Space for mobility

One of the most remarkable things about the new cycling infrastructure in London is not just the numbers of people using it, already, but the way it is being used spontaneously, by a wide range of users. Not just by tourists hopping onto hire bikes –

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 18.38.52but also by people using many different kinds of transport. Scooterists.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 18.41.29


Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 18.41.41Skateboardists.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 18.42.00


Mobility scooterists (even if they are let down by cycling infrastructure disappearing).

And even horseists.

As well as, of course, the myriad types of cycling device that are starting to appear now that conditions are so much less hostile.

Try to imagine someone cycling their kids along the Embankment in a lane of motor traffic, alongside parking bays

Try to imagine someone cycling their kids along the Embankment in a lane of motor traffic, trapped alongside parking bays

So although this is formally ‘cycling infrastructure’, it’s really more pragmatic to describe it as a bit of street space that’s useful for all those ways of getting about that aren’t motor vehicles, and aren’t walking.

It even makes sense for people to jog in these lanes, at quieter times – joggers are faster than people walking, and they can make their own decisions about when it is comfortable to use cycling infrastructure, and when it isn’t. Anecdotally, I think fewer people are jogging in them now they are busier (and indeed open!), but there’s no particular reason to get territorial. It’s space that can and should be used by modes of transport that don’t mix well (or safely) with motor traffic, and don’t mix well with people walking either.

So in a subtle way, this infrastructure is improving the pedestrian environment, by incentivising all these ‘awkward’ uses of footways into a much more appropriate space – including the obvious legal (and illegal) cycling on the footway, but also scootering, skateboarding and mobility scooters. If there’s cycling infrastructure alongside a footway you are walking on, you will only have to deal with other people walking.

It’s also showing that – despite the persistent stream of media noise about the alleged threat posed by speeding London cyclists – people are quite happy to share space with people cycling, in a way they plainly wouldn’t with motor traffic. People jogging, scooting, wheeling, skateboarding, and just travelling along a little bit faster than walking, all using  cycling ‘space’, is really objective proof that cycling does not present a huge amount of danger. If it was that terrifying, all these people would still be using the footways.

This isn’t road space reallocation ‘for cyclists’ – it really doesn’t make sense to frame it so narrowly. Rather, it’s more space for all those people who wanted to cycle (because frankly cycling is a brilliant way to get about) but were put off by frankly horrible conditions, and just as importantly, more space for anyone who wants to travel around in a way that doesn’t quite fit with walking. Simultaneously it therefore also represents a freeing up of pedestrian space.

It’s just better for everyone.

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24 Responses to Space for mobility

  1. A, horseists would be equestrians. And I also suggest non motorized wheeled road users in relation to who is allowed to use a cycleway, although a few low powered vehicles like mobility scooters would be allowed and so would E bikes.

    B, I actually want to add a debate here and probably on the Cycling Embassy GB on whether it would be a good idea to allow mopeds to use cycleways (presumably at certain speeds, maybe 25 km/h in the built up area and 45 in the rural area, and presumably adding an engine size maximum, like 50 cc, maybe an electric to use a cycleway?). It would be a testament to just how good they could be if such (relatively) fast road users would want to use cycleways, it would show that it has to meet certain standards about width, corner radius, no barriers that cannot be taken by all road users, it gives a protected space away from far larger motorized vehicles like lorries (even 7500 kg lorries are still bad news) and cars travelling at speeds above what a moped is capable of handling), and it even would allow people to use a mode of transport that they might not have used, for example a car being too big and expensive but a bike not being usable for the distance they want to go, maybe on a large number of hills. It could work well, it works in the Netherlands. Opinions everyone?

    and C, Goede werken Mark. Ik kijk uit naar de volgende blog artikel.

    • Bert Jansen says:

      Being Dutch I can tell you that we are fed up with mopeds in the cycleways and we want to get rid of them.
      P.s. your Dutch is getting (a bit) better, but do you realize that this Mark isn’t Dutch?

    • The one element of cycling in The Netherlands that I hated – sharing with mopeds. They were travelling at a significantly different speed from me cycling, and the noise made otherwise stress-free journeys more stressful.

    • Paul M says:

      The routes are already open to motorised vehicles which fall in the cycle category – e-bikes, defined as max power 250w, max power-assisted speed 25kph, and not purely electric powered – you have to contribute leg power too. That really is enough – beyond the classic Velo Solex, even the smallest moped is significantly faster – and significantly heavier – than any bicycle or e-bike. Not as heavy as the heaviest mobility scooters but they are limited to 8mph. Their momentum is far too much to permit in a track which could be shared with pedestrians, joggers and scooterists.
      Mopeds are also highly polluting – the small ones use 2-stroke engines which are very noisy and produce as much pollution as an aggregates truck. Small 2-stroke engines have been banned in boat outboards for years now, for good reason. No – encouraging more mopeds on to the roads is a retrograde step.

    • ORiordan says:

      No f****** way should mopeds be allowed. Their use has rocketed in London with the growth of internet food delivery services. They are too fast and too heavy for a cycle track.

    • Hello Cycling in Edmonton
      I don’t think allowing motor scooters on these cycle paths would be a good idea at all. (As an aside, I think that to be a moped, the vehicle should have pedals. I haven’t seen one of these for years, so I’m just going to talk about motor scooters).
      In the UK we have 50cc motor scooters which are limited to 30 mph, and larger ones which are not limited. I think the majority of roads shown in Mark’s pictures are 30 mph roads, so it should not be such a problem for motor scooters to mix with other motor traffic. I guess it is not ideal due to the large difference in mass between motor scooters and buses etc., but I don’t think we particularly want to be prioritising and promoting motor scooters in built up areas due to concerns with noise and air pollution.

      On rural cycle paths running alongside busy 60 mph or 70 mph roads, I would not mind if scooters limited to 30 mph were also allowed to use the path (provided it is wide enough etc). This can be found in Germany. However, I would not want faster scooters using the path, and there is no obvious way of telling the difference (e.g. a different colour of number plate).

      I think most scooters nowadays are four stroke.

    • Notak says:

      I reckon that:
      A. Horseists is a deliberate stylistic choice. After all, we’d normally say skateboarder, rollerblader, wheelchair user, but using -ist formations echoes “cyclist”. Of course I can only guess what MT’s thought processes were but that seems like a deliberate choice to me.
      More importantly:
      B. No! Mopeds are far too fast (and heavy and smelly and noisy) to mix comfortably with any but the fastest cyclists. And I say that as an ex-mopedist and motorcyclist. And how on earth would you enforce the 25km/h restriction when the moped is capable of 45km/h (or quite likely more, but that’s the legal limit in EU since many years back)? In fact, I’m afraid I envisage similar problems with derestricted electric bikes; something that will have to be dealt with at some point.

  2. awjreynolds says:

    Reblogged this on CycleBath and commented:
    Basically created protected cycle lanes benefits all road users, be they in a wheelchair, on a horse, or even a skateboard. More importantly it encourages people not to pavement cycle/jog/skateboard/Rollerblade/scoot/etc. The benefit to people walking cannot be overstated.

  3. Steven Edwards says:

    I personally wouldn’t want to share these lanes with mopeds or motor scooters.
    I don’t think it would encourage others to use them also.It’s proabably the only gripe I found with cycling in Amsterdam, where I believe there is a move to prevent mopeds using bike lanes.

  4. awjreynolds says:

    By the middle of this year councils in the Netherlands will be able to ban mopeds from cycle paths. They are supposedly limited to 25kph but about 70% of them exceed that limit. The reason is to increase cyclist safety. I also have a feeling that due to the advancement in electric assist bike technology, and they really are pretty damn amazing these days, that the reason mopeds were allowed on cycle paths is no longer justified when an e-bike is a better solution.

  5. Sheridan says:

    I really wouldn’t want to have to share cycle lanes with mopeds – the motorcyclists who go through supposedly cycle-only filtered lanes are bad enough, but there’d be an increase in incidents (won’t use the word ‘accident’ similar to when motorcycles were allowed to use bus lanes.

  6. awjreynolds says:

    The only thing I would say about equestrians using cycle paths. An incident on the Two Tunnels (Bath) where the horse defecated leaving brick size dung in the middle of the path that dried out into a very dangerous obstacle. The owner was spoken to about this. Owners of the horses need to bring poo sacks with them if they are going to use the paths as the dung can create serious problems if it has a chance to dry out.

    • Rangjan says:

      Yes, I had to swerve to miss some “road apples” in the cycle superhighway in London the other day.

  7. alpincesare says:

    In the Netherlands, would horses be allowed on cycle paths?

    What about joggers?

    This is insane.

  8. USbike says:

    I don’t know the legality of horses on cycle paths in the Netherlands, but over here in rural Zeeland, I sometimes see horse riders on the cycle paths. Occasionally, there are piles of dung on said paths It’s by no means pleasant, but still better than the scooters that go way too fast and foul up your ride with noise and pollution.

    • pm says:

      I have just a couple of reservations about such diversity.

      Horseyists tend to have a particular pollution problem all of their own (which, apparently, was the NOx/particulate issue of its day, back when horses dominated London roads). So too many of them and cyclists might face a problem. Dog-owners are expected to carry a bag and clear up after their charges, so…

      And persaonlly I reckon roller-bladers have a problematic degree of lateral movement.

      Powered wheel-chairs and the like are surely fine, and a good counterargument to the (usually bad-faith petrohead) anti-cyclist mantra of ‘no everyone can cycle, what about the disabled, eh?’

      Mopeds can &$%$* right off.

  9. Notak says:

    Interesting observations. I do feel that this kind of “space for all sorts of non-car things” is far more likely to be seen as beneficial by the general public than “cycle lanes”.

  10. ORiordan says:

    The extension to the EW superhighway route at Hyde Park goes right by the Household Cavalry barracks and at this time of year I see military horseists almost every day out practising for ceremonial events.

    When the cycle path is open I assume the horseists will be sticking to the road rather than using the cycle path but you never know as the Royal Parks seems to hold horseists in higher regard than cyclists.

    • Notak says:

      I presume the Household Cavalry no longer train their horses to charge into battle (last cavalry charge by British forces was in Palestine 1943~ish). If they did, then it would certainly be reasonable for them to ride in the traffic.

      The police OTOH do train their horses to cope with traffic, rioters, missiles and so on. So why are they riding on the cycle path-cum-motor free space? I guess they’ll give you an answer if you ask. Ideas that occur to me are:
      –It’s more pleasant for the coppers
      –Even though the horses are trained not to be nervous of traffic, there’s still the possibility of injury to a horse or rider
      –Large, slow-moving horses would cause “pinch congestion” on the busy roads.

      That last reason is somewhat problematic…

  11. Marco says:

    Agree with the observations, and actually I have a good example. Yesterday (Sat lunch) my girlfriend decided to run to Waterloo from Barbican, whilst I Boris biked (I had my membership key but not my running kit!). So we found it was convenient for her to run on the pavement whilst I cycled alongside on the N/S cycle highway to Blackfriars. When we got onto the Embankment towards Westminster she ran on the pavement whilst again I cycled, although closer to the houses of parliament she came into the bike lane as it was difficult to move with the number of tourists; in fact, she also ran in the bike lane across Westminster bridge (me behind providing security). Both of these had enough space for 2 bikes abreast so her using the lane wasn’t too much of a toll for others and there weren’t many other cyclists (although I’m sure I caught some dirty glances from taxi drivers).

    I’ve been dwelling about this for the last day now and honestly, I’m starting to think we should consider separating roads (or I prefer the term carriageways) into lanes for speed – similar to a swimming pool (which filters by speed rather than by ‘type’ ie gender, age). Because if you think about it you wouldn’t begrudge an old person on a bike using the pavement (which is what happens in my village in Italy) because likely they’re not going that fast (I know this is profiling to a certain degree). But no one seemed to mind either about my GF jogging in the cycle lane, especially as the alternative was obviously not an option. I think you have to be balanced though – you probably wouldn’t mind slower scooters, rollerskaters or even joggers on the cycleway during quiet times, but they would represent more of a danger to themselves and others if using this at busier times, in a same way most people would consider it too dangerous to cycle on a dual carriageway with no cycle provision. This kinda ties in with your previous posts about shared space, I know you are against it but actually shared space might work in the context of speed filtered lanes.

    And RE other modes of travel sharing cycleways, my views are:
    – mopeds, if you applied this logic they are clearly motorvehicles, and in London at any rate travel at the same speed as cars; I agree you would NOT want them in cycle ways
    – horses; not sure how I feel about these, as I do get slowed on the odd occasion by the Household Calvalry’s horses being taken back to the barracks on the south side of Hyde park. Here they (sometimes, I’d say 50/50) use the lovely cycle path that’s on South Carraige Drive, its a bit grating as there’s actually a nice horse path on the other side of the road, but then because it’s a fairly irregular occurrence I doubt many other Londoners are affected (ps @NOTAK @ORiodan they normally cause about 5 mins max worth of congestion at around 10.15ish, it’s nothing major though as half the time the do actually use the horse paths)
    – scooters/rollerbladers/skaters; common sense will probably prevail with these users, and if they think at a certain time a bike path is safer than the pavement (or vice versa) I would trust their judgement

  12. Rachel M says:

    Hi there,
    Can I please use the photos on this post in a talk I’m giving at the Aberdeen Science Centre on how bikes can save the world? I will credit them to your site, of course. Thanks!

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