Monday, 30 May 2016

Pushing over the Bridge

[Any of the images can be clicked to enlarge.]


The Infirmary Bridge in Inverness crosses the River Ness upstream of the city centre.
It takes its name from the nearby Royal Northern Infirmary (RNI) which now houses the Executive Office of UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands).
On the far side is Cavell Gardens, named in memory of Edith Cavell. (In spite of pronunciation by many locals, the correct stress is as in 'travel' rather than 'Ravel'.)

This suspension bridge, built in 1881, is 90 m long with only 1.7 m available width, nearly level, and connects two relatively quiet roads along the riverside.
These three photos were taken earlier this year and show the bridge as it was until a few weeks ago.
There were a couple of 'No Cycling' signs one of which had its red circle partly obscured with 10 plain address labels (plus an NHYES sticker from the time of the Scottish Referendum).

Traffic Regulation Order

A major project is under way in the Highlands to repaint 94 miles of lines on the road surface and replace 1,600 road signs.

As part of this, messages were painted at the entrance to both ends of the bridge augmented by two extra 'No Cycling' signs.
Approaching the bridge the message says 'Cyclists Dismount' in 18" (45 cm) high letters.
Leaving the bridge the message was 'Beware' but strangely this was burned off a few days later.

Typical Peak Weekday Traffic

Data was gathered between 8 am and 9 am for 96 pedestrians and 38 cyclists.
Percentages Pedestrians Cyclists Both Modes
Cavell -> UHI 50 19 69
UHI -> Cavell 22 9 31
Both Directions 72 28 100

The different counts in each direction is mostly explained by where the people work.
The opposite would be expected at the end of the day.
There were a few joggers and walkers with buggies and dogs among the pedestrian numbers.
I initial attempted to do a separate count of cyclists cycling and walking but I abandoned this because quite a few changed mode (sometimes more than once) as they crossed.


Pedestrians crossed singly or in groups of up to four taking about a minute.
Some trailed wheeled luggage, pushed buggies or were accompanied by dogs.
Some stopped to take photos or look at the view. Some were jogging.

Cyclists usually travelled alone and could cycle across in about 20 seconds.
Some cyclists walked the full length while others cycled for all or part of the crossing.

There is only 1.7 m of available width. Walking two abreast is comfortable but cycling two abreast is not really an option. This naturally means that cyclists have to take care when passing other users of the bridge and will usually only overtake a pedestrian with consent.

Signs on Metal Plates

The Greig Street Bridge, near the city centre, is of similar construction but slightly wider at 2.3 m. It also has a more obvious rise in the middle. It has rectangular blue 'Cyclists Dismount' signs at each end. Being advisory, they can be ignored (and often are) provided the cyclist takes account of other bridge users. It also has two red circle 'No Cycling' signs at each end. Their lettering is badly weathered  and their position on the side barrier of the bridge makes them easy to overlook.

The Infirmary Bridge has two new red circle 'No Cycling' signs at each end. This is an order and failure to comply is potentially an offence carrying a fine.

Other Locations

There is no prohibition on the paths or bridges further upstream in the Ness Islands. Indeed there is an official cycle route (The Great Glen Way) through the Ness Islands.

Core Paths

It is worth noting that both of these suspension bridges are Core Paths.
This is a legal term that grants a legal right to walk or cycle that route.

IN19.06 - Greig Street Bridge
IN19.07 – Infirmary Bridge

It would appear that the 'No Cycling' signs contradicts this basic right.
Invalid prohibition signs that are likely to be ignored put the law into disrepute.


Cyclists walking or cycling across these suspension bridges already appear to show consideration for others on the bridge.

The narrowness of the Infirmary Bridge naturally encourages cyclists to stop and give way to pedestrians or cyclists passing in the opposite direction. The main justification for overtaking is when pedestrians stop to take photos. This is typically done politely with appropriate care.

The Greig Street Bridge is 0.6 m (2 feet) wider and provides greater width and better sight-line than some local shared-use pavements (cycle tracks). Cycling across the bridge is quite common and is typically done with consideration. Cyclists will usually walk their bike if the bridge is busy. Each end is constricted by a pair of right-angled corners. BMX riders often leave the bridge by jumping the steps. (Some even jump up the steps.)

'No Cycling' signs contradict the reasonable access right of a Core Path.
'Cyclists Dismount' signs are often an indication of poor design. Here they are simply not appropriate.
The painted messages on the surface are unsightly.
All of these signs only serve to disrespect cyclists and encourage others to quote the law: - “Can't you read the sign?” - no matter how much care the cyclists show.

I have asked the Highland Council to remove these new messages and signs.

They could more suitably be replaced with a round, blue shared-use sign.

If it is really thought necessary, they could be supplemented with a blue rectangular sign with the text such as 'Pedestrian Priority'.

Your comments are welcome.


Anonymous said...

i totally agree with what you state with regards to these 2 bridges.

Not only does it mean that people with bikes, who must walk BESIDE the bike take up a lot of room on the bridge, they also take much longer to cross.

I find it very hard to take that these bridges are not "share with care" already given the promises and constant advertising to get people to be more active and cycle in the city.

It almost seems someone thinks it easier to deal with just to stop people cycling rather than either deal with complaints from the public about lack of space when people cycle past them, or , potentially having to put some investment into giving cyclists and infrastructure to actually get around this city without having to stop/give way/dismount for traffic/pedestrians almost every 2 minutes of cycling in the city.

Anonymous said...

I too totally agree. Funny how Highland Council can find the time/cost to put these signs up, but not find the time/cost to properly signpost Huntly Street to make it obvious that is is 2-way for cyclists. What infuriates me too is that after crossing Infirmary Bridge, it is not legal to then ride along the quiet Ness Bank into town. Instead we all ride illegally up this road, enduring finger wagging motorists, in preference to being forced onto the busy Haugh Road. Highland Council's Carbon Clever, cycle friendly credentials is a sham.