The Tour de France, an impressive lycra-clad spectacle of cycling speed, endurance, and sheer determination, is currently captivating racing enthusiasts worldwide and reigniting a passion for pedal-powered adventures.
As we embrace the exhilaration of cycling, we might also acknowledge the extensive health and environmental benefits it offers. Cyclists are associated with a mortality rate that is 24% lower than that of non-cyclists, and cycling can substantially reduce transportation emissions by up to 67%.
In short, cycling can make both you and the planet healthier.
While the tour mesmerises audiences with peloton prowess, and the health and environmental benefits encourage us to dust off the underused bike in the garage, it is crucial to confront the sobering reality of the risks associated with cycling. Despite accounting for a mere 2% of all road miles travelled in the UK, cyclists tragically comprise 6% of all road fatalities each year, a statistic that will weigh heavily on the minds of potential riders.
Unlike the protective cocoon of airbags and seatbelts surrounding drivers, cyclists face a vulnerable reality, relying solely on their instincts and helmets for injury mitigation. This harsh truth can understandably discourage many from embracing cycling, with 60% of individuals citing perceived danger as the main deterrent.
Yet, amid these concerns, there exists a beacon of hope—an avenue to transform the cycling experience into a safer endeavour: clear road markings. By harnessing the power of carefully designed road markings, we can foster an environment that encourages cyclists and prioritises their safety.
A tale of two cities (and their approaches to cyclist safety)
To understand the profound impact of clear road markings, we only have to look at Copenhagen. With almost one bike for every citizen, it can easily be considered the capital of city cycling, where two-wheel transport has become an integral part of everyday life.
Extensive networks of dedicated cycling lanes, intuitive road markings, and innovative intersection designs have transformed Copenhagen into a cycling paradise, in which cyclists feel protected, valued, and even empowered, confident that they can navigate the network of routes safely and easily.
Contrast Copenhagen with our own capital, London. Despite its continued efforts to improve the cycling experience, the absence of clear road markings and dedicated cycling infrastructure can often pose challenges and risks that deter potential cyclists from taking to the roads.
By embracing the lessons learned from cycling-friendly cities, we can pave the way for a safer cycling future here in the UK.
But what specific road markings will benefit cyclists?
Dedicated cycling lanes
These are perhaps the most effective road markings for cyclist safety. They delineate a clear separation between bikes and motorised traffic, providing a designated space exclusively for cycling.
By clearly defining these lanes through distinct road markings, such as painted lines or coloured surfacing, cyclists are given a sense of ownership and protection. Their effectiveness is highlighted in a Canadian study which found that road collision rates dropped by 38% when a cycling lane was present.
In cities, where lanes are most commonly deployed, fatality rates are far lower than on rural roads, which combine the slower speeds of cyclists and the faster ones of motorists on tight corners unsuitable for safe overtaking. In response, local authorities have launched a number of initiatives – such as clearly defined cycle lanes – in more remote locations, where speeds are higher and roads are narrower. Sheffield, for example, offers several safe routes which take cyclists from the busy city centre out into the Peak District, via cycling lanes and past places that offer facilities specifically for cyclists.
Further south, in Kent, you will find the recently created Cantii Way, a 145-mile-long cycle route that utilises and enhances existing infrastructure for bikes. The purpose of initiatives like these is to ensure safety and encourage riders to take to the trails, highlighting dedicated cycling lanes.
Advanced stop lines
Usually located ahead of the stop line for motorists, an advanced stop line allows cyclists to take up a prominent position, easily visible to all drivers waiting at the lights or the junction. Without an advanced stop line, cyclists often navigate a moving obstacle course of vehicles, the drivers of which may or may not have seen them.
While an advanced stop line creates a brief separation between cyclists and motorists, its primary purpose is to improve visibility. It is also important to note that motorbikes are not permitted to use advanced stop lines, reserved only for cyclists.
Also known as ‘sharrows’ (shared lane arrows), cyclist symbols are deployed primarily to remind motorists of the potential presence of bikes and the cyclists’ right to occupy the centre of the lane.
They are often found on narrow roads or in locations where conflicts between motorists and cyclists could take place (such as roundabouts). The symbols might also indicate to the cyclist the safest position in a lane might be, and guide them from one area to another (such as from ‘on’ a roundabout to an exit lane).
Without clearly defined road markings, the road can be an unwelcoming and dangerous place for cyclists. By implementing these markings, we can ride towards a safer and more exhilarating cycling experience, akin to the thrill of watching the Tour de France from the comfort and safety of our own homes.