Monday 30 November 2009

Cambridge Cycling - Trumpington Cycle Path Safety

I regularly cycle through my home town of Cambridge. In comparison to other places in Britain, it is a very good town for cycling. However, it falls well short of the experience I've had of cycling in Europe. Additionally, English road law, street design, and motorist mentality lacks some very basic concepts about cycling that make the whole experience very daunting to anyone considering getting on two wheels.

Here's a short video of travelling down the Trumpington Cycle Path into town. It's a bright sunny day and for good parts of it gives an ideal cycling experience.

However, elemental issues with street design and poor driver choices show two examples of problems even here.

At 1:12, there is a side entrance from a private club. The footpath and cycle path veer to the left then back out to the right. The markings suggest that everyone, either, pedestrian, car, or bike should stop. And the awkward blind spot of the joining road would reflect this. The sharpness of the veer also has the effect of narrowing both paths, as it's awkward to retain taking the space road space up at the angle.

This shows that no-one involved in this junction design has ever ridden on a bike. It's a typical car driver that simply thinks stopping is an acceptable solution. If I were on the road just 1 metre away, either on a bike or in a car, I wouldn't need to stop, just consider the possibility that something could come out and make adjustments for it. (Funnily enough a lot of car drivers wouldn't even consider this here.) No, stopping on a bike is a serious issue. I'm not saying that bikes shouldn't ever need to stop or be prepared to stop, of course they do. It's just that when you invest effort and energy getting to a reasonable and safe speed, you really don't want to lose it for no reason.

Secondly, the whole concept of "everyone stops" is just confusing. No-one can work out who should go where and when. On many occasions I've seen cars simply assume (possibly not even think about it) that they take right of way. Luckily, I've not seen them crash into a bike travelling down the main route.

The solution, like in most of Europe, is the put the cycle path closer to the main route and clearly mark the car stop position before crossing the cycle path. That would give them a clear view of the main road and cycle path before crossing and joining other traffic. Otherwise, it simply makes sense for cyclists to join the main road before crossing this side junction and leave it afterwards, as long as it's safe to do so. This, of course, makes the cycle path a bit ridiculous.

At 1:24, a parked van looms up on the left hand side. This may seem innocuous, but really makes cycling past it awkward. The road itself has a double yellow line, so if the van had parked there it would have incurred a penalty. So, as happens quite regularly, the van driver chose to park blocking other road users. This isn't bad example of it, but from a cyclists point of view it's like having a block put in the path, for no reason. Pedestrians are forced into the cycle path, and anyone actually in the van could open a door at any point. I've been knocked off by people doing this without looking.

Strictly speaking, these are not bad infringements, but I put them up as a demonstration of even in the supposedly best of places, there are still problems in cycling safety in Britain.

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