Removing separation between walking and cycling does not reduce conflict

The Royal Parks agency in London has a bit of an issue with cycling. The actions it takes – whether it’s adding cobbled speed humps to popular cycling routes in Hyde Park, or attempting to remove a popular cycle route from that same park, or chasing after a cycle taxi service – give the impression of an organisation that views cycling as something a bit… undesirable. For the Royal Parks, cycling is a problem to be managed, rather than an opportunity, and it appears to be actively trying to discourage it.

What’s even more unfortunate is that the policies the Royal Parks are implementing to manage this ‘problem’ are actually making the Parks worse for everyone, whether they are cycling or not.

A sensible strategy for managing cycling on the existing routes in Hyde Park would be to separate walking and cycling from each other, and to give each mode plenty of space, so they are not coming into conflict with one another. Indeed, we can see this policy working well on a number of routes in and around Hyde Park, already.

We can see it on South Carriage Drive, where the new cycle ‘Superhighway’ runs alongside a footway.

Here people can walk and cycle, without getting in each other’s way. They have their own clear, distinct space.

Likewise on West Carriage Drive, where the same ‘Superhighway’ runs in parallel to walking provision.

People walking on the left; people cycling on the right. People walking can do so at leisure, knowing that anyone cycling will not be anywhere near them.

The situation is similar on Rotten Row, with separate walking and cycling space.

This is the route that the Royal Parks want to ban cycling on, following the construction of the ‘Superhighway’, but the evidence suggests – as in the photograph – that this is still a popular route for cycling, despite that new route.

There isn’t a great deal of conflict between walking and cycling here, but if there is, it should be addressed by creating wider, separate space for each mode, not by banning cycling altogether (which at the very least creates issues for people who use cycles as a mobility aid, depriving them of access).

We also see separation of walking and cycling on the (newly widened) Constitution Hill route.

Formerly, cycling and walking were crammed together (albeit separated by markings) on the path to the right. With the new path on the left, both modes have adequate space, and do not come into conflict with each other.

It’s notable that despite absolutely minimal distinction between these two paths, either in terms of signs, or markings (perhaps a deliberate Royal Parks policy), people are naturally opting to walk where other people are walking, and to cycle where other people are cycling. In other words, the natural choice of human beings is to avoid conflict, and to seek out space that is being used by people that are travelling in a similar way to them.

Yet the policy on the Broad Walk in Hyde Park stands directly in opposition to the way people naturally behave, and what they actually want. This path used to have a painted cycle route on one side of it – dating back to the 1980s – with a solid white line, and intermittent cycle symbols.

Broad Walk – image via Streetview

Far from perfect, certainly, but enough to make it reasonably clear to users that cycling and walking should be expected to use distinct parts of this path. If you are walking on the right hand side, you should be able to do so in peace, free from interactions with faster-moving people who are cycling.

All this has been undone, however, as a result of the Royal Parks’ misguided interventions. The distinction between walking and cycling has been removed, and on the remains of the cycle path, ‘Pedestrian Priority’ symbols have been added.

The result – an entirely predictable result – is that people are now cycling across the entire width of the Broad Walk.

By removing distinction between walking and cycling, the Royal Parks have converted what used to be cycle-free walking space into a space that has people cycling in it, entirely innocently.

Presumably the Royal Parks’ intention, with these measures, was to make walking more pleasant, by attempting to ‘control’ cycling. But, in my view, the exact opposite has been achieved. By removing distinctions between walking and cycling, they have created paths where pedestrians are having to deal with people cycling around them, in unpredictable ways. It’s surely the exact opposite of what anyone walking here would actually want.

I dearly hope the Royal Parks start paying attention to how cycling is designed for in some of the photographs at the start of this post; with wide paths, clearly separated from walking, to remove conflict. It simply doesn’t make sense to push the two modes together.

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14 Responses to Removing separation between walking and cycling does not reduce conflict

  1. Paul Luton says:

    There is a view that if you give cyclists a separate part of a path they will go “fast” and that that is a problem. This makes some sense in a square where people are moving in all directions. On a linear path where people have some way to go (This is London) travelling at a reasonable speed is perfectly reasonable. There are lots of paths in Hyde Park where cycling is forbidden so it is not as if walkers have no choice if they want to avoid being close to cyclists.

  2. Paul Luton says:

    As a counter example for walkers and cyclists avoiding each other take Canbury Gardens in Kingston. The cycle path is narrow and bumpy but is favoured by walkers as it is closer to the river than the broad tarmac path where cycling is forbidden.
    https://goo.gl/maps/ETaETMj5qGv
    Planners not thinking ; impossible !

    • MJ Ray says:

      This hints at one problem with most segregated provision in this country: people walk on it so the main thing it achieves is reducing the width available for cycling, but that width still has people walking all over it.

  3. awjreynolds says:

    Reblogged this on CycleBath and commented:
    I’ve been in a working group looking at the new Bath Quays Bridge (a major new transport corridor for Bath), where architects stated, without any hint of irony, that they are designing in shared space so they can use pedestrians to slow down the cyclists. Our group was shocked that this approach to designing public space was acceptable and considered ‘clever’ and reasonable. This is idea that you can ‘control’ cyclists by throwing pedestrians at them really needs to die. It creates so many issues.

  4. Clark in Vancouver says:

    Maybe the intention is to create conflict. They can then frame cyclists as bad. Somebody is working this from behind.

    • baoigheallain says:

      “Maybe the intention is to create conflict. They can then frame cyclists as bad. Somebody is working this from behind.”

      You don’t have to be a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorist to imagine this might be a possibility. As soon as the Royal Parks record a number of incidents they will be able to claim their duty to their stakeholders requires them to ban dangerous cyclists.

    • Richard Emerson says:

      I suspect that having had the cycle-superhighway forced onto them by TfL, the Royal Parks now want to remove cycling along Broad Walk completely. Unfortunately Broad Walk is on the most direct route between Paddington / Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner.
      Cyclists aren’t going to take the massive dog-leg to follow the superhighway route.

      So unfortunately unless proper segregation is introduced along Broad Walk — with clear crossing points and possibly even signals for the many pedestrian-only paths that cross it — there will continue to be conflicts, even if the RP try to ban cycling here.

      *Unless*, of course, TfL do what they should have done already, and reallocate one or two lanes on the western side of the massive Park Lane motorway as a proper cycle track. Maybe the Royal Parks are trying to force that outcome?

    • tfoxglove says:

      Came to the comments to make that exact point.

      Glad I’m not the only cynical bugger around.

  5. Chris says:

    Something similar, albeit on a smaller scale, has been happening along the newly-branded “Quietway 2” route in Hackney. The painted cycle lanes across Millfields Park disappeared a couple of years ago. The one on the lower section of the footpath that runs alongside St John’s church between Clapton Square and Morning Lane has recently been removed to create a mixed use / shared space path. The inevitable result in both cases is that pedestrians now use the entire width, and so come into conflict with cyclists who are forced to weave around or through them.

    Given that this is supposed to be a designated cycle route, and, to quote TfL, intended to “overcome barriers to cycling”, I find this completely bewildering. Why create something to increase cycle traffic and to slow it down at the same time ? The whole point of cycling is that it’s faster than walking…

  6. Steve says:

    I’ve been doing some research on interactions between pedestrians, joggers and cyclists and funnily enough one of my test sites was the Broadwalk in Hyde Park. If in London at all soon I’ll re-run that bit of the study and measure the changes. In general terms I’ve found that on paths narrower than about 3 metres the total amount of conflict is significantly higher if they are segregated. Between 3 and 5 metres there isn’t much to choose between segregated and unsegregated paths but above 5 metres width there appears to be a significant difference with segregated paths having a lower level of conflict. By total conflict I’m also considering pedestrian/pedestrian and cycle/cycle conflict as well as joggers’ interactions with both other groups. As the Broadwalk is around 9 metres wide it should be better segregated. Junctions are another issue but on the link sections in between both total conflict and cycle/pedestrian conflict would be lower if the path were segregated.

    • MJ Ray says:

      Is this research being published anywhere?

      Are you assuming a fair split between the uses or the typical UK hemmed-in cycling while walkers walk everywhere?

  7. marmotte27 says:

    Perhaps it bears rereading what David Hembrow has to say on shared use. The same causes have the same effect in any country…):
    On shared ycleways/footways:
    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/search/label/shared%20use%20paths
    and, on shared space for bikes and cars:
    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/search/label/shared%20space

  8. Pingback: Removing separation between walking and cycling does not reduce conflict

  9. Indeed, the idea is that cycling speed is controlled by mixing cyclists with pedestrians. This comes from the idea that cycling speed is something that needs to be controlled, that it is a problem. This in turn is a result of seeing cycling, a naturally fast and efficient method of moving, as a problem in itself, rather than as a solution to transport problems. The Royal Parks see themselves as providing a leisure amenity, and not as being part of solving London’s transport problems (except of course where they are providing long-standing rat-run roads on their land, as with the Outer Circle of Regent’s Park). On the other side, politicians controlling roads and not wanting to accommodate cycling there see the parks and canal towpaths as an easy way to slough responsibility elsewhere: people want to cycle in parks rather than on roads, because it is more pleasant, it is reasoned (though this is partly because cycling on roads is unnecessarily unpleasant). So cycling remains stuck between, caught in the dichotomy that we’re allowed to make it fast and efficient only in the proximity of lethal motor traffic; elsewhere, we have to make it inefficient and leisurely. In these circumstances most people can’t be attracted to it; it isn’t viable.

    I will admit that part of the problem is that cycle campaigners have often been confused about this in the past, and advocated for mixing of walkers and cyclists, without segregation. ‘Policy lag’ means ‘experts’ and ‘authorities’ often are influenced by the campaigning of a generation ago, rather than current thinking, appropriate to current circumstances.

    The Broad Walk needed to be redesigned so that the benches, rather than being on a strip separated from the footpath by the cycle path, were moved to separate the cycle path from the footpath. Even a railing could have been used, as a railing is used between the cycle path on Rotten Row and the horse ride. But ultimately the problem is further back: that TfL won’t allow space for cycling on the vast width of Park Lane (which itself was land removed from the park in the past). If they allowed this, then much of the most hectic A-B cycling would be taken out of the park naturally. It all needs joined-up thinking, which we hoped the Cycling and Walking Commissioner would provide: but he seems to be an absent figure.

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