ANYONE who currently cycles in Cardiff and has been doing so for a number of years will tell you that the experience is a lot better and safer than what it used to be.
However, there is still a long way to go and a number of the city’s busiest roads still lack key cycling infrastructure which would make the experience of riding along them a lot easier.
In a recent poll conducted by Cardiff Cycle City, most of its 500 respondents voted for Cowbridge Road East in Canton as the worst road for cyclists in Cardiff.
I decided to get out on my bike and see what it was like for myself.
The road, which is one of Cardiff’s busiest, is lined by shops, restaurants and cafes and can be a hive of activity at the best of times.
When I cycled up the road from the city centre, going towards Victoria Park, late on the morning of Friday December 8 it certainly wasn’t at its busiest.
However, there were a number of delivery lorries lining the street at certain sections that I had to swerve around and on my left I counted 105 parked cars.
The intermittent, cold Cardiff rain hadn’t put off the shoppers either.
One of the key issues that cyclists using Cowbridge Road face is the number of parked cars, according to Cardiff Cycle City chair, Chris Roberts.
“It is a very busy road,” said Mr Roberts.
“There is a lot of traffic going along it and lots of parked cars on either side of the road, which essentially squeezes cyclists between parked cars where people might be opening their doors, which is a major problem for cyclists… and can cause serious injury.”
I was lucky enough not to be left vaulting any open car doors and in all, my ride along the road was relatively stress free – if a little wet.
However, I could definitely see how it could be daunting for someone who is new to cycling on the road.
It felt as though the road was in need of a segregated cycle path and I could easily imagine how tricky it might be for cyclists trying to navigate it during rush hour.
I was at times having to dodge potholes and squeeze between vehicles that had less than a metre of space between it and the kerb. Road markings were also faded in parts.
Cycling down from Victoria Park back towards the city centre along Cowbridge Road East was certainly a bumpy ride at times.
Further explaining some of the issues that cyclists face along Cowbridge Road, Mr Roberts said: “On the other side you have got traffic moving at varying speeds and if you need to get over to the right hand side in order to be able to go right, getting through that slow moving traffic can be quite difficult.
“Particularly for new and inexperienced cyclists, it really is a big challenge.
“It is a great place, the shopping area. It is a really nice place to cycle to, but there just aren’t facilities for cyclists to allow us to use it.”
The road also got noticeably more chaotic as I approached the junction with Leckwith Road closer to midday.
Here, the difficulty of cycling between parked cars and moving traffic became more of an issue.
When approaching the end of Cowbridge Road East, the traffic really starts to build up and some drivers decide to park in the space designated for cyclists just before the traffic lights.
After having to swerve around a car that was rolling back whilst trying to get on to Cowbridge Road East at this point, I was left having to squeeze between a taxi in the traffic light bike box and the pedestrian crossing.
This was probably the most unpleasant section of the ride and after receiving an impatient beep from the taxi driver just seconds after the lights turned green, I felt glad to be leaving the busy city road.
Cardiff Cycle City chair, Mr Roberts added: “When you get that volume of traffic, the only solution is to provide some sort of segregated facility for cyclists.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean on Cowbridge Road, but perhaps somewhere parallel to it where you could perhaps get access to some of the shops and facilities.
“The council has been looking as part of their cycleway scheme… at some sort of solution, but we haven’t seen anything yet.”
In all, Cowbridge Road East was not a straightforward cycle and adding better infrastructure feels like it is needed to make it safer, especially for new cyclists.
However, it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be and certainly not the worst road I have had to ride along in Cardiff.
When asked how far Cardiff has come in becoming a more cycle friendly city, Mr Roberts said: “Huge progress has been made.
“I started cycling to Cardiff about 16 years ago and very often in the advance stop box near the traffic lights I would be the only cyclist.
“Now, there are lots and lots of cyclists around and the council’s investment in the new cycleways… has had enormous benefits.
“Cardiff is a great place to cycle. It is very flat, but there are some areas where it is still challenging.
“I have been cycling for a long time, I am experienced, I know how to cope with traffic.
“The big challenge is to get new people cycling and for new people, unless there is a safe route all the way from A to B without any difficult points… lots of people won’t make that jump to the cleaner, healthier, greener way of getting about.”
He later added: “Things are looking up for cycling in Cardiff, but we have got a long way to go.”