The facility in question is an off-road path of a decent width, that cuts between Booth Way, and Depot Road, in Horsham. It is shared with pedestrians – the white line divides the pedestrian side from the cyclist side.
The white line is rather superfluous, because despite this path being of a reasonable standard, it is rarely ever used by cyclists, principally because of the conditions at either end of it.
The main problem is that the northern end of the path dumps you onto a horrible gyratory, with no alternative but to use it. Dismounting and walking on the pavement is your only (legal) option.
Here we are looking towards the gyratory, from where the cycle path ends. This small road – Booth Way – is a dead-end, and quiet, but at the end of it, you have no option but to join the busy two-lane roundabout, with fast, heavy traffic moving around it. Or to walk.
These pictures were taken about half-past two, a quieter period. This roundabout is typically much busier, especially at rush hour, as it handles all the motor vehicles coming into and out of the centre of town from the north and east (the main commuting route, given that this is towards Crawley, Gatwick Airport, and London).
To continue northwards, you have to get into the lane that the large dark car is using, then make a right turn at the junction, before proceeding around the rest of the gyratory. Not ideal.
Conditions are a little quieter at the southern end of the path, but again, difficulties are put in our way.
This barrier chicane, virtually impossible to navigate, thankfully stops us from just cycling straight out into Depot Road.
Why on earth the designers of these horrible things assume I can’t be trusted to simply use my brakes and come to a stop, checking the road is clear before cycling onto it, is beyond me. I’m perfectly capable of stopping at a junction when I happen to be using my bicycle on the road. Likewise I can be trusted not to step off pavements without looking, or indeed even to stop at junctions in my car, without metal impediments being put in my way.
It’s a mystery.
Further difficulties await. The most natural route I would want to take, if I was heading south along this path, is to go straight across into Barrington Road. But there’s a problem.
I can’t cycle down it, because it’s a one-way street.
Naturally, at some point in the past, this was a normal, two-way street. But as the number of cars owned by the households here mounted up, something had to give, and that was the convenience of vulnerable road users. Extra parking spaces were bought at the expense of two-way flow.
This means that, again, you either have to dismount and walk along this road on the pavement, or you have to turn right and cycle on Station Road, conditions on which you can see below.
This is a rather busier road, with plenty of parked cars, and people coming and going to pick up their children from schools nearby, or from the railway station. Not brilliant to cycle on.
The arrangement is shown in the map from Cyclestreets, below –
Heading south from the gyratory in the north, the ‘quiet’ routes – marked in green and yellow – follow Booth Way, and the subsequent cycle path. We would naturally want to use Barrington Road, but because this is a one-way street, we are forced to head west to rejoin Station Road – the very road that we wanted to avoid in the first place. What incentive, therefore, do we have to use that cycle path?
We can use the cycle path, heading north from Depot Road, but we have no option but to use the gyratory. And if you’re confident enough to use the gyratory, then you’re probably just going to cycle along the parallel Station Road, and not bother with the cycle path. At both ends of this cycle path, you are forced to either walk on the pavement, or to tackle busy roads that are just as, if not more, unpleasant than the road the cycle path provides an alternative to.
As with most UK cycle ‘infrastructure’, then, this serves nobody’s interests. Nervous cyclists, who might willingly use it, are going to be put off by the unavoidable busy roads at either end of it (or, alternatively, the sheer inconvenience of having to get off and walk). Meanwhile experienced cyclists just aren’t going to bother, because the road it bypasses, while not brilliant for cycling, is a cakewalk compared to the gyratory you are forced to use to get to or from it.
A cycle path that nobody is going to use.