Saturday, 8 October 2011

The London Cycling Network

I have finished laying down the course of the routes that make up a revitalised London Cycling Network. As always, these maps are best viewed with the terrain box ticked.

Navy Routes

Side-to-side routes 205.8 mi

Additional routes 45.1 mi

Total 250.9 mi

Red Routes

Side-to-side routes 221.4 mi

Additional routes 54.7 mi

Total 276.1 mi

Green Routes

Side-to-side routes 236.4 mi

Additional routes 35.3 mi

Total 271.7 mi

Cyan Routes

Side-to-side routes 255.2 mi

Additional routes 45.3 mi

Total 300.5 mi

Orange Routes

Side-to-side routes 213.2 mi

Additional routes 66.5 mi

Total 279.7 mi

Circular Routes

Total 11 mi

Grand total: 1389.9 mi

Average (not including Circular Routes) 275.8 mi
North-south ('cold' colours) 551.4 mi
East-west ('warm' colours) 555.8 mi

Certain sections of these routes are coded with more than one colour (bridges, for example), so the actual network distance is going to be somewhat less than the stated total. Something a little over 2200km would be my guess. But the LCN was 3000km, the LCN+ was 900km, and the Cycle Superhighways are whatever they are, and when you consider that pretty much all three networks are incorporated into this new design, you'd have to say that 2200km of network is not excessive, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Granted, the network as shown does not cover all of the Greater London area, and working out which routes should make up the rest of the network, and how they should be coded  - which I have looked at, but not for a while - is something that will need to be addressed.

To remind you, my proposal can be broken down into two parts:

i. a comprehensive, city-wide cycle network developed, in the first instance, to a minimum level of functioning; and

ii. a signing strategy which uses compass colours to distinguish one route from the next.

The first part of my proposal generally stands up well to criticism, such as I have heard, at any rate. The second part of my proposal is also fairly robust, but is more likely to be misunderstood. I will consider now those criticisms which are known to me.

Lower speed limits, dedicated bike lanes and priority at junctions will encourage new cyclists, not a load of signs. This map idea is dead before it's even started. (Michael Cave)

I’m having another of those moments where I feel like I’m the only person in the world who dislikes something. (To be clear: I dislike this map.) 
I’ve cycled in London. Not as much as some people, but for a year or two that was how I commuted, three to five times a week. I also did a few longer rides, and got to try the hire scheme before I moved away. 
I want to see there be more cycling in London. The problem is that this map doesn’t make it any easier. Instead, it abstracts away some complexity you need to understand (how to deal with one-way systems, for example) and replaces it with other complexity which you don’t (what is R1 and how is it different from R1a?) 
Remember, the Tube map can make compromises with geography because it is disconnected from the surface geography except at stations. By contrast, cyclists have to share the same messy, often medieval, street plan as everything else on the ground, and this map won’t show enough to let them do it. 
I’d much rather have the TfL/LCC cycling maps, large as they are, because they actually work. (I know. I used them.) On the other hand, perhaps everyone is liking and reblogging this because it’s colourful and pretty. Call it a nice artwork if you like, but I don’t think it’s good design. (Paul Mison)

Pretty, but not Practical. OK for a tube as you can't get lost between stops, but on a bike, I'd rather have the street map version to know where I really am. (Paul Adams)

Clearly my critics have not understood the detail of my proposal, which is how it goes sometimes. But 'dedicated bike lanes and priority at junctions' where? Tell me, and I'll see if I can code them. And do you actually need maps to show you 'how to deal with one-way systems' if the routes on this network are functional in both directions? No, as I say, these aren't criticisms, they're misunderstandings.

The second part of my proposal is a signing strategy which uses compass colours to distinguish one route from the next, and 'this map idea' is a way of conveying that in a stylised form.

'A map is a graphic representation of a portion of the earth's surface drawn to scale, as seen from above. It uses colours, symbols, and labels to represent features found on the ground.'

'A map provides information on the existence, the location of, and the distance between ground features, such as populated places and routes of travel and communication.' 

Another criticism - this one anonymous - is that the map doesn't include enough detail to show which streets the routes are on.

How do people want it? I could make my map as big as the London Cycle Guides, if you like, and then I could show all of the detail that you desire.

'The ideal representation would be realised if every feature of the area being mapped could be shown in true shape. Obviously this is not feasible, and an attempt to plot each feature true to scale would result in a product impossible to read, even with the aid of a magnifying glass.

'Therefore, to be understandable, features must be represented by conventional signs and symbols. To be legible, many of these must be exaggerated in size, often far beyond the actual ground limits of the feature represented. On a 1:250,000 scale map, for example, the symbol for a single-track railroad (the length of a cross-tie) is equivalent to a railroad cross-tie of about 1,000 feet on the ground.'

First and foremost, the London Cycling Network is a strategic cycle network. When you make a strategic journey by bus, say, you do not need to know the name of every road the bus travels along. I am trying to think why things should be different if you are making a strategic journey by bike.

Paul Adams said (above) that you can't get lost in between stops when using the tube [or bus], which is why, when he's out and about on his bike, he'd rather have a street map to know where he really is. Quite right. Anyone who has used the cycle network knows how easy it is to lose sight of the waymarkers and then to become disorientated.

In places like Holland, however, I have heard that the waymarking is very effective, so we know that the problem which Paul Adams relates can be solved. The case is, if you are making an A to B journey, there's a reasonable chance that you are already familiar with A and B, it's the bit in between that would most likely cause you to become lost and get out your street map.

Interestingly, about a third of the population cannot read a map. Indeed, a survey of more than a thousand motorists revealed that only about 1% knew enough to earn a Cub Scout Map Reader's badge. We ought to be careful, therefore, not to confuse our skills and requirements along with those of everyone else.