Should councils be fined for cycle promotion on fast/dangerous roads

Yesterday afternoon I was out on a cycle ride with my wife from Ipswich to Colchester via Hadleigh and Sudbury. Most of the route was covered by either Sustrans or South Suffolk Cycle routes. Some of these routes run along busy B roads, with traffic speeds of up to 60 mph through the use of the national speed limit sign.

National Speed Limit sign

At one point I came across a junction where all the signs had been wiped out:


There were also various bits of squashed animal on the roads, some are meant to be quiet back lanes (instead seem to be rat runs), including the NCN1. I’ve not included any photos as it is rather gruesome.

This didn’t exactly fill me with any confidence that cycling along this road, the National Cycle Network Route 13 would actually be safe.

There were many cars that were driven at high speed and/or close past me, and on several occasions I feared that some driver would try and overtake when there wasn’t enough time, especially when there were many curves in the road thus short sight lines. Having cycled along the road before, I knew there was a turn off the B road and it just couldn’t come soon enough as by the time I had got there I was a little shaky. I really couldn’t see how anyone could allow children to cycle along that road, even so it’s part of the National Cycle Network.

This got me thinking about how to prevent these so called cycle routes being introduced in the first place.

Could councils be fined for having a signed cycle route or other direction encouraging cycling where cycle users would have to compete with motor traffic of more than 30 mph? How much would the fine be? Would £1 per metre be enough? How much would that be over a whole county? What happens if the council or police don’t then enforce the 30 mph speed limit? Would councils just ban cycling from many roads instead of reducing the speed limit to avoid the fines?

Of course the alternative is to build a Dutch style cycle track that runs parallel to the main road, thus car drivers can drive as fast as they like without having to deal with cycle users slowing them down, whilst cycle users can pootle along in a safe environment without a fear of being knocked down. It would also make the road feel safe enough that many more people would feel safe enough that they would switch from the car to a bike. I wonder how much it would cost for the councils to compulsory buy strips of land down farmers’ fields to be able to create safe cycle tracks?


  1. I agree that some cycle routes use really badly chosen roads. Near to my home the National Byway has a stretch on Melton Bottom ( which is narrow, often very busy, with impatient car drivers, buses and also has heavy lorries visiting the quarry. Would fines help, I’m not sure. Public outcry might but that will probably only happen after a death on the road, which is clearly much, much too late.

  2. Cycle tracks are rather expensive.

    In Belgium, we have flat regions, where cycling is common, and more hilly regions, where cycling is rare. The flat regions mostly have segregated cycle lanes next to more dangerous roads, while the hilly regions don’t have those cycle lanes.

    So as usual, governments listen to their voters. The more people that are cycling, the more money for cycle lanes.

    But cycle safety isn’t only related to maximum speed. We have many streets where the allowed speed is 90 km/h, but where it’s very safe to cycle, since it’s a calm road where it’s also very hard to reach 90 km/h. But we also have roads with a speed limit of 30 km/h, that still have a separated cycle track, just because the road is very busy.

    I even prefer those calm roads without cycle lanes over the busy roads with cycle lanes. No matter how slow the cars drive, cars just stink and make a lot of noise. That doesn’t make cycling enjoyable.

    If you look at our cycle map, you’ll also see that most cycle routes don’t follow the big roads, but they follow small roads without cycle lanes:

    Another thing we do, that’s transforming disused railways into cycleways. Or laying concrete tiles on existing dirt tracks. That makes more people happy. Cyclists are happy because they can cycle in silence, car drivers are happy because they can keep their speed, farmers are happy because their dirt tracks become more solid. And asphalting or laying concrete tiles on existing tracks of course costs a lot less than buying new ground from private owners too.

    Everybody happy, makes the politicians happy.

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  4. Totally with you on this, I cycled to Colchester Zoo in a National Speed road & they expect families to cycle to the zoo on this Road. London/Lexden Road is a nightmare with the ‘narrower than my bike’ gutter cycle lane & that’s just the tip of the ones I have cycled so far in the Colchester area.

  5. I live in a small market town in Bedfordshire, and there are 5 roads in and out to larger towns, railway stations, schools, larger shops etc. Not one of these is remotely safe for cycling, yet the council spend hundreds of thousands exalting us to make bicycle journeys. They provide bike parking, free lights, training, never ending signage, logos, everything other than a safe environment to cycle. I can paint a big letter H on my lawn for a £1, it doesn’t make it a Helipad, neither does painting a bicycle symbol under parked cars make it a cycle route.

  6. Rather than just how do we build cycle tracks along roads like this, the discussion needs to initially be about how do we slow traffic so the roads are safe.

    I am 100% convinced that infra is the right solution for mass cycling, but for lots of places in the country with very low cycling and walking traffic, we need a different interim solution, with the bulk of any infra being saved for urban areas with higher usage.

    Possibly the removal of the centre lines, and having wide delineated cycle lanes perhaps with rumble strips, cats eyes, or armadillos is an potential answer. This is already performed at the entrance to some towns and villages

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