Author Topic: robots and cycle lanes  (Read 6599 times)

robots and cycle lanes
« on: 28 September, 2023, 01:55:18 pm »
Don't know if this has been mentioned elsewhere:-

Just heard an item  on BBC News about poor British productivity.  What jumped out at me was someone saying, "Milton Keynes is ideal for robot deliveries because it's got so many cycle lanes."

So it's f**k cyclists, then?  What are the implications of this if they are not as obvious as the one I've just stated?  We have cyclist ate my pizza, robot smashes dentist's  £10,000 Pinarello, cyclist kills American Bully dog avoiding robot delivering nappies.

What actually happens?

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #1 on: 28 September, 2023, 02:45:32 pm »
Milton Keynes doesn't really have many cycle lanes, it has a load of "red ways", which are footpaths that weave around and over and under the main roads and much like the ones in Stevenage have a knack of not quite connecting to whatever it is you were trying to get to.

They're mostly pretty wide, shared with pedestrians, and have a lot of ups and downs and sharp bends and typical British level of surface maintenance so they're not fast cycle routes. The odd venture capitalist robot isn't going to make them worse.

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #2 on: 28 September, 2023, 04:58:05 pm »
No collisions, then - no eye contact, etc.?  I don't know how clever the robots are.  Will they be faster than cyclists and come up behind?  Just don't know anything bout them.  Also uneasy about the fact (not mentioned) that they are really designed to reduce employment - like auto checkouts.

Kim

  • Timelord
    • Fediverse
Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #3 on: 28 September, 2023, 06:38:09 pm »
One of our Milton Keynes or Northampton correspondents will be along in a minute, but in my limited experience the robots travel at below walking pace, stop at the first sign of trouble, and have a knack of getting stuck on insufficiently dropped kerbs.

Which, combined with a sufficiency of blinkenlights, makes them at least three orders of magnitude less hazardous than the average dog.


As for reducing employment, at risk of sounding like a Luddite[1] I'd suggest that it's not so much a technology problem as one of a society that expects people to do menial work that can reasonably be done by a computer in order to have their basic needs met, and then gives their jobs to a computer anyway.


[1] In the original meaning of the word.

RichForrest

  • T'is I, Silverback.
    • Ramblings of a silverback cyclist
Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #4 on: 28 September, 2023, 06:52:30 pm »
The small shop delivery robots have been here since 2018, they cause very little issue on the paths.
I remember seeing a post a few years ago saying they had passed their 200,000th delivery. That's a lot of small car journeys taken off the road.
Can't see the bigger parcel robots being an issue as I don't suppose they'd be much bigger than an electric wheelchair and will work the same as the small robots.
There was also talk a few years ago of autonomous robot taxis from the station, not sure what has happened to that idea.

The only issue I've had is they sometimes don't tend to recognise a recumbent bicycle coming towards them, possibly due to the small frontal area and lack of leg movement. Again only on the old railway path with a lot of trees and bushes at either side and shadows.

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #5 on: 28 September, 2023, 09:34:09 pm »
The small shop delivery robots have been here since 2018, they cause very little issue on the paths.
I remember seeing a post a few years ago saying they had passed their 200,000th delivery. That's a lot of small car journeys taken off the road.
Can't see the bigger parcel robots being an issue as I don't suppose they'd be much bigger than an electric wheelchair and will work the same as the small robots.
There was also talk a few years ago of autonomous robot taxis from the station, not sure what has happened to that idea.

The only issue I've had is they sometimes don't tend to recognise a recumbent bicycle coming towards them, possibly due to the small frontal area and lack of leg movement. Again only on the old railway path with a lot of trees and bushes at either side and shadows.
Delivery robots have certainly been a thing here in Bedford for a few years now. AFAIK, they stick to the pavements, rather than cycle lanes; I don't know of (haven't looked for) any issues on shared pedestrian/cycle paths. However, I'm intrigued by your mention of bigger parcel robots, as I've often wondered about the economics of running such a service with such a small payload. I had assumed that the scheme here, and in MK, was a proof of concept project to iron out issues prior to monetising it properly. Do you have any references to plans to introduce bigger parcel robots?

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #6 on: 28 September, 2023, 10:05:10 pm »
Thanks for your info. everyone.  I am somewhat re-assured!

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #7 on: 28 September, 2023, 10:25:55 pm »
like the ones in Stevenage have a knack of not quite connecting to whatever it is you were trying to get to.

Where in Stevenage were you trying to get to and from on the cycle ways?

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #8 on: 28 September, 2023, 10:35:39 pm »
The only issue I've had is they sometimes don't tend to recognise a recumbent bicycle coming towards them, possibly due to the small frontal area

That’s quite a controversial thing to say about recumbent cyclists.
It is simpler than it looks.

RichForrest

  • T'is I, Silverback.
    • Ramblings of a silverback cyclist
Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #9 on: 29 September, 2023, 06:18:10 am »
However, I'm intrigued by your mention of bigger parcel robots, as I've often wondered about the economics of running such a service with such a small payload. I had assumed that the scheme here, and in MK, was a proof of concept project to iron out issues prior to monetising it properly. Do you have any references to plans to introduce bigger parcel robots?

I thought I saw something yesterday when searching for something else, can't find it now.

Have found another interesting thing though. Remote control standard size cars.
You order one like a taxi, it comes to your location driverless, you drive it wherever you want to go and get out, then the remote operator drives it back or onto the next person from the office.
https://fetchcar.io/

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #10 on: 29 September, 2023, 07:58:31 am »
Where in Stevenage were you trying to get to and from on the cycle ways?

Does the cycle network in Stevenage properly connect to anything?

It studiously avoids going near the town center. It whizzes past the far end of the car park of every supermarket. The connection to the railway station is through a hole in the fence into a dark corner of the car park that may as well have been put there by vandals.

It's bizarre. It's like the cycle network was put in by a member of the planning team that everyone else hated.

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #11 on: 29 September, 2023, 08:42:15 pm »

You'd think that if cycle lanes were so useful for delivery robots, we'd have them on this side of the North Sea...

I'm not aware of any...

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #12 on: 29 September, 2023, 08:53:06 pm »
Possibly you already have things delivered by bike?!

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #13 on: 29 September, 2023, 08:54:10 pm »
Possibly you already have things delivered by bike?!

Yeah. The DHL guy uses an e assist trike...

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #14 on: 29 September, 2023, 09:46:47 pm »
Where in Stevenage were you trying to get to and from on the cycle ways?

Does the cycle network in Stevenage properly connect to anything?

It studiously avoids going near the town center. It whizzes past the far end of the car park of every supermarket. The connection to the railway station is through a hole in the fence into a dark corner of the car park that may as well have been put there by vandals.

It's bizarre. It's like the cycle network was put in by a member of the planning team that everyone else hated.

It connects directly to Tesco in the town centre, it connects directly to Aldi, it connects directly to Costco, it connects directly to Asda, it connects directly to Sainsbury’s . It connects to within 50m of the other end of the pedestrianised town centre, there’s a connection to within 100m, plus another connection that ends at the start of the pedestrianised zone.  It makes a fairly decent connection  to the station on the other side. It connects you to the hospital.  It connects you to the swimming pool. It connects you to the leisure centre. It connects you to every major park and passes through a few of them. It connects directly to every area of Stevenage built at same time via over 30 miles of segregated cycle ways.

Whilst some bits are nowhere near as good as 50 years ago when built, due the subsequent planners prioritising the car and newer areas like Chells or adjacent Great Ashby (built in 1990s) didn’t expand the cycleways to the new housing. For the most part it remains intact.

It’s pretty damned decent, and seems bizarre you think it doesn’t connect places.

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #15 on: 29 September, 2023, 10:16:06 pm »
I'm a bit ambivalent about the Stevenage paths too. I used them for thirty years, commuting to work in the industrial areas, where they are very good. However, if you don't know the area and you're going across town, the town centre gets in the way, because ways round take some exploring to find. And, away from the centre, there's a tendency to get dumped in random parks or shopping centres if you make the wrong choices - taking the path on the north rather than the south side of Broadhall Way for example, near the football club. Signposting is awful, and really the only way is to ride or drive on the road for a bit to learn the layout, and then use that to find your way round the cycle paths. Venture into the outer areas, and you can get led into, and abandoned in, housing estates you've never seen before.

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #16 on: 29 September, 2023, 10:22:33 pm »
That’s a question of poor sign posting though, which is different to whether a network connects places.  I agree that sign posting is pretty poor if you’re not familiar with the geographical relationship of different areas. 

If you took away all the road sign posts in any town, and weren’t allowed to use a satnav would you say the roads did not connect anywhere and were bizarre, or blame the lack of sign posting?

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #17 on: 29 September, 2023, 10:37:30 pm »
I think if you're trying to get from, say, Roaring Meg to the Lister Hospital, it would be easy to conclude that the network didn't connect the two, because several tries could run you into the town centre with no clear onward path, as described above. The housing areas are famous for not maintaining the standards, but the Vardon Road area, for example, is one where any attempt to use the paths is likely to leave a non-resident of that area lost in someone's front garden with nowhere clear to go. Nor does the network go north-south around Vardon Road (to stick to the same example) in the same way that the road network does.

So, technically, yes, it connects most areas, but not in ways that are universally easy to find, and quite often only if you're coming from the right direction. And it doesn't always connect well out of town - coming in from, say, Little Wymondley is a bit of a roundabout route, especially if you're used to the idea that the main roads provide the principle transport corridors. But the town is clearly better with than without its paths.

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #18 on: 29 September, 2023, 11:03:58 pm »
It connects directly to Tesco in the town centre, it connects directly to Aldi, it connects directly to Costco, it connects directly to Asda, it connects directly to Sainsbury’s .

You can use the cycle network to get to the wrong end of the car park of each of those places, but to get to the front door you're wading across a car park that makes zero acknowledgement that someone might be arriving by bike.

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #19 on: 30 September, 2023, 08:32:58 am »
It connects directly to Tesco in the town centre, it connects directly to Aldi, it connects directly to Costco, it connects directly to Asda, it connects directly to Sainsbury’s .

You can use the cycle network to get to the wrong end of the car park of each of those places, but to get to the front door you're wading across a car park that makes zero acknowledgement that someone might be arriving by bike.

To understand that you have to understand that the Tesco was built 30 years after the cycle way. The car park was built over the existing cycle way, interrupting what used to be a continuous way running north to south to the east of Lytton way and the leisure centre. It’s not a problem of the cycle way not being built to the entrance of Tesco.  It’s that Tesco were allowed to destroy the pre existing cycle way to pander to the needs of car drivers. The planning permission didn’t require that they leave the pre existing cycle way intact. The recent new bus station built has further destroyed that way to the south rendering it near useless.  But that’s not to say the way didn’t connect fully to the town centre when built.

Like I said, mostly intact but there are some bit subsequently lost to later car centric thinking.

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #20 on: 30 September, 2023, 08:44:34 am »
Nor does the network go north-south around Vardon Road (to stick to the same example) in the same way that the road network does.

It goes north south through Hampson Park to the west which runs parallel to Vardon Road, or there’s a parallel cycleway 250m to the east of Vardon road.   Plus you can’t expect a cycle way to exist everywhere a road does and that some quiet residential road riding will be necessary.  Vardon road (and connecting residential roads) was earmarked for a new 20 mph zone, but with Sunak that might not be happening now (grrr).

It’s easy to criticise a cycle network built in the 60s (and not subsequently improved following decades of car centrist thinking) but it’s a damned sight better than any other town in Hertfordshire and most of the country.

It’s not perfect but it is more a case of signage rather than the connections not being there. When you do leave the network you can jump onto quiet residential roads and not jump on busy one way systems built for cars.

How many other UK towns do you know of with 30 miles of wide connected tarmaced cycleways?

The mistake the planners made from the beginning was the make it super easy to also drive around as well, then in subsequent decades make car centric planning decisions.

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #21 on: 30 September, 2023, 09:03:19 am »
It’s easy to criticise a cycle network built in the 60s (and not subsequently improved following decades of car centrist thinking) but it’s a damned sight better than any other town in Hertfordshire and most of the country.

It’s not perfect but it is more a case of signage rather than the connections not being there. When you do leave the network you can jump onto quiet residential roads and not jump on busy one way systems built for cars.

How many other UK towns do you know of with 30 miles of wide connected tarmaced cycleways?
Yes, I wouldn't disagree with any of that. As I said, the town is clearly better for having them. The most comparable town I know is MK, and I've always found that that suffers from many of the same issues (navigation, a tendency to dump you in random places, the need to find your way around by road first before then trying to get to those places by bike).

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #22 on: 30 September, 2023, 09:05:40 am »
It’s an issue still in this decade.  Look at the cycle route from Kings Cross to Paddington. A route you might think quite a few people might want to make on bike.  But it’s convoluted and poorly signed.  It’s almost as if the motorist lobby objected to signs as big and clear as those provided for those driving, and god forbid the cycle route being direct and easy to navigate. Noooo, we don’t want to encourage that, they shall take the tube or taxi….

The worst I find are the Sustrans national cycle routes that do their utmost to avoid perfectly fine direct roads into a town, have signs to the town centre, but no signs to get you out the other side.

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #23 on: 30 September, 2023, 09:10:26 am »
To be fair, when driving, I've found that much sign-posting is only adequate if you already know the roads, and aren't trying at the same time to work out the road layout and where other vehicles might be coming from ;D

Re: robots and cycle lanes
« Reply #24 on: 30 September, 2023, 09:13:50 am »
Historically going back you also have to remember that not much over 100 years ago, before the rise of the motor car, that most roads were not signed, and only the locals used them.

In fact if you go into the lanes to the west of Hitchin you will find many of those lanes still have no signs and you have to know how they connect or be following your GPS.