Tuesday 14 October 2008

Subjective safety in Cambridge

We used to live in Cambridge in the UK. While there is a low rate of cycling by Dutch standards, this city has the highest rate of cycling in the English speaking world. Unfortunately, they don't pay much attention to what it would take to increase subjective safety to the level where everyone will cycle, and as the results of a poll in the local paper ("Do you think cycling through Cambridge is dangerous?") show, it's a place where many people don't feel safe to cycle.

The poll was linked to an article that the Cambridge Evening News ran yesterday about a dangerous set of road works in the city which have been causing problems for cyclists for months. I wonder how many people have given up cycling across this busy bridge as a result of the works ?

Cyclists are given no choice but to ride in front of cars using the restrictions and are being hassled by drivers as they cross the bridge. The bridge is steep enough to cause many cyclists to slow quite considerably, increasing the conflict caused by this arrangement.

I can't imagine such designed in conflict being a feature of road works in this country. I've pointed out before, on the Cambridge Cycling Campaign website amongst other places that road works here reduce conflict with cyclists in order to make sure that cyclists keep on cycling (that was five different links to five different examples), even if it means having to put up temporary bridges which maintain cycle routes while the usual route is cut off due to works.

Take a look at the following videos for two examples. In both cases the cycle path is being resurfaced. In this one the bus lane has been converted for cyclists only for the duration of the works:

And in this case half the dual carriageway has been set aside for bikes for the duration of the works:

If the intention is to maintain and perhaps grow a cycling culture, it's really no good to let people get hassled off the road.

It's not unique, of course. There is a past history of road works in Cambridge causing problems for cyclists, and of new developments leaving a mess behind.

We organise study tours on which we show off the excellent infrastructure in the Netherlands. Where there are road works you'll not see cyclists pushed into dangerous positions. You'll also see an awful lot of cyclists because very few people feel that cycling is unsafe here.


Kevin Love said...

"This city has the highest rate of cycling in the English-speaking world."

Interesting claim.

I see from Wikipedia that Cambridge's population is 108,000.

In Ontario that barely qualifies as a city.

There are Toronto neighbourhoods with larger populations that have higher rates of bicycle use.

Anonymous said...

Kevin: In the UK the definition of a city is different, and is usually based on the granting of a Royal Charter, which is why there are places like St. David's in wales with less then 2000 people that are called a city. Strange but true. Mind you, it'd be a good wheeze to try and get a few more people to ride a bike and get them on top of the table...

I well remember the bog-awful situation with roadworks in the UK, here in Germany it's a lot better, and there is at least an understanding that bikes need decent bike lanes even when there are. Usually we're catered for.

Harry Lieben said...

Well of course cyclist are (..) treated friendly by motorists in the Netherlands. When us cyclists got hassled too much, we'd go travelling by car as well and the traffic jam would totally out of control.

cocosolis said...

Not only do roadworks here in the UK ignore the needs of cyclists, but the outcome is often a re-designed road layout that includes features that, while solving a problem for motorists, creates one for cyclists. For instance, a junction where two lanes diverge, gets an 'island' added, and pedestrian traffic lights. It means cyclists have to get in lane much earlier, at a point when traffic tends to flow faster. Many have taken to using the pedestrian crossing, and the pavement.