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"Optical illusion" cycle lane to stay despite causing 59 injuries in a year

Jacob Rees-Mogg called the infrastructure a "failed experiment", the changes in kerb height causing many people problems...

A Somerset cycle lane which caused 59 injuries in its first year of use, and was branded a "failed experiment" by Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg earlier this year, is to stay in place as it is after a cross-party group of councillors withdrew its plan to commit the council to investigate works on it.

The cycling infrastructure on Keynsham's high street was opened in March 2022, but was called an "optical illusion" by locals due to the differing kerb heights that caused pedestrians to fall. A Freedom of Information request found that 59 people had been injured by the lane in its first year, that number now reported as 76 by the Bristol Post, as of August.

In response, the cycle lane was painted red to distinguish between the levels with different heights, the pedestrian kerb sitting marginally higher than the cycling surface, residents saying they both previously looked like they were at the same height, causing people to fall.

However, despite this work being undertaken last year, and Bath and North East Somerset Council saying the number of incidents is reducing, it has been reported that people are still suffering injuries, including fractures and lost teeth.

"It very soon became clear that there was a real issue with the varying non standard kerb heights. It was also obvious that there was an optical illusion that disguised the changes in levels," Conservative councillor Alan Hale explained.

> Council says green paint "will heighten drivers' awareness", as cyclists blast "dreadful" new contraflow cycle lane as "an accident waiting to happen"

A cross-party group of councillors had hoped to force the Liberal Democrat-run council to act, but said attempts were "fruitless", one of the Lib Dems' own councillors, Hal MacFie, proposing a motion to commit the council to investigate the cost of fixing the kerb height issue.

However, this motion was recently withdrawn, meaning the infrastructure will remain in place in its current form for the foreseeable future. The councillors behind the proposal reportedly feared it would be easily dismissed due to an unspecified amendment put forward by the administration that could "crush" the proposal.

With a six-month rule in place, preventing repeat motions, it could not be proposed again until March 2024 at the earliest, prompting the councillors to withdraw the motion in the hope of bringing a stronger case in the future.

A council source insisted that the amendment causing concern was standard practice for any administration on any motion, and stressed that a "Stage 4 safety audit" on the infrastructure is already underway to look into potential safety concerns.

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"We understand the Keynsham councillors decided to withdraw their motion whilst we await the Stage 4 safety audit," a spokesperson said.

"We're taking reports of all falls seriously. The majority of incidents happened within the first six months of the scheme going in and the number of incidents is decreasing as people get used to the changes and in light of the amendments we have already made.

"We are listening and the Stage 4 road safety audit we commissioned will guide us. An example of an improvement we've already made is to introduce the red cycle lane finish last August."

In April, Tory MP Rees-Mogg weighed in on the issue in his North East Somerset constituency, saying the "experiment has failed" and "it should go back to being a two-way street".

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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Andrewbanshee | 9 months ago

Wow. Perhaps comparing it to the number of deaths related to motorised vehicles, as in less than 12 days would equal the number of injuries.
This is obviously acceptable though. If I had an accident using that infra whilst walking I would be blaming myself tbh.

chrisonabike | 9 months ago

Well if Rees-Mogg says it's failed there's some hope!  (Note - he doesn't say "fix it" or even "just get rid of the cycle part, that's where pedestrians are tripping up" - he says it would be safer and better with more vehicles, going both directions...)

Numbers are numbers, but it's not clear to me if it was:
a) just "it's new! I've not been trained in this!  Help!" (or more reasonably - people just on autopilot as they've always crossed at x point in that way).
b) an issue with the particular design (maybe at a particular point on this scheme) and if so what exactly?  Was it that people were not expecting a height change, or expecting one where it wasn't?  If so presumably that's just a matter of fixing that.
c) People in the UK fundamentally can't cope with anything more than a road, a kerb and a (narrow) footway.  (And this has been known for decades by our government but kept under wraps for fear our enemies would defeat us by e.g. painting a line on the ground.)

I suspect it's a balance of (a) and (b).   Sadly I can believe that we've not helped matters through not making this clear enough (e.g. not having the cycle lane in a really distinct colour) or having a bunch of level changes along it.  Looking at our latest cycle path efforts in Edinburgh (NOT the Leith ones - TBF the others are getting pretty good) they're still beset with "up a bit, down a bit, now go left, make it narrower, then wider, now change the kerb angle..." and paint and signs because CYCLE DANGER and you have to fit the cycling round everyone else!

postrestant | 9 months ago
1 like

Is it dangerous to pedestrians, as the column suggests, or cyclists, as the Bristol Post suggests?

hawkinspeter replied to postrestant | 9 months ago

It's pedestrians that are tripping over it

GMBasix replied to postrestant | 9 months ago
1 like
Jacob Rees-Mogg wrote:

It should go back to being a two way street.

It is.

Just not for cars.

Jacob Re:Smog... the simpleton's intelligentsia

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