If cyclists don’t use a cycle lane, there’s a good reason for it

Comment & Analysis: Are you an annoyed motorist who thinks cyclists should have to use cycle lanes? If you want cyclists to use cycle lanes, stop talking rubbish and start supporting higher-quality cycling infrastructure. No amount of forming at the mouth or ranting about your pet hate is going to change it.

And, no matter how much you tell yourself and anybody who has to listen otherwise, 99% of cyclists will use decent cycle lanes.

This is a kind of update to one of IrishCycle.com’s most viewed articles, 25 reasons why cyclists don’t use cycle lanes.

Avoiding glass and debris

Often which you might be able to see from your car or the bus you’re in…


...This is not a paywall. You can keep scrolling, but IrishCycle.com needs readers like you to keep it that way. It only requires a small percentage of readers to give a bit each month or every year to keep IrishCycle.com's journalism open to all. Thank you.


It’s not a cycle lane

It is a temporary footpath along construction works — I’m not joking, I’ve got beeped at here and they pointed at the temporary footpath as if I should be using it, by a motorist who shouldn’t have even been using this bus lane…

Some cycle lanes just don’t make sense

If you’re going to have to join the road with motorists anyway, often you might as well stay on the road rather than use a cycle path for a short distance only then to be dumped out onto a footpath before having to join the road again…

Motorists blocking the cycle lane

But you could just cycle by the remaining space? And doing so brings with it and high change of being ‘doored’ (getting hit by somebody opening a door) and ending up knocked in front of moving traffic…

Construction signs in the way

Often nearly pointless ones or ones that do more harm than good due to poor placement… and, no, weaving in and out between the signs is not safer than staying out until you have clear all of the signs…

Worst of all the dreaded “end” signs

Is the “need” to highlight the end of works greater than the need to keep the cycle lane clear? And even if the sign is needed, can it not be placed somewhere else, like the really wide section of footpath ahead or on a grass verge etc?

Making turns that cannot be made from the cycle path

The cycle lane can be as safe as can be, but it also needs provide access to different places… from painted cycle lanes to some of the best segregated cycle lanes, cyclists will sometimes have to use a general traffic lane or bus lane to get to where they are going…

Too narrow!

All good and fine until a bus driver skims along here at the same time as a gust of wind comes along…

Poor surfaces

And in a narrow lane too… and it’s not usually this obvious…

Getting here isn’t as easy as it should be

Sometimes it might be easier to continue along in a shared bus lane… this requires crossing three traffic lanes which can be hard to do when traffic is moving… and it might come as a surprise but cyclists, just like all other road users, are often in a hurry and don’t feel the need to wait around until conditions are ideal to cross..

Yield markings at private entrances and every little junction

…and it’s really just a shared path painted on a footpath anyway…

Yielding everywhere

There’s no logical reason why yield signs are put between cycle lanes and bus stops, it defies all normal rules about yielding… there are so few real-world scenarios where this makes sense…

Contra-flow lanes are not for cycling with-flow

Cyclists aren’t supposed to be using contra-flow lanes in the with-flow direction.

Really, contra-flow lanes are not two-way cycle paths

It’s full of stuff motorists might not be able to see

Like leaves and branches…

You overtake other motorists and…

…cyclists sometimes have to overtake cyclists. When it’s a narrow lane like this, the general traffic lane is exactly the place where cyclists will use to overtake somebody in the cycle lane.

Still not wide enough for overtaking…

Bollards and kerbs have a narrowing effect too vs just painted cycle lanes…

A combination of factors

If a cycle lane has traffic signs and traffic lights poles in it, yields at narrow junctions, has a poor surface, stops and starts and more, it might be a good reason for many cyclists to use the roadway, especially if a large part of their trip involves mixing with motorists anyway…

Barriers, twists and turns that don’t make sense

Imagine that, cyclists will take more factors than just one into account and if there’s excessive barriers and twists and turns, they won’t use a cycle path. Again, especially when the cycle path is a relatively short section of their route and they generally have to mix with motorists anyway…

“It’s the junctions stupid”

It’s not always the issue but a hell of a lot of the time junction design on cycle routes is poor. For example, it would be safer to use the road here in advance of the junction than trying to turn right here from the cycle path at the junction…

21 comments

  1. Thanks Cian! Coming up the Grand Canal yesterday westbound, between Clogher Road & Dolphins Barn, having ‘taken the lane’ (main carriageway) to avoid road works (some DCC pedestrian path-widening works, private contractors building apartments), I found some bright spark parked on the cycle lane 50m up from the apartment roadworks. As said before I am older, with panniers, female and a cautious cyclist. I had no desire to go into the cycle lane for 50m then try to get out again into the carriageway to avoid the parked car – my experience is that if I ask nicely, motorists won’t ‘let’ someone, especially my demographic, take that space, thanks lads. So I continued ‘taking the lane’. Most motorists behind me were courteous & passed me with lots of space. A gap, nobody passing me, and I’m half the distance from the parked car. Then a black van driver close passes me (5cm from my elbow) at speed. In spite of his efforts he gets stuck in a queue at DolphIns Barn where I caught up with him. I politely knocked on his window. No desire for a confrontation, but I was happy to have a chat, and wanted to let him know the impacts of his driving and the reasons why I had taken the lane. He refused to roll down his window and started gesturing. Then he began to feel in his pockets. I thought he was going to show me a JAM card or something else that demonstrated special needs (not being cynical here) so I was prepared to apologise and backtrack. Instead with a show of rather weirdly pathetic toxic masculinity he whipped out his driving license. Wow, as if I’d never seen one of them before, let alone have one in my own pocket. While he was showing me the weeny size of his driving expertise, about ten cars passed him by and I ended up at Kilmainham before him. If the bright spark hadn’t parked on the cycle lane, I’d have stayed in the painted lane, Mr Toxic Masculinity would have got faster to wherever he was going and you wouldn’t have this silly post.

    Reply
    • Hi Mia – if somebody flashes their driving licence your response could be: “that’s right you are only allowed to use the road under licence whereas under the law I have a legal right to use it”.

      Reply
      • Thanks Go Dutch – absolutely! But that supposes said person has their window down and is open to listening to what I have to communicate…

        Reply
  2. There is no doubt that poor design is to blame for most instances of “reasons not to use”. Designers need to read the National Cycle Manual Chapter 1 titled “The Basics” (in particular the “Five Needs of a Cyclist”) everytime a cycle track is designed. There is all too often a total disconnect between what is designed and what is said in the NCM and this is there for all to see in elements of the proposed busconnects projects. Furthermore, the NTA’s new-fangled bus stop / cycle track interface (as previously reported on by irishcycle.com) fails on: Safety, Directness, Attractiveness, Comfort …four out of the Five Needs of a Cyclist. Measures such as these bus stops will no doubt lead to some cyclists choosing to stay on the road and when this happens we are not designing for all ages and abilities and we have a failed design.

    Reply
  3. Thanks Cian. I’ve started to slightly dread cycling down through Dundrum village northbound as I have had a few incidences recently of abuse from drivers who believe I should be cycling in the contra flow cycle lane going in the other direction. It should be obvious with the painted bicycles on the road etc but I think there is a lot of wilful misinterpretation of the obvious by motorists who resent cyclists on the road. Would make you weary.

    Reply
    • Thanks sad to hear, but not unexpected as it happens elsewhere too where contra-flow is provided. I was by there yesterday but didn’t cycle by the street… is the signage clear beside the road markings?

      Reply
      • Seems reasonably obvious in that there are arrows and painted bikes on the road and painted bikes facing the other way in the contra flow cycle lane. They could do with a few arrows indicating direction in the bike lane also. There are also bicycle traffic lights on the way down the hill which should be a big hint that we’re supposed to use the main road on the way down. Doesn’t help that the council put a few bollards with arrows facing the wrong way in the last few weeks. I reported it to them but not sure if it is fixed yet.

        Reply
  4. There’s one in Templeogue (unless they’ve fixed it since I was there last) where the cycle lane ends where the road narrows, and there’s no dip in the path to get back onto it where it resumes after the road widens again.

    There are others (that are probably intended to be cycle lanes) where they didn’t bother to mark it as a cycle lane. It might be ambiguous regarding which side of the line is the cycle lane (especially when you’re not near an end of it). And sometimes, there’s a marking, but only at an end, so pedestrians and cyclists only know which side is the cycle lane when they reach that end.

    And on Bird Avenue, Dublin, they have cycle lane markings in the middle of lanes of the road. Technically, it’s marking the whole road as cycle lanes, but that’s clearly not what was intended and not have it’s understood by motorists ( https://www.google.com/maps/@53.305182,-6.2399142,3a,75y,273.86h,64.3t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sEP-NdnhmDAczj6uNOTl0Sg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192 ), so there are no de facto cycle lanes, and if they place the cycle lane symbol where it means nothing, it will start to lose its meaning.

    And on all those ones where the end of the cycle lane doesn’t meet the road, the cyclist has to illegally cycle across a path to get to it.
    Another problem sometimes is pedestrians blocking the cycle lane while there is plenty of space on the pedestrian path. (The only way for the cyclist to pass them is to illegally use the pedestrian path.) It’s not necessarily a design problem, but in some places, clearly marking the cycle lane might help.

    Reply
    • The extra large bicycle logos pained in the middle of the lane are to highlight that people cycling should take a prime position and not stick to the gutter.

      Reply
      • It’s good in theory but with the way things are, it takes a lot of assertiveness to take the primary road position. I usually bottle it and ride to the left. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Maybe it’s the kind of solution that needs greater numbers of people cycling to work, or maybe a publicity campaign.

        Reply
        • Sure, when sharing the road, the primary position is the safest position to ride, and the best option to calm down the motorists traffic. Indeed, it is the most natural position to ride a bike, as any other vehicles, in the middle of the lane, being well visible and predictable to any others, that is the golden rule for your safety. In the ‘Rules of the road’ book you can see about that (p.198). Riding in such way, you have more room for you, more safety, if anyone wants to overtake you, has to do it better occupying partial or totally the lane on the right, as if you were driving a car, and even if driver does not overtake you with safety, you still keep the enough safety room on your left.

          But this large cycle logos to remind the primary position are the “exception” to the “common rule” in Dublin that is having cycle lanes almost everywhere (in most cases, very poor cycle lanes, as exposed on this good article), and everybody, the motorist, the cyclist, the pedestrian, “knows” that the cycle lane is the “correct” place for a cyclist, because in society it is assumed as normal that bikes are not vehicles, or bikers can’t ride with others vehicles, and have some special needs like the cycle lanes to ride. Of course it is a wrong view… but it is so spread that is difficult to turn.

          And when a cyclist is riding on the road with other vehicles, everyone thinks that’s an anomaly and tries to correct that, saying that you are in the middle, this is not your place, if there is no cycle lane, maybe it said ‘go to the sidewalk’, etc, and you also think that you are not in the correct place, so you intend to go as close as possible to the left, trying not bothering the drivers, but instead, putting you on danger: ‘dooring’, close overtakes, dangerous gutter, appearing surprisingly to another driver that comes from a street or garage on your left… The bad news is that the majority of the cycle lanes don’t save you of these dangers, and can’t be better built due to space limitations.

          Keep in mind these ideas, and try to be more confident on your riding when sharing the road, maybe it is not easy at the beginning, but sure at least you can do it, everybody do. Regards.

          Reply
        • Helen don’t underestimate the gender issues here. In my experience some van motorists carry an entitlement, especially if they’re male, that women cyclists should be good little people, stay out of the way (often presented as ‘stay out of harm’s way), give way to their ‘betters’ in more powerful machines and don’t dream of taking up space. I have begun taking the lane/primary road position more and more. It’s nerve-wracking the first few times but ultimately I feel much safer than trying to squeeze myself into the left. Courage – you’re not alone!

          Reply
  5. There is a (stripe on footpath) “cycle lane” on the road from Dublin Airport down-hill, southbound towards Santry Stadium (left-side). It is very, very steep, so we pick up speed. We have no choice on that. Before we know it, we are really booting it….until having got to an enormous speed, we see, bang in front of us – a bus shelter. Yep. A bus stop shelter right smack in front of us and we are unavoidably doing approx 40km ph easily. The bus shelter is, understandably and legitimately, packed with…people.inside the shelter and outside, bocking the cycle track at the front and behind the shelter (that area, invariably crowded with people) is supposed to be where we are expected to divert to, in order to avoid…a massacre.

    I was in that position during rush hour recently and I had to quickly turn my bike and leap out over a very high curve, into the Bus lane, to save my and other peoples lives. To add to the situation there was a person walking their dog smack, in front of me, right in the middle of this “cycle lane,” but no optio on my left to clsle as it was a grassy hill.

    Myself, that dog walker and probably two or three bus users would have been seriously injured or worse if I hadn’t “illegally” diverted and leapt with my bike into the bus lane, where a bus was bearing down behind me. I injured my back, but nearly got myself killed, buckled my wheels (the curve is a huge drop). And to make this nightmare a perfect experience, I lost my Laptop-bag too, as it fell off due to my having to conduct such an emergency maneuvre, leaping off the very busy and very high footpath. In an attempt to save my Laptop, I had to then jump off my bike despite my own momentum and the danger to me. But I was too late. I had to watch my laptop, which had landed out in the outside lane being mangled by ordinary decent motorists, who were completely oblivious to the situation).

    WHO DESIGNS SUCH CYCLE LANES? (stripe on footpath).

    From now on, for my own and everyone elses safety, I will have no choice but to refuse to move onto this treacherous “cycle lane,” and I’ll have to instead cycle, “illegally,” on the safer bus lane (I am certain I’ll get stick from bus drivers).

    Reply
  6. Familiar with the spot, it’s terrible. Sorry to hear about your experience, I tend to use the bus lane there for fear of an incident just like what happened to you.

    Worth bearing in mind that you are only compelled to use a bike lane if it is in a pedestrianised area or if it’s contra flow

    Reply
    • @Chris, the headings go with the segment & illustration underneath, not above. ‘Too narrow’ is for the illustration & segment underneath the heading. The Inns Quay image is for the heading & segment above, ‘Making Turns that cannot be made from the Cycle Path’.

      Reply
  7. Ah I hate bollards

    I understand they have a purpose but it makes it difficult to avoid many of the hazards identified in your article. Particularly the directional bollards at the entry of a cycle lane that encloses a cycle lane narrower than my 800mm wide MTB handlebars.

    If I wasn’t a confident cycles I would be put of.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.