Thursday, 27 September 2012

'Businessman' uses car to reopen barrier

The issue of through traffic joining or leaving the M27 via Rownhams services still persists. It matters because it is a hazard to legitimate users of Rownhams Lane and is the likely cause of several documented injuries to adults and children using the nearby cycle path.

This website is part of a campaign to put pressure on Roadchef to fulfil their obligation to the Highways Authority and prevent non-essential traffic using the rear access road.

An update from our correspondent on fixmystreet:
I went to have a look a the barrier this morning. It was open and four vehicles passed me in the few seconds it took me to cycle down to it from Rownhams Lane.
Roachef's response was:
The North Barrier had been working up until 19th September when a business man had driven straight into it. The barrier is designed to break upon any impact. We are in the process of claiming through the insurance which I have chased today.
The barrier had been operating correctly for perhaps a few weeks until this happened.

How can a competent driver collide head-on with a retro-reflective, substantial barrier? Perhaps the clue is in the word "businessman" which, in many cultures, is synonymous with "crook"

And why do Roadchef even mention insurance? Roadchef has a legal obligation to prevent "businessmen" and drivers of other non-essential vehicles ratrunning via their property. If they need to replace the barrier (hopefully with one designed to withstand an impact) they should do so immediately from their own purse. Claims for damages and insurance are for later.  More importantly, we hope Roadchef has involved the police in criminal proceedings for destruction of property and dangerous driving.

We have more dirt to dish on Roadchef including a video where we show how, by failing to prevent ratrunning, they are endangering their own customers. Does anyone know the name of the insurer that underwrites Roadchef for public liability insurance?

Friday, 7 September 2012


After a mixed response to my previous post whose style is a poor imitation of the satire deployed to great effect by the likes of Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest and People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire, I'd like to clear things up without any trace of sarcasm, irony or cynicism.

The Rownhams services issue came to light earlier in the year when I, as many other people, was reporting local dangerous junctions to The Times for their "cyclesafe" campaign. At the location depicted above I discovered on "Crash Map" a little cluster of markers each representing an injured cyclist attended to by police.  Initially I was confused: I occasionally choose to cycle Rownhams Lane because it has a reasonable quality pavement-style cycle path. Really fairly safe: I'd let my kids use it.  Why so many accidents reported in one place? This is not a busy urban interchange -- satellite images show a T-junction with an access road leading to a small car park and delivery bay. There should only be a tiny volume of traffic that is not a significant hazard to anyone. I was particularly concerned that two injuries were to children who, it would appear from the dates and times of the separate incidents, were cycling to school.

I then looked at "FixMyStreet" - a service where local people can publicise and report problems to their local councils. Several other users of the Rownhams Lane cyclepath had reported and commented on a perennial issue: illegal through traffic using the motorway service area to access and egress the M27. On a subsequent car journey a cry of "need a wee" brought us to the very same service area where I noticed a lot of traffic exiting the motorway via the access road.

If there had been no illegal through traffic using the motorway service area then the volume of turning traffic would have been tiny and the recorded cycle injuries most likely would not have occurred. A little background reading brought further information: Roadchef operates the motorway service area under license from the Highways Agency and has an obligation to prevent illicit through traffic. 

It is unusual that there is an obvious and easy way to eliminate an injury black spot. To discover that the traffic hazard is down to continuing failure by a large company to meet its obligations makes this a cause worth chasing.

A few emails later and I discovered multiple other individuals were several steps ahead of me and had reported this problem to the local councils and to Roadchef. Apparently the local parish council was also concerned about ratrunning traffic. I learnt there was a history of vandalism by "local youths" to the automatic barriers intended to prevent through traffic.

To my mind, blaming vandals is rather like blaming the rain, or leaves on the line. It would not be acceptable for me to protest a MOT failure because vandals smashed my car's rear lights. It would be even less acceptable to drive off claiming that there is no point replacing the lights because they'd only be attacked again.

I heard that the parish council had been meeting with local Roadchef staff to discuss the issue. At risk of becoming cynical and disrespecting those involved, I imagined the councillors being invited for free Costa coffee and cake and a convivial chat with reassurances that something will eventually be done.

What cyclists had in mind (photo source)
A poke in the eye came in the form of Hampshire County Council's apparent complicity. A cyclist asked that HCC provide additional road markings, signs or engineering to clarify to motorists that the cyclepath has priority over the access road. Perhaps he envisaged something like the image above--standard junction design overseas and becoming more common in the UK. As well as ensuring safe, uninterrupted cycling for the length of Rownhams Lane, this is also the fairest solution because cycle traffic easily exceeds legitimate service area access traffic. HCC either misunderstood or revealed their institutional motorism as they blithely interrupted the cyclepath giving priority to the illegal traffic leaving cyclists fuming.

What HCC gave them:  = = = = and triangle
In 2012, anyone can turn investigative journalist and blog in the public interest and this is exactly what I have attempted here.

I've already spent too long pursuing this issue so am going to take a back seat and let the appropriate people get on with their jobs now that they've had a "heads up". Right now there is huge interest in cycle safety largely thanks to The Times. Indeed Chris Boardman was on BBC TV and radio this morning speaking on this exact issue. Compared against our European neighbours, the UK has an appalling record both in terms of inactivity-related bad health and the safety of people getting around by foot or on a bicycle. Mainstream journalists might see a headline along the lines of "Roadchef vs injured children". And if I can observe non-stop illegal traffic weaving its way through a disembarking coach party of elderly people at the service area, so can a newspaper or consumer-rights TV camera crew.

"Cyclestrian" is obviously a pen name: I'm an anonymous Hampshire resident. I want my family and others to be able to feel safe on great infrastructure as they get around locally by bike and on foot. I also drive a car and I even sometimes buy coffee at this very same Roadchef franchise.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

M27 Junction 3a

Too many local people are unaware of this excellent local transport interchange. It cuts journey times and routes motorists through quiet local roads avoiding queues at the better-known junctions 3, 4 and 5. You can even pick up a Costa or MacDonalds and get petrol on your way through.

Junction 3a is managed by Roadchef with support from Hampshire County Council and the Highways Agency.

Getting Here

Junction 3a is located off Rownhams Lane. Don't be put off by the lack of road signs or your satnav telling you to turn around. The westbound access slip is located just south of the M27 bridge and you can head eastbound via the access road just to the north of the bridge. 

Junction 3a is not yet signed from the M27 either. You have to take the exit for Rownhams Services and head for the coach park. So handy when the M27 is bumper-to-bumper and you need an escape route via local villages.

Turn off Rownhams Lane, ignore out-of-date signs

You are an authorised vehicle, carry on...

Mind the coach party - J3a is a tourist attraction

And you're on the M27... happy days


A cycle path runs the length of Rownhams Lane and this crosses Junction 3a's sliproads. Imbecile cyclists keep getting in the way of the motorway traffic passing through here. Here's a couple from the 2010 police database at the eastbound access:

Crash Date: Wednesday, October 06, 2010 
Time of Crash: 8:10:00 AM 
Crash Reference: 22532114
Number of Vehicles: 2 Number of Casualties: 1
Vehicles involved:
1 Goods vehicle 3.5 tonnes mgw and under Male 16 - 24 Vehicle is in the act of turning right
2 Pedal cycle Male 0 - 15 Vehicle proceeding normally along the carriageway, not on a bend

Crash Date: Thursday, October 21, 2010 
Time of Crash: 8:45:00 AM 
Crash Reference: 22651576
Number of Vehicles: 2 Number of Casualties: 1
Vehicles involved
1 Car (excluding private hire cars 2005 onwards) Female Unknown Vehicle is slowing down or stopping
2 Pedal cycle Male 0 - 15 Vehicle proceeding normally along the carriageway, not on a bend

The problem was the pushbikes thinking they had right of way across a minor access road! Of all things.  Where do they think they are, Holland? Reckon it's lazy kids late for school. I blame the parents, can't they drive the kids like everyone else? I bet they tried a "where-theres-blame-theres-a-claim" against Roadchef and the HA and got a payout. Call social services.

Anyway, Hampshire County Council in their quest to encourage use of junction 3a have just painted "toy town" give-way signs so that the bl**dy cyclists know their place and have to stop to let the important motorists blast from the M27 onto the fast local village roads. Ha ha ha that'll really wind up those eco warriors!!!!

Westbound access: cyclists have priority

Eastbound access: Since summer 2012, M27 traffic has priority :)

So be assured that you do not have to give way to cyclists going straight on here. Just turn and let them look after themselves.


In theory this junction should not exist. Roadchef is required to keep barriers in place and the Highways Agency should enforce this. But ingenious local "voluntary engineers" ensure that the barriers are kept in a state of disrepair for the benefit of motorists. Everyone else turns a blind eye.

Barrier ingeniously modified for motorists' benefit

There is a camera monitoring traffic movements but it's not switched on. We've never heard of anyone being penalised for using this nifty shortcut. Roadchef welcomes the extra custom, the Highways Agency don't seem to care and Hampshire County Council are actually working to improve access to the junction.

The only people that might put up some aggro are local people fed up with the extra traffic and cyclists who have to look out or they'll be in hospital but, hey, they can't fine you can they.


Currently only the eastbound side of M27 junction 3a is open to general traffic. The barrier on the westbound slip is awaiting disrepair. Watch this blog: we'll keep you updated when things change.