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Lanes are useful but need to be wider say campaigners

As the country tries to encourage more people out onto their bikes for the benefit of their health and the environment, a new study could put people off getting back into the saddle.

According to the study by Leeds and Bolton universities cyclists are in much more danger of being hit by cars on roads that include cycle lanes because they encourage motorists to drive closer when overtaking bicycles.

The study says that on roads without cycle lanes, drivers “consciously perform an overtaking manoeuvre”. On roads with cycle lanes, they treat the space between the centre line and the outside edge of the cycle lane as exclusively their territory and make less adjustment for cyclists.

The research was carried out using a mounted camcorder on the rear rack of a bicycle and rode on three roads that each had sections with and without cycle lanes. On all three roads, drivers gave cyclists less room where there was a cycle lane. The greatest difference was recorded on the A6 near Garstang, Lancashire, where cars passed 7in closer when the cyclist was in a cycle lane.

The study challenges the approach taken by many local authorities to promote cycling and suggests that reducing the speed and volume of traffic would be more effective in improving cycle safety than painting narrow cycle lanes and cycle symbols on their roads.

The Government recommends that cycle lanes should be at least 1.5 metres wide and very few are.

Roger Geffen, Campaigns & Policy Manager for the CTC welcomed the research and said: “Cycle lanes are very useful as long as they are good - if the cycle lane is an adequate width. If you’re going to do cycle lanes then you have got to do them well.

“I think the study is offers some very useful findings for local transport authorities to have a look at because while it’s great that so many are doing something and promoting cycling they do need to realise you have to do it well or it can be counter productive, particularly for novice cyclists who find the roads intimidating.

“There is growing evidence that non cyclists main concern for not cycling is a lack of cycle facilities but then when they get out on the roads this is forgotten and their greatest concern is volume of traffic.

“Lots of local authorities are very good at persuading people to take it up but not so good for when they actually have.”

A recent study from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), identifying the enormous potential for more motorists to take up cycling, showed that what deters them are inconsiderate drivers, heavy traffic, lorries, the poor state of roads and risk of an accident. More cycle lanes, safer roads and less traffic topped the wish list of cycling motorists.

To get an idea of how they do things in other countries check out David Hembrow's A view from the cycle path blog about how they do things in Holland - you might even spot a road.cc sticker.
 

7 comments

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CotterPin [62 posts] 7 years ago
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I was overtaken very closely by a car once on a road with no bike lanes. When I pointed this out to the driver (a rare thing for me to do) he replied, "you don't need much space - bike lanes are only this" (spreading his hands the width of a typical bike lane) "wide."

So not only are they dangerous where they do exist, they are dangerous where they don't exist!

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OldRidgeback [2727 posts] 7 years ago
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Hmm, I tend to think the many car drivers whip past with the bare minimum of clearance no matter the road. That's been my experience anyway. BMW drivers rank amongst the worst offenders.

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robike [25 posts] 7 years ago
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I find the most terrifying overtakes are by motorcycles, the worst (come too close) have L-plates.

Where possible I follow the line most cars would have their nearside (left) wheel, deferring to the cycle lane only when it benefits me (eg. to overtake on the inside).

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Fringe [1047 posts] 7 years ago
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kinda obvious really, theres a section of road out near Gordano/Portishead round these parts that has no road markings whatsoever and cars drivers are always driving noticeably slower, esp. with oncoming cars.. goes to show how much we rely on them white lines to keep us where we think we should be.

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OldRidgeback [2727 posts] 7 years ago
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robike - Bear in mind that someone on a motorbike has a greater spatial awareness of a cyclist when overtaking because the rider is that much closer and the rider will be able to judge the required overtaking distances far more accurately than a car driver as a result. It's also worth remembering that a motorcyclist will be just as vulnerable in the event of a collision with a cyclist, as the cyclist him or herself. For that reason, a motorbike rider will be every bit as keen to avoid a collision as a cyclist.

I'm curious though about your comment regarding L-plate motorcycle riders. Most L-plate riders of powered two wheelers use scooters. Trust me, there is a BIG difference between a motorcycle and a scooter and there is a BIG difference between the types of riders who use these different machines. Many scooters have automatic gears and require far lower skill levels to operate.

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davee387 [35 posts] 7 years ago
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A large number of car drivers young and old seem have no awareness of a cyclist in the cycling lane - just how often do they swerve out when they realise that you are there alongside them? add to that the fact that many encroach on to the cycle lane as it allows them to straighten out the bends can make riding main roads quite frustrating and dangerous.
Many will even slow down and flash somebody out of a side road whilst you are travelling alongside them - it's the ones that pull out that amaze me and them when you nearly end up buried in the side of them?

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OldRidgeback [2727 posts] 7 years ago
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I've had a few close calls with cars coming out of side roads after being waved on by other car drivers. Once someone tips them the nod, they'll pull straight out regardless in many instances. I saw a very nasty motorcycle accident as the car driver pulled out without looking and without checking to see if there were any other vehicles coming. The van driver who had waved on the car comng from the sideroad seemed to think it was the biker's fault. I corrected him on this and pointed out that he'd been as responsible as the dullard in the car. neither of them had bothered to look. Luckily the guy on the motorbike wasn't seriously hurt. But it was a close one. Only his bike was trashed.