Is the Road Safe for Cycling? 5 Indicators to watch out for

As cycling continues to grow more popular around the world, many cities are racing to add bicycle infrastructure. Yet, not all bike paths are created equal. Some lanes are clearly marked and protected from vehicle traffic with trees or other barriers. Others cycle-ways are merely the shoulder of a high-speed highway and offer no protection from moving cars. Just because the sign says “bike lane” does not mean it’s safe for travel.

Increasingly, communities are striving to create cycle tracks that meet “Go Dutch” standards and prioritize safety for multiple forms of transit, not just cars. In the meantime, cyclists – particularly novice cyclists – should stay mindful of the safety of the roads they travel. Here are some things to look out for:

Demarcation

A safe bike lane looks different than a vehicle lane. This helps avoid any confusion about who should travel where. To create the distinction, bike lanes are frequently painted an off-color like green, blue or burgundy (yellow, however, is a less safe choice because it is so common drivers no longer notice it). The lanes might also have bicycle graphics stenciled on to their surface or be surrounded by a designated “buffer” space marked with diagonal lines.

Physical Barriers

Zebra Bump Lane Separators

Image credit: Zebra Lane Blockers via trafficsafetystore.com

Physically “protected” bike lanes are the safest. Bike lanes can be separated from vehicle lanes using concrete strips, planters, trees, or reflective posts. Many European cities including Barcelona and London – and recently Washington D.C. in the United States – have been adding Zebra Lane Blockers to existing bike lanes. The simple invention creates both a physical and visual barrier without much investment.

Speed Limit

Drivers on slower-paced, residential roads are already on the lookout for pedestrian crossings, children at play, and other interruptions. They are much more aware of their surroundings. Try to stay on roads marked 32 kilometers per hour (or 25 miles per hour in the United States) or under. Never attempt roads with speed limits above 35mph/58kph unless you are an advanced cyclist and the lane is clearly segregated from cars.

Parking

A significant number of bicycle crashes are caused by people inside parked cars, who carelessly open the door on a cyclist. This type of accident, called “dooring,” is all too common on roads where the bike lane is pushed right up against parallel parking (known as “door zones”). Bikers should look out for roads where they can avoid parallel parking or where they can ride contraflow without interfering with vehicle traffic. By traveling in the opposite direction, bikers are more visible to people inside parked cars. Some of the safest bike paths are placed between parallel parking and the sidewalk, allowing parked cars to serve as a buffer against vehicle traffic.

Intersections

Vehicle turns are another major source of bike accidents. Too often drivers will assume that if there’s no vehicle traffic, it must be safe to turn. This can be particularly problematic on two-way bike tracks – a driver might check for bikes traveling in one direction, but forget about the other. A truly safe bike path has mindful intersections. Safe infrastructure may include the bike lanes that extend through the intersection with dashed lines, “shared” turning lanes accessible to both cars and cyclists, and separate traffic signals for cycle traffic.

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Advice for New Cyclists – A Brief Guide

Taking up cycling is an exceptionally liberating experience that makes for a good hobby, sport, exercise, and alternative means of transportation all rolled into one. Cycling does not discriminate and can be taken up by people from all ages and walks of life.

Cycling as a means of exercise helps to reduce the chances of getting chronic illnesses such as diabetes, and cardiovascular basis. In addition, the regular exercise that cycling can provide as well as the healthy dose of sunshine you get when cycling outdoors will help to boost your sense of well being.

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Dutch Style Roundabouts Planned for London

London’s cycling commissioner has recently said that roundabouts in the style of those used in the Netherlands to separate cyclists from motorists could be implemented in London as soon as next year.

Trials of the layout are taking place at a research laboratory in Berkshire.

However, as they stand the roundabouts do not yet meet all regulatory requirements.

But Andrew Gilligan said if the trials continued to go well they could be seen in 2014.

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Derby Velodrome Project Underway

Plans to build a new state of the art velodrome and sports arena in Derby have finally been put into action.

The new project will cost approximately £28m and will be funded by Sport England and Derby city council. The sports centre will include a gym and a 12-court sports hall as well as a 250m cycling track.

Concerns of over expenditure have resulted in some protest from Labour Councillors.

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Roadshare Law Campaigns in Scotland

Cyclists in Scotland are now campaigning for safety improvements on roads, as well as motorists being held more accountable for accidents.

As it stands, the UK is a part of five countries in Europe that does not have laws based on “strict liability”.

Campaigners, including the mother of a 32-year-old Edinburgh man killed in a collision with a lorry in 2011, have argued that stricter regulations would improve road safety and be instrumental in cutting down road traffic accidents.

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London Cycling Scheme Opposed By Motorist Groups

A group representing car users in London has reacted to the announcement of new plans, calling it “Simply Bonkers”.

Roger Lawson of the Alliance of British Drivers has said that the organisation is opposed to the new plans due to it favours cyclists.

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Oxford Council Providing Free Cycling Lessons

Residents of Oxford are now being encouraged to take advantage of the new cycle training, provided free by Oxford City Council. This is in order to help those who live in Oxford to navigate the invariably tricky travel routes within the city.

Oxford City Council has teamed up with Oxford County Council to create the scheme, with the overall goal being to “increase confidence on the road”.

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London Recieves £913m for Cycling Scheme

London is receiving a £913m investment plan in the realm of transport, part of which is a cross-rail system for bikes.

The route, expected to open in 2016, will span 15 miles, from suburbs to central London, to Barking.

The cycle paths will be segregated in a similar way to the Dutch system in areas such as  the Victoria Embankment and the Westway flyover.

However, only £300m of the funding is available at the moment, as Mayor Boris Johnson has announced that the funding will be reviewed in 2015.

He has also said that the government will see massive economic benefits from the scheme.

The announcement of the scheme has sparked a huge amount of excitement from various cycling groups, however many are sceptical due to the funding.

Only part of this is budgeted for at present – this and other schemes will depend on the government grant to TfL staying static, as if not the government will be forced to make cuts in other areas.

The London Assembly were enthusiastic about the plan, however some are saying that £913m is not enough funding.

This is due to the fact that increased cycling and pedestrianisation will result in certain junctions, notorious for being dangerous, will have to be redesigned.

The announcement also revealed that electric bikes will be used during a trial run to see how they work within the city, with public electric bike hiringfacilities throughout the city.

Mr Johnson, talking to the BBC, said: “I want to make it normal, something for everyone, something you feel comfortable doing in your ordinary clothes. Our new routes will give people the confidence to get in the saddle.

The mayor has also expressed his support for the scheme, and his overall plan to improve the environment of London.

Transport for London (TfL) is also considering trials for eye-level traffic signals for cyclists, as well as roundabouts similar to those in the Netherlands, which are more suited and much safer for cyclists.

Additional measures being investigated include encouraging haulage companies to undertake out-of-hours deliveries and monitoring the experience of cities which have banned lorries from certain parts.

One concern, raised by Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee is that the funding simply will not be enough to fully complete the scheme, saying that this level f funding is not an advancement on previous years, and its impact will become less and less effective as production continues.

The first “Quietways” could open next year, with the improved Superhighways and the central section of “bike Crossrail” expected to be completed by 2016.

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Hockley Viaduct Opened for Cyclists

Fresh of Team GB’s recent pursuit win in Minsk, Dani King, part of the victorious team recently opened a cycle path across a former railway viaduct in her home county of Hampshire.

The path in question is the Hockley viaduct, which runs along the M3 close to Winchester,  has been out of use for over 50 years, as the line it was a part of was disused due to the Beeching cuts.

The viaduct currently stands at 614 metres in length, with 33 spans. The refurbishment was funded by the Winchester council, Hampshire County Council and Sustrans, at a cost of approximately £1 million.

The newly refurbished Hockley viaduct will be incorporated into National cycle route 23, which currently runs from Reading through to the Isle of Wight.

King, who won gold in the team pursuit at London 2012 joined the new Wiggle Honda team for the 2013 season.

When asked about the new viaduct, King said: “It means a lot to me to get more people on bikes and keeping fit and healthy locally. It’s great to have such a long cycle route off-road.”

Many people have since voiced their concerns about how the viaduct will be accessed by thosew ho are travelling by car, however traffic will be limited in the viaduct due to pedestrianisation.

Studying the viaduct, local research revealed earlier this month that motorists heading into Winchester are making use of the parking in the nearby lay by, and leaving their cars in favour of using either cycling or walking to get into the city.

However this in itself is causing some congestion, which has resulted in the councils portfolio holder for planning and transport, Vicki Weston, to implementing a maximum waiting time of four hours, with no return for eight hours, between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Saturday.

 

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Land Rover Bikes Partnering With The Aquinas Foundation

The Aquinas Foundation, based in Nottingham, is an organisation providing young people with activities, workshops and recreational programmes in order to inspire them to achieve their goals.

The foundation primarily focuses on youth at school, working with schools to tackle problems such as youth crime, truancy and illiteracy. The Aquinas Foundation understand that school can be an unappealing prospect to a large number of young people, therefore they offer a range of activities, from various sporting initiatives, cooking lessons with Michelin Star chefs and theatre workshops. This list of is ever expanding to allow every type of young person to fully enjoy their education and their school experience.

Aquinas work to tackle the initial stages of the issues in primary schools, develop initiatives for students in secondary schools and then invite these students to become ambassadors for Aquinas by sharing their experiences with those students who require the most help and guidance.

In November 2012, Jermaine Jenas teamed up with The Aquinas Foundation and visited the Bullwell Academy in Nottingham. On behalf of the Aquinas Foundation, Jermaine Jenas provided Bullwell Academy with Land Rover mountain bikes, which will be awarded to students as a prize for a positive achievement award at the end of the year.

This is part of the cycling initiative that The Aquinas Foundation provides for young people, which has been gaining more and more publicity. This is due in no small part to the success of Team GB at the 2012 Olympic Games, which has since resulted in a massive rise in cycling and cycle schemes across all age groups.

Land Rover Bikes are also a part of the Government backed Ride to Work Scheme enabling anyone in employment to obtain a bike and any other associated accessories (such as helmet, lock, lights etc) at a substantially reduced price – typical savings are around 43% with some able to save almost 50%.

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