Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Contraflow Signage

Earlier this year, Cambridge Cycling Campaign succeeded in winning local council support for the setting up of trial "cyclist contraflow" signs in parts of Cambridge. And as one of Darlington Cycling Campaign's members pointed out to me today, Cycling England has been encouraging all cycling towns to make one-way streets two-way for cycling.

Here in Darlington we have already asked officers on a number of occasions to consider this. One area where this is perhaps more urgently required, however, is at the Duke Street exit of the Pedestrian Heart. Here, cyclists who leave the town centre are confronted with a particularly narrow road outside the Coop Bank, a road that is designed to be one-way for motorised traffic.


This picture shows the view from outside the town centre. This evening, on my way home from the station, I was cycling out of the town centre on this stretch when I noticed a car accelerating towards me and beeping his horn (at 8pm in the evening). He seemed in a great hurry. The reason soon became clear. He screeched to a halt before I was able to exit the narrow road into Duke Street to tell me off for cycling "the wrong way down a one way street".

Having obligingly opened his car door to tell me so, I hung on to it in order to inform him that, in fact, he was entering the Pedestrian Heart, an area in which cycling is allowed both ways. But this was not enough for my car-centric friend, who clearly believed he had the right to speed into the pedestrianised Skinnergate because the bollard had been lowered.

Clearly, there is an education job to be done here. And what better way than to introduce, as is the case in many other countries, contraflow signs on one way streets. The usual safety "experts" will of course argue that "for safety reasons" this just cannot be introduced. But why is this deemed so unsafe, and ONLY in the dear old UK? Because we continue to pander to bad motorist behaviour, rather than developing an expectation of care when driving in built up areas. Contraflow cycling contributes to this.

Look again at the picture above, and you can see a so-called "flying motorcycle" sign. This is supposed to signal a road that is two-way for cyclists, but not motor vehicles. But how many motorists understand this? Especially when there are time restrictions which run out in the evening.

Perhaps more pertinent in this case is the question - why do motorists, other than commercial vehicles loading and unloading, require access into Skinnergate at all? Their only possible destination is a couple of hundred yards from this exit anyway. Would it not make sense "for safety reasons", and indeed to save the NHS some money by encouraging a bit more walking, to simply keep motorised traffic out of the town centre altogether?