After defending its decision to install bollards and barriers on the city's cycleways and shared-use routes by citing “safety”, the council has rearranged the controversial bollards but the delivery cyclist who brought the issue to attention is still unconvinced if the solution is good enough.
Now, the middle bollard on the exit of a canal crossing that’s shared by cyclists and pedestrians has been pushed back, creating a diagonal space for riders to navigate their way through.
> Bollards too narrow for council's own cargo bike trailers were installed for "safety" reasons... says the council
The growing number of bollards and barriers in Milton Keynes first came to light when Steve Abraham, a cyclist known for his distance record attempts who works as an independent food delivery rider for companies such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats, posted on Strava a photo of a set of bollards where he failed to fit through with his cargo bike, that was ironically supplied by the council.
Speaking to road.cc, Abraham said that, at the same time active travel charity Sustrans has begun to remove barriers along the National Cycle Network, “bollards and barriers are cropping up” throughout Milton Keynes in recent months, hindering the bikes he uses to deliver food as an independent contractor, an experience he spoke in detail about on a recent edition of this site’s podcast.
> “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
Steve told us that he along with a few other delivery riders use a Tern GSD bike with Carla trailers attached, which have been supplied to them by the Milton Keynes Council.
“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,” he said.
“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."
> “Oh! Bollards!” Delivery cyclist says council’s new cycle route barriers are too narrow for cargo bike trailers… also supplied by the council
The council, who he described as “an unhelpful waste of money”, took to social media to defend their decision and said that the bollards are in place for “safety reasons”.
It looks as though Milton Keynes City Council has tried to aid the cargo bike riders now, by moving the middle bollard and allocating a little more space that you’d have to manoeuvre through, but ultimately still being dangerous for both the cyclist and the pedestrians.
Steve wrote on Twitter: “Not tried but I think we can get through. Still seems like a bad solution that creates conflict with other users but still a solution.”
Previously he had criticised the bollards for being too narrow: “A smart car is 1665mm wide. Most redway bollards are 1800mm apart. But these seem unnecessarily narrow at 800mm. Too narrow for a cargo bike or trailer but still wide enough for a small motorbike or illegal e-bike.”
The issue of barriers and bollards hindering access to cycle routes for people with disabilities or non-standard cycles has proved a growing concern in recent years.
> Campaigners welcome council’s U-turn on installing “discriminatory” barriers on cycling and walking routes
In December, we reported that Stockport Council had backtracked on its plans to introduce more barriers on cycling and walking routes, a decision welcomed by campaigners who said that the barriers would discriminate against disabled people who use non-standard cycles, wheelchairs, and mobility aids.
Steve said 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.”
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