Milton Keynes City Council has defended the decision to install bollards and barriers on the city's cycleways and shared-use routes, saying they were put in place for "safety", despite a delivery cyclist pointing out they are too narrow for the cargo bike trailers supplied, you guessed it, by the council...
Last week we spoke to Steve Abraham — a cyclist known for his distance record attempts who also works as an independent food delivery rider for companies such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats — who described the council as "muppets" for installing the bollards "in their infinite wisdom" and described them as an "unhelpful waste of money".
> "Oh! Bollards!" Delivery cyclist says council's new cycle route barriers are too narrow for cargo bike trailers… also supplied by the council
However, while avoiding reply to a request for comment from road.cc, Milton Keynes City Council did take to social media to address the situation, saying the bollards are in place for "safety" reasons.
"The bollards are there for safety to prevent vehicles from accessing the area and driving along the redway," the council said. "Redways are not constructed or designed for carrying the weight of a van or car so the surface becomes damaged, creating other safety issues."
In reply, Abraham pointed out "it wouldn't be easy, if it is possible, to drive a car to the bollards in my photo".
"Bollards don't stop people driving onto the grass verge to get around them and the only motor vehicles I encounter are illegal electric machines, a few motorbikes and service vehicles with permits," he added.
> "You're just collateral" — Ultra-cycling legend Steve Abraham on Deliveroo and the gig economy, plus road.cc staffers' go-to bike tools on the road.cc podcast
The delivery cyclist had taken to Strava to express his bafflement at the absurdity of the situation — the council's own cargo bike and trailers, rented out to local businesses and charities being too wide to fit through.
"The bikes we use are Tern GSDs and we tow Carla trailers which are the biggest trailers I have ever seen," he told road.cc.
"They were supplied by the council (who bought 21 e-cargo bikes for businesses and charities to rent at an extremely good rate). Milton Keynes Parks Trust also have a few of their bikes too. There were a few barriers in places before we got the cargo bikes and they've been there longer than I have (25 years), so I avoid them on any bike, but wouldn't be able to get through them on my tandem, let alone our monster Tern set up.
"A more typical cargo bike without the trailer would get through those bollards, but it's tight and especially tricky if there's a gusty side wind."
> Disabled cyclist accuses Stockport Council of trying to "worm its way out" of making sure that all cycling and walking routes are accessible
Steve says the new bollards, such as the ones he posted on Strava, have made it trickier for delivery riders to find efficient, accessible routes using the city's redways, a traffic-free shared use network covering most of the city estates and stretching out to the area's older towns, an example of active travel infrastructure that Abraham describes as "a bit of a local quirk that are good, bad, and misunderstood".
"These new bollards are on canal bridges," he explained. "There was already a barrier stopping us using one useful crossing. We now have lost three more options and have one left without a mile's detour.
"There might have been one more crossing over the canal but I am not sure I would make it without a run up. It's very steep and I would have to take a bend at speed to have a chance. Leisure riders often push their bikes over it because they get caught out in the wrong gear following directions from signs or phones. Shared-use substandard paths aren’t for fast and efficient riding.
"Or we could just use the grid roads with 60 or 70mph speed limits. I'm sure that those drivers that complain about anyone ever cycling on the grid roads when we have these 'wonderful cycleways all over the city' will understand if they see us."
He said he has contacted the council before to raise the issue of the narrow points but never heard back. With a "few possible exceptions" he said he would "get rid of them" as they just make journeys "more awkward than necessary".
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