The rights

We see all too often that the cyclist get shoved off to the side, onto unstable and badly paved cycle paths, so that the smooth asphalt roads are clear for the cars to use. We see roads lined with cycle paths that switch from one side to the next, forcing the cyclist to cross the road, often several times in succession. While doing so, the cyclist must often yield not only for oncoming traffic, but also traffic from behind, thus creating a dangerous situation. We often see cycle path’s making large detours while the roads go straight on, or that the cycle paths are squeezed into a insignificant space beside the road. Separate cycle paths alongside roads with right of way, are often forced to deviate from a straight line when approaching side roads, therefore depriving the cyclist the right of way. Building cycle paths in such a way doesn’t serve the needs of the cyclist, but the needs of the car drivers. The First Right wants to put an end to this way of thinking! Cycle paths have to be designed for the need and interests of cyclists.

This right covers several issues, depending on local circumstances.

First, the surface on which cyclists ride should always be of a quality at least as good as the road surface for cars, accounting for the fact bicycles do not have the large suspension systems and wide low-pressure tires of cars. All to often we see the road for cars being covered with smooth asphalt, while the cyclists have to ride on a bad road surface. This should be reversed; cyclists need a smooth road surface more then cars do.

Second, the network of roads for cyclists, be it a separate system or a network of roads on which cyclists can ride safely and quickly, should always offer at least the same comfort and ease-of-use as the network of motor highways. It should be very easy to navigate from one city to another without the need of a GPS.

Third, as well as routes within cities, there should also be a network of direct cycle routes which avoid busy centres to provide for efficient travel from A to B. Route markings should be clear and designed not only for people who want to cycle to the next village but also for those who wish to make longer journeys. The cycling network should be free of sharp turns, bollards and other dangerous obstacles. Crushed stone surfaces, potholes and other tyre-killers should be banished.

The efficiency of cycling is greatly reduced if cyclists' journeys are punctuated by many slows and stops. Each time that a cyclist has to stop and restart, the effort required is approximately equivalent to riding an additional 200 meters.

Excessive traffic lights, traffic lights which don't respond to cyclists (poorly setup detection loops) and cycling specific lights which always default to red do not help to make efficient journeys. Cyclists riding straight on should not lose priority to drivers coming from behind who wish to turn across their path.

Cyclists should also never be given a green light to go straight on at the same time as motorised traffic has a green light to make a turn across their path (the "green light of death" with which trucks in particular kill hundreds of cyclists each year). Nor should cyclists who are going straight on at a busy junction be expected to share a lane with drivers who are turning across their path.

Dangerous situations can also arise when cyclists need to turn across the road. i.e. making a right turn in countries where driving is on the left, or a left turn in countries where driving is on the right. In these situations, there needs to be a method of removing conflict between cyclists who have no choice but to change lanes to make a turn and drivers who are in those lanes and possibly driving quickly. The best way of removing this conflict is to adopt Dutch design for junctions which removes the conflict altogether.

Signposts can be hard to read due to placement or size. In all cases, signs need to tell cyclists where they are heading towards (both local and regional destinations) and how far away in km or miles these destinations are. Distances given in "minutes" are not helpful. Not giving any distances at all is not helpful, and signs which have just a route number but no indication of what is along the route are also not helpful.

Cycle-route signage must be of a size that it can be read without having to stop. Signposts have in the past been placed at or even beyond the intersection or exit. Lighting is lacking in many cases, and if so, then signs must not be so high that they can't be illuminated by a bicycle headlight.

To summarise: Cyclists should not be disadvantaged relative to other traffic. Traffic lights need to be well adjusted. Detection systems should detect the cyclists at sufficient distance from the junction. Traffic approaching from behind can never have priority. The practice of "taking priority away" from cyclists must vanish, where possible the turns in the road that make this happen must be undone. Signposts should be readable at speed. Just like on highways exits must be announced well in advance.

Think horse riders and dog owners who do not control their animal, dog owners who are stretch a leash across the cycle path, vehicles with combustion engines. Such matters should be banished from the cycle path. And in no case should the cycle path be used as parking for cars or as a 'service strip'.

Cycles come in many different varieties, and new models are introduced all the time. Tricycles, tandems, velomobiles, hand-cycles and bicycles pulling trailers all have extra requirements. However, all too often, cycle infrastructure is designed around a "standard bike" which can lead to usage being very awkward, especially at tight corners and where obstructions have been used to prevent access by motorcyclists or drivers.

The same diversity is seen in cyclists themselves. Bicycles are used by mothers with children, children on their own, people carrying shopping, tourists not familiar with the area and disabled people as well as sports enthusiasts or unencumbered adults on short rides. All need to be able to use the infrastructure in safety. Bollards, obstacles that are difficult to see, blind corners and slippery surfaces are therefore forbidden.

School areas need special consideration. Children lack the experience and insight in traffic adults have. It should be safe for children to ride to school at a young age, safe enough for parents to trust them to.

Diversity on cycle-paths is a good thing. It means that everyone can enjoy cycling and reduces the number of car and public transport trips.

To enable safe usage at night, cycle-paths must have reflective markings at their sides. Cyclists also need to be protected from the glare of headlights on cars coming in the opposite direction. This is especially an issue where the cycle-path is on the opposite side of the road to motor vehicles heading in the same direction. Lowering the roadway vs. the cycle-path or placing a hedge are ways of reducing glare. At all times, attention must be given to ensuring that cyclists can see, and be seen by, other traffic.

Clearing of snow and ice should have at least equal priority on cycle-paths as on the main road-way. If the cycle-paths cannot be kept passable and cyclists must use the road then the speed limit on the road must be reduced to better accommodate safe cycling.

Company buildings, schools, conference halls and important public building must be provided with safe cycle storage and shower facilities. It should be expected that people will cycle for longer commutes and for business purposes. Public transport must also be accessible for people with bicycles. Public transport operators must embrace the bicycle. In particular, folding bicycles and public bike schemes modeled on the Dutch OV-Fiets system are complementary to and strengthen public transport. Special racks are needed on buses and trains to provide easy to use and safe accommodation for folding bicycles.