Considerate Cycling 43: Them and Us

The following story was written by someone I know and trust. I asked him to write it down after he had told it to me over the telephone. I reproduce it here as he wrote it. He is not a “cycle campaigner” and does not follow the kinds of on-line debates and discussions that are familiar to cycle campaigners. I mention this because the report seems to me to contain both corroboration and further insight for those who do write and speak about the changes our road culture is going through at the present time. The irrelevant photograph is one of my own and so is the significant footnote.

Them and Us

Whilst cycling home the other day I was hit by a car. I was in a cycle lane with a solid white line in between the cycle/bus lane and the other traffic. I was traveling at 20mph, which was a lot faster than the traffic in the lane to my right, as it was “rush” hour. Suddenly, and without any indication, a car turned left, driving straight into my path. I had absolutely no chance to avoid the car, or even apply brakes. As I slammed into the tail light of the BMW I just had time to hope that my injuries wouldn’t be too bad. Once I landed, I dragged myself (whilst voicing my discomfort) to the pavement, trying not to look at the gaping hole in my knee.

The driver and his passenger got out immediately and phoned for an ambulance. I am very grateful that they didn’t just drive off, and that they stayed to ensure that I was OK. This was refreshing as the last time I got hit by a car, the drivers first reaction was to shout at me and ask me if I had my lights on! One thing they said, that was a little off, was along the lines of “the council should do something about that cycle lane, move it onto the pavement”. It seemed off to me because they where already trying to shift the blame onto something other than the driver just not looking for, or not seeing me.

When the police arrived, as first on the scene, they immediately took on the role of paramedics, asking the important questions to verify the extent of my injuries – where did it hurt, had I passed out, did I bang my head, was my neck injured, could I move my toes… Clearly they are well trained and had plenty of experience being first on the scene of Road traffic accidents. Once they had dealt with my main injury, they then asked me whether I was wearing a helmet. At first I thought this was to double check that I had no head injury, but as he made a note in his book, I realised the purpose was not to help me, but must be for some other purpose. The next question sealed it – Were you wearing headphones?…. What would that tell them? How would that help them understand my injuries? I realised then that they are trying to collect data about accidents involving cyclists to see if wearing a helmet or headphones contributes to accidents in some way. At first you might think this would be useful and may help inform good policy or code changes. But there are two issues I have with this. The first is that wearing headphones had absolutely nothing to do with the accident. The headphones I have are designed for cyclists and do not block the ear canal, so even though I could hear the traffic around me it still did not help predict the sudden change of direction that the car took. The second issue I have is about balance. Why should a cyclist have to hear what’s going on around them anyway? A car driver with windows closed and radio on cannot hear anything outside the car.

So, I was now a bit more sensitive to imbalance in the views of those that where there to help me, some more subtle and others being openly anti-cyclist. Both the paramedic and ambulance driver declared that they disliked cyclists. “Why?” I asked, “do you peel many cyclists off the road”, “yes” was the answer. So why, I thought, do they hate cyclists and not the unobservant drivers that crashed into them? The ambulance driver asked me, more than once, about how much I’d spent on my glasses and whether I’d spent more on my glasses than on my bike. When I admitted that indeed my bike was more expensive she seemed to think that this explained why I got hit by a car, and advised me to get new, more expensive ones. When we arrived at the hospital she even passed on this piece of wisdom to the person that helped remove the trolley I was on from the back of the ambulance.

When I was delivered to A&E one of the first doctors to see me was another cyclist. He was much more understanding and asked to see my helmet. Rather than checking the outside of the helmet for breaks and cracks as the police had done, he checked the inside and found a large crack in the lining. Not only did this tell me that my helmet had probably helped prevent a head injury it also brought some balance to the proceedings and provided good advice. Here was someone who understood my plight, made no comments about who was to blame, was informed about what to check for and advised me to replace my helmet. Sadly he was not my doctor, but just a concerned fellow cyclist.

The next comment, from a doctor that passed the trolley I was on, really annoyed me. He announced that I must be “another bloody cyclist who had run a red light!” He knew nothing about what had happened, yet here he was presuming to pass judgement for a crime that I did not commit (and one that I myself get annoyed by whenever I see a cyclist do it).

Finally, after a very long wait in A&E, the doctor that patched me up (and did a fantastic job of the stitching), told me about all the times that she saw cyclists running red lights. As I myself get annoyed by this I understood her and agreed, but I got the impression that she felt that this was something all cyclists do rather than just a few idiots who take stupid risks. What about all the indiscretions of drivers, I thought: turning without indicating, driving whilst talking on mobile phones, trying to stop children fighting on the back seat, accelerating to beat the lights as they change to red, weaving through heavy traffic, having their lunch… the list goes on. None of these things seem to create a dislike of car drivers generally, they just annoy us about that particular driver, at that time. The key difference here is that every time one cyclist does something stupid it taints people’s opinions about every cyclist.

So, what’s the point of this spleen venting? What conclusions might be derived from this experience? The main conclusion that I myself draw is that people seem to want to blame cyclists for getting hit by drivers. At no point was I blamed directly, no one said that I was in the wrong specifically, but I got the distinct impression that people generally believe that cyclists are dangerous and do not observe the Highway Code. If this impression of people’s views towards cyclists is correct then I am concerned about the way transport policy and planning might develop if informed by the data and views collected and given by emergency services staff “on the ground”. It is likely to end up in tighter controls for cyclists rather than also considering development of better guidance and training for drivers and better design of our transport infrastructure.

Another conclusion I draw from this, as well as observation over time, is that some cyclists do not follow the Highway Code and in so doing not only put themselves at risk of injury or worse, but their behaviour also reflects on all other cyclists. In contrast, when drivers flout the Highway Code this not only endangers themselves, it also endangers other road users, some of whom are less well protected than themselves. The other key difference between cyclists and drivers is that the indiscretions of those few bad drivers (or those that are simply momentarily distracted) does not reflect on all of us. This is because, for the majority, cyclists are Them and drivers are Us. What I hope is for a change in philosophy, to one where each road user is aware of how their actions may affect others, not just how other users affect them, that better design of our transport infrastructure can reduce the risk for more vulnerable road users. Finally I hope that considerate road users can become Us and that unobservant road users who drive or cycle without due care and attention become an increasingly rare Them.

Footnote: In a subsequent email conversation I have learned that the driver has already admitted fault to his insurers and they have contacted the cyclist to find out what the damage is.

Considerate Cycling 42: Some Simple Numbers

Figure 1 (source: DfT)

I was interviewed on BBC Radio Bristol recently about the relationship between cyclists and buses in the city. I talked about cyclists’ respect and bus drivers’ professionalism. However, I did suggest that putting cyclists into a shared lane with buses was a bit like putting the meerkats in with the elephants. I also said that compared with goods vehicles and cars, buses were much less of a problem than people might assume.

I was talking about Bristol, nowhere else. I had checked some stats before I went in to talk, so I was fairly happy that what I was saying had some grounding in what had already been recorded and counted. Afterwards I started thinking about whether the simple numbers I had could support the hypothesis that despite their lower numbers, buses and goods vehicles were in some way safer or else more dangerous than cars. I showed the statistics to my son who is a proper mathematician and a data manager by trade. He pointed out my basic problems with standardisation of such different populations and gradually one thing became very clear.

The clear point was that at some level I was trying to find statistical evidence to confirm my prejudice that cars were in some way to blame even though vans, lorries and buses seem so dangerous. I was looking at small differences of probability where none were to be found. What I should have been staring at was Figure 1. The plain fact is that there are over 230,000 cars being kept in Bristol. That’s roughly one car to every 2 people. In comparison, there are just 39,200 goods vehicles, less than 1 van or lorry to every 5 cars. Buses and coaches add up to just 2,400 vehicles, only about one to every 10 cars. What about some more simple numbers? Here is Figure 2

Figure 2 (Source: correspondence with Bristol City Council)

Looking at this, what can we do at a local level to reduce bicycle casualties? What would a modest 10% improvement look like for each vehicle type? Haul back injuries for car-related incidents and we would avoid 47 injuries. 10% of the goods vehicle total  would save 3. 10% of bus-related injuries would save 1.

So what might reduce car-related injuries? Some more simple numbers offer a clue:

Figure 3 (Source: DfT)

The number of cars in Bristol has gone from 184,019 in 2004 to 231,853 in 2013. That’s a 26% increase in what was already a large number. Most of that has been in the last four years.

Here’s a photograph of a Bristol street. Recent political turmoil in the City has raged over Mayor George Ferguson’s attempt to restrict car parking and reduce speed limits.

Picture 1

What does it look like to you? What, if you had the power, would you want to control if a better and safer city was your aim? What would you prioritise if you wanted to reduce road traffic casualties and improve public health? How you do it is up to you, but I would say that the answer stares us in the face.




Considerate Cycling 41: Why Are Some Cities Cycling Or Walking More Than Others?

Blog 39 graphed the provisional cycling figures for Bristol as a member of the the “core cities” group of comparable cites outside London. I also included data for neighbours in what was once called Avon. Now that confirmed figures have been published (see here) I have abstracted a table and graph that includes Cambridge and uses this year’s updated figures. For most places the data are derived from a reliable sample of 500 residents. I have added walking to give a broader picture of active travel.

Percentages of selected Local Authority residents reporting that they cycle or walk at least once a month 2010-2011




Local Authority Walk % Cycle % Walk or Cycle%
Cambridge 94 58 96
South Gloucestershire 92 20 93
Bristol, City of 92 24 92
Newcastle upon Tyne 91 12 92
Bath and North East Somerset 91 18 91
Leeds 91 11 91
Nottingham 91 13 91
Sheffield 89 10 90
North Somerset 88 15 89
Liverpool 89 11 89
Birmingham 88 11 89
Manchester 84 13 87

I have been reading (and fascinated by) the recently published “Promoting Walking and Cycling” by Colin Pooley and others and I would  be very interested to hear from anyone who has observations about the cultural, geographical and infrastructural variations that might be associated with the wide range of walking and (especially) cycling levels across this group of urban areas.  One clear truth is that English cities are not all doomed to the same low levels. One obvious question is whether sheer campaigning effort can  generate the big changes in the patterns that the natural and built environments seem to be crying out for.

Considerate Cycling 40: Five Years of Pedestrian and Cyclist Casualties in Bristol

Cyclist and Pedestrian Road Casualties Reported by
Avon and Somerset Police in Bristol, 2008-2013

Whichever way you look at the figures in Bristol, the five years up to the end of August 2013 have changed nothing as far as cyclist and pedestrian injuries are concerned. Ten a week is what we are used to and ten a week is what we have come to tolerate as normal. A few die. Some spend time in hospital and quite a lot are sent home after being checked or patched up.

We do have a choice in the matter of course. These things can change if we want them to. Consider two photographs taken in Bristol recently.

Do we want more of this?

Or do we want more of this?

My own view is that for about 50p per person per week we could soon have quite a lot more of the latter. Happier cars. Happier pedestrians, happier cyclists.

Bristol Cycling Campaign has demanded a City Council commitment of £16 per head per annum. That’s 31p per man woman and child per week. Six and tuppence in old money. Crazy idealists? I don’t think so.

As I said on ITV News at Ten last week, If we don’t do something now, people will look back at this period of opportunity and wonder what on earth we were thinking of. Here’s the Bristol Cycling Campaign Manifesto:

Data kindly provided by Bristol City Council as database query outputs. Any errors in analysis or representation  are entirely my own.

Considerate Cycling 39: How much cycling is there in Bristol?

With the publication of the Bristol Cycling Manifesto “Freedom To Ride” and the launch of a petition to support it, I have been having lots of conversations with people in Bristol about our hopes for big increases in the number of people who choose to cycle. Questions about how many people already cycle, and how many used to cycle crop up regularly. So what data have we got, and how confident can we be with the numbers?

The most up to date figures that cover the whole of Bristol come from the Active People Survey. This is a household telephone survey run by Sport England that enables us to make national and local comparisons. Reports and data from 2010/11 and 2011/12 are available on the UK Government publications site. Samples of about 500 households in each local authority are used for this survey so we can be confident that actual numbers revealed are within a couple of percentage points of the numbers that would be gained from polling all households.

Each of the following graphs compare percentages in Bristol with those in neighbouring authorities and in the other “core cities” of England that Bristol would see as its real peers. Figures for adults who say that they cycle at last once a month (for any reason) and for those who say they cycle at least once a week (for any reason) are shown here. It’s important to note that these are people who cycle “for any purpose”. Leisure, fitness, commuting, shopping, company … anything. Cycling is an activity in its own right, it’s also a means to other ends or places.

At least once a week last year

Figure 1. Proportion of residents who cycled (any length or purpose) at least once a month in England’s 8 core cities (plus Bath and East Somerset, North Somerset, and South Gloucester during 2010/11

At least once a month last year

Figure 2 Proportion of residents who cycled (any length or purpose) at least once a month in England’s 8 core cities (plus Bath and East Somerset, North Somerset, and South Gloucester during 2011/12

Compared to places Bristol should compare itself to, the red bars in all those graphs makes the city looks like a bona fide candidate for its claim to be a “Cycling City”. As a journalist might shout: “A quarter of all Bristolians Get On Their Bikes Once a Month!”

But that’s journalism for you: mere fingers pointing at truth, not the truth, or the whole truth, every time. Detail and caution are needed too. A recent blog from Chris Mason at Cycle Jump looked at National Census data. The Census gives us detailed information about every household every ten years and its summary tables can be explored at fine levels of detail. Chris was able to use mapping tools to illustrate patterns of commuter cycling among residents of small areas across the City. This time, comparisons are between 2001 and 2011. The most striking figure that Chris gives is that in 2011 7.7% of adult Bristol residents reported that they usually cycled to work.

The Census data can be interrogated in a variety of ways. For the graphs that follow I have compared the same set of cities and neighbours as above, but I have recalculated a percentage figure that shows what proportion of those adult residents of Bristol who did go out to work normally used a bicycle. In a blog in February 2013 I compared levels of cycling to work against other modes, using a different base for the calculation. Figure 5 represents, I think, a conservative indication of the proportions of Bristolian commuters who usually cycled to work in 2001 and 2011.

Percentage of Commuters Who “Usually” Cycled to Work in 2001 and in 2011

Figure 3. Percentage of commuting residents who usually cycled to work in England’s 8 core cities (plus Bath and East Somerset, North Somerset, and South Gloucester according to census data from 2001 and 2011

Looking at these numbers and the numbers who use bikes for other purposes any city planner with an eye to congestion and pollution targets (never mind public health and general well-being) should be accelerating plans for putting a big chunk of every transport or development project into meeting the existing demand for cycling and (as happened with car use) encouraging it to grow even faster than the infrastructure. Getting more benefit for less resources really shouldn’t be a dilemma for local authorities. Their citizens who are trapped with no alternative but the car will at least have roads that are less congested if cycling takes more of the pressure. Those who simply like driving to work will enjoy it more and find it safer.

The eager headline from the Census data could justifiably have been “Bristol cyclists increase their share of commuting traffic by 113%!!

The important thing is that there are already plenty of people who would cycle if it looked less of a challenge, people who already have bikes which they really do use on a sporadic basis. Making it easier for them to cycle to work should be an easy priority to establish. Indirect outcomes would proliferate. The school run, for example, could more easily become a family run on the bikes. All that is preventing the next step change is lack of courage to make it happen.

Some headline-worthy statistics about cycling in Bristol

  • On census day in 2011 16,211 Bristolians said that they usually cycled to work. (1 in 12 of the 104,729 who traveled to work at that time).
  • A telephone survey for HM Government indicated that in 2012 nearly a quarter of adult Bristolians cycled at least once a month for one reason or another. That’s about 100,000 of the adult population of the City.
  • Bristol City Council Data collected by observers between 2010 and 2013 show that at peak times there were over 10,000 cyclists on Bristol roads. 7% of all city traffic measured at these times were cyclists.
  • Across the city, some routes carry 300-500 cyclists per hour.
  • At four busy points on roads into the city cyclists constitute over a quarter of all traffic during peak hours.
  • Between 2001 and 2011 the number of cars owned by Bristol households went up by 15%, from 165,334 to 190,530. 7
  • In the same period the number of households with no car increased by 13%, from 46,674 to 52814. 8
  • The Ward with the highest proportion of workers cycling as part of their daily commute is Ashley, with 1,381 cycling (17% of those travelling to work from the Ward).
  • The Ward with the lowest proportion of workers cycling as part of their daily commute is Whitchurch Park, with 102 cycling (2.3% of those travelling to work from the Ward).

Considerate Cycling 38: Zen And the Art of Cycle Path Maintenance

There are some very nice cycle tracks being created in South Gloucester, on the north fringe of Bristol. Housing, a retail park, a railway station, a University, a Hospital and large Ministry of Defence buildings are all close by. Signage is pretty good – with some outstanding advertisements for cycling in general.

Isn’t that a thing of beauty?

However, if I were Robert Persig, I might be looking for the nail in the broom head that marked these very good things as excellent facilities. Are South Gloucester really up to Zen Master standards? Well… what do we make of this?

Not ideal, is it? But look a bit further on as the track meets the Big Fat Roundabout and Persig might be even less happy. His careful eye might notice a lack of attention to the basic necessity of a harmonious life: sound maintenance routines.

That approaching heavy lorry is nearly on our (unmarked) crossing point and it’s only just visible from a forward position. It did occur to me that if I had brought my garden shears I could have improved things there and then. Maybe it will be done by tomorrow? The evidence from a 2012 satellite view suggests that the problem might have been left rather a long time. The red arrow in the next picture marks the blind exit.

Bushes notwithstanding, the cheap solution of tipping cyclists straight off a well-made track onto a big arterial road with no more than a dropped curb is the sort of thing that cycling campaigns are starting to make a fuss about. Cycling provision must be integral to all new traffic developments. Tacking some nice bits along the edges isn’t good enough. Building them in from the start and quality assuring their design and implementation against national standards would make them less costly than having to go back later and correct the mistakes.

In the absence of a national standard, one might give this exit the 11-year-old test: “would you send your child to school along this path on her first day at secondary school in September?” Or as Persig would say “has the broom head been given a new nail to stop it falling off the handle?”

Considerate Cycling 37: Custom and Law Are Good Friends But Bad Enemies

The Downs in Bristol are one glorious open area with over 400 acres of grassland and trees. A Committee protects the ancient right of all Bristolians to enjoy them, unspoiled, in perpetuity. Among the prohibitions that assures that right is a ban on cycling. It applies on all grassed areas and on the well-surfaced footpaths that cross the Downs

There is one exception. A good wide track has been added along Durdham Down adjacent to Stoke Road and bicycle logos have been painted at intervals along it. It covers quite a lot (but not all) of a route between student residences to the north of the Downs and Whiteladies Road to the south. A narrower pedestrian path runs in parallel to it, but closer to the busy road that also serves as a car park for visitors to the Changing Rooms and Tea Shop beyond the cyclist in my picture.

I went there today to take some photographs of happy cyclists enjoying the good weather and the excellent facility. As I sat down by a tree I took a first picture (see above) and settled down to consider how to go about getting the shots I had imagined. After about fifteen minutes only two other cyclists went past, and none came from the direction that would allow me to get the sunlit smiling faces I had hoped for.

It was a puzzle. Behind me I had noticed several cyclists on the road. Eventually a mother and child came past on the cycle track. I took the next picture as they approached the mums with pushchairs who had been chatting for the last five minutes and who barely looked up as the child rang a polite bell of warning.

Another five minutes passed and while no more cyclists came by, several pedestrians did. Along the cycle track. The pedestrian path remained empty. I gave up my mission and set off homewards along Ladies Mile, one of the roads that cross the Downs. Crossing Ladies Mile was a footpath, a metre of so wide, with NO CYCLING painted in large white letters on each side of the road. I stopped to look and within a minute several cyclists had already arrived, crossed the road and departed, making confident use of the forbidden track.

I spotted this well-dressed woman in smart clothes on a smart bike, flagrantly disregarding the NO CYCLING instruction beneath her very wheels. What was I to make of the conundrum? These weren’t odd random events. I’ve actually noticed it happening before. People were using the forbidden track to cycle on, and the dedicated cycle track to walk and talk on. Both sets seemed content with the arrangement.

My theory is that people are happier when what they want to do is legal and grumpier when what they are doing isn’t allowed. Even when the converse is true, wise legislators adjust the law to marry practice if no harm comes of it.

Dear Downs Committee,

I think that some of the cycling restrictions on the Downs could be lifted, and some of the paths could be adjusted or shifted so that most Downs users felt even happier about their enjoyment of such a wonderful resource.

Yours faithfully

Sam Saunders

Considerate Cycling 36: The Bristol Cycling Manifesto

Off to Work

I walked into Bristol city centre this morning feeling very cheerful. A couple of drizzly days had cleared and scatters of sunshine were sparkling off any puddle that remained. Among the work-bound there were lots of cyclists on al kinds of bike in every kind of clothing. Young and old, male and female, black and white.

Bicycle Rider’s Luncheon

From a shop window display a vintage cycling kit caught my eye. Sandwich box first, then the cycle pump. And then the ambitious globe for world navigation purposes. “An auspicious omen”, I thought.

I suppose that my destination (a press launch of the Bristol Cycling Manifesto) made me more attentive to such things than I usually am but the positive atmosphere felt real. It wouldn’t take much to get this city to a point where none of what I was noticing was remarkable. Even on the steep hill of Park Street, on sections of road that make no concessions (and offer several barriers) to cycling ,a lot ordinary folk were making their way to work on bicycles and a shop had chosen to use retro cycling as a fashion item to attract attention and promote sales. Cultural shifts were visible. I marched on in fine spirits.

At Cascade Steps, whence The Hispaniola set its fictional sails for Treasure Island, a large group of people with bicycles were gathering, with even larger numbers cycling across the shared space towards whatever their days had to offer. All ages, all types. I grabbed a couple of flyers from Eric Booth (the principal organiser of the event) and dodged about taking pictures and giving curious observers a flyer or two.

Media events have a strange place in our public life. Ministers put on safety gear and pose, chin jutting into the future, alongside men (always men) with hard hats. Expensive cameras are stroked while advisers tut and fret and someone scribbles shorthand and a recorder provides the backup. Later the stilted results appear in The Metro or Points West and those who are attentive note that “there’s something on The News about that” (whatever it is). Local press adopt the format, and so it goes.

Spokesman And Press Photographer

The thing is, the Bristol Cycling Campaign people are so friendly and so practical that there was no sense of pretence at all. No moaning about the problems and no false sense of importance. There was just a confidence that the message was honest and inclusive. In demanding the Freedom To Ride, the campaign is asking that everyone who would like to cycle as part of their everyday life should be able to do so. The stalwarts are already making the best of it but we all know lots of people who would love to cycle …if only …

Posing for the Press

As we gathered to help put that message into the local press, printing presses were groaning somewhere and copies of the full Manifesto documents (ambitious, realistic and detailed documents) will soom be distributed. A petition had already been put on line, outlining the basics. Bristol people are being asked to log in at and put their names to the following proposals:

“Thousands already cycle but our Council needs to provide a comprehensive cycling network, enabling thousands more with the freedom to ride.

Sign this petition to demand that the council does these 5 steps

  1. Quadruple the amount of cycling in Bristol by 2025
  2. Lay down plans to deliver a comprehensive cycling network by 2025
  3. Invest Money to deliver the plan (£16 per person each year minimum)
  4. Employ a multi-skilled team to manage joined-up action across all areas
  5. Appoint an inspirational Cycling Commissioner to lead from the front

The morning’s work done, we wandered down to the coffee stand by the Burke Statue at the other end of the fountains and had a good old chat. Service and coffee were excellent. We were a lot of people and they did us proud. As I sat in the sunshine I pondered the advice from the Bicycle Rider’s Luncheon Box I had seen earlier: “Fortitude, Endurance and Invigoration” it suggested. Plenty of all those will be needed in the months ahead but the Freedom to Ride will be worth it. Treasure Island Ahoy!

Considerate Cycling 35: Bristol Cycling Campaign’s “Stop Pinching Our Bikes”

The following text was written by the Bristol Cycling Campaign and was first published on-line by them in May 2013 I have republished it here with their kind permission.

Stop Pinching Bikes

20 of Bristol’s cycling pinch points

In celebrating the successes of the two and a half years of the Greater Bristol Cycling City project (2008-2011) it was suggested that one achievement had been to bring cycling to the centre of council policy. Bristol Cycling Campaign’s experience of changes to the highway network (on-road and off-road) over the last 5 years has been that the needs of cyclists are still being regularly overlooked in highway scheme design and implementation.

In this document we are making a renewed call to Bristol City Council to review its quality assurance processes for signing off highway scheme designs. We do this for two reasons:

1. to ensure that negative design features are avoided;

2. to make sure that all opportunities for improvement are fully exploited.

We are offering a collection of 20 examples of places where cycling has been pushed aside, restricted or otherwise left out of the plans (what we call pinch points). These examples illustrate the range of problems being ignored or inadvertently created by the council on a regular basis.

The wider Bristol Cycling Campaign’s Freedom to Ride Strategy includes a call for a comprehensive network of main road cycling freeways. The ongoing erosion of conditions for cyclists on the existing road system is working against this aspiration. We believe that there should now be a concerted effort to do things better.

The 20 pinch points

  1. Bottom of Park Street kerb build out

    The narrow traffic lane approach to this new build out results in cyclists being pinched and having to deal with additional conflicts. This was introduced as part of GBBN in late 2012.

  2. Pinch point at the top of Jacob’s Wells Road/Berkeley Place

    Near the end of the long haul up Jacob’s Wells Road and Berkeley Place there was, until recently, sufficient width on the approach to the give way lines to allow momentum to be maintained. This valuable bit of breathing space has recently been removed and cyclists are squeezed into sharing a narrow traffic lane.

  3. Anchor Road merging with Jacob’s Wells Road roundabout

    The set up here simultaneously gives a green light to outbound buses joining Hotwell Road and to traffic coming from the roundabout. Cyclists coming from the roundabout would expect to merge into the bus lane and cycle lane on Hotwell Road. They are, however at risk of being hit by buses that also assume a right of way. We are aware of at least one serious cyclist injury that occurred here. The two pictures show the situation and movement for a cyclist and then for a bus under an identical phase of the traffic lights.

  4. Clanage Road, badly engineered and dangerously positioned cyclists’ dropped kerb

    The original dropped kerb was positioned further away from the give way markings and operated well for many years. It was relocated to the shown location to accommodate a bus shelter in 2011. Cyclists now have to cross in front of the give way markings to use it. Further, water now collects (As shown in the picture) and freezes over in the winter adding to the hazard.

  5. Bath Road, Brislington Park and Ride

    Works for the Greater Bristol Bus Network amended the layout at the Hicks Gate junction and removed a dropped kerb from the cycle track. This dropped kerb had allowed cyclists to merge into the carriageway well in advance of the signals heading westbound. With the dropped kerb removed, cyclists either have to join the traffic earlier and thereby get squeezed in a narrow traffic lane, or they have to bump down the full kerb from the cycle track into the carriageway

  6. Northumberland Road, Easton pinch point

    Northumberland Road (part of Concorde Way at this point) has been narrowed to allow pedestrians to cross between the M32 footbridge and the Sports Centre. A short cycle lane marking has been placed to one side of the narrow gap. The gap, however, is not wide enough to allow a car and a bicycle to go safely through at the same time. A cyclist needs to take the centre of the lane, or pull over and wait for vehicles to pass.

  7. Restrictive permeability between Bristol and South Gloucestershire on Wordsworth Road

    As Bristol gives way to South Gloucestershire at the end of Wordsworth Road there is a barrier between the end of Wordsworth Road and the start of Eighth Avenue. There is a raised kerb, offset railings and large grey concrete bollards to prevent motor vehicles passing through and only a narrow passage either side of one bollard for cyclists to ride through. Tricycles, cargo bikes, or trailers need be to be lifted over the raised kerb. In dusk or darkness neither the bollards nor the kerb are easy to see. This non-standard design does not comply with Department for Transport guidance.


  8. Unsatisfactory Dighton Street cycle lane (and enforcement)

    The arrangement at the beginning of this cycle lane in Dighton Street is part of a well-used natural route from east to west near the city centre. The short illustrated stretch unhelpfully draws cyclists to a poor road position where forward visibility is reduced and a radical pinch point is encountered. Uncertainty over waiting and loading restrictions encourages vehicles to enter and stop on the mandatory cycle lane. Large waste containers also block the cycle lane from time to time.

  9. Unsuitable and narrow cycle lane on junction of Woodland Road and Park Row in Bristol

    Cyclists travelling south west along Woodland Road and intending to turn left into Park Row are offered a continuous (advisory) cycle lane that is less than 1.2 metres wide and paved with cobbles for half of its width. Given the need to avoid conflict with left-turning motor vehicles a cyclist should be further from the kerb and not at risk of being unbalanced by such an uneven surface.

  10. Advisory cycle lane onto Queens Road

    A twenty metre stretch of advisory cycle lane at the end of Whiteladies Road, from a zebra crossing to its junction with Queens Road, encourages cyclists to take a position near to the kerb as they enter and leave the junction. This puts them exposed to frequent buses turning immediately left into Queens Avenue and in a vulnerable position from which to continue a journey south west towards Park Street or Park Row.

  11. Coronation Road cycle path

    There is uncertainty among users of Coronation Road as to why cyclists use or don’t use the shared cycle path on its northern side.

    Cycling on the road or on the shared path are both legitimate, but people may not know the path is available or where to cycle or walk on it. It needs clear delineation and a smoother surface. The picture shows how the current state of markings makes uncertainty (and subsequent conflict) inevitable.

  12. Bus stop build out, Whiteladies Road

    A number of these have been built as part of Greater Bristol Bus Network. Cyclists get bunched in the queuing/overtaking traffic caught behind buses and this is risky and intimidating. Less confident cyclists are encouraged by the scheme to take evasive action such as bailing out of the problem onto the footway.

    Cycling stakeholders made strong representations to the GBBN project to clearly warn cyclists of these buildouts both during the project, when nothing was done, and for several months afterwards – when this woefully short “ladder” was added. Warning markings such as these need to identify the line that cyclists should be expected to take, in this case starting several metres further back, rather than having toswerve out at the last minute.

  13. Merchants Road bridge cycle route crossing point

    A new cycle track from the Portway/Cumberland Basin Road brings cyclists to a poorly designed junction with very limited visibility of traffic arriving from the right. A substantial amount of work was carried out to the general road layout in this area and with careful design the opportunity could have been taken to position the cycle track further forward, which would have provided better visibility.

  14. Cumberland Basin Road right turn towards Hotwells

    This is a tricky movement requiring positioning between fast moving westbound and right turning traffic. Until recently this movement was protected by a right turning lane for cyclists, the remains of which can be seen in the photo. It was obliterated when scheme 12 was installed, apparently without thought for cyclists turning right. No dropped kerb from the cycle track has been provided

  15. Anchor Road crossing

    Large numbers of cyclists and pedestrians are held for significant periods of time here so that priority can be given to motorised traffic. Once pedestrians and cyclists get their short slot, there is usually a certain amount of mayhem. In between times people cross in spite of red lights The council have widened the crossing in recent years, without success, simply because the delay (one and a half minutes) feels so long that it has become widely ignored.

  16. Clift House Road cycle track approach to Ashton Avenue Bridge

    A very fast and wide approach has been provided to join an existing fast section of route, at a point of very limited visibility without any warning signs to users.

  17. Portwall Lane shared use

    A common complaint from pedestrians and cyclists is lack of legibility on shared use paths/areas. This problem has been reproduced at Portwall Lane and was highlighted as an issue in a recent survey of cyclists and potential cyclists at Temple Quay (see

    A further issue on this path is the lack of priority where it crosses Phippen Street, a site of two cyclist injuries in recent years.


  18. M shed to Gaol Ferry Bridge link (proposed) through the Umberslade development site

    This link has been anticipated for a number of years. However Bristol City Council has given consent for a layout which is fundamentally flawed at its southern end. The layout brings cyclists to an unsafe location away from the existing Cumberland Road crossing, where they will interact with pedestrians using a narrow footway. At least one person made a written comment on this problem at the consultation stage although it appears that this was ignored.

    As this link has not yet been built, there is time to address this will the layout shown on the plan below.

  19. Winterstoke Road shared cycle/pedestrian path-enlarged access into new Imperial Tobacco offices

    This junction was quite difficult under the old layout as the user had to look behind to anticipate left turning traffic from Winterstoke Road. However the access has recently been substantially widened, making the problem worse. The opportunity to improve the layout with a flat top ramp or central island has been lost. There is also the oddity of just one line of studs rather than the normal two.


  20. Clanage Road/Kennel Lodge Road crossings

    The signal controlled crossing on A369 Clanage Road is welcome. However, people heading towards Ashton Court have to make a second crossing over Kennel Lodge Road against a variety of motor vehicle turning movements. Very little has been done in the design to assist this.

Considerate Cycling 34: “What’s Wrong With These People?”

There are some things that we can do, lots of things that we ought to do and even more things that we have to do. Among them there are also some things that we want to do. But in practice there are, eventually, only things that we actually do. I have cycling on mind, of course, and I am interested in a kind of sociology that would make sense of the following situation.

It’s a practical cycling problem in a specific place: a short section of College Green in Bristol has a two way segregated cycle track that runs for about 100 metres on the rise up towards City Hall, with Clifton beyond. At the end nearest to City Hall it stops abruptly. The picture shows the options. There is a left turn into shared space on the Green itself, there is an easy continuation on the pavement towards a bike rack and City Hall and there is a right turn onto the roadway.


It’s the right turn in picture 1 that interests me. Sometimes I am going towards Clifton and want to join the road here. Sometimes I am coming the other way and want to turn right from the road onto the segregated track. Look at picture 2 and notice that apart from the ordinary light controlled crossing there are also three sections of dropped kerb. I have marked them with big red and white arrows. If you ride a bike you might take a moment to visualise yourself coming up the track and then down the road, in each case intending to continue in the same direction. What do you want to do? What can you do? What should you do? Is there anything you absolutely must do? The cyclist has chosen the middle approach and is waiting against the post that has no button to press. The car is approaching the first of two sets of studs that mark out the pedestrian crossing.


Picture 2a shows the three options from a different angle.


In picture 3 we have the normal mêlée on a quiet sunny day. There are bits of all sorts going on.


Picture 4 starts to clarify my problem. A cyclist is travelling towards Park Street, on the segregated track. Until this point he wanted to go somewhere, had the wherewithal to get there, and would be happy doing what he knew he ought to do.


In picture 5 he is a little closer to finding that one of those things is changing. He is going to find that there are three dropped kerbs. One for the pedestrian crossing and one each side – possibly for cyclists.


Picture 6 has him heading across to the offside of the cycle track and over the pedestrian crossing. Seeing there was no one around he has taken the easiest route for that manoeuvre, as most people seem to do when conditions allow.


A few minutes later, (see picture 7) the move has become less easy. Someone else coming the other way wants to use that dropped kerb so he can get into the left hand cycle lane where he will feel comfortable. He’s in a hurry to stay clear of traffic approaching a green light at the crossing.


In picture 8 the other cyclist has hung back but then he goes. He chooses the first of the three dropped kerbs, uncluttered as it is by posts or standing kerbs. Basically it’s a lot easier than tacking round the posts.


As long as no one is around none of this matters much. But look at what happens in pictures 9 and 10. Notice the hidden fellow far left with green lining to his hood in picture 9. He’s on a bike and he turns across someone heading up the track in picture 10. Meanwhile a pedestrian is using his green light to cross the road while another cyclist is waiting at the red.



Two seconds later the lights are changing and more is happening (see Picture 11). The car is revving to go, the downhill cyclist has set off, our small-wheeled cycle has chosen dropped kerb 2 and someone coming more quickly off the cycle path to our left is already in the roadway and heading into the road space being approached by a cyclist and a car. Fortunately the car is holding back because a pedestrian has made a late appearance on the crossing while the traffic light has changed from red to flashing amber.


The crossing is often much busier than this, with heavy traffic at peak periods. It’s safe to say that traffic movements are unpredictable and the “correct” way for cyclists to use the lights and the dropped kerbs are not straightforward. This is a bus route with a frequent service and the roadway is used fairly indiscriminately by delivery drives at all times of the day (note the white truck with its back doors open in picture 11).

This fairly innocuous situation interests me because it’s an example of a common phenomenon. That is, it is a sophisticated bit of cycling infrastructure that offers a positive experience for a short span and then inflicts a difficult decision on what to do next. My suspicion that too many experiences like this lead both cyclists and sceptical road users who interact with them to become less co-operative and less confident.

My Venn diagram offers some insight I think.

The diagram isolates four background features of an individual’s action in a given context. Given that an action can be purposeful, personally satisfying, socially approved and skilfully achieved, each to different degrees, it offers a map of the balancing act that comprises any action and the zones of congruence that might be associated with greater or lesser social comfort. The denser the overlaps the greater the unity of purpose, expectation and accomplishment. The closer to the periphery an action falls, the less coherent and the more disruptive it is likely to be.

The “should” part is what other people want or expect to happen. Formally, informally, explicitly or implicitly there is usually some sense of what should happen in any situation. The “has to” part encompasses those parts of the context that cannot be gainsaid. Force or vital need might be involved. “Wants to” is the individual’s own desire to complete the action successfully. “Can” is the result of the individual’s ability, knowledge, instruction and resources relative to the inherent demands of the action itself.

So if things are a bit chaotic, what can we conclude? Assuming that the degree of chaos matters at all, how can we fix it? The diagram suggests we look at four sets of questions – not just the one or two things that first come to mind. And then it asks how a responsible person or body can evaluate the efficacy and efficiently of trying to improve the situation having considered each of the background features.

In our “end of the cycle track” case let’s assume that the general level of unpredictability and discomfort is higher than we want it to be. Let’s imagine there have been bumps and bruises (or worse) and some complaints that are spilling over into wider conflicts between different kinds of road user. How can the background features of the troublesome actions be adjusted?

Let’s not try to influence “has to” or “wants to” for now. They might be significant but fo this exercise let’s take them as given, or, at least randomly distributed. “Can” is more promising. “Can” implies knowhow. Do our pedestrians and cyclists know how this arrangement works? Do they know which buttons to press or which route of dropped kerb to take? Are they able to monitor all the other crossing users and where they might be coming from? Can they manoeuvre the bicycle confidently enough to make the tight turns necessary for some of the options? Is it clear which phases of the light sequence applies to cyclists who want to shift from track to road in a diagonal or convergent manner? Have they been able to read anything about this in the Highway Code? This last question leads onto the “should” section. If you are expected to do one thing rather than another it will soon become obvious if you are doing the wrong thing. At some point someone will call you up on it, formally or informally. Maybe a police officer will have a word. Or there might be a mass media flurry of disapproval like the red light jumping panic or even a campaign. In the case I have described it was clearly possible, and easy, for cyclist to just keep cycling and complete the journey up Park Street on the pavement. It says something about the strength of “should” among cyclists that most people did not do this. So much for my “Bristolians are all anarchists” theory.

Changing minds (“wants to”) is hard. Changing the geometry of those turns, putting some paint down, separating pedestrians and cyclists – one or all of these might improve things on the “can” front. People can be given information via simple signs on the ground and the manoeuvres can be made easier with gentler, more visible curves. Difficulties associated with perceptual overload can be reduced by moving the end of the cycle track much further away from the pedestrian lights. Eventually habit itself makes things more predictable and invests them with a sense of “ought to”.

Other situations will be different. But each one might benefit from using some sort of thinking guide like the one I started with. At least we would be dissuaded from shouting “What’s Wrong With These People?”