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Your Questions Answered

Your Questions Answered

Bedford Borough Council has delivered improvements to the roundabout of Union Street – Clapham Road – Roff Avenue – Tavistock Street.


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 Transport (DfT),

Shouldn’t turbo-roundabouts have islands within the roundabout?

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 bikes.

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 cyclists.

If this is called a turbo-roundabout why are cars travelling more slowly?

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 rates.  

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