Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Holmbush hijinks

My mother and I do our weekly food shopping at the Tesco at the Holmbush Centre, near us in Shoreham-by-Sea. This is very close to where we live and by all means we should be able to go there on foot. Yet whenever we go there together, we drive, even though this takes about two minutes at the most. One reason for this is that access to the Centre is via the Holmbush Roundabout.

Clockwise from the top, the roundabout connects the access road to the shopping centre, the A270 Old Shoreham Road towards Brighton, a residential street, the Upper Shoreham Road, and the A27 dual carriageway bypassing the town. For many years the roundabout was not marked with lanes. However, about a year ago the council decided it was high time the roundabout was painted. The resulting lanes are ridiculous. There are only two, except where there are three; they do not spiral as you expect and instead require you to change lanes at gaps where the line dividing the lanes does not exist; they make horrid work of the available space, to the point where large areas have been hatched off; and the destinations are poorly signed. One lane declares it leads to the TOWN CENTRE, but the centre of which town is not clarified - quite important, considering that this roundabout is almost directly on the boundary between Shoreham and Southwick. Another lane is for the S'PER ST'RE, although as it is split over two lines SUPER STORE would have easily fit. (Incidentally, one of these markings is instead S'PER S'TRE - presumably for the supersotre.)

The roundabout could adequately be described as 'evidence of satanic interference in human affairs', with frequent near-misses and a worryingly high rate of collisions, often in the form of people realising they are in the wrong lane and trying to get off the roundabout anyway. It is an extremely unpleasant place to be driving.

And it is even worse when you aren't.

There is a narrow and poor-quality cyclepath, along with a footpath, leading from the Upper Shoreham Road across the residential street, up to a two-stage puffin crossing over the A270 (cyclists are expected to dismount), which dumps potential shoppers onto what the Dutch call a 'service street', opposite the swimming pool. On foot, you can here either cut through the swimming pool car park or follow the pavement along the service street, but either way, you end up on a narrow pavement that snakes it way around another roundabout and a 'stretchabout', over a zebra crossing, and then up the covered strip for pedestrians all the way up to the central hub. Cyclists have the additional and exciting option of going up the service street, ignoring the compulsory turn-left sign and accessing what is signed as a cycle-only section, turning right onto a busy road and then navigating both the petrol-station roundabout and the stretchabout. When you arrive, there is minimal cycle parking (and what there is seems to be provided by Tesco - M&S evidently does not cater to cyclists).

This is considered adequate infrastructure, and indeed is the route signposted from the south side of the main roundabout.

It is often said by cycle campaigners that dangerous behaviour is encouraged by poor infra which forces people to choose between safe and convenient. There is no better evidence for this than the few cyclists who choose to navigate Holmbush Roundabout itself (despite a 40mph speed limit among predominantly 30mph roads - a holdover from when the A270 had yet to be bypassed by the modern A27) or the occasional pedestrian who can be seen standing with a bewildered expression on the large central island, a place which they are technically barred from but which seems to be the fastest and/or the only sensible route to the shopping centre. Nobody in their right mind would willingly choose these routes, but the infrastructure is so bad that they are seen as legitimate, competing options.

And it is abhorrent that this monster is allowed to remain in place, when just metres away is National Cycle Route 2, which has recently been outfitted with a shiny new shared-use bridge.

All too often in the UK funding for cycle infrastructure is spent on vanity projects which look good as photos or press releases, persuading people that Things Are Being Done. In Shoreham the Adur Ferry Bridge is just another example of wallpaper over the cracks. Cycling is never going to be seen as a viable mode of transport if people can't even comfortably use it to go to the shops.

(The only decent thing about the Holmbush Roundabout is that it features an example of a cycleway bypassing a bus stop, and even that's pretty crap.)

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