All over the UK, local authorities spend money and effort improving conditions for cyclists in a bid to encourage the use of bikes. Wherever we see painted cycle markings on the road surface, we get the feeling that something positive is being done to improve the situation for cyclists. But is this always the case?
What are these? Cycle markings, in the commonly recognised format. This looks great.
But what do they tell me? As a cyclist or driver, what information do these signs convey? I’m not actually certain…
Do they indicate a cycle lane? No. The street in question is a busy suburban street. There would be no space for an actual cycle lane. They are simply cycle markings in the main carriageway of the road.
Do they indicate the correct position on the road? I really hope not. Correct position cannot be mandated – it needs to be decided dynamically by the rider. If taken as an indication of proper road positioning, these markings are dangerous. A rider following the position shown in the first picture would place themselves in prime position for a ‘dooring’, one of the most frequent, and painful, of cycling accidents.
Parked cars should, wherever practical, be passed by a margin that allows a door to be unexpectedly opened by a unobservant driver. If a cyclist knows better than to follow the positioning of these markings, other road users may then question their use of the road. Neither drivers nor cyclists need any more potential for negative feeling or misunderstanding.
Markings to indicate recommended road positions are sometimes called sharrows, especially when used in North American cities. But they are usually seen on wider roads.
Do these markings simply remind drivers that bikes may be present on this road? If so, this is well-meaning, but worrying. If we start marking roads as being used by bikes, where does that leave us on unmarked roads? Cyclists should be expected on all roads.
I’m intrigued to know how these markings are intended to help, and I’m contacting Wandsworth Borough Council to ask why.