Look at this cyclist coasting down a smooth clear road in Sheffield, what could possibly be wrong?
Take care gentle reader, that cyclist is inches from disaster.I was cycling that way myself yesterday, heading for the big white building ahead, part of my place of work. Seeing the bus stop layby I decided to pull in right there. I was doing around 10-12 mph towards the layby without a care and WHAM! I was on my back on the road, my bike was a metre away and I had bruises down my left side, a smashed wristwatch and dented pride. A cluster of Chinese students expressed concern and were obviously bemused that this old bloke could just fall off his bike in the middle of a dry empty road with clear visibility.
Here’s the culprit
Those neat edging stones dividing the layby from the road are just high enough to catch your front wheel if you approach at an oblique angle and flick the wheel away from under you.
I know all about tramlines (had a couple of accidents with those despite being very cautious whenever I am near one) but I’ve never had a problem with a layby before. You can see that the edge of the stones is quite indistinct, flowing into the top surface compared to the very obvious side and top of the kerbstones behind. When approaching this layby I had no sense that there was a significant step and I suppose I trust road engineers to construct a new urban road like this with safe surfaces and interfaces. The texture of the concrete does a good job of visually concealing the shape of the edge as you can see here:
Approaching that at speed, by the time I could see there might be a problem it was too late.
And why? There seems to no reason to have this feature, except maybe to look neat and tidy. There’s another bus stop a short distance further down the road that doesn’t have the cunning cyclists’ ambush, as you can see here.
I think what makes me upset is that the road builders have a huge catalogue of standards designed to ensure that motor vehicles are safe and can proceed smoothly, but there appears to be no similar concern about cyclists. Dangerously narrow cycle lanes, unfeasible intersections, fragmented routes, traffic signals controlled by vehicle weight, repeated exhortations to dismount (Try telling motorists that they all have to get out of the car at every junction). We surely have a long way to go.
So watch out, that bus stop might be out to get you.
Postscript 17 August 2010
I emailed a senior planner at Sheffield Council, somebody who had responded when I contacted them about a problem with the Sheffield Cycle Map. However I received no reply. You may notice that when I have posted criticism of companies here and told them about it they have been quick to respond and usually positive and helpful. It’s a shame that local authorities have not learned from industry how to deal with criticism, a short apology and promise to look into it is often all that’s needed.