Author Topic: Sustrans paths crap - official  (Read 3760 times)

Never tell me the odds.

Kim

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Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2018, 01:23:28 pm »
Here's the report in full: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/sites/default/files/file_content_type/ncn_review_report_paths_for_everyone.pdf

Hopefully this represents an end to the Pokémon approach to NCN routes, with a shift in focus to improving what they've got.  They seem to be prioritising traffic-free routes over accessibility and social safety, so convoluted dog-emptying leisure routes are still the order of the day.

Funding left as an exercise for the reader.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

mattc

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Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2018, 02:22:03 pm »
I can't work out who is making these comments - it reads like:

Sustrans: Sustrans found that Sustrans has made some crappy, unsafe routes. Sustrans hopes that Sustrans will get their shit together.


EDIT: I only read the BBC page, not Kim's link, sorry!
Has never ridden RAAM
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No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles

Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2018, 02:25:23 pm »
I read it as "Yes, our paths are crap.  Give us funding to build more."
Never tell me the odds.

Kim

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Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2018, 02:33:39 pm »
The report is mostly stats and spin (53% of our network is 'good'!), interspersed with lots of smiley photos of atypical[1] network users.  The crux of the report is a list of 15 recommendations, which "Sustrans will now work in partnership with local authorities, private and charitable landowners, national governments, agencies, users, local communities and all the many organisations that make the Network possible to turn [...] into reality":

Quote
1. Set the tone for harmonious use of the Network by everyone.
2. Remove or redesign all 16,000 barriers on the Network to make it accessible to everyone, with no barriers in place for continuous travel.
3. Transform the Network by replacing existing on-road sections with new traffic-free paths or by creating quiet-way sections so it is safer for everyone.
4. Ensure that where the Network is on a quiet-way section the speed limit is 20mph in built-up areas and 40mph in rural areas.
5. Improve safety at crossings where the Network crosses roads or railways.
6. Adopt a new quality standard to ensure path widths and surfaces are built for everyone.
7. Improve signage so everyone can use the paths without a map or smartphone.
8. Deliver over 50 activation projects across the UK by 2023 to improve the Network and demonstrate change.
9. Introduce a process for de-designation of parts of the Network that cannot be improved – and a clear process for incorporating new routes that fill gaps or make new connections.
10. Make it easier for people using the Network to feed back on its condition – and use this insight to improve it.
11. Promote the Network to new users.
12. Encourage greater community involvement in designing, developing and maintaining the Network.
13. Provide open data on the Network.
14. Report regularly on the impact of the Network in improving everyone’s lives and places.
15. Establish clear governance to bring together land managers, funders, users and others to deliver these recommendations in partnership.

I can't really fault that list, but - with the exception of signage and perhaps data provision - the the things that will actually make a serious improvement to the network (widening, resurfacing, lighting, removal of barriers) are going to be politically difficult and prohibitively expensive.


[1] Only one person has a dog, and it's on a short lead and not in the process of being emptied.  None of them are loitering teenagers.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2018, 02:42:54 pm »
Tarmac the routes and sweep them regularly.

It ain't gonna happen, is it?
Never tell me the odds.

hulver

  • I am a mole and I live in a hole.
Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2018, 03:01:47 pm »
The report is mostly stats and spin (53% of our network is 'good'!), interspersed with lots of smiley photos of atypical[1] network users.  The crux of the report is a list of 15 recommendations, which "Sustrans will now work in partnership with local authorities, private and charitable landowners, national governments, agencies, users, local communities and all the many organisations that make the Network possible to turn [...] into reality":

Quote
1. Set the tone for harmonious use of the Network by everyone.
2. Remove or redesign all 16,000 barriers on the Network to make it accessible to everyone, with no barriers in place for continuous travel.
3. Transform the Network by replacing existing on-road sections with new traffic-free paths or by creating quiet-way sections so it is safer for everyone.
4. Ensure that where the Network is on a quiet-way section the speed limit is 20mph in built-up areas and 40mph in rural areas.
5. Improve safety at crossings where the Network crosses roads or railways.
6. Adopt a new quality standard to ensure path widths and surfaces are built for everyone.
7. Improve signage so everyone can use the paths without a map or smartphone.
8. Deliver over 50 activation projects across the UK by 2023 to improve the Network and demonstrate change.
9. Introduce a process for de-designation of parts of the Network that cannot be improved – and a clear process for incorporating new routes that fill gaps or make new connections.
10. Make it easier for people using the Network to feed back on its condition – and use this insight to improve it.
11. Promote the Network to new users.
12. Encourage greater community involvement in designing, developing and maintaining the Network.
13. Provide open data on the Network.
14. Report regularly on the impact of the Network in improving everyone’s lives and places.
15. Establish clear governance to bring together land managers, funders, users and others to deliver these recommendations in partnership.

I can't really fault that list, but - with the exception of signage and perhaps data provision - the the things that will actually make a serious improvement to the network (widening, resurfacing, lighting, removal of barriers) are going to be politically difficult and prohibitively expensive.


[1] Only one person has a dog, and it's on a short lead and not in the process of being emptied.  None of them are loitering teenagers.

Lots of "or" in that list that give them cop outs between what's right and what's cheep.

Remove or redesign all 16,000 barriers
Transform the Network by replacing existing on-road sections with new traffic-free paths or by creating quiet-way sections

And there's nothing in that list to say "make routes that go directly between places people want to go"

At the moment I see NCN signposts as warnings that the route will most likely be crap and I should use the road. I can't see that changing in a hurry.

Now if they did something bold like "we will remove NCN designation from any path not meeting our new standards" I might have hope. For now, I doubt much will change.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2018, 03:19:26 pm »
Lots of "or" in that list that give them cop outs between what's right and what's cheep.

Remove or redesign all 16,000 barriers

Indeed.  I accept that some barriers exist for legitimate purposes (controlling livestock, or keeping cars off the path) and might reasonably be replaced by a more accessible gate/cattle-grid design or the now legendary single bollard, that's a lot of weasel-room if they want to take it.


Quote
Transform the Network by replacing existing on-road sections with new traffic-free paths or by creating quiet-way sections

And there's nothing in that list to say "make routes that go directly between places people want to go"

This is the big one, I think.  While they do commit to a traffic level for their definition of 'quiet', any traffic at all is a barrier to some path users (particularly independent children), and a strong disincentive to less confident cyclists.

And there's the fundamental lack of commitment to whether they're building a transport network (as the name suggests) or a series of leisure routes (what the NCN has actually achieved).  Personally, I think they'd be better off accepting that they're doing the latter.  Proper cycle paths for transport are - for the most part - going to be boring, direct stretches of tarmac/concrete alongside main roads, and that's surely the domain of local councils, rather than a railway-path-reclaiming charity.  The off-road paths that are actually useful transport routes in urban areas are treated as useful paths by local users, not part of some network that takes you from A to B via C, D, F and J.

There are some lovely on-road sections of NCN in rural areas, but since The National Byway is a thing, why obfuscate the issue by including them?  And us cycle-tourist types can see the yellow lines on OS maps just fine without little blue signs (though I accept they may function to publicise the network).


Quote
Now if they did something bold like "we will remove NCN designation from any path not meeting our new standards" I might have hope. For now, I doubt much will change.

That's point 9 in the list.  I suspect the sticking point is the new standard will be too low.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

hulver

  • I am a mole and I live in a hole.
Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2018, 03:57:57 pm »
Now if they did something bold like "we will remove NCN designation from any path not meeting our new standards" I might have hope. For now, I doubt much will change.

That's point 9 in the list.  I suspect the sticking point is the new standard will be too low.

Ah, I'd missed that.

And there's the fundamental lack of commitment to whether they're building a transport network (as the name suggests) or a series of leisure routes (what the NCN has actually achieved).  Personally, I think they'd be better off accepting that they're doing the latter.  Proper cycle paths for transport are - for the most part - going to be boring, direct stretches of tarmac/concrete alongside main roads, and that's surely the domain of local councils, rather than a railway-path-reclaiming charity.  The off-road paths that are actually useful transport routes in urban areas are treated as useful paths by local users, not part of some network that takes you from A to B via C, D, F and J.

I think you're right on that.

hulver

  • I am a mole and I live in a hole.
Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2018, 05:19:01 pm »
Our National Cycle Network.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qTBdcWHYCg

A railway bridge with 5ft height clearance.

You might think that's safe from other vehicles, but no a car drives through as well.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2018, 05:31:15 pm »
It's the vehicle access to a marina, IIRC.

Anyway, having to duck under a low bridge is relatively accessible by NCN standards.  At least nobody has to lift anything.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2018, 06:18:03 pm »
I've always regarded Sustrans as similar to the CTC.

Both a bit pointless, as they dont really make much difference.

Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2018, 07:14:13 pm »


Anyway, having to duck under a low bridge is relatively accessible by NCN standards.  At least nobody has to lift anything.

It has a half-hearted and completely-ignored cyclists dismount sign on it. It's also part of the Transport for London's newly designated Quietway 2, which also includes a gravel section and an old canal bridge with a barely-cycleable gradient.

Quote
Now if they did something bold like "we will remove NCN designation from any path not meeting our new standards" I might have hope. For now, I doubt much will change.

That's point 9 in the list.  I suspect the sticking point is the new standard will be too low.

It says "de-designation of parts of the Network that cannot be improved". Everything *can* be improved! Whether there's a hope of it happening in anyone concerned's lifetime is another matter...

Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2018, 07:21:52 pm »
I've always regarded Sustrans as similar to the CTC.

Both a bit pointless, as they dont really make much difference.
Sums it up for me.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2018, 07:35:54 pm »
Quote
Now if they did something bold like "we will remove NCN designation from any path not meeting our new standards" I might have hope. For now, I doubt much will change.

That's point 9 in the list.  I suspect the sticking point is the new standard will be too low.

It says "de-designation of parts of the Network that cannot be improved". Everything *can* be improved! Whether there's a hope of it happening in anyone concerned's lifetime is another matter...

Theoretically, sure, but in the absence of compulsory purchase, there are going to be sections of the network where land-owners are unwilling to cooperate (eg. with barrier removal or surface improvements), and removing that section from the network is a pragmatic approach.

A detour or gap in the route that you can see on the map is better than a route that leads you on for n miles then traps you with an impassable obstacle.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2018, 08:23:04 pm »
But you do agree they make a difference, even if not much in your opinion. Personally, they do a lot better than doing nothing which is what we would have without them.

In the last two years of travelling we've ridden some great Sustrans dedicate bike paths and some lovely quite roads I wouldn't have found for myself. Yes, we've also been directed along several miles of beach (great fun but certainly not for everyone useful cycle route) and along a section of NCN where on another day I might have hated the sheep shit cover grass track). So yes, its a mixed network but what do you expect on a fraction of the road networks budget.

My gripe if any would be better signage. There is no distinction between well surface routes and off-road, car free and mixed. And I have been at junctions where there's been two blue signs correctly pointing left and right but no hint of which was going to X and which to Y. 

Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2018, 08:46:02 pm »
Theoretically, sure, but in the absence of compulsory purchase, there are going to be sections of the network where land-owners are unwilling to cooperate (eg. with barrier removal or surface improvements), and removing that section from the network is a pragmatic approach.

Errr, that's my point. If I had my druthers I'd have them remove all signs from anything that isn't *currently* tarmacced and passable on a laden Dutch bike until such time that they are.

But it sounds like they're only talking about removing signs from routes after they've concluded they can *never* be improved, which seems a very high bar.

ElyDave

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Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #17 on: November 13, 2018, 06:17:20 am »
New traffic free paths!

The biggest problem on my Scottish adventure was the traffic free paths right through the prom, or a dog-emptier territory.  Traffic free may be one thing, but what about cycle-ped separation? Or the routes that take you half a mile out of your way, to avoid a traffic light?
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #18 on: November 13, 2018, 09:00:31 am »
It'll take alot to give me some level of faith in the NCN. It's just so inconsistent. I have tried, to my detriment, to use it on various touring trips and was often burned. If I was to user the ONLY NCN route local to me, it'd double my commute and i'd need a mountain bike for it 9 months of the year.

I'm also bitter that the meager funding rarely seems to make it out of Bristol & Bath. Some fabulous facilities around there - then it just becomes a wasteland further east.

I toured through Normandy this summer, ended up using the EuroVelo routes more than i had planned. Such a pleasure.

Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #19 on: November 13, 2018, 09:23:35 am »
It'll take alot to give me some level of faith in the NCN. It's just so inconsistent. I have tried, to my detriment, to use it on various touring trips and was often burned.

This reflects my own experience.  I now actively avoid them. They may be OK for a local 2-mile trip but are practically useless for a joined-up route of any length, and (as pointed out above) some are so illogically convoluted you would be quicker walking.

Could it be said that Sustrans is actually a negative force, in that it allows governments a fig-leaf of respectability for doing something for the cycling cause, thus avoiding the bigger picture of real infrastructure commitments?

ElyDave

  • Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society member 263583
Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #20 on: November 13, 2018, 09:34:08 am »
I criticise the West Coast Ardrossan to Ayr section, but I am pretty happy about NCN 11 which passes through my village running Cambridge to Kings Lynn, the Wicken Fen section can get a bit cut up in the winter, but is still road bike passable adn the off road sections are generally there for a rational traffic avoidance.  Lots of thought seems to have gone into this one, but there does seem to be a lot of inconsistency
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #21 on: November 13, 2018, 09:38:22 am »
@toontra

Absolutely correct, if you are the average club rider or a rider that does more than the average commute they are just not convenient to use.  Personally I do a lot of long distance cycling and find it difficult (without local knowledge because that's what you need 99% of the time) to use them as I just don't know a) what the surface is like or b) what obstacles I might find along the way.

When route building I use Strava route builder often and would love to integrate more of those yellow lines which I see all the time they look like great shortcuts!  Jumping on Kamoot you often soon find out they are walking or MTB territory.  I find Kamoot helps a lot in that respect - just wish that more of these cycle paths were made of asphalt as you are never quite sure what you are getting into until you arrive.
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mattc

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Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #22 on: November 13, 2018, 10:05:53 am »
...

Could it be said that Sustrans is actually a negative force, in that it allows governments a fig-leaf of respectability for doing something for the cycling cause, thus avoiding the bigger picture of real infrastructure commitments?
Possibly!

Then there's the "Get on the cycle-path!" problem. If there was only a road - and no shite cycle-path - drivers would tolerate cyclists more readily.

(This is a tangible issue on my commute, where I usually stay off the road for about a mile of Sustrans, then rejoin the same road (same drivers) for another mile. We get very little shit on that second section. QED )
Has never ridden RAAM
---------
No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles

Oscar's dad

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Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2018, 01:00:37 pm »
A few years back I spent 2 or 3 years working voluntarily as a Sustrans NCN Ranger.  I jacked it in after concluding that the NCN was largely pointless and Sustrans' approach at the time was flawed.  Basically I became frustrated that they were keener on pursuing objectives which were expensive largely unachievable flights of fancy rather than focusing on making the best of routes and resources which already existing, even though some of these outcomes were far from perfect but better then nothing or the least worst option.  I've no idea what Sustrans' approach is now, perhaps its better.

We will never have anything approaching the cycling environment you see in the Netherlands and other enlightened European countries as there isn't the political will in the UK as Joe and Josephine Public are too wedded to their cars.  Nor is there the budget.

However, good news!   We already have a fantastic cycle network, its called the UK's roads.  Obviously they need to be made safer for vulnerable road users like cyclists so we need presumed or strict liability.  However, bad news!  I doubt this will ever happen as there isn't the political will in the UK as Joe and Josephine Public are too wedded to their cars.

Ho hum  ::-)

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Sustrans paths crap - official
« Reply #24 on: November 13, 2018, 01:15:58 pm »
Then there's the "Get on the cycle-path!" problem. If there was only a road - and no shite cycle-path - drivers would tolerate cyclists more readily.

Nahh, they just tell you to get on the pavement (or "off the fucking road") instead.  They don't actually care where you are, as long as you're not In The Way.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...