Thursday 18 April 2013

A case study: Horsham Cycling Network

Looking for one thing on the aseasyasriding blog, I came across something else far more interesting.

In April 2011, Mark Treasure wrote a blog entitled Horsham District Council does not care about cycling. He reports how, in 2008, HDC commissioned a review of cycling.

The Review notes that Horsham is flat, compact and economically active, all of which would lead one to expect a good level of cycling. Even so, "a generally cycle-unfriendly environment" has led to predictably low levels of cycling, with about 2% in Horsham District as a whole, and about 3% in and around the town centre.

The Review contains a total of 235 recommendations for improving the safety and attractiveness of cycling in Horsham. Mark explains:

"Some of these are ranked as Practicality – 4, which according to the Review means that the measures

May be desirable but may also be impractical / very difficult to implement, or have negative outcomes beyond the area to be treated.
"I wouldn’t expect Horsham District Council to leap into action and carry out these kinds of measures [at the drop of a hat]," Mark continues. "They involve, for instance, resignalling junctions, or changing gyratories, and would probably also involve the consent of West Sussex County Council."

More on that later, but for the time being, it is noteworthy that the proposed schemes with a Practicality ranking of 4 are not actually that numerous:

Crawley Road / Harwood Road - ASLs on all arms of junction with
pedestrian phase on all crossings.

A264 / A24 /A281 Gyratory -  Signalise roundabout with cycle phase to
improve access to existing cycle track. 

Bishopric / Albion Way - Redesign junction to allow direct crossing of
Albion Way (to be able to go straight on here, in other words)

Pondtail Road / Warnham Road - Signalise junction - move signalised
crossing towards junction and convert to Toucan

All of the remaining schemes with a Practicality ranking of 4 are centred around the bridge over the railway line on North Street, and at the junctions at either end, as shown on this map:

North Street 

We can get a better sense of the works the consultants had in mind by considering this series of photographs, going from north to south:

Kings Road / North Street Gyratory - Major redesign of gyratory including
redistribution of roadspace to give wide cycle track with signalled crossing
(e.g. close southern section of gyratory and make other sections two-way) 

Southern section of Kings Road / North Street Gyratory. Station Road
is up on the left.

North Street (looking south) - Widen bridge to create shared-use
path on western side (the right-hand side as we look at it).

North Street (looking north) - The shared-use path is proposed to go on
the left-hand side as we look at it.

The shared-use path would need to pass in front of this junction.

North Street / Hurst Road roundabout - Major redesign of junction
including replacement with signalled T-junction and significant public
realm improvements of Horsham station forecourt.

Anyone got any better ideas?

The Horsham Cycle Review makes the following telling observation: "Experience from many areas in the UK has shown that only a small number of schemes can be progressed at any one time for practical reasons, in particular financial restrictions. Setting out a long “shopping list” of detailed proposals serves to raise expectations that are very unlikely to be fulfilled. Simpler, more cost-effective and deliverable on-road measures, based on an innovative approach to the use of shared carriageway space, have great potential to create useful and effective cycle networks over a shorter timescale."

Albion Way / Bishopric - It is proposed that this junction be redesigned to
allow direct access into the Bishopric (behind the row of trees to the left).
Of all the schemes with a Practicality ranking of 4, this is the only one
which is not currently useable by cyclists with Bikeability Level 3.5 training.

The Review notes that there are no convenient radial routes which can be used safely by cyclists who are not trained to at least Bikeability Level 3. For example, the main north-south corridor, North Parade / Springfield Road / Worthing Road is either Level 2.5 or Level 3 for its entire length, apart from a short section in the town centre. The same is generally true for the other major routes. This means that only experienced cyclists feel comfortable cycling across Horsham to the town centre, railway station and main employment areas (to say nothing of the schools and college).

Someone with Bikeability Level 2.5 training can cycle along and carry out all manoeuvres except turning across traffic. Sorting out these main road routes such that all manoeuvres could be performed by someone with Level 1 training, say, or even Level 2 training, is going to take a good deal time, a good deal of money and a good deal of political will. (For more information about 'Daring to redistribute space and means', please refer to the second half of this blog.)

Nevertheless, the Review further adds: "Access to the heart of the town centre (the area around The Carfax) is particularly difficult for cyclists. The main routes are mostly pedestrian priority, or fully pedestrianised with limited or no access for cyclists. The majority of the remaining access routes that are open to cyclists are one-way for all traffic, including cyclists. This leaves the town centre with a very low level of accessibility by bicycle.

"The two exceptions are the Chart Way bridge – which has an unsegregated shared-use path for pedestrians and cyclists  and the contraflow cycle lane along East Street [now replaced with an elegant shared-use space]. These are notable examples of good quality provision providing advantage for cyclists and are significant contributions to increased cycling accessibility. However, even these can only be legally accessed from one direction.

"East Street can only be approached by cyclists from the [east] as South Street and Market Square are one-way northbound and cycling is prohibited on Middle Street. Similarly southbound cyclists on Chart Way cannot continue along [South Street]."

South Street (looking north) - one-way to all traffic, including cycle traffic.

A ramp, located roughly behind where that silver estate car is parked,
would provide better bicycle access to the Chart Way bridge. 

South Street (looking south) - Access to East Street and Market Square is
via the one-way street to the left.

The Carfax (which incorporates South Street) is a 20mph zone, and enabling two-way cycle traffic in 20mph zones is not that difficult nowadays. Indeed, it is no longer even necessary to have a contraflow cycle lane.

The Department for Transport has recently removed restrictions on 'Except
Cycles' signs being added underneath 'No Entry' road signs

Mark Treasure makes the point that the great majority of the measures recommended in the Review – 146 out of the 235 – have their practicality ranked as 1 or 2 
1 – Relatively inexpensive to introduce in both design and implementation, and should provide good return for minimal cost
– Could be more expensive but generally should provide a reasonable return in giving more advantage to cyclists and pedestrians
As he explains, "These are simple, cheap measures, that will almost certainly encourage more cycling and walking, and provide value for money."

As of 2011, two years after the Horsham Cycling Review was first presented to the Council, Mark reported that only four of the 235 separate recommendations had been implemented. The "inescapable conclusion" that Mark draws from this is that Horsham District Council "does not care about cycling as a means of urban transport."

* * *

By 2006, West Sussex County Council had drawn up plans for a proposed cycle network for Horsham, with an intended completion date of 2015. At that time, Horsham District Council submitted the following supporting note to the LTP (Local Transport Plan):

“The District Council supports the cycling strategy. The need to improve the attractiveness of cycling is well supported by the District Council and a modest programme of new cycle routes has been implemented. We would encourage the promotion of the role of cycling as an alternative to car-based travel, particularly for short journeys, and we feel that the completion of the Horsham Town cycling network is a crucial part of this approach.”

Although this statement is strongly supportive of the WSCC-proposed network, there must have been a recognition locally that it did not go far enough, for as the Review notes, "Much of the proposed network is made up of existing facilities, including some which are substandard. There are also many missing links, e.g. north and east of Horsham station."

Thus it was that in 2008, HDC engaged a firm of consultants to provide a review of cycling in Horsham, and they it was who came up with plans for a more extended cycle network.

Horsham Cycling Network (officially endorsed) 
View larger map

I will talk more about 'what I did next' shortly, but for the moment I just want to show you an uncoded version of my proposed design:

Horsham Cycling Network (proposed) 

What's the same? - green / What's new? - red / What's missing? - blue
The advantage that 'compass colours' gives me is that the colours themselves also help to inform my decision-making. That is, I am able to design from patterns to details.

The designers of the officially-proposed network coded the routes on their 'primary' network using the numbers 1 to 9. All the other routes which form part of the Horsham Cycling Network are simply relegated to the status of 'secondary' routes.

'Primary' network - in this instance coded one colour per route, rather than
one number per route. 'Secondary' network in yellow.

I set out by trying to code as much of the officially-sanctioned network as possible. Aside from a couple of bits in the town centre, all of the primary routes have been incorporated into my proposed design. Rule 1, therefore, is: Don't miss anything out!

Naturally, I need to be able to distinguish between a strategic route and a local route. If I tried to code every single local route using compass colours, or every single short-cut, or every single route through a park, the map would become cluttered, and I would probably end up losing more than I would gain. It's a question of balance, ultimately.

Rule # 2 is: Be self-consistent! I am coding routes according to a direction of travel, and I often need to use the same colour to code different routes. The routes need to run parallel to each other, and that being the case, they need to be laid down in a way that shows self-consistency. (For a more detailed explanation of compass colours, please click here.)

Rule # 3 is: Be singular! You can see from the map above that one number (or one colour) is assigned to one route. There is more 'overlap' with compass colours, but even so, I want to try to avoid the same section of route being coded with a number of different colours for any distance.

Rule # 4 is: Be elegant! As theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize-winner Paul Dirac noted: "It is more important to have beauty in one's equations than to have them fit experiment."

In a lecture entitled Truth and Beauty, astrophysicist and Nobel Prize-winner Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar asks: What is beauty? He finds a definition of beauty, as related by theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize-winner Werner Heisenburg, most apposite: "Beauty is the proper conformity of the parts to one another and to the whole."

Chandrasekhar concluded his lecture thus: "Beauty is that to which the human mind responds at its deepest and most profound. Indeed, everything I have tried to say in this connection has been stated more succinctly in the Latin mottos:

Simplex sigillum veri - The simple is the seal of the true


Pulchritudo splendor veritatis - Beauty is the splendour of truth."

The final rule, Rule # 5, is the Darwinian bottom line: Be good at it or make way for something better! As I explained here, routes need to be meaningful and direct before they are anything else. This is because, if a route is not meaningful and direct now, it will never be meaningful and direct; but if a route is not safe now, this can be changed.

Horsham Cycling Network (proposed) 

The worry I have is that, in trying to apply all five rules, I have found it necessary to add a few new sections of route to the officially-proposed network. Only a couple of these are highly speculative, however (marked in orange).

Functionality map 

All of the routes marked in green could be used by someone trained to Bikeability Level 3. If we would accept that it is going to be at least five to ten years – minimum – before less experienced cyclists could use this network in its entirety, we can see that, rather than setting out a long “shopping list” of detailed proposals which are very unlikely to be fulfilled, a much more manageable programme of works can be considered.

Cycling: the way ahead states that "the worst enemies" of the bicycle in the built-up area are not motor traffic, but "longheld prejudices". The simple fact of legitimising cycling on such a network as I propose would go a long way to removing those prejudices. It would also send a signal to "the mass of non-cyclists who are most likely to take up cycling again"  something along the lines of: "Your local authority knows what needs to be done, and is now taking care of it."

The more highly-engineered solutions  the resignalling of junctions, or the changing of gyratories – the ones which Mark Treasure wouldn't expect Horsham District Council to "leap into action" and complete straightaway – are of course best undertaken within the framework provided by a functioning cycle network. As Cycling: the way ahead points out: "If it is not possible to systematically remodel the entire network to better meet the needs of cyclists [all in one go], specific action can be taken on each occasion that works need to be done."

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