A report published today by national cyclists' organisation CTC has found that many pedestrians and cyclists find sharing space in 'shared use' facilities, particularly those that have previously been pedestrian only, stressful and uncomfortable. Vulnerable groups such as blind people can find these facilities completely unusable.
The research, conducted by independent consultants, asked users in urban facilities what their experience of shared routes actually was.
The study found that although users supported facilities for cyclists and many cyclists welcomed them, shared use paths could still lead to problems. Most users wanted facilities modified to make them safer.
Stuart Reid, CTC Campaigns and Policy Manager said: "This is a report that should influence future decision making. CTC realised that no-one had actually asked users what they thought of shared facilities.
"This research has allowed us to give clear guidance to local authorities. Cyclists should be offered safe routes on the roads, unless there are compelling reasons why this is impossible. If space must be shared, then facilities must be of the highest standard.
"Cyclists and pedestrians have much in common but they are not the same and their needs are different. This study indicates that users are ready to work with local authorities but local authorities must be prepared to listen."
Peter Barker, Manager of the Joint Mobility Unit, an access consultancy supported by the Royal National Institute for the Blind and The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said: "We know that many blind and partially sighted people simply don't feel safe walking in places where cyclists can
"It is heartening to know that CTC shares our concern and is calling for better planning so that both pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy themselves safely."
Ben Plowden, Director of the Pedestrians Association, said: "This research confirms our long held suspicion that neither pedestrians nor cyclists like shared use routes. Taking space from pedestrians to improve cyclists' safety is no gain. It simply shifts risk from one vulnerable group to another. Cyclists should be accommodated on safe road routes, which is where they belong."
An Executive Summary of the research is available from CTC.