Monday, 9 December 2013

Quick moves by Plymouth City Council

No, South West Water (SWW), this is NOT how you do things!

On Billacombe Road in Plymouth, South West Water are doing works to install a new water main pipe. This is essential work and disruption to road traffic is inevitable.
In parts, the pavement had to be dug up, and the footway was therefore temporarily moved onto the cycle lane, forcing the closure of the cycle lane.

I don't think anybody has a problem with this. After all, as the most vulnerable, pedestrians should be first in line to be kept safe.

The trouble is, SWW may put provision in place for pedestrians (in reality because theyr're forced to, I believe) but they sure couldn't care less about cyclists, and this is yet again evidenced by what they've done here.

In other parts, the main traffic lane had to be closed, and traffic diverted instead onto the (closed) on-carriageway cycle lane and buffer zone. Again, this was unavoidable, but it could've been managed SO much better!

Traffic coming off the roundabout already have two lanes that merge into one, resulting in drivers vying for position and looking out for each other, leaving cyclists exposed off to the left. I have had regular instances of drivers straying into the not-very-wide cycle lane while I was riding in it along here, and believe me, that is scary!

Moments after the two lanes merged, there is a sign blocking the cycle lane, advising that the cycle lane is closed. Imagine if drivers were treated the same way - happily driving along until they suddenly find the road is blocked and the ONLY signs indicating that is the case would be those that are blocking the road! This is pretty much what's been done here.

A very short distance later, the sign pictured above may be found. It reads "Cyclists please dismount and walk through site". For starters, there is absolutely no legal force to that sign and cyclists are NOT compelled to dismount. Why should cyclists dismount at all? Why waste time, effort and money on signs like this? Who is the UTTER idiot responsible for this sign existing?

If drivers were treated the same way, there'd be another sign saying "Drivers, please get out and push your vehicles through the site". If such a sign had been put up, there'd be instant outrage, and rightly so, yet they think it's perfectly acceptable to treat cyclists along one of Plymouth's main cycle commuter routes in this manner? 

Why is it that a single person in a car is seen as more valuable than a single person on a bicycle? In which mad mind would that scenario make any sense at all?

In other parts of the country, like Cambridge, the following signs are often used:


The image above is from the Real Cycling blog.
If such a sign was used instead, cyclists would have been safer riding through the roadworks. The sign that SWW put up instead, increases friction, as it leads drivers to believe that cyclists shouldn't be cycling through the area of roadworks. This incorrect belief leads to some drivers driving aggressively around cyclists, trying to intimidate them out of the way. Believe me, it's no fun when you're on the receiving end of such behaviour!

I contacted Plymouth City Council, by email, and attached the photo at the top to the message, together with an explanation of why I thought the sign should never have been used.

Now that sign went up on Friday, the 29th of November and I emailed the council about it on Monday morning, the 2nd of December 2013.

A short while later I received a reply from the council's cycling officer, saying that they're looking into it. I didn't receive any further updates, but when I cycled home later that day, things had changed dramatically!

For starters, the "Cycle Lane Closed" sign was moved forward, nearer to the roundabout, while the "Cyclists dismount" one disappeared. In its place was a "Single file traffic" sign - presumably because the council had one of those and using it would have been a great deal quicker than having a "Don't overtake cyclists" sign made.

There's still a long way to go to improve cycling in Plymouth, as the thoughless actions of SWW clearly shows. However, what is equally clear is that the council is taking cycling seriously, and in this instance certainly made changes happen rather quickly.

Hopefully, in time the council will succeed in getting all contractors involved with road works to take cyclists' needs and safety into consideration.
We're heading in the right direction! Well done, Plymouth City Council.