Archives For ASL

Today TFL released a press release regarding enforcement of ASL/bike boxes to help improve cycle safety in the capital.

Basically they are working with the police in giving motorists, motorcyclists and cyclists advice about how the bike boxes should be used. In their own press release TFL give a history of the ASL in the UK, it goes like this

ASLs were first introduced into the UK in Oxford in 1986, primarily as a measure to increase safety for cyclists by enabling them to move in front of traffic queues at signal controlled junctions. The regulations and layouts permitted for ASLs and lead-in lanes are contained within the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 2002. This was introduced in December 2002 and came into effect on 31 January 2003 for new schemes

So ASLs have been part of UK infrastructure since 1986 and have had a law regarding their whole use in place for 10 years. But only now are road users being taught about them. The problem we have is that you pass a test to drive and you can go the rest of your driving life without having to pick up a copy of the highway code or reading about new implementations to the road network.

As new signs, laws, road markings etc.. are introduced into the road network, current road users are only made aware of such additions if they look into them or if they are brought up on them. How can we fix this?

Test people!

As road users, I speak here as a cyclist and as a motorists, we should be regularly tested at intervals on road theory, things change and I’m sure that a 60-year-old driver who has been driving for more than 40 years is not aware of many of the additional changes made to the road network in that time frame. Even if it was a 10 year interval then all motorists would have been made aware of bike boxes and we wouldn’t need to educate them this time round but instead fine them for not following the rules that are set to them!

Enforce rules!

10 years! It’s been 10 years since ASL and their function where backed by law and in that time frame it has been extremely rare for a motorist to be pulled up for the offence of not stopping correctly at a red light and encroaching in the bike box. That’s a shocking time frame and this should have been something that was addressed from day 1. Not just because it’s breaking the law but because those boxes were put in for safety reasons and by no one following by the rules it nullifies the safety aspects! WHAT IS THE POINT?

TFL have included some safety tips for both motorists and cyclists regarding ASLs

Motorists

  • Do not enter the Advanced Stop Line (ASL) box when the light is red – this space is reserved for the safety of cyclists;
  • Crossing the first or second ASL lines when the light is red makes you liable for a £60 fixed penalty, three points on your licence, and endangers vulnerable road users;
  • If the traffic signal 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).

All good but adding a few other things like

  • Be aware of cyclists filtering towards the ASL whilst you are waiting in stationery traffic, give them time and space to join into the traffic flow were required
  • If you are stopped in the ASL, please be aware of cyclists who attempt to use it and allow them to pull away safely.

Now for the cycling one.

Cyclists

  • 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 £30 fine;
  • For more information on ASL safety tips visit: www.tfl.gov.uk/safetytips
  • The MPS have explained some of the myths around ASLs on its new ASL dedicated webpage: www.tinyurl.com/ASLadvice.

The information on the TFL site is actually quite good for TFL, although some of the images and spaces defined as safe overtaking are a little worrying.
The information on the Met site is of course detailed and well thought out, the myth busting info is pretty good as well.

However I would add one final point for cyclists

  • The ASL is not a target, if you can’t get to it safely, do not attempt to reach it. Take a strong position where you are and keep safe.

Interestingly all the documentation does not state how cyclists might enter the ASL, at present cyclists can only legally enter an ASL via a feeder cycle lane or at a broken point of the ASL. Both of these are usually to the left of the cycle lane, which is probably one of the most dangerous places to filter. It’s much safer to enter from the right (usually blocked by motorcyclists) or by the middle on a two lane road.

To sum this all up. 10 years too late, nothing has changed there then.

Rapid Ready Mix

October 26, 2011 — 3 Comments

I uploaded a video a few weeks ago of a large cement mixer not driving perfectly on the road. Minor stuff including encroaching into an ASL and overtaking and pulling in just before some stopped cars.

Like I said, nothing major, but I uploaded it and forwarded it onto the Police so they could get in contact with the company and sort out this behaviour before someone gets hurt. I was going to forward it onto the company as well but didn’t get around to it.

Before I could contact the company I got a message from a subscriber on youtube, I’ll call him Mark, Mark had been in contact with the company and got an interesting reply.

I appreciate your concern but unfortunately I don’t think it was as dangerous as you’re making out. I would appreciate if “gaz545” could get in the bike lane rather than cycling on the line!

The reply came from someone who I shall name Paul, Mark replied to Paul and quickly set him straight on a few things, including positioning and the legal side of the ASL.
I also contacted Paul and wrote the following

Your comment to Mark, ‘I would appreciate if “gaz545” could get in the bike lane rather than cycling on the line!’.
Quite obviously you are not aware on how bicycle lanes function or the requirements of cyclists to use them. There is in fact no legal requirement for cyclists to use any cycle lane that is provided for them and we are often advised not to cycle in them because they are poorly designed, not wide enough and are often filled with glass and other sharp objects such as stones.

Whilst you would appreciate that I should stay in the bike lane, i believe it is fair for me to expect Rapid Ready Mix vehicles to drive safely around vulnerable users and in general on the road.
Your driver clearly broke the law when he crossed the first solid white line at the traffic lights, that is known as red light jumping, something which people often complain cyclists of doing but your driver is no better.
By also stopping in the advanced stop zone ( the big blue area with the bicycle logo in it) he put me and several other cyclists in his blind spot, whilst I can see that your vehicles are kitted out with all the required mirrors, that does not mean that your drivers uses them or that they are aware of any vulnerable road users to their left. I’m sure you can appreciate that not every cyclists is sensible and sometimes they put them selves in unnecessary positions which leave them in a position of danger.

His second action of cutting in front of me wasn’t as bad as i was first expecting but the principle of the manoeuvre is still dangerous. Overtaking cyclists, pull in front of them and then stop, very dangerous is it not? How would you feel if a driver on the motorway pulled in front of you and started braking? Would you think it was dangerous?
At first i thought he would be coming all the way across and this is where the issue is, not all cyclists would read this situation or simply wouldn’t care and would continue on their way up the left hand side whilst your lorry is turning in, this can often lead to cyclists being squashed under large vehicles and is a killer on London’s streets.

I would expect more from a professional driver, he got no further than if he waited safely behind in each case.

 

Neither my self or Mark got any more responses from Paul. Not what I was expecting but a later found out that the Police had sent the company a letter about the driving and giving them some advise about what they should be doing.
I guess that Paul heard about this in the office and decided that he was better off not replying to those who have the law behind them.

As I was cycling home the other day, I was looking at how other cyclists use the ASLs and filter lanes. Do they help us in situations where there are vehicles waiting at the lights.

The ASL is meant to provide cyclists with the space to take a controlling position in the lane and be in a position where they can easily be seen by the driver behind them. Providing them with safety whilst they set off .
But there are several issues with this;

  • There are often other vehicles in the ASL
  • Most of the time there is only one legal way to enter the ASL
  • The filter lane is often on the left of vehicles
  • The filter lanes can often be blocked
  • Most cyclists don’t understand where you should position your self

The first 4 points are self-explanatory but what do I mean by cyclists don’t understand where to position themselves? As I said further up, the whole point of the ASL is to let cyclists position themselves in a position where they are in control of their lane as they set off and they are in a position to be seen. I see far to many cyclists that use the filter lane and ASL to get in front of the traffic but then stop on the left by the pavement. This means you can get the usual close pass when you start again.

I also see issues when using the ASLs on the Cycle Superhighways. The amount of cyclists that you can have around you whilst you are commuting is approaching 40. Even with half that number you will have issues as people don’t use the whole length and width of the ASL. If you get 2 or 3 that stop on the left then the entry to the rest of the ASL will be blocked and lots of cyclists are stuck next to vehicles, which is the worst place to be when setting off in traffic.

The ASL has one major flaw, have a look at this image and see if you can see it.
The blind spot of the lorry is highlighted in black and that shape looks a lot like an ASL and feeder lane.

The ASL should be avoided if there is a large vehicle at the front of the queue!

I’ve had a few problems recently where I need to hold a primary position for quite some time after the ASL. This can often anger drivers, even when you are going near 30mph! And it can result in a dangerous situation.

In some cases I will filter to a point where I can fit into to traffic, several cars from the front. This will mean that I can take control of the lane, get through on the next phase and it will be easier to prevent an overtake from the behind vehicle if I keep up with the vehicle in front.

It is certainly possible to live without the ASL and I think in some cases it is a cause for concern as many cyclists have the ‘must get in front’ mentality, putting them selves in a dangerous situation because the lights have changed or because they stop somewhere they shouldn’t.

What do you think about ASLs?

I said a few weeks ago that I was going to collect some data about ASL’s and how many people I see breaking the rules on them. I took the data from a 5 day commuting period, which resulted in 149.55 miles traveled, 11 hours and 30 minutes in the saddle.

I stopped at 88 sets of traffic lights which had an ASL. 7 of those ASL’s had no vehicles that shouldn’t be in there from the time I was in it till the time I left it on the green light. At 12 of those 88, I couldn’t filter to the ASL, either due to it being full with vehicles or because the filter lane and other access routes were blocked.

At those 88 sets of traffic lights I saw 154 vehicles in them whilst the light was red. 59% of those where there when I got to it, and 41% of them I saw move pass the first stop light whilst the light was red.

54% of the vehicles that where in the ASL’s where motorbikes, the other 46% where other vehicles on the road, be them lorries, vans or cars.
On average, there where 1.75 vehicles in each ASL that shouldn’t have been there.

The highway code states, Rule 178:

Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. 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. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.

The highway code suggests that you should treat the ASL like a yellow box and pedestrian crossing. If you can move all the way passed it then fine, but if you will stop in it due to traffic ahead of you, then you should stop at the first stop line. This suggests that any vehicle caught in the ASL that shouldn’t be there, could be fined.

Lets see what the Road Traffic Act and The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions have to say about ASL’s. *reads sections outlined by the highway code* Well that would be nothing. Just the laws about stopping at the first stop line but nothing about ASL’s. Which means that the police can only fine someone if they see them cross the first white line whilst the light is amber or red (amber is a 50/50 ).

I’ve yet to see anyone get fined for crossing the first stop line whilst the light is red. There have been some tales told by cyclists, the police say they can only fine someone if they see them cross the first stop line whilst the light is on red. Even then I doubt the driver will get a £60 and 3 points for it, more a telling off.

TFL boast that they added new ASL’s and increased the size of the existing ones along the super highways. But what is the point in wasting tax payers money on facilities for vulnerable road users if motor vehicles just ignore them? I would have no problem with TFL boasting about them if they where actually enforced and useful to cyclists but I fear that they often act as a target for cyclists to filter to and can put them in danger.

Liverpool

Image via Wikipedia

Well they certainly aren’t useless in their design. The idea behind them is bold but it’s hard to find one that isn’t already occupied.

I have two issues with ASL’s, the first being that motor vehicles often breach the law on stopping at the first stop line and the fact that 99% of them force you to filter on the left side of the cars to legally enter them.

I’ll start of with filtering to the ASL. The ASL is designed to give cyclists the chance to take control of the traffic lane they are in by taking a central/primary position. This means they have the space they need to get started when the lights change and not get caught by traffic that is turning or moving around them.

This sounds great, but first you have to get to the ASL. To do this legally, you will more often than not have to filter up the left hand side of the traffic. This is generally a bad idea for many reasons, including passengers exiting cars whilst stopped and not looking and the chances of getting caught out and having a car turn left in front of you or being squashed towards the kerb.
I very rarely filter up the left side of traffic when approaching a junction, I will often filter on the right hand side much like a motorcyclist, this has many pro’s including the fact that motorcyclist do this and drivers are more likely to be aware something in that position.

The main issue is the problem with motor vehicles breaching the ASL and stopping in the ASZ.  With the knowledge that an ASL is at a set of traffic lights, cyclists filter to the front only to find that there are cars stopped in the ASL and there is no room to position them selves safely. This either leads to cyclists jumping the red light and riding through the junction, the cyclists crossing the last stop line (which is technically RLJing), staying in a position which is unsafe or stopping in a gap between cars.

The main problem is that ASL’s are rarely a subject covered in the driving test and since their introduction in 1986 there has been little information provided to road users about what they should do.

It doesn’t help that the police do nothing about vehicles that cross the first stop line when the traffic light is red. It is a punishable offence with points and a fine but it is deemed to be a minor offence and is often overlooked. What may be a minor offence in one persons eyes, is an offence in another persons that causes an expensive cycling facility to be a waste.

I’ve decided to do a minor study to see how many vehicles I come across stopped in the ASZ’s over a few days. I shall included all modes of transport that by law, should not be in the ASZ. It may be that they entered it perfectly legally when the light was green but due to traffic they could not progress further. I shall report back on my findings in the next week or so.

In the mean time, there are some figures to have a look at from the Westminster Cycling Campaign. Their research at 4 junctions shows that in 2009 53% of drivers stop before the ASL when the light is red or amber, which is the same as in 2002. So over a 7 year period, and with an increase in cycling traffic on the roads during that time, the drivers where not any better. I did miss out that in 2003 60% of drivers stop before the ASL when the light was red or amber. But that number is still awfully low. TFL worked on the bus drivers understanding the ASL from 2002 to 2009 and we can see an increase from 59% stopping in 2002 to 92% stopping in 2009, why can’t something be done with all drivers?