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!)

Get those tap-ins!

Sometimes footballers try to score the perfect goal, like the one Jack Wilshere recently scored for Arsenal. Of course, those sort of goals are wonderful, but just as valuable are the simple tap-ins from 6 yards. They all count! It doesn’t matter how they go in, just score them!

Jack Wilshire scoring his goal of the month recently for Arsenal

Jack Wilshere scoring his goal of the month recently for Arsenal

Today I was off work and the weather was so beautiful, a perfect autumnal day, so I went for a little ride. To use the footballing analogy, it was very interesting to see how many opportunities there are for some simple cycling infrastructure ‘tap-ins’ along the route of my ride. Not every improvement in our infrastructure needs to be a big project (AKA the wonder goals), there are lots of ‘tap-ins’ available.

My ride took me from Weelsby Rd left onto Park Avenue and then right along Barretts Recreation Ground. This is just asking for a little bit of spending on a proper surfaced cycleway and some lighting. It’s a short cut from the busy Weelsby Rd to Scartho Rd (exiting at the swimming pool), and it just needs a little TLC.

The pathway through barretts 'Rec', looking towards Scartho Rd.

The pathway through barretts ‘Rec’, looking towards Scartho Rd.

Barretts 'Rec' pathway brings you out at the swimming pool car park

Barretts ‘Rec’ pathway brings you out at the swimming pool car park

...with a nice separated pathway taking you up to Scartho Rd itself (slightly obscured by the lovely bright sunshine!)

…with a nice separated pathway (top centre) taking you up to Scartho Rd itself (slightly obscured by the lovely bright sunshine!)

Then along Scartho Rd, where there is a good separated cyclepath. It needs a continuous cycleway though, from one end of Scartho Rd to the other. As I say, I think the cycle path itself is good but could be better if it wasn’t up and down all the time. Make it a level surface for cyclists and give the cycle path priority over the drives and roads, so that it’s they that have to drive up and down and not the cyclists. Otherwise it’s pretty good.

The separated cycleway on Scartho Rd, showing the 'driveways drops'.

The separated cycleway on Scartho Rd, showing the ‘driveways drops’.

Same location but facing the other direction, back towards Grimsby.

Same location but facing the other direction, back towards Grimsby.

Approaching the roundabout at the end of Louth Rd on the separated cycle path (good)......

Approaching the roundabout at the end of Louth Rd on the separated cycle path (good)……

...but exiting the roundabout onto the A16 (bad!). And just when you need it most, the cycle path  just disappears!

…but exiting the roundabout onto the A16 (bad!). And just when you need it most, the cycle path just disappears!

At the end of Louth Road there is a proper separate cycle path, which is great. It takes you round the roundabout and then…….. Oh dear! Onto the A16, Peaks Parkway: “Join the 60mph traffic folks and be careful!” What kind of infrastructure is this that places cyclists in harms way, on a pretty rough surface too? There’s loads of space here for a cycleway, separated from the traffic.

Turning right onto the A1098 Hewitts Avenue and it’s the same criticism as above. Again there’s plenty of space for a cycleway. Passing the junction with Peaks Lane, there is at least an off-road path here, but it’s very narrow and very bumpy. Once again there’s loads of space to turn this into a first class cycleway.

Lots of room here for a proper cycleway, as the path separates from the road behind a copse of trees.

Lots of room here for a proper cycleway, as the path separates from the road behind a copse of trees.

The surface on this pathway is very bumpy and unpleasant to ride on. If this was wider and properly surfaced, it would be so much better!

The surface on this pathway is very bumpy and unpleasant to ride on. If this was wider and properly surfaced, it would be so much better!

In all of these examples, it wouldn’t actually take much to turn them into something really worthwhile from a cycling point of view, and it would once again earn NELC lots of Brownie points for not a lot of outlay.

Pinch-Points

Bill Clinton’s comment, “It’s the economy, stupid”, became famous for pointing out the obvious during one of his election campaigns back in the 80’s. As far as our roads are concerned here in NE Lincs, we can definitely say “It’s the design, stupid!”

So many of the issues we as cyclists have directly result from conflict being designed-in to our roads. Hazards are built in to our roads by design. What do I mean by this? There are many “pinch-points” around our area, places where the road narrows so much that there is not enough room for both a bike and a car.

An example of this is on the approach to Corporation Rd bridge in Grimsby heading away from the junction with Victoria St, as the following pictures demonstrate. This is a stretch of road used by many cyclists. It becomes seriously dangerous for cyclists unless the flow of traffic hangs back to allow space for the cyclists to proceed. In my experience this doesn’t happen very often and consequently a dangerous situation arises.

IMG_00000229IMG_00000232Whose fault is it? The cyclists?  They’re just cycling along the road. The motorists? They’re just driving along, probably not aware of the danger the cyclist is experiencing. The real fault lies with the design. Conflict has been designed-in, resulting in real hazard for the road users, both bike and car, but especially the cyclist, who could easily be knocked off his/her bike and suffer injury. Who wants that? Nobody of course. So why is it OK to design-in such danger?

Another example of this same problem is on Weelsby Rd by the junction with Hainton Ave. The central island pinches the space available and creates a hazard.
The "pinch-point" on Weelsby Rd by the Hainton pub.

The pinch-point on Weelsby Rd by the Hainton pub.

This picture also shows there’s space for pedestrians and for cars, but at this particular point there’s nowhere for cyclists! How can this be OK?

Problem: Sections of road designed with “pinch-points”,  where the space for cyclists suddenly disappears creating hazard and danger.

Solution: The solution is simple – design-in adequate space for a separate cycle lane, so that cyclists don’t have to take their lives in their hands at these places.

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