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Council says green paint “will heighten drivers’ awareness”, as cyclists blast “dreadful” new contraflow cycle lane as “an accident waiting to happen”

Trafford Council ruled out placing the bike lane beside the pavement because, they said, “cars would regularly park across the cycle lane, making it unusable”

A local authority has defended a newly installed contraflow cycle lane described by a Greater Manchester cyclist as “dreadful” and “an accident waiting to happen”, claiming that the lane’s green surfacing will “heighten drivers’ awareness” and ensure that motorists cross the lane with caution when exiting a parking space.

The lane on Market Street in Altrincham, the construction of which was completed today, has been introduced by Trafford Council 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, one local cyclist has raised the alarm about the potential dangers posed to cyclists using the new unprotected contraflow lane, which is positioned between the one-way traffic lane and a row of parking spaces, with little space between the lane and the vehicles on either side.

“Drivers leaving the parking spaces have no visibility of cyclists coming towards them, so this is an accident waiting to happen,” Greater Manchester-based cyclist Bob told road.cc.

“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.”

Bob also claimed that Trafford Council has been “unwilling” to meet with the local cycle forum in recent years, and that he has emailed a councillor to request that either parking is suspended, or the cycle lane closed, until a safety audit is carried out on Market Lane.

“This is one of the cases where if they had spoken to the people who were going to use it before starting work then we could have saved them making this mistake,” he says. “Let’s hope it is sorted before someone is in hospital, or perhaps worse.”

> Cycling group slams "nonsense" proposal that suggests 1.3m 'murder strip' cycle lane against flow of traffic in Harrogate

Responding to road.cc’s request for comment, Trafford Council said that, following the completion of a road safety audit, no concerns were raised about the potential danger of motorists crossing the cycle lane – and that the use of green surface paint and ‘slow’ markings will help encourage both drivers and cyclists to use the lane with caution.

The local authority also claimed that alternative designs – such as placing the cycle lane beside the pavement – were dismissed due to concerns that motorists would simply park on the lane, rendering it “unusable”.

“Trafford Council is totally committed to the safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists alike,” a spokesperson for the local authority told road.cc. “With regards to this cycle lane, a Stage 2 Road Safety Audit was completed and there were no concerns raised relating to the risk of vehicles crossing the cycle lane.”

They continued: “While some vehicles will need to cross the lane, they will be required to do so with caution and the green surfacing will heighten drivers’ awareness.

“As a further precaution, ‘slow’ markings have been added to the cycle lane to encourage cyclists to proceed with increased caution along this section.

“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.”

Trafford Council also confirmed that a Stage 3 Road Safety Audit is scheduled to take place following the scheme’s completion today, and that “any recommendations will be considered and adjustments made to the scheme where appropriate”.

Responding to Bob’s claim that the council failed to reach out to cyclists regarding the new contraflow lane and other active travel initiatives, the spokesperson said: “Trafford Council is – and always has been – more than willing to meet up with cyclists to discuss their concerns and has consulted closely with the community on various phases of the public realm improvements.”

> Contraflow cycle lane in Plymouth rendered useless by drivers parking in it

The installation of non-segregated contraflow cycle lanes has long proven a contentious one for cyclists across the UK.

Last year, we reported that a proposal made by North Yorkshire County Council – which included the potential creation of a painted, 1.3m-wide contraflow bike lane in Harrogate – was ridiculed by a local cycling campaign group, who dismissed the proposed cycle lane as a “murder strip in the gutter”.

Harrogate District Cycle Action claimed that the road in question – similar, perhaps, to Market Lane in Altrincham – was not wide enough for car parking, a general traffic lane, and cycling provision, and that the scheme would provide zero benefit to active travel in the town, and instead “may make matters worse”.

Meanwhile, in 2019, a cyclist also claimed that a contraflow bike lane in Plymouth was “useless” – thanks to the number of cars parked in it.

Cyclist Ceri Carter noted that it’s impossible to ride in the lane on Longbridge Road, with five or six vehicles parked there illegally during the week (and more at the weekends), forcing the cyclists using it to move out into oncoming traffic.

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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28 comments

Avatar
Tech Noir | 9 months ago
5 likes

Freedom of Information request just submitted for the Road Safety Audit and the consultation details. Should be interesting reading...

I did a course on Road Safety Audits many years ago, and there's no way that scheme should have left the designer's drawing board.

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bob.sweet | 9 months ago
0 likes

Good news that we are having a safety audit. But if I had been running this project, I would have done the safety audit, before spending all the money on construction.

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Sriracha replied to bob.sweet | 9 months ago
0 likes

It's a simple fix however; a little more green paint to make the lane wide enough for cars, black lane for bikes.

Or, just get rid of the parked vehicles.

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Tech Noir replied to bob.sweet | 9 months ago
3 likes

Stage One audits are done in the planning stage (pre-consultation), Stage Two are done pre-construction and Stage Three are done once the scheme is open.

The obvious issues should have been picked up in the Stage One audit!

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Runtilyoudrop | 9 months ago
2 likes

we feel the scheme as constructed is the best solution in this instance to allow for safe contraflow cycling along the one-way street

who is this we? Clearly you are wrong so why continue to dig the hole you are already in. This is not the behaviour of adults but of children. 
 

it is not difficult to seek the advice of experts for active travel but in their infinite wisdom they decide they know better.

patrician idiots

 

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wycombewheeler | 9 months ago
5 likes

layout is nonsense.

parking on the left (right from our view), then the traffic lane, and lastly the contraflow cycle lane. There are good reasons why the highway code directs drivers to park on the left hand side of the road.

takes the same space, and is safer.

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Benthic | 9 months ago
6 likes

Storage of private four-wheeled posessions on public land must come first.

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jaymack | 9 months ago
2 likes

I wonder how long it will be before the owners of parked cars complain that cyclists keep damaging their wing mirrors? And no that's not a cue for yet another pedantic debate on whether 'wing mirror' is the correct term

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Mungecrundle | 9 months ago
8 likes

Positioning parked vehicles so that passengers open their door into live traffic (but it's only a cycle lane) - Check

Ensure restricted forward vision for drivers of RHD vehicles pulling away whilst having to simultaneously look backwards - Check

Ensure cyclists are going against the one way motor traffic to ensure maximum combined impact speed when they are knocked into the oncoming traffic - Check

Paint it a nice green to show that everything is nice and safe - Check

It's almost as though anyone involved in designing this cyclist trap, approved it, built it, signed it off or now tout it as good cycle infrastructure doesn't have a shred of competence.

Maybe they will at least now get a pre-prepared press release together explaining how the inevitable KSI was completely unexpected.

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tootsie323 | 9 months ago
5 likes

Apparently, '... there were no concerns raised relating to the risk of vehicles crossing the cycle lane.' Based on what I see, whoever drew that conclusion must have 'audited' this with their eyes closed and hands over their ears, shouting la la la la la la...

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wycombewheeler replied to tootsie323 | 9 months ago
3 likes

tootsie323 wrote:

Apparently, '... there were no concerns raised relating to the risk of vehicles crossing the cycle lane.' Based on what I see, whoever drew that conclusion must have 'audited' this with their eyes closed and hands over their ears, shouting la la la la la la...

because no one ever uses cycle lanes obviously

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Sriracha | 9 months ago
3 likes

How come they don't swap it around and route the car lane along the door-zone, and put the cycle lane along the pavement? I guess that would be dangerous, right - people could get hurt opening their door into the path of an oncoming car.... (yeah, don't be silly, the motorist would obviously then just swerve into the bike lane, regardless).

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chrisonabike replied to Sriracha | 9 months ago
0 likes

Sriracha wrote:

How come they don't swap it around and route the car lane along the door-zone, and put the cycle lane along the pavement? ...

Or make a cycle *path* separate from the motor traffic infra (yeah, I know, that would cost real money)?

Again don't know the area and it's possible that this is a "micro" battle which actually should be fought at macro / network level?  Perhaps this is only being done here as a compromise anyway, because "it's possible" (e.g. doesn't upset motorists too much) - rather than being where people actually want to go / making a direct and convenient cycle route?

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Accessibility f... replied to Sriracha | 9 months ago
1 like

It feeds into another, better contraflow lane on the neighbouring road.

The solution is to move the cycle lane up to the pavement, put the parking next to the cycle lane (with a buffer), and let the parked cars and buffer protect cyclists and pedestrians.

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brooksby | 9 months ago
13 likes

Cyclists should not have to "proceed with increased caution" along any marked cycle lane. If they do then the cycle lane is a failure.

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Gus T | 9 months ago
2 likes

this is what happens when everyone has a degree & no one has any real life experience

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Stephankernow replied to Gus T | 9 months ago
0 likes
Gus T wrote:

this is what happens when everyone has a degree & no one has any real life experience

Spot on no common sense.

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chrisonabike replied to Gus T | 9 months ago
1 like

This is a pretty glaring example.  ILike most engineering however it's easy to see what's wrong but hard to get right (needs a wealth of specialist knowledge).  Our civil engineers / designers design for the goals they're set.  For generations that has been to prioritise capacity for motor transport with safety and especially convenience for other modes coming after that.

As for "experience" the majority in UK don't not know what they don't know because we have very few good examples of cycling provision.

Fortunately there are LOTS of online resources (e.g. here, tons more here, interpreted for UK audiences here).  You can also simply travel just over 100 miles and go experience the gold standard...

We get what we pay for.  Perhaps we need to fund all our decision makers to spend a few weeks in NL with a thoughtful local interpreter?  Or more realistically because it's easier to achieve - Copenhagen / Scandinavia?

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qwerty360 replied to Gus T | 9 months ago
1 like

Actually I think it is what happens when there are no standards and they have minimal to no liability.

 

It means various people who are not involved in the audit and don't care about cycling but do care about being able to show they have x miles of infra etc can override safety concerns...

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IanGlasgow | 9 months ago
6 likes

It would've been cheaper, simpler and safer just putting up signs permitting contra-flow cycling.
Recent research showed that allowing contraflow cycling makes no difference to the safety of a street. However, this painted murder-strip not just in the door zone, but in the door zone where cyclists are invisible from the driver's seat significantly decreases the safety of the street.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000145752200330X?via%...

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eburtthebike | 9 months ago
10 likes

“Trafford Council is totally committed to the safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists alike,”

No.

“With regards to this cycle lane, a Stage 2 Road Safety Audit was completed and there were no concerns raised relating to the risk of vehicles crossing the cycle lane.”

Who the hell did the safety audit?  The risks are clear and obvious, so if they didn't spot them, they aren't competent and need training.

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Stephankernow replied to eburtthebike | 9 months ago
1 like
eburtthebike wrote:

“Trafford Council is totally committed to the safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists alike,”

No.

“With regards to this cycle lane, a Stage 2 Road Safety Audit was completed and there were no concerns raised relating to the risk of vehicles crossing the cycle lane.”

Who the hell did the safety audit?  The risks are clear and obvious, so if they didn't spot them, they aren't competent and need training.

I agree completely they clearly dont cycle.

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Muddy Ford | 9 months ago
8 likes

That's not intended to be a cycle lane, it's simply a path for passengers to exit the car surely? It might have been financed from the active travel funding though.

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brooksby replied to Muddy Ford | 9 months ago
4 likes

Muddy Ford wrote:

That's not intended to be a cycle lane, it's simply a path for passengers to exit the car surely? It might have been financed from the active travel funding though.

If I was just shown a photograph, that would be my interpretation too.

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Accessibility f... | 9 months ago
11 likes

> requirement to maintain parking in the vicinity of the health and wellbeing centre,

This is absolute, first class, world-leading BULLSHIT.  There is a gigantic multi-storey car park about a one minute walk from this location.

And no, Trafford Council has not been willing to engage with the cycle forum - all their recent schemes have been devised behind closed doors, without the forum's input.  The proof of this is in their latest plan for the A56, which guides cyclists to.....a motorway.

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Oldfatgit | 9 months ago
6 likes

A source for the council said: "Why would we seek the opinions of the people that have to use it? Of course there is no danger to car drivers cyclists. I felt perfectly safe leaving my parking space in my wankpanzer. "
Satire, but probably closer to the truth than we would like.

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Brauchsel | 9 months ago
17 likes

"concerns that motorists would simply park on the lane"

Enforce parking penalties at a rate as close to 100% as you can manage, and very soon motorists will not simply park on the lane. In the meantime, enjoy the revenue stream from law-abiding motorists who have unaccountably found their cars parked illegally. 

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Secret_squirrel | 9 months ago
4 likes

Its interesting.  They have reversed the 1 way from how it is on google maps.

Presumably if they had left it the other way around the cycle lane wouldnt be a contra flow....

I rather suspect this redesign didnt include cyclists as first class road users but more of an after thought.

https://www.google.com/maps/@53.3873156,-2.3524681,3a,75y,217.93h,67.55t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s9PWQPN31ZhapXUQUXF43Rw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?entry=ttu

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