Winter gritting update

With the recent freezing weather, Dynamo has been checking to see what’s been gritted. Just as the County Council has priority bus routes to grit, so Dynamo views the Millennium Bridge and Lancaster-Morecambe path as priority cycle routes.

The good news is that the path has been gritted and is OK to ride. Originally the bad news was that the southern approach to the Millennium Bridge (i.e. riding from Sainsburys) hadn’t been gritted, but the City Council have now gritted that too.

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Update on Long Marsh Lane, Lancaster

The last newsflash was that work had begun on creating a turning head on Long Marsh Lane beside the railway bridge prior to the long-awaited closure of the road to through-traffic (except for bicycles).

The physical work is now complete. The next step is a Traffic Regulation Order from Lancashire County Council (which obviously has more pressing things on its mind at present).

Posted in City and County Councils, Cycle Infrastructure, Cycling, Lancaster | 1 Comment

Are painted cycle lanes really safe? New study suggests not.

Advisory cycle lanes have been a mainstay of provision for cycling in this country for as long as most people can remember. Lancaster is certainly no exception to this with these kinds of facilities around much of the one-way gyratory system that circles the city centre.

There have been concerns raised about the safety benefits of these facilities for at least a decade, and one of the very first studies was conducted by a Dynamo member. This study found that painted cycle lanes could result in closer passing by motor vehicles, at least under some circumstances. The findings of this research were noted in Scottish guidance for designing cycling facilities that was published almost a decade ago now, and which included an absolute minimum width for both advisory and mandatory cycle lanes. This guidance stated that

Lane widths narrower than 1.5m can present a hazard to cyclists and motor vehicle drivers.

However, the guidance is advisory rather than statutory and was routinely not followed by local councils implementing measures for cycling. Similar guidance for road traffic signs and markings, the Traffic Signs Manual Chapter 3, also notes a recommended minimum of 1.5m for cycle lanes, and new updated guidance was recently published for the design of cycling facilities which, like the Scottish guidance, indicates that 1.5m is the absolute minimum width for painted cycle lanes.

Although a number of studies have raised potential concerns about painted cycle lanes there has been a lack of studies actually looking at whether or not these painted facilities actually make cycling any safer. A new study has been published this week that is based on an analysis of accident data from London and one of the findings is that compared to roads without cycle lanes mandatory cycle lanes have no effect on reducing injuries, and advisory cycle lanes make the likelihood of cyclists being injured 34% higher. Perhaps unsurprisingly the study found that protected cycle infrastructure reduced the likelihood of injury by between 40 and 65%. The overall conclusion of the study was that cycle infrastructure on main roads and junctions must be protected, rather than painted lanes, particularly when there are high levels of traffic. There are several possible reasons why painted cycle lanes, and advisory ones in particular, might make cycling more dangerous. This could be due to the possibility that they might encourage close passing by drivers, or because parking in them is allowed, meaning that people cycling have to move into the flow of traffic to negotiate the parked vehicles.

One might quite reasonably wonder what the real purpose of advisory cycle lanes is, given these problems that they cause. Perhaps their real purpose is to allow councils with no real intention of providing better conditions for active travel to demonstrate a commitment to cycling without altering the existing status quo of the road.

Posted in Cycle Infrastructure, Cycling, Safety | 1 Comment

Dynamo’s submission to “Transforming Lancaster Travel” consultation (deadline 8 December)

What you’ve all been waiting for!

(All background information is here and we would urge you all to make your own submission to the online consultation.)

It has taken the Dynamo committee a long time to finalise a response.  It’s quite difficult to consider the schemes from a purely cycling perspective: you end up getting side-tracked about where cars will go, whether or not Central 2 is the more pragmatic option to Central 1, the risk of rat-runs developing on hitherto quiet roads, or deploring the loss of countryside.  Our submission – after much discussion – is below. (And below that is further reading if you’re really interested.)

DYNAMO RESPONSE

Junction 33

As a general principle Dynamo is opposed to the building of new roads given the concurrent emergencies relating to climate and public health due to both air pollution and inactivity. These are exacerbated by road transport, which is already the UK’s greatest single contributor to carbon dioxide emissions. However, Dynamo does support the reduction of traffic volumes in Lancaster city centre, preferably by closing the city centre to through traffic, and would consider supporting an additional motorway link road as a means to achieving this goal. Some conditions would be applied to the support for such development, and these are identified below:

1.       Lancaster city centre is closed to all non-essential through traffic, and walking and cycling prioritised for local journeys within the city.

2.       Any new roads constructed include acceptable provisions for non-motorised forms of travel that are fully compliant with design standards in the design year.

3.       Park and ride facilities are provided with direct access to a high quality cycle route (the ‘cycle superhighway’) which provides safe, direct, and convenient access to both Lancaster University and Lancaster city centre.

Of the options offered in the consultation, Dynamo’s preference is for Central 1, as it is the most direct, the least intrusive and offers the greatest benefit to Galgate air quality.

Dynamo debated the option of Central 2 (a link road to the A588) but the consensus was against it. Ashton Road is fast, twisting and already a difficult road to cycle on; increasing traffic on it between the golf club and the Pointer roundabout without modifying it in any way (e.g. by introducing cycle lanes) is unsustainable. Moreover it is effectively single-lane outside De Vitre Cottages and, in term time, is partially blocked by school buses outside Ripley School.

City Centre

Dynamo favours the closure of the city centre to all non-essential motorised through traffic in order to improve conditions within the city and to prioritise the area as a space for people rather than traffic, to prevent any problems with both congestion and air pollution, and to facilitate more sustainable travel in and around the city centre.

Dynamo has a clear preference for a sustainable transport corridor on the eastern side of the existing gyratory because this provides a more direct route for through cycle traffic from north of the river heading to destinations to the south of the city, such as the hospital and university, and because it has more gentle gradients than the western side. It would be preferable for this route to be separated from both pedestrians and motorised vehicles in order to provide a route along which the perceived level of safety is high. This route should be of a sufficient standard to attract traffic from both Penny Street and the canal so that any potential conflict with pedestrians along these routes can be minimised.

Of the options, 6a comes closest to our vision. It may also facilitate the tentative plans for the Canal Quarter and the idea of the ‘Stonewell nose’. However, in funnelling cycle traffic onto the eastern side consideration must be given to cyclists who need to access the railway station.

It may be necessary for motorised traffic to be restricted to a single lane along the sustainable transport corridor in order to provide sufficient space for a separate two-way cycle route, and pedestrian space. In this case buses and taxis could follow the route of the existing one-way system, with the section along China Street designed for pedestrian priority and low traffic speeds. All cycling infrastructure introduced needs to be suitable for a range of mobility adapted cycles, cargo bikes, and conventional bikes with trailers, and must be designed for much higher levels of use than are currently seen in Lancaster city centre.

It may be necessary for additional measures to be introduced in the wider area to prevent through traffic diverting onto residential streets to bypass the city centre. This could potentially be achieved by converting streets to one-way traffic, or by closing them to through traffic to produce low traffic neighbourhoods, or active neighbourhoods.

EXTRA INFORMATION

The local Green Party held an online public meeting about the plans at the end of November, and Dynamo learned a bit more about the city and county councils’ thinking as follows (with our comments in brackets):

  • Cycle superhighway is due for completion in May 2023, although there is no information on the scheme yet.
  • January 2024 is the date for city centre gyratory changes (so, before changes to J33).
  • March 2024 – possibility of a crossing over the canal linking the A588 to the A6 (so does that mean the Central 2 option has already been decided on?).
  • June 2024 – bus Rapid Transport and potential park & ride.
  • 2025 – “Bailrigg Garden Village” spine road and utilities.  West Coast mainline road underpass.
  • 2027 Junction 33 and various associated routes.
  • Department for Transport Safer Roads Fund to include safety improvements at the Pointer roundabout and average speed cameras between Galgate and the Pointer roundabout (no date given).
  • At present the County Council doesn’t yet have an indication of the breakdown between through-traffic and city centre-bound traffic.  Page 60 of the Strategy says that traffic within the city centre has risen since the opening of the Bay Gateway, despite one of the conditions of funding the Bay Gateway was that growth of traffic in the city centre should be prevented.
  • Central government has said it will make £140 million available for roads/direct measures as part of the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF).  Lancashire County Council will have to borrow to cover the cost of plans not covered by the HIF.  (This may make some of us a little uneasy.)

Links:

Posted in A6, Air quality, City and County Councils, consultation, Cycling, Galgate, Lancaster city centre, Transport Masterplan | Leave a comment

Active Travel Neighbourhoods

Active Travel Neighbourhoods, or Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, are residential streets where all, or virtually all, through motorised traffic has been removed in order to improve conditions for other modes of travel such as walking, cycling, scooting, and using mobility aids such as wheel chairs and mobility adapted cycles. The removal of motorised through traffic is essentially achieved through the use of modal filters that prevent through journeys being made by large vehicles but allow smaller modes of travel to pass though. The filtering out of larger traffic can be achieved by placing planters, bollards, or other street furniture in the road to create gaps that are too narrow for cars to go through. In some cases, access for emergency services can be maintained by the use of lockable bollards, or camera enforced “gates” which have no physical restrictions but impose fines for use by unauthorised traffic.


An important principle of Active Travel Neighbourhoods is that they still allow access to all of the properties on the street by cars or delivery vehicles, although they do make short local journeys by car less convenient. However, the reduced convenience of local car journeys does mean that switching those journeys to other ones is made much easier, and often people find that they are more likely to walk, cycle, use mobility scooters and other mobility aids because they can use the roads to do so. Residents also benefit from reduced traffic noise and an improved public space for people to meet or where children can play. Longer car journeys are much less affected by the changes because any additional extra distance involved in negotiating the closures is only a very small part of the total journey.


A common concern expressed about implementing Active Travel neighbourhoods is that they will increase traffic levels on the surrounding network of main roads. As with many of the concerns raised about measures that limit the domination of public spaces by motorised traffic, there is little credible evidence to support those claims. There is, however, evidence that reducing the amount of road space that is available to through traffic reduces the overall amount of traffic, as people choose to use other modes of travel like walking, cycling, and public transport for short local journeys. This effect was seen when the Greyhound Bridge in Lancaster was closed to traffic due to damage during Storm Desmond in December 2015. There is also some initial recent evidence from Hackney that introducing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods has not resulted in increased traffic levels on nearby main roads.


The approach of developing Active Travel Neighbourhoods was actively promoted by the government under the Emergency Active Travel Funding as the quickest and most cost-effective way of reallocating road space to walking and cycling to promote more sustainable and active modes of travel. The same approach was also permitted to be applied on main roads, with suitable exceptions for buses, access and disabled people, and with other main roads kept free for through motor traffic, in order to create sustainable travel corridors. Although the approach of introducing point closures on main roads was promoted as the best option for promoting active travel by the government we are not currently aware of any having been implemented.


There has been some very vocal opposition to these kinds of schemes being introduced, and a variety of claims made about them being both unpopular and causing problems. Some of the opposition to them has been funded by motoring lobby groups masquerading as concerned residents, although surveys generally show good levels of public support for the schemes once they have been in place for a while and people had had an opportunity to adapt to some of the changes.

Posted in Cycling, Safety, Transport Alternatives | Leave a comment

Public opinion on traffic and road use

Following the publication this month of the Public Opinion Survey on Traffic and Road Use for the Department of Transport, Dynamo member Adam Peters has written the following:

Lancaster has long been blighted by traffic congestion in the city, much of which is only passing through. There is an opportunity to change this for the better in the current County Council consultation on transforming Lancaster travel. Given this opportunity I believe that it is important to consider just how much public support there might be for measures that exclude through traffic from the city centre.

It appears that there is a huge amount of public support for reducing traffic levels in our towns and cities. In a survey performed recently on behalf of the government, respondents overwhelmingly agreed that the government should act in local neighbourhoods to increase road safety (88%), improve air quality (86%), reduce traffic congestion (83%) and reduce traffic noise (75%). Furthermore, three quarters of respondents supported the reduction of road traffic in towns and cities in England (77%) and their local area / neighbourhood (78%), and two thirds of respondents were supportive of reallocating road space to walking and cycling across towns and cities in England (66%) and their local area / neighbourhood (65%).

A number of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods were introduced in London in response to the loss of public transport capacity during the first Covid-19 lockdown that received a lot of negative press and opposition, although at least some of this seems to have been funded by the motoring lobby. A recent survey of London residents found that the majority (52%) of Londoners support the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in London, with only 19% opposing them. Furthermore, an outright majority of all age groups (43-58%) favour the pedestrianisation of most central London streets, with younger people generally being more in favour of pedestrianisation, and those in favour of widespread pedestrianisation believe that it could encourage more widespread bicycle usage. This suggests that those that have already experienced these kinds of changes where they live are generally supportive of them.

It is all very well to say that there is support for these moves nationally and in London, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Lancaster residents do, does it? Fortunately the Green Party, which has quite a few councillors on the City Council and our only representative on the County Council, recently released the results of a survey that they conducted primarily to assess how local people were responding to the first lockdown. Given the findings from other surveys noted above it is hardly surprising that 90% of respondents liked the quieter roads during the lockdown, and this suggests that Lancaster residents would probably also favour less traffic in their city. Some of the more popular comments left by respondents included “Most of our car journeys are not necessary”, “…we need roads designed for bikes first, public transport second, cars as a last thought”, “…make the city pedestrian and bicycle centric”, and “We need to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle. Even if a desire for less traffic in the city is not what everybody wants, it is certainly very popular with Green Party voters and supporters.

Even if nothing is done to remove through traffic from Lancaster’s historic city centre locally we could all be faced with much higher costs for driving our cars in congested and polluted city centres anyway given that the Chancellor is reportedly considering road pricing given the falling revenues from fuel duty (which has been frozen for almost a decade now) and Vehicle Excise Duty as people switch to driving more efficient or electric cars.

Closing the centre of Lancaster to through traffic is not only likely to be popular, but would also help people to make more responsible and sustainable transport choices for many of the short local journeys that they make. It seems that on this occasion it is perhaps not so much the public that need to be persuaded but our politicians.

Posted in Air quality, City and County Councils, consultation, Cycle Infrastructure, Cycling, Transport Alternatives, Transport policy | 1 Comment

Some thoughts on “Transforming Lancaster Travel”

The deadline for responding to Lancashire County Council on ideas for

  • Lancaster city centre one-way system
  • a route from junction 33 of the M6 to the proposed housing developments in south Lancaster

closes on 8 December. Remember that this is not just about transport but also about air quality (particularly bad in Galgate and Lancaster city centre).

Dynamo is still drafting its response, but in the meantime here are some thoughts from a Dynamo member which you might like to consider to inform your own view.

Dynamo has a vision for Lancaster as a place where most people see walking and cycling as the most obvious and convenient choices for the short, local, everyday journeys that they need to make. A place where cycling is a perfectly normal activity that requires nothing more than a bike and provides a quick, safe, and convenient way to get to the shops, work, the train station, or to meet up with friends. We saw in the spring, when traffic levels were lower than they have been for many decades, just how many people would cycle if they were provided with conditions that they felt were safe enough. For most people conditions safe enough for cycling means not riding amongst motorised traffic.

Lancaster is faced with a decision about travel and transport both within the city and, to a more limited extent, in the wider area as Lancashire County Council seeks responses to a consultation on two interrelated proposals. One of the proposals is for better links between the city and the motorway junction just South of Galgate, and the other is about travel within the city and essentially covers the future of the existing one way system that encircles the city centre. This potentially offers the kind of opportunity to transform how people in the city of Lancaster travel for their short local journeys that is unlikely to occur again within many of our lifetimes. It potentially offers a chance to change Lancaster city centre from one dominated by motor traffic destined for elsewhere that is rather hostile to people walking and cycling to one where the real priority is people.

Whilst Dynamo is generally inclined to oppose major new road developments it is more important than ever to ensure that we focus on our real priorities in order to ensure that our input achieves as much real change as it possibly can in this consultation. One of the aims of the proposals for a new motorway junction link road are to reduce air pollution in Galgate, and we ought to recognise that there are no credible alternatives to simply removing through traffic from the village that can be put forward here. It is also important to recognise that whilst active travel can bring great benefits to society as a whole, those benefits can only realistically be realised in relatively densely populated areas such as town and city centres that, in the UK at least, have tended to be congested, noisy, and polluted in recent years.

Motorways are generally used for journeys that cover distances that are too great for active travel to replace them. Furthermore, without high speed rail links to other cities, better provision for carrying bikes on trains, and much better conditions for cycling to and from the stations and peoples destinations, active travel can contribute very little to relieving the load on our current motorway network. Decades of a car-based transport policy have given most people in our society only one option that they consider to be practical for most journeys of much more than five miles. A new motorway link could also provide a route to enable traffic from both the A6 and the A588 for which Lancaster is not their destination to bypass the city entirely. This proposal could therefore contribute to a considerable reduction in traffic in the city centre.

For these reasons, and because we can see how important it is to focus on the real prize of better conditions for anybody living, working, or shopping in Lancaster, I believe Dynamo needs to seriously consider supporting the proposals for the new motorway link road, on the condition that the city centre is closed to through traffic, as the most likely route to achieving real changes for the better. If we want our input on the city centre consultation to be taken seriously then it is very important that we are not viewed by anybody as just being a bunch of crusty old virtue signalling NIMBYs and consequently marginalising our position on the really important issues about travel in the city centre. We need to focus on the issues that already have widespread public support like reducing traffic levels in towns and cities and focus our efforts on what we might realistically be able to achieve, and concede those battles that we do not realistically have the power to influence. The city centre is extremely unlikely to be closed to through traffic without an additional bypass road being built, and we desperately need to make the most of this opportunity to free the centre of Lancaster from the plight of through traffic in order to reduce pollution, and congestion, and to open up the city to more active and sustainable modes of travel for everybody.

Posted in Air quality, City and County Councils, consultation, Cycling, Galgate, Lancaster, Lancaster city centre, Transport Masterplan | Leave a comment

Work begins on Long Marsh Lane (plus temporary closure of Giant Axe route)

As mentioned previously, Long Marsh Lane is to become a no-through-route for cars, thus making life safer for the cyclists and pedestrians who use the road. The closure to cars was part of the planning application for new houses on St George’s Quay; the alternative was to let this narrow, steep road with no pavement become a permanent rat run.

As you can see from the photos, a turning area for vehicles must be built. Work on this is currently in progress, but – such is the scale – it means that the shared-use path beside Giant Axe playing field is currently closed. Even when the heavy machinery has gone, the road closure still won’t be done and dusted: there will be a Traffic Regulation Order before the bollards are installed. Inevitably, Covid upheaval has led to delays here.

There are alternatives while Giant Axe is closed, but none are signed – so best to avoid this for the time being. Here’s a map to help you work out an alternative:

Posted in City and County Councils, Cycle Infrastructure, Cycling, Lancaster | 1 Comment

Cambridge City Council rejects planning application on cycling grounds

Last month Cambridge City Council rejected a planning application for a large development around the railway station on the grounds that it would have removed space for a segregated route for cyclists. It was local city councillors who (twice) rejected the scheme, despite it being recommended for approval by council officers.

The true test will come if the developer decides to take the application to appeal, of course, but in the meantime – a big hand for Cambridge city councillors.

Posted in Cycling, Other Places, planning applications | Leave a comment

Department for Transport’s Cycle Infrastructure Design note

Dynamo’s little heart was gladdened to discover the DfT’s Local Transport Note 1/20 entitled Cycle Infrastructure Design, published in July this year. Its guidance – while not binding – is pretty much the kind of stuff that we long to see in towns. For example:

  • accessibility
  • cycles treated as vehicles and not as pedestrians
  • physical separation from high-volume motor traffic
  • joined-up network
  • maintenance
  • bollards to prevent through-traffic

We look forward to referring to this as we respond to planning applications!

Posted in Cycle Infrastructure, Cycling | 1 Comment