11 May 2014

The trouble with chicanes

A few years ago - maybe even just months ago - I didn't even know what a chicane was.   I've paid so little attention to them, that I don't even have a picture to show.  But suddenly, they're springing up everywhere like the new must have fashion accessory for bike paths.  

Like most cyclists, I've certainly cursed a chicane or two.  There's nothing worse than a bike gate that you can't get a bike through when its got a sleeping baby on the back. Not only is it bloody heavy to lift or slant, but it's likely to wake the baby up.  And it means you can't easily ride alone - you need someone to help you get the bike through.  All this even worse with a tandem - and ours is only a few inches longer than a 'normal' bike. Most times, the odd chicane on a rural route is survivable, if demoralising to a short middle-aged woman, but in recent months commuter routes all across Edinburgh seem to be festooned with them, and the more I learn, the less I like.

Scottish Transport's own guidance states explicitly "Access controls on cycle routes should be avoided wherever possible, and only used where there is a proven requirement."  and "Measures to slow cyclists down can include rumble surfaces, SLOW markings or staggered barriers. If staggered (chicane) barriers are used, the arrangement should be designed to slow cyclists rather than force them to dismount."

It also gives clear criteria for 'desirable' and 'absolute minimum' distances between the gates.  None of the chicanes put up recently conform to these criteria - although that seems to be a problem of implementation, rather than policy. 

But my real objection is that chicanes are so not the right tool for the purpose.  They don't minimize conflict - they create it.  They take a wide path, and narrow it down so that people are funnelled down the narrowest section.  

Pedestrians are being made into mobile traffic calming in much the same way that cyclists are used at pinch points and road build-outs.  

This is surely not actually what the pedestrians want? 

No comments: