Saturday 4 October 2008

Pedestrians sharing with cyclists

"Look out! Pedestrians on the cycle-path. A situation so
uncommon that it has a warning sign
"Let op! Voetgangers op fietspad" - "Look out! Pedestrians on the cycle-path". This situation is so unusual that this cycle-path has a unique sign to warn cyclists that pedestrians sometimes use this cycle-path in considerable numbers.

This is the only one of these signs that I've ever seen in the Netherlands. I found it about 35 km east of my home.

There have never been pedestrians on this cycle-path when I've ridden in this direction, but they are apparently quite numerous when there is a football match in progress. The local football stadium is to the right of the water; that's why pedestrians sometimes use this path.

The Dutch don't build "shared use paths" where pedestrians and cyclists are expected to use the same space. It was made quite clear to us on the 2006 Study Tour just how much of a problem this caused in the one place in Den Haag where it was tried. The experiment has not been repeated.

Remote cycle-paths in the countryside with very light use by pedestrians don't have separate walking paths, on these the few people who walk along them use the space in the same way as pedestrians walk on countryside roads without pedestrian paths in other countries. However, anywhere that there will be significant numbers of pedestrians, they're provided with a separate path so that there is no conflict with cyclists.

Why does the UK persist in forcing pedestrians and cyclists to share, even though it continues to cause many problems ?

One might have though that shared use paths being universally unpopular and the regular conflict caused by them might have made planners twig that this doesn't work, but shared use continues to be proposed and built. Pedestrians and cyclists are not the same. They do not have the same requirements. This simply causes conflict and unpleasantness. Occasionally it's even dangerous. So why does it continue ? Is it just cheapness ? It's obviously cheaper to build one path than two. When cycling is so undervalued as it is in the UK, perhaps the planners are oblivious to the deleterious effects of making cycling less appealing. It's quite obvious that they've not realised that if all effects are added together, providing for cycling costs less than not providing for cycling.

Planning "Shared Use Paths" is a continuation of planning for very low cycle usage, rather than planning for cycling to grow. If you want cycling to grow, you need to provide space for cyclists. Low aspirations do not lead to growth because they do not provide for growth. To get growth you need properly segregated and good quality cycle paths which are not shared with pedestrians as well as properly designed segregation of modes without cycle-paths, which allow direct and convenient journeys to be made. That is what is found all across the Netherlands, with the exception of the spot where the photo was taken.

Later blog posts expand more on the subject of Shared Use Paths.

I'm always on the lookout for unusual signs, such as the equivalent of Cyclists Dismount, which I've still not found.


Multiparty Democracy Today said...

You mentioned that where a low enough volume of pedestrians is present, sidewalks rarely exist, they just take whatever position cycling has, or the left side of the road if there is no cycling area. What is that limit of pedestrian volume and if there is a limit in the Netherlands for how many cyclists can coexist on a cycle path, what is that limit.

David Hembrow said...

Restless: There are official figures in the CROW manual but I don't have it in front of me at the moment. As I recall, it works out on an average width cycle-path as something like one pedestrian per several minutes cycling. In reality you rarely encounter pedestrians. See further posts on this subject.