Sustrans tells cyclists using Strava and other apps to keep off shared use paths

Charity that runs National Cycle Network reissues code of conduct and underlines that pedestrians have priority

by Simon_MacMichael   December 14, 2012  

Bath Bristol Bike Path- riding in the snow.JPG

British Cycling and CTC have joined Sustrans in calling on cyclists not to use apps such as Strava that allow them to log personal best times or virtually compete against other riders on traffic free routes that are also used by walkers. Saying that such routes “should be safe and accessible for the entire community,” Sustrans has reissued its code of conduct for the National Cycle Network (NCN), which it develops and maintains, emphasising that cyclists should give priority to those on foot.

The Bristol-based charity’s revision of the code, backed by British Cycling and CTC, follows an incident shown on last week’s BBC One documentary The War on Britain’s Roads in which a cyclist collided with a woman he was passing from behind on a shared use path.

While it can be argued that the woman suddenly stepped sideways without looking behind her and into the path of the cyclist who had altered his line to ride round her, Sustrans’ stance on the issue, made in a tweet immediately the incident was screened and reiterated today through the revised code, is unequivocal – pedestrians have priority at all times.

Nor is it just people on foot who are menaced by cyclists riding too quickly on off-road paths - others on bikes can suffer too, as we reported in October when a woman was knocked off her bike by another female cyclist on the Bristol to Bath Bike Path.

As Sustrans points out, despite its name much of the NCN is on shared, traffic free paths, intended to be used by cyclists, pedestrians and people with disabilities alike. British Cycling and CTC say that cyclists who want to train or ride fast should do so elsewhere, suggesting that they find “appropriate safe routes on rural roads.”

While it is acknowledged that actual incidents on walking and cycling routes is uncommon, Sustrans says that “irresponsible behaviour by a small minority can be unsettling.”

The charity’s chief executive, Malcolm Shepherd, said: “Traffic-free walking and cycling paths help many people get around safely and enjoyably without the need for a car.  They are great for a family walk, teaching a child to cycle or for people with disabilities to get about without the added danger of traffic.

“Unfortunately, a minority of people on bikes choose to speed as fast as they can on these routes, which makes them less safe for everyone else.  These paths are a real asset for the entire community, which is why we want all cyclists to respect this Code of Conduct.

“As cyclists campaign for greater respect on our roads, it’s vital those of us using bicycles give respect to everyone using traffic-free paths.”

The revised Code of Conduct for cyclists on traffic-free paths reads:

* give way to pedestrians and wheelchair users and take care around horse-riders leaving them plenty of room, especially when approaching from behind

* be courteous and patient with pedestrians and other path users who are moving more slowly than you – shared paths are for sharing, not speeding

* slow down as needed when space is limited or if you cannot see clearly ahead

* be particularly careful at junctions, bends, entrances onto the path, or any other ‘blind spots’ where people (including children) could appear in front of you without warning

* keep to your side of any dividing line

* carry a bell and use it or an audible greeting – avoid surprising people, or horses

* however, don’t assume people can see or hear you – remember that many people are hard of hearing or visually impaired

* in dull and dark weather make sure you have lights so you can be seen.
 

32 user comments

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This is sustrans trying to distract from how rubbish most of their network is, isn't it?

posted by Al__S [624 posts]
14th December 2012 - 8:52

10 Likes

I was in the process of agreeing with Sustrans as I have seen plenty of examples where someone is clearly using a shared path for training or at least as a safer place to push on, and has worried pedestrians in doing so.

Then I remembered the number of times I've had to come to a stop by meandering dog or been nearly taken out by a dog on 15' of extended lead. Hows about issuing revised codes for them?

I'm a dog owner so it's nothing to do with disliking them. Truth is that many NCN routes have quickly become linear dog toilets.

That said, it's also worth noting that many older pedestrians, who have every right to be there, just do not hear you coming and perceive relatively low speeds as 'flying past'. Not a huge amount can be done about this other than a bit of consideration.

Which is the answer to many of life's problems.

posted by Cranky Acid [38 posts]
14th December 2012 - 9:06

10 Likes

Cranky Acid wrote:
I was in the process of agreeing with Sustrans as I have seen plenty of examples where someone is clearly using a shared path for training or at least as a safer place to push on, and has worried pedestrians in doing so.

Then I remembered the number of times I've had to come to a stop by meandering dog or been nearly taken out by a dog on 15' of extended lead. Hows about issuing revised codes for them?

I'm a dog owner so it's nothing to do with disliking them. Truth is that many NCN routes have quickly become linear dog toilets.

That said, it's also worth noting that many older pedestrians, who have every right to be there, just do not hear you coming and perceive relatively low speeds as 'flying past'. Not a huge amount can be done about this other than a bit of consideration.

Which is the answer to many of life's problems.

Agreed. A bit of common sense comes into play too, a thing that some users of shared paths lack.

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

badback's picture

posted by badback [273 posts]
14th December 2012 - 9:33

7 Likes

Why can't Sustrans ask Strava to automatically delete segments that appear on shared-use routes?

There'd still be idiots racing along them, but a little less encouragement might help.

nowasps's picture

posted by nowasps [262 posts]
14th December 2012 - 10:11

8 Likes

Where I live there are some Strava sections that are almost impossible to ride safely at the speeds the top 10 are doing, unless you get up at 6am and hope for the best. We have a shared cycle path at the bottom of my road that is supposed to cope with bikes and pedestrians in both directions and has no give way signs when it crosses side roads near the junction with the main road. People cycling to work have more sense than to use it, as do most of the schoolchildren for whom it was presumably designed.

New Forester

posted by Forester [97 posts]
14th December 2012 - 10:25

6 Likes

I recently clocked about a minute slower than my quickest time on a 3-ish minute segment near me - when I checked, it went through a busy junction where I had been sat at red lights - I do wonder whether all the fast times were done on the green.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3427 posts]
14th December 2012 - 10:45

10 Likes

I used to use the bit between bitton and bath at quiet times, and was near the top on strava. I dont use any shared path now.

You see on the road everyone is expected to be observant and predictable, not move out without looking etc. (and not let a dog run free on the road). On cycle paths/shared paths people (including bikes) are all over the shop. Personally I think all users should be reminded about how to use paths safely. At the moment that is not the case so anything over 10mph is too fast to be safe.- Strava would be insane on most shared paths

I go on the ring road, A roads etc and I get an equal amount of grief from cars who think I should be on the path, even people on bike forums think I am asking for it on these straight wide roads. It seems the only acceptable way to get about is either very slowly or drive (not gonna happen)

Off topic: So British cycling and CTC say- "cyclists who want to train or ride fast should do so elsewhere, suggesting that they find “appropriate safe routes on rural roads.”-" Are they saying I should just ride the lanes?? I dont really understand what they mean. How should I get from A to B quickly- drive?

posted by ilovemytinbred [164 posts]
14th December 2012 - 11:21

8 Likes

equal respect, common sense, but there are always the odd one or two who don't think, (cyclists and pedestrians)it's not rocket science.

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [989 posts]
14th December 2012 - 11:35

9 Likes

I get grief now and again from cars saying I should be on the 'cycle-path' if anything they should be called what they are, "Dog s**t path" . I have had too many near misses and one incident when a cyclist not looking where he was going rode into me. The people who walk down these paths wearing black clothing in the dark get me. Maybe pedestrians having lights or at least light coloured or reflective clothing at night could be part of the code of conduct? But the dog mess is the main problem; for everyone.

posted by SideBurn [858 posts]
14th December 2012 - 11:46

8 Likes

kiwimike wrote:
The actual time you'd spend passing others on a ride like Bath-Bristol must be - what - 0.01% of the total ride? If someone wants to scorch it, 99.99% of the time they are doing no harm.

in the middle of the day or at night, maybe. peak times and weekends the BB is pretty busy

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7472 posts]
14th December 2012 - 11:48

8 Likes

Maybe its my selective reading, but I constantly get cycling related fundraising requests through from Sustrans, but whenever they are in the press they seem to place the blame of every incident ever at the tyres of cyclists and put the onus on cyclists to be the default bad guys and that we should acquiesce to everybody and everything in every situation, even if they are 100% in the right. I'm beginning to get pissed off with them to be honest.

If any representative of Sustrans happens to be reading this, I can guarantee that I will no longer donate to your little club, not a penny. I know that's hardly going to bring the empire crumbling down but I will be encouraging people I know to avoid funding them in any way as well.

posted by farrell [1565 posts]
14th December 2012 - 12:47

9 Likes

I couldnt agree more with Sustrans!

This is exactly the reason I DONT support CYCLE LANES.

The highway code suggests the use of cycle lanes is dependant on your speed and ability so if your a roadie capable of handling a bike and averaging speeds that would put pedestrians at danger, then there is no way you should be on a cycle lane 'shared' with others.

Strava will always increase the chance of this happening and its users have to take blame for this....there is the facility to report 'dangerous' sections so that you can get a time recorded for them, therefore removing the competitve section....I have this locally on a downhill road that leads to a major crossroads controlled by traffic lights where cyclists have runover pedestrians and been run over by cars.

I hate using shared lanes like the one shown on the programme but then I do shout loudly in advance and reduce my speed even if seen or prepare to stop if not. Would you continue without caution, past a car pulling out fo a junction if you thought they didnt see you? I wouldnt.

That said, the guy in the programme was unlucky as was the walker, its was more situational but he couldve prevented it full stop. Caution.

Get back on the roads where we belong and less of the tripe about cycle lanes and the Dutch system...this is Britain!

posted by Farky [180 posts]
14th December 2012 - 12:51

12 Likes

"Can someone show me where exactly they say in the 'revised' code of conduct "Don't use any app that encourages you to ride faster or with less care than you otherwise would"?"

Here's the source:
http://www.sustrans.org.uk/resources/in-the-news/code-of-conduct

"And where is the evidence that there has been any increase in bike/ped collisions due to Strava or any other app? this sounds like a simple error of judgement / lack of anticipation, caught on film, is being blamed on something when there's no proof whatsoever."

The data is not in the article but you can probably get it from Sustrans.

"How about Sustrans tell cyclists "Don't be dicks - slow down around others"? And tell walkers "This is a shared path, so don't do anything erratic, and keep your bloody yappy dog on a short lead"?"

That's exactly what Sustrans are saying to cyclists but in politer terms. As for walkers - they have right of way. Agree about dogs on long leads though.

posted by horizontal dropout [162 posts]
14th December 2012 - 13:22

9 Likes

I bet Sebastian Langeveld is wishing he had not rode on the cyclepath Devil (Tour of Flanders '12) Bloody pedestrians!

posted by SideBurn [858 posts]
14th December 2012 - 13:58

9 Likes

This issue isn't something against cycle paths, it's an argument against shared use cycle paths- there wouldn't be an issue if the paths were wide with marked pedestrian and cycle sections. Problem is so much sustrans funded infrastucture is terrible- take the "10,000th mile" section south of Cambridge, so narrow that you cannot (slowly) pass a pedestrian if there's another pedestrian or cyclist coming the other way. Yet I use it as it cuts 1-2km from my commute.

posted by Al__S [624 posts]
14th December 2012 - 14:36

7 Likes

There's 'guidance' that you're fine below 18mph on a shared path, but I think that's way too high.
http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dft.gov.uk/consul...

posted by mbrads72 [132 posts]
14th December 2012 - 15:00

8 Likes

SideBurn wrote:
I bet Sebastian Langeveld is wishing he had not rode on the cyclepath Devil (Tour of Flanders '12) Bloody pedestrians!

By coincidence I did 75mins on the turbo this am whilst watching Flanders 2012 and the pedestrian does the classic panic then flee move, rather reminded me of the swop sides move couple's often do when on shared use tracks as one tinkles one's bell when approaching from behind, they often bump into each other, then return to where they started from, patience is required, lots of it, when on any sort of shared use facility. Off course at this time of year the nonsense of cyclists on footways (as opposed to off road tracks) becomes clear as they are nearly all untreated.

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [228 posts]
14th December 2012 - 15:58

10 Likes

BTW, a reminder for new or potential recumbent riders that recumbents scare horses witless. I have to get off and walk, or wait until they've passed. I've seen horses clearly on the verge of rearing and it was obviously my bike.

posted by Recumbenteer [151 posts]
14th December 2012 - 15:59

10 Likes

Shared paths and some particularly stupid and obnoxious pedestrians.

An amusing story of bicycles and bigots, (with a happy ending):
http://charltonchampion.co.uk/2011/01/04/olympics-cycle-path-for-woolwic...

posted by Recumbenteer [151 posts]
14th December 2012 - 16:06

11 Likes

Sustrans advice/code for riding on the cycle network doesn't sound unreasonable to me. Yes, walkers and dog owners can be annoying and are at fault sometimes... aren't we all?

We're unhappy about high vehicle speeds in close proximity to cyclists, yet when it's suggested we slow down and/or be more considerate to those even more vulnerable than ourselves on shared use paths, some seem to find that unpalatable.

I regularly use the BB path with my 2 young children - on the school run in the week, and at the weekend for recreational rides. When you have small people in your care it brings home the damage that any collision would cause (regardless of who's at fault).

Shouldn't we be taking the same advice we give to car drivers – we just need to allow sufficient travel time so we can chill out and go at speeds that respect everyone's needs, not just our own?

BillyV

posted by bumsonbikes [23 posts]
14th December 2012 - 17:25

10 Likes

With the new guidelines and Walkers being given priority, shouldn't the National Cycle Network be renamed the National Walking Network?

And if the most vulnerable parties are always give priority and rights, why do I not get that warm feeling when I am cycling on the road?

I feel like I am a second class citizen on cycle paths as well as the road!

Now I am one that slows down and gives warning to horses, walkers etc...But why do people insist on taking up the whole path? why when you shout warning do they question why you don't have a bell? and are generally angry that you are warning them that you are behind! why when you shout a warning do the people on the left turn to the right and those on the right turn to the left essentially causing you to stop completely?

Why do I see no guidelines for walkers?

ie This is a shared path, please be considerate of cyclists?

john.berry's picture

posted by john.berry [21 posts]
14th December 2012 - 18:02

11 Likes

Love the kind of fierce, often blind, loyalty that Strava inspires amongst many roadies here.

Wonder how people would feel if all speed guns and street cameras were removed and car drivers had apps letting them compete for segments of roads.

Took me just a month of use to realise how Strava was subtly altering my cycling behaviour, making even a simple commute risky for both me and other road users. Removed the app, deleted account, and never went back.

~rbx

rbx's picture

posted by rbx [243 posts]
14th December 2012 - 19:03

6 Likes

Can pedestrians also be advised to stop wearing their headphones on shared paths, as I ring my bell; but their music stops them hearing it.

posted by ps [11 posts]
14th December 2012 - 21:43

10 Likes

Horse riders and cyclists share the road uneasily here; my high-viz jacket, which affords me some protection from drivers, means I have to be very careful approaching horse riders, especially from behind. Asking the rider if it's OK to pass produces a grateful response 9 times out of 10. A group of 4 of us came across avery agitated horse on a country lane recently and had to dismount and wait for the rider to get it calmed down. The cause? a pair of cyclists going the opposite way who just zipped past out of the blue. Of course, in the New Forest the horse riders can go anywhere while cyclists are grudgingly given some very disjointed and easy cycle tracks and attacked regularly in the local paper.

New Forester

posted by Forester [97 posts]
15th December 2012 - 5:32

13 Likes

Perhaps it is a stupid idea to have a public app that encourages people to ride ever faster on public paths or public roads. Statistically it is going to encourage rider's worse side, and lead to more accidents.
Logically, if the apps cause this statistical change, then the apps should be legally liable.
Before it comes to that, at least public ways and steep downhills could be removed from the apps. Not so difficult to do with a little bit of computer work.

Charlie Horse

posted by ch [109 posts]
15th December 2012 - 6:52

10 Likes

I agree with Sustrans, when we use shared lanes then we have to do the best we can to share the facilities and look after each other. Yes pedestrians sometimes behave erratically, but they're not used to looking behind them before they change direction the way a cyclist used to travelling on the road does.

I think in general the majority of cyclists do seek to take care of the pedestrians (putting up with the occassional annoyances and delays) in the same way that we ask car drivers to accept the occasional short delay when we are on the roads. I've never used Strada but, as others have already suggested, to me it sounds totally inappropriate for use on shared ped/cycle paths which surely could be easily removed from their database.

OllyC's picture

posted by OllyC [35 posts]
15th December 2012 - 12:24

8 Likes

"Now I am one that slows down and gives warning to horses, walkers etc...But why do people insist on taking up the whole path? why when you shout warning do they question why you don't have a bell? and are generally angry that you are warning them that you are behind! why when you shout a warning do the people on the left turn to the right and those on the right turn to the left essentially causing you to stop completely? "

That's just the way it is on sidewalks and paths. That is never going to change. Accept the reality, let go of your anger, enjoy the human feeling of caringly slowing down to near full stop whenever you are near a pedestrian. The karma may protect in this life, or it may not, but you are still a better person.

Charlie Horse

posted by ch [109 posts]
15th December 2012 - 12:47

7 Likes

I agree with Sustrans' position on Strava as I think that it, and similar apps, encourage questinable behaviour in a lot of circumstances. However, their revised code of conduct does something of a dis-service to Sustrans' aims. Sustrans want to see less jouneys being made by car and more by bike or other sutanable means and this will only happen if we have infrastructure that allows cyclists to travel quickly enough to make the bicycle a viable alternative to the car. The Bristol/Bath route is a great example. For a commuter living in Bath and working in Bristol their daily jouney is about 15 miles. Personally I would only cycle this distance daily if I could average 15mph or so. Whilst this won't sound like much to many on here remember that there are points on the route where you need to slow down for narrow sections/crossings/gates or just to pass walkers or slower cyclists. This means that at points 25+mph might be required to make using the path a viable alternative to driving. Sustrans' focus should be on buiding and maintaining infrastructure that allows these speeds to be safely achieved rather than just trying to slow everybody down. Otherwise we end up with routes for dog walkers and wobbly weekend cyclists (who all need to be accomodated too) that aren't, in reality, suitable as a method of getting from A to B.

posted by Matt eaton [452 posts]
17th December 2012 - 12:11

7 Likes

I must say I feel very ambiguous about some of these routes, for example I not infrequently use the route across N Wales from Bangor to Rhyl. The time it takes me to do this varies (in similar weather conditions, it is E-W along the coast so wind is a big factor) from a little over two hours, at night in winter, to well over three and a half hours, Wkend daytime summer. This route is the only practicable safe way across N Wales for anything other than motorists. So is an international trunk route for cyclists etc.
Despite the recognition of this and tremendous work and endeavour to provide it, it is far from satisfactory as a through route.
The numerous bridges on it seem designed to slow cyclists as much as possible with cost saving sharp and blind corners. In addition many of the seafront sections weave between lamp posts and some of it occupies sections where fisherman put down there rods and leave car doors open (which is at least safer than opening them as you pass). Some of it passes through throngs of crowds on the sea front - especially in summer.
I think the only realistic solution here is to use a lane of the A55 exclusively for cyclists and other long distance walkers etc.

Also as far as I'am aware these routes are public highways; so the highway code applies. Much though I dislike over signage I think this fact should be reinforced - especially KEEP LEFT, as it is often other cyclists wobbling about all over the place who are a problem.
In addition, as a trunk route it should have priority over any other roads crossing it.

I also agree with what others saying, concerning the fact that if you use the road next to one of these routes, it not only tends to make motorists irate that you are not on the cycleway, but more dangerous because there are less cyclists on it.

While I do recognise that, like any other road user, I can't expect to have everything my way. On the other hand they often seem designed pretty much exclusively for dog walkers (with attendant trip wires) and children learning to ride.
Rather than using a cycle as transport.

posted by Giles Pargiter [42 posts]
11th January 2013 - 23:38

7 Likes

Again, this is dumping the problem on the poor cyclist (all else being equal).
There is a sign on the path showing that it is 'shared use with cyclists.' Why is it implied that this sign is not for the benefit of pedestrians to know that they, not the cyclist, need to look out for cyclists coming, and not walk or side-step randomly? Or at least simply look before doing so? It really isn't rocket science.
The cyclist is implied to be looking carefully.
Pedestrians, having likely grown-up in a non-cycle-respecting culture, are implied to not care about their part of that 'sharing' responsibility.

Why is this refusal to take responsibility tolerated?
Will our cyclist-hostile culture ever change?

Until we can challenge such irresponsible pedestrians' behaviour, can we at least build proper cycle paths?

They're lovely to use, and when they exist, I for one, give myself no right to use pedestrian facilities, regardless of the law.
When they don't exist, I have less sympathy - but always cycle considerately and look-out for and predict others behaviour, with large safety margins.

Thus I, like I assume many cyclists, take MORE than my fair share of responsibility whilst getting from A to B. So I have no sympathy for those whose slack I'm taking up when they complain...

Forget whatever sexy gear you have: it's the man not the machine (unless you're a certain top-flight pro cyclist in which case it's the drugs). I cycle on performance-REDUCING drugs, if anything!

posted by Chainring-Annih... [7 posts]
12th January 2013 - 15:14

7 Likes