Welcome crap fans and what have we here? Is this the portal to another sublime cycling dimension? A Velocipede Valhalla, if you will.
Don’t be stupid! This is the UK! This is Brighton & Hove in the UK to be precise, which became a Cycling Demonstration Town in 2005 (in the same way that Milton Keynes is an Architectural Treasure Trove). The local campaign group Bricycles, despite doing a very good job with the Green Party in protecting some of the only passable infrastructure in the City, are under no illusions about the Council they are up against.
(This from their excellent website. The last paragraph could be about any cycle scheme by any Local Authority in the country).
Anyway, I digress. We are in the North Laine area which is choc full of independent shops and a pleasing diversion from the usual fare that passes for a British High Street these days. If this network of narrow streets was anywhere else in mainland Europe, the motor vehicle would have been designed out creating a more pleasing atmosphere for shoppers, residents, pedestrians and bicycle riders alike. Sadly, like every other Highways Authority in the UK, Brighton & Hove remains glued to the 1980’s game of ‘Let’s See How Many Cars We Can Possibly Cram Through Here As If Our Lives Depended On It.’
Here it is again without vehicles.
The bridge at the top is the main concourse for Brighton railway station. One way traffic can cascade down the hill, under the bridge where it becomes two way. Traffic coming up the hill has to turn left by the No Entry signs. Except you, that is, dear bicycle rider! Yes, a special contra-flow cycle lane has been combined with a Tommy-Simpson-Mt-Ventoux tribute hill climb. Quite impressive considering the designers probably had no idea who Tom Simpson was.
Motor traffic heads off up this easier gradient for either the seafront or the gyratory by the Railway Station. Let’s take a closer look at the contra-flow on offer to us.
The cycle lane is slightly elevated from the traffic lane with a relatively good finish. The gradient is very steep, however.
And this is where it stops. The traffic lane is still one way at this point so the bicycle rider, already on a steep gradient either has to dismount (which is the default for British Cycle Infrastructure) or meander into oncoming traffic turning into this road that provides a nice little rat run to the A23. Or collapse off your bike as a tribute to the great Tom Simpson and yell the mythical words ‘Put me back on the bike!’ (again, the default of British Cycle Infrastructure).
This is the cycle lane and railway station concourse in context. The barriers to the left are closed as work is being carried out to renovate the canopy. That area would normally have lots of bicycle stands which are incredibly well used. Which begs the question as to why bicycle (and pedestrian and wheelchair) access is so utterly appalling?
If you wish to find out more about the late, great Tom Simpson, BBC4 recently showed a brilliant documentary called ‘Death on the Mountain: The Story of Tom Simpson’ which hopefuly they will show again (if we all nag them enough). His Wikipedia entry, is of course, here.
If you wish to see how cycling infrastructure can be designed and built correctly in a manner that doesn’t dump you in oncoming traffic or leave you guessing with all the tension of an Agatha Christie novel as you approach a junction or ask you to get off and push every 10 metres, then yet again, here is a film from Mark Wagenbuur.
and here is another one showing junction design the Dutch way.
We continue to ignore the tried and tested, proven success of Mainland Europe at our peril. Tom Simpson moved there (the Breton fishing port of Saint-Brieuc to be prescise) as he knew it had a better cycling culture and would improve his chances of success. Strangely, I think I know how he felt.