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New mayor defends “necessary” decision to scrap controversial cycle lane – just eight months after it was installed

The protected bike lane on Middlesbrough’s Linthorpe Road has been the site of a number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries since it was opened last year

A controversial protected cycle lane in Middlesbrough, which has been the subject of fierce criticism after several cyclists and pedestrians were injured while using the new road layout, has been scrapped – just eight months after it was introduced.

The Linthorpe Road cycle lane, approved by Middlesbrough’s former independent mayor Andy Preston, was installed last year as part of Middlesbrough Council’s plans to provide cyclists with a “quick and safe” route into the town centre while also creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment with improved road crossings.

However, despite the new scheme increasing the number of cyclists using the road by 70 percent, the low Orca dividers initially used to separate the bike lane from traffic through ‘light’ segregation were condemned for both creating a safety hazard for cyclists and pedestrians while also failing to deter motorists from driving or parking in the cycle lane.

> Cyclist says motorists should be prevented from parking in bike lane “before someone gets killed”

In October, cyclist Paul Harris – who was hospitalised after being hitting one of the Orca separators – claimed that the layout forced people on bikes to “constantly” dodge parked cars, buses, and pedestrians, and that a comprehensive overhaul of the lane was required “before someone gets killed”.

“The problem with the cycle route is that cars are still parking there, delivery drivers are still parking there, and the bus stops are still there. You have to cycle over the bumps to pass the bus stop so you’re constantly checking the traffic,” Harris said.

The 50-year-old’s nasty spill came less than two months after a 78-year-old woman was left with a broken wrist, a black eye, and concussion after tripping over one of the bike lane markers on the same road, while a 27-year-old fractured her elbow on a night out while crossing the lane.

> Pensioner left with broken wrist and black eye after tripping over cycle lane separator

In response to the safety concerns, Middlesbrough Council began replacing the controversial Orcas with wands, while in January then-mayor Preston withdrew his support for a planned extension of the cycleway.

Now, the newly elected Labour mayor Chris Cooke – who campaigned to scrap the Linthorpe Road cycle lane, estimated to have cost £1.7m, during his election campaign – has said that the decision to bin the scheme was “necessary” on safety and economic grounds, but that proposals for alternative cycle routes will be considered, the Yorkshire Post reports.

“I have pledged to get rid of the Linthorpe Road cycle lane and there will be a new scheme looked at once the executive is in place for a different site,” Cooke said this week.

“The work won’t start yet because there are budgetary constraints to consider and it has to be well thought out but it will be going as soon as I can.”

> Extension to Middlesbrough protected cycle lane set to be scrapped due to safety concerns

When asked if he was concerned about the costs of removing the cycle lane, the Labour mayor responded: “I am concerned about the amount of injury it has caused, I am concerned about the amount of reports that I have had that emergency services can’t get down that road, and I am concerned about the amount of businesses that are saying it has directly impacted their ability to operate.

“I am concerned about all of those things and I think this is sadly a necessary cost now.”

> Cycle lane will be "clear getaway" for shoplifters and drug dealers, business owners claim

The Linthorpe Road cycle lane was delivered as part of a 10-year strategic transport plan across Teesside, Hartlepool, and Darlington, led by the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA).

In a statement, the TVCA said: “This was a Middlesbrough Council project and any changes to the scheme are the responsibility of the council and its elected members.”

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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14 comments

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wycombewheeler | 11 months ago
1 like

Physical barriers are not required, there is not chance of a motor vehicle straying over a white line and injuring you.

https://www.google.com/maps/@51.6291037,-0.7527467,3a,75y,169.6h,60.15t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s496SGqffDKdQriNd_1CyTA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

Note that this barrier was installed to protect cars when the parapet wall was declared unsound, it was not installed to protect cyclists. the cycle lane was free claim against the target.

The cycle lane is now unusable as the barrier at another point has been pushed all the way to the kerb (since streetview car went through so no image), no action has been undertaken by the council to recify this after many months. I doubt they would leave a road blocked in this manner for more than a few hours.

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IanMSpencer | 11 months ago
3 likes

Having bitterly complained about orcas myself, tonight, some 18 months after the local bike lane had them installed, most of the orcas in one section have been destroyed by motorists and motorists ignore them when they want to stop in the cycle lane. If they are useful and necessary, why haven't Solihull maintained them?

I feel the need to research orcas and who is behind them, as something so obviously unfit for purpose should not be being specified so frequently. HGVs are unimpeded by them, so often little protection against the most dangerous encroachment - and with narrowed vehicle lanes, poor road design can make encroachments inevitable. On the other hand they are very effective anti-cycling barriers, when worn they blend with the tarmac at the time you have to observe following traffic when exiting a blocked lane with improperly parked vehicles - shoulder and mirror checks affect balance, therefore cyclists will steer to some extent, especially less experienced cyclists.

Though the photo may be misleading, I suspect the problem with the Middlesbrough lane is that it looks too narrow - a lane that has physical barriers either side needs plenty of wobble room - including space against cars and lorries running close to the separators.

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chrisonabike replied to IanMSpencer | 11 months ago
0 likes

Yes - in some ways I think these low-height "light-segregation" things are the worst of all worlds. Orcas, armadillos, whatever you call Edinburgh's Covid-era blocks - which did at least have wands, for a bit.

Of course the actual solution is to have proper separated cycle paths where needed. As part of a network-level city / regional transport plan with cycling as a first-class part of it.

Given the state of the UK and our apparent inability to find more than "developing world" amounts of money for active travel* I think concrete blocks (Jersey barriers) may be the best of this bunch for now.

Pros: actually keep motor vehicles out - few other things do. We already have them and understand them. Relatively cheap - ongoing cost of replacing as motor vehicles run into them of course! More visible and less likely to cause a trip / pedal grind because higher.

Con - We'll need standards. Pedestrians need to cross and I'm sure there will be accessibility concerns. So regular gaps wide enough for accessible use (double-buggy, adapted cycle etc) - but not much more! Maybe tactile paving is needed to guide people to gaps ("I got trapped in the road...")? They don't fix bus stops or junctions of course. Motorist drive into them and damage their cars, and apparently even manage to drive *onto* them and flip over. Finally they're not attractive - can't see the "historic town" / "must be in keeping with the locality" places accepting them without wailing and gnashing of teeth.

For many of those negative I just think "well if you're worried about that you shouldn't be so cheap and you should make a proper separate cycle path instead - that will fix all those concerns".

* Scotland possibly excepted - if we can get this spent where it should be.

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chrisonabike replied to IanMSpencer | 11 months ago
0 likes

There's an overview here from some civil engineering firm with links to views from various organisations (end of article) including a test trial from Glasgow - interesting?

https://mayerbrown.co.uk/keep-up-to-date/blog/posts/orcas-and-armadillos...

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brooksby replied to IanMSpencer | 11 months ago
1 like

IanMSpencer wrote:

Having bitterly complained about orcas myself, tonight, some 18 months after the local bike lane had them installed, most of the orcas in one section have been destroyed by motorists and motorists ignore them when they want to stop in the cycle lane.

There's a bit of a 'broken windows' effect too - as soon as a couple of wands or orcas or whatever have been broken (vandalised?) by one motorist, other motorists then seem to think it's acceptable and break or vandalise others, and so on and so on.

I've never worked out whether councils only repair when someone complains or whether they send someone out to do a drive-around / ride-around to check.  It's not like most councils have a lot of cycling infrastructure, so it wouldn't be that big a job...

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leipreachan | 11 months ago
5 likes

Building and demolishing of the cycling infrastructure is very convenient way to create an impression of doing something. Also it a good way to use budget to the fullest.

Smells like corruption? Maybe.

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Owd Big 'Ead | 11 months ago
12 likes

Like just about every other council throughout the UK the problems can all be solved by building proper infrastructure, not a few painted white lines that then need wands or other such things to provide some kind of distinction between road space and cycle lane.

Yes, it costs more, but the objective should be building high quality infrastructure rather than cheap projects designed to tick a box.

Until, both the government of whatever hue and the local councils that actually implement and build cycling infrastructure locally, start building consistently high quality cycle lanes this will always continue to be a problem. It's taken the Danish and Netherlands almost 50 years to build their current network, it's not something that can be achieved quickly, or by believing white paint is the answer.

 

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brooksby replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 11 months ago
11 likes

Exactly.  It says in the article

Quote:

However, despite the new scheme increasing the number of cyclists using the road by 70 percent, the low Orca dividers initially used to separate the bike lane from traffic through ‘light’ segregation were condemned for both creating a safety hazard for cyclists and pedestrians while also failing to deter motorists from driving or parking in the cycle lane.

therefore the real problem here is the "motorists ... driving or parking in the cycle lane", surely?

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chrisonabike replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 11 months ago
5 likes

Yup.  To add in pesky complications / details - it will be much more painful for people in the UK.   That's because a) cycling as mainstream "transport" effectively went extinct here while it still existed in NL / some parts of Scandinavia
b) ... as did "cycle paths / tracks".  The UK has had outbursts of building these (1930s, 1960s, ...) but this always seems to be quickly forgotten.
c) ...and we also made a political choice to focus on road freight and transport over e.g. rail.
d) ... and our public transport is very spotty.

We've centralised and essentially built ourselves into motor dependency to a greater degree than other places now trying to "tame the car".

It's also the case that we refuse to set binding standards for cycle infra provision, design etc.  Or indeed serious, actionable nationwide policy - as opposed to "sorry... we're a bit tight for cash because important things".

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chrisonabike replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 11 months ago
6 likes

In a number of places there are now some pro-active-travel things starting to happen. It's just very slow and small.

On the other hand, we're not tackling the problem side.  We're still continuing the driveogenic policies which have got us where we are.

Is it that politicians feel that managing driving and increasing active travel isn't really important?  It's definitely the case that some see it as a "political suicide" issue, a way to damage their career for potentially little benefit.  An example is Boris Johnson who claimed (apparently sincerely...) that as Mayor of London  he was in favour of doing more but if he had he'd have been out at the next election.

Owd Big 'Ead wrote:

It's taken the Danish and Netherlands almost 50 years to build their current network, it's not something that can be achieved quickly, or by believing white paint is the answer.

We'll continue to be n+ however many years behind until we start.  That means doing this in an organised way and at a national level.

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marmotte27 replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 11 months ago
2 likes

Yes. I scoffed when I read the words "strategic plan" in relation to this.

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headingley | 11 months ago
12 likes

On this (somewhat twisted) logic - I await, with interest, the day when the Mayor decides roads are to be  "taken out" following pedestrian injuries....

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chrisonabike | 11 months ago
4 likes

Quote:

newly elected Labour mayor Chris Cooke

Paging Flintshire Lad (unless that account somehow mysteriously also disappeared when the resident was turfed out again...)

Chris Cooke wrote:

I have pledged to get rid of the Linthorpe Road cycle lane and there will be a new scheme looked at once the executive is in place for a different site.

The work won’t start yet because there are budgetary constraints to consider and it has to be well thought out but it will be going as soon as I can.

It's of course possible it was made so poorly in the first place that it needs major work.  On the other hand could this be "I support cycle lanes 100%!  Just not here, not now, not like this..."?

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Zermattjohn | 11 months ago
15 likes

This is excellent. Binning an implemented layout because it puts road users at risk. I look forward to the entire UK road network being similarly removed and redesigned. 

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