Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The more things change...

I recently moved, and as you can imagine, it was very hectic leading up to the day, and has been rather busy since.
It was with some sense of sadness I said goodbye to the house where I've lived for the past 9 years. That's the longest I've ever lived anywhere, and until we moved, my youngest daughter has never lived anywhere else all her life.

The practical implications of the move are many, with the single biggest to me being the fact that my commute from home is now over three times longer.
As we didn't feel it right to move our youngest to a new school, she still attends her normal school towards the east of the city. This means currently I cannot cycle to work, as I need to drop my daughter to her school.

The compromise I have in place is to put my bicycle on the bike rack on my car, then driver to her school. I then cycle in from there, which means the cycling part of my commute has doubled from three miles to six.

Around half the route remains the same as I always cycled, though of course now I start off well east of Laira bridge. One day a week I have an engagement elsewhere that means I have to divert from my usual route. Once done, I rejoin Laira Bridge Road from Heles Terrace and ride on Billacombe Road, on the carriageway.

Now the bit of road between Heles Terrace and Laira Bridge has seen extensive work done recently. These include having turned the eastbound pavement into a "shared space", complete with flush dropped kerbs for cyclists to smoothly ride onto the pavement.

The very short bit of pavement between Embankment Lane and Laira Bridge, which was before deemed as too narrow to be a shared space, has since been classified and signed as a shared space.
While there is a red cycle lane on the carriageway, it veers onto the pavement immediately before Laira Bridge.

The intention is clear: get cyclists off the carriageway to avoid motorised vehicles having to slow down for them in the slightest, seeing as Laira Bridge isn't wide enough to accomodate a cycle lane.

Now I don't mind decent cycle infrastructure that takes me away from the road. In fact, quite the opposite: whenever decent cycling infrastructure is available I'll generally prefer to make us of it, rather than stay on the road.

So let us look at my routing options from Laira Bridge, heading east:
I could ride up the new ramp and onto the pavement. If I did that, as soon as I've crossed Laira Bridge I'd have to stop and press the button to cross the slip road turning left into The Ride. Once I crossed that, I have to press another button, and wait even longer to cross The Ride. Once I crossed The Ride, the pavement is NOT a shared space anymore, so I'd have to ride on the road!

As an alternative to crossing The Ride, I could wait for ages for a green light to cross Billacombe Road, then turn left on the other side and ride on the awful short stretch of cycle path going past Morley Arms. That is, of course, provided it isn't full of parked cars, or trucks offloading, as it often is.

Riding along the southern shared pavement of Billcombe Road, I'd be forced to give way to the service road going past Morley Arms, both at its exit and its extrance. I'd also have to give way at the entrance to the boatyard, as well as at the disused old entrance to the boatyard, where I'd be forced to weave between barriers that Plymouth City Council insists exist for cyclists' safety.

I'd then have to turn up the little path linking Billacombe Road and Breakwater Road. That path is NOT maintained by Plymouth City Council, as they recently informed me when I asked why they won't cut back overgrown vegetation on it. As a result, the pedestrian side of the path is so overgrown that pedestrians have no choice but to walk on the cyclists' side.

Finally, when I reach the end of that path, I have to wait for a gap in traffic out of Breakwater Rd so I can join the road and wait for a gap in traffic on Pomphlett Road, so I can ride out, around the roundabout up Pomphlett Road.

Why would I want to surrender the priority I have on the road SO MANY times? What's in it for me?

Instead, if I simply stay on the carriageway from before Laira Bridge, I retain priority most of the way. The new infrastructure that Plymouth City Council had put in place are in terms of construction better than their usual rubbish, but otherwise leaves me cold.

As for my commute, no, I don't think I'll be leaving the carriageway! All Plymouth City Council's little invitations to get me off the road and out of the way of "more important" vehicles are so obviously recognisable for what they are.

What they are is NOT an attempt to improve things for cyclists, but instead simply an attempt to get us out of the way. As such, it is poorly thought out and doesn't properly join up in a sensible manner.

It is typical of tripe delivered by people that don't cycle, and refuse to take on board advice from those that do cycle.