Sunday, 1 July 2012

I Break the Law

I don't break the law by jumping traffic lights, never have and never would.  I don't break the law or irritate drivers by hopping from pavement to road and back again, just because I don't want to be held up.  Neither would I go without lights or hi-viz in darkness or dull light.

I do however break the law by riding the pavements instead of the road.

On my 3 wheeled trike I am a very confident road user.  This is because I ride to the letter of the law on the road and motorists give me a wide berth and are very polite.  I believe this is because I am a older lady, because my trike is very wide and I give good hand signals and make good eye contact with drivers.

On a 2 wheeler however, I am simply not prepared to put myself at risk of death or even broken bones by being forced off the road or knocked off my bike by a metal weapon traveling at 50/60 mph plus.  Having broken 2 ribs a couple of years ago I know what broken bones feel like and it isn't pleasant.

The government want me to cycle and it's their responsibility to make cycling safe for me.

My local council here in Christchurch, Dorset, are spending money allocated to cycling infrastructure on nothing more than making pavements shared use, where it suits them, on one side of any particular road.  In other words they are paying lip service to becoming part of Britain's Cycling Ways.

Don't get me wrong, because this is a semi rural area our pavements here in my particular part of what still comes under the borough of Christchurch are barely used by a pedestrian, due to the fact that everyone is far too lazy to use their own two legs instead of getting the car out.   The shared use doesn't inconvenience pedestrians so I can fully see why a lazy council has chosen this way to be able to say that they are trying for a cycling town.

Basically the council's idea of a bike path has been to paint a white line along the kerb side of the pavement, and every few yards stick a blue sign representing shared use.

Unfortunately, what the council haven't taken into consideration is the fact that the pavements are barely wide enough for two people walking side by side, let alone cycles passing each other or maybe having to pass the odd pedestrian.  They are in very poor condition and in many places overgrown on the side.  At every side road we have to give in to traffic just as a pedestrian does,  and for some reason at my home, incoming, end of the path the shared use stops dead a mile or so before one even starts to enter the village where one might come across pedestrians using the row of shops, and one has to then join a very fast through road with vehicles traveling up to 60 mph.

The shared use pathway can be seen to the left
On the outgoing ending of the "bike path" one comes to a pedestrian/cycle passover which safely takes us up and over the busy duel carriage way and large roundabout.  The downside of this passover is that cyclists have to dismount and walk across, so Sustrans might give their name to this over pass as part of the cycling pathways of Britain, but it is not a cycle pathway, it's a pedestrian pathway only.

Once over the walkway one then has to turn off and take country lanes (no pedestrian paths) if one is to avoid joining the bypass and speeding traffic.   Country lanes I might add that are also used by many cars cutting through from the more rural parts of this borough.  Country lanes that are only wide enough for one car in one direction and therefore have to pull in for each other to pass.  And believe me, country lane motorists do not drive slowly.

The government are lax in creating safe cycling for me and my local council are not caring if the cycling facilities they supply are barely usable as long as they can say they have put in ex amount of miles of cycling facilities.  I have therefore decided to make my own law.

For all the faults of using pavements as part of the cycling infrastructure, it is still safer than cycling on roads with speeding traffic.

As the Christchurch council have decided that shared pavement cycling is acceptable to be part of the cycling ways of England, I too have decided that the pavements that have been left out of the cycling pathways, if I personally deem a pavement safe for pedestrians (or lack thereof) and cyclists to share, I will be using it.

I am of course at all times aware of my being a guest in a pedestrian's area, and cycle very safely and carefully near them.

The local council can't have it both ways.  They can't say pavement cycling is safe with one breath and then expect me to not use a pavement simply because they haven't put a white line or blue cycling sign up.

If this means I break the law then so be it.  If I specifically see a no cycling sign I will obey, but no sign and I will assume it is fine for me to cycle there.

The government refuse to create safe segregated cycling and it's my right as a human being to be safe traveling from A to B.  I have the choice of sharing the road with motorists that are hell bent on removing cycles from the road, or I can share the pavements with pedestrians.

I choose to break the law and cycle on the pavements.


  1. By all means do what makes you feel safe. I ride our sidewalks here all the time; they are an acceptable lane for cycling as long as we yield to pedestrians.

  2. I have noticed more and more cycling on the pavements to tell the truth. Car's travel so fast through our main roads down here that it's russian roulette to try to share the road with them.

  3. Quite right. Christchurch has some of the most ridiculous painted pavement cycleways I have seen anywhere. Even on a huge road, Barrack Road, they have allocated all the road space to multiple lanes of traffic and expect cyclists and pedestrians to share the pavement, which works for nobody. Then suddenly at an arbitrary place cyclists are ejected into 40mph traffic sideways. These facilities are absurd and unusable. Proper segregated cycle tracks on the road, Dutch-style, are the real answer, but there are few of these in the UK. The only good ones I know are in London.

  4. Oh Barrack Road is horrendous for cyclists. And it may only be a 40mph limit but there is no way they stick to 40mph.

    I live more Highcliffe side of the borough and from the beginning of the Christchurch bypass towards Christchurch town, along with, from the town along Barrack Road up to Castle Point, would have been ideal places with plenty of room to put totally segregated cycling Dutch style.

    Have you ever tried to cycle around Stony Lane roundabout? That's a death trap and to be avoided at all costs. That's another place that could do with Dutch style segregation.

    But then if they can't even get safe cycling right in London and other cities what chance do we stand here in the country.

  5. I dont know your part of the world but here in the NE things are no better. I am a confident cyclist but on occassion I cycle on pavements. We have the rediculous situation where there are cycle lanes on 40mph roads that when you get to a roundabout the lane ends abruptly . Are we expected to trust to God and providence? Things are no better in other parts of the country and I agree with you that it is lip service that is paid to establishing cycling as a form of sustainable transport. BTW Sustrans is not only dedicated to cycling but also to walking. I'm just back from a nearly 500 male trip so just catching up with the blogs I like reading.
    Brenda in the Boro

  6. I think as long as we choose pavements virtually free of pedestrians and as long as we are careful and polite in our cycling then my experience has been that pedestrians are as nice as pie when passing them.


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