Last week, I started a series examining, in detail, the ‘Existing Cycle Routes’ in Horsham, which featured in the ‘Provisional’ version of West Sussex County Council’s newly published Transport Plan.
The first route I looked at doesn’t go anywhere.
About the best that can be said for the route I am going to consider in this post is that it does not have that particular disadvantage.
Here it is, in the WSCC Transport Plan* –
And here it is, in a picture.
Well, your first problem, as a cyclist, is actually getting onto this ‘Cycle Route’. If you are joining the southern end of North Parade from an easterly direction, you have to make a right turn from the Albion Way
racetrack dual carriageway. And that means negotiating your way into the right lane of three, here –
This is a frankly nerve-shredding experience, even for a regular cyclist – but be thankful. You are now so on edge that, as you proceed northbound on the ‘Cycle Route’, your cat-like reflexes will fully prepare you for the hazards posed by the ‘door zone’, as you cycle past the cars parked alongside the takeaway outlets – a prime spot for people leaping without warning out of their cars.
Now I can hear the sceptical among you wondering, ‘Hang on minute. This is supposed to be a Cycle Route. But this looks suspiciously like a road. And more than that, an ordinary road, with no bicycles painted on it, or anything. What gives?’
Be patient. For lo, here is some paint.
The next fun feature of this ‘Cycle Route’ you will encounter is a pinch point, created by a pedestrian island. Here, the carriageway narrows to the extent that there is a conflict between the cycle lane, and the amount of space required for motor vehicles to pass through the pinch point. And on an official ‘Cycle Route’, the only solution for a conflict of this kind is to
Now, to be fair, this is slightly less dangerous than keeping the cycle lane there, because that would fool the naive cyclist into thinking they would be safe in the lane. But the fact remains that you have to be a brave cyclist indeed to emerge from your cycle lane at this point and take the centre of the lane, especially with the speed of traffic along this road. It’s just a little bit unacceptable.
What I find upsetting is that North Parade is one the two main arterial routes into the centre of the town from the north, where most people live. The potential for getting people to cycle in to town on this road is huge, and as the above photograph shows, there is no lack of space for providing more protection for cyclists, infrastructure that would make a novice feel safe, and would make their journey into town by bike easy and pleasant.
But instead, we have a gravel-strewn cycle lane that I strongly suspect is far narrower than DfT guidelines, that leaves cyclists to fend for themselves at the points where they most need assistance (at pinch points, or going past parked cars), on a road that is a minefield to access at one end.
This is what West Sussex County Council have the chutzpah to consider as an ‘Existing Cycle Route’, when in reality the fast-fading paint here (probably all that makes this road qualify as a ‘Route’, along with the signs) makes the road, in all probability, more hazardous for cyclists.
Not good enough.
*This map is taken from the provisional version of West Sussex County Council’s Transport Plan 2011/26. This document – which no longer appears to be available online – carried maps of each of the major West Sussex towns, with details of current and proposed facilities for sustainable travel. These maps are, for whatever reason, not present in the finalized version of the Transport Plan 2011-26.