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UK's first Dutch-style roundabout gets underway in Bedford

Roundabout encourages drivers to select exit before entering - and stick to it

Work will begin on the UK’s first Dutch-style roundabout in Bedford, fitted out with segregated vehicle lanes to keep cyclists safe.

The lanes of traffic will have plastic separators, which will encourage traffic to stay in the appropriate lane, and encourage vehicles to slow down to do so.

Although cars will be able to cross lanes, they will get a ‘bumping’ sensation reminding them to reduce their speed.

The effect of this style of roundabout is to force motorists to choose their final exit before entering the junction. By reducing weaving around, and increasing the predictability of the final destination, there are only ten points of conflict (compared with 8 for a conventional single lane roundabout, or between 32 and 64 with traffic signal control), making this design safer.

Patrick Lingwood, Bedford’s walking and cycling officer, told Transport Xtra that the Motorcycle Action Group and others in the national motorcycling lobby had objected to the DfT about the proposal, arguing that bikers may not see the lane dividers and hit them, or hit them when taking action to avoid a collision.

The upgrading of the roundabout will cost £490,000, which is largely funded by a £420,000 grant from the DfT’s Cycle Safety Fund. Bedford says the roundabout had the highest concentration of cyclist accidents in the borough between 2004 and 2010. 

A 2012 traffic count recorded 25,000 vehicle movements through the roundabout in a 12-hour period (7am-7pm) plus 550 cyclists and 2,500 pedestrians. About 200 of the cyclists avoided the roundabout carriageway by cycling on the footpath round the edge. 

Mr Lingwood said he hoped traffic speeds would be reduced, encouraging cyclists to come back onto the road. He said: “Even though you will be sharing the lane with vehicles I’m hoping that as a cyclist you will feel this is a safe roundabout and a comfortable experience because traffic is moving more slowly.”

The lanes are said to be wide enough for a car, but not a lorry, to overtake a cyclist who is cycling close to the kerb or  plastic lane divider. 

The use of these roundabouts in the UK has seemed likely for some time.

As we reported last year, a delegation of Scottish transport chiefs visited the Netherlands to learn more about the junctions.

However some other styles of Dutch roundabouts feature segregated cycle lanes around the outside, making them much more cycle-friendly, particularly important as two-thirds of bike collisions happen at junctions.

Transport for London spent some time last year investigating the possibility of introducing Dutch roundabouts to the capital, including testing them at the Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire, but any plans to implement them have since gone quiet.

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