A bit of cycology

Enfield’s cycle infrastructure is coming along nicely in the form of bike lanes, re-modelled junctions and better public realm along the A105. Since this road – also known as Green Lanes, Ridge Avenue and London Road depending on which bit you’re on – connects my own street to Enfield Town, I cycle up and down it at least once a week. Watching it take shape is fascinating.

The new infra

It’s being done in patches following a seemingly random order that presumably makes sense to Transport for London. For instance, there are at least three different stretches being worked on currently, at the northern, southern and middle parts of the route. (There’s a great update here including some video if you’re interested.)

Here are some of the finished parts.

child on A105

This child is trying out a new bike her dad just bought her at a pop-up bike market. She only went 100 metres, but still – a 6-year-old on the A105!

Most of the A105 gets this treatment – lightly segregated bike lanes consisting of a painted line and ‘orcas’ (black and white lumps of plastic) reinforcing it at intervals. It may not be up to Dutch standards but at least it’s economical, so in all the Mini Holland funding will stretch to over 20km of bikes lanes around the borough.

bus stop boarder

Note the rather stylish cycle logos

Bus stops in the UK are traditionally where cycle lanes give up the ghost. Not so in Enfield! This is a bus boarder, where bikes travel between the stop and the bus on the carriageway. It rises to pavement level to indicate that passengers have priority. This has not yet caused any pedestrian fatalities, to the bitter disappointment of the scheme’s antis (nor in several European countries…). The ramps up and down are quite steep, so it’s important to go ‘Wheeee!’ as you exit a bus boarder.

Bus bypass Winchmore Hill

Bus stop just visible in the distance

Where there’s enough space, the bike lanes ‘bypasses’ the bus stop completely, as in this photo of Winchmore Hill high street.


Cycle lane Palmers Green

Why has Enfield chosen a different colour for cycle paths to everyone else? Now London has blue, red, green.. and this colour. Which is actually quite a nice colour in my opinion

And in town centres, like this stretch in Palmers Green, bike lanes are right up at pavement level. This could be Dutch!



Cycle crossing Bush Hill junction

Note dinky cycle lights

Junctions have been made a lot safer for cycling, like this one at Church Street – the lights have a phase where all motorised traffic stops and cycles and pedestrians can go, in all directions at once. I believe this is the closest thing the UK has to a ‘simultaneous green’ which are a common form of junction in the Netherlands. It’s very relaxed to use once you’ve got the hand of the rather confusing road markings – and I haven’t got over the dinky little cycle lights yet.

So that’s are what some of the lovely finished bits look like. Here, on the other hand, is a typical stretch of untreated A105 (courtesy of Google Streetview):

Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 21.51.21

Looks fun to cycle on, doesn’t it?

No, it’s not. There’s a reason any teenager you see riding a bike on this street will be on the pavement. And why Enfield’s share of journeys by bike is less than 1%.

The cycology

So what’s really interesting is to ride the length of the route (takes about 20 minutes), at times dodging traffic as cyclists have always had to, at times riding in state along an actual bike lane, and noticing the difference in your self.

Here’s my brain, on the bits without cycle infrastructure:

Ok, pinch point – move out into the middle – gosh, does he have to drive that close behind me? Patience! Yes, you can pass me now – good riddance – oh my word, massive pothole! Good thing I saw that – ok, red light, just squeezing past to the front… there’s that driver again – here we go – blimey, do you always accelerate like that? And here’s another pinch point etc etc

On the bits *with* cycle infra:

Tum ti tum… nice weather tonight… wheee! (that was a bus boarder)… ooh, is that a new cafe? …Yay! (that was  a green cycle signal)… wonder what I’ll eat when I get home … etc etc

As others have pointed out, when you enter a cycle lane you feel the physiological change instantly. Your pulse drops, your muscles relax, and best of all, your mind frees up. Someone should research this – it can’t be difficult to measure the difference in people’s stress levels cycling on roads with and without cycle infrastructure.

Most interesting of all: when I’m in a cycle lane, I feel welcome. I feel like I have the right to be there; the street has been designed to include me. I no longer have to engage in a constant physical and mental battle for my space on the road. I noticed this in the Netherlands. There the 10-year-old and I on our bikes had as much right to exist ‘as the trees and the stars’, as the Desiderata goes – or at least as much as people travelling by car or tram. I felt taller, more dignified, more human.

I look forward to feeling like that in my own country too.


9 thoughts on “A bit of cycology

  1. Some of this looks really good. I’m impressed. The brown colour is a bit odd. I haven’t seen that used before to indicate a cycle lane.
    The feeling of being legitimate is really nice. Once you get a taste of it, you can’t go back.
    Push for more of this. Give Councillors and staff a lot of praise for the good stuff. Once things start connecting and you get a network started it’s going to be amazing and more people will find it useful to cycle.

    • I’m not sure why this colour was chosen – I’d prefer it if the UK was agreed on one colour for cycle lanes like the Dutch red surfaces – but I do quite like it as a colour! And I agree, the councillors (particularly Cllr Anderson for Environment) and team deserve loads of praise for their political courage – not to mention for a good standard of infrastructure. We try to say so at every opportunity 🙂

  2. Interesting to read about being made to feel welcome. This is definitely a notable feature of improved infrastructure – that you’re not trying to balance social expectations or even laws against your own safety and your ability to make any progress. ( http://fasterpedestrian.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/pit-of-success.html )

    The Royal Parks seem to be engaged in an effort to make cyclists feel as unwelcome as possible, without actually preventing them. (Dismount signs on the cycle paths, rumble strips, not signing the new cycle path on Constitution Hill so it’s always full of pedestrians, and other measures seemingly engineered to produce conflict.)

    The cumulative effect was described to me as feeling constantly in the wrong for daring to exist whilst on a bicycle.

    • That is a very good description. And then we wonder why a wider demographic doesn’t cycle. Such a shame about the Royal Parks. It’s not just anti-bike, it’s anti-people.

    • I hope so too. At least campaigners can start saying ‘Look at London’ as well as ‘Look at the Netherlands/Denmark’ for a change. And do bring your councillors to see – Paul Gasson does a very inspiring tour of Waltham Forest’s Mini Holland.

  3. Thanks for posting, it’s nice to see pictures of the infrastructure in Enfield. Seems to have made a huge difference! And I like the colour of the cycle lanes too.

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