Why cyclists don't always use the infrastructure we are given…

Following our slightly long post about the Active Travel Act, perhaps now is a good time to explore why much of the infrastructure provided prior to the Act is often ignored by cyclists or not included on the existing route map.

They don’t go where we want them to go…

Our towns & cities were planned around roads. Roads go everywhere, but cycle paths are usually very prescriptive about where you can go. How many people can honestly say they have a cycle path outside their home or place of work? While we are on the subject, they’re often not very direct, either.

They lead us into a trap

Many of the cycle paths we have in Cardiff simply vanish into thin air, whether they end with a “cyclist dismount” sign, or they land you at the centre of a busy or treacherous junction, or into the blind spot of a lorry

They’re of dreadful quality

Do you know where much of the rubbish that lands in a road ends up? That’s right, in one of those narrow, red-painted “cycle lanes”. Welcome to Punctureville, population: YOU. This is also where the manhole covers (which may or may not be sunken, raised or at a weird angle) and drain covers are often found.

They’re in the door zone

When you allow cars to park at the kerb, but the cycle lane is painted around them, you can expect someone to get a face full of door at some point. It’s only a matter of time.

There are cars parked IN them…

Wellington Street is a prime example of this. The cycle lane actually runs under a row of parked cars. It could have been easily fixed with a set of double-yellow lines, but no. The only way to stick to those lanes is to crawl under the cars on your face.

They’re shared with pedestrians & dog walkers

Cardiff Council do love their shared paths. Unfortunately, we don’t. It creates a potential for conflict that we just don’t want; it limits how much progress we can make without needing to stop and lets face it, motor traffic has always been given priority at junctions. You can either stop at every crossing, press the button and wait for the green man or you can be in the traffic and have a largely unimpeded journey.

They’re not maintained through the Autumn & Winter…

As a motorist you can generally rely on the council keeping the roads gritted and clear of debris. On the cycle paths however, not so much. From about September onwards the off-road trails can be treacherous, whether they be lined with greasy mulch, filthy or even icy. Best of all, these trails are often completely unlit, so you can take a tumble and not even see the floor when it hits you. Nice…

So, if you are driving along and you see someone riding alongside what appears to be a perfectly good cycle path, chances are he or she has a good reason. It may not be where they are going; it may end abruptly or bitter experience has taught them that they can probably expect punctures, dog mess, ice, mulch or who knows what on that path and it isn’t worth the trouble.

However, the people who are happy to use the road are not necessarily the target audience for new infrastructure. These riders are already confident enough to deal with whatever motorists have to throw at them. No, it’s the beginners; the children and the nervous who we need to provide infrastructure for.

A quick word about bike stands

It’s all very well being able to get somewhere safely, but sooner or later you are going to need to store your bike somewhere. The Sheffield Bicycle Stand is a beautifully simple yet effective design (see photo above), yet instead of these we often see what we affectionately call “spoke benders“.

These are stands that only enable you to lock your bike by the front or back wheel. There are two big problems with this.

They rely on your wheels to hold your bike upright

Wheels can be surprisingly delicate and easily knocked out of true, leading to a noisy, wobbly ride home with compromised braking performance.

Many of us have quick-release wheels

If you have quick release wheels on your bike, it only takes a few seconds to remove them from your bike –that’s the whole point. If you can only lock your front wheel, a thief can make off with the rest of your bike in no time at all.

Across the UK we have some fine examples of terrible provision for cycling. If you are on Twitter, we can recommend Lost Sustranslation and (ahem!Bollocks Infra for a constant stream of howlers.

Can you think of any reasons we may have missed, or do you have any tales of infrastructure you’ve used that caused more trouble than it was worth? Let us know in the comments!