photo Joe Ahearn (link)
“When Camden Council conducted research into the reasons for the success of Dutch cycle infrastructure one of the most obvious differences they discovered was that the Dutch cycle on the right rather than the left. To test how significant this is they are conducting a controlled experiment on Tavistock Place to compare the relative safety of wrong-way cycling. Cyclists approaching from the Westminster ride conventionally on the left of the path and then switch sides at this crossover section to continue towards Islington on the right. “(link)
In recent years, the number of cycle paths in the UK have increased substantially. In theory, they have the potential to make cycling safer, more enjoyable and reduce friction between different road users. However, because of the haphazard nature of creating cycle paths, there seems little continuity in design and implementation. It means we have cycle paths ranging from the good to downright bad and some just silly.
More than anything, we need road planners to be bolder in actually designating more space for cycle paths. We widen roads to make dual carriageways, often all we need is a couple more feet to create a really good cycle path. A good cycle path is much more than painting a white line on a pavement and hoping it all works out fine.
Good Cycle Paths
This cycle path is separate from the road. It doesn’t conflict with pedestrians and is wide enough for dual way. This is an ideal cycle path for an inner city path. It is the kind of path which would encourage a huge range of new people to start cycling.
Cycle Lanes Integrated in Roads
This is a relatively narrow cycle path on a road. The benefits of this kind of cycle path is:
- Increase cyclists’ comfort and belonging on the carriageway.
- Enables cyclists to pass stationary traffic in traffic jams.
- Makes cars more aware that cyclists may be using roads.
- Cyclists may be encouraged to move on the inside of moving cars and lorries which could be dangerous if vehicles veer inward or turn left.
- Anecdotal evidence suggests cycle lanes may encourage cars to pass closer to cyclists because they feel that as long as they are not in the cycle lane, they can get closer.
Overall, I support this kind of cycle lane. It is usually better than nothing. More than anything it reminds drivers of our right to be on road. At peak time, roads are frequently congested, and this makes it easier to pass stationary traffic. However, I am aware of their limitations. Just because there is a cycle path to left of road, doesn’t mean I will always risk undertaking. You have to use your common sense. Also, another issue is that the best place to cycle is arguably 1 metre from the edge of road and parked cars this means cycling outside of the cycle lane, but then motorists will beep at you for not being in cycle path. See: Best position to cycle
It depends on the road. I’m keener on cycle lanes in city centres than on open road
Cycle Paths of Limited Use
This is the kind of cycle path I don’t use. I don’t use it because
- a) it is narrow and shared with slow moving pedestrians
- b) every 100 metres you have to give way to cars turning left or right.
- Basically it is a cycle path with continual obstacles.
In its defence, I some cyclists still prefer using this disjointed shared use cycle path rather than using main road. If I cycled very slowly, I may prefer the same. But, I’m just glad this kind of cycle path is not compulsory. Perhaps it is better than nothing as cyclists get a choice depending on their preferences. (see also: Bad cycle lanes)
Stupid Cycle Paths
To slow down speeding motorists, traffic calming measures have been installed so there is only room for one car to pass. There is also a pathetic attempt at a cycle path here. In practise I never use it because it is full of broken glass, grass and weeds. It is also at the bottom of a steep hill. You are speeding down quite nicely at 30mph but then have to slam on the brakes, to give way to cars. With a little bit of foresight, care, a way could have been designed to slow down cars without narrowing road and making it more inconvenient for cyclists.
Overgrown cycle path.
Shared Use Cycle Paths
- Shared use paths – when cyclists are allowed to go on pavements that have been marked for shared use.
- Unless paths are marked it is illegal to cycle on the pavement.
- Sometimes pedestrians and cyclists may be segregated by single white line.
One of the biggest complaints about cyclists is when they use the pavement. Many pedestrains (especially old people feel uncomfortable when people cycle on the pavement. Shared use paths often aggravate this by taking a pavement and painting a white line on as a shared use cycle path. Where possible I tend to avoid these. Unless it cuts a corners, makes journey quicker or is much safer. When using it I do remember pedestrians should be given priority and go slow.
Not much room with bus stop. See: Shared use cycle paths
But, also I’m not keen on shared use cycle paths because pedestrians have been my biggest cause of accidents. On three occasions I have been knocked off in shared use cycle paths because pedestrians suddenly change direction without looking. I wasn’t going fast, but it’s something you have to be aware of.
However, although people often worry about accidents, the number of reported accidents is quite low (Buckinghamshire County Council, link). Also accidents tend to be minor rather than major
Short Cycle Paths
There are quite a few entries for competition of shortest cycle path.
Photo by Phil D, flickr
Obstacles in Cycle Paths
A major limitation of cycle paths is that they often have obstacles in them. Interesting post at Birmingham Cyclist on how to stop cars parking illegally in cycle lanes. [link]
See: Rules on using cycle paths for more on obstacles in cycle paths
Integration of Cycle Paths
Cycle path in Bristol
Rules on Cycle Paths
In the UK, it is not compulsory for cyclists to use cycle lanes. The Highway code states: Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer – Rules on Using cycle lanes
Most cycle paths in the UK are ‘advisory lanes’. These have a dotted line. This means cars must not drive in cycle lane, unless unavoidable.
This very narrow cycle lane is a mandatory lane (solid white line) it means Cars MUST NOT use or park in. Mind you it’s so small cars would struggle to drive in their anyway.
National Cycle Network
The national cycle network. A combination of custom cycle paths, quiet roads and scenic traffic free paths.
Some cycle paths are very scenic and a real joy to ride. Hopefully the network will continue to grow. They encourage beginner cyclists, nervous of using roads to get started. This is wide enough to allow cyclists and pedestrians to mix.
Having a Laugh?
from Warrington Cycle lane facility of the month! [thanks to Pete for reuse of photo]
Feel free to post your favourite cycle facility in comments!