The thought receptacle

Stephen's mental dustbin

Sun, 13 Apr 2014

The long, long road

Last Sunday I went for short ride. I chose my route out of town to go via Long Road, after being advised that some new cycle lanes had recently been completed, with an apparently high-quality smooth surface.

The “facilities” and “infrastructure” I found were a case study in how not to do it. I took some photos (actually later the same day; forgive the blurriness). Allow me to catalogue what's wrong with it all.

Am I really supposed to cycle on that pavement? It's a pavement, with a surface barely fit for walking on—never mind cycling. Some bright spark council worker had a great idea: slap a blue sign on it, and that's the cycling box ticked. Absolutely nobody wants this.

Dropped kerbs that are not really dropped I didn't get an appropriate photo for this one. Getting on and off “facilities” is something their designers rarely consider. Getting on and off is also the part that is most easily made dangerous, and the designers rarely miss an opportunity to do so. The current thinking among those who build this “infrastructure” is that a narrow section of partially-dropped kerb, like you get on pavements in front of driveways, is good enough for bikes too. This is another (slightly different) case of repurposing existing pavement designs for bikes, and is completely inadequate. We need kerbs that are dropped right down to road level.

Now we are three A little further east along Long Road, we now have three distinct tracks or lanes, not counting the carriageway, on which cycling is somehow sanctioned. On the far left, only just visible, is the shared-use pavement (photo above). A new cycle-only lane spins off in the middle (soon to reach a bizarre lay-by area that I've yet to understand the function of), and there is also an on-road lane. All this suggests that there is no shortage of intention, or funds, for catering to cycling—what is lacking is thought-out design and general competence. I would never consider using anything other than the on-road lane (or the carriageway) here.

That pavement looks a bit better, but am I supposed to cycle on it? In the middle distance, we can see the pavement has been renewed. Is this one of those pavements that I'm supposed to cyle on? It's hard to tell, because there are no signs except a single very tiny blue shared-use sign, which you can see as a tiny smudge of blue in the above photograph—if you can find it at all. It is far too small and appears far too late to be a useful cue to get off the carriageway (even if there were some properly dropped kerbs about, which there aren't). It's also not clear that this sign isn't referring just to the side-path on the left, that leads to the guided busway.

That's the west-to-east direction. On my first run past here, I just kept going east along the carriageway and went about my business. But when I came back to take the photos, I U-turned here and inspected the “facilities” offered to the westbound cyclist. I started by assuming I had got there on the nice new smooth surfaces which apparently are (despite lack of signage) shared-use paths.

Oh, now I'm being led back onto the carriageway. I'd better do so, because the pavement that follows is clearly a no-cycling one.

...but it isn't. We find out at the next junction, where Toucan crossings guide us from pavement to pavement, handily interrupted by a completely unnecessary traffic island. Aside from the fact that we were just shepherded back onto the carriageway, meaning you need magical powers to realise that you could take these Toucan crossings instead, doing so would be tedious at best. It involves at least four of those non-dropped kerbs, stoppping and getting down from the saddle to press those pedestrian-height buttons, one or two lengthy waits for the crossings to change, and (at other times of day) evading with pedestrians on the pavements.

Pull 'em out, then shove 'em back in Now that we've been guided back onto the carriageway, let's assume we followed this guidance (even though, as I just noted, it turns out this was optional). The road narrows severely, and just as it begins to do so, there's a handy bike painted on the carriageway, as far left as possible. This is there to tell cyclists where they need to be to maximise the danger. The only way to safely navigate a severe narrowing like this is to take the lane, not to hug the kerb. So, the road markings are there to encourage cyclists not to do this; it exists to ensure that cyclists will be cut up (or worse) at this spot on a regular basis.

Another one: the next attempt at merging cycles back onto the carriageway has a lot in common with the previous one: it injects bikes at an angle that is sure to create conflict, with no clear indication of who should give way to whom.

I really hope that pavement isn't for cycling on Beyond the above photo, the pavement returns to its old, narrow bumpy self much like in the first photo. After the previous photo, you'd hope that that's not a pavement that anybody is expected to cycle on... but it is. As I cycled past I could vaguely make out the worn remains of painted bikes on the surface. They even painted some helpful give-way triangles at the various driveways and side roads that the pavement intersects. I didn't take a photo of that bit, but I have a bonus photo that I took on Trumpington Road immediately before all of the above.

Cycle gutter The view above is from Trumpington road's southbound “bus, taxi and cycle” lane. Within it is painted what I'd hope is the most insultingly narrow cycle lane you've ever seen, except that it's possible to find even narrower ones. Whenever I go down here, I deliberately cycle outside this lane (but inside the wider lane). Soul-crushingly, they recently re-painted the lines on this section of road, and, you guessed it, repainted the same stupidly narrow gutter marking, oblivious to its sheer inutility.

“Dismount and use footway”, even though there's a perfectly good carriageway. There are some works on Trumpington Road right now, so a section of the bus-taxi-cycle lane is closed. Helpfully, they have one of those nice red signs, and it says “cyclists dismount and use footway”. But the main carriageway is still open. So I just used that. Whose idea was the sign, and what purpose does it serve except to many non- cyclists believe that cycles have no right to use the carriageway?

That's the end of the photos. But even if it weren't for Long Road, the rest of my ride that day was also full of case study material—quite impressively so, in fact. I counted 22 different stupidities on my ride. Many miles of my ride were gloriously facilities-free, on quiet country roads, so the “facilities” were incredibly densely clustered. Sadly, most of them were relatively newly built. I'll save a run-down for a follow-up post. For this one, a quick summary would be as follows. I hate cycling on pavements. I hate doing so, and I hate being expected to do so. It's not okay.

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