Bicycle markings in the middle of a road in a small Bedfordshire town have attracted the attention of the national press, with the Daily Mail asking ‘Is this Britain’s dumbest cycle lane?’ The answer to that question is an emphatic ‘no’ – because it isn’t a cycle lane at all. However the fact it is assumed to be one does perhaps highlight ignorance about road signs and markings related to cycling, even among bike riders themselves.
The Daily Mail, along with other newspapers such as the Daily Mirror and London freesheet Metro, had picked up a report on the Biggleswade Chronicle website in which a cyclist expressed his bewilderment about road markings showing bikes that had been painted on the street where he lives, Stotfold Road in Arlesey, Bedfordshire, as shown in a picture accompanying that article.
According to the article, martial arts teacher Pete Hollands, who has lived in the area for two decades, believes that the location of the cycle symbols, close to the broken white line in the centre of the road, was due to a mistake on the part of contractors Amey, working on behalf of Central Bedfordshire Council.
“I’m a fitness trainer and a keen cyclist myself so I’m always in favour of improving routes and access for bicycles,” he said.
“But these signs are very strange – some of the time there are cars parked on either side of the road so they don’t look too bad then.
“But when the road is empty it looks like the council wants people just to cycle down the middle of the road, which doesn’t seem very safe!
“You tend to see cars parked at the sides of the road the most in the evenings, at night and early in the morning when people are back home from work.
“I think the workmen may have come here during those times and as they couldn’t move any of the vehicles they have just painted the symbols in the middle where there was space.”
As was pointed out in a comment to that article, however, the issue of cars being parked down one side of the street isn’t confined to those belonging to local residents – commuters parking their cars there while they head off to work via the local train station mean that it’s also an issue during the daytime.
By the time the story had been picked up by the Daily Mail and other outlets, the markings were being reported incorrectly as a ‘cycle lane’ or ‘cycle path’ whereas in fact they act both to alert motorists to the fact that cyclists are sharing the road with them as well as indicating the route to cyclists – the road forms part of the National Cycle Network – and keeps them away from the door zone of the parked cars.
In a comment to the Metro article, Cyclegaz, well known in the cycling community as a result of the YouTube videos he posts of helmet camera footage shot during his journeys in London, set the record straight.
“Is this a fail or is this a win?” he asked.
“For starters it isn't a cycle lane, a cycle lane must have boundary markings, dashed or solid white lines.
“A bicycle sign in the road can mean two things. 'cycle route, be aware of bicycles' or 'cyclists ride here'.
“Several councils in my local area have painted the cycle logo in the middle of the lane, to encourage cyclists to take a central position where it is unsafe for other vehicles to pass. This is standard cycling practise.
“Now the image appears to be cropped so you can't see the parked cars to the left of the shot, but if there are parked cars there all the time, what is the point in putting a cycle lane through them, what would be better is to put a cycle sign in the road where cyclists should pass parked cars. several ft out to avoid being doored,” he added.
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.