Britain’s first cycle tracks

Between 1934 and 1939 Britain’s Ministry of Transport paid local authorities to install cycle tracks. Fifty or so schemes were built, resulting in perhaps as many as 200 miles of cycle tracks, some of them protected with curbs. The great majority were built – 9-ft wide and both sides of the roads – next to the new bypasses of the era; a few were built on “trunk roads” through residential areas, such as in Sunderland and Oxford.

Some of these cycle tracks still exist; many have their original protective curbs and some, such as the ones below in the North East of England, still have their original ribbed, rippled and cracked concrete surfaces. (One of the pix also shows a type of “floating bus stop”, something that has troubled modern British cycleway designers.)

I’ll provide more detail on these early cycleways in Bike Boom, including why they were so woefully underused at the time (hint: yes, the surfacing was rubbish, even though it’s still with us, but the experimental cycleways were white elephants, and didn’t form part of a dense network.)









Why did the Dutch get cycleways but the Brits and Americans didn’t? And why didn’t British cyclists use the 1930s cycle tracks? I’ll discuss the reasons at length in Bike Boom (due out Spring 2017). Sign up for updates in the box on the right, above.

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