The (sweary) sound of (cycling in) the suburbs.
Allensbank Road runs up from Whitchurch Road through the Cardiff suburb of Heath, all the way to Heathwood Road, which runs west to the A469 and A470 and then on to Merthy Road through Whitchurch. Travelling south from Heath it’s a major transport link to the city centre via Whitchurch Road and Cathays Terrace. So it’s a significant commuter route, and this is no doubt a reason why Cardiff Council has been recently consulting on a new kerbed bike lane [PDF] running from Heath Hospital along Allensbank down to Whitchurch Road and then onto Cathays Terrace to join up with the kerbed lane on Senghenydd Road.
However, north of King George V Drive East, where the cycleway will begin, there is not currently any provision planned. This will need to be sorted out – one of the vital developments that will be needed across the city if the Council wants to open up cycling in Cardiff to households located north of the A48.
As the first video above indicates, this stretch up to Heath Park Avenue is a nightmare for close passing – confirmed by this video, featuring a pass which is even more egregiously shit.
The problem is, as with many of the radial roads which run from the more central parts of Cardiff east of the Taff out through the suburbs, Allensbank (and then Heath Park Avenue) is straight and potentially fast, has long sight lines (encouraging motorists to focus on what is in the middle distance and further away, rather than on what is close to them and especially squishy things close to them), yet often relatively narrow, due to parking and also due to build-outs for zebras etc. Then, when it becomes Heath Park Avenue, it widens out enough for any impatient motorists to feel a bit more feisty about pulling a pass on a cyclist.
Essentially, it’s a pretty hostile environment for cycling, as so many suburban radial and main roads are. But it connects, via a slight hill, to a significant residential and affluent area in Heath. A potential reservoir of currently reluctant cyclists, who head out with bike racks at the weekend? Maybe. If you want to cycle from that neck of the woods now, you need to head west and use the ropey shared paths on the A469 which take you down to the famously sketchy underpasses at the Gabalfa roundabout, and then onto not very much at all in terms of infrastructure, all the way into the city centre. Dealing with dickhead drivers on Whitchurch Road or negotiating the patch shared paths on North Road – neither solution particualarly attractive.
So from this point of view, continuing Cycleway 1.2 up Allensbank and Heath Park Ave up to Heathwood Road might be a better way to go, perhaps going up as far as Maes-y-Coed Road, where you’ll find that locally reknowned oddity, the Council’s first experiment with wands and orcas, an abbreviated lane linking to the A460 and its nasty shared paths (4:11 in the video below).
Have you experienced an incident on Allensbank Road? Post in the comments below – include a link to any videos you have if you can.