Swindon Cycle Paths: A Missed Opportunity

A little while ago there was some discussion on Twitter about cycling in Swindon. It started from a question asked by whoever was running the PeopleOfSwindon account that week, and we got onto the topic of Swindon’s cycle paths.

The following observation was made:

To which I replied:

and one of our local councillors asked more, and I replied that, to see what’s wrong with the new Wichelstowe road, he should hop on a bike and cycle it end-to-end. I then offered to take him on a guided tour.

What I actually did was go and record a video tour.


In this video, I’m slightly over-egging my reaction to the complexities and absurdities I encounter en-route. I’m playing the hammed-up cycle campaigner and come across as much grumpier and more confused than I probably really am.

And I willingly acknowledge that this path is incomplete and that it may all make sense once the rest of the Wichelstowe development is created.

BUT…I think that this road and the facilities it has for cyclists is typical of the UK’s cycle infrastructure in general:

  • Cyclists are forced to stop and start frequently
  • There’s no continuity of the journey – you are directed around everything else, rather than having your own route through
  • The signposting is bad
  • In some places things are over-engineered and highly confusing

This was a brand new road to a brand new housing estate that promised to ‘set new standards of urban design, sustainability and modal shift in transportation away from the private car.’

It represented an opportunity to do something bold, different, and challenging that would demonstrate real thought for cyclists. Instead it’s a broken, confused piece of infrastructure that hinders the cyclists progress to such an extent that it’s quicker and easier just to hop onto the road for most of it.

In fact, when reflecting on the tour, it seemed to me that to make cyclists cross the road, choose to share with buses or pedestrians, and then cross back again is the main cause of all the problems. Simply extending the existing path all the way along the northern side of the road would have been so much simpler.

So here it is…The Grumpy Cyclists guide to cycling the new Wichelstowe road.

3 thoughts on “Swindon Cycle Paths: A Missed Opportunity

  1. Speaking as a fairly frequent user of that route, the whole thing is over-engineered. Almost the entire length of the route will, once Wichelstowe is finished, be part of the STAr route, reserved for public transport and cyclists. So there doesn’t seem much need to make the cyclists share with the pedestrians: there will probably be more of them than buses!

    Within East Wichel itself, every house is required to have space for a bicycle. That is either in a garage (assuming car owners can squeeze it in beside their car) or for those without a garage, in a shed. And that’s the only reason the East Wichel developers provide some of the houses with sheds – tiny little sheds too small to upend a bicycle if you wanted to do some repairs in there. Provision for bicycle storage for those in flats is less generous.

    I believe the local convenience store, if it’s ever built, will have some cycle stands outside. The supermarket by the canal at Mill Lane will also have 12 covered cycle stands.

    1. Thanks for the comment and clarifications Komadori. What’s the STAr route? I’ve not heard of that.

      To be honest, I don’t really mind if cyclists share with pedestrians or buses, the problem here is that they don’t seem to have chosen one single route. One minute you’re sharing with pedestrains, the next you’re dumped into the path of oncoming buses (as far as I can tell) and a little later you’ve got a choice of the two.

      Just bizarre!

      1. STAr stands for ‘Sustainable Transport Artery’, part of the Wichelstowe masterplan.

        The changes being made as part of the development of the district centre might remove some of the greater absurdities near Mill Lane, but also seem to add some of their own.

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