Brian's Blog

…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World

Cycle Lanes

I can only assume that a woman was shouting at me to “use the cycle lane”, while I was cycling along a road today. Either that or it was just the radio (with the window down in February?); the only word I actually heard was “cycle”. If she was shouting at me then it was only because she was a few cars behind a lorry that decided to wait for gap in the oncoming traffic before passing me (see point 8 below). I’ve be meaning to write about cycle lanes for a while, and now seems to be a good-a-time-as-any.

With regards to today’s case (I’ll continue to assume there was a case), the two and a half mile stretch of road between Holyhead and Valley that I was cycling along does indeed have a cycle lane beside it, but I think I have only used the cycle lane once.


Here are some reasons:

  1. Coming from Valley proper, a cyclist would have to cross the road to join the cycle path.
  2. At which point one should join the cycle path here is not clear.
  3. The cycle path is shared with pedestrians/dog walkers.
  4. If one is familiar with the route they could join the cycle path as early as possible, but as per point 2. I’m not sure what is “as early as possible” – it could be while the road is still a 30mph speed, but one risks blatantly cycling on a pavement (which is generally a no-no in my books), therefore, to be certain one is joining an actual cycle path, joining it would be where the road’s speed limit increases to 60mph.
  5. When using the cycle path one has to contend with a number of adjoining roads that have to be slowed down for – there are also undulations at these points, and bollards too.
  6. Most of the places I go to in Holyhead would involve me re-crossing the road at the other end in order to join it.
  7. It’s not compulsory for me to use the cycle lane/cyclists aren’t banned from using the road.
  8. The road is actually pretty wide and for much of the stretch there is room for cars to pass a cyclist even when there is oncoming traffic – they only need to “scrub the white lines” – in fact this is probably the widest stretch of road for my whole journey.

A reason for using the cycle path might be because the speed limit for much of the road is 60mph, with HGVs, however, I’m not simply going from Valley to Holyhead – I have already at this point already travelled a number of miles with such traffic travelling at such speeds.

Number 3, sharing a path with pedestrians/dog walkers, is my main reason for avoiding shared paths in general. Unless the cycle path will lead me more directly to my destination and/or make me feel safer then I much prefer cycling on a road, especially since in the rural areas where I ride cars rarely hold me up. If I share a path with pedestrians then I have to slow down for them, consider trying to let them know I’m coming (there is more judgement and care involved with dogs) – I have a bell but if people don’t think “bike” and they’re away in their thoughts, or with a hood up and/or earphones in, they won’t hear it. I do realise that I’m probably choosing to hold up a few motorists for a few moments rather than be held up myself by pedestrians, but most of us prefer to keep going with fewer stop-starts.

Point 2 is an issue I see quite often with cycle paths: it’s not always clear where they begin and end and which part of the path each party should use. Indeed signage and path/road marking are not widely understood – I have to confess that it was only today that I realised the two different signs I see actually mean different things (I’m not the only one not to realise this because I often see pedestrians walking in what I now know to be the cycle-only section – another reason for me to avoid the shared cycle paths):

I will add that I am a considerate cyclist/road user, and I am generally quite happy with whoever and whatever I have to share my journey space with – if a motorist acts like a fool then that is one motorist acting like a fool. I think my traffic-awareness has kept me out of harm’s way with regards to motorists – I look ahead and second-guess what people are going to do behind a lot of the time, but I have had a pedestrian step out in front of me (they decided to cross the road in front of me without looking) and we both took a bashing, so this has made me extra cautious around pedestrians.

I consider some implementations of cycle paths to be over-engineered and a waste of public money. While the stretch between Holyhead and Valley is a ‘simple path’, it took some weeks to implement, with the typical diggers and tarmac being used, and likely a long period of planning before that. Perhaps if attitudes on the roads could be improved across the board then perhaps the roads would become safer as a result, and these excesses avoided – cycling is supposed to be a greener mode of transport after all.

A final note…

A month-or-so ago I came up behind another cyclist. He was wearing a shirt that had illustrations on the back depicting the space a motorist should give to a cyclist when passing. That distance was 1.5m. I pondered that distance as I remained behind the guy for a while “that’s 5 feet” I calculated. I looked at the length of my arm, considering that length when stretched out to my side – a couple of feet I guess. But like the distance motorists are expected to give to a vehicle in front, that is dependent on speed, and to me, arm’s length is probably an average acceptable passing distance; I think we’re lucky if we get more than that. On slow narrow stretches I’ve had wing-mirrors close to my shoulder for sure (but thankfully never touching), on faster wider stretches I think it’s okay for the motorist to straddle the white lines – some go as far as giving you a whole lane, which actually feels excessive to me. It can be pretty windy here on Anglesey at times, so in rougher weather extra space should be given to the battling cyclist. Anyway, as I pondered all of this behind the guy, some cars were passing us and I was getting a rare glimpse at just how close cars were to us: because they would first past me, and then pass him (it’s difficult to judge the distance beside you when your looking ahead). For some of the cars this guy actually objected to the distance these motorists were giving him; he would wave his arm (and I think say things out loud). I could see the problem; the guy was actively looking for motorists to get within his 1.5m boundary, and then criticise them for doing so; he was expecting it.

thinking_clearlyThere is a case in the book The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli, explaining a mental bias for which I can’t recall the actual term for, but the case is this:

A guy is sitting at a table in a bar, drinking his pint, whatever, then someone walks in, and because the door-closer-thingy is broken the door doesn’t close properly and a cold draft blows in around his legs so he gets up and closes the door. This keeps happening, time and time again someone will walk in and not close the door properly and he gets up and closes it. He gets more and more frustrated by this until finally he snaps: another person walks in and he has a go at them about not closing the door properly. Now if we consider this carefully we will see that that individual was not responsible for all of the other people coming in and leaving the door open, yet they got the full force of the man’s annoyance.

I think road users can be like this. In fact, in the case of the guy in the bar, he cold have chosen a different course of action as Dobelli points out, such as notifying the bar keeper about the faulty door and moving to another table, or drinking elsewhere. As road users we often have choices too, such as how we choose to travel (if a car driver was on a bike instead then perhaps they wouldn’t get held up by a bike, for example), when we travel, where we travel, and also how we choose to react and respond to other road users.

No wait, a final-final note (I promise):

Why, on Google Maps, does one have to click the three dots […] to reveal the route options for cyclists and aircraft… when those two icons would fit without minimal extra clutter?! It’s like having folders with only two files in, why bother?!



4 comments on “Cycle Lanes

  1. bribikes
    10 February, 2015

    I love how motorists always assume we can hear them while the reality is that we might be able to understand a word or two if we are lucky!

    You have a lot of great points here, I really like your example from The Art of Thinking Clearly.

    • Brian
      10 February, 2015

      Thanks Bri 🙂

  2. Pingback: Cyclists Wiggle | BMH Online

  3. Pingback: Minimalism and Twitter | BMH Online

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This entry was posted on 10 February, 2015 by in Cycling and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .
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