Cyclists who use a planned new route across Gloucestershire will be at the mercy of motorists, according to an industry specialist, writes Carmelo Garcia.
John Franklin, a consultant in cycling skills and safety who has investigated hundreds of accidents, says he has no doubt that many of the county’s cycle facilities are not safe.
Mr Franklin, who lives in Cheltenham, also believes the proposed 26 mile cycle spine which will connect Bishop’s Cleeve with Stroud is a vanity project and a waste of money.
He says many of the county’s cycle routes are only suitable for use at low speeds and safe cycling can be achieved by providing wider segregated routes.
“The Cheltenham to Gloucester route is a case in point. Although Gloucestershire says that this will meet Government guidelines, this is only the case with the most favourable interpretation of the very lowest standards,” he said.
“People going towards Gloucester will ride closer to oncoming traffic than is hardly ever the case on the roads and liable to ride into it at the slightest provocation by anyone.
“Sightlines at junctions and driveways will be appalling; it will be impossible for cyclists to take the care they should and safety will depend entirely upon motorists obeying the rules.
“The route will be at pavement level, undulating up and down at every crossing, it will involve longer stops at traffic signals and generally be much slower, less direct, more stressful and less safe than the road. It is hard to see why many people will use it.
“The key reason why many cycle paths are so poor is not just that Gloucestershire engineers lack experience in cycling, but that there simply isn’t the space to do much better.
“To achieve safe routes with segregation from traffic and pedestrians requires a corridor many metres wider than the B4068.
“The answer is not to squeeze everyone into the space available to everyone’s detriment, but to adopt other ways to facilitate and encourage cycling, especially locally in towns where lies the greatest potential for growth.
“The county’s vanity project from Bishops Cleeve to Stroud is nonsense and could be the ultimate waste of money. I know of no-one who wants it.”
A Gloucestershire County Council spokesperson said they are committed to building a network of high-quality cycle paths that are safe, avoid the need to ride on busy roads and give the majority of people the confidence to take up cycling as part of their lives, whether for work, school, college, shopping or pleasure.
“Our plans will mark a step change in the quality and extent of cycle infrastructure provision in the county, are supported by Sustrans and have been independently reviewed by cycle experts to ensure that they meet the latest standards.
“Our cycle strategy will deliver a county network that is amongst the best facilities in the country and we are very confident this will both enable and encourage more people to cycle, and to do so safely.
“We understand that some experienced cyclists may have the confidence to cycle on busy roads, roads that they share with other traffic, including trucks and buses, but we believe they are a minority amongst our residents.
“Our routes will cater for residents of all abilities, including young families with children, people with disabilities and those who have retired and wish to take up cycling again.”