Is this a sign of the future? Welcome to Cambridge and its new cycling-friendly roundabout, inspired by the Netherlands’ superb provision for people-powered transport.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Britain had a network of proper cycling routes in our towns and cities?
Sadly, the reality today is far worse. I’m a confident cyclist but many are intimidated by heavy traffic and put off by badly designed cycle routes built on the cheap. It’s infuriating when ill-infomed people question a cyclist’s right to use the road rather than one of these monstrosities.
Take my closest cycle route, opened 10 years ago to provide a route from the outskirts of Chalfont St Giles to Chalfonts Community College on the edge of Chalfont St Peter – so barely a mile. I gave it 6 out of 10 when it opened in a blogpost. We call it the expressway – somewhat ironically.
This is an early section of the route, barely wider than my handlebars. Yet you could encounter walkers, people with prams and joggers here.
Even worse, there is a sharp slope down onto the road so if you misjudge things while avoiding a walker, you could fall onto the road. (There was once a ford here, and the road often floods as a result. The footpath is raised to keep it dry.)
Later, things get better. Briefly.
Don’t bother building up too much speed though. You’ll see a sharp bend ahead:
And here comes the sharp turn. Keep your speed down, and watch out for anyone coming the same way:
This is where my then nine year old son came a cropper a few years ago. He was out for the first time on his new wonderful Islabikes Beinn. He had no idea how tight the bend was, and fell off by the tree in the centre of the photo. There were tears and a broken reflector.
If you have negotiated that hazard, you now need to cross the road as the council didn’t attempt to build a path from here. After all, why can’t cyclists just use the pavement?
This is why they shouldn’t have to. A very narrow pavement, shared with walkers, dogs and a lot of overgrown vegetation. This is an obstacle course, not a transport route.
One final example of this:
Can you imagine a road that requires car drivers to get out and push their vehicle? That’s what this so-called route is telling cyclists to do. Just to negotiate a junction. Yet a cyclist on the road would race past without a thought. A cycling route that is worse than the road makes no sense. (A path between nearby Amersham on the Hill and Little Chalfont is even worse – you have to give way at lots of side roads and driveways.)
I hope the tide is turning, and governments and councils realise the benefits of proper provision for cyclists. We’re spending well over £100 billion on HS2. A fraction of that money would transform cycling in Britain, with enormous health and environmental benefits. Let’s make it happen.