Saturday, 3 December 2011

Cycling The Wrong Way

One way streets. Some locales have lots and others few. Many force longer journeys on the road user to get from A to B but may be required due to street design, the need to limit traffic flow or access. The extra distance is often of little concern to a motorist but could be a significant extra distance, as a proportion of short urban journeys for the cyclist. This could conceivably be seen as a barrier to such journeys.

It has been argued one of the attractions of cycling in an urban environment is the permeability it allows to move through a built up area in comparison to motorised vehicles. This can be met in a number of ways; dedicated cycle lanes and paths, shared use paths and spaces and traffic calmed street with barriers to other traffic for example. A further method, widely used in other countries with good results, is to allow cyclists to travel the 'wrong way' along one way streets using a contraflow system. This has been used in the UK in a limited number of areas with some success but is not widespread. 

Some cyclists may well choose to ignore the current law and take 'illegal' short cuts via one way streets anyway, recognising the benefit of a shorter more direct route. While being understandable this cannot be condoned in my view as it will do the image of cyclists no favours and would be very hard to defend in the event of an accident. Luckily, there may be an extension of the cycling contraflow streets coming soon.

The Department for Transport (DfT) document - Signing the Way (Oct 2011) - will give councils the powers, or rather will relax the hoops to jump through, to make such changes possible. There are also some other changes which are designed to aid cycling such as: allowing easier official entry to ASL's, being able to cycle over Zebra crossings along certain routes and the use of pre signals at traffic lights permitting cyclists to start before other traffic. The full details are on pages 33-37 of the PDF document.

While councils will have this new power, it does not put any duty on them to make such changes. So what can be done if such measures would bring cycling benefit to a locale? Easy. Get in touch with your local councillor, cycling forum or council cycling officer and make the case for change known. It may not happen overnight but the more pressure there is the harder it will be to ignore.

Good luck and good campaigning!

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