Trafford Council was warned that the layout of a controversial new contraflow cycle lane in Altrincham would potentially “increase the risk of collisions” for cyclists using it, due to the likelihood of motorists parked next to the piece of painted infrastructure opening their doors directly into the path of oncoming riders.
The new cycle lane on Market Street in Altrincham – the very road where the first stage of this month’s Tour of Britain commenced – was completed in August as part of a series of public realm works, which include the installation of new footpaths, crossing points, cycling infrastructure, paving, seating, tree planters, and four disabled parking bays.
However, even before the cycle lane was officially opened it had become the subject of ridicule for cyclists in Greater Manchester, with one describing its narrow, painted, contraflow design – located between a row of parking bays and a one-way traffic lane, with no physical separation – as “dreadful” and “an accident waiting to happen”.
This criticism prompted Trafford Council to explain to road.cc that the lane’s green surfacing would “heighten drivers’ awareness” and ensure that motorists cross the lane with caution when exiting a parking space.
The council also said that a road safety audit had concluded that “there were no concerns raised relating to the risk of vehicles crossing the cycle lane”.
Despite the local authority’s claims, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the council was warned in advance during the safety audit about the dangers posed by the lane’s layout – and, in particular, the threat posed by drivers opening their doors into the path of oncoming cyclists.
The road safety audit, carried out in May and sent to road.cc reader Andrew Battye following his FOI request, flagged that the lack of a “buffer zone” between the cycle lane and the row of parallel parking bays would “increase the risk of collisions”.
The report stated that the “lack of a buffer zone between the parallel parking/loading bays and the cycle lane may result in vehicle occupants opening their door into the cycle lane which may increase the risk of collisions for cyclists”.
The report continued: “The drawings provided for audit do not show a buffer zone between the parallel parking/loading bays and the cycle lane on Market Street and Regent Road.
“This may result in vehicle occupants opening their door into the cycle lane which may increase the risk of collisions for cyclists using the cycle lane who may collide with the vehicle door or swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid the vehicle door.”
The report recommended that a “buffer zone” be installed between the lane and the parking bays, to decrease the risk of ‘dooring’ incidents.
While it had yet to be implemented at the time of our original story in July, Trafford Council confirmed to road.cc today that the buffer zone – albeit a narrow, painted strip, again lacking any physical separation – was installed in time for the cycle lane officially opening last month.
The new contraflow cycle lane and “buffer zone” on Market Street
“The safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers in the borough is a major priority for Trafford Council,” a council spokesperson told road.cc.
“We can confirm that the buffer zone on the cycle lane on Market Street in Altrincham was installed as part of the works in August 2023 before the scheme was officially opened to the public.”
Whether the “buffer zone” appeases local cyclists, who were scathing of the lane’s layout when it was unveiled in July, remains to be seen.
After riding the contraflow lane for the first time in the summer, Greater Manchester-based cyclist Bob told us that he believes the new infrastructure is “an accident waiting to happen”.
“Drivers leaving the parking spaces have no visibility of cyclists coming towards them, so this is an accident waiting to happen,” Bob said.
“In addition, there are no arrows on the contraflow lane which might help drivers appreciate cyclists are coming the other way. I wanted to video it, but didn’t feel brave enough to use the cycle lane.”
Instead, Bob’s wife recorded – from the passenger seat – a video showing the motorist-eye view of the cycle lane, while exiting one of the road’s parking spaces.
“I did take the appropriate safety precautions, my wife was in the passenger seat to ensure that there were no cyclists approaching. Drivers will of course be looking in the mirror for traffic from behind,” he said.
“You can see from the video that just less than half of the drivers managed to fit their car into the space allocated, and the majority are overlapping into the cycle lane.
“My car was also completely across the cycle lane before I was in a position to see if anyone was on the cycle lane.”
However, when Bob’s criticisms were put to Trafford Council, the local authority said that the green surfacing “would heighten drivers’ awareness” while crossing the cycle lane, and that, “as a further precaution, ‘slow’ markings have been added to the cycle lane to encourage cyclists to proceed with increased caution along this section”.
The council continued: “Consideration was given to the provision of a cycle lane between car parking and the footpath, however this was discounted as concerns were raised that cars would regularly park across the cycle lane making it unusable.
“Given the constraints on available space and requirement to maintain parking in the vicinity of the health and wellbeing centre, we feel the scheme as constructed is the best solution in this instance to allow for safe contraflow cycling along the one-way street.”
A Stage 3 Road Safety Audit is currently taking place following the lane’s completion, with the council adding that “any recommendations will be considered and adjustments made to the scheme where appropriate”.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.