Slow down or else! Sustrans warns cyclists

Cyclists asked to show more respect to other users of popular shared use path or face barriers to slow them down

by Simon_MacMichael   May 14, 2013  

Two Tunnels opening - riding

Barriers will be placed on a popular cycling route to force cyclists to cut their speeds unless some of them start showing more consideration for walkers and children following a number of incidents in which people have reported feeling threatened by bike riders travelling riding at inappropriate speeds through Bristol's Ashton Court Estate.

The news reflects a wider issue regarding concern over inappropriate speeds on shared use facilities, with some cyclists on the Bristol-Bath bike path clocked riding at speeds of almost 30mph close to a school, according to Sustrans.

The sustainable transport charity says the problem is due to a minority of cyclists riding irresponsibly both at Ashton Court and elsewhere, with its Area Manager for the West of England, Jon Usher, telling road.cc that despite Bristol City Council erecting notices and signs at Ashton Court, the UK’s third busiest country park, urging riders to cut their speed, some cyclists are ignoring them.

He adds that there have been a number of reported near-misses, mostly involving children, and as a result the council is considering erecting gates that would force cyclists to dismount, which it says would mean all cyclists being put at a disadvantage due to the inconsiderate riding of a few riders.

Sustrans says that currently, there are three Strava segments that include parts of the Ashton Court Estate, something it describes as “wholly inappropriate on these roads used widely for recreation - walking and cycling.”

The problems at Ashton Court reflect something that Sustrans is seeing more widely in shared-used paths it operates in and around Bristol, the city where it is based, as well as in Bath, where some cyclists have been seen travelling too fast on the recently Two Tunnels route, for instance (although as we have pointed out previously, reports that the route is inherently unsafe are wide of the mark).

Issues highlighted by Sustrans include cyclists regularly being caught by speed sensing equipment travelling at speeds in excess of 28mph on the Bristol-Bath cycle path, close to a school – this at a time when the government is being urged to make it easier for councils to implement 20mph zones not only in and around schools but also residential areas as a whole.

Usher says: “Greenways (whilst great and convenient) are not for speeds in excess of 15-20mph especially in built up busy areas.

“Pedestrians on these paths regularly describe feeling threatened - exactly the same many people that cycle describe feeling around car traffic. We need to reverse this trend of resentment as we need to be seen by all as the solution.”

He added that Sustrans did not want to put cyclists off using the paths, but he did want riders to use them responsibly.

“The cycling average cycling speed in Copenhagen was recently reported to be somewhere round the 20kph mark (12.5mph),” he added.

“We need a slow bicycle movement in the UK to show everyone that cycling isn't just a sport, but that it can be a transport choice too.”

41 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

These Sustrans paths are a stupid idea anyway; I would rather see the money spent making roads more cycle friendly. I keep reading about money being spent on cycling when in reality they are spending huge sums on a dog toilet; a waste of money, dogs can, and do s**t anywhere and everywhere

posted by SideBurn [827 posts]
14th May 2013 - 19:46

14 Likes

I sincerely hope these slow down measures don't discriminate against disabled and those who chose to ride something other than a rusty old mountain bike, ie, tricycles, recumbent cycles, hand cycles, cycles with child trailers, e-bikes and other mobility aids. There are already a few challenging and difficult barriers to those users, along with a crappy surface on many sustrans paths, I'm beginning to think sustrans have an ideal cyclist who rides a touring/trail bike with thick tyres in mind, anyone else can go to hell. If you're going to create cycle paths, do it, make them useable to everyone, make it possible for people to commute to work on them, ride for leisure or excersise, don't force these legitimate users back off their bikes because they're now unwelcome everywhere once again.

the_mikey's picture

posted by the_mikey [146 posts]
14th May 2013 - 20:45

13 Likes

This needn't be difficult.
Whether a car, a cyclist or pedestrian you need to travel at an appropriate speed. That means taking consideration of where you are, what you are on and who you are around.
This applies to roads, shared paths and dedicated paths.
With me so far?
I commute about 180miles a week by bike and doing that at 10mph will take nearly a whole day out of my week. I regularly use the B2B and 2T greeenway without issues. I often travel in excess of 20mph in the CD Tunnel because it's 6am and I can see perfectly well that there's no one about, it's the same on the B2B path. If there are people about then I slow down, which is the case on my homeward journey.
If those people are with a dog or child etc then I slow down more.
If I'm up against it for time I use the main A4 and go as fast as I like.
As I said this shouldn't be difficult.
If people insist on travelling too fast despite 'soft'attempts to lower their speed, then physical measures should be put in place to slow them down.

posted by Ting [51 posts]
14th May 2013 - 20:56

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CraigS wrote:
Mrmo - you've got it spot on. You won't get more people choosing bikes over cars if the bike takes much longer because the only safe routes sustrans and councils invest in are shared use paths that you have to go slowly on.

+1 exactly this.

the_mikey's picture

posted by the_mikey [146 posts]
14th May 2013 - 21:23

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My commute involves a lengthy section of the Clyde walkway which as its name implies was initially created as a footpath. Now part of the national cycling network, but still a shared use path.

I regularly have to slow for pedestrians and dog walkers. They are perfectly entitled to be there and enjoy the same traffic free environment I'm using at the same time. Slows me down for a few seconds, but that is the same as us expecting drivers to wait.

When I'm driving I don't have a problem slowing for cyclists, so why should a cyclist not slow for a pedestrian? Some Strava users (and some roadies) are not the most considerate of cyclists, but I'll bet they are as quick as the rest of us to complain about poor driving.

Works both ways and that pedestrian you scared will be getting in their car round the corner fuming at ignorant cyclists. Not going to help the next cyclist they meet on the road.

I can also appreciate what it is like for a pedestrian as my hearing is pretty poor and I've been caught out several times when a bike has come up behind me and terrified me. That's from someone who really dislikes getting in cyclists way as I know it helps everyone if we give each other room.

posted by IanD [22 posts]
14th May 2013 - 21:29

14 Likes

Spot on.

brucethebruce's picture

posted by brucethebruce [15 posts]
14th May 2013 - 22:01

11 Likes

Spot on.

brucethebruce's picture

posted by brucethebruce [15 posts]
14th May 2013 - 22:03

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Doctor Fegg wrote:

For those that are confident enough to go faster, you can just cut along Ashton Road and join up with route 33 by the playing fields, missing out Ashton Court entirely. It's perfectly pleasant (I did it a couple of weeks ago). No-one needs to cycle crazy fast through Ashton Court.

Last time I cycled through Ashton Court I think I was lucky if I got past 8km/h. It was busy and that's as fast as I would allow myself to cycle there, if there were no people around maybe I'd ride faster, the conditions dictated the speed.

the_mikey's picture

posted by the_mikey [146 posts]
14th May 2013 - 23:12

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SideBurn wrote:
These Sustrans paths are a stupid idea anyway; I would rather see the money spent making roads more cycle friendly. I keep reading about money being spent on cycling when in reality they are spending huge sums on a dog toilet; a waste of money, dogs can, and do s**t anywhere and everywhere

It's different funding and different provision , and quite separate from roads spending.

posted by JonD [187 posts]
15th May 2013 - 0:50

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I've been through AC on my road bike a few times, don't particularly enjoy it but it's usually better than the road alternative. Whilst I agree cyclists should exercise a lot more caution on shared footpaths (and having Strava segments on them is crazy) there are an awful lot of muppets on two feet. Whether it's joggers with iPods (who are always going to be startled when you come past, no matter how much warning you try and give), family groups that just meander across the path assuming they only have to look in front of themselves and people with dogs either not on leads or on long leads that are just as much of a hazard.
As the potentially more dangerous road/path user then the cyclist does have to take more responsibility but much like the car v bike debate where cyclists need to have at least basic road sense, in this case pedestrians when they know they're on a shared path need to understand they can't completely switch off or assume they'll only meet others on foot

posted by fuzzywuzzy [60 posts]
15th May 2013 - 7:59

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I agree shared paths are not the way toward fully functional cycling infra but I can still manage 14/15 mph ave off road on shared paths, slowing right down to pass peds/dogs/children/ducks.
If you want to go 30mph use the road.

@rich22222

posted by rich22222 [118 posts]
15th May 2013 - 8:23

12 Likes

This story highlights two things:
1. that some Strava users (not all of them, obviously) are, as we've previously established, utter bell-ends.
2. That Sustrans paths are almost all entirely rubbish. They're generally not fit for mass use

posted by Al__S [584 posts]
15th May 2013 - 8:28

13 Likes

The Ashton Court path is a high quality asphalt covered estate road. It is not a cycle path per se, but part of a public park where cycling is allowed. No one in a hurry needs to use it, as public roads provide adequate alternatives. One thing that has not been mentioned is that for a long sweep it is downhill and that despite prominent painted messages on the road surface some cyclists travel at reckless speeds. See my blog on how it works here.

Bristol does have its fair share of anarchic road users - it's almost a tradition - and certainly doesn't confine itself to people on bikes. The situation on the Bristol and Bath Railway path is a problem and one that all who cycle on it should pay attention to. Planners may well be the villains, but inappropriate speeds at those few places where it really matters are passing the problem on to small children and their minders. Their behaviour is indefensible and cycle campaigners shouldn't even try to defend it - it spoils the case for everyone. Those who don't know it might find this picture of the most awkward spot helpful. It obviously needs a bridge for the school children.

posted by Sam Saunders [20 posts]
15th May 2013 - 9:14

10 Likes

User conflict is a tricky issue. Some people will never feel comfortable sharing space with cyclists, and letting these people determine the design of cycle routes is a bit like putting an arachnophobe in charge of a biodiversity plan.

Similarly, there are issues with a lot of Sustrans routes which means people do and will continue to cycle along them as fast as they can, no matter how many warnings are given.

The Railway Path is a prime example - it's not very direct (especially when you factor in the meandering links to the cities it connects), and has an undeservedly bad reputation for crime (the 28 mph speed trap isn't just near a school, it's also near a fairly grim bit of the city), so people do try and ride it quickly. Hopefully some of these problems can be addressed if Bristol wins its Cycling Ambitions fund bid, by making more traffic-free routes and better connections.

posted by Mr Agreeable [143 posts]
15th May 2013 - 9:19

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Personally Sam, I'd say that many cycle campaigners need to stop apologising for the behaviour of a few people who they have no hope of influencing, and concentrate on getting the design of cycle routes sorted. It's really bizarre that people think a tutting campaign on blogs, social media and A4 laminated notices is going to change deeply embedded behaviour, or the way cyclists are perceived.

Even if we all started obeying the rules of the road tomorrow, to many people we'd still be annoying freaks who were guilty of other perceived infractions, like not wearing helmets and hi-viz, riding two abreast on quiet country roads, or having the temerity to be on the road in the first place. Sustrans are the cuddly face of cycling, and have to say the sensible thing, but I'd much rather see them working on campaigns for everyone than getting sucked into this sort of negative debate.

As for the focus on Strava, I hate the way it's marketed as much as anyone, but I reckon far more inconsiderate cycling is caused by people trying not to be late for work...

posted by Mr Agreeable [143 posts]
15th May 2013 - 9:29

13 Likes

mrmo wrote:
which in part is why i am of the belief that shared use paths are not the solution....time differences...yadda yadda yadda...

This is true, but surely they can be part of the solution? I think the point is, while it's reasonable to expect dedicated infrastructure free of pedestrians on longer cross-town or between-town routes, cyclists can't expect to go over 20mph all the time.

To learn from the Dutch model, in quieter residential areas cycle lanes aren't segregated from cars because everyone is expected to calm down a bit and drive (or ride) appropriately. Similarly, if cycling does become more popular we can expect to see more congestion related to bikes - the school run etc are often featured on videos because scenes of hundreds of cyclists highlights the popularity of cycling, but it's not all like that. Certainly, slowing down to 10-12mph for all of a 10 mile commute is an unreasonable ask, but surely slowing down for bits of it is fair? Drivers can't go at 30mph constantly in town and they shouldn't be able to.

I don't know the path in question. Is it just through an estate as the name suggests or is it a longer path?

The problem with Sustrans routes is that they often have quite long distances as shared use (like Bath-Bristol). Although I would cut them some slack, cycle infrastructure should never have been left to a powerless charity in the first place.

posted by pmanc [129 posts]
15th May 2013 - 10:21

13 Likes

I don't understand why people use the bottom of Ashton Court anyway. It's (relatively) hilly and involves both speed bumps, awful surfaces in places and a nominal 10mph speed limit.

This is why Sustrans are still aiming to bypass it in the longer term despite the North Somerset setback which scuppered the plan for a track along the south boundary.

posted by DoctorRad [4 posts]
15th May 2013 - 10:27

13 Likes

“Pedestrians on these paths regularly describe feeling threatened - exactly the same many people that cycle describe feeling around car traffic. We need to reverse this trend of resentment as we need to be seen by all as the solution.”
...not sure about local conditions but here (NZ) many less experienced cyclists behave like that, they are just continuing the social norm they experience on the road (widespread disregard and lack of respect for other users)
Countries like Denmark have laws which make people aware of and have respect for others wellbeing (strict liability etc). The solution has to start at the top.

posted by imaca [46 posts]
15th May 2013 - 10:35

9 Likes

pmanc wrote:

The problem with Sustrans routes is that they often have quite long distances as shared use (like Bath-Bristol). Although I would cut them some slack, cycle infrastructure should never have been left to a powerless charity in the first place.

And that's the issue - If Sustrans are not building the paths, who is? Not the councils. The Bristol Bath path is not direct as it follows an abandoned railway. Whilst it would be great to put a dedicated cycle path next to the A4, the councils never have, and cyclists would just moan about that massive hill near Saltford anyway.

Sustrans routes are not almost entirely rubbish, but they have to work with what's available. If it's an abandoned railway, then so be it. If it's getting permission to put a route through a beautiful country park, then (apart from those evil speed humps at the entrance) what is rubbish about that? At least they are doing something! Anyone complaining about their routes should a) write to their local MP/Council etc and ask THEM to build new routes that start outside their house, go to their place of work or favourite ride, avoid hills and are free of cars and pedestrians. b) set up their own charity to do it. Responses: a) the council will complain that it's too expensive and b) there's no point as Sustrans does it already, as best it can in a world full of budget cuts, NIMBYS and closed minded councils who don't see cycling as a viable alternative to the car.

posted by Myriadgreen [91 posts]
15th May 2013 - 11:01

14 Likes

@Myriadgreen
Totally agree. Sustrans are making the best of what they're given ("given" being the operative word here). This includes having to ask everyone to play nicely with a limited resource.

Meanwhile central government palms off the responsibility onto local authorities because "they're the experts on what their area needs", and local authorities complain that they have neither the money nor the expertise.

And meanwhile cycling remains the domain of a small, ballsy, but often derided minority.

@Sam Saunders, thank you for giving more background on the location.

Maybe physical measures are the best way forward if some people won't slow down, but how to do that without inconveniencing responsible users, especially those with trikes, child trailers, wheelchairs, etc?

posted by pmanc [129 posts]
15th May 2013 - 12:13

13 Likes

So we're all happy to bitch about cars, the fact that they are inconsiderate and that some drivers are ignorant swine, but when the light is shone on us a cyclists, we complain that we shared use paths are a crock? The levels of hypocrisy are astounding. When we cycle on the road, we are effectively on a shared use path with motorists and we expect them to act civilly.

If a pedestrian acts like a moron - and everyone has their moments - we have a responsibility to be able to respond in a safe and timeous manner.

Seriously, if 10mp/h is too slow, leave earlier or ride on the road. If you don't want to ride on the road because of bad traffic, well, that's possibly how some pedestrians may feel because of us.

Oh, and if we finally manage to get the law to recognise a policy of strict liability - which hopefully it will - that means we as cyclists will be doubly responsible for more vulnerable (read pedestrians) road users.

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [298 posts]
15th May 2013 - 14:00

6 Likes

I think there's two factors at play here, over and above the attitudes of drivers/cyclists/peds et al:

1) traffic-free routes are low priority in planning terms but induce a lot of demand. so when they're built, they tend to be busy. but

2) they're only built where they're not going to be in the way of any of those lovely road-tax-paying [sic] motor vehicles, meaning they're generally not the fastest or most direct route to anywhere. Bristol-Bath (and, to a lesser extent, AC) being an excellent case-in-point. It's 10 miles from Bristol to Bath. or nearly 16 on the path.

those two things will often combine to mean: busy shared routes with people going fast to make up time.

compare that to the usual suspects when good infrastructure is discussed, where the routes are 1) abundant and 2) direct.

the obvious solution is to build more and better routes. but popularity (and hence conflict) in a shared-use/traffic-free environment is seen as something to be managed by restriction. compare that to a road. if a road is busy and people get cross and/or misbehave, do we hear the council telling people to calm down or have their access restricted? more often than not that's the case put forward for more roads/access, not less.

Sustrans routes aren't rubbish. but in the end they're not the people with the responsibility and power to put in proper, joined-up, direct facilities for cyclists. that's the job of the government and councils, same as it is for roads.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7430 posts]
15th May 2013 - 14:27

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mr-andrew wrote:
So we're all happy to bitch about cars, the fact that they are inconsiderate and that some drivers are ignorant swine, but when the light is shone on us a cyclists, we complain that we shared use paths are a crock? The levels of hypocrisy are astounding. When we cycle on the road, we are effectively on a shared use path with motorists and we expect them to act civilly.

If a pedestrian acts like a moron - and everyone has their moments - we have a responsibility to be able to respond in a safe and timeous manner.

Seriously, if 10mp/h is too slow, leave earlier or ride on the road. If you don't want to ride on the road because of bad traffic, well, that's possibly how some pedestrians may feel because of us.

Oh, and if we finally manage to get the law to recognise a policy of strict liability - which hopefully it will - that means we as cyclists will be doubly responsible for more vulnerable (read pedestrians) road users.

Good points.

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

posted by notfastenough [3307 posts]
15th May 2013 - 14:30

10 Likes

mr-andrew wrote:
So we're all happy to bitch about cars, the fact that they are inconsiderate and that some drivers are ignorant swine, but when the light is shone on us a cyclists, we complain that we shared use paths are a crock?

One of the big issues is that when cyclists are on the road they are largely very aware of the traffic around them and take great pains to avoid it, whereas the attitude of pedestrians on a shared path is usually one of obliviousness and obstruction.

Quite simply, to a very large extent, pedestrians don't expect there to be any cyclists on a shared path, whereas cyclists do expect there to be larger, faster, and more dangerous traffic on a road. This even applies to segregated paths, on which despite a plethora of signs, the majority of pedestrians are happy to walk on the cycle side.

As usual, cyclists are between a rock and a hard place: drivers don't want us on the roads, and pedestrians often don't expect us on shared-use paths.

posted by DoctorRad [4 posts]
15th May 2013 - 17:30

11 Likes

As Sam Saunders mentions above, the main route through Ashton Court is downhill (or uphill the other way). Even freewheeling down here, you have to brake if you want to go slower than, say, 17-18mph. It's too much of a temptation for many. I usually go down it at around this speed if there's no one around, and brake if there is.

Dual use paths should have a marker line down the middle (or two separated paths) and have signs at regular intervals reminding people that they should only walk on the one side, cycle on the other.

I've pretty much given up on the Bristol-Bath path anyway. There are usually people strung across the path, you shout 'excuse me' or 'good morning' or whatever all the time, and often get abuse in return. An aquaintance who commutes on it every day has been mugged twice now, he's given up on it. Another chap I know had threatening looking 'hoodies' across the path shouting at him,'Give us your bike'. He charged through.He's given up. Then there was the cyclepath psychopath who strung a nylon line across to mug the next cyclist and nearly killed someone.

posted by bikeylikey [168 posts]
15th May 2013 - 17:42

12 Likes

+1

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [227 posts]
15th May 2013 - 19:27

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I hate it when people draw a false equivalence between irresponsible behaviour on bikes and in cars. A dickhead on a bike is a dickhead, a dickhead in a car is a potential killer.

posted by Mr Agreeable [143 posts]
15th May 2013 - 19:42

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I'm guessing if you're trying to travel from Long Ashton to North Bristol, then you'll be wanting to cross the Clifton Suspension Bridge, so you'll travel via Ashton Court, since whichever route you take will be up a steep hill, only the steep hill in Ashton Court is largely free from cars.

the_mikey's picture

posted by the_mikey [146 posts]
15th May 2013 - 21:50

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Mr Agreeable wrote:
I hate it when people draw a false equivalence between irresponsible behaviour on bikes and in cars. A dickhead on a bike is a dickhead, a dickhead in a car is a potential killer.

Careful...you're in great danger of Making Sense™

I nominate Mr Agreeable for Comment Of The Year.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [528 posts]
15th May 2013 - 22:17

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As someone who commutes 5 days a week between Bath and North Bristol (Aztec West) using the Bristol-Bath cycle path, I think I have reasonable grounds to add to this debate.

Some of the other contributes are 'spot on' when they compare commuting times and assess the impact of speed limits on the cycle path. My commute is on the long side (20miles) and any fixed speed limitations would have a massive impact on my commute time (on the open segments I can average at 25mph). So any decision about speed limits needs to ensure that it does not make cycling less attractive when compared to other modes of transport, and the speed limits must be representative of the risks. The proposal to have a speed limits as low as 5-10mph is ridiculous and would prevent me from running on segments of the path.

Generally speaking, when I am on the Bristol to Bath cycle path [(6:30am - 7:30am) and (5:30pm to 6:30pm)] there are very few people around and because the path is generally well away from public areas I see no need for a mandatory speed limits. I am also unsure how such a speed limit would be implemented, i.e. who is going to monitor speed limits? and what would be the penalty? Also to have an enforced speed limit would suggest that all cyclists must cycle with a speedometer, because even the casual cyclist could exceed 20mph on a downhill segment with a following wind.

I would concede however that in some sections of the cycle path, it would be appropriate to add better markings and signs for both pedestrians and cyclists to warn them of the inherent risks where there are accesses on to the cycle path. I would also agree that this could include physical warnings, e.g. bollards/rumble strips on the cycle path, and gates on the pedestrian accesses. These measures might not slow the irresponsible cyclists significantly, but it will increase overall awareness and this can only be a good thing.

I would also agree that cyclists who want to go fast should avoid cycle paths at the weekend, when the cycle paths are congested with families. Most keen cyclists do, but I have seen several examples of the casual/inexperienced cyclists getting carried around on a hot summer’s afternoon.

I think it is important to remember that both pedestrians and cyclists should share responsibility. For example:
- In the winter I have had several near misses with pedestrians and cycling not wearing reflective clothing or lights;
- Dog walkers allowing their dogs to run freely across the path, especially when they are on extendable leads that cross the path;
- Groups of school children taking up the up the whole width of the path, and oblivious to all those around them. (I one case I actually stopped and a 15 year old girl texting on her phone walked in to my bike);
- Cyclists/joggers/walkers wearing headphones, who can't hear your bell.

So in summary, I would reject any idea of a speed limit as being unworkable and impossible to enforce. I would however support better warning signs and, in some areas, physical reminders for cyclists and pedestrians of the risks.

posted by BathBoardman [1 posts]
30th July 2013 - 10:00

11 Likes