This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 74.
Any experienced cyclist knows not to cycle past a parked car closer than the width of a door, because doing so risks the driver opening their door into your path, with serious consequences if you collide with it or are pushed off into traffic alongside. Dooring collisions are one of the most common types of cycle collisions.
Back in September 2001, the County Council added a red cycle lane directly next to the car parking on Trumpington Road outside the Botanic Gardens. Yet any number of national publications giving guidance on cycle provision state that a ‘buffer zone’ should be provided – a hashed space effectively below where car doors open. The new draft ‘Cycling Infrastructure Design’ document (see article) repeats this.
The corollary of this guidance is quite clear: if there is no space for a buffer zone, then don’t install a cycle lane, because only a buffer zone makes such a lane safe.
Whilst there are certainly problems elsewhere on Trumpington Road that need addressing, these lanes remain a problem that can be fixed easily, either by:
- Removing them entirely; thus motorists will overtake a cyclist in the usual way; this is one of many instances when it is better not to provide a facility than an inadequate one.
- Remove the parking on at least one side of the road and provide a buffer zone on the other side. This is the proper solution: it removes the source of the danger (narrowed road environment). We deplore any suggestion that the convenience of motorists at this location should outweigh a clearly dangerous cycling environment.
- Our letter of 15 June 2001, no. L01013, put on record our strong concerns about this lane. It is available on our website and we offer its use to any lawyer acting for a cyclist as evidence of County Council negligence, should a collision unfortunately occur.
The County Council’s position as at June 2007
So we wrote again this May to request a Safety Audit on these lanes. The County did not answer this request directly, but wrote back as follows:
12th June 2007
My ref: MK/SK/H25678/Jun07
Mark Kemp, Cambridgeshire County Council
Thank you for your letter about the advisory cycle lanes adjacent to the parking bays on Trumpington Street outside the Botanic Gardens. We have the following comments on the safety of this type of arrangement.
‘Dooring’ is one of the most common causes of injury accidents throughout the city, and occurs wherever there is on-street parking regardless of whether there are marked cycle lanes. Under-reporting is also a nationwide issue and based upon TRL estimates we expect that the reporting of slight injury accidents involving cyclists is just 20% of those that occur, although more serious injuries are better reported.
The Sustrans recommendation for a clearance zone between any parking and any cycle lane does have great safety benefits where it can be accommodated within the road space.
However it is often simply not possible to fit in parking, clearance zone, cycle lane, and traffic lane.
I doubt that the removal of the cycle lanes would have any significant negative impact on rider safety but it is recognised that there are pros and cons with having the marked lanes or not.
The lanes do have the benefit of highlighting the presence of cyclists to drivers when proceeding on the carriageway and when using the parking bays. However, as you point out, some drivers may be frustrated if cyclists ride outside the lane but this is probably true of all marked cycle facilities.
No cycle marking
Having no marked lanes might make more knowledgeable cyclists more confident about how far out from parked vehicles they choose to ride but many less confident cyclists may ride close to the parked vehicles even if there is no lane marked. I think it’s a fact of life that there will always be some drivers who wrongly consider that cyclists should be made to use off-road cycle facilities, where provided.
No consideration is being given at this time to removing the parking bays. If the parking were to be removed this may increase vehicle speeds to the detriment of cycle safety.
I trust the above is satisfactory.
Mark Kemp Director of Highways & Access
Needless to say, this response is not satisfactory, and we will be pursuing this, very possibly through a petition to the Traffic Management Area Joint Committee, when volunteer time resources allow.
The notion that the lanes highlight the presence of cyclists is nonsense: motorists should be looking before opening their door anyway; nor can we regard as remotely acceptable the last paragraph’s effective assertion that cyclists are being used as a traffic calming measure.
We welcome comments from members on these lanes. Please get in touch via our usual contact details.
Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator