Cycle Lanes

In response to criticisms of the Earley peripheral and the A 329 cycleways Wokingham has installed, I have investigated and taken them up with the Council.

I was worried about possible conflict between pedestrians and cycles along the A 329 route, as the cycleway diverts cycles from the old highway to the pavement at several points along its route, usually where there is a pedestrian crossing point or pinch point on the highway. I am pleased to report that when I went on two occasions to see if there were problems there was no such difficulty.

On the first occasion I drove from Wokingham to Reading along the full stretch of the A 329. I saw two cyclists. One was a young man on a racing bike who appeared to be out for sport cycling, riding very fast. He chose to ride in the vehicle lane, not the cycleway. The second was a more elderly man who chose to ride on the pavement at a slow speed, so any pedestrian could see he was on the pavement all the time and adjust their route accordingly.

On the second occasion I drove from central Wokingham to Winnersh triangle along the A 329. I saw no cyclists at all. (mid morning)

The main criticisms to me have been the cost and the lack of use of these facilities. I am waiting for a reply to my enquiries about why the Council undertook these schemes, how the moving onto and off the pavement will be handled, and what they think the use levels are and are likely to be in the future.

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14 Comments

  1. Antisthenes
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Cyclists do not pay toward the use of roads like other road users but expect not only to use them but to use them in a manner of their choosing. Although bicycles are ill designed for use on either roads that are built for motor vehicles or pavements that are designed for pedestrians they expect the duty of care and obedience to laws governing their use not their responsibility. Why do we pamper them with the way we do until they are prepared to pay for their use and and act in a more responsible manner?

    • Ian Pattinson
      Posted August 24, 2015 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Roads are paid for out of general taxation and Council Tax. If you think I’m exempt from paying the share that goes towards roads because I don’t own a car, please point me to the place where I can claim the money back. I could do with it.

      Drivers pay Vehicle Excise Duty, not, as they like to pretend, Road Tax- which was abolished by Winston Churchill some time in the 1920s or ’30s. VED does not go toward road building etc., but into the general taxation pot. I do wish drivers would stop telling me that I “do not pay toward the use of roads”.

    • Andy
      Posted August 24, 2015 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      You are incorrect. Roads are paid for from general taxation, there is no such thing as road tax. There is a tax on the emissions of vehicles called Vehicle Excise Duty. Perhaps you would like to educate yourself here http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23694438

      I used to cycle to work but after so many near misses and CYCLISTS DYING on Wokingham’s roads I decided to stay away from cycling at rush hour. More dedicated cycle lanes along more of my commute might help. But for the moment I’m afraid I am contributing to the car congestion again.

      Meanwhile and to the point of the article, the new cycle lane on the A329 is an improvement on the old laughable one on the pavement but for the reasons above, it doesn’t improve enough of my journey and I won’t be using it.

    • Bobe
      Posted August 24, 2015 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      The vast majority of cyclists are also car drivers, so in that way they contribute to the roads. I can’t imagine many that don’t have a car, as these days a car is essential.
      Bobe

  2. Grumpy Goat
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    It is the lack of use of these new expensive facilities that gets me. Money would have better spent on the railways, buses and roads which are far more used by the majority. I am not anti cyclists but they do know how to moan and still expect to go through red traffic signals with out penalty. Like John I have seen very few cycle users of the cycle lanes. The Earley peripheral cycle the cost for a few users!!! I still see some of the cyclists ignoring the especially built path and cycling on the now more dangerous narrow road way – what is the point!

    • alan jutson
      Posted August 26, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      Grumpy Goat

      I am reliably informed that cyclists do not use the new designated and separate Lower Earley Way cycle path, because it is used by dog walkers and joggers, and such use by these people makes for an obstruction to cyclists, and slows them down.

      Since this cycle path is now fenced to separate it from the road, cyclists who do use the road are now in more danger, as they are fenced in on the narrower road with no escape at all.

      Thus the £2,000,000 cost of this one and a half mile fantasy idea, which involved making the road more narrow, involved moving street lights, and installing refuges to the middle of the carriageway, has actually made cycling and driving rather more dangerous than before.

      The dog walkers and joggers appear very happy though.

  3. alan jutson
    Posted August 26, 2015 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    The multicoloured tarmac and white lines which designates possible road hazards, and the cycle path, will need to be maintained rather more often than simply leaving it as normal tarmac, as the finish is simply sprayed on.

    So far the area outside our house has had to be recoloured every two years, as the coloured surface breaks away causing an uneven surface for cyclists.

    Thus the maintenance cost will be another additional expense.

    Afraid the area around and in Wokingham now is looking more like Toy Town every year.

  4. Rosscoe
    Posted August 27, 2015 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Dear John,
    In order to understand why the cyclist you saw was using the road rather than the cycle path and why these lanes are often not used may I suggest that rather than driving over to have a look you hop on a bike and try to use the facilities.

    To often cycle lanes are badly designed for cyclists and seem to be created by a highways engineer putting a line on a map with no thought about the actual practicalities. Common mistakes are isolated cycle lanes (how do you get to them?), which terminate with no warning (where are you supposed to go?) and are unsuited to the geometry/turning abilities of a bike.

    Riding is very different to driving and Cycle lanes are frequently completely unsuitable to be used safely. I really would recommend that you try using them as a cyclist- you may become be surprised how informative and experience you might find it and it would give you a greater understanding of the deficiencies of the councils projects.

  5. John
    Posted August 29, 2015 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    John you need to cycle and walk from Wokingham to Reading to understand the conflict issues. Its not to far and good exercise if you don’t mind your lungs being destroyed from local air contamination.

    As you say the council have given up with conflicts at junctions which is were most injuries/deaths occur.

    If the highway code was enforced, which I understand is not popular with any of your constituants travelling in this area would improve traffic flow, and safety.

    Walking from Molly Millars Lane to Waitrose last week I noted
    5 drivers on their phones(not hands free)
    2 drivers texting
    2 cars through red lights with pedestrians to waiting to cross
    1 cycle through red light
    1 cycle on the footpath
    3 mobile pedestrians who walked through moving traffic despite being within yards of a signaled crossing.

    To see what can be done you need to go the Randstad in the Netherlands.

    Reply I have often walked that route. yesterday there was just one cyclist along the Reading Road, riding on the pavement against the flow of traffic on the adjacent highway.

  6. lustra
    Posted August 30, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    The point about infrastructure provision for cyclists is that it will form part of a network which is safe and convenient enough to encourage people to use a bicycle instead of a car for appropriate journeys. Most people are too scared to share the roads with motor vehicles at present so take-up is low. However everyone benefits from reduced traffic congestion and increased use of bicycles so more high quality cycle infrastructure will pay handsome dividends over time.

  7. Peter Howe
    Posted August 31, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    There are thousands of houses planned around Winnersh and North Wokingham, and a significant proportion of those new residents need to cycle to keep our traffic moving and to minimise air pollution. Congestion between Wokingham and Winnersh means that peak-hour journeys can take 45 minutes by car, so cycling is already a faster way of getting around.

    In one of his previous blog posts, Mr Redwood suggested that the Borough’s roads needed more segregated cycle routes and that road space for people driving needed to be maintained. Wokingham Borough’s route on the A3290 (Wokingham Road) have achieved this; the hatched areas in the middle of the road were removed, and in their place are cycle lanes in both directions. This is the kind of high-qualty cycle provision we should aim for.

    Wokingham Borough has chosen to stop the cycle lanes near busier junctions, such as Mill Lane and Winnersh cross-roads, so that turn lanes for traffic were kept. This leaves people cycling the choice of joining the traffic or going onto the pavement which is rather uneven and regularly interrupted by driveways. It is not an easy choice, and I’m interested to hear that Mr Redwood will discuss it with the Borough – I have suggested more gradual on/off curbs are needed. When the proposed Winnersh relief roads are built, I hope that the reduction in traffic will make it possible to add cycle lanes through the missing sections too.

    The scheme on Lower Earley Way is not of quite such a high standard. The extra fencing makes it rather narrow for people to pass each other when cycling or dog walking, and it is only one on side of the road with unsatisfactory links to Mill Lane and Cutbush Lane on the South side.

    The number of vehicles on the A3290 can be found on the Department for Transport web site at: . This shows that, in 2014, about 280 people each day cycled on the road – there were more bikes than motorbikes or buses. 280 people is an average of one cyclist every 5 minutes, but obviously it’ll be many more during rush hour (Reading Cycle Campaign’s survey suggests more than one a minute 7.30am-9.00am) and many fewer off-peak which is why Mr Redwood only passed two on his ten-minute drives.

    Peter Howe (Wokingham contact for Reading Cycle Campaign).

    Reply I have also walked sections of that road and not met many cyclists.

    • alan jutson
      Posted September 1, 2015 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      Peter

      I am absolutely astonished at your comments.

      The Lower Early Way cycle path is at least 2.5 metres wide, it cost more than £1 million for just over a mile in length, and cyclists still use the road. !

      How wide do you think a cycle path should be ?

      I live on the A329, I see cyclists every day still riding on the path and road, when there are cycle lanes in place.

      Yes of course in an ideal world we would all like cyclists, and pedestrians to be separated from traffic, but Wokingham Council in their wisdom have decided to build thousands of houses on open spaces before they have even thought of roads, cycle paths, and pavements.

      The sensible thing to have done, was to have put in a ring road to the North and South of the Town BEFORE development, not try to squeeze some half baked idea in afterwards, when traffic is log jammed.

      Why no direct access to the A329M to the North at warren bridge, why take so called proposed relief roads through housing estates, where parked cars will block single lane roads.
      On second thoughts I guess the housing estate roads will have double yellow lines on them, so residents and their visitors cannot park.

      Just look at the fiasco of the Winnersh traffic lights.

      Yes of course we must make SENSIBLE provision for cyclists, but kids are not taken to school by their parents on a bike, tradesmen do not carry their tools on a bike, people do not go to the supermarket on a bike, elderly people do not tend to ride bikes, couples going out together tend not to go by bike, in poor weather most people do not tend to use a bike if they have an alternative.

      Please open your eyes and your mind to more than cyclists.

      The most cost effective thing to prevent accidents would be for the Council to repair properly all of the potholes on the roads and pavements rather waste money on spraying coloured finish on acres of the existing surface, which then lasts only a couple of years at most before needing a re-coat.

      Would also help if some cyclists did not wear headphones, and instead listened to traffic rather than music when cycling, they would then be rather more aware of their surroundings and what is actually going on.

      Cyclists with a bell (to warn pedestrians of their approach) and lights so that they can be seen in the dark also helps self preservation, as does obeying the highway code, and not going thorough red lights or crossing road junctions without looking.

      Before you ask, I was also a keen cyclist many years ago, so am fully aware of the problems and dangers.

      We used to have a cycling proficiency test many decades ago, this was often run in school playgrounds, after school hours when the local police were responsible for running such a scheme, they supervised it, checked all cycles for safety, and gave the pupils a short lecture on road awareness, and gave them a copy of the highway code.

      The above served two purposes, it made children aware of the dangers of the road, and how to ride correctly, and it was good very PR for the Police.

      Sometimes we simply need to help ourselves a little, not always wait for others to provide everything.

  8. Peter Howe
    Posted September 1, 2015 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Alan,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    There are a number of reasons why the cycle path on Lower Earley Way isn’t used by all people who cycle. It is 3m wide, and the fences remove 1m of useful width because there’s a high risk of hitting your handlebars on it so you can only use the central 2m. This isn’t enough to safely pass someone else walking (or cycling). If the fence were only 0.5m high, this problem would be avoided. If there were a cycle path on each side, the problem would be reduced. It would also be very helpful if the path were gritted in winter to prevent ice.

    In all new road developments, I argue for a 3.5m cycle/footway on each side. This safely separates people who cycle, people who choose to walk and people who choose to drive. It adds a very small amount to the cost of the road construction – compare the £1 million for Lower Earley Way with the cost of the north Wokingham distributor road (about £70 million, I believe).

    I disagree with your comments about people not cycling. In our Borough, less than 2% of journeys are by bike. In Cambridge, it is around 40% – people go to the supermarket by bike, the elderly ride bikes and children get to school by bike. If we could get cycling levels in our Borough to even 10% (as it now is in London) it would dramatically reduce congestion, noise and pollution. This is the only way we can cope with the increased number of houses and simultaneously improve the quality of life in the Borough.

    The ‘Cycling Proficiency Test’ is now called ‘Bikeability’. Both Wokingham and Reading Borough Councils offer this to all children – have a look at for details. As part of our work to encourage cycling, offers ‘Level 3’ Bikeability training to new RCC members, to encourage them to think about cycling safely in traffic.

    Peter Howe.

    • alan jutson
      Posted September 2, 2015 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      Peter.

      I would certainly agree that on new developments we perhaps need wider paths, but we also need better car parking provision and wider roads as well.
      Unfortunately the Council for years have LIMITED car parking on site, because they want to encourage use of public transport, even when it does not exist.

      The cramming in of houses for maximum density restricts sensible movement for all, even parents with push chairs, and the elderly with wheelchairs or scooters, more drop curbs would help too.

      Take your point about the fence, why did the Council not think of this before they spent many thousands putting it up, given they have so called transport experts !

      Rather than spending thousands again to take it down, why not simply put a white line up the middle, the fence side for pedestrians, the non fence side for cyclists with their handlebars.
      This separation has been used on many footpaths within the borough, and seems to sort of work.

      I do not think spending another £1,000,000 plus on a one mile cycle track on the other side of Lower Earley Way is a sensible use of money.

      Pleased to hear that the Council still promotes Cycling or now Bikeability.
      Used to be a mandatory course for all pupils at schools in my youth, indeed you were not allowed to cycle to school unless you had passed the test.
      Thus road craft learnt at an early age usually stays with you forever.
      Likewise riding a bike, peddle or powered teaches you to read road conditions and surfaces, and should be of benefit when you move on to a car.

      But at a risk of repeating myself, cyclists need to help their own preservation (comments in last post) Drove past a cyclist last night, riding on the road, no lights and wearing dark clothing, cycle path empty.
      Simply daft and an accident waiting to happen.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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