Monday, 1 August 2011

Fairfax Street - Are we being squeezed?

Last Thursday (28 July) council officiers and some local cyclists visited Fairfax Street to see whether the road layout could be improved for cyclists.

There used to be two traffic lanes in both directions, but recently the carriageway has been narrowed. Westbound there's sufficient room for a motorist to over-take a cyclist:

Eastbound, the road has been narrowed to about three metres, leaving insufficient room for a motorist to overtake a cyclist:

To pass through this narrow section, cyclists should first check that there is no problem in moving out to the centre of the lane, move out and remain there until they have passed both pinch points. Unfortunately some cyclists won't want to "take the lane" like that and will have problems with the new road arrangement.

Moving the kerb or central lamp posts is probably out of the question on cost grounds. One possibility would be to provide a "cyclists' by-pass" like the one on Coat of Arms Bridge Road:

For this to work, parking would have to be banned between the two pinch points. That would mean moving the short term coach parking (ie tourist pick up and drop down) elsewhere. The car park on the north side of Fairfax street is an obvious alternative.

There are differences to the environment at the Coat of Arms Bridge Road. The route there is for children going to Stivichall Primary School; few cyclists on Fairfax Street will be children. Furthermore the pinch point on Coat of Arms Bridge Road doesn't also serve as a pedestrian crossing. On Fairfax Street a cyclists' by-pass might increase the possibility of crashes between people walking across Fairfax Street and people cycling along Fairfax Street, as the pedestrians would have to look out for traffic at three places instead of two.

There would also be a problem of cyclists who wish to turn right into Cox Street using the by-pass:  they would be at risk from traffic turing left into Cox Street:

Another alternative would be to widen the central reservation and remove the build-out, widening the eastbound lane to the same width as the westbound (4.5m).


  1. I tend to ride quite assertively anyway, having the road slightly wider on that stretch just seemed to give the SMIDSY's an excuse to push you over into the bumpy gutter. There's a good discussion of this here

  2. Hi CRC!

    I agree that the widespread belief that motorists "own the road" and cyclists should stick to the gutter needs challenging. On the other hand I have seen a YouTube clip where a cyclist maintained the "primary position" unnecessarily, blocking a motorist from overtaking. When I write unnecessary I mean that the cyclist could have used the secondary position without slowing, stopping or putting themselves at risk.

    There are many inexperienced and untrained cyclists on the roads, especially during these summer evenings. As they often don't appreciate the need to look behind and negotiate before changing lanes, I'm coming to the conclusion that it would be better if the eastbound lane on Fairfax Street were widened. Not so wide to allow space for car parking or two lanes of cars, but wide enough for a motorist to pass a cyclist without coming too close.

  3. It has been said that the arrangement in Jordon Well travelling west where cyclists have to suddenly move out into the flow of traffic beyond the former Odeon building is quite dangerous.

    Whether that will change as a result of the current works at the Jordon Well / Gosford St / Whitefriars St junction is unclear.

  4. Recent changes to the Jordan Well / Cox Street junction have included the removal of the carriageway narrowing.

  5. Have now experienced the joy of the new junction arrangements between the uni and the old odeon...bit scary if your trying to turn, particularly as it seems to rely on people giving way to each other and sharing the road!
    On the day i went past deliveries were being made to the pubs leaving one half of the road blocked and the other half of the road filled with a steady stream of buses!

  6. Proposed Traffic Regulation orders were published yesterday to impose a 20 mph speed limit thoughout most of the area inside the ring road.