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Review of evidence casts doubt on safety benefits of cycle lanes and Advanced Stop Lines too

Cutting vehicle speeds, particularly at junctions, and improved road surfaces would be the single most effective measures to increase the safety of cyclists on Britain's roads concludes a new report, Infrastructure and Cyclist Safety, commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The report which brings together all the existing data on cycliing infrastructure in the UK also says that it will take decades of sustained investment to achieve a functional urban cycle network across the country and a willingness to prioritise cycle traffic – the report also warns that piecemeal implementation of cycling infrastructure "is unlikely to be satisfactory".

Slowing down traffic, particularly at junctions, is identified as having the biggest likely impact on reducing cycling casualties in multi vehicle collisions says the report which also points out that this would also reduce casualties for all road users. Suggested methods of achieving this include physical traffic calming, redesigning urban streets in both their appearance and the way they are designed to be used by pedestrians and the wider use of 20mph speed limits.

When it comes to reducing single vehicle collisions involving cyclists the report highlights improvements to road surfaces as being the best way to lower the rate of cycle casualties although interestingly it is slippery road surfaces rather than potholes which it identifies as the biggest hazard.

However it is what the report has to say about other aspects of Britain's cycling infrastructure that will give food for thought to all sides in the debate on how best to provide the right environment for cycling in Britain.

According to the report's authors there is little evidence for the safety benefits of cycle lanes, or advanced stop lines; and while segregated cycle lanes can offer greater safety to cyclists the points at which they connect with the road network can be so dangerous that they negate the safety benefit of segregation, these are just some of the conclusions of a report in to infrastructure and cycle safety commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT).

  • ASL - limited data, but limited evidence of benefit particularly associated with junctions. Notwithstanding this lack of evidence, ASLs may provide a priority for cyclists and might be applicable where there are heavy flows of right-turning cyclists.
  • Cycle lanes - There is little evidence in the UK that marked cycle lanes provide a safety benefit, although they may achieve other objectives. This lack of evident benefit may, however, represent a lack of quality and continuity in implementation. There is also extremely limited experimentation with, and no reported studies of, kerbed cycle lanes in the UK.
  • Segregated Cycle lanes – Providing segregated networks may reduce risk to cyclists in general, although evidence suggests that the points at which segregated networks intersect with highways can be relatively high-risk, sometimes of sufficient magnitude to offset any safety benefits of removing cyclists from the carriageway. However may be applicable particularly in rural settings.

Measures suggested as effective for improving safety at junctions include cycle pre-signals, continuing cycling lanes across junctions, raised cycle lanes at junctions, installing traffic signals at major roundabouts, and changing the design of roundabouts to slow traffic and to change the turning geometry to a sharper angle as on European roundabouts (thus eliminating the driver's blindspot). All of these measures have says the report had a measureable effect on improving safety for cyclists in other European countries most notably the Netherlands.

Interestingly while the report can seemingly find evidence for the safety benefits fo cycle lanes in other European countries it can find little evidence for their effectiveness in Britain -  as the report notes "a lack of quality" may be a factor in that. Perhaps tellingly Britain's best know network of urban cycle lanes London's Barclays Cycle Superhighways is currently the focus of much criticism with poor implementation and the failure to heed safety advice - including many of the measures this report highlighs as being particularly effective - being blamed by many for the recent deaths of two cyclists at Bow roundabout.

The report also has interesting things to say about the design and implementation of both traffic calming measures and cycling infrastructure. While the authors say that traffic calming in general is beneficial to cyclists, they also advise road designers to be aware that features such as road narrowing and speed cushions have the potential for creating additional conflict between cyclists and other road users. Those designing infrastructure for cyclists also need to ensure that it meets cyclists needs otherwise warns the report it risks making a problem worse not better

Infrastructure and Cyclist Safety is part of a wider research project, Road User Safety and Cycling being carried out by the DfT and involved researchers from the Transport Research Laboratory reviewing all the existing literature on cycling infrastructure in the UK. The report can be downloaded from here on the Department for Transport website.

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.

40 comments

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Gashead [31 posts] 4 years ago
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If ASLs were used properly they might be of use but when they are not occupied by cars with motorbikes in front or solely motorcycles the majority of cyclist's stop in front of them anyway. To make matters worse it always seems to be the slower cyclists who cycle by me to occupy pole position two yards in front of the line. By the time I have caught the slow ones I can't pass because the motorbikes are roaring through then the cars are squeezing by.

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slow-cyclo [72 posts] 4 years ago
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I tend to feel that ASL's encourage cyclists to squeeze through tiny gaps which if you arrive mid way through the red means that you massively increase the likelihood of getting pinned by an idiot driver who hasn't looked around him.

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Municipal Waste [238 posts] 4 years ago
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I for one DO NOT want to see the widespread introduction of 20mph speed limits. I particularly do not like the traffic calming solutions often implemented in 20mph zones where the road is narrowed and a speed hump put in to make one lane of traffic give way to the other. It simply makes people even more irate and increases wear and tear on vehicles.

I don't believe that 20mph speed limits are the answer to reducing the speed at which motorists approach junctions. The reason people are coming up to junctions fast is because the brakes on cars are just amazing these days so there is little need to slow down early. The fact that the car is doing 20mph just means the driver can leave braking even later. I also think that motorists will leave braking even later as a way to keep momentum as they're now being forced to drive more slowly.

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dave atkinson [6201 posts] 4 years ago
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So what *is* the solution then? or are you saying there's no solution?

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WolfieSmith [1314 posts] 4 years ago
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5 year DfT report costing X millions works out that get this - driving more slowly can save lives. Since I'm on a one man mission to introduce 20 mph to my school run (which will mean for drivers the inconvenience of dropping from 40mph to 30mph in real terms..) this revelatory piece of research will boost my cause no end. MBO's (Master of the Bleeding Obvious) all round at the DfT!

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Municipal Waste [238 posts] 4 years ago
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The solution that works well for me is cultural change, not force.

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 4 years ago
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Municipal Waste wrote:

The solution that works well for me is cultural change, not force.

Impossible to argue with that really - or think of a way to bring it about either for that matter

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dave atkinson [6201 posts] 4 years ago
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cultural change can be effected through relevant legislation, targeted publicity explaining the risks/benefits and, perhaps most importantly, obvious enforcement. i would cite drink driving as an example. there's a definite cultural shift there over the last two decades. but it started with communication and proper enforcement.

i'm in favour of 20mph limits for residential roads. not 'traffic calming', but real limits, properly and publicly enforced, with proper communication about the reasons behind it. like drink driving, it would probably take at least a decade for the message to get across. but that's the only way i can envisage any kind of cultural change that isn't a change towards more selfish road behaviour.

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Oh heck... [47 posts] 4 years ago
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20 mph limits are a good idea I feel. If for no other reason, as someone else has already said, it might make the default speed 30 mph instead of 40...

Education is a great thing, but not wholly effective. Anti-speeding campaigns have been running for years, ditto anti-mobile phone use whilst driving, but we still see idiots by the thousand using them.

Average speed cameras for enforcement would get my vote. No physical obstructions to create conflict, and substantial fines on transgressors to pay for it.

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JohnS [198 posts] 4 years ago
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Reply to mad_scot_rider (is the reply function working?):

Simply enforcing the current rules properly would be a good start.

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OldRidgeback [2567 posts] 4 years ago
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Proper enforcement of existing rules would make a huge improvement. There are far too many drivers at the wheel while under the influence of drugs and the police have had few tools to address this problem. The 20mph limit for residential reas and around schools is a good one. The problem with many traffic calming measures is that they enrage vehicle drivers and are therefore utterly counter-productive.

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Coleman [335 posts] 4 years ago
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I wonder if TfL was able to find one ASL where the law was enforced.

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robbieC [60 posts] 4 years ago
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one way to start enforcing ASL and cycling rules is to target drivers that Tfl have a direct influence over - bus drivers and taxi drivers. It is usually these people that you come into conflict with in London (and I guess oop north too)the public carriage office and the PSV people have the tools. I also think that light goods vehicle drivers should be more regulated.

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Chuck [530 posts] 4 years ago
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Proper enforcement of existing rules would make a huge improvement. There are far too many drivers at the wheel while under the influence of drugs and the police have had few tools to address this problem.

Sure that's a problem, but I think the real change and challenge is going to be with the mainstream rather than those at the edges, like people driving around under the influence. They're high profile, but it's the attiudes towards driving of society in general that needs to change in this country.

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SammyG [274 posts] 4 years ago
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I have managed to improve my safety while commuting by using cycle paths for about 16 miles of my commute.

My commute is now 5 miles longer though..  39

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SideBurn [890 posts] 4 years ago
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robbieC mentions light goods vehicles...Having been a professional driver for many years I can state with authority that there is a lot of pressure both from management and colleagues to get the job done and get back to the depot. However penalties are almost exclusively targeted at the driver. What I would like to see is when a professional driver is penalised so should the company; unless they can demonstrate that the time allowed to do the route is realistic without breaking every rule in the book. I used to treat speed limits as advisory, unload the vehicle whilst the taco was on break and still be significantly slower than some! I regularly see light vans being driven like they are on some sort of race track; surely this is a major cause of incidents.

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 4 years ago
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@Sideburn -
Seems like a very reasonable point - people under pressure to perform or risk their jobs could easily cut corners - both metaphorically & literally

@JohnS -
No - the 'Reply' function is busted

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 4 years ago
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A lot of junctions and roundabouts are designed with a large turn radius so that motorists can maintain a high speed through them. Simple to design them otherwise.

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Karbon Kev [688 posts] 4 years ago
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They can go slow and still hit a cyclist. Better driving instruction plus a change in the National Driving test incorporating training for other road users ie cyclists and horse riders is needed, decades overdue imo.

Then you might see a decline in the needless deaths of cyclists.

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Simon E [2617 posts] 4 years ago
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SammyG wrote:

I have managed to improve my safety while commuting by using cycle paths for about 16 miles of my commute.

My commute is now 5 miles longer though..  39

Longer is good-er  3

My longer commute is still entirely on-road but uses quieter country lanes, so nicer than what feels like 'fencing on wheels' on the days when I use the busy roads through town to work (though a part of me enjoys the cut-and-thrust).

As for vans, I'd like to see all commercial vehicles display the business name so we'd have a better idea of who to complain to.

Needless road deaths will only reduce when others either (1) fear for their license or livelihood or (2) respect the safety of others adequately. I'd say the authorities have a better chance of the first option working than the second. Similarly, I'd also suggest that Chuck is right, in that many drivers seem to think they 'own the road' and cyclists etc are an inconvenience. This idea really needs to change.

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Rob Benington [16 posts] 4 years ago
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But its not collisions that cause the largest number of cycling injuries. While collisions cause the most serious, slowing vehicles will not prevent single user and non-collision incidents. This link reports numbers of emergency admissions to hopsital beds (not attendances at emergency departments) that are viewed as some of the most serious injuries.

http://www.hesonline.nhs.uk/Ease/servlet/ContentServer?siteID=1937&categ...

Slowing vehicles is expected to encourage more people onto the roads on thier bikes, which is a good thing, from our point of view.

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jazzdude [70 posts] 4 years ago
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I can't imagine any situation where narrowing a road would make it safer for any road user. We need wider roads, not narrower ones. As a cyclist and motorist I am frustrated when encountering situations where road users are forced together by road narrowing either due to the natural obstacles or because some idiot highway engineer thinks it's a good idea to put bollards int he way. as for the type of motorist that is most dangerous, in my experience it's the impatient mother on school run who thinks that cyclists don;t belong on the road. And the main problem with cycle paths that run adjacent to carriageways is that the cycle path always gives way to side turning whereas it should be the other was round, obviously. Until these issues are addressed, we're screwed!

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jazzdude [70 posts] 4 years ago
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And yes the problem with roundabouts is they are designed to allow motor traffic to negotiate them at much too high speeds. That's what makes them so dangerous for both cyclists and other motor vehicles.

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giff77 [1221 posts] 4 years ago
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Finally the DfT is seeing sense! Will we actually see some of their thoughts implemented though. I'm all for 20mph limits that are enforced. You could rip out the pinch points as well for a start. Fed up getting pinched  2 redesign of the roundabouts is good as well.

@MunicipleWaste - granted improvements in brakes is a good thing. But, the improvements in car brakes do not appear to be protecting cyclists. So, all the more for urban 20mph

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WolfieSmith [1314 posts] 4 years ago
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I actually got done for speeding recently - a speed camera in Cumbria on an A road caught me doing 68 in a 60. It was my first ever threat of points in 28 years of clean driving so I opted for the speed awareness course instead.

Some had been there before, some were even fellow cyclists but what was most interesting was that out of 32 people attending 28 of us were caught by cameras in urban and suburban roads exceeding the 30 mph limit.

Other nuggets from the lesson were that over 50% of speeding offences are within 3 miles of home. I live in a very quiet area nowhere near a main road so it's all local residents and the occasional builders van doing the speeding.

The other nugget was the major different in survival rates when being hit at 30mph and 35mph. It's 80% survival for 30mph and just 50% for 35mph. Something to do with the momentum at 35mph taking you the extra foot over the car roof and onto the road head first.

I would like all B roads and country roads to be dropped from 60mph to 50mph - for the sake of walkers horse riders and cyclists. If we can meet motorists half way by agreeing as part of the highway code to single out as soon as possible then we'll both benefit.

As a club rider we're having a little battle with some motorists at present over riding 2 abreast. As you know the highway code allows this on "quiet roads". Since quiet roads no longer exist in the UK - at anytime of the day or night it seems - I would rather have it re written that we single out than lose the freedom of being able to chat to someone as you ride.

20mph cannot come fast enough for me and other residents - and as I said - I live in a very quiet neighbourhood! I imagine parts of the SE have now reached Mad Max level...

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Driver Protest Union [22 posts] 4 years ago
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Slowing large pieces of machinery down is a no brainer, of course that would save a few cyclists. Err but since there are about 30 million of these heavy machines, the cost to the economy would kill more but that is conveniently omitted from the sums isn't it!

When will people work out that exposed humans among heavy fast moving machinery operated by some pretty ordinary folk is er.................very dangerous. So much so that if it were private it would all be banned under elf.n.safety. So cycling is...........er pretty dangerous and this is born out by the fact that the rise in fatals this year is all accounted for by......cyclists. Of course everyone has a right to put themselves amongst this heavy plant and die I suppose! Fault and blame is not the issue here. When you have abandoned your family to knock on St Peter's Gates he will say 'come in my son it was all the driver's fault' and that will make you very happy.

But before you go apoplectic with me for stating the obvious, let me say 'I am stating the obvious'. Thank God only a tiny minority cycle seriously and even they have to give up and turn to the.............car eventually.

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pepita1 [175 posts] 4 years ago
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Take the actual driving of cars away from people. Have every vehicle be operated by a computer or on a track. People can't be trusted to be conscientious--it's always "Me first" because "I am in a bigger hurry than you and what I'm doing is more important than what you are doing." Think of it could possibly get rid of the car insurance thieves and traffic jams & accidents could become things of the past!!  4

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Simon E [2617 posts] 4 years ago
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Driver Protest Union wrote:

Slowing large pieces of machinery down is a no brainer, of course that would save a few cyclists. Err but since there are about 30 million of these heavy machines, the cost to the economy would kill more but that is conveniently omitted from the sums isn't it!

Utter bollocks. As is the rest of your trolling post. You are not "stating the obvious" but merely putting forward a point of view that does nothing to help reduce the deaths and injuries on the roads with no evidence to back it up.

You also FAIL to realise that most cyclists are also drivers and are very much aware of experience in the driver's seat. Unlike too many ignorant, selfish motorists, they can manage to drive safely and considerately around other cyclists without knocking them off their bikes.

Considerate driving doesn't just benefit cyclists, but everyone on the road. You deliberately ignore the number of car occupants killed each year - it's a big one. I bet they didn't want to meet St. Peter quite so soon either! And what about the cost to the economy of the deaths and injuries that you consider an acceptable 'occupational hazard'? Get back under that bridge.

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Campag_10 [153 posts] 4 years ago
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Whilst changing the driving test to include awareness of cyclists would have an effect, it will take many years to achieve critical mass. We have to remember that many road users in some parts of the country passed their test in another country -e.g. drivers of LHD HGVs and recent migrants from the EU.

I'm not surprised that the review of evidence doesn't show that segregation has been beneficial in the UK - the piecemeal implementation of cycle lanes and low modal share make for very thin evidence.

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skippy [408 posts] 4 years ago
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Driver attitude is the major problem everywhere ! Consider the fact that I am pedalling at 35kph in a 30kph zone and can’t go faster as the car & trailer in front of me are limiting my speed , so for safety I am about 5m behind drafting and a car comes up alongside me on this narrow winding lane . Of course I ease the pace and the next car barrels into this gap for about 50m then takes a right hand turn with the other car . Followed both up ther driveway to their houses . First of the cars was slowest getting out so approached him and asked for an explanation . Attitude was F…Off , you are on private property , went next door and the young woman admitted she thought it safe since the other car had passed me .

Apologised that she didn’t see me in time and was very concerned that I planned to call the Polizei since she hadn’t meant any harm as she was hurrying to get to the family lunch . Lost for words when I reminded her that in hitting me she would have not reached her lunch let alone been able to eat when the ambulance or mortuary vehicle departed .

Would the Polizei do anything ? No injury , no interest !

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