Briefing: Cycle paths at bus stops

Comment & Analysis: Cycle paths at bus stops are often referred to as “island bus stop” or sometimes called “bus stop bypasses”. These phrases are adapted from car-design and make the design seem as if its something extraordinary when it’s just a basic element of segregated cycle routes.

In most cases, you cannot have a city with buses and properly segregated cycle paths but no cycle paths at bus stops — you might as well be arguing against cycle paths.

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The combination of cycle paths and bus stops is just downright boring most of the time. Here’s a video of one in a suburban location — often, people cycling and bus passages crossing the cycle path will never interact:

The fearmongering tells us that cycle paths at bus stops are “death tramps”, the reality is that cycle paths at bus stops are really boring most of the time.

That’s not to dismiss fears, it’s to say that videos shared by some groups are highly edited videos which don’t represent reality.

As covered by As Easy As Riding A Bike, this video shows the boring reality of the cycle path at a bus stop at Westminster Bridge in central London:

There are examples of “island bus stop” that don’t even involve cycle paths, but rather it is mainly cars that pass behind the bus stop — there has been no focus on these despite exaggerated claims about having people using cycle paths behind bus stops being a “death trap”.

The design of a cycle path and a bus stop has been used for decades in countries around the world — see BicycleDutch for an example as far back as 1953.

Here’s a selection of different designs in a number of countries — this isn’t showing what’s good or bad, it’s just saying there are different designs:

(article continues after image gallery)

I’m not making a judgement call or going to describe all of the examples above, these are provided to show that there’s a wide range of what somebody might be talking about.

All of the above examples have some form of an ‘island’ for passengers to get on and off buses, there’s another design — common in Copenhagen — which literally just drops bus passengers onto cycle tracks. That’s the kind of design which cycling and disability campaigners should be joining forces to avoid.

Streets are complicated things and once projects start there are all sorts of different people looking for different things, that might include extra footpath space rather than providing sufficient bus stop space like this example with a narrow island:

IMAGE: A narrow bus stop boarding area in Utrecht (this is not common there but it’s not a utopia, nowhere is).

This example with a raised crossing and large island is far more preferable — a painted zebra could improve it:

IMAGE: Blacktop surface cycle path in London, with buff raised crossing point to a bus stop.

Survey after survey shows that the general public supports cycling infrastructure. And there are loads of examples showing that when high-quality active travel interventions are implemented, even where controversial at first, the public like the finished product and the politicians who support the projects are reelected.

So, while there are still people who outright object to cycle routes, a clever move by anti-cycling groups and individuals in recent years is waging a sort of proxy war on cycle paths.

Anti-cycling groups and individuals, including some of the media and politicians, have latched onto genuine concerns by spreading misinformation and scaremongering.

People with disabilities have every right to fear change and look out for their rights. But solutions are not helped by misinformation and scaremongering.

There are some people reading this article who at this point will already be saying that this is condescending towards disability groups and even the disabled community by implying that they can be swept up by misinformation and fearmongering. However, in the last few years, democracy has been seriously undermined by misinformation and people acting in bad faith… is anybody seriously saying a group of people already often marginalised by society is less under threat from people whipping up misinformation and scaremongering?

A minority of people accuse me of all sorts of things for writing articles like this one, but, at the end of the day, if there are anti-cycling-minded people in society in general, why would we not expect this to be present amongst disability campaigners?

Within disabled groups, not only are there people who have been let down or even betrayed by society, but there are also people who are downright just anti-cycling. There’s, unfortunately, ample evidence for this from a number of disability campaigners who have objected to many active travel projects.

Some people would deny this, but that’s just the same as people denying that they are anti-cycling in general. Ranting in the comments section of a news website about a member of parliament when he’s knocked off his bicycle, saying it’s “A story from a rabid cyclist who hates motor vehicles and refuses to wear the RSA-approved safety gear. Hobble on,” is anti-cycling. Wanting kissing gates to remain in place to block legitimate route users is anti-cycling and also anti-universal access.

Another disability campaigner came onto a Q&A section of a webinar titled “How can cycling enable mobility and independence?” and started claiming cycling is just a “lifestyle choice”. He then dismissed people who said cycling gave them freedom and others who said they want cleaner air because of their lung conditions. This is a narrow-focused version of looking for disability rights. Many disabilities are invisible to most people.

At bus stops, the idea that cyclists have to dismount, be mixed with buses or have a cycle path but with design led by punitive thinking is taking no account of the reality of streets where there are plenty of places at minor junctions etc where there is no signalisation and are often far more dangerous than crossing a cycle track.

Some people are happy to see the world burn when it comes to democracy. Others take a similar approach to street redesigns, which make streets safer and more sustainable transport, making them more accessible and attractive. They don’t care if that slows down the implementation of street redesigns which will make streets safer and more accessible.

The solutions councils and transport authorities choose after intervention from bad-faith actors is often unrealistic, over-engineered and sometimes worse for disabled people and generally worse for people walking and cycling.

One of the groups that will lose out due to the actions of some disability campaigners is some people with disabilities. Different people with disabilities have different requirements, and a balancing act is required to design our public spaces. As covered recently, some disability groups showed little concern for disabled users of cycle paths.

After writing that recent article, I was accused of not seeing the universal design. But the truth is terms like universal design, ableism, and eco-ablism are misused to shut down conversations. Life is more complicated. Universal design doesn’t give any one group a veto on making streets safer for a wide range of people. Again: Street design is a balancing act, and there are competing rights.

For many people, cycling or using cycling infrastructure with mobility devices isn’t just a pastime but their independence. Many people with certain conditions cannot walk far or can never walk far, but they can cycle or use other mobility devices.

With streets, we have to think of a whole host of people, including people who are disabled and use buses and cars, but also young children cycling with their parents, children cycling independently, teenagers cycling independently, elderly people cycling, elderly people using mobility devices, people with disabilities using a range of mobility devices, disabled people using adapted cycles, including wheelchairs with handcycle attachments, and disabled people being cycled by others.

Should all of these people be mixed with buses at bus stops? If people are going to shout ableism, eco-ablism etc, it’s on them to explain why the wide range of people mentioned above don’t matter.

And, of course, many people are underrepresented on our streets now because our streets are so unsafe. It’s known that when safe cycle path networks are built, there is a diversification of users.

1 comments

  1. It is interesting to note that in the video from Westminster Bridge, the cycle track “speed ramps” have NO EFFECT on the speed of cyclists: not one cyclist brakes or eases off on pedaling. Despite this, I am not seeing any conflicts despite this being an extremely busy environment. So then why bother at all with the speed ramps as they are diametrically opposed to the Needs of Cyclists as defined in the Irish NCM: Attractiveness, Comfort, Directness (conferring an advantage to cycling). All cycle track speed ramps do is create annoyance and discourage cyclists from using the cycle track and could result in some cyclists veering onto an adjacent footpath to avoid the ramp or even staying on the road. The ride quality of the cycle track should be as good as or better than the road, otherwise you are basically penalizing cyclists for using the cycle track.

    Reply

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