Sustrans has condemned a new cycle lane in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, as “incredibly dangerous” because it fails to meet minimum width standards – but a local councillor says that cyclists should be “grateful” that it has been built at all.
The cycle lane in question is on the A370 Somerset Avenue as it heads towards the roundabout at Junction 21 of the M5 motorway and is just 1 metre 2 centimetres wide.
That’s around half the 2 metre width recommended by the Department for Transport (DfT) on busy roads, or those where the speed limit is 40mph or more.
What’s more, as a BBC Points West video report posted to its Facebook page shows, the cycle lane, around 200 metres long, lies between the central reservation and the outside lane of the eastbound carriageway – if you look closely at this drawing, you can see it.
The beginning of the cycle lane can be seen in this photo taken by local cyclist Peter Rogers and added to CycleStreets.net’s Photomap.
It starts by a set of traffic lights that have been installed as part of the £15 million Weston Package which, according to North Somerset Council, is aimed at providing “transport improvements to benefit car and motorcycle drivers, bus passengers, cyclists and pedestrians in Weston-super-Mare and Worle.”
The Google Street View image above, taken before those works were carried out, shows the location where the cycle lane starts - just where the silver van to the right of the picture is.
Jason Torrance, director of policy at Sustrans, told the BBC: "It's very clearly dangerous. I would ask the people who built this and designed it, 'would they cycle on there with their kids?' The almost certain answer would be no.
"This alleged cycle lane is incredibly dangerous. Putting something like this in is worse than not having it at all."
According to a report on the BBC News Bristol website, DfT guidelines are that cycle lanes should be at least 3 metres wide, although that is the recommended minimum width for shared use paths on the footway.
However, for cycle lanes on the road, according to guidelines published in 2008 by the DfT in a Local Transport Note on Cycle Infrastructure Design:
Cycle lanes should be 2 metres wide on busy roads, or where traffic is travelling in excess of 40 mph. A minimum width of 1.5 metres may be generally acceptable on roads with a 30 mph limit. For cycle feeder lanes to advanced stop line arrangements, a minimum width of 1.2m may be acceptable. Cycle lanes less than 1.2 metres wide cannot easily accommodate tricycles or childcarrying cycle trailers wholly within the lane.
A spokesman for the DfT told the BBC: "Local councils are best placed to find local solutions and we only offer guidance to minimum widths for cycle lanes."
But North Somerset Council’s deputy leader, Elfan Ap Rees, insisted: "We couldn't change it if we wanted to,” and said cyclists should be “grateful” the cycle lane had been put there.
"I think the cyclists need to bear in mind that the approach to this area has no cycleway at all, indeed it doesn't even have a pavement, so I think they need to be grateful for the short length that we've actually managed to put in,” he added.
The Conservative councillor, who in 2012 said that until cyclists “are better behaved I can understand why there is opposition to new cycletrack schemes,” was asked by the BBC if he would ride a bike on the Weston Avenue cycle lane himself.
“I would, yes. I wouldn't have a problem with it." But when BBC reporter Andy Howard followed up that question with, “Do you want to come and have a go now?” Mr Ap Rees replied, “Not today, thank you.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.