Tag Archives: road safety

Crap Cycle Lanes (#4)

So far most of the crap cycle lanes and paths that I’ve featured on this blog are those in Hammersmith and Fulham, the government’s ‘model’ borough (that helps itself to money from your bank account without a Direct Debit mandate).

This cycle lane is truly dangerous. It isn’t controlled by lights and practically invites cyclists to ride out into a very busy one-way street.

Hammersmith and Fulham-20130802-00117

The shared cycle path that this erm, lane, leads to is only partly usable since the builder at the car park opposite have closed the pedestrian side of the pavement. If you should manage to get to the other side, you will be greeted by irate pedestrians who think you should cycle the wrong way up the street and not on the, erm, pavement.

Here’s another view.

Hammersmith and Fulham-20130802-00116

Complete and utter incompetence. When you get to the other side, you have to give way to motorists entering the multi-story car park.

Even though I attack the Hammersmith & Fulham Tory ruling group in this blog, this cycle lane was built (is that the right word?) under the Labour administration, thus proving that politicians of all political stripes only pay lip service when it comes to the needs of cyclists.

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Bradley Wiggins, road safety and myth

Yesterday Bradley Wiggins added another gold medal to his impressive collection of gold medals and his Tour de France victory. Well done, Wiggo! But this morning as I’m listening to Radio 4, there’s an item about Wiggins calling for all cyclists to be compelled to wear helmets. While his sentiment is well-intentioned, there is more that could be done to ensure that cyclists are safe on the roads. Helmets do not magically protect the wearer from harm. If you don’t look around or signal and ride in the gutter and jump red lights, then no amount of safety gear is going to protect you. You’re already a dangerous cyclist.

Wiggins’ call came after a cyclist was killed by a bus driver on the A12. The official Olympics bus was carrying journalists between venues. I understand that the driver, a man in his mid-60s, has been arrested for causing death by careless driving. On any other day, this death would have been confined to the local press. Today, because of Wiggins, it’s national news.

Here’s Wiggins in The Times,

Ultimately, if you get knocked off and you don’t have a helmet on, then you can’t argue,” he said. “You can get killed if you don’t have a helmet on.

Brad, you can get killed even if you are wearing a helmet. Perhaps you haven’t heard of the many deaths caused by left-turning lorries at road junctions? Helmets won’t help anyone who is badly positioned on the road.

He adds,

You shouldn’t be riding along with iPods and phones and things on. You have lights on. Once there are laws passed for cyclists then you are protected and you can say, ‘Well, I have done everything to be safe’.

I’m one of those who wears headphones. I don’t have my music on loud and I can hear everything. But being able to hear is only a small part of staying safe on the road.  I haven’t always listened to music while riding. In fact, I was just like all the other naysayers who’d say, “But I want to hear everything”. A few years ago, as I was cycling through Kingston, I thought I heard the sound of an engine behind me, I turned around and saw nothing there. After making a turn down a side street, I found the sound that I’d heard. So much for using my ears. I began riding wearing headphones.

What Wiggins and the others have failed to mention is on-road cycle training. If more people accepted the fact that they need training to ride on the roads, we’d be in a better place. The other thing that doesn’t get mentioned is the woeful provision for on-road cyclists. We have Advance Stop Boxes that are routinely encroached by motorists, badly designed and sited cycle lanes – most of which are the useless Advisory Cycle Lanes.

The Advisory Cycle Lane below is fairly typical. Notice the width of the lane as well as the drain cover. There is no minimum width for a cycle lane and many councils just slap down a bit of paint and leave it at that. This cycle lane look as though it is only half a metre wide. Cyclists are told to cycle approximately 1m from the kerb (Thanks to Croydon Cycling for this image).

Here’s a lorry that’s pulled completely into the ASB. For the inexperienced cyclist, this is an invitation to put their life at risk.

If we are going to have a debate about cycle safety, let’s have an informed one. Many motorists drive with their music turned up full. Can they hear everything? No. But then the motorist who drives around listening to loud music would probably tell you that “it’s safer to be in a car”. The fact of the matter is that it isn’t and it’s unlikely that these people have ever seen a car that’s been in a serious accident in which the driver has to be cut free of the crumpled wreck.

Do you think the driver of this vehicle thought he/she was adequately protected? Probably.

The man who was killed was 28 years old. It isn’t known if he was wearing a helmet. However, according to the Telegraph,

Witnesses said that both the bus and the cyclist were turning left on the same corner.

A fellow unidentified cyclist, who claimed to be riding on his way home next to the dead rider and gave a graphic account of the accident.

Writing on a riding blog, he said: “As we approached a bus he went inside while I held back.

“The lights changed as he was in the buses blind spot and as he was attempting to go straight the bus turned left.

“He didn’t really have anywhere to go and no time to do anything anyway… he got pulled under the wheel and dragged around 10 feet or so [all sic].”

My bold. Once again, we have a situation where the cyclist did the wrong thing and ended up paying for it with his life. A helmet would not have saved him.

If the authorities ban cyclists from listening to music while riding, then they need to do the same for drivers who have their music turned up on full volume. It’s only fair. There’s a law against texting or using a mobile phone if you’re driving but this law is not as rigorously enforced as it should be and on most days of the week, I pass several motorists who are on their phones. I once actually saw a van driver eating food from a container while he was driving. He wasn’t driving responsibly.

Rather than get into a “them and us” situation, isn’t it time all road users were treated equally? Bad road users are bad road users, whether they’re riding a bike or driving a tanker lorry.

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Cyclists: check your road position at junctions!

A Briton may have won the Tour de France for the first time but here in the UK, cyclists continue to risk life and limb on the roads. And for all the support that sport cycling has attracted, the more prosaic matter of ensuring cyclists are safe while riding on the busy streets of our cities continues to be sidelined. It simply isn’t glamorous and while many councils offer free or subsidized cycle training, many don’t promote it very well and some (like Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham) have even cut funding.

So when I read about the serious injury of yet another cyclist on the streets of this borough, I was disgusted but not surprised. The incident took place in Eel Brook Common at the junction of Wandsworth Bridge Road and New Kings Road in Fulham. It seems that the woman’s injury is “life-changing” according to Adam Courtney’s tweet.  I suspect that the phrase “life-changing” is a police euphemism for “she’s had an amputation”.

The accident occurred when a skip lorry turned left and ran over the cyclist. Unfortunately this kind of accident is all too common on London’s streets and is caused largely by bad positioning on the part of the cyclist. Indeed this is how most cyclists die on the road. Even before I became a cycling instructor, I could see that it was dangerous to position myself to the left of a larger vehicle at a junction. In fact, while I’m out riding I often see people trying to squeeze in the narrow gap (often as small as 8 inches) between a lorry and the kerb – usually because there happens to be a cycle lane in the gutter (I may have to write a blog about how bad cycle lanes are). I sometimes shout to them, “Don’t do it! It’s dangerous”! What I usually get, by way of reply, is an inane grin before they scoot off. Yes, these people don’t know how to set their pedals.

If you look carefully, you can see a woman cycling on the left. She doesn’t know it but she’s putting herself in danger.

This latest accident has brought into sharp relief the lack of provision for cyclists in this country. I’m okay; I know how to conduct myself on the road. I behave exactly like a driver would and this is another problem: too many cyclists think of themselves as being separate from the traffic and many don’t think that the Highway Code applies to them. If you cycle on the road, then YOU ARE PART OF THE TRAFFIC! Behaving as though you don’t belong on the road will get you no respect from other road users. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me that “they try not to get in people’s way” while out cycling. This kind of timidity leads to danger. Hiding from other road users is the quickest route to hospital or the grave.

Much of what we teach people is counter-intuitive. For instance, if you want to make a right turn from a major to a minor road, you will have to position yourself in the middle of the road and not to the left hand side. For some people that suggestion seems foolhardy, even dangerous. But the fact of the matter is that motorists don’t set out with the intention of killing cyclists. Motorists and motorcyclists position themselves in the middle of the road for a left turn and if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you!

Remember if you get to the stop line before the rest of the traffic, you have every right to take the lane. That is to say, position yourself in the middle of the lane and not to the left. If someone beeps their horn at you, it means they’ve seen you. Don’t panic!

Here is a useful site that tells you where to ride on the road.

Here is another. Safe cycling!

UPDATE: 25/7/12 @ 1458

The full story is here in the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle.

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