Advanced Stop Lines – The results

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.

When to remove the lights

Bokeh-vehicle lights (duration-43 seconds)

It’s lighter in the mornings and getting lighter in the evenings. In a few weeks time the clocks will be changing so it’s light during commuting hours for 9 to 5ers.

I already hear chatter in the changing room at work from other cyclists about them looking forward to removing the lights off their bicycles and feeling that little bit lighter.

When should we remove the lights from our bicycles?

I will be keeping the lights on my bicycle for a few more weeks and potentially never remove them off my commuting bicycle. It’s important to stand out and as motorcyclistsrun their lights during the day to make them selves more visible, why shouldn’t cyclists?

At this time of year, with a clear morning, many drivers will be affected by the low sun, and if you are unfortunate enough to cycle to work with the sun behind you, then this will affect the visibility of drivers coming towards you. It is very wise in this situation to use a powerful light to maximise your visibility to them. But note that when there is a low sun, you should take extra caution of motorists who might not be able to see, they can pull very stupid manoeuvres with next to no sight and could cause you harm.

Something to think about for the future is the European legislation which will mean that all future cars will need to have and run special lights for the daytime. What this effectively means is that drivers will be looking out for vehicles with lights and if they don’t see any lights, then the coast is clear. So in a few years time, commuter cyclists will have to start using their lights all year round just to be safe from the motorists that won’t bother to look properly!

We already have issues with SMIDSY in the city’s and if we choose not to use lights it may only get worse.

Advanced Stop Lines – The most useless cycling facility

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?

The legailty of Camera use

I often get the internet lawyer telling me that I’m braking several laws by videoing vehicles and posting videos of them, the drivers and the vehicles number plates online.
As we all know, vehicle number plates are publicly viewable and identifies the car. We can use these to complain about the drivers behaviour. What we don’t know from the number plate is any information about the driver.

I know in the past, that magnatom asked the information commissioner of Scotland what the position was, legally, of him doing what he does. The response that he got, was that it’s fine for us to do and it’s not breaking any data protection laws.
Magnatom has always stated that he isn’t sure if this applies to the England as well.

So to confirm where i and other helmet camera users stand on the matter of legality of posting videos online, i contacted the information commissioner in England and asked the following questions;

  • Is recording bicycle journeys made in england and posting footage on youtube breaking any laws? This includes posting footage of number plates of dangerous drivers that put cyclists life in danger and in some cases the faces and conversations with these drivers.
  • are there any restrictions to it, such as is advertising that you have a camera against the law e.g. a sign saying ‘video recording in operation’ on the cyclists back.

A few weeks later i got a response and it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. As magnatom’s response, i was also told that the videoing and posting videos would fall under section 36 of the data protection act. Which states

Personal data processed by an individual only for the purposes of that individual’s personal, family or household affairs (including recreational purposes) are exempt from the data protection principles and the provisions of Parts II and III.

This exemption means that individuals do not have to provide fair processing information to data subjects and so signs will not be necessary in a situation such as the one described. Equally, however, it would not be illegal to display such signs that warn of a camera.

Apart from the data protection act, I don’t think there is any issue with filming, and if there was, I’m sure I would have been brought up on it by now. My footage has been passed to various police departments in London, and none of them have come back to me saying I’m braking any laws.