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Letter: I Thank Niels Laub for His Well-researched Letter

Published on: 24 Sep, 2023
Updated on: 24 Sep, 2023

Image of London Road taken in August 2022. Google Street View.

From Bibhas Neogi

In response to: Some Concerns About the London Road Active Travel Scheme

I thank Neils Laub for his well-researched article pointing out the safety issues of this proposal.

I agree with all the comments that have been brought up so far pointing out non-compliance with design

The scheme, if executed, would be reducing instead of increasing safety for cyclists and it would create hazardous driving conditions for motorists. In fact some of these issues have already been raised previously here in The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

Safety of cycle lanes could be improved by introducing a 20mph speed limit during peak periods within the extent of 30mph limit. The measures could be implemented using VMS signs (like on the M25) and cameras enforcing compliance.

If this alternative solution were found to be acceptable, SCC could save a lot of money. Also the users of London Road will not unnecessarily suffer prolonged delays and disruptions. A 20mph permanent speed limit would be deemed unnecessary out of hours and it is likely to be ignored by many.

The proposal for a Dutch-style roundabout replacing Boxgrove roundabout should be reviewed for safety since at this roundabout the volume of traffic is fairly high during peak times. One such roundabout in Cambridge has already experienced higher number of accidents. I believe a Dutch-style roundabout is unlikely to function safely and efficiently. The solution would be to create a grade-separated roundabout.

What is so different about this modified roundabout? My suggested modification is for a safer arrangement where cycle lanes go under the roads. As far as I am aware, such a layout has not been used anywhere. Of course it is more expensive but it ensures complete safety for cyclists.

The sketch below shows a layout where the cycle lane has been lowered by about 2.5m to pass under the roads and pedestrian crossings. Construction of a new roundabout using this layout is relatively straightforward but to alter an existing roundabout would require careful planning to keep traffic disruptions to a minimum.

A “grade-separated roundabout”.

For an upgrading work, these short span bridges carrying the roads and pedestrian crossings over the cycle lanes could be built using a top-down method of construction or a cut and cover method using precast concrete boxes forming the cycle underpasses.

In a top-down method, interlocking piles are cast using continuous flight auger piling machines from the road level to form the supports of these bridge decks.

Work would be done within closed parts of the road while keeping at least one lane open for traffic. Work should also be mostly carried during off-peak hours and maybe some overnight work.

I hope SCC would explore this design, as it is a lot safer than the proposed Dutch-style roundabout.

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Responses to Letter: I Thank Niels Laub for His Well-researched Letter

  1. J Dickinson Reply

    September 25, 2023 at 7:43 am

    Given it is no effort at all for motorised vehicles to use an underpass, why should it be cyclists who should do so. I am interested in the reasoning behind this suggestion to make it harder for self-propelled traffic to make their journeys.

    Many of the residents travelling here will going to and from their schools, their clubs, their shops, their leisure centre and their park. Why disincentivise them by sending them underground, into dark, probably wet and litter-strewn tunnels with blind corners that make them feel unsafe?

    This design subtly reinforces the message to the drivers that they are NOT in a residential area that has a leisure focus, and that they should feel free to drive through it at speed without bothering to look out for the children and other vulnerable road users who live in the area. Why is this the right message to convey?

    • John Lomas Reply

      September 25, 2023 at 4:51 pm

      Has J Dickinson actually looked at the drawing rather than glance at it?

      There are no long, dark, tunnels with blind corners, there are only short straight sections under the individual directions of the carriageways. The motorists will still have to slow down and take care because the pedestrians are still at road level on pedestrian crossings.

      Can Bibhas Neogi confirm that I have read his diagram correctly?

      • Bibhas Neogi Reply

        September 25, 2023 at 10:45 pm

        Yes, you have indeed read my diagram correctly. Thank you.

        Pedestrian crossings are too close to the perimeter of the roundabout and not compliant with UK design standards.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      September 25, 2023 at 6:12 pm

      Saving cyclists’ lives is the reasoning behind my suggestion. If a Dutch-style roundabout as proposed by SCC is actually built, there is the potential for many accidents as already borne out by several accidents in Cambridge where such a roundabout has been built.

      A roundabout instead of a signalised junction allows better flow of traffic, less congestion and less pollution. The proposed roundabout would create long queues on all arms of the roundabout during peak periods and hence would cause delays and more pollution. Also the location of pedestrian and cycle lane crossings are too close to the perimeter of the roundabout and they do not comply with current UK standards.

      My sketch shows the principle of a safe grade-separated roundabout but the actual layout would depend on several other factors and compliance with Department for Transport standards.

      On the question of vehicle underpasses, how is the junction likely to work unless the whole roundabout is either about 6m below ground level or about 6m up in the air to allow 5.1m headroom? There isn’t the room for such layouts and even if it were feasible, the costs would be very high and not affordable.

      Cycle lanes shown in my sketch are about 2.5m below the road level and going through underpasses that are quite short in length and about 2m wide. They do not create dark areas. In fact the sketch shows the one-way cycle lane mostly in the open air and would not have blind corners if the junctions were designed with adequate splays.


    September 25, 2023 at 9:35 am

    Whilst Mr Neogi’s points with respect to the London Road Active Travel Scheme’s dangers are apposite and in a similar way to Neils Laub, highlight the increased dangers to all road users should it be unwisely implemented.

    I have no wish to be discourteous to a well meaning individual but he diminishes his points, as he has done in a number of previous comments on other traffic matters, by suggesting complicated and unaffordable – in present financial circumstances – alternatives.

    This, in my view, lets the promulgator of this foolish initiative ‘off the hook.’ SCC doesn’t look beyond these unaffordable alternatives and his reasonable and reasoned points are probably dismissed without consideration.

  3. Mark Percival Reply

    September 25, 2023 at 4:41 pm

    A 1960’s design of underpass which has been thoroughly discredited in the decades since. There’s a reason this novel suggestion hasn’t been adopted, the motorized vehicle should be the ones descending / ascending in a design like this.

    To suggest that pedestrians, wheelers or cyclists are the hazard to motorists suggests some bias and the author’s starting viewpoint.

    Around 30,000 people are killed or seriously injured on UK roads per year, that’s 80 people a day – every single day.

    About one pedestrian is killed per day by car a driver. I am not aware of any instances of a pedestrian killing a motor vehicle driver.

    Pedestrians, cyclists, children, elderly, disabled people are not the source of danger on our roads.

    This is how imbalanced our car thinking is and we need to start to nudge ourselves away from this.

    I have held an IAM RoadSmart advanced riding (motorcycle) qualification for 10+ years and am an avid motorist, but we must make changes to how we control traffic in our town.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      September 25, 2023 at 10:38 pm

      These underpasses are for cyclists only and going one-way in a totally safe manner without any interaction with motorised vehicles or pedestrians. These are not subways.

      It would be totally impractical to attempt to improve Boxgrove roundabout where motorised traffic ascends or descends in order to create grade separation. Sheer volume of structural work required would be unaffordable and environmental degradation would no doubt draw vociferous objections.

      Controlling traffic in our towns is a much broader issue. I have focused on the scheme that SCC is proposing for London Road and I have suggested ways to improve safety for cyclists.

      I have made suggestions for making Guildford town centre safer for pedestrians and cyclists. I have outlined ways how this could be achieved and there are a few websites that outline these.

  4. Mark Percival Reply

    September 26, 2023 at 9:35 am

    The design standards state the tunnel should be 4m wide with 2.7m of height and a gradient of 3% (ie 8.1m lead in and 8.1m lead out).

    Is this idea thought out?

    Traffic on the roundabout today queues up Boxgrove, Parkway and London roads most days, I don’t think we can say any changes will cause long queues as we are in that situation already.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      September 27, 2023 at 5:45 pm

      These are not tunnels. These are not subways either. Subways usually have 2.7m headroom and they are about 4m wide. Proposed underpasses are for single cycle lane only (the lane is one-way), and 2m is wide enough.

      Standard ramp gradient for a pedestrian route is 1 in 20 and that is suitable for wheel chairs and buggies etc. Ramps could be steeper but no more than 1 in 12 gradient if the site is constrained but alternative means such as lifts should be considered.

      Anyway pedestrian routes are on the road level and they should not be too close to the perimeter of the roundabout. DTp standard requires a safe distance away from the roundabout for pedestrian crossings so that drivers have a fair chance of stopping safely. If the number of pedestrians is substantial, footbridges should be provided instead of at grade crossings.

      As you say queues are already long and if SCC builds a Dutch-style roundabout, during peak periods queues would be even longer on the approaches and pollution even greater.

  5. Jim Allen Reply

    September 26, 2023 at 8:20 pm

    Lets not exaggerate. Conflating death, with a broken finger. (classed as a serious accident) on English roads.

    So 1,558 deaths per year, 4 per day on 247,800 miles of road ..that’s 1 in 61,950 chance of being within 1 mile of some else death on a road within 24 hours of that incident location .

    Time to stop throwing around national but statistically irrelevant to the London Road adventure travel scheme numbers.

  6. Niels Laub Reply

    October 3, 2023 at 7:22 am

    One more thing that concerns me about Surrey County Council’s determination to go ahead with this Active Travel Scheme proposed for the London Road is public safety.

    In its letter giving Notice of the Public Consultation, Surrey County Council states “Surrey has the highest number of cycling casualties in the UK and we want to help address this by providing safer cycling spaces across the county”.

    This is highly misleading as it refers to the whole of Surrey and not London Road which has a relatively good safety record. This statement is particularly galling bearing in mind that the Dutch style roundabout in Cambridge has seen an increase in accidents since its installation.

    There have been ten collisions since the roundabout opened at Fendon Road in Cambridge in 2020, three of them serious, compared to six minor incidents 2017-2019 (see: Cambridge: Figures reveal collisions on Dutch-style roundabout). The ten collisions included eight involving cyclists, and the other two involved a pedestrian and a driver respectively.

    • Alfie Simmons Reply

      October 3, 2023 at 11:26 am

      It’s somewhat ironic to accuse the SCC of employing highly misleading statistics and then proceed to reference a statistic from a BBC article indicating an increase in cycling collisions, without acknowledging the very next sentence from the article which highlights a 50 per cent increase in cycling at the roundabout.

    • Mark Percival Reply

      October 3, 2023 at 6:21 pm

      There is nothing misleading about the statement from SCC. Surrey has a very high road collision stats, and schemes like this make a difference. How anyone could read it differently is beyond me.

      I think the campaign from Mr Laub and the other small LRAG cohort have been running has started to become so desperate they will write in with any slight objection and masquerade it as “concerns”.

      His other letter just published is veering towards conspiracy theory territory.

      We had anti-ULEZ and Sadiq Khan statements in the Miro board stage pre-consultation, from some of the prominent LRAG team and this just highlights where their views sit.

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