Some time last year advanced stop lines (ASLs) for cyclists were introduced at all four of the approaches to the crossroads formed by the A6 (running north/south), Ashford Road (from the west) and Hala Road (from the east). This junction – often referred to locally as ‘Booths junction’, due to the presence of Booths supermarket at its north-eastern corner – is very busy and heavily used by cyclists, many travelling between central Lancaster and Lancaster University.
The ASLs aren’t perfect; on the east-west route the lack of designated approach lanes make it sometimes awkward even for the experienced cyclist to reach the red-painted box at the lights. But they’ve made a big difference – it now feels legitimate to move to the front of the queue of standing motorised traffic, and once you’re there it’s great to have a space to breathe and anticipate the lights turning green – perhaps slightly paradoxically, being in a box stops that feeling of being boxed in – threatened and intimidated – by cars, trucks and buses. Because, and perhaps partly because they’re so well used, a clear majority of motorists do respect the boxes as spaces designated for cyclists.
But then recently the approach to the junction from Hala Road was resurfaced, and the ASL disappeared under fresh tarmac. I ride this route regularly, on my way to and from work. With the ASL gone, motorists understandably reverted to pre-ASL behaviour; going right up to the traffic lights, leaving no space for cyclists to get ahead of them. The advantage to which I’d grown accustomed had suddenly disappeared.
I assumed that the ASL would be reinstated almost immediately. But days turned to weeks and it didn’t re-appear. Worse, I started to notice how the absence of the ASL for cyclists at just one of the four approaches to the junction seemed to be undermining motorists’ recognition of and respect for the ASLs at the other three approaches. At first I thought I was probably imagining this, but the more I looked the more infringements of the three remaining red boxes I was surely noticing. It’s as motorists approaching from the other three directions, seeing how much closer to the lights were those motorists waiting on Hala Road, started organically to nudge forwards, ever closer to their own set of lights, and ever further into the red box.
So I sent an email to Gary Bowker, an engineer at Lancaster City Council, a keen cyclist, and someone who has worked incredibly hard over the years to improve the situation for cyclists locally. Gary has been centrally involved in the much improved infrastructure for cycling which has been installed between 2005 and 2011 as part of the Cycling Demonstration Town project.
Gary chased up the situation, reported back that the ASL was due to be re-instated imminently – the day after the May Day Bank Holiday. On that day I rode to work, saw the junction was the same as before, and thought to myself (sceptic that I am) ‘likely story’. But then lo and behold, on my return from work later that day, there it was, a bright and beautifully painted ASL, back where it belonged!
So big thanks to Gary Bowker and everyone else responsible for getting the bike infrastructure back in place. And the moral of the story? If you see something that needs doing in the interests of cycling, please, please, please let someone know. If they don’t know about it, they can’t do anything about it. If you’re a regular local cyclist, the chances are that you know a lot more about the local cycling infrastructure than many of those responsible for its installation and upkeep.
So ideally make contact with Lancaster City Council (01524 582000). An alternative is to let Dynamo know, so that one of us can chase it up.