30 Jun 2016

Lexden Road Bus Stop

Following my blog on 24 June, here are various objections to the proposed scheme for a bus lane along Lexden Road, edited from various sources.

Road safety of 8 schools and 4,500 students

There is a protest group largely focused on the road safety of school students: there are eight or more schools on and off Lexden Road serving an estimated total of 4,500 students, most of whom use the Lexden Road corridor to get to and from school.

The group includes the schools in the area  and groups representing: cyclists, bus users (C-Bus), ramblers, and parents; and local care homes, shops, pubs and others.

Questions still to be answered:

  1. Bus Lane or Nothing? Does the bid (or the business case to SE LEP) require the £5million to be spent in the way proposed? If not, how flexible is it?
  2. What is the position of First and other bus companies? Rumour has it that they don't think the bus lane will make much difference. 

Arguments against the proposed bus lane

Below are several arguments copied and edited from the email list

1) The safety of pedestrians and cyclists

Lexden Road is at times, very busy with school children and students. The footways are at these times overloaded – with people often spilling over onto the carriageway. This is particularly a problem where people are waiting for or getting on and off buses.

On the north side, the 'on-carriageway' cycle lane currently provides a safety buffer zone between pedestrians and motor traffic. Its removal will mean buses and taxis travelling at speed, inches away from the children. The footway will also be narrower and so even more congested. There will be accidents which could be very serious.

On the south side, at busy times, it will be impossible for cyclist to ride on the shared-use pavement due to the number of pedestrians. They will have to use the carriageway which would no longer have the advisory cycle lane. They will be in greater danger than before. To use the footway would be dangerous for both the pedestrians and for the cyclists. DfT guidance suggests that this option should be the last resort, and even then needs very careful and experienced design with full consultation with stakeholders. The current design shows no evidence of any of this.

Moving the toucan crossing some fifty metres from its present location (Hospital Road steps) to Wellesley Road, together with making it a two-stage crossing, could encourage pedestrians, who are heading into town along the south side of Lexden Road, to take a short cut near to the Hospital Arms. This already happens even with the current crossing location and there has been a fatality in this area already. Crossing at this location, or further along Lexden Road out of town, will also be more hazardous as there will be an extra lane and slow moving traffic will hide faster moving buses and taxies in their dedicated lane.

The current slow moving traffic is a distinct advantage from a safety point of view and if there were to be any speed increase there would be a strong safety argument for the introduction of a blanket 20 mph restriction.

Many school buses (contract buses, not public transport) travel along the road and are usually at bus stops for the time that it takes for a whole bus load of school students to get off. Or a bus, having arrived early, stands waiting for passengers. At these times any other buses have to manoeuvre around the stationary buses, pulling out into the general traffic lane to do so – which is hazardous. On the north side - the town bound direction – all this will be happening while cyclists try to share the use of this bus lane.

2) Health issues

It is well documented that this country faces some huge challenges in relation to health. Not only is air pollution outside permitted levels in many areas of Colchester, but the NHS costs associated with obesity, diabetes and heart disease are escalating.

Both Essex County Council and Colchester Borough Council have objectives to address this. Any scheme must have an element of making it more practical, easy and attractive to walk or cycle on short journeys and if they don't, they should be thrown out on these grounds alone.

The proposed bus lane down Lexden Road degrades the route for both pedestrians and cyclists, significantly discouraging these means of travel: the pavements will be overcrowded and cycling will become more dangerous than now. This will simply encourage more people to use their cars even for short journeys.

3) The design

DfT guidance in the form of Local Transport Notes 2/08 and 1/12 both guide Highways Authorities away from shared footways and point out the many advantages of other designs and the drawbacks of such sharing. More progressive local authorities including several London Boroughs have moved away from shared-use paths. ECC seems to be stuck in a 1990s-style approach to the current problems. This scheme is an example of dated design of cycle infrastructure. It stresses in the business case, providing a bus lane ‘without adversely affecting car users’. Adversely affecting pedestrians and cyclists is obviously acceptable in ECC’s thinking!

Lexden Road forms part of National Cycle Route 1, the major cycle route along which many foreign visitors travel by bicycle. What an advertisement to Colchester this will be, and what impact will it have on the tourist industry?

4) The environment and community

The Lexden Road area is designated a Conservation Area and presents probably the most attractive and inviting approach to Colchester. There are many mature specimen trees along the road, most of which have individual Tree Preservation Orders. The proposal could mean significant lopping. This may be as much as one third of the canopy size. As well as spoiling the vista, this may well kill off some of the trees.
Local Resident (PA)

Child safety on Lexden Road

  • The Small Schemes Business Case for Colchester Town Centre Traffic and Access fails to take account of the particular features of Lexden Road including its numerous schools. ECC's assessment of the impact of the scheme is "slightly beneficial" as regards accidents.
  • In fact the danger to school children would hugely increase by reducing the width of the pavements, constructing an adjacent bus lane to the northern pavement and sharing the southern pavement with cyclists.
  • The pavements are already overcrowded with large groups of schoolchildren who spill into the road. The cycle lane on the north side actually acts as a buffer at present, separating children from heavy traffic

Cyclists sharing footways with pedestrians

Cyclists sharing footways with pedestrians is as dangerous as it has long been perceived to be. There are cyclists who ride without consideration to pedestrians but they would do so whether or not it’s legal to ride on footways. The vast majority ride appropriately and even dismount for pedestrians.

Figures for accidents to pedestrians on footways caused by all vehicle types between 1994 and 2004 show that cyclists caused the least of all by considerable margins every year. For example, the figures for bikes and cars for 2004 show:
  • Bikes caused no fatalities, 15 serious, 47 slight injuries
  • Cars caused 30 fatalities, 354 serious, 1920 slight injuries.
However, it doesn’t mean that sharing with pedestrians and buses are the desirable solutions in all circumstances – far from it! Cycling UK’s document, hierarchy of measures, states the priority should be to consider whether the road environment can be made comfortable for cycling and that sharing with pedestrians should be the last resort.
  • To create shared-use footways for cyclists and pedestrians on Lexden Road is to treat cyclists as second class citizens.
  • It hardly helps cyclists to be continually slowing and even dismounting for pedestrians and perhaps enduring lack of cooperation and verbal conflict with some pedestrians who object to them on footways.
  • It also goes against making the point that cycling for short journeys can be quicker and simpler than driving.
  • Also, having made the point about the danger-perception of cyclists mixing with pedestrians, at the same time, Cycling UK accepts that if some pedestrians are already wandering onto the carriageway due to ‘pedestrian congestion’ the presence of cyclists is likely to increase that. The sheer number of pedestrians makes the point about how hopeless it would be for cyclists. The hierarchy of measures states:
“Off-carriageway facilities should however be avoided in any situation where, a) there are frequent junctions, side roads, driveways, pedestrian crossing facilities, bus stops or conflicts with car parking and/or b) there are insufficient widths or sight lines for pedestrians and cyclists to share the space comfortably.”
The proposals completely fail in those respects. In conclusion, Lexden Road requires an on-road solution, including a 20 mph speed limit. It is a misconception that 20 mph adversely affects bus services. It seems as if Essex County Council wants to encourage cycling but without making drivers slow down. The fact is that, if sustainable transport modes are to be properly encouraged, there will have to be some slowing of motorists but the longer journey times are very minimal. Frankly, some motorists have got to come to terms with that. Getting cars off the roads helps those who genuinely need to use them.
Cycling UK (JT)

Action points

  1. Cllr Sue Lissimore, prettygate@gmail.com, ECC Conservative Cllr for Drury division; CBC Councillor for Prettygate ward, where she lives; Deputy Cabinet Member for Adults and Children and Education and Lifelong Learning, previously Deputy to the Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Infrastructure - NB see map of Drury Ward which shows Lexden Road bang in the middle of her constituency.
  2. colchestertc@essexhighways.org

Who else to contact/write to

  • Cllr Dennis Willetts and Cllr Marcus Harrington are both Conservative Councillors for West Bergolt and Eight Ash Green ward - but that ward does not include Lexden Road. Note however that Councillor Marcus Harrington is a former chair of CRGSA (Colchester Royal Grammar School parents association).
  • Castle Ward now extends to Oaks Drive along Lexden Road, which is why Castle Councillors like Conservative Cllr Darius Laws are showing an interest. 
  • email HM Treasury and tell them that ECC have money burning a hole in their pockets and are spending it on unnecessary and unwanted works, and it would be better spent on something like social care, libraries etc.

Lexden Road Schools 

These are the schools within New Town and Christ Church Ward and within Drury division whose students use Lexden Road to get to and from school.  There are four state secondary schools:
  1. Colchester County High School for Girls Norman Way, Colchester, CO3 3US 
  2. Colchester Royal Grammar School 6 Lexden Road, Colchester, CO3 3ND 
  3. The Philip Morant School and College Rembrandt Way, Gainsborough Road, Colchester, CO3 4QS 
  4. St. Benedict’s Catholic College Norman Way, Colchester, CO3 3US 
In addition there are the following four schools:
  1. Kingswode Hoe School, Sussex Road, Colchester, CO3 3QJ – state school for students with moderate learning difficulties
  2. St Mary's School for Girls, 91 Lexden Rd, Colchester CO3 3RB, 01206 572544 www.stmaryscolchester.org.uk independent day school for girls aged 2-16 in Colchester
  3. Colchester English Study Centre, 19 Lexden Road, Colchester, CO3 3PW www.cesc.co.uk - for International Students & Professionals in Colchester 
  4. Oxford House School, 2-4 Lexden Road, Colchester, CO3 3NE www.oxfordhouseschool.net - independent co-educational prep school for children aged 2-11 years in Colchester

History repeats itself

If you google "Rodney Bass", this comes up: Colchester Gazette, 13 January 2014, Should Rodney Bass resign over the bus lane "fiasco"?

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