At War with Patronising Signs

This is a guest post by Alice Bell.

Part of my usual cycle route to work goes through Clapham Common. It
has a long cycle lane through the middle which runs alongside a
similar strip of standard pavement for everyone else.

I tend to avoid the cycle lanes in parks if I’m in a hurry to get
anywhere (as I often am on the way to work…) simply because I don’t
feel I can go as fast there as I can on the roads. As a cyclist in a
park, I know I’m dangerous if I go fast, so I tend to see them as a
space to travel through for fun rather than function. But in this
case, even cycling slowly on this lane is much quicker than going
around the park, and a more leisurely slew through the greenery of the
park makes for a nice pause between Brixton and the Kings Road.

In recent weeks, I’ve been annoyed by this sign next to the cycle lane:

this annoys me

I’m a considerate cyclist, but I’m not so egotistical to assume the
sign is just for me.
I know some cyclists tend to push through the park fast, and that they do
not always stop for pedestrians at crossings. I can understand why
people might have complained to the council and they’ve felt the need
to put a sign up.

It still annoys me though. Because when I do cycle (oh so
considerately) through the park’s cycle lanes I constantly have to
deal with other park users lack of consideration as they blithely
traipse up and down the cycle lane as if it was another pavement and
generally get in my way. Joggers and buggy-pushers are annoying, but
the dog-walkers are just plain dangerous, and frankly I find all these
interlopers a bit dim and selfish for taking up space assigned for us
cyclists.

So, I’ve been tempted to add to that sign with several more, ones that
ask the walkers, joggers, parents and dog walkers to be considerate
too. Then I realised how small the notice pointing it out it is a
cycle lane in the first place is:

this annoys me

Or here’s a wider shot of the big ‘be a considerate cyclist’ notice
next to the cycle lane and it’s general labeling:

this annoys me

It’s like those shared pedestrian and cycle spaces with tiny bike
signs so cyclists using it get tutt-tutted at by pedestrians who don’t
realise we are actually encouraged to cycle in the pavement here.
Indeed, when I stopped to take this photo I spotted two cyclists
riding down the pedestrian lane. They knew cycles were allowed through
that bit of the park, but the signage is so bad it was hard for them
to tell where to go.

This is all a long way of saying: Dear Lambeth Council, I totally get
why people might have complained and you felt the need to put that
sign up, but maybe if you just labelled the cycle lane more obviously
a cycle lane in the first place (as it is in many other parks in
London) more people might work out how to be considerate for
themselves. We’d all rub along together a bit more effectively, and
you wouldn’t need to be so patronising (or label cyclists as the ones
at fault…). At least worth a try, no? Totally with you on the no
BBQ’s thing though – the stench of petrol in the summer is horrid and
it leaves ugly marks on the grass. Yours, with love, etc etc.

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5 responses to “At War with Patronising Signs

  1. It is symptomatic of the culture in the UK, really rather sad, why can the adults behave like grown up and take responsibility for their actions. On the roads things are if any thing worse, lets face it, no one dies in our parks due to disrespectful cycling. Whereas on the roads there are an estimated 800 deaths a year due to disrespectful driving.

    Oddly 92% of British drivers say they feel safe on the roads, even though this is the most dangerous thing they do in their everyday lives. Must by the power of £830m a year with the motor industry pays for advertising.

  2. Yes I had the same thought when I saw these signs. It seems that picking on the tiny number of inconsiderate cyclists is more important than the huge number of dangerous drivers. I’m sooooo glad the non-existent war on the motorist is over.

  3. For a short period, before these signs were put up, there were other signs that suggested that anyone cycling at more than walking speed would be liable to a heavy fine. The new signs have appeared after protests about the old ones.

  4. I remember vividly a visit to Germany some 20 years ago. I was shouted at walking through Verden an Der Aller for straying on to parts of the pavement marked as cycle paths. I soon learned to recognise and respect them.

  5. I love those realy long dog leads – you can cover a lot of ground with those and stop cyclists completly.

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