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Comments on Cinder Track improvements

2nd October 2017

Cinder Track, very rough surface sign

Caution surface very rough sign, Cinder Track, by HedgehogCycling

Comments on Hedgehog's Cinder Track page were open, and lots of people contributed to a debate. It was interesting to read different points of view. I closed comments only when I started receiving daily comments which were personal attacks, rather than about the Cinder Track.

In the initial online consultation, asked if the Cinder Track needs any improvement, 77.6% of respondents answered 'yes', and only 9.4% 'no'. Those who think no improvements at all are needed have since been vocal in campaigning against them.

Some of the objections to improvements which were made in the comments on my Cinder Track page follow, with a few thoughts in response.

Comments on Cinder Track improvements: anti-cycling comments

There were quite a few anti-cycling comments.

'Cyclists on the track are a hazard'

I understand that it is more convenient for people using a path on foot not to have to share it with people on bikes, and similarly, it would be slightly more convenient for users on bikes not to share it with people on foot. Realistically, though, there aren't going to be separate paths for different users; it's a facility which is valued by people using it on foot and by bike, and it would be a great shame to exclude either user group.

It's really not so much of a hardship to share the track considerately. No doubt some people don't follow the rules exactly, whether on foot or on a bike. I think people should follow the rules, and when using a shared path, I also try to be tolerant of other people not following the rules exactly as I would like.

I think if you go onto a shared path with a hostile attitude to another type of user, it'll be difficult to share the path considerately as the rules ask.

'Cyclists are always demanding priority'

I wouldn't support anyone behaving inconsiderately.

You go faster on a bike than on foot. People on bikes will overtake walkers on a shared path. It should always be done considerately and at an appropriate speed.

Cyclists are asked to ring their bells, to let people know they are there. Is this what's meant by 'always demanding priority'? I have experienced hostility from people who thought I hadn't rung my bell, and demanded that I should do so. I believe overall people prefer that cyclists do ring their bells, and this shouldn't be interpreted as demanding priority.

Nearly all the time, interactions are very friendly. If anyone demands priority in an aggressive way, that's wrong, but if they use their bell and someone who is already hostile to cycling interprets it as 'demanding priority', it's difficult to know what a person on a bike can do about that.

Excluding some bikes

Rough surface near Ravenscar, Cinder Track

Rough surface on the Whitby side of Ravenscar

For some people, it's clear that the motivation to keep the Cinder Track in a state of disrepair is to exclude people using it on bikes so far as possible. I don't believe that's a legitimate point of view for a shared path.

The current state of repair suits some people who are not anti-cycling, and enjoy using a mountain bike or cyclo-cross bike on the track. That's fine, but it means that a lot of bikes are excluded. I would prefer to open up the Cinder Track to as many users as possible.

If it's claimed that the track's state of repair suits certain users, that's fair enough; if it's claimed that the track's state of repair is perfect, I don't believe that's realistic.

This route is supposed to be part of National Cycle Network Route 1; from that cycling point of view, the surface is not good enough.

Comments on Cinder Track improvements: surface

Muddy section of Cinder Track near Whitby

Muddy section near Whitby

There are different views on the best surface. Sustrans' original idea was to put down tarmac, but some commenters object.

'Tarmac is too hard for jogging'

One commenter said that tarmac is too hard a surface for jogging.

There are city marathons as well as cross-country running events, so it is possible to run on tarmac and on rough surfaces. It's a question of preference. I would suggest that a lot of people prefer a tarmac surface to wet and muddy conditions.

'Tarmac is unsuitable for horses'

This is a legitimate concern. I'm not an expert on horses, but I can well imagine that tarmac isn't ideal.

One possible solution could be 2m width of a harder surface, and 1m of a softer surface. Another idea would be a good, uniform surface which is not as hard as tarmac, but suitable for all users except bikes with road tyres.

In the comments, a couple of people mentioned that the current surface is unsuitable for tandems, and said that they'd had broken spokes. They were dismissed by other commenters as niche users, and told that tandem riding was so unusual that it wasn't necessary to cater for them.

I don't agree with that approach. I believe the interests of all legitimate users should be taken into account, including horse riders and tandem riders.

I think the best surface which suits most people should be chosen. I suggest that matching the surface with the name of the track isn't crucial. (It's called the Cinder Track, because the leftovers from burning coal in power stations were used as a surface in the 1960s).

'A motorway for bikes'

This phrase 'a motorway for bikes' has been extensively used by campaigners against improvements to the track, to argue against the use of tarmac.

I can see that it's emotive, but it isn't accurate. The key features of a motorway are that it's six lanes wide, and carries motorised traffic at 70mph. None of that is proposed for the Cinder Track. I suggest it's better to stick to the facts, rather than trying to inflame fears with inaccurate characterisations.

There's a successful cycling nation across the North Sea. The Dutch would just put down a hard surface suitable for all bikes. An example similar to the Cinder Track is a coastal path that runs past Den Haag, through Scheveningen, and on to Zandvoort. It doesn't seem to cause any great conflicts, and it doesn't resemble a motorway.

Nevertheless, I accept that the Cinder Track is for all permitted uses not just cycling, and if tarmac is not wanted by a majority of interested parties, a different surface could be chosen. Perhaps there wasn't enough consultation on the choice of surface first time round.

Comments on Cinder Track improvements: widening

Narrow section of Cinder Track

Narrow section of Cinder Track

Sustrans are considering widening the Cinder Track from 2m to 3m, but again there are objections. (In fact, the Cinder Track varies in width greatly. Some sections are already 3m wide, and some are 2m. There are also narrow sections - particularly around Hawsker, and near Cloughton and Burniston - where the width is 1m or even less, and someone has to step or wheel off the track in order to pass).

'Loss of habitat'

I've seen it suggested that widening would result in 'loss of habitat'.

This was a railway line between the 1880s and the 1960s. It is certain that trees and vegetation were cut down to make the railway line. I suggest there would have been more than 2m total width when trains were running here. Vegetation has grown over the decades. Is it wrong and damaging to cut it back again?

I understand that if you value a particular flower, plant or tree, it can be upsetting for it to be removed or cut back. I would see 'loss of habitat' better describing something on a larger scale, though - if a wood was cut down, or marshes drained, so the habitat was lost not individual plants.

'Friendly interactions'

It's also been suggested that widening the path would put a stop to friendly interactions when people pass on the track.

I can't see an extra metre's width making such a radical difference. I don't accept the proposition that if you're in favour of a slightly wider track, you're against friendly interactions on it.

I don't have a strong view on widening the track. I can see that it would be useful on sunny summer Sundays when the Cinder Track is busy, but if most people are against it, I'd accept that.

Comments on Cinder Track improvements: a way forward

Muddy section of Cinder Track

Muddy section of Cinder Track between Ravenscar & Robin Hood's Bay

From personal experience, I know that some of the campaigners against improvements to the Cinder Track are unable to tolerate anyone holding an opinion different to theirs. It was suggested to me that unless I had a cycling palmarès, or unless I had ridden for Great Britain, I wasn't 'qualified' to have an opinion.

I've never ridden for Great Britain, but I don't think that's relevant.

I believe anyone who is interested in and uses the Cinder Track has a right to contribute to the debate. People shouldn't be bullied or shouted down. Legitimate concerns should be taken into account, and the best possible compromise reached.

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A Santander bike hire station near King's Cross

I visited London on a work trip in November, and it was the opportunity to test out the North-South Cycle Superhighway (CS6). My impressions are necessarily superficial - those of a two-journey Big Smoke bicyclist, not a local. Read my 5 thoughts on CS6, and the experience of cycling in London.

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Cavendish & Horses pub, Harrogate

The first details about the 2019 UCI World Championship in Yorkshire are emerging. All the races will finish in Harrogate, with starts in different places in Yorkshire. The Tour de Yorkshire editions between now and 2019 will be dress rehearsals for the World Championships. Scarborough is likely to feature heavily in the Tour de Yorkshire and the 2019 event. Read about the UCI World Championships 2019 in Yorkshire.

Cinder Track Hawkser Larpool ViaductCinder Track, rough surface sign

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