Sunday, 31 May 2015

When it comes to cycling, one size does NOT fit all.........

I've noticed that when it comes to cycle infrastructure, there is tendency to design it for what planners "think" cyclists need, as opposed to what they "actually" need. For instance do a google search in images for "cycling" The vast majority of pictures are of lycra clad roadies, now I have no problem with lycra clad roadies at all, they're cyclists as well, and I have been known to don lycra and ride something with drop bars myself and enjoy it immensely. Now google "Urban Cycling" and you get a slightly different picture, still a lot of drop bar bikes, some fixies and a few upright bikes, lastly google "Utility" cycling and you get a totally different picture, the bikes are usually longer, heavier, wider and fitted with some kind of basket or crate, sometimes pulling a trailer, this is where the local cycling infrastructure falls short, or shorter than normal.

Planners don't take into account that the bicycle is more than just a way to get a person and couple of panniers at most on a short commute or a leisurely sunday jaunt along the Greenway, they fail to see that the humble bike can be a legitimate alternative to the car or van for city transport.

This, Folks, is the binlane, Belfast's second most famous piece of bad cycling infrastructure after the much maligned (and secretly loved) Cyclesaurus, the binlane is famous for three things.


Bad Surfaces.


Now the bins are what gives the binlane it's name, usually owned by Biffa, Wastebeater or Belfast City Council, they appear haphazardly in the lane, blocking the path for cyclists, it's not unknown for cyclists to dismount and move the bloody things themselves, complaining to the relevant parties is a waste of a phone call.

The surface is crap, it's a mismatch of old and new tarmac with a liberal amount of broken glass and other debris thrown in for good measure, no problem on a bike with 2.00 Marathon Plus' on it, rather more of a problem for someone on 23mm GP's.

Lastly we have bollards, they are aluminium coated in black plastic, and they are supposedly to keep people from parking in the cycle binlane.

Now look at this picture........

Same binlane, but with a Luton bodied van out back and what looks to be a 17 tonner in front. Now, to be fair, the bollards were gone when this photo was taken, but it illustrates perfectly how that even with them in place, any commercial vehicle bigger than a car derived van can hop the kerbs with ease, rendering the bollards ineffective.

Oh, look at the pretty little truck! Look at the pedestrians dodging the bins. The truck, ironically belonged to the people installing the bollards......

Here is a Utility Bicycle.

This contraption is my Kona Ute, with my Carry Freedom trailer on the back, and by God is it a capable beast, you could do a full months shopping with this thing, it makes a car redundant in one fell swoop. Small it is not, it's about 10 and a half feet long, the bars are 27 inches wide and the trailer's wheeltrack is about 32 inches. this means that it can just about negotiate the binlane with about an inch or so between the bollard on one side and a kerb on the other, as for the slalom path on the towpath at Shaw's Bridge or the green bridge, forget it!

If you saw me piloting this beast in town, you could well write me off as some kind of eccentric, doing something nobody sane would do. Now look at the pic below......

Those crazy Germans! They wouldn't think about doing anything efficient, would they? But they are still doing what the Royal Mail decided was
unsafe, now they just drive vans through pedestrian areas instead. Other firms are embracing the bicycle as a workhorse, a cheap, environmentally friendly method of getting goods from A to B in the urban environment, most importantly for business, once the initial purchase is completed, running costs are practically nil.

Back in the day, almost every small business had a delivery boy on a bike, going back to this way of thinking is NOT a retrograde step, it's the smart thing to do in ever more congested cities, but it needs the foresight of infrastructure planners to accommodate it.

Of course outside of town, taking the family cycling can be a challenge, so much of the problems encountered with cargo cyclists apply to people with child trailers, trailer bikes and the like.

This family wouldn't make it from one end of the Comber Greenway to the other without dismounting.


This horrible chicane is tight enough for an adult, with a kid's trailer bike, or child trailer, it is tighter still, no reason why the crossing could not be widened and the railings done away with, I think the risk would be worth taking.

They say the test of infrastructure is that good infrastructure is suitable for an 8 year old to ride, for me good infra should be suitable for an 8 years old to ride, along with their parents, with a cargobike pulling a trailer. Sadly out planners think otherwise.

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