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April 21, 2011 / clayliesstill

Is the A24 really good cycle infrastructure?

Despite its frankly bizarre self-aggrandizing title, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain has had some useful things to say.

One of the points they have been making is that while much of British cycle infrastructure is very poor, some good cycle infrastructure does exist in Britain, thereby disproving the argument that ‘we just can’t build good stuff here, so let’s not bother’.

As of writing, three pieces of infrastructure have been uploaded to a map of ‘notable cycle infrastructure’. One of these is the cycle infrastructure alongside the A24, from Dorking to Leatherhead.

Here is a photo of the A24 with accompanying cycle path and separate footway as it approaches the famous Mole Gap, with its swallow holes that take half the flow of the river under the chalk ridge of the North Downs.

Isn’t it lovely? It meets standards, gives the road a wide berth and is reasonably well maintained.

It’s just the sort of place where segregation is required: adjacent to a busy dual carriageway along an alignment that is one of the only decent routes across the North Downs, linking two towns just 5 kms apart.

But hang on, isn’t one of the main problems with segregated facilities? Surely high quality facilities like this will have surmounted those sorts of problems?

Here is the shared footway in Dorking around 1 km south of the photo above.

Instructions have been painted on the road to encourage cyclists to engage in some spontaneous ballet.

And here is a wonderful, three stage toucan crossing with lots of handsome guardrailing at the same location.

Farther along, at the junction with Westhumble Street, a minor road (admittedly, providing access to some wonderful North Downland country lanes) treats the cycle path thus.

And here, in the refuge, is a piece of cycle infrastructure that looks like it could feature as a Facility of the Month.

I will still use this infrastructure – it is far preferable to the A24, yet it is not good infrastructure. It is merely passable. The faults identified above support the contention that, in general, planning for cycling is appalling in this country and, for the most part, simply pays lip service to the needs of cyclists.

Perhaps the biggest indication that this is not a successful route – despite the intermittent quality of this path – is that it is very little used. In 2009 the 12 hour traffic count found that 29,494 motor vehicles used the route, but only 154 cyclists. And this is the road providing access to one of the most popular cycling roads in the south east.

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