Monday, 2 March 2009

Cycling suppressant

Clare Road E11. This is the classically stupid lay-out of speed cushions in the London Borough of Waltham Forest (and probably everywhere else). The objections are twofold. Firstly, these cheapskate rubber cushions do not hold vehicle speeds down to 20 mph. You can thunder over them at speeds well in excess of that. Secondly, they encourage erratic and dangerous driving behaviour, because most drivers swerve into the middle of the road to get their wheels to pass through the gaps.

Sometimes there is just a single cushion in the centre of the carriageway. In some situations this encourages drivers to swerve over to the other side of the road to get past.

When these rubber speed cushions first started appearing on local streets I rang up the Town Hall and finally got through to the highway engineer in charge. I explained that as a cyclist I did not enjoy the new experience of drivers coming right at me on my side of the road just because they were swerving to get round the cushions. Because he wasn't a cyclist he had no idea what I was talking about. He explained that there was no need for drivers to swerve round these lovely soft friendly cushions. Maybe not, I replied, but THEY DO. He then said that there were installed according to Department of Transport guidelines. Perfectly true. And what the DoT knows about cycling could be written on the back of a postage stamp. Finally he said he would monitor 'road accident statistics' to see if the cushions resulted in collisions with cyclists. The problem with that response is that road injury stats are not a true index of danger. Probably only a very few cyclists have ever been hit by a vehicle swerving to avoid a speed cushion. The problem is that the experience of cycling is rendered more unpleasant by having drivers race directly at you on streets with cushions arranged like this. The fact that they swerve back on to their side of the road at the last moment is small consolation.

Needless to say, many of the projected Sustrans North East London 'Olympic Greenways' networks incorporate 'quiet' routes with rubber speed cushions on them.

These rubber speed cushions have been a disaster. Every single one of them needs tearing up. I would rather have no traffic calming at all than crap like this.

The last time I rang up the highway engineers to talk about rubber speed cushions I was informed that the Borough had no plans at all to replace any of them. But that turns out not to be true. I'm interested to see that the Langham Road area (E11) proposed 20 mph zone consultation includes removing three sets of speed cushions - albeit the much rarer stone variety - on Hall Road and replacing them with speed humps. A tacit admission of failure and a welcome one. I hope that Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign respond to the consultation and fervently support this aspect of the proposed scheme.