Saturday, 22 February 2014

"The ALL-NEW, improved Itchen Bridge!" ..but is it?

We were lead to believe this would be a Dutch design and would improve safety for cyclists using what is most likely the most traveled road in Southampton by bike. However I have read people like David Hembrow make (justified) critique, and the paint on the ground is nothing like the original plans I personally saw.

In fact the layout seems to have gone through a number of changes. ASLs have been removed from the design, leaving instead an extended cycle lane "wedge" or "finger" that protrudes by the lights.

The cycle lane also seems slightly more narrow than expected. If traffic snarls up, and it often does along here, there is still no way to get past a slower rider. Not every rider is as fast, even I have my slow days and its nice to be able to let faster riders through. The lanes at the lights, coming off the Itchen Bridge and over from Central Bridge seem different to how I remember the original design. There are now two, and in practice buses struggle to fit in the left hand lane when traffic is waiting to turn right - having buses and even small lorries overhanging into the cycle lane is both frightening and dangerous.

The slight swerve towards the left as you approach isn't ideal, though riding through the actual lights feels a little more manageable from bridge to bridge.

Riding past the bus stops has been dealt with the provision of a channel and an island for the passengers to wait on. The idea being that they can treat it like a road before crossing to the bus' doors. However as I found when monitoring this today, yesterday and last weekend when it opened - pedestrians both stand and walk IN the cycle lane making it useless. This means cyclists either have to ask people to move, or use the main carriageway.

Yesterday afternoon several riders had to stop and divert from the mouth you see in the photo above as a man had chosen to stand there with his back to the traffic and shout down his mobile phone. He refused to move, or even acknowledge the existence of riders.

Another problem with this channel approach is the horrendous "speed bump" they have installed in the middle. My understanding is that the Dutch don't do this, they put in dropped kerbs instead. There is a potential for a big puddle and an accumulation of rubbish at the exit, too.

The green surfacing used feels a little loose and crunchy under both my racing tyres, and the more knobbly CX tyre I use on the other bike. If it is coming loose it wont last very long and will become bumpy like the surfacing on the underpass under Castle Way.

Forest Cyclist has made a short video testing out the new design here:


  1. The geometry of the two-step turn intersections reminds me a lot of those I encountered in copenhagen at every main intersection there. I'm sure you've seen examples, but like 6:51 in this video... If done right, I find they're fine. Not like the tfl example where there seems to be quite the long loop required, although I haven't tried it myself.

    And they've certainly caught on in a lot of north american cities, sometimes termed the "Launch pad". One example in vancouver at 0:10

    And interesting to see the light green paint, all the green paint example I've seen from the UK have always been dark green. It's supposidly quite grippy if the right material, at least the kind we have in vancouver is, even when wet it's better than just the plain road.

  2. Having stood and observed traffic for twenty minutes this morning, I'm amazed at how many times I could utter 'S**T' and 'C**P'. A monumentally poor piece of design that appears to have been done by a six year old with a green marker pen. Sadly there'll be a dead cyclist here soon.