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
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!