Planners set up conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians
I’ve been very critical about some of the very poor investments that my city, Sheffield, has made in cycle facilities so you might think that when they create a long section of wide, well-surfaced separate cycle track alongside the city’s inner ring road, giving access to important buildings including the railway station I would be very pleased.
Sadly it’s a mixed blessing and while the cycle track has done some good, weak insensitive design has created new problems and put cyclists into conflict with pedestrians, just the thing that a separate cycle track should avoid.
In the photo above, the track is the pink paving, with lots of separate space for pedestrians on the cream coloured paving alongside. We’ll ignore (for today) the slight problem that there is no signage to tell pedestrians which bit is which, at least there is plenty of room for all. But here’s the pinch point:
Very large numbers of people use the pedestrian crossing from the station on the left to head towards the university and city centre on the right, the track and footpath are narrower. But the big problem is that cyclists don’t have a place in the planners’ traffic-light scheme. This next photo shows what happens when the motor traffic is stopped by a red light:
Pedestrians crossing the road are walking across the cycle path, oblivious to the possibility that cyclists might be coming, you can see that in the body language of the couple walking towards us.
Then the lights change and pedestrians have to wait:
And of course they wait in the most obvious place, on the cycle track, while more pedestrians are emerging from behind the hoarding on the left (An empty site that might be built on one day). When the lights change again a new danger is apparent:
People are setting out across the lights leaving a space on the left where a cyclist can pass, but frequently people coming from the hidden area on the left will notice that the light has changed and run to cross the road (I’ve done it often myself). There’s a strong chance that they might emerge suddenly from the left just as a cyclist crosses their path. So that’s an accident waiting to happen.
The problem seems to be that planners don’t see cyclists as traffic but as a tricky kind of pedestrian. If the cycletrack was thought of as part of the road rather than part of the footway, separate but similar like a bus lane, then it could be included in the traffic light scheme and cyclists could flow past when the cars were flowing. If the plan was to keep the cyclists firmly apart from the road then the track would have to be routed to allow a proper place for pedestrians to wait and cross the road. As it is neither happens, planners seem unaware that cycling as transport doesn’t work if cyclists have to behave like pedestrians half the time, and schemes like this develop dangers for all and potential for antagonism between two groups who are equally victims of our obsession with the car.
Incidentally, the photos were taken during the day so a higher proportion of older people. During the commuter peaks times there is a larger number of people, many in a hurry and they are of working age