Crap cyclepaths

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Si
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Crap cyclepaths

Postby Si » 6 Aug 2013, 3:21pm

In part, putting my devil's advocate cap on.....

We've all seen them and pointed out the problems with them haven't we? And we've all asked why the planners are actually paid money to create this rubbish!
Today I got to see it from the other side. To go around with a planning group looking at some roads where a new cycle path is planned. Quite interesting.

Now, we had a start point and an end point. If I were at the start point I'd just jump on the bike, turn into the road and ride straight through to the end point without much worry....indeed it's what I do much of the time on this bit of road. If you'd asked me a few years ago (before I started working with newcomers to cycling) I'd have just said that a cycle path here is a waste of money given that there is a perfectly good road.

The first question that was asked was: "Who are we building this path for?". Not for the likes of you and I, the experienced cyclists. Rather the answer was that the path was intended to allow children to get from the surrounding housing estates to the nearby schools, and to persuade those that don't cycle to get on their bikes and ride to the railway station and the shops rather than driving. SO I go back to my initial reaction - I'm still happy to jump on my bike and ride up this busy road, but I would not be happy to suggest to parents that they send their children up it. The kids, having done bikeability L2 if not 3, might be happy to do it, but the parents are going to be the stumbling block - most of them do not cycle or do not know how to cycle safely, and so would be too scared to let their children cycle to school on this road (or any road for the smaller kids). Likewise, many of those adults who have been put off cycling have been put off by the perceived dangers. Thus just telling them to get on their bikes and use the road won't cut it.

I also have the evidence from the groups I work with....a god number of people who have taken up cycling because we have supplied them with quiet cycle paths (which they perceive to be safer than the road), training and guided rides. I'm sure that many of these wouldn't have got into cycling without the 'safe' haven of the cycle paths to start on.

So, my conclusion: although I would still use the road, I think that the cycle path will be an advantage for many who are less experienced and will enable many to take up cycling (especially when combined with the other things that we offer: training, guided rides, free long term hire bikes, free maintenance courses,etc).

So now to putting the path in. Well, good news - we've pretty well all accepted that paint on the road is rarely any good to man nor beast. Bad news - there aren't any parks or areas of public space that we can route the path through...so it's going to have to be shared use pavement (the roads are all too narrow for a proper Dutch style segregated path). Yes, I know, we all hate shared use don't we...but the choices are road or shared use pavement and we already know that the target audience isn't going to use the road. This is the bit where it becomes really easy to criticise but much harder to offer a solution.

Next problem: can we send it right from our start point to our destination? No we can't because the pavements are too narrow and crowded, and there is a narrow railway bridge we can't get under. We have had suggestions of making the road one way, of making it tidal, of cyclist contraflows, etc...all of which would work, but the council is made up of many layers, and although the planners working with us might suggest such things, further up someone will veto them. For instance, before the bridge can be altered a traffic flow model must be made - this will cost £50-60,000, that's just the model, not the alterations, so that's almost a third of our budget gone and it might show that we can't alter the bridge after all. So, rather than going direct, we have to go all around the houses (literally). And of course, this is another major gripe everyone has about such paths - that they take so long to do what ought to be a short journey. This is another bit where it becomes really easy to criticise but much harder to offer a solution.

Of course, there are further issues that make cycle paths crap: poor surfaces, street furniture in the middle of the path, rubbish sight lines, crap signage, etc. Hopefully we will not include these.

Anyway, from now on I will be a little less hasty to criticise the designers on these paths (on certain issues at least). I, doing my 15mph, might find such paths horrendous, but to the nervous newbie or child, they can be the key that gets them cycling....and as can be seen from the new cyclists that I work with, they do start to realise that the paths have limitations and after they gain their confidence they start to use the roads more and more.

Now, the final point: someone is already firing up the keyboard to give the standard response: we wouldn't need any kind of path if the roads were policed correctly, people had to take a harder test to get a license, there were more prosecutions, and penalties for bad driving increased, etc etc. This is probably very true. Thing is, I can see the path going in now - it will happen. But can we see the alternatives happening? If you say yes and you think that you can make it happen with in a year, then please come and do it here so that we don't need to build the path. On the other hand, the path will lead to more cyclists, who will join the throng of voices asking for better treatment, and so it actually helps even those cyclists that don't use the path.

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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby Mark1978 » 6 Aug 2013, 3:28pm

The only thing we need is a network of paths that go everywhere! Ok, they may not be 'direct' but then the roads aren't direct either, there's just enough of them to get us where we need to go.

My main objection is the likes of what you highlighted, massive incomprehensible costs to do practically nothing at all. It seems the same which most infrastructure projects.

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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby meic » 6 Aug 2013, 3:32pm

On the other hand, the path will lead to more cyclists,


That is the assertion but I always wonder, how many, for how long and will they ever use the bike for even slightly longer journeys and will they become even more firmly locked into only cycling when provision is provided.

The old Catch22. We will not have the paths until we have the cyclists and they are not going to cycle until we get the paths*.

*I dont just mean the paths that you have to drive 20 miles to reach but paths that enable easy transport from anywhere to anywhere else.
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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby Si » 6 Aug 2013, 3:51pm

I know that in this area paths + other measures have led to an increase in cycling. Although I think that in the long run it'll be a combination of paths plus blitzing all of the schools with bikeability training and cycle promotion events that may have the greatest chance of long term changes.

As for the costs, yes they do seem expensive (not so compared to road building, but certainly so compared to just jumping on the bike and riding straight up the road), however, another comment made was that it's not just a path, it's a statement. It tells people that they can cycle and that we are supporting cycling, and when taken hand in hand with all of our other promotional work, it hopefully tempts more people to try it.

Apologies for retelling a story I've already told...but our first lot started last year. They came because we offered free hire bikes, free training and led rides on traffic free paths. They started doing a one mile lap just round the lake. Gradually they went a bit further and tried the odd quiet road. Now they are doing twenty mile rides mostly on roads, with the odd bit of main road, and have formed their own club with one of the aims being promoting cycling to non-cyclists! On their rides around the cycle paths we often get stopped and asked for info (thus my pannier is weighed down with our fliers).

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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby Mark1978 » 6 Aug 2013, 4:11pm

Comes back again to how you get people to start cycling. Like many here I started when I was a little lad in the 1980's and didn't think anything of cycling on the roads near where I lived, wasn't anywhere near the amount of traffic. So when I took up cycling again I naturally took to the roads.

But when you're talking about the younguns today, I have a 2 year old daughter, cycling would be good for her when she gets older, but would I want her cycling on the roads? No.

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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby Richard Fairhurst » 6 Aug 2013, 5:31pm

Si, that is possibly the best post I have ever read on this forum. That is exactly my experience. Thank you for posting it.

We have had suggestions of making the road one way, of making it tidal, of cyclist contraflows, etc...all of which would work, but the council is made up of many layers, and although the planners working with us might suggest such things, further up someone will veto them.

One of the key challenges IMX is to ensure that, where the budget exists for something good, that it isn't turned into crap through ignorance or fear. A town about 15 miles from here recently got a new roadside shared use path - long overdue and a much-needed 'missing link' in the town's network. Sadly, we were only shown the plans at the council's consultative forum when it was "too late to change anything this time". A couple of us immediately said "hang on, wouldn't it be better if it didn't stop at every single side road?". The transport planners genuinely didn't know you were allowed to do that. So we dug out the relevant guidance and prior art, which they hadn't seen; turns out that transport planners are not necessarily any better briefed on what's possible than us amateurs. Next time, hopefully, we'll get a track that continues across side-roads. But there's no real reason it shouldn't have happened this time!
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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby meic » 6 Aug 2013, 6:54pm

it's not just a path, it's a statement.


Though it is more commonly taken as a statement that "bikes dont belong on the cars' roads".
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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby TonyR » 6 Aug 2013, 7:19pm

Si wrote:On the other hand, the path will lead to more cyclists


That is an assertion that is often made but there is no objective evidence to support it. The massive growth in cycling in London did not come from cyclepaths. Some of the best places for integrated cycle networks away from the roads - Stevenage, Milton Keynes, East Kilbride - have some of the lowest cycling rates in the country. Building a major network in Dublin led to no increase in cycling. Making Dublinbikes available for people to use did etc etc. Build it and they'll come is a failed philosophy.

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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby Mark1978 » 6 Aug 2013, 7:56pm

No it's not. It worked in Netherlands and Denmark.

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!

Postby gaz » 6 Aug 2013, 8:02pm

Si wrote:We've all seen them and pointed out the problems with them haven't we? And we've all asked why the planners are actually paid money to create this rubbish! Today I got to see it from the other side. To go around with a planning group looking at some roads where a new cycle path is planned. Quite interesting.

I'm sure it was.

Not so long ago I joined the local Sustrans Area Manager on a signing audit. He already knew that I had a couple of suggestions for re-routing to avoid some of the grottier sections but....

His brief and funding was for a signing audit of the existing route. A budget had been approved for that work only, not for examining alternatives (although he was going to stretch his brief and add one of them into his report anyway).

The bit I'd like to see changed is about 0.8 miles, half on an abysmal crazing paving of shared path alongside a busy dual carriageway, the remainder on a quiet road. The two are joined by the on/off slip to the dual carriageway; the on-slip bears left; turning right off of it is an interesting experience.

The alternative route is 0.4 miles. It uses an existing set of Toucans to cross the dual carriageway, then joins quiet roads past the local primary school. The Council's Cycle Officer is interested in it. The infrastructure is already in place.

Whilst it will be suggested as a shorter, more useful, practical and scenic alternative; a safety audit would be required before the route could be changed. There is no budget for a safety audit :evil: .

Edit - Route changed! :D
Last edited by gaz on 7 Feb 2014, 9:02pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby 661-Pete » 6 Aug 2013, 8:39pm

This is a very important thread, I think!

I must steer away from the blinkered reaction of the typical 'experienced' cyclist, Animal Farm-fashion: "carriageway GOOD, shared path BAD". So must all of us who want to take this matter seriously.

Because I have been blinkered. I do tend to shy away from shared paths like they were infected. Don't we all? Where such a path runs parallel with the road, if the road's not a 70mph dual carriageway, I'll simply use the road, no argument. I am familiar with the worst possible example of a network of shared paths, that lacing its way around Brighton. Now Brighton as you all know is a major tourist magnet: hence lots of pedestrians. It houses a lot of single people who use public transport: hence lots of pedestrians (you have to walk to a bus stop). Parking is very expensive: hence lots of pedestrians. There are a lot of elderly residents: hence lots of pedestrians (less mobile ones too). It is popular with children, hence lots of less predictable pedestrians.

It seems to be sheer madness, routeing fast cyclists along the pavements in such conditions. But that is exactly what Brighton authorities, bless them, have been trying to do for years. Some of their efforts have failed spectacularly, like the scheme along The Drive which is likely to be dismantled (and this one, as Brighton paths go, is one of the better ones because at least cyclists were segregated from peds).

So what about places where a cycle path is really needed? I can think of one. Take a look at this road, a busy A-road leading into Lewes a few miles inland from Brighton, and about two miles of it is along my new commute. Don't be fooled by the Google image, this road is really busy in the morning and evening peaks, with heavy goods, buses, construction lorries and the like, thundering along it in amongst all the cars. Certainly not a pleasant cycle route for anyone, experienced or not, but I have no alternative. The only possible alternative, without a detour of many miles, would be the towpath along the river down below, but that needs a MTB - I don't have a MTB - and even then it is awkward with kissing-gates along the route, and definitely a no-no after prolonged heavy rain! I don't think it's even legal - I'm not sure whether it's designated as footpath or bridle path.

So the road it is. Note the very narrow, poorly-maintained pavement on the left. Now, nearly every morning I pass a mother and child (aged about 4-5) cycling steadily along this pavement in the other direction, at just about this point: I believe they're making for a playgroup in the village of Cooksbridge about a mile or two further north. The pavement continues as far as the village, and there are scarcely any intersecting side roads. There are relatively few pedestrians - most people from the outlying villages wouldn't take a 3-mile walk into Lewes. The A-road contours along a steep slope of the South Downs, although it's not obvious from Streetview, the slope down on the left is almost precipitous. It also lies within the South Downs National Park.

That makes any prospect of widening or improving that pavement problematic. I can't see them pinching space from the carriageway! They could sacrifice the grass verge, but the verge isn't there along all its length. And no way could that path be designated shared use - no highwayman would sanction it!

So that young mother and child continue to cycle along that path - relatively safely, but illegally. I pass them on the road. I take my hat off to them - I believe they're doing the right thing and I hope no sanctimonious copper pulls them up. It's not a particularly pleasant ride, not with all those lorries thundering past, but at least that little boy has a chance of growing up (and who knows - winning the TdF one day? He's made a good start).

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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby Mark1978 » 6 Aug 2013, 8:44pm

The google Streetview one you post is an example of a project which would involve more than just signs and paint but one which is important. You'd fix it by widening and resurfacing the existing path. That would mean actual engineering and construction work; which believe it or not is what's needed.

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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby 661-Pete » 6 Aug 2013, 8:48pm

Mark1978 wrote:The google Streetview one you post is an example of a project which would involve more than just signs and paint but one which is important. You'd fix it by widening and resurfacing the existing path. That would mean actual engineering and construction work; which believe it or not is what's needed.

Assuming that you're answering my post, yes, the path could be widened and certainly improved, but how wide would it have to be? Are there minimum standards for a shared use path, nowadays? Because, knowing that road at sight (as distinct from streetview), I can't see any way of making the path more than about 1M wide...
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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby PaulCumbria » 6 Aug 2013, 8:59pm

Surely the enormous elephant in this particular room is the inadequacy of cycling budgets. Since the 1970's oil crisis when other European nations starting ramping up the spend on cycling infrastructure and we looked to North Sea Oil as a solution instead, we have lagged further and further behind other developed countries in cycling infrastructure provision. Yet now, when we should be spending lots MORE than them in an effort to catch up with them, we still spend less per capita on cycling than they do.
I'm increasingly thinking that we can focus on the detail of our own local schemes as much as we like, but our time might be better spent simply using these local examples as illustrations of the need to massively increase the national spend on cycling infrastructure, and lobbying for that instead.

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Re: Crap cyclepaths

Postby gaz » 6 Aug 2013, 9:11pm

661-Pete wrote:... but I have no alternative. The only possible alternative, without a detour of many miles, would be the towpath along the river down below, but that needs a MTB - I don't have a MTB - and even then it is awkward with kissing-gates along the route, and definitely a no-no after prolonged heavy rain! I don't think it's even legal - I'm not sure whether it's designated as footpath or bridle path.


The path by the River Ouse is a public footpath but between that and the road is a public by-way running from Offham to Landport. Impossible to judge the surface from Streetview but you shouldn't expect to find kissing gates on a by-way.

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