Monday 20 July 2015

When Cycle Lanes Can Be Dangerous

Let's start with two pictures that I tweeted earlier.


Way back at the planning stage of this Bears Way cycle lane myself and others pointed out that having a two way lane on one side was a very big compromise. It would have been much, much better to have a single direction lane on both sides. Now I understand that there were issues with local acceptance of the scheme that would make that difficult. It wouldn't have been easy, but at the time I and others pointed out that it would be likely that cyclists coming in the 'wrong direction' would find the lane too difficult to use, unless, and this was a very big unless, the entry and exit points were very well designed.

My pictures above demonstrate that they are not. They are a disaster. In this one entrance/exit:

  1. Not only do you have to give way to pedestrians who are crossing the road (this is not necessarily a bad thing), but why a give way, and why do cyclists have to give way but drivers do not?
  2. How do you actually get into the lane coming the other way? The hatching suggests that you can't use the main entrance. Instead you need to come in via the pedestrian island. This means you need to stop at the pinch point, cycle/walk onto the island (which is not wide enough for a bike) and then across into the lane.
  3.  The blue paint. I have no idea what this blue paint means. It is dotted along various parts of the lane. It is slightly raised, rough, and very close to the colour of the road. It will certainly not be visible at night.
  4. This is the doozy. As you approach the exit, as a cyclist, you need to start looking behind you. If you see a car behind you, indicating or not, you have to assume that the car could be turning left. Until you know it is safe to continue, you should stop. That's how a give way works. So, this give way effectively removes the normal priority in this situation. Instead of the overtaking vehicle having to yeld to the cyclist, the cyclist mus yield to overtaking traffic. This is, quite simply, a serious accident waiting to happen.
  5. Rather than continue the curbing up until the turn itself, they have finished it early. That creates a lovely sweeping curve that will encourage the drivers to turn fast......into any damn cyclist who doesn't cede to the almighty motor vehicle, will be hit at speed. Nearly all the turns on this lane are sweeping like this. 
Once you are in this lane, it's actually not too bad. Yes there are issues that I've discussed elsewhere, but it does actually make you feel safer (except the weeping turns which I discuss below...). However, this one part of the lane is downright dangerous in one direction, and downright dangerous and awkward in the other.

The upshot of this is, that I and other cyclists are generally choosing not to use the lane. It's very awkward to get into and out of, and by the time I do that (heading north), I'd be half way along the road. I discussed this with the engineer (see my reply on this blog) I pointed out that designing a lane that most cyclists would not chose to use would lead to conflict. And so it was for me recently, just before I went on holiday two weeks ago....

It was pouring of rain, the roads were greasy, and I had two people driving cars who sat right on my backside, and who both shouted at me that I should be in the cycle lane. That is, they justified their driving so close due to me not using the cycle lane that they think I should be using.

Build bad, build conflict.

I can't show you the video yet as I've not had a chance to edit it, but I will do. I had actually thought about reporting one driver to the police it was that bad, but my holiday got in the way. I'll have it up in a day or so.

I did though do a quick calculation. I looked at the speed I average along the length of road next to the cycle lane. I average 20mph. The speed limit here is 30mph. The distance is 0.84 miles. It turned out that if a car is stuck behind me the whole way and sits at 20mph instead of 30mph (no-one would dream of speeding along here...oh no...), then I would hold them up for 46 seconds.

46 seconds.

Now neither of the people driving cars two weeks ago were behind me for the full length of the road. In fact they weren't even behind me for half of it. The reality is that they put my life in danger in poor conditions (sitting 0.3 seconds from my rear wheel) for the sake of 10 seconds..... at most.

Worse than that, when I get out of the way of the second car (I actually GOT out of the way and I pulled right over to the side), they stopped for about 15 seconds to tell me that I should be in the cycle lane, so their own prejudice held themselves up more than I did.

Let me though, be absolutely clear. East Dunbartonshire council took a leap of faith. They have reallocated space from motor vehicles to cyclists and they have done so, as far as I can tell, with minimal impact to pedestrians. Perhaps even with a slight improvement for pedestrians. I really, really, REALLY want to love this. Honestly I do. I'm desperate to be positive about this. I just can't be.

As it stands, it's not crap, it is dangerous.

Change this lane to south only, and take the leap of building a lane on the other side heading north, extend it and do away with the crazy exit give ways and then we would have something that East Dunbartonshire could be proud of. But....and this is an absolutely humungous but.....use designs standards like this, build it like this, make cyclists cede to motor vehicles like this......and I and many other cyclists won't use it. Sorry.

I'll say it again, as it's very, very important....

Build bad, build conflict.

This project has proven the point.