You know how it is. The local council is trying to encourage cycling, and they’ve spent literally hundreds of pounds on some paint to make cycle lanes on roads with high levels of traffic that’s doing 40 mph. They’ve even taken the unprecedented step of making the cycle lanes mandatory rather than advisory. And still they don’t seem to be working…
The scene: A small meeting room in the council offices. It is very modern, yet at the same time, rather shabby. The lime green chairs are showing signs of grubbiness from handling, and the occasional coffee stain. The too large meeting room table isn’t quite level. One of the carpet tiles by the door has lifted slightly at the corner, and catches when the door is opened or closed. Attending the meeting are the JEFFREY CLARKSON (Senior Highways and Infrastructure Director), JAMES BAY (Senior Road Safety Specialist), ROBIN HAMMOND (Road Network Capacity Analyst), and OLIVER TWIST (Junior Highways Officer (Cycling) (40% post, shared with canine faeces reporting and removal, footways)).
CLARKSON – So what’s all this about, Twist?
TWIST – It’s the new cycle lanes, sir. People are driving in them, ignoring the white lines.
BAY – Have there been any collisions?
TWIST – No, but cyclists are making a fuss on social media.
HAMMOND – I don’t see how that’s our problem. Our job is to keep the traffic flowing. Studies have shown that 85% of cars are sticking to the 40 mph speed limit on this road.
TWIST – Yes, but a significant number are still driving too fast – they apex the bends, using the cycle lane, and this is discouraging cycling.
BAY – But there have been no collisions?
TWIST – No, sir. But unless we can encourage more people to cycle, we’ll never hit the Council’s strategic target.
CLARKSON – Ah, yes. Cycling is a sport we are supposed to be encouraging. And of course, gentlemen, we all fully support that, don’t we? [nods of encouragement and general muttering of agreement from the other two managers]. I mean, I myself am doing my bit for this – only the other week, it was Cycle to Work day, and I brought my bike to the Country Park opposite the offices, got it off the RangeRover’s tow-bar rack, and actually rode across the road to these very offices!
BAY – Very commendable, Jeffrey. I was particularly pleased to see you wearing the hi-vis, helmet, knee & elbow protectors, and safety glasses we provided
TWIST – But sir! What about the cycle lane?
CLARKSON – Well, I didn’t need to use it – I was only crossing the bally road. And besides, my wife wouldn’t let me cycle along your route anyway. It’s far too busy, and the traffic is far to fast.
TWIST (seeing his opportunity) – What about if we segregated the cycle lane from the cars? Like this…
(He jumps up to the white board, and on his third attempt finds a pen that works. He quickly sketches a section of the route, and adds a kerb line & concrete separators)
CLARKSON – Well, yes. That might work.
HAMMOND – Good God man! That reduces the available space for traffic to drive on. You can’t be serious.
BAY – But what if a car loses control and crashes into all that concrete? Think of the damage that’ll be done to the paintwork. Think of the compensation claims against the council!
(There is a knock at the door, and it opens. It is NORMAN REDBUSH, the Elected Mayor)
REDBUSH – Sorry chaps. I’ve got this room booked for an important meeting with our Private Sector Outsourcing Partners about how they’re going to save us even more money. So scram.
CLARKSON – Of course Norman. We were just finished here anyway. Hammond, Bay, I think there’s something in this “segregation”. See if you can come up with a lightweight, less fundamentalist version that’ll keep these Lycra fanatics happy.
At this instruction, the wheels of The Council fly into immediate action. Barely six months later, three plastic bollards are installed at the exits from two roundabouts on the cycle route. Within ten days, they’ve been declared a runaway success: