25 February 2014

Today, we look at some idiots.

This all starts here:

Idiot 1

What sort of idiot rides a bicycle on the hard shoulder of a 70mph motorway?


What sort of idiot crosses a slip road on a 70mph motorway?


What sort of idiot rides alongside a carriageway where HGVs brush past at the speed limit?


Idiot 2

What sort of idiot puts a tiny bicycle lane on the edge of a 70mph dual carriageway?


What sort of idiot makes a cycle lane cross a slip road on a 70mph dual carriageway?


What sort of idiot puts these facilities where HGVs brush past at the speed limit?


Idiocy is idiocy

I don’t for one moment condone the idiocy of venturing onto a motorway on a bicycle. And I suspect nor do you condone it. It’s insane. It’s incredibly dangerous. And it’s illegal, and in this case a fine was levied.

But nor do I for one moment condone the idiocy of highway engineering that directs people to behave in precisely the same manner (with about a quarter of the width of tarmac to cycle on and far fewer safety criteria for the road as a whole). Yet, most people do condone it. It’s insane. It’s incredibly dangerous. Yet it’s legal, and people get paid for it.

On the A3, just a few miles from where our first idiot had his collar felt, is engineering that designs in the exact behaviour he exhibited; behaviour that attracted widespread and vociferous criticism from the police, the media and an angry public. And this is far from an isolated example of such engineering.

If you’re going to call someone an idiot for riding a bicycle like this, you have no choice but to also call people idiots for explicitly designing that behaviour into the roads.

Are we getting the message here?


  1. John 25 February 2014 9:17pm #

    Good thing cycle lane and motorway signs are a different colour…oh, wait…

  2. Richard Burton 25 February 2014 9:47pm #

    Hey, calling our wonderful highways engineers idiots just isn’t right. and this poor misunderstood group deserves our respect; they didn’t study for 30 miliseconds to be insulted like that. They’re much worse than idiots. Cretins, imbeciles or having my favourite insult, crepuscular intelligence perhaps, but nowhere near as clever as idiots.

    I’ve just objected to a road scheme in South Gloucestershire which goes against every council policy that I can find, every govenment pronouncement about cycling for years and all guidance. Calling them idiots would be a compliment.

  3. chrisrust 25 February 2014 10:21pm #

    Maybe it’s time to start naming the guilty. For any highway there will be somebody at the top of the planning organisation who can be identified and shamed. Up till now I’ve tended to vent my ire on complete organisations but..

  4. Jitensha Oni 25 February 2014 10:49pm #

    Unlike the M25 it’s perfectly legal to cross lanes (if not entirely un-idiotic) here on the A3, and of course here And alternative cycling routes, if you find yourself on these bits of road, are not all that obvious.

    Also on the A3, once you’ve got over the slip road on your 2nd photo you find this to cycle on Used it many a time to get to the cafe at RHS Wisley (though having ridden through Ripley it has to be said).

    So yes, I agree, and idiots of type 2 cause more danger than those of type 1.

  5. andrewrh 25 February 2014 11:24pm #

    Same kind of lanes on the A34 between Whitchurch and Newbury. The highway agency gave me a list of them and told me “a number of safety audits would have taken place…”

    See Pedaller: On cycling along Motorways and A-Roads.

    • MJ Ray 26 February 2014 9:10am #

      They may have undergone safety audits, but that doesn’t mean all safety concerns were considered, because some non-riders simply overlook cycling problems. It also doesn’t mean it passed.

  6. Al in Italy 26 February 2014 6:46am #

    Seems to me a bit unfair to heap blame on the highway engineers. I don’t know why the A3 has such a stupid and dangerous arrangement, but I do know that creating real, safe cycle lanes costs a lot more than laying down some white lines and sticking up a few signs. I suspect that what we see in the pictures of the A3 is what you get if government – central and local – pays lip-service to cycling and green transport, but is unwilling to commit the serious money that’s required to create a network of cycle routes similar in quality, safety and convenience to what one sees in, say, The Netherlands. I’m sure that there must be many civil engineers working for roads departments who would be thrilled to given the challenge of creating such routes on their patch if they were given a sensible amount of money to implement it.

  7. Erik Griswold 26 February 2014 7:06am #

    Perfectly legal on places in the U.S. Interstate system, but I’ll leave you with this from the Netherlands:

    • Alwin Wiederhold (@Alwinner) 26 February 2014 9:21am #

      The Dutch have a word for people like that: Eikel!

      • Christine Jones 27 February 2014 2:00pm #

        I’ve had a few moments in Holland on a bike where I just can’t see how to progress, not knowing the way the cycle routes work, having been used to the UK. I’ve never been daft enough to use a motorway and this guy could have just bought a map. He probably he had more room there on the hard shoulder than on a Canadian motorway anyway.
        Things weren’t always as well signposted back in the 90’s when I rode around in Holland, especially between towns, it’s amazing how easy and quickly you can bike between towns when you have beautiful smooth roads that don’t take you on detours that make the journey twice as long like they do here when you follow NCN routes.

  8. Slip not 26 February 2014 7:45am #

    The west section of the A14 has these neat arrangements for cyclists too. When it first opened nearly 20 years ago you never saw cyclists on it, but it is an increasingly common sight now. Good to see the Highway engineers message getting across and putting cyclists onto a road that is pretty hairy to drive on!

  9. Cycleoptic 26 February 2014 8:25am #

    Try cycling along the a316 from Twickeham towards Staines ( no other direct route) you might as well be on the M3 already, by traffic speeds and close passes. No provision for cycling.

  10. Joel C 26 February 2014 10:02am #

    Glasgow, junction 15 of the M8 motorway and a junction of the A803 – one of these roads allows bikes, one doesn’t. Which lane should you take?,-4.237378,3a,75y,19.28h,91.98t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1smxgWfj2rpd3lQ4Vo0Ko8Zg!2e0,+Glasgow+City/@55.866053,-4.236726,3a,75y,358.43h,93.68t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sH_Sn3ivS7RWBe_-sy8rNyg!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x488815562056ceeb:0x71e683b805ef511e

    (answer: the right hand lane… but not *that* right hand lane)

  11. Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess 26 February 2014 10:10am #

    This sort of thing makes me crazy!

    Road design must be holistic, taking into account all road users.


    Interesting article here about how road design affects user behaviour which supports your point and also throws a light on the mutual bafflement of all parties in the fascinating video clip of the candian cyclist in Holland posted above.

  12. Liz Almond (@liz545) 26 February 2014 11:29am #

    Just remember – ride a bike on car only infrastructure and you’re a potential hazard meriting attention for the police and making it onto the national news. Drive or park in a bike lane or on the pavement, forcing people out into the flow of traffic and putting them at risk (heck, cause a death like that of Sam Harding) and the police will neither notice nor care.

  13. perthbiker 26 February 2014 12:45pm #

    Mmmm. What would be safer? Nine feet of separation from motor vehicles travelling at 70 mph on a motorway, or one foot of separation from motor vehicles travelling at 30 mph around London? I am tempted to choose the motorway.

  14. gloucestershireshighways 26 February 2014 1:34pm #

    One idiot on a bike on the motorway. How many idiots designing broken white lines up the sides of very busy, high speed roads? Name and shame the people who design and approve these pieces of infrastructure.

  15. Fourteen Islands (@FourteenIslands) 26 February 2014 2:59pm #

    I don’t understand the first idiot (cyclist). Why didn’t he ride the extra 55 kilometers needed to get around the obstacle (motorway) instead of trying to reach B from A as quickly as possible?


  16. innocent_bikestander 27 February 2014 10:03am #

    Clearly the people who design and engineer these roads don’t expect to ride on them themselves. Maybe that could be part of their degree – ride a bike (Yes! A BIKE!) next to a semi trailer and a load of other cars doing 70 miles an hour (Yes! 70 MILES PER HOUR!) and then see how that design still seems like a good one. I’m writing this from Australia and we have the same madness over here next to motorways.

  17. Paul McMillan 28 February 2014 8:15pm #

    Applying the same logic to other areas, this is why I cannot understand why once a pavement has been designated as a shared use path cycling is accepted while an identical pavement which has not been designated a shared use path is not suitable for cycling. Like the motorway and the 70 mph dual carriageway, the risks to users are exactly the same.
    Legal designation of suitability does not AFFECT real life risk.
    It follows that legal designation of suitability should REFLECT real life risk.

  18. EricD 23 September 2014 10:33am #

    And then there’s the people that give us ASLs (Advanced Stop Lines) with feeder lanes, then complain that we’re sneaking up the inside of lorries turning left, and stopping in their blind spots …

  19. Paul C 7 April 2016 9:04am #

    The Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey is outspoken on a wide range of topics, perhaps Kevin Hurley can update up us in 2016 on the story here?

  20. Matthewn5 26 April 2018 1:14pm #

    I was on holiday in south Oz recently and noticed that the motorways have bidirectional cycle tracks on one side, well separated (behind the armco and usually well away) and continuing for miles. Surely British traffic engineers could do the same?

    You can see it under construction here on the right, on this new motorway:,138.5055339,3a,18.2y,355.89h,85.15t/data=!3m10!1e1!3m8!1s4sDTM875oRv8-gMWUXx4-Q!2e0!!7i13312!8i6656!9m2!1b1!2i21

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