Build it and they will come

I’m going to talk (briefly) about The East Lancs Road.

For those of you that don’t know, the East Lancs (A580) is a dual carriageway that runs from Manchester to Liverpool. It’s a very popular route. In rush hour, the queues will be miles long, every day. There are many towns along the East Lancs and it’s a heavily used commuting route into Liverpool and Manchester. One of those towns is the one I live in so I pass along the East Lancs on a regular basis. Part of my cycle commute is along it.

Now I don’t ride on the dual carriage way itself because that would be a)Crazy, b)Suicidal c)Very unpleasant. Luckily the East Lancs is accompanied by an extremely rare piece of infrastructure for the UK. It has a segregated, dedicated cycle lane running it’s entire length.

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 21.31.43

(Image courtesy of Google Maps)

That’s the section close to my house (If you’re interested, I live behind the nature reserve that is made up of the trees you can see on the right). There’s a raised pavement for walkers and a lower section for cyclists. This is very typical of the entire 30 mile route although there are differences, usually as the route approaches junctions. Now it’s not perfect. At most junctions cyclists must give way to traffic but there are often staggered islands on the big ones. But it’s pretty good for the UK.

It’s reasonably popular with commuting cyclists during the week but that’s not what I want to talk about. It’s the weekends I’m interested in. You see, it’s at the weekend when it gets really busy.

On a Saturday and Sunday this cycle lane is packed. Today as I drove along it for 10 miles, I lost count of the number of cyclists I saw. These weren’t all young, fit men in roadie outfits (although some were), they were old people, women, children and men. They were all riding along chatting, safely, happily and without annoying any motorists or pedestrians (god forbid!).

Now here’s the key for me. It’s a dirty great, busy, dual carriage way connecting two large Northern Industrial cities together. It’s filled with lorries and cars and while it does pass through some of the countryside as you can see in the image given, it’s not exactly beautiful.

AND YET DESPITE THIS IT IS STILL HEAVILY USED BY RECREATIONAL CYCLISTS GOING OUT FOR A RIDE!

The key is that it is safe, kept away from traffic and is mostly free flow. It’s attractive to people who do not cycle all week and just want to pootle along on their bikes from one place to another, with their kids or their grandma’s because they’ll not be battling for space with people in two tons of petal.

It’s the clearest exhibition of true space for cycling that I know and use every day and it absolutely and completely works.

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