‘Light’ Cycle Lanes – Are These The Way to Armadillo(s)?

Tom Harrington LL B (Hons)  F Inst. MTD (August 2018)

The London Cycle Design Standards (LCDS)
(TfL 2014) defines light segregation as the use of physical objects intermittently placed alongside a cycle lane marking to give additional protection from motorized traffic. Light segregation offers a way to protect space for cyclists and provide a physical buffer between riders and motor traffic. This has been shown to encourage more people to cycle. There has, in recent times been a keen interest in so-called ‘light’ methods as opposed to traditional methods for separating cyclists from traffic. Because the cost of separated cycling lanes is so high, councils are now turning to a more cost effective way by introducing the ‘Zebra 9’ Armadillo’s Zicla bolt- on delineators with 1 metre high Jilson Wands. However, some observers have expressed the view that ‘Armadillo’s’ are not a deterrent to motorists and when torn up can cause a hazard to cyclists. This article deals with ‘light’ cycle lanes and the use of ‘Armadillo’ segregators as opposed to more permanent infrastructure to protect cycle lanes. With more cyclists on the streets than ever, it is important to consider infrastructure options that safeguard cyclists and other road users whilst being cost effective and easily adaptable to cities and towns that are constantly changing. If we are to encourage the safe use of cyclists on our roads we must review the design of cycle lanes and the use of shared footpaths.

“It almost looks as if these people are riding a race, rather than going home from work. They’re trying to outrun traffic. It really seems like a chase. There’s a lot of cycling here despite the infrastructure, rather than because of it”.

The Highway Code (GB) – Rule 63 (Cycle Lanes) states:

“These are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway. (See Rule 140) When using a cycle lane keep within the lane when practicable. When leaving a cycle lane check before pulling out that it is safe to do so and signal your intention clearly to other road users. Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer”.

Introduction
Cycling is a healthy, environmentally and friendly alternative to motor vehicle use. Yet, cycling is primarily considered a recreational pursuit rather than a means of utilitarian travel. The health and environmental benefits of cycling are clear and significant. However, cyclists are vulnerable in that they share the same roadway as motorized vehicles. Indeed, safety is a major concern that discourages some people from cycling. Therefore, there is a need to gain a full understanding of the factors associated with cycling safety, particularly because many UK cities are installing extensive cycle lane networks to encourage the use of cycling commutes. In GB, only 2 per cent of journeys and 1 per cent of miles travelled are by bicycle. And in 2015, there were 100 cycling fatalities and 3,239 cyclist serious injuries on GB roads. Almost three quarters of collisions with cyclists occur at a junction where traffic normally meet and cross.
Traditional methods of segregating cyclists from traffic have tended to involve either taking cyclists off the carriageway completely, sharing space with pedestrians or significant infrastructure construction, such as kerb segregation with the carriageway. This requires a lot of road space, which can limit the choice of locations where it can be installed, as well as having significant implications for drainage, maintenance, road sweeping and gritting etc.

‘Light’ Methods
For these reasons there has been recent interest in so-called ‘light’ methods for separating cyclists from traffic, which utilizes a variety of different forms of intermittent features, such as blocks, planters, or bolt-on delineators (Armadillos) vertical barriers or ‘wands’, such as bollards or marker posts, or enhancement of conventional lane markings, such as rumble strips or reflective studs. ‘Light’ methods require less space and are therefore able to be more widely used without interfering with drainage and also by virtue of not creating a continuous barrier, enable cyclists to leave the separated cycle lane should they need to do so. However, consideration must be given to how cyclists and other road users will respond to such facilities, e.g. how ‘light’ methods affect perceptions of comfort and safety and what impacts do they have on the chosen position of road users in the lane. For on-street trials of any of the three methods, consideration should be given to the confusion over priorities at the end of the separation sections reported by road users in this off-street trial. This may require additional signage or markings, or wider awareness raising campaigns to ensure that all road users understand. Furthermore, when implementing any form of separated cycle lanes, consideration must be given to the needs of pedestrians crossing the road, ensuring suitable gaps are provided to enable safe and comfortable crossing on key desired lines where there are no pedestrian crossings.

Traditional Cycle Lanes
Bicycle lanes are designated by a white line, a bicycle symbol and signage that alert all road users that a portion of the roadway is for exclusive use by cyclists. Bike lanes enable cyclists to travel at their preferred speed and facilitate predictable behaviour and movements. A bike lane is located adjacent to motor vehicle travel lanes or parking lanes, and normally flows in the same direction as vehicular traffic and are typically four to six feet wide.

Wider lanes six to seven feet and /or buffer zones provide additional operating space and lateral separation from moving and parked vehicles , thus increasing the cyclists sense of comfort and perceived safety and reducing the risk of ‘dooring’ from parked vehicles. Buffers between the bike and motor vehicle lanes can be used to visually narrow a wide street and create a more attractive and comfortable cycling environment. Coloured pavement or a contrasting paving material has also been used in certain situations to distinguish cycle lanes from motor vehicle lanes. Statutory Instrument No. 182/189 of the RTA (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1977, (Irl.) provides for the use of cycle lanes. If the cycle is a contra-flow lane, you can only cycle in the contra-flow direction on it. Must you use a cycle lane/track where one is provided? No. The tendentious mandatory-use provision of S1 No. 182 of the 1997 Act 14-(3) states: “All pedal cycles must be driven in a cycle track where one is provided” was repealed in 2012 after successful lobbying by Cyclists.ie and Dublin Cycling Campaign. However, it is doubtful if members of An Garda Siochana have been briefed on its repeal.

Series of Trials
Transport for London (TfL) commissioned the Transport Road Laboratory (TRL) to conduct a series of trials to examine the impact of different methods of cycle lane separation on the behaviour and safety of road users – including cyclists, car drivers, motorcyclists, LGV drivers and pedestrians. The methods of separation investigated were:

• Kerb with 365 mm full continuous hard margin
• Bolt-on delineators: the Zicla Zebra at 2.5 metres apart (‘Armadillos’)
• 1-metre high marker posts: Jilson ‘Wands’
• A solid painted white mandatory cycle-line lane was used to provide an experimental baseline

Almost four fifths of people in some of Great Britain’s largest cities want road space taken away from cars and given to cyclists. The vast majority of UK city dwellers would support their taxes being spent on cycle lanes, believing their city would be a better place to live and work, if more people swapped their cars for bicycles, according to a study, by Sustrans – the cycling and walking advocacy group. Many cyclists are tired of the daily aggression and exhaustion that comes from carrying out dozens of risk assessments even on a short trip e.g. will that car door open, will that van pull out etc.?

Britain’s ‘Lost’ Lane Network!
In the 1930s, the UK built a massive network of state-of-the-art bike trails. Some of these innovative cycle tracks were actually built, usually on both sides of the new ‘arterial roads’ and sprung up all over the country. Some of these still exist today but are not understood to be cycle infrastructure; they should be rededicated. Others are buried under a couple of inches of soil. Imagine having a 300-mile network of segregated long-distance lanes that provided and alternative to a highway system. In the UK, it’s not just an urbanist’s dream – it already exists, but everyone forgot about it. The UK is currently rediscovering its large-scale grid of cycle lanes built across the country in the ‘30s and still substantially in place, if largely neglected over the years. The old lanes are now at the heart of a crowdfunding campaign – one designed to promote these lanes rehabilitation as part of Britain’s contemporary cycling infrastructure. What makes the find all the more remarkable is the networks were rediscovered serendipitously? The lanes came to light while transit historian Carlton Reid was doing research for his recent book – Bike Boom. Reading up on the Dutch Ministry of Transport’s early foray into bike infrastructure, Reid discovered that the Dutch had in fact advised Britain’s Ministry of Transport in the 1930s on the creation of its own cycle network. Some of these lanes were already known in cycling advocate circles – one well known example was opened in West London in 1934 by the then Transport Minister Leslie Hore-Belisha (of Belisha Beacon fame). Elsewhere, their sheer extent had been forgotten.

“We Deserve Our Place”
In fact, Reid discovered, Britain went through something of a cycle boom in the late ‘30s. Between 1937 and 1940, Britain’s government demanded that and state-funded scheme to build an arterial road must also include a nine-foot-wide cycle track running the length of the road. Surprisingly, as the governments enlightened attitude was, cycling groups responded with deep suspicion. At the time, the feeling among cycling groups was: “We deserve our place on the road. We don’t want to be regulated to a secondary system” said John Dales, an engineer working with Carlton Reid on the campaign. By contrast, Dales said the government thinking on the issue sounded strikingly modern. “Immediately, after the war, the government published a road design guide for built-up areas that insisted that “segregation should be the keynote of modern design”, he added. As a reflection of this attitude the bikes route construction was taken quite seriously. They were solidly built, with broad nine-foot concrete surfaces often rimmed with granite kerbs. The enlightened official approach chimed with the times. Cycling was still a vital means of transit in a country where car ownership only became common in the 1950s. Many of the new broad roads that would ultimately take the burden of Britain’s car boom were still being planned and constructed between wars. The cycle network grew up as part of this new network, rather than by separating existing lane space away from motor vehicles. It thus avoided the controversies that cluster around such projects today.

‘Armadillos’
The latest research isn’t the first to paint cycle lanes in a bad light. Studies in Sweden, Finland and Milton Keynes (UK) have also shown an increased risk for cyclists using lanes. And in 2017, the Cycling Campaign Network, an umbrella organisation representing 70 local cycling groups, said:

“It knows of no evidence that cycle facilities and in particular cycle lanes generally lead to safer conditions for cycling”.

As the recent number of road incidents involving cyclists in London prove, even supposedly ‘safe’ cycle lanes can no longer be relied upon as the safety mechanisms that they once were.

Ensuring that cyclists tackle their commute without threat of vehicles encroaching on their space, the ‘Armadillo’ is a cycle lane segregator and is a simple and effective way of preventing vehicles from entering cycle lanes. Much quicker and more cost effective to install than other solutions, ‘Armadillo’s’ have been successfully installed and used by major towns and cities across Spain and the USA for the past seven years. Introduced in 2014 as a trial by London Camden Council, the scheme has been a success with an increase of 40/50 per cent increase in cycle traffic since it segregated its cycle routes with ‘Armadillo’s’. Also, traffic has slowed down on that street. However, as seen in several locations in the UK, ‘Armadillo’s’ are being damaged because many drivers don’t see them and end up driving over the top of them. Also, plastic is not a material that stands up to heavy traffic and any cycle route that is ‘protected’ by plastic separators of any sort will be likely to degrade within twelve months. Therefore, if the budget is not available for continual replacement then these so- called ‘protected’ cycle facilities will soon revert to just ordinary cycle lanes. It also further argued that ‘Armadillo’s’ fail to provide protection in several key ways e.g. visual separation; physical separation; raw materials – amorphous plastic is less resilient than fresh plastics – and alternative separators. It appears that concrete bollards, as used in Seville, are high enough to prevent incursion by motor vehicles and usually very clearly the edge of the road. These are known as ‘Toby’s’ and have been chosen by some councils as opposed to ‘Armadillo’s’. Made of 100pc recycled PVC, the ‘Armadillos’ are bolted into the ground and spaced out so the cyclists can enter or exit the cycle lane as needed, but emergency vehicles are allowed drive over them in the event of an emergency call-out. The soft material is safer for cyclists and helps absorb any impact while also preventing damage to the underside of a vehicle when accidentally driven over.

Camden Town Trial
In the UK, the official use of light protection cycle lanes had a launch date of 6 September 2013, with the opening of the Royal College Street scheme in the London Borough of Camden. The scheme which featured Spanish products used alongside plants, floating parking and flexible posts were used to create the UKs first lightly protected bike lane. Similar schemes were subsequently launched in Manchester, Newcastle, Brighton and Bristol. At present there are many kilometres of protected bike lanes across the UK, particularly in London where the approach has underpinned the London Mayor’s flagship “Mini Holland” programme that is adopting Dutch quality infrastructure onto London’s streets.
Transport for London (TfL) awarded the London Borough of Enfield £50 million from its ‘Mini-Holland’ budget to transform four busy streets into routes with Dutch inspired segregated bike lanes, where people feel safe to cycle and want to spend more cycling time in. Reported to be much quicker and cost effective to install that other solutions, ‘Armadillos’ have been successfully installed and used by major towns and cities across Spain and the USA for the past seven years. The recycled plastic has environmental benefits as it reuses old electrical sheathing and pipes, helping to reduce CO2 and landfill waste. ‘Armadillos’ were introduced in 2017, as a trial by Camden Council (London), and the scheme has been a success and will be expanded this year. Phil Jones a Camden Councillor recently reported:

“Royal College Street has seen a 40/50pc increase in cycle traffic since it segregated its cycle route with ‘Armadillos’. Also, the traffic has slowed down on that street. Now the road is narrower and traffic is slowing. So on these two key measures, it’s gone well”.

Safety points put forward include:

• Effective physical barrier
• High visibility – especially at night
• A safer option for cars
• Flexible and accommodating
• Better road view

However, some observers have expressed the views that ‘Armadillos’ are the product of an idiot. This may seem a harsh description, but it is argued that ‘Armadillos’ are not a deterrent to motorists, but a danger to cyclists and they are often torn of their mounts and lie in the road or cycle lane. Some cyclists have put pen to paper and written in to Camden New Journal purporting to provide new evidence of the failure of ‘Armadillos’ and planters in Royal College Street after less than six months. One letter by a Mr Rob Cole stated:

“I have been saddened to see how quickly motor vehicles have ruined this new layout. As a cyclist, I have had a number of near-collisions on the southbound lane in the past few months as the new design hosts car parking with motorists and couriers with packages rapidly decanting into the cycle lane without checking for oncoming cyclists.
I have also seen too many near-misses, despite travelling at safe speed and using bells”.

Based on this cyclists experience, it appears neither ‘Armadillos’ or planters are suitable for a major permanent scheme in Camden therefore, would reducing the speed and volume of traffic be a more effective way of improving cycle safety than narrow cycle lanes?

Value for Money
‘Light’ segregation schemes are becoming increasingly popular because they offer value for money and adoptability. The estimated cost of constructing a kerb-separated cycle track in central London is approximately £700,000 per kilometre, compared to around £60,000 per kilometre for ‘light’ segregation. As ‘Armadillo’s’ are bolted into the road surface they can easily be repositioned inexpensively and with minimum disruption. There have been questions from a number of consultees in the two Manchester trial sites about the legal status of ‘light’ segregation measures. The Department for Transport’s (DfT) view is that they are classified as street furniture and are neither road signs nor road markings and, therefore are not covered by the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016. As such, they do not require DfT authorisation and it is the decision of the individual highway authority to determine their acceptability at specific locations. This has led to different designs being trialled across the country with varying levels of success.

Conclusion
Traditional methods of segregating cyclists from traffic have tended to involve either taking cyclists off the carriageway completely, sharing space with pedestrians or significant infrastructure construction, such as kerb segregation with the carriageway. This requires a lot of road space, which can limit the choice of locations where it can be installed, as well as having significant implications for drainage, maintenance, road sweeping and gritting etc.

For these reasons there has been recent interest in so-called ‘light’ methods for separating cyclists from traffic, which utilizes a variety of different forms of intermittent features, such as blocks, planters, or bolt-on delineators (Armadillos) vertical barriers or ‘wands’, such as bollards or marker posts, or enhancement of conventional lane markings, such as rumble strips or reflective studs. ‘Light’ methods require less space and are therefore able to be more widely used without interfering with drainage and also by virtue of not creating a continuous barrier, enable cyclists to leave the separated cycle lane should the need to do so. Also, they are more cost effective that other methods of cycle lanes. However, there are those who say that ‘light’ methods cycle lanes are unworkable. It is argued that ‘Armadillo’s’ fail to provide adequate protection because when some motorists (and some who don’t see them) and emergency response vehicles drive over them, they become damaged and dislodged and create a hazard for cyclists. Time will only tell whether ‘light ‘cycle lanes will stand the test of time and be universally approved and used. Due to their purported safety benefits, cost effectiveness and ease of replacement the only question that now remains to be answered is: Are These Relatively New ‘Light’ Cycle Lanes the Only Way to ‘Armadillo(s)’.

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