New UK cycle paths designed so drivers think they might try them

IMAGE: Lee Bridge Road cycle route in car-dominated outer London (photo: IrishCycle.com).

— New UK cycle routes target car drivers, but opposition is strong. 

A number of UK cities are now building or looking at building higher-quality cycle routes, but there is strong opposition that has to be faced down, according to one of the UK’s leading cycling experts.

Brian Deegan, a design engineer at consultancy Urban Movement, joked at a session at Velo-City early this year, that: “I never really feel like I’m doing my job properly unless I end up in court — that’s when I know I’m changing things and getting something done that’s worth it.”

IMAGE: On the Lea Bridge Road conflicts between buses and people cycling are removed by use of bus stop bypasses of different sizes (photo: IrishCycle.com)

“I cannot say this enough,” Deegan said, “The target group [for designing routes] is not cyclists. We’re not targeting cyclists. The target group is car drivers and what’s going to get them out of the car.”

Deegan — who has previously work for Transport for London and is now helping authorities in Manchester and elsewhere — said cycle routes should be attractive and comfortable enough that drivers look out their windows and think to themselves that they might try that.

He said there were examples in the UK where cycle route projects were pulled after public opposition mounted to schemes and said that some groups in the UK objected when they saw the word ‘cycling’ in the project name. He said: “The opposition is increasing and getting more and more sophisticated as well.”

At first, Deegan said, the cycling design standards used in London were Dainish-like but they found that drivers turning left behaved poorly swinging left on front of people cycling. He said that there were “quite a lot of fatalities” and it was at that point that more Dutch-like principals were adopted.

Local businesses opposing cycle routes can be really tricky, Deegan said. He said that there were about 200 local

IMAGE: The Lea Bridge Road project also includes ‘filtering’ a number of side road to only allow cycling and walking at these points (photo: IrishCycle.com)

businesses opposed to the Lea Bridge Road cycle route (pictured main image, above), which was apart of a Mini-Holland project in outer London Borough of Waltham Forest. “That’s a long plan to talk through one-by-one but most of them have come on board and would not want to go back. And we can say that to businesses in other areas.”

Deegan said that business owners were fairly sure that most people drove to their shops when surveys showed that most walked and more already cycled than the business owners thought.

He said that talking to the community was key but that it was needed sometimes to tell people “it’s happening” and ask “what’s the best way to make the the least worse situation for everybody.”

Referencing his appearance at the Oireachtas Climate Change Committe, Deegan said: “That’s what I said to politicians on the Liffey Route — do it, [tell people] it’s happening. You know it’s right… a lot of people think it’s about getting everybody to agree, but there’s always going to be people who don’t.”

IMAGE: The Embankment cycle route — originally called a “Cycle Superhighway” before re-branding to “Cycleway” (photo: IrishCycle.com)

Deegan said: “Certainly, when it comes to highways [the original name given to segregated routes in London was Cycle Superhighways] you’re never going to get everybody to agree, there’s always going to be opposition. People are very reluctant to change.”

He said that when Transport for London was installing the Embankment cycle route which passes the UK Parliament that lots of politicians were delayed in taxis and were annoyed with it, but Transport for London and the Mayor’s office held firm.

“You cannot talk your way into consensus — it’s a difficult one for politicians to acknowledge that one. Do it right and do it to high spec — if you do a shitty compromise that tries to make everybody happy, everybody is just going to be angry, concluded Deegan.

Deegan tweets at @bricycle — last week Urban Movement released its latest Bee a Champion training manual “in order to help influence scheme design for those working in the industry” — it’s UK focused but should be of internist to professionals and campaigners following this website.

IMAGE BELOW: An artist’s impression of a protected junction in Manchester:

This article is part of IrishCycle.com’s extra coverage of the Velo-City 2019 conference, which saw international cycling experts meet in Dublin. You can find more of our Velo-City coverage to date here

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

3 Comments

  1. A shitty compromise that no-one wants – that’s the history of the Liffey cycle route. As Deegan says – just do it right and lots of people who don’t now cycle will want to cycle.

  2. Andrew Davies May 15, 2020 at 11:18 am

    Did anyone compare UK/ Irish cycle path design on the continent.
    I used to live in Berlin, where cycle routes always run parallel to roads
    (when crossing a perpendicular too) . This avoids cyclists disapearing behind the mororists ‘A’ pillar (blind spot) when the cyclist is forced away from view by UK Irish regulation Swan necks?
    ADavies – Dublin 15

  3. The cyclops junction in Hulme pictured at the bottom of the article opens very shortly. Search Twitter for cyclops and you’ll find it.

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