Motorists are never asked to dismount

Just a quick early morning rant. Cycling down to Trafalgar Square yesterday, I encountered no fewer than two sets of ‘Cyclists dismount’ signs, on the cycle paths in Tavistock Place in Bloomsbury and Royal College Street in Camden. If anything characterises the lack of understanding about cycling it is these signs. What on earth makes highway engineers think that these signs make any sense or will be obeyed?

This might seem like a minor matter, but actually goes to the heart of attitudes towards various users of the roads. Why on earth should cyclists get out and push when there is an obstacle in their way – why can’t the signs just say, please rejoin the main highway or something like that? I see the whiff of backside covering here, and perhaps it is an insurance issue.

The creation of cycle superhighways, the bike hire scheme, the various cycle paths are all good initiatives,  but until the attitude towards cyclists changes fundamentally, they – we – will always be treated as second class citizens. It is noticeable, actually that the cycle lane in Tavistock Place is now so heavily used that it is becoming dangerous for cyclists as they are likely to bump into each other. It shows just how wrong the man from No 10 I spoke to around a decade ago, when the lane was first introduced, who said no one is using it. Provide the infrastructure and the cyclists will follow.

These signs always make me want to suggest that motorists should be asked to get out of their cars and push when there is some type of obstacle in their way. Now that would be worth watching

  • sweek

    I do agree and always just join the main road when I see one of these, although there are cases when it is actually quicker to just get off the bike and cross the road as a pedestrian, when there’s a zebra crossing which means you don’t have to wait for the light, for example.

    I don’t know how much it says about the general attitude as very cycling friendly countries like the Netherlands also have these signs – but they’re generally in places where cars aren’t allowed to go at all.

  • Well said. These signs infuriate me too. They’re almost as bad as those cycle lanes that end abruptly with no warning and force you out into the main flow of vehicular traffic.

  • Tommi

    From what I can tell a) the only reference to ‘cyclists dismount’ sign in highway code is in context of level crossing and b) rectangular blue sign is ‘informational’ only anyway. So basically it’s a warning to cars, “Caution: we’ve designed the cycle route here so badly that some cyclists may be choosing to dismount here.”

  • JohnG

    It’s a sad reflection on Britain’s car-centric culture / attitude, which has been allowed to profilerate since the early 1960s. I agree the provision of these signs is a tacit admission that cyclists’ facilities are second rate and sadly cyclists are therefore being defined by default as second-class citizens.

  • Gerhard

    Most dismount signs are not only annoying but contravene DfT guidelines Contractors often put them up thinking they are mnaking it ‘safe’ (as if) and poor registration with and enforcement by authorities means nothing is being done.
    You can find contact (and other) details about (London) roadworks in question here and I recommend contacting both the contractor and the authority in question.
    Good luck

  • I hear you. They are mercifully few locally, in favt there’s only one, where a cycleway crosses a major road, but it’s in such a position that to obey it, to dismount, walk across the road and remount in an entrance for cars, would cause me to be in greater danger for longer than just cycling across with the traffic. And even if it didn’t, why should I get off my bike and walk so that drivers have an unobstructed route?

  • JohnG

    “…motorists should be asked to get out of their cars and push when there is some type of obstacle in their way …” Well, it did happen a couple of months ago, as there were plenty of motorists & others pushing cars in the snow & ice.

  • They are surely only there in order for the council to have a get out if someone sues them after a crash. Someone doing a safety audit decided cyclists aren’t capable of common sense, and instead of solving the specious problem, put up a sign to cover their backs. These signs have no legal force whatsoever, and point out the Iocations where a demand for crossing exists.

  • @sweek:

    Well, David Hembrow has said he’s seen exactly *one* ‘Fietsers Afstappen’ (Cyclists Dismount) in the Netherlands – At last I’ve found one!. Not so common there, as in Essex then.

  • Yes, in Prague or the Czech Republic these are intended to protect pedestrians but clearly the best solution is a temporary “hard” detour into the other road space with bitumen curb ramps and so and some kind of barrier against motor vehicle traffic. I believe they do this in Copenhagen.

  • Fandroid

    Out here in the sticks (Hampshire) these signs generally only relate to places where a careering cyclist could do positive damage to a pedestrian. However, it also reflects the lack of investment in anything that looks even vaguely like an offroad cycle network. What you do see is the classic cop-out where a cycle lane approaches a dangerous (for cyclists) situation, such as a roundabout. It just disappears with give-way markings on the road.
    As a pedestrian in London I have learnt the hard way to be very vigilant when crossing the 2-way cycle lane in Torrington Place, so can support Christian in his statement regarding the busy-ness of cycling in Bloomsbury.

  • Tony

    If you want pointless signage then I suggest that you try cycling along Edingburgh Way in Harlow.

  • How about “Pedestrians please take off your shoes” as the version for pedestrians – just in case they accidentally kick each other on a narrow path…

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