Friday, 3 June 2016

What happened to Paynes Road?

Paynes Road is one of the routes off Milbrook Road West /Mountbatten Way which is a three lane each way 50mph dual carriageway into the centre of Southampton. The traffic tends to come up Paynes Road quite fast, in spite of the rumble strips that have been installed at the start of the 30mph limit.

As you can see from the OpenCycleMap picture below it is also one of that ways that cycles enter parts of Southampton, coming off the Natioanl Cycle Route 236 route from the direction of the New Forest  

Fig 1: OpenCycleMap showing the Scene of the crime

One day recently (March?), a new bit of cycling infrastructure appeared on Paynes Road (see the red markup on the map). This, when coupled with other changes to the road seems to actually make life more dangerous for the cyclist.  The questions are

  1. Why were these changes considered necessary?
  2. What did this work cost?
  3. Were any cyclists actually consulted about the design?
  4. Who has approved the safety of the finished product?

I did ask these questions in the Southampton Cycle Forum, but no-one was able or prepared to give an answer. Maybe this blog post will be helpful.

Here are some pictures to help. It all starts well :-)

Fig 2: Looking South West down Paynes Road towards Mountbatten Way

In Fig 2 you can see that as the cars come off the main road and up Paynes Road there is a new island which forces traffic away from side of the road, and a cycle way is introduced.

I'm not actually sure who this cycle lane is for?  As shown on the map, there is a small shared footpath/cycle lane leaving the NCR 236 up the other side of this road, and mostly cyclists wishing to join Paynes Road do so later, after the junction with Waterloo Road.

Fig 3 is taken from the  same spot looking forward in the direction the cars are now travelling and this is what you see.
Fig 3: Looking North East Up Paynes Road towards Freemantle and Shirley
Now the cars, which have been persuaded by the previous island to move out to the right to make way for bikes, are suddenly confronted with a newly extended island in the middle of the road, which forces them to swerve in  an arc back towards the cycle lane.

The cycle lane is 3 ft wide and the carriageway measured where it says "SLOW" is 8 ft wide. Thats not wide enough for a big vehicle,  (and certainly not enough space for a car to correctly pass a bike) and because of the arc they have to take to go out round the first island, and then in again to avoid the next island, even cars inevitably have one wheel in the cycle lane. They are not being careless - its the way the road takes them.

Fig 4 is a very brief video taken from near the end of the cycle lane to show what happens.

Fig 4: How Traffic Negotiates the chicane

You can see the ways that cars inevitably make this arc towards the cycle lane, and certainly there is not room for a larger vehicle without actually entering the cycle lane.

Looking back to figure 3, you might think that the apparent narrowing of the main traffic lane is due to perspective. You would be wrong! The lane does indeed narrow from 8ft to less than 7ft. at the point that the cycle lane comes to an unhelpful end. (See figure 5).

Fig 5: The End of the Cycle Lane
Now, staying with figure 5 we see what happens next. An island in the road forces the traffic further to the left (displacing the bikes which now have nowhere to go).  To add insult to injury, just in case the traffic has not pulled hard enough to the left, the white lines at the island extend a foot out into the road.   Again, its not really clear whet the purpose of this Island is, other than to cause narrowing of the traffic lane.

In the distance we can see the traffic lights which form an important pedestrian crossing for the school on the right of the road beyond the church. At this point there is a significant protrusion into the road from the pavement on the left, and there is nowhere left for cycles to go.

Cyclists dismount? (Or hope that the cars are more generous about filtering in slower moving bikes - which of courtse mostly they are, but not always).

There is a high risk that someone will get seriously injured here. Going back to my 4 questions at the start of this blog: how and why did this happen?