Categories
Infrastructure

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
Categories
Infrastructure

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.

Suggestions

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!

Categories
Infrastructure

Let them ride to school!

This is part of an occasional series on this blog, where we talk about particular cycling pinch points that we’d like to see addressed, in order to create safe routes through Reading that can be used by vulnerable cyclists.

Today I’m going to talk about a pinch point that doesn’t even exist yet! (Don’t ever say Kidical Mass Reading aren’t forward thinking). RBC are building a new secondary school next door to Rivermeads Leisure Centre. A lot of the catchment area for this school will be in Caversham, and it’s my belief that not enough is being done to create a safe cycling route from North of the river to the school which is suitable for heavy usage at school drop off and pick up times.




Reading the planning document for the school I found that the only adjustments for bike infrastructure were on Richfield Avenue itself. At the Caversham end this risks being another Sidmouth Street, without a good route onto the new path.

Any child cycling from Caversham will have to cross the river. This means, in reality, either over A) the cycle bridge or B) the shared use cycle path on Caversham bridge.

If they come over the cycle bridge, they are going to have to navigate the gates designed to stop motorcycles on the South bank path, which are also pretty inconvenient for bikes. So (unless these are removed) I think most of them will actually come across the shared use path on Caversham bridge (and anyway some will be coming from a direction where the cycle bridge is very out of their way).

The path on Caversham Bridge comes out at the roundabout by the Crowne Plaza, on the wrong side of the road for Richfield Avenue. This roundabout is awful to cross, even as an adult on a tank-bike. The traffic is never clear to enter the roundabout where the cycle path comes out, you take your life in your hands every time. Reading Council’s own cycle map of Reading warns against using this roundabout.

Therefore, if the kids have any sense, they won’t be going along Richfield Avenue, using the new paths built with the funding, they’ll cut straight down to the river (currently involving a blind corner, several tight turns, and a narrow path immediately adjacent to the water which is heavily used by pedestrians).

This isn’t good enough. Here’s what I think could be done better:

One option would be to improve the lines of sight and path width for the underpass and immediate surrounds. Ideally in this case you also want proper bike access to the school from the river path, and bike storage located conveniently for coming from that direction.

Another option would be to add short sections of shared use paths on either side of the road by the Moderation to connect the bridge to the proposed new bike lane on Richfield Avenue by the petrol station.

In addition, if you approach Caversham bridge from the Northwest (either on bike or on foot) you have to navigate the horrible junction by the Griffin. In an ideal world this needs a pedestrian crossing and bike lanes/bike boxes at the front on the approach.

So the actions I would like to see are

At least one of:

  • Reworking of the bridge underpass by Crowne Plaza to make it safe for higher volumes of cyclists and pedestrians, with access to the school from the river.
  • Addition of short sections of shared use paths on both sides of the road near the Moderation to allow cyclists to access the new paths on Richfield Avenue.

And also:

  • Improvement of pedestrian/bike infrastructure at the junction by the Griffin
  • Removal of motorcycle gates on Thames path between the cycle bridge and Caversham Bridge

Many secondary school children are mature enough to cycle to school independently. We are failing if the lack of safe infrastructure is the thing that stands in the way of them developing environmentally friendly and healthy habits.

Categories
Infrastructure

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?