TfL and Transport Research Laboratory unveil Dutch-style roundabout and other cycling infrastructure

TRL also looking for cyclists to take part in tests at its Berkshire facility

by Simon_MacMichael   April 30, 2013  

Dutch Style Roundabout (picture TfL)

Transport for London (TfL) has revealed that it is working with the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to improve the safety of cyclists by trialling infrastructure not currently used in the UK, including Dutch-style roundabouts. TRL is calling on cyclists and other road users to help it test the various innovations it is currently studying at its facility in Wokingham, Berkshire.

The TRL has built a full-scale roundabout there, modelled on examples in the Netherlands, which it says will enable it and TfL to determine its suitability for roads in London, with a view to introducing it on a trial basis in the capital as early as next year, together with other safety features it is working on.

According to TRL,

Typical Dutch style roundabouts have a tighter geometry which reduces vehicles speeds and improves visibility.  Some also have an orbital cycle lane which allows cyclists to travel around the roundabout separately to other traffic.

TRL says that tests on the layout currently under way at its site to assess its suitability for British roads, which would require approval from the Department for Transport (DfT),

include driver compliance with give-way markings, analysis of traffic capacity, and comprehension of layouts and markings.

In particular, TRL will be looking to understand the interactions between cyclists and drivers as they enter, traverse and exit the roundabout.  The trial will provide TfL with better knowledge and understanding and will help to determine if such a layout is fundamental to turning right.  It will also enable a comparison to be made between this layout and that of a signalized junction.

Other trials taking place at Wokingham address features such as segregated cycle lanes, low and high level cycle signals, ways of turning right at junctions, RFID tags that would enable suitable equipped lorries to detect the presence of a bicycle, and bus stop islands, which TfL plans to introduce on forthcoming Barclays Cycle Superhighways.

TfL, together with Mayor of London Boris Johnson, have come under heavy criticism in the past from cycle campaigners over prioritising traffic flow at the expense of the safety of bike rider, and last year the London Cycling Campaign unveiled its Go Dutch campaign ahead of the mayoral elections.

One blogger who has been highly critical of TfL in the past, Danny Williams of the Cyclists in the City blog, described the roundabout as “a huge step forward” in a post addressing the various developments under scrutiny at TRL, although he cautioned that “The pace of change on London's streets is still incredibly frustrating.”

TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, Leon Daniels, said: “TfL has an incredible history of being at the forefront of delivering innovation, through the New Bus for London, Pedestrian Countdown and 'Trixi' Mirrors to name but a few examples.
“These highly ambitious new trials will help lead to safer streets for cyclists and further cement London's position as a truly world class cycling city.”

As part of its trials of the infrastructure, TRL says “hundreds of cyclists and drivers of different types of vehicles will be observed travelling through different designs and configurations of junctions and road layouts to see whether the changes would help improve road safety for all road users,” and it has issued an appeal for participants willing to take part. It says:

TRL is looking for a range of participants, including those with disabilities, for this trial. In particular, we need cyclists, (both those who cycle for leisure purposes and those who regularly cycle as part of their commute), at all confidence levels; drivers (including HGV drivers) and pedestrians.

Anyone interested in taking part who is aged 18 or over is asked to complete a form that can be downloaded from the TRL website. Participation in TRL’s research should take up no more than half a day, with compensation for the time involved and refreshments being provided.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, commented: “I want London to lead the way in improving conditions for cyclists and the work being carried out at the Transport Research Laboratory shows what can be done if you think outside of the box.

“Making our Capital safer for those on two wheels is a real priority and I am eager to see what exciting innovations come out of these trials.”

TRL adds that future trials will include assessing the suitability of road markings used on the Continent to be introduced in the UK, and discussing issues including stricter enforcement of cycle lanes and advanced stop lines with the government in a bid to improve the safety of cyclists.

Transport Minister Norman Baker, whose responsibilities include cycling, commented: “We are always interested in innovative ideas to improve safety for cyclists and that is why we are working closely with TfL and others to develop, test and now trial low level cycle signals.

“Cycling is a safe activity and we are determined to make it safer, we have provided an additional £15m to fund improvements to cycle infrastructure in the Capital as well as making it easier for councils to put in place 20 mph zones and install cycle safety mirrors.

“I look forward to seeing how these latest experimental designs perform in the trials,” he concluded.

17 user comments

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This roundabout was shown on the BBC london news program last night it also showed the confusion of both the cyclists and drivers as to who has the right of way the cyclist using the outer circle or the car driver exiting the roundabout (never been to holland but I think it's the cyclist)

Good luck trying to explain to some car drivers that they actually have to give precedence to cyclists

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [584 posts]
1st May 2013 - 8:00

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Well its exactly the same as if you were crossing any other road users right of way, eg. changing from an inner to an outer lane on a roundabout. Priority is given to the road user in the lane you are moving into.

posted by jackh [105 posts]
1st May 2013 - 10:30

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It's a fair point. Is it reasonable to just introduce infrastructure like this in one small local area, and expect everyone to intuitively understand what the rules are?

We all learned to drive using the existing rules and infrastructure, so surely if the rules (as outlined in the highway code) change, or even just the conventions change, this should happen nationally, and everyone should be made aware. National media campaign? Mailshot everyone with a UK driving licence (what about non-driving cyclists)?

This is important stuff and it's great to see the trial taking place, but it highlights the ridiculous way the government washes their hands of cycle planning by getting local authorities to just do whatever they see fit.

What has happened in the past when new signage or road markings have been introduced?

posted by pmanc [115 posts]
1st May 2013 - 10:31

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I was about to post the description of a zebra crossing from the highway code but looking again thats onlt the pedestrian section. Its clear the 'cycle lane' has priority when going round the roundabout, the 'car lane' has stop lines on the exit.

I can see a lot of cyclists over bonnets or rear-ended drivers. Seems a little too complex for busy junctions, fine for quieter residential areas maybe.

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posted by STATO [411 posts]
1st May 2013 - 10:35

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A great idea as long as clever dick cyclists do not take short cuts. As a driver it will ease the perennial problem of seeing cyclists who sometimes appear to merge with their surroundings.

However, I feel that the experiment is doomed to failure for the simple reason that most motorists,many of whom have never been on a bike, are incapable of using roundabouts correctly completely ignoring the Highway Code. Also the sheer volume of traffic on roundabouts will give rise to long tailbacks and in some instances annoying a lot of motorists to the detriment of cyclists.

Two possible options are cycle tunnels or bridges but these also have draw backs with the former becoming home to all the detritus that inhabits our streets these days and the latter would mean more cycling effort. But think how fit you all will be.

posted by d1ego6 [1 posts]
1st May 2013 - 10:37

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Define "shortcuts", If you mean using the road, let's no go there huh ; )

posted by northstar [1100 posts]
1st May 2013 - 11:24

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"discussing issues including stricter enforcement of cycle lanes and advanced stop lines"

That suggests that there is actually some enforcement of cycle lanes and ASLs. In my experience the ASLs are completely ignored and cycle lanes (with solid white lines) regularly ignored. I often have to ride around police cars parked in the cycle lane in rush hour on my way back from work.

posted by monkimark [13 posts]
1st May 2013 - 11:42

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Just driven back from Holland. Spent a week driving and cycling. These posts raise good points: It requires a culture change initiated by the driving test and Highway Code but current drivers are unlikely to get used to allowing cyclists right of way at junctions of any kind, as happens in Holland. I couldn't get used to it on a bike over there.
And the roundabouts I remember were all smaller than many of ours.

posted by GrahamB [3 posts]
1st May 2013 - 11:54

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OK. Slightly more info on the bikebiz article:

"As you'll see in the pictures, the junctions are thus far mimicking the Netherland's own designs, but will soon be updated with UK road markings and appropriate 'give way' signage."

I would suggest that a bit of height and surface difference can go a long way in indicating who has the priority, or at least making people slow/stop to think about it.
http://goo.gl/maps/wRbEB (I know that's a small quiet residential area, but I think the principle is transferable.

posted by pmanc [115 posts]
1st May 2013 - 12:09

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STATO wrote:
Its clear the 'cycle lane' has priority when going round the roundabout, the 'car lane' has stop lines on the exit.
Quote:

No they don't, the cycle lane has no priority at all, cars are not duty bound to stop for cyclists but this is not clear. New road designs should be intuitive for people who happen accross it for the first time, this just isn't. Until priority is clear this design is unsafe.

They need to legalise the 'tiger' crossing (shared zebra) this would solve the problem.

posted by andycoventry [119 posts]
1st May 2013 - 12:25

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“TfL has an incredible history of being at the forefront of delivering innovation, through the New Bus for London, Pedestrian Countdown"

Pedestrian countdowns have been in South America for over ten years- copying old ideas is hardly "innovation".

posted by theove [3 posts]
1st May 2013 - 17:36

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I live near the TRL site, so I've put my name down to help with the trials.

It seems to me like most drivers will understand it and give way to cycles. Some won't understand, or won't drive with the required attention and will just plough through. Another smaller minority will understand but won't give way for various unpleasant reasons. Cyclists will definitely get hit.

I have to say that if I encountered a roundabout like this on my road bike, I'd stay on the road. If I was on the shopper with the toddler on the back, I'd be on the cycle path - but I'd still stop at the road crossing because I simply don't trust drivers to stop (as explained above) when it comes to my daughters life.

Its the same with pedestrian crossings, I don't just step out into traffic and put my life in someone else's hands. I wait to make sure that I have been seen and that traffic is stopping.

posted by qwerky [134 posts]
3rd May 2013 - 10:54

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pmanc wrote:

I would suggest that a bit of height and surface difference can go a long way in indicating who has the priority, or at least making people slow/stop to think about it.
http://goo.gl/maps/wRbEB (I know that's a small quiet residential area, but I think the principle is transferable.

The design of the roundabout (small, tight radii) should slow cars down. Not sure what your point is in the Google maps example. The footway across the junction is coloured distinctively, but there is no separate provision for cycles as far as I can see. It is a bad example of design as the parking bays are marked to well within 10m of the junction and even opposite it! (Rule 243: https://www.gov.uk/waiting-and-parking/parking-239-to-247)

posted by arowland [84 posts]
3rd May 2013 - 17:43

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pmanc wrote:
It's a fair point. Is it reasonable to just introduce infrastructure like this in one small local area, and expect everyone to intuitively understand what the rules are?

The rules haven't changed. The principle is that cyclists are "on" the roundabout (even though their lanes are separated from the lanes for motor traffic) and therefore retain the same priority as if those lanes did not exist. The fact that the lanes are separated by tarmac rather than a green verge also helps. To make things even clearer in this experiment, there are sharks teeth on the road to make it clear that motor traffic turning across the cyclists' path must give way.

I am not sure what the quaint and outmoded belisha beacons are for, though. They make the crossings look like zebra crossings, where motorists are not obliged to give way unless a pedestrian has already stepped onto the crossing (Rule 195, https://www.gov.uk/using-the-road-159-to-203/pedestrian-crossings-191-to...). This is likely to confuse motorists who will expect cycles to wait for them rather than the other way round. I hope they are removed from the experiment.

pmanc wrote:
We all learned to drive using the existing ... infrastructure, so ... this should happen nationally, and everyone should be made aware. National media campaign? Mailshot everyone with a UK driving licence (what about non-driving cyclists)?
I hope so.

pmanc wrote:
This is important stuff and it's great to see the trial taking place, but it highlights the ridiculous way the government washes their hands of cycle planning by getting local authorities to just do whatever they see fit.
Yes, we need to see real leadership from the centre with full training for all highways departments made mandatory.

posted by arowland [84 posts]
3rd May 2013 - 17:51

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Any new developments in cycle infrastructure need to be consistent across the country. The more varieties of road design we have, the more confusing it becomes for road users.

Changes need to be made gradually. This means road users become educated through experiencing different road layouts progressively, rather than being expected to know how to maneuver around this roundabout safely, having never come across it before.

The glass is 50% capacity.

posted by mrfree [33 posts]
4th May 2013 - 1:13

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From this bird's eye view it is clear that vehicles are to give way to cyclists when entering or leaving the roundabout.......that means they don't have to stop.
As for cyclists using the "road" inner roundabout, they, too, will have to give way to cyclists on the outer route when joining or leaving the system.........Understanding and self dicipline is needed all round.
On balance, the general principle loooks good in that fast moving traffic will be moderated to negotiate the junction and when integrating with other road users.......isn't this what is required, not the dominance of one party over another?

posted by Posh [46 posts]
4th May 2013 - 11:22

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Well, I volunteered to TRL to help out with their trials and I got an invite for Wednesday of this week in the afternoon. Anyone else going?

Did Nightrider 2013 for Parkinson's UK, doing it again this year just for the fun of it and to raise more money.

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posted by jova54 [608 posts]
13th May 2013 - 20:55

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