Subversive Suburbanite

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.

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.

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 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.


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!



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):

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.