Cycle Lanes: Use them, or else...

Given last week's heated debate on Treehugger regarding helmets for cyclists, the following story looks set to also cause some controversy. British cyclist Daniel Cadden has just been found guilty of "inconsiderate cycling". His crime? Well that depends on who you talk to...

The police officers who stopped Daniel apparently claimed that he was blocking traffic because he was cycling too far out from the curb, thereby "forcing" cars to illegally cross the solid white line in the centre of the road in order to overtake. Daniel contested this as he was riding fast downhill, and the national guidelines published by the Stationary Office state that: "The primary riding position (the centre of one's lane) should be your normal riding position when you can keep up with traffic, or when you need to prevent following drivers from passing you dangerously." One would be forgiven for assuming that there was no case to be answered. The judge, however, begged to differ. He found the defendant guilty on the grounds that he should have crossed three busy lanes and used the segregated cycle lane that was available to him. So, should cyclists be forced off the roads if separate lanes are provided? Cycling groups have, after all, been campaigning for safer cycle routes for years. Why should motorists be held up when a safe route exists? Or, as the CTC, the national cyclists' organisation, argues, is this just another example of cyclists being forced off the road as motorists' rights are given priority? On the one hand I do have some sympathy with motorists. If we campaign for more cycle paths , it seems rich to then complain when we are asked to use them. On the other hand, the reality is that many cycle paths in the UK are inadequate, and sometimes downright dangerous (the picture above shows a particularly bad example). Many popular routes only enjoy segregated paths for some of their length, and on only one side of the road. In these cases it makes little sense for cyclists to dismount, cross the road to use a designated lane for a mile or two, and then cross again to join traffic. More cycle lanes are certainly welcome, but until they reach a high enough standard of safety and convenience it seems unfair and counterproductive to force cyclists to use them. Having said that, I'm sure those stuck behind me in their 4x4s at rush hour may disagree. [Written by: Sami Grover]

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