Useless facilities vs. Unrideable roads--Way forward?

Sares
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Useless facilities vs. Unrideable roads--Way forward?

Postby Sares » 29 Apr 2007, 8:53pm

As you are aware, cycle facilities are often not kept up, dangerous, ridiculous or take the scenic route to a degree that make them impractical for transport. They are often not practical for people trying to get somewhere, and I think the shared-use paths teach people to ride on pavements. They also get motorists to expect that cyclists should use them.

However, many A roads (the ones that actually go places) and their roundabouts, are not comfortable for many cyclists, including myself, due to fast traffic passing too close. These roads certainly aren't going to attract new cyclists, especially from groups that are underrepresented.

I've been trying to figure out a workable solution to this problem, but I've yet to come up with anything that politically and practically has a chance of making cycling both reasonably safe and appealing to people. Cycling not only has to be safe, it has to feel safe, and it often doesn't feel that way at all.

Do you have any suggestions or ideas? This is a huge question, but any thoughts on it would be appreciated.

thirdcrank
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Postby thirdcrank » 29 Apr 2007, 10:22pm

Sares

A decade ago, every point you make and many more were addressed in a policy called the National Cycling Strategy. It was launched by the Tories in the twilight of their government and bearing in mind all the spin from New Labour about "Integrated Transport" and all the rest of it, many of us were persuaded that it might come to pass, at least in part.

Unfortunately, it was all so much greenhouse gas. (I am on the point of adding to my thread on this very subject.)

I apologise to young people like you that older people like me, who enjoyed cycling when things were different, did so little to stop it being spoiled for people like you.

My only excuse is that I thought the CTC was acampaigning organisation. I think the phrase is 'laughing out loud' except I am very sad.

pwward
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Postby pwward » 29 Apr 2007, 10:45pm

Have a look at Manual for Streets (http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/m ... treets.pdf) and the Cycling England Engineering website, (http://www.cyclingengland.co.uk/engineering.php).

These are mouthpeices for the government and contain plenty cyclists should be cheering. The former is official guidance and councils should be using this to guide street redesigns now.

Things could be better but there are signs the worst is behind us. 15 years ago I wrote to the council complaining about a high speed roundabout that was as a disaster for cyclists. The council wrote back saying they wouldn't recommend cycling generally as it was 'dangerous'. That would be un-thinkable now.

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horizon
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Postby horizon » 30 Apr 2007, 1:25am

sares: safety is a necessary but not sufficient condition for people to cycle. People will be persuaded to cycle by the prospect of enjoyment (i.e. leisure cycling), the need to get fit or as a means to avoid traffic congestion. Most people who overcome the physical challenge of cycling (and all the other things like weather etc) usually cope with the safety aspect as well. Yes, better cycling conditions would be nicer but probably for those who already cycle. Although some people would cycle if motoring was restricted in some way, most people would simply not undertake the journey (since most journeys are unnecessary anyway). However, if your question is "How do we make cycling safe for the likes of me?" then that is a different matter from making it safe in the belief that making it safe makes it appealing.

Sares
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Postby Sares » 30 Apr 2007, 8:05am

Yes, safety is not sufficient for encouraging cycling, but people are unlikely to try it if it feels like they are risking injury or worse.

There are all sorts of people who should be able to physically handle it, but mentally maybe they can't at the moment. The people you see on the roads are the ones who can already handle it all, or they wouldn't be there. A bike is more exposed to the weather, but the biggest problem I hear from people is not that they are not fit enough, but that they don't know of any routes that they could comfortably use. This is partly because they don't know what to look for, and that they could use some training, but also because there might be something (on the way to work) for example) that they don't think they can handle.

I've heard that the Highways Agency Manual (can't remember the proper name of it) states that trunk roads are to be designed to discourage cyclists from using them. Does anyone know if theis is true? And if so, it's good that urban roads are to be designed for easy use, but it's difficult to get from town to town.

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horizon
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Postby horizon » 30 Apr 2007, 11:32am

sares: few people want to travel from town to town on A roads when the car offers an alternative. I agree that these roads are unpleasantly dangerous but I suggest that you don't take at face value what your friends are saying. As I have said on a previous post, roads were quite safe before cars came along and people still chose to drive cars. Most people haven't the time to cycle longer distances. There are still plenty of cars going between Bath and Bristol even though there exists a pleasant, safe alternative cycle route.

BTW I am not saying that safety isn't an issue (or the noise and unpleasantness of cars passing too close and fast), just that people aren't being quite truthful when they say that safety is the issue. The more likely issues are the obvious ones: time, convenience, weather, sweatiness, punctures, status, load carrying, CD player, children carrying, Tesco, where to leave the bike, how to ride a bike and, yes, those large lumps of lard that they carry about with them.

Given that the safety problem is caused by the same people (i.e. people driving their cars), they could instantly make the roads safer by getting out of their cars and onto a bike but I don't think they will.

thirdcrank
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Postby thirdcrank » 30 Apr 2007, 12:44pm

Sares

I think if you work on the assumption that the Highways Agency is generally utterly indifferent to cycling and cyclists unless they are likely to be a nuisance you are unlikely to be far wrong.

Luckily, what used to be called the trunk road network (i.e the bits under Highways Agency mismanagement) has been much reduced, although the damage has been done.

I think a one small example is typical. A couple of years ago, I seem to remember when a certain Kim Howell was some sort of junior minister in the Ministry of Transport, a luxuriously produced booklet was published full of cycling success stories. :lol: :lol: The Highways Agency had a project at the time to make key crossings of trunk roads safer for vulnerable road users. They took that opportunity to put a marker down on the lines that the primary road network was not for cycling, but they would be magnanimous and improve the crossings. A couple of months later they dropped the crossings for budgetary reasons but they had made the point about cycling on the trunk roads (or rather NOT cycling.)

Incidentally, I may have missed the CTC protests about this but age is making my hearing poor.

davebax
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Postby davebax » 30 Apr 2007, 1:34pm

The most likely thing I can think of to encourage more people to cycle would be a significant increase in the cost of motoring. Most people are more likely to change their transport habits out of financial necessity than as an optional choice. There is at least a ray of hope here in that the world has finite and reducing oil reserves coupled with increasing demand. Fortunately this is beyond the control of our government, so the price of fuel should have to rise. Only the extent and timescale are uncertain, but I am hopeful that it will be significant in terms of choice of transport.

dodger
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Postby dodger » 30 Apr 2007, 7:45pm

Maybe the answer is to get motorists to be more considerate. How? Encourage more of them to cycle as well.
I sometimes cycle along parts of the A38 trunk road in Cornwall. Traffic is fast and, at times, frightening, but the road has about a metre wide section on the inside marked off with a white line. This could be a very useful safety zone except that it collects all the gravel, debris, glass and bits of metal so using it is basically asking for a puncture. If the Highways Agency kept the edges of roads clearer there would be more scope to use even main roads by keeping well into the side.

rower40
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Useless facilities vs. Unrideable roads--Way forward?

Postby rower40 » 30 Apr 2007, 8:36pm

I know this isn't the answer for everyone in the long term, but it's a solution that works for me:

The Third Way (?)

Not all roads have huge quantities of fast traffic on. In England at least, (perhaps not so much so in the wilder bits of Scotland & Wales) there is a labyrinth of unclassified roads, linking village with village.

But there's the rub - Labyrinth. Navigating this mess of narrow country roads used to be a nightmare, as the signs (if any got replaced after they were taken down in the war, "they'd help the Germans...") just list tiny village after tiny village. So it used to mean stopping at every junction, unfolding the map, and perusing. How to destroy one's average speed.

The solution: in three letters - G P S.

Before I start my ride, I programme a route on the PC using Memory Map, and download it to a handlebar-mounted GPS. The waypoints are 50m beyond each junction, so that as I approach the turn, an arrow on the GPS points towards the road that I have planned to take.

I've done long(ish) routes like this - 70 miles or so; using the atlas to start with, to identify the major roads to avoid, then choosing the lanes and B roads that appear to be off the beaten track, or the 'old road' that used to be the main highway before the parallel dual-carriageway was built. Given how few cars I encounter, it's possible to fool oneself into thinking that driving is still a pastime of the wealthy.

Every now and again there'll be a short stretch (1 mile or so) of unavoidable A road, so I just grit my teeth and speed up, in the knowledge that I'll be turning off again soon.

And after the ride, I can upload the actual GPS log of where I was, when, how fast I was going, how much height I gained/lost, all sorts of fun stuff.

I too mistrust cyclepaths and off-road facilities for long-distance riding. Too many start wonderfully, then degenerate to impassibility (is that a word?) at the other end. (Examples: Market Harborough to Northampton, York to Selby railway lines).

So I for one am (sort of) in favour of the Powers That Be spending money on the primary road network and motorways; because it takes cars off the lanes and leaves them emptier for me.
"Little Green Men Are Everywhere... ...But Mostly On Traffic Lights."

Sares
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Postby Sares » 1 May 2007, 8:17am

horizon,
Yes, the issue about getting from town to town is more my issue than those of non-transport cyclists around me, but the issue of difficult routes is a real barrier to people I think. There are all sorts of reasons why people don't, but several people have said that they'd like to cycle (when the weather is alright, etc.) and that they wanted some help finding a good route. It's not so easy. As soon as you approach Birmingham, it is really difficult to find reasonable roads and to avoid the stupid-big roundabouts that are so common here.

thirdcrank,
I think we are lucky here that the CTC was successful in the '30s at keeping cyclists on the roads, but yes we do need more campaigning on a number of issues. However, as in the Highway Code Campaign, 70% of the responses were from cyclists, and still the government made no susbstantial changes. Though why the CTC are so quiet on that right now I don't know.

rower40,
I do much the same as you except with a handlebar map holder and a fair collection of OS 1:50000 maps. This works very well for the smaller places, but once you get near a large town or city the small routes tend to disappear. I am quite concerned that road charging would just move more (and more impatient) motorists onto the country lanes.

reohn2

Postby reohn2 » 1 May 2007, 8:56am

Near to where I live is the Leeds and Liverpool canal and a continuation of it into Manchester the Bridgewater canal also the A580 dual carriageway East Lancs road,(very straight and very busy).So why do the local authorities build a 2m wide cyclepath along the side of that busy road that practically no one uses when they could have made a lovely commuting/leasure route into Manchester along the Bridgewater canal(a canal that cycling isn't allowed along its towpath,why I don't know)

For a three mile stretch of towpath south of Wigan there is a beautifully layed concrete 2m cycle/footpath but thats all you get, north of Wigan the path becomes rough and potholed though can be ridden.
Towpaths I think are great for both recreational and commuters alike all they need is a good surface,concrete would last for donkeys without maintainence and the routes take you from town to town or can link up with the smaller lanes which cyclists like so much.

glueman
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Postby glueman » 1 May 2007, 4:58pm

Roads are massively over engineered. All the corners are smoothed, signs and paint everywhere, all to allow the unimpeded passage of the car. Hardly surprising drivers say, 'sorry mate, didn't see you', why shouldn't they? They weren't being made to look, the highways agencies were nannying them along with information while encouraging speed with road layout.

A classic case is black and white chevrons on bends. Cars expect to be able plough on until something tells them to stop. The emphasis should be the other way round, what is there to suggest I shouldn't be slowing, can I tell what's round the next bend, etc.
I've been banging on for years but one or two places are starting to put the sharp edges back in, take the paint off the road and remove the signs. For aesthetic reasons alone they should go but for road safety it's vital motorists do not drive over-confidently and give the road and its users their undivided attention.

The other way, not as preferable, is to truly reflect the plural use of the roads, put flat yellow marker studs down the middle of urban roads and permanent signs saying Cyclists Present, Slow, bicycles may move out at any time, 20mph - unpowered vehicles use this road, etc, etc.

What we have at the moment is a system which enables fast motorised progress to be maintained with almost no responsibility for the consequences of that speed.
Last edited by glueman on 1 May 2007, 6:57pm, edited 1 time in total.

glueman
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Postby glueman » 1 May 2007, 5:17pm

There is another point about bicycles as transport. The CTC and other cycling organisations build their emphasis around existing riders. Inevitably these are people road savvy and physically fit enough to have survived. I would suggest such people are not necessarily typical of the population as a whole.

If the CTC and government are serious about turning the percentage of regular cyclists nationally (not just in sunlit Zone 1) from the miniscule number we have at present into real fractions like one quarter or a half of commuters, it is going to have to confront some serious issues.
Many would-be users simply do not have the hair-trigger reactions of inner city bikers, and why should they, people want to get from A to B, not play at being a courier in a Mad Max game. Nor do they feel comfortable with a Scania hissing its air brakes at their elbow. Traffic in cities is either going to have to be seriously slowed down, or provision provided off the road.

Unfortunately that currently means, easy to build, attractive looking paths that go precisely nowhere any decent commuter would want to, via God-forsaken mugger's playgrounds or subtopian liminal backwaters. Paths and tracks are going to have to get larger, better maintained, go places that real roads do and actually sometimes impede motorised traffic to be viable. That means expensive.
The alternative is more lip service and use around 1% or less i.e. insignificant take up.

pwward
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Postby pwward » 1 May 2007, 8:48pm

Some good points but lots of pessimism.

I don't live in London but I have the impression cycling has really taken off there in the last few years with prety negligible 'facility' provision. I suspect half the battle is letting it occur to people what a brilliant form of transport it is. Getting a culture of cycling going in which ordinary folks think it is ok, or actually quite cool is the rather intangible but vital element. I know such a culture exists in some places already, York, Oxford, Cambridge.

For me the single most important thing to overcome in getting this going is the safety issue. The presentation of cycling as something dangerous when statistically it isn't, has to be fought. Once more people cycle it will become even safer and the planners will catch up.