The issue of cycling on Queen Street is a contentious one. Since the street was pedestrianised in 1974, cycling has been on dodgy ground, yet it still happens.
There is a good reason for that though. Queen Street, not just being a traffic-free link between Newport Road and Castle Street, is also one of Cardiff’s main shopping streets, so it stands to reason that we would want to be there.
However, during business hours this street is very busy, with thousands of pedestrians not really looking where they are going; stopping and changing direction randomly and generally focussed on the business of spending money.
The idea of lifting the ban on cycling was first mooted in 2005 and in February 2008 an 18-month trial to allow cycling before 10am and after 4pm began. This ended in August 2009 and hasn’t been reinstated since. You can park at either end of Queen Street and at the ends of the streets leading off it, but you can’t ride through it.
A case for…
Our aim should be to get as many people cycling as we can. To do this we need to make traffic free routes available to people who feel that the roads are too dangerous. Up until now, the Council’s strategy for doing this has been to install “shared paths”, or to put that another way, make pavements wider and put a small blue sign up at either end.
Queen Street, in essence, is the mother of all shared paths. The risk of conflict between pedestrians and cyclists is present here as it is on the Taff Trail and every other shared path. Granted, the number of pedestrians is an order of magnitude higher, but the principle remains the same. The inconsistent approach seems odd.
Risks could be mitigated by painting a cycle track down the middle of the street and moving some of the street furniture out of the way. You will still have the potential for conflict, but that is the nature of shared paths.
Also, it’s worth considering that outside shop opening hours, the street is awash with delivery vehicles…
The case against…
This places us in a quandary. As a rule, we don’t like shared paths. We need to transition from thinking about cycling solely as a way to while away a Sunday afternoon and start thinking about cycling as a way to get from A to B, most likely in a hurry. We make do with the Taff Trail and other shared facilities, but many of us will migrate to the main roads as soon as we feel comfortable.
The trouble is, we are already using our bicycles as a way to get around in a hurry, but hurrying around pedestrians tends to raise the stakes somewhat. The potential for conflict increases and the risk of injury to both parties increases along with it.
Yes, risks can be mitigated with painted lines on the floor, but is that what we really want? Do we want proper, good quality infrastructure, or do we want to send a message that fighting over space with pedestrians is ok?
Maybe we want both?
It’s an issue that divides opinion. So, over on Twitter we put out a poll to gauge those opinions and to gather some comments. It runs for 5 days, so if you are on Twitter, why not add your vote? Alternatively, feel free to leave a comment in the box below.