Website by Andy Preece

This is an occasional commentary on cycling and unrelated issues - 'blog' if you must - and will be updated from time to time.

Posted 12 March 2015:

I was glad to see some progress had been made on upgrading the often muddy Union Canal towpath with a hard-top surface. However I was not amused to see such a narrow path. On enquiring, I was told that it was 1.8 metres wide, and this was agreed with Historic Scotland. However, it is usually Transport Scotland that sets widths for cycle paths in its document Cycling by Design, and this towpath is part of National Cycle Network Route 754.

So what does Cycling by Design say on the width of cycle paths? Table 6.2 gives the widths for various types of cycle facility. This is a two-way cycle path shared with pedestrians. The "desirable minimum" width for such a path is shown as 3.0 metres. An "absolute minimum" is given as 2.0 metres, but the document notes "will require cycles and pedestrians to frequently take evasive action to pass each other". Although the "absolute minimum" is referred to by the name "absolute minimum", a footnote explains that a width of 1.5 metres may be "considered" in "particularly constrained situations" or where there are "combined flows of less than 100 per hour", but that this width "will create conflict between users and should only be used over short distances where no alternative is available". This location is in an urban situation, near a railway station, and on the main walking route between the station and a large tourist attraction, the Falkirk Wheel, so will not be a particularly quiet path. The path is also next to mown grass, so is not "particularly constrained". Although nothing specific is said about a width of 1.8 metres, it is reasonable to expect that this width will also create some conflict between users.

Which raises the question of whether Cycling by Design is some over-specified fanciful document, which suggests lots of things that aren't really needed. There is a useful critique of Cycling by Design provided by Carsick Glasgow which suggests not. I cannot think how such a situation has been allowed to come about. This path will generate all the usual complaints about cyclists cycling past pedestrians too close, but it is the designers who are really at fault. If the path had been built wider at this stage, it would save the waste of resources and funds widening it at a later date. Heads need banged together!

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Website by Andy Preece