Opinion: Robin Heydon

This article was published in 2019, in Magazine 143.

Robin Heydon
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Stop telling cyclists to dismount and replace with signs that respect us all

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I’m sorry but I just don’t understand this sign. I was cycling up Milton Road and came across two signs. The first was pretty obvious. ‘Cycle Lane Closed’. OK, so the cycle lane is going to be blocked. This is a regular occurrence in Cambridge. People illegally parking in a cycle lane is the most common cause, but there are other reasons. I don’t mind that sign.
It informs people cycling like me that the cycle lane is closed, but it also informs people who happen to be driving today that the cycle lane is closed and to expect people riding bikes to be quite legally in the traffic lane.

The second sign said ‘Cyclists Dismount’. This is just useless. To the left was another that pointed pedestrians to the left, around the blockage on the pavement. This would have been better if they had actually provided a segregated space for the people walking to go, but I guess a car park was fine. No, the Cyclists Dismount sign is just useless.

As I had stopped to take a picture, I didn’t see a single cyclist dismount. They just joined the traffic lane and continued cycling. The blockage was just a few metres, so dismounting would have been very disruptive. Also, when the person cycling has dismounted, what were they meant to do? Were they meant to walk their bike as if they were a pedestrian through the car park? Were they meant to walk their bike along the main traffic lane? If you had assumed the latter then that would probably have annoyed a large number of people driving as all of a sudden they would have had people walking bicycles at 3 mph in the traffic lane instead of people cycling at 13 mph for a few metres.

A very pedantic friend did exactly that once on Silver Street. The car lane width was much reduced, and there was a Cyclists Dismount sign. So he did. And pushed his bicycle very slowly along the middle of the car lane, very obediently following the instruction he had been given to the letter. Perhaps we should all do that?

And what about people who can’t dismount? Yes, there are people who have movement difficulties that make dismounting and remounting a bicycle, tricycle, or hand cycle very difficult.
If you have legs that don’t work and use a hand-cycle to get to work, how do you dismount? Do you have to stop in the middle of the traffic lane, detach the hand-cycle section from your wheelchair, and then push your way past the Dismount sign, only to reattach it all back together again? I just don’t know how a Cyclists Dismount sign would stand up to the current anti-discrimination legislation but I don’t think it would go very well.

So what would I do? Simple, I’m happy to see a Cycle Lane Closed sign correctly positioned to forewarn me to take action when it is still safe to do so. That is informative. I’d be even happier to have a Cycle Lane Closed – Join Carriageway sign, as that tells you what is recommended. I’d be happier still to have a sign that informs people driving that cyclists are forced to join the car traffic. A few of the better construction companies have been using them around the city and I really like them. But let’s get rid of Cyclist Dismount signs when the traffic lane is still open. And, have you ever seen a ‘Cyclists Remount’ sign?

Robin Heydon is Chair of Camcycle. This article was first published on 15 April in the Cambridge News and online at cambridge-news.co.uk, where you can read his Camcycle column each week.

We believe that cycling should be accessible to people of all abilities. For many people, cycling is easier than walking. Find out more at camcycle.org.uk/inclusive and visit inclusive cycling charity wheelsforwellbeing.org.uk