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Research reveals extent of ill-feeling on flagship shared route

The extent of ill-feeling between users of the Bristol and Path Railway Path, an off-highway route shared by cyclists and pedestrians, has been revealed in academic research presented at the Royal Geographical Society in London – with more than a third of users surveyed keeping their frustration to themselves.

Hannah Delaney, a PhD candidate at the University of the West of England in Bristol, surveyed 600 users of the path and found that 52.3 per cent of users said that they had experienced frustration as a result of other people using the route on the day they were questioned.

Of those respondents, three in four – 76.6 per cent – said that they kept their feelings to themselves and did not confront the other users.

Speaking at an international conference at the Royal Geographical Society’s Kensington headquarters, hosted in partnership with the Institute of British Geographers, Ms Delaney said: “Government guidelines for shared-use paths are based on research that focuses on the observable conflicts that take place and thus the consensus is that conflict between users is rare.

“However, this research shows that when shared path relations are examined in more detail there are a great deal of frustrations bubbling beneath the surface.

“The survey highlights the difficulty of designing facilities for a mix of mode users. The majority of cyclists would like more information and guidance provided to all users on how to share the path, whereas some pedestrians would prefer to be separated from cyclists. There was also a feeling that some cyclists need to slow down.”

While cyclists were more likely to experience frustration as a result of other people using the path, they were also the most common cause of complaint among those surveyed, but fewer than four in ten respondents — 37.9 per cent – said that they would enjoy their journeys more if people on foot and on bike were physically segregated.

Ms Delaney plans to continue her research by conducting in-depth interviews with users of the path, as well as videoing their journeys, to better understand the sources of frustration for both cyclists and pedestrians.

Earlier this year, the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, which manages the path, said it was “not the place for reckless speed cycling” after a 9-year-old boy suffered a broken collarbone after being hit by a cyclist on the shared-use route.

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.

53 comments

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BigDummy [314 posts] 3 years ago
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These results could be easily replicated by asking any human beings, engaged in any activity of any sort, anywhere, whether they had experienced frustration as a result of other people doing things.

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Yennings [237 posts] 3 years ago
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Having used that path a few times in the recent past, I was shocked at how quickly many serious cyclists were riding on what is supposed to be a shared route. Felt like they were using it as a high-speed alternative to the train commute between Bristol and Bath. No bells to warn of impending danger, either. No wonder many pedestrians and more leisurely cyclists get annoyed.

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Mr Agreeable [183 posts] 3 years ago
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If 75% of affronted path users can't be bothered to say anything to the person who's offended them, this article's use of "hate" is probably the least appropriate deployment of the word since Marmite's marketing team got their yeasty brown digits on it

From the descriptions of the Railway Path online and in the local media you'd think it was a crime-ridden rubbish-strewn gutter, used mainly as a wheeled Cresta Run by slavering Strava fanatics, instead of a pleasant (if circuitous and sometimes busy) way to avoid Bristol's nightmare motor traffic. Thanks for adding to the hype.  41

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Paul M [363 posts] 3 years ago
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It sounds (and I hope I am right) like Ms Delaney established a proper scientific survey population, rather than sending out a tweet along the lines "Pedestrians who use the Bath-Bristol path - strong views about cyclists? Complete our survey!"

I guess the route is a victim of its own success. After all, most motorists absolutely loathe all other motorists on the road at the same time as them, don't they?

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ronin [279 posts] 3 years ago
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OK, so why do you need a PhD to understand that if something is coming towards you that is faster than you with the potential to cause you harm, you might not like it, or if you're moving along you don't want something to step out in front of you to impede you journey or to potential cause an accident?

This I'm sure would be the same if you asked car users about cyclists or cyclists about car users.

Generally, unless I'm playing with the kids on bikes in the park, I want to get to my destination as fast as possible and safely, not having to dodge pedestrians, so I'm not sure why a mixed cycle and pedestrian route would make sense (that's if bikes are looked at as a serious form of transport).

The rules should be set out clearly for everyone to understand, then at least you could base your dislike of 'the other' on something concrete.

Failing that, just put loads of signs up saying "Love thy neighbor as thyself"  21

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whars1 [58 posts] 3 years ago
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BigDummy wrote:

These results could be easily replicated by asking any human beings, engaged in any activity of any sort, anywhere, whether they had experienced frustration as a result of other people doing things.

Exactly, and "52.3 per cent of users said that they had experienced frustration" is technically a majority but hardly means hate......

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georgee [183 posts] 3 years ago
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Last time I used I vented my frustration but it was at some mug with his dog off the lead which ran around the corner towards me. He seemed genuinely suprised that someone could fine this an issue.

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step-hent [727 posts] 3 years ago
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whars1 wrote:
BigDummy wrote:

These results could be easily replicated by asking any human beings, engaged in any activity of any sort, anywhere, whether they had experienced frustration as a result of other people doing things.

Exactly, and "52.3 per cent of users said that they had experienced frustration" is technically a majority but hardly means hate......

I thought 52% was surprisingly low! They haven't chosen a high threshold for the respondents. If it was 'sufficient frustration to make you look for another route' that might be better - it needs something to set the bar. I'm a grumpy git on my commute, admittedly, but am frustrated/irritated daily by the actions of others - but if you ask me whether I'd rather take the train because of it, the answer would invariably be 'no way'.

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wrevilo [108 posts] 3 years ago
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Oh come on the headline is clearly being facetious.

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P3t3 [422 posts] 3 years ago
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Is this a parody or what? The daily mash already does the "new research out from the university of the bleeding obvious" articles.

The problems with the Bristol-Bath path are based on traffic density and maintenance. The tarmac strip is not wide enough for peak traffic flows it now sees. But for almost the whole path they could double the width of the tarmac strip and/or cut back the encroaching bushes that reduce its effective width.

With the density of mixed padestrian and cycle traffic it sees it should also be built with a footway and a cycleway, preferably with a mild curb to separate them and make it obvious which is which.

That it is so successful should be a beacon to the government about suppressed demand for facilities like these rather than calling out the "serious cyclists" who (surprise surprise) want to take advantage of this wonderful car free cycling environment.

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RedfishUK [159 posts] 3 years ago
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ronin wrote:

The rules should be set out clearly for everyone to understand, then at least you could base your dislike of 'the other' on something concrete.

I think they are..assuming they are the same as other shared paths including the tow paths I use...it is that cyclists have to give way to pedestrians and there is no expectation that they [ the pedestrians] will be behave like traffic, so they can and will be all over the place.

Personally, I try and remember this, although I do restrict my use of shared paths to an absolute minimum. And as payback I would like road traffic to show the same consideration..I'm aware we have someway to go.

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mrmo [2096 posts] 3 years ago
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welcome to the failed sustrans experiment shared use may have a place but it really isn't the solution.

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CanAmSteve [257 posts] 3 years ago
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Nice work - but let's move onto something important - ask me about those shoppers at Tesco!!!

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Paul_C [525 posts] 3 years ago
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is this some devious measure intended to get the path closed and turned into a tramway?

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Leodis [427 posts] 3 years ago
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Yennings wrote:

Having used that path a few times in the recent past, I was shocked at how quickly many serious cyclists were riding on what is supposed to be a shared route. Felt like they were using it as a high-speed alternative to the train commute between Bristol and Bath. No bells to warn of impending danger, either. No wonder many pedestrians and more leisurely cyclists get annoyed.

I tend to leave the bells for the pootlers, they seem to have a lot of them.

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vbvb [621 posts] 3 years ago
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Article suggests she's leaping to a shared-use = bad conclusion.

She ought to survey a similar situation overseas, to get a tabloid-free comparative element and help establish underlying causes of tension.

If people asked for an opinion reply with the one they read recently, but when offered segregation don't leap at it, there's maybe a more nuanced situation than a one-location study can unravel.

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JonSP [71 posts] 3 years ago
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Think you should rethink the alarmist headline, as nothing in the body of the report justifies the word 'hate'

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barbarus [514 posts] 3 years ago
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How depressing all round... Ultimately, all spaces are shared. It's up to us as human beings to work out how.

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BigAl68 [72 posts] 3 years ago
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I ride the path Bath to Bristol at 5am every week day and it's lovely as it's just me and a few other fairly fast moving commuters. I then return at 4pm and it's a busy multi use path and you go slower and try and respect the other users. There are plenty of nobbers however who do think 20mph plus is fine weaving between mums and kiddies. I get frustrated but it's a far nicer way to get to and from work than giving first my money on the train or bus. Think the article is a bit of tosh to be honest.

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sonyjim [47 posts] 3 years ago
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What's worse than all of this is that at the end of the bath end of the cycle way the cyclists have priority over the cars and the number of near misses I experience every day is amazing. Make the CYCLISTS give way and make the pathway a bit safer. Some of the cyclists just rocket out of the gate and go straight out in front of the cars and don't give them a chance.being a cyclist for more than 40 years I can why Sustrans have done this but it is wrong and somebody is going to get hurt soon

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truffy [650 posts] 3 years ago
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ronin wrote:

OK, so why do you need a PhD to understand ...

You don't need a PhD, it appears that Ms Delaney is using this as a means of getting a PhD. Which is a pretty depressing thought that anyone could obtain a PhD by conducting such 'research'.

As any fule kno, only positive results gain attention, so all you have to do is conduct your survey to get the 'right' results.

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truffy [650 posts] 3 years ago
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sonyjim wrote:

Make the CYCLISTS give way soon

It takes a brave man to voice opinions like that here.

sonyjim wrote:

somebody is going to get hurt soon

And no doubt the anti-motorist nazis here will have something to say about /that/!

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jazzdude [81 posts] 3 years ago
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So is it saying that cyclist hate pedestrians and vice versa or that all users hate all other users regardless of which mode? I can understand cyclists being frustrated by pedestrians because they don't stay on the correct side. Maybe some cyclists don't either but in my experience pedestrians tend to walk side by side occupying the full width and don't bother to move over until you've almost hit them when they scowl at you. My main issue is that the paths are shared and not separately dedicated. It's a Heath Robinson approach by the local authorities who don't have the funds to build proper cycle roads and we have accepted it just like everything else in rip-off britain.

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AnalogueAndy [30 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

the Railway Path..a crime-ridden rubbish-strewn gutter, used mainly as a wheeled Cresta Run by slavering Strava fanatics

That's the one  4

Today was a Classic case in point, last day of the school holidays, lots of young kids enjoying a day time ride, then come 'rush hour' they're joined by the Wacky Racers (wannabe speed freaks who should come-and-have-a-go-(at Odd Down)-if-they-think-they'  11 re-fast-enough.

It's not the 'Cycle Path' it's the Railway Path, the first - the one that led to the creation of Sustrans. It's a Shared Use Path, it's absolutely fantastic that it's now so heavily used and it's really not that hard to ride sensibly and get along with everyone (even dog walkers)  11

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Goldfever4 [389 posts] 3 years ago
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Some cyclists ride too fast, scaring peds

Some cyclists make questionable overtaking decisions

Some pedestrians create chicanes by walking in the same direction but on the other side of the path from another pedestrian

Some dog owners remove the lead and let their dog run around everywhere

All are true and all are stupid and unnecessary. Many users need to use their heads a bit more and consider the 'shared' aspect of the path. Some need to develop patience. Others need to take their dogs to a park!!!

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mrmo [2096 posts] 3 years ago
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sonyjim wrote:

What's worse than all of this is that at the end of the bath end of the cycle way the cyclists have priority over the cars and the number of near misses I experience every day is amazing. Make the CYCLISTS give way and make the pathway a bit safer.

I don't now the end so there may be a real issue,

Why should the motorists have priority over cyclists? Surely the drivers should be paying attention. i assume the markings are clear and the drivers know they should give way??

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CYvonne [3 posts] 3 years ago
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The conflicts on the Bristol Bath cycle/ railway path demonstrate the need for segregated cycle paths. Shared use paths are fine for leisure routes but are not acceptable as real commuter routes.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to travel by bike at 15+ mph without having to share with cars/busses/lorries.

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PhilRuss [397 posts] 3 years ago
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[[[[[ Yup. Bikes are quick----walkers are slow. Sustrans are remiss. And so are the local authority, surely. How much would the aforementioned raised kerb divider, and some clear signage, cost? Not the full answer to the congestion, but a start.
P.R.

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Initialised [330 posts] 3 years ago
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If bikes aren't allowed on motorways why are pedestrians allowed on cycleways?

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antigee [454 posts] 3 years ago
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shared use paths that have high volume of use shouldn't be held up as problems but successes - sadly where user conflict occurs it is then being used as an excuse for not providing better facilities - contrast this with problem roads with high traffic volumes where the outcome will be investment in the road sometimes simply to protect drivers from the dangers they create by their own impatience

as a half cynical aside would be interesting to establish what proportion of those complaining about cyclists on shared paths drive to use the facility and are possibly simply extending their road hatred of cyclists to those they meet on shared paths  4

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