36cm cycle lane

West Park cycle lane
West Park cycle lane

We have got so accustomed to unusable 'cycle infrastructure' that we barely notice it.

I was taking photos of the Harrogate circuit for the 2019 UCI road World Championships. I did notice this laughable cycle lane, and I gave it the tape measure treatment.

If you measure between the inside of the white and double yellow lines, it's 36cm. That's nine tyre-widths - generous! - but not quite the width of my bike from pedal to pedal. I'm not boasting here (well, ok, a little bit), but my shoulders are 18cm wider than the cycle lane measured that way.

If you measure from the edge of the tarmac to the outside of the white line, it's 87cm. That compares with design guidance suggesting a desirable width of 2m, and (Cycle Infrastructure Design 9.4.8) a minimum width of 1.2m.

There's one either side of the road - this is a wider view.

West Park cycle lane
West Park cycle lanes

The cycle lane only lasts for about 10m - it's the lead-up to an Advanced Stop Zone at traffic lights. Even if it were longer and wider, it doesn't provide any physical protection from traffic, so it wouldn't persuade a significant number of people to swap four wheels for two.

Harrogate Welcomes the World

Harrogate Welcomes the World

Harrogate Welcomes the World in September. Three cheers (or more) to everyone who has made it possible. West Park will be the focus of the Yorkshire Worlds, with the start/finish line in front of the United Reform church. The roads will be closed to traffic for the professionals. What about the rest of us the rest of the time?

I've heard the argument that instead of splurging money hosting the World Championships, we should be spending it on everyday cycle infra for people to get about by bike. I don't buy that; there is no such binary choice. Whatever the Champs cost, if they were cancelled the money simply wouldn't be spent on quality cycle infrastructure.

In fact, raising the profile of cycling by hosting an international event makes it more likely that our councils will consider utility cycling, not less. For cycle campaigners, this is a big opportunity to highlight deficiencies, and motivate local authority decision-makers to pull their cycling socks up.

The solution

The solution isn't just to make these lanes wider, although that should be done. It is to totally change the way cycle infra is planned, designed, and built. At the moment, it is quite astonishing the extent to which it is a box-ticking exercise, with no understanding of whether what's built (or painted) is actually usable.

West Park is busy with traffic, and intimidating for anyone riding a bike. We need physical protection from the traffic. The designer must think about how people will use a cycle route, and not just abandon riders as soon as a hard choice is encountered. Make the designer actually pedal his or her route, and see if it works.

This is the test - is the route:

Lots of people live in south Harrogate. The A61 is the obvious way to get into town. It's no distance from Leadhall Lane to the town centre - easily rideable by bike (or done on roller skates, or an electric scooter, or with a mobility scooter) in a very few minutes. Let's have a proper bike route along the A61 from Fulwith Road to town, or even from Pannal to town.

So come on, no more 36cm bike lanes. Let's do this properly. Repeat after me, North Yorkshire County Council: safe, convenient, complete network; safe, convenient, complete network....fadeout