Posts Tagged ‘Road traffic safety’

Local News

From Worthing Herald (10 April 2012)

‘DESPITE a no parking sign and a small picket fence, gardeners are still having their hard work ruined by cars.

The New Growth Garden Team is a voluntary group working under the Worthing charity – Storm, and it has recently started work on a small garden in Union Place.

Despite the group’s best efforts to keep people off the plot of land, which used to be used for parking, they are still coming back to find tyre marks through the middle of their seed beds.

Ginny Cassell, a member of the team, has been door knocking to tell everyone about the work being done and the parking restrictions, but said this “hasn’t stopped the problem”.

She said: “At the moment they are just seeds so we can cover it up and hope for the best, but we’re about to start putting in plants and if you drive over these you will kill them.

“We thought we would love to make something nice in the middle of the town where people could be peaceful instead of stressed.”

The group has been tending the area once a month since the winter, but has started making more regular visits now the planting season is in.

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, witnessed the group’s misfortune, and donated £20 so they could buy more seeds.

He said: “They’re setting a public example by improving a bit of open space where the police station used to be.

“I’m sorry that some people managed to park their car on the ground, but they took that in good heart.”

Ginny thinks that this could be a mistake coming from “old habits” when people used to park there, but she is now asking people “not to do it any more”.

From Shoreham Herald (10 April 2012)

A CAMPAIGN calling for a crossing to help children get to school more safely has taken a big step.

Candy Bromage collected just under 1,400 signatures, calling for a safe crossing point in Upper Shoreham Road, and handed the petition to West Sussex County Councillor, Angie Mills last week.

Mum-of-two Candy said: “I was really pleased with the number of people who signed. Everybody was in agreement with us.”

Two weeks ago, the Herald reported how Candy and fellow parents and neighbours wanted to see a crossing, between the Holmbush roundabout and Southlands Hospital, so children could use it on the way to Glebe Primary School and Shoreham Academy.

Parents said the stretch of road was so dangerous, they would not allow their children to walk to school, and so drove them instead.

Mrs Mills, who is also chairman of the Adur County Local Committee (CLC), which can allocate road safety priorities for the area, said she was happy to get on board  with the campaign.

“There are a lot of schools in the area, and it is a very dangerous road for children to cross,” she said.

“Most of the parents are taking their children to school by car, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid.

“Of course, it’s not just children who need to cross the road, it’s elderly and vulnerable people too.”

The petition will taken to the next meeting of the CLC,  on May 24, where solutions will be discussed,  but there was a long road ahead for the scheme, said Mrs Mills.

“It will not be done for a while, because it has to go through various procedures,” she said.

Any scheme would also need to be examined by the county council’s highways department.

Candy said it was “brilliant” that Mrs Mills had joined the fight.

“It is a shame they can’t get it done in six months, but we knew that was very unlikely.

“Hopefully, by this time next year, we will have something.”

She thanked everyone who had put their name to the campaign.

She said: “Just thank you for everyone’s support.

“We will carry on until there is a crossing there.”

At the start of the campaign, Candy, mum to 14-year-old Tadley, and Mitchell, 10, told the Herald:  “We want a tunnel, a bridge, a zebra crossing, and pelican crossing. We don’t care how they do it. As long as it’s safe.

Kim Lee, of Greenways Crescent, said she agreed with there was a need for a crossing: “I have two kids, and I won’t let them cross the road to school, so I drive. A lot of people do.”

Glebe head teacher Ann Walton also got behind the call, and wrote to the council’s highways department.

She said: “We want as many children as possible to walk, scoot or ride to school, but that’s impossible because of the dangerous road.”

A view of Upper Shoreham Road (looking toward the Holmbush roundabout which is incredibly fast and furious) may be found here

Note that there is enough space to have Dutch style cycle Infrastructure. And then some Danish style cycle infrastructure next to it. And some nice planting. And still have a nice road for car use.

Of course, my adopted home town of Worthing and neighbouring Shoreham by Sea are both in West Sussex - The Council with a Highways Authority that rewrites the dictionary definition of ‘draconian’, that regards the motor car not so much as a mode of transport but more as a masturbatory fantasy and regards the bicycle (the thing that would attract more tourism, health and wellbeing, particularly for the more elderly coastal demographic) as something poor people might do and really should be shovelled out-of-the-way. Anyway, I wish the group the very best. I’d love to see a new crossing and indeed proper infrastructure for all to use not just for the many schools in the area but shops and businesses too.

Here is a film by Mark Wagenbuur on 25 ways to cross a major road in the Netherlands partly because it contains an at-grade bicycle crossing which might be quite a nice addition to Upper Shoreham Road but also to highlight how The Netherlands is separated from us by a stretch of water but it might as well be another solar system. The full post is here. British viewers may wish to look away for fear of weeping.

To lighten the mood a bit more, further east on Old Shoreham Road, here is what Brighton & Hove City Council are doing for their schoolchildren here and here.

Finally, to completely lighten the mood to near hilarity, I leave you with this letter from the Worthing Herald published on 30 March 2012 that….well, I’ll leave you to judge.

’30’ limit is a danger’           

‘MY son recently reached the age of 16 and bought a motor scooter for commuting to school/college and socialising, etc.

However, according to the law, his machine must not travel faster than 30mph.

Limiting youngsters to 30mph may have been intended as a safety measure but in reality it is quite dangerous.

Any motorists/motorcyclist who thinks 30mph is fine, I challenge them to drive, for one week at 30mph, maximum everywhere, including roads like Goring Road which have a 40mph limit and the A24 and this dual carriageway is not far off being a race track.

It is nigh on impossible to keep to this speed  everywhere.

It produces a queue of impatient drivers behind you, which leads to some dangerous overtaking and allows no room for manoeuvre.

If, as most people agree, riding on two-wheels is less safe that four wheels and the law allows 16-year-olds to drive on two (dangerous), why not allow 16 year olds to drive on four (safer)?

If that is not acceptable, at least increase the maximum speed they can drive at to 40mph.’

and then you go and spoil it all, by saying something stupid like….

I was sitting at home last night minding my own business when I got sent this nugget by the good folk of Spokes – The Lothian Cycle Campaign via Twitter. It is from FACTS, The Transport Professional’s Magazine (issue 65, 2011).

Now, I know there are many within the haulage industry that are doing their best to alleviate the tragic and needless suffering that occurs on our roads on an all too frequent basis with some particuarly high profile and dreadful incidents in London recently. In fact I bet there are many in the industry that care more than the Tory Assembly Members that walked out of yet another meeting that just happened to have the issue of cyclists safety on the agenda (and let’s be frank here, they don’t give a shockingly shiny shit about bicycles or people that use them).

However, it doesn’t help matters when Phil Flanders  (Scottish Director – Road Haulage Association) settled down last June/July to write something joyless & slightly moronic like this….

(I have added links, either to articles referred to or to stuff that I think will calm you down. I seriously advise you open this link in a seperate window and enjoy the soothing music whilst reading the following)

“There have been a spate of accidents involving cyclists and lorries recently and as usual the lorry is the big bad bogeyman. It reminded me of an article I read last year in New Zealand where they have a similar problem. It appeared in the New Zealand Herald and was written by Eric Thompson. He refers to a report mentioning that Mercedes-Benz Vice President of Safety Engineering, Ulrich Mellinghoff, told a road safety conference in Melbourne that mixing bicycles with motorised traffic was an ‘unsafe practice’ that needed changing.

A public road with motor vehicles is no place for a cyclist, no matter how they bleat about having every right to be in the same place as a car. A cyclist will always come off second best in an accident with a motor vehicle. No matter whose fault it is, in any type of motor versus pushbike altercation it’s not going to take a rocket scientist to work out who’s going to end up in the back of an ambulance.

He suggests that for road safety reasons:

All pushbikes must be fitted with rear-vision mirrors – as other vehicles are required by law;

All pushbikes must be fitted with indicators, or a similar device – as all other vehicles on the road are required by law.

They can only ride single file on a single lane road unless overtaking as other vehicles on the road are required by law;

Be fitted with headlights that must be on at all times as other two-wheeled vehicles on the road are required by law.

All bike riders must pass a road-license test as are all other people who venture out on public roads;

All pushbikes must be registered and pay a road tax – as all other vehicles on the road are required by law. They should be able to get a reduction for low emissions!

I would go further and add that all must have adequate insurance for any accidents they cause and maybe even liability insurance for those who knock people down.

Those cyclists, and there are many, who play their iPods or other types of mobile music should also be charged for committing an offense of cycling without due care etc etc as they have no chance of hearing any vehicle approaching and are totally unaware of what is going on around them.

Some have started to fit small video cameras to their helmets. If you are unfortunate to upset them on the roads they will report you to the authorities and will have evidence of whatever it was that you did. There are cases of this already where the police have taken action!”

I won’t dwell on what we have just witnessed as it’s difficult to know where to start and he is of course entitled to his opinions. I hope the music helped. To try and deconstruct such ill-informed guff is as futile as trying and mop up the River Thames with a J-Cloth. Maybe this is what happens when the Conservatives get in power and organisations such as the RHA get a little bit over excitable.  I wonder if he has any children or grandchildren that try to cycle and whether he brainwashes the freedom and happiness out of them? Lest to say come in Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Littlejohn and all others who have inflammatory views for money, your time is clearly up.

Jeremy Clarkson - Must now be classified as 'a bit tepid'

Communication

It's still quite difficult to see if you're driving with a mobile phone (Picture: BBC News)

It appears that a Devonian villager has decided to get straight to the nub of the Road Safety issue with some paint and a wall of his house.

This from the BBC Website…..

Large 30mph speed sign painted on house in Bow, Devon

A man has painted a 30mph sign the height of a double decker bus on the side of his house in a Devon village.

Tim Backhouse, who moved to Bow two years ago, said he hoped the 15ft (4.5m) sign would slow traffic.

He said speeding traffic on the A3072 made it difficult to cross the road to get to the village shop.

Devon County Council said its own tests revealed most drivers kept to the 30mph (48km/h) limit but it was aware of residents’ concerns.

“Bow has a shop 300 yards (274m) outside the village perimeter which a lot of pedestrians walk to,” Mr Backhouse said.

“There’s no safe crossing point, the pavement runs out near a corner and it would be just about OK if vehicles did do 30mph, but they don’t.

“Since we moved to the village two years ago, we’ve witnessed a few instances where people have almost been hit by vehicles.”

He said he wanted a pedestrian crossing to be installed in the village.

Stuart Hussey, who also lives in Bow, said most traffic “and especially the lorries” did not keep to the 30mph limit.

“All it is is a sign on a wall and if it works, great,” he added.

The county council said it had built a footpath to the shop, which Mr Backhouse said residents were grateful for.

The council also said its speed checks recorded an average speed of 27.2mph in the 30mph zone.

A spokesman said: “We’re aware of concerns about the speed of traffic through the village, and local police have worked with the community on enforcement issues.”

Mr Backhouse said he painted the sign as part of Road Safety Week UK and would paint over it on 5 December.”

Marvellous stuff. To me personally, it speaks volumes of current road safety policy and street design where people feel compelled to do stuff like this.

Apparently, Mr Blackhouse will be getting the paint and brushes out again for a ‘National Dog Fouling Awareness Week’ sign after noticing an above average amount on the pavements in the village. Oh, alright, I might have made that last bit up.

 

A Caring, Sharing Britain

Architects Impressions – Great at showing what Britain could be like if Prozac was pumped into the drinking water.

We Britons love the idea of sharing space. Well, other people’s space. We love to come up with holistic transport solutions through these shared spaces, sometimes incorporating an architects sketched vision of roads reduced to near emptiness, an extra tree or two and everyone walking and driving with a sense of equality and good cheer toward their fellow humans, maybe pondering where to buy their next latte or iPhone.

Exhibition Road in west London is a prime example (as shown above). The blog ‘Cyclists in the City’ summed it up beautifully for me with the headline ‘Sustainable Travel in London means spending lots of money to make car parking look prettier’ . It manages to acknowledge without commiting to removing the danger that you’d expect in an area of London where a very high tourist footfall for the wonderful museums nearby meets Transport for London’s commitment to cramming as much ‘smooth flowing’ traffic as it can through Central London (presumably for a bet – I’m running out of ideas as to why they are behaving the way they are). Instead it seeks equality by changing the surface treatment, adding street furniture and, in some cases, removing the split level between road and pavement. Its trying in effect to create a level playing field for all users. This is all very well, and I salute the intentions, but the day motorists think they are equal with other users will be the day when Hell freezes over, or introduces its own shared use facility.

In creating a shared space, an area has been created where groups such as the visualy impaired can feel far more vulnerable and their voice can easily sway the powers that be in a country already reluctant to positively embrace the bicycle. Exhibition Road became the subject of a judicial review raised by Guide Dogs for the Blind and in Woking, Surrey, cycling is now banned in part from what were shared use cycle/pedestrian areas in the town centre (as covered here by CTC’s Chris Peck in Guardian Bike Blog). Instead of working together, the humble bicycle has again become a common enemy.

Another concept of shared space that Britain will probably get spectacularly wrong is that of the ‘Woonerf’

Woonerf – Simple. And not some EU Plan to control our residential areas which is probably what UKIP & the Daily Mail thinks

Last August, from Bike Biz

Poll finds many are in favour of more areas where cars do not have priority – and that the law should protect vulnerable road users in such areas

A new road safety poll has found that the majority (58 per cent) are in favour of holding drivers legally responsible for accidents between cars and more vulnerable road users in pedestrian priority zones.

The poll was taken for road safety charity IAM (the Institute of Advanced Motorists) and quizzed 4,000 people on pedestrian-priority zones. Most were in favour of importing the ‘Woonerf’ zone concept from the Netherlands, used to encourage cycling and walking and designed to be used at walking pace.

Forty eight per cent thought the concept – with no pavements, giving cars, pedestrians and cyclists equal use of the same road space – is a good idea to bring to the UK, while 27 per cent thought they were a bad idea.

36 per cent said the pedestrian priority zones should be located in shopping areas, with a similar amount advocating the zones be installed where there is high pedestrian traffic. 33 per cent said they would be best used in certain residential areas, while 16 per cent said they should be used for all residential roads.

Improved pedestrian and cyclist safety were seen by 49 per cent and 43 per cent respectively to be the most beneficial result of bringing pedestrian-priority zones to the UK.

“Our poll reveals a surprisingly positive attitude towards better protection of cyclists and pedestrians, both in road layout and legal responsibility,” said IAM director of policy and research Neil Greig. “On the continent, attractive street design is used to make it clear where pedestrians have priority but this approach is in its infancy in the UK.

“The IAM supports any move to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, but research is needed into the best way to inform drivers about changes in legal responsibility, and also on the effect a Woonerf might have on the road sense of children brought up in such a zone, when later exposed to less protected areas.”

Respected blog Amsterdamize contacted BikeBiz to elaborate on the Woonerf concept: “The IAM’s incorrect about ‘woonerf’ and ‘confuses’ it with elements of Shared Space. ‘Woonef’ only relates to residential streets (home zones). Woonerven (plural) block cars from using it at as through ways, slowing cars down to walking speeds. Pedestrianised (commercial) zones in the Netherlands allow certain vehicles in at certain times (with automated rising pillars). There are more, different models giving priority to pedestrians and people on bikes. There’s no single solution but a range of proven means to pick from, as it goes hand in hand with urban design.”

Essentially, a ‘Woonerf’ isn’t a through route to anyone. Therefore it is easy to reduce the speed to walking pace and create parity between residents because it would be patently stupid and anti-social to have it any other way. The sign in the picture above says it all; there’s a house and people playing outside with the car set at a smaller scale. The car has its uses but it isn’t important in this area – people are.

I don’t have a problem with this country trying shared space. I do have a problem with what appears to be this country’s complete and total inability to look at other countries and learn correct interpretations and best practice approaches to shared space, home zones or cycling infrastructure that people can actually use as opposed to us doggedly sticking with something that would have made Evil Knievel think twice. LCC recently voted in favour of persuing ‘Go Dutch’ at their AGM and already people are warning of ‘segregation’ and nodding gravely even though they haven’t the faintest idea what it means in a Dutch context.

When the London Cycle Superhighways launched, I cautiously welcomed them as I thought they were a good idea in principle. However, I stupidly believed that they lent themselves heavily on the Danish model (right down to the colour)  - Copenhagen had tried creating cycle routes on minor roads parallel to main roads that cyclists were using as they were quieter (a bit like London Cycle Network +) but no-one used them as that was the planners telling cyclists where they thought they should go as opposed to where cyclists were actually going (Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize explains this and more in a talk he gave in Melbourne which I urge you to watch. The relevant bit is here). The result is a typically weak British compromise that has now resulted in two needless deaths in three weeks at Bow Roundabout in East London. Painting the same crap Barclays Blue doesn’t change anything – like when Marathon changed to Snickers.

Outside London, Warrington Cycle Campaigns ‘Facility of the Month’ site gives ample rib-tickling moments of Authorities trying to ‘get’ the bicycle and ‘get’ the idea of shared space rendering shopping area, bus stop and pavement potentially dangerous to cyclist and pedestrian alike.

It’s like we’re stubbornly using a Sat-Nav instead of stopping and asking directions even when it’s blatantly sending us miles out of our way creating more delay to our collective journey. I guess in this case the Sat-Nav is a PC with Google Streetview where we can look at a Dutch, Danish or German street and delude ourselves that we can instantly understand the context and can speak with authority on it. All we have to do is stop and ask directions and start a proper dialogue with our neighbours. Now that would be sharing.

When Cyclists Matter

I believe this has featured on other blogs but everyone needs to see this.

Another marvellous film from Markenlei (Mark Wagenbuur), this time focussing on public and media attention after an incident involving a large pick up and 4 teenage cyclists in the Netherlands.

I would advise that British (and I would suggest North American) Lo Fidelity readers watch this in a seated position with a stunned look bordering on incomprehension at a nation that actually gives a toss about its citizens.

 

I must also point you in the direction of Darlington Cycling Campaign for this wonderful post that puts a bit of good old British crappy perspective around the whole thing. David Hembrow adds Netherlands gloss.

To illustrate media perception in the UK, here is a letter in last week’s Worthing Herald. In the same issue was a story about some teenagers that were injured when the driver lost control of his car at speed. No-one wrote a letter about that. It’s just one of those things.

Long live the Embassy.

That it has come to this

'Just riding to the shop for a paper, dear'

At half past one this morning, I finally finished the rough draft minutes for the start-up meeting for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. Please feel free to peruse/comment/laugh at them. When you’ve had your fill and informed me of any additions or omissions, I shall be turning it into a formal document (maybe with some pictures if you’re lucky). I haven’t included any snide comments or backchat implying that I drew anyone to the meeting under the false pretence of free Fererro Rocher.

Anyway, I had no idea this week was ‘Culture of Fear Week’.

On Tuesday, BBC Breakfast decided to run a feature on the use of cycle helmets to secure convictions.

‘Ben Porter, a stagehand from London, bought a camera to show incredulous friends and family just how dangerous his daily commute could be.

Like many others, he uploaded clips of the worst driving onto YouTube and would discuss them on cycling forums like CycleChat.

For most cyclists, “naming and shaming” drivers is as far as it goes. But Ben decided to take things further after one van driver overtook him too close and then jumped out to confront him, shouting abuse.

“I think he wanted to teach me a lesson. It wasn’t very nice, but he didn’t notice the camera,” he said.’

This may have been prompted by the story of Martin Porter QC, Barrister and writer of the sublime Cycling Lawyer blog

From the BBC Website

Martin Porter, 48, of Sunningdale, has been knocked off his bicycle and has had drivers threaten to kill him.

He says he is collecting evidence of serious incidents to hand to police.

He said: “Earlier on this year I had a man in a car force me to the side of the road and threaten to follow me home and burn my house down.”

Firstly I would like to say that I have nothing against helmet mounted cameras or people who use them. Cases like these are not everyday occurances, it must be said. I commute 24 miles a day with not much in the way of incident (touch wood). In both instances, they have publically highlighted not only the abuse and dangerous standards of driving that many cyclists have to face day-to-day, but also the ridiculous lengths people have to go to to get a whiff of justice. I urge you to read Martin Porters account (and indeed the rest of his blog) as he writes far better than I.

I simply find it very sad that we have arrived at a point where people have felt compelled to go to these lengths just because they choose to ride a bicycle for their commute. If grown men feel that they not only have to armour themselves with a helmet but put surveillance measures on it too, then what hope is there for our nations children that would like to cycle to school?

It would appear that Northern Ireland are also keen to follow Jerseys lead and let the Culture of Fear prevail by trying to make helmet wearing compulsary. I find it incredibly perverse that despite all the troubles that the Province has faced up to, the powers that be maintain the fearmongering by making all bicycle riders wear protective headgear for getting to the shops, work and school without looking at the bigger picture. It disregards the motorists duty of responsibility to vulnerable road users and will of course have a negative effect on cycling numbers – like everywhere else it’s been implemented.

Although I am staunchly pro-choice, to me a helmet already makes cycling look like an alien activity and a camera, to me, distances cycling even further from the everyday activity that it should be.  As I’ve written before, if we honestly believe that putting protective clothing such as helmets or high-viz tabards on people should be considered the best way forward for something as simple as riding a bicycle then we have collectively failed; The Government has consistently failed to deliver on sustainable transport policy, Local Councils have consistently failed by installing infrastructure that is always a poorly designed, dangerous insult to cycling, Highways Authorities have consistently failed by upgrading main roads to the point that they become effectively unusable for cyclists and pedestrians whilst providing no decent alternative, Road Safety experts have consistently failed to address what the real issues are regarding road safety, motorists have failed with their scant regard for other road users in the self-important delusion that they own the roads, cycle campaigners and campaign groups have all consistently failed by entering a protracted dog fight that is ultimately doomed to failure. The ‘War on the Motorist’ is already over without a meaningful shot being fired and yet still produces thousands of dead and injured each year. As I look at an AA road atlas, I still note that one can drive to all points of the British Isles without let or hindrance. Cycling to all points is a different matter.

Another treat, launched this week to increase society’s sense of fear was a website pinpointing where crimes are being committed in your area (I tried to look up Midsomer but the place doesn’t exist apparently).

As stated earlier, these are very sad days indeed where, despite being rare incidences, people are facing abuse and intimidation on the roads to the point that they are compelled to wear protective clothing and cameras. Where the act of doing something so deliciously simple is made to look complex to the point of an extreme sport, just to pop out to change a library book or buy a pint of milk. Where people have to check a website to see what crime is occurring around them thereby increasing their sense of fear and keeping them behind locked house and car doors as opposed to getting out on foot or by bicycle and actually being a part of the community and realising that it’s not all bad.

The answer really is as easy as riding a bicycle and providing the infrastructure for the general public to do it.

I’m just glad all this didn’t happen during Bike Week.

Why People In The UK Don’t Cycle No 3 – DANGER!

The Guildford school run

According to Wikipedia, a ‘Parallel universe or alternative reality is a self-contained separate reality coexisting with one’s own….Fantasy has long borrowed the idea of “another world” from myth, legend and religion. Heaven, Hell, Olympus, Valhalla are all “alternative universes” different from the familiar material realm’. I would also like to tentatively add cycling.

To seasoned cyclists, the World of cycling is a vast one. It’s a World of touring, mountain biking, commuting and racing. Of hybrids, recumbents, fixed wheels, hub gears, single speeds, drop bars, carbon, steel and child seats. Of Bromptons and Moultons and old classic Bikertons. Of segregation, integration, helmets, high viz and ‘cycle chic’. All of this is passionately discussed and debated on cycling websites, forums, blogs, twitter accounts and the good old printed press.

But take just one small side step away from that World, and the average Briton can be happily and totally ignorant of cycling for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t take a lot to make that side step; just looking at the busy roads around where they live usually does it. And then going indoors.

If you were to walk up to a non-cyclist in the street with a clipboard and , once you’ve convinced them that you’re not after any money, ask them why they don’t cycle the main reason will be that the roads are too dangerous.

And that is where you should conclude your survey.

You could lead them to all sorts of statistics. You can point out that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the dangers. But the same can be said for running with the Bulls in Pamplona – If you run through the streets as a large group, you achieve a critical mass so when the Bull goes charging in only a small percentage get injured.

You could ask them to consider the fact that by driving, they are part of the problem. But the majority of Britons are happy not to ‘rock the boat’, to be a part of the silent majority whilst silently praying that the cost of motoring doesn’t escalate too much. Many would love to cycle, they really would. But they simply don’t know how to start or who to ask for advice or they simply haven’t got the time. And besides, the roads are too dangerous.

It doesn’t matter what the per mile rates for cycling death or injury is. You can train all the adults and children that you like to ride bicycles. But if the roads around them look dangerous, all that effort would have been wasted and some more bicycles are left rusting in sheds. Cycle Campaigners simply cannot grasp the fact that there are many people in the UK that have never cycled. At all. Not just ‘never cycled on a Brooks saddle’, I mean never cycled. What’s worse is that unless campaign organisations start understanding the magnitude of the problem, many more people may never experience the fun and liberation of cycling either.

My 12 mile commute to work is along the A259 from Worthing to Brighton. As I’ve written before, although it quite a wide road in places, it’s very busy with the infamous school runs and white van men and lots of HGV’s serving Shoreham Port. I passed my cycling proficiency in 1979. I’ve raced Mountain Bikes at World Cup level, I’ve helped teach beginners how to ride, I’ve commuted through Central London and through open countryside for years and yet I still find that stretch of road quite hostile. At work, my non-cycling colleagues hold me in the same regard as the Jackass team. To reiterate, this is just for riding a bicycle.

If you need further evidence that the roads are dangerous, then you need look no further than that doyen of local newspaper letters pages, the pavement cyclist. These will generally be novice cyclists that find a particular piece of road intimidating (maybe based on how they drive it) or believe that they can cycle on any pavement because the council has painted a bicycle symbol on some of them so it must be alright. Many pavement cyclists simply don’t want to be classified as cyclists or be bound by any of the laws of the land such as lights, reflectors or being the bicycle’s lawful owner.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that two things have to happen in the UK; there has to be seismic change away from draconian car-centric policy (in particular the misguided notion that motoring is the key to growth, jobs and prosperity) to open up our cities, towns and countryside alike, and there has to be a combination of speed reduction and infrastructure based preferably on the Dutch model (meaning a combination of methods and NOT only about segregated cycle paths). Above all, Government Departments and local councils have to realise what the definition of ‘Sustainable transport’ actually is (Hint: not widening or extending roads). If this doesn’t happen, then cycling will remain a counter-cultural curiosity, something that can be held at arms length and forgotten as easily as Cycling England.

There have been massive debates on blogs recently about such issues as segregation versus vehicular cycling or adopting Strict Liability laws such as in most of mainland Europe. Lots of great stuff was discussed by some very knowledgeable and lovely people. But if I was to discuss these issues with my wife’s friends or with acquaintances in my old village local, they would look at me as though I was from a parallel universe. If British cycling limps along its current path, it might as well be.

Why People In The UK Don’t Cycle No 3 – DANGER!

The Guildford school run

According to Wikipedia, a ‘Parallel universe or alternative reality is a self-contained separate reality coexisting with one’s own….Fantasy has long borrowed the idea of “another world” from myth, legend and religion. Heaven, Hell, Olympus, Valhalla are all “alternative universes” different from the familiar material realm’. I would also like to tentatively add cycling.

To seasoned cyclists, the World of cycling is a vast one. It’s a World of touring, mountain biking, commuting and racing. Of hybrids, recumbents, fixed wheels, hub gears, single speeds, drop bars, carbon, steel and child seats. Of Bromptons and Moultons and old classic Bikertons. Of segregation, integration, helmets, high viz and ‘cycle chic’. All of this is passionately discussed and debated on cycling websites, forums, blogs, twitter accounts and the good old printed press.

But take just one small side step away from that World, and the average Briton can be happily and totally ignorant of cycling for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t take a lot to make that side step; just looking at the busy roads around where they live usually does it. And then going indoors.

If you were to walk up to a non-cyclist in the street with a clipboard and, once you’ve convinced them that you’re not after any money, ask them why they don’t cycle, the main reason will be that the roads are too dangerous.

And that is where you should conclude your survey.

You could lead them to all sorts of statistics. You can point out that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the dangers. But the same can be said for running with the Bulls in Pamplona – If you run through the streets as a large group, you achieve a critical mass so when the Bull goes charging in only a small percentage get injured.

You could ask them to consider the fact that by driving, they are part of the problem. But the majority of Britons are happy not to ‘rock the boat’, to be a part of the silent majority whilst silently praying that the cost of motoring doesn’t escalate too much. Many would love to cycle, they really would. But they simply don’t know how to start or who to ask for advice or they simply haven’t got the time. And besides, the roads are too dangerous.

It doesn’t matter what the per mile rates for cycling death or injury is. You can train all the adults and children that you like to ride bicycles. But if the roads around them look dangerous, all that effort would have been wasted and some more bicycles are left rusting in sheds. Cycle Campaigners simply cannot grasp the fact that there are many people in the UK that have never cycled. At all. Not just ‘never cycled on a Brooks saddle’, I mean never cycled. What’s worse is that unless campaign organisations start understanding the magnitude of the problem, many more people may never experience the fun and liberation of cycling either.

My 12 mile commute to work is along the A259 from Worthing to Brighton. As I’ve written before, although it quite a wide road in places, it’s very busy with the infamous school runs and white van men and lots of HGV’s serving Shoreham Port. I passed my cycling proficiency in 1979. I’ve raced Mountain Bikes at World Cup level, I’ve helped teach beginners how to ride, I’ve commuted through Central London and through open countryside for years and yet I still find that stretch of road quite hostile. At work, my non-cycling colleagues hold me in the same regard as the Jackass team. To reiterate, this is just for riding a bicycle.

If you need further evidence that the roads are dangerous, then you need look no further than that doyen of local newspaper letters pages, the pavement cyclist. These will generally be novice cyclists that find a particular piece of road intimidating (maybe based on how they drive it) or believe that they can cycle on any pavement because the council has painted a bicycle symbol on some of them so it must be alright. Many pavement cyclists simply don’t want to be classified as cyclists or be bound by any of the laws of the land such as lights, reflectors or being the bicycle’s lawful owner.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that two things have to happen in the UK; there has to be seismic change away from draconian car-centric policy (in particular the misguided notion that motoring is the key to sustainable growth, jobs and prosperity) to open up our cities, towns and countryside alike, and there has to be a combination of speed reduction and infrastructure based preferably on the Dutch model (meaning a combination of methods creating a subjectively safe segregated cycle network). Above all, Government Departments and local councils have to realise what the definition of ‘Sustainable transport’ actually is (Hint: not widening or extending roads). If this doesn’t happen, then cycling will remain a counter-cultural curiosity, something that can be held at arms length and forgotten as easily as Cycling England.

There have been massive debates on blogs recently about such issues as segregation versus vehicular cycling or adopting Strict Liability laws such as in most of mainland Europe. Lots of great stuff was discussed by some very knowledgeable and lovely people. But if I was to discuss these issues with my wife’s friends or with acquaintances in my old village local, they would look at me as though I was from a parallel universe. If cycling in Britain limps along its current path, it might as well be.

Heads In The Sand

One day cycling levels in the UK will reach a tipping point and its perfectly safe already and......

According to Wikipedia, ‘Contrary to popular belief, Ostriches do not bury their heads in sand. This myth likely began with Pliny the Elder(A.D. 23-79), who wrote that Ostriches “imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed.”

It may not be true about Ostriches, but i’ve come to the conclusion that it does apply to politicians, the cycle campaigning ‘establishment’ and the ‘road safety’ lobby.

In my previous post, I pontificated about whether a non-vehicular union should be set up to promote better infrastructure for cyclists & pedestrians with space being ceded by the motor car with the aim of creating safer and more pleasant environments.

Lots of wonderful comments followed including the segregation/vehicular debate (which is being discussed very eloquently on the very good i bike london blog at the moment).

For people new to cycling, firstly welcome to a better and brighter World and I’ll quickly try to explain what that debate means to the UK.

Levels of motorised traffic have soared in recent decades. The bicycle, once a common way of getting about was increasingly seen a bit of an imposition in the way of progress. The car was the way forward and a string of Governments created national infrastructure catering for this with motorways, bypasses and ever bigger trunk roads. This infrastructure begat more traffic which begat more roads which is still happening to this day. Many people who would like to cycle find that the roads are now too dangerous for them. The cycle campaign establishment believes that we should fight for our right to the road come Hell or high water, that we should campaign for better rights to those roads believing that they’re the best cycle network we have and that at some point we shall reach a ‘tipping point’. The modal share of cycling in this country remains dismal however, despite the best vehicular efforts. The Internet has increasingly shown many cycling Britons what is happening in mainland Europe with double figure modal shares through segregated infrastructure. This will never happen in the UK say the vehicular cyclists and if we go down the segregated route as it would lead to more of the crap that we already have which is dangerous and appallingly designed. Ah, say the segregationalists, but if we started to take space away from the motor car, everyone else would have more space to create decent facilities as in the Netherlands for example. But better cycle training will lead to better road sense making segregated infrastructure superfluous say the vehicular cyclists. Yes, say the segregationalists but no-one is cycling because it is perceived as a dangerous activity to all but the most experienced cyclists.

And so on and so on.

The thing is; is this an argument that’s going to continue for another several decades amongst cycling ‘afficionados’, or are we going to take a step back and acknowledge what the real issues are behind road safety and that the solution lies somewhere in the no mans land of cycling debate?

Dr Robert Davis of the Road Danger Reduction Forum made the following comment on my last post

A few thoughts: Many moons ago I tried the idea that we shouldn’t bang on about cycling, but talk about safety. This brings in pedestrians, cyclists and also the more responsible motorists. Of course, I then found out that “road safety” as commonly understood in the world of idiot-proofing the motorist experience is part of the problem – we have to talk about road danger reductionm (RDR) instead.

Such an approach can bring in all the above mentioned organisations, and people like RoadPeace (the National road crash victims’ organisation) who also support RDR – reducing danger at source, and creating “Safe Roads for All”. We also go for a genuinely sustainable and civilised transport strategy.

Simple.

The only thing is: how are the organisations you mention going to work together? A lot of them don’t want to bite the “anti-car” bullet and panic at the thought of alienating Government (which is what lobby groups have to cosy up to). Also, a lot of their members (particularlly the racing cyclists in British Cycling) aren’t happy about perceived restrictions on motorists. A lot are just pretty toothless.

On top of that, there are the differences betwen segregationists and integrationists in cycling, and the fact that many pedestrian and disabled people’s groups just seem to want to bang on about cyclist misbehaviour.

That may seem negative. Actually, I see a lot of positive things – reduced casualty rates among increasing numbers of cyclists on my patch in inner and some parts of outer London. But the fact is that real road safety and sustainable transport has not got on the agenda. There was massive growth in motorised traffic under New Labour, and it’s not getting better under this lot.

What we can and should do is prepare the ideological ground: get across the point that we have a motor traffic and particularly car, lorry and motorbike problem. That’s the problem, both in terms of danger and subsidy towards motorisation. Anything else ignores this gorilla/elephant in the room, is Hamlet without the Prince, or – as Mikael Colville-Anderson puts it, the bull in the china shop…’ (I added the link)

Like an alcoholic in denial, this country has to face up some pretty simple facts about its addiction; that building new roads does not ease congestion, therefore are not ‘sustainable transport solutions’, that we still we still allow traffic to drive to pretty much all points of every city and town in the land at 30mph+, that approximately 9 people a day die each day on our roads and for some reason we just accept this, that those that cause the damage get away with relative impunity and that our roads are only safer because no-one walks or cycles anywhere.

There needs to be an acceptance of this by Government, national cycle campaign groups and the road safety lobby before we can continue with any other cycling debate.

The perverse thing is that cycling unwittingly fits into ConDem ideals with regards ‘Big Society’; Volunteers have always been the backbone of cycling from local campaigners to Sustrans Rangers to British Cycling marshals to devilishly handsome blog writers. Also you would have thought that there would have been more active promotion of cycling with all this localism talk and ‘Save the High Street‘ Campaigns that are hitting the headlines. Cycling keeps local money local and would breathe new life into flagging small businesses.

If we don’t address these issues directly, and learn from places like the Netherlands for proper engineering solutions, then we will certainly become a ‘Big Society’, but for all the wrong reasons.

Cycle Campaigning Simplified No. 2 – ‘Road Safety’

Of course, they’re sitting far too close to a rural road. They need high-viz and eye protectors and…

A curious one this. You probably thought road safety meant safety to all road users. You may have given a lot of thought to your local area and how difficult it looks to get around by bicycle and how dangerous it seems just to get to work or the shops. Being a nice, sane person, you want to do something about it like start a campaign group. Welcome to the insane World of Road Safety.

The whole concept of road safety is fundamentally flawed for these very simple reasons; Motorised traffic is treated as though they were on the roads first, the motorists themselves think that they exclusively pay for the roads. Therefore cyclists and pedestrians are merely guests that have to take all safety precautions necessary for what is increasingly regarded as a dangerous environment. The fact that cyclists and pedestrians were there first, that motorists don’t pay for the roads and that, unlike motorists, cyclists and pedestrians actually have the right to be there tends to get completely and utterly overlooked.

The Government, the Department for Transport and Councils across the land bang on about their commitment to sustainable transport and road safety where of course what they actually mean is a commitment to sustainable transport and road safety as long as it doesn’t annoy the ‘poor beleaguered motorist’ (voters) and the motoring lobby. A motoring lobby that advertises extensively in all national and local newspapers, radio and TV stations (also sponsoring documentaries – nice touch and what you need for unbiased subject matter).

The result is that if a car crashes, the road ‘engineering’ is examined and yet incredibly, no-one questions the car. There is widespread approval amongst the general public for schemes such as 20mph in urban areas (thereby linking school zones which are generally ignored with the residential areas that children could walk or cycle in from) or speed cameras and yet these are seen as part of an arsenal in the ‘War on the Motorist’. No-one questions that metal boxes weighing a ton traveling at speed is a problem that needs to be directly addressed. Instead, the onus of road safety falls on the most vulnerable, requiring helmets and high visibility tabards. Why?

If you are in a campaign group you will find that Highways Engineers will be all too happy to shovel you off the roads in the name of road safety but onto barely converted pavements with bicycle symbols on them, rendering cycling even more dangerous and circuitous. You will only find out about these plans when its too late and the work has been designed, signed off and programmed. Another thing you’ll notice, and a fundamental failure of Government, DfT and Councils is that at no point is space ceded by motorists. This has got to stop.

I’ve come to regard cycling as the beaten partner in the relationship of road users; cyclists are sometimes subject to verbal and physical abuse from bigger, more powerful assailants. Cyclists are often made to feel that the deaths and serious injuries that occur are their fault and if they get hit they only have themselves to blame.  Cycling has to consider itself lucky to get its tiny amounts of housekeeping money. The assailant in all this portrays themselves cunningly as the victim manipulating facts to allow them to continue killing and injuring with relative impunity. Finally, there’s the fact that cyclists keep going back for more, being faithfully and hopelessly devoted.

It’s time to find a new lover. Maybe something a bit more exotic and European. Dutch or Danish maybe?

1 2