infrastructure Penistone Road

Bypassing traffic lights using off road cycle tracks

On my commute to work I very rarely stop for traffic lights, even when they are red I normally just cycle straight on past the queues of cars waiting at the stop line. I do this all perfectly legally and safely without breaking any rules.

How can I do this? Because I cycle on an off road cycle path where these traffic lights do not apply.

This cyclist doesn't need to worry about sitting in the queue of cars at the red light
This cyclist doesn’t need to worry about sitting in the queue of cars at the red light, he’s using the shared use path at the side of the road

The traffic lights on Penistone Road in Sheffield do not apply to cyclists using the off road cycle path. There are 18 sets of traffic lights that I miss by choosing to cycle along this 1.5km stretch of Penistone road. Even if the lights are red I can pass them safely and am simply permitted to bypass them on the cycle path because the lights that apply to the adjacent road do not apply to the cycle path.

This is a big big advantage that cyclists have over other vehicles, my journey is quicker, I don’t need to start and stop which makes cycling less strenuous, and I make excellent progress along this road.

Don't want to wait at the lights like the cars? Just use the two way cycle track and sail past.
Don’t want to wait at the lights like the cars? Just use the two way cycle track and sail past.

Lots has been said about cyclists being allowed to turn left on red lights, I do not support this because I think it will encourage cyclists to move up the inside of left turning traffic. However if cyclists are provided with dedicated off road facilities (as I use every day) then left turns and some straights simply do not need to be controlled by lights, cyclists are simply given a path through the junction without ever encountering a stop line.

There are (almost) 5 sets of traffic lights controlling the road in this photo. A person using the cycle track checks that it's safe to cross the side road and just goes.
There are (almost) 5 sets of traffic lights controlling the road in this photo. A person using the cycle track checks that it’s safe to cross the side road and just goes.
This convenience could be improved by providing cyclists with priority over other traffic when crossing the side road.

The concept of bypassing taffic lights is discussed as applied in The Netherlands by Mark Wagenbuur in this blog post

I’m glad that Sheffield City Council decided to ignore their policy of designing roads for confident cyclists only for Penistone Road because I use this cycle path every day, it feels safe and there are  only two points where I sometimes need to wait.

council cycling infrastructure

Main roads in Sheffield – for confident cyclists only

P1050814.resizedI attended the Sheffield City Council Highways Cabinet Committee meeting earlier in the week and asked a question about a new preliminary junction design in Broomhill. A pedestrian crossing with a mid island is being introduced along with a new slip road to allow left turns.

Broomhill preliminary junction design - approved without any consideration being given to people on bicycles
Broomhill preliminary junction design – approved without any consideration being given to people on bicycles

“How have the needs of people riding bicycles been taken into consideration when evaluating the preliminary design options? I can find no discussion on this in the report”

The answer was very long winded and didn’t answer my question directly, so I replied

“So you haven’t given any consideration to cyclists at this stage?”

“No” was the answer.

A local councillor suggested that the council should place signs advising of alternative routes on quieter roads. Dick Proctor, Transport Planning Manager at Sheffield Council agreed and added that,

“We (Sheffield City Council) design main roads for confident cyclists only”

Others have long argued that this strategy will not encourage people to use bikes and I strongly agree. David Arditti wrote about this in his blog Vole O’Speed recently in relation to the London Cycling Network, I shall quote him.

But there were no answers to the simple observation that the minor roads are minor because, in general, they are not the most useful through-routes to anywhere that people need to go. Cycle route planning does need to start from the recognition that cyclists, or, should I say, people on bikes, are normal human beings who need to do the same things that everybody else needs to do: go to the same shops, schools, offices, stations, that are all linked, most usably and efficiently, by the main roads. Forcing an invariable, inevitable compromise between directness (and priority) and safety was never going to be a route to success. As I have said before, fundamentally, cyclists no more belong on the minor roads than do motor vehicles or pedestrains, and successful route planning in both the Netherlands and Denmark, to my knowledge, has been based on the procedure of looking first at where cyclists go already, and then providing safe infrastructure for them in those places: quite the reverse of the LCN approach.

It doesn’t look like this junction will be made safe for cyclists any time soon, Dick Proctor thinks there is no need because only confident cyclists will use it. This is the reason 1.9% of people’s journeys to work are by bicycle in Sheffield 🙁

The preliminary design was approved at the meeting.

No need for cycle infrastructure - it's a main road only confident cyclists will use it
No need for cycle infrastructure – it’s a main road only confident cyclists will use it (this is not the junction in Broomhill but another one in the centre of Sheffield)

Brook Hill Roundabout – Sheffield’s Urban Motorway

The Westway, the ultimate symbol of how the urban motorway tore up our cities, will become the ultimate symbol of how we are claiming central London for the bike.

Boris Johnson – The Mayor’s Vision For Cycling In London

Book Hill Roundabout

Sheffield’s Brook Hill Roundabout – The ultimate symbol of the urban motorway.

Described by The Times in 2012 as “a nightmarish experience for all but the most advanced cyclists…There are no concession to cyclists here – no cycle lanes or markings — and cyclists have to race to match the speed of oncoming traffic.”

We desperately need some of this vision in Sheffield.

Brook Hill Roundabout

laws parliament

Cyclists are not subject to speed limits – Parliamentary question


Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Independent Labour)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Attlee on 13 February (WA 169), whether cyclists are subject to 20 miles per hour speed limits; and, if so, what penalties are available for cyclists who break the limit.

AttleeEarl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

Cyclists are not subject to the general prohibition on exceeding the maximum speed limit on the road.

Citation: HL Deb, 7 March 2013, c413W

Castle Street

Sheffield’s Castle Street Cycle Lane – Google Street View Updates

A while ago I took a look at Google and Bing’s Street View services to see if they’d caught any vehicles parked illegally on Castle Street contraflow lane – they had!

Well… Google Street-view has been updated and the situation is no better! No taxi this time but a UK Mail delivery van!

Streetview Castle Street July 2012
Google Street View – Castle Street – July 2012



Cycling in the door zone – Injury statistics

Source: Scott Ehardt

Statistics for cyclists injured by ‘car door incidents’ have just been released for the last few years. I’m fairly sure that this information has been available previously but this is a nice summary in response to a Parliamentary Question.

Between 2009 and 2011 1587 incidents have been recorded resulting in injury, 2 resulted in death.

Mr Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what information his Department holds on (a) the number of pedal cyclist casualties attributable to the opening of a vehicle door in (i) 2009, (ii) 2010 and (iii) 2011 and (b) the severity of the injuries received in each case. [145360]

Stephen Hammond: The numbers of pedal cyclists injured, by severity, in reported personal injury road accidents in Great Britain, as a result of hitting an open door of a vehicle, or as a result of a vehicle door being opened or closed negligently (e.g. injured due to evasive action), for the last three years are:
Severity    2009    2010    2011
Killed      0      1      1
Serious     55      77     92
Slight      413     449     501

So… don’t ride in the door zone! Heed the advice from Silly Cyclists and watch the video below.