Cycle lanes come in many different forms – the good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes the downright bizarre.
In recent years, the number of cycle paths in the UK have increased substantially. In theory, they have the potential to make cycling safer, more enjoyable and reduce friction between different road users. However, because of the haphazard nature of creating cycle paths, there often seems little continuity in design and implementation. It means we have cycle paths ranging from the good to downright bad and some just silly.
More than anything, we need road planners to be bolder in actually designating more space for cycle paths. We widen roads to make dual carriageways, often all we need is a couple more feet to create a really good cycle path. Also a good cycle path is much more than painting a white line on a pavement and hoping it all works out fine.
Segregated Cycle Paths
This cycle path is separate from the road. It doesn’t conflict with pedestrians and is wide enough for dual way. This is an ideal cycle path for an inner city path. It is the kind of path which would encourage a huge range of new people to start cycling.
photo Joe Ahearn (link)
Turning one way streets into one way (car) and bicycles the other way.
Integrated cycle lanes
The easiest cycle lane is to put a dotted white line on a road. This serves as a ‘guide’ for motorists and cyclists.
A narrow advisory cycle lane
This is a relatively narrow cycle path on a road. The benefits of this kind of cycle path is:
- Increase cyclists’ comfort and belonging on the carriageway.
- Enables cyclists to pass stationary traffic in traffic jams.
- Makes cars more aware that cyclists may be using roads.
- Cyclists may be encouraged to move on the inside of moving cars and lorries which could be dangerous if vehicles veer inward or turn left.
- Anecdotal evidence suggests cycle lanes may encourage cars to pass closer to cyclists because they feel that as long as their vehicle is not in the cycle lane, they can get closer.
Overall, I support this kind of cycle lane. It is usually better than nothing. More than anything it reminds drivers of our right to be on road. At peak time, roads are frequently congested, and this makes it easier to pass stationary traffic. However, I am aware of their limitations. Just because there is a cycle path to left of road, doesn’t mean I will always risk undertaking. You have to use your common sense.
It depends on the road. I’m keener on cycle lanes in city centres than on the open road.
Cycle Paths of Limited Use
This is the kind of cycle path I don’t tend to use. I don’t use it because
- It is narrow and shared with slow moving pedestrians
- Every 100 metres you have to give way to cars turning left or right.
- Basically it is a cycle path with continual obstacles.
In its defence, many other cyclists still prefer using this disjointed shared use cycle path rather than using the main road. If I cycled very slowly, I may prefer the same. But, I’m just glad this kind of cycle path is not compulsory. Perhaps it is better than nothing as cyclists get a choice depending on their preferences.
Poor Cycle Paths
This is the bottom of a steep hill. On a bike you can go down at 30 mph. But, then have to slam on the brakes because the road is narrowed to the width of one car. In theory, there is a cycle path to the left, but it is lost in the undergrowth. Even if they cut it back, there are lots of sharp stones from the fields.
To slow down speeding motorists, traffic calming measures have been installed so there is only room for one car to pass. It is a bit annoying because it creates friction, when instead a cycle path could be installed for cyclists like this below.
Rules on Using Cycle lanes
63 Cycle Lanes. These are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway (see Rule 140). Keep within the lane when practicable. When leaving a cycle lane check before pulling out that it is safe to do so and signal your intention clearly to other road users. Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer. Multi-lane carriageways (133-143)
For Car users:
Cycle lanes. These are shown by road markings and signs. You MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation. Do not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line unless it is unavoidable. You MUST NOT park in any cycle lane whilst waiting restrictions apply. Multilane Carriageways
Mandatory cycle lanes seem quite rare, unless they are on double yellow lines.
Cycle lanes and car doors
You have to be careful about using cycle paths which are in the range of a car door. This is in Queens, New York. I always cycle far out to the left to avoid being ‘doored’. Which means hugging the left hand of the cycle lane. It’s a fine balancing act! (see: Car doors and cycle paths)
Shared Use Cycle Paths
- Shared use paths – when cyclists are allowed to go on pavements that have been marked for shared use.
- Unless paths are marked it is illegal to cycle on the pavement. (See cycling on the pavement)
- Sometimes pedestrians and cyclists may be segregated by single white line.
One of the biggest complaints about cyclists is when they use the pavement. Many pedestrians (especially old people feel uncomfortable when people cycle on the pavement. Shared use paths often aggravate this by taking a pavement and painting a white line on as a shared use cycle path. Where possible I tend to avoid these. Unless it cuts a corners, makes journey quicker or is much safer. When using it I do remember pedestrians should be given priority and go slow.
But, also I’m not keen on shared use cycle paths because pedestrians have been my biggest cause of accidents. On three occasions I have been knocked off in shared use cycle paths because pedestrians suddenly change direction without looking. I wasn’t going fast, but it’s something you have to be aware of.
However, although people often worry about accidents, the number of reported accidents is quite low (Buckinghamshire County Council, link). Also accidents tend to be minor rather than major
Short Cycle Paths
Short cycle paths are often quite bizarre and appear all other the place.
There are quite a few entries for competition of shortest cycle path.
Photo by Phil D, flickr
Parking in Cycle paths
A major limitation of cycle paths is that they often have obstacles in them. Interesting post at Birmingham Cyclist on how to stop cars parking illegally in cycle lanes. [link]
Integration of Cycle Paths
Cycle path in Bristol
Is it compulsory to use cycle paths?
In the UK, it is not compulsory for cyclists to use cycle lanes. The Highway code states: Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer – Rules on Using cycle lanes
Sometimes I will choose not to use cycle lanes – especially if they are half a pavement. I don’t think it is appropriate to be sharing pavement with pedestrians. But, you will tend to get some angry motorist that you are on the road. It can feel like caught between two rocks – the pedestrian is annoyed you are on the shared use pavement or the motorist annoyed you’re on the road. But, I just use common sense and choose most suitable place to cycle. If people get annoyed because they sometimes have to slow down for a few seconds, it is just their impatience.
National Cycle Network
The national cycle network. A combination of custom cycle paths, quiet roads and scenic traffic free paths.
Some cycle paths are very scenic and a real joy to ride. Hopefully the network will continue to grow. They encourage beginner cyclists, nervous of using roads to get started. This is wide enough to allow cyclists and pedestrians to mix.
Cycle lane or pedestrian lane. No one takes notice of sign, but a great cycle path.
Another path by A40. If only all major roads could have paths like this…
Having a Laugh?
from Warrington Cycle lane facility of the month! [thanks to Pete for reuse of photo]
Feel free to post your favourite cycle facility in comments!
Photos of Cycle paths around the world
Belgian cycle path to take cyclists over a big roundabout.