Wednesday 23 October 2013

Cycle Super Highways - My personal views

I write this in  a purely personal capacity as a London bike commuter, though naturally I could not fail to be profoundly moved by my experience in representing the family of Brian Dorling who died so tragically and unnecessarily at the Bow Roundabout shortly after the blue paint of CSH 2 was laid in 2011 and furthermore, in following the recent inquest into the death of Philippine De Gerin-Ricard at Aldgate last July.

I agree with the Mayor that Cycle Super Highways have a future.  However this is with the important proviso that their designers have a good understanding of how cyclists safely integrate with traffic where segregation is not achievable (or rather not achieved).  Current design, typified by a 1.5 m strip of paint of no legal significance, encourages cyclists towards an unsafe position too far to the left.  This both conflicts with the ‘Bikeability’ training that TfL itself rightly seeks to encourage and reinforces the mistaken views held by some motorists as to where cyclists should be.

It is telling, and confirms what I have long suspected, that cycle infrastructure designers, and even those at the top at TfL pushing cycle training for others, do not see the need for Bikeability training for themselves.  Their designs demonstrate that they do not understand, for example, that approaching a roundabout to go straight ahead the cyclist is best advised to position herself well to the right of the leftmost lane (especially of course if there is a high volume of left turning traffic). When given advice by a very knowledgeable police officer who understands safe cycle positioning, it is all too easy for the untrained designer to consider this is a matter on which their opinion is as good as anybody else's.

Personally I do not buy the argument that putting down paint is a useful indication to motor traffic that cyclists may be present.  Any driver, especially in London but also elsewhere, is criminally negligent if he does not  consider the likely presence of cyclists on any highway.  Are we implying that where there is no blue paint drivers are not obliged to consider the likely presence of cyclists?

For the encouragement of the broadest possible mix of people the focus has to be on (optional) segregated routes of the highest quality, as recognised in the Mayor’s ‘Vision for Cycling’ published in March.  Using paint to lead cyclists directly towards segregated areas without regard to how they integrate most safely with traffic on their way there must be avoided.  Indeed there is a very great deal to be said for not marking the road at all where cyclists need to integrate with motorists.  Many (indeed the majority) of cyclists crossing the Bow junction do so on the elevated flyover where there is no cycle infrastructure, recognising that it is not only faster but safer than the provision below.  It is so easy to make matters worse and the Mayor needs to be held to his word to do cycling infrastructure properly or not at all.

I do not doubt the Mayor and TfL’s sincerity in wishing to make London safer and more attractive for cycling.  I applaud them for some good progress towards HGV safety (sadly too often neglected by others).  I trust that by the end of the Mayor’s second term we will be able to look back and see that he really did take valid criticisms of his project to heart.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Why am I hopeful?

I am hopeful because the risk, in absolute terms, of my getting killed or seriously injured on my bicycle is low (705 KSI per billion km or once every 1.4 million km).  At my current mileage I can reasonably expect to get to 85 without serious incident.
I am hopeful because my chances of getting to 85 without stroke, heart attack, diabetes and other ailments connected to inactivity are substantially increased by my riding.
I am hopeful because a Judge recently said when sentencing a man for dangerous driving,  "If he [cyclist] could bang on the side of your van, you were too close".
I am hopeful because the ACPO lead officer for traffic policing rides a bicycle and has bowed to pressure to change police guidelines relating to the enforcement of 20 mph speed limits.
I am hopeful because for the past nearly two years, an influential national newspaper that previously could not have cared much less has been interested in cyclists' safety.
I am hopeful because CTC (of which I am proud to be a member and 'ambassador') together with British Cycling (which I am proud to be a member of and an informal legal adviser to) are working tirelessly on campaigns to improve the safety of cyclists.
I am hopeful because Chris Boardman, Rebecca Romero and Chris Hoy (among other sporting heroes) say such sensible things in support of the safety of cyclists.
I am hopeful because there are many more charities and organisations with a positive view of cycling (I can single out Roadpeace, See Me Save Me, RDRF, CDF)  than there are those with negative views.
I am hopeful because there are Parliamentarians across all major political parties with real enthusiasm for cycling.  I would be very happy to have Julian Huppert, Ian Austin, Sarah Wollaston, Ben Bradshaw or Steve Brine among others as my constituency MP or, even better, in government.  Last month's debate indicated that the proportion of MPs interested in cycling is higher than that of the general population which elects them.
I am hopeful because the Mayor of London has said of cycling infrastructure that it will be done properly or not at all.
I am hopeful because the level of interest in my cycling club has risen steadily in recent years which I take to be a good leading indicator of the growing popularity of cycling.
I am hopeful because many youngsters are taught Cyclecraft at school before they learn how to drive.
I am hopeful that I can continue to do my bit through my profession to assist both individual cyclists and the interests of cyclists collectively.
Above all, I hope to continue to enjoy riding my bicycle for many years to come