Bike lane separation. For or against?


There’s always that niggling question about lane separation. Should we separate motorised traffic from bicycles? Do we not have the right to be there in the first instance? (Yes. Always). Is separation a slippery slope towards being pushed to the margins? I’ve never been wholly able to reconcile my views on that one.

Until last night. Bike in one hand. Daughter in the other.

Walking back from afterschool club – we couldn’t find her bike lock that morning, so she walked instead – a car mounted the pavement, just about avoiding  a set of steel bollards there to prevent such a thing and missed Evelyn by 6 inches without even pausing for thought. 6 inches. All to squeeze past a car that wanted to turn right, thus saving fractions of a second of precious time. This driver delivered an abject lesson in rank stupidity. Being more concerned with a shocked 7 year old, I failed to get the full license plate number of the black Renault Clio (CF04 or CP04 ….), but reported it to police nonetheless. These incidents must go reported.

Bike lane (1 of 1)

To me, this reminded me again of the potential consequences in busy environments and the need for decent protection from driver error/irresponsbility; just as we would attempt to protect people in a factory environment from dangerous machinery. The debate for me is finally put to bed – Cyclists need never – and should never – be kept off the main carriageways, but the opportunity for separation should be promoted and grasped at any opportunity. Because if drivers cannot be trusted to even keep off the bloody pavements, we’re going to have to keep them within their special game reserves on the roads.

Footnote: Just a reminder. Motorists, I drive too. But just like you can’t go down the street wafting around a samurai sword, you shouldn’t be able to endanger the lives of others in a similarly reckless manner. 

9 replies »

  1. I saw a similar close call on my way into work earlier this week – a car decided to overtake the cyclist just ahead of me, despite the car coming the other way, despite the rows of parked cars down both sides of the street, and despite the fact that there was simply no room. He was so close I thought he was going to hit the cyclist. As I watched, I could feel my heart in my mouth – so I can only imagine what you felt like after your daughter nearly got hit. I hope she’s OK now, and has recovered from her shock.

    Anyway, yes, I completely agree about the need for segregation. I used to be against it, for the same reasons as you say, but a trip to Copenhagen last year opened my eyes. If we have segregated bike lanes, not only will that help makes the streets safer for people who already cycle, it will also enable all those people who would love to cycle but are put off by the thought of mixing with the traffic to get on their bikes. If more people are cycling, that means the proportion of drivers who are also cyclists – or who know someone who cycles – will also go up, which has got to be a good thing.

    • She’s fine thanks Jude. Fortunately she wasn’t hurt and she’s a very level headed 7 year old.

      Your tale is depressingly familiar and I fully agree with the comparisons to Copenhagen (essentially, there’re aren’t any; those Danish cyclists are riding in a different world to us). I reported this incident to the police as its so important that these things are noted, logged and the arguments for segregation are bolstered by evidence.

  2. We try so hard to bring in initiatives to improve cycle safety – whether on roads or segregated lanes. However there is hardly any focus or work done to stop motorists behaving like idiots. So the vans, lorries, cars and buses rule OK, no matter how appauling their driving. I’ve noticed the standards of driving in Cardiff have really deteriorated over the past couple of years in particular.

  3. I am all for separated bike lanes, traffic calmed bike routes and wide shoulders. They are safer. No question. And, I feel more confident on the bike. I am fortunate to live in a city that is very pro cycling. Our bikeways and separated lanes continue to grow.

    • That’s great to hear. In terms of infrastructure, Cardiff is getting better – no question – but there’s some way to go yet. However, as Amanda points out, the one, instant, no cost change I’d like to see, is a change in motorist’s behaviour and attitude. That, coupled with decent infrastructure, would make Cardiff a great place to cycle.

  4. Another great post, though not so great circumstances! I would expect that most people, whether cyclist or pedestrian, have experienced similar issues. I’ve had a lorry driver nearly wipe me out on the road towards Caerphilly Mountain. Annoyed that I was getting the jump on him as we were caught by consecutive red lights he pulled up alongside and just drifted towards me pushing me closer and closet to the curb. After this we both were stopped at another red light and I hollered up to the cab only to be greeted by a tirade of abuse. People need to take more responsibility for what could (and sadly all too often) does happen. Morons.

    • Thanks Darren. People forget that the only thing separating us from the road is a diamond frame and the ability to stay on it. The incident with the truck shows clearly what happens when the red mist descends and common sense goes out the window.

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