“Cyclists Dismount”. A sign that causes a facepalm moment for anyone using, or wanting to use, a bicycle for transport.
The obvious answer is that if you have to dismount and wheel your bike to continue your journey then you might as well have not bothered to get the bike out at all. The message is: “Don’t use your bike here. We don’t want you here. Please come by car next time. Or not at all.”
No one expects a piece of road so badly designed that they’d have to get out of their car and push it in order to continue their journey, so why should another mode of road transport be treated any differently?
“Cyclists Dismount” is a sign of failure. Failure to design. Designed to fail.
You won’t see similar signs in more advanced, more civilized countries where cycle transport – “active travel” if you will – is seen as a positive; a means of enabling free and efficient movement of people around towns and cities. Cycle infrastructure was described by a Dutch traffic planner as “the grease that keeps our country moving”. In Backward Britain it’s regarded as a negative thing barely tolerated by the suits in their ivory towers, as demonstrated by the occasional grudgingly implemented isolated chunk of barely useable nothingness just to appease the box tickers. Yes, Backward Britain. A country which, in town and highway planning terms, has barely discovered fire where other countries are in the space age.
So, what’s the purpose of this rant?
Well, a bit of background:
Out here in what the Bath chattering classes refer to as “Bandit Country”, Radstock (twinned with Royston Vasey) has just got a brand new very short chunk of roadway traversing what used to be derelict railway land and a car park.
The “need” for this new bit of tarmac is to alleviate the traffic congestion for which
Royston Vasey Radstock has been justly notorious for over a century.
That’s what the usual suspects, the “politicians”, “planners” and “developers” (the kind of people for whom my old drill corporal would have used the term “If they had a brain they’d be dangerous”) kept repeating over the past 25 years, anyway.
(Repeat a lie often enough and it eventually becomes the truth – isn’t that what some notorious propaganda merchant said a long time ago?)
They must have thought we’d just got off the last banana boat.
The real reason, of course, as any fool know, was to gain access to the former railway station and goods yard area, which has lain disused since the wagon repair works closed down in 1987, in order to facilitate the speculative development of a housing estate under the smokescreen of “regeneration”.
Anyway – whatever – the upshot of all this was that the “planners” had the gift of a blank canvas upon which to create a little bit of modern highway suitable for all types of traffic.
They threw that gift away and just did what they knew best. Built a motor road. A dual carriageway. A rather narrow one.
No room for a separated cycle track. Nope. None at all. There’s nowhere to securely park your bike on the rather generous pavement space either, so we can assume that the message is for you to keep pedalling out of town. You’re just a #bloodycyclist. Just. Go. Spend your money elsewhere.
(Oh, and there’s a small side issue when more than one bus arrives at either of those stops, as often happens, will obviously halt traffic flow for several minutes. The bays can’t accommodate two. But this is a cycling blog, so not our problem.)
But, hang on, isn’t Radstock uniquely situated at the hub of three “railway paths”, parts of the so-called
Notional Cycle Notwork National Cycle Network? Yeah. Sure, all three “railway paths” are isolated from each other, don’t go anywhere in particular, but they are all used by people of all ages and abilities to ride their bikes in relative safety. We’ll forget for the moment that many of these people arrive with their bikes strapped to the back of their car at an access point in order to ride up and down these isolated chunks of Notwork Network because the adjacent roads are seen as unsafe by the aforementioned people of all ages and abilities to use.
Let’s look at the token “cycle route” through this development. I say “token”, because as can be seen almost immediately, it doesn’t seem to be intended to be used.
We’ll start at the point where we would approach from the Bath direction.
The signed route brings us into town past Riverside Cottages and over Wellow Brook by the quaintly named Sheepwash Bridge.
What’s the first thing we see?
Oh, yes. There’s the “shared use” sign. But, wait. See anything wrong? (A free snakebite puncture to everyone who can’t see the problem.)
Oh, all right, then. No dropped kerb. A sure sign that this “infrastructure” isn’t intended for any practical purpose. Either that or it was designed by someone who can’t tell a bicycle from a lump on the head. Or both.
We could stop there and call it a day, but I’ve got instructions to hit a certain word count for this post, so we’ll carry on.
The designer at least acknowledges that traffic roundabouts aren’t the ideal pieces of infrastructure to escort an eight year old child (the target user for whom any designer worthy of his or her salary must have in mind at all times). Traffic roundabouts are intended to “smooth the traffic flow” – a euphemism used by traffic bods for “make it go faster”. So we are directed across the road to the next bit of “shared use” stuff.
OK. Over the road onto the opposite pavement and swing left to…
This is where the designer tasked with doing the cycle route (probably the most junior one in the office; maybe a kid on work experience) sat up and said: “Done it, boss. Nothing more I can do here. Can I go home now?”
In fairness to that luckless individual, there’s nothing more he or she could do, because the senior staff made sure of it. Big wide pavements, a raised bit in the middle for storing pot plants. No room for a cycle track safe for an eight year old. Nope. Not a chance.
Just bung a “Cyclists Dismount” on a pole and leave it at that. Then if anyone has the temerity to ride across and come a cropper it’ll be all their fault because they didn’t heed the sign.
Ah yes. The Sign.
You see, it’s meaningless. As anyone who has read the Highway Code knows, the shape of signs is important.
(You DO know, don’t you…)
Suffice to say here (this is not a road safety lecture) that square or rectangular signs are just for giving information. That’s all. They’re not warning you or giving you commands. Just information.
Anyway, let’s dutifully wheel our bikes across the road.
Dunno. It doesn’t say.
But by this time our cyclist has got used to riding on the pavement in this area. What’s she going to do? Well, we can all guess, can’t we. Incorrect behaviour has been designed into the system rather than safety, and we all wonder why we all moan about “other” people, especially those who are using “other” types of vehicle.
Anyway, let’s pretend she does the right thing and gets back on her bike, in the road, of course, and cycles along the new bit of road where she’ll either nervously teeter too close to the kerb or, if she’s done her Bikeability training she’ll “take the lane”. Either way Mr Four-by-Four-On-A-Very-Urgent-Mission coming up behind will get cross and post a #bloodycyclists Tweet to all his redneck friends on social media along with an irrelevant rant about “road tax”.
That’s it, really. Needless to say, the job’s done and nothing now can be done to fix the situation. The roundabout’s sited where it is, buildings have gone up around it. We’re stuck with it.
Now, when this development is finished the main cycle route will go through the housing estate to join the existing railway path towards Frome, bypassing the town, instead of the current route down the new road and along Church Street. So our eight year old will still need to get safely across that roundabout. No proper provision has been made or even, apparently, thought about for her. As mentioned earlier, no thought either has been given to making it inviting for people to stop a while, park the bike securely – no stands in sight – and spend a few quid on tea and cake.
Which is rather sad.
A golden opportunity lost.
No surprises there, really.
Postscript: That magical “alleviate the town’s notorious traffic congestion” plan.
Photos taken at 3:30pm on a term-time weekday. That worked well, then: