Wondering about potential while gliding past stationary traffic

This morning I had a 9:30am appointment at the Leicester Royal Infirmary (another wisdom tooth to be removed).

So at about 8:45am I gently cycled into Leicester along the Melton Road passing about a mile of stationary traffic queuing due to the roadworks at the Troon Way junction.

I tried counting the cars with only one person in them but gave up after 19 of the first 20 were single occupancy.

After passing all these cars and going straight through the traffic free City Centre I got to the LRI where I was of course able to park for free right at the entrance.

Obviously huge numbers of people travel shortish distances along the Melton/Belgrave Road everyday and it is only about 5 miles from Syston to the City Centre, it is almost flat and it is a wide road (especially if you measure the full width of the space).

As always I can’t help wondering how much we could save and benefit from installing wide segregated cycle tracks along the full length from East Goscote to the Clock Tower with priority at all the junctions.

There would be huge savings for individuals (fuel, parking, time, gym, illness) as well as transformational savings for the community through cutting congestion and pollution while generating significant health and increased productivity benefits.

So many studies show how the businesses for example along the Golden Mile would benefit if it were a more pleasant place to sit, walk and cycle.

Along the route you also pass several schools, wouldn’t it be fantastic if the children could get to and from school without being at risk from busys roads. For that matter how much better would society be if the air they breathe all day in school were not full of particulates coming from diesel engines going past their windows.

I struggle to understand why people sitting for half an hour in a queue are not clamoring for cycle tracks to reduce the traffic and make the places they go nicer.

I completely fail to understand why residents on these busy and wide roads are not up in arms demanding cycle tracks to reduce the noise, pollution, congestion and danger outside their homes.

Have our brains been destroyed by cars?

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  1. With all the talk around HS2, I’ve been thinking how much it would cost to create a traffic free bike path from London to Manchester – maybe along the A6.

    • Grand Union Canal towpath would get you from London to Birmingham! 🙂

      • At a snail’s pace, going round all the muddy bits and lock gates and up and down the ramps. No, we need proper inter-urban cycle infrastructure, built for the purpose, wide flat unobstructed paths, like small traffic-free roads, parallel to main roads, but a few yards away, separated by trees, like many other countries have.

        • I totally agree. In fact I would go further. With a sensible investment we could do much better than roads. For example in Derbyshire the High Peak Trail and Tissington Trail demonstrate that in hilly terrain Victorian railway engineering can create gentle slopes which with much improved surfaces, access and drainage would support a great alternative to the car for inter-urban cycling.

          Within an urban setting we need a dense cycle infrastructure so that every route is safe for cycling. Children should be safe to ride anywhere conveniently (and if it is made convenient and safe for children in large numbers then it will also support every other cyclist).

        • Of course at a snail’s pace – hence :). – but on your more serious point I’m not convinced. For two reasons:
          1 It’s the first five miles and the last five miles that matter – I.e. entering and leaving towns. After that, minor country roads are better than parallel paths.
          2 Compare long-distance cycling in Germany (dedicated paths) and France (minor roads). Both are pleasurable so don’t get me wrong. But long distances are more quickly covered and better surfaced in France than in Germany.

          • goetzendaemmerung

            I’m based in Germany and I have always found that I cover more ground more quickly at home in Ireland than I do here, although I have got better. The cyclist signage in the part of Germany where I live identifies routes cobbled together from a mix of minor roads (including some agricultural/forest roads) and dedicated greenways. Round where I live (Northern Bavaria) it’s possible to do lots of day-long rides that are mostly on small local roads. The rule of thumb is that there are cycle paths in all the river valleys, but that direct routes that go over every hill between point A and point B often don’t involve much by way of cycle paths.

            The problem here is usually the dearth of useful information about infrastructure rather than the actual infrastructure. Follow the green cyclist signage and you might start out on asphalt and then turn a corner and find yourself riding on gravel, sand, mud or cobbles. Follow the regular yellow road signage and you might start out on a peaceful country road and then be brought out onto a much busier road, possibly even one with “No Cycling” signs. Using a road atlas (rather than a cycling map) and cobbling routes together from the more minor roads works up to a point, but some minor roads are narrow and unpleasantly busy, and some major roads are wide and empty. I cycle a quite bit on quite a few roads that are technically trunk roads, but have only very light traffic because parallel motorways hoover up all but the most local traffic. Those are rarely official cycle routes, but they are often good routes for cycling.

            Most people have to improvise as best they can in parts of Germany where they have no local knowledge, trusting neither their maps nor either signage system fully. I think this “improvisation” is where the time penalty you describe comes from: by the time it becomes clear that a signposted “cycle route” is actually likely to continue for miles as a rough forest track that’s not really suitable for Autumn, Winter, or Spring cycling, the poor route choice has already been made and finding a better route involves backtracking or muscling on through the mire for miles until a chance to escape presents itself.

            What resources do you use when cycling and wayfinding in France? Cyclist signage? Cycling maps? Driving maps?

          • That’s a fascinating and, to my mind, very accurate description of the cycle paths in Germany. My experience is limited to the Elberadweg between Hamburg and Dresden (and parallel minor roads) and to the cycle network around Aachen. I have however cycled twice across France from the Channel to the Mediterranean. The only cycle infrastructure I used was from the port of Ouistreham to the city of Caen. Once beyond Caen, minor roads were delightful.

            When staying in France for a fixed-base holiday, I’ve used IGN 1:100,000 maps to plan routes. When moving on and covering larger distances, I’ve used Michelin 1:150,000 maps. These have the small bonus of marking, with a green side-stripe, roads which have scenic beauty; and so, where there are a number of ways of crossing 60 or 70 miles between towns, choosing such routes often adds pleasure to the day.

            I recognise that France is an “emptier” country than Great Britain but I think the similarities in terms of the use of minor roads – and OS 1:50,000 maps – enables the cyclist to undertake cross-country routes delightfully in this country. It is the entrances and exits to towns – what I’ve called the first and last five miles – where good cycling infrastructure would avoid the unnecessary expenditure of adrenalin!

      • Entirely possible – I’ve ridden it but it took me 16 hours, Brentford Lock to the Bullring. Not very practical, though.

  2. Excellent! Would apply to towns and cities throughout the land (not least Northampton).

  3. Yes, same thoughts as u Dave, regularly pass this Q of cars into Leicester, it’s laughable but sad!

  4. People are funny. Where I now live in Aus, I am 15kms from the CBD of the town where most people living around here work. We have a 30km bicycle track (flat as a pancake) that runs straight up and down the beach for 15kms north and south of town. I commute by bike on this path 4 or 5 days per week and am constantly amazed by how few other people do this. Admittedly we don’t get much in the way of traffic congestion but parking in town is hard to find and expensive. People seem to cycle for sport but not for transport.

  5. You conclude the article with, “Have our brains been destroyed by cars?” – my parents’ generation were shaped by prewar & wartime austerity followed by the “never had out so good” freedoms of the 50’s and 60’s when so many of our problems took root – abandonment of wartime recycling, consumer culture and the promotion of the car as the herald of freedom, speed and individuality. Car ads very rarely sell to sell the product, but an image and lifestyle.

    My now 93 year old aunt has been desperate for Tim & Stephen to acquire cars since they turned 17 and found it hard that they on did so when work commitments basically obliged them to do so.

    It’s not just the car, but the apparent and much vaunted advantages it brings. Winning hearts and minds needs to go hand with (much needed) structural changes and incentives…. 🙂

    • You are absolutely right dusty. I find is saddening that things are spirally seeming out of control… literally “out of control”. People know longer know themselves, but are “driven” by the world around them. Better they ditch the car once and a while and feel the world beneath their feet… and don’t mean on a jolly jaunt in the local nature reserve or a walk in the park, I mean as part of daily routine. Worthy discipline, mindful consideration, of others…
      Easier said than done?

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