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Council warned about danger of drivers ‘dooring’ cyclists before installing “accident waiting to happen” contraflow cycle lane

A safety audit noted that the cycle lane’s design “may increase the risk of collisions”, prompting the council to install a narrow painted “buffer zone”

Trafford Council was warned that the layout of a controversial new contraflow cycle lane in Altrincham would potentially “increase the risk of collisions” for cyclists using it, due to the likelihood of motorists parked next to the piece of painted infrastructure opening their doors directly into the path of oncoming riders.

The new cycle lane on Market Street in Altrincham – the very road where the first stage of this month’s Tour of Britain commenced – was completed in August as part of a series of public realm works, which include the installation of new footpaths, crossing points, cycling infrastructure, paving, seating, tree planters, and four disabled parking bays.

However, even before the cycle lane was officially opened it had become the subject of ridicule for cyclists in Greater Manchester, with one describing its narrow, painted, contraflow design – located between a row of parking bays and a one-way traffic lane, with no physical separation – as “dreadful” and “an accident waiting to happen”.

This criticism prompted Trafford Council to explain to road.cc that the lane’s green surfacing would “heighten drivers’ awareness” and ensure that motorists cross the lane with caution when exiting a parking space.

The council also said that a road safety audit had concluded that “there were no concerns raised relating to the risk of vehicles crossing the cycle lane”.

> Council says green paint “will heighten drivers’ awareness”, as cyclists blast “dreadful” new contraflow cycle lane as “an accident waiting to happen”

Despite the local authority’s claims, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the council was warned in advance during the safety audit about the dangers posed by the lane’s layout – and, in particular, the threat posed by drivers opening their doors into the path of oncoming cyclists.

The road safety audit, carried out in May and sent to road.cc reader Andrew Battye following his FOI request, flagged that the lack of a “buffer zone” between the cycle lane and the row of parallel parking bays would “increase the risk of collisions”.

The report stated that the “lack of a buffer zone between the parallel parking/loading bays and the cycle lane may result in vehicle occupants opening their door into the cycle lane which may increase the risk of collisions for cyclists”.

The report continued: “The drawings provided for audit do not show a buffer zone between the parallel parking/loading bays and the cycle lane on Market Street and Regent Road.

“This may result in vehicle occupants opening their door into the cycle lane which may increase the risk of collisions for cyclists using the cycle lane who may collide with the vehicle door or swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid the vehicle door.”

The report recommended that a “buffer zone” be installed between the lane and the parking bays, to decrease the risk of ‘dooring’ incidents.

While it had yet to be implemented at the time of our original story in July, Trafford Council confirmed to road.cc today that the buffer zone – albeit a narrow, painted strip, again lacking any physical separation – was installed in time for the cycle lane officially opening last month.

Market Street, Altrincham (Altrincham Today)

The new contraflow cycle lane and “buffer zone” on Market Street

“The safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers in the borough is a major priority for Trafford Council,” a council spokesperson told road.cc.

“We can confirm that the buffer zone on the cycle lane on Market Street in Altrincham was installed as part of the works in August 2023 before the scheme was officially opened to the public.”

“I wasn’t brave enough to use the cycle lane”

Whether the “buffer zone” appeases local cyclists, who were scathing of the lane’s layout when it was unveiled in July, remains to be seen.

After riding the contraflow lane for the first time in the summer, Greater Manchester-based cyclist Bob told us that he believes the new infrastructure is “an accident waiting to happen”.

“Drivers leaving the parking spaces have no visibility of cyclists coming towards them, so this is an accident waiting to happen,” Bob said.

“In addition, there are no arrows on the contraflow lane which might help drivers appreciate cyclists are coming the other way. I wanted to video it, but didn’t feel brave enough to use the cycle lane.”

Instead, Bob’s wife recorded – from the passenger seat – a video showing the motorist-eye view of the cycle lane, while exiting one of the road’s parking spaces.

“I did take the appropriate safety precautions, my wife was in the passenger seat to ensure that there were no cyclists approaching. Drivers will of course be looking in the mirror for traffic from behind,” he said.

“You can see from the video that just less than half of the drivers managed to fit their car into the space allocated, and the majority are overlapping into the cycle lane.

“My car was also completely across the cycle lane before I was in a position to see if anyone was on the cycle lane.”

However, when Bob’s criticisms were put to Trafford Council, the local authority said that the green surfacing “would heighten drivers’ awareness” while crossing the cycle lane, and that, “as a further precaution, ‘slow’ markings have been added to the cycle lane to encourage cyclists to proceed with increased caution along this section”.

The council continued: “Consideration was given to the provision of a cycle lane between car parking and the footpath, however this was discounted as concerns were raised that cars would regularly park across the cycle lane making it unusable.

“Given the constraints on available space and requirement to maintain parking in the vicinity of the health and wellbeing centre, we feel the scheme as constructed is the best solution in this instance to allow for safe contraflow cycling along the one-way street.”

A Stage 3 Road Safety Audit is currently taking place following the lane’s completion, with the council adding that “any recommendations will be considered and adjustments made to the scheme where appropriate”.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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21 comments

Avatar
youngoldbloke | 10 months ago
0 likes

What a mess. Most drivers will have to stop and reverse when parking thereby blocking the 'cycling lane'.

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Goldfish | 10 months ago
1 like

easy obvious solution is to keep parking where it is, and put painted cycle lane on other side of road. Any poor parking by cars only inconveniences other cars, and I guarantee cars will be a lot more careful with opening their doors if they know there is auto traffic there, not just bikes. Will need to separate bike lane with a curb, otherwise drivers will constantlu go into oncoming cycle lane as if they have the right of way whenever a poorly parked auto gets in their way (that's of course their perceived only option as opposed to slowing and proceeding with caution...the curb forces them to do the latter lest they risk damage to their wheel).
The driveways would need to have speed bumps or a sharper ramp so that drivers exit and enter them with more caution.

Not expensive to do the first half of that solution but the township will perceive it as being riskier since cars don't like to slow down and are therefore more likely to plow into a door...not that this is riskier to people at all...it's actually much safer than a cyclist hitting a door...but it would likely happen more frequently and therefore be seen as an accident caused by poor design rather than poor door opening skills.

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Runtilyoudrop | 10 months ago
0 likes

Bunch of cnuts 

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Kapelmuur | 10 months ago
1 like

A  problem with the Altrincham bike lane is that it's too short to be of value and another is there's no safe way to reach it from the busy roads surrounding it.

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Hell yeah | 10 months ago
4 likes

So apperently, green surfacing “would heighten drivers’ awareness”. Not sure that will be much help. Paint is not protection. It's ignored. And how does it help the driver of a normal right hand drive car to see around the car parked in front of them when pulling out of a parking space across the cycle lane? 
Just a box-ticking exercise so the council can say they've put some cycling infrastructure in. 

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IanMSpencer | 10 months ago
3 likes

As mentioned below, it is passengers exiting vehicles that are the problem - plenty of which have no awareness of the HWC as they aren't drivers and have no interest in driving or are too young. How many drivers would supervise their passengers exiting the vehicle safely, which in this case would mean going to the passenger side and opening the door for them?

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OnYerBike replied to IanMSpencer | 10 months ago
2 likes

It is not only drivers that should be aware of The Highway Code - anyone who uses public highways should be aware of it. It actually states it is "essential reading for everyone" (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/introduction). 

The law on opening doors applies to everyone, not just drivers. (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1986/1078/regulation/105/made

As for young people, it's no different to any other life skill - they need to be supervised and taught. Most rear passenger doors have child locks, if the child is too young to understand the responsibility. 

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polainm | 10 months ago
4 likes

Everyone cycling in the UK knows that Highways' Safety Audits are flawed/incompetent when it comes to cycling infrastructure. Predominately undertaken from a driver's perspective, the target standard is always Best Practice minimum standard. 

Until this inherent flaw is addressed, paint will continue to be used as a road safety measure by those without a clue, without a budget, and without experience of cycling on UK roads. 

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Backladder | 10 months ago
4 likes

Why isn't the parking on the other side of the road away from the cycle lane, it would then be in line with highway code rule 239

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KDee replied to Backladder | 10 months ago
2 likes

Too many driveways...wouldn't be fair to reduce the available parking would it

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Backladder replied to KDee | 10 months ago
1 like

KDee wrote:

Too many driveways...wouldn't be fair to reduce the available parking would it

Then the solution is to make it one way in the other direction and move the contraflow cycle lane to the side with the driveways!

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hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
3 likes

I'm not sure that I agree with "accident waiting to happen" as people don't "accidentally" open car doors - it's a deliberate action. Obviously, opening a car door in someone's path (whether on the road or pavement) is a dangerous thing to do and it's covered by the Highway Code in section 239:

Quote:

you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic by looking all around and using your mirrors

The problem is that the police are unlikely to pursue criminal charges against people that carelessly do this, whereas they most definitely should (at the very least put points on the driver's licence as they bear responsibility for the actions of their passengers).

I think we should stop calling it an "accident" and instead refer to it as "assaulting with a car door".

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himmelsturmer | 10 months ago
1 like

There is a danger hers a passenger could open a door, the drivers are alll on the pavement side and are unlikely to crawl accross the car to get out of the other side

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himmelsturmer | 10 months ago
0 likes

There is a danger hers a passenger could open a door, the drivers are alll on the pavement side and are unlikely to crawl accross the car to get out of the other side

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OnYerBike | 10 months ago
8 likes

So, to be clear, the "buffer zone" isn't actually giving cyclists any more space to avoid dooring; it's just a bit of paint that makes the cycle lane narrower? And presumably most cyclists wouldn't have been cycling that close to the parked cars anway - unless unavoidable due to bad parking/oncoming traffic, in which case the line still doesn't help. And does nothing to help with what appears to be the bigger problem, namely drivers pulling out due to being unable to see oncoming cyclists. 

So, in summary, a classic case of wasting money by putting down paint in the name of "safety" without actually making it any safer. 

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bikes replied to OnYerBike | 10 months ago
1 like

The green section is effectively the area you shouldn't cycle in; it's to be used only when there's a vehicle coming from the other direction and then you'll need to move into it and slow to a crawl. It's more of a 'passing place' than a lane.

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brooksby | 10 months ago
4 likes

If they were warned about it, and went ahead anyway, then that's surely a heck of a lawsuit when a cyclist DOES get doored there...

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eburtthebike | 10 months ago
3 likes

Buffer zone!?  That isn't wide enough to do anything, except perhaps buffer the passengers when they are hit by passing cyclists.

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Car Delenda Est | 10 months ago
5 likes

if it's contraflow then all the cars will be facing the oncoming cyclists so doorings seem unlikely.
However I'd definitely expect lots of cars pulling out onto cyclists.

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Wheelywheelygood | 10 months ago
4 likes

Why should cyclists be expected to see an open car door after all they can't see red lights or any other road signs controlling traffic 

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giff77 replied to Wheelywheelygood | 10 months ago
14 likes

0/10. Nice try though. 

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