Sunday, 22 November 2009

Where do bikes belong?

Since getting exceedingly fed up catching the bus to work, waiting in the cold, never knowing when I'm going to arrive or whether I would be spending the whole journey listening to some edgy schoolboy's rap music droning tunelessly on, I got myself a cheap new bike in April. Since then I've done 1600 miles in a mixture of commuting, weekend runs and evening fresh air runs. I've also done a fair bit of reading cycling blogs. And one of the things that becomes striking very quickly is that there is an awful lot of debate about where bikes should go. Many motorists believe firmly that bikes shouldn't be on the road. Many pedestrians believe just as firmly that they should go on the road - usually with the law on their side.

And what do road planners think? Well, I think you have to say that they really don't know - some of them don't even seem to grasp the fundamental points - such as what a bike looks like...
Some of them think they should be mingled unobtrusively with the street furniture
Or given their own micro-traffic chaos systems of their own (here they can practice changing over from cycling on the left to cycling on the right in preparation for the day when we all change over.)
Others seem to think that the best place is to force them into the most dangerous place in the road - in the door zone with traffic to one side shaving the bike lane. Or to just paint lines in the road that drivers simply drive inStill others display considerable ingenuity in making sure that the lanes don't go anywhere at all

Other, more ingenious planners sidestep deciding where bikes should go by using both road and pavement (provided they don't lead anywhere or come from anywhere)

On a more local note, here's Tunnel Avenue in Greenwich - ticking box A for not going anywhere and ticking box B for doing it with no reason.
And where Plumstead meets Woolwich, three bike lanes come from nowhere and go precisely nowhere. The building behind is the Plumstead Radical Club. They clearly hold Radical Cycling Club events there. But this for chappie on Google street view, evidently doesn't really know what's going to happen to him when he reaches the epicentre...because radical cyclists are capable of appearing from three different directions and from nowhere at the same time. I'd be a little nervous too.
It really shouldn't be funny - but you have to have to give people some credit (and taxpayers' money) for coming up with designs that combine ingenuity with built-in inutility.

UPDATE 30 August 2010:

 This one solves the problem of cars driving in cycle lanes...


Deptford dame said...

You are right about many of these silly and badly-thought-out 'implementations' of the requirement to provide cycle lanes. And my biggest local bugbear is the limited number of cycle racks in Greenwich town centre - at the weekend in particular it is often difficult to find somewhere to leave your bike. However there has been a huge improvement in signage and information about national cycle routes thanks to Sustrans. Glad to hear that you are enjoying your bike!

John said...

I completely share your view of inadeqaute cycle infrastructure but I think you've been a little unfair with some of your examples...

Photo 6 is part of NCR 1 through the Old Royal Naval College which operates at certain times of the day i.e. when the gate is open. An alternative route is signed outside of those hours.

Photo 7 is a jug-handle turn to put cyclists in a better position to see oncoming traffic and cross to the cycle lane on the other side of the road. Admittedly, it's not the best example in the world but it isn't a cycle lane that doesn't go anywhere.

Photo 8 is an entry/exit point to/from a shared path; not a cycle lane.

In Photo 9 the segregated cycle track is broken by the access roads

Marmoset said...

I take your point about me being a little unfair - fair enough.

But in terms of the wider picture, it actually feels frighteningly representative. I can't afford one of those helmet- or bike-mounted cameras to demonstrate this so I've plucked images off the net, but I know would be able to paint a very similar picture. There's a ''just stick 'em anywhere where they'll go'' mentality that passes for cycle provision.

Photo 6 shows a bicycle lane that is barely any longer than the length of a bike.

Photo 7 shows a lane of the type that is poorly maintained, never used and that reinforces the idea that cyclists don't belong on the road. It takes anyone using it off the road and makes them in all probability have to stop to cross the lane. In normal traffic conditions, if you ignore the cycle lane, look over your shoulder and signal clearly and assertively, you don't have to lose speed - and losing speed increases the differential between cyclist and traffic. In really heavy and inconsiderate traffic, you might not get a safe opportunity to move across the lane to the right-hand side. So you might have to stop on the roadside and simply wait for an opportunity. If you're unfortunate enough to get into that position, you're in virtually the same position as someone who used the cycle lane would be. Stationary. Beside the expense of planning and painting cycle lanes, all it does it encourage the cyclist to go off road and stop.

I simply don't understand your point about photo 8. It's shared-use in the background, but in the foreground, what is the bike painted on the road with white lane marking for if it's not a cycle lane? And where does it come from? I genuinely don't understand.

Photo 9 is a road that cyclists rarely use (I've never seen one on it) with a cycle-path that cyclists never use. And further down that road you just have to take pot luck with the HGVs anyway.

Marmoset said...

Deptford dame,

Loving the bike - hating the steps back up to my flat after a good ride.

Yes, Greenwich town centre is certainly in need of a few more Sheffield stands. Though there are now 5 of them at the King William Walk entrance to the park. I'd be chaos if this two-wheeled pedalicity malarkey took off though.

Here's a photo of the NCR21 down in Addiscome, 13 miles from Deptford - it always makes me laugh.

John said...

I personally don't see the need for the road markings provided in Photo 6. In photo 8 the markings are to indicate to cyclists where the drop kerb is and, subsequently, where cyclists should join/leave the shared path should they want to use it. The footway is probably not wide enough to delineate a two-way segregated path and so it has been left as a 'free-for-all'.

The thing you should remember is that certain cycle facilities are provided for certain types of cyclists. Providing for couriers or commuters if different to providing for a child. Many of the silly designs that you see on the street are remanants from the days before the cycling design standards came into operation.

Deptford Dame said...

I can totally empathise about the steps up to the flat, living as I do on the second floor! At least I have my own shed and don't have to leave the bike in the entrance hall any more!