Considerate Cycling 32: Roads And Circuses

At the centre of the top half of this Google capture a white car is passing the end of an advisory cycle lane at the top of Queens Road in Bristol. I went there yesterday to photograph and observe the lane as part of ongoing efforts to identify cycling infrastructure that seems to create as many problems as it solves. My impression was that the lane encouraged unwary cyclists to approach the imminent junction and the subsequent lane narrowing in a vulnerable road position. I noted that while I was there buses, delivery vehicles and cars often made left turns that included encroachment into the cycle lane and that an old-school vehicular cyclist would opt to approach that junction further away from the curb than the cycle lane allowed. My observations indicated that nearly all cyclists stayed in the lane and that none of them suffered as a consequence. However, they also made me more confident that moving out of that lane before its end would be a sensible thing to do for anyone not making a left turn and that using it to undertake slower moving traffic would be a bad idea, given the increased possibility of a collision with a left-turning vehicle on the junction itself.

As I watched and took photographs I noticed a number of non-standard improvisations by people on bicycles. Most of these were the ordinarily annoying pavement cyclists of Bristol. One, however, stood out as exceptional. I noticed him opposite the zebra crossing in the outside lane in the spot marked with the red cross nearer the top of that Google picture. He ended up at the red cross in the shadow of the building at the bottom of the picture. His progress is captured in this sequence of 6 photographs.

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The six pictures cover the space of a minute, most of which were spent expertly balancing the bike on the narrow island between the lanes of briskly moving traffic. A gap in the north-bound traffic coincided with the arrival on the footpath of a baby buggy and a determined gentleman in a suit.

I wonder what the impact of the cyclist’s display of circus skills was on passing drivers, on the woman with the baby and the man on foot? My first guess is that they did not make any of them feel more calm, more safe or more well-disposed to cycling in general.

I would rather not have to say this, but this kind of thing is not hard to find in Bristol and it does harm the cause of sustainable and inclusive traffic rather than help it. Circus tricks might entertain the easily entertained, but (just as with Jeremy Clarkson) the improvement of public life is not advanced one bit.

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2 thoughts on “Considerate Cycling 32: Roads And Circuses

  1. Hmmm. I can’t help feeling there is a final sentence missing to this blogpost:

    “However, with the current state of road design, where cycling is tacked on hurriedly as an annoying afterthought (which the planners would obviously prefer not to have to even think about), this sort of thing is completely inevitable.”

    My point being that, if you are coming down from Whiteladies and your target destination is on Park Place (where this guy ended up), just how do you do this on a bike?. Follow the one way system? I think you know the answer to that! The best route (if there is one) is not at all obvious to me. My technique with this kind of thing is to get off and turn into a pedestrian, though I understand that many people seem to consider this action to be a bit humiliating.

    (This is an unpleasant and unclear bit of roadage on either bike or foot. I would also say this is yet another example of what I call behaving like traffic)

  2. You’re dead right – access to that side of the world from Whiteladies Road is surprisingly circuitous. (going back’s the same) Even as a pedestrian it’s not easy. The whole thing needs rethinking and rebuilding. Slower cars and better provision for pedestrians and cyclists are vital I think, and should be given a proper priority over a previous emphasis on “traffic flow” (which will always be a bit of an oxymoron in Bristol).

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