Be safe, be seen, or be unprotected by the justice system

There are regular attempts to get cyclists (and other vulnerable road users) to “take responsibility for their own safety” by dressing in high visibility clothing. I’m not talking about using lights and reflective panels (either on the bike or the body) in gloomy or dark weather, but the frequent push for cyclists to wear fluorescent yellow or orange during the day in normal visibility.

On the face of it, it seems quite reasonable to suggest that cyclists should wear clothing that will make them seen more readily, but even ignoring the fact that the evidence that high-vis reduces cyclist injuries is equivocal at best, there are several problems with this.

Whilst well-meaning, campaigns such as this rather miss the point; that it is the driver’s responsibility to safely control their vehicle, and that means properly observing their environment.

People don’t demand cars are all painted in high-vis, and we expect drivers to not just drive into parked cars. Similarly kerbs, trees, and fences seem to avoid the calls to wear high-vis for their own safety.

New Forest ponies though, have also been caught up in the knee-jerk push to blame victims for their own injuries.

The bottom line is that a competent driver will see hazards in the road no matter what they are wearing, because as per highway code rule 126 they will be driving “at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear”

The message campaigns like this promote is that if a driver hits someone who wasn’t wearing high-vis, it’s not the driver’s fault. The driver couldn’t possibly be expected to see and react to someone on the road unless they were decked out in fluorescent yellow.

Police are also sometimes stopping cyclists for not wearing high-vis clothing.

The consequences of this approach are that now police are sometimes not referring cases to the CPS if the cyclist was not wearing high-vis.

So well done everyone promoting high-visibility clothing. You’ve made it less safe for cyclists.

Are cyclists frequently recklessly endangering pedestrians?

With thanks to @Jono_Kenyon, I was brought to the attention of a rather perplexing article.

Jim Thomas, writing for taxileaks has written an article where the first paragraph claims that “Speeding cyclists are putting pedestrians and other road users at risk in Central London”

As evidence for this, he has looked at the leaderboards of certain Strava segments.

The example on the article, for the segment Millbank (up) does indeed have the top 20 male riders completing the segment at an average of over 30mph. The top 3, which Mr Thomas drew particular attention to, had an average of 34mph. Too fast for a cycle lane, you might think.

However, look at the names of the top 3 riders:
Kristian House
soupe geoffrey
Evan O.

I have linked to their wikipedia entries: they are professional cyclists. These three segment times were recorded on August 4th 2013, when the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic race was on, which was a professional event held entirely on closed roads.

I went on to look at the other top 20 times on that segment, and only one of them was not recorded in that race, and that was the slowest one in the top 20, at 31.6mph. That’s still pretty fast, but rather puts the claim that “Speeding cyclists are putting pedestrians and other road users at risk” in perspective. Mr Thomas might as well complain about Formula 1 drivers doing 100mph on the streets of Monaco: the logic is identical.

He goes on to claim that people recording Strava segments are engaging in “compeditive [sic] urban road racing” which is over-egging the pudding, to put it mildly. Whilst some cyclists might use Strava to see how they stack up against other cyclists on the same route, and push themselves to record a faster time, to portray that as racing, is completely ludicrous.

Mr Thomas goes on to discuss a specific video he links to where the cyclist is travelling at an average of 32mph in a 30 limit. Mr Thomas complains that “the cyclist is traveling too fast to be overtaken by any vehicle on the stretch between Vauxhall and Lambeth Bridges”. I must confess I do not understand what point he’s trying to make here. If the cyclist is going at or slightly above the speed limit, then no vehicle ought to be overtaking him anyway. And if he is travelling below the limit, and it is safe to overtake, then he cannot be travelling too fast to be overtaken. Perhaps he is suggesting that only drivers should be allowed to speed? (possible, as surveys consistently report that the majority of drivers are habitual speeders 1)

A further relevant point is that speed limits do not legally apply to bicycles, as they are not a “mechanically propelled vehicle”; the legislation specifically only applies to motor vehicles. That’s not to say that cyclists should feel free to simply ride as fast as they want to: they should cycle at a safe speed for the conditions. However, as a cyclist+rider will weigh only roughly a fifth of a normal car, and therefore the kinetic energy contained will be a fifth of a car travelling at the same speed, a cyclist travelling at 35mph poses much less of a risk to others as a driver travelling at 35mph.

So perhaps Mr Thomas, if he is genuinely concerned about the danger to pedestrians, ought to concentrate his criticism on motor vehicles, which pose by far the greatest danger to pedestrians.

uc6IF4Y-9EoepJ3ZRXsAOhs8Ulbpgi4dDhNQaWPmg6g

 


RAC Report on Motoring 2015, page 8: “Seven in ten drivers (70%) say they regularly or occasionally break the 70mph motorway limit … percentages admitting to exceeding the 30mph and 20mph limits both being 44%”

I want to break the law and get away with it

M25 Motorway

Much wailing and frothing at the mouth this week at the news that Bedfordshire’s PCC is proposing a “zero tolerance” stance to motorway speeding.

Cue apologists for lawbreakers moaning about the poor, put-upon motorist being used as a “cash cow” for unfair taxes. If fines from speeding are to be considered a tax, they are an entirely voluntary one. If you don’t want to pay, the answer is trivially simple: don’t driver faster than the posted limit.

Whether or not you think that 70MH is a reasonable limit on the motorway, the fact is that it’s the legal limit. If you choose to exceed it, you have no grounds to complain if you are caught and prosecuted for it.

I would prefer that any zero tolerance towards speeding occur first on more minor roads, where vulnerable road users are more at risk.

A somewhat more legitimate criticism is that speed cameras do not detect dangerous driving that happens to be within the speed limit – tailgating, middle lane hogging, driving too fast for the conditions at hand, mobile phone use etc. Whilst true, it doesn’t detract from the usefulness of cameras for catching drivers so incompetent and unobservant that they cannot master the basic skill of driving within the speed limit.

This Headline is Misleading

The way a headline or article is written can make a big difference to how an event is perceived.

Consider the recent video of a cyclist, doored by a parked car, causing him to be pushed into the path of a following taxi.

This has been picked up by various media outlets. Compare the headlines:

Cyclist knocked into path of oncoming taxi by car door

Heart-stopping moment cyclist falls into path of a black cab after swerving to avoid car door

Dramatic dash cam footage captures moment cyclist falls into path of oncoming taxi

With:

Terrifying moment cyclist swerves in front of London cabbie captured on film

LBC had also originally run a headline of

WATCH: Heart-stopping video captures the moment cyclist veers in front of taxi

But they since changed it to

Cyclist Almost Run Over While Avoiding Car Door

The two headlines in the second group clearly imply that the cyclist just suddenly swerved in front of the taxi, with no mention of the dooring that caused it. A casual reader, who then didn’t read the actual article, would be left with the impression that the cyclist was the agent of their own misfortune, when nothing could be further from the truth.

At least LBC responded to criticism and changed their headline to more accurately reflect the facts. At the time of writing, ITV’s is still there.

It’s pretty lazy and irresponsible of journalists (or subeditors) to write headlines like this. So if you see headlines that follow the pattern above, do please complain to the organisation, and maybe they’ll get the message.

Dangerous Cycle Lanes

Following on from my post about the cyclist hit by someone opening their door without looking, I asked people to provide examples of cycle lanes that abutted parked cars, which not only encourage cyclists to ride in a dangerous position, but give drivers an incorrect notion of where cyclists ought to be.

I was completely inundated with responses. It seems this problem is widespread, with locations all over the UK and abroad where road designers have actually built cycle lanes that increase the danger posed to cyclists. The purpose of cycle lanes is too often seen as a way of removing cycles from being “in the way” of motor vehicles, rather than safely separating cyclists and motor vehicles to make it safer for cyclists. Designers need to build it right, or not build it at all.

We desperately need minimum design standards for cycle infrastructure, in the same way as we have design standards for “normal” roads, that local authorities are obliged to follow.

Here are a few of the examples I received.



Many thanks to the following twitter users:

@Berk_On_A_Bike
@ChrisC_CFC
@citycyclists
@HelenCLondon
@BedHead1158
@fyinnertube
@mikeqtoo
@ErnieMarples
@JoeSoap76
@StripyMoggie
@UrbanManc
@DracorumOrder
@adventuresofrob
@lizbatty

And thanks to everyone else who responded. Sorry I couldn’t use them all, but this post was getting loser-length enough as it was!

The Door Zone

Most cyclists know to avoid the door zone; that area abutting parked cars where a door could be carelessly flung open into one’s path. And here is an excellent example as to why.

The driver did well to get on the brakes and avoid running over the cyclist. If I had been driving I would have hung back and not overtaken the cyclist until there was more room – don’t forget, cyclists can fall off for all sorts of reasons such as pot holes.

Official training and advice reinforces this.

However, there several instances of “official” cycle infrastructure that encourages you to ride in the door zone

Furthermore, it is also a common occurrence to receive abuse from some ignorant motorists for taking primary.

Do we need a public information film to explain to drivers that when we take primary position, it’s not to annoy drivers, but for our own safety and visibility?

Driver who killed Alan Neve should never have been employed as HGV driver

In June 2013, Barry Meyer drove the HGV he was driving into Alan Neve, killing him.

Mr Meyer jumped a red light, was uninsured and unlicenced (for that class of vehicle), and failed to see Mr Neve, driving straight into him.

Unfortunately, this post is going to be depressing reading.
Continue reading