Co-ordinator’s comment

This article was published in 2008, in Newsletter 81.


Thank you to everyone who attended our AGM and gave an enthusiastic vote to the Committee’s proposal to apply for charitable status. We will be applying as soon as we have sorted out the paperwork, and we will then await what the Charity Commission says.

Respecting pedestrian space

At one of the meetings our Liaison Officer attends, the issue of cycle provision on what used to be pavements comes up time and time again.

I often get the feeling that there is a misunderstanding amongst the public that cycling groups such as ourselves want cyclists to be able to use pavements everywhere. Nothing could be further from the truth. In this regard, a new position paper has been drafted, called ‘Respecting pedestrian space’, making clear our advocacy of proper provision for cyclists – rather than blue signs on pavements.

Pavement provision is almost always unsatisfactory and exists only because decision-makers fail to take the bold political or financial steps that are often needed to create provision that genuinely meets the real needs of cyclists, rather than the presumed needs. Very often, making more roadspace (e.g. by clearing obstructive car parking) or reducing vehicle speeds is much more effective than creating ‘special’ infrastructure for cyclists.

We hope to have details of this new paper in the next Newsletter.

Cycle lane widths

Narrow lanes are more dangerous and do nothing to encourage cyclists.
Image as described adjacent

Debate has been raging on the cam.transport newsgroup (an internet-based forum) about the issue of cycle lane widths. It has been an interesting discussion.

The discussion was prompted by the new ‘Cycle Infrastructure Design’ document which is the main new guidance from the Department for Transport. It says that ‘Cycle lanes should be 2m wide on busy roads, or where traffic is travelling in excess of 40mph. A minimum width of 1.5m may be generally acceptable on roads with a 30mph limit’.

To me, and most posters in the group, the implications of this are clear. A minimum width means exactly that: it means something you don’t go below. The purpose of a cycle lane is to provide benefits for cyclists. This only happens if it is wide, because narrower lanes suggest to motorists that they need overtake at the edge of the line, not at the normal ‘car’s width’ distance.

A cycle lane that barely gives you enough wobble space is worse than no cycle lane at all because of this. Narrow lanes, i.e. under 1.5m, are more dangerous and, moreover, do nothing to encourage more people to cycle. Cyclists from cycle-friendly countries in Europe would laugh at how narrow they would feel 1.5m or even 2m is. Yet in Cambridge and the UK, those are levels we fail to reach, even when there is plenty of space.

The question of course is where 2m lanes could be fitted in, in dense Cambridge. But there are plenty of locations, with King’s Hedges Road or Chesterton Road being recent examples. In the latter case there is space in the 11m to fit 2m wide cycle lanes plus 3m general traffic lanes. (Interestingly, Council officers will not allow general traffic lanes narrower than 3m – but cycle lane widths it seems can go down to 1.2m – a clear case of double-standards.)

About the only case where 1.2m can be a benefit is where queuing is a consistent problem on a particular stretch of road.

Two metres is possible – if Councillors want to promote cycling – by making more space on the roads at the expense of car space. If they don’t, they should be up-front and clear about their priorities. 2m should give enough protection so that even new cyclists do not feel intimidated by traffic. If a road is narrow, then no lane is almost always better than putting one in. But the best solution is traffic reduction and speed reduction. Pavement cycleways should be the very bottom of the heap. What are your thoughts – do you agree?

I feel another position paper coming on …!

Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator