Agenda item 4: Speed and casualty Reduction Measures
Portsmouth Cycle Forum obviously support the aim to improve safety for all road users in the city.
With the road casualty figures for 2020 having been released recently, it is encouraging that the number of cycle casualties on the authority’s roads have decreased around 18%, however we will only discover how reduced traffic levels during the pandemic has affected these statistics when the 2021 data is released next autumn. According to PCC cycle count data, we know that there were many fewer rush-hour commuter cycle trips being made last year, even though the total number trips around the city was up, as many people took to bicycles for exercise following Government health advice.
The trial of the Elm Grove / Kings Road segregated cycle lanes last autumn aligned with personal commitments that meant I could spend the hour between 6pm and 7pm every Wednesday evening standing at the Elm Grove / Grove Road junction counting the number of the people cycling through the junction in all directions.
Over 11 weeks the average number of trips per minute during that hour was 1.18. The only week that dropped below 1 trip per minute was on 16 th December.
The fact that the report highlights this single junction was also responsible for a total of five cycle casualties in 2019 & 2020 from a total of 291 across the whole city in the same period, clearly shows the need for an improved design.
During my 11 hours observing, it was also clear that the junction does not protect cyclists, especially those exiting from Grove Road North, the only arm of the junction that does not have an advanced stop line for cyclists or perhaps more importantly is also missing the low-level early-release cycle signals.
This last point means that cyclists travelling south or west are placed into direct conflict with motor vehicle traffic exiting Grove Road South at the same time and who may be travelling north or east and therefore creating the very situation highlighted in the report of a motor vehicle turning across the path of a cyclist. I witnessed a number of these incidents last year and the issue has also been highlighted to us by members. We always request that they report such issues to the Council’s near miss reporting tool to ensure the relevant data is there to be drawn upon in future.
We would therefore request that as part of this scheme a dedicated early release cycle phase signal is added to the Grove Road North exit to allow people cycling to get further into the main part of the junction earlier and thus be more visible to motor vehicles now moving off later.
The cycle early release signal timings, both here and around the city, should also be examined to ensure they meet the guidance as set out in Local Transport Note 1/20 section 10.6.40 which states:
“an early start phase of 4 seconds gives cyclists good priority without unduly delaying traffic. An early start phase of less than 3 seconds is not recommended.”
Incidentally, we have discovered this summer that the issue of junctions without a full complement early-release cycle phase signals is a trend across the city. Other sites we have identified are:
- Lake Road’s right turn into Kingston Road
- St Mary’s Rd right turn Towards Kingston Rd / Lake Rd junction
- Copnor Road northbound at Burrfields Road junction.
Additionally, it was noted on my counts last year that at night, the light levels at the junction in Elm Grove are pretty poor, as there are no lamp posts situated within the area inside controlled crossing points, and therefore a good 25 metres away from the centre of the junction. The addition of high buildings on three of the four corners exacerbates this problem, with the Grove Road North arm being particularly affected and the darkest. I remember being told during my driving lessons that the more lights at a location, the more awareness you needed to have as a road user. Even an additional street light closer to the junction might make a fundamental difference to general visibility.
Finally, we would like to address the issue around the accessibility of the cycle lanes and advance stop lines. The one improvement during last year’s trial that all cyclists agreed about, was the fact that it effectively eliminated the constant issue of cycle lane blocking in this location, but only when the posts were not being deliberately removed to create space to park.
It has long been an issue with our members, and something we have reported many times, as well as highlighting in the consultations around the design of the trial scheme, that motor vehicles are free to park here blocking the cycle lane with only a cursory and insignificant attempt to enforce the parking restrictions.
With the abrupt and early removal of the trial, we hoped that perhaps the protection of the cycle lane at this junction would be kept, as it was simply enforcing the existing road space allocation as marked on the ground.
We can see how the new scheme installed at the same time along Ordnance Row has developed to the point where there are now more permanent bollards segregating and protecting the mandatory cycle lane there. That same approach in Elm Grove a year ago, would have resulted in many cyclists regarding the trial lanes as having some form of successful outcome.
We would like to see a similar approach taken here, where an existing and well used cycle lane is protected to allow cyclists safe access to the junction, to take advantage of the advance stop line and early-release lights, and experience the benefit of being prioritised for using active travel and reducing motor vehicles journeys within the city.
We would also like to point out that the Elm Grove / Kings Road route is also outside of the clean air zone and has the potential to act as a conduit towards the east of the city without travelling through the CAZ. This could well result in
an increase in traffic along this route and therefore an increase in danger towards those people choosing more sustainable forms of travel.
To conclude Elm Grove / Grove Road junction does need improving. We support the scheme to make changes to protect vulnerable road users, we have both new ideas and previously submitted suggestions, and we are happy to discuss these as detailed designs are further developed. However, we do not believe that the assigned budget of £40,000 is sufficient given the required scope of the project.
Briefly on the other measures on this agenda item, we welcome any form of data collection that helps officers to identify locations for potential schemes, monitor any changes following their implementation and report where they have been successful, in turn identifying the approaches that can be taken on future projects.