I took a short ride around Nuneaton yesterday on a route that takes me around part of the small ring-road on a shared-use path.
This is one of those routes where pedestrians are meant to keep to one side (left, in this case), and cyclists the other, with a solid line down the centre of the path indicating that division, with stencilled decals marking the intent. However, there is no physical restriction and pedestrians (and indeed cyclists) can easily cross to the ‘wrong’ side.
As can be seen in this video, this can cause a problem. Here, I’m approaching a point where pedestrians are crossing the road at a pedestrian crossing. I sound my bell as a way of making these pedestrians aware that I am approaching, but slow to allow them to complete their crossing. The pedestrians follow a line that suggests to me that they’re keeping left, but as I pass the lead walker, she suddenly vears to the right and into my path. Fortunately, my speed was slow and I was covering the brakes and so, along with a vocal warning, managed to avoid a collision.
A very short while later, I approach another road crossing point. This time, there’s a pedestrian waiting to use the crossing and is naturally waiting in what is still technically the space for cycles – because that’s where the ‘beg button’ is. This didn’t cause any drama; there were no other pedestrians around so, I simply moved across to the walking side, passed the crossing point and moved back again. Still though, this was another potential conflict point. If it had been busier, it may have caused issues.
Beyond these conflict points, the shared path also suffers where the route itself needs to use a crossing – one that is designed entirely with pedestrians in mind and that cyclists have simply been permitted to use by virtue of it being a toucan crossing. The surface of the path is not ideal for cycles and it requires sharp angles to continue into the crossing and back out again at the other side, after which the ‘cycle side’ of the path is obstructed with various posts.
This type of facility is entirely unsuitable then. It puts pedestrians and cyclists into conflict, even when pedestrians are using the route as intended by keeping to ‘their side’, it doesn’t leave enough space for either user (this is technically a two-way route for both users, but the lanes are barely wide enough for single direction traffic), and it is awkward to use by virtue of its use of crossing points and obstructions.
Nuneaton’s ring road is small at under 1.5 miles long, however it is a two-way road and at many points will have two lanes per direction. It’s been said by Warwickshire County Council that there is no space on this road to provide a proper segregated cycleway, yet if this road were made one-way, reducing the number of on-carriageway lanes required for motor traffic, there would be plenty of space for a bidirectional segregated, safe and easy to use cycleway. This would leave the current shared-use path available entirely for pedestrians and result in an improved transport network that is more fairly balanced to the needs of all users – pedestrians, cycle riders, bus users and drivers, rather than the current situation which is dominated by the demands for drivers, with other users provided for as an afterthought.