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The War on Britain’s Roads

November 20, 2012 — 5 Comments

The War on Britain’s Roads combines footage captured by cyclists through helmet-mounted cameras, with interviews from cyclists, drivers and those affected by incidents on our roads. Viewers are parachuted into the middle of the battle that is raging between two-wheeled road users and their four-wheeled counterparts.

The documentary airs on Wednesday the 5th of December at 9pm on BBC1 but is there really a war on the roads?

War is a strong word, one that suggests a them vs us and that there is daily conflict on the road. There is obviously some concern coming from the cycling community about this. As what better way to make cycling look dangerous than to convey the roads as a war zone and to show countless videos of dangerous driving.

And whilst this may have a negative affect, this has all come around because of the poor driving that some of us have received over the years. If the documentary can get through to people about how vulnerable we are and how much space we require, then surely it must be a good thing.

Those of us that film will be the first ones to admit how safe it is on the roads. Whilst watching my youtube videos may seem like I run in with a lot of lunatics, you have to take into consideration how many miles I travel and under what traffic conditions.
Most of my riding is done in central London during rush hour traffic, I can do anything from 120miles – 300 miles in a week in those conditions and average over 6,000 miles a year. On average I probably pass and get passed by 4,500 vehicles a week, lets say 250,000 vehicles a year. For the past 3 years that would make 18,000 miles covered and 750,000 vehicles passed. I would say that I have had no more than 50 bad interactions with vehicles in that time. That means I’ll have an incident every 15,000 vehicles or 360 miles.
Considering that I spend most of my time cycling in rush hour traffic, where people just want to get home or into the office on time. I don’t think that is too bad.

So is it a war? It could be described as such. I wouldn’t say it was cyclists vs motorists though, more good road users vs bad road users. It’s not just cyclists who are using cameras, motorcyclists, horse riders and motorists use them to record what they experience on the roads.

I’ve had some involvement with the documentary and whilst they are advertising it as a war (hopefully to gain attention), I don’t think that is the way they program is going, more raising awareness of the issues that we experience on the roads.

It has been said countless times that painted cycle lanes on the side of the roads don’t keep us safe. Despite this, our cycling facilities seem to be made up of mostly this, painted cycle lanes on the side of the road.

The magic paint lines obviously don’t keep other, much harder and faster vehicles from straying into them, and the consequences of them doing so can be huge. As the cyclist in the above video found out, being in the position designated to us on the road doesn’t equal safety and being hit by a bus that was driving in it was not a pleasurable experience!

What are we missing?

February 21, 2012 — 14 Comments

The Times #cyclesafe campaign has taken off massively over the past weeks. With support from sporting stars, politicians, huge companies and thousands of people.

The campaign raises similar points to other campaigns, touching on topics such as trixie mirrors, issues with large vehicles, re-design of junctions and speed limits. The difference so far is that it has been coming from a huge newspaper and not from a cycling lobby.

But are we missing something?

The one thing missing is a way to change road user attitude. I see the Times mention training of drivers and cyclists and to include a cycling specific section in the driving test. Whilst yes this would be a good measure, it doesn’t solve the millions of drivers we already have on our roads who are ‘bad’ drivers.

So what can we do? Essentially we need better policing on the roads. At present people are allowed to get away with bad driving if nobody in authority is watching and if no collision occurs. Because they aren’t brought up on it, this leads to bad driving become a habit and essentially normal driving.

Speeding is bad driving

As Croydon Council recently put on a sign around the corner from me. ‘Speeding is bad driving’. They put this on a road which is well-known for speeding road users. It’s nice and wide, with a pedestrian footpath on only one side which is also separated from the main carriage way by traffic islands and another small roadway. So people feel like it is OK to speed. In my +10 years of using this road, as a cyclist, driver and passenger, I’ve not once seen a police vehicle on it that was going after speeding drivers.

Usually, unless there is a fatal or serious road collision due to a speeding vehicle, local authorities will not put in speed cameras, and even if they do, they are of the type which are static, highly visible and only slow drivers down for a few meters. Only a few years ago hundreds if not thousands of speed cameras were turned off around the country because they cost too much to run.

Adding brand new cycling facilities is all well and good but they are useless if they aren’t enforced by the police or if all road users aren’t educated about them. We can see an example of poor implementation, enforcement and education by looking at advanced stop lines. A large proportion of ASL’s have vehicles in them which shouldn’t, which just makes the whole reason for them pointless.

It took years to make drink driving unacceptable, fines and points is not enough to deter people from doing something. Driving bans are much more effective. Driving whilst on the phone is just as dangerous as driving whilst over the drink drive limit, yet the penalties are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum which makes driving on the phone appear to be less dangerous and more socially acceptable, which it shouldn’t be.

We obviously need to change certain things to make the road network safer for all road users but I think a big aspect we are missing in current campaigning is increased enforcement of road users, continued education throughout driving ‘career’ and changing the underlying attitude that British road users have.

Yesterday The Times launched a campaign to make cycling in cities across England safer after one of the Times’ reports was struck by a lorry only yards away from her workplace in November last year, she has been a comma since.

I was asked to give my opinion on current road conditions for cyclists, and whilst I think the roads are a safe place, there is obviously an issue on our roads.

In the last quarter of 2011 we saw an 8% rise in cycling deaths or serious injuries in London over 2010’s last quarter whilst deaths and serious injuries of car drivers, motorcyclist’s and pedestrians continued to fall.

Compare Paris to London, a city which has 3,000,000 more people than us and is known for its crazy drivers. How many cycling related deaths where there in 2011?

The bike accident is not what concerns us most and in 2011, there were no death

Source >

There where 0 cycling deaths in Paris throughout 2011, where as in London, there where 16 deaths and many more seriously injured. Why do we allow these deaths to continue? It seems that the public think these sorts of deaths are acceptable, nothing happens to make cyclists safer on the roads!

In the past decade, cyclists killed on our roads outnumber servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by a factor of two.

Any sort of death of a person is a tragic incident, just think about how you would feel if a family member was suddenly no longer with you! We can do something about deaths on our roads, make them safer and all road users will have the benefit of being able to travel without the thought of it being there last.

The Times raise an 8 point manifesto of things they want changed, and whilst I don’t agree that every point is going to make a difference, they are certainly pointing in the right direction and having such a large newspaper behind us is a great thing.

In the first day of the campaign more than 5,000 people pledged their support with more than 300 writing to their MP’s and many more showing support on twitter.

If you watch lots of cycling videos then you will know that lots of us have had various confrontations with drivers over the years and had varying degrees of success/failure with the police.

Our very own cycling lawyer has been working hard at getting a result on an incident which happened well over a year ago now. He was cycling down a road and up ahead was a pinch point, so as taught in national standards cycle training, he took control of the lane to prevent a motorist for passing him far too closely. Unfortunately a motorist behind him who’s valuable 5 seconds was just waisted by having to slow down, felt the need to sound his horn and shout at the cyclist. Further down the road the car driver was of course  held up by other motorists and at this point the motorist felt the need to threaten to take the cyclists life.

Well a long story short, the police fobed of our cyclist with his video footage but he didn’t give up, he fought his case and eventually got the driver punished for threatening or abusive words or behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress. This resulted in him receiving over a £500 fine. Read more >

It is no doubt a great result and I’m applaud Martin for his hard work and determination to get a result. I just wish that it wasn’t required and that other threatening behaviour with a vehicle was taken more seriously. As I’ve said before it seems that the roads are un-policed and some people deem that cyclists deserve to be punished for daring to get in the way of such a powerful machine.