Not just a slap of paint.

Extraordinary statements from our transport secretary, Mr Grayling, continue (see previous On Yer Bikes).  First he says that people on bikes are not road users.  Now we hear that he has taken against London’s cycle superhighways, which he considers take space away from cars – an inconvenience for road users (that is everyone but cyclists). 

By extension this means he is happy with those existing cycle lanes that just involve a slap of paint. But paint quickly wears out, gets obscured, does not prevent vehicles parking over it, and gives no sense of security to those who’d like to cycle. 

Mr Grayling appears unwilling to recognise that cycling is a good solution for all road users, and is not part of the problem.

So if our own highway authority, Oxfordshire County Council, were to take its cue from Mr Grayling, what might this mean for Oxford?

The county council acknowledges that Oxford is already too congested by traffic, its air is frequently polluted, its incentives for healthier calorie-burning travel are insufficient. Its transport strategy rightly prioritises walking, cycling and public transport.

The county council has commissioned consultants to specify designs for major corridor routes in Oxford city, along the Banbury and Woodstock Roads, and along the Botley Road. Although these plans are currently unfunded, pragmatically the county wants designs in place ready to roll out if and when they spot chances to bid competitively for funds.

While these roads already have to cope with a very high volume of buses (at peak times 25 buses travel along the Botley Road each hour) the plans for Botley Road and Woodstock Road include cycle routes with at least some degree of segregation for most of their lengths. Commendable, you might think.

The consultants’ plans however do not resolve the problems of those bottle-necks where bikes and buses compete for space. If a route ceases to be segregated, even for a very short distance, forcing bikes to share road space with cars and buses, then that route is as good as useless. Don’t discourage the very people whom the routes must attract - those who are apprehensive about cycling on busy roads.  They just will not use the route.  This will merely confirm the views of Mr Grayling that segregated cycle routes are a literal waste of space.

Good planning and design can ensure that conflicts between bikes and other vehicles are avoided. Investment in anything but those top quality designs that deal with these  conflicts would be a sorrowful waste of precious money.

So please, transport planners, don’t listen to Mr. Grayling. Take the 50-year view, like those far-seeing planners who designed the wonderful cycle track alongside Marston Ferry Road.  Don’t even contemplate the Grayling growlings that cyclists should be out of sight and out of mind on off-road paths.  That just affirms his view that cyclists are not road users.  

We are a proud cycling city and we need segregated cycle lanes along busy roads that don’t rely just on a slap of paint.