Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A road designed by a cyclist ?

There's a crackingly classic Daily Mail news item tickling my entertainment buds. Also reported on

Essentially, Stotfold has gained a cycle symbol in the middle of the road and all the car drivers, and a cyclist who lives in that street, can't work out why it's there.  They think the workmen have made a mistake.

Well I looked at it from a cyclists perspective and I could immediately see what problem they were trying to solve - in a very British way rather than Dutch.

Britain's streets are littered with parked cars, and as a cyclist, to get round them you have to merge with traffic going twice your speed.  You have to be so assertive to move out or you get stuck, or illegally take to the pavement.

The secondary problem is the door-zone.  Cycle too close to the parked car and you risk crashing into an opening door.  When I last researched, two English cyclists had been killed in the first two months of this year as a result of dooring.

So, it's obviously a message to drivers that cyclists need to be there (with that current road design).

Back in Cottenham ...

Closer to home, there are cycle symbols all over the place.  Some in Histon and the ones I asked for in Cottenham.

I asked for the ones in Cottenham to go in because there was a problem with aggressive drivers trying to force cyclists onto the pavement - the drivers incorrectly thought the pavement was a cycle path.  Really, I don't think they thought it through that much, they just wanted that bicycle out of their way so they could go faster and any excuse would do.

Before the symbols, I would be close-passed every other day, and tooted or arm waved at every other week. After the symbols went in the abuse is almost non-existent.

They are also educating drivers who shouldn't need educating about sharing the road safely - they passed a test!  It does show how driver skills need to be updated and most of all, the Daily Mail article shows how little Britain cycles and understands what it is like to be a cyclist sharing the roads.

The painted symbols have rather cheaply solved one problem, but of course they are no replacement for a real solution to cycling in rush hour traffic, of which a third has been measured speeding on Histon Road, Cottenham.

A road designed with cyclists in mind shouldn't need a painted cycle symbol, but its become a cheap way to re-educate drivers while we work out how to retro-fit cyclists back into our existing streets.


  1. i also live in the village, but i use the cycle path down histon road as the road isnt the best place to go, why is it that the council spend all this moeny on upgrading it for cyclists to not use it??. as a driver i understand why others get annoyed, the fact is, cyclist have a path to use, so use it, not the road along that stretch..

    on another note, landbeach road, drivers i've followed while driving need to be a little more careful, overtaking cyclists on two of the blind bends, this will again end in an accident!...THINK!!!

  2. Re Landbeach Road. You're not the only one who has noticed. I can't believe how late some folks overtake on the blind bends. It is homicidal, just to save a few seconds.

    Q. Why don't cyclists use the cyclepath?

    We are all different types of cyclists and have different requirements. Slower cyclists who require extra safety will benefit most from the cyclepath most. Faster cyclists will notice the inconvenience.

    Here are a few reasons:

    A1. I assume you mean outside the 30mph zone. Inside it is a footpath and to ride there would be illegal. Safer for the cyclist, less safe for pedestrians.

    A2. There is a whole load of flint and glass near Cottenham Skips. If you don't have puncture proof tyres, you will get a puncture at some point. If you had a deadline, would you travel on the path with a much higher chance of getting a puncture? Your local council and councillors are trying to resolve this problem. Tip: Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tyres have a very good reputation for puncture protection. The road is naturally swept by cars.

    A3. It can be inconvenient to cross over to the cyclepath in the northerly direction and cross back due to the high levels of traffic. Worst case, I once lost 2 mins crossing, that is 10% of my journey time. It is a balance of safety and convenience.

    A4. Using the cyclepath limits your speed. You need to watch out for: cars coming out of driveways; pedestrians and dogs; the Roller-Coaster of Driveways; parked cars blocking path. Average cyclists won't be slowed down however.

    A4. Overtaking other cyclists isn't that easy due to the width. There can be a big variation in the speeds of cyclists - a bit like getting stuck behind a slow tractor.

    A5. A lot of cyclists who come through Cottenham are on longer distance rides. The cyclepath only runs for 2 miles and requires you to ride slower. rather than natural road bike pace. Experience teaches us that UK cyclepaths only last a few hundred yards before you have to give way at a side road or pedestrian.

    There are a lot less commuter cyclists using the road now because the balance of convenience and safety has tipped favourably for them. Mostly, it is road-racing cyclists who are not using the path - the path was not designed with them in mind.

    Enjoy riding the sunny weather.