Your suggestions on how to improve Britain's roads in order to safely accommodate cyclists

There’s little doubt that improvements need to be made to Britain’s road network to safely accommodate cyclists next to cars, vans, lorries and other users.

However, actually coming up with a workable solution is not an easy one. Many of Britain’s roads were not originally designed to take heavy traffic, and certainly not designed with enough space for segregated lanes for motorised and non-motorised vehicles.

We recently asked Cycling Weekly readers how they would solve this tricky problem, asking “What improvements would you make to Britain’s roads to make them safer for cyclists?”

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Below is a selection of the answers we received. If you have your own idea, let us know in the comments section below.

We have to change the mindset that says the car/lorry/bus is king. At the moment we send pedestrians on long walks so the cars don’t have to stop. People walking in the rain and snow make way for people sitting in the warm, dry cars. If this was to happen, drivers would be less impatient, maybe less aggressive and take other road users into account.
Graham Reeve

Wipe from the face of the earth shared pavements and cycle paths/routes which are not fit for cycling on at a reasonable pace. Get rid of width restrictions and chicanes. Teach cyclists to ride in primary position and stay off the pavement. Enforce both. Follow Dutch town planning practices and put cycling and roadcraft on the school ‘citizenship’ curriculum.
Tom Jones

Riding the roads of County Durham and environs is currently like undertaking the Arenberg Trench every day. The road surface is loose and broken and covered in potholes. Constantly having to swerve around major hazards in the road makes it difficult or impossible to maintain a safe position. Safe roads means properly maintained roads.
Len Marlow

Give cyclists and pedestrians right of way over cars at junctions. That’s how it works in Germany. For example, when turning from a main road into a side street, cars have to stop and allow cyclists and pedestrians to cross before continuing. Yes, even if this holds up all of the traffic! In my experience, awareness of, and respect for, the rights of other road users is generally much higher in Germany.
Claire Annis

Un-invent the motor vehicle.
Steve Mansfield

Everyone in the country can go and buy a bike with half of it paid for by the government. Less cars on the road means it will be safer for cyclists, the country gets fitter with more people riding their bike just to go to the shops instead of driving. Less fat people, less of a burden on the NHS, and we will have a much happier country.
Billy Schofield

Automatic retesting must be introduced for an ever-ageing population. A proportion of elderly drivers have failing health issues that affect their ability to drive safely. They are perhaps not aware of their problem. I would say the driving ability of elderly drivers is worse that the youngsters who are generally perceived to be the problem.
David Mason

Car,-Cyclist,-Traffic-island,-road-rage

More rigorous enforcement of current road laws. How many times do you see cars with only one headlight or taillight working, speeding, badly parked, not indicating, jumping lights, blocking junctions, etc? Also cyclists on pavements or riding the wrong way up one-way streets. Get the idiots off the road and make it safer for everybody else.
Neil Jackman

More cross-country cycle networks avoiding the busy roads making rides safe and scenic.
Richard Parkinson

I think that drivers of mechanically-propelled vehicles view cyclists as a hindrance on the roads, rather than an equal. So drivers attitudes need to change and that can only come by changing the driving test to include awareness of cyclists using the roads as well as other vehicles.
PJ Kennedy

Ditch bike lanes. They have sub-standard surfaces, always covered in crap, never cleaned, never salted and gives ignorant drivers excuses to punish pass.
Kristian Dunn

  • reg

    You are rather childish, rather ignorant and rather rude. Whether you like it or not, cycle paths like the ones you describe are not what is found in much of the Netherlands. And many cyclists have no interest in cycle paths; they want to cycle on roads.

  • hfhfjdj

    Nice post. Couldn’t agree with you more.

  • reg

    I will spread any information I like. Cycling in the Netherlands is not great for several reasons

  • Similarly, I’d appreciate you not spreading misinformation. The cycle-path above is not the only one, not all are “dead straight” or “dead flat” or “along a canal”.

    As for the UK, I’ve cycled from LE to JOG and everywhere in between. There is indeed lots of spectacular scenery in the UK and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing much of it by bicycle. However, beautiful scenery is not something unique to the UK. I’ve lived in three different countries (NZ, UK and NL) and cycled in several few others. All countries have beautiful countryside.

    What is different in NL (also true to a lesser extent in countries such as Denmark, Germany or Norway which have less developed cycle networks) is that you can see the beautiful parts of the country by bicycle without the same degree of danger as cyclists experience on British roads. This returns us to the subject of the article to which we’re both replying: i.e. not the relative beauty of the scenery is in one place or another but what could be done to make cycling through that scenery (or within towns or anywhere else) into a more pleasant experience than it is now.

    If Britain built a cycling network which worked as well as the Dutch network then more people could enjoy riding through the scenery which you like so much without experiencing the same level of danger.

  • reg

    I would appreciate it if you didn’t accuse me of “spreading misinformation”. I don’t know what part of the UK are from, but if you think riding on a dead straight, dead flat cycle path along a canal is “in no way whatsoever inferior to riding in the UK”, it is presumably one of the less attractive ones. Some of the UK is truly spectacular, and if you have not experienced it, you have missed out. Anyway, there are numerous countries in the EU where cycling is, in my view at least, far more fun then in either the UK or NL.

  • Em

    I feel it is more about an awareness of each other on the roads, rather than segregating each other. We all get into our own worlds when driving, cycling, walking, running and our awareness of what is around us disappears.

    Every HGV driver should get on a bicycle and ride in traffic and same with car drivers. Every cyclist and car driver should be a passenger in an HGV and gain a better insight into how things are with different road users. As some accidents are not the HGV drivers fault but the cyclist for coming down the left hand side of the vehicle.

    The vision cabs being brought in nice idea, but not all companies can afford to purchase new HGVs so the best way is more awareness and consideration for each other.

    If we segregate each other too much then when we come to being on the roads together then there could be even less awareness and consideration. I found London feels safer to cycle in than my local home towns do, from the shear numbers of cyclists and most drivers are much more aware of us than in many other places and are more tolerant and considerate seemingly.

    Many cycle paths are hideous to ride on more so in the winter if icy the roads are safer as been gritted and cycle lanes that are so close to the curb in some places or poorly maintained or in London can be full of glass when they tend to be so close to the pubs. I much prefer to be in charge of my position on the road than what a cycle path can dictate. I find the way cycle paths can cross roundabouts more lethal than going direct over them.

    So if everyone could be more considerate to each other on the roads and have much more awareness that would improve things easily and simply, but unfortunately we care little for others and HGV driving can be more stressful as being a Bus driver can be. I was a HGV driver and know the hazards of the blind spot 1st hand, from and accident I had where an old lady was crossing the pedestrian crossing as the lights had changed and I was driving off, I could not see her as she was right in my blind spot of the cab and she was killed, worst day of my life. They were going to implement new nearside mirrors on HGVs due to that incident, however I am not sure they ever have.

    Cyclist, pedestrians and horse riders should have right of way over all other traffic. Although pedestrians can be just as lethal as vehicles when they don’t look to cross in busy areas like London.

  • reg

    I don’t know what you mean by “both things exist”. In general, the option of cycling on the road does not exist. What you have described sounds like a kind of Disneyland, with artificial hills, artificial cobbled roads and 2 m wide cycle paths. That is not a substitute for going on a long ride on roads of ones own choice. And velodromes are irrelevant, since the question here is about the desirability of enforced use of strictly segregated cycle paths.

  • Ewan Davidson

    Before anyone is allowed a provisional motor vehicle licence there should be a mandatory period of time where they have ridden a bicycle in real traffic conditions, either as a way of obtaining the provisional licence or as part of the full road test. This would raise awareness and allow people to experience from the cyclists perspective. I am convinced it would make most people more considerate drivers.

  • Bazk

    Totally agree m8, one thing I do disagree with is No.5 should be No.1 🙂

  • I’ve cycled all over the Netherlands just as I cycled all over the UK. Some bad infrastructure exists, but the majority works well.

  • reg

    In other countries, circuits are generall not required, because you can ride comfortably on the road. And if you had the choice between going for, say, a 4-hour training ride on a circuit or on the road, would you really opt for the circuit? I think such a ride would quikcly become unbearably tedious.

  • reg

    It is not utter nonsense, and I hardly think Assen is typical of theNetherlands as a whole. You should try cycling in the Randstad if you don’t believe what I wrote. Nearly all the cycle paths are badly surfaced, narrow and full of slow traffic.

  • That’s some generalisation that you’ve made there. Where I live cycling infrastructure consists of we have 2 – 2.5 m wide single direction cycle-paths, 3.2 – 4 m wide bidirectional cycle-paths and 5.5 m wide bicycle roads. The narrower widths (2 m single direction, 3.2 m bidirectional) are for secondary routes. Primary routes are wider.

    The speed of cyclists on these segregated facilities is not limited more than would be the case if riding on our roads, where lane widths vary from 2.8 m wide upwards and where you have to share with cars which take up a lot more space than do other cyclists.

    Strict segregation works very well here. It’s also helped by cycle-routes being unraveled from driving routes, so that when cycling you can make shorter journeys to the same destination than if you drive and see far fewer traffic lights in the process. When you do come across traffic lights, we can make right turns on red (drivers cannot) and some of our traffic lights actually default to green for bikes while drivers can only get a green by stopping at a red light and waiting for it to change.

    Just because bad quality segregated infrastructure exists in other places (it certainly does in the UK and when I lived there I avoided much of it for that reason), that does not imply that all segregated cycling infrastructure is bad.

    Cycling flourishes where it is as convenient and safe as is the case here. That’s why we have more journeys made by bicycle than by car even in a town which doesn’t have the demographic boost for cycling which comes from having a university.

  • reg

    Strict segregation doesn’t work. Some cyclists travel almost as fast as cars; some are barely faster than pedestrians. Putting them all together on a narrow strip of road causes as many problems as it solves.

  • I’ve also never known anywhere with such a high participation rate in sport cycling. Every town has a club, most towns have cycle racing circuits. When I lived in Cambridge I had to travel tens of miles to the closest cycle racing circuit. Here in Assen, a city with half the population of Cambridge there’s a very fine circuit now and a velodrome under construction. Why so many facilities in such a small town ? Because they’re used ! Similarly, the next town along has its own circuit as well.

  • Sorry reg, but that really is utter nonsense.

    I live in the Netherlands now and I’ve averaged over 37 km/h on a 30 km long one-way commute here. That’s a far higher door to door average speed than I ever managed when commuting in the UK.

    It’s possible because you don’t have to stop so often on continuous cycle-paths which are well surfaced, avoid traffic lights and have priority over all the side-roads

  • reg

    Cycling in NL is an utter nightmare if you wish to do travel at a speed higher than about 15 km/h. It is fine if you are on a upright bike and don’t wish to do any more than get from A to B. If you have any interest in cycling as a sport, NL will not make you happy at all.

  • mdf

    Mandate schedule for deployment of autonomous driving systems, with end goal of making it violently illegal for a human being to drive a car after 2030 (or earlier).

  • James ‘Crackers’ Clarke

    Lots of important, but ultimately peripheral points raised in the suggestions in the article. The reality is the standard of cycling infrastructure across the UK is wildly inconsistent. Road infrastructure must stick to strict guidelines but cycle infrastructure is built haphazardly and without proper integration. It is often done to satisfy council quotas and not to actually benefit cyclists.

    As an extension of that, segregation must be prioritised wherever possible. Where that can’t be achieved, a design standard needs to be set in place for all environments across the country, so that when you go out cycling in a new area, you know exactly what to expect. Simple, clear, easy to use infrastructure will see cycling adoption soar.

  • David Hembrow

    Just come and look at what the Dutch have done. Cycling has been made both vastly more popular and vastly safer. The same policies would work equally well in the UK.

    Important to note that the Dutch safety comes from the infrastructure design, not in some vague way through “numbers” or due to virtually non-existent training.

  • Parimal Kumar

    1) Separated high quality infrastructure (2) Bollarded off residential roads for access only to cars (3) 20 mph residential limits (4) banning pavement parking (5) presumed civil liability.

    In that order. Nothing else works as we have tried it all, e.g. training (for cyclists or drivers), retesting, banning and rebanning dangerous drivers, poster campaigns, etc etc.