Sunday, 19 May 2013

Peoples Front or the Popular Front?

There was several lengthy and sometimes fractious conversations on Twitter recently, almost descending into infighting at times, all over the contentious issue of cycle infrastructure and whether cyclists would lose the right to ride on the road as a result of any lengthy spend and build.

This fear of losing the right to ride along the road seems to be a peculiarly british fear, even going back decades with the CTC fighting against cycle lanes in the 1930s. And yes, I do apportion a large part of the blame to the CTC and this spreading of FUD that any infrastructure building will result in cyclists losing the legal ride to ride.

People were arguing against infrastructure provision, coming up with increasingly obscure reasons why not, but it all came back to the FUD that cyclists losing legal right to ride on roads.

Some of them also then took umbrance when referred to as being "vehicular cyclists". As far as I am concerned, if you are a fast road rider, who doesn't mind riding along dual carriageways and major roads, then thats fine and dandy. It's also vehicular cycling.

It's not an insult or abuse. It is also not an incorrect point of view. It is a quite narrow viewpoint however,which has and will continue to prevent riding bikes becoming a mass activity in the UK.

If you are reasonably fit, and confident then barrelling along dual carriageways is fine and can actually be quite fun when it's quiet. I have done it myself lots of times. when on tour I have done it on mega busy DCs which have literally been M-ways in all but status and been frightened witless.

If you are not, and the only option is to VC along these roads then you are completely out of luck. Cycling is the most inclusive physical activity there is, and it has been designed out of the environment for 60 years.
  • It's for ages 3 to 93. 
  • People disadvantaged with all kinds of disabilities can ride bikes, often easier than walking
  • You can lug large loads with cargo bikes and trailers.
Those above groups are why we need separate infrastructure along roads like this, which is the A19 southbound, just south of the Tyne Tunnel. This is actually the most direct road link to my nearest town centre (and Morrisons), which makes it effectively impossible for most potential cyclists.

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Would you ride to the shops with your kids along this road? Or with a bike trailer? Nope. The "infrastructure" is a narrow bumpy rutted path, which has questionable legality along a large part of it, which is certainly not wide enough for bikes or people to pass. Also none of the link paths to local roads have dropped kerbs and smooth access.

A slightly better attempt is alongside the A167 between Chester Le Street and Durham.
This is more or less the current national standard, which is a small blue sign permitting bikes to use the pavement. No separation for walkers and cyclists. No real separation for either from the vehicles. At least the path is wider

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There have been occasional attempts to put in decent infra in places. This is the A167 near Durham City. For a mile or two there is "old" separated lanes for cycling alongside both carriageways.

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There's a footpath for the walkers, a decent width separated lane for the cyclists, and the road space.

Why was and is this not the standard for all national trunk roads and A roads?

Firstly that is the quality that needs to be built when new major roads are designed and constructed.
Secondly, It all needs to be joined up. The above quickly dumps you back onto the road almost rendering it a useless folly.

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