Segregated cycle paths are often said to cause obstructions to the passage of emergency services and the Bears Way has in the past, and in particular more recently, been criticised for this. Before exploring this issue it’s worth noting that the reason the emergency vehicles are obstructed is from an excess of motor traffic – an issue cycle paths help solve by enabling safe car-free journeys for all.
Before the construction of Bears Way the emergency services were invited to raise any concerns about the plans; no concerns were raised. Subsequently the only comments that have been made were from the Police on the improved rate of compliance amongst drivers to the speed limit, thereby making the road safer than it was.
Some may also be surprised to learn that if cycle paths are built wide enough, and bollard free, they can be useful for emergency services. Examples of this can be seen on the Cycle Superhighways in London:
The Bears Way is narrower at 2.5 m which makes it a tight fit for large ambulances and the bollards would need to be removed, this would also reduce the risk of hitting bollards while cycling. Making the bike path wider and bollard free could be implemented for future phases of the Bears Way.
Emergency vehicles get stuck because of excess motor traffic. Excess motor traffic can be reduced by a good quality cycle path network and can also give relief to emergency vehicles – which is what we all want!
Video of a rapid response vehicle using Lower Thames St protected bike path: