Common myths about bike lanes and why they’re wrong

We've highlighted a few entirely baseless myths in circulation about cycle lanes – and explain why they’re so wrong.

Photo of a cycle lane. Credit: Alberto Pardo

Cyclists are a common sight in the city centre. Whether it’s families on a trip out, Deliveroo and Uber Eats riders or your average commuter, there’s no denying that Leicester is full of keen cyclists.

Yet despite the many cycle lanes dotted across the city, the conversation surrounding cycling infrastructure is overwhelmingly negative. From congestion to safety – there are many entirely baseless myths in circulation. We’ve highlighted a few and explain why they’re so wrong. 

Myth: Cycle lanes cause congestion and increase air pollution

When it comes to reducing congestion on roads, studies in cities like London have found that building cycling infrastructure can help improve congestion on roads as long as they provide a continuous connection between places that people want to travel between, without dangerous junctions or road crossings.

Tim Morton from the Leicester Cycling Campaign Group explains, “By having cycle lanes, you move a slow-moving vehicle out of that traffic queue of powered vehicles”.

“If I wasn’t on my bike, I would be in my car in front of you. So no, cycle lanes don’t cause congestion. People getting in vehicles causes congestion”.

Myth: They’re bad for local business

A recent report from Create Streets found that retail sales increase by an average of 30% following projects that improve pedestrian, cycling or public transport access to shops.

Another review from the Department for Transport found that cyclists spend more money than people who use other modes of transport. In fact, cycle parking per square mile delivers a five times higher retail spend than the same area of car parking.

“When you’re on a bike, you can stop very easily... you can just step off the bike and park it up. In a car you’re going ‘I’ve got to find a parking space. Never mind. I’ve got to keep going,” says Tim.

Myth: They’re dangerous for pedestrians

Andy Salkeld, the Active Travel Leader for Leicester City Council, explains that cycle lanes, specifically the lines you usually see on roads, “usually provide awareness, but not protection for people cycling, wheeling or walking”. However, cycle tracks, which are physically protected spaces along main roads or off-road paths, “do protect cyclists, disabled people and pedestrians by creating segregated road space from vehicles.”

Despite this, awareness surrounding cycle lanes can still save lives. The Leicester Cycling Campaign Group, whose first meeting took place in 2012, became more active in 2016 after 26-year-old Sam Boulton was killed outside Leicester Railway Station. A taxi passenger opened their door and knocked Sam into the path of a van driver. 

There were no bike lanes near the station at the time. The group held a demonstration outside calling for bike lanes to be added, which eventually came to fruition.

The campaign group now participates in demonstrations, such as the National Day of Action for Safe Streets, which took place on Saturday, 20 April outside Leicester’s town hall. The gathering was to raise awareness about the number of people killed by motor vehicles in recent years.

Myth: No one uses cycle lanes

“Cycle lanes [lines on the road] are less popular than cycle tracks,” Andy says. However, “cycling numbers into the city centre have increased five-fold since the introduction of the Pedestrian Priority Zone.”

Tim explains that “what puts people off cycling is traffic. Fast-moving traffic. So providing protected cycle lanes actually makes more people want to cycle because they can see it’s easy”.

He also highlights, “You could say we never see any trains on this train track. You can wait for half an hour to see a train go by on a train track, but it’s still a very efficient way of moving people about.”  

Both Andy and Tim admit that cycling grants many benefits, such as low costs, less time spent travelling and physical health benefits.

Many cycling initiatives are happening in Leicester over the summer months, such as the monthly Bike Fest and Open Street events. Secure bike parking at the town hall bike park.

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