Your Questions Answered
Your Questions Answered
Bedford Borough Council has delivered improvements to
the roundabout of Union Street – Clapham Road – Roff Avenue –
View the design (opens PDF in new window)
Why did we change this roundabout?
This junction is one of the busiest and most dangerous in the
Borough. On average 25,000 vehicles, 2,500 pedestrians (including
200 children) and 500 cyclists use the junction in a typical 12
hour period. This roundabout also has the highest level of serious
cyclist accidents over the last 10 years within the Borough, as
well as high casualty rates for other users. It was also recognised
as being a very difficult junction to cross for the large number of
pedestrians, particularly vulnerable and disabled pedestrians as
there were no proper crossing facilities on each arm. Between 2002
and 2012, there were 32 road casualties in 27 accidents at this
roundabout, including 8 serious casualties. By user type, there
were 13 driver/passenger casualties, 8 pedestrian casualties, 7
cyclist casualties and 4 motor cyclist casualties.
What improvements have been made?
Three major changes have been made. First zebra crossings have
been installed on all four arms of the roundabout to help
pedestrians cross the road safely. Secondly, improvements have been
made to the footpaths around the roundabout to upgrade them to
shared use paths suitable for both pedestrians and cyclists,
finally the layout of the roundabout has been changed to a
variation of a “turbo-roundabout” which will benefit drivers and
cyclists travelling around and exiting the roundabout.
What is a turbo-roundabout?
This type of roundabout is commonly seen in the Netherlands;
this will be the first such roundabout in the UK. In most ways the
design is exactly the same as a normal roundabout, you enter the
roundabout giving way to traffic from the right; you circulate and
leave at your chosen exit. The main difference with a
turbo-roundabout is that you must choose which lane you take before
you enter the roundabout, this will depend on your exit. Once in
the correct lane, you will be guided towards your desired exit by
line markings and small traffic islands, you will not be able to
change lanes on the roundabout. There are two extended kerbs
separating the traffic lanes at the exits of Clapham Road and
Tavistock Street which divide the carriageway. These dividing
islands reduce traffic speeds on the roundabout making it safer for
all users and prevent motorists from changing lanes or cutting in
front of other motorists on the roundabout. As an example, if you
are approaching from Clapham Road going to Tavistock Street, you
have to get into the left hand lane. Once on the roundabout, this
lane leads traffic off at Tavistock Street.
What happens if you are in the wrong lane?
The lane layout is clearly signed in advance of the roundabout
and further guidance is given using white arrows and lane markings.
Once on the roundabout if you have chosen the incorrect lane you
will have to follow your lane to its exit and either change your
route or travel to the next roundabout and re-approach paying
careful attention to which lane you should be in.
Why did we opt for this design?
As the junction is very heavily used by cars, cyclists and
pedestrians a new design was necessary to ensure it continued to
deal with the level of traffic as well as providing vastly improved
access for cyclists and pedestrians with clear on-road and off-road
provisions. Studies and experience in other countries have shown
that this type of junction can improve pedestrians and cyclist
provision while also reducing potential safety issues. The design
achieves this in 3 ways – first by reducing speeds on the
roundabout whilst improving lane discipline and increasing the
usage of both lanes, secondly by removing conflict points on the
roundabout where vehicles change lanes and thirdly by providing
pedestrians and off-road cyclists safe places to cross at the Zebra
crossings. The design received support from Sustrans, a leading UK
charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport
as well as the Cycling Campaign for North Bedford. The final design
also received approval for construction from the Department for
Shouldn’t turbo-roundabouts have islands within the
A true turbo roundabout does have raised areas within the
roundabout separating the lanes to reinforce lane discipline. Dutch
design shows these being 70mm high which is enough to deter cars
from over-running them but still allow larger, slower vehicles from
over-running them due to the additional room they require. Our
original design did have these features in them however
consultation revealed concerns about the potential risk these would
pose to motorcyclists despite positive comments from motorcyclists
in the Netherlands. Because these would be new features to this
country and motorcyclists using the junction for the first time may
not be aware of them we and the DfT agreed that the risk involved
meant the scheme should be progressed without them. Because, of
this the scheme was redesigned and the raised areas were replaced
with hatched areas.
Can I cycle across the zebra crossings?
Under current legislation a cyclist can cycle across a zebra
crossing however they are not given priority over vehicles ie
drivers are not legally obliged to stop and allow them to cross.
The laws that cover zebra crossings state that any pedestrian shall
have precedence over a vehicle and the driver of the vehicle shall
accord such precedence to any such pedestrian. Cyclists have been
deemed carriages rather than pedestrians under the 1835 Highways
Act since a ruling in the 1878 case of Taylor v. Goodwin so
Cyclists should dismount and push their bikes across zebra
crossings giving them right of way.
A national consultation has been carried out on a new form of zebra
crossing which will allow cyclists to cycle across with right of
way over motorists. At the time of construction the new
design had not been approved to allow us to install this form of
crossing. We have constructed the crossings in such a way that when
these crossings are approved next year, as we are given to
understand, we can easily install them without the need to remove
existing lines. Should this crossing not be approved we will widen
the stripes on the zebra crossings to the full width giving more
room to accommodate pedestrians and those cyclists pushing their
Do I have to cycle on the footpath instead of on the road?
No, you do not. Surveys of the area have shown us that this is a
key junction for various groups of cyclists. A number of children
cross this junction to and from school whilst there are a large
number of adult cyclists using it to travel to and from the railway
station. The shared use footpaths and crossings have been put in
place to make cycling around the roundabout easier and quicker and
provide safe crossing points so that the journey around the
roundabout is improved. Cyclists that choose to cycle through the
junction will benefit from the new layout as the enforced lane use
will lead to motorists travelling slower on the roundabout making
cyclists more visible and preventing cars from cutting across
If this is called a turbo-roundabout why are cars travelling
The name comes from the spiral markings. Despite its name a key
benefit of turbo-roundabouts is that they are shown to reduce the
speed of vehicles as they travel through the junction without
reducing capacity. On a two lane roundabout drivers are tempted to
take a straight line through the roundabout in order to increase
their speed and this can lead to an increase in risk of collision
with other drivers and more vulnerable users. By restricting people
to stay in the correct lane and obey the lane markings the
curvature restricts drivers’ speeds through the roundabout as they
must travel through a more circular path.
Why couldn’t traffic lights have been used instead?
At a very early stage of the design process when a number of
different options were examined a signalised roundabout was
considered and tested. This revealed that by installing traffic
lights the capacity of the roundabout was reduced and queuing in
the morning and evening peak increased to unacceptable levels. It
was for this very reason why we looked to other design options used
throughout the world to identify a suitable alternative that would
deliver the key safety aspects for pedestrians and cyclists without
leading to large increases in queues.
Has this new design caused longer queues?
It was always realised at the design stage that by improving
crossing points for pedestrians this would have an impact on queue
lengths leading to the roundabout but we believe we have designed a
roundabout which whilst slowing traffic through the junction does
improve traffic flow by enforcing lane discipline and better
utilising the entire road space rather than people using it like a
single lane roundabout as they did before. By keeping people to
their correct lanes people can enter the roundabout more confident
that a motorist will not suddenly change lanes resulting in a
collision and this great usage will minimise any increases to queue
lengths caused by the crossings. We conducted a number of surveys
before construction began including the measuring of queue lengths
and we will be repeating this after construction to properly
analyze the impact of the new design.
Who paid for this?
The improvements cost £470,000 with £420,00 being awarded
specifically to this scheme by Central Government at no cost to
local tax payers under the Cyclist Safety Fund. This award was
granted to tackle junctions with high cyclist accident