Cyclists should help design cycle-specific infrastructure, says local councillor

07/04/2011 Advocacy


A councillor in Reading has suggested what cyclists have been clamouring for ever and a day: let cyclists have a say in design of bike paths and other cycle infrastructure.

Councillor Tim Harris, Conservative chair of the culture and sport scrutiny panel on Reading Borough Council, has criticised the council’s current cycle lanes and he said cyclists ought to have a hand in designing them in future.

As a cyclist himself he knows that cycle lanes in the UK are rarely built to good standards, can appear and disappear seemingly at random, and are often little more than a lick of paint.

He said: “Reading’s cycle lanes are all over the place. Some are short, some can box you in completely, some are just pointless.

“It would make sense if we could have a consistent way of doing a cycle lane which the council could adhere to when a layout changes.

“Once we have got that, when there is change to a layout, there is a guide. Otherwise they just come up with whatever they think looks good at the time.”

Unusually, when his suggestions about involving cyclists before and during the design stage were put to the vote, they were agreed unanimously.

He told Reading Borough Council chamber: “Cycling groups in Reading will have, for the first time, tangible input into what a cycle lane should be.”

Cllr Harris said the input of cyclists would lead to wider, better-maintained cycle lanes.

Referring to illogical cycle paths, he said “creating cycle lanes under three metres long” would be a thing of the past, if cyclists were allowed to offer their expert input.

He said: “Obviously there are [council engineering] professionals, there are cycling guidelines from central government and other legal implications, but I believe that with the correct advice, our cycling groups will help create a cycling infrastructure we can be proud of.”

Cllr Harris said cyclists often don’t use current cycle lanes because they are not easy to use, not easy to find, have cars parked in them and are often strewn with rubbish.

Cllr Harris also called on the council to work with neighbouring authorities on cycle routes.

Opposition councillor Paul Gittings said: “It would be a great place, Reading, if more people cycled.”

When news of the new policy was revealed on GetReading.co.uk, a number of readers scoffed at the about face.

One said: “I’m all for cycle groups helping to design cycle routes as long as motoring groups help design sensible road layouts. Our roads are politically-influenced obstacle courses, with motorists encouraged to speed between the obstructions in order to maintain sensible overall journey times.”

Another came out with the well-worn and time-honoured: “Will they be paying road tax? No. Why should they get cycle lanes? I would like a lane that keeps me safe from moronic cyclists who are intent on jumping red lights or swerving into my path without warning.”

Here’s how cycling infrastructure should be designed (it’s from the Netherlands, of course):