This Stuff Matters

Any cyclist who pedals for utility will know how important a good route is. Above all other considerations two things make a good route, it must be safe and it must require the minimum of effort.

A flat straight road between two points is the ideal, unfortunately though the same things that make a good route for a cyclist usually make a good route for a driver, so what should be the best route to take is often the most dangerous.

Due to the fact infrastructure planners don’t want to be held responsible for killing anyone they take the view that safety is more important than speed and will divert a cyclist along all sorts of indirect routes to keep them off main roads. This also has the benefit of keeping cyclist out of the way of drivers without having to build any actual infrastructure.

When I read the new Strategic Infrastructure Framework for Liverpool I was very interested to see some intention to improve the situation on the Strand.

The Strand is an enormous urban motorway up to 8 lanes wide in some places and with a huge central reservation

According to my father, who knows a bit more about these things than I, the Strand is where the foreshore existed before the building of the docks reclaimed the river to the west. It now cuts off the riverside attractions from the main part of the city, on the riverside you have the Three Graces, the Museum of Liverpool, The Maritime Museum, the Albert Dock and the Echo Arena and convention centre, on the other side lies all the retail, commercial and transport areas.
There are crossing at key points along the road, every couple of hundred metres or so, but a pedestrian has to wait an interminably long time. The plans set out in the SIF primarily want to improve the situation for pedestrians trying to pass from one side to the other, this is to be done by means of pedestrian ‘bridges’ the analogy being that this urban motorway is in some way comparable to the Thames or the Danube

These are the locations of the bridges


And this gives us a rough idea what one might be like

We’ll come back to these images later.

For cyclists there is one crossing shared with pedestrians and one short stretch where there is a bus lane, for any other movements you have to negotiate with traffic. And what a lot of traffic there is, rush hour actually feels like one of the safer times of day because all the motor vehicles are at a stand still and the cyclist has the speed advantage, until you get to the front of the queue and the lights changes and you have dozens of cars urging to get past to reach the next red light.

The DfT has measured the traffic here, the results aren’t great for cyclists
45,000 motor vehicles per day, 1,750 of those are HGVs, 1,300 buses, 4,000 vans and just 266 cyclists. It is a hostile place for an unprotected person to exist.

Let’s remind ourselves of the Dutch rules about which infrastructure to implement

At over 3,000vph for most of the day this is a definite case for a cycle track.

This is what the SIF says about the developments to the Strand

Like the river bridges of other major cities these interventions will act not merely as crossing points but also as points of orientation, viewing points and meeting places: valuable additions to the city’s infrastructure.

Pedestrian ‘bridges’ will become landmark features in the public realm, allowing people to orientate themselves within their surroundings. These at-grade ‘bridges’ will manifest as major additions to the city’s infrastructure and become key locations for meeting and investment. They will be green where possible, major landscape statements along the corridor, though carefully planned to ensure traffic volume and flows are not compromised.

The crossings will prioritise pedestrian movement, slowing traffic speeds and improving the pedestrian journey into, and across the city.

See that bit at the end of the second paragraph “ensure traffic volume and flows are not compromised”. There are only two  possible reasons to say this, 1. The author is crazy.  2.They are lying to keep the motoring lobby happy.

If traffic volume remains as it is there will not be people sitting on a wall relaxing in the middle of the Strand anymore than people go and sit next to the M6 on a Friday evening for a bit of peace and quiet. There will be no people ‘viewing’ or ‘meeting’, there will just be the same hostile environment with some prettier pedestrian crossings.

Look again at the artists impressions, a bloke on a bike (with helmet, bien sûr) but no cycle path, enormous green central reservations, but no cycle path. What are we to think? Can it really be true that we are going to have another redevelopment with no infrastructure for cyclists?

To return to the original point, the Strand is a long, straight, flat road that runs from the north of the city to the south, it should be an ideal corridor for cyclists but it isn’t, it’s a treacherous pain in the arse.

Traffic volumes on the Strand must be compromised to stand any hope of reconnecting the city with the historic waterfront, unfortunately for drivers there is no easy alternative, all the other routes through or around the back of the city already seem to be near capacity at rush hour so the only thing to do is to encourage people to change mode. There is a good north-south rail link and the stations have just been renovated, though I’m sure there are others like me who think that carriages could do with a bit of work to provide extra space for commuters with bicycles, after all, trains don’t take you to the office door. There are buses running all over the city, the only mode of transport which is almost completely missing is cycling, and to get people on bikes we need safe, direct, routes that people can feel comfortable using.


2 thoughts on “This Stuff Matters

  1. Pingback: You’re new here, aren’t you? | icycleliverpool

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