Wednesday, 12 February 2014

One step forward, two steps back

From the eastern parts of Plymouth, short of taking a huge detour, there are almost only two routes into the city: Embankment Road, or Laira Bridge. This is true for cyclists as well as drivers.

With very short notice, Plymouth City Council published notice of a new flood defense wall, funded by the Environment Agency, to be built along the edge of Embankment Road: http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/newsreleases?newsid%3D330356

As is usually the case, the council's pet contractors, Amey, will be doing the work, and as per usual, Amey makes NO allowances for cyclists at all.

The southern pavement along Embankment Road is a shared path, and a busy cycle commuter route. As part of the work, the pavement is closed, with pedestrians diverted onto part of lane 1, as lane 1 is closed to traffic.

Amey's idea of "cyclist provision" is the put up the despised, unwanted and unnecessary "Cyclists Dismount" signs.

I emailed Plymouth City Council about the issue before the closure, asking specifically what provision will be put in place for cyclists. The silence was deafening, so I followed up with a second email, only to be told that my request was forwarded to Amey, who would get back to me in due course. I have not received that promised response.

Clearly that means that Plymouth City Council has NO INTENTION of stepping to to ensure adequate provision is made for cyclists, and that (as usual) Amey couldn't care less.

The lane closure is actually only about 300 metres, and provided there is a break in traffic, faster cyclists can actually take to the road, sprint into the the traffic stream and ride on the carriageway past the works. That assumes several things:
1) That all cyclists are capable of sprinting at such speeds, which isn't the reality,
2) that there would actually be a gap in the traffic, which is highly unlikely during rush-hour and
3) that the cyclist is travelling into the city.
Cyclists travelling out of the city simply cannot go onto the carriageway at all.

The pavement on the northern side of Embankment road is NOT a shared path, and is NOT safe to cycle on, even if it was a shared path.

The approach taken by Amey, and apparently approved by Plymouth City Council, seems consistent: ensure that there is NO PROVISION AT ALL for cyclists just at the point where it is most needed.

This approach is also shown by the roadworks on Billacombe Road, where the cycle lane remains closed for a significant section of the road. There is NO other provision for cyclists, no temporary reduction in speed limit through the road works and no signs to tell drivers not to overtake cyclists.

There is a solitary "single file traffic" sign, which evidently means nothing to drivers, who still overtake any cyclist not riding in the middle of the lane, and there's no instruction telling drivers to let cyclists safely merge with the traffic stream.

Combined, the section of road works is dangerous to cyclists, but Plymouth City Council appears happy to dismiss or ignore that danger.

Along Billacombe Road, work was done by two different contractors. Those that dug up the cycle lane nearest the Morrison's roundabout did a very good job of restoring the surface, leaving a smooth cycle lane once they were done.
The contractors that dug up the cycle lane further along did a pathetic job, leaving a corrugated and uncomfortable-to-ride-on surface to the cycle lane.

Plymouth City Council appears to have no issue with this sub-standard surface.

What will it take to get the council to act on issues such as these?

Sometimes I really despair!