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Cycle lane segregation blamed for "horror injuries" as locals say infrastructure is a "trip hazard"

One local who broke his wrist and humerus after tripping over a cycle lane 'armadillo' said the cycle lane dividers are the same colour as the pavement, making them difficult to see...

Cycle lane segregation 'armadillos' have been blamed for causing "horror injuries in Glasgow", with locals saying the dividers are a "trip hazard".

The claims, picked up in the local press by the Glasgow Times, come from one local who suffered multiple broken bones having been sent "flying through the air" after tripping over one of the markers that separate the cycling infrastructure from the rest of the road.

Another resident suffered cracked ribs and grazes after a separate tripping incident on Wallacewell Road where the cycling infrastructure was installed in 2020 as part of a Spaces for People initiative during the Covid pandemic, and has since been made permanent.

One incident, which actually happened in 2021 but from which Bert Graham is still recovering two years later, saw one local, running for a bus, trip on an armadillo cycle lane divider and break his wrist and humerus.

"My toe caught the corner of the armadillo and I went flying through the air," the 67-year-old recalled. "The corners of the dividers are black, the same as the pavement. I was full of adrenaline and got on the bus. The driver was in shock and passengers were asking if I was alright.

"It was only the adrenaline keeping me going. It wasn't until I arrived at my partner's house that I was in agony and the pain was just shooting up my arm. I'll never forget it.

"I couldn't get anaesthetised and they had no beds because of Covid. They gave me two jags and set my wrist. One doctor was pulling this way, the other doctor was pulling the other way. It was like being back in medieval days. I can assure you, the jags didn't numb the pain, it was agony.

"They sent me to physical therapy for eight months and I still don't have full capacity, but I was lucky I fell the way I did because if I fell on the road I could be dead."

Yvonne Pollock also "tripped on the armadillo and went right down in front of it".

"I still have scars on my knees. It was scary," she said.

Responding to the incidents, Glasgow City Council said it had not been made aware of them previously, but "we are sorry to learn that members of the public have been injured while walking in their community".

"All of our cycling infrastructure is subject to a rigorous safety audit and must be completed to the satisfaction of an independent road safety engineer and road safety specialists from the police," a spokesperson said.

"All the materials we use meet approved, national standards and, as part of the audit process, we will always make improvements as necessary."

Last year Middlesbrough Council said it would continue to monitor a newly installed cycle lane with similar 'orca-style' dividers after a pensioner was left with a broken wrist and a black eye after tripping over the infrastructure.

Orca lane divider (image via North East Motorcycle Action Group)

Pedestrians were advised to use designated crossing points after the orca barriers – which, though designed to protect cyclists from motorists, came in for criticism from those who say they are not large enough to deter drivers while still being of sufficient size to be a hazard for people on bikes – left a pensioner in pain weeks after she tripped and fell over one.

Similar reports were heard a year before in Cardiff where shop owners claimed a number of pedestrians had tripped over a newly installed cycle lane, one elderly man breaking his wrist.

In April, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg called an "optical illusion" cycle lane a "failed experiment" after 59 injuries were reported in a year, the "pale-coloured kerb and a pale coloured line that look exactly the same" apparently tricking pedestrians into thinking the different levels are at the same height.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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20 comments

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Ben Graham | 3 months ago
1 like

These devices were part of a Transport for London 'trial' at Transport Research Laboratories Crowthorne. I attended the trial twice - once as a cyclist, once as a motorcyclist. I can't claim to have spoken to everyone of course, but everyone I DID speak to had fed back the concerns raised by this article. I do wonder how they got permitted.

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mattw | 3 months ago
2 likes

In England that is not, I think, regarded as even "Light Segregation". LTN 1/20 says in several places as examples "wands, stepped kerbs, planters etc..". They are generally unacceptable.

The Scottish Guidance, last time I read it, mentioned this sort of item in the context of light segregation.

I have not checked Wales.

I think it also fails under Inclusive Mobility guidance - freestanding bollards etc are expected to be 1000mm high or more.

There are some technicalities about whether these are in a 'zone used by pedestrians', but they are a horrible trip hazard and should definitely be in a contrasting colour rather than camouflaged.

Council require to come to their senses, or perhaps be sued.

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Flâneur | 3 months ago
1 like

I don't know why Orcas have to be black and white (though they'd probably need a new name if not!). Make them fluorescent orange/dayglo yellow instead. Might tip the reasonable observer over from "it's the council's fault" to "it's the unobservant idiot's fault"...

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BigSigh | 3 months ago
4 likes

The segregation on Wallacewell Road is actually really well done, I don't ever recall seeing anyone parked in it - unlike a lot of cycle lanes around Glasgow. The road is certainly wide enough to accommodate proper cycle infrastructure and the traffic is never so much that any delay is ever more than a handful of seconds waiting behind a bus.

That being said, the cycle infrastructure here does seem a bit 'misplaced'. I live about half a mile away and it's definitely not a route I would consider for my commute. (I'd be interested to know if others better experiences with this route.)

And that seems to be a theme with Glasgow cycling infra - underused cycle lanes all over the north of the city but not really on the direct routes from the north of the city into the centre.

There is, however, always a steady stream of cyclists riding into Glasgow down Kirkintilloch Rd/Springburn Expressway (it's busy and it's fast and defo not for everyone). This would seem to be prime "build it and they will come" territory.

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mattw replied to BigSigh | 3 months ago
3 likes

I'd say if it's a trip hazard that is prima facie evidence that it is *not* well done.

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 3 months ago
0 likes

Yup.

I'm less and less convinced that most "light separation" does very much positive at all *.  Armadillos / orcas have some unwanted "side effects" AND they don't keep vehicles out (probably why they're allowed...).

If we just have to accept "very limited money" and "no carriageway changes" (seems likely in most places in the UK for the moment) I think the best of the worst may be concrete jersey barriers.

We (councils) have them, we can get more, they're cheap(ish) and for better or worse they are not permanent.  They're big enough to be very visible and they actually keep vehicles out.

Even these need some attention to detail - sufficient and wide enough regular gaps so that cyclists can enter / exit and pedestrians can cross the road, but so that cars can't get in.  (How would this be announced to e.g. those with visual impairments?  I can imagine "we'll get trapped!"  Still, councils may already not specially bother when installing armadillos or other things...)

These would be far from ideal of course.  But the real problem though is in the UK we still have a "motor vehicles first, everywhere" perspective.  I can imagine several types of complaint but that's simply because such barries should at least actually do the job of stopping vehicles accessing the cycle lane area!

* e.g. more than a handful of new cyclists, or existing cyclists making a few extra journeys.  Firstly because we don't yet tackle the elephant in the room - junctions.  Lack of change in numbers cycling is probably down to the degree that UK car dependency is baked into culture and infra.  I expect that to see more than the odd % change in modal use we would need lots of different types of interventions happening together.

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BigSigh replied to mattw | 3 months ago
0 likes

I take your point about the trip hazard and any such infrastructure defo has to work for others too.

But what is there does seem to deter vehicles entering the space - which is how I was (perhaps blinkeredly) looking at it. I would also add that maybe the reason cars don't park in it is the presence of a smaller road which runs parallel to the main road which gives access to houses and shops and which always has parked vehicles in it.

Anyhow, perhaps it's time I took a ride along there again and take another look...

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Sriracha | 3 months ago
8 likes

I'm pretty sure people trip over the kerb too, but that isn't news and nobody is calling for pavements to be scrapped. Is there any evidence that the orcas present any more of a hazard than the kerb?

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chrisonabike replied to Sriracha | 3 months ago
6 likes

Ah - but the kerbs in places aren't new!  I suspect - like the changes in Keynsham High Street - any change to public space short of a pink mountain suddenly appearing* there will expose the fact that most of us get around in life in autopilot mode to a scary degree.

I'm not a fan of Orcas though as at best they don't really do anything useful - definitely in the "about as good as paint - but paint you can trip over" category.

* Apparently this might not be that visible either.

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Sriracha replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
6 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:

...expose the fact that most of us get around in life in autopilot mode to a scary degree.

You're saying that the orcas being new is what makes people trip over them. Whereas I'm saying the orcas being new is a red herring (sorry!) and people trip over kerbs just as easily - they don't make an issue of it however, because they are not "cyclist" infa.

I figure the whole "trip hazard" is just to give a cloak of respectability to their anti-cycling agenda.

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chrisonabike replied to Sriracha | 3 months ago
3 likes

Bit of both?  I bet that new things - especially a new *type* of thing or something "out of place" do indeed increase the rate of trips for a period (or spills off your bike - cyclists have noted coming off when hitting "infra" like these or blocks or wands).

Hence why we have rules for keeping "driving infra" standard across the country.  (But for some reason it's "just have a go" / bring in the crazy golf course designers when we get to cycling infra... and there isn't much anyway so people have an excuse for not learning it).

BUT I'm sure there's also much more reporting by / of people tripping over something "new" (especially if it's deemed "bonkers") rather than "I fell off a kerb (of the same design as millions of others, everwhere) that has been here for 40 years".

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Sriracha replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
2 likes

Indeed. I "fell off the kerb" majorly, whilst walking. Twisted my ankle, swelled up like a balloon. Took weeks to heal. Yes, it does happen. Nobody had much sympathy!

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mattw replied to Sriracha | 3 months ago
0 likes

They do, but I am not clear that there are alternatives to kerbs.

There are certainly regulations which apply to kerbs - minimum height, angle and so on, related eg to be detectable by vehicle drivers and related to Guide Dog training. 

There are some questions around dividers of mobility (here:cycle) space and pedestrian space, how divisions when a footway crosses a road on a raised bump (continuous footway) need to be designed, correct use of tactile paving (yes there is a standard about it *) and so on. 

Not a simple subject.

* Very important. Imagine if '"walk here" - pathway guidance' tactile paving were used where it should have been 'hazard warning' tactile paving. It goes just like cycle infra design - engineers pull a design out of their backside or memory, or decide to use 'what we have in stock'.

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 3 months ago
0 likes
mattw wrote:

They do, but I am not clear that there are alternatives to kerbs.

There are, but they are rather expensive or alternatively would cause noisy concerns about access or safety in the UK (because "accessible" = "driveable by anyone" obvs. and "sometimes accessible by some vehicles" here begs the questions "how can that be fair / how can we keep people safe from boy racers?")

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mattw replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
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I think your lasy comment comes back to the need to change culture, and also to appropriate enforcement.

There are some things where Dutch theory / practice are behind the UK and other anglophone countries, but perhaps ahead in implementation. One imo is that the UK uses a Social Model not a Medical Model for disability. That is, we address inclusiveness as a universal value, rather than as a sticky plaster to be embraced only where it has been proved necessary.

One occasional issue is local cycling campaign groups supporting non-inclusive designs because it addresses the needs they understand. I think currently modest progress ius being made on that one.

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 3 months ago
1 like
mattw wrote:

There are some things where Dutch theory / practice are behind the UK and other anglophone countries, but perhaps ahead in implementation. One imo is that the UK uses a Social Model not a Medical Model for disability. That is, we address inclusiveness as a universal value, rather than as a sticky plaster to be embraced only where it has been proved necessary.

I don't know how the Dutch do it.  Or for that matter how the theory actually plays out in practice in the UK.  From all you've posted about there seem to be plenty of UK councils / others who're quite happy not to fuss themselves to be inclusive at all at least until court challenges.  Looks rather "sticking plaster" to me...

However I agree that the theory / frameworks are important (e.g. in the way that the small difference in framing of the Dutch "sustainable safety" concept leads to radically different approaches to street design and laws).

All I know of this (almost nothing) as it applies to public realm travel infra in NL comes from blogs on the net.  These seem to show that "cycle infra" is legally also "wheelchair / mobility vehicle infra" AND that it is very much designed / used for that purpose.  In ways that the UK can mostly only dream of (microcars anyone?  Sociable trikes to be seen?).

Of course - people are people there also.  So people on bikes are going to show just as much "selective concern" for those with disabilities as the majority of (car driving) people in the UK.  E.g. very little, and mostly when the issue might affect them too.  I've read of tensions especially between those with visual impairments and cyclists.  OTOH people can clearly get across cycle paths and having only a single lane of motor traffic at a time to deal with must be easier.

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Barraob1 replied to Sriracha | 3 months ago
0 likes

If only humans had some kind of apparatus for looking around and taking in their surroundings... People don't pay attention, they just step out and assume everything is fine

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brooksby replied to Barraob1 | 3 months ago
1 like
Barraob1 wrote:

People don't pay attention, they just step out and assume everything is fine

Stand in any pedestrianised area - or on many 'normal' footways beside a road - and observe how many people walk along with their face down to their phone, presumably relying upon either (1) exceptionally good peripheral vision, or (2) everyone else looking out for them.

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Sriracha replied to brooksby | 3 months ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:
Barraob1 wrote:

People don't pay attention, they just step out and assume everything is fine

Stand in any pedestrianised area - or on many 'normal' footways beside a road - and observe how many people walk along with their face down to their phone, presumably relying upon either (1) exceptionally good peripheral vision, or (2) everyone else looking out for them.

Actually, in an all-pedestrian milieu it's really not a problem. Pedestrians are adept at navigating each other, and it is pleasant to not have to be constantly alert to other moving hazards. Stepping out of the pedestrian zone (eg to cross the road), that would be another matter.

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billymansell | 3 months ago
11 likes

"I couldn't get anaesthetised and they had no beds because of Covid. They gave me two jags and set my wrist."

Is John Prescott living in Glasgow now?

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