A few neighbours thought that after paying half a million pounds for Bexleys
latest initiative, cycle lanes on the pavement, we ought to show our gratitude
on a nice sunny day and use it. So off to Erith we went.
Bexley council in the shape of Andrew Bashford their Team Leader (Traffic Projects) says that lots of councils are mixing bikes with pedestrians. I dont know anything about that except that friends in Farnborough (Hampshire) and Worthing suffer them and report at least one consequent death. Mr. Bashford doesnt want to talk about that of course. In fact he doesnt really want to talk about anything. Whether this is because he is not on top of his brief and too easily out-manoeuvred, or because he isnt proud of what he has inflicted, or simply because he is too arrogant, is open to debate.
So what did we find on our travels? One thing that caught our attention was the Soviet style barracks that have been put up near St. Augustines church. The pavement was completely blocked there and nearby residents massively inconvenienced with their driveways blocked. We noted that the pavement was not only being widened but had been excavated deeply, quite unlike the work conducted elsewhere. The deep hole was being filled with concrete and we did wonder if it was the reason for no one being spare for deployment to other sections for the past six weeks leaving umpteen trip hazards. One of our number speculated that some deal had been done between the developer and the road contractor to hasten the work outside the barracks. I suppose he should know about these things, hes the one who works in civil engineering, not me.
The cycle path itself was relaxing where it existed, but there were far too many breaks in it and it was too easy to be just a little too relaxed when forced back on the road. The frequent bus shelters were worrying. We were expected to go between them and the kerb and hoped that a bus didnt pull up at that very moment and disgorge its passengers directly into our paths when they were least expecting it. On a cycle lane the cyclists presumably have right of way. Some bus stops appeared to be protected, in theory at least, from cyclists but each bus stop adopted a slightly different arrangement. Some photographs may illustrate the various hazards we encountered.
The first photograph shows a complex right turn for cyclists which sticks out into the road tempting motorists to run down any cyclist foolish enough to wait there. Fortunately there will be few cyclists as daft as Bexley council. If they are intending to turn into the road on the other side they will either be using the track on that side or will have ridden off the kerb earlier and taken a short cut.
Where cyclists need to cross side roads, slipways are provided at some junctions but not all. It is too easy to go down one of those slopes from the relaxing cycle track on to a busy road without glancing over your shoulder. The third style of slipway is just too complicated. The solid white line appears to be telling cyclists to get back on the road. Do you think they will take any notice with that wide expanse of empty pavement ahead of them? Probably the idea is to get cyclists back on the road before the bus stop at the bend ahead. But if so why is such a weird construction not in use at all bus stops? Please dont expect a sensible answer; this is Bexleys road planning department we are dealing with.
We were surprised to find that the ride from Lesnes Abbey to Erith town centre took almost 25 minutes. It wasnt the photography that made things slow, we walked out more than a week later for that. Perhaps it was because we slowed down and sometimes stopped when we encountered pedestrians, unlike one cyclist a few days ago who brushed my sleeve with his handlebars as he raced by.