Wednesday 24 October 2012

How much space do you need?

A letter has appeared in this week's Wirral Globe complaining about cyclists riding on the road rather than the cycle path on the promenade at New Brighton, King's Parade. No particular details are given about the exact location or time of day or the ages or genders of the cyclists. All we know is that there were four or five of them, riding two abreast on the road, traffic had to slow to overtake them and they can be described as 'ignorant'.

King's Parade begins at the location in the map below and heads north east from here, it's a lovely place for a stroll or a ride the only thing that makes it unpleasant is the weight of traffic when it is busy and the speed of traffic when it is quiet.

It is a section of the North Wirral cycle route and forms a link between two other promenades where there is no motor traffic.

It is a 30 mph dual carriageway boulevard with a promenade alongside the seafront. The part I measured from Google satellite view is approximately 31m wide from seawall to the edge of the inner field. This is divided up, give or take...
  • 3m pedestrian path
  • 2m cycle path
  • 7.5m road
  • 2.5m central reservation
  • 8m road with an additional 4m wide parking lane
  • 4m pavement
New Brighton

Points of note about these dimensions. 
  • The 2.5m wide central reservation is unnecessary on a 30mph road.
  • Each lane, including the parking lane is 4m wide, this is twice as wide as a car and 1.5m wider than a bus or container wagon.
Look at how dwarfed the car is by the width of the parking lane.

New Brighton

The road is not that heavily trafficed for its size except for on the sunniest days of summer however cars do tend to speed along it, I have seen cars doing 60-70mph when the road is quiet, 40mph is common at all times.

The pavement on the sea wall side of the road is popular with walkers out for a stroll and dog walkers, though they do have a tendency to stray into the cycle lane, and it is popular with families so there can be many small children running around the pavement.

Cars park on both sides of the road, but only the westbound side has an official parking lane, on the eastbound side cars park against the kerb in lane 1.

So firstly, since the cycle path is provided what is it like for a cyclist to use? This varies depending on time of day/year. If it is quiet then it is reasonably adequate, there are no junctions of note to cause you to stop but the surface is made of paving slabs rather than smooth tarmac, you can cruise along at a fair old pace. On a busy day it is much different, children, balls, dogs, inattentive walkers, fishing lines being tossed around, it's a very hazardous place for the cyclist and the other pavement users, consequently great caution must be shown and speeds reduced to below 10mph, sometimes lower, and it's not uncommon to have to come to a halt while an errant child or beast is removed from the cycle lane by its owner. One might also come across other cyclists of varying speeds travelling in either direction on this rather narrow 2m wide lane, again causing you to slow or stop. There is also one platform type area where the cycle lane disappears entirely.

New Brighton

As a result faster riders might think it convenient to use the road rather than the cycle lane, as is their right. The road is broad, direct and has reasonably good visibility, only hampered by the cars parked along it which can range in number from a handful to hundreds.

A cyclist heading eastbound will, if there are no parked cars, occupy the first metre or two of the lane; or if there are parked cars, the space between the car and the dividing line to lane 2. Even riding two abreast they are unlikely to venture in to lane 2. Leaving the entirety of lane 2 to the motor traffic. On the westbound side a cyclist can cycle within the parking lane as it is so broad, at worst they might ride in lane 1 but again lane 2 will always be free. Either way, motorists always have one entire lane to themselves and if they are delayed by cyclists it is almost certainly because the cyclists will be passing parked cars on the westbound carriageway, yet it is the cyclists who get the stick rather than the drivers of the parked cars.

Let us agree with the author of the letter on one thing, that it would be better if the cycles were not using the road, it would also be better if they were not using the pavement and there is clearly enough space to allow this. There is so much space that you could improve the environment for every type of road user without inconveniencing any of them, we have 31m of available space to play with!

The 3m pedestrian space can become 3.5m on the shore side and the lesser used 4m path on the inland side can become 3.5m. Cyclists can have 4m wide dual direction paths on either side of the road. The road can become 2x3m lanes and a 2m parking lane in each direction. The central reservation can be got rid of.

[Edit - for a much better idea than mine see Mark's comment below.]

From my knowledge of the area I think the author's complaint is probably unnecessarily picky, the road is so broad they couldn't have been inconvenienced for more than a few seconds, the cyclists probably had good reason to prefer the road to the cycle lane and it's quite possible that cars being parked on the road was the cause of the cyclists being in the way. In any case for any council wanting to implement some seriously quality cycle infrastructure the vast amounts of space available in this area surely make this a 'gimme' for a showcase facility, it only requires the will and the money. Until then faster riders will continue to use the road and motorists will simply have to put up with it.


  1. Much simpler - turn the entire northern carriageway into a wide 2 way cycle track, and the southern one is perfectly wide enough for 2 x 2.25m parking lanes and a 7.5m 2-way road.

    This would be a whole lot cheaper as no kerbs would need to be moved (except at the junctions of course) and it's this that costs a lot of money.

    1. So obvious and simple. Brilliant. Woods, trees etc.