posted 5 years ago

Why don't cyclists use cycle paths?

Because cycle paths tend to be terrible and, if you haven't ever ridden any, here's why.

Because cycle paths tend to be terrible and, if you haven't ever ridden any, here's why. Let's imagine a car journey designed by a British cycle path designer. Motorways would become minor roads and then back again before ending at brick walls. At every traffic light you would have to exit your car to press a button then hop back in to wait for a flashing car symbol. Bollards would be smack-bang in the middle of travel lanes. Broken glass - from the smack-bangs - would remain on the road, unswept. "Motorists dismount" signs would be everywhere. And forget speedy A to B access, with roads designed by a cycle path designer you would have to travel ten miles to get somewhere two miles away. Oh, and you'd also have to share the road with cows.

Faced with these niggles driving your car would be horrendous. Cycle paths tend to be indirect, narrow, strewn with glass and littered with obstacles such as lamp posts. "Cyclists dismount" signs are commonplace. Cycle paths are often blocked with barriers making them difficult to use. Despite quite large differentials in speed, cyclists usually have to share space with pedestrians. Council "cycling budgets" are often blown on pots of white paint due to the widespread belief that magically marked-out cycle lanes have protective properties.

Things are very different in the Netherlands. Dutch motorists have direct, well-surfaced, fast roads all to themselves, and cyclists are provided with similar. The two transport modes have extensive, separate networks; everybody's safe, everybody's happy.

A tiny number of British cycle paths have been built to Dutch-standards. They are crowd-pleasingly wide, protected and direct and, importantly, they get used! The provision of a dense, high-quality network of cycle paths across Britain would be good for cyclists and motorists, and much safer for pedestrians. Getting more people on bikes will lead to more room on the roads for motorists, help with the environment and create more road harmony, too.

Carlton Reid is the executive editor of He drives a Nissan Note "but not very often." He's writing a history book on motoring's cycling beginnings, Roads Were Not Built For Cars.

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No streetlights, No snow plows, No road salt or sand, No repair stations or stores along said bike paths to get batteries for lights or food!

Until all motorists obey all road laws any comment on the behaviour on cyclists is null and void. I find it pathetic that the behaviour of a minority of cyclists is used to exonerate drivers of all their wrongdoings. The roads in the UK are fine. Its people's attitudes which need addressing.

Part of my cycling commute starts with a stretch of cycle path alongside a school, but I can't use it. Why? Because the school kids walk four aside, and I am unable to pass them. I have tried it on several mornings and it is not safe for the kids. I instead use the road, and guess what happens - I get hurled abuse "Get on the ******* cycle path" and beeps and flashes and deliberate tight overtakes. I just ignore it all in the knowledge that I have a legal right, and choice, to use the road.

I can understand the argument about poor quality cycle paths. But I’ve often noticed that many cyclists choose not to use them even when they ARE perfectly usable, as if it’s an inconvenience. What’s really an inconvenience is being hit by a car or lorry. And it’s not much of a compensation knowing you’re in the right. Whenever I cycle, I try to use them because as a cyclist I feel vulnerable and I don't trust drivers. Most are Ok but there are some who think that a couple of feet gap between them and you at 50 mph is enough. There are roads in my area I would never dream of cycling on (though some do) because they’re too narrow with numerous potentially dangerous bends. And yet the 2-way traffic is fast (50-60 mph plus). I simply go by another route. Perhaps the more 'serious' and hardened the cyclist, the less willing they are to use cycle paths as ‘pros’ don't want to be slowed down or held up by obstacles or have their expensive bikes damaged by poor surfaces. Not being a regular cyclist, when I do cycle I think of my own safety before anything else, not of my bike’s tyres or how fast I get from A to B. I don’t think that’s the case with all cyclists.

To all the anti-cyclists who've commented in this post - do you stand by your views for young children as they cycle to school, while you hurtle tons of steel at them. If they were your kids I'm sure you'd take more care.

Motorists always seem to focus on cyclist misdemeanors forgetting that on any journey you'll see many more examples of dangerous behaviour by motorists. In fact there are more than half a million drivers prosecuted every year in the UK for offenses ranging from speeding, drunk driving, mobile phone use etc. and they are just the ones that get caught! More than 60% of motorists admit to illegal speeding and all these offenses contribute to the 20,000 deaths and injuries caused to cyclists every year and the nearly quarter million road deaths and injuries overall. Every time we go out for a family ride on supposedly quiet country roads we experience three or four examples of quite shocking driving (and I say that as a car driver) - overtaking blind on corners, cutting in when there's an oncoming vehicle etc. I'm always amused by the motorists who think cyclists should never cycle two abreast - usually they are alone driving some huge SUV! Remember, we might be out cycling for 6 or 7 hours - it's nice to communicate with each other occasionally when safe to do so, just as it is nice to chat to someone in the passenger seat of your car. Finally, the old saw about cyclists not paying road tax (or more exactly vehicle excise duty). Actually given that most cyclists are tax payers, we already pay a great deal toward road use by motorists. Road transport is hugely subsidised in the UK by drivers, non-drivers, cyclists etc. - neither fuel duty or vehicle excise duty come anywhere near covering the cost of motoring, especially when the cost of new roads, pollution, accidents and congestion are factored in. In fact if motorists were to pay their way it's estimated that the cost of fuel would need to be around 2 to 3 times what it is now. But I never hear of motorists volunteering to pay their way!

Where there are very good cycle roads there are still cyclists who want to hold up all the traffic, probably the same ones that ride two or more abreast and don't stop at traffic lights. Until they behave less selfishly it's hard to make the motorists who HAVE taken a test to be sympathetic.

In the US, bike paths tend to be cluttered with other users: runners; walkers; rollerskaters. Most of these operate at a significantly slower speed than a cyclist. Many of the busier paths have a 10 mph speed limit. This is not conducive to getting one from point A to B in an efficient manner. I am sorry but I would rather ride on the road than on a busy path. Funny how motorist are more understanding of farm/construction equipment travelling slowly on the road than a cyclist. We still have a long way to go.

Hey cyclists: Did you know that a one way street means just that! IE you can only go in one direction! Oh, and red lights actually mean stop, not keep going because I think I'm a road god who can do whatever. Yes there are issues with bikes and cars, and at times they do have an argument, the problem is so many (and in major cities it's the majority)ignore any convention there is. Help motorists to help you obeying the rules (accepting they apply equally to bikes)as car driers have to, give motorists half a chance of guessing what you intend and obey the rules and you might just get a better press.

I'm a car owner, I had to pass a test, have to comply with every road law, or I will be severely punished, every Sunday there is a cycle race along the busy a 9 where I stay, up to 100 bikes racing on a busy road! I try to give plenty room, tas I also ride a motorbike, but it's so frustrating when bike riders don't have too bay the laws, don't have to be insured, don't pay road tax, don't have to prove there bikes are road worthy , and don't have to show they know the laws and safety of the roads, , but most of all, ride in a dangerous manner, putting themselves in grate danger!

A couple of weeks ago, whilst walking along a tow path in Nottingham a cyclist whizzed past me (I didn't hear him coming) and up ahead I saw a guy walking faster than a couple of people strolling ahead of me. From way back I could see what was going to happen; the guy started to overtake the other srolling couple and the cyclist piled into the back of the guy. He had no warning device on his bike and his speed was ridiculous for a busy tow path. I would have sued him!

There is an 8ft wide cycle path separated from the road on a 60mph B road near me. Some cyclists use it but often those with cycling clothes and racing bikes still drive traffic mad (dangerous at 60 mph) by using the road unnecessarily.

As a HGV driver motorist, motorcyclist and cyclist. I see the good and bad points from all sides. To start with motorist's must undertake a fairly stringent test of competence, whereas cyclist;s don't. On many occasions cyclist's are ignorant to the safety of other road users, "ie swerving around potholes and grids, totally oblivious to whatever or whoever is following. Also working at a busy university I witness some absolutely suicidal performances on an hourly basis.Whilst I would not include all cyclist's it is horrifying to watch some of these two-wheeled morons hurtling along the pavements scattering pedestrians, pensioners and pushchairs. Some form of testing should be introduced along with the compulsory fitting of mirrors mudguards and a audible warning device, so they can CO OPERATE with their fellow road users and perhaps even comply with traffic lights.

having experienced Road Rage by a Cyclist and not having any name or identification he could not be reported, isn't time Cycles had a registration system so that they can have there bad behaviour reported

Rule 61 of the highway code advises cyclists to use cycle paths when it is safe to do so. As your pictures prove this is often not the case and it is safer (just) to use the road. Many motorists use the excuse that cyclists don't pay road tax to treat them badly. No one pays road tax it was abolished in 1926 by Winston Churchill. As a car driver and a cyclist I pay vehicle excise duty so have every right to use the road in my car and on my bike safely .

Cyclist do not pay road tax so therefor cycle paths exist. Glass or no glass , hard luck if you own a cycle and want to use a road . Stop moaning about motorists or pay you share of owning part of the road.

As a cyclists I hate drivers but when driving I hate cyclists - I'm a pretty balanced person! some years ago East Lothian Council started to paint cycle lanes. I asked about drivers driving/parking in them and why they ended just when they might be useful eg road junctions, narrower roads, etc. The official giggled and said they weren't about cylists at all. On (the old) 3lane roads they effectively narrowed the road. Cars drove nearer the centre, didn't try to overtake in the middle and went slower. So now we know!

I'm both a cyclist and driver and have been both for over 40 years. I see failings in both areas, especially cycling clubs that encourage their groups to spread over the road in as wide an area as possible. However, the majority of car drivers believe that cyclists are a pain in the a*** and should be kept of the roads. The cycle lanes in Britain are an absolute joke and are only there because the government/councils received grants from the EU some years ago for every kilometer of cycle lane created - thus the absurdity of some of those lanes. |Yes the designers should be forced to ride a bike under signs, around poles & bollards and on skinny road tyres over broken glass and large stone kicked up by our 'considerate' vehicle drivers.

A cycle path that starts half way down a one way street and faces on coming cars,does it get used much? NO !!!!Could only happen in Norwich.

Re Stephen Briggs Cyclist are all the same round where i walk and drive Risk of injury to Others Small ? Explaine how i got a broken leg by a silly Tw*t cycling on the pavement and told me to move after he rode into me !!!!! as for house insurance sure he was covered but not for his actions

In our town we have some very good cycle paths which are completely ignored by certain types of cyclist who continue to ride on the road parallel to the cycle track. No reason other than they want to claim ownership of the road and inconvenience cars and other motorised road users.

Yes they have some nice cycle ways in Holland but in most cases cyclists share space with pedestrians, speed and weight differentials are far closer than to cars and lorries so far safer for them. any accidents with pedestrians tend to be minor but then they don't seem to have nutters in lycra so much over there which helps.

I am a cyclist and also a driver. When I cycle I do everything possible to avoid roads. In Nottinghamshire, where I live, the descriptions given in this article are absolutely spot on accurate. Cycling is becoming more popular and it is high time that the level of provision should begin to match its popularity.

Why do some contributors write as though all cyclists are the same? Some drivers drive drunk, but as a cyclist I don't assume that all drivers are drunk. We don't pay fuel tax because our fuel is food (VAT free). Many do have insurance cover through home insurance, and the risk of injury to other road users is very small anyway.

Only a fool dallies unprotected [e g most pedestrians, cyclists]in the space occupied by ton heavy lumps of metal traveling at killer speeds and controlled [i e NOT controlled safely] by the human brain!

I have just finished reading that article, what load of rubbish. Most think they can do want they want, I was nearly knocked over by a cyclist riding over the path a avoid the red traffic light and another going the wrong way down a one way street and she told me to look where I was going.

If you want cycle ways like holland May I suggest you consider moving

John Holden, you could do with reading the Highway Code. Why is your journey more delayed when you come against cyclists riding two abreast. If you were following the code and being a careful and considerate motorist you'd be waiting to there was no oncoming traffic, giving the cyclists the same room when passing as you would afford to one cyclist on their own. Motorists who think it's acceptable to squeeze passed cyclists forcing them into the gutter have no clue as to the danger cyclists are subjected to on the road. Whether they are wearing Lycra or not should really have no relevance but I suspect it just gets your back up more for some reason.

On a more serious point Why do cyclists think they are above the law What makes them think they are special To the point they can be a danger to every other road user Yes it's tuff on the roads yes cyclists some times get a raw deal But come on do you have insurance ,road fund licence, fuel tax and have to have a licence So what makes you think you have a right to ride like pratts all over the road and pavements and ignore every thing in the Highway Code even the chapters on cycling

Pete Brooke If they want to be sociable follow the Highway Code or get a car

Entirely agree with cyclists' reluctance to use cycle lanes. All the debris from adjacent carriage is automatically driven onto the cycle lane by mere fact of motorised vehicle wheels spraying grit etc into nearside of road

John - next time you do a long drive with your wife, get her to sit behind you in the back and wind the window down 2 inches, and try to have a conversation. Cyclists ride side by side so they can be social. Stop thinking about yourself only and just consider the cyclists viewpoint.

I'm confused. I used to commute to work on a road bike wearing 'lycra'. Not sure if that makes me a prat; just glad that I never met someone who thinks it should be legal to run me off the road

Not too concerned with cyclists going to work etc, it's the lycra covered prats on their so called race bikes that sicken me. Every journey is extended because of them, particularly when they ride two abreast! It should be legal to run them off the road when they ride in anything more than single file and even then no more than at a time.

Cyclists would get more sympathy if they obayed the rules of the road, I live on a one way street and that means nothing to them, I have been hit several times and if I say anything I get sworn at, so no support from me...

Add on the fact that just about all cycle lane are inaccessible to disablesd handcyclists due to badly designed and unecessary barriers. My disabled partner and i cycled the transpennine trail once and on the first day had 2 hours added to our ride because of barriers! We are sick of them. Also the french do a lot better job of it as well as the Dutch. Its not rocket science.

As a cyclist and motorists I can see advantages to having separate cycle lanes but the cycle lanes we have now are not well designed and shared by pedestrian' s who constantly hurl abuse at a passing cyclist claiming that it's a footpath or even worse I have witnessed someone being pushed off their bike into the road even though the cyclist stopped to allow the pedestrian to pass by. Until pedestrian's get to grips with a cycle/footpath incidents like this will always happen and this is one if the main reasons why I end up using the road network.

And there is also a problem with drivers parking in the cycle lanes. I cycle but am also a walker and often get sick of cyclists riding on the pavements and expecting the pedestrian to move out of the way.

An excellent article. It should be in every county council highways department for engineers to read!

Most cycle lanes should be scrapped they are a waste of time for both cyclist and motorists. As a cyclist I don't use them as they are dangerous, littered with rubbish and a rough ride. As a motorist it means I now drive closer to on coming traffic to clear cyclist who (sensibly) don't use the cycle lanes. Lets keep motorists and cyclist happy and scrape them, and when the economy allows add proper cycle lanes total separated from the main road and of equal standing and no bollards in the middle of them!

Our roads are a 'hotch-potch' of markings, holes, repairs and generally in poor nick, because everything is done as an after thought or to match the latest political fad.

& then there's the dog attacks, many dogs don't understand people on bikes & many attack what they don't understand, they also don't understand the speed differential & run/walk in front of bikes at the last minute. Of course if they were on a lead the problem would be much less but dog owners think that cycle tracks are long narrow dog parks & that cyclists should stop while they spend 5 minutes catching up with their dog & securing it & the cyclist should then thank them profusely for having done this.

It always amazes me that designers imagine a cyclist can turn through 90 degrees on the spot, and can safely travel at cycling speeds with minimal forward vision (blind corners and junctions).

>Things are very different in the Netherlands. Dutch motorists have direct, well-surfaced, fast roads all to themselves, and cyclists are provided with similar. The two transport modes have extensive, separate networks everybody's safe, everybody's happy. This isn't 100% true. In Amsterdam you have numerous narrow cobbled roads, which are shared by motorists, cyclists and even, due to the narrow, or lack of pavements, pedestrians. The difference is in attitude, motorists are better behaved as they probably cycle too and understand the cyclists perspective.

Maintenance is a another issue. Some have very poor surfaces and vegetation is allowed to encroach. It seems there is no routine maintenance, I think the authorities wait for complaints and even then they may or may not get round to doing anything.

What about the 'rollercoaster' cycle lanes? Those are the ones which look nice enough, but which roll up and down and if you try to go above 10mph, spin your eyeballs around. I was on the verge of motion sickness trying to use one the other day, in the end I preferred to dice with HGVs.

As both a cyclist and a var user...When you get a cyclists bombing down a road, close to the curb when the road is wide, relatively traffic free, I have no issues with bikes on the road. When it's narrow, up hill, holding up traffic and the cyclist wobbling from side to side and there's a cycle lane then it's just discourteous not to use it.

Not to mention the numerous bike lanes that put you right in the 'door zone' alongside rows of parked cars - the most dangerous place to be and exactly where cycle training teaches you not to ride.

Another reason I don't use segregated cycle paths is that I don't wish to stop/slow at every side road, house driveway etc. Not sure of an equivalent analogy for the motorist.

Also, how many motorists seem to think that they can park in the cycle Lane. Lost count of the number of times I've had to move into a busy road, so that I can get past a parked car. Maybe do the same as they do for Bus Lanes, if caught using the bike lane, then you get a fixed penalty fine.