As anyone who follows my twitter feed will know, I commute to work every day on my bike. In fact I go nearly everywhere on my bike, with trains and the occasional lift for long-distance travel – Oxford is pretty small, pretty flat, and pretty well designed for cyclists compared to many places, and it has a pretty high number of people who cycle to work like me. (Not as many as Cambridge, but Cambridge really does have no hills.)
But even in a place which is pretty well-designed by UK standards, there are some poorly designed roads. Here’s one particular road which annoys me on my commute every morning, to the point where I wrote this blog post in my head while cycling up it: Morrell Avenue. It starts as a two-lane road with advisory cycle lanes on each side, you sometimes have to play spot the cycle lane but it’s not too bad.
Further up, we keep the wide pavements and grass verges, but the cycle lanes disappear in favour of car parking, swapping from side to side.
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It’s not completely obvious from the street view, but this is a hill, and I’m generally not cycling too fast up it. So I have two options when cycling up Morrell Avenue – I can sit outside the line of the parked cars, going well below the speed of the car traffic even on a 20 limit road so everyone sits behind me.Believe it or not I don’t want to slow down everyone in a car, and it just leads to someone overtaking me too closely anyway. So option 2 is to swing in and out around the parked cars, checking every time that no one is coming up behind me or trying to overtake, hoping they don’t pass too closely when I’m going round the parked cars anyway.
Why can’t we get rid of the parking and put in a cycle lane? The houses have driveways, often with room for two or more cars, so there would still be parking for residents. Or if we really can’t do without losing some parking, why not remove one of the grass verges and put in a cycle track? You’d probably have to cut down some trees, which would be a shame, but it might be possible to fit a lane in without losing them, and a cycle track even only on one side of the road would be useful. I would be happier because there aren’t cars inches from my elbow, car drivers would be happier because they don’t have to sit behind and wait for a gap, everyone is happy with the better use of space.
And then I reach the top of the hill and head onto Warneford Lane, where they have helpfully painted bicycles in the bit of the road where I shouldn’t be cycling in case someone opens a door on me. Actually, it’s even better – last week they resurfaced the road, or rather they have resurfaced exactly half the road, so the cycle lane is now half shiny new tarmac, half old tarmac, and a neat line of tar in the middle.