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“No wonder cyclists use roads instead”: Locals slam “higgledy-piggledy” cycle lane with barriers and misaligned separators

“Imagine walking away from that and thinking ‘job well done’,” said one person, with many others describing the infrastructure as “wonky” and “crooked”

“Higgledy-piggledy”, “crooked”, and “wonky” were some of the words used by locals to describe a new cycle lane in Manchester, which cost £13.4 million and is a significant part of the region’s Bee Network with 1,800 miles of cycling and walking routes. However, while some cyclists left disappointed at the “dreadful workmanship”, others reserved some praise for the Cyclops junction to which the bike lane leads to.

Plans for the Chorlton-Cum-Hardy cycle path were unveiled in November 2018, with the five kilometres of segregated Dutch-style infrastructure running along Barlow Moor Road, Manchester Road, Upper Chorlton Road and Chorlton Road.

The route had proved to be extremely popular with Greater Manchester cyclists as well as local residents at the consultation stage, with 73 per cent of respondents expressing their support for the scheme. However, issues started to rise up as construction for the ambitious project dragged on.

The construction for the cycle lane started a year ago, and was expected to wrap up by September 2023. However, the council pushed forward the completion date to 22 December, leading to an uproar from businesses in the area who claimed that the project was threatening to jeopardise their festive trade and essentially “ruin Christmas”.

> "Christmas is ruined," claims business owner... who blames cycle lane for "massive negative impact" on trade

And after even more delays, while the Cyclops junction, a flagship part of the infrastructure, is now open, the route connecting it along Barlow Moor Road is what has angered locals and cyclists alike.

The separators for the bike lane look horribly misaligned, and there are still several pedestrian barriers blocking the route from any meaningful usage.

Chorlton-Cum-Hardy Bee Network construction (Google Maps)

 

One cyclist said on Facebook: “If you raise the kerbs and put objects in the way of cycles it's more dangerous as we have no way to get out the way if there is a car coming for you”, while another added: “The wonkyness is representative of the ‘love’ (not) gone into them — the lack of education around people using bikes and the road.”

Another cyclist said: “Dreadful workmanship, proper boneshaker path that, no wonder some cyclists use roads instead,” while a fourth added: “Waste of money, better have spent the monies on repairing potholes and overall surface with cycling lines and armadillos to separate cyclists from vehicles.”

> Controversial wiggly cycle lane with "Mickey Mouse" layout recommended to be ripped out following independent review

John Hacking, Manchester City’s Labour Councillor from Chorlton, posted in the same Facebook group: “We support the building of the cycleway and welcome the investment into the local area. We also support the ambition to make the roads safer for people of all ages to cycle on to reduce car use in the city. It’s important to note that this money from the Mayor’s Challenge Fund was ringfenced for this purpose and could not have been used for any other use such as council services, road improvements or fixing potholes.

“We expect the scheme to be finished to the highest possible standards and have continually sought to try and ensure that happens. Throughout the project we have had regular meetings and held the team to account and demanded answers for delays and poor work. When people contacted us via emails or at surgeries we followed up on their concerns.

“We know that it has taken longer than expected and that this has caused understandable frustration (which we share). The contractors have faced some unavoidable challenges along the way including sinkholes, gas leaks, drainage issues and unexpected underground infrastructure. Equally there are things that could and should have been done better.

“The cycleway is due to be completed imminently and we want a first-class scheme so that our original ambitions can be met.”

Hacking added that all the concerns about the poor standard of the tarmacking had been raised with the council, and that paving machines will be sent to the site to rectify the poor areas with a site visit from the Highway officers due this week.

A local resident commented under the councillor’s post: “This scheme is only good or excellent in parts, and many areas I would describe as poor. There are many areas, the new non-existent separation between bikes and cars in front of Coriander et al being a prime example, where money has been spent for neither the benefit of cyclists, motorists or pedestrians. I won’t even mention the stretch where the cycle lane will just disappear!

“Hopefully the surfacing will be remedied as that is one thing that has been consistently bad but has been repeatedly signed off as acceptable by the council. I look forward to both its completion and the building of more interconnecting protected cycle lanes but hope that the lessons learnt in this build will be taken on board for future.”

> More collisions at UK's first Dutch-style roundabout than old layout, figures reveal

However, the Cyclops junction appears to have received a warmer reception, with people commending the layout as “intuitive” and “giving new riders the confidence to mix with heavy traffic”.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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18 comments

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Argos74 | 2 months ago
1 like

https://imgur.com/a/OOB5cx9

Granted, it's still under construction. But early indications are not promising.

Where side markings have been put in, the cycle lane appears to have priority over the side road. Which is good. But, parked vehicles on Manchester Road mean that cars just ignore it and sit in the cycle lane due to obscured visibility and general douchebaggery. I suspect we'll also encounter parked vehicles in the bike lanes pretty often as well.

The cycle lane surface appears to be okay at the moment. But I do worry if it'll survive a summer, let alone a winter. Drains look like they'll get clogged with leaves and debris pretty quickly. Crossing islands between the cycle lane and road have narrowed the road, wide vehicles slowing as they approach oncoming vehicles.

Narrow pavement at the busstop on the west/northbound near the library is more likely to cause cyclist / pedestrian interactions with negative outcomes. And I had to make my first emergency stop in years at the Cyclops junction. Had a chat with a couple of groups of pedestrians, they weren't impressed either.

My take on it so far depends on the type of cyclist. For slow utility cyclists, it gives the impression of safety, but in practice is pretty neutral, and possibly less safe in dark / rainy / obscured visibility conditions. For quick cyclists - experienced commuters and leisure cyclists, I'd use the main carriageway if traffic is reasonably quick, or use alternate routes - Kings Road, Buckingham Road as starting points.

It feels like it was designed by a committee of people who have never ridden bikes. Some years ago, I had the Wilmslow/Oxford Road as the obvious commute into the office, but swiftly worked out it was safer and quicker to use the Princess Road dual carriageway. This road design feels much the same.

We didn't need this. We do need parking enforcement on the top of Barlow Moor Road, Wilbraham Road between Albany Road and Four Banks, and outside the high school between 1400-1530. We do need effective and lasting maintenance of the road surfaces. But hey, local councils have got money to burn, so what the heck.

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chrisonabike replied to Argos74 | 2 months ago
0 likes

Thanks for the local knowledge!

Looks a bit of a mixed bag, to say the least.  Good that it's continous across side streets (are they going to do the footway also?)  Drivers here - that's an issue, it is on the Edinburgh CCWEL here (parts of which look neater).  Will take a generation for drivers to work them out.  (Spoiler - too many trips being driven).

UK standard, e.g. narrow cycle track ("but our roads are too narrow...")  Appears to have a bit of the "down a bit, then back up over a kerb, then back down" cross-section which apparently was part of the reason for issues on the "deadly" Keynsham cycle track.

Bus stop not the worst I've seen but as you say looks a mess compared to the (quite varied) ones that the Dutch somehow manage to survive.

As for users - it's difficult again because we existing cyclists have adapted (riding despite the conditions).  For current non-cyclists (potential cyclists) it's a hard sell - comparing anything less than "full Dutch" to the safety and convenience of their current trips (mostly driven).

OTOH there is evidence that if you make a network of sufficient quality they *will* come.

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chrisonabike replied to Argos74 | 2 months ago
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I'm still not convinced why we needed Cyclops junctions* but am yet to try.

I've read the info, watched Ranty Highwayman on them etc.  It's not that they look bad in principle - I just don't think they're convincingly better than e.g. a design that's been in active use for decades across at least one country.

Why do we need to literally road test a novelty?

Is it not just "not invented here"?  Or at least "the optics" of "but this is a UK design, for UK conditions" to try to get round skeptical politicos and planners, or to avoid getting blocked on UK rules?  If the Dutch one just didn't work for some legal reason(s) then I suspect the UK one will be fudged somewhere!  Because our current rules definitely don't help us with safety AND convenience when it comes to active travel (by philosophy - they're about motor traffic capacity in safety).

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HLaB replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
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The difference is in that other country they have presumed liability (or even strict) and drivers know how to drive so simple design works  7

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chrisonabike replied to HLaB | 2 months ago
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Perhaps - although lots of people seem to think the former does things it doesn't [1] [2] [3].  And the "but they are better at x!" is often a sign to take second thought too - or at least may hide a more complex reality.  I suspect - don't know - that having more awareness (regularly cycling yourself) and "skin in the game" (your friends are relatives are cycling out there) may have some effect.  In concert with all the other things that make the roadscape in that place different.

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chrisonabike replied to Argos74 | 2 months ago
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Forgot to ask (but suspect I know the answer) - single or bi-directional?

Also at the side streets obviously cars should have to go up to the footway / cycle way level (which should remain the same) - is that happening?

Again "We didn't need this" - well, in theory (and hopefully in practice) initially it's not for you (or me), but for those not cycling.  Hopefully eventually leading us to a virtuous circle where fewer people drive, more people complain the cycling isn't up to scratch, more space is taken from motor traffic etc.

Of course I don't know the scheme so it may be the usual UK "not enough, and meanwhile it's still too easy to drive, park..."

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wycombewheeler | 2 months ago
2 likes

Poor surfacing is standard for cycleways, "since they're only bikes innit?" seems to tbe the attitude.

Near me a flyover over the shopping centre was assessed and the parapet wall found to be a significant risk to drivers, so they installed a barrier between lane 1 and 2, called lane 1 a cycle lane. In the barrier installation scheme the road was resurfaced, layer one  (not very smooth) across the entire road, then barrier installed then layer two (perfectly smooth) only on the car side of the barrier. It's not as bad as the roads that have been laid in section where every 10m or so you feel the bump of the join, but it's not great for cycling on. (and thats when the barrier hasnt' been shunted into the cycle lane by drivers that obviously can't control their cars.)

I suspect most drivers don't even know why they lost a lane to a cycle facility that is rarely used, leading to increased anti cycling sentiment. The obviously will be unaware of the poor quality.

https://www.google.com/maps/@51.6306016,-0.7543018,3a,75y,166.75h,89.22t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sc-kvLVfdLujFcORyW2wwaw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?entry=ttu

 

(on the left worst located travelodge ever; choice of views out the front onto the dual carriageway and shopping centre car park, or at the rear, a service yard)

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Argos74 | 2 months ago
3 likes

It's at the end of my road. To fully express my dissatisfaction, I would need to learn to scream in German. I'll do some photos tomorrow of the current position.

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ymm | 2 months ago
10 likes

Infrastructure for any road user needs to built properly otherwise councils/developers needn't bother at all IMO and should perhaps save the money and invest it into better road space, signage. It is so frustrating that the people responsible for road design still can't get it right despite the design manual/codes and council officers signing the work off. The worst bit is when cyclists inevitably choose to avoid crap infra and then get shouted at by thoughtless motorists where instead the motorists should be roasting the council/developer that installed the infra.

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chrisonabike replied to ymm | 2 months ago
1 like

Yep - we're (all) paying for shoddy work.
Probably over the odds because cycle infra is still "custom work", I bet.

What's more there's an extra dimension of "complaints? Ungrateful b*******". And the locals* may think "they built it and we didn't see it overflowing with cyclists within a week. Proved this was a waste of cash and pointless inconvenience to everyone else! We'll definitely start hassling the council / MP / whoever will listen".

Of course variable results or even substandard work is nothing new for UK public infra **. However that has more effect on cycling infra I'd suggest. Compared to driving cyclists don't have the shock absorbing systems of cars at their disposal. Compared to pedestrians they're less manoeuvrable / may have less time to react. Plus you can't "step over" things (yes - "but just get off and walk" is exactly what we say to drivers, isn't it?). Here I'm thinking about "cycling and wheeling" use of these cycle tracks - plus the dinky wheels of escooters. I'm hoping we can move towards a Netherlands-style situation where we realise that "cycle infra" also means "also great for those with disabilities" rather than the current UK "let those not in cars fight each other over scraps".

* "Local" often is "I drive past there sometimes" of course...

** In Edinburgh this has of course happened on roads e.g. duff resurfacing work - but pretty sure they've been back and fixed defects in reasonable time.

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stonojnr | 2 months ago
1 like

Not sure what the problem is,people realise roads aren't perfectly square and have undulations right ?

But there you go, must be nice to have some dedicated infra to moan about.

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chrisonabike replied to stonojnr | 2 months ago
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Not the worst I've seen by a long way. However I've no issue with this complaint in general. Bikes aren't cars (heavy suspension). Nor are most mountain bikes.

There's a continuum between "just make it flat and level" via "UK road" * to "UK cycle facility" (footways should be better also but tend to the lower end because cars).

* Actually mostly smooth apart from road damage and "features" like drains, metal covers and cats eyes.

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chrisonabike replied to stonojnr | 2 months ago
3 likes

Point is - these are for the *cyclists we don't have* in the UK ( including those with disabilities), pedestrians will need to negotiate them etc. So not just for us existing hardy / from my cold dead hands / this is all training for MTB types.

Sometimes this is deliberate (as opposed to "that'll do, cost enough as it is") and "for reason" but actually seems petty? As if giving cyclists their own space is actually sending the wrong signals so they have to do something to put people in their place.

Case in point N. St. Davids Street in Edinburgh - fairly new bit of infra, only about 50 metres, just crossing a single one-way side street. The good - continuous cyclepath. However this pic doesn't show it well but they've managed to design in several humps along the way in this short space. Apparently level access for pedestrians to bus stops, crossing the street etc. All for making it better for those on foot but this doesn't seem to have bothered the council before, eg. when it comes to roads... Selective concern?

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stonojnr replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
0 likes

Those "not cyclists" waiting for some perfectly built infra, are in for a long wait.

Do these people also refuse to walk on pavements because some of the slabs aren't always perfectly aligned, or the tarmac has a slight dip in it ?

Is it unrideable, is it unsafe ? If the answer to both is no,then really what's the issue ?

6 months from now some utilities company will have dug a trench through it anyway.

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chrisonabike replied to stonojnr | 2 months ago
1 like
stonojnr wrote:

Those "not cyclists" waiting for some perfectly built infra, are in for a long wait. Do these people also refuse to walk on pavements because some of the slabs aren't always perfectly aligned, or the tarmac has a slight dip in it ? Is it unrideable, is it unsafe ? If the answer to both is no,then really what's the issue ? 6 months from now some utilities company will have dug a trench through it anyway.

Well... to mangle poetry: they're not waiting, but driving.

It's not about perfect - it's about the balance point.  Crudely "cycling must be at least as convenient / attractive as the current competitors for a journey e.g. mostly  driving".  Logical really - why would most people choose something less convenient?  Since driving is so normal in the UK most people don't even think of alternatives.  So even with parity of "ease" this is a tough ask.  One factor that is a constant is "but nobody else cycles".  So it has to be good enough to get a trickle of "normal" people cycling so that everyone else will eventually follow...

The conundrum is this:

Some people (to be found on this forum) really like cycling.

A few people like cycling so much they'll regularly cycle in bad weather, deliberately cycle up hills or for long distances or at over 20mph.  Or will share the roads with large, fast, loud, dangerous vehicles occasionally driven by those who are sometimes grumpy and occasionally angry and/or keen to inflict fear or harm.

Many people actually enjoy the activity of cycling*.  But just not as keenly as the previous groups.  And what humans mostly want to do is to get about efficiently and reasonably quickly to achieve the tasks / things we really care about in life (shopping, work, education, looking after people, socialising) with as little additional stress as possible.  The mode of transport is chosen just to facilitate that. **

In some places / countries that last group - always the majority - sometimes choose cycling as the most convenient way of achieving some of those journeys.  We know this varies by country (e.g. barely any do so in most of the UK, the US etc.).  That alone doesn't do much to "explain" this - there are lots of differences between most countries (and within them).  What points the way is that there are examples of place where this has changed - e.g. where effectively no-one used to cycle and now a substantial minority do.

* Yes!  However - that's conditional on lots of other things not blocking their enjoyment eg. weather is reasonable, they're doing it socially, people aren't pointing at them and laughing at their clothes / saying "bloody cyclist", there are no stressors like motor vehicles or pedestrians to dodge, they don't keep having to stop / dismount, it's not competitive / all about the suffering.

** Occasionally there's a more "recreational" aspect (a perhaps surprising proportion of car journeys are effectively "for leisure" e.g. see overall purposes here).  So we might go for a stroll with people.  Perhaps tellingly that is the one thing that UK cycling infrastructure effectively (sometimes deliberately) blocks - while acknowledging this desire for other modes.

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Rendel Harris replied to stonojnr | 2 months ago
12 likes
stonojnr wrote:

Not sure what the problem is,people realise roads aren't perfectly square and have undulations right ? But there you go, must be nice to have some dedicated infra to moan about.

Would have to ride it to be sure but it's a fairly safe assumption that if the contractors can't even get the dividers straight they'll get other things wrong: even from that photograph I can see variable camber and rippled tarmac. Are we supposed to so grateful when we're allowed 15% of the road width that we shouldn't complain when it's done ridiculously badly?

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ROOTminus1 replied to Rendel Harris | 2 months ago
3 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

if the contractors can't even get the dividers straight they'll get other things wrong

If they're so careless with work people can see, what half-assery is hidden in the lower sections of the construction work? I bet with ground settling and subsequent water ingress and damage, despite avoiding the action of lorries, vans and heavy cars, it'll be potholed to crap within 12 months.

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wycombewheeler replied to ROOTminus1 | 2 months ago
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ROOTminus1 wrote:
Rendel Harris wrote:

if the contractors can't even get the dividers straight they'll get other things wrong

If they're so careless with work people can see, what half-assery is hidden in the lower sections of the construction work? I bet with ground settling and subsequent water ingress and damage, despite avoiding the action of lorries, vans and heavy cars, it'll be potholed to crap within 12 months.

No, the surface will endure for many years, so all those imperfectinos will so no attention as the road cycle path has not deteriorated.

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