A small example of rural car dependence

This video was doing the rounds on Twitter last week.

It’s really quite well done, and a bit depressing that it dates from 2011. It convincingly shows how a B-road has effectively become a no-go area for anyone not in a motor vehicle, or confident enough to walk or cycle in the carriageway on a fast and busy road. That means short trips have to be made by car; all because a path suitable for walking and cycling has not been provided.

I was reminded of the video while I was out cycling at the weekend, on one of my usual leisure routes. The worst section of it is a B-road that runs into the village of Coolham. It’s a fast, straight section of road with a 60mph speed limit, where for some reason I always seem to encounter lunatic overtakes. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but this stretch of road always fills me with dread, and I exhale with relief a little as I progress through the village, and onto the quieter roads to the north.

What is most alarming is that, just like the B4044, there isn’t even a footpath on this stretch of road.

Hmm

Watch out drivers – no footway. Oh, and please drive carefully.

Here we have the curiously British approach to road safety – put up a sign warning drivers that there isn’t a footway, instead of just actually supplying one. And, equally, asking them to drive carefully, rather than forcing them to.

As the houses of the village come into sight, we have a ‘SLOW’ warning. But no reduction in speed limit – still 60mph. With no footway.

Slow

‘SLOW’

The houses appear. Still 60mph, and no footway.

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 00.26.00

Reflective bollards. That’s nice

It is only as the centre of the village appears that the speed limit drops to 30mph, and still there is no footway.

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 23.49.11

The centre of Coolham

Coolham isn’t a big village, but it does have a primary school, with just over a hundred pupils – William Penn School (named, incidentally, after the founder of Pennsylvania, who lived and worshipped only a mile or so from the village).

Out of interest, I took a quick look at the mode share data from the 2011 School Census, which reveals that 85% of the pupils of William Penn were driven to school. None cycled.

Now of course some of these pupils may have come a distance to the school, from outside Coolham – this is a low-density rural area. But none more than a few miles; the surrounding villages all have their own primary schools. And surely the majority of the pupils will have come from within the village itself, perhaps even from those houses in the pictures above.

If they did, then their parents will, undoubtedly, have driven them to the school, which is less than half a mile away – about 700 metres, door to door, from the house at the very edge of the village. I certainly don’t blame them. They have no choice, forced into car dependency because of a total lack of safe and attractive alternatives.

What was once a quiet country lane has become a fast and busy road, and seemingly at no point during that evolution did anyone stop to think about the consequences for the people who don’t, or can’t, drive.

About these ads
This entry was posted in Car dependence, Infrastructure, Subjective safety. Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to A small example of rural car dependence

  1. T.Foxglove says:

    Tellingly the video was produced for a competition to win a share of £10,000 for community projects being offered by an energy company. Hardly the first port of call for local campaigners trying to get cycle path built.

    So not only are those communities blighted by the road, they’d been ignored by the local authorities with the power and responsibility to improve their situation.

  2. paulc says:

    The highways need widening to put proper footpaths and add cycle paths in as well. However, there’s no money available for the compulsory purchases that would be required. Plenty of money to blow on HS2 which benefits very few (and lines the pockets of party donors as well), but no money to put into nationwide infrastructure that would benefit far more.

    They keep claiming that we have no money and we’re still having to do austerity measures, yet spending money NOW in infrastructure when the money is cheap to borrow would have far more benefit in employing people and putting said money back into going round and round in local economies.

  3. Every village round here has similar problems – the bigger ones do have paths and 30mph limits within the village but between the villages is a no go zone without being in a vehicle. I’ve written to the council, on shape your place and at the Neighbourhood Panel Meetings saying that the villages are all within a couple of miles away but with the roads, they are impassable. I’ve highlighted transport poverty and how they have effectively banned walking, let alone cycling.
    The local paper is full of ‘tragic’ accidents where families die in cars on the open roads round here, either because they were driving like lunatics or someone else was. The Councils say there’s no money for paths and they won’t reduce the speeds any further because they say that 40 is the slowest they can expect people to do on a bend in the country. The expectations of drivers is very low.
    Then of course there’s the parish councillors that actively oppose a wider path you can cycle on because the village loses it’s school bus – the school is about a mile away so if they were in an urban environment they wouldn’t have a bus anyway. The parish councillors have chosen the bus through no-mans-land over making that mile through the fen a better place to walk or cycle.

  4. Simon says:

    This upsets me too.

    In my village, there are footpaths and children should be able to walk to school and back by themselves (like I did when I was a child, etc). I would love to be able to help my children cross the busy road and then let them make the rest of the way to the school by themselves.

    But the “quiet” roads to the school are chaotic with school run mums in cars. It’s a small village, with a very small catchment area – there are few children who live outside a walking distance. But we are all subservient to those who choose to drive their children that short distance.

    A mum I know who lives right on the edge of the catchment area (to the extent that her children wouldn’t get in if they applied now as the catchment area has shrunk) let her children make their own way to and from school on foot and by bike as they reached the final years of primary education (aged 10/11) and other parents ACTUALLY COMPLAINED about this as they thought it was irresponsible and setting a bad example to their children! I’m increasingly dispairing of this country’s love affair with the car which has such a negative impact on so many other areas of our lives.

  5. Chris R says:

    I’ve been in a car flying down some of these kind of roads at 60mph (and through the 30 sections at 40+) with the driver complaining at idiots walking on the road.

    The apparent right to drive where you like, as you like is absolutely incredible.

    • Rob Connolly says:

      And you challenged the driver about his or her behaviour and comments, right?

      • michael says:

        Can’t help thinking that’s an unnecessarily churlish response. Whatever the answer the original post makes a valid point.

      • What is the point in challenging the driver? People like that (in fact most people) cannot have their opinions changed with reason and logic.

        • Rob Connolly says:

          OK. So what do you suggest instead, then?

          • It’s a challenging situation to find yourself in. In that situation, I would talk to the driver and challenge their views, but only if I thought this person would listen and was a good enough friend not to just flip out and hear me out. But as I say, I’ve rarely (if ever) met people who hold a view to back down from it when faced with reason and logic. And I HAVE tried. The “road tax” drivers, those that believe they’re entitled for whatever reason, people who discriminate, etc. You ever tried to challenge their views? It’s hard.

            One thing that would be great is better enforcement form police. Where I ride, in London, driving whilst on the phone is endemic, and indicating has completely gone out of fashion. Why – because there is no deterrent. Even driver that technically run a red light by stopping squarely in front of the advanced stop line (the green cycle box) can get away with it because even if you bring proof to the police, the Crown Prosecution Service often drop such “minor” cases.

  6. jackthurston says:

    Good post on a much-overlooked subject. When I was doing the research for Lost Lanes, my book of cycle rides, I had a look through the literature on cycle touring. Back in the late 1940s and 1950s, Harold Briercliffe’s routes rely heavily on what are in the 21st century major A-roads, almost without exception no-go-zones for cycles (and people on foot). First published in 1978 by Penguin, Nick Crane and Christa Gausden’s CTC Route Guide to Cycling in Britain and Ireland makes greatest use of the network of rural B-roads. Clearly at this point in time these were the roads for getting from A to B in rural areas. When it came to my research for Lost Lanes I found that many, certainly the majority, of rural B roads in southern England were so fast and busy that I could not recommend them to the readers of my book. Hence my book is about cycling on country lanes. When someone comes to write another book in the 2040s, will they find the lanes too are too hostile for cycling? I hope not.

    One method I used for determining the hostility of a B-road or even a straighter U-road before setting out to ride it, was to look on Google Maps satellite view and Streetview and see if there was a white line in the centre. If there was, it was a bad sign. The cars were likely to go rather faster than if there were no white line. One policy intervention that I know works (and that is advocated by serious people like the CPRE) is to remove the centre lines from these fast B-roads. This almost automatically introduces some uncertainty in drivers, who slow down accordingly. Another intervention that I’ve not seen in the UK but that is used in the Netherlands is to paint two dashed white lines and use different colour tarmac near the edges of the road, effectively turning the road into two cycle lanes and one motor lane. The effect is that cars use the centre motor lane until they meet another car coming the other way, at which point they use some of the cycle lane. This might only work on the less busy of B-roads, but it’s an idea worth considering, particularly for long lonesome roads in rural areas, such as across wide expanses of moorland, where roads are often quite straight and as a result some drivers are worryingly fast.

    • Mark Hewitt says:

      That only helps to an extent. The problem as indicated in the article is just the traffic volumes on that quality of road make it if not unsuitable then unpleasant for cycling. The solution is you widen the road to give sufficient space for cycling, you provide a decent footpath, or you provide alternative routes.

      It’s certainly the case throughout the UK that there innumerable roads which used to see very light traffic volumes and so the construction of the road was appropriate at the time, but are now major through routes on roads unsuitable for the task.

  7. Paul Gannon says:

    “seemingly at no point during that evolution did anyone stop to think about the consequences for the people who don’t, or can’t, drive.”

    I’m not sure that this is true. I think that plenty of people did think about the consequences – and dismissed them. i did read some years ago that the Ministry of Transport in the 60s or 70s adopted the view that cycling should be discouraged. The method of discouragement was to dismiss cycling and make it feel dangerous. The policy succeeded. We should recognise that and not pretend that it was a simple oversight that got us where we are.

    • Mark Hewitt says:

      The 60s and 70s were a turning point for traffic policy the world over. The Netherlands decided that walking and cycling were the priority, the UK decided that the motor car was the priority, and only in recent years have some started to realise this was the wrong choice.

    • Dan B says:

      Also, infrastructure does not “evolve”. It is designed and built. It can be (and often is) redesigned, tinkered with and ‘improved’, but ALL of this is done with the input of people. It is NOT a natural process whereby ‘somehow’ we have roads too dangerous to let children walk or cycle to school. The speed limits are set by people. Pavements and cycle tracks are built by people. Also, they can and are changed by people.

  8. Fast rural roads with no cycle paths and severance by dual carriageways make utility cycling outside town centres impossible for more and more of us.
    A chain is only as strong as its weakest point -you only need one dangerous stretch of road to break the chain.
    Every time we spend money ‘improving’ a road to make it safer, faster, wider and busier for cars, we need to look at the effect on cycling. If, as is usual, the ‘improvements’ make it less safe for cycling, then the scheme should only go ahead if the budget includes the money needed to add back provision for safe cycling (and walking too).

    Who else would like to be able cycle safely between Horsham and Southwater on the B2237 Worthing Road?
    There will soon be another 634 houses adding to the traffic and danger along the road -there will be lots of developers’ money that could be used to make it safe for cycling, help get people out of their cars and actually start to reduce the traffic. It would even be possible for Southwater children to cycle to their secondary school in Horsham, but it won’t happen unless we make it.

    • Mark Hewitt says:

      But in the case of this road, widening would actually improve cycling safety, but your point is valid.
      The recent A9 upgrades to dual carriageway, people have scoffed at the idea of providing cycling infrastructure along it as it would add to the cost, but I ask, at what cost?

  9. michael says:

    There was an article on a Cambridge cyclist’s blog a while back about the case of the guy who took his mobility scooter down a terrifying A-road (it was deemed that while legal he required a police escort to do it, leading to a national news story about this “silly old duffer” “causing all this trouble”).

    The story behind it that the national media (being as poor as it usually is) apparently didn’t address of course was that the lousy road design had left this gentleman effectively stranded in his home with no other reasonably direct way of reaching the nearest large town.

    ah, here it is

    http://cambridgecyclist.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/camridge-news-are-real-raving-loonies.html

    (As an aside though I read that blog occasionally I don’t like blog sites that demand you use a google account or something to post comments! I’m not giving Google any more information than they already have on me! And I’ve never managed to get ‘openID’ to actually work)

  10. gregorygeorgecollins says:

    I ride the B2139 Coolham Road frequently. In a very assertive road position. Whenever oncoming traffic is seen you will find me in primary. “hogging the lane”. It is a very popular road with local cyclists. I’ve never encountered a lunatic overtake on it, either when riding alone, with friends or as part of that thing unforgivable in a driver’s eyes, a large group….

    On the parallel routes of West Chiltington Lane, Broadford Bridge Road and on the linking B2133 Adversane Lane/Harbolets Road loony passes abound. Saturday morning being the most recent. But if you want real, calculated, life-threatening, deliberate, lunatic overtakes you need the A29 or any road/lane in the Surrey Hills AONB!

    Speed and volume of traffic have rendered our B roads, and many of our C class country lanes, highly inhospitable to cyclists it is true. I’d like to see all UK speed limits, urban and rural, swapped from mph to kph overnight, and I’d like speed cameras on every lamp post to enforce the limits. On the B2115 at Whiteman’s Green, on my regular commute route, there is a radar operated 30mph speed limit sign. I’ve stopped and counted cars that trigger it on a number of occasions. Never seen less than half the cars going past trigger it. So why is it there? Tokenism. In nearby Warninglid there is a community speed watch group. A joke. (and one of whose members needs to learn how to safely overtake cyclists, but that is another story….)

    The party of government nationally, in West Sussex and in Horsham District and much of the electorate that vote for ‘em, are in thrall to the private motor car. Given you could paint a pig or a hatstand blue round here and either would get elected I can’t see that changing any time soon.

  11. Jitensha Oni says:

    +1 to Simon. For a bit of local perspective, if you input local authorities into the Big Pedal website (http://bigpedal.org.uk/) you’ll find that in 2014

    West Sussex: Primary Schools over 150 pupils had 21 partcipants and, up to 150 pupils, 2 (William Penn didn’t seem to be among them)

    BUT

    Surrey, with its cycling strategy (and I tried a few district/borough councils too): 0

    At least some West Sussex folk had a go.

    But I’m puzzled by gregorygeorgecollins’ first two paragraphs. This seems to be telling us that it’s only on a few roads in the area that a “very assertive” position actually works. From which I conclude that before you can be a vehicular cyclist you have to know which roads are suitable to use the technique on, which kind of defeats the object, and certainly isn’t much good for the casual visitor or the most vulnerable in the 8-80 range.

  12. Paul Gannon says:

    Another problem with road design is that is has led to the rise of the ‘primary positioning’ dogma.

    Some problems with ‘primary position’ dogma.

    1 – conceptually self-deprecating and motor-centric as it assigns ‘primary’ position on the road to the space occupied by motor vehicles, thus enforcing the psychological superiority of motors and inferiority of cycles. The choice of term is enough reason to reject the philosophically outrageous concept outright.

    2 – PP is only relevant under specific circumstances (narrow carriageways and for gaining control over specific manoeuvres and developing situations) and plays limited role in most cycling conditions, except for fast ‘vehicular’ cyclists.

    3 – elevates one aspect of positioning using shared carriageways to totemic status and as a result gets promoted as the key cycling skill rather than its actual role as one skill among many (even to the extent that some people argue that once PP is ‘mastered’ (sic) there is no need for safe, attractive cycling environments).

    4 – secondhand concept borrowed from motorcycle positioning where it is appropriate because of similar speeds of motorcycles and motor cars etc. More motor-centric thinking behind PP.

    5 – only 00000.1% of cyclists want to rely on PP rather than creating safe, attractive cycle networks. Result: Young Adult Males (YAMs) predominate in the UK cycling profile, thus over promotion of PP is a deeply sexist and ageist policy.

    6 – diverts funding from stimulating cycling levels into job creation schemes for proponents (sorry, I know I shouldn’t aim for the player rather than the ball, but it is a relevant point).

    • Dan B says:

      I fall into the YAM category, and usually ride as a fast vehicular cyclist. I quite often ride in primary position, but only because I’m forced to by the road environment, which is most of the time. Every time a rider feels they have to take the lane for their own safety, or to navigate a junction safely it is because cycling has been ignored in the design of the road.

      Good segregated infrastructure doesn’t really hit speed either. It does mean riders feel a hell of a lot safer and more relaxed though. On other occasions I ride a utility bike. Good infrastructure works for me then too. Bad infra is bad for both types of cycling.

  13. rdrf says:

    1. Good point Jack Thurston about markings. A particularly bad development has been painting fo white lines on the outsides of country lanes (e.g. on border with grass) to assist motorists not having to worry about their speed.

    2. Re this exchange:
    Rob Connolly says:
    “And you challenged the driver about his or her behaviour and comments, right?”
    michael says:
    “Can’t help thinking that’s an unnecessarily churlish response. Whatever the answer the original post makes a valid point.”

    Challenging motorists is difficult but necessary: there are all sorts of people threatened by this sort of behaviour, not just cyclists.

    3. I started trying to reply paul gannon’s particularly ranty bit on people who ride on the road but stopped after “conceptually self-deprecating and motor-centric as it assigns ‘primary’ position on the road to the space occupied by motor vehicles, thus enforcing the psychological superiority of motors and inferiority of cycles.”, because taking the space is the exact opposite of being self-deprecatory and all about assertion. Well maybe I am completely wrong as I am now just one of 00000.1% of cyclists (hope I got all the 0s in). Although using space on roads with cars nearby does not mean I want a “safe cycle network” , so maybe neither I nor anybody else is in that 00000.1%.

    4. Where it is unlikely and extremely expensive to be able to get extra land to put footpaths etc. on, the solution is to reduce numbers of cars and their speeds, as well as have driver liability to let them know they are in deep shit if they do anything wrong near cyclists or pedestrians. One engineering solution is to make alternating one ways, such as with road works. One lane only used, so just about enough room for cycle track and footway. Not really good enough because cycle track would have to be two-way, but it does show possibilities. It is quite normal for signalising to create one-way only at rural locations with bridges etc. as well as road works.

    • Sarah S says:

      Agree with both you and jackthurston about taking out centre lines usually being helpful. Although I was overtaken slightly closely recently on a narrow road (with no centre line) by a BMW just as a powerful motorbike was coming the other way…

      Less sure I agree about taking out white lines that mark the edge of the road. One of my big gripes about cycle paths is that they nearly always lack these white lines, which I find really useful fpr cycling on twisty, hilly routes after dark. I use a reasonably powerful front light, but it’s much easier to anticipate what gear I need to be in next if I have a reflective line showing me the road some way ahead as well as a decent view of my more immediate surroundings.

  14. Paul Gannon says:

    Hi Bob, I’m sorry you don’t get the point I’m making. You may be surprised that:

    http://cyclingfront.blogspot.co.uk/

    made exactly the same point as me (less rantily I grant you) and at the same time and independently of each other:

    “Certainly taking the lane is critical action you need to do on today’s roads, but why call it “primary”? That’s asserting that its the main place to be, and elsewhere is “secondary”.”

    Do read the rest of his/her blog posting as it makes similar points to my other rantagraphs.

    My observation is that ‘primary positioning’ sloganising is motor-centric; it was utterly irrelevant to me as a cyclist in the Netherlands and is only of value in a world where motors dominate and there are very few cyclists (ditto vehicular cycling). The way in which British cycle activists have promoted a minor skill into the be all and end all of cycling is an indication of how far British cycle culture is in thrall to motor culture.

    I hope you’ll be able to get your head around the point cyclingfront & I are making about the subconscious message evident in the choice of the term ‘primary’.

    • Dan B says:

      I don’t think it’s about being in thrall to motor culture, just a pragmatic approach to the hostile environment that has been created in this country. Because cycling in this country has to be amongst motor traffic it is reasonable to describe a riding position in relation to other users, and use the existing terminology that other ‘bikers’ use.

      I agree that it might not help introduce new riders, or promote cycle infrastructure, but it might keep existing riders safer until the environmental changes are created that make ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ defunct. When cycles are treated as traffic is it not reasonable to expect cycles to behave like traffic and talk like traffic?

      • paulc says:

        No, it is a skill promoted by the author of Bikeability who is now seen as an authority on how cycling should be provisioned for in the UK… ie. the vehicular cyclists are seen as how it should be done… not the Dutch with their properly segregated cycling paths… there are idiots in the UK who don’t like segregation and they are seen as the mainstream cycling advocates… this is why we get crap such as taking primary while riding and ASLs at junctions. Instead of Dutch style junctions and facilities, we get rubbish and exhortations to take the lane. If we had proper facilities, we wouldn’t need to “take the lane” and his book would be obsolete…

        • Dan B says:

          So how should someone ride safely on the streets of London today, with the current infrastructure? On the nice, 3m wide segregated, prioritised cycle track? Or in the door zone? Or illegally on the pavement, giving way at every side road?

          It’s a necessary skill for our current environment. It shouldn’t be, and I’d love for it not to be necessary. However, I will continue to ride to the conditions and until they change my style of riding cannot.

    • Matthew.W says:

      Do the terms ‘primary school’ & ‘secondary school’ make the UK preadolescent centric? ;)

      • Paul Gannon says:

        No, but primary school is the first school level and secondary school is the 2nd school level, so the terms are properly used. There’s nothing secondary about cycling space as far as I’m concerned and nothing primary about motoring space either.

        • Matthew.W says:

          ooh semantics, my favourite.

          The meaning of the Franklin “Primary” & “Secondary” is “Central” & “Peripheral”, so the terms are properly used. There’s no negative conatation about secondary/peripheral as far as I’m concerned and nothing dominant about primary/central either they are just descriptions of position.

  15. rdrf says:

    Replying to Paul Gannon: “The way in which British cycle activists have promoted a minor skill into the be all and end all of cycling” = I don’t know anybody who sees it as the be all and end all. The be all and end all is about reducing danger at source and addressing discrimination against non-car and lorry modes.

    In terms of cycling in the vicinity of motors, we have an issue which is not just to do with current conditions. Even if we had main roads with fully segregated tracks, most roads would still involve cyclists being in the immediate vicinity of motors. Forms of positioning yourself on these roads may well involve a position which many would call primary.

  16. Sarah S says:

    I think there are two distinct “baskets” of problems here:

    1. A pressing need for better, more inclusive transport planning that caters better for non-car modes, sometimes by segregating modes and sometimes by making sharing safer, more attractive and more convenient.
    2. A need to sort out wider issues around access to the countryside. Not just in the negative sense of preventing rat-running by motorists, but also in the positive sense of opening up access to the countryside to pedestrians and cyclists. More comprehensive rights of way, better signposting, better surfaces, more bridges, more stiles. Farmers cleaning up the muck they leave on paths.

    I can think of lots of situations in which children living in suburb or village A and going to school (or after-school activities etc.) in suburb or village B should have the choice between using a road route (walking or cycling on a footpath or cycle track that follows the road, or on the road itself) or taking alternative, short-cut routes that would involve bouncing home on tracks through the fields or the woods, In a densely-populated area with busy roads, the case for the dedicated cycle track might be more pressing. In a lightly-populated area, the case for working to make the countryside more permeable instead might be stronger.

    I’,m not suggesting it’s easy – there are all sorts of legal and practical and cultural and technical issues to be resolved.There would be potential problems with livestock. Keeping a dense network of very minor routes usable year-round is almost impossible, so priorities would have to be set. Making use of routes which are regularly damaged badly by heavy farm or forestry vehicles doing dirty jobs is problematic. Making too much use of pre-existing routes and not linking them up with newly built segments can lead to bafflingly incoherent routes that are frustrating to use. A lot of UK parents would be at least as sceptical about children taking a 3km route through fields and forests as they would be about children using a 5 km road route.

    But still, my bottom line would be that people who walk and cycle should enjoy much better access to their destinations than people who drive. it’s simply not good enough for cyclists only to be able to go everywhere a car driver can go -,they should be able to go all sorts of other places, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s