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Removal of safety wands and dividers from cycle lane will “make it safer for all road users”, claims council – but cyclists say plan is “vindictive and insane”

The light segregation was branded a “death trap” by one cyclist who broke his wrist last year after crashing into a cycle lane divider that he claimed was “totally invisible in the dark”, but campaigners say its removal “may well cost life and limb”

Plans to remove the light segregation currently in place on a controversial cycle lane – which, despite improving conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, has been branded a “death trap” due to the earlier removal of protective wands – will “make it safer for all users”, Croydon Council has claimed.

However, some local cyclists say they are “angry and disappointed” with the decision to reduce the protection for people using the lane to painted markings, which they described as “vindictive and insane”, while opposition councillors have accused the local authority of pursuing a “political agenda at the expense of a road safety agenda”.

The cycle lane scheme on Croydon’s busy Brighton Road was introduced in April 2023 to “make it easier and safer for cyclists and pedestrians” to navigate the stretch from Bartlett Street to Purley High Street and to encourage sustainable travel, through the creation of wider bike lanes with light segregation, namely traffic wands and defenders, to “deter vehicles from entering”.

A review into the scheme, carried out throughout its experimental period (which was originally due to run until October) and published last week, has found that the widened cycle lanes improved conditions for cyclists and pedestrians, while there has been a general reduction in the speed of motorists using the road between 7am and 7pm.

However, the review also found that fallen wands – usually knocked off my motorists – had created trip hazards for a number of cyclists (including one who broke his wrist after crashing into an “invisible” divider), while the bike lanes couldn’t be mechanically swept, leading to a build-up of debris, blocked gullies, and localised flooding.

All three emergency services also reported difficulties and delays in responding on the road due to being unable to pass traffic kerbside, and residents said they were unable to receive deliveries. During the consultation period, 458 objections were sent to the council opposing the scheme in its current form.

Brighton Road, Croydon (Croydon Council)

Last week, in response to the consultation and technical review, the Conservative-led council agreed to make the cycle lane scheme permanent – but with the caveat that the remaining light segregation will be removed entirely to “make it safer for all road users”.

“Light segregation to be replaced with road markings alongside the mandatory and advisory parts of the lane,” Nick Hibberd, the council’s corporate director for sustainable communities, said.

“We will also install buffers in some areas in the form of a minimum of half a metre wide hatch markings to separate motorised traffic from cyclists. This is intended to lower speed profiles, particularly along the southern section of the cycle route to improve safety for all road users.”

In a statement, Croydon’s executive mayor Jason Perry, a longstanding opponent of the then-Labour led cycle lane scheme who campaigned to “stop the Brighton Road traffic chaos”, said: “Thank you to everyone who has shared their views in the public consultation on the Brighton Road cycle lane. We’ve listened and are now proposing changes that will address the concerns raised by residents, local business, partners, and our own technical review.

“Whilst we are removing the wands and defenders, we are confident that these changes will benefit cyclists using the widened lanes, as well as supporting local businesses and helping to reduce congestion.”

> Croydon cyclist breaks wrist after hitting base of cycle lane wand removed by council

However, the decision to remove all forms of segregation from the scheme, while not enabling it to run for its full trial period, has been criticised by opposition councillors and local cyclists.

Labour’s opposition leader Stuart King has accused Perry of pursuing a “political agenda at the expense of a road safety agenda”, while the Croydon Cycling Campaign believes the decision “may well cost life and limb”.

“Safe road design – especially on the borough’s heavily-trafficked, 30mph ‘A’- roads – is a matter of life and death, and not to be approached in haste or without due process and the involvement of expert stakeholders such as Transport for London,” the group’s coordinator Angus Hewlett told the local democracy reporting service.

“It is clear to us that the mayor is making an inappropriate use of executive powers in a rushed way, to placate his political base. This is a decision which may well cost life and limb.

“We call on the mayor and his officers to pause any further action while TfL can be consulted, and further funding sought to remedy the Brighton Road scheme’s apparent design flaws, to build a future-proof scheme which meets the Borough’s commitments on climate and provides comfort and safety for all road users.”

“It’s not often that council decisions affect me as directly as this,” local cyclist Adrian Waters wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, after the changes were announced.

“I’m angry and disappointed to learn that this cycle lane will go. I frequently cycle its entire length, in both directions. It adds greatly to the safety of cyclists. Its removal is vindictive and insane.”

“Seeing as it’s only cyclists that use the segregated cycle lanes (clue is in the name), how is this going to make it safer for all road users?” asked CM Luckhurst.

“Are you thinking about those on two wheels or those moving around in a tonne of metal?”

“What about listening and speaking to cyclists who actually use the cycle lane and asking them if they feel safer with them there or not?” asked Kasper. “Rather than just giving in to the local naysayers. You are supposed to be encouraging people to use active travel rather than sit in their cars.”

Richard Lander's bike

While cyclists in Croydon are left scratching their heads at the claim that removing protected infrastructure will make a cycle lane “safer”, last November we reported that the initial removal of the Brighton Road lane’s wands left one cyclist requiring a steel plate in his wrist.

Richard Lander was cycling into the centre of Croydon when he had to pull out to pass a vehicle that had been parked on the cycle lane, hitting one of the defender bases, causing him to come off his bike and breaking his wrist.

He told road.cc that the black cycle lane divider had “no markings, no reflectors, no cats’ eyes” and that it was “totally invisible in the dark.”

Mr Lander continued: “The invisible brick is a really serious hazard. It’s ironic that it is intended for cycle safety, but it has resulted in a nasty accident.

“It seems that they start off with reflectors, that get knocked off by traffic until only the black brick remains. Surely there is some responsibility for road furniture markings?”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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15 comments

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MountainsofSussex | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

There must be someone making some sort of spring loaded bollard (some sort of flat paddle) that emergency services vehicles could drive over if necessary, but the typical motorist wouldn't want to risk damaging their cars with?

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Rendel Harris replied to MountainsofSussex | 3 weeks ago
1 like

MountainsofSussex wrote:

There must be someone making some sort of spring loaded bollard (some sort of flat paddle) that emergency services vehicles could drive over if necessary, but the typical motorist wouldn't want to risk damaging their cars with?

Just a kerb would be fine, most of the major London cycleways are kerb-protected and I've never seen a car drive over the kerb into them, but it's low enough that if necessary emergency services can bump over it and use the cycle lane, I've seen ambulances and police doing this on Blackfriars Bridge, for example.

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the little onion replied to MountainsofSussex | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Better still - as used in London - a nice wide cycle lane, bollarded, that can actually be used by emergency services because it is wide enough for them to safely drive down rather than being stuck behind vehicular traffic jams.

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chrisonabike replied to MountainsofSussex | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

As Rendel says - probably on balance just having a curb so it's clear "this is not your space" and a bit of separation, per a standard Dutch cycle path *.

Where something more is required there are a range of possibilities, many currently in use e.g. rising / falling bollards.  For "emergency access" specifically there are also solutions - including this "stealth" robust plastic bollard.

* Until UK drivers have "learned" it's tempting to invoke "hard protection" everywhere and "if it saves one life" on the pavement / cycle way (vehicles, voluntarily or not - continue to be driven into people who aren't in the road...).  Sadly that will definitely be "too expensive" and be met with "but but it might hurt people in cars" or "but but a pedestrian might be crushed *into* a bollard".

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the little onion | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

BOLLARDS BOLLARDS BOLLARDS BOLLARDS

 

WE LOVE BOLLARDS!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

BOLLARDS BOLLARDS BOLLARDS

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squired | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

The whole design was terrible.  Along the length of the Brighton Road there are houses with drives where they don't actually have the kerb lowered.  As I understand it, driving over a lowered kerb is illegal.  However, wherever there was one of these the solid white line was dashed and wands weren't installed.  At other points cars just parked, rendering the lanes useless.

There is one particular junction which I often see drivers complaining about as being a problem for emergency services.  It is a right hand turn onto Haling Park Road.  The problem is that a base/wand combination means drivers can't undertake (via driving in the cycle lane) cars waiting to turn right.  That is their real issue, not emergency services.  As soon as the base/wand are removed it will be a free-for-all.  

Ultimately this was about driver power. Unsurprisingly the majority (drivers) said they didn't want these changes.  Irrespective of that, Croydon Council has constantly displayed its inability to introduce sensible measures.  More recently they created a cycle lane at the south end of the shopping centre.  It is a disaster and I feel less safe using it than I did with what was there previously.  I'm told the 100-200m lane cost something like £500k to implement.  Money well spent...

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chrisonabike replied to squired | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

Thanks for the local knowledge!

As others have said, there's a vicious circle where "OK, we accept change, as long as things stay the same for us!".  So active-travel-friendlier designs are hamstrung from the get-go.  Can't reduce motor traffic capacity, but but residents' parking, but what about business customers / deliveries, but what about those with disabilities / emergencies?

They're further compromised all along the way to being a reality.  They're then often built incorrectly / poorly.  Because this is always "new" - in part because no "standards" but also because lack of experience.  Even in places where this isn't the first time ever these things are done fairly infrequently and those with experience leave.

They then don't "work"!   Not surprising, because a) the design isn't even up to the original standard (e.g. lanes may be even narrower / more disjointed) and b) people take time to adapt to change.  We pedestrianise - and indeed even drive - on autopilot far more than we are happy to acknowlege.  And sometimes if people don't like something they'll dig their heels in.  And money may not have been allocated to "fix" or maintain new things.

Because "change" there's a ton of pressure to reverse these things immediately, and not infrequently this happens before the "trial" period and / or before people could have adapted to the change.

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marmotte27 | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

Ill thought out and implemented bike lane creates all sorts of problems and safety hazards shocker...

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JohnP_SM7 | 3 weeks ago
6 likes

Back in November, I added a comment in response to the article on the guy who broke his wrist.  Included in my comment was this;

"In my opinion Croydon Council have no interest in improving their roads for cyclists.  I believe incidents like this will ultimately be used by them to say "Sorry, we tried our best,  but it doesn't work" giving them an excuse to rip out the bike lanes and let the wankpanzers have totally free rein of the roads again."

Now, 6 months later... 

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mitsky replied to JohnP_SM7 | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Any chance of letting us know what this week's lottery numbers will be?

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ooblyboo | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

I used to commute this section of road daily and it's hard to imagine how wands wouldn't have been an improvement. Then again, I am not in the least bit surprised to read that drivers were knocking them over.

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AidanR | 3 weeks ago
8 likes

Stage 1: Paint isn't infrastructure

Stage 2: Install wands

Stage 3: Vehicles knock some wands over

Stage 4: Stray wands are dangerous, so remove all wands

Stage 5: Residual bases are dangerous, so remove them

Stage 6: A new paint job

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chrisonabike replied to AidanR | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

Or:

1) "Making things safer / 'sustainable communities' " - cuddly points and it only costs us paint (we can get funding!)  Perhaps it'll even make people drive more considerately?

2) ... paint is worn off as it's ignored by drivers.  (Remember: "mandatory cycle lane = pretty useless, advisory cycle lane = utterly meaningless by definition").

3) Put in some physical protection ...

4) ... and the world ends!  Now a couple of hundred people are shouting!  Won't you think of the old and disabled who need to reach taxis etc.?  There's a metre of dangerous cycle lane to cross now!  Where will delivery drivers illegally park (bolas though...)?  If someone stops, all the other vehicles have to stop?  That's literally insane - they don't even do that in Communist China (etc)!

5) Problems only continue - now people are tripping over things because drivers trashed them.  Because the lanes are so narrow cleaning vehicles can't get down them.  Because they're so narrow, when the remaining space is filled with motor vehicles the ambulances can't get through, nor can / will drivers pull over (did they before?).

Even cyclists are complaining.

6) More paint is the new protection!

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Bmblbzzz replied to chrisonabike | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Bolas? ??? 

More generally, removing the wands but leaving the bases creates a hazard for cyclists, motorcyclists and most of all for pedestrians. 

And if the wanded lane really was too narrow for a mini-sweeper, it was far too narrow to be useful for cycling (or even for a trike or box-bike to physically fit).

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mattw | 3 weeks ago
1 like

This feels like knee jerking Conservative peabrains trying to do things to appeal to Susan Hall's "Schrodinger's voters".

Presumably the tit is not familiar with the data showing that painted cycle lanes increases casualties.

Hard separation required. Or can the road be taken over by TFL?

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