One-way streets have long been an enemy to people who cycle, often causing them to go round two sides of a triangle to reach their destination. Therefore, most cycle campaigns have worked for many years to improve the situation, either by returning the roads to two-way working or by providing contraflow cycling. But progress is slow – perhaps 3 or 4 schemes per year in Camden, which is a tiny proportion of the one way roads we encounter as we ride each day.
Only 2-3 years ago, we felt that contraflow lanes on busy roads needed to be protected from the with-flow motor traffic by a separating concrete kerb, see for example Montague Place See Street View on OSM cycle map (implemented in 2007) and Bury Place (2003)See Street View on OSM cycle map(implemented in 2004). But even in the early days, some roads were considered quiet enough to manage with just green paint and a white line, see for example, Cliff Road See Street View on OSM cycle map.
Kensington and Chelsea contraflow cycling
Early in 2008, the borough of Kensington and Chelsea decided to implement some lightweight contraflow cycling schemes. These would be tried out in relatively quiet roads, they would have no separating kerbs, not even green paint or white lines; simply they would be indicated by a pair of signs:
- No-Entry signs should either be replaced with flying motorcycle signs 619 (photo on the left) or have “except cyclists” exception plates added. Although the latter seems more logical, it is currently not approved by DfT.
- The absence of a bicycle lane will require the use of a special sign 960.2 (photo on the right) to warn drivers of the possibility of cyclists coming in the opposite direction.
The DfT is currently trialling No Entry signs with Cyclist excepted plates at sites in in K and C, Brighton and Cambridge. The flying motorcycle signs may lead to confusion as they are not well understood. I wonder how long it will take before we can have what seems the more comprehensible sign?
City of London contraflow cycling
Our near-neighbour the City recently implemented a number of lightweight contraflow cycling schemes. They took the approach that where traffic flows are low and speeds less than 20 mph, they are willing to trial very lightweight schemes. They use the signs mentioned above at entry and exit and mainly have very little other support. We made a study of most of those for presentation to Camden Cycling officers. See an illustrated report written by John Chamberlain after our visit to the City
Discussions arising from recent consultations
We are pleased that Camden has been consulting on several contraflow cycling schemes this year, but have been surprised by the amount of controversy they have generated. I’ll refer to the following recent two consultations: Great James Street and Percy Street-Bayley Street
Camden Council proposed full green paint and white lines for the contraflow lanes in both Great James Street and Percy Street. In both cases they proposed a 0.5 metre gap from the parked cars. The contraflow lane should be a minimum of 1.5 metres wide, but only 1.2 metres was found in Great James Street.
Great James Street came first and here are some extracts from the discussion on our mailing list:
- Looks good. Not sure why we need a lane for the contraflow. I hope this won’t be standard for all the contraflows. 10 years ago Brussels had (and still has) lots of back street contraflows which consisted of an additional sign below the “no entry”, “Sauf Velo”. Worked fine.
- an interesting point about marking a lane for the contraflow. In Belgium and The Netherlands this would not be normal, but in those countries many minor roads that are one-way for motor vehicles are marked Sauf Velo (Uitgezonderd Fietsers) and so motorists are used to contraflow cyclists. In the UK this is not so, so an advisory lane is useful at least as a reminder to motorists that cyclists are legal.
- Contraflows are such a great idea I’ll accept them on almost any terms but I think having a marked lane is the worst design. If the lane is alongside parked cars it would just encourage cyclists to ride too close to opening car doors. And drivers will not think well of cyclists riding outside this lane. I understand the point about motorists needing a reminder to expect contraflow cyclists but this could be done with a cycle icon painted towards the left of the road, every 10 metres or whatever. This would be a reminder without the appearance of a strict boundary.
- The painting of the cycle icon is good idea, but I’d have it in the centre of the lane, partly to avoid the cyclists having to ride close to dodgy parked cars, but also because it would have a better chance of the motorists actually noticing the icon. Motorists use very focused narrow fields of view most of the time — if they are looking ahead, anyway.
- I think there should be sign-only contraflow cycling on all the streets between Northington and Gt Ormond St. There’s no evidence at all that this sort of invisible infrastructure causes problems and they’ve been tried for 12 years in the UK and abroad. There are going to be so many more cycles on the streets when the hire scheme starts, there will be the same sort of culture shift as in Paris. We need a big bang change on one-ways and it won’t happen if each one has to have lots of new signs and markings. So no more talk of chicken before the egg about whether drivers need to be reminded of the possibility that cyclists may be present, please.
Percy Street produced the following:
- As for the green cycle lane on Percy Street, no doubt we will be told it is needed to help drivers see cyclists better, which is nonsense: there are clear sight lines here. It herds people cycling in the dooring zone, which is stupid, and dumps people in the wrong position to turn right into Charlotte St which is the logical place to continue. The bottom end of Charlotte St is currently one-way but this could be changed easily (in conjunction with Westminster as it’s on the border). The green paint is really unnecessary and would detract from an attractive street to cycle along.
- no green paint please.
Many London Cyclists now want contraflow cycling to become a standard in all one way streets and think that a lightweight approach is essential for implementing them cheaply and quickly. Camden Cyclists seem to agree roughly with that point of view although it seems likely there will be some cases where marked lanes are essential.
If you have anything to say on this, you can add comments to this article or send email to Jean Dollimore