Small Changes for Notable Improvements

It’s so easy to get caught up in the demand for long, protected cycleways and high quality infrastructure (a worthy goal, of course), that it’s easy to overlook how making relatively small adjustments can make a notable difference for cycling.

One such location occurred to me today as I was cycling to the neighbouring town of Bedworth. My most direct route which also avoids the worst of the hills is obstructed at one point, where a cyclist is presented with two options: 1) dismount, walk a short distance along the footpath, use a pedestrian, walk a further short distance on the footpath before joining the next road to continue ahead, or 2) follow the road on a diversion that loops around to the destination and also includes hills on a busy main road.

Google StreetView #1 – Journey ahead (West) towards town centre is blocked (except for pedestrians). Pan left to see the pedestrian-only crossing, accessible via a narrow path between the house and railing.

The current layout is shown in the above StreetView image – my intended direction was straight on, a route which is obstructed for motor and cycle traffic but open for pedestrians where there is a pedestrian crossing at the traffic lights to the left. The alternative was a diversion on the main road, either to the left or right.

Improving this location for cycles seems an obvious action to me. Whilst I don’t have the expertise of a highways engineer to comment on how it should be implemented, I would suggest some manner of better accommodating cycles to use the existing (or a repositioned) crossing and to continue straight on would be beneficial. Similarly for cycles travelling in an eastbound (reverse) direction.

Also, when reaching the town centre, some small changes to permit cycles travelling through the pedestrian space would be welcome. I’d suggest nothing major needs to be done in the short term at least. Just dropping the kerb so it is flush with the road, and allocating the path to the left as shared space (see StreetView image #2, below). On the other side, continue with shared space around the back of the bus-stops to a drop-kerb where riders can re-join the road (StreetView image #3, below)

Google StreetView #2 – Still travelling West, there is no official route through here for cycles. The path should be allocated as shared space, with flush drop-kerbs installed.
Google StreetView #3 – Looking back (East). The paved space from the road shown in the previous image to the drop-kerb visible here (going behind the bus-stop) could be shared-space to allow riders to re-join the road.

These changes wouldn’t be perfect, certainly at the top end of the road shown in the second StreetView image, but they would be an improvement over non-existent provision at the moment. Cycle riders would get a more direct and easier route to and from the town centre, and of course, further changes and improvements can always come later. But being relatively small, I would hope (perhaps naively, I don’t know) that they would be easier to be agreed, costed and implemented than larger-scale projects.

In general, implementing what are known as modal filters such as is suggested here, where pedestrians and cycles are permitted to use a direct route that motor vehicles are not, is an important way of encouraging the use of active transport. Implemented properly and on a wide enough scale, they can divert motor traffic on longer routes between A and B negating any perceived speed gain over cycling and walking which can retain the direct line. Making active transport the easy and quick option is an important part of subtly encouraging its choice as an individual’s primary mode of transport.