PROMENADE CYCLINGLlandudno Promenade Breakthrough
On Thursday, 16th February 2012, the Conwy Cabinet agreed that desegregated cycle access to the promenade be permitted for a trial period of one year. This followed a unanimous recommendation by a Task and Finish group appointed by the councilís Community Scrutiny Committee.
Victorian seaside promenades are the creation of a different world: one of gentility and the upper classes at leisure, but also of the working man enjoying a rare treat with his family from the toil of the field or mill. Master & servant came together to find relaxation in leisured strolling. Cycling was strictly forbidden.
As wide as many a trunk road. Is it seriously expected that hotel visitors will walk with their cycles as far as the eye can see?
However, in response to the changing world in which we now live, another form of promenade is now appearing - the 'slim line' kind. An example can be seen along the coast between Old Colwyn and Pensarn. A further one is planned between Llandudno West Shore and Glan Conwy. These are narrower than the Victorian and have been designed with the bicycle in mind, recognising its value both as means of transport and also as a passport to exercise and good health.
On our roads motor traffic has risen to levels undreamed of when our ancestors built their promenades. No one could have forecast that most people who visit them would arrive in their own cars, creating in the process a no-manís land for cycling. Roads, once able to cope with the traffic for which they were designed, have become no-go areas for all but the most experienced and confident cyclists.
In popular seaside locations such as Llandudno the promenade is often the only traffic-free area for miles around. Fortunately society has recognised that, with obesity and heart disease threatening to spin out of control, promenades should not just be for those strolling a few yards from their cars when weather permits, but should also be available throughout the year for other forms of exercise, of which cycling is but one.
Sharing Space Safely
Long retired CTC member Alan Watson of Craig y Don has enjoyed cycling on Llandudno prom for many years. He sees no logic in excluding cycling - folk adjust to the conditions prevailing .
The promenade is a fluid environment - and not just because it happens to be next to the sea. Its users are constantly on the move in all directions. Pedestrians walk forwards and sideways; sometimes they jump or run. They play games. They have dogs, often on a lead, occasionally not. Sometimes they walk alone, sometimes in groups. They do all manner of things naturally and spontaneously, and this includes acting unpredictably on occasions. In shared space cyclists have become accustomed to making allowances for such movements, which explains why they frequently take a curving line to avoid the constantly changing scene ahead, and in so doing quite correctly disregard any arbitrary lines drawn on the ground. Conventions of passage have developed which allow safe and comfortable use for all.
When conflict does occur, it is rarely serious. However what we do see occasionally are territorial spats when a line has been drawn on the ground and a dispute arises over its interpretation. As often as not, if the line hadn't been there the incident wouldn't have arisen.
A Lesson From Rhyl
For example cyclists used a length of promenade at Rhyl for many years without complaint. When lines were drawn to indicate a cycle path, immediately complaints began. Not because of any collisions, but because a 'territorial' justification became available. In the consultation period I opposed the proposal to draw lines and coined the phrase 'If it doesn't itch, don't scratch it - and if you do scratch it, don't be surprised if it bleeds'. Within days of the lines being painted the correspondence columns of the local newspapers began to drip blood - for two or three weeks. Then the whole situation settled down, moving quickly on to the current position where the lines defining the cycleway are now treated as an irrelevancy to cyclists and walkers alike. Common sense now prevails.
Different Types of Cyclist
Ann Day-Jones thoroughly enjoys cycling with her children on Llandudno Promenade. 'It's so wide - there's room for everyone if they take care', says Ann.
Cyclists come in many forms and have varied needs. There are children on stabilisers with parents hovering in
close attendance. There are older children gaining experience. There are family groups, and there are groups of adults enjoying the freedom to chat in safety. There are also elderly folk, including some who are cycling into an exercise regime after serious illness. Some have chronic
conditions such as visual impairment, arthritis, or osteoporosis where it is essential for them to avoid any sort of collision with a cyclist or pedestrian. And there are also those with physical disabilities, riding an assortment of machines specifically designed for their needs. These can be either foot or hand propelled and have two or three wheels. Some incorporate a wheel chair. Examples of all these can be seen elsewhere on this website.
Within the ranks of cyclists can be found some of the most vulnerable members of our society: children, the disabled, the elderly, and family groups enjoying quality time together. In fact exactly the same range of people who likely to be seen walking. All these require space to move in safety. Whilst drawing lines on the ground may have a certain appeal on the drawing board, in practice it has no logic. The interests of both the pedestrian and cyclist are best served by treating both with the respect and dignity to which they are entitled.
Peaceful coexistence on popular Pensarn Prom. It's much narrower than Llandudno's, and not a painted line (or complaint) in sight.
It is sometimes suggested that cyclists represent a threat to pedestrians in shared space. This is rarely true (See Traffic Advisory Leaflet 9/93 et al). Often the perception of those who complain about cyclists can be distorted by inter-generation tensions which have nothing to do with cycling.
Cyclists Need To Be Considered Also
In the event of a collision a cyclist can well come off worst. Safety and comfort for all should be the primary consideration. And this must include the needs of those who choose to use a bicycle. As with
pedestrians, the aim for cyclists should be dispersal on a promenade not concentration into narrow two-way corridors. This latter presumes that the cyclist joins the route at one end and then intends to travel to the other. Whereas in real life the cyclist, like the pedestrian, is just as likely to enter the promenade at any point along its length, and will then follow a similarly spontaneous and diverse desire line that he/she would have done if walking.
Prom Cycling Is Relaxed Cycling - and Healthy !
There is overwhelming evidence that most prom cycling is relaxed by nature and that those who wish to exercise vigorously do so elsewhere or during times of the day or night when the promenade is barely used.
With normal courtesy, conflict between cyclists and non-cyclists rarely occurs.
The introduction of promenade cycling along the North Wales Coast is making a significant contribution to public health. We are also seeing growing numbers of holiday visitors attracted to the area because of these facilities. This trend is likely to increase substantially with the growing demand for activity holidays. However the introduction of cycling is unlikely to overload the available space. For much of the year pedestrian usage is reduced on account of the weather, the season, and the time of day or night - and also for some walkers, the distance from the nearest car park! Much of the time promenades are barely used, so in the public interest it's unthinkable that such a valuable space should not be utilised as effectively as possible.
However lessons in design can be learned from the experience of usage elsewhere along the coast. For instance only in exceptional circumstances, such as at Llanddulas hill, where visibility is unavoidably obscured, is the drawing of corridor lines likely to be helpful to either cyclists or pedestrians. Both instinctively seek to avoid collision. Ambiguous infrastructure indicating the false notion of 'territory' is more likely to create rather than reduce the chance of conflict.
Llandudno Marine Parade - the hazardous alternative to promenade cycling. With parking on both sides of the road and two-way traffic, would you take a young family cycling on this road?
If prom cycling is as hazardous as some would have us believe, how is it we see so many young families enjoying it ?