Oh to see ourselves as others see us
Fionnula from Dublin sent this letter to Charnwood Borough Council.
“I have been going to Loughborough on a regular basis - approximately monthly - for the last 5 years. When I realised that this would be long-term, I bought a bike to get around on. I'm a commuting cyclist here in Dublin. I'm a 60 year old woman who has cycled most of my life, because it's often the quickest way t“o get around, and there's no problem parking ever.
While generally when on small roads, drivers are very polite and give me plenty of room when they overtake, it is clear that the traffic planning is FOR cars. There are many discouragements to cycling:
- Cycle paths are often on the footpath. Thus the space is shared with the elderly, wheelchair users, children, and people pushing prams. This is quite dangerous for both the pedestrian and the cyclist.
- Because cycle paths are on the footpath, the cyclist has to STOP dead at each minor junction. Every side-road that leads to the main road: STOP. Because neither cars coming off the main road, nor cars exiting the side road, can see the cyclist. The cars have right of way. This sucks all the fun out of cycling. On the flat, I cycle at about 25 kph (that's 15-16mph). This is enjoyable - I'm not trying to speed, that's my normal cycling speed - and effortless. But having to come to a dead stop at short intervals and having to start again from a dead stop - that's NOT enjoyable.
- Again, in some places, the crossing of the minor road is controlled by lights and a pedestrian crossing. My neck muscles aren't impaired in any way, but I cannot swivel my head sufficiently while straddling a bike at these pedestrian crossings to check traffic coming behind me who might impede my progress so I have to DISMOUNT to see. The road with Aldi and B&Q - Belton Rd/A6004) is an example of this.
- When I cross at the roundabout from the 24 hour Tesco on Park Road/Epinall Way, there are pedestrian islands contained by guardrails. It also means, that rather than cycling around the roundabout, I have to cross Epinall Way in two stages, and navigate a slalom gate in the pedestrian guardrails which is actually at an angle that's too acute for a normal adult-sized bicycle.
- Because there isn't a sufficient number of cyclists on the road, drivers are not aware of them and literally do not see them, on any faster road. This is a disadvantage when the cycle path on the pavement ends, and I'm directed on to the road.
- I quite enjoy the short trip along the canal from Bridge St to Belton Road. It's nice to be out of traffic for a while. However, it has 2 disadvantages: the humpback bridge ends with gravel, and as I'm generally travelling quite fast at this point (having speeded up to get myself up and over the steep incline of the bridge) my heart is in my mouth as I contemplate the tyres flying away from under me and my undignified dive into the canal itself. Hasn't happened yet, and I rarely think about it unless I'm flying down the bridge. Which is lovely, don't get me wrong - it's just the gravel that's dangerous. Somewhere in my photo album is a photo of the signpost indicating the cycleway going up beside a set of steep steps to Belton Road. A lesser angle would be better for people like me, who are just trying to get to the shops and not strong men in their prime in Lycra.
- Lastly, some of the signage is ambiguous. I've not yet figured out where the cycle paths is, and how to join it, when I cycle down Park Road to join Forest Road and turn left into Brown's Lane to get to the Leisure Centre. I notice also - and it might be demographics - what is to me an extraordinary amount of people using motorised buggies.
Surely investment in cycling would help to keep people healthier for longer? I'm used to cycling in Dublin, where cycle paths are on the road, marked off by a painted line. We have a strong cycling culture here as the city is flat with only occasional hills. Because we have a weight of numbers, drivers are very aware of cyclists and (usually!) check their wing mirrors before turning left.
With the advent of the Dublin Bikes scheme, the number of cyclists has doubled in the last 10 years I'm not saying Dublin is a paradise for cyclists, but my experiences of cycling in Loughborough have discouraged me and I'm sorry to find myself often walking instead. Cycling has felt less enjoyable and riskier in Loughborough. And I'm astonished, given that Loughborough University has a famous Sports department. So I can't help wondering whether you consulted with cycling groups in cycling planning and design?”
Charnwood District Council passed the message on to Leicestersire County Council which has sent a standard response which includes “We will contact you within four to six weeks to inform you of the conclusion of the investigation into your request”.
Government proposals to improve road safety
On 21 November, the Department for Transport announced its response to the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) safety review, which included 50 recommendations published to make active travel safer.
An active travel alliance, made up of the Bicycle Association, Cycling UK, The Ramblers, British Cycling, Living Streets and Sustrans welcomed the suggestions which will look into providing priority for cyclists and walkers at junctions, clearer guidance on vehicles overtaking cyclists and also guidance on the “Dutch reach” in The Highway Code, something Cycling UK called for in its response to the original consultation.
However, there was disappointment among the group that the Department for Transport’s plan to improve the safety of vulnerable road users did not place more emphasis on speed reduction. Paul Touhy, Chief Executive of Cycling UK, also called for greater collaboration between Government departments to ensure that active travel is financially supported.