I enjoyed my commute today (Great Baddow to Thorpe Bay). A chilly and overcast start when I started out at 6.15am, but I soon warmed up. The start and end of the ride (Hanningfields and the flatlands around Wakering) are definitely the best parts of the route. I don’t generally enjoy the main road through Ashingdon and Rochford, especially on the way home during rush hour. Road surface leaves a lot to be desired, as does the room a cyclist is given by passing traffic.
Hawk Hill Roundabout – Cycle Path or Road?
Cycling between Rettendon and Battlesbridge requires the tricky negotiation of two roundabouts, the Turnpike and Hawk Hill:
I use the road. I try to take up a central position within the lane and make as much eye contact as possible, especially with vehicles intending to join the roundabouts when I am on them. And I try to make obvious and clear signals. No road users are prohibited from using that road…and I am a road user. I put up with the black looks and occasional head shaking. I assume this is because those motorists think I should be using the cycle path. So why don’t I?
Well, I have tried it. But, it is, of course, necessary to cross each road separately at its approach to the roundabouts. I have generally found I am less visible and conspicuous from the cycle path than waiting to enter from the road.
As a motorist, you are always thinking forwards approaching a roundabout, not to the possibility of cyclists crossing the road from the right or left, before you arrive at the junction, but to traffic you can see already on the roundabout over your right shoulder.
As a cyclist approaching the roundabouts by road, you only have to look to the right to make judgements about speed and distance before deciding whether it is safe to enter the roundabout. Using the cycle path, you have to do this both for traffic approaching the roundabout from one direction, and for traffic exiting the roundabout onto this road coming from the opposite direction. And, of course, many motorists do not indicate their intention to exit a roundabout. They should do – always – but if they are in the left lane exiting via the next exit, many don’t bother.
There is an inherent risk factor as a cyclist when entering and exiting roundabouts You are vulnerable and some motorists just don’t look. I have just read about this case http://www.roadjustice.org.uk/Sarah-Charlotte and the CTC’s excellent Road Justice campaign. But at least motorists know where they are supposed to look. Most motorists who exit a roundabout think they have done all their careful looking for the time being and are only thinking of accelerating through the gears. Many haven’t indicated their intention to leave the roundabout anyway, and they are certainly not expecting cyclists to be crossing their path.
The path running adjacent to the roundabouts is a dual-use cycle/pedestrian one. If it’s difficult to cross each road on two wheels, taking less than half the time to get from one side to the other than a pedestrian, one thing I will never do is attempt to do this on foot.
Risk is part of life, however you travel. Despite these roundabouts (it’s very difficult to avoid them without adding several more miles to the route) my commute on two wheels is an enjoyable way to start and end the day, infinitely better than sitting on the A127 and certainly much better for the environment: