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Cycle route, East Parade, Harrogate

East Parade, Harrogate, has a cycle route in both directions. In the UK, we are used to cycle lanes which are bodge jobs and/or afterthoughts, because bikes aren't taken seriously as a form of transport. The cycle infrastructure on East Parade, Harrogate falls into the bodge job/afterthought categories.

Cycle route, East Parade, Harrogate: impatient and dangerous driving

16th June 2018

The reasons why the cycle infrastructure on East Parade is poor are set out below. Here, I'm going to insert the details of an incident which happened to me about 6pm today, 16th June 2018, going north on East Parade, downhill.

Just after the roundabout at the top of the hill, I was in the right hand (straight on) lane. A small silver Toyota registration PE59RWW came right up behind me, too close. (Webuyanycar thinks it is a 2009 Toyota Yaris Hatchback). The driver clearly wanted me to get out of the way, and more specifically - I am guessing - to get into the left hand lane. The left hand lane is a left turn lane, and I did not want to turn left. Probably the Toyota didn't know the road layout, but I do.

I made a polite gesture with my hand for him to back off and give me a bit of space. He did so momentarily, then as soon as possible, overtook. It was a 'punishment pass' - deliberately much too close in order to vent his frustration and frighten me, nothing at all like a Highway Code pass.

As he overtook, I could see that the driver was wearing a baseball cap, and he was haranguing me. I couldn't hear anything because the car window was up - I don't mind about that, or at least, I'll come to terms with the disappointment in time.

This is what you have to put up with if you ride a bike in a British town. It was a nasty combination of ignorance, impatience, anger, and aggression from the driver of the Toyota, but that isn't all that unusual. On a bike, I can be seriously hurt, or killed, by someone driving a car at me. If I don't know the driver, I don't know whether he can control his temper, and how far he might go. Clearly he is prepared to use his car to threaten me, but I have to hope it's nothing more than that.

I was on one of Harrogate's designated cycle routes, but it isn't well thought out, and it doesn't give cyclists any protection - so the fault lies there too.

I don't want to be harried and put in danger in this way. I don't think it would be tolerated in many other spheres of life, where someone is going about their lawful business. In a congested town like Harrogate, we should be positively encouraging people to ride bikes, but the current infrastructure fails them.

Cycle route, East Parade, Harrogate: map

The Open Street Map below shows East Parade:

Map showing East Parade, Harrogate

Cycle route, East Parade, Harrogate: going south

The lane when going uphill (south) is poor for the reasons outlined below.

1. The cycle lane starts as a painted strip on the road.

East Parade, Harrogate, cycle lane

2. By traffic lights/pedestrian crossing, the cycle lane goes onto the pavement.

East Parade, Harrogate, cycle lane  East Parade, Harrogate, cycle lane

3. The cycle lane continues up the poorly surfaced pavement until painted give way lines just before a bin and the next pedestrian crossing. What are cyclists supposed to do here? Just give way? Or dismount as well?

East Parade, Harrogate, cycle lane on pavement  East Parade, Harrogate, cycle lane, give way at bin

4. Having given way to the pedestrians and a bin at the pedestrian crossing, a few metres further up, you give way to the traffic twice when crossing Station Avenue.

East Parade, Harrogate, cycle lane at Odeon roundabout

5. You're then directed off the pavement, and onto a small corner of the road, with 'give way' lines where it seems you're supposed to stop yet again, to cross North Park Road. Awful.

Bizarre lines for the cycle lane on North Park Rd, Harrogate  North Park Rd, Harrogate - cycle contraflow lane

Cycle route, East Parade, Harrogate: going south: suggestions for improvement

The problem with this route is that it is not convenient. Cyclists shouldn't be asked to give way to both pedestrians and traffic; be constantly required to stop, give way, and dismount. Otherwise, nobody will use the route. I wouldn't use this rubbish - I would just cycle up the road. 

This 'route' has clearly been made in the cheapest way possible. There was only a budget for paint, I suggest, so the route is reduced to 'where do you think there's just about enough space to paint a cycle lane.' If your ambition is to build high quality infrastructure, it needs more than paint - a cycle lane needs to be built, not just painted. 

My suggestions:

1) Don't keep swapping from road to pavement. Instead of just painting the lane onto the road and pavement, it should be built at road level, but separated by kerb or 'armadillos.'

2) Give the route a bit of continuity. It's not that cyclists should never have to stop, just that they shouldn't be asked to stop all the time. Don't make cyclists third-class - giving way to pedestrians and traffic on every occasion.

Cycle route, East Parade, Harrogate: going north

Going north, downhill on East Parade, there's highly unsatisfactory provision for bikes.

1. Coming from North Park Road or Station Avenue, you reach the roundabout at the top of East Parade. You have to be in the right hand lane at the roundabout (no cycle provision).

2. As you go down East Parade, you have to be in the right lane where the left lane is for a turn into the station car park (no cycle provision).

3. After the station car park junction, there's a short stretch of cycle lane on the left hand side of the road, with broken white lines. It doesn't give any protection from the traffic - it's just paint. With this type of cycle lane, the rule is that driving or parking in the cycle lane isn't allowed unless it's unavoidable. Of course, people do park or stop there.

4. At the bottom of East Parade/Haywra Crescent, at the junction with Bower Street, there's another roundabout, where - if you're going straight on towards Asda - you have to be in the right hand lane again.

Cycle route, East Parade, Harrogate: going north: suggestions for improvement

Too often, local authorities put isolated bits of cycle infrastructure where it's easy to fit, and let people fend for themselves where it's difficult. They wouldn't build any other infrastructure in this way - apparently without any thought or understanding about how it can actually be used. They wouldn't put 75m of dual carriageway in the middle of a field, with access only by a dirt track. With cycling, it seems to be just a box-ticking exercise. 'We've put a cycle lane in for 50m there - job done'. 

What is needed is cycle infrastructure which is coherent, logical, usable, well-thought out, and complete.

In the case of East Parade going north, the bit of cycle lane is worse than useless. Why? Because going down the hill, you have to take the lane and ride as part of the traffic, since you need to be in the right hand lane on a few occasions. The existence of a cycle lane on the left for a short distance will make car drivers think that you should be in it, when you shouldn't. If you do go in it, you have the problem of trying to get back out into the flow of the traffic in order to be in the right hand lane at the roundabout at the bottom of the road.

If there's to be cycle provision going north on East Parade, it should be done properly. It will need careful thought, and I haven't got all the answers, but I'm sure it can be done if the will is there.

Do you have any more comments or suggestions?

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