24 August 2010

Cambridge overtakes London in safe-cycling signage

Cambridge can claim to be England's real cycling capital. It's signs like this that show why.

It's the roadworks on Hills Road railway bridge just south of the station. (Roadworks which, incidentally, are for installing bike lanes.)

The cones have narrowed things down to make overtaking unsafe, so the sign instructs motorists not to overtake cyclists.

And it works. We got no hassle from drivers. In fact, we could enjoy the view at leisure from the top, which is one of the highest points in East Anglia.

It took a bit of activism from excellent local group the Cambridge Cycling Campaign to persuade the council to put up such signs for similar works a couple of years or so ago, but this time round it went up without prompting, we're told.

Compare the Cambridge situation with Waterloo Bridge in the capital (right). There are similar works there, but no such signs - and little consideration from buses or taxis. Perhaps Cambridge could lend a couple of its signs to London once those bridge works are done.


  1. So it seems it can be done! Still I wonder when they will invent signs that don't take up all the sidewalk.

  2. I was on a bus a couple of weeks ago, crossing Waterloo Bridge. Being as I'm from The Provinces, I sat upstairs at the front to admire the view . . . and then spent the first five minutes with my eyes closed as we overtook a stream of bikes through the roadworks on the bridge. I suspect that the driver either had his eyes shut too, or just no conscience whatsoever.

  3. Indeed - see www.cyclestreets.net/location/24149 and 24150 for the Cambridge view of the Waterloo Bridge works.

  4. Other areas are going the opposite way and forcing cyclists to leave roads with roadworks on them so they don't slow down all the (stationary) traffic. Such an example is the A30 through Cornwall between Truro and Penzance right now. There are numerous signs saying cyclists must leave the road and find an alternative route before the roadworks. There are no detour signs provided though.

    I imagine the point of this was to stop cyclists from slowing the traffic as it passes into and through the narrowed single lane through the road works, but in reality a bike would be the perfect way to get through as the traffic is hardly moving for almost the entire length of the narrowed section.

  5. @ Tim. That bridge roadworks is the perfect example of why you should "take the lane" to stop people thinking they have enough space to squeeze through. Show them there is not enough room by riding an extra foot or two out.

  6. Quite so, Valerie! Oddly, I tried to take a photo of those signs on the A30 just a couple of weeks ago - too blurred, alas.

  7. http://forum.ctc.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=39509

  8. Hang on, is this the same Hills Road bridge as I know ? The one where works have been going on since three years ago when we emigrated ?

    And are these the same "Narrow lanes do not overtake cyclists" signs as had already been installed in 2008 and were then part of what was described as "a death trap" on the bridge ?

    And have you seen the utterly crazy ideas they have for this bridge ? They're building cycle lanes in the middle of the road, with the added spice of drivers having to turn left across them if they want to make a left turn. An idea which has at least one local councillor expressing concerns "that some less confident cyclists, or people cycling with children, will be nervous about being in the middle of the road.".

    This is supposed to be good ? Seriously, you're looking in the wrong place to see how roadworks ought to be handled for cyclists.

  9. Well, the 'death trap' was before the No Overtaking signs etc went in. And there are other places where left-turning cars cross a cycle lane, eg East Road to Mill Road (Cambridge) - they work ok, by UK standards. There will be alternatives for less confident cyclists, eg a toucan crossing on the north slope of the bridge. This isn't the Netherlands, and with current spending cuts (they're talking of doing away with Cycling England, Bikeabikity and all!) it won't be like the Netherlands any time soon, alas.
    As far as this goes, we're just trying to get the engineers to remember we exist, not to actually spend any sensible money on us.

  10. @David... I'm saying the sign is good, not the bike lanes, wherever they are.

    If you read the post closely, you'll see that I'm talking about the sign being good and not the cycle lanes. You can tell because, in the headline, and in the body of the blog post, I keep using words like 'sign', 'sign', and 'sign'.

    Don't start having a go at me just because you don't like the facilities they're putting in, please.

  11. Tim, sorry, but the article suggests that they were indeed talking about after the signs went in:

    Despite signs at the start of the lanes at either end advising drivers "Narrow lanes do not overtake cyclists", motorists are continuing to do so.

    Mr Phillips said: "Drivers are overtaking and intimidating cyclists when they cannot overtake - they need to be more considerate of others around them.

    "Currently it is a death trap and I suspect a fatality may result if nothing changes."


    "Unfortunately a small minority of irresponsible drivers still choose to ignore the clear notices that are in place and we are working with the police to enforce the restrictions."

    I'm not really surprised. I wouldn't expect this to work.

    I'm afraid I never thought much of the cycle lanes between other lanes in Cambridge. Just not good design at all. They encourage drivers to overtake on both sides simultaneously when it's possible for them to do so.

    Very bad news about "Cycling England" and spending cuts in general. It makes no sense at all to be cutting cycling, of course.

    And Rob, why so defensive ? I'm not "having a go at you". I'm simply pointing out the two year old news that the signs don't actually have the miraculous effect that we'd all hope they would.

  12. The signs were improved several times, and the problem did largely go away. Maybe car commuters finally realised it didn't make any difference, they were just getting to the next jam marginally sooner.

  13. Interestingly they seem to work rather better second time around. I've seen no trouble here nor heard of any. Maybe because it's summer and traffic levels are relatively light, or maybe because drivers have got used to the idea, and at least one was prosecuted for being agressive on the bridge.

    And I really don't see how being smug about living in Groningen helps anyone still over here.

  14. As I understand it David, there are a bunch of practical reasons why they are putting the cycle lanes 'in the middle of the road' one of which is about space iirc. See also this article:


  15. Signs for motorists placed on the pavement are not best practice, as the first commenter notes.

    I'm interested to read that ‘Cambridge can claim to be England's real cycling capital’ and then see on the link which 'cobweb' supplies that 'the width of the cycle lane could be increased to 2.1 m, which is wider than other cycle lanes in Cambridge'. Paradise indeed.

    David Hembrow doesn't live in Groningen, 'wookey'. Read his blog more carefully, if you can be bothered, which you probably can't.

    Ameliorating the conditions for vehicular cycling is a worthy activity but isn't ever going to result in high modal share for UK cycling, and Cambridge isn't the role model which the rest of the UK should aspire to.

  16. Um - I'm asking this genuinely - where else would the sign telling motorists to lay off hassling cyclists go, if not the pavement? I couldn't see any space in the roadworks bit itself. What is best practice in that case?

    Anyway, wherever the sign ended up, it seemed to work when we cycled over the bridge a few times, with no hassle from motorists. And I just wish we had similar on London's perpetually worked bridges, such as Waterloo or Southwark. That was the only point I was trying to make.

  17. The sign could be painted on the road surface.

    You're still thinking four-legged signs, Rob. I'm more of a unipolar visionary. There are lots of ways around this. But it's like segregated cycling infrastructure - no one is demanding it. Until they do, highway engineers - not the brightest stars in the sky - won't come up with an answer.

  18. I've just been informed by the cycle programme manager at Lambeth Council that they're obtaining some of the above Cambridge-style cycle signs for use in Lambeth. Hurrah.

  19. I cycle across waterloo bridge every [weekday] morning and I haven't had any problems. I find that there simply isn't enough room for motorists to overtake and they don't. Same applies to bikes which can't overtake the vehicles when the traffic is running slowly.

  20. @Nick - in rush hour it's not too bad because the traffic is moving slowly.

    The worst problems come outside rush hour, when the bridge is emptier and expected crossing speeds for motorists - particularly buses - are faster.

    We've had several unpleasant experiences on Waterloo Bridge. Typically it's mid-morning, with an impatient bus on your arse constantly hooting you to get out of the way so they can overtake - as you say, there isn't room to do that safely. Waterloo Bridge can then seem rather long.

  21. @Freewheeler

    "The sign could be painted on the road surface.

    You're still thinking four-legged signs, Rob. I'm more of a unipolar visionary. There are lots of ways around this. But it's like segregated cycling infrastructure - no one is demanding it"

    You are suggesting that a 6 word sign be painted on the road.

    Have you any idea what you are talking about? Clearly not. Still, if you want it, why don't YOU campaign for it.

    Have you any idea of what regulations exist to permit lane painting of signs? No. Have you any idea of where or how to campaign for a change to be made to those regulations? No. Would this actually be more useful? Highly doubtful.

    Yet more crazy nonsense from the armchair cycle campaigner brigade.

  22. @Jim: @Freewheeler - if there are existing lamp-posts, why not attach a sign to one of those? Or find some way of suspending it over the road, or something.