Category Archives: City Council

Death in the Afternoon

It is with the greatest sadness that we have to report the death of one cyclist and injuries to two more in the last two days. On Thursday evening a cyclist was hit by a driver on Fratton bridge roundabout and had to be airlifted to hospital in Southampton, where his condition is reported as ‘critical but stable’. Worse was to come on Friday, as two cyclists collided on the Eastern Road cycle path, apparently causing one to fall into the busy traffic where he lost his life and the other to fall into the hedge that narrows the path.

We have long campaigned for improvements to cycle safety in Portsmouth, but sadly our worst fears have come true. The sites of both accidents are well known problem sites and both have been discussed with officers at Portsmouth City Council, but sadly no meaningful action had been taken at either site to prevent the tragic events of the last two days.

The Eastern Road cycle path is one of the most important cycle routes in the city but it has a number of serious safety problems. In some stretches – including the area of Friday’s accident – it is too narrow for two cyclists to pass each other safely. This is compounded by a blind bend next to the entrance to the Harvester pub. This section of the route is shared use meaning it is intended to take both cyclists and pedestrians in both directions, yet it is too narrow in places even for pedestrians to pass each other comfortably. The high hedge on one side and fast traffic on the other mean there is no room for error at all.

There are parallels here with another important route in and out of the city, on Hope Street in the city centre. It is surely only a matter of time before a similar incident takes place there. As with the Eastern Road, the Hope Street path is narrow, carries two way cyclists and pedestrians, has an impenetrable barrier (the dockyard wall in this case) on one side, has fast traffic a kerb-width away on the other side, has a dangerous blind bend and is frequently obstructed by lamp columns and sign-posts.

We have been warning Portsmouth City Council about the state of the Eastern Rd and Hope Street paths since our Strategic Cycle Routes report of 2009. The part of the Eastern Road path where Friday’s tragic accident took place has been discussed with council officers this year, after members of the forum reported head on collisions and near misses with other cyclists there. The site is at the junction of two of the council’s recently launched ‘Quieter Routes’ which are supposed to offer safe routes to less confident cyclists.

The accident on Thursday took place on Fratton bridge roundabout, where the cyclist was hit by a car entering the roundabout. This roundabout has four two-lane entry points, the design creates a high traffic density, with vans and lorries creating multiple blind spots. In such situations drivers looking right for gaps in fast-moving motor traffic then accelerating onto the roundabout find it easy to miss cyclists ahead, the cyclist remaining unseen until impact. On a roundabout like this serious collisions are a certainty, it’s just a question of when and how often.

PCC has worked on Fratton bridge roundabout recently but no change was made to the dangerous layout, which was highlighted by us in 2014. The roundabout lacks safe, attractive alternative routes for cyclists in all directions, meaning that in some cases cyclists are forced to use the main carriageway. This roundabout is also on one of the new ‘Quieter Routes’, although that route uses the toucan crossing that exists on the northern leg of the roundabout.

These two incidents indicate the hazards cyclists can face on the roads of Portsmouth. The weather on both evenings was perfect and all three cyclists caught up in the horrible events should have been able to expect a pleasant and safe journey.

Portsmouth remains the most dangerous place to cycle in England, excepting a few parts of London. This has been the case for the last five years at least but there has been little meaningful action from Portsmouth City Council, in spite of our efforts. There has been almost no investment in safe cycle infrastructure, with the budget the council had being spent on ‘soft measures’ (meaning activities and events to encourage people to cycle) and signage. It is time for that to change. Urgently.

A welcome to 2017

A happy new year to our members and subscribers. So what will 2017 bring the cyclists of Portsmouth?

As a result of winning some Government funding, the new Quiet Routes that PCC have been working on since last summer should soon be released.  PCC hope that by identifying 20mph roads, a network of routes can be created that are quieter and safer for those less confident cyclists to travel around the city.  This is a welcome initiative assuming that the routes are advertised and easy to follow once on your bike.

In conjunction with this work, an audit of all the cycling infrastructure routes and facilities has been undertaken by PCC, identifying the existing lanes, paths and parking that exist in the city.  This information – together with the quiet routes initiative – will form the basis for a new Cycling map for Portsmouth.  We will be studying this in great detail to identify the gaps in provision and work to improve areas that we believe do not serve cyclists to the extent that they should.

To that end, three of our committee members are attending the Cycling UK workshop day in London in late January to learn more about the computerized cycling tools that were demonstrated to us by Roger Geffen at our open meeting in November.  Our intention is to ask our paid-up members at our AGM in March to then identify areas in Portsmouth that can be targeted for future development.

However, most of the traffic congestion is down to the sheer numbers of vehicles on the road. To make a real improvement in congestion, pollution and journey times for everyone, the city needs to get people out of their cars, and reduce the barriers that stop people using a bike to travel around.

We need to identify and push to develop the routes that commuters might like to use.  Ideally, these should be fast, consistent, road-quality cycle lanes that are segregated from both road traffic and pedestrians with priority boxes at junctions and specific phasing on the traffic light system to aid safe resumption of one’s journey. The new lane is Goldsmiths Avenue appears to already have made a difference to traffic flows in the area for both vehicles and bikes.  There’s no reason why having set a precedent there that other roads that have double yellow lining should not also be similarly marked with cycle lanes.

Copnor Road has space at the northern end to install segregated cycle lanes similar to those created recently in Brighton.  With some extra shared path they could link up to the pedestrian bridge across the A27 into the Highbury estate and onto Cosham, encouraging those to the north of the city to cycle to work in the way that the Southampton Road and Langstone Harbour paths do from the west and east.

The perception of cycling in Portsmouth is that it is dangerous, and the official figures only back this up this impression.  For the fourth year in the last five, Portsmouth ranks as the most dangerous city in the UK for cycling casualties. Ours is twice the rate of the London Borough of Waltham Forest, which has a similar population density to Portsmouth. Islington has a population density three times that of Portsmouth, and yet the cycle casualty rate is slightly lower.

The improvements in London with the installation of cycle lanes and mini-Holland schemes, the latest of which recently opened just the other end of the A3 in Portsmouth Road, Kingston-Upon Thames, proves that if the infrastructure is invested in, it is used and improves participation.  A year on from its opening, and Waltham Forest’s much opposed mini-Holland scheme has seen traffic levels in 12 key roads in the “village” area of Walthamstow fall by 56 per cent, or 10,000 fewer vehicles a day.  The most vocal business owner opponent of the scheme, has now opened up a coffee shop in his building.

These improvements are within the scope of Portsmouth City Council.  However, as the cycling community, we need to build the pressure to improve things in our favour.  Imagine Mini-Holland schemes during business hours around Cosham High Street, Albert Road or Palmerston Road – the latterly is effectively already installed – making the areas more pleasant to negotiate whether on foot, public transport or bike.

The re-development of the island’s flood defences over the next decade gives us the opportunity to create a true coastline leisure cycle trail to allow exploration of areas visitors may never discover.

Work on the western side next to Hilsea Lake from the Mounbatten Centre to Portsbridge Roundabout will start this spring, necessitating the closure of the much-used shared coastal path.  Work is due to take three years, and there are plans to install a temporary cycle lane along Northern Parade.  We are asking the council whether they are aware just how well used that path is.  Not everyone will be confident enough to rode on a busy road, and so this appears to be an ideal opportunity to trial a segregated route on what is one of the wider roads on the island. And if it proves to be popular, why should it not remain installed after the work adding to the cycle infrastructure in the city?

With no local elections in the city due in 2017, the pull of the ballot box to appeal to voters has disappeared and some experimental schemes could be trialed, monitored and evaluated to see whether they work. Who knows, perhaps they may even lead to a reduction in the casualty figures?

But we can only do so much as a committee of volunteers.  As much as we lobby, badger, cajole and complain at councilors and officers, we need help to keep the issues at the forefront of their minds in every transport and planning decision they take.

And it is with the creation of that bigger voice where you, the regular cyclist comes in.  We need your support.  We’d like you engaged in the process.

Bring to the attention of the council officers poor road surfaces or junctions that endanger cyclists.  Enlist the support and lobby your ward councilors directly to improve our facilities and infrastructure.

In the event of an accident, ensure it is reported to the police, as official casualty figures are an important way to maintain the pressure on the local politicians to develop space for cycling.

Encourage the next generation getting on their bikes wanting to emulate Mark Cavendish or Lizzie Armitstead to use the roads safely and confidently, to be seen, and to respect other road users and pedestrians.

And please consider supporting or becoming a member of Portsmouth Cycle Forum.

I look forward to seeing you at one, or more, of our 2017 events or out on the road enjoying the freedom cycling can give you.

Tailwinds to all….

 

Ian Saunders

Acting Chair, PCF

January 2017

Cycle Casualties 2015

The Department for Transport has recently released road safety statistics for 2015 and once again Portsmouth is shamed by the rate at which cyclists are hurt on our roads. We have the worst rate of cycle casualties of any city in England. A few London boroughs do have a worse casualty rate but taken as a whole London is safer than Portsmouth. Portsmouth also topped this unenviable league in 2014, 2012 and 2011.

Portsmouth’s cycle casualty rate for 2015 was 888 per million of population. This is very slightly better that the 2014 figure, but this is likely to be no more than a statistical blip. The city’s leaders have taken no concerted action to address road safety, despite our exhortations, preferring to wring their hands and claim there is little they can do because Portsmouth is such a crowded city.

This excuse does not stand up to close examination. England’s most densely populated area, Islington, is nearly three times as crowded as Portsmouth. Islington has a population density of 14,517 people per square kilometre compared to 5,141 in Portsmouth and yet the cyclist casualty rate is slightly lower in Islington with a rate of 882 compared to 888 in Portsmouth.

Waltham Forest, which has recently implemented a ‘mini-Holland’ scheme of cycle infrastructure improvements has a population density of 6,849 people per square kilometre. This is a third more than Portsmouth and yet the cyclist casualty rate is only 409, less than half the rate in Portsmouth. This goes to show what can be achieved with good infrastructure, even in densely populated areas.

It’s time our leaders recognised that this is happening on their watch and it is their problem to solve. It is not a dry statistic to be regretted and ignored, these are the residents of our city being hurt (or worse). Each of these casualties represents a day, week, month or even lifetime ruined or lost. Even minor accidents can have a huge effect on the victims, as the case studies at the end of this piece show.

It is past time to start taking cycle safety seriously. The city is gridlocked and desperately needs people to get out of their cars, but people are understandably put off by the danger on our streets.

For too long Portsmouth City Council has been putting in a token effort at cycle safety. That has to change. We are calling on councillors to commit to halving the cycle casualty rate by 2020. Their first step has to be proper funding for road safety and to recruit a world-class traffic engineer with expertise in cycling infrastructure to lead on it.

It is the first responsibility of government in a democratic society to protect and safeguard the lives of its citizens. Cyclists are citizens and the government of our city is currently failing us. Now is the time to act. It’s time to lift the city from it’s humiliating position as the most dangerous city for cyclists in the UK.

Read Simon’s story
Read John’s story

Sources

ONS Population Density Map
DfT Accident Statistics for 2015 (Table RAS 30045)

Gridlocked Again

Just over two years, in response to the city being plunged into gridlock by a lorry fire, we wrote an open letter to all councillors asking them to take action to prevent this from happening again. This is the event that triggered the leader of PCC, Cllr Donna Jones, to challenge us to come up with an alternative transport plan for the city. Our response was A City to Share, a strategy prioritising Active Travel to reduce the level of traffic on our roads.

This weekend, with the partial closure of the Eastern Rd bridge for maintenance, we were gridlocked once again and more of the same is scheduled for next weekend. Portsmouth’s road system operates at the limit of its capacity. It only takes a small event to tip the system into gridlock – that is what happened two years ago, that’s what happened this weekend and that is what is likely to happen next weekend.

So what has been done in those two years, and why are we still facing this same problem? We’ve certainly had no shortage of words of support – politicians of all hues put their names behind A City to Share when it came out. But what action have we had? Well there have been some positive changes, but too few to make a significant difference so far, and we’ve had some backward steps too.

On the plus side parking is being removed from Goldsmith Avenue and a new cycle lane added on the north side. This is an important step – using busy routes like goldsmith avenue for the storage of stationary vehicles narrows the road and causes conflict. This makes a dangerous and intimidating environment for cyclists. It would be great to see similar changes on other narrow A and B roads in the city, it would enable the creation of safe, direct and attractive cycle lanes that could really tempt people out of their cars.

We’ve also had a series of Sky Rides as well as some major cycle events. Great as these events are, though, they are unlikely to get more people to choose cycling as a way of getting around until we make the streets more pleasant to cycle on.

However, we’ve also had some backward steps, like the removal of the Mile End Rd bus lane and Portsmouth is still congested. Portsmouth still has an obesity problem. Portsmouth still has dangerously polluted air. The way to tackle all these issues is to reduce people’s dependence on private cars yet our politicians are still doing too little to achieve this.

We can only repeat our plea of 2014: “We are calling on you to act now. Plans need to be made now to fix our transport system. Portsmouth needs a plan to put sustainable transport at the heart of these plans and to come up with a joined-up strategy for sustainable transport. Portsmouth Cycle Forum is eager to work with councillors to improve travel in Portsmouth and support sustainable growth.”

We came good on our promise to work hard, delivering a sustainable transport strategy for free. Now it’s time for our politicians to really start delivering on their side of the deal.

A bad day for cycling at the T&T committee

Today two of our committee members – Joe McGannan and Jon Spencer – attended the Portsmouth City Council Traffic & Transportation Decision meeting at the Guildhall. Joe was to make a deputation against proposals to narrow the pavements in North End to squeeze in more parking. I was to make a deputation to keep two way cycling in Portchester and Wymering roads in North End. The latter decision was made in accordance with our wishes but the former raised serious concerns.

The meeting was chaired by Cllr Linda Symes, deputising for Cllr Ken Ellcome.

North End Parking

Cllr Symes approved the plans to narrow the pavements in North End to create more on street parking. This was despite three deputations objecting to the parking proposals made by members of the public. This was despite objections were raised by a bus company and the Cycle Forum. This was despite the fact that nobody felt it worth coming to the meeting to support the proposals.

Sustainable transport used to be a thing in North End, back when there were sustainable businesses

Sustainable transport used to be a thing in North End, back when there were sustainable businesses

London Road is the most dangerous road in Portsmouth for cyclists. We know that outside of a few London boroughs Portsmouth is the most dangerous city in the country for cyclists. That makes London Road amongst the most dangerous roads for cyclists in the entire country.

Our view is that introducing more parking can only make things more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. More cars reversing. More cars pulling out. More doors opening in the path of cyclists. Worse sight lines. Less space. Since 2005 there has been one fatality, six serious injuries and over 40 slight injuries in road traffic incidents on the 200 metre stretch between Chichester Road and Laburnum Grove alone (source: crashmap.co.uk).

We would argue that any scheme that might make this dire situation worse should be subject to the sternest scrutiny. That has not been the case here. We’d like councillors to commit to halving the rate of cycling casualties in Portsmouth by 2020. This decision will not help with that goal; in fact it will quite conceivably make things worse.

This bad decision has been worsened by the complete lack of transparency in the decision making. When summing up the evidence prior to announcing her decision Cllr Symes stated that the council had figures showing the benefit to business and that this outweighed any safety concern. After the meeting I asked Cllr Symes for these figures and it transpired that there were no figures. She was, however, confident that the benefits were ‘massive’. It appears that the public meeting was misled into thinking there were figures backing the decision when there were not.

A subsequent discussion with the senior officer in charge of Traffic and Transportation revealed that the sole basis for the decision was a discussion with a self-selecting group of traders. Despite the fact that the substance of all the objecting views is a matter of public record in the meeting reports pack the record of that discussion with traders will never be published and subject to public scrutiny. This is neither transparent nor equitable.

In February 2015 the Portsmouth City Council Economic Development, Culture & Leisure Scrutiny Panel released a report entitled “Revitalising Local High Streets And Secondary Shopping Areas In The City“. This report was based on extensive evidence gathering from traders and community stakeholders and was put together by a team of councillors from all parties. Today’s decision ignored that work altogether.

It seems that this decision to introduce parking has been made on a hunch. No assessment of the impact on an already serious safety problem. No quantifiable assessment of the potential economic benefit. No equality impact assessment.

A bad day for cycling. A bad day for democratic accountability too.

Call for funding for A City to Share

At the meeting of the  Full Council meeting today, 9 February,  Portsmouth Cycle Forum made a deputation calling for some of the £3.5M transport budget to spent on cycling.

The proposed budget for of  2016-2020 includes major repairs to the Eastern Road  bridge and to upgrades to traffic lights throughout the city yet nothing to implement the aims of PCF’s strategy document “A City to Share”

The deputation was written by PCF Chairman Jon Spencer and delivered by Vice-chairman John Holland,  The text is as follows.

“I am here to ask you to commit some of your transport budget to implement A City to Share, the cycling strategy developed by Portsmouth Cycle Forum at the leader’s behest.”

“The city has become woefully congested and there are rightful concerns that this will put off visitors, residents, events and investors. This problem has been widely discussed and the proposed budget includes a £3.5M investment to attempt to relieve the problem.”

“We are asking councillors to remember that transport is about moving people, not vehicles – connecting customers to business and keeping the lifeblood of our economy flowing. Portsmouth’s roads are at capacity and there is just no space for the increased movements of people that will be required to grow our economy. Spending £1M on smarter phasing of traffic lights can’t address this fundamental problem.”

“£1.8M of your £3.5M investment will be on remedial works to the Eastern Rd bridge. This in itself will offer no new transport capacity unless widening of the narrow, obstructed pedestrian & cycle path is included. This is the major cycle route into the city and this section falls woefully short of DfT standards. It is not accessible to disabled cyclists and at times can be frightening to use. It is common practice in The Netherlands to add cycle capacity to older bridges by adding new cantilevered paths at each edge. This is comparatively cheap and will create a gateway for cyclists worthy of our city.”

“What is needed is a smarter, cleaner, cheaper and more space efficient way to move people. People on bikes take up far less space than people in cars and so many more people can be moved. If more journeys can be made by bike, and less by car, then everyone wins. We reduce the congestion and get a healthier, happier and more productive city into the bargain.”

“This won’t happen by itself though. Throughout the city roads need to become more attractive and forgiving to cyclists. This is not hard to do – many, many cities have gone down this path before us and achieved transformational results. The plan to do this exists in A City to Share, a document that has been praised and supported by politicians of all parties. So we’re asking you to turn those words into action and used some of your proposed transport investment to fund the implementation of A City to Share.”

“There is more to cycling than big ticket events. The city needs to be made fit for purpose for everyday cycling and we ask for PCC to commit to that. We need the bread and butter of safe and easy everyday cycling before we can enjoy the cake of the Tour de France.”

“The MP for Portsmouth South, Flick Drummond, has been pushing central government to support A City to Share. We’d like you to support her. We are asking you all to build cycling into your plans, allocate funding to implement the goals of A City to Share, prioritise improvements for cyclists (for example to the Eastern rd bridge) and to crucially to formally adopt the targets presented in A City to Share, including halving cycling casualties by 2020.”

A City to Share may be downloaded from acitytoshare.org.

New ALDI store to narrow Southampton Road Cycle Route

Aldi's new Paulsgrove store

 

Low-cost suopermarket chain, ALDI, received has permission from Portsmouth City Council for a new shop on Southampton Road, Paulsgrove next to Racecourse Lane.

At the planning committee meeting on 3 February, councillors agreed to the construction of an 1800sqm store with 113 car parking spaces.

Both Portsmouth Cycle Forum and Sustrans representatives made deputations to the meeting since the store will affect the cycle paths on both sides of Southampton Road. The north side path will be interrupted by a 15 metre wide vehicle entry and exit whilst that on the southern side, which is part of NCN route 236, will be narrowed to accommodate road widening for a new traffic light controlled junction.

The Cycle Forum has been critical of the access for pedestrians and cyclists onto the site and for the minimal amount of cycle parking. We were unhappy that the plans show little encouragement for staff to cycle to work since there was no evidence of secure cycle parking, showers or changing rooms.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum’s vice-chairman, John Holland said, “We have no problem with Aldi bringing a new store to this location but we do expect the well-designed facilities to encourage people to travel by sustainable means. Shoving a handful of cycle stands in an out the way location and degrading existing cycle paths is not the answer.”

Following the meeting, John Holland and Roger Inkpen met the applicant’s planning consultant, Dan Templeton of Planning Potential and Aldi property director Phillip Warner to discuss the plans. There is room for negotiation on many issues and the final provision for pedestrians, cyclists and others will be agreed with Portsmouth City Council under Section 278 and 106 agreements.

Parking on our High Streets

High Streets are trending on the Twitter feeds of Portsmouth’s Conservative leadership at the moment, with the leader of the city council Donna Jones and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt both championing the plight of shopkeepers in North End. And let’s make no mistake, those businesses need a champion – times are tough and our high streets are shadows of their former selves.

The latest high-profile casualty in North End is the Co-op store. This large convenience store, which had its own dedicated car park, raises some awkward questions about the story our politicians are telling us about the problem though. They tell us the problem is about the availability of parking and trumpet their efforts to squeeze more spaces on to the street. If that is the case then what has gone wrong for the Co-op, a shop with it’s own car park?

The declining fortunes of our high streets were studied by councillors on the Economic Development, Culture and Leisure Scrutiny Panel earlier this year. Portsmouth Cycle Forum gave evidence to that panel and a report was approved on the 18 March. The report is available here and we wish that Cllr Jones and Penny Mordaunt MP would read it before they act further.

The problem on our high streets, especially Fratton / Kingston / London Road, is that they are trying to be too many things:

  • They are trying to be major distributor roads, carrying people and goods in and out of the city – Fratton / Kingston / London Road is also the A2047 and one of the major North-South roads on the island.
  • They are trying to be shopping streets, where people get out of their cars to buy things.
  • They are trying to be streets where people live, eat and relax.
  • They are trying to be car parks with on-street parking right outside every business.

They cannot be all these things and the consequence is that they have become the most people-unfriendly places imaginable. They are highly polluted. The traffic is hellish. Parking is impossible. The A2047 has more casualties along it than any other road in the city and is amongst the most dangerous stretches of road in Britain.

The result is that people don’t want to spend any more time than they have to in these places. People may stop outside a particular business, run-in for what they came for and get out as fast as possible but that’s hardly a model for economic growth. These streets need to be turned into places people want to visit.

The politician’s rhetoric, that squashing in more parking will make everything better, is positively dangerous. Squashing in more parking will just make things worse. Traffic a bit more squeezed, roads a bit narrower, the air a bit dirtier. A few more pedestrians and cyclists will be injured (or worse), a few more local children will develop asthma and the benefit to businesses will be negligible or nonexistent. Businesses will still close down and politicians will wring their hands and say “we did our best”.

Our politicians are currently presiding over a policy of danger and decay on London Road and our other high streets. It’s time they took some real positive action to address it. It’s time to transform our high streets into places people want to visit. It’s time for A City to Share.

Southsea Seafront Cycle Lane Safety

The seafront cycle lane in Southsea that runs from South Parade along to Henderson Road  has come in for some criticism recently after a pedestrian fell over a kerb which separates the parked cars from the cycle lane.  

Portsmouth Cycle Forum regret this incident and wish Roger Homer a speedy recovery from his injuries. We do feel, however, that his request for the islands to be removed would be an ineffective use of public money that would not utilise the best return for the taxpayer.

We would like to see improvements made in other areas of the city where cycling collisions are much more frequent, these need to be urgently addressed before a fatality occurs. The recent publication of the DfT statistics, showing that the accident rate in Portsmouth has worsened since last year, proves that the city has roads which need drastic improvement.

Crashmap shows that the junction at Albert Road, B2154 and Victoria Road,  B2151, had two serious crashes involving people who cycle last year. Albert Road had 6 bicycle-vehicle collisions with 3 serious and 3 slight injuries last year. St George’s Road at the entrance to Gunwharf Quays had 4 bicycle-vehicle collisions, 2 serious and 2 slight injuries last year.

These, along with other cycle crash hot spots, being altered would be of far more benefit to Portsmouth than of using the money to remove the seafront islands. The cost to the taxpayer of the injuries sustained in these crashes are on average £235,791 for serious injuries and £24,887 for slight injuries (ref). The costs of the incidents described above can be estimated at just over £1.3 million pounds. This would likely have covered the costs of the required junction improvements several times over. 

The function of the “islands” on the seafront cycle route is to protect the people using the cycle lane from opening car doors.  If the islands were removed then it’s likely we would see an increase in cars parking closer to the cycle lane as there would be no physical barrier. Motor vehicle doors opening into the cycle path would cause a huge hazard and lead to increased, not a reduction, in injuries, which nobody wants.

In the Ministerial Spotlight

Robert Goodwill MP and Conservative Candidate Flick Drummond pose with a copy of A City to Share
Robert Goodwill MP and Conservative Candidate Flick Drummond pose with a copy of A City to Share

Last Thursday Robert Goodwill MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, visited Portsmouth. The visit was prompted by a letter from Cllr Donna Jones, the leader of PCC, which was in turn prompted by engagement from Portsmouth Cycle Forum in a meeting following the launch of our cycling strategy, A City to Share.

The purpose of the Minister’s visit was to find out about the cycling initiatives taking places in Portsmouth and to discuss the measures needed to increase cycling levels. The Minister said that the momentum in the cities enjoying Cycle Ambition grant funding was such that fund could be diverted now to others, such as Portsmouth.

Cllr Jones mentioned the possibility of a Sky-Ride in 2016 but Sky’s sponsorship ends in that year.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum Vice-Chair John Holland was able to give a brief overview of A City to Share and the minister took a copy with him. He nodded in the right places and he mentioned the Government’s aim to increase cycle spending to £10 a head (with no date for achieving that though). Feedback is that the Minister is impressed with the strategy.

Following the meeting John Holland was joined by more members of the Forum to accompany the ministerial throng to The Hub in Winston Churchill Avenue. The Minister then took a “photo opportunity” bike ride along the seafront cycle route which was joined by Flick Drummond, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth South. An ITV cameraman was in attendance.

Mile End Road bus lane removal – An alternative solution

Mile End Road approach to Church Street roundaboutAt the Special Traffic and Transportation Decision Meeting on 13 March the Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Donna Jones, decided that the section of the southbound bus lane on Mile End Road between Haversham Road and Church Street should be removed and the space given to general traffic.

Cllr Jones proposed this as a solution to the problem of peak hour queuing traffic on the M275 which has increased at the location since the opening of the Park and Ride in 2014.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum would like to propose an alternative solution which would ease the problems of merging traffic and which would see the retention of the bus lane.

History

The Mile End Road southbound bus lane extends southwards from Rudmore roundabout and it has been in existence for many years. Archive satellite images from Google Earth show the bus lane to be in place in 1999.

In 2014, extensive changes were made to the road markings on southbound carriageway of the Mile End Road to coincide with the opening of the Park and Ride at Tipner. One of the measures was to force all traffic travelling from Rudmore Roundabout to merge with the inside lane of traffic arriving from the M275. It is this location which is the root of the traffic queues as a traffic lane had been removed. Previously the Rudmore traffic could proceed to the Church Street roundabout without merging.

The reason for the change was the conversion of the inside southbound lane of Commercial Road to a bus lane reducing the number of traffic lanes there from 3 to 2. PCC traffic engineers concluded that the number of traffic lanes for traffic travelling straight ahead at Church Street roundabout should be reduced accordingly on safety grounds.

Current arrangement

The Mile End Road approach to before Church Street roundabout has 4 traffic lanes.

  • Lane 1: (the inside lane) is for traffic turning left onto Church Street
  • Lane 2: is for traffic proceeding to Commercial Road
  • Lane 3: is for traffic proceeding to Commercial Road
  • Lane 4: is for traffic performing a right turn to travel north along Mile End Road.

Note that lane 1 is a continuation of the bus lane which stops short of the roundabout.

Alternative Proposal

The alternative proposal would once again permit traffic from Rudmore Roundabout to reach Church Street roundabout without needed in merge into the lanes arriving from the M275 and would retain the bus lane. It would be achieved as follows:

  • Lane 1: extend the bus and cycle lane right up to traffic lights, with solid white line.
  • Amend the traffic lights so that there is separate phase for lane 1 (the bus lane). When at green the lights on the other lanes would show red thus giving buses priority yet preventing conflict traffic turning left onto Church Street and buses proceeding straight ahead. The bus lane lights would be activated by approaching buses.
  • Lane 2: designate for other traffic turning left into Church Street.
  • Lane 3: designate for straight ahead traffic.
  • Lane 4: designate for straight ahead and right turning traffic

We accept that this solution will be more expensive than the simple but destructive removal of a section of the bus lane as it involves changes to the traffic lights but the advantages are clear. We ask that it or similar arrangement should be implemented.

Mile End Bus Lane Decision

Mile End Bus Lane
Mile End Bus Lane

Today at the Traffic & Transportation Cabinet Meeting Cllr Ken Ellcome decided to marginally shorten the Mile End bus lane. The recommendation from officers was to maintain the lane as is, but there was an alternative proposal to drastically shorten the lane.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats asked for the lane to be left as is, and three deputations – one by First Bus, one by Portsmouth Cycle Forum and one by a private citizen – also spoke against shortening the lane. Despite the recent clamour in the letters page of the local press nobody spoke in favour of shortening the lane.

Despite all of this Cllr Ellcome decided to shorten the bus lane by about 15 metres, as he felt that this would make it easier for traffic turning left from Mile End Rd into Church Street. In many ways this is a puzzling decision. It will make little pragmatic difference to traffic flow and will almost certainly not satisfy those who have been complaining about the road layout in so vociferously in the local news.

What it does do is symbolic. A cut is a cut and this reduces, even if only marginally, the sustainable transport infrastructure in the city. It will do nothing to encourage the modal shift away from the private car that the city so desperately needs. This will make matters marginally worse for cyclists by increasing the gap between the bus lane on Mile End Rd and that on the Church Street Roundabout. We predict it will have no net effect on the traffic congestion.

It is disappointing that Cllr Ellcome decided to over-rule the professional advice of his officers, the wishes of all three deputees and the opinions of the parties who between them represented a majority of councillors. The change is not positive, but perhaps it is significantly less negative than we’d feared.

Mile End Bus Lane – An Open Letter

Mile End Road bus lane southbound-cyclist   8sep14@1530-2Dear Councillors,

This Thursday Portsmouth City Council will make a decision about the future of the Mile End Road bus lane. The clamour from frustrated motorists has forced a re-evaluation of the road layout. Can we really afford the space for that bus lane?

The aim of removing the bus lane would be simple: to increase the number of vehicles that can get into our city. So the first question we have to ask ourselves is whether that is something we want.

Increasing vehicle capacity at the entrance to the city will have a knock-on effect on every street. The price will be more vehicles using each small residential street. More queuing traffic in the city. More competition for parking. More danger. Figures from the road safety charity Brake show that road casualties are increasing for the first time in 20 years.

Even if we do decide that the price is worth paying we also have to ask: will it actually work? Will removing the bus lane really help? The sober analysis suggests not. The queue on Mile End Rd will simply be replaced by several smaller queues elsewhere in the city with the net effect that journeys take the same amount of time. The bottleneck is not removed, it’s just in a different place. Bus passengers, including those using the successful Park and Ride, will be delayed and cyclists will be placed at greater risk.

The only way to realistically reduce congestion is to reduce the number of vehicles using the road. In order to do that we have to offer people alternative ways of getting into the city. The bus lane is such an alternative. The city council should be looking to increase its effectiveness, not to take it away. To do this will not make car journeys better but it will make the alternatives worse.

Please do not compromise the long-term wellbeing of the city for short term populism.

Jon Spencer
Chair
Portsmouth Cycle Forum

Open Meeting Thursday 12 February 7pm – Making Space for Cycling

Making Space for CyclingThe next meeting of Portsmouth Cycle Forum will be at 7pm on Thursday 12th February 2015 in Park Building, University of Portsmouth on King Henry I Street – just behind the Guildhall (map). The meeting will take the form of a debate, discussing we make the main routes in Portsmouth safe and welcoming for cyclists? Portsmouth has an exceptionally high rate of cycle casualties and most of these casualties occur on major roads which have 30mph speed limits.

Our recently launched cycle strategy, A City to Share, proposes that road space be reallocated from motor vehicles to bicycles to enable a step-change improvement in cycle casualty rates and the number of people getting around by bike. Exactly what changes need to be made to find and repurpose that road space were not specified.

For this meeting we have invited our members to propose ideas for how these 30mph roads can be changed to make them safer and more attractive for cyclists, whilst still offering good motor vehicle access to the city. We will pick out 3 or 4 ideas for short presentations on how to eliminate conflict between cyclists and motor vehicles on Portsmouth’s 30mph routes – each idea will then be opened to debate.

We hope that you will be able to come along and contribute.

Private Hire vehicles in bus lanes – A statement from Portsmouth Cycle Forum

Bus lane sign

A decision to allow private hire vehicles (PHVs) into bus lanes in Portsmouth has been deferred by Cllr. Ken Ellcome.  The proposal was opposed by Hackney Carriage drivers, a local bus operator, Sustrans and Portsmouth Cycle Forum.  Road safety professionals in Portsmouth City Council also advised against it.

PHVs and taxis provide affordable door-to-door transport, an invaluable service, but being a professional driver in Portsmouth is very challenging. The city is increasingly congested and competition for fares among over 1750 registered PHV & Taxi drivers is intense, making driving a tough way to make a living.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum were opposed for good reason, as there is a serious safety concern.  There is a disproportionately high level of accidents between minicabs and cyclists in the city, a figure that is much higher than in other cities, and police data shows that the most common cause is driver error.

Portsmouth Cycle Forum chairman Jon Spencer said:

“Portsmouth has a major congestion problem, so we need to develop attractive alternatives to private car use.  The bus lanes which are used by cyclists and taxis are a foundation of this and to open them up to more vehicles will be a huge backwards step, making the roads much less attractive for cyclists and ultimately leading to worse congestion.  We wish to work constructively with all parties to make Portsmouth a safer and more pleasant place for all.”

At the suggestion of the Leader, Cllr Donna Jones, Portsmouth Cycle Forum has published a discussion document called “A City to Share” which sets out a vision of a city fit for the future. It’s free to download from acitytoshare.org.

The next Portsmouth Cycle Forum open meeting is on Thursday 12 February at 7pm at the University’s Park building.  There will be a debate on how to make the main routes in Portsmouth safe and welcoming for cyclists. Members of the public are welcome.

Private Hire Vehicles in Bus Lanes

PHV using cycle lane
A PHV making creative use of cycle-only lights on Flathouse Road

Portsmouth City Council is considering allowing Private Hire Vehicles to use bus lanes. To use technical terminology, a Taxi is a Hackney Carriage, and a Minicab is a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV).  A Hackney Carriage licence allows the driver to pick up fares on the street, and a few other perks, for example, in Portsmouth, Taxis may use bus lanes, but PHVs ay not.  Recently it has been proposed that PHVs should be allowed to use Bus Lanes.  In addition to buses and taxis, bicycles are also permitted to use bus lanes.

You may know that Portsmouth has more cycling accidents per capita than most other cities, but it may surprise you to learn that (according to PCC figures) Taxis and PHVs are responsible for a disproportionately large number of cycling accidents.  Taxis and PHVs represent just under 0.9% of registered vehicles, but are involved in 8% of all reported cycle collisions: and whilst cyclists make up only 4.7% of traffic in Portsmouth, they account for 21% of Taxi/PHV related casualties.  Disturbingly, the most common contributory factor is the “driver failing to look properly”.

Allowing PHVs into cycle lanes would result in more occasions when cyclists and PHVs are in close proximity, and thus increase the likelihood of cyclist casualties in the one place where they currently have some protection from general traffic.  Portsmouth Cycle Forum therefore conclude that in its current form this proposal is a terrible idea.

You can read our full response here: PHVs in Bus Lanes – PCF Response.

Transport Stakeholders Liaison Group – Report

Bus LanesOn Tuesday 2nd December Portsmouth Cycle Forum was invited to the first meeting of the City Council’s Transport Stakeholder Liaison Group. The new Tory administration has significantly widened the engagement of these transport stakeholder meetings. There re now no fewer than five groups: A taxi operators group, a bus operators group, a rail operators group, an active travel group and this overarching group which includes all. This is considerably richer than the previous groups which only included taxi, bus and rail operators. A really positive change and well done to Cllr Ellcome doing it.

The meeting included representatives from: the taxi trade (lots of them), First and Stagecoach bus operators, South West Trains, Portsmouth Disability Forum, PCC reps (from Transport & Environment, Parking, Traffic Management, Town Centre Management and Transport Planning), Colas, British Cycling and us, the cycle forum. Councillors Ellcome (Con) and Stagg (LD) were in attendance.

Apart from details of the current PCC program of works, the park and ride, NHT surveys the main issue on the agenda was a discussion about admitting private hire taxis into bus lanes. Currently buses and Hackney Carriages are allowed in bus lanes – but private hire taxis are not. There are currently about 300 Hackney Carriages in the city but over 800 private hire taxis.

This issue was brought up by the taxi drivers and they have raised a petition in support of about 800 signatures. Both bus companies spoke against as did British Cycling and Portsmouth Cycle Forum. I can understand that the taxi drivers are frustrated that congestion levels are hampering their business but the solution is to attract people out of their cars and onto other transport – like bikes. If we fill what little cycling space we have with taxis then that won’t happen.

We also had the opportunity to brief on A City to Share, our new cycling strategy. All the copies of the document I had available were given – I’d love some feedback from bus companies and taxi operators.

A Short Tour of Portsmouth

Our Route
Our Route

Cycle Forum committee members Jon Spencer and Mike Dobson took a cycle tour of the city on Monday night Portsmouth City Council’s Assistant Head of Transport Marc Griffin and Active Travel Officer James Roberts. Along for the ride was Simon Pratt, regional director of Sustrans. The aim was to review the current cycle provision in the areas visited and we plan to take more rides to cover other areas in future.

The areas we covered were:

  • Guildhall Walk. Difficulty of accessing narrow contraflow cycle lane to Winston Churchill Ave. Convoluted routes mean many cyclists take illegal shortcuts across pavements in this area.
  • King’s Rd / Museum Rd roundabout which seems to assume that cyclists will always turn left.
  • Insufficient cycle parking on Osborne Rd.
  • Difficulty in entering the redesigned Palmerston Rd South. This allows cyclists to ride contraflow but there isn’t room for them to enter if vehicles are using the junction.
  • Shipwright’s way grass / mesh cycle path on Common near Duisburg way. Unlit, rough, wet, slippery. Wholly unsatisfactory.
  • Pier Rd / Clarence Pier. Lots of road space. No cycle provision at all despite a fatality here in 2010.
  • Clarence Esplanade – complete lack of cycle provision. Westbound cyclists passing close to rear of echelon parked cars. A highly dangerous configuration.
  • South Parade / A288. Cyclists forced fo cross and recross to reach A288 where they will shortly be forced to cross again to reach seafront cycle route.. No provision at all at South Parade.
  • A288 / St Helen’s parade. Sweeping left turn onto St Helen’s parade encourages drivers to take the bend at speed. If a cyclists is heading straight on along the Esplanade they can routinely expect to be overtaken and cut up by left turning vehicles.
  • Seafront Cycle Route. One of the best cycle routes we have but sadly below par. The route is narrow at its widest, but frequently further narrowed by island bus stops. These are hard to see in the dark and have caused accidents where cyclists have ridden into them.
  • Henderson Rd. Seafront Cycle Route ends abruptly and cyclists have to cross two lanes of traffic on a poorly sighted bend. This is often obstructed by illegally parked vehicles.
  • Bransbury Park. Narrow route, obstructed by hard to see low bollrads and a very narrow chicane at the North End. This is the first part of a quiet route from the seafront to the Eastern Rd which is unsigned.
  • Route through St James’s Hospital to Eastern Rd. This is a quiet route to connect the Eastern Rd and the seafront. It is potentially at risk from the redevelopment of St James’s hospital. It works well if you know the city well, but would be impossible to find and follow for a visitor. Many twists, turns, and give way points.
  • Eastern Rd cycle path. Issues with narrowness – especially in segregated sections where it is impossible for two cyclists to pass without one crossing the line. Poor surface, unlit sections hidden behind trees put off female cyclists. Lack of waiting space at crossings, e.g. Tangier Rd. Very difficult & dangerous junctions (e.g. Anchorage Rd).
  • Eastern Rd bridge. Very narrow and difficult for two cyclists to pass. Proximity of high speed traffic make this intimidating. At night the problem is worsened by the glare of headlights from oncoming vehicles.
  • Farlington Roundabout. Extremely convoluted & time consuming route for cyclists. Encourages risk taking.
  • Eastern Rd Rail Bridge. Narrow route further narrowed by bus stops. Hard to used junction at Walton Rd where cyclists is expected to turn 90 degrees in about a metre of space.
  • Tudor Cres / Peronne Rd Bridge. Excellent Bridge for cyclists and pedestrians over A27 but very difficult to access from the South.
  • A2047 Coach & Horses Gyratory. High speed traffic often turns across cyclists. Inconsistently marked bus lanes. One of the most dangerous spots in the city.
  • A2047. The most dangerous Rd in the city. Bus lane part way southbound, nothing northbound. Narrow and very busy and highly congested by legally and illegally parked vehicles.
  • Fratton Rd / Victoria Rd N roundabout. Convoluted and time consuming route for cyclists. Crossing of Fawcett Rd unclear and off road route on Victoria Rd N very narrow. Markings on cycle crossing of Victoria Rd N have been burnt off.

This was a really useful opportunity to explain in detail why some of the infrastructure in the city fails to encourage cycling. We’d like to extend our thanks to Marc, James and Simon for taking the time out to do this.

The future of Southsea’s coast – consultation

Storm tide in SouthseaA CITY TO SHARE includes accessibility for all to our coast and heritage. The proposed new flood defences for Southsea seafront present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to complete a missing section of the seafront cycle.

Do you want a cycle route along the seafront between the two piers so that you and your family can cycle without fear of being squeezed or reversed into? The consultation has a question on cycling so it’s important to respond.

See the link for details of the consultation roadshows or study the plans online. Don’t forget to fill in the feedback form to answer that knotty question!

The consultation closes on 29 December 2014.

www.escp.org.uk/…/future-southseas-coast-consultation

A City to Share – UPDATE

A City to Share
A City to Share

Read the full document at acitytoshare.org – join the debate on twitter using the hashtag #acitytoshare

On Monday 3rd November Portsmouth Cycle Forum will launch “A City to Share”, its strategy to put safe cycling at the heart of Portsmouth’s transport policy.

The proposal will  be presented to city leaders at a launch event hosted by the University of Portsmouth. It sets out a vision for the city where there is space for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians to co-operate with each other and treat one another with courtesy and respect.

Cllr Donna Jones invited Portsmouth Cycle Forum to propose improvements to transport in the city, following an open letter it wrote to the council in August 2014. The challenge now handed back to all local leaders in the strategy is how to work together to deliver these changes.

“A City to Share” sets out a vision where cyclists and pedestrians who live, work, study and visit Portsmouth can be safely accommodated alongside drivers. The strategy aims to deliver a steep reduction in the number of accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians by changing the way the streets are designed.

This means cost-effective interventions to make cycling a viable alternative to the car as it has in other thriving cities like York, Bristol and Cambridge.

Jon Spencer, Chair of Portsmouth Cycle Forum, comments: “Only about 4.6% of commuting journeys in Portsmouth are made by bike, which is significantly lower than the 16% seen in Cambridge. We believe that with the right infrastructure in place Portsmouth could be an ideal city for cycling, and aim to see the percentage of commuting journeys rise to 10% by 2020, and 20% by 2025.”

“Making changes to the city to enable many more people to cycle safely will benefit everyone. It will bring great benefits to the health, wealth and wellbeing of the whole city. The people of Cambridge are fitter, healthier and longer lived than the people of Portsmouth and we’d like to see Portsmouth catch up.”

Ian McCormack, University of Portsmouth Environment Manager, said “The university supports the initiative of the cycle strategy for the city of Portsmouth, which will benefit students and staff.”

British Cycling’s campaigns manager Martin Key said “British Cycling wants to see more people on bikes. We can inspire people to cycle but what will really make the difference is if we make cycling a more desirable way of getting around. This strategy has the vision and ambition to make to make the city a healthier, happier and more active place to live.”

The strategy focuses on the recognised potential benefits for the community in Portsmouth. These include:

  • Health – Regular physical activity like cycling for short trips will help address obesity and ensure the people are healthier for longer.
  • Economy – Shoppers who mainly visit through walking, cycling or the bus will visit more shops and more frequently supporting local high streets. This relies on addressing road safety to help overcome fears of cycling in Portsmouth. Reducing congestion will benefit all businesses.
  • Liveability – Improving safety and reducing traffic along residential roads to support cycling will help children get to school and visit nearby friends. As more people switch from travelling by car to walking or cycling, it will reduce the demand on scarce parking spaces in the city.
  • Environment – The primary source of air pollution in Portsmouth is motor traffic. When residents in the city switch from cars to cycling to make short trips, it will help reduce the estimated 600 preventable deaths a year in the city due to air pollution.

By working together with residents and businesses in the city, the council can start to address the vision through key practical interventions it can start to deliver immediately such as:

  • Establish a cross party sustainable transport working group to oversee delivery of the strategy goals;
  • Consult on and deliver a cycle safety action plan to address the level of cycle accidents;
  • Allocate resources to assess the suitability of cycling provision in each neighbourhood to augment the Portsmouth Plan;
  • Research options to create space for cycling on main routes;
  • To work with public transport operators in Portsmouth to consult on how to support the increasing number of customers who switch to cycling in the city after disembarking in Portsmouth;

The strategy will be presented at a public meeting of the Portsmouth Cycling Forum on Thursday 13th November 2014 in Room 0.08 of Park Building, University of Portsmouth on King Henry I Street.

Footnote

Inevitably printing and promoting the strategy comes at a cost. If you’d like to make a donation to help us fund it we’d be delighted and eternally grateful. The fundraiser page is right here.