I am pretty sure I should feel very happy about The Times campaign to make cycling safe. However they seem to have forgotten their own hand in the problems for cyclists. So here is what I wrote on their campaign site:
First start would be to look inside The Times. Jeremy Clarkson and Matthew Parris have both called for cyclists to be maimed for no other reason that being cyclists.
This attitude needs challenging and having powerful figures in the media presenting stupid and dangerous views needs to end. Time for Matthew “Piano Wire” Parris to write a real apology and get onside to change attitudes & Jeremy Clarkson to grow up and realise that cyclists are not the problem and his childish threats have real consequences when acted out by others.
It’s easy to call for change in others but if you are not prepared to change as well those calls will have little impact.
Last week someone on a cycling forum posted a challenge for 2012 –
12 in 12
12 imperial centuries in 12 months, but the twist is you have to do 1 a month.
With the weather so good yesterday I embarked on the first century of the year with a friend. I planned the route electronically but since the demise of my bike GPS had to use paper maps for the bits I did not know. The “new” map/ were copyright in 1990, the old one from 1980!
Since it is not summer I did not ride this on my summer bike but instead on my commuter, with dynamo and saddle bag. On a normal Sunday ride on this I can keep up, a bit slow up the hills but not to much of a problem.
On a longer ride and one that seemed to have little flat riding after the first cafe, which itself was on the top of a hill, the road seemed to go up and down and up and down with each up the bike felt heavier and heavier.
We missed a turning in SouthWater that meant we had the pleasure of Horsham’s roads to deal with. Quite how a small town could build such unpleasant roads for cyclists is beyond me but we survived and more importantly it did not reduce the mileage. There would be nothing worse than going out to ride 100 miles only to get back and discoverer it was 99.99 miles.
Not long after Horsham we were in St Leonard’s Forest on a route I have cycled many times home so my spirits lifted a bit at least I knew when the hills were going to be.
Managed to get back and the final distance was 107 miles. The route is here.
I am now looking forward to February’s ride but pondering if one day in February could become an honorary summers day so I can ride a light bike!
I should be pleased that TfL are at last talking about “Improving cycling safety” however reading their post I am left confused.
The blog points out that for the first time in 10 years we now have no bendy buses on the roads of London. These bendy buses were so dangerous for cyclists that the Mayor made a priority of scrapping them at considerable cost. Apparently improved training for the drivers was not an option.
The bit that confuses me is that the bendy buses have killed the grand total of 0 cyclists. In 10 years these buses, which are so dangerous that they must be scrapped, have not actually killed a single cyclist.
Yet at the same time, lorries have killed more than I can count and the Mayor’s solution for the dangers from lorries? Better training and some mirrors, both of which would be voluntary.
Now I’m the last person to want bendy buses back, from a cyclist’s point of view they were terrible but the solution is not removing the buses, not unless you are also removing the really dangerous vehicles: lorries.
The solution is real high quality cycling infrastructure separated from the lorries, the bendy buses, the Taxis, motorcycles and cars. Note I say high quality. Not a dash of blue paint that stops when it gets to a junction.
Looking at my old and new commutes on the excellent Guardian Data Blog’s Road Casualty map it would appear the chances of me being killed are about the same. Both routes have had 1 fatality in the last 11 years. My old commute’s fatality was on the road out of Ottershaw in 2005 a year when I would have ridden that road approximately 8 times a week.
A road that should be pretty safe but occasionally terrified me as motorists overtook when there was oncoming traffic. Including overtaking when I was the oncoming traffic. Always nice to have a car coming straight at you at 50+mph.
The new commute’s fatality is in my home town. Walton-on-Thames:
A 26 year old killed in 2002. Less than a mile from my start or end point. It looks like it is in the one way system around the old Library. This is not a cycle friendly place. The road surface is terrible and motorists seem to treat it as a bit of a race track when there is not much traffic or will squeeze past when there is.
Serious injuries tell a similar story the old commute scores 16 and the new 20 (average 19 on the route to work 21 on the return) on new commute, per mile that makes the new commuter a bit “safer”
Overall there is little you can learn from this.Without knowing how many cyclists are on the road this tells you nothing, roads that appear safe could just be so scary no cyclists use them equally roads that appear dangerous could just have more cyclists.
The bits that scare me almost certainly have very small numbers of cyclists. For example he A30 roundabout under the M25 at Runnymede at rush hour is such a place. I have no choice but to ride it but if you had a choice you would not. I’ve not seen a single other cyclist on it during my commute.
The total numbers are of course shocking and if compared with the numbers killed by terrorism in whose name we have been forced to give so much up even more so. I can’t get an exact figure for the numbers killed in terrorist incidents for the 11 years but what I have got suggest is is less than 100 and nearly all of those were in 7/7.
With 32,955 killed on the roads and less than 100 by terrorists. I think the government are fighting the wrong war.
On Saturday I got the train up to Vauxhall to join the Tour Du Danger, (you have to say it in a French accent) cycle ride to see the 10 most dangerous junctions for cyclists in London according to TFL. Mark who writes the ibikelondon blog had planned to ride it with a few mates. However after he tweeted that he was doing it a few others joined. Around 300 cyclists rode the route.
Mark gave a fantastic speech at the start.
Since there were so many of us and the traffic was relatively light, plus there were marshals blocking junctions so that the group stayed safely together you did not get the real feeling for how dangerous the junctions are. However going round Elephant and Castle even as a large group it was clear the danger tat faces cyclists. Even a relatively fast fit cyclist would not want to do that every day unless it was just for adrenaline high.
Commuting should be boring. You should not feel like you are taking your life in your hands, or worse in another person’s hands just to get to work or school.
The ride was fun. I met lots of cyclists none of whom I had met before from all walks of life and all types of cyclist. There was not a bike there that I would not love to own including the bamboo bikes.
The strangest encounter was meeting a cyclist also called Chris who also came from Walton on Thames. He had cycled up in the morning. I felt it would be rude not to cycle home with him hence I rode back from London on my Bromptom rather than use the return ticket.
Top marks to Mar and the others who arranged and helped. It even made the top of the BBC London News.
Today I spoke to Terri Poulton, the Police Officer who is behind the @MoleValleyBeat twitter account, about the PR disaster that they are having after Cycling Weekly published an article about their clamp down on inconsiderate cycling.
Firstly I made the point that law enforcement and the Police in particular don’t have the greatest reputation with many cyclists. Driving standards with respect to cyclists are atrocious and any complaint to the Police seem to fall on deaf ears. Motorists who kill cyclists often receive small fines and a few points on their licenses. They seem to have a way of misunderstanding the law around cycling and what is a safe way to cycle. It is that context that their crass calling cards that I thought were offensive. Terri did not disagree (I’m sure she will correct me if this is not the case) with much of what I said. They recognise that the calling cards were a huge mistake and she has apologised for them but how can they get their message across? Obviously I now asked what was the message they wanted to get across and to be honest I was surprised by the answer. She described behaviours I don’t recognise from the cyclists I ride with or the cyclists I see on the roads. There were three specific things:
- A group of cyclists urinating the front garden of a house.
- Cyclists spitting at residents
- A group of cyclists blocking the road to a Police car with it’s blue lights and siren on that was responding to an incident (the Police were trying to get to an incident involving and injured cyclist).
I’m pretty sure no one would find any of those behaviours acceptable and that is the problem for the Police. Instead of saying it is not acceptable for people to Urinate in gardens or spit a people the message they choose was to label them cyclists. Thus tarring all cyclists with the brush of a few badly behaved people. I wonder if when burglars arrive by car and break and enter whether they would refer to motorists breaking into cars and houses?
The blocking of a Police car if deliberate would be serious but here I can see both sides of the picture. On a narrow road if the cyclists simply stop the Police car would not be able to pass as they bunch up so finding a safe place to stop could be an issue, just as it can be when driving. I can’t think of any group of cyclists who would not get out of the way as quickly as possible. Equally I can think of motorists, including Police drivers, that would not understand the situation. So suggesting that the problem is widespread is not particularly helpful.
I’m left thinking that my advice from earlier today is still right. There is no problem with cyclists, there is a problem with a very small minority of people visiting Box Hill, some of who arrive by bike and also a problem of prejudice against cyclists, all be it not conciously. amongst some of the residents of Box Hill and the Police.
Overall the situation is cock up, not conspiracy.
Following on from yesterdays post about the Police trying to bully cyclists off the roads of Surrey. The Police claim this is not their aim and in their defence tweeted:
Nearly 500 #Drivesmart interventions for drivers in east Surrey this month none for cyclists as we have been trying to engage and educate
Impressive numbers at first glance. However the only figures we have for problems with road users are the accident figures and of those the only accurate ones are the killed.
Nationally slightly less than 1 person a year is killed by a cyclist from a total of about 3,500 people killed each year on the roads. I have to use the National figures as I can’t find any record of a cyclist killing someone in Surrey, ever. So for the Police action to be proportionate they need to stop 3,500 motorists to every cyclist. Suddenly that almost 500 does not look so impressive. Even if we strip out the motorists killed we are left with about 1200 Pedestrians and Cylists killed. That 500 is still not looking very impressive. Only when you remove all road users killed except cyclists does the 500 come into a reasonable light. 186 cyclists killed against less than 1 killed by cyclists.
So from a point of view of safety there does not appear to be any justification for clamping down on cyclists.
What about the complaints of large number of cyclists riding in groups?
Lets turn that one around. If you see a large number of cars on the road you call that traffic. A large number of cyclists is just the same. Traffic. Cycling in a group is not illegal and I’ve seen no evidence that it is more dangerous. (The opposite is probably true do to motorists actually noticing the groups). I find the large number of cars on the road inconvenient to me. They queue up blocking the road slowing me down as a motorist and as a cyclist. That gets called traffic. Groups of cyclists are just traffic.
All these complaints need to be viewed through a filter to spot prejudice. Then I’m sure they will evaporate.
So what should the Police do about cyclists?
The obvious answer here is nothing. There simply is not a problem with cyclists. Yes other road users need to accept they are on the road. Yes other road users may have to slow down for cyclists as they should for other road users.
If the Police really want to make a difference then get they need to get out of their cars and onto bikes and stop looking through the world through a windscreen.
Road casualty statistics 2010: http://www.dft.gov.uk/statistics/releases/reported-road-casualties-gb-main-results-2010