TfL’s quality criteria for cycling: not tough enough

Last week the Mayor spoke at the London Walking & Cycling conference to announce he has doubled the mileage of protected space on main roads, is on track to triple it by the end of his term and that he is intent on building high quality routes “for cyclists of all ages, all abilities and from all walks of life”. He also announced the full details of his quality criteria by which TfL will decide whether such routes get funding or not. We assess them below, but as we feared, while they do raise the floor and ensure trul weak schemes are no longer approved, they’re nowhere near stringent enough to enable “all ages, all abilities” to cycle.

The six criteria can be viewed in full here (and we summarise that below), but it is important to understand that the criteria do not stand in isolation – they are combined in a complex matrix, as usable here. It’s also important to understand that schemes that fail on the criteria could still be funded “following conversations with the Lead Sponsor and careful consideration of the safety implications for cycling”.

How the criteria work

Each of the six criteria has two levels – the target and the minimum. In between there’s an implicit grey area. Schemes that don’t achieve the minimum in any one critieria are unlikely to be funded. But schemes with up to two criteria in the grey area might well get a go-ahead.

There is a matrix for that: if speed or volume criteria is in the grey, three out of four of the rest must reach the target (if volume is in the grey, HGVs must be one of those), but if speed and volume hit the target, only two remaining criteria must too, while the other two can be in the grey area. Both speed and volume can’t be below the target.

What the criteria mean

The good news is the criteria mean for the first time that if there are “critical issues” in key areas, according to the Healthy Streets Check, then the scheme is very unlikely to be funded. It means, in effect, a clear end to the “blue paint” era of cycle routes on main roads without physical protection. The maximum possible grey area result for motor traffic volumes without protection for those cycling would be 999 motor vehicles in the peak hour, and fewer than 50 HGVs over 3 tonnes in that hour.

The bad news? The grey area for motor traffic volumes still equates to roads up to 10,000 motor vehicles a day – not major main roads perhaps, but many B roads, and heavy-duty ratruns would be well within the grey area. So a big ratrun, with the odd speed hump, would still be OK to be funded. And this is where the criteria really falls down – on medium to high motor volume side streets – the Quietways that are far from quiet enough.

Most problematic of all is currently the Mayor’s rhetoric around these schemes. He implies the criteria will deliver “all ages, all abilities” cycling. But would most parents allow their children to ride along a road where 1,000 motor vehicles are driving in the peak? That’s over 15 vehicles a minute, or someone passing you every 3-4 seconds. Hardly quiet, hardly suitable for “all ages, all abilities”. It appears TfL or his advisers are misrepresenting the criteria to the Mayor – because they don’t enable a far wider range of people to cycle, they just remove funding from the worst of the worst schemes.

The criteria are weak enough they’re out of step with new DfT guidance on volumes and speeds. Draft LTN 01/19 guidance from the government presented at a conference says that 85th centile speeds above 22mph should be considered as a 30mph limit (TfL’s criteria assumes an 85th centile of 25mph for a 20mph limit). And that above 5,000 vehicles per day (translating to around 500 per peak hour) provision won’t be suitable for most people. Similarly, the DfT’s published guidance for the Strategic Road Network (IAN 195/16) says for motor traffic volumes of over 5,000 daily, cycle tracks are the minimum provision. That’s half the volume TfL is accepting before tracks become mandatory.

When the DfT are recommending more stringent quality criteria than TfL, you know something’s gone wrong.

The criteria, in full

Volume of motor traffic

  • Target: cycles only mix with motor traffic where “there are fewer than 500 motor vehicles per hour (vph – two-way) at peak times, and preferably fewer than 200vph.”
  • Minimum: a light segregated cycle lane where there are more than 1000 motor vehicles per hour at peak (vph – two-way).

Speed of motor traffic

  • Target: “existing 85th percentile speed is less than 25mph or measures should be put in place to reduce speeds where the existing 85th percentile speed is more than or equal to 25mph.” The 85th centile is the speed below which 85 percent of motor vehicles are recorded as going. The average will be lower again.
  • Minimum: any route will “not mix people cycling with motorised traffic where the existing 85th percentile speed is more than 30mph, unless speed reduction measures are proposed”

Width for cycling

  • Target: where mixed with motorised traffic, nearside lanes should be “3.2m or less” with total motor vehicle flows “lower than 500vph, 85th percentile speeds less than 25mph and HGVs (over 3.5t) is lower than 5% (in peak hour)” of traffic, or the nearside lane (and cycle lane where present) should be “4.5m or more where vehicle flows are higher”. Cycle tracks, paths etc. should be “a preferred minimum of 2.2m for one-way… 3.0m for two-way”.
  • Minimum: The nearside general traffic lane “will not be between 3.2m and 4.0m, where two-way motor vehicle flows are 500vph or more and the proportion of HGVs is 5% or higher”. Cycle tracks and paths will be minimum “1.5m for one-way… 2.0m for two-way”.

Turning risks

  • Target: At unsignalised junctions where motor vehicle flows are over 200vph on the side road, “infrastructure measures should be provided to reduce the volume and/or speed of turning movements”. At signal-controlled junctions with protected space for cycling on approach, “conflicting movements between cycle traffic and motor traffic should be separated with dedicated signals”.
  • Minimum: At signal-controlled junctions “cycle early release… where it is appropriate”.

Kerbside loading/deliveries

  • Target: Where parking or loading is happening and cycling is mixed with motor traffic, 85th percentile speeds should be less than 25mph and “remaining lane width should be at least 2m to nearside lane marking / carriageway centre point”, or where the lane width is less than 2m wide, “two-way vehicle flows should be lower than 200vph, 85th percentile speeds less than 25mph and the proportion of HGVs lower than 5%”.
  • Minimum: Cycle lanes, should be physically separated from kerbside activities with lane and buffer width “allowing for at least 1m clearance from stationary parked motor vehicles” (from central point in lane).

HGVs (over 3.5t)

  • Target: Where people cycling are mixed with motorised traffic flows of 200-500vph HGVs should be “less than 5%”; less than 200vph, HGVs should be less “than 10%”.
  • Minimum: Where HGVs are 5% or more over 500vph, “measures will be put in place to reduce HGV flows and/or people cycling… will be provided with at least a 4.5m nearside general traffic lane, bus lane, or cycle lane combined with the adjacent general traffic lane with no kerbside activity” or it’s cycle tracks. And it’s also cycle tracks where “peak hour HGV flow is 50 vehicles or more”.