Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Transport appraisal and modelling

by Will Bramhill 

This week I responded to the Department for transport consultation on its transport appraisal and modelling strategy, which was flagged up late in the day in a letter from our local MP Will Quince.

I responded in my personal capacity rather than as Colchester Cycling Campaign because I did not have time to put the matter to the wider group.

The consultation closed on October 15 but the strategy document is still live.

I saw the consultation so late in the day that I didn't have chance to follow the question-and-answer format requested for responses. Instead, I gave an account of our experiences in Colchester. The letter is below.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am responding to your consultation. Rather than answer your questions directly I am going to pass on my comments relating to my experience as a local transport activist.

Far more investment needs to go into local transport, especially in urban areas. This is needed to offset the huge induced demand for motor transport that will be created by new housing and the growth in main roads (in the case of my home town, Colchester, the A12 and A120).

As well as capital investment in buses and local train services, more needs to be done by way of filtering (think Waltham Forest's mini-Holland), and the installation of Dutch-style cycleways on key urban routes to provide pleasant, separated conditions for cyclists and pedestrians.

It is vital for quality of life and public health that every urban scheme aims to reduce the number of journeys under five miles made by car and to increase opportunity/ability to cycle or walk — even if this adds to inconvenience/congestion for motorists making short trips.

Electric and AI cars have a place but while reducing pollution, they will not necessarily address congestion, health or motor vehicle dependence. I would also go so far as to say the idea of non-ownership is politically unlikely.

The current modelling scenario is one-sided. I have tried to influence several local projects but without success. In each scheme, the appraisal has failed.

One of these, a £1m shared cycle path in Mile End Road, Colchester, was clearly not going to work. I complained to Essex County Council and eventually won my case at the Ombudsman.

A second scheme (Brook Street, Colchester — already an AQMA) tried to relieve congestion by increasing throughput. Two years on and it appears that jams are no better and pollution has increased as a result, despite about £600,000 expenditure.

A third scheme (A133 roundabouts at Ipswich and Harwich Road — cost £8m) is currently under construction. Despite the funding being granted for an “integrated” scheme under, I believe, LSTF, very little is being done for cycling beyond renovating a single 1980s shared cycle route. Even with this, the wider car lanes will increase danger at one key point and no provision (on carriageway or elsewhere) has been made for north-south cycling on what the Dutch and Danes would consider main desire lines. The result is that the new roundabouts *may* relieve congestion in the short term but will not help beyond that.

While opposing the A133 scheme, I found:
• That my local authority had little or no understanding of a non-motorised user audit, believing that road safety audits were a satisfactory substitute
• That the non-mandatory application of DMRB in local schemes is used to skew designs in favour of motor travel to the virtual exclusion of other modes. DMRB’s guidance on cycling and walking was ignored (extra pedestrian crossings were added and/or reinstated at a relatively late stage of design).
• That the DMRB rules on gauging which roads were “affected” in terms of air quality were not fit for purpose — especially the “first year only” rule.

I would go so far as to say that the A133 scheme could be used as a case study of the flaws with the current version of WebTAG.

This experience has convinced me that cycling and walking need to be treated as a national issue rather than left to the discretion of councils, especially with regard to funding and design standards. Wales has a national cycle design guide, why not England?  The effect of the lack of active travel because of poor infrastructure is resulting in diabetes, heart disease, obesity and poor mental health: the need for a nationally co-ordinated approach exceeds that for the fight to reduce the harm caused by cigarette smoking from the 1970s-2000s.

To help improve the current situation, I would suggest that all local authority schemes over a certain value have to undergo a peer review by a government body to check that they are meeting targets for green transport; that the go-ahead for such schemes is dependent on an origin and destination study being part of the assessment, and for compulsory land acquisition (to help install walking and cycling routes) is made easier, almost certainly with the introduction of new legislation.

Yours sincerely,


Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Ipswich and Harwich Road roundabouts - closure of cycle tracks

by Paul Avison

The following is perhaps one of the worst examples of how to manage highways during roadworks. To this observer it represents a cavalier and negligent attitude towards cyclists.

A sign advising no overtaking cyclists through roadworks.
An engineer on site explained that all the signing was "completely in line" with the requirements of Traffic Signs Manual Chapter 8, and that they had not been asked to do otherwise.

However Chapter 8 states in para D3.32.18 ‘When cycle routes and other facilities for the exclusive use of cyclists and pedestrians are affected by roadworks the changes should be clearly signed well in advance of the roadworks’.

Approaching the Ipswich Rd roundabout, pedestrians
are directed across to the south side
of Cowdray Avenue.
No direction for cyclists!

Para D3.32.19 says: "Where there is cycle provision, such as cycle lanes or tracks, efforts should be made to keep these open or to provide an acceptable alternative during the road works."

Neither of these requirements are being met. 

Looking south across the carriageway
crossing, signs for pedestrians but
cyclists are ignored.
This sequence of pictures on this page illustrates what a cyclist is presented with, cycling along the shared footpath at the side of Cowdray Avenue in an easterly direction, and St Andrew’s Avenue in a westerly direction.

If ECC Highways is to retain  respect, these shortcomings should be resolved without delay.

Into Ipswich Road and directions for
pedestrians but NO direction for cyclists.
It is assumed that as a cyclist you
continue across the crossing
of Ipswich Road.

Across Ipswich Road and directions
for pedestrians but no direction
for cyclists. The cycle track is closed!

Approaching Ipswich Road roundabout
from the east there are again
directions for pedestrians,
but cyclists are ignored!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Wivenhoe (Colchester Road) to Essex University cycle link review 

by Jim Rayner

This new route (which had been an aspiration of Essex CC & University for several years) finally opened in April 2016

·         800metres long and 3m wide. Shared use and unsegregated
·         Cost £1.9m (which included a contribution of £250,000 from Essex Univ.)
·         Included a toucan (push button) crossing at the southern end opposite ‘The Flag’ public house
·         Main road realigned, new trees and hedges planted, plus the installation of new fences and drainage

What’s good
·        The surface is lovely and smooth and has good connecting links with the surrounding roads
·        This is probably the best new cycle/pedestrian scheme in the Colchester area for many years
·        Other design features include an approximate 800mm grass strip between the road and the path and setting-back of the lamp posts into the verge, so that they don’t impede
·        Another good feature is the cantilevering of the ‘Welcome to Wivenhoe’ sign over the path

What’s perhaps, not so good

·        It is a pity the scheme didn’t go further. I would have liked to have seen it extended down the southern side of Boundary Road another 100m or so
·        It could have been slightly wider at 4metres, thus providing more space for the segregation of pedestrians / cyclists and a possible demarcated centre line
Additional improvements could have been made in Wivenhoe, particularly around the railway station
The project overran and was delayed but, overall the scheme represents a welcome addition to Colchester’s cycling network

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Essex County Council ignored experts’ advice and wasted taxpayers’ money says Colchester Cycling Campaign

Part of the Cymbeline Way cycle route

by Will Bramhill

(based on a press release that resulted in this story in the Colchester Gazette)

Transport professionals’ safety advice was ignored when Essex County Council moved a key cycle/pedestrian crossing in Colchester, official papers have revealed.

The cost of the work in Cymbeline Way, the western section of the Avenue of Remembrance, nearly doubled to £500,000 as the project developed.

Today Colchester Cycling Campaign criticised the council for putting lives at risk and wasting taxpayers’ money.

The crossing, then used by 660 people daily, was moved just 200 metres along the road. Construction was carried out in 2015-6. It was a standalone scheme that was followed months later by dualling work on Colne Bank Avenue.

The cycling campaign was given a sheaf of papers after it made a request under the freedom of information law. It had been trying to discover if the council was planning a study to see if the change had put off cyclists and pedestrians from using the route and whether it had relieved jams.

The campaign was told that Essex “has no plans” for a new report.

When news of the scheme broke in early 2015, almost 100 complaints flooded in, including from Colchester Institute, St Helena School and ability/disability group Fair Access to Colchester. These were logged but apparently ignored when the decision was made.

The papers seen by the cycling activists include notes by Ringway Jacobs, the council’s highways experts. These reveal:
  • the council thought moving the crossing would help the reliability of park-and-ride buses — but RJ said it wouldn’t
  • cyclists and pedestrians would be put in greater danger
  • any benefit for drivers would be negligible
  • the scheme worked against cycling strategies and disrupted a key commuter link
  • the new location would make the road network feel unsafe, and
  • extending the 40mph limit was against the Essex speed management strategy.
The red route shows the old route using the Cymbeline Way crossing. ECC considered dispensing with the crossing completely and rerouting cyclists via the blue or yellow route, all of which "increased danger", said council officers. Despite their warnings, Essex still went ahead with moving the crossing off the desire line. The work cost £500,000

RJ recommended that the council put the scheme on hold “as opposed to implementing a scheme that has no justification and is potentially unsafe and contrary to policy”. It added: “The design team do not see the benefit of the current proposals. We see significant risks to public safety and public health, particularly with regard to children.”

Essex’s own safety experts also came out against the scheme. The specialists’ report flagged up increased danger. The expert auditors made nine recommendations, all of which said the crossing should not be moved.

Another study, made under the Equality Act, pointed out that moving the crossing would have an adverse effect “especially for the elderly and disabled”.

Essex’s senior officer in charge of the works supported his colleagues’ findings.

Despite this evidence, the council went ahead. The highways chief at the time was Conservative councillor Rodney Bass. He is no longer a member of the council but still acts as an adviser to the council leader on constitutional issues.

Colchester Cycling Campaign said: “This may be historical but it is a sorry saga which shows the attitude of the council at the time.

“As the complaints flooded in, it was increasingly clear that this change was nonsensical. We said it, 100 other objectors said it, yet this work still went ahead.

“We would like to see the council admit its mistake — when the A133 is dualled it should reinstate the crossing in its original position.

“This points to how Essex needs to adopt a process for greater engagement and more community involvement when developing schemes.”

The campaign added with regard to the value of the Cymbeline Way scheme: “£500,000 is a drop in the ocean In terms of council spending, but it is still equivalent to 330 homes’ council tax for the year. When so many people are struggling to make ends meet, Essex should be spending its money more wisely.”

Picture courtesy of

Essex still ‘weak’ on cycling commitment

Colchester Cycling Campaign says it has still to be convinced that Essex is serious about providing for everyday cyclists — those cycling to school, work, shops and for leisure.

It says the county council remains weak despite the huge national emphasis on active transport — building walking and cycling into a daily routine to maintain good health.

The campaigning group also flagged up the importance of making sustainable travel an option for people moving into new homes, especially the garden villages.

Members recently attended an Essex cycling design conference held in Colchester. The campaign said: “We have seen so many false dawns over nearly 30 years. We'd love to be proved wrong but most of this was lip service yet again.

“One councillor there urged people ‘to just get on their bikes’ — but people avoid cycling because they don’t feel safe. Mums, dads and children switching from cars will need segregated infrastructure, joined-up routes and area-wide 20mph limits before they get on a bike.”

CCC promised to continue to monitor the county council. “We’re not going away. We will continue criticising their car-orientated schemes until they start acting on the real solutions to congestion in a meaningful way.

“We’re still looking into Ipswich Road/Harwich Road, and our next project is Brook Street and whether this has been value for money.”

Picture courtesy Colchester Gazette

 Essex should target the ‘car cloggers’ says campaign

Many people think Colchester Cycling Campaign wants “absolutely everyone to get on bikes” but the campaign says: “This is a mistake — we want a town that works.”

It asked: “What proportion of journeys in Holland are by bike? The answer is a quarter … and a half are still by car. The bikes are used for the short journeys that we in Britain use cars for.

“Our roads are full of ‘car cloggers’ doing journeys of four miles or less. Can we start following Europe? Yes we can but we have to take constructive steps to build cycling infrastructure and be in it for the long haul.

“To our mind Essex has wasted millions over the past five years by chasing its exhaust pipe. London and now Norwich are outpacing us. With a little vision, Colchester could have been well ahead. In fact Norwich has put in the scheme we should have had on Lexden Road.”

The campaign pointed to the £7m works on the A133 at the Harwich Road and Ipswich Road junctions.

It said: “Essex is still trying to discourage cycling here, despite there being key desire lines. They haven’t done the ‘origin and destination’ studies to see how many of these drivers are ‘cloggers’.

“Instead they are providing for more drivers and this will just lead to further traffic jams as the town expands: people still won’t have an option to go by bike. The Cymbeline Way issue and the A133 roundabouts are symptomatic of the county’s high-handed attitude.”

Thursday, May 03, 2018

A visit to Bradford

by Jim Rayner

On a recent visit to see family in Bradford, I had a good look at one of Britain's latest cycle superhighway schemes and the connecting Shipley Greenway

The Shipley Greenway is wider than many similar paths in Colchester

Hollins Road in Bradford (April 2018)
Part of the new cycle superhighway running through an industrial estate
This new route will connect with the Shipley Greenway, as pictured above
It is interesting to see a different approach taken by another local authority and supporting agencies such as city connect to improve the lot of cyclists. The Shipley Greenway is very similar to the Lower Castle Park / Wivenhoe Trails and the Hollins Road industrial area has a lot in common with Hawkins Road and The Hythe. What Bradford Council, City Connect and Sustrans have done on the Shipley Greenway is create a new and widened 3-4metre shared-use path which makes a big difference to the usual standard of around 2m to 2.5m. The connecting section running through to Bradford city centre is getting its own dedicated (approx. 3m wide) bidirectional cycle superhighway costing £2.5m.

The shared-use path by the River Colne in Colchester
which creates conflict between users due to its narrow width

A similar investment in Colchester could see parts of the Lower Castle Park & Wivenhoe Trials widened to 4m and a dedicated bidirectional cycle superhighway built along Hawkins Road in the Hythe linking everything together. £2.5m isn't a massive amount of money for an infrastructure project which could benefit so many people.

Hawkins Road in Colchester, ripe for a cycle superhighway!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Why free hospital car parking will lead to NHS misery

Colchester General Hospital, picture courtesy of Google

Will Bramhill writes: This post is not CCC-approved. It is my personal view. Since I sent the letter to Will Quince, however, several CCCers have contacted me to say they share my opinion.

Many years of being transport activists have, perhaps, given us a different perspective to those who rely solely on the car.

Note that I use the figure of £1,000 a year per car parking space. Multiply that for a hospital with a 600-space car park and that will mean £600,000 less for cancer services each year, Multiply that nationally and the effect on the NHS budget could be horrendous.


Letter to Will Quince, MP for Colchester

Dear Will

I am writing in my personal capacity to ask you to **oppose** Robert Halfon’s motion in the House of Commons this Thursday calling for free hospital car parking in England.

Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust has a strong and fully transparent policy in place that is available on its website and/or by phone.

Regular visitors can use discount parking permits, parking is free for cancer patients and blue badge holders. People in receipt of a range of benefits can claim refunds plus a mileage allowance.

Our hospital’s parking policy and fees are open, transparent and fair.

It could be said that Colchester provides a model for others to follow.

The debate over hospital car parking has become ever more emotive. Part of this is the poor coverage of the issue by the BBC, which makes annual FoI requests to fill its bulletins at a quiet time of year.

This year news reports spoke of hospitals “making” a set sum from parking. This implies profit but it is not. It is turnover.

When hospital budgets are already under strain, it is unfair to push the NHS into subsidising drivers at the expense of its core medical services. Patients generally — however they get to the hospital — are likely to suffer to help those who choose/have to drive.

As mentioned previously, Colchester offers free and discounted parking for those with cancer or in need. Other forms of transport are available for the able-bodied and include park and ride, bus, train and bus/foot, and bicycle. These also involve fares which, following the logic of those campaigning for free hospital parking, could be termed “a tax on the sick” too, especially for those who, for various reasons, do not have access to a car.

The cost of providing car parking at a hospital has been put at £1,000 per space per year (Parking Review, but I cannot find the direct reference). Money raised from parking fees goes into the general NHS pot but costs to be offset will include parking attendants, security and general office staff time relating to parking, equipment maintenance, tarmac repairs, line marking, grounds maintenance, power costs, lighting maintenance, signage and wayfinding costs.

Mr Halfon’s case is also peculiar given that debate over the future of the NHS includes the possibility of a move towards charging for GP appointments in the same way as people pay for dental check-ups.

For all of the reasons above, I find it strange that both Macmillan and CLIC Sargent are supporting free hospital car parking. I will be writing to them to ask them to change their stance, using the arguments given here.

Finally, I find it bizarre that hospital should be asked to financially support a form of transport that leads to the early deaths of at least 100 people a year in your constituency, as well as many thousands injured because of the predominance of the car in society. It is akin to asking the NHS  30 years ago to offer free cigarettes.

Please, Will, vote against Mr Halfon!

Best wishes,