Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dear Cycle lobbyists....

I first want to continue to have a clear stance on cyclists. I fully respect and appreciate the bravery and commitment of those who do battle with all sorts of dangers and risks involved in riding a pushbike in London, and other busy cities for that matter. I agree that motor vehicles and cycles need some form of separation and safety buffer for the cyclist, and in some cases the motorist needs educating on aspects of hazard perception....BUT... and there is a pretty big BUT.... Attitudes of some cyclists need to change too.

The reason I am even writing this follow up entry is a simple video made my TfL.
This video was made, low budget, quick produce and post moment, and was done for the benefit of any cyclists out there who have never driven a large vehicle. A simple 1 min of education to raise awareness of the blindspots in a turning lorry. Have a watch, I think for most road users its probably a bit of an eye opener.

In response to this video, a number of cycle campaigners have decided to try and turn it on TfL and say 'And THIS is why lorries need to be kept away from bicycles...'

So a couple of points from me then.

IF you want all threats to be kept away from cyclists, who is going to be using the roads? Cyclists and motorcyclists maybe? Clearly the biggest contributors to financing the road networks there im sure!

IF you want a safety buffer between bikes and vehicles.... STOP RIDING UP THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD between cars and lorries travelling in opposite directions!

IF you want cars to use their mirrors to see you in, give cars and other vehicles a chance and stop switching sides. A vehicle turning left will check their left mirror before the turn. If you are riding to their right, then switch quickly because it suits you, they will NOT have seen you.

I realise one of the greatest appeals of cycle commuting is the freedom of the route you take, the speed you travel, and not getting caught up in traffic jams. I think its brilliant that so many are willing to battle the elements to have a cleaner and healthier approach to travel in London. Sadly however with the freedom of being something so small, comes a huge danger and vulnerability to the slightest impact with the road or its users.

So think about these things for a minute, please.

When turning at a junction. You may be ABLE to position yourself to the left or right of a car, but the driver of the cars also turning will generally ONLY be looking in the mirror to the side of the car relating to the direction they are turning. Example, a car turning right will only be looking down the right side of the vehicle. If you turn on their left, they wont have seen you, so as you enter the new road, for a moment they have NO idea there is a bike between them and the kerb, so DONT ride down the inside of them, hold back for a minute.

Slow moving traffic is one of the biggest causes of rear end shunts. That's right, the car behind another massive car for a moment has a lapse in concentration and hits a large coloured metal box in front of them, even with lights on. Concentration levels in heavy traffic FALL with motorists. Legally and sensibly right or wrong, its a simple FACT. If a driver can not see a car, they are also not going to see cyclists. Yes the motorist will be to blame, but at the same time you will probably be injured. SO what's more important, being right or being safe?

Humans don't cope well with being swarmed. Imagine a customer services rep at a station where all the trains have been delayed. Everyone wants answer, everyone is surrounding and talking. In reality its a situation the mind just cant cope with, so it shuts certain voices and faces out and focuses on others. When learning to drive, drivers are taught to watch out for cyclists, and on their lessons will come across a few here and there, and you can cope with that.
In real life rush hour situations, suddenly your car is surrounded by 10+ cyclists at a time, going at different speeds, stopping, wobbling, speeding past the left and the right. An accident waiting to happen in the disorganised unruly mess of the cycle swarm. No different to commuters in a tube station, all wanting to get to their destination, all the most important person there, and all with no interest in the people around them.

Speaking of the cycle swarm, that brings me back to the start. There is high demand for this 'more space for cyclists' at the moment, which in a perfect world would be great. If there was the room to realistically make segregated areas for cyclists even I would consider commuting by bike. But the simple fact is, there is NO more room. All these wonderful ideas of banning lorries, dedicating lanes to cyclists etc just are not going to happen.
Like it or not, cars, vans, buses and lorries all have a right and 90% a good reason to be on London's roads. Tackling the school run vehicles would see a large drop in peak time users, as the summer holidays demonstrate, but there is no quick fix there. Maybe the BILLION or so being spent on the roads with cyclists in mind should be targeted at school buses instead. Reduce the school run vehicles on the roads, free up spaces on public transport? Just a thought.

The biggest point is quite a simple one, but takes a while to make.
Most cyclists consider themselves in some way a free spirit, with freedom of the roads. Some also believe they are free of any rules and regulations. Sadly some are genuinely free.... of any common sense, and will put themselves in danger regardless of how many millions are spent, and how many miles or cycle lanes and paths are created, some will decide they want to ride differently to the rest.
You only have to look at the Cycle Superhighways that were created, huge wide lanes taking a chunk out of some of London's busiest roads, but STILL you see cyclists filtering through the other lanes of traffic, trying to beat the other cyclists in some imaginary race.
The same way barriers are put up to stop people crossing at dangerous points, so people just jump the  'inconvenient' barrier and get collected by a bus. Or DO NOT swim signs are put up around reservoirs, yet people still risk it, and drown.

It is human nature to explore, disobey and take chances in order to achieve things, so it is understandable that people want to be individual and break free of the mould. The problem sadly is, that as long as these people continue to swarm cars, ignore cycle lanes and flaunt genuine rules, your cause it lost. Change comes when it is clear and evidence can be found that the change and spending of money would have a positive impact on the situation. Unfortunately cycle lobbyists who feel that the lorry turning left is ALWAYS to blame, or one who misinterprets the rules of the road into their favour are the achillies heel in the plan.

Yesterday someone insisted that a vehicle stopped in the Advance Stop Box (ASB) or beyond the first Advanced Stop Line (ASL) was against the law, and 'illegal'. And somehow endangered the pedestrians.
Well, that is sadly just ignorant. Being stopped in the ASB or beyond the 1st ASL is not breaking the rules at all, and is far from 'illegal'. Illegal generally refers to criminal law, not the road traffic act.
Just for those unsure on the matter, allow be to quote from the Met Police.

Do not enter the ASL box when the light is red – this space is reserved for the safety of cyclists.
Crossing the first or second ASL line when the light is red makes you liable for a £100 fixed penalty, three points on your licence, and endangers vulnerable road users.
If the traffic light changes from green to amber and you cannot safely stop before the first stop line, you may cross the line but must stop before the second stop line (Highway Code rule 178).
Do not cross the second stop line while the traffic signal is red. Contravening a traffic signal is against the law, and could result in a £50 fine.

Myth Busting

Myth: There’s a car in the ASL box - the driver must have committed an offence.
Not true. The offence is committed when the vehicle enters the ASL box when the light is red. If the vehicle enters the box and the light changes to red, no offence is committed
Rule 178 of the Highway Code states:
If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area.
We don’t want motorists to wrongly believe that they shouldn’t stop in the ASL box under any circumstances – this might cause someone to panic, drive through a junction and cause an accident.
Myth: Motorbikes are allowed in the ASL.
Not true. The law applies to motorbikes and scooters, too.

And TfL's stance on the matter...

Drivers caught crossing the first or second advanced stop lines when the signal is red will be liable for a £60 fixed penalty charge and three points on their licence. The only exception to this rule is if the traffic signal changes from green to amber and drivers cannot safely stop before the first stop line.
In addition to stepping up enforcement on motorists, rogue cyclists are also being targeted. While most cyclists ride responsibly - some do not, and this can anger other road users. Cyclists will be targeted for jumping red lights and issued with a £30 fine if caught doing so.

So I hope that clears up any confusion for anyone.

There is a lot of ignorance out there, a heck of a lot of arrogance, and a whole lot of me me me going on. And THAT is the problem. Not lanes, not laws, not money... Just peoples attitudes and intelligence.
Any cyclist who decides to be a lone wolf and do their own thing, any one who thinks they can just squeeze down the side of the lorry before it turns, or that red lights are only for vehicles with engines... YOU are the problem, YOU are the idiot!
Education, moderation, and just a little bit of patience go a long way to saving lives. Regardless of who's fault an accident is, a fatality means a family without a loved one, and a chain of friends with a missing link. 

Stay safe out there, everyone !

PS Tuvaaq says 'Stay Safe, Be Seen'

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