Contractor Balfour Beatty is re-engineering a major Southampton road junction to improve safety for cyclists. It is hoped that the Southampton junction could be a template for others across the UK.
The project will transform a notoriously dangerous roundabout in Southampton into a crossroads specifically designed to be safer for cyclists.
The junction will be controlled by traffic lights and is similar to intersections in Copenhagen. Approaches will feature advanced stopping points for cyclists, to the left of and ahead of road vehicle stopping points.
This is intended to give drivers clear visibility of those on the cycle lane.
Cycle lanes will continue onto the junction itself. Cyclists wanting to turn right will enter the junction on a green light, cross it and move to a holding area to the left of the cycle lane.
There, they will wait for a green light before completing the right turn (See diagram).
At a time when cycling safety is under the spotlight nationally, Southampton City Council hopes the junction – due to open to road users in March – will be an example for others.
“We believe this is the first junction of its type in the UK, and we hope it will become a template,” said Southampton City Council active travel officer Dale Bostock.
“We have had lots of enquiries from other councils and I expect even more once the junction comes into operation.”
The project, part of the city’s Eastern Cycle Route, is a critical part of a broader scheme to create a cycle route from the central railway station to the eastern boundary of Southampton.
The Eastern Cycle Route won £1M from the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund, which was matched by the same amount from the council. Further funding for the junction work was secured from cycling charity Sustrans.
The route is designed to encourage more cycling into the centre of the South Coast city from its eastern suburbs, which are hilly and cut off by the River Itchen.
“In 2011 we conducted a major survey using 60 people stopping cyclists at key locations in the city from 7am to 10pm,” said Bostock.
“The survey team handed out a map for people to mark their route that day and a questionnaire to get cyclists’ views on issues with their journeys.
“We had a good response. We created a cycle map and used it as a template for bidding for funding.”
The Eastern Cycle Route was devised in response to the survey and funding secured for its first phase, which includes the reconstruction of the critical junction.
The new junction replaces a previously hazardous roundabout, to the west of the road bridge across the Itchen River. The roundabout had poor visibility and had a cycle lane around its outer perimeter, which motorists had to cross when leaving or entering it.
The survey said that people were put off cycling into Southampton because of the junction.
A “champions group” was formed including representatives from the council, Balfour Beatty, the NHS and cyclists themselves to develop plans for the scheme.
To the east of the roundabout, space for cyclists is being created on a one-way section of road bridge to make it easier for them to reach the city centre.
A two-way cycle path is being created on the one-way road into which the junction feeds, to speed the journey for cyclists into town.
For segregation, the cycle path will be raised by 50mm, and the pedestrian zone flanking it by a further 50mm.
Balfour Beatty senior engineer Hiong Ching Hii said: “We had designers from Urban Movement as part of the champions group, and they have spent quite a lot of time travelling around Europe and the Americas to look at the latest developments in cycle schemes.
“We looked at lots of options and in the end we all settled on this one.”
To create footpaths around the junction, the space for cars will be reduced, the roundabout is being removed and replaced with a crossroads controlled by traffic lights.
“We decided we had to control the flow of traffic,” said Bostock.
“Then we thought about how cyclists change direction.
“We looked at the so-called Copenhagen Left, which is the equivalent of our right turn as they drive on the other side of the road.”
This is effectively the solution chosen, although the road markings will be different.
Arrows are to be used instead, along with the green cycle lanes on the junction.
The plan is to use the first completed element of the junction as a showcase for how it will work when completed.
“We will get the local paper and TV involved, put information on our website and get some hoardings up,” said Bostock.
“We have followed a European style that works.
“The Americans use it in Salt Lake City and it works. It is only a crossroads with lights and cycle routes – you see that every day and you will just be using it in a slightly different way.
“In fact a lot of people – especially in London – are informally turning right in this manner already.”
Although the junction may slow traffic progress slightly, the impact is expected to be minimal, and modelling suggests it will even out over the length of the Eastern Cycle Route.
Hii said he hoped that if the route was successful, more people would get on their bikes, reducing congestion.