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Pedestrian safety fears raised over floating bus stops on new cycle lane in Bath

Similar infrastructure elsewhere has faced opposition – but councillor says people just need to get used to it

Floating bus stops on a new cycle lane in Bath have come under criticism due to claims that the infrastructure puts pedestrians getting on and off buses at risk.

The cycle lane on the A4 Upper Bristol Road is modelled on a concept common in the Netherlands and elsewhere, and which is increasingly being rolled out in the UK, in which segregated bike lanes on roads used by buses run alongside the footway at bus stops, which are placed on an island between the footway and the main carriageway.

Upper Bristol Road

Pedestrians using zebra crossings to access the bus stop islands have priority over cyclists, who should stop if someone is crossing the cycle lane ahead of them.

But BBC News reports that concerns have been raised about potential conflict between cyclists and pedestrians.

Local resident Dominic Violante told the broadcaster: “Stepping off the bus into a cycle lane – it’s an accident waiting to happen.

“The road has been made more narrow to fit the system which makes it dangerous for vehicles too – it is absolutely ridiculous,” he claimed.

But Bicycle Mayor for Bath, Saskia Heijltjes, said: “It is safe, when I am cycling, it is clear to me that I need to stop for bus users – the markings on the path are easy to see.”

The infrastructure, which is being funded by the Department for Transport, is being installed by Liberal Democrat-controlled Bath & North East Somerset council, which has also produced a video showing how the bus stops function.

Councillor Matt McCabe pointed out that it was in line with nationally agreed standards for active travel infrastructure.

“Once people get used to it, and cyclists realise that they must stop or they are breaking the law, it will become safe,” he said.

Upper Bristol Road lies very close to road.cc’s office in Green Park Station, and website co-founder Dave Atkinson outlined why he believes the segregated cycle lane is necessary.

“Cycle lanes are always only as good as the worst bit, and the provision into the city centre from Weston and Newbridge, which is predominantly flat and easily cycleable for many people, is patchy at best.

“So the council deserves credit for at last making a proper attempt to introduce a separated cycling corridor along the Upper Bristol Road.

“The road has been narrowed but there’s no reason it should be any more dangerous or congested for vehicles than it was: no traffic lanes have been removed. A safer alternative for getting into the centre is a must to get people to change their transport habits, and this scheme is a solid start.”

He pointed out that besides the floating bus stop, “There’s a couple where there’s no island so you’re actually standing on the cycle lane to get on the bus. Having said that, I’d class the bus stops along that route as sparsely populated,” he added. An example of one of those is shown below.

A major benefit of floating bus stops in terms of improving the safety of cyclists is that it avoids the need for them to overtake stopped buses, which can often cause conflict with oncoming motor traffic.

Bath Cycle Lane Bus Stops - 10.jpg

They have been introduced on a number of segregated cycle routes in London and elsewhere in recent years.

However, as in Bath, their installation is often accompanied by people raising concerns about the safety of pedestrians crossing to and from the bus stop.

In 2016, St Thomas’s Hospital tried unsuccessfully to block a floating bus stop outside the hospital on Westminster Bridge, claiming it would put patients and their families at risk – although as cycling blogger Mark Treasure highlighted at the time, cycling was already permitted on the footway there.

> Top London hospital tries to block segregated cycle lane

More recently, in October this year the National Federation of the Blind and 162 other disability campaign groups representing disabled people handed in a petition to Number 10 Downing Street calling for an end to the installation of floating bus stops due to the danger they claimed such infrastructure posed to disabled people.

Sandy Taylor, who is registered blind and uses public transport to travel around Glasgow, said that it was “like playing Russian roulette” to cross the cycle lane to access the island and the bus stop.

> “Like playing Russian roulette”: Blind people raise concerns about ‘floating’ cycle lane bus stops

When the sustainable transport charity Sustrans analysed 28 hours of video footage from a floating bus stop on Hills Road in Cambridge, however, it found that “all interactions” between road users there showed “safe, normal behaviour.”

It added that 99 per cent of cyclists filmed had no interaction with pedestrians, and that of the 42 interactions that did happen between pedestrians and cyclists, all were at peak times, and all scored one or two on a five-point hazard scale.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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