The Perils of Pavement Cycling and One-sided Tabloid Articles…

Whilst we are no fans of the Western Mail’s brand of inflammatory tabloid-quality reporting, one article published this week deserves some further thought.

They lead with the notion that “only” 11 people on bikes were fined for riding on the pavements in the whole of Wales last year. However, Cardiff Council and no doubt others have been quite successful in blurring the lines between “pavements” and “cycle paths”. Often a pavement will become a cycle path –well, a “shared path”, before reverting back to being just a pavement within a relatively short stretch. As Councillor Richard Cook points out…

He said a growing number of shared use pavements for both cyclists and pedestrians in Cardiff was “confusing matters”.

“For example the route on Cowbridge Road East by the Ely Bridge roundabout. What you’ve got there is cyclists who can legally cycle on the pavement from the Ely Bridge roundabout down to the Post Office sorting office and then once they pass there it becomes illegal.

“But of course they don’t – they carry straight on down Lansdowne Road,” he said.

Source: Only 11 cyclists were fined for riding on the pavement in the whole of Wales last year – Wales Online

We would imagine that even a police officer, if you were to see one out and about, would also struggle to know where they began and ended.

However, before we start getting all philosophical, the Western Mail wouldn’t let facts get in the way of an inflammatory article now would they, so for the sake of balance let’s refer to this nugget from a CTC briefing.

There were three pedestrian deaths involving a cycle on the pavement or verge, whereas altogether 34 pedestrians were killed on average each year by vehicles on pavements/verges. –via CTC Cycling and Pedestrians

So, between 2010 and 2014 there were three pedestrian fatalities involving a bicycle being ridden on a pavement but THIRTY FOUR involving a CAR being driven on a pavement or verge each year, on average.

…”But it’s illegal to cycle on a pavement”. It’s also illegal to DRIVE on a pavement. Fancy that.

A poverty of ambition

Perhaps the most troubling thing about this article, aside from how one-sided it is, is that the council has apparently shown its true colours. We know that there’s a reluctance to embrace active travel within the councils across Wales, but now we at least have Cardiff’s thoughts in writing.

Cardiff council say they only allow dual-use pavements for cyclists and pedestrians where it’s “signposted and prudent” in line with Welsh Government guidance.

A spokesman added: “The alternative would be to take out a lane and put a cycle lane in, which would be impractical, very expensive, and of no benefit.

However, the Active Travel delivery guidance states, as we’ve discussed before, that:

2.15 There may be occasions where, to deliver coherent network for active travel, routes are necessary in locations which will significantly disadvantage motorised traffic. In such a circumstance, local authorities should judge whether there is an alternative location for the route that would still fulfil the needs of the integrated network. However, if there is no suitable alternative, inconvenience for motorised users should not be the sole reason for not proceeding with an active travel route. One of the aims of the Act is to achieve modal shift. The Design Guidance contains advice on how to proceed in these circumstances (Chapter 5 Section 2: Network Planning for Cyclists).

So, what Welsh Government appears to be saying is, if an active travel route needs to go in, but you need to inconvenience motorists to do it, fine. Just get on with achieving a modal shift away from the car.

However, the council clearly doesn’t want to do this, so it is going to use shared paths wherever it can get away with them, further compounding the issue of pavement cycling, creating conflict unnecessarily and causing confusion amongst all who use them.

Meanwhile, London…LONDON, is tearing up lanes that were allocated to traffic and turning them into cycle superhighways. Well, if they can do it…

Culture change takes time…

If we are to end this on a positive note, we need to remember that it takes time to change a culture. There are many councillors who don’t really “get” active travel and they don’t want to. They’re not going to give up their cars and they don’t see why they should accommodate those who do.

Fortunately, political careers are short and you can contact your local councillor on social media and find out what their views are on active travel, 20mph zones, cycle superhighways etc. If your councillor is Richard Cook or Phil Bale, you shouldn’t have much to worry about, but  there are obvious dry joints within the council chambers that need to be lubricated when election time comes.

Another thing that can be done is to get yourselves onto the Citizens Panel and attempt to influence the council that way. That being said, until things change significantly, we’re going to have to make do with what we have. We will need to make noise about the state of the cycle paths and we will have to fight the smaller battles as they arise.

Yet, the important thing is that we can ride NOW. We can help each other to get the hang of riding on the road –so called vehicular cycling; we can help each other find new routes to try; and we can help each other out when we break down with punctures & mechanical faults at the side of the road.

Most of all, we can say hello, wave & put a smile on the faces of other cyclists that we meet. Cycling is awesome and enthusiasm can be infectious.

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