A tale of two bridges – path width

A local politician recently decided to stir up the hornets nest that is cycling on the Green Dragon bridge.  This bridge is the last crossing of the River Cam in the north east of the city and a vital link for pedestrians and cyclists traveling across the city (the bridge is unsuitable for motor traffic).  Some people believe it is simply too narrow for cycling on, others believe that it ‘works’ because most cyclists are considerate and with no prospect of widening or replacement we should just get on with it.

Advisory no cycling signs on Green Dragon bridge north ramps

Advisory no cycling signs on Green Dragon bridge north ramp

Tempers are probably frayed because some believe that cycling on this bridge is illegal. At the end of the bridge is a tatty array of signs ‘NO CYCLING’ ‘CYCLISTS DISMOUNT’ which being on a blue background are advisory.  The bridge has a width of 2.3m (ramps are wider) and has a peak flow of around 250 bicycles an hour in the morning peak (more on this in a later post).  The combination of poor signage and a narrow path is causing avoidable problems here, as in many other places.  Pedestrians don’t like shared use, cyclists don’t like shared use and motorists don’t like shared use, so why do we continue to build it?

The Dutch don’t do shared use paths.  They have a cycle track width of (generally) 2.5m for one way and 4m for two way[Hembrow].  I’ve not looked up guidance for UK infrastructure, let’s learn from the best of the Dutch experience.

So I am dismayed that the initial plans drawn up by WS Atkins for the Ely Southern Bypass show a 2m shared use path.  (Check out the video of the bypass that replaces the roar of traffic with peaceful music.)

Excerpt from proposals for Ely station road underpass

Excerpt from proposals for Ely Station Road underpass

What was a two lane road has been narrowed to about one and a half lanes and a sub-standard shared use path squeezed in.  Note also the sharp angles on the path so there is space for ghost islands on the road!  All we need is some ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs and a forest of bollards on the path to keep out cargo bikes and pushchairs and this could be a showcase of dismal UK design.  There will be complaints if this is built as shown.

Fortunately Ely Cycling Campaign are on the case, who have a ‘Go Dutch‘ strategy for infrastructure. There are no details yet but they are seeking to use the approximate 3.5m width of the removed road lane for pedestrians and cycles.  I look forward to seeing the amended designs!