Research reveals extent of ill-feeling on flagship shared route

The extent of ill-feeling between users of the Bristol and Path Railway Path, an off-highway route shared by cyclists and pedestrians, has been revealed in academic research presented at the Royal Geographical Society in London – with more than a third of users surveyed keeping their frustration to themselves.

Hannah Delaney, a PhD candidate at the University of the West of England in Bristol, surveyed 600 users of the path and found that 52.3 per cent of users said that they had experienced frustration as a result of other people using the route on the day they were questioned.

Of those respondents, three in four – 76.6 per cent – said that they kept their feelings to themselves and did not confront the other users.

Speaking at an international conference at the Royal Geographical Society’s Kensington headquarters, hosted in partnership with the Institute of British Geographers, Ms Delaney said: “Government guidelines for shared-use paths are based on research that focuses on the observable conflicts that take place and thus the consensus is that conflict between users is rare.

“However, this research shows that when shared path relations are examined in more detail there are a great deal of frustrations bubbling beneath the surface.

“The survey highlights the difficulty of designing facilities for a mix of mode users. The majority of cyclists would like more information and guidance provided to all users on how to share the path, whereas some pedestrians would prefer to be separated from cyclists. There was also a feeling that some cyclists need to slow down.”

While cyclists were more likely to experience frustration as a result of other people using the path, they were also the most common cause of complaint among those surveyed, but fewer than four in ten respondents — 37.9 per cent – said that they would enjoy their journeys more if people on foot and on bike were physically segregated.

Ms Delaney plans to continue her research by conducting in-depth interviews with users of the path, as well as videoing their journeys, to better understand the sources of frustration for both cyclists and pedestrians.

Earlier this year, the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, which manages the path, said it was “not the place for reckless speed cycling” after a 9-year-old boy suffered a broken collarbone after being hit by a cyclist on the shared-use route.

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.