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Cycle paths and increased risk.

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mr endon:
Discussing this with a colleague; he of the view you're more at risk from motorised traffic riding on the road than you are at risk riding on segregated paths.
So I served up the standard John Franklin fare ( ), but rather than concede he's cavilling about the age of the research Franklin refers to. He's provided no data in support of his thesis, mind, but to step on his windpipe (metaphorically speaking) and close this out can anyone point me to research less than a decade old?

No research, just anecdote.

Cycling home today on the cycle path alongside the A6 on Pride Park.  I approach a roundabout; because the main road is on my right, I'm crossing the exit lane of the roundabout first.  I stop, look right (!) round to my right, and see a car moving parallel to my intended route.  In the middle lane of two.  So my assumption is that he's going either straight-on or right.  I start across the exit lane, only to find that the car is turning left.  With no indicator.  But then, as I'm "only" on a cycle path, he has right-of-way.  Grrr.  So we both slam on the brakes, and no collision ensues.

Paths like these should have white paint where they cross the carriageway, and therefore cyclists/pedestrians should have right-of-way.  But like my intended threesome with Konnie Huq and Julia Sawalha, it isn't going to happen.

Warning: Essay alert!

One of the most oftmisquoted recent studies on this subject is a review of the safety of cycle lanes and tracks in Denmark. A paper was presented at Velo-City which apparently made John Franklin and other cycle campaigners of the "get on the road, kids, it's safer!" variety very happy.

This summary report ( is full of fascinating and often contradictory findings but is very poorly conveyed (I don't blame them, how many reports on road safety do TfL translate into Danish?).

In summary its findings state that the construction of cycle tracks led to a rise in "accidents" [sic] of 9-10%, mainly by "substantial" increases at junctions. This is blamed partly on the increase in cars moving through junctions in order to park - owing to the substantial loss of parking when creating the cycle track in the first place.

There was also a massive (+1900% or so) increase in collisions between cyclists and bus passengers (anyone who has seen the Copenhagen segregation will see why this is happening).

But - and this is very important - in my view the data presented on p. 7 need to be looked at very carefully. These say that cyclists in Copenhagen much prefer using cycle tracks to either cycle lanes or general traffic lanes AND that the implementation of cycle tracks led to a substantial increase in cycle traffic.

On this last point it is not clear from this paper whether the collision rate increases associated with the implementation of cycle tracks are rate-based or absolute. If the former then a 18-20% increase in cycling with a 9-10% increase in collisions is a pretty good result all round.

Although I'm very much in favour of the hierarchy of solutions (reduce speed/volume of traffic before any other step) to support cycling, I think the main problem with UK cycle infrastructure is simply a matter of poor design, poor implementation and a lack of a legal structure which penalises bad driving and gives greater weight to the support of vulnerable road users.

In my opinion we spend too much time in this country catering to the (very) few experienced cyclists (usually men) who don't mind mixing it with the traffic, who have the speed and confidence to deal with it safely and don't want the hassle of using and sharing a slow cycle track.  The problem - as I say above - is that most UK infrastructure is currently so bad (with dangerous re-entries to the road network) that it serves neither the purpose of encouraging new cyclists onto the road, nor does it satisfy existing cyclists.

I also feel we spend too much time emphasising the hard numbers of road safety, and not enough time talking about the whole road experience - casual driver behaviour, not danger per se - it is these factors, I think, that really stop novice cyclists from using the roads.

Sorry for the essay. If you wish, you can use the Copenhagen report to say that cycle facilities lead to an increase in collisions, but there are wider impacts of high quality cycle track construction which of the cycle activists that have cited this report have drawn a veil over.

Hmm I think I'm a fence sitter on this one. I can see both sides of the argument but can't make my mind up which is best.

I would love to see a world where all traffic can mingle together without any probleme e.g everyone looks out for each other and know that they are about.

But is that with or without cycle lanes ... I dunno. One thing for sure I have learned is that the more cycle lanes there is both cyclist and the car/bus/van/etc driver get used to the fact that there is none of the other to worry about as they are "over there". That causes problems where they have to share as both forget.

I have noticed that in Denmark when I cycle around you are so far away from the traffic. And the same goes when you are in a car you do not have to worry about the cyclist around you. They are now starting to have traffic light in Denmark where it is 3 steps for crossing, first pedestrians then cyclist and then the car/bus/etc.

I'm going to have a think about this before replying, but I'm firmly in the camp of UNSUITABLE facilities make it more dangerous.

<random thoughts>

Lanes on normal roads = drivers passing without pulling out so therefore passing closer than if no lanes exist.

Segregated facilities have a huge, and increased, danger at side roads/conflict points (although they are safer if wide and no crossings).

Bikes on road = drivers used to cyclists and so driving accordingly, bikes off road = drivers driving like Mr Toad as no obstacles exist.

Segregated paths have high risk due to poor design (narrow, pedestrian/cyclist/dog/etc conflict, tight bends, low design speed, poor surfacing, lack of priority, etc); roads have low risk due to being seen as through routes and designed as such.

Overall though, I'm pro-hierarchy of solutions; in order :-
 - Traffic reduction
 - Traffic calming
 - junction/etc treatment
 - cycle lanes
 - Segragated paths

If followed this will ensure safety for all in a suitable manner.   Around town no facilities should exist as traffic reduction/calming means all roads are safe to share with cars (20mph and quiet zones etc) and on main roads the segragated paths exist to allow a huge bulk of traffic to flow past at 40+mph.


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