Monday, 11 June 2012

Cambridgeshire Cycling Gets More Dangerous


Well, now it's official. Cambridgeshire became a more dangerous place to ride a bike last year.

This article from Cambridge News shows that 64 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on Cambridgeshire roads last year, an increase of 14% whilst cycling numbers only went up by 8%.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign is very quick to defend the Cambridge city's reputation for safe cycling. And rightly so, it is a great place to ride. There is a higher percentage of cyclists on the road in Cambridge than pretty much any place in the country, so there is an expectation of more collisions simply by numbers.

They also talk about 20mph limits as being one of the main safety issues to help solve the danger of vehicle speed. I couldn't agree more. The usual experience of speed being close passes and one of the regular dangers I'm exposed to. If there's any doubt, please look at the 150+ clips I've recorded in selected periods over the past 20 months or so.

Now I don't think all these people driving were thinking "Damn cyclist, get out of my way" (to which I'd reply as follows) many simply have no idea what effect their vehicle has. Until you experience a vehicle weighing 1 to 50 tons passing at 30-60mph within 3-6 foot you may not understand what it's like. Because of the violent interaction to the outside world, those inside the vehicle are cosseted.  Sounds are dampened, vibration calmed, and comfy seats and airbags provided to insulate from the disruption outside. The result is that there is little understanding of their impact on their immediate vicinity. 

I thought a good addition to driving lessons would be to experience what it's like, and had quite a lot of people who cycle agree. How about having to stand back-turned 1 metre out from the kerb and have cars and lorries pass with 3-6 foot, probably just starting at 30mph? And no, don't say that's ridiculous and dangerous, because that's exactly what some people driving think is acceptable on the roads. This is also meant to help people walking, who also suffer this assault whilst just trying to go about their daily business.

However, despite being a proven way of saving lots of lives, the 20mph speed limits set are not generally being enforced by the local police, mostly because they feel they can't. And they want to stop doing what little they are anyway. This is despite even the RAC reporting the evidence that it will reduce casualties by 41%, with deaths or serious injuries to children cut by half.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign also talk about some "professional drivers" seeking to use their vehicles as training tools for their perceived issues on the roads. I'm pleased to say I've rarely experienced this but it's not unheard of. I've been in a taxi that drove a person cycling into the side of the road. I've also been threatened with being run over by a taxi driver when pointing out (carefully and calmly!) he was parked in a contraflow cycle lane. Needless to say the taxi firm didn't care when I called them.One very big indicator of the need for a reporting mechanism for taxi drivers behaviour.

Of course there are lots of close passes by taxis, couriers, and buses in the link above. But whether that's deliberate or not I can't tell.  And whether professional drivers do it more or not I can't tell as I don't know the proportion of them on the road.

I did have one particular bus incident that was just a mistake. But the meaning would have little impact on me if I lost my life in an incident like this.

No, although Cambridge Cycling Campaign may be right about professional drivers, the biggest issue on the road is people driving simply not giving enough room. Most of the time this is just plain ignorance, hence my driving lessons idea. Sometimes it's incredibly frustrating as there is plenty of room for the person driving ot take their car further away from me.

I must say the majority of people driving are very good. But even bad passes happening 5% of the time means 4-10 every trip I make. That's 4-10 too many.

At 20mph, having 3 foot space (so that means being over the central line on small roads) makes me feel safe. At 30 mph, I need a lot more. At 60mph you need to be in the other gutter or, here's a good one, slowing down. People driving do not have a right to be at the speed limit in all conditions, they have a duty to be safe to themselves and everyone around them on the road.

Finally in the article from Cambridge News, Cllr Tony Orgee talks about better training, more cycling facilities. and enforcement. It's telling that it's in that order. Whilst I agree training is good, I see very few people cycling around that don't seem to know the rules of the road or how to act safely. I can hear the sharp intake of breath from a long distance. All those red light jumpers, all those cycling on the pavements, all those not wearing helmets or hi-viz. Well, the links show those are all distractions. Pedestrians injured following Red Light Jumping in London: 4% were where a person cycling was responsible and 96% was a person driving (CTC report, page 10).

Finally, the introduction of a cycling champion. I welcome it. I also welcome hearing anything happening. Nothing to date.



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