False Friends, Stranded and Abandoned

Here we are at another junction. It seems to be a choice of straight on or right as we come out of the one-way Penn Street, with Castle Park’s trees away on the opposite corner. We notice the late arrival of a lead-in lane to the ASL with its cute little diagonal and realise that the bus and cycle lane we have approached in has kept us too far over to the left to be able turn right safely on this phase of the lights.

If we have a look around while we wait, the junction has some curious cycle markings, in a pen made of bollards and small islands. They are hard to distinguish from here.

Coming back to that ASL, we can look across and see roughly what the markings are. Two very short cycle lanes hanging off give-way lines. With a cyclist making a right turn while the lights are against us, they don’t seem much use to him. I don’t think they are meant for us either. It’s a puzzle.

The mystery deepens as someone else appears, apparently from nowhere, while our lights are green. He is clearly on a very strange trajectory.

It soon becomes clear that he knows where he’s going, even though his route is a bit irregular.

Right behind him another bold pioneer trundled off in the same direction, with the same contraflow instincts. Bristol is truly a City of Anarchists.

What I hadn’t realised until I got home and checked the Council’s special map is that immediately beyond our lights on the left, obscured by the large buildings of Cabot Circus there is a short fragment of official traffic-free cycle route. This careful cyclist has hopped onto what I thought (wrongly) was a pedestrian area and is travelling east towards Bond Street South. We would take a left turn just after our traffic lights, up a bit of dropped curb, to follow her. Things are starting to make sense. I don’t remember seeing a sign, but never mind. There are lots of other mysteries still to solve without worrying about signs.

And over there, another lost soul, heading across the pavement in the general direction of Castle Park, with some traffic to navigate before he gets there. Those bollards and cycle lanes still don’t make any sense.

They don’t look any more rational from this angle do they?. I took this picture from over on the park corner, looking north east. The road surface didn’t look too good either. I decided to try using the cycle lanes. It was a stupid decision I know, but the day was clear, the traffic wasn’t especially heavy and I was feeling confident. My first run was from the south. I came down Lower Castle Street and used the left hand lane of the two you can see in the picture immediately above to make an elegant but very eccentric right turn across where the bus is. Crossing the all-clear roadway I rolled onto the traffic free cycle route and looped around to come back for a run at the other lane. When the road was clear I was able to cross it, navigate the full length of the lane, pause at the give way, and then pull away to my right to join Broad Weir. Broad Weir is where the man in the previous picture had been on his way to. Neither of my two journeys seemed to have much practical purpose. The first one felt distinctly exposed and counter-intuitive. I wonder if anyone ever uses it? The second just felt frivolous.

What I learn from this set of blogs so far is that despite the attempts of the Council to provide help for cyclists in awkward places, there are at least a few cyclists who make up their own versions of how to make their way around. To my shame, they all seem a lot more contented and confident than I felt, pedantically trying to find out what the “right” thing to do was.

And I still don’t understand these stranded, truncated cycle lanes. Maybe the shoddy road surface indicates that refurbishment and a big fat traffic roundabout is on the way to blast them into oblivion?

There will be another journey of discovery coming along soon. Do come back.


7 thoughts on “False Friends, Stranded and Abandoned

  1. It’s there for north/south journeys on the off-road route you mention to Bond Street (which continues over to Champion Square and thence the “Concorde Way” route to South Glos). However, if I recall correctly, the traffic light timings don’t accommodate it very well.

    I understand that the poor quality surface and cheap short-term look to the whole design is because the council have ideas of replacing the whole lot with one of these new “shared space” streets, in which motorists, cyclists and pedestrians will all magically peacefully coexist on a single expanse of expensive paving stones with no signs or white lines or traffic lights or pavements or bollards to guide them. Allegedly.

  2. Thanks for that clarification Joe. I think I am gradually discovering that my own personal bewilderment is part of something a bit bigger. One aspect of this is that other people seem to be finding their own idiosyncratic ways around the city and are far less hung-up on the idea that there is are “proper” ways and places to cycle or walk. Just go where your’e going seems to be the norm. The presence or absence of signs or road markings seems to be less significant than what looks natural or possible.

    In effect, the magic shared space situation is happening regardless. When I was much younger I subscribed to Anarchy magazine and still have some romantic attachment to the idea. The consequences for the collective blood pressure and demands on A&E services remain to be seen.

    The person in my penultimate photograph seemed to have been travelling from the traffic free route. HE cycled on over the road to travel along Broad Weir – the cycle lane clearly didn’t entice him. The chances are he didn’t even see it: there are plenty of other obstacles and hazards to be looking out for.

  3. I’ve never used that cycle lane – I always just stay in the road lane up to those traffic lights, if I’m turning right along the side of Castle Park. You are right to comment on the numbers of cyclists who “salmon” the wrong way along the Horsefair – at times, it seems like the majority of cyclists using the Horsefair are travelling the wrong way along it!

    1. I wish I’d come up with it (“salmon”) but that honour belongs to BikeSnobNYC.

      Nevertheless, I’m sure you’ve noticed that most cyclists on the Horsefair seem to go the wrong way along it. If you come out of the end of Broadmead by Cabot Circus, you are supposed to dismount and walk your bike if you want to go “anticlockwise” (say, to get to the crossing by McDonalds to get across to Brunswick Square and points north).

      And don’t even get me started on how Quakers Friars got privatised and became a “explicitly no cycling/skating/freedoms whatsoever” zone where they track your mobile 😉

  4. People cycling consistently in the “wrong” places is a sign of poorly designed infrastructure. That people learn from their environment to ignore signs and rules is a result of being disenfranchised. Like anyone left out of the system, they learn that it doesn’t serve them to follow it’s conventions and do whatever it seems one has to do to survive it.

  5. I’ve always been confused how to actually use that area in the middle of the junction. It’s never seemed like it makes sense from any direction and the traffic lights are set against being able to access it most of the time anyway.

    The few times I’ve managed to use it I’ve had some very confused, surprised and disapproving from motorists around me, wondering why I’m crossing the traffic to get to it.

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