Poll: Share the road or separate?


In this final poll I wanted to take a look at cycle paths versus cycle lanes. Though it’s tough to come across an exact definition, a cycle lane is one that is attached to the side of the road but not separated by any physical means where as a cycle path is separated somehow from the road.

The above picture is an example of a cycle path.

For separated cycle paths: The separation provides more safety and a more pleasurable ride. It means that there is less danger of getting doored or having a car parked up in the cycle lane thus rendering it useless. It encourages more people to take up cycling as they feel protected from the main traffic on the road.

Against separated cycle paths: The problem with separate cycle paths is they often end up sending you away from the route you want to take and a long way around. It should be more about sharing the road and teaching drivers and cyclists how to do that.

I’ll be interested to see how this poll goes because at face value it would seem separated cycle paths are a great idea. But usually when they are implemented they are in locations that people don’t often use and often go through quiet areas that end up being less safe to use in the evening.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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16 Responses to Poll: Share the road or separate?

  1. Matt 27/01/2010 at 1:46 pm #

    I’d love to see everyone sharing roads, but living in the Washington D.C. area I’m pessimistic about drivers being able to do that.

    The way I look at the question is this: would I be comfortable allowing my daughter (when she’s older, maybe 10-12) to bike on the road, even in a bike lane? I have to say that around here, my answer is generally “no.” I’d be too worried about someone not seeing her or just seeing “a !#8@ biker taking up the road.” I’m barely comfortable cycling on some of the roads I ride on to get to work, and I have a pretty decent amount of experience cycling in traffic.

  2. MarkA 27/01/2010 at 1:52 pm #

    I think this is one of the most debatable aspects of cycling, that cyclists can argue about till they are blue in the face.

    From my point of view, I think there are only so many people who are prepared to lump in on the road with other traffic and this will reach a peak – if you want, say 50% of the population to cycle it needs to be perceived as being safe enough for the likes of your kids or your Gran, in which case the major roads needs good quality, well-designed bike paths similar to the Dutch model. As I understand it they only have the separated paths on roads going into the towns – once in the towns the paths have provided so many cyclists that it is not necessary to have paths as drivers are forced to ‘drive alert’ due to being the minority.

    The question is, can we ever see the UK Government investing that much money into cycling and the answer, sadly, is no, so till then we have to, and must be able to, share the roads.

  3. phil 27/01/2010 at 1:52 pm #

    i’d perfer sharing the road. While paths are great and are a more enjoyable ride certainly and perhaps they would make sense when TFL talk about their cycle highways into central London concept. I would worry that it would perhaps start making roads that don’t have the cycle path no-go’s for cyclists.

    Also they will be taking away from either pavement space or road space and if its road space i don’t think increasing congestion is the right way to go. i don’t see the need to penalize someone because they have chosen to drive rather than to ride by an increase wasted time stuck in traffic. overall it would be a loss, as stressed, late hurrying drivers aren’t that much fun.

    i’d liek to see a crackdown on those people who do park in exsistign cycle lanes. thats annoying.

    so while i think paths are great, i’d only implement them where there is space to do so with out affecting other traffic.

  4. Mike 27/01/2010 at 2:01 pm #

    Unfortunately you’d only have to turn your camera around 180 degrees to see just what is wrong with segregated paths – http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_2D7cNlO04aw/SZhknLQZ1SI/AAAAAAAAAOs/tSyt5CUmXIM/s1600-h/tavistock3.jpg (apologies to real cycling for nicking their photo)

    The idiotic shenanigans involved in somehow getting bikes to reintegrate with traffic at the junction is just jaw dropping.

  5. Matt 27/01/2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Mike –

    I’d argue that’s a problem with that specific path, rather than all bike paths.

    I don’t think there’ll be anywhere that’s ever all bike paths or all bike lanes – most places will end up with a combination (and probably still many streets with neither). From my perspective, either is better than nothing. However… I come back to wanting cycling to be accessible to anyone who wants to, whether they’re 10 or 70+. At least on higher-speed roads, I feel like the more separation between cars and bikes the better. Within city bounds, and on streets where traffic goes slowly anyway, I don’t think it matters as much which you choose, as long as it is clear that cycling is supported.

  6. Andreas 27/01/2010 at 2:23 pm #

    Mike, good awareness of where that is in London 😉 I think that is the problem with many cycle paths the re-integration with traffic is often dangerous.
    Phil, I see your point in saying that if we don’t push for more share the road integration then roads with no cycle paths will become even less cyclist friendly.
    MarkA, some good points raised. There is also that big debate of what needs to come first the infrastructure or the cyclist.

  7. thereverent 27/01/2010 at 3:01 pm #

    I prefer intergaration on most roads. I find where the upkeep of segregated cyclepaths very poor and they too often are badly designed. There are too many roads that are not wide enough for segregation and so I would rather drivers were use to cyclists sharing the road with them.

    Also the issue with a bad cyclepath means that drivers think that no cyclist should be on the road at that point.
    I was at Vauxhall cross not long ago and watched as a driver drove inches behind a cyclist hooting his horn and pointing at the cycle path. The cyclist had come from a direction where there was no cycle path and couldn’t get on to the one being pointed at because there was no dropped curb.

  8. Andreas 27/01/2010 at 4:22 pm #

    reverent, the number of crap cycle lanes websites are a testament to the bad upkeep of cycle paths. I think that is a big problem with London’s design. Having become so built up and so centred on cars its hard now to start switching things over to cyclists. Doing so will unfortunately largely be at the expense of car drivers. Whether it should negatively effect them or not is another massive argument entirely.

  9. Tim 27/01/2010 at 5:02 pm #

    Best to learn to share safely on the narrow, by in large, London Streets as others have said. Any new super highways etc though should cater for cyclists in separate ways. It will be interesting to see development around my part of East London. I live a short distance from the Olympic Park to be!

  10. Adam Edwards 27/01/2010 at 9:55 pm #

    The more cycle lanes the better and if that means losing road space for cars, so be it. Why are planners obsessed with maintaining space for an unsustainable form of transport?

    Interesting to see the way Paris is taking three lanes in each direction boulevards and changing them to one lane for bikes, one lane for buses and one lane for cars. There’s an example just out site the Gare du Nord.

    This could be applied to quite a number of the major routes into London. It would be far more effective at getting people out of cars on to buses (which would be a lot faster) than the congestion charge. Imagine how much nicer Kingsway or Regent Street could be.

    I suspect not everyone will agree!


  11. George 28/01/2010 at 8:03 am #

    I voted against because
    1. They tend not to go the most direct (and on a bike, I want to minimise distance, to get to my destination quickly)
    2. They tend not to have a lot of room, it can be hard to pass other cyclists.
    3. They fill up with rubbish. Road sweepers can’t get down them.

  12. Mike 28/01/2010 at 11:24 am #

    Matt – “I’d argue that’s a problem with that specific path, rather than all bike paths”

    I didn’t choose the example path though 🙂

    My point was that this path is particularly bad, but all segregated routes do is segregate BETWEEN junctions. At the junctions they dump cyclists in odd positions relative to the traffic. The Tavistock Rd path is in fact trying to remedy this (the staggered nature of the junction really doesn’t help, cf Drayton Park/Holloway Road Junction)

    You are segregated until you get to the place where the most accidents occur – the junction. So why bother segregating?

    Oh my god – am I actually arguing for non-mandatory cycle lanes? Oops.

  13. Joby 31/01/2010 at 12:21 pm #

    Having just come back from cycling along Route 5 in North Wales – if all cycle routes / paths / lanes can be made to this standard, I’d be more than happy to stay segregated.

  14. Chris B 01/02/2010 at 6:07 pm #

    Cycle lanes are 2 to 3 times as dangerous as riding on the highway (John Franklin and others) because, as has been pointed out, most collisions happen at junctions and all cycle lanes do is create more junctions and/or put cyclists at a position where motorists don’t expect to see a cyclist. We have to lobby for a change in the law (the EU directive) which makes motorists automatically liable when they hit pedestrians or cyclists. This would make the motorist drive more intelligently (a hard task I know!) and give respect to vulnerable road users. The CTC campaign “safety in numbers” is also helpful, but will gain momentum only if new cyclists are confident about riding with other traffic, so, I suppose, more cycle training will help.

  15. Ali 03/02/2010 at 9:21 am #

    Good article from John Franklin on cycle lanes:

  16. Alex 14/06/2010 at 9:55 pm #

    MOre and more cyclists are being killed every year because of wreckless drivers colliding with them. With the recent snow that britain has had there are more pot – holes than ever, cyclists swerve out to avoid these pot holes and are being hit by drivers, some even lost their lives due to this so i think that that cycling lanes should be created.

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