Wednesday 2 February 2011

Cycling Infrastructure Again

Responding to Dr Julian Huppert MP, the Minister of State for Transport Theresa Villiers stated in Parliament that, "Manual for Streets 2" was recently published after a lot of input from different stakeholders. My understanding is that those documents are heavily used by local authorities in their work on our roads and streets. The uptake of those documents is more extensive than my hon. Friend has been led to believe."

The trouble is that Dr Huppert is right and Ms Villiers is wrong; most cycling infrastructure in this country is useless or worse.  The manual for streets does not descend to detail on the design requirements for cycling infrastructure but this is to be found in the sister document, Cycle Infrastructure Design

Take this example, on my commute home from work
The A315 west of Hounslow on my way home.
The lane on the left is perhaps 0.5metres wide

The Department for Transport's own design criteria provide that:

"7.4 Cycle lane widths
7.4.1 A cycle lane offers cyclists some separation from motor traffic. Under the National Cycle Training Standards, cyclists are trained to ride in a safe position in the carriageway which is usually at least 1 metre from the kerb edge to avoid gulley grates and debris, and to ensure that they are within the sightlines of drivers waiting at side roads.
7.4.2 Cycle lanes should be 2 metres wide on busy roads, or where traffic is travelling in excess of 40 mph. A minimum width of 1.5 metres may be generally acceptable on roads with a 30 mph limit. For cycle feeder lanes to advanced stop line arrangements, a minimum width of 1.2m may be acceptable. Cycle lanes less than 1.2 metres wide cannot easily accommodate tricycles or childcarrying cycle trailers wholly within the lane.
7.4.3 Cyclists can overtake each other within a 2metre wide lane and easily remain within it when looking back to check for traffic, or when avoiding kerbside drainage grates, etc. Drivers do not always realise that cyclists need to move away from the kerb to avoid surface hazards and may expect cyclists to stay in lane regardless of its width. A narrow cycle lane may therefore give motorists (misplaced) confidence to provide less clearance while overtaking than they would in the absence of a cycle lane."

That last part is too true

What should cyclists do faced with this hopeless provision?  Ideally, we should ignore the lane and ride as though it was not there, but that runs a greater than usual risk of attracting aggression from uncomprehending motorists.  I tend to follow John Franklin's suggestion of straddling the line.  This is hardly ideal and Government complacancy about the design of our streets clearly needs to be dispelled.  It would be much safer if the cycle lane were just removed.


  1. Very impressive blog and cycling campaign. I too commute from Hounslow every day to the city.

    I'm curious about you putting youtube clips on the internet showing people's number plates. I'm assuming it is legal but I thought it was not so. If I am to follow your example and get a camera and do the same as you, I trust I'd be on the right side of the law?

    How is the Muvi camera working out? I wonder about the even smaller one than the one you bought.

    I've taken to reporting potholes recently and have been surprised at the speed of response though sunken drains seem more problematic - like that outside morrisons in Brentford if you go that way.

    I am dismayed by some of my fellow cyclists on my way to work. Racing through traffic lights and scaring people. It disappoints me to watch old ladies step on to a zebra crossing and regard me in fear as if I wont stop. I dont like getting tarred with that brush. Inconvenient in many ways but I wonder about bikes having number plates on the back to be more accountable. A nightmare to police and big databases would be needed but it might make people more accountable.

    Not sure how to email you but if you have time to get in touch I'm easy to find by googling litsl

    Would be keen to do some racing and TTs locally too but have been slow to get back into it due to kids.

    Very keen on getting a camera and joining in. Perhaps we need a consolidated website to highlight this stuff and get the data out there.

    Great work.


  2. I have a fabulous example of a "cycle lane" that moves from the edge of an urban dual carriageway (40 mph limit) to run down the centre of both lanes but within the boundary of the left hand lane. It is in Transit Way Plymouth for the turning into Tesco. I am not sure how to post a picture but it is shown beautifully on Google Street View in all its glory!

  3. Nobody can have a realistic expectation of privacy on a public road so there is no legal issue. Morally, I have no qualms about posting on the internet traceable details of individuals who are endangering me or others on the roads.
    I agree that cyclists have a serious obligation not to imperil pedestrians and I, too, find it discomforting that I often have to indicate to pedestrians that I am indeed going to yield to them when I have a red light! However registration of bicycles would be a totally disproportionate response to a problem that is itself often blown out of proportion. Cycling needs active encouragement and anything that pulls in the opposite direction is to be avoided.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly about the cycle lanes we generally have in the UK. Rub them out and start again, but this time base it on the Dutch or Danish models. That way we will get the average person to consider cycling as a viable mode of transport rather than just the slightly deranged people like you and I who are willing to put up with the terrible conditions for cyclists on the road (and terrible other road users) at present. I really hope the new Cycling Embassy gets somewhere.

  5. "It disappoints me to watch old ladies step on to a zebra crossing and regard me in fear as if I wont stop" Me too, I do wonder if this is the old lady's perception of cyclists rather than her experience of cyclists. We get a lot of bad press, unfairly I think, check out the figures, according to DfT in 2007 you were 110times more likely to be killed by a car than bike (p.126 pedestrian + 1 other vehicle)
    IME cycles lanes are mostly useless and the good/useful ones are ignored by drivers, ho hum.

  6. Another great post... Totally agree

    I too have witnessed more "Granny Fear" as I wheel about. I also believe that many of the complaints about bad cyclists, pavement riding particularly, are from older people who attend local forums. It is clearely an issue for that group.

    Agree with you that being tarred by the same brush as the careless is poor.

  7. The real problem with getting better cycling infrastructure, is that in order to get it space will have to be taken from motor vehicle, and the current time there is no political will to do that.

  8. Just been sent a link to this Adam Raynor seems to think you are being paid for your opinion! Cheeky.

  9. Saw that clip today too... Grrrrr.

    Adam Raynor is a paid journo and has a LOT of nerve trotting out all that tired nonsense.

    If he hasn't already he will surely consume more then his fair share of NHS resourses and I am guessing that his car is struggling to perform efficiently so that's more subsidy for the lazy.

    The point needs to be made over and over that we subsidise them not the other way round.

  10. A few weeks back I confronted a "bike rider" who jumped the red lights at Cemetery Junction in Reading. His attitude was one of, "Yeah? So what? Who are you, the police?" Whilst I pointed out that c-words like him were giving cyclists a bad name, he just didn't give a stuff. He jumped the next red lights too .... possibly so he could get away from me for a few minutes!

    I could be tempted to wear a video camera, but I doubt I would've captured the morons who threw some money at me on the pedal home this evening. I say "money"; I do of course mean coins of small denomination and not £10 notes!!

  11. Martin the answer is simple. Cars have grown fatter so they can accomodate fat b@stards like Adam Rayner and his ilk, fat cars take up more road space than the cars of old. Get rid of fat people and fat cars, no need to change the roads, problem solved.

  12. His point about lack of accountability is hilarious!

    Cyclists have the most accountability and awareness of consequence of anyone on the road - if we screw up, we kill ourselves or seriously injure. Much worse than a car user!

  13. My PhD supervisor did his psychology PhD on driver behaviour towards motorcyclists. If I remember rightly he came up with 2 things which affect the behaviour: Social awareness and technical awareness. So, general public seem to have a bit of an attitude toward motorcyclists in the UK (quite unlike France) which sees us followed around shops by store detects and stuff. And then from the technical perspective, most car drivers have no idea that a motorcycle cannot really apply brakes in a corner.

    I wonder if cyclists have similar issues going on with respect to technical awareness. I heard a motorist complain that cyclists hardly ever signal. There are some places in London where signally means I have to have a hand off the brake for too long (trafalgar square for examples). Do motorists realise that on a bicycle you signal at the expense of covering your brakes? Do they realise it is hard to quickly stop a bicycle going quick on a wet road or down a hill? That sometimes we wobble a bit when setting off? Do they know why we have to ride so far in to the road sometimes or why we might need to cycle around some obstruction in the road unforseen by a car? Or indeed that when you are forced to stop on a bike, you lose momentum which is expensive to build up (I was cruising home tonight about 15mph when a pedestrian jumped out to cross and put his hand up for me to stop. Why is this ok? Perhaps he doesnt realise I've cycled 12 miles already and being bought to a dead stop requires exertion to get going.

    As far as 'social awareness' goes, so many of us are lawless with respect to traffic lights and crossings that it is hardly surprising that people have a bit of a downer on cyclists. I fear we do all get tarred with the same brush. I used to jump the odd lights and had my own way of doing it. I'd always come to a complete stop and if it was clear and I could be safer by getting a bit of clear road between me and the cars behind, I'd jump at the chance of a safer bit of clear road than waiting with the snarling cars for the red light (the road north of Hyde park is a good example of where this is worthwhile). I ended up quitting doing it since although I genuinely think it is safer I dont want to increase people's perception of lawless cyclists, so no i chill out and wait. I should say that the last accident I had was chilling out and waiting in traffic and getting rammed from behind whilst stationary because the guy couldnt see me, so now I always do wriggle to the front of the line. Extra fact, police in cambridge could not take my report of being rammed from behind because neither me nor bike were damaged.

    Interesting discussion!

    PS How is the camera working out? Keen to give one a go.

  14. wow, tired dyslexic spelling - sorry about that!