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New protected cycle lane – in city where cyclist was fined for riding on bike path – slammed as “accident waiting to happen for pedestrians” that will “cause carnage on the roads”

However, a local cycling group says the new bike lane will “revolutionise people’s journeys”, coaxing them out of their cars, and giving “thousands” of children the “choice” to cycle to school everyday

A new protected bidirectional cycle lane in the centre of Colchester – where earlier this year a cyclist was handed, incorrectly, a £100 fine by a council warden for riding on a shared use path – has the potential to “revolutionise people’s journeys” in the city, local cycling campaigners have said.

However, the infrastructure’s completion this week has also been met with scorn and fierce criticism from motorists on social media, who have branded the two-way bike lane a “big load of wasted money” and “an accident waiting to happen for pedestrians” that will “cause carnage on the roads”.

On Tuesday evening, the Colchester Cycling Campaign posted a video of the newly opened two-way cycle lane – segregated from motor traffic by bollards – on Head Street, where work has also been carried out to install new road markings and cycling-specific traffic lights to enable people on bikes to ride against the flow of the one-way traffic on the street.

The cycleway was funded by Active Travel England and completed this week despite a gas leak on the road delaying other parts of the scheme, such as the upgraded crossing which will allow cyclists to navigate the junction seconds before other road users.

The active travel project, which Essex Highways hopes will encourage “safer, greener, and healthier” travel in Colchester, has been roundly praised by local cyclists who have long criticised the city’s firmly established “car-oriented” centre, its lack of “desire lines”, and the increased travel times for cyclists thanks to its plethora of one-way streets, often forcing locals to walk with their bikes.

And, while the Colchester Cycling Campaign noted the need for drivers to look out for cyclists while attempting to turn right at one specific, non-protected part of the cycle lane, the new infrastructure was praised by locals on social media as “glorious”, “really great”, and “probably the best” space for cyclists in the city.

However, befitting the confusion emanating from some local motorists prior to the bike lane’s completion last month, the Head Street cycle lane hasn’t received universal praise.

“Shockingly bad and dangerous design,” one social media user wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“Looks like an accident waiting to happen for pedestrians,” added Tristan.

Agreeing that the protected cycle lane will make things more dangerous for pedestrians, Timber wrote: “A two-way cycle lane in a one-way street with traffic lights for pedestrians will result in pedestrians being hit by cyclists as the former will look left, not right, and the latter disregard lights.

“It will happen. Poor design.”

“What a big load of wasted money [that will] cause a whole load of carnage on the roads, defeating the very thing it was set out to do,” said Marcus.

“Goes along with every project this stupid local council/county council does. Only interested in lining their pockets with brown envelopes.”

Head Street, Colchester (Colchester Cycling Campaign)

> “Obstacle course” cycle junction a “ruse to drive motorists out of the town”, claim drivers – but cyclists praise long-awaited layout change

Nevertheless, despite the rather inevitable online criticism of the scheme, the Colchester Cycling Campaign believes that the new bike lane marks the first phase in creating, for the first time, a safe route for cyclists through Colchester, that will encourage people out of their cars, and potentially “revolutionise” their journeys in what has been, for decades, a resolutely car-focused city.

“We’re delighted that this cycleway is open and we thank everyone who supported it,” the group’s vice-secretary William Bramhill told road.cc today.

“Now we must bring pressure on the councils to extend the two-way route across Headgate and up Butt Road, which was the intention when Essex won £4 million from Active Travel England.

“If we can achieve that it will be the first time since cars took over our streets that cyclists will have a safe, high-quality route between the north and south of the city. It will give people an alternative to jumping in the car.

“Incidentally we never say ‘everyone has to cycle’ – merely that if you want to ride a bike you should be able to do so without feeling under threat. The key word here is ‘choice’, especially for the thousands of children and teenagers going to school and college each day.

“The Head Street cycleway is a step towards giving them that choice. It will in itself revolutionise people’s journeys.”

Bramhill continued: “It will allow cyclists to ride from the top of North Hill to Headgate for the first time since the city centre one-way system was installed in the early 1960s.

“It cuts out a big loop – High Street, Queen Street, St Botolph’s Street, Osborne Street and St John’s Street – and makes it easier for lots of people riding to and from Colchester General Hospital, the railway station, the VI Form college, and the Institute. It also links into St John’s Street and Crouch Street for those heading east or west.”

> “Why pick on a lone female cyclist?” Cyclist slapped with £100 fine – for riding on a cycle path

This first apparent shift away from Colchester’s seemingly ingrained car culture, towards one that provides clear and safe choices for active travel, comes just two months after a cyclist in the city was left stunned after she was handed a £100 Fixed Penalty Notice by a council warden, ostensibly under a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) designed to prevent anti-social or nuisance behaviour, who claimed that the cyclist was “riding on the footpath” – despite the path in question being designated as a shared-use cycle route since 2011.

Helge Gillmeister was cycling home from work in March, along a path located next to the city’s busy Southway, when she was issued with the fine for breaching the PSPO. Describing her punishment as “ridiculous”, especially due to the presence of signs indicating the path’s shared-use status 30 yards from where she was stopped, Gillmeister quickly and successfully appealed the FPN, with the council agreeing to waive her fine.

Nevertheless, the debacle has inspired the Colchester Cycling Campaign to adopt a policy of “non-cooperation” with the council, while urging cyclists to refuse to give their names or addresses if stopped by wardens for riding their bikes in what campaigners such as Bramhill have described as a “city designed for cars”.

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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13 comments

Avatar
Milk | 1 month ago
0 likes
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Justanotherhuman | 2 months ago
2 likes

If a drunk driver drives into the cycle lane and exit , in the morning no noticeable damage on the car in the morning.... because it's just a little plastic bump  with  wand that blows over in the wind is it actually safe ? 

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chrisonabike replied to Justanotherhuman | 2 months ago
1 like

But actual high-quality separated cycle infra is generally not designed to protect against drunk drivers or motorised assassins.

Nor are most pavements (and people *are* killed there). Or even houses - which suffer regular motor vehicle incursions (see "car crashes into building" thread here).

So not gold standard (see The Netherlands) but better than most UK stuff - good enough?

Avatar
mdavidford | 2 months ago
2 likes
Quote:

...fierce criticism from motorists on social media...

...Headgate and up Butt Road...

I mean seriously people - it's an open goal right there...

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Keesvant | 2 months ago
2 likes

I think it's a huge step up for cycling in colchester !
I would not use this path, 2-way ,pedestrians and those bollards on the path are so dangerous !
Why is there a "slow" marking on the path ?
Define "slow" is there a speed limit ?

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Hirsute replied to Keesvant | 2 months ago
1 like

Because of the floating taxi rank.
Not that any taxis use it for fares but rather parking.
Already a phv driver parked in the lane as they thought it was closed.

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Andrewbanshee | 2 months ago
1 like

The UK and new infra. Sigh. Optical illusion infra. Sigh. Accident waiting to happen. Sigh.
Almost as if people aren't informed how to use or respond to this infra, which by and large is very new and unique for the majority of the UK.

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chrisonabike | 2 months ago
1 like

Thanks to locals for reviews.  And obviously the people who got this through!

Just from viewing video I'd say overall also a positive on the details.  The let-downs:

  • bollards in the cycle path (because cars - but an obstacle to riders and motor vehicles that get in will just run them over...)
  • Continuous solid colour is good - but paint is still doing a lot of work here.  (And because UK we have to have double yellows, kerb no loading marks, bike symbols...)
  • The turn across the cycle path looks a bit dicey.  But then - that's standard for the UK anyway!
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stonojnr | 2 months ago
1 like

I can't imagine riding up North Hill is on anyone's desire list, unless it's made a late entry to 100 climbs to ride before you die.

And Head St has never struck me as the thing that's barrier to cycling in Colchester, look at North Station roundabout, Cowdray Avenue, Southway, Ipswich Rd, Lexden Rd, they're horrible to drive on, let alone risk cycling on.

And Colchester gets alot of motor traffic through it because its often the simplest (only) way to get to West Mersea or Rowhedge.

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ROOTminus1 | 2 months ago
5 likes
Quote:

“an accident waiting to happen for pedestrians” that will “cause carnage on the roads”

As the cycleway is located between the footpath and the road, will these outraged critics make up their mind on whether pedestrians or vehicle operators are at harm? Or are cyclist somehow going to teleport Peds from one side of the cycleway into the path of motor traffic on the other?

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Hirsute replied to ROOTminus1 | 2 months ago
10 likes

They think Peds will only look one way and so there will a collision.
If only they knew how little Peds look !

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brooksby replied to Hirsute | 2 months ago
4 likes

They also forgot to mention how pedestrians will be injuring themselves all the time by tripping up on this Keynsham-branded "optical illusion cycle lane"... 

(remember, kids: red textured surface, bollards and white lines are apparently not enough to distinguish footway/cycleway/roadway)

Avatar
Hirsute | 2 months ago
5 likes

I did a couple of laps today jsut to see. One deliveroo rider completely oblivious and 2 riders in their 60s who looked very happy to be using it.

Just waiting for the first BOLAs though...

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