Sunday, 17 July 2011

Deciding is the hardest part

A few years ago, I recall, not long after my brother and his family moved to Dulwich, they went to visit some friends in Suffolk. The route they took was this: A205 (South Circular), A23, M25, M11.

As they were soon to find out, using the A23 was a bit of a mistake. Granted, the rationale was solid enough: the sooner they could get onto the motorway, the sooner they could get motoring. Looking at it as the crow flies, the shortest route to the motorway is the A23. However, by all accounts a more circumspect crow could have walked to the Dartford Crossing quicker than it took my brother, which just goes to show the importance of route selection. Thank heavens for SatNavs.

Not so long ago I was on Tufnell Park Road, wondering what to do next, when a middle-aged woman rode past me on her bike. Having met with a researcher from the University of West England earlier that day, I was conscious of a gap in my market research. And so, without a second thought, I decided to see where she was going. As luck would have it, she went to Hackney, which is where I am living for the time being. The route she took was the same one you would take if you were driving by car.

When we got to a set of lights on Morning Lane, I pulled up alongside her, said hello, and explained what I was doing. Would she use a back street route if one was available? Yes, she would, she said, but even though she makes that journey fairly often, she hadn't yet got around to working one out. What did she think of the route she had just used? It wasn't too bad, was it? It was a bit 'trafficky', she thought. Was the traffic a problem for her then? It's just that she didn't seem too fazed by it, I had to say. I'd even seen her dismount when we got to some lights, scootle through the junction at the pedestrian crossing, and then hop back on her bike when she got to the other side. Oh, I'd seen that, had I? Not bad for an old girl, was it? Well, it helps to keep you light on your toes, doesn't it?

As I blogged elsewhere, I showed how it was possible to get from Greenwich to Tower Bridge without using the roundabout at Rotherhithe tunnel. Soon after posting this, I saw another (potentially even better) way, which you can check out for yourself by clicking here.

I have spent I don't know how many thousands of hours looking at all sorts of routes. Basically my method of working is trial and error. As much as possible I am looking to incorporate official LCN/LCN+ routes into the design, but I am also motivated to find a solution that's simple and elegant.

I am going to write again about route selection. It is a subject very close to my heart. For the moment, however, it suffices to say, that if everyone is agreed on the course of the routes which make up the cycle network, then over the years these can be further developed with confidence. It is with this thought in mind that I repeat an old saying: deciding is the hardest part; the rest is just pure work.