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The Mystery of Spalding's Cycle Lanes

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Cycle Lane

If you cycle around Spalding you will encounter a bizarre collection of cycle lanes, many ill maintained, some bizarre and most ill designed that appear to have been created ad hoc over time with little thought or planning. At best they are a mystery, at worst they form a successive picture of incompetence and poor planning and poor maintenance.

As you travel around the town you see bizarre short cycle lanes on and near the bridges over the River Welland that are neither use nor ornament. Cycle lanes down West Elloe Avenue are on the path resulting in loss of priority at each side junction. This is a common fault throughout the town.

The cause of this is possibly over the years due to specific funding having to be spent in a hurry, before a deadline without clear thought or joined up planning. I question whether those responsible have ever driven a car, ridden a bike, or even crossed the road unassisted. If you think my comments are harsh visit nearby Peterborough, or Cambridge and you soon see how well cycle ways are important.

Why is this important?

I believe this is important due to the “barrier effect” caused by cars as discussed in my previous post where increased car ownership and response to that results in a deterioration of services, pathways and public transport to those without cars. Green policies and electrification risk excluding many low and middle income earners from owning a car, or reducing ownership from two to one car. This means that we need to prepare Spalding to be able to accommodate and succeed in being a town that reduces barriers to pedestrians and cyclists for the safety and benefit of us all. This requires clear and ambitious planning to not only repair the current poor situation, but to make it much better.

Now let me be clear, I do not believe the car is a villain, rather it is the disappointments and failings of town and country planning that is at fault. The skill will be ensuring pedestrians and cyclists do not create barriers for the motorist as we all need to travel forward and are on the same side.

Let’s take a look at what we have at the moment:

If you enter Spalding from Holbeach Road before reaching the Coronation Channel you encounter a roundabout. In 1904 Fulney Bridge would cross a drain at this point and it was the scene of one of Spalding’s first motor vs cyclist accident: “ Mrs England, wife of Dr England, of Moulton, while crossing Fulney Bridge on her machine, was jammed against the parapet by a passing vehicle. She promptly had the driver arrested, and he was fined forty-three shillings and sixpence for being drunk in charge of a vehicle.”

This roundabout marks a point where pavement (and cycle paths) end and a very wide road has to be crossed by pedestrians to access Springfields. There is no path on the townside. Springfields gardens and shopping centre is an excellent facility, catered for by a large car park and even a seasonal boat taxi from the town centre. The same route by foot involves crossing busy wide roads or using cycle routes that are frequently interrupted at road junctions.

To make matters worse, many years ago Spalding’s first and to date only McDonalds was developed on the far side of the A16 resulting in this natural draw for youngsters luring them to cross a busy road and roundabout. Simply having this on the town side would not only have been good for that business, but would have prevented access to that establishment being a barrier for those without a car. It would also reduce the obvious risk caused by people crossing the road to reach it on foot.

It is when you turn from Holbeach Road into Queens Road and Halmergate that you encounter poorly painted, badly designed and badly maintained cycle routes and pavements that are used heavily to access local schools. Queens Road is made all the more hazardous by parked cars on both the road and pavement. The whole road should be redesigned, which could be done at relatively low cost by dropping kerbs, encouraging house fronts to be converted for car parking (an essential need in the future as electric charging is required). The cycle path needs to be on the road to ensure cyclist priority over side roads like those in Peterborough illustrated at the bottom of this post.

If we are to create safe routes for the future we should consider the following:

- Motor vehicle lanes narrower, even if by paint encourage slower driving and making roads easier to cross.

- Cycle lanes on the road not the pavement with clear priority not interrupted by side roads.

- Enabling of off-road parking for residencies by dropping or lowering kerbs. This will help the electric future.

- 20mph limit – this is not onerous and is perhaps a necessity as electric vehicles are very quiet. It will prevent accidents, injury and death.

But all these actions are meaningless if they are not matched with proper thought-out planning that seeks to ensure services, businesses, housing and people are joined up and have future access safely.

A poorly painted cycle lane with little  room and no signage
Lord Denning said as a young judge, "Every cyclist is entitled to his wobble." This principle appears to apply to cycle lanes too.

Queens road showing poorly signed cycle lane and parked vehicles on path near school
Can you tell which is the cycle lane and which is pedestrian. Parked cars also provide a further hazard.

Royce Road junction showing how cars have priority due to cycle lane being on the pavement.
Because cycle lanes are on the path vehicles from side roads such as Royce Road have priority.

Eye Rd Peterborough image courtesey of google maps showing a good cycle lane
How a cycle lane should be on the road maintaining priority for cyclists at junctions. (Image courtesy of google maps)

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