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Council calms critics' concerns contraflow cycling could cause confusion and chaos

Drivers have reported being "confused and worried" by the new road layout, allowing cyclists to travel against traffic on the one-way street...

West Sussex County Council has cooled concerns that opening up a "chaotic" one-way road to cycling from both directions may cause confusion and incidents.

Barrington Road in Horsham, close to the town's train station, has been made a contraflow cycling route, allowing those on bicycles to ride in either direction, including against the flow of traffic on the one-way residential street. Sussex World reports that as there is on-street resident parking on both sides of the road, what is left of the road is already quite narrow.

The local news outlet heard from one resident who called the route "chaotic" as it is, but added that she is now "horrified" by the "confusing and worrying" layout that allows cyclists access in either direction.

"I was horrified because, as a driver, I just didn't understand it," she told the local press. "It's very confusing and worrying. As far back as I can remember, it has been a one-way road for cars. However, cyclists can currently go both ways in this road – and face oncoming traffic, with drivers who could be unaware that they will come face to face with cyclists."

Pictures of the updated road layout show the stop signs adapted to say 'except cycles', with a short stretch of unsegregated green cycle lane before the road narrows to around half its full width due to the parked vehicles.

The resident also expressed concern that people might expect cyclists to use the pavement instead.

However, West Sussex County Council was confident in the face of the complaints, a spokesperson saying similar layouts had "been introduced successfully" in other parts of the county and had been subject to all the necessary safety checks.

"The scheme in Barrington Road, Horsham, was delivered as part of the Local Transport Improvement Programme with the aim to improve cycle connectivity within the local area," they said. "This included the introduction of contraflow cycling, where cyclists are allowed to ride in both directions on a street that is one-way for cars.

"This was designed in accordance with the Department for Transport's cycle infrastructure design guidance and has been through stage 1 and stage 2 road safety audits and will be subject to a stage 3 audit on completion of the scheme. To ensure it is delivered safely it also includes new signage and road markings to alert drivers to the presence of contraflow cycling.

"Contraflow facilities have been introduced in other parts of West Sussex with success and is promoted by the West Sussex Walking and Cycling Strategy 2016 – 2026. The Highway Code rules 143, 144, 146 and 147 provide further guidance regarding behaviours of road users utilising these areas of the highway network."

Earlier this month, in nearby Brighton, a shocking video emerged showing multiple cyclists getting hit by "unaware" drivers on a contraflow cycle lane. It prompted campaigners to once again urge the Labour council to implement a car-free environment in the area.

Driver hitting cyclist, Church Street, Brighton (Twitter/@nadertronic)

At the other end of the country, in June, a new protected contraflow cycle lane opened in Darlington, with drivers spotted almost immediately parking their cars in it, while in August a motorist was captured on CCTV crashing into one of the new bollards, knocking it out of the ground.

Also this summer, in Manchester, cyclists slammed a "dreadful" contraflow cycle lane as an "accident waiting to happen" as the council opened the new 'door zone' infrastructure, complete with green paint to "heighten drivers' awareness".

Altrincham contraflow cycle lane (Bob Sweet)

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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26 comments

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Groadie | 10 months ago
0 likes

Of course there are contraflow schemes elsewhere, and no doubt they are considered acceptable practice in whatever design guidelines there are... but I hate the damn things even as a cyclist. The risk of a driver coming out of an intersection not seeing you, or a pedestrian stepping into your path, because they are looking in the direction they expect motorised traffic to be coming from, are far too high. Even when on foot along roads I am familiar with, I have to consciously remind myself about the cycle contraflow when crossing, and find them irritating lest I momentarily forget.

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GMBasix | 10 months ago
4 likes

It seems the obvious way to do this would be to have the authorised parking on the other side of the road, then the general lane, then the contraflow cycle lane adjacent to the footway.

It is clearly a hazard that drivers are necessarily positioned on the opposite side of the vehicle from the immediate risk, which is oncoming so they can't use their left-side mirror.

However, drivers need to wise up and realise they are not the only road users.

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GMBasix | 10 months ago
0 likes

Housekeeping - duplicate

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mantastra | 10 months ago
4 likes

I actually live just around the corner from Barrington Road, and by chance rode down it against the flow of motor traffic for the first time yesterday... and had to slam on the brakes and lock up my rear as a car pulled out of a parking space straight in to my path! I will not be using it again, I only did it this time as an adjacent road was blocked by a lorry. In reality it just didn't need this doing, it is far too narrow with the parking on both sides, which it needs, as it has houses both sides and most not much wider than a car, so if you allow for a car per house that parking is needed (it is also in a residents zone as its close to the station to avoid commuter parking). The only reason I can see they did it was that it sort of links up a couple of cycle routes, although one of those is probably less than a 100 metres in length. Why they picked one of the narrowest roads in Horsham and a one way road at that can only be down to doing that link on the cheap. It is barely wide enough for a single car, so throwing bikes down it in the other direction is always going to cause a clash. There are other roads that run parallel either side of it that are 2 way that although not great at least allow you to ride with the flow of the traffic not into the face of it.

Unfortunately West Sussex seem useless at cycling infrastructure. we have many 'supposed' cycle routes that allow cars to park on top of them, or have been an excuse to not resurface the whole road (honestly, we have roads where they have resurfaced up to the cycle lane, and left the cycle lane full of holes so you have to ride outside of it!).

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Don't like hills | 10 months ago
0 likes

Double post

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Don't like hills | 10 months ago
4 likes

It will blow their minds if they visited any town in The Netherlands then. I think virually all one way streets for vehicles are two way for cyclists in residential areas.

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to Don't like hills | 10 months ago
1 like

Netherlands infrastructure is a lot better implemented and I would be extremely surprised if a contraflow lane runs right along the doors of parked cars. The whole point of their infrastructure is to make cycling the most safe and convenient mode of short distance transportation, so every potential hazard has been minimized as much as possible.

Over here, the attitude is build as cheap and quick as possible as something is better than nothing, even if the solution is worse than the original problem. It's money and gerrymandering. Paint a line and say "We're making the place greener" and get a big round of applause. No actual thought goes into half of the insfrastructure plans at the moment and it's harming active travel.

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Jitensha Oni | 10 months ago
2 likes

Mark Treasure defended contraflow on this street in 2014:

https://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/selective-attention...

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mantastra replied to Jitensha Oni | 10 months ago
1 like

As mentioned in my main comment, I live just round the corner, but this road just isn't suitable. Its too narrow. If you get a larger vehicle, like a 4x4, delivery van etc you will not be able to cycle down safely, and the entry for road traffic means they will be far too into the road before they can see cyclists at the other end. I'm all for decent cycling routes, but at the same time we need to be realistic and either put in a dedicated route, or only convert a route capable of providing safe passage for both parties. This road is just not wide enough to do that. Yes, you could make it parking one side only to create a cycle route, but if I lived in that road already I'd be fuming as like I say, they are small terrace houses not much wider than a cars length, on both sides of the road, so allowing for one space per house, you need to park both sides, especially when several roads in that area already have restricted parking so you can't park in an adjacent road etc.

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Robert Hardy replied to mantastra | 10 months ago
1 like

Why would you need to slam on your brakes? We have had counterflow cycling in our narrow residential streets for some time, I and the majority of cyclists I know habitually give way to cars travelling in the opposite direction, a small price to pay for the privilege of legally being able to take the most convenient and safest route. If I need to stop, I am travelling at a speed I can do so without emergency braking. In dence shared road space some humility is needed by all road users.

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Sriracha replied to Robert Hardy | 10 months ago
2 likes

The car wasn't travelling in the opposite direction. He writes that the car pulled out of a parking space straight into his path. I'm guessing the driver did this whilst looking through their mirrors, not their windscreen, since in their mind the only traffic is from behind. But sure, you'd be cycling at a pace where you could coast gently to as stop when a parked car swings out into your path a few feet ahead of you

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OnYerBike replied to Sriracha | 10 months ago
1 like

Obviously drivers are expected to check it is safe to pull out before doing so, much like literally every other public road in the country. Whilst they might not have been used to checking for oncoming cyclists previously, given the parking appears to be almost entirely local residents, hopefully such habitats can be quickly changed. 

If I was cycling down that road, I would also be taking position in the middle of the road (and I do mean middle of the road in this instance) to give drivers of parked cars the best chance of seeing me, and the most time/space to react.

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OnYerBike replied to Sriracha | 10 months ago
1 like

Obviously drivers are expected to check it is safe to pull out before doing so, much like literally every other public road in the country. Whilst they might not have been used to checking for oncoming cyclists previously, given the parking appears to be almost entirely local residents, hopefully such habitats can be quickly changed. 

If I was cycling down that road, I would also be taking position in the middle of the road (and I do mean middle of the road in this instance) to give drivers of parked cars the best chance of seeing me, and the most time/space to react.

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Sriracha replied to OnYerBike | 10 months ago
0 likes
OnYerBike wrote:

If I was cycling down that road, I would also be taking position in the middle of the road

Would you? How's that going to work with oncoming vehicles in the same middle of the same road?

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OnYerBike replied to Sriracha | 10 months ago
0 likes

It's a quiet residential road, so the chance of an oncoming vehicle is slim, and if you do encounter one, just pull to the side to let it past.

When I lived in Cambridge, I frequently cycled down roads such as this one, which is similarly narrow and cluttered with parked cars. You might well have to come to a complete stop in between parked cars if there was an oncoming vehicle, but that was never a problem.

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Sriracha replied to OnYerBike | 10 months ago
0 likes

Duplicate
FFSFI!

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mattw replied to OnYerBike | 10 months ago
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Unfortunately that is physically impossible.

A RH drive car pulling out of a space LH side first cannot see around the next vehicle until it is sticking 4 to 5 feet out into the cycle lane ie effectively blocking it.

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mattw replied to OnYerBike | 10 months ago
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Unfortunately that is physically impossible.

A RH drive car pulling out of a space LH side first cannot see around the next vehicle until it is sticking 4 to 5 feet out into the traffic.

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wycombewheeler replied to OnYerBike | 10 months ago
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OnYerBike wrote:

Obviously drivers are expected to check it is safe to pull out before doing so, much like literally every other public road in the country. Whilst they might not have been used to checking for oncoming cyclists previously, given the parking appears to be almost entirely local residents, hopefully such habitats can be quickly changed. 

If I was cycling down that road, I would also be taking position in the middle of the road (and I do mean middle of the road in this instance) to give drivers of parked cars the best chance of seeing me, and the most time/space to react.

highway code rule 239

Quote:

239
Use off-street parking areas, or bays marked out with white lines on the road as parking places, wherever possible. If you have to stop on the roadside:

do not park facing against the traffic flow

For the obvious reason that it is easier to see what is coming when the driver sits closest to the moving traffic lane and further from the kerb. And easier still to use the side mirrors with the closest moving traffic comng from behind.

And yet these parking spaces have been deliberately set up to prevent that. The road should be laid out  parking spaces / normal lane / contraflow cycle lane. Drivers would have the best view of the vehicles in the lane they are pulling in to, and would not need to cross the cycle lane at all. Always easiest to pull out if you only need to check for traffic from one direction only.

In this case the driver can look in the side mirror on the passenger side to easily check for motor vehicles croming from behind, but cannot see into the cycle lane before moving out so far the car blocks the lane.

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Robert Hardy replied to Sriracha | 10 months ago
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Even so if travelling at little more than walking pace he'd have been fine, my local roads with double side authorised pavement parking are only a single vehicle wide. When the existing road scheme was installed cyclists were not allowed to counter flow, its much better now we are, but as a cyclist its much easier to stop and pull the cycle to the pavement to allow a van past than try to carry on. Everybody has to compromise in narrow victorian streets, including cyclists.

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mantastra replied to Robert Hardy | 9 months ago
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Because a car pulled out of a space with me coming the other way. I wasn't going particularly quickly at all, but with it happening less than 5 metres ahead of me it seemed a more sensible option to brake than end getting intimate with the bonnet of the vehicle.

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Matthew Acton-Varian | 10 months ago
6 likes

Judging by the picture of the road given, a contraflow lane would be a piss poor excuse of infrastructure if those parked cars are still there. The road is far too narrow to allow for both the lane and the parking to be in place.

When designed and built properly contraflow cycle lanes are normally pretty safe and convenient, but any lack of foresight involving parking, lack of signage, road furniture et al will always leave structures withan element of avoidable danger which will inevitably lead to a serious accident at some point in the future.

In this instance, if you couldn't remove the parking spaces, create a safe route elsewhere.

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brooksby replied to Matthew Acton-Varian | 10 months ago
4 likes

You beat me to it!  You cannot possibly allow contraflow cycling while leaving two lanes of parked motor vehicles.

Of course, that might be why locals are really complaining, if the council has suggested they might remove parking...

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old bod replied to brooksby | 10 months ago
0 likes

You beat me to it!  You cannot possibly allow contraflow cycling while leaving two lanes of parked motor vehicles.

Of course, that might be why locals are really complaining, if the council has suggested they might remove parking...

lots of these roads in Bournemouth and we all seem capable of driving and cycling along them without too many incidents , sounds like the woman whinging in the article isnt a very good driver anyway.

 

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OnYerBike replied to Matthew Acton-Varian | 10 months ago
3 likes

Sure, it might not be great infrastructure, but allowing contraflow cycling on one way streets is a quick, easy and cheap way to make cycling easier, faster and more convenient - and potentially safer too. See https://therantyhighwayman.blogspot.com/2021/11/go-with-contraflow.html 

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to OnYerBike | 10 months ago
0 likes

I never said it couldn't be safe, but in order to be safe there has to be a certain level of safety features including not running it next to parking spaces and good lane segregation where possible.

In this specific instance given, either there was no consideration to remove parking spaces, or they couldn't remove them for whatever reason. Because of this, it makes athe contraflow lane in this case a poor decision.

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