2nd class citizens on 3rd world cycling infrastructure

Why is it cyclists are still 2nd class citizens on 3rd world cycling infrastructure? It’s simply not good enough that there’s no space for cycling on virtually all the roads in NE Lincolnshire. Today I was cycling in the (very thin) painted-on lane at Fryston Corner, approaching the college on Weelsby Rd, when a guy in a silver Mondeo, registration H7 G – –  (I don’t recall the full regn) almost knocked me off my bike. This was in full daylight, around lunchtime, & I was in the cycle lane. It was such a close shave I knocked on his window at the traffic lights to tell him he nearly knocked me off and to leave space for cyclists. All I got in return was a V-sign, a tirade of expletives and  “you don’t pay road tax”!

Actually Mr foul-mouthed Mondeo, I do pay road tax but that’s not the point. There’s space for people walking – it’s called a pavement. They don’t pay road tax but they have a space to be in. People riding a bike do not have a space to be in. We have to share the road with vehicles that, driven by ignorant or careless drivers, pose a genuine threat to our safety and even our lives.

The painted on lanes that the council have provided for people riding bikes are simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH! It’s not good enough to expect drivers to respect cyclists because as anyone who has cycled on our roads will tell you, they don’t! When you’re driving your car you’re insulated from the outside world and oblivious to the danger cyclists face. Putting up signs asking drivers to respect cycle lanes, as NE Lincs council has done recently, is frankly laughable. I understand it’s an attempt to improve things for cyclists by a transport department of the council with no budget to do a proper job, but it is completely futile. I doubt if most drivers have even seen these signs along Clee Rd and Weelsby Rd.

A sign asking drivers to respect the cycle lanes.

A sign asking drivers to respect the cycle lanes. Obviously, it’s not having the desired effect!

I doubt many if any drivers have even seen these signs. Signage is not the answer - good design is.

I doubt many if any drivers have even seen these wholly ineffectual signs. Signage is not the answer – good design is. There’s plenty of space here to create a segregated cycle lane that provides a safe cycle space.

The answer is proper action by the council to allocate funds to create separated cycle lanes, so that there is a safe space for cycling. Nothing else will do. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take decades to do. Look at what has been achieved in New York over the last 5 years with good design and a proactive approach. Why is NE Lincs council so blind to the safety of cyclists on it’s roads? That’s a question I’d really like an answer to!

Take a look at this solution from New York….

Not bad.

Not bad. Photo from Business Insider

or this from Bogota….

Photo from citiesforpeople.net

Not bad at all! Photo from citiesforpeople.net

and this example of cycling infrastructure in The Netherlands: (the best!)

The serious need for separated cycle space

Photos from Grimsby Telegraph

Photos from Grimsby Telegraph

There have been two tragic fatalities in Grimsby in the space of a few of days, both related to cycling. A 72 year old pensioner was knocked down by an 18 year old man cycling in a pedestrianised area of top town on May 20th and, although she was believed to have only suffered minor injuries, she died just 17 days later after spending 11 days in hospital.

The second incident happened this morning at around 4:30am near or at the junction of Freeman St and Wellington Rd. A cyclist in his 20’s was hit by a truck and died shortly afterwards. You can read the Grimsby Telegraph reports here and here. Our condolences and sympathy go to both families.

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Now, I do not condone people cycling where they shouldn’t, on pavements or in pedestrianised areas. However, whatever the rights and wrongs of either of these situations, there are serious points that need to be made and that need to be heeded and learned from.

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There’s no accounting for someone flaunting the law, whether that be a pedestrian, a cyclist or a driver. However, our town suffers from very poor provision of space for cycling which often results in people cycling technically illegally. In pedestrianised areas why can’t there be separate cycling lanes, so that people walking and cycling are both provided for? There’s plenty of room, and most cyclists would respect the different spaces and stay on the cycling lanes.

Cycling on pavements: someone I know, a middle-aged lady who was riding her bike back from the hospital two weeks ago, was verbally abused by a man walking along Scartho Rd because she was cycling on the pavement. Now, bear in mind there were 4 lanes of busy traffic and absolutely no provision of space for someone to cycle. It was a very busy road and this person chose to ride on the pavement in order to not be knocked off her bike by a car. As I say, this man took great offence at this, verbally abused her and physically blocked the way. Although she tried to explain she was only on the pavement because it was not safe on the road due to the heavy traffic, he continued being abusive. Unsurprisingly the lady was very upset by this, and the situation was only resolved by the mans’ embarrassed wife pulling him out of the way.

This question of cycling on pavements is compounded by the fact that the Council permit cycling and walking on some pavements but not on others. In my opinion, this is a fudge, good for neither walkers nor cyclists, and should not be presented as a solution. There needs to be separate space for people walking AND for people cycling.

Only by separating the spaces on our roads, and providing a space for cycling, can these issues be resolved. Just look at most roads – there’s space for cars and trucks, there’s a pavement for pedestrians, but cyclists might get a painted line at the side if they’re lucky! Even then, many motorists ignore it and drive without due care and attention of cyclists. These are facts that I witness almost everyday.

People say cyclists ignore traffic lights on red and cause their own danger. Maybe some do. But again, almost everyday I see cars going through lights on red. Virtually everyday I see drivers ignoring cyclists and creating dangerous and hazardous conditions for cycling. So please don’t blame it all on cyclists.

The responsibility for accidents and injuries clearly needs to be judged on each and every situation, but danger and hazard can be designed off our roads with proper provision of space for cycling and good design. It’s NOT rocket science! To find out how to do it just copy the solutions the Dutch have developed over many years. I’ve written about many of them on this site, but follow the links to other websites which provide a very detailed and comprehensive study of Dutch design and examples.

Poor infrastructure leads to accidents

It’s simple: poor infrastructure leads to accidents. The pathway along Ploggers, between Love Lane Corner and Humberstone Rd in Grimsby is simply not wide enough. It’s supposedly a shared path between cyclists and pedestrians, but when it’s full of parents walking their children to school in the morning, there’s nothing else a cyclist can do but to ride on the grass.

Of course, council vehicles also drive along here to empty the waste bins and they leave ruts in the soft ground. As the weather warms, the grass grows and the ground hardens and these ruts become concealed and become a serious hazard to cyclists, as proved the case this morning:

The bike where it was brought down causing the fall onto the pathway along the Ploggers near Old Clee School and King Georges sports stadium.

The bike where it was brought down causing the fall onto the pathway along the Ploggers near Old Clee School and the King George sports facility.

In passing a group of people walking along this path this morning, my wife had to ride on the grass, but her wheel got caught in one of these ruts and this brought her crashing down, hitting the concrete pathway. She could easily have broken her arm in the fall. As it was, she suffered painful cuts and bruises.

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There's ample room for the necessary improvements to be made here.

There’s ample room for the necessary improvements to be made here.

I’ve written before about this pathway. There is ample space to put a separate cycle lane alongside the path, so that cyclists can actually have their own space. Having just been to the Netherlands and seen how much cyclists are cared for there, it’s disgusting to see how little provision there is made here. There’s simply no excuse for not giving space for cycling. It’s time the local authorities woke up to their appallingly neglectful attitude in this regard!

This is an example of what is needed along the Ploggers - it's not rocket science! (This stretch of pathway links Beverley Crescent with Weelsby Rd.)

This is an example of what is needed along the Ploggers – it’s not rocket science! (This stretch of pathway links Beverley Crescent with Weelsby Rd.)

Transport Planners please watch this

A picture is worth a thousand words, and this short video absolutely shows why we need better cycling provision. I really hope the transport planners do indeed watch this. If the Government and our local councils are really interested in getting more people cycling (and the levels of obesity and poor general public health, costs of fuel and polution, levels of traffic gridlock etc etc, clearly demonstrate we certainly need more people cycling), then we quite clearly won’t achieve this with roads that are unsafe for cyclists. And most roads in NE Lincs are unsafe for cyclists!

Making cycle lanes safe

The painted on cycles lanes on the roads of NE Lincs offer no protection at all, and are frequently parked over and ignored by drivers. For example, yesterday I was nearly knocked off my bike whilst riding in a cycle lane. An unmarked grey Ford Transit (registration FV12 EOK) taking a left turn from Weelsby Rd into Ladysmith Rd far too fast, cut across the cycle lane and came within a couple of inches of me. It was extremely dangerous.

The cycle lane itself is badly designed, forcing traffic turning left to cross it. Designing-in conflict like this will only lead to problems, as I experienced yesterday. Much better to have taken this particular cycle lane to the left of the junction and provide a crossing with cycle right-of-way at the lights, with drivers turning left having to give way to cycles.

The painted on cycle lane goes straight on, forcing traffic turning left to cross it.

The painted on cycle lane goes straight on, forcing traffic turning left to cross it.

How much better it could be! I came across this page on peopleforbikes.org this morning, showing how various cities provide a degree of separation to their on-road cycle lanes. These various designs provide a level of safety from vehicular intrusion that we simply don’t have! Can we have some please? I don’t like feeling I’m in danger when I’m in a cycle lane, even with a flashing rear light in daylight! There are numerous different styles shown on the linked page but they all provide separation and safety.

Half-wheel bollards in Seville separate the cycle lane from the road, giving the cyclists protection from careless drivers.

Half-wheel bollards in Seville separate the cycle lane from the road, giving the cyclists protection from careless drivers.

Please don’t block the bike lanes!

Sometimes, it’s a real battle!

I’m so glad I work shifts! To ride through the centre of Grimsby at peak times every day would be a nightmare! Usually I avoid these times, but when I’m working on a late shift I have to ride through the centre of town at lunch-time. It’s a battle getting through the traffic! (How people cycle on London’s streets I don’t know!)

Yesterday was one such day and frankly it was a unpleasant experience! The general level of ignorant motorists giving no respect to cyclists doesn’t help, and neither does trying to cross Victoria St after exiting the wonderfully named Grime St (coming from the cycleway alongside Asda). Five lanes of traffic with no central reservation! Help! It certainly needs a ‘Bike Island’ there.

But it was one incident in particular that made me angry. There’s no way this should be acceptable behaviour:Eleanor St bike lane dangerously blocked by a works van.

This is Eleanor St it and features a principle bike lane heading into the town centre with two oncoming lanes of motor traffic. And completely blocking the lane is a Virgin Media works van. This situation is very dangerous, as anyone cycling here has to swing out into the oncoming lane to get past the obstruction. I stopped to explain to the two workers from the van this was dangerous and they should not be blocking the cycle path. They replied it was perfectly legal and their vehicle was adequately signed.

It’s true they were signed to the oncoming traffic but not to any cyclist approaching along the bike lane. However, I don’t believe it is legal for them to have parked there. A little further on I encountered two traffic enforcement officers, and I asked them was it legal for a vehicle to park across the bike lane. I was told if it was a blue signed bike lane then it was an offense to park a vehicle there.

Looking along Eleanor St in the other direction on a previous occasion. It is a blue-signed bike lane.

Looking along Eleanor St in the other direction on a previous occasion. It is a blue-signed bike lane.

This lane is indeed a blue-signed  bike lane, so they were illegally parked. This on top of another Virgin Media vehicle photographed blocking the new CS2 extension in London whilst it was actually being opened by Boris! Is it part of the job remit at Virgin or something?

Another Virgin Media vehicle (in the background) photographed blocking the new CS2 extension bike lane in London this week.

Another Virgin Media vehicle (in the background) photographed blocking the new CS2 extension bike lane in London this week. (Photo courtesy of Sam Dansie/Twitter)

The main point I was making then, and the reason for this posting, is to demonstrate this is clearly unsafe behaviour. The amount  of bike lanes we have in NE Lincs is small and they are mostly inadequate, but even the ones we do have are constantly parked over by cars or trucks. You see it all over the area. You don’t see cycles parked across roads, do you? There would be an outcry and probably before long the police would attend to stop you from blocking the highway. So why is it OK to block the bike lanes? Because there’s no action taken when this happens.

So the question I want to pose is this: Can we please have some action to prevent motorists parking in bikes lanes, creating unsafe situations for people who just want to use a bike to get around town?

Lessons from London

There have been a number of high profile deaths of people killed by trucks whilst cycling  in London recently. At the recent inquest into the deaths of Brian Dorling, 55, who died in a collision with a lorry on the notorious Bow roundabout, and French student Philippine De Gerin-Ricard, 20, who was hit from behind by a lorry on CS2 at Aldgate Gyratory, Transport for London were heavily criticised for ignoring multiple warnings.

Philippine De Gerin-Ricard and Brian Dorling, who both died whilst cycling on London's streets. (Photo from iBikeLondon)

Philippine De Gerin-Ricard and Brian Dorling, who both died whilst cycling on London’s streets. (Photo from iBikeLondon)

At the inquest, Transport for London were exposed for having ignored warnings from the Police and various cycling campaigns. Not only that, it was shown they had instructed their own consultants to ignore cyclists at one particular junction, and that they had ignored their consultants report that stated Bow Roundabout was so dangerous that traffic signals and separated cycle lanes should be installed. (Read a full report from iBikeLondon here)

Even yesterday, there was another “accident” in Camden, where a woman was knocked off her bike by a truck. Thankfully she wasn’t killed, but that’s not the point. She could have been. I say “accident” but in reality these aren’t accidents at all. They are the natural consequence of bad design, and as such they are completely predictable.

Locally, last night there was a serious accident at the junction of Peaks Parkway and Hainton Ave at evening rush hour. I don’t have any more details at this point, but on our own roads we have plenty of examples of bad design leading to hazard for people walking or cycling.

The more one looks into this whole subject you begin to realise just how much death, injury and carnage is caused by road accidents in this country, but also that much of it could be avoided by better design.

Some say the problem is cyclists riding dangerously, getting in the way. I’ve no doubt some do. You do see people cycling without lights in the dark. You do see people (usually youths) riding dangerously across roads without any regard for anyone else. I accept that. People should certainly ride safely and appropriately.

But I also see so many more examples of people driving dangerously, of drivers ignoring the safety of people walking or riding bikes by driving far too fast. Only last week, a stupid driver almost hit us by racing around in a residential area.

A typically dangerous situation, familiar to many cyclists. (Photo from London Cyclist, originally BBC)

A typically dangerous situation, familiar to many cyclists. (Photo from London Cyclist, originally BBC)

What can be done to improve matters? There are many things that can be done, some for minimal cost, that will greatly improve matters. These will be looked at in a future post. The question is: do our planners really want to improve things, or are they happy with the status quo? Are they prepared to change things in order to improve things? Will they be like Transport for London, who compromised their designs knowing that would result in death and injury, or will they be like local authorities across the Netherlands, who actively value the quality of life of their residents by prioritising cycling in their planning?

The Rock and The Hard Place

Prioritising cycling: roundabouts

As the penny slowly drops and the various benefits of cycling begin to be recognised at national government and local authority level, there are simple ways in which cycling can begin to be prioritised in NE Lincs. It’s not rocket science and by progressively improving the cycling infrastructure the message that cycling is being taken seriously will come across and more people will feel it’s safe to cycle.
The crossing at Hewitts Circus on Taylors Ave.

The crossing at Hewitts Circus on Taylors Ave.

Look at roundabouts. This is a photo of Hewitt’s Circus near Tesco’s, on the Humberston Pedalway. The pedalway (actually a shared walkway and cycleway) meets the roundabout with a pair of painted broken lines. What do these mean? Who has right of way? It’s not clear. The usual practise is they are ignored by motorists, and cyclists and pedestrians have to wait for a gap and take their chance to cross. The car has priority and everyone else has to wait.

These are dangerous places for cyclists and pedestrians, as the tragic death of Lynne Dring, who was killed at this very roundabout whilst trying to cross in January this year, so sadly demonstrates. These crossings are examples of bad design and it’s past time they were changed!
Bad design creates unnecessary danger.

Bad design creates unnecessary danger.

My suggestion therefore is this:
  • Make these clearly inadequate painted lines a raised crossing, at the same height as the pedalway that leads to and away from them. This would effectively make it a ‘sleeping policeman’,  a speed hump, forcing the approaching motor traffic to slow down;
  • Give priority to cyclists and pedestrians by making the approaching motor traffic give way on these crossings;
  • Make the speed limit on larger roundabouts 20mph, and on smaller roundabouts such as Hewitts Circus a maximum 15mph.

These simple measures will help to save lives, reduce casulaties and make cycling on the pedalway safer, smoother and quicker. It will also send the message that people walking and cycling (ie. those who are vunerable to being injured or killed when hit by a vehicle) take priority over cars and trucks.

I’ve used Hewitts Circus as the example, but this can be applied to all roundabouts where there is a cycle lane. Toll Bar roundabout between Waltham and New Waltham is another prime example. Have you tried getting across there on your bike? It’s extremely busy and dangerous. Replace the painted broken lines with raised crossings prioritised for cyclists and pedestrians, and slow the traffic. Please. It won’t cost much but it will speak volumes and make a huge difference!

No doubt some will object: “You can’t do that, it will slow the traffic and have cars backing up around the roundabout!” Well, what is so bad about that? Drivers driving more slowly at busy junctions? Sounds like a safer situation to me! I’m sure the delay would be minimal, and as these changes become more widespread and familiar, they would simply be accepted, accommodated, and I believe, appreciated for the benefits they bring!

Update: To see how the world leaders in cycling infrastructure do roundabouts, click here!

Near-miss on Eleanor St!

Monday 30 Sept at about 12:10: I had to brake sharply to miss a large white van that pulled out on me crossing Eleanor St at the junction with Weelsby St yesterday. The driver pulled out right in front of me, waving to say ‘sorry’ as he went. It was reckless and dangerous and could easily have been a collision!

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