The missing pieces of bike infrastructure

Before spending a lot of time cycling in UK towns for my commutes, I used to spend a lot of time cycling in French towns for my commutes. I wanted to highlight pieces of bike-friendly infrastructure, which are mostly unknown on this side of the Channel. I think they would make a nice addition to the toolbox of town planners.

The tiny traffic light

Traffic light in a French street

In the UK, there is often a secondary signal across the junction, after the stop line, so that if you’re the first in line, it’s easy to see when it’s your turn. In France, this is achieved by having a tiny traffic light on the same pole, called a “répétiteur”.

Of course, this is also convenient for cars, but as a cyclist, it’s quite handy to have the signal right in front of you, instead of looking across the junction, where it can be hidden by a bus or a lorry.
Plus it’s so cute!

The sign to ignore a traffic light

Traffic light with the triangular sign to jump the red light in Paris

Right next to this signal, you sometimes see a strange triangular sign with a yellow bike and an arrow. This means as a cyclist, you can jump the red light!

You don’t have the priority though, so you have to let pedestrians and cars pass first. This sign is quite common in Paris at all the pedestrian crossings: once the road is clear, you can go… and beat the cars!

The contraflow

Contraflow street in Paris

Cities usually have narrow streets, but bikes are narrower. On one-way streets, it’s usually possible to fit a bike going in the other direction. This allows more freedom for cyclists — and also forces cars to slow down, if they don’t want to damage their bumper.

I have a LOT of ideas where this could be super useful in Reading town centre! Luckily, the lovely folks at the Reading Cycle Campaign made a map which already includes most of them. Check it out!


Palmer (car) Park

As part of my daily commute to the Reading station, I cycle in the Palmer Park, through the little car park at the corner of Wokingham Road and Palmer Park Avenue. I mean the one here, near the church:

It’s one of the most stressful parts of my commute, because in this little space, you can usually find:

  • a lot of potholes
  • pedestrians, sometimes running
  • dogs, sometimes connected to the pedestrians with a leash
  • cars parked haphazardly, sometimes moving in unexpected ways
  • and not much light at night!

The combination of all these is quite dangerous, and I’ve seen a few near misses. More frequently, the cars are lined up so close to each other that I struggle to pass with my bike — and forget it if you have a cargo bike, a pram or a wheelchair.

The video below (and the picture above) give a good idea of the issue: you’ll see a car driving on the footpath, then deep puddles and finally a cluster of cars preventing access to the footpath.


The park should be a safe space for people. Allowing cars there is annoying, and dangerous. Here are a few ways we could improve it:

  1. Add more light! A few lampposts will make it easier to see the potholes and the people 💡
  2. Fix the potholes 🕳️
  3. Confine the cars. They should not be able to cross the footpaths at all. And I mean: physically, with fences, bollards, planters, etc. 🪴
Satellite view of the car park, with clearly delimited zones for cars and NOT for cars!
  1. Actually, you know what? Ditch the cars completely! Maybe we can keep a couple of blue-badge spaces ♿♿ for easy access to the church, but otherwise cars are able to stay in the very nice, recently extended car park in the middle of the Palmer Park, just 30 seconds walk away.

Our children deserve a better, safer environment, whether they are in a pram, a wheelchair or just walking their dog.
If you agree, do join us on our next Kidical Mass ride!


The people behind KM — Samuel

What is your current family bike setup?

We each have our own bike, including our 3 daughters. They are regular, cheap, Decathlon bikes, because I’ve had too many being stolen over the years…

We also have a very old tandem — see picture — which we got as a wedding gift! We use it for short trips, but it has no gear, bad brakes and uncomfortable saddles, so it’s a treat for special occasions.

How does cycling fit into your life?

I commute from Reading to London nearly every day, so I cycle from home to the station, take the train, and then cycle in London as well, using the TfL rental bikes. Each bike ride is 15 min, so I pedal one hour every working day. It keeps me fit, and on time 🙂

I also cycle for groceries, running errands, etc. As a family, we decided to ditch our car 3 years ago, because we were not using it much. Cycling is our primary mode of transport. But I don’t use it for sport, and never wear Lycra!

Why did you get involved in Kidical Mass?

Several years ago, I had finally managed to convince the whole family to use their bike every day, to go to secondary school or to work, and was very proud of that. A few months later, they all had given up and went back to walking, after various incidents, or just because it’s not convenient to cycle. I realised that not everyone is as confident as I am on a bike, and that we need to empower casual cyclists too.

I also see that transport is changing a lot in most European cities, with the introduction of bike lanes, rental bikes, electric scooters, etc. The UK has a very strong car culture and is late on this.

Overall, Kidical Mass is about promoting transportation methods which are small, silent, non-polluting and non-deadly!

What is your role in Kidical Mass?

I take care of our website, and I am a regular marshal. I’m also the treasurer, but there is not much happening there at the moment 🙂


Proposed bike lane: Forbury Road

As organisers of Kidical Mass Reading, we cycle a lot — for our commutes, groceries, school runs, and of course preparing rides! At first, you just feel the pain of having cars all around you. And then you start imagining how better things could be… if only…

That’s why we thought it may be time to suggest bike lanes, or various infrastructure changes here and there. We hope that it can start the conversation of making our Berkshire towns easier to cycle for everyone.

The first one we wanted to propose is on Forbury Road, between the Forbury “Banksy” roundabout and the station roundabout, along the Forbury Gardens. This is a 2×2 lane, very wide road. There’s a lot of pedestrians and bikes all the time, because it’s very close to the town centre. A lot of cyclists do not feel comfortable enough on the road here, and use the pavement, which causes difficulties with the pedestrians. There’s also a nursery located near the church, causing car and pram traffic. In short: a lot of potential collisions, and I’ve witnessed some myself, on my daily commute to the station.

Map of Forbury Road with a red cycle lane drawn on it.

It would be very easy to just reallocate a few feet from each of the 2 lanes on each side, and with a bit of paint, you get a nice enough bike lane in each direction.
Even better: grab a whole car lane! Suddenly you have a very decent width for a proper bike track, which can be protected with bollards or planters. And which can be enjoyed by bike riders of all age and capability!

Pedestrians too!

But wait, it’s not just for cyclists! As a pedestrian, having only one lane for cars would also make crossing the roundabouts much easier. Nearly every morning, I see a man trying to cross the “Banksy” roundabout with a young child. There’s no crossing facility at all there, so they have to wait for a gap in the traffic, and then run as fast as they can across the 2 lanes…

Man and child preparing to cross the 2 lanes of the Forbury Road
Ready… Steady… Run!

Finally, there’s a lot of flats that got built recently across the Forbury Retail Park, called Huntley Wharf. How do people living there reach the town centre? Currently, despite the short distance, driving probably looks more appealing than walking or cycling. We need to start prioritising the types of transport that does not hurt people and keep our air breathable. This bike lane would be a very good step.

What do you think?