James Daley: The Cycling Column

Why cycle paths are a danger - to the cyclist

Although Britain's cycling infrastructure has undoubtedly improved significantly over the past few years, a good proportion of the new cycle paths and routes around our cities seems to have been terribly ill-conceived.

Any regular cyclist in London (and most other British towns, too, I imagine) will be all too familiar with the frustration of the often useless and occasionally dangerous gutter cycle lanes.

All too regularly, these are littered with cars, drain-holes and all sorts of other obstacles, forcing cyclists to veer back into the stream of traffic or, if you're unlucky, landing you with a buckled wheel or a puncture. Perhaps most frustratingly, these lanes also invariably have a habit of disappearing altogether just at the time you need them most - such as when the road begins to narrow.

Gutter cycle lanes also seem to change the way that motorists treat you. With a clear white line marking out the cyclists' section of the road, drivers all too often tend to take the view that as long as they keep on their side of the line, then they're being fair. But most gutter cycle lanes are a mere metre-and-a-half wide, so once you've given yourself a good distance from the kerb, you're almost shoulder-to-shoulder with the traffic if it's hugging the border of the cycle lane.

Conversely, when there's no marking, drivers tend to be more inclined to give you the same sort of distance as you give yourself from the kerb.

I'm not sure quite what the answer is. Strangely, nothing seems to get some parts of the cycling community more annoyed than the suggestion that there should be more segregated cycle paths - keeping bikes off the road altogether. I don't support this either, but not for the same reasons as most.

While many of those who feel most passionately about segregation tend to make the point that bikes have just as much right to the roads as cars or any other vehicle, my concern with these paths is simply that they are often more dangerous. Given that they tend to run alongside a road, perhaps using half of the pavement, they leave cyclists much more vulnerable. Motorists driving alongside tend not to pay attention to what's going on in an adjacent cycle path, so if a driver decides to turn off, all too often they won't even bother to check if any bikes are coming up on their inside. In contrast, if you're on your bike in the regular flow of traffic, the chances are much greater that you'll be seen.

My preferred method of tacking around town is to use the back-street sign-posted cycle routes, which keep you on the quieter roads and which are populated by far less traffic. London has built up a particularly impressive network of these in recent years, and the GLA will send you the maps, showing where all the routes go, for free. ( https://www.tfl.gov.uk/cycles/routes/london-cycle-guides.asp).

Inevitably, however, there are times when you can't avoid taking to the main streets, where once again you're dicing with death back in your metre-and-a-half wide piece of gutter - or on the adjacent cycle path, forced to slowdown and do a full 360-degree check when you get to every intersection.

In old cities such as London, the roads are simply not wide enough to accommodate bigger cycling lanes, and even if we wanted more segregated cycle paths, there often isn't room for these either.

One idea that might make a difference in the capital, however, is to make greater use of the Thames. A letter from a reader last week suggested building a cycle path along the south bank, which would protrude out over the river. Although it remains a pipe dream for now, bicycle highways such as this are perhaps the only way of providing a safe cycling network.

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss