To bike lane or not to bike lane

Last year, Reading Cycle Campaign ran a photo competition under the heading “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” for cycle infrastructure in Reading. I submitted under all three categories, and managed to win under the “good” category for the Tiger crossing on Gosbrook Road.

My entry for the “Bad” category was the bit of the cycle lane on Lower Henley Road which was very narrow and squeezed against parked cars. I felt it actively encourages cyclists to cycle too close to the parked cars, and drivers to not give them enough space when passing. I’m not the first person to have concerns about the safety of this lane: when the lane was first put in, just under a decade age, the then-chair of Reading Cycle Campaign made the local papers with his safety concerns. He wanted the lane to be made wider and for there to be more of a gap between the cyclists and the parked cars. The road is on the R4, an official cycle route according to Reading Council, and an important connection between lower Caversham and Caversham Park.

Well, the council heard our safety concerns and finally decided to take action in the recent round of road repainting and resurfacing…by removing the cycling infrastructure on the road in the direction going out towards Henley. Not just the bits that people complained about, but also the bits that they haven’t. In particular, they have removed the bike boxes by the traffic lights at the junction with Henley Road. There is a steep hill approaching the traffic lights, a hill that is very difficult to stop and restart on (if you’re not on an e-bike, anyway…). Previously, if the traffic stopped whilst you were halfway up the hill, you could filter safely to the front ready for the next phase of the lights, knowing you had somewhere to wait. Now, you cannot.

Aerial view of the crossing

Frustratingly, despite the fact that there are several organisations attempting to engage with the council on the subject of cycling infrastructure, recent opinions were not sought. Apparently some comments from when the lane was installed about how it could be safer have been taken as a mandate to rip it out entirely. Compare and contrast, at a recent cycle forum meeting I asked about the feasibility of installing cycle hangers on some roads in Reading. I was told this would not be possible without a consultation along each road which showed a majority of residents in favour, as it would remove one parking space for motorists. One single space! Yet an entire bike lane on a key route was taken out without a consultation.

So, to the council, we have a few requests:

  1. Reinstate the bike boxes immediately. There were never any safety concerns about that part of the infrastructure.
  2. Come up with a plan for how you can put a safe lane in, and do it. Currently you have reallocated space from cyclists to motorists which is the reverse of your stated aims.
  3. Talk to us! You have set up various forums, and we really appreciate that councillors attended the Reading Cycle Campaign annual general meeting, to have quite an awkward discussion about this change. We’re full of opinions and always happy to give them to you in advance of you making changes.

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s interesting to note that we are often told no cycling infrastructure can be put in because there is no funding. Perhaps we could get some bits in as part of the general maintenance and resurfacing plans, as it does seem layout changes can be made under this programme.

And to you, Dear Reader, please join us in emailing the relevant councillors – Cllr John Ennis and Cllr Jacopo Lanzoni – who were at the Reading Cycle Campaign annual general meeting and said the best way to get change on this point was to inundate them with emails.

Update 30-Nov-2023

We were really excited to learn todat that @ReadingCouncil has listened to the feedback and Lower Henley Road will have its Advanced Stop Line back, as well as a mandatory cycle lane!
Thank you to everyone who used their voice to fight for people on bikes safety on this road.

Slide shown during the Reading Borough Council session, showing a drawing of Lower Henley Road having a cycle lane and advanced stop line