Monday, 2 February 2009

A Red Wave for Cyclists

If you're interested in traffic management (and who isn't?) you've probably heard of the Green Wave - the timing of traffic signals along a route so that motorists released by one set of lights turning green will find the next set of signals turning green just as they approach so that provided they drive at the appropriate speed they won't be brought to a halt. The appropriate speed is likely to be around 30 mph so cyclists usually struggle to keep up with Green Waves.

Here in Cycling City we now have a 'special facility' for cyclists in the form of the new traffic signals on Prince Street Bridge, so we can get a pretty good indication of the latest 'pro-cycling' thinking of our transport experts at Bristol City Council. I've already reported on the new 'Go-on-Red' signal for cyclists travelling northbound, where cyclists are apparently invited to ride through the red light to access the motor-traffic-free half of the bridge. To complement this we have a special 'Red Wave' for cyclists travelling southbound.

A Red Wave is the opposite of a Green Wave, so instead of finding the next set of lights turning green as you approach you find them turning red, as now experienced by cyclists travelling south over Prince Street Bridge during the evening peak. The majority of motorists approach Prince Street Bridge from the Grove and they of course get a Green Wave so as they are released from the Grove the light around the corner on Prince Street Bridge will also be at green. But the majority of cyclists approach from Prince Street itself and find that a few seconds after the traffic lights at the Grove junction turn green for them the lights at the bridge turn red, just as they reach it.

Cyclists seem to have developed a variety of tactics to deal with this perverse set up. One is to jump the lights at the Grove to reach Prince Street Bridge before the lights there change to red. Another is to jump the red lights at the bridge itself. Another to use the narrow footway on the east side of the bridge (above). Another to swing across on-coming traffic to use the west side of the bridge (below). Many even wait patiently for the bridge lights to change back to green, which is positively saintly given that they have been deliberately set up to be caught by the red light. Perhaps they haven't yet realised that their incredible bad luck with the lights always changing just as they reach them is by design.

Of course there's nothing unusual about finding traffic light timings giving priority to motorists over cyclists here in Cycling City, but what makes the Prince Street Bridge example particularly galling is that the installation of the traffic signals was hyped as a major benefit to cyclists, is funded out of the cycling and walking budget (as confirmed by Cllr Jon Rogers' comment) and may well be part paid for from the Cycling City budget itself. It seems that Bristol City Council see no problem in using cycling funds to benefit motorists at the expense of cyclists.


DocSavage said...

it's good to see the Evil Post shamelessly cut and paste your blog for their article on the bridge.

I guess it's a bit snowy outside and what with the cutbacks and all, hell! they can't actually be expected to actually leave their desks!

Chris Hutt said...

We bloggers have a symbiotic relationship with the Post. In most cases it's mutually beneficial.

I have in effect a standing invitation to other local media to follow up on stories featured here and that particular story was offered to the Post as something they might like to cover, so absolutely no objections to their story.

The mainstream media rely more than ever on press releases and publicity events generated by interested parties. The reality is that they don't have the resources to fund investigative reporting which can require a great deal of background research.