Archives For Article

Turning the corner

December 9, 2016 — Leave a comment

British Cycling launched the campaign #TurningTheCorner. A campaign to simplify the rules around turning at junctions, to make it safe for cyclists and pedestrians and to reduce casualties.

I can’t fault the idea of making the roads safer. I’m 100% behind that. However I am concerned with how this is actually going to be implemented. If we look at countries which already have such rules in place, they usually A. have better infrastructure. B. the rules have been established for a while C. More people cycle, more people know people who cycle and generally cycling is more accepted, as such people are more aware.

I can just see now a stream of cyclists going northbound on CS7 past Clapham Common on approach to Rookery Road and a vehicle waiting to turn left, they will be there for one hell of a time. Approach speeds can easily be greater than 20mph and I would struggle to trust a driver to not turn across the path of the cyclists.

And I have many more examples of exactly the same at this junction.

We have a real life example of how a change to the road can fix this. A few years ago I witnessed a truck overtaking a cyclist at Oval and turning left across her, it very nearly resulted in her going under the wheels of said truck. Read about that case.

The junction as it used to be, cyclists going straight had to share a lane with motorists turning left.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-22-37-59

The junction now is very different, cyclists are separated from motor traffic and turning cars have a different phase of light.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-22-37-24

 

One way the dutch do it (when space is available) is fantastic. The turning traffic is 90 degrees to the cyclists, and as such do not need to rely on their mirrors to see cyclists, they look out their side windows and windscreen. Cyclists in this situation have priority and cars can only go when it is clear for them to do so.

To summarise. Changes need to be made, and London has been making some fantastic changes recently that has resulted in an increase in people cycling. But we need to improve the areas that don’t have such facilities and the rest of the country. I know that personally I would be cautious of passing a left indicating vehicle on the left, even if the law states that they must wait for me to pass.

That is what is being reported over the following video

But it is a little more complicated than that. As someone with extensive experience in dealing with the Police, CPS and the Courts in similar cases I thought I could shed some light on this, however I saw that a user called Dan S on road.cc posted a very good summary, it is listed below.

  1. It’s a hire car.
  2. The police did what they should have done and served a s172 notice, requiring the hire company to tell them who hired it.
  3. The car had been hired out to a man but with two permitted drivers: him and a female. They were also served with s172 notices requiring them to say which had been driving.
  4. They declined to say who had been driving. This is obviously extremely reprehensible. Note that at this point the fact of its being a hire car becomes irrelevant. It is exactly the same situation as if my car hits somebody (or just goes througha red light/speed camera) and my wife and I refuse to say which of us was driving.
  5. A few people have said that the failure to find out who it was shows that the police either don’t care or are incompetent. This is simply wrong. It is conceivable (likely, in fact) that the car went outside the view of CCTV. In any event the police would not have gone to CCTV until it became apparent that the car was a hire and the hirer wasn’t complying. Doing so would have been a complete waste of resources as most people do comply. By the time they got that far it is likely that any CCTV other than city council would have been wiped – most provate companies keep their CCTV for short periods only, to save space. You can only check out an alibi if they give one – they may not have done so.
  6. The same goes for mobile phone positioning, with the added complication that it is very difficult and very expensive to do a precise triangulation of mobile phone position. The bit that can be done relatively easily is call data. That just shows you which cells were used and this is not sufficient to say exactly where you were (it can be a range of several kilometers). It also only works if you are actually using your phone at the time. Anything beyond that rough position requires very time-consuming and expensive work. By which I mean that police resources are such that it is very rare to get it in cases like organised burglary and drug dealing gangs. This does not mean that the police don’t care about this case or about cycling generally. It means that they do not have infinite resources. Add complications like showing who had which phone at the time (basically impossible in some cases) and the decision not to go down that route is entirely right.
  7. Both were summonsed for failing to stop, failing to report and failing to respond to their s172 notices. The CPS (rightly) took the view that there was no prospect of conviction on the failing to stop and failing to report for exactly the same reason that there is no prospect of a conviction for dangerous driving: it is impossible to identify the driver. This, by the way, is not the CPS being incompetent of uncaring or a bunch of car drivers who cyclists. It’s the CPS applying the law.
  8. The male (presumably it was he who hired the car) was convicted of failing to answer the s172 notice. The female doesn’t appear to have been convicted, which makes sense – she would only be lawfully required to reply if she was the driver. Since we would only have the male’s word for that, she wouldn’t be convicted (the Prosecution not being able to rely on a Defendant’s word in their case).
  9. The male was fined £150. This is shockingly low. The maximum is £1000. This low fine is not the fault of the police or the CPS. It is a decision taken my magistrates. They have sentencing guidelines that they have to pay heed to but are free to excedd in appropriate case. Personally I would have thought that this justified a higher fine but I (like everybody else here) don’t know the details of what led to the decision, so cannot say for certain.
  10. The male received 6 penalty points. This is the maximum penalty in terms of driving punishment. The fact that this is the maximum is not the fault of the police, CPS or Magistrates. It is the fault of the Parliament of 1988 that passed the Road Traffic Act and of every Parliament since that has not increased it.
  11. Personally I feel that the penalty for willfully failing to provide details should be the same as the penalty for whatever offence the unidentified driver committed. It isn’t. If those who are talking about writing to MPs want to put something useful in their letters, leave aside calls for expensive infrastructure and education that will probably be ignored. Write and suggest an amendment to make wilfully failing to supply driver details punishable with the same penalty as the offence that the driver committed. That’s the actual lesson from this case.

This is not a case, as far as the reports show, where the police have been lazy, incompetent or uncaring about cyclists. Nor have the CPS. The only reprehensible behaviour has been by the driver and possibly by the other eligible driver (I say possibly because it may be that each said it was the other, in which case the non-driver has done nothing wrong). And possibly the court sentenced too low but really would a £1000 fine have reduced the justifiable sense of injustice here?

It is also a case that highlights a problem with the current legislation. That is not something that can be fixed by the police, the CPS or the courts. It needs a Bill in Parliament.

I shall add to point 9 that these fines are usually based on the income of the individual. I say this based on being involved in cases of the same nature where people have declined to say who was driving.

A few months back TrafficDroid posted a short video of him being knocked off by a Taxi in London. Recently an update has been posted with the results.

So the basics of this is the cyclist was travelling in a straight line, thought the overtake was too close so sounded his horn. Driver stopped whilst moving to the left in an attempt to block the cyclist, cyclist carries on, driver passes again this time much closer, moving left and knocks the cyclist over and in between parked cars.

The results of this are 6 points on his license and a £700 fine + court costs.

Some might say, good result. But if I’m honest, I’m disappointed in our system. This was clearly a purposeful act and yet he only gets done for driving without due care, 6 points and a £700 fine.
Because Taxi drivers are self-employed, it is hard to say how much one earns. It’s often thrown around that they are tax dodgers. I don’t think the £700 fine is that much.

But lets put it this way. A professional driver purposefully used his vehicle to knock a vulnerable road user over and into some parked vehicles. If anyone in any other occupation did something comparable, they would be fired from their job and struggle to work in the same field again. Yet when it comes to professional drivers they are let off, back into the street to do the same to the next cyclist that doesn’t agree with him.

Why does our legal system allow this to happen? This sort of driving is not by mistake and it’s clear from his response of “what are you doing?” And not “oh my god are you ok? I’m so sorry” that he did this on purpose.

I won’t even mention the false witness statements that other taxi drivers who didn’t witness it are willing to put forward to help their buddy.

Mintel released a press release last week about the cycling market in the UK and one of the things they commented on was the average price of a bicycle.

In 2012 that was apparently £206, in 2013 it had risen £27 to £233. This seems remarkably low and I have asked Mintel to comment on how they worked it out, I have yet to have a response.

The average selling price of a bike has risen £27 from £206 in 2012 to £233 in 2013.

Note that they state selling price and not sold price. So it should be prices of the bikes on the shelves and has no relation to those actually sold or what quantity.

As I thought this was so remarkably low I decided to look into a couple of the online sellers of cycles in the UK to find out what the average selling price was. These sellers are Argos, Halfords, Sports Direct, Evans, Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles. Being knowledgable about the internet, I know a fairly easy way to get the information from the websites and was able to get all the prices of all the bikes on all the sites. This included kids bikes, which are mostly under the £233 mark.

Bike Shop Average cost of cycle
Argos £234
Chain Reaction Cycles £1015
Evans Cycles £1454
Halfords £420
Sports Direct £124
Wiggle £1430

From those 6 bike shops we have over 3566 bikes with an average price of £779.

I’m highly surprised at the average price of a cycle in the UK being £233, and my findings show that the number is nowhere near when looking at a range of shops.

Reflective clothing makes up part of high visibility clothing, the other half being a fluorescent material that reacts with UV light and emits it back out in the visible spectrum so the clothing appears brighter.

The reflective part of the clothing is for night-time use, where there is obviously no UV light so the fluorescent material is ineffective.

Many people think that a fluorescent jacket is the be all and end all of safe visibility on the roads, be that for cyclists, pedestrians or motorcyclists. But is that true?

There was a study a while back in Australia called “Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility do not necessarily match reality” it’s a very good read and states that reflective clothing is best placed on the legs, as this is a moving part of the body and is in the main beam of a car headlight, as such, stands out more.

Hi-viz clothing is built with retroreflectives, which is made using small glass balls that reflect light back to the source within a very tight angle. The performance of a reflector is still noticeable just outside of the reflected range, but the performance decreases. This means that the greater the angle between the light, the reflecting object and the observer, the worse the performance. To put this in real world terms, it means the performance of reflectors is better for cars than it is for a HGV, as the observer’s eye is much higher up from the lights.

This creates an obvious issue, for the reflectors to be bright to the observer, they must have a light source shining towards it from the observer. A common scenario where this doesn’t happen is when a vehicle is turning out of a side road, the driver does not have a light source shining at cyclists, pedestrians or motorcyclists, and as such, the reflectors don’t appear bright!

If we look at how head lights work on a motor vehicle, the majority of the beam is aimed at the ground, there is a cut off point that happens bellow the hip. A small amount of light is shining higher up than the cut off, but a very small amount in comparison to the main beam. As pointed out earlier, the Australian study shows that reflectives on the legs (which would be in the main beam) are more visible than reflectives on the top.

A couple of cycling related stories recently have shown hi-viz to be better than it actually is. Wiggle for example in their Conquering the commute… Top Tips for Cycle Commuting blog post showed fluorescent material to be very bright at night and the reflectives to be very poor. I suspect some lighting behind the camera and some editing on the picture has made this a little far from the truth.

Hi-viz from wiggle blog post

I have taken some photos to show how reflectives work in the real world. I’m using my car with the main beam on (unless otherwise stated), I have a hi-viz jacket set up on a coat hanger hanging from a tripod at around the hight of a 5ft10in person, with two strips of reflective material taken from the same kind of jacket.

30 paces away, the bottom reflectives appear brighter

Main beam turned off. Jacket despite being yellow, is barely visible

High beam on

main beam of the car on, standing next to the car

Standing behind the car, reflectives still visible

Standing further to the side, bottom reflector is twisting, so shining slightly

within 5 paces of the car, showing the cut off on the headlight.

the bottom part is twisting, so again, shining slightly.

torched pointed at the hi-viz, much more effective! The torch is much no where near as powerful as a the car headlights.

The point of this post? To point out that hi-viz is not the be all and end all of being seen. Like helmets, we should be not disillusioned to the safety that they provide!