Cycle lanes: an unsolved controversy by Sayanen Sawmynaden, Tiffin School

Expanded cycle lanes <i>(Image: Sayanen Sawmynaden)</i>
Expanded cycle lanes (Image: Sayanen Sawmynaden)

As cycle lanes pop up on roads like shrubs on the forest floor, conflicting opinions are arising: some wish to stop and admire the shrubs while others believe the shrubs to be a hindrance that keep snagging their clothes. Although the introduction/ expansion of cycle lanes in Kingston is encouraging more people to cycle to their destinations, both their construction and their existence is making it increasingly difficult for vehicles on the road to travel.

Armaan Khan, a student whose commute to school is by bus, stated, “While I do believe cycle lanes should be implemented in London, I feel as though, in some instances, they have too quickly faltered those who depend on the pre-existing roads themselves, such as in Kingston. These cycle lanes are often more than wide enough for bikes to use, and this decreases already limited space on the roads, of which are much more heavily utilised than the cycle lanes themselves”. It is evident that commuters who travel by car or bus, for example, do in fact see the advantages of the cycle lanes but overall feel that the narrowing of roads is making it much more difficult to arrive at their destination at an appropriate time.

Frustration can be particularly ubiquitous when roadworks occur to build the cycle lanes. This can lead to portable traffic lights being used causing a build-up of traffic which can anger people as much as train strikes due to the delays to their typical journey, especially during peak times. A simple solution would be to conduct roadworks during school holidays… but that never seems to happen.

The main goals in the mind of the council and government are to make the roads safer for cyclists but also to encourage more people to cycle to reduce the negative impact that we, as humans, have on the environment by reducing the number of polluting vehicles. Thus, it could be argued that these are more important than the convenience of those in motorised vehicles.

However, that raises another question. Are the cycle lanes that have been implemented actually useful? Louis Alexander, a frequent cyclist informed, “the cycle lane system is pretty good [and] it’s pretty easy to avoid using the roads. The main problem is that it's not all clearly marked: there are places where cycle lanes join the pavement but it’s not obvious that bikes are supposed to be there”. This is incredibly insightful as it suggests that despite the increased spending on the cycle lanes, the measures put in place may not be substantial. Rather than expanding cycle lanes, could the controversy be solved by simply marking the roads more clearly? Austin Lee, another avid cyclist, agreed with Louis, saying, “the cycle lanes in Kingston are an effective way to protect cyclists and promote public health. However, the network is too inconsistent to get the most out of the funding provided, particularly in the suburban areas on the edge of Greater London”.

So are the new cycle lanes redundant? Ben Luca Atassi Quinton, another student who cycles to school, argued, “I think they’re excellent, especially when the route you’d normally take is the Kingston one way system which no one would want to cycle down”. The cycle lanes do seem to be aiding cyclists with some caveats. Ben Luca suggested “cycle lanes are only useful so long as you have a lot of bike parks”. The bike park near Kingston Station is a particularly useful space for cyclists as it offers a lot of space to park the bikes with easy access. However, more could be built to boost the efficacy of the revamped/ new cycle lanes in order to encourage more people to cycle to their destinations.

So overall, there are 2 main questions: Should the cycle lanes continue to be expanded and built on a larger scale? And will they actually benefit cyclists? No matter what the answers are, the fate of our roads lies in the hands of those in power. But in a debate between cycles and cars, the most important question is: which one is faster?