I write in response to the tragically ill-informed letter from Richard Wall of Marchwood in the Advertiser of 22nd March. He repeats the trope that cyclists are an unnecessary inconvenience to motorised road users, and should be corralled into second-class facilities by law if necessary. I speak as a motorist who also cycles.

First, an important point is that nearly all local cycle path facilities are shared with pedestrians. Many cyclists are capable of riding consistently at speeds in excess of 15 mph, at which speed they would pose a hazard to pedestrian users of any path. Even the Department of Transport, not noted for its enlightened (or indeed well-informed) attitude to cycling, advises that any cycle exceeding 18mph should use the road, not the cycle path.

I am not too familiar with the cycle paths around Marchwood, so as an illustration of the reason why many cyclists do not necessarily avail themselves of those paths that have been provided, I turn to one closer to home, alongside the A3057 between Timsbury and Stoneymarsh. Despite being one of the better cycle paths in the area, this still displays many of the weaknesses of so many: its surface is in many places sadly in need of replacement, having grass and weeds pushing up through the tarmac; during the summer, brambles in the adjoining hedgerows routinely grow across the path, which is already in places slightly too narrow for two cycles to pass comfortably in opposite directions; but its main disadvantage, shared with just about every cycle path I know of, is that at every point where it crosses an intersection, the cycle path has to give priority to the road that crosses it. This is in sharp contrast to the priorities given to main road traffic. If the cycle path is supposed to offer an alternative to the main road alongside, the priorities at each intersection should mirror those of the main road. So while every user of the main road can cross intersections with minor roads without a pause, at every intersection (however minor the incoming road may be), I am forced to slow down and check at least three ways: for oncoming traffic turning right off the main road, for traffic on the minor road coming to meet the main road, and over my right shoulder for traffic turning left off the main road. This even applies when I cross the entrance to the car park at the Bear and Ragged Staff pub!

Add to the above points the issues posed for cyclists by badly positioned street furniture, often right in the middle of the cycle path, poorly designed intersections, frequent occurrences of short sections of cycle path ending with “Cyclists rejoin main carriageway” notices (where once again the cyclist is obliged to give priority to road users), and any fair-minded person would acknowledge that the existing infrastructure is not fit for purpose and certainly not for mandatory use.

Iain Mackay

Pond Cottages, Braishfield