Crapper Cycle Lanes makes excellent toilet reading, and not just because of its title. It’s one of those little books that you can flick through absent-mindedly and chuckle over with few if any intellectual demands and little actual reading. It’s mostly pictures of, well, crap cycle lanes.
Eye Books first published Crap Cycle Lanes 10 years ago based on the “Facility of the Month” website pages of the Warrington Cycle Campaign. Since 2001 they have been bravely posting pictures of the worst designed cycle lanes to be found in the land. You know the ones: a lamp post stationed bang in the middle of the path, a two metre stretch of glorious car free space for the cyclist etc.
From amusing to pointless to downright dangerous, it seems that there’s no end to the crazy town planning horrors we are subjected to up and down the breadth of the country. As Rod King MBE, founder of Warrington Cycle Campaign so eloquently puts it, “Normally when introducing a sequel to a publication a foreword would say how delighted the authors are to be able to continue their previous publishing success. But in the case of Crap Cycle Lanes and its sequel, Crapper Cycle Lanes, this foreword has to be tinged with some regret that such monstrosities are still being foisted on the UK population.” Quite.
Each double page features a photo of the offending cycle path along with an amusing description such as, “We have art, abstract design, an existential puzzle and at the same time, an outstandingly pointless consumption of clearly surplus Derbyshire County Council budget.” Each one is given a hazard level from “Lunch Loss” to “Buttock Tension” to “Heart Tremor.” Goof levels are given: “Boris”, “Govey” and “Donald”. There are also remedies proposed such as “Special Measures” or “Inspector’s Visit”.
It really is astounding how ridiculous both the planning and execution of some of these bike lanes are. While it’s amusing to see a picture of a lane that heads straight towards a two metre high brick wall or one that runs straight into parked cars around a corner titled, “Surprise!” in the book, it also makes one’s blood boil at the stupidity and waste of public funds.
These examples are a demonstration of how town councils often work: money is ring fenced for cycling provision and it will be spent regardless of how pointless or even dangerous the result will be. The council can then make grand claims about how much they have spent to improve cycling facilities. It’s a sad indictment of how they operate and the low regard in which cycling as a sustainable method of transport is held in some parts of the country.
There is some good news from all this however. Since the 2007 publication, which argued for the implementation of 20mph speed limits as the default on urban roads, most local authorities have indeed adopted this measure.
This is an excellent book for a stocking filler or Secret Santa present and had me in the loo for a little longer than I’d originally intended. One hopes that Crapper Cycle Lanes becomes essential reading to every councillor and town planner in the UK, so if you know one, please present it to them as a little gift.