Saturday, 1 June 2013

Road Narrowing is engineering our roads to be even more dangerous than they already are for those on bicycles

This evening Mark Ames (of ibikelondon) tweeted:
"Got honked at by angry cabbie for taking lane on narrowed bit of Bethnal Grn Rd where cyclist was killed recently. HATE road narrowing!"
Martin Porter QC replied:
"@markbikeslondon Blame the cabbie first and foremost - road layout is intended to slow him down."
Now, I can't speak for my readers, but I have an extremely big problem with this attitude, especially when it comes from someone else who cycles. Effectively, 'blaming the cabbie' means that we are simultaneously accepting that cyclists should be used as human traffic calming devices, and that this is somehow okay.

It's not okay.

Cheapside, City of London (courtesy of Cyclists in the City). A dangerously close over-take is happening. Who's at fault? I would argue the road design itself, which is bringing the cyclist and van into active conflict. Plenty of room here for a segregated cycle lane...

It is not okay for local authorities to slow down taxi drivers (and all other forms of traffic) by narrowing roads to create danger zones where cyclists and motorised traffic are actively brought into each other's paths. When local authorities use narrow sections of road to slow traffic they are deliberately bringing cyclists and drivers in active conflict with each other.

To speak bluntly, it is completely infeasible to imagine that we could somehow persuade the majority of motorists to be happy with a cyclist pootling along at 10mph or less in the middle of the lane in front of them. To do so is to attempt to use said cyclist as a human traffic calmer. This is extremely dangerous and leads to cycling fatalities. It is inhumane.

If councils want to slow traffic down it is very simple, easy and effective to introduce a 20mph limit and segregated cycle lanes which lead to a reduced width traffic lanes. These rather excellent plans for Manchester provide a case in point:

Or we could turn to Tavistock Place in Camden, where the council chose to narrow the traffic lane widths while providing a separate segregated lane for cyclists which is (surprise, surprise) incredibly popular:

Happy pedestrians, happy cyclists, happy motorists. No pinch points, no idiocy from the local council. Tavistock Place, Camden 5/6/2013
Cyclists love segregation. Simple.
For a full history of how much wider this track could have been if it were not for (ignorant) local opposition to segregated cycle tracks, please see this highly informative post by Vole O'Speed.

What is remarkable about this stretch of segregated cycle tracks at Tavistock Place is that even though it is sub-standard and far too narrow, it is still extremely well used, conclusively demonstrating that even sub-standard segregation is better than mixing cyclists and motor traffic. This example from Holland shows the correct width (at least 2m) that councils should be aiming for:

I very much hope the East-West 'Crossrail for bikes' will be of this standard. Wide, easy and safe. Holland gets it right again. Image courtesy of AsEasyAsRidingABike.


  1. What would you suggest be done with a 12 ft lane? I'd have said 9ft shared would be ok. I don't think that's wide enough for separation.

  2. @unknown I believe that a 12 ft lane could easily accomodate segregated cycle tracks and a reduced width traffic lane.

  3. Good to see this: "Our smart solutions improve safety and prevent accidents at entryways, in facilities and on roadways of all kinds." traffic calming, traffic calming devices