Cycling to get squeezed at bus stops in Ireland

— BusConnects guidance aimed at satisfying some disability campaigners, most will likely to impact on people with disabilities who use cycle paths.

Cycle tracks at bus stops in Ireland are planned to be designed to a sub-standard width, have warning strips, Luas-like flashing lights embedded into the ground, and even full traffic lights, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

An alternative to full traffic lights will be zebra crossings, but where these are used new design guidelines shows that paving slabs with groves are to be put across the cycle track before the crossings.

The details are shown in example designs in the Preliminary Design Guidance Booklet for BusConnects (PDF) released under an FOI request made by a member of the public and provided to IrishCycle.com.

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But the potential wide impact of the BusConnects guidance is shown by the fact that one of the designs are already proposed on a road in Limerick, as part of a project which is separate from BusConnects.

The guidance document shows that officials in the National Transport Authority have devised one of the most restrictive cycle track at bus stop designs.

IrishCycle.com understands that the National Transport Authority (NTA) has made the designs restrictive due to concerns from disability campaigners, but the restrictive designs are most likely to impact on people with disabilities who use cycle paths the most.

When cycle path networks are built more people with disabilities use then, including on normal and adapted

This follows on from news last week that the BusConnects project team wants to institutionalise loading across what would be made into narrow footpaths and cycle tracks rather than having loading in bus lanes off-peak.

The bus stop design in the NTA’s unpublished design guidance includes:

  • — Narrowing cycle tracks from the BusConnects aim of 2 metres to 1.5 metres.
  • — Use of non-forgiving kerbs which will reduce the usable cycle track width further.
  • — Designs showing bicycle parking, bus shelters, and planting close to the cycle track on the narrowed sections which will possibly reducing the usable width even further.
  • — A series of yellow bar markings approaching the bus stops.
  • — A chicane around the bus stop, which reduces usable width even further, especially for people with adapted bicycles, cargo bikes and trikes.
  • — Raised crossing for pedestrians, which is a reasonably standard design in London but not along side some any other measures.
  • — Pedestrian crossings with full traffic lights, or zebra crossings with corduroy pavers (aka “tram track” slabs).
  • — Flashing lights embedded in the ground as was installed to warn motorists of Luas tram crossings in Dublin.

The designs also show layouts of two-way cycle path designs with bends and narrowing to just 2.5 metres wide, which would likely increase the chances of collisions between cyclists in different directions and pedestrians trying to cross.

In some cases one half of two-way cycle tracks are marked as just 1 metre wide with no buffer between the cycle track and bus lanes.

Disability group, Wheels for Wellbeing, has published a guide to inclusive cycling.

In the guidance, Wheels for Wellbeing said: “A conflict of interest can arise between cyclists and pedestrians (particularly those with visual impairments) at cycle track crossings: bus stop bypasses bring this issue into sharp focus. Our position is that bus stop bypasses are a good thing if they are planned properly for everyone’s safety. An entirely satisfactory solution still has to be found for this issue, for the benefit of all cyclists and pedestrians.”

The group said: “Currently, some cycle lanes with bus stop bypasses can have a narrow width, with high vertical kerbs to slow cyclists on approach to the rear of the bus stop. Care is required during the design to ensure the restricted width and corner radii, and the high kerbs, do not create a barrier to those riding wider cycles.”

It added: “Bypasses need to be designed with regard to those using wider and heavier cycles with a lower level of manoeuvrability, using a forgiving kerb edge that is chamfered. We recommend further trials, involving both Disabled cyclists and Disabled pedestrians, in order to develop fully satisfactory solutions to the issue of safety and perceived safety for vulnerable pedestrians. An audio message on buses should alert all passengers to the fact that they are alighting on a bus stop island.”

UK cycle design guidance, called LTN 120, outlines how: “Cycle trailers and tricycles are usually about 0.8m wide, but adapted cycles can be up to 1.2m wide.”

LTN 120 also states that: “The design, width and length of a cycle has an impact on the turning circle required and therefore the kerb radii that can be negotiated and the required track widths at corners and bends (see Table 5-1). These are the minimum turning radii suitable only for low speed manoeuvres such as access to cycle parking. The minimum radii for curves at typical cycling speeds are given in Table 5-7. “

The following is a set of questions which IrishCycle.com asked the NTA on October 6 and followed up with two requests for answers to the questions, but so-far the questions have gone unanswered:

(1) Why is the NTA developing designs which include 1 metre cycle tracks when the authority is aware that groups such as Wheels for Wellbeing seek the use of an absolute minimum width of 1.5 metres at any point along a route?

(2) Does the NTA accept that issues with sub-standard access widths are made worse by bends and ramps in the design and that even 1.5 metres is sub-standard bends and ramps are added to a cycle track?

(3) Has the NTA conducted any testbed trials of the designs (ie like TRL / formerly Transport Research Laboratory tested the Dutch roundabout design for the UK Government)?

(4) Has the NTA conducted any safety analyses of the bus stop design in the BusConnects manual?

(5) Has the NTA conducted any accessibility analyses of the bus stop design in the BusConnects manual?

(6) If safety or accessibility analyses, has it accounted for (a) larger bicycles/trikes and other mobility devices used by people with disabilities who would be using the cycle tracks in question, (b) bicycles/trikes used by others from parents to businesses such as An Post?

Example designs from Preliminary Design Guidance Booklet for BusConnects

“Island Bus Stop”

The BusConnect design guidance states:

“Island Bus Stops are the preferred bus stop option to be used as standard on the CBC project where space constraints allow.”

“Conflict between cyclists and stopping buses is removed as cyclists are deflected behind the bus stop.”

“To address the pedestrian/cyclist conflict, a pedestrian priority crossing point is provided for pedestrians accessing the bus stop area. Part-time signals will enable controlled crossing when required (as provided for example at junctions on the Grand Canal Cycle Route in Dublin). Visually impaired pedestrians may call for a fixed green signal when necessary and the cycle signal will change to red. “

“The cycle track should be deflected behind the bus stop sufficiently to reduce cycling speed for safety through the crossing area so cyclists can give way to pedestrians crossing to the bus stop area. Recommended minimum radii are indicated in Figure 34. The cycle track will rise in level to meet the footpath level. (Yellow bar markings could also be provided to alert approaching cyclists but the narrowing and deflection should suffice when the approaching cycle track is the nominal 2m width);”

Shared Bus Stop Landing Zone”

Layby Bus Stops

The BusConnect guidance states: “Lay-bys can be an effective solution for bus stops for coaches but present significant operational problems for urban bus services and negative impacts for bus users in terms of journey time impact. Figure 38 shows a lay-by bus stop landing zone arrangement and should only be used in urban areas where there is compelling safety or road capacity reasons. Designers should consider in-line and boarder bus stop options first. Generally, in urban areas, it is acceptable for general traffic to wait behind buses that are stopped at in-line bus stops. For further guidance on the provision of lay-by bus stops, refer to the BusConnects Bus Stop Guidance Note.”

MORE: Read the full design guidance.

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