Trafford’s Talbot Road/White City Way Junction Improvement | Consultation Response

Trafford Council have opened a consultation on their latest proposals for the Bee Network. The Talbot Road/White City Way improvements were first proposed way back in 2018. Originally the scheme was designed to add protection to the narrow cycle lanes around this area, however it appears over the years of development it has evolved to be more of a junction improvement, taking the innovative CYCLOPS design developed in the meantime on board.

Analysis

The council’s proposals can be seen on the consultation page, and below. Be sure to respond to the consultation by 13 March 2022!

The differences with the existing situation can be seen easily:

Motorists lose a left turn slip lane onto White City Way in the proposed redesign, and pedestrian crossings are vastly simplified and added across all arms. This is a large improvement: currently only two arms have pedestrian crossings, meaning a detour and lots of waiting for pedestrians.

Cyclists have been moved from unprotected carriageway lanes onto dedicated cycling tracks and cycling crossings throughout the junction, and cycles now have dedicated space and crossings on every arm.

While it is not stated on these plans, it is safe to assume that the CYCLOPS will operate very similarly to those already installed on Chorlton Road at Royce Road and Stretford Road junctions. This means that both directions of cars will be given green lights in turn, while all pedestrian and cycle crossings are held on a red light. Then, all cars will be stopped and all pedestrians and cycles can go. A video of this operation can be seen here:

This has significant safety benefits because it means all cycle/car, pedestrian/car, and pedestrian/cycle conflicts are safely managed, however it can lead to delays for walking and cycling because their green lights are relatively infrequent to keep cars flowing.

Regardless, this design should be supported as an improvement on the current situation, but requests should be made to improve journey times for pedestrians and cycles in some way.

Improvements?

The simplest possible way to improve the proposed design for pedestrians and cyclists is to double the number of green lights they get. So for example, traffic on Talbot Road would run, then a ped/cycle green, then traffic on White City Way, then a ped/cycle green, and repeat. Trafford Council have expressed a desire to reduce (and at one point even remove!) through traffic along Talbot Road, so this is an easy solution that does exactly this.

Another way would be to tweak the junction slightly to allow pedestrians and cyclists to proceed through the junction at the same time as motor traffic, making it more convenient for everyone! Currently this can’t be done as there’s a chance of a driver turning left/right over the crossings, so when drivers have a green, peds/cycles must have a red. By cleverly removing and separating driver turning movements, we can maximise the amount of green time for active travel. Below is a sketch I produced showing a possible layout:

The eastbound approach has been changed to a left only lane and an ahead only lane. The westbound approach has been changed to an ahead only lane and a right only lane. Right turn pockets wouldn’t be needed as motorists turning into White City Way would never have to wait in the junction: their dedicated stage would ensure no oncoming traffic. The small (and currently disused) car park at the bottom of the image would be accessed only from White City Way: the very few cars who need to use it would have to make a minor diversion but this is well worth it for the increased efficiency of this layout:

Diversions cars would have to make from both directions to access the small car park (marked as “Old Trafford” on this map)

The signal staging diagram shown on the sketch above shows an example of how it could work to maximise ped/cycle green time while allowing good throughput for motorists too. Black arrows represent movements motor vehicles have a green light for, black lines with a horizontal tip represent motor vehicles held on a red light, green arrows represent movements that pedestrians and cycles have a green light for.

The sketch also includes examples from London of these two signal layouts, showing how they could look. An example of the “hold the left” London layout can be seen on my video here which shows how the ahead filter arrow works to allow motorists, peds, and cyclists to proceed while left turning motors are temporarily held:

I think this tweaked layout would provide a much higher level of service for walking and cycling while maintaining access and high capacity for motorists (if that’s important to a council who’s declared a climate emergency).

Be sure to respond to the consultation above, at least supporting the council’s proposals, but perhaps making some of the above suggestions, or suggestions of your own!

Salford Chapel Street/New Bailey Gateway | Junction Improvement Consultation Response

As the Bee Network progresses, more schemes are coming up for consultation. One that’s recently been put up for consultation is the New Bailey Gateway, i.e. a junction improvement in the Salford City Centre at the junction of Chapel Street and New Bailey Street.

Consultation Response Template

If you just wish to respond to the consultation and want a template for some suggestions, please see below. Please change the wording to have the most effect as duplicated emails are often ignored:

I am writing to support Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) 2387 (New Bailey Gateway Phase 2). I support the proposed turn bans, one way restriction, and parking/loading restrictions to carry out the highway safety scheme proposed at the junctions of Chapel Street, Bloom Street, and New Bailey Street. The restrictions will make walking and cycling safer, and further discourage motor vehicle traffic in the city centre, as per the city’s transport strategy.

This can be sent to phlegal@manchester.gov.uk before 25th March 2022 to support the proposals.

Analysis

The current plans can be seen on the Salford Council website (click “New Bailey Gateway Phase 2”) or in the image below. The light blue lines are where the new kerbs will be: i.e. this design represents a significant extension of the footways and tightening of the road. This will improve the pedestrian experience and slow motorists.

These proposals represent a large improvement over the current layout which can be seen below:

Some followers may be disappointed that this junction is not of the CYCLOPS style that Greater Manchester is pioneering with dedicated walking and cycling crossings, however I believe that the design is still a very positive one and provides a very good level of service for walking and cycling.

We can see that there are several turn bans:

  • No left turn from Chapel Street Eastbound into Bloom Street Northbound
  • No right turn from Gore Street into New Bailey Street
  • No right turn from Chapel Street Eastbound into Spaw Street

These turn bans help to eliminate some of the conflicts cyclists could face, especially the banned left turn which prevents cyclists going eastbound on Chapel Street from coming into conflict with cars turning left across them into Bloom Street. Keeping cyclists integrated with traffic also means that cyclists are likely to benefit from longer/more frequent green lights than if they had to wait for their own signal phase as with a CYCLOPS junction.

In the westbound direction along Chapel Street, there is what is known as a “Cycle Gate“.

Cycle Gate Transport for London

This is a feature that separates all directions of motors and cycles entirely, so when cycling westbound, there is no interaction with cars at all at this junction. The linked article explains it in more detail but it essentially works as a signalised Advance Stop Line with an early release for cycles. It also cleverly integrates the Spaw Street junction to prevent any left hooks here. While it isn’t confirmed or denied on the plan above, the Eastbound cycle lane on Chapel Street could receive an early-release green light when the Cycle Gate gets a green light, to assist cyclists with motor-free movements even more!

Bloom Street is a short cul-de-sac so there is likely to be little issue with not having any specific cycling provision exiting this arm as traffic levels should be very low.

Similarly while the New Bailey Street arm is relatively busy at the moment, there will soon be a Bus Gate on the bridge from Manchester, vastly reducing the amount of traffic emerging from this arm, so it might well be much more comfortable for cycling too.

Improvements?

I believe the design should incorporate two stage right turn markings. With the current proposal, turning right on any arm except from Chapel Street to Bloom Street (thanks to the cycle gate) will be quite difficult and intimidating. You will be required to move into the centre of the road and wait there while traffic passes on both sides at speed. A two stage right turn will give cyclists a safe place to wait.

My sketch above shows in purple where the right turn boxes could be located, and the blue arrow shows the path that a right turning cyclist would take from New Bailey Street onto Chapel Street: they would wait for the green light on New Bailey Street, then proceed into the right turn box on their left. Here, they would wait for the Chapel Street signal to go green and then proceed ahead safely. There is some additional delay in waiting for the second signal, but the perceived safety is increased.

To make this uncommon movement clearer, signage could be installed on all arms as TfL have frequently done, explaining how to use this infrastructure:

The scheme represents a significant improvement on cycling provision in the city centre and requires your support!

Cycling in a Winter Wonderland: Cycling through snowy conditions

There are plenty of good reasons to stay on your bike when the weather gets chilly. For local journeys, you probably could be at your destination by the time you’ve defrosted the car! Public transport may not be running on time, or even at all, and will likely be busier.

Depending on the sort of weather you’re planning to ride in, there are different considerations to take into account:

Time of journey

If your journey is not time specific, consider making it later in the day. In the UK, the snow and ice will likely have at least started to melt, meaning you can pretty much ride whatever bike you want.

If you stick to main roads and set off later, the traffic will have melted most of the snow and ice.

If you stick to main roads and local feeder roads, you should be OK with your regular bike, although take care on shared pavements, cycle tracks, and cycle lanes, which may still be icy. Also, local roads may still have a lot of ice or slush on, so take extra care here.

Clothing

Clothing is going to depend a lot on the length of your ride. If you’re just nipping to the shops, regular winter clothing and some gloves will likely be enough. For longer rides, layers are the name of the game. A typical outfit might be: padded cycling shorts, running/cycling leggings, waterproof overtrousers, cycling jersey/T-Shirt, tracksuit jacket, waterproof/padded jacket. You may also want to wear a balaclava if you think your nose and ears might get cold, an extra pair of socks, or cycling overshoes to keep feet warm, and glove liners to provide an extra layer on your hands. All of the above can be found very cheaply from Decathlon, Go Outdoors, or even eBay/Amazon, you don’t have to break the bank.

Bike choice

As mentioned above, if you choose your route and time of journey wisely, most bikes will fare OK. However, if you intend to go off the beaten path, or need to travel early before the council have been out salting the road, something more substantial will likely be needed. The two main options are to fit your existing bike with Winter tyres, or to use a mountain bike:

Winter tyres have 2 or 4 rows of metal studs embedded in the tread that can grip better on icy surfaces. Mountain bikes have much wider, balloon-y tyres with nubs that dig into snow and mud for better grip.

Winter tyres can be quite pricey and difficult to fit, but do provide excellent grip on icy roads. The main downside is that they’re extremely heavy and have a lot of drag, so on days without ice, you will be much slower and more exhausted. For this reason, they are better fitted to a second bike (or second pair of wheels) if you have one, so they can be swapped on or off at a moment’s notice.

A mountain bike is much more suited to deeper snow and slush. It will not fare well on sheet ice. Mountain bikes also generally have lower gearing, which allows you to slowly and steadily spin the back wheel which provides a more stable ride through slippery conditions.

Disc brakes are also very advantageous if possible as they are much less susceptible to slush coating the braking surface and pads.

Your hardiness will be rewarded with views like this.

Riding Tips

Perhaps most important is the manner of riding. You can still make almost all the journeys you’re used to, but they will likely be a bit slower than usual. Some important tips:

  • Pedal slowly and steadily. Try to keep your rear wheel spinning at a constant rate.
  • Brake at a consistent and slow rate too. Anticipate where you might have to stop (e.g. T junctions) and slow well in advance.
  • Only cross tram tracks at a 90 degree angle. Try to indicate to motorists behind to stay back while you perform this manouvere.
  • Avoid cambered surfaces, or crossing over surfaces with a vertical upstand (i.e. a non-flush kerb). Easy to lose control here.
  • When on main roads, consider claiming the lane as the centre of the lane or the left tyre track will likely be less slippery, and it discourages unsafe overtaking.

Finally, when you get home, try to rinse off as much of the slush as possible. This might have road salt mixed in, which can start to eat away at your components.

Conclusion

Cycling in the snow and ice isn’t that difficult. It can be done with regular winter clothing and your regular bike, if some considerations are taken into account! And of course, there’s no shame in being a fair-weather cyclist and taking the car that day! And if you do choose to do it, you’re likely to be rewarded with magical views.

Progress on the Chorlton Cycleway: Chorlton Road, December 2020

What better a time to go for a ride than a crisp Boxing Day morning? Today I found myself on the site of the future Chorlton Cycleway (“Area 1b”) where works have been ongoing since the summer. The route will eventually form a link between Manchester City Centre, and Chorlton Park, 3.5 miles to the south. This stretch runs along Chorlton Road and should be done around Spring 2021. I have linked detailed drawings, for those inclined.

Before the cycleway can go in (it will be carriageway level, demarked with kerbs, as seen above), there are some enabling works that must first be done. This includes a full resurface of the footways, and rebuilding the side road junctions to make them safer for walking and cycling.

Much of this work is now nearing completion. Footways have been re-kerbed with 45° kerbs to allow for a slightly wider cycleway, and resurfaced (although this is regrettably just black asphalt and not a more attractive material). Side roads have also had the footway built out to make for tighter corners for drivers, and shorter distances for pedestrians and cycles to cross.

The side roads will have a raised footway to act as a visual and physical speed bump for drivers. This design doesn’t quite comply with the recommended ones from the latest LTN1/20 statutory guidance, as it doesn’t protect the cycleway quite as well as the footway. However, it’s still a much safer design than currently, and I think most people will feel safe walking and riding across. Regrettably, there are no temporary plastic or asphalt ramps to allow pram/wheelchair users to cross the road before the raised table goes in, making the road unnecessarily inaccessible during construction.

Dropped kerb crossing at Bankwell Street, despite plans showing a raised table

One thing I have not been able to get an answer for, is why a number of roads (3 or 4) have been built with dropped kerbs rather than raised crossings as they are shown on the plans. Bankwell Street, above, clearly has new dropped kerbs, but the plans show it as a raised table. It is unclear whether this is contractor error, a temporary accessible solution, or a change in the plans.

On a more exciting note, the first bus stop is well underway! The previous lay-by (which served to delay buses and endanger cyclists for motorist convenience) has been filled in, with cyclists going round the back of a new bus island in the road. There do appear to be some differences from the plans: the “rain garden” planting areas have not been built: again it is unclear whether they are yet to go in, or have been removed from the plans. The bus shelter has also not been moved to the island (yet?)

Hopefully, now these prepatory works are nearly finished, the cycleway can start to be constructed in the new year! It’s still amazing to finally see progress on the construction of this route since my post way back in 2019 on the then radio silence!

Longford Park Low Traffic Neighbourhood: Transforming Stretford

Stretford is not an area that’s a stranger to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). There are already many existing “filter points”: closures of roads to cars that still let pedestrians and/or cyclists through. A map of all of the modal filters in Trafford has been compiled by Urmston Bee Network. Indeed, there are historic LTNs that are entirely access only for motor traffic, but permeable for active travel:

An existing Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Stretford, formed by the A56 dual carriageway, some “modal filters”, and the canal/railway lines.

However, using Emergency Active Travel funds, Trafford Council have now implemented the first new LTN for decades. It will be first delivered as a trial and, if successful, made permanent.

Implementation

Credit: Mark P on Longford Facebook Group.

The LTN has been implemented using heavy wooden planters and signage, backed up by legal orders that prohibit motoring. The image above shows the locations of said filters, as well as how traffic flows have changed. Note that the LTN is what’s known as “leaky” rather than perfectly filtered, which means that through access is possible. However, it also means that residents can easily drive to either main road rather than going the long way around.

The LTN has been very robustly installed. The signage is excellent, with signage on the main roads telling motorists not to turn left/right where there are filters, and showing diversion routes. The diversion routes have you follow repeated symbol signs, and they take you along Edge Lane and Kings Road, rather than cutting through.

Effects

It’s been immediately clear that these roads are now far quieter than they’ve been for decades, and much safer. This LTN is actually not very well positioned for cyclists. It doesn’t really lead into any cycle routes, and there are two well used routes on either side of it. However, it’s clear that there’s now far more people stopping to chat in the streets. The ambience was once one of noisy polluting motors, but now it’s the rustling of the leaves, birds chirping, and people having a doorstep chat.

Drivers think LTN’s are solely for cyclists. They arent. They improve safety, improve the lives of residents, pedestrians and children. Fantastic.

@StephenCatlow
Video showing the quietness of the filtered streets

There has been no noticable increase in traffic on the main roads, which were always busy. There does appear to be slightly more traffic (i.e. a couple of cars a minute) on the “leak” route on the map above, however it is not clear whether this is just residents driving through to enter/leave the area, or if it’s actually non-residents cutting through.

Response

The response has been a mostly positive one. Of course this wasn’t a surprise: residents had been asking for measures for well over a decade. A leaflet was also circulated to all the houses prior to installation and a majority of responses wanted the filters.

There has been a little pushback, in the form of a few residents expressing unhappiness on social media. There has been some (faux?) concern over emergency service access. Of course the North West Ambulance service, when directly asked, said it doesn’t affect their response times at all:

Usually the “concerns” some people raise about Emergency Services as a reason to not have LTNs or other walking and cycling facilities are quite selective, as explained in Mark Treasure’s excellent post. Often, when such facilities are removed and roads are clogged with 4 lanes of queuing traffic again, such concerns are never raised again by these people.

According to the council, the majority of the concern is from residents of Kenwood Road. Anecdotally, it does appear to be getting slightly more traffic than the other roads, but still relatively low.

Potential Changes

Following resident concerns mentioned above, the council have started another survey. In the survey there are three options. Keep the LTN how it is, re-arrange it to eliminate all through traffic, or remove it entirely.

Proposed new filter locations, again from Mark P

These new locations would involve moving two of the filters slightly, but would cut off all through traffic. This would make all roads similarly quiet.

As I see it, there are a number of pros and cons with these new proposals vs the current trial. The decision should take into account resident preferences as well as traffic count data. These proposals would mean that residents only have access to one main road: they’d have to drive round the block to reach the other. This might have the potential to convert some previously pro-residents to anti-residents. However, it would be much more likely to win over the residents on the roads with slightly increased traffic.

Another slight downside is the cost of getting a new legal order, and moving the filters, turn restriction signs, diversion signs etc. This is money that could be spent on nearby cycleways. However, if there’s not enough support for the filters in their current location, then it would be better to spend the money relocating them, rather than lose them.

My preference is for the filters to remain in place for the full 6 months (so until April 2021) for the changes to properly bed in, and then if people still want to move them, they can be trialled in the new locations for 6 months.

In Future

Traffic counts have been undertaken and, as previously mentioned, there is a survey currently going on. I will revisit this LTN in a future post, seeing how traffic counts changed on the official data, reporting if the filters have moved etc.

The filters have had a transformational effect on the area, very much for the better. It’s shown that LTNs don’t just work in London, but they work up here too, and that many more should be rolled out as soon as possible.

Shows two planters forming a modal filter in a low traffic neighbourhood in Longford Park, Stretford

Levenshulme Active Neighbourhood: When is an LTN not an LTN?

This week, Manchester council published updated plans and timelines for the Levenshulme Active Neighbourhood. The council’s own wording can be read here but to summarise:

  • Filters will start to be installed by Jan 4 and are due to be finished by Jan 8.
  • Of the 25 filters proposed on the initial plan, only 14 are to be installed in Jan.
  • A further five have potential to be included later in the trial.
  • The final six are not being proposed at all anymore.
First, we should look at the impact that these changes will have on how the active neighbourhood works. Thanks to “Streets for People“, there is an excellent image that neatly demonstrates the benefits of the proposed layout from earlier this year (click for a larger version):
As can be seen wonderfully from the image, the original plans were a “perfect” filtered neighbourhood that splits the area into a number of “cells”, each of which only has access from one main road. This means that “rat running” (cutting down residential streets in a car to avoid queues or traffic signals on main roads) is no longer possible.
In the last 10 years alone, traffic volumes on unclassified (read: residential) roads have increased by nearly 50% while traffic volumes on A Roads and B Roads have stayed at the same level. This is likely due to the A & B Roads being at full capacity, and the proliferation of sat nav apps which direct users down residential streets to save a minute or two.
In the old plan, the A and B roads in the area are already pretty much at capacity, so by reducing the overall traffic capacity of the area, less driving would inevitably take place, due to a phenomenon known as “traffic evaporation” where reducing the capacity of the road reduces the number of cars using it. This is because people either take a different route avoiding Levenshulme (i.e. the ring road), make journeys at different times, make them by different modes (walking, cycling, bus, aka “modal shift“), or don’t make the journey at all (perhaps they consolidate multiple into one). The old plan also allowed people walking and cycling to take the most direct route, making active travel more convenient than driving, discouraging car use for local trips. Evidence of this can be read here.
However, in the new plan, the area is no longer a “perfect” LTN (low traffic neighbourhood), but what is sometimes called a “leaky” one, where there are significant gaps in the filters that allow drivers to continue to cut through many residential streets. Indeed, it could be argued that the new plans for Levenshulme are so leaky as to not really be an LTN at all.
I have done my best to draw the impact of the new plans. An interactive map can be found here, or see the screenshot below:
In this new map, the black lines are the proposed 14 modal filters. I have marked the designated through routes (a.k.a. “main roads”) in red. Then, using the available evidence and some personal judgement, I have marked streets in either green, purple, or pink. Green streets represent filtered streets, or streets where the only motor traffic is likely to be residents and deliveries. Purple represents a possible through route for motor traffic, but not necessarily very busy, and pink represents roads where it is both possible and convenient for motorists to rat run. 
As you can see, there are still a number of green streets (some historic due to pre-existing filters and culdesacs) which represent good walking and cycling conditions, however they are now not well joined up, with plenty of rat runs between them. This means it will be much more difficult to find a quiet and pleasant walking and cycling route through the area, than if the original plans had been implemented. In particular, the Fallowfield Loop offroad cycle path that links to the rest of South Manchester, and the city centre via Wilmslow Road, is no longer accessible via quiet streets, with Crayfield Road being a major rat run between the A6 and B6178 Broom Lane.
There is also now little reason for drivers to give up their cars for short trips within the area, as they can still easily bypass the filters, so the modal shift benefits may not be so strongly felt.
This is a poor downgrade from the original plans, and it is extremely odd, since MCC themselves state that over 2/3 of the comments were in favour of an LTN. The original engagement site made no mention that there would be “referenda” on individual filters, with individual ones being removed if support was not high enough. Modal filters work in tandem to prevent through motoring in an entire area, simply removing one without repositioning others leaves an area exposed to rat running. Removing 11 can have a catastrophic effect on the usefulness of an LTN, as can be seen above.
It is good to hear that a further five may be reinstated later in the trial, and I hope that MCC can swiftly redesign and implement these ASAP. However, the cancelled modal filters must be reconsidered: the scheme simply cannot work with multiple rat runs left open. 
I thought I’d look a bit closer at the rationale for cancelling some of the filters. Atlas Place (purple on my above map) has been a culdesac for a while now due to construction. Manchester council says: “The proposal for a filter at Atlas Place received neither positive nor negative feedback, and so will not be progressed at this stage”. However, when looking into the publicly available data from the Commonplace Engagement (available here, in raw JSON form), I could not come to this conclusion myself. There were a total of 7 responses for Atlas Place. 4 of these were clearly positive, 1 was marked neutral (with a positive comment), and only 2 were negative.
Its worth nothing that all but one of the positive comments mentioned Atlas Place itself, and how the filter would help the local area. The two negative comments did not. Indeed, the top comment, which was too long to replicate here but can be found in the raw data, was an unrelated rant about the whole scheme, which was copy and pasted onto every filter.
Therefore, from this data, I don’t think there can be any doubt that there was overwhelming support for this filter. Indeed, one commenter was quite right in saying that this filter was needed for two others to work. And its removal now means that the area is completely open.
Manchester Council need to release how they analysed the data (as well as comments they received by email or physical media), because this discrepancy looks a little odd.
I am glad the trials are finally starting. I would like to see the removed filters reinstated as swiftly as possible, at least only for a trial, because otherwise I am not convinced the trial will have the positive effect desired and it may harm the business case for full funding to be released.
I would also like to see the promised trial crossings over main roads, and the promised school streets, to really help give people the option to leave the car at home and make that modal shift happen. 

Central Islands on cycle crossings: a Greater Manchester curiosity

You might have read the title and thought: that doesn’t sound very interesting or consequential! And perhaps you’re right, but I wanted to write a blog about an interesting design feature I’ve noticed on recent Greater Manchester walking and cycling junctions. Note, this only applies to those which use bi-directional cycle paths and crossings: many of the simpler “CYCLOPS” designs only have single-direction cycle paths and so don’t have this feature. I am talking about a peculiar central island at the start and end of each cycle crossing. Here is a photo of an existing one at Deansgate Interchange, Saddle Junction, and a plan of new ones being built at Princess Road Roundabout

Deansgate Interchange
Saddle Junction

New layout being built at Princess Road roundabout
All signal junction designs for the 10 Greater Manchester councils go through Transport for Greater Manchester’s Urban Traffic Control team for design input and other centralised resources such as modelling, staging etc. So I think it’s possible to suggest that the TfGM UTC team is suggesting/specifying this island, which could be why it’s showing up on every bi-directional crossing across all the councils. I am unsure of the rationale, obviously it provides a nice place to mount the second low level cycle signal as can be seen above, I wonder if there’s a fear of oncoming cycle collisions too?
As we can see from London examples, bidirectional crossings can be built without this island.

 The main issue I have with it, is that it narrows the cycleway. As you can see in the plan above, for a ~4m wide footprint, we only get 1.65m for each direction of cycles. This is barely wide enough for two abreast if riding very close together, but most people will go through this pinch point in single file. Since cycle stages are often quite short on large roundabouts like this (except when “hold the left” phasing is used), this means that the cycle capacity is often quite low.

In the summer, there was an A56 popup cycleway support ride, and a few of us went across Deansgate Interchange. Due to the low capacity of the crossing, and short green times, it took us 4 signal cycles, and several minutes, to get all 30 people across the junction.

The Dutch have known for a while, that not only is a large effective width at crossings vital for high capacity, but also a “chip cone” shape of crossings can improve capacity. As BicycleDutch’s brilliant article and video explains, the optimal shape for a cycle crossing is as below:

This so called “chip cone” means that many cyclists can queue abreast of each other, which increases the number who can go through the junction when the signal goes green. People naturally overtake each other and narrow out due to differences in riding speed, meaning the entrance to the cycle path on the other side can be much narrower. The same happens for cycles in the other direction. This allows a much higher capacity than if the crossings were painted straight, and certainly a higher capacity than if there was a central island.
I’d love to see some rationale for the central islands we are building in crossings like this in Greater Manchester, perhaps there’s something I’m missing!

Levenshulme LTN Leaflet: A Fact Check.

If you live in Levenshulme, you may have received a leaflet dropped off by a group known as “One Levenshulme & Co”. This is a group “Campaigning for an Equitable and Inclusive Low Traffic Neighbourhood” in the area, a goal I think everyone can get behind. I have previously written here about the planned Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Levenshulme and Burnage, and how the funding works. I’d recommend reading my previous article first to gain a better context for the fact checking below. As a summary, Manchester Council has received £700k to develop trials and a business case to unlock a further £1.8m (or more, for a particularly strong case) funding to improve the streets in the area. The initial £700k will be used to trial some “modal filters” which make streets access only for cars, while retaining through routes for those on foot/wheelchair, or cycles, as well as trialling a few crossings on busy roads. The remaining money, once unlocked, can be spent on school streets, nicer public realm, crossings, traffic calming, etc.

The following leaflet has been going around. Unfortunately it is a blurry picture, and “One Levenshulme & Co” has refrained from publishing a digital, accessible version, so I have taken it upon myself to type out the letter, which can be found in the Appendix below. I will also quote from it throughout this article.

A leaflet handed out by One Levenshulme & Co. Transcript available in article Appendix

The letter begins with the following:

STOP THE ROAD BLOCKS!!             

We are One Levenshulme & Co, a group of Levenshulme and Burnage Residents who need your help. The Council has proposed an Active Neighbourhood in Levenshulme and Burnage by putting 25 ROAD BLOCKS! into the Levenshulme area in Phase 1. The plan is then to extend the Active Neighbourhood by performing the same disruptive measures throughout Burnage. We want a better scheme but we must act now to demand better roads for all and effective improvements for walking and cycling.

While I appreciate any choice of phrase is used to try to get across a specific point, the immediate use of the phrase “road blocks” without explaining that the road isn’t blocked as pedestrians and cycles can still proceed through, might make some residents unnecessarily worried. I will be using the phrase “modal filter” throughout this piece as it’s the generally accepted term for these interventions. I have explained its meaning in the first paragraph above to avoid any confusion. I think the leaflet could have used a sentence explaining that the “road blocks” are still open to pedestrians and cycles, and all homes will remain accessible to all vehicles, to avoid uncertainty.

This project claims to reduce traffic and make roads safer but will increase congestion and pollution on our busiest roads. This has happened in other places where these projects have been installed. It will make these roads more dangerous as traffic is forced to use “through roads” to get around.

This is the first series of claims that have been made as if they were fact. Of course (and this applies for all claims relating to exactly what will happen to Levenshulme in this article, both by One Levenshulme and myself), there is no possible way to know exactly what impact the scheme will have on the area. There are so many factors and there is no traffic modelling system in existence that can make predictions in a post-Covid world. This is why trials are important, to see exactly what happens, and why the council is using easily moved planters to allow for the trials to be tweaked as necessary if issues arise. I am happy to provide this disclaimer and will always change my stance based on new evidence.

Nevertheless, it’s worth exploring whether similar schemes have increased congestion and pollution on the busiest roads, or made them more dangerous. A similar scheme often raised, is Waltham Forest in London. Immediately after implementation of the scheme, it is indeed true that boundary roads saw an increase in vehicles of 3 – 28%, although it is worth noting that these numbers are still very low compared to the numbers these roads saw just 10 years prior, and in subsequent years, these figures appeared to have dropped again

Table showing the traffic counts on boundary roads in Waltham Forest before and after the low traffic neighbourhood. Boundary roads saw increases of between 3 to 28%
For example, while Lea Bridge Road saw an 11% increase to 16,674 immediately after the scheme, this is still lower than the road was in the early 2000s, and since then, this location has fallen to just over 14k daily vehicles. 
Traffic count data from the DfT for Lea Bridge Road, as linked above. Shows Lea Bridge Road counts appear to have fallen again to pre-LTN levels.

Similar stories can be told for all three roads in the above “Table 3”. The post-LTN numbers are still lower than the roads had seen 10-15 years ago, and numbers have dropped again between 2016 and 2019. Traffic counts in the whole of the LTN area (including boundary roads) have dropped by half, which means not just lower pollution for those on the quieter roads, but for those on boundary roads too.

Maps showing the relative pollution in Waltham Forest before and after the LTN. Before shows a high concentration on the main roads and residential roads. After shows a lower concentration on the main roads, and nearly none on the residential roads.
This is consistent with Manchester Council’s own predictions for Levenshulme and Burnage, taken from their FAQs on the project site:
What happens to all the traffic? Have you done any traffic modelling? Will it not just make the main roads worse? Streets within the Active neighbourhood cells should experience reductions in volume of 50-70% compared to pre-covid levels. As they will only be used for vehicle trips starting and ending in the area (residents, deliveries and school traffic) speeds should also significantly reduce. In the short term, the boundary roads might experience a slight increase in traffic compared to current levels. It’s difficult to compare to pre-covid but we will monitor. Evidence shows a short-term increase (3-6 months) before it drops back to pre-Active Neighbourhood levels. Covid-19 has transformed our mobility patterns, with many fewer trips, schools closed etc. The impact will continue for the rest of the year and potentially beyond, with many people working from home more often, school start times staggered and reduced public transport capacity. As such, any traffic modelling exercise would be unable to accurately predict how people will travel, when and by what mode. We collected traffic before the pandemic and will be monitoring traffic volumes after the trial has gone in, checking whether it meets its stated objectives of reducing traffic volumes and speeds on residential streets.
The council states that it expects traffic levels on boundary roads to rise slightly for 3-6 months while the scheme “beds in”, and then as peoples travel habits shift, (a widely recognised phenomenon known as “modal shift”), these roads will return to pre-LTN levels.
A number of new similar schemes have recently been installed in London and across the country. Unfortunately, due to them not being in place for that long yet, public quantitative data on their efficacy and traffic levels is not yet available. However, this has not stopped folk using them as anecdotal “evidence” that LTNs increase main road traffic, with people taking photographs of boundary roads with long traffic queues on. I don’t think this is useful data either way. Due to the pandemic and fewer people using public transport, road traffic levels in outer London have increased to 150% of 2019 levels. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are an easy scapegoat for these traffic queues but they aren’t necessarily causing them. In fact they could be helping by ensuring some streets get a relief from the queues, allowing people to walk and cycle in safety and not need to take the car, as well as reducing the total traffic capacity in the area, which through a process known as “induced demand”, ensures that fewer people will attempt to drive. Indeed, Wandsworth removed LTNs after public pressure and still regularly sees queues on all main roads, but now also on residential streets.
In terms of the increased danger claims on the boundary roads, initial data from Waltham Forest indicated that the roads within the filtered area saw a decrease in traffic collisions, and the boundary roads saw similar levels to previously. I couldn’t find evidence to suggest that LTNs increase road danger on the boundary roads.
The leaflet continues:

Getting to and from your home will take longer. Emergency services will take longer to respond. Bin collections will be harder to maintain. Deliveries will take longer. Getting around the area will be harder for care workers, taxi drivers, and vehicles servicing businesses. The Burnage plans in Phase 2 will severely impact the A34, Crossley Road, and Grangethorpe Drive amongst others.

This is quite a long list of “citation needed”. Of course, it is a design aim of the LTN to make motor vehicle trips slightly less convenient, by making walking or cycling faster and more direct for local journeys. A 5 minute car journey might become a 10-15 minute one, or a 5 minute cycle. The hope is that people who are able, will switch their short journeys, where possible, to active travel. However, as a percentage of total journey time, the extra distance for longer, more vital car journeys, is negligible. Delivery drivers will not be affected as all properties are still accessible by van or lorry, and delivery routing satnavs will take the filters into account and find the quickest route.

Of course, the claim that getting around will take longer completely ignores that journey times for people walking and cycling will be unaffected, or even improved: about 40% of Levenshulme households don’t have access to a car.

Regarding the emergency services, there is also no evidence for the claim that response times will increase. In Waltham Forest, both the fire service and ambulance service saw decreases in journey times after the LTN was implemented:

There is also not any evidence that bin collections will be disrupted. Biffa already collects from many cul-de-sacs, and even existing “low traffic neighbourhoods” in Manchester such as Chorltonville. They do not have significant issues.

Finally, the leaflet says:

We support the Active Neighbourhood project’s aims to make it easier and safer to walk and cycle around our area and reduce car use, but we want something better than this plan. Practical improvements to benefit everyone including:

New and improved crossings, repaired pavements with dropped kerbs, better lighting, more seating, one-way streets (to reduce pavement parking), traffic calming and safer junctions, more pedestrian controls at traffic lights, school streets for drop-off and collection times, cycle lane infrastructure, and play streets to reclaim our streets for people.

Again, I think this is a (wilful or not) misunderstanding of the funding stream. The final scheme has always included many – if not most – of these elements. Manchester Council must submit a business case to TfGM that demonstrates that their scheme will reduce motoring and increase walking and cycling. Otherwise there is no further cash. Spending the trial money on resurfacing pavements, or reconfiguring junctions (except where necessary to make the trial work), would not be a cost effective use of the limited funds. The trial will demonstrate that the proposed filter locations work (or not), which will allow the council to develop a business case and final scheme that works for everyone, including traffic calming and crossings on the boundary roads where necessary.

I think everyone in the area agrees that no road should experience a detriment for the improvement of others. Which is why it’s very important that people respond to the Commonplace engagement with details of where they think crossings, traffic calming, etc need to be installed in the final scheme. But I don’t think opposing the trials entirely is productive. The money must be spent by 2022, and TfGM and Chris Boardman have been clear that councils dragging their feet on spending it could see it reallocated to other areas who are more willing. We need to help MCC form a robust business case to unlock as much money as possible. This involves being realistic about what can be delivered in a trial, and what can be delivered by 2022 with the available funds. 

I think anyone hoping for a complete redesign of the scheme will probably be disappointed, it seems unlikely there’s time for a redesign, a trial, a business case, and a full scheme installation by 2022 now. So make sure you get onto Commonplace and suggest improvements/tweaks to ensure the scheme is as good as possible and the money remains in Levenshulme and Burnage!

Appendix: Full “One Levenshulme & Co” leaflet transcript.

STOP THE ROAD BLOCKS!!             

We are One Levenshulme & Co, a group of Levenshulme and Burnage Residents who need your help. The Council has proposed an Active Neighbourhood in Levenshulme and Burnage by putting 25 ROAD BLOCKS! into the Levenshulme area in Phase 1. The plan is then to extend the Active Neighbourhood by performing the same disruptive measures throughout Burnage. We want a better scheme but we must act now to demand better roads for all and effective improvements for walking and cycling.

This project claims to reduce traffic and make roads safer but will increase congestion and pollution on our busiest roads. This has happened in other places where these projects have been installed. It will make these roads more dangerous as traffic is forced to use “through roads” to get around.

All Traffic going through the area will be forced to use ONLY these roads:
Stockport Road, Barlow Road, Matthews Lane, Mount Road, Cromwell Grove, Broom Lane, Slade Lane, Albert Road, and Moseley Road

Getting to and from your home will take longer. Emergency services will take longer to respond. Bin collections will be harder to maintain. Deliveries will take longer. Getting around the area will be harder for care workers, taxi drivers, and vehicles servicing businesses. The Burnage plans in Phase 2 will severely impact the A34, Crossley Road, and Grangethorpe Drive amongst others.

We support the Active Neighbourhood project’s aims to make it easier and safer to walk and cycle around our area and reduce car use, but we want something better than this plan. Practical improvements to benefit everyone including:

New and improved crossings, repaired pavements with dropped kerbs, better lighting, more seating, one-way streets (to reduce pavement parking), traffic calming and safer junctions, more pedestrian controls at traffic lights, school streets for drop-off and collection times, cycle lane infrastructure, and play streets to reclaim our streets for people.

On Mending a Neighbourhood Divide

There is currently a rare opportunity to improve the streets in Levenshulme and Burnage, South Manchester. In March 2019, “programme entry” to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) “Mayor’s Challenge Fund” (MCF) was gained, which allocated a speculative £2.5m to the project: a large sum of money won by the very hard work of local residents who spent a lot of their own time making the case, talking to councillors, and forming a bid document.

While – due to politics I won’t get into here – those same people are no longer on the project team, the legacy of work remains, and in December, a “trial” version of some elements of the scheme will go in. It has been made clear from the very beginning that the scheme would include measures to reduce traffic volumes and speeds, as well as public realm improvements, cycle parking, crossings of main roads, bus gates, etc.

However, I believe due to a misunderstanding of how the scheme is funded, there has been a lot of pushback from some local residents. I hope this post can go some way into explaining both their position (as I understand it), and the funding source, in an effort to bring everyone back together to secure this funding and get these improvements built. I will be the first to admit that both sides of the debate have been involved in “straw man” fallacies and such, so I hope that putting my understanding of the relevant arguments down as best I can, in total good faith, it might help. I don’t think it’s helpful to anyone to accuse one side as “NIMBYs”, “disgruntled motorists” or such, just as it isn’t helpful to accuse the other side of being “gentrifiers”, “london cycle hipsters”, or wanting to “poison” certain residents.
As I understand it, the main objection to the scheme is due to the fact that there is currently only a plan to install temporary, trial versions of the “modal filters”, which are bollards/planters placed in tactical locations to make a street/group of streets access only for motorists, while allowing pedestrians and cyclists to use it as a through route. Some people have a position that installing these modal filters will reduce traffic volumes on certain streets, while pushing it to other streets which already have high traffic volumes, which they say is unfair. And in and of itself, I don’t think anyone would say that’s a bad point. Of course it would be unfair to do that. The extent of which that is actually the outcome is debated: there’s a school of thought, with some evidence, that due to the filters many people will choose walking or cycling instead of driving, reducing total traffic volumes in the area.
Indeed, the council’s own materials state that they expect a 50-70% drop in traffic on some roads, and a slight increase on the boundary roads for 3-6 months before it returns to current levels.
However, I think this represents a slight misunderstanding of the funding stream and process. While it’s true there is £2.5m allocated to the project, only an initial £700,000 has been released. This was to allow the council and project team to come up with a “business case” to release the remainder of the funding (and potentially even more, for a particularly strong business case). With this money, research into the intervention locations has already been done, school street reports and initial designs have been produced, and engagement has been done, with more currently being done. Some of this fund will allow modal filters to be cheaply put in, with temporary materials, to gauge their effectiveness. This is so that if an issue is found, a filter can simply be cheaply moved or removed, compared to if an expensive filter had been built. The council has also indicated some temporary crossings on busy roads might be trialled simultaneously.
After the trial, monitoring data and resident feedback will be collated which will inform the full design of the scheme, which will then be submitted to the GMCA for the remainder of the MCF to be released, and full construction can start, including all of the traffic calming and crossing measures. 
With this explanation of the funding stream, I hope now people can see the need for the cheap modal filter trials: there simply isn’t money released at the moment for extensive speed calming and crossings. A single crossing can cost £100k and speed tables can reach five figures, so you won’t get many of those for the £700k, and there’d be no business case to get the rest of the money.
I hope a message that everyone in the area can get behind is that everyone wants to see safer, more pleasant streets. And no one wants to see some streets benefit at the detriment of others, which will not happen when the full scheme is put in. The trials are necessary to get the full funding released, otherwise funding will be lost and Levenshulme and Burnage will get nothing. I’d ask people to stop saying everyone with concerns is a “NIMBY”, and I’d ask people to stop spreading disinformation about the scheme (“it will cause congestion”, “it will delay fire engines” etc) when we can’t possibly know that prior to the trials.
I think it’s time to come together and get the best scheme for everyone.

Hyde Road: 6 months later

 It has been 6 months since my last post on Hyde Road, it’s time for an update, as there has been new information. 

My last post explained some serious issues that had been found with the consultation, where the council had deliberately misclassified comments who profoundly disagreed with the scheme as “neutral” to make the scheme seem more popular than it really was. This was explored further by Andrea Sandor in her excellent post for Manchester Confidentials, including an attempt at justification from the council:

Comments criticising the lack of a cycleway were categorised as neutral, reflecting the fact that it was impossible to satisfy those who wanted the inclusion of a cycleway, because funding is not available to deliver this element.

So it seems that if a scheme doesn’t have funding to implement basic pedestrian/cycle safety features, the council thinks that all comments even mentioning anything of the sort should be classified as “Neutral” even if they had significant issues with the rest of the scheme. Quite how this aligns with MCC delaying schemes such as Chorlton Cycleway and Levenshulme Active Neighbourhood due to complaints from motorists, I don’t know, since the funding for these schemes is purely for walking and cycling and so motorists comments should have been categorised as “neutral” by this logic.

Let’s ignore that, and focus on WHY funding was not available to deliver basic pedestrian and cycle safety. A quote from the same response reads: “We applied to the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Challenge Fund for funding to include a cycleway in this project, but unfortunately, this bid was declined”

This is a line the council has used a lot for this scheme, and we touched on this in my last post, linked above. It seems the wording of this is carefully written to shift the blame to GMCA/TfGM for not providing the funding, rather than to MCC for not producing a good enough bid to secure the funding. As I mentioned in my previous post, I got hold of the bid document and it was rather poorly written with typos and missing/incorrect information. Therefore I decided to FOI Request more info from TfGM as to why the bid failed, the response to which can be seen here.

TfGM sent over several documents regarding MCC’s bid for funding from the Mayors Challenge Fund to implement basic walking and cycling safety features alongside the widening scheme. The first of which can be seen below, an excerpt from an email from TfGM to MCC advising that the bid would not succeed in its current form due to a lack of integration into the wider network, and very poor value for money, asking ten times as much per kilometre as the Wilmslow Road cycleways.

Another document outlines a similar story, that MCC had made little to no effort to demonstrate how the scheme would tie into the wider network. The Fallowfield Loop runs on the bridge above and was proposed to have just stairs for access with a wheeling ramp. Of course as we know, after people complained that stairs aren’t accessible to all, MCC have since removed them from the plans completely so everyone is equally disadvantaged. There also appears to have been little to no evidence of MCC getting in touch with Tameside to link this scheme to the Tameside ambition of having the whole A57 walking and cycling friendly.
This document makes it clear that TfGM explicitly advised MCC that the scheme would be unlikely to succeed in the current form, and yet it appears it was submitted like this anyway. It seems that the submission of this scheme might therefore only be so that MCC could state in future announcements that they had applied for funding but it was declined (which is exactly what they’ve been doing). It appears to me that TfGM explained clearly what MCC needed to do to give this bid a better chance at succeeding and it appears little to nothing was done. Therefore it cannot be a surprise to MCC that the bid failed and any attempt by themselves to shift blame onto TfGM for this failure is cynical and unfair.

New Bridge Design

The council have recently had several press opportunities where they have taken photos of officers and councillors standing on the new bridge. Looks are subjective but I think most can agree the new bridge is more attractive than the old one, however the old one was definitely more historic. There’s also the issue where before you were shielded well from the noise and pollution of the road below by the high walls (indeed, it was hard to know you were even crossing a road), whereas now that is not the case with the more open design.

 What is never mentioned however is that the old bridge was 7m+ wide, and the new one is 4m. Considering that there is an open consultation for the Fallowfield Loop and one of the most popular suggestions is to separate pedestrians and cycles, which needs at least 5.5m width to be done properly (3.0m cycle path, 0.5m separator, 2.0m footway), it’s ironic that the Hyde Road scheme removed a “pinch point” on the road, and added a new one on the Fallowfield Loop.

Something also mentioned beforehand, both online and directly to officers and councillors at the consultation event, was concern that the more open bridge design would allow for people to throw stuff off the bridge onto vehicles below.

And indeed recently, due to a problem with kids throwing stuff off the bridge onto the road below, and I hear even climbing on the outside of the bridge, “temporary” scaffolding barriers have had to be installed. I do wonder what the long term plan is, as these barriers are further reducing the already low effective width of the bridge, as well as removing any subjective aesthetic advantage the new bridge had over the old one, but this is just another case of the council not listening to legitimate comments at the consultation and ploughing ahead regardless.

Not a hugely positive 6 month update then. Unfortunately not, but I think it’s important these failings are out in the open so that they can be prevented on future schemes. The road widening is still ongoing below the bridge, let’s hope this is all the bad news out of the way and everything else goes as smoothly as is possible for 1960s-worthy plans being built in 2020.