COMMENT & ANALYSIS: It’s like how the old joke goes:
A car driver, a pedestrian and a cyclist walk into a bar.
There are 12 beers on the table.
The car driver immediately takes 10 beers.
Then he turns to the pedestrian and says:
“Look out for that damned cyclist, he is out to steal your beer!”
The thing about this joke is that you could replace ‘driver’ with many councillors, councils and transport agencies in most countries.
The video in this Tweet shows a great compilation of examples from the city of Cork from the outcoming of this thinking which gives us shared areas between walking and cycling:
— jamesklong (@jklong14) October 23, 2021
Dutch street design is not perfect, but at least they aim to segregate walking and cycling spaces (as shown in the image at the top of this article). Some people focus on the fact that the Dutch don’t always get the balance correct (who does all the time?), especially not in the past.
But the critics of the Dutch system do this as if we have not mixed pedestrians and cycling way too much in street design, usually squeezing walking and cycling to have the least possible impact on motoring.
National and local transport policy says walking and cycling should be prioritised, but the system of mixing the users is endemic in Ireland, the UK and elsewhere.
Ireland’s National Transport Authority’s National Cycle Manual is under review. But the inclusion in the current manual of so many shared designs is telling when the manual contains so few to no examples of basic segregated walking and cycling designs such as separated crossings at junctions and combined but separated crossings away from junctions.
Sometimes there has to be some kind of share surface between walking and cycling, especially in rural areas — the world just isn’t the place where the ideal situation always works. But we should be striving towards better than we have.
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Examples in the National Cycle Manual
First, here’s an example where some sort of shared surface is practical and usually the only solution… but what’s marked as a ‘shared surface’ here is really more so a continuous footpath which people cycling crosses to get from the roadway to the cycleway:
This shared roundabout design is included in the manual despite the fact people cycling are not supported to use zebra crossings — it might have been one thing to argue in 2009 when the manual was launched that parallel crossings for walking and cycling was not possible. A decade later, when the UK has legalised such crossings in the meantime, it sounds like a very weak excuse.
This shared T-junction design has zebra crossing but is basically the rough layout of shared crossings of different types, although usually in reality the shared area is usually much smaller:
Finally, this is an example junction where the main road and a two-way cycle path meets a side road — having a raised area here across the side road entrance is a good idea. But the cycle path should also be raised and continuous.
So, if there’s going to be a raised area for cycling, it should be marked different from the continuous footpath and the cycle path should be raised in both directions.
As an aside: This design includes a confusing layout of the cycling directions switched on the cycle path — however well-intentioned, this is confusing to all road users and really should be removed in the updated manual. It seems like only Limerick City and County Council are the only ones to have adopted this practice to any great extent, where there are reports from users locally that it causes confusion.
However well-intentioned it was to start with, this practice needs to be discontinued. While the space shown in the below drawing is not ideal for a two-way cycle path, Ireland needs to move away from debunked ideas about two-way cycle paths (although, that’s for another article).