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“Oh! Bollards!” Delivery cyclist says council’s new cycle route barriers are too narrow for cargo bike trailers… also supplied by the council

“The barriers and bollards are an unhelpful waste of money,” says ultra-cycling legend Steve Abraham

Milton Keynes-based delivery cyclist Steve Abraham has criticised the local council’s decision to install a growing number of barriers and bollards on the city’s cycleways and shared use routes, which the ultra-cycling legend says prevents the paths being used by delivery riders with large bike trailers – that were themselves supplied by the council.

Earlier this week Abraham, a cyclist known for his distance record attempts who works as an independent food delivery rider for companies such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats, posted on Strava a photo of a set of bollards at the exit of a canal crossing which – unless the rider attempts a tricky manoeuvre onto the adjacent grass – appear just wide enough for a cyclist on a standard bike to pass through.

And not at all wide enough, as Abraham noted on the ride sharing app, for cyclists on cargo bikes or towing large trailers stocked with food.

Steve Abraham Strava

“Milton Keynes Council, in their infinite wisdom, have started putting up bollards that the trailers they supplied to us won’t fit through. Muppets,” the independent contractor posted on Strava.

Speaking to road.cc, Abraham says that, at the same time active travel charity Sustrans has begun to remove barriers along the National Cycle Network, “bollards and barriers are cropping up” throughout Milton Keynes in recent months, hindering the bikes he uses to deliver food as an independent contractor, an experience he spoke in detail about on a recent edition of this site’s podcast.

> “You're just collateral” — Ultra-cycling legend Steve Abraham on Deliveroo and the gig economy

The ultra-distance cyclist, who uses the trailers once a week, says the new bollards on their “usual” canal crossing were flagged by a colleague last week, and that when he attempted to access a previously used crossing on a different route, he “found more new bollards”.

“The bikes we use are Tern GSDs and we tow Carla trailers which are the biggest trailers I have ever seen,” he says. “They were supplied by the council (who bought 21 e-cargo bikes for businesses and charities to rent at an extremely good rate). Milton Keynes Parks Trust also have a few of their bikes too.

“There were a few barriers in places before we got the cargo bikes and they’ve been there longer than I have (25 years), so I avoid them on any bike, but wouldn’t be able to get through them on my tandem, let alone our monster Tern set up.

“A more typical cargo bike without the trailer would get through those bollards, but it’s tight and especially tricky if there's a gusty side wind.”

> Disabled cyclist accuses Stockport Council of trying to “worm its way out” of making sure that all cycling and walking routes are accessible 

Steve says the new bollards, such as the ones he posted on Strava, have made it trickier for delivery riders to find efficient, accessible routes using the city’s redways, a traffic-free shared use network covering most of the city estates and stretching out to the area’s older towns, an example of active travel infrastructure that Abraham describes as “a bit of a local quirk that are good, bad, and misunderstood”.

“These new bollards are on canal bridges. There was already a barrier stopping us using one useful crossing. We now have lost three more options and have one left without a mile’s detour,” he says.

“There might have been one more crossing over the canal but I am not sure I would make it without a run up. It’s very steep and I would have to take a bend at speed to have a chance. Leisure riders often push their bikes over it because they get caught out in the wrong gear following directions from signs or phones. Shared use substandard paths aren’t for fast and efficient riding.

“Or we could just use the grid roads with 60 or 70mph speed limits. I’m sure that those drivers that complain about anyone ever cycling on the grid roads when we have these ‘wonderful cycleways all over the city’ will understand if they see us.”

> Steve Abraham back riding after driver knocks him off bike

Abraham also noted that he contacted the council to inform them of the areas where the bollards and barriers prevented the trailers from passing through, but that he never got a response.

“Overall, I would get rid of them all with a few possible exceptions,” he says. “They make crossing roads with oncoming pedestrians or cyclists also crossing a lot more awkward than necessary.

“They generally just make the redways that extra bit more awkward at best, or in the case of the bollards and barriers that some bikes can’t get through, they put a big limit on route options. And you also really need to know your way around because these things don’t show up on route planning apps like Google.”

He continued: “The barriers and bollards are an unhelpful waste of money that are one of the problems of the redways.

“They could be to slow people down where things are very badly designed. I find it ridiculous that we have grid roads that allow people to drive at the national speed limit and that’s seen as essential, but being able to cycle at speed on something that’s supposed to be specific for cycling is a problem.

“200 miles of cycleways that don’t meet minimum standards is a boast. The cul-de-sac I live in is built to a much better standard and I bet there are thousands of miles of those. A cycleway that’s about half the width of a typical residential road, with a good footpath on both sides and built to a similar standard with drainage would be the best cycleway in Britain.

“Instead, we get hazardous substandard paths. That probably makes me sound like a miserable old bugger and to be fair, I might even be one! So, I will say that Milton Keynes is great for me as a cyclist partly because of the redways.

“But that’s because cycling is fun by default and although it could be a hell of a lot better, all of the bulls*** and nonsense doesn’t ruin all of the fun, especially when you can escape criminal car drivers. And the redways are a better way of seeing the city than the soulless grid roads. Though I will usually use the grid roads to ride into and out of Milton Keynes.”

Milton Keynes City Council has been contacted for comment.

> Campaigners welcome council’s U-turn on installing “discriminatory” barriers on cycling and walking routes

The issue of barriers and bollards hindering access to cycle routes for people with disabilities or non-standard cycles has proved a growing concern in recent years.

In December, we reported that Stockport Council had backtracked on its plans to introduce more barriers on cycling and walking routes, a decision welcomed by campaigners who said that the barriers would discriminate against disabled people who use non-standard cycles, wheelchairs, and mobility aids.

Stockport Council had originally voted to install chicanes, bollards, and barriers on some cycling routes to tackle anti-social behaviour, a measure Labour councillor Dean Fitzpatrick claimed at the time was about trying to “balance everything for the whole community”.

However, the plans were heavily criticised by active travel campaigners who argued that the proposed barriers did not “meet the legal access requirements” and would prevent disabled people from using the routes.

“The very basic bare minimum the council should be doing, they don’t reach that, which morally is pretty disgusting. There’s a minimum and the council is trying to worm their way out of it,” Harrie Larrington-Spencer, a researcher at the University of Salford who specialises in inclusive active travel, said in response to the policy.

“It’s not about balance. Disabled people have the right to access these spaces. You should be able to use the same walking and cycling routes that non-disabled people can use. You are limiting who can access these routes, which is terrible.”

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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41 comments

Avatar
nogs | 11 months ago
5 likes

Walked over the bridge at lunchtime today and the council have made changes at both ends.  The middle bollard has been moved back to make a triangle formation which does open up the gap a lot, but you would still be forced towards the grass or hedge to go around either side of it.  This change has yet to be made to the two bridges further along the canal that have the same issue.  The change to the one pictured was done since yesterday lunchtime so perhaps they will get around to it on the others...

Someone did ask about going around the sides of the outer bollards, but the way these bridges have been built the path on the outside is pretty bad.  Apparently the foundations for the bridge don't include the stairs on either side, and both of these have sunk. Where the stairs meet the path it is pretty damaged / broken up as the stairs have dropped a good 6-10 inches.

I think the changes might have been introduced after structural surveys were completed last summer.  On the other two affected bridges nearby I have seen the landscape maintenance crew driving over the bridges, and they probably aren't designed for that. Not sure you could get a vehicle around the ramp in the bridge shown though. It also might be a good idea to fix the removable bollards on the paths that allow maintenance vehicles through, as these are just unlocked or broken a lot of the time so anyone can use them.

Avatar
Steve Abraham replied to nogs | 11 months ago
2 likes

That's interesting if they've moved the middle bollard. I might have a look one day now that I know a little bit about LTN1/20 from this. I won't try using it with the trailer unless I know it is OK. It's not the crossing I would use if I could use them all either.

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Kingslynndave | 11 months ago
3 likes

You will find that the recommended distance for all bollards are a minimum of 900mm. This is because under disability laws this is the minimum width for wheelchair access it applies to building standards and all other access and street layouts in the UK.. Standard footpaths however are normally 1200mm wide and should be a unobstructed clear width.

I have a standard bakfeits cargo trike. The width of the frame is 850mm wide. Even in some places were I live I struggle on certain places because of bollards. Up untill recently I couldn't even enter my local park. This is because the council are trying to stop motorbike and mopeds using the park as short cut.
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This cargo bike should therefore be designed to go through 900mm and no more. If the bollards are to smaller width it is a inconvenience, but if this is the case. Take a thought for poor disabled people in wheelchairs instead.

Avatar
Steve Abraham replied to Kingslynndave | 11 months ago
3 likes

That might be it. The trailer was only a few inches too wide for me to push through so I guessed that the spacing was about 90cm

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mattw replied to Kingslynndave | 11 months ago
2 likes

Can I ask you for a cite on those 900mm and 1200mm numbers, please, Dave? Very geniune question - I'm trying to get to the bottom of this. It's a devil of a subject. Are those perhaps old recommendations?

The standard Govt Doc AIUI is "Inclusive Mobility", updated in Jan 2022, which specifies 2000mm footway /footpathwidth as expected, 1500mm as minimum acceptable, and "absolute minimum width" through a physical obstruction (eg tree / lamp post) as 1000mm for a max of 6m run. Section 4.2 of this:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inclusive-mobility-making-tra...

It also mentions a maximum spacing between bollards of 1200mm, which seems to come at least in part from the "Vehicle Security Barrier" (VSB) field of work. 2013 VSB guidance:(https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa...)

Given that the standard "cycle design vehicle" is 1.2m wide (features for example in LTN 1/20), and LTN 1/20 references 1.5m as recommend bollard spacing, something needs to be updated. Disabled charities are arguing for the "wheelchair design vehicle" to follow the same dimension, as cycles are common mobility aids.

(This should apply to MK as the Redways paths are ped/bike shared).

For practicality, take a 1.2m vehicle width, add in 100mm each side for clearance, and half the width of a bollard, and you have a min spacing of 1.5m, with a gap of around 1.4m.

I'd welcome your further comments.

Avatar
mattw replied to Kingslynndave | 11 months ago
1 like

Incidentally, Kyngs Lynn's Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan seem quite impressive with their plans to systematicallly remove anti-wheeling / cycling barriers:

https://norfolk.citizenspace.com/environment-transport-and-development/n...

 

Avatar
max power | 11 months ago
0 likes

looks like you could drive a bus through at either side. are cargo bikes difficult to steer?

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marmotte27 replied to max power | 11 months ago
2 likes

Wtf?

Avatar
max power replied to marmotte27 | 11 months ago
0 likes
marmotte27 wrote:

Wtf?

ah the sarcasm filter must be switched on on your device.

however

 

Avatar
Steve Abraham replied to max power | 11 months ago
4 likes

Possibly. I did consider it but because

The raised area around the railings that might have fouled the trailer wheel, 

I would have had to come in wide to line the trailer up if that was possible because of the hedge, but maybe if I unhitched the trailer?

Wet grass isn't good for traction, which you need to tow a trailer. Trailer plus load was about 100kg total so add me and the bike and you're trying to propel about 200kg on a 20" tyre on wet grass/mud. It might have been OK, I might have had to push.

Even if I did, after all the faff, would I get through the bollards on the other side?

And if so, I'll need another route anyway because this just isn't very practical if there's a better option,

So I didn't bother trying.

 

It's not difficult to steer. The trailer follows the bike very well

Avatar
mattw replied to max power | 11 months ago
3 likes

Serious reply. Difficult for some trikes and cargo trikes, also for some wheelchairs.

They just need to use nationally recommended spacings; it's a stupid schoolboy error.

Avatar
max power replied to mattw | 11 months ago
0 likes
mattw wrote:

Serious reply. Difficult for some trikes and cargo trikes, also for some wheelchairs.

They just need to use nationally recommended spacings; it's a stupid schoolboy error.

i wholeheartedly concur but to me with this example there looks to be room between the railings and outer bollards. i may be totally wrong due to the angle/distance distortion in which case i apologise for being obtuse, pardon the pun.

reclaim the streets citizens

Avatar
HoarseMann replied to max power | 11 months ago
1 like
max power wrote:

i may be totally wrong

I think you are. If you've ever been to MK, you'll know that there's usually only two bollards, like here: https://goo.gl/maps/H496UTn2VbcEho9e7

They are generally placed where the redway is quite wide and crosses a road, to stop dozy drivers turning into it by mistake. They're not usually used to keep vehicles out, as often you could easily drive a car around them.

I'm not sure why they've put a bollard in the centre here. A contractor mistake I would think. I'm not even sure why bollards would be required at this location either. I think it might be here: https://goo.gl/maps/gnooWK1cU1v2qLiy7

Which is not a place you would expect a car to be, even by mistake. Maybe it's to keep the council grass/hedge/road maintenance vehicles from driving over the bridge that is probably not designed to take the weight of flat bed transit. Even if that were so, it's one bollard more than required.

Avatar
Steve Abraham replied to HoarseMann | 11 months ago
2 likes

Yes. That's where they are but there are also sets of bollards just fitted on 2 other bridges. I went this way because bollards were put on my usual route but then saw that some were put here as well. I think you'd have a job getting a car around that helter skelter bend up to the bridge but I don't know why anyone would even bother trying.

Avatar
HoarseMann replied to Steve Abraham | 11 months ago
2 likes
Steve Abraham wrote:

I think you'd have a job getting a car around that helter skelter bend up to the bridge but I don't know why anyone would even bother trying.

I have enough trouble getting a bicycle up those steep spiral ramps, never mind a car!

I've just checked and this is land owned by The Parks Trust, rather than the council directly. Perhaps they had some money left in the bollards pot and had to spend it before the end of the financial year?!

Whatever it is, it's a complete waste of money as far as I can see, not to mention the inconvenience it's causing.

Avatar
ktache replied to max power | 11 months ago
1 like

I think it might have something to do with the long wheelbase cargo bike and huge trailer, all being rather heavy, making jinking left or right on a slope and bridge parapets a little more difficult than on a normal more standard bike.

Especially as these seem to be recently installed on what may have been an easy to navigate route before

Avatar
mattw replied to max power | 11 months ago
2 likes

No problem !

I'm not that knowledgeable myself, but I've tried to take an interest in this one - as I think MK are probably making a genine policy mistake here. 

Avatar
ktache | 11 months ago
3 likes

It's an impressive trailer, full disk brakes, heavy, and an impressive load capacity.

https://ebiketips.road.cc/content/reviews/heavy-duty-three-wheeler-trail...

Avatar
mark1a replied to ktache | 11 months ago
3 likes

Mind you, at £4k, Adrian Chiles would have to do another 4 days on OnlyFans in addition to the 4 for the bike itself. 

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to ktache | 11 months ago
0 likes

They look awesome.  Only had need of that volume-shifting or weight-carrying capacity a few times in my life - but then, it would have been useful. 

Seen one outside the Edinburgh Cargo bike hub.  They've a hire scheme but it's not obvious you can rent the trailer.  I am currently without my own cargo trailer though, so the next time I need to shift lots of stuff I might look again...

Avatar
Steve Abraham replied to ktache | 11 months ago
4 likes

It is!

I was surpised how stable it is and how well it follows the bike around corners. I have stopped it going downhill at 30 mph with about 160kg in the trailer and it felt at least as stable as a bike, probaby because the long wheelbase. The Tern has 180mm rotor two piston hydraulic brakes too. Not sure I'd want to pay for one but it's a lot more stable than my own little German cargo trailer.

Avatar
mattw | 11 months ago
4 likes

Can I check?

1 - Are these installed on a designated cycleway?

2 - Does anyone knjow the actual spacing here? (Will twitter Steve)

Note also, the Transport Select Committee Enquiry on Accessible Transport Legal Obligations (such as not blocking networks of paths to people with a right to access them) is accepting submissions up until Monday. The MK Council jokers are a prime example.

Here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/6805/accessible-transport-legal-ob...

Avatar
Gimpl replied to mattw | 11 months ago
1 like
mattw wrote:

Can I check?

1 - Are these installed on a designated cycleway?

Not exactly - the Redways are shared use paths.

Avatar
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 11 months ago
0 likes

There are a few routes on some of my regular trips that I have to detour if I am on the cargo bike - although the TERN will get through most and the picture in this report shows a TERN GSD that can fit through even with the trailer. (There is plenty of space to the left of the picture) But barriers are a nuisance. The barriers are installed by local authorities to keep out mopeds and motorbikes - but they also keep out many types of cargo bike. It's a dilemma. 

Avatar
marmotte27 replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 11 months ago
2 likes
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP wrote:

There is plenty of space to the left of the picture.

Not in the picture I am seeing.
Not with a rig of this length.
Not without going totally into the grass.
No idea what you're talking about...

Avatar
jh2727 replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 11 months ago
2 likes
BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP wrote:

The barriers are installed by local authorities to keep out mopeds and motorbikes - but they also keep out many types of cargo bike. It's a dilemma. 

It really isn't a dilema. Most of the motorbikes I see being ridden off road are no wider than a push bike - they are either homemade e-bikes, electric trials bikes or minimotos. Bollards that are less than 1.5m apart are no longer useful - there is no point trying to restrict anything narrower than a car.

Avatar
ktache | 11 months ago
3 likes

At least they are yellow...

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 11 months ago
2 likes

I thought bollards were supposed to be friendly to cyclists?

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mattw replied to hawkinspeter | 11 months ago
2 likes

Spacing looks wrong (& discriminatory therefore illegal).

There should be an easy run up and a 1.5m clearance between bollards. It's all in LTN 1/20 if this is an official cycling route, or various places if it is a footpath (including some bits that are less than helpful).

Avatar
Kingslynndave replied to mattw | 11 months ago
1 like

You will find that the recommended distance for all bollards are a minimum of 900mm. This is because under disability laws this is the minimum width for wheelchair access it applies to building standards and all other access and street layouts in the UK.. Standard footpaths however are normally 1200mm wide and should be a unobstructed clear width.

I have a standard bakfeits cargo trike. The width of the frame is 850mm wide. Even in some places were I live I struggle on certain places because of bollards. Up untill recently I couldn't even enter my local park. This is because the council are trying to stop motorbike and mopeds using the park as short cut.
.
This cargo bike should therefore be designed to go through 900mm and no more. If the bollards are to smaller width it is a inconvenience, but if this is the case. Take a thought for poor disabled people in wheelchairs instead.
If the cargo bike and trailor is over 900mm wide. "Hit the road jack"

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