"Lethal" chicanes highlight flaws in TfL's Road Safety Audit regime, claim campaigners (+ video)

Road layout described as "one of London's worst ever cycling facilities" cost £500,000 to sort out

by Simon_MacMichael   December 5, 2011  

Martin Way chicanes (gaz545 YouTube still)

Cycle campaigners in South West London have hit out at “patently dangerous” traffic calming measures, which instead put cyclists at risk of death and serious injury and insist that there are serious deficiencies in safety audits carried out for Transport for London (TfL) which they claim play down the risks to which cyclists are exposed and discriminate against them.

The verdict was delivered in a report carried out on behalf of Merton Cycling Campaign (MCC), which among other issues highlighted a series of chicanes installed in the borough’s Martin Way in 2007, which the local council eventually removed in May 2010 at a cost of £500,000.

The road layout has been described by London Cycling Campaign as "one of Greater London's worst ever cycle facilties."

The detailed report, which is called Unsafe: A Review of London’s Road Safety Audit Procedures and the cyclist and can be accessed from MCC’s homepage, was written by retired architect and local cycling campaigner Hugh Morgan.

Under the original design of the chicane layout on Martin Way, which operated in both directions, cyclists were filtered into a short cycle lane ahead of the chicane itself.

The end of those lanes, separated from the main carriageway by a kerb, finished at the exact point where motorised vehicles needed to move to the left as they negotiated the chicane. There was a marking on the road for cyclists top stop and give way.

In other words, the road design meant that motor traffic was diverted directly into the path of any cyclists exiting the cycle lane, creating an obvious danger for cyclists, as can be seen in the video below of the road layout before it was changed.

According to MCC, the design of the chicanes placed cyclists “in the line of fire,” and it added that any cyclist using those lanes at busy times “would have to be suicidal.”

“In writing this report I was shocked to discover the lack of standards in the road safety auditing procedure,” said Mr Morgan, quoted on the Your Local Guardian website.

“We have seen the results of this first-hand in Merton, and paid heavily for the auditors’ mistakes."

The key findings of his report are that current road safety audit procedures:

  1. “Underemphasize the safety problems associated with cycling on the carriageway and tend to invite discrimination against cyclists.“
  2. Are inadequately set up by TfL and can be applied with inadequate rigour leading to a diseased system. This is demonstrated at every stage of the Auditing process in the B286 Martin Way example.
  3. “Have a looseness that stems from the randomization of Road Safety Audit procedures that effects [sic] the whole of the United Kingdom.”

It recommends that:

  1. “TfL engage in tightening up Road Safety Audit procedures throughout London with immediate effect.
  2. “TfL carefully re-write their Road Safety Audit procedures.
  3. “London Boroughs should check that they follow Merton’s subsequent improvements in procedure.
  4. “TfL compensate the London Borough of Merton for the costs of removal of the scheme that TfL had Road Safety Audited.
  5. “UK National urban Road Safety Auditing procedures should be agreed.”

The Martin Way chicane system was subject to a road safety check by auditors acting on behalf of TfL, although MCC said that their proposed solution of changing the kerb size was not only “ridiculous” but also “lethal,” and assumed that traffic would be confined to cars on a road also used by buses and lorries.

Charlie Lloyd of London Cycling Campaign said: "The video shows how appalling these cycle 'facilities' were, needlessly pushing cyclists into the path of fast-moving motor traffic.

"When our local campaign group complained the council defended the design, saying that it had passed a 'safety audit' carried out by Transport for London.
"What became clear to everyone, except the council engineers, was that the safety audit process had failed."

The Your Local Guardian website reports that a spokesman for TfL had taken issue with the findings of the report, insisting that the body had put forward recommendations for amending it that had not been implemented, and that a complaint against it had not been upheld by the Local Government Ombudsman.

Merton Council's cabinet member for environmental sustainability and regeneration, Councillor Andrew Judge, told Your Local Guardian: “Merton’s road safety record is one of the best in London. "This is largely due to the council’s careful and considered planning of its traffic calming measures.

“An independent safety audit was conducted to ensure the chicanes in Martin Way meet the required safety standards.

“We go to great lengths to ensure that all our traffic calming measures contribute to the safety of all road users, including cyclists.”

TfL has been in the firing line from cycling and road safety campaigners following a series of deaths of cyclists in the capital recently.

In Kings Cross, local road safety campaigners have said that they are considering pressing for a charge of corporate manslaughter to be brought against TfL in connection with the death there in October of cyclist Deep Lee after it emerged that safety recommendations contained in a 2009 report commissioned by TfL had not been acted upon.

It was subsequently revealed following the deaths of Brian Dorling and Svitlana Tereschenko at Bow roundabout that safety features recommended by a separate report prior to the installation of the Barclays Cycle Superhighway that ends there had also not been acted upon.

15 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I think at least some local authority engineers need to ride bikes - they then might have the nouse to actually design some effective and safe road features.

Most seasoned cyclists wouldn't use such a 'facility' would probably encounter the wrath of the numpty brigade but those who are not used to cycling would be more likely to use the lane and thus be placed in more danger. Traffic calming measures such as narrowings more often than not create pinch points which are dangerous for cyclists, especially those who are less assertive.

posted by IHphoto [105 posts]
5th December 2011 - 15:32

1 Like

There is something similar in Burntwood lane in SW17 (only without the give-ways), they are HORRIBLE. The idea seems to be to use cyclists as traffic calming measures, but this only works if motorists are familiar with how they work.

Drivers get frustrated if you choose to sit in the lane in front of them and don't use them, but if you do use them often they don't realise you are spat back out into their path half a second later and everyone gets a nasty shock, easy to see how accidents happen.

I agree with IHphoto, anyone who is responsible for putting these things in should be put on a bike at different times of the day and made to use them, they would be in no hurry to put any more in.

sparrow_h's picture

posted by sparrow_h [35 posts]
5th December 2011 - 17:38

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Further to last post, these are the ones I'm talking about on Burntwood-

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=sw17+7pr&hl=en&ll=51.440821,-0.174322&sp...

There are more east and west of here, as well as an interesting one through a bus-stop, mostly on the east-bound lane.

Doesn't look so bad on street-view but cars go pretty fast through there and when the road is busy with work or weekend sport traffic coming and going and stopping for the playing fields there and turning in and out of the side streets, they are an accident waiting to happen.

sparrow_h's picture

posted by sparrow_h [35 posts]
5th December 2011 - 17:56

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As far as i'm aware, the chicanes are actually still in place, as in the video. I haven't been down Martin Way for a few months, but from memory, they where still there at around April time.

posted by gaz545 [12 posts]
5th December 2011 - 18:19

1 Like

I think these are the worst cycle lane I have seen in the UK. They create conflict on a road where there is no need. Surprise
None of the people involved ride a bike as they would have seen the problem straight away. But this seems to be the case with so many cycling facilities.

I hate chicanes and pinch-points as they are never designed with any though for cyclists.

However I like the idea of making the designers ride the road after it is finished on a regular basis.

posted by thereverent [308 posts]
5th December 2011 - 18:46

1 Like

I'm truly amazed how a Councillor can defend such patently ridiculous design. But then, I suppose that many people went ahead and built the patently ridiculous design, so I shouldn't be amazed!

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1358 posts]
5th December 2011 - 19:53

1 Like

I thinkk this demonstrates perfectly why the ctc fought so hard against the change to the highway code forcing cyclists to use all available facilities about 5 years ago

posted by miffed [163 posts]
5th December 2011 - 20:15

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@ miffed - totally agree with you
@ cat1 - I bet that those totally unthought of few yards will be added to the amount of cycle lanes the council has to provide. This explains the random way cycle lanes are placed!!!

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1059 posts]
5th December 2011 - 21:11

1 Like

Bonkers. A complete waste of money and seriously flawed.

posted by Docroddy [21 posts]
5th December 2011 - 23:38

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Yep, as can be seen from the video, the safest way to use these cycle lanes is not to use them at all. It highlights just how road designers do not ride bicycles. These traffic calming measures simply serve to put cyclists in danger and irritate motorists.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2242 posts]
6th December 2011 - 9:54

1 Like

Easiest way to make these chicanes safe? Erase give way markings at end of bike lane, install give way markings at end of car lane...

posted by jonboy0011 [5 posts]
6th December 2011 - 10:56

1 Like

Do these "road designers" belong to some national body or is there some national body responsible for their qualification to carry out road design, to whom representation could be made, regarding the awful standard of road design as it affects cyclists, it is not just a matter of lack of cycling experience of these "road designers" the above example is visibly stupid to even someone who has never ridden a bike.

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [227 posts]
6th December 2011 - 20:39

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Yep they have similar designs over here in Western Aus.. they are really dangerous and confusing for both cyclists and motorists. I never use facilities like this, much safer to just ride on the main road in the centre of the lane. Downside is people give you grief about it as they think you should be using those terrible lanes. Angry

posted by elstado [17 posts]
8th December 2011 - 5:28

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Angry What utter bloody nonsense! How this furniture possible help cyclists? It beggars belief. I work for a local authority and I'd love to know more about who designs cycling "facilities" and whether they are required to have any experience of cycling to do that job. I suspect not, judging by the few facilities that we have locally. We have a cycle route here which runs for about 6 miles. The off highway sections are shared with pedestrians and are generally narrow, the route crosses three car parks with no prioritisation, it also includes sections that are unrideable on narrow road tyres because of the construction techniques used and it also a very tight chicane with steep entry and exits which are covered by a loose covering of beach sand.

posted by Aminthule [16 posts]
8th December 2011 - 21:05

1 Like

Here's some dangerous pinch-points likewise masquerading as cycling infrastructure. You can see that motor-vehicles are forced to intrude into the cycle lane.

It's amazing that this sort of crap ever passed a safety audit.

It's in Surrey, Oatlands Drive between Walton-on-Thames and Weybridge.

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=walton-on-...

Lorry intruding into cycle lane.
http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=walton-on-...

posted by Recumbenteer [149 posts]
8th December 2011 - 21:48

1 Like