Segregation Myths #3: If we build segregated cycle infrastructure we’ll be banned from the roads

One of cycling’s great bogeymen is the fear that a cycling ban is imminent and that anything which rocks the boat, such as asking for high-quality segregated infrastructure, will result in our being banned from the highway. To quote cycling journalist Carlton Reid:
However, I feel that this outlook is overlooking several important points:
Firstly, councils have been building sub-standard infrastructure for years, infrastructure which more often serves as an outlet for dadaism than as a facility for cyclists. Whilst there is not legal requirement for cyclists to use it, in many cases cyclists who shun sub-standard infrastructure are subjected to abuse and intimidation from motorists who are ignorant of the problems with such sub-standard infrastructure. This continues to be built despite it often not effectively catering for cyclists’ needs whatsoever.
Secondly, much of the main-road network has been for many years designed to prioritise high volumes of motor traffic travelling at high speeds. This is particularly evident on inter-town and inter-city A roads and dual carriageways, where a nominal speed limit of 50 mph or higher is routinely flouted by motorists, and on “urban motorways,” such as The Bridgewater Way in Manchester. Whilst there is currently no de jure cycling ban on roads like these, there is a de facto ban on cycling; most people, including people who regard themselves as cyclists do not feel safe enough to cycle on these roads. I suspect that the fact that cycles are legally permitted on these roads provides little comfort to those who are prevented from doing so by the perceived lack of safety offered to cyclists who use these roads. A high-quality segregated cycle lane, with appropriate priority at junctions and side roads, will make these roads feasible for use by bike, for the average person once again.
The issue of quality brings my to my third point; if cycle paths are built to an appropriately-high standard then cyclists will choose to use them over the main carriageway without the need for legislation to make it mandatory.  A common misconception about pro-segregationists is that we want cycle paths on every street. This would obviously be ludicrous; what is needed is segregation which “scales-up” with the speed and volume of motor traffic carried by the main carriageway. The degree of separation needed would vary from none on quiet residential and access roads carrying low volumes of traffic up to a completely separate path on fast-inter-city A-roads and “urban motorways,” (the roads from which most cyclists are already excluded from by a de facto ban). The degree of separation required would be specified by set of Separation Principles, similar to The Netherlands and Denmark, in place of our current (failed) Hierarchy of Provision. Because of this, some on-road cycling will always be inevitable, so there wouldn’t be an issue of a blanket ban on cycling on the road.
My final point is something perhaps unique to Britain. As a long-established country, with an uncodified constitution due to a political system which evolved over time rather than being suddenly brought into existence by revolutionary means. For example, unlike many other countries, there is no jaywalking law here, and pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders have the right to use the road by statute. There are a few examples of other transport modes being provided with infrastructure for their exclusive use; pedestrians and buses (strictly for the sole use of buses, cycles and taxis). Pedestrian infrastructure; The pavement, is a long established part of our road network. Despite the extensive infrastructure which has been provided for pedestrians in the UK, pedestrians have yet to be banned from using the main carriageway. Few choose to exercise their right (similar to cyclists with respect to their right to use fast A roads) to walk on the main carriageway due to the more attractive option offered to them in the form of the pavement, but it remains their right to do so if they choose. Bus lanes have proved to be a very successful tool to reduce peak road capacity (and hence ease congestion), whilst making bus travel more competitive with personal motor travel at peak times (although the arguments in favour of allowing taxis to use them are poor at best). Similarly, where “Bus lanes” do exist, their use by the operators of buses, taxis and cycles is not mandatory.

5 thoughts on “Segregation Myths #3: If we build segregated cycle infrastructure we’ll be banned from the roads

  1. I can't say I share Carlton Reid's or the CTC's worry about compulsory use of cycle lanes.Over the years I've contacted two local councils on cycle lane related matters and their enforcement.To say that the councils were shambolic and ignorant in dealing with my queries is to be kind to them. I can't see them enforcing anything cycle related. In every instance it seemed to me they had painted the lanes and then completely forgotten about them.I recently asked Trafford Council why a solid white line bounded cycle lane in Altrincham painted about 6 years ago was not enforced in accordance with the Highway Code. I was told it was never meant to be enforced, that they were grateful to me for drawing the matter to their attention and they'd now remove the markings.They make it up as they go along.

  2. Even if we are not officially banned, we are likely to be terrorised by drivers who want to get out of the way. Try cycling on the A9 over the Pass of Drumochter and you will be continually subject to harrassment by drivers who think that people riding bikes should be on the crap Sustrans path which is slow and badly surfaced.

  3. You make good points about both the varying requirement for segregation based on location and the fact that pedestrians are allowed to walk on the road but unsurprisingly choose not to.I might add that, in addition to considering the speed and volume of traffic, a case can be made for segregation on routes which might be considered a good candidate for increased cycling. I'm thinking here of the Oxford Road corridor with potential for huge numbers of students on bikes, but where the captain of the University's cycling club – who we might assume is not averse to more extreme cycling – compared Oxford Road cycling to "rolling a dice with your life".And if they're scared to ride bikes from Fallowfield to the University you can forget about families going into town…

  4. Oh yes, regarding Anonymous above, I'm sure we all know that cyclists bickering about segregation vs integration can be harmful to cycling in general, but it seems the problem there is not the existence of the segregated cycle-path, but the fact it's rubbish.I hear a lot of people argue against segregation because cycle-paths are often rubbish. They often are, but begging to be accepted onto busy roads full of cars hardly seems the logical solution to that one. And although they are often rubbish, there are exceptions that prove the rule. The other day I cycled from Southport to Manchester on the TPT with a two year old. Most of it was car free and most of it was lovely cycling.Sustrans do the best with what they have, but why do councils build roads for cars, while cycle infrastructure is left to charities?

  5. Pingback: VC’s Greatest Hits | Chester Cycling

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