spen [86 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 7:06

29 Likes

spen wrote:
Can't see why the hysteria because it's not "Dutch". There appears to be a growing presumption that if the dutch do it then it's perfect, a assumption that at times verges on dogma.
It's because the Dutch can cycle without helmets and never suffer serious injury due to the clever way they build and manage their roads. It's like cycling on pillows, because they're MAGIC and INVINCIBLE.

posted by truffy [363 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 7:52

25 Likes

spen wrote:
Can't see why the hysteria because it's not "Dutch". There appears to be a growing presumption that if the dutch do it then it's perfect, a assumption that at times verges on dogma.

There is nothing wrong with this design, it's logical , easy to follow and, with the use of lights, most conflicts have been designed out. If you can't figure out which lights to look at you shouldn't be on the road, or frankly let out on your own

Where's the problem?

Don't worry it's clearly not the done thing to be positive about efforts to make cycling on out roads!

posted by vanmildert [50 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 8:39

26 Likes

That is a complete and utter mess. It's a very busy junction and one I know very well. I used to ride that way to and from work every day. It is a tricky junction and certainly needs improvement, but not this over-complex design. I agree that giving cyclists priority as is the case on Dutch (or German) roundabouts would simplify traffic use. I still go that way quite often and I know that when I'll be driving through there in the car, I'll have to be hyper aware of everything around me. Not all drivers are cyclist or motorcyclist aware though and that is a cause for concern. Having all those traffic lights will actually slow the flow through it and allowing cyclists priority instead would probably reduce overall congestion too. The design does not appear to account for the huge volume of traffic heading north-south and this will increase the tailbacks and congestion suffered by drivers, which won't help matters for cyclists using the route. Even the artist's impression of a few vehicles scattered here and there is rather far from the truth as a more accurate representation would depict a queue of vehicles heading both ways north-south. It is a pity that such an ill-conceived design is being promoted as an answer to an existing problem on that site. I can't see how this mess will improve either safety or congestion.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2233 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 9:23

23 Likes

vanmildert wrote:
spen wrote:
Can't see why the hysteria because it's not "Dutch". There appears to be a growing presumption that if the dutch do it then it's perfect, a assumption that at times verges on dogma.

There is nothing wrong with this design, it's logical , easy to follow and, with the use of lights, most conflicts have been designed out. If you can't figure out which lights to look at you shouldn't be on the road, or frankly let out on your own

Where's the problem?

Don't worry it's clearly not the done thing to be positive about efforts to make cycling on out roads!

The 'hysteria', as you put it, about it not being 'Dutch' is quite simple: people are pissed off at constantly showing road engineers and planners how they are designing for vehicles, not people.

'Dutch' is a shorthand word for infrastructure designed for people, not cars. jacknorell lays it out quite simply why design should not be tolerated, let alone built: we will be stuck with it for years and it will be used to bash the heads of those who make calls for better infrastructure, with the words "well, you had plenty of money spent on you then but you're still not happy".

Simply put, its a false economy that will cost peoples health and lives, as well as money. If the people who come up with these designs cannot accommodate the needs of people then they need to step aside and let those through who can.

zanf's picture

posted by zanf [555 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 10:00

30 Likes

spen wrote:
If you can't figure out which lights to look at you shouldn't be on the road

There are plenty of people driving on a daily basis who shouldn't be on the road. Whilst government policy and the courts seem to view taking licences off such people is a last resort, it seems prudent to engineer road design to minimise the risk posed by the terminally stupid as much as possible. This doesn't.

posted by dp24 [193 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 10:35

23 Likes

vanmildert wrote:
Looks ok to me as a first effort- cyclists are segregated? The point is drivers need to start to learn cyclists have priority in these situations. This kind of segregation is part of that education process. It has to start somewhere.

I don't see why it's that complicated -it's just an inner roundabout and an outer one where the cyclists have priority. Yes the responsibility will be on drivers to give priority but unless we attempt things like this there is no progression or evolution. Hopefully this will be another step forward. This kind of investment in cycling infrastructure should be encouraged. If the road CC community can't encourage it how can we expect things to move forward?

unfortunately here, this most definitely is NOT Dutch... cyclists are being held at several points around the "roundabout" while cars exit it or enter it... I can see the traffic light timings being horrendously biased in favour of motor traffic...

posted by Paul_C [192 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 11:54

23 Likes

There is a lot of guff is being spouted by people who know very little about road design. As someone who is involved in road design for a local authourity I can say for certain that Zanf's description of engineers is not the case in our organisation. Many of our engineers are cyclists and care about providing proper provisions for cyclists which can be difficult when the press and politicians take a disliking to the designs.

Road design in this country is restricted by the guidelines set out in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) and the more detailed chapters of the Traffic Signs Manual set out by the DfT. Any deviation from this guidelines requires permission from the DfT and this takes an age. So if we want to see a more Dutch style of road design central government must do it as they are responsible for the DfT and guidance it publishes. I would certainly support presumed liability for motorists in the event of an accident with a vunerable road users as it would perhaps focus drivers' minds a bit more than they are currently, which would allow for more Dutch style road designs where cars give way to cyclists.

The junction appears to be an utter nightmare with many roads feeding into it making a simple traffic signal controlled junction unworkable if there are high traffic volumes on all or many of the junction's arms. Roundabouts struggle with high traffic volumes especially if there are a couple of dominant traffic movements through the junction that prevent vehicles from other arms getting onto the roundabout. The traffic signal controlled roundabout is probably the best option but trying to fit cyclists into this melee must have given the designers plenty of sleepless nights.

posted by s_smith [16 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 11:59

13 Likes

@ s_smith

The traffic signal controlled roundabout is probably the best option but trying to fit cyclists into this melee must have given the designers plenty of sleepless nights.

Conflicts with.

As someone who is involved in road design for a local authority I can say for certain that Zanf's description of engineers is not the case in our organisation.

As the 1st quote implies to me that they haven't been trained and don't know how to build decent cycling infrastructure.

That is the biggest problem in this country, like Zanf said, the engineers don't know how to build decent cycling infrastructure. After all we have plenty of abysmal cycling infrastructure that is not fit for purpose in this country, half of it is outright dangerous, such as 1to2-foot wide cycle lanes that are painted on to the road and seem only to be there in order to keep cyclists from using the road.

So, yes DFTs guidlines may need to be amended and the countries road engineers need to be trained - so they don't have 'sleepless nights' trying to re-invent the wheel.

trying to fit cyclists into this melee

You shouldn't be "trying to fit cyclists in" like it's some kind of afterthought, you should be designing all street infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists and motor-vehicles.

Prioritising 'traffic flow' is the problem.

posted by kie7077 [506 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 12:20

18 Likes

kie7077 wrote:
@ s_smith

The traffic signal controlled roundabout is probably the best option but trying to fit cyclists into this melee must have given the designers plenty of sleepless nights.

Conflicts with.

As someone who is involved in road design for a local authority I can say for certain that Zanf's description of engineers is not the case in our organisation.

As the 1st quote implies to me that they haven't been trained and don't know how to build decent cycling infrastructure.

That is the biggest problem in this country, like Zanf said, the engineers don't know how to build decent cycling infrastructure. After all we have plenty of abysmal cycling infrastructure that is not fit for purpose in this country, half of it is outright dangerous, such as 1to2-foot wide cycle lanes that are painted on to the road and seem only to be there in order to keep cyclists from using the road.

So, yes DFTs guidlines may need to be amended and the countries road engineers need to be trained - so they don't have 'sleepless nights' trying to re-invent the wheel.

trying to fit cyclists into this melee

You shouldn't be "trying to fit cyclists in" like it's some kind of afterthought, you should be designing all street infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists and motor-vehicles.

Prioritising 'traffic flow' is the problem.

Kie, the reason they are having so many sleepless nights is because they know they can't "go Dutch" because the road laws and guidance in this country doesn't allow them to do it. There is no conflict in those two statements! There is also a lack of political will both at a national and local level in many places as well and ultimately they call the shots and hold the purse strings. Engineers do get training and there have been visits to the Netherlands to find out how the Dutch do it. Also other professionals, such as transport planners, who are very clued up on cycle friendly design, have an imput into the design process at least where I work (some of the time the transport planners are the ones commisioning the engineers to design new schemes).

Traffic flow is important, the problem is you don't see cyclists (or pedestrians) as traffic which they are and they are all putting competing demands on the junction, trying to maintain the balance so that everyone gets through the junction in a timely and safe fashion can be a real headache.

posted by s_smith [16 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 14:08

19 Likes

If it was my choice I would have well lit cycleways under the roundabout that then merge carefully with the roadways. Or alternatively bury the roundabout and create a lovely cycle and pedestrian friendly park on top.. Cool

Bigcog's picture

posted by Bigcog [18 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 15:37

6 Likes

Bigcog wrote:
If it was my choice I would have well lit cycleways under the roundabout that then merge carefully with the roadways. Or alternatively bury the roundabout and create a lovely cycle and pedestrian friendly park on top.. Cool

Wouldn't it be better to elevate the cycle paths? That's how it used to be done and worked.

posted by jacknorell [456 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 16:19

10 Likes

truffy wrote:
spen wrote:
Can't see why the hysteria because it's not "Dutch". There appears to be a growing presumption that if the dutch do it then it's perfect, a assumption that at times verges on dogma.
It's because the Dutch can cycle without helmets and never suffer serious injury due to the clever way they build and manage their roads. It's like cycling on pillows, because they're MAGIC and INVINCIBLE.

Bloody hell - helmets are like a religious faith for you, aren't they? You actually seem _angry_ that the Dutch do fine without mass helmet use!

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [692 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 16:25

7 Likes

What's wrong with the Magic roundabout design, so loved in Swindon 51.562993, -1.771178?

posted by wellcoordinated [82 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 17:30

11 Likes

All that ridiculous 8 way junction needs is bollards at every entrance to prevent access by motor traffic, simples.

posted by drfabulous0 [370 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 20:58

5 Likes

Just what cyclist need, more traffic lights.

Stop wasting money and start requiring vehicles to have collision avoidance and mitigation tech.

posted by Initialised [144 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 21:24

1 Like

These dutch rbts aren't much better than ours, they rely on the users to use them correctly - have a look at this especially at around 6:45 and 12:33 and cyclists appear to think that give way arrows don't apply to them. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQKjc_xZq6s#t=343)

or the several right hook on here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXUF97p8fXQ, and cyclist s are supposed to give way to peds on the zebras

posted by spen [86 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 21:45

2 Likes

spen wrote:
These dutch rbts aren't much better than ours, they rely on the users to use them correctly - have a look at this especially at around 6:45 and 12:33 and cyclists appear to think that give way arrows don't apply to them. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQKjc_xZq6s#t=343)

Have you ridden a modern Dutch roundabout? From observation, this one is evidently the Weteringcircuit in Amsterdam, near the Heineken brewery. It is enormously busy and the users do indeed use it correctly. Don't all road and cycle path infrastructure rely on the users to use them correctly? This design works. I have ridden round it at all times of day, lots of times.

The times you state in the video linked does not feature cyclists arriving at give way arrows. How do you discern that the cyclists think that give way arrows do not apply to them, when cyclists do not have to give way on this roundabout? That's the whole point. The cars have to give way to the cycles, and they do.

Maybe you don't understand road markings?

posted by severs1966 [86 posts]
10th September 2014 - 12:54

2 Likes

In the Netherlands, and for that matter in Germany or the USA or Switzerland, the default is for all drivers to obey the law, whereas here it is to do what you like when there isn't a policeman watching.

And that makes all the difference. In Netherlands, if a cyclist is going round the outside of a roundabout, the car driver will give him or her right of way. Hence you don't need traffic lights.

This appalling mess of a design is created because we can't rely on drivers giving way to cyclists. And even with that in mind it doesn't work.

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [172 posts]
10th September 2014 - 14:38

1 Like

Servers1966 - "The times you state in the video linked does not feature cyclists arriving at give way arrows. How do you discern that the cyclists think that give way arrows do not apply to them, when cyclists do not have to give way on this roundabout? That's the whole point. The cars have to give way to the cycles, and they do."

No the times cited don't show cyclists ignoring give arrows, bu then I didn't say they did, they show near misses involving vehicles. Cars may have to give way but they clearly don't always do so. So how is this any better than a light controlled system where users are clearly told when to stop and go? As for the arrows, as I understand it, you give way if the arrows point towards you, which they do where cyclists join nearest the camera. Most cyclists on that video do not.

Maybe your too much of an apologist for your on behavior to accept that cyclists can be at fault

As for Edgeley's "In the Netherlands, and for that matter in Germany or the USA or Switzerland, the default is for all drivers to obey the law, whereas here it is to do what you like when there isn't a policeman watching." who are you trying to kid? Perhaps this one escaped your attention?

http://vimeo.com/105250259

posted by spen [86 posts]
20th September 2014 - 8:44

0 Likes