Monday, 25 October 2010

Segregation and Integration

There's lively debate currently about whether more segregated cycling facilities are needed in the UK - cycle paths/lanes that are separate from those for pedestrians and motor vehicles - and how the cycle campaigning organisations view the subject.

There's no doubt that more people would cycle if it was more pleasant (i.e. away from motor traffic) but only if it is also more direct and quicker than taking the car or bus, with as few needs to stop and restart as possible. Cyclists will, unsurprisingly, tend not to use a segregated lane if it requires giving way when cycling the same way on-road doesn't.

In my view, segregated cycle facilities can only really succeed if we change the rules on prioritisation at junctions in the UK.

Currently, traffic turning off a main road onto a side road has right of way over pedestrians, joggers and cyclists on the pavement/cycle path who plan to continue on the main road. This means cyclists and pedestrians have to slow down and wait at every little side road, as shown by the give way markings on this Eastbourne cycle path:

Not only do you have to give way to road users entering the side road, those emerging from the side road also have priority:

Compare that with the Netherlands where the cyclist on the main road approaching a junction has priority over traffic wishing to turn off or onto the main road.
Cyclists can continue at normal speed.

Another example of the sort of change that the DfT would need to implement can be shown in Dutch roundabouts.

The cyclist only has to give way to / merge with cyclists as they enter the roundabout cycle lane - no jousting with cars. (The 'sharks teeth' are the give-way markings).

Motorists have to give way to cyclists on the cycle lane as they enter and also as they exit the roundabout. It's clear that the cyclists have the edge over motorists.

To make this kind of prioritisation work demands lower speeds by drivers, excellent training of road users, consistent road markings and good sight lines.

Campaigners for segregated facilities need to start with getting the change in prioritisation through the DfT. I think this would be a great result.

Meanwhile at a local level I'm going to keep badgering for lower speed limits; more direct routes for cyclists; and reducing the volume of motor traffic volume (e.g. through making roads access only for cars, rather than a rat run).