Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Cycle paths

In Wales we have a fairly good cycle network and it is improving all the time, opening up options to replace car-culture for something that is cheaper, healthier, environmentally friendly - and fun. We're also lucky that in some cases there is clear provision for different uses.


Unfortunately sometimes people don't observe the distinctions. It is a common complaint from cyclists when pedestrians choose to walk on cycle paths instead of nearby pavement. One example that has been drawn to our attention recently is from Aberystwyth, where there is a route from Plascrug Leisure Centre to Plascrug Park (the route is called Plascrug Avenue - see image above) that has road, pavement for pedestrians, and a cycle path, which should keep everybody happy and safe.



Unfortunately many pedestrians walk on the cycle path rather than the pavement opposite, to the point where many cyclists say it is now simpler to just cycle on the road. It is a shame when a useful resource can be devalued in this way. However, it is not just lone pedestrians, there are also other causes which interfere with the clear delineation of usage.

For example, recently the INTRtri Triathlon Club held an aquathlon on Sunday 30th October. This involved a swim then a running race - and we were told that they chose to use the cycle path for the running section (as opposed to pavement or the cemetery) even though it confuses people about usage, and since the club members are also cyclists they likely get annoyed at pedestrians using cycle paths instead of pavements. Apparently this surprised some participants, and we've heard of people dropping out of the race because of it or being unhappy with the situation. It is a shame, because it is obvious that doing a triathlon (or aquathlon) is an incredibly healthy and positive thing to do, and full credit goes to those that can complete them! (If you live in Ceredigion and want to get fit, I'm sure the club would love to hear from you.)

A more regular disruption comes via Plascrug Community Primary School. A number of cyclists had complained about school staff walking pupils along the cycle path rather than the pavement (one sent the photos below as proof).

Friday 14th October 2011 at 1:35pm - Plascrug Community Primary School staff walking pupils on the cycle path rather than the pavement (front of the group)

Same day and time, rear of the group
 
Although not illegal, this is bad practice for a number of reasons.

1: Firstly it puts the children at risk. We've heard of cyclists who had to brake suddenly when rounding a bend in the cycle path because the school's pupils were being walked along the cycle path rather than the pavement, which has led to some close calls. There are very good reasons for separating pedestrians from cycle routes. The safety of the children is the larger issue, but it is also a risk for the cyclists. This is a shame because it is an unnecessary danger and could be removed completely by the school adopting good practice.

2: It is an irritation for cyclists. Cyclists aren't meant to cycle on normal pavement because pedestrians need to be kept separate, so it is understandably irksome to find pedestrians walking on cycle paths. When we spoke to other local cyclists we were told that some are put off using cycle paths at certain times of the day because they get swamped with school-related pedestrians. It is a shame because cyclists are making a commitment to greener modes of transport.

3: Some might argue that it also sets a bad example to the children, teaching them to ignore road signage and proper routes.

We contacted the school about this and they defended their policy of walking children on the cycle path. In some ways that seems to create unnecessary risk and inconvenience.

We'd had a few emails about that route so thought we would mention it but the bigger issue is cycle routes across the county. Although Ceredigion County Council usually do a good job in providing cycle routes (more would always be appreciated!) maybe in some cases they need to renew or improve the signage on some cycle routes in the county. In the meantime, and for elsewhere, Sustrans have a useful guide to safe use of shared routes. If you are a pedestrian then please pay attention to where you are walking. And if you are a cyclist be extra mindful of pedestrians on cycle paths - remember that the ding of a bell is a friendly sound and shows consideration, not impatience. Cyclists - also please do make sure you follow signage yourself, dismounting where required. Pushing a bicycle for a bit is still good exercise!

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Too true! It's incredibly annoying to have to slow and ding ding for pedestrians when they've got a perfectly good cycle path only 2metres away. They would soon complain if cyclists were in the pedestrians lane. It's really bad at school run times, but I sometimes don't want to say anything to them because at least they are walking, unlike the others driving precious child to school and thus doing the child and the environment a dis-service. Rant over!

CIN said...

Many thanks. One thing - I assume you mean "It's incredibly annoying to have to slow and ding ding for pedestrians when they've got a perfectly good FOOTpath only 2metres away." Anyway, we feel your pain!

Anonymous said...

I am all for having proper cycle routes through town. Unfortunately the situation at Plascrug avenue is far from clear-cut. Having a go at school staff for walking their pupils to and from the leisure centre along the safest route is not going to get my sympathy vote. Now get off your high horse and get onto the council to provide safe and seperate footpath & cycle paths with clear signage.

CIN said...

[To Anonymous] Apologies for being on the horse! It is debatable whether walking children on a cycle path is actually the safest option but I respect your opinion, and thanks for the comment. The end goal of clear signage and greater provision for everyone is definitely a worthy one.

Anonymous said...

You don't realsie it but the 'cycle' path in question is a SHARED foot and cycle path, enabling both travellers the right to use it equally.

I think it's absolutely disgraceful that you have the audacity to post pictures of children on your blog. Surely everyone in this day and age knows that posting photographs on the internet is illegal, especially when they are of children. I strongly recommend that you remove these photographs before staff members and parents see it and decide take things further.

A concerned citizen.

CIN said...

Dear Concerned Citizen,

Re: the path; for some reason it seems that people are more interested in the particular illustrative example than the wider point. We were sent examples of other paths around Ceredigion that had their own problems and picked this one because we'd been informed of two different issues relating to it. Nonetheless, where there is the opportunity for pedestrians to walk with no danger of coming into collision with bikes, isn't it better for them to do so?

As to the photos, I'm afraid you seem to misunderstand the law. We sought advice before publishing the photographs. The law (quite rightly) says it is a criminal offence to take INDECENT photographs of those under the age of 18. That does not apply here. We appreciate your concern but the fact is that the photos we were sent comply with the law. We also lowered the resolution (and added slight blurring) before including them, since they only needed to illustrate a point. There is an interesting discussion at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3559975/There-is-no-law-against-photographing-children.html and guidelines for photographers at http://www.sirimo.co.uk/2009/05/14/uk-photographers-rights-v2/.

I'm sorry that we can't agree on that point, but nonetheless we appreciate you taking the time to post a comment on something you obviously feel strongly about.

Anonymous said...

You seem to have failed to approve this comment. I wonder why that is?

Here it is again

As you say yourself in your article on this blog defending cyclists riding on the pavements in Llanbadarn, the greatest danger to cyclists and pedestriansalike comesfrommotor vehicles. The statistics are clear, and so despite the cyclist who regularly terrorises users of the dual use unsegregated cycling and pedestrian route in Plascrug Avenue, the pedestrians are safer on this than crossing the road twice, once at a road junction, and usinga narrower pavement without the protective grass verges. I looked at the sustrans leaflet you linked. It tells me cyclists must giveway to pedestrians on this route. Perhaps you could remind your cyclist readers of this point to enhance public safety.

Talking of best practice, I presume you have followed the NSPCC best practice and gained the consent of the children and the parents of those children in your images on this site to have those images published on the web. Yes?

CIN said...

[Responding to message of 11 November 2011 11:30]

Apologies, we don't always have someone on the blog rota every hour of the day! We wish we did...

"As you say yourself in your article on this blog defending cyclists riding on the pavements in Llanbadarn"

I've checked back and found the article someone posted in 2007. It seems to be more in defence of cycling itself, and states that CIN WOULDN'T support cycling on pavements. Also it does focus on the safety of child cyclists. I'm sure it could have been worded better so apologies if it is misleading.

"the pedestrians are safer on this than crossing the road twice, once at a road junction, and usinga narrower pavement without the protective grass verges."

I've just checked with someone, and they said the road is a dead end, two junctions removed from a main road, so is probably one of the safest roads to cross in Aberystwyth. As such, if crossing that seems like a big danger, I think people will have a hard time getting around! For the other point, generally a bit of grass isn't seen as being the best way to stop a car.

"I looked at the sustrans leaflet you linked. It tells me cyclists must giveway to pedestrians on this route. Perhaps you could remind your cyclist readers of this point to enhance public safety."

I think we've covered that already in our final paragraph and by linking to that leaflet. There is no harm in reinforcing the point though, so thank you for doing so.

Re: the photos, that was covered in the comment above.

Again, many thanks.

Mabsambyth said...

ffs there are some right whingers on here. It's common sense that where possible walkers and bikes should be kept apart. The law recognises it because it says cyclists can't cycle on pavements. Therefore when you have a pavement separate from bikes it is safer and easier to walk on that instead. It's not rocket science. I don't agree with everythign on this blog but that seems like a no brainer.

Davey said...

To whoever the anonymous person is - you seem to have a bit of a chip on your shoulder. I think these greenies are making a fair point, and they seem to be a lot more nice about it too. It makes me want to give cycling a go again, I hadn't realised some new cycle routes had opened up. The question is, does the bike that's been in my garage for years still work okay? I think I have some rust to remove... Maybe if I bung my son a fiver he'll do it for me!

CIN said...

Mabsambyth - thanks for the supportive comment. However even if they disagree with CIN, the other posters are entitled to their views!

Davey - you could also consider taking the bike to a shop that does maintenance. I think Summit Cycles do that http://www.summitcycles.co.uk/ and you may have other local bike shops that will do a service. It's best to make sure the bike is safe if you haven't used it for a while! Especially the brakes. Yours, 'The Greenies'.

CIN said...

I would also like to respond to "Now get off your high horse and get onto the council to provide safe and seperate footpath & cycle paths with clear signage."

We'll do that, good idea! I just want to say that if you (or anyone else) wants to write a post for CIN on the subject (or any other with a green link) then feel free to do so. A number of our posts are submissions for readers. Unfortunately we can't pay anyone! :-(

Anonymous said...

"Apologies, we don't always have someone on the blog rota every hour of the day! We wish we did..."

And I did not expect instant publication, but after 12 hours and you had approved a comment by another commentator posted much later, I presumed you had decided not to publish my comment. Thank you for now publishing it. Also, to the person who assumed all "anonymous" contributors are one, that is incorrect. There appear to be at least 3 anonymous contributors here. The clue is in the name!

"I've checked back and found the article someone posted in 2007. It seems to be more in defence of cycling itself, and states that CIN WOULDN'T support cycling on pavements."

Actually what it says is "Whilst we don't support cyclists zooming along pavements and failing to pay due care and attention to other people around, the other side needs stating". It appears you are saying pavement riding is okay if people pay due care and attention. That may not be what you intended though, and in any case the point is your own: Pedestrians are at lower risk from cyclists than they are from motor vehicles.

"I've just checked with someone, and they said the road is a dead end, two junctions removed from a main road, so is probably one of the safest roads to cross in Aberystwyth."

The road in question is a main road providing vehicle access to two schools and a sporting facility. I can show you many much safer roads. You are advocating that children be encouraged to avoid the safest route because it is designated dual use cycling and pedestrian access (I have checked with the council and they confirm it is dual use). To avoid this path, a route to Plas Crug leisure centre  involves:

1. Walking around the roundabout at the dead end of the avenue. There is no footway on some stretches so children must walk in the roadway used by turning traffic throughout the day.

2. Walking along the pavement which is narrower, and closer to the road where buses and large goods vehicles frequently traverse, bringing them much closer to the children. On the other pavement the children have significantly more room, and the protection of grass verhes which give much needed additional space, as well as parked vehicles as an additional buffer.

3. On reaching the corner by Ysgol Gymraeg, they reach a point where inconsiderate and illegal parking by some parents at that school causes an obstruction that frequently causes vehicles to mount the pavement on the side the children will now be on.

4. On reaching the end of the avenue the children must now (to avoid the cycle path) cross the road at the car park junction and then cross the feeder road to Ysgol Gymraeg.  Even then they find themselves sharing the cycle path with cyclists so they must now either walk on the road in the car park or cross the cycle path (sorry, dual use pedestrian and cycle path) and walk on the muddy verge instead.

Btw, as a user of this cycle path (I am a cyclist too), I am rather confused where the cycle path goes after the liesure centre. It appears to peter out there, with no legal onward access to Llanbadarn road. 

In any case, as you can see, the convenience of cyclists in being afforded exclusive use of a dual use path would be bought at the expense of substantial increased risk to hundreds of children every day. I do not think that is proportionate or sensible.

Anonymous said...

It would be great if there were more cycle paths, I'm trying to get healthy. Whos best towrite to?

CIN said...

Re: comment of 11 November 2011 14:31pm:

Best to contact CCC, they have a useful page her with contact details:
http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=16045

CIN said...

Response to comment of 11 November 2011 14:23

To be fair, those 12 hours included overnight!

Re: confusion over 'anonymous' - we set the blog up so people can post anonymously if they wish but it can cause confusion sometimes. Posters - consider choosing Name/URL, then put a random number or word in the 'Name' box (you can leave URL blank), then it will be easier to reply to the correct person whilst still being anonymous.

Re: 2007 article - as we already said above, "I'm sure it could have been worded better so apologies if it is misleading." Different writers have contributed to CIN, no doubt some posts could do with more polish.

We disagree on the safest route and are unlikely to come to an agreement. So be it. In the interests of investigating further one of the Aberystwyth contacts passed that way a few times today. Amongst their comments they said:

"Twice during the day there was no traffic at all (well, one car at one point). Definitely not a main road. Only at one time was there lots of vehicles, and that was at school hoem time. Then it was chocker, with parents blocking each other in and dashing out impatiently when they could. It definitely felt like the children's parents were the real danger."

As such it seems like the safest option would be to block off that whole road to traffic (apart from emergency vehicles). It is unlikely to happen though - imagine the outburst if people had to walk! ;-)

"To avoid this path, a route to Plas Crug leisure centre involves: Walking around the roundabout at the dead end of the avenue. There is no footway on some stretches so children must walk in the roadway used by turning traffic throughout the day."

Our contact said this isn't true. There is a path all the way around. Also, by following that route, children avoid two crossings which are exits/entrances, one of which had a lot of traffic at school run time. Basically if the pavement was unsafe the council would not allow people to walk on it, or would put up barriers. It is easy to amplify dangers in our minds on emotive topics.

"the corner by Ysgol Gymraeg, they reach a point where inconsiderate and illegal parking by some parents at that school causes an obstruction that frequently causes vehicles to mount the pavement on the side the children will now be on."

We are behind you a 100% there, but can't see any way of doing anything about that situation.

"On reaching the end of the avenue the children must now (to avoid the cycle path) cross the road at the car park junction and then cross the feeder road to Ysgol Gymraeg. Even then they find themselves sharing the cycle path with cyclists so they must now either walk on the road in the car park or cross the cycle path and walk on the muddy verge instead."

Our contact said that is wrong. By being on the pavement the pupils would cross the road once, to Ysgol Gymraeg (and thereby avoid two crossings which they encounter if they stayed on the cycle path). The route you have listed would indeed be rather silly, we agree.

"Btw, as a user of this cycle path (I am a cyclist too), I am rather confused where the cycle path goes after the liesure centre. It appears to peter out there, with no legal onward access to Llanbadarn road."

Agreed, it is very strange. Maybe cyclists are just meant to use the Leisure Centre then go home? At least they would be super-fit. Joking aside we agree completely that there needs to be joined up access. Things are heading that way but progress does seem to be very slow, with lots of discrepancies in the existing network.

As stated above, it seems logical to us that the safest route that inconveniences no-one is to use the perfectly adequate pavement provided, or a route through the cemetery with is safest of all (and has not been mentioned much, but seems logical). However we accept your differening viewpoint and have no doubt that it is motivated by genuine concern as well.

RedFfred said...

I've come across this - you round a bend, bushes block the view a bit, slow down - and still nearly hit someone. I've see nthe kids walking there too, had a near miss once. The answer's simple - the schools should walk children on PAVEMENT, that's what it's for, and the council should make it bicycle-only, and make that clear.

Anonymous said...

There was a school group using the path at 1.30pm today. The path was totally choked. I can't believe they allow this. Someone needs to write to the Cambrian News and get the cycle path enforced.

recharger said...

I just got back from cycling that route and there was hardly anyone walking on the cycle path for once! It made it a pleasure to cycle, normally it's easier to go on road. I guess you have to pick your times or be lucky with them.

It strikes me that when there is no alternative then a shared use route is a good idea. An example where this works is Plas Crug itself, since there is lots of space and three lanes. Pedestrians and cyclists (and skateboarders) all have plenty of room. The route in your blog is one where there is an alternative route for pedestrians (two routes if you include the cemetery), so it would be much better if the council kept the two types of traffic separate. The council is unlikely to do anything about it though (what a surprise).

Alun said...

A couple of comments...
When the shared use path in the photo was created it exposed the previous desperate - and unsafe - lack of pavement space for children along that stretch of road. The new path then naturally became the one used by children walking (and cycling) because it's on the school side and because the pavement on the other side is just too narrow for mass use.

The only way to create more path capacity to solve the problem would be to widen the shared use path which would, of course, entail cutting into green space. This would be a shame and would probably be opposed by many readers of this blog, although, if that's really the best solution and what people want, I'd be prepared to lobby for it.

As someone who frequently cycles along this path, the fact is that for most of the day the path is pretty clear. It's only at particular times that schoolchildren use it and, since the old road-width sleeping policemen in the road were replaced (I think at my request) with ones that don't affect cyclists, I'm quite happy at those times to use what, after all, is only a very short stretch of low-speed road because I don't believe that my rights as a cyclist are more important than the safety of primary school children.

I support the rights of people to both cycle and walk safely and I'm not comfortable with playing one off against the other as I'm sure that with a bit of tolerance and understanding we can get along fine.

CIN said...

Hi Alun,

Thanks for the comments. We respect your views (hence linking to your excellent blog!) even though inevitably we won't agree on every issue.

You're completely right that people wouldn't want to lose yet more green space on a route that has four parallel lanes already (cycle path, pavement, road and cemetery path).

We completely agree that cyclists and pedestrians can get along. Understanding and respect is important, and we would encourage all cyclists and pedestrians to have this attitude towards each other. Hopefully those that don't are a rude minority. The disagreement here is just that many of us don't think the pavement is 'desperately unsafe'. It is just normal pavement, which in this case is next to a dead end road two junctions removed from a main road. The pavement is easily wide enough for adults to walk two abreast. However we won't agree on that issue (and neither of us will persuade the other!) so we won't argue it any further.

Since you object to children walking on that pavement as it stands maybe there are better ways of making use of the four routes available on that stretch of road.

1: Maybe the pavement could be extended into the road slightly and have some form of bollard or barrier every so often. More probably needs to be done to punish bad driving (and going up on kerbs etc).

2: The path within the cemetery is completely separate from the road and could be used as a route. If necessary a proper crossing could be put in at the exit from the cemetery.

3: From all accounts the times of mass traffic (and therefore danger to anyone) seem to be school run times. Maybe that section of road could be pedestrianised? Then it is safe for everyone. Obviously there can still be deliveries and emergency services (as happens in any town or city that has pedestrianised areas). Or is could just be pedestrianised between certain times e.g. Mon-Fri 8am-4pm.

I can't imagine any of those options being accepted - the uproar from car drivers at option three would never be acceptable to a council. Option two would be easily implementable. However, no-one at CIN expects anything to change in that area. As one of the CIN editors I almost wished we'd chosen a different example from the county for this blog post, since the one here seems to be a sensitive one for many people!

It would be good if schools in the county could do more to encourage cycling (and walking) for the daily school runs. The schools I’ve been connected with never seemed to promote it; rather they seemed to wash their hands of the traffic their business caused locally as if it is not related to them in any way. We would love to promote examples that prove us wrong.

Anyway, thanks for commenting. We'll be adding a link to your latest post on the Day Care Centre later on.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the good councillor just confirm this is a shared use path, occasionally used by cyclists?

And yet you say:

"[the] route has four parallel lanes already (cycle path, pavement, road and cemetary path)".

Of course the cemetary path is not parallel, but actually it has:

Shared use path, road and pavement.

Are you complaining that pedestrians use the shared use path? or are you arguing that the shared use path should be redesignated as for cyclists only?

If you want redesignation, I think we should organise a petition so we can make it clear to the council what the local views on the issue are.

Anonymous said...

I reckon that the cycle path should be for cyclists only too. People should walk on the pavement opposite. Sensible and tidy.

Anon 12345 said...

change the cycle path to the opposite side of the road .. that way all walkers are 'safe' and as the opposite side has been suggested for walkers it must be safe enough for cyclists also!
Just for the record .. the pictures you posted have not been 'blurred' in any useful way at all .. I recognise ALL the children in them!!

George said...

It's clear to any sensible person that pedestrians should walk on the pavement and cyclists should go on the cycle path. What is this stupid, irrational fear that makes otherwise-sensible adults see it as a huge danger? Even for supervised children?

Sure, if drivers ever go on the pavement then prosecute them, I'll go with that. It's dangerous driving.

I think saying kids can't walk on the pavement is just stupid, it just creates the kind of world where kids are as fearful as their parents, a new century's worth of wimps. It reminds me of some of my favourite links, which no doubt came about because of this kind of irrational fear.

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/215560-three-legged-race-is-given-the-sack

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2005491/WIMBLEDON-2011-Elf-n-safety-shuts-Murray-Mount.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-13207198

http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/Outrage-kite-flying-ban-East-Riding-beaches/story-12746471-detail/story.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1384853/Children-banned-playground-health-safety-officials-decide-monkey-bars-dangerous.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-12570062

Carey said...

My daughter was nearly hit by a car the other day - ON the cycle path. She told me a car coming out of the school carpark (which cuts across the cycle path there) didn't stop and the driver didn't apparently notice her. I've told her to use the path on the other side of the road in future, since it is unbroken by exits. It left me really angry - I couldn't find out who the driver was. There is no way walking on the cycle path is safer.

Oh, someone above said "Walking around the roundabout at the dead end of the avenue. There is no footway on some stretches so children must walk in the roadway used by turning traffic throughout the day." Do they even knwo the area? There has been a path all the way round for ages.