Friday 29 July 2011

Cycle Helmets

the quandary that not wearing helmets actually improves the health of the nation

Oh no, not again! Yet another athlete appears on TV, shakily showing a broken helmet and talking about how it saved their life. The story is full of shots showing roads, traffic, maybe some rough camera footage, and talks in a scary way about an accident. Usually, they are backed up by a well known cause, most often Headway, a charity helping people with head injuries.

"What's wrong with this?" I hear you say. Well, a whole load of things.

We'll start with the backing, Headway. They are a magnificent charity doing fantastic work with and for people with brain injuries. However, that's it. They are not a cycling organisation and have no remit towards the health of cyclists, they simply want to reduce head injuries. So, they simply repeat the "wear helmets" mantra without considering anything else in the cycling sphere.

Second, although this is a good story, full of gripping drama, it's just an anecdote and not a very scientific analysis of the situation. If I were a parent, it'd scare me. I would start to think that perhaps I shouldn't let my kids out on their bikes. And if I wasn't a parent, it'd scare me. If I didn't have enough money to get a helmet, I'd consider stopping cycling, as it's clearly far too dangerous as this story shows.

The other effect of a heart-wrenching story is the upswing in calls for legislation. It's usually called for by people who have no interest or understanding of the issues, they just see a good story and get stuck in "righteous indignation" mode. Especially when people see cycling as mostly in the prevails of children.

I'm not going to pretend that cycling doesn't have a degree of danger to it, that would be ridiculous. But actually, for many it's much, much less than this story implies. And importantly, helmets have a much lower effect on safety than a whole series of other measures. More of them later.

Finally, there's the oh-so-subtle message "wear a helmet, it'll save you". The problem is, it's just not true in the majority of accidents. Most people think helmets are some kind of magic protection that will save cyclists in collisions with motor vehicles. Worryingly, most of these people drive cars! This study from the Transport Research Laboratory done for Department for Transport shows that helmets are just not designed to assist in these collisions. In fact, one study from Dr Ian Walker of the University of Bath, has shown that wearing a helmet actually makes cars passing more dangerous.

So what's the other angle here? Pretty much all cycling organisations say that helmet wearing should be a case of individual choice. So, why do they dislike this kind of newstory?

Well, for one, it doesn't promote cycling, in fact it detracts from it. The safety issue (as above) is the main factor here. This is saying that travelling by bike is inherently dangerous, when in truth, it's nowhere near as dangerous as the newstory purports.

Promoting cycling means the need to reach out to those people who don't already cycle. By running stories about accidents less people are likely to even try bikes. Also, there's the need to appeal to those who would consider wearing a helmet a detraction on their personal style. Most cyclists (or potential cyclists) are just trying to get a short distance to an event, be it work, a party, a social activity, a meeting. Many of these activities for many people would require a dress sense, some of which will not fit easily with helmet wearing. This may seem a silly issue when it comes to safety, but it's what a good proportion of people would cite as an issue to riding. The Institute of Advanced Motorists study found so, and it was seen as bad for business in Northern Ireland.

As for helmets being the main way to save lives on the road, by far the bigger impact would be for our collective driving standards (including cyclists) to improve.

Recently the AA got some stick after a cycle helmet promotion stunt. Their members thought it would be good to give helmets to cyclists, mistakenly believing it would save them in a vehicle collision. It concerned many cyclists greatly as it stank too much of "blaming the victim". Again, this promoted the idea that somehow cyclists are saved in motor vehicle collisions amongst drivers. And prompted cycling organisations to promote better driving standards as a better way of reducing cycling injuries.

Cycling is well known to be good for health. In fact a recent study shows (and I wish I could find a link!) that for every £1 spent now on cycling infrastructure will save £4 in healthcare later on. This means that putting in cycling infrastructure will actually save money.

Interestingly, another study (towards the end) shows that there are more child accidents when walking (whilst also finding some pro-helmet studies are shown to be misleading). So, why don't we insist children wear helmets when walking?

Of course, the whole helmet debate is quite poorly done in the media. Like a number of other issues (climate change & MMR spring to mind as examples of the media being shown getting it so wrong), they pick on a good story without paying much attention to the serious scientific work done which shows exactly the opposite of their narrative.

Luckily, there are a few good stories out there, based on the evidence and not just a good story. Such as the study in the British Medical Journal giving a reasoned point of view against compulsory helmets. And fortunately the Transport Minister Baker defends helmet-free cycling, so compulsion is not likely any time soon.

So, in summary, why is this kind of newstory bad?
  • it makes cycling look dangerous
  • it mis-states the way most people would ride
  • it reduces cycling appeal to newbies
  • it's setting the slippery slope toward mandatory helmets
  • it reduces the general health of the population by not increasing cycling

Athletes, lycra-clad speeders, off-road davedevils, and other higher risk groups probably should be wearing helmets. But they are a small minority of those who should be cycling. And athletes really shouldn't attempt to speak for these people generalising their experiences into everyones.

And now the revelation, I wear a cycle helmet. Yep, I do. But then I fit into several of the above groups and feel it may help me. But whether it'll help others is not for me to say or to tug at heart strings with anecdotal stories of woe that detract from the wonderful thing that is cycling.

For a much more in-depth analysis than my paultry piece here go to

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Bateman Street

Often a place with very awkward traffic management.

I've got it on Bikely here.

Sometimes I think this really ought to stop any through traffic in this area. It's difficult to get through at the moment, but possible, especially westwards along Bateman & Norwich Street. It's a residential area, why not bollard the roads to stop any cross-area routes.

Then, introduce a one-way mechanism for car pickups from school, keeping the roads two way for cyclists, of course. This has got to be better than the melée with two-way traffic & parking along the west end of Bateman Street. A circuit must be possible coming in from Lensfield Road, Brookside, and eventually down Panton Street.

A lot of kids cycle, it would be good to encourage more to do so. I suspect the car throng does not help this at all, despite some observations below.

I'm saying this even though I use Bateman Street in a car (at non-busy times!) to get through this part of Cambridge. I'd happily give that up to enable a better traffic mechanism in this area, prioritising local, low impact, traffic.

The big thing about this street for cyclists is the contraflow cycle lane, which goes for almost the whole length (aside from the two way sections at either end). This is meant ot encourage cycling around here and support kids going to school like this. However, there are quite a few issues with the scheme as it stands, which becomes obvious below.

See what you think of a couple of instances of cycling down it in winter at school turnout.


In some ways it's a good example of what happens when so much traffic gets together and shares road space. Everything is at 5-10mph, nothing is faster. This is probably a good thing, actually. It makes all traffic work to the lowest common denominator, not just be bullied by fast moving vehicles.

Of course, often there are examples of vehicles stopped in the cycle contraflow (a big no-no!). It's something the police have suggested they will follow up if clips are shown with identified vehicles. Needless to say, pizza delivery, taxis, and work vans are the most common offenders, but it has got better recently.

Here's a pizza delivery. It's so important to shorten the amount of walking needed as the pizza may get cold in that extra minute required.

And in the snow, a lorry has to make a delivery. Now, I do have some sympathy here. What's the lorry meant to do to deliver here?

It just shows that we've been living like this (poor traffic models) for so long that we do not have the imagination to work out to use smaller vehicles for some deliveries.

And here's a series of photo's off Cambridge Cycle Streets.

Parking in the cycle lane (not contraflow section).

More school run chaos.

Hmm, drainage not so good.

Parking in contraflow cycle lane.

Roadworks in contraflow cycle lane. Just the ubiquitous "cyclists dismount" sign, because "you are not worthy of anything else being done to make sure you can get round.

Roadworks in contraflow cycle lane. Just the ubiquitous "cyclists dismount" sign, but this time completely incorrectly. It's a contraflow lane, coming from the other direction. No cyclists should be in this lane, they should be using the one-way road and have no reason to dismount!

Parking in contraflow cycle lane.

Parking in contraflow cycle lane.

Parking in contraflow cycle lane.

Then there's the night time.

This starts in Hills Road, but does show the entrance well.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Cycling Examples Tagging and Comments

This is just a list of helpful tags, links, and text for my clips of Cycling Examples.

Main Tags
Cycling Video Clips "Cycling Examples" Cambridge

Numberplates, if visible in format "xxnn xxx",  "xxnn-xxx", and "xxnnxxx". Checking facility at

Sections below.

Passing and Overtaking

Passing to Close
Highway code rule 213.
Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.

And more importantly Highway code rule 163.
Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car.

As the Highway code picture shows, why isn't the person driving all the way over the central line?

Also, observing people cycling is part of the rules of the road. Highway code rule 212.
When passing motorcyclists and cyclists, give them plenty of room (see Rules 162-167). If they look over their shoulder it could mean that they intend to pull out, turn right or change direction. Give them time and space to do so.

Bigger Vehicles and On-road Cyclelanes Mean Closer Passes
- One in every 17 (6%) passing events was a close (<100 br="" cm="" event.="" passing="">- We noted links between motor vehicle types and infrastructure characteristics, and passing distance.
- Specifically, on-road bicycle lanes and parked cars reduced passing distance.

Overtaking Round Blind Bends or Summits
This overtake manouevre was started when there was no vision round the corner. If a car had been oncoming the person driving would have been forced back in (possibly into me) very quickly.

Highway Code Rule 166.
DO NOT overtake if there is any doubt, or where you cannot see far enough ahead to be sure it is safe. For example, when you are approaching a corner or bend, a hump bridge, or the brow of a hill.

Primary and Secondary Postion
People cycling take the lane (the primary position) to stop dangerous or close overtakes. Otherwise they will use the normal (or secondary position) which is around 1 metre out from the kerb. Here's the training from British Cycling, the official body responsible in the UK.

The IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) is also urging people cycling to “claim their lane”.

Car Doors Opening
Although there is the below code, riding in the door zone (where opening doors hit people cycling) is something to be avoided at all costs.

Highway Code Rule 239 (backed up by the RTA).
If you have to stop on the roadside you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door – check for cyclists or other traffic.


Signalling for All Traffic
Signaling is required. Signals warn and inform other road users, including pedestrians of your intended actions. Highway code rule 103.
Signals warn and inform other road users, including pedestrians (see 'Signals to other road users'), of your intended actions. You should always give clear signals in plenty of time, having checked it is not misleading to signal at that time.

Red Lights
Going through a red light is often a charge thrown at people cycling, and for some rightly so. I don't, it breaks Highway code rule 109.

Different wording between rules 80 and 81 show that it's perfectly legal to cross a Toucan crossing when the light is red. The use of "you MUST" for rule 81 makes it clear that you should not at Cycle-only crossings. No such wording exists for Toucan crossings.

A recent TfL study shows that despite RLJing being something that the general public believes all people cycling do, it's just not true. The majority of people cycling (84%) obey red traffic lights.

People driving also shouldn't RLJ and will do a lot more damage than people cycling (96% of all injuries after RLJ are caused by people driving). (page 10)

Driving Behaviour


The general rule for priorities when emerging from crossroads is that right turning traffic should give way to oncoming traffic.


This lists the speed at which the police (through ACPO) see sufficient to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice. It also shows the speed at which a summons is issued, so would have the process go through the courts, likely resulting in a much heavier penalty.

Currently the two boundaries are at:
  • for FPN, limit + 10% + 2mph, so 24mph in a 20 limit
  • for a summons 
    • up to 40mph, limit +55% +4mph, so 35mph in a 20 limit
    • over 40mph, +26mph, so 86mph in a 60 limit

Phoning and Driving
Using a handheld phone whilst driving is illegal in the UK. However, all the studies show that it's not the holding of the phone that is the issue but the call itself.

Really Bad or Aggressive Driving
Arguably, something along the lines of Careless Driving really should apply here.

Arguably, something along the lines of Dangerous Driving really should apply here.

Good Behaviour
I've often criticised people driving for poor overtakes, so here's an example of how to do it.

That kind of thing dissolves all tension and promotes a great stress-free existence for both parties. You get Road Rage? It's because you don't do this.

Parking and Stopping

Pedestrian Crossings
Highway Code rule 191 (backed up in law).
You MUST NOT park on a crossing or in the area covered by the zig-zag lines.

Highway Code rule192 (backed up in law).
In queuing traffic, you should keep the crossing clear.

Loading/Unloading Exemptions (backed up in law).
Yellow Lines and non-mandatory cyclelanes are exempt for the purpose of loading. However, loading and unloading must be a continuous activity and the vehicle must be moved once it is complete. Loading includes the movement of goods to and from premises, checks on the goods delivered and paperwork. You must be able to prove you are acting within the rules for loading and unloading

Places where you cannot stop to load and unload.
- A pedestrian crossing including the area marked by the zig-zag lines
- School keep-clear zig-zag lines
- On a road with double white lines marked in the centre
- A clearway during its hours of operation
- Mandatory cycle lanes (indicated by a solid line)
- Where the vehicle would cause an obstruction, eg within 10 metres of
a junction, or be in a dangerous position
- on single or double yellow line accompanied by short yellow Kerb markings

Bad Parking
Highway Code rule 240
DO NOT stop or park on a pedestrian crossing, including the area marked by the zig-zag lines.

Highway Code rule 243
DO NOT stop or park:

  • opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction, except in an authorised parking space
  • near a school entrance
  • near the brow of a hill or hump bridge
  • opposite a traffic island or (if this would cause an obstruction) another parked vehicle
  • on a bend
  • where you would obstruct cyclists’ use of cycle facilities

Stopping or Parking in Cycle Lanes
Highway Code Rule 240 (backed up in law)
You MUST NOT stop or park on a tram or cycle lane.

And the 1988 Road Traffic Act, section 21.
Any person who, without lawful authority, drives or parks a vehicle wholly or partly on a cycle track is guilty of an offence. Unless:
  • saving life, or extinguishing fire or meeting any other like emergency
  • maintaining of any structure or other work situated in the cycle track or its verges
  • undertaking work on water, sewerage electricity, gas, or telecomms network

The Freight Trade Association also say delivery stopping should not be done in cyclelanes. [PDF, bottom of page 3]

Driving in Cycle Lanes
Highway Code Rule 140 (backed up in law)
You MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line.

And the 1988 Road Traffic Act, section 21.
Any person who, without lawful authority, drives or parks a vehicle wholly or partly on a cycle track is guilty of an offence. Unless:
  • saving life, or extinguishing fire or meeting any other like emergency
  • maintaining of any structure or other work situated in the cycle track or its verges
  • undertaking work on water, sewerage electricity, gas, or telecomms network

Parking causing an Obstruction
Highway Code Rule 242 (backed up in law, RTA 1988, sect 22 & CUR reg 103)
You MUST NOT leave your vehicle or trailer in a dangerous position or where it causes any unnecessary obstruction of the road.

Highway Code Rule 243
DO NOT stop or park where you would obstruct cyclists’ use of cycle facilities except when forced to do so by stationary traffic.

Stopping on Pedestrain Crossings
Highway Code Rules 192 and 240 (which is also backed up in law under the RTRA).

Car Doors Opening
Although there is the below code, riding in the door zone (where opening doors hit people cycling) is something to be avoided at all costs.

Highway Code Rule 239 (backed up in law).
If you have to stop on the roadside you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door – check for cyclists or other traffic.

This is backed up in law (CUR reg 105).

Cycle Lanes

People Cycling in Cycle Lanes
Highway Code Rule63
Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory.

Too Fast for Shared Path
For those saying I should use the cycle path, can I remind you of the advise from the Department of Transport ( which tells me I should not use it at my speed. I'm sure the pedestrians would agree with that, and I'd like to protect them too.

Highway Code Rule 178 (backed up by the RTA).
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.

Stopping or Parking in Cycle Lanes
Highway Code Rule 240 (backed up in law)
You MUST NOT stop or park on a tram or cycle lane.

Driving in Cycle Lanes
Highway Code Rule 140 (backed up in law)
You MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line. Do not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line unless it is unavoidable.


Shared Paths
As people cycling would expect people driving to look out for their needs, people walking have a right to expect the same from people cycling.

Unfortunately, some shared paths do not help this and many cause conflict between people. People cycling do want to keep speed up as, unlike a car, all of their travelling is propelled by their own efforts. However, care should always be taken around people walking who can easily change direction without looking. This is not dissimilar from the Highway Code rule 213 where people driving need to look out for people cycling changing direction.

Here are a couple of examples of looking out for pedestrians.
A Guide to Sharing Space.
Crowd on pavement.

Also note that people driving should be aware that people cycling may need to make sudden changes whilst dealing with people walking. Highway Code rule 213.

Dog Walkers
I support dog walkers and pedestrians, and always give way to them and their pets. However, some dog owners fail in their responsibilities towards other path users.

Dog walkers should always be in control of their animals at all times. Note that should the dog cause an accident, it'd be me asking for compensation from the owner. I'd really hate that, especially if the animal was harmed.

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 section 3. (for Scotland)


Cycling For Everyone from Dutch Cycling Embassy on Vimeo.

Dutch Superhighway

Thursday 9 June 2011

One of Those Cycling Days

Forgive me, I've not written much on here recently. Mostly as I've been loading hundreds (yep!) of cycling videos onto YouTube and putting them into playlists for routes around the country. I've also been compiling a Cycling Examples series of clips, mostly of cars doing stupid things, but also of other hazards when on a bike.

However, I thought I'd write about today. It seemed like a nice day, sunny weather, and, bar a little early niggle, not much to report from the roads. That little niggle was maybe a hint of things to come.

The niggle, unfortunately, was not recorded as it was behind me. I was coming down Brooklands Avenue (a road with no room to overtake if there's oncoming traffic, as you can see). I took a glance to me right to catch in the corner of my eye, a Stagecoach bus not 6 foot from my back wheel. Wooooeeeee! My heart skipped several beats, we are both doing around 20mph, so if I wobble a bit, I'm under the buses wheels. How comes this driver passed their pubic service vehicle license?

Brooklands Avenue has proved a harsh place for cyclists. This is undoubtedly the reason for the shared off-road cycle path, although this doesn't help me as you can see from this clip and the advise from the Department of Transport which tells me I should not use it at my speed and the IAM suggests positive postioning.

Anyway, that aside the ride seemed nice, until I met maddening Madingley Road! I did record a car coming the other way at speed over a blind summit. Do note that you do not see the car until the very last moment.

Now, I'm not sure there's too much wrong with this, but it puts into light previous interactions with vehicles here, namely this.

So, I'm still in a happy mood! Then, not 2 minutes later I get this.

Far too close at that speed, and again, the vision ahead is quite limited. This is breaking "Highway code rule 163".

So now I'm getting a bit angry. Muttering about drivers being blind ignorant idiots. Often this dispels as the joy of riding takes over. But then, 2 minutes later this.

Again, this is breaking "Highway code rule 163". Luckily driver number two shows everyone how you should do it.

Grump, grump, grump. This time, a few minutes later, the driver isn't dangerous to me, but shows the blind, robot-like driving skills of a dustbin.

And then it's all back to normal. 15 minutes of nice riding. No incidents down sections where I'm used to boneheaded decision making in 1 ton of metal at 40+ mph.

I'm just cooling down and enjoying myself when I get this utterly reckless action which leaves me completely shaken.

This driver utterly terrified me. It left me very shaky and worried for my life. I went back to an incident about 18 months ago in my head. Because of oncoming traffic this driver didn't even get across the white line in the middle of the road doing upwards of 40mph. I could hear the car coming and could work out that it'd be very close. I felt threatened, intimidated, and bullied off the road.

This is breaking "Highway code rule 163". Well not just breaking it, shattering it, jumping up and down on the pieces, then throwing the pieces in the fire.

And for those saying I should use the cycle path, can I remind you of the advise from the Department of Transport which tells me I should not use it at my speed. I'm sure the pedestrians would agree with that, and I'd like to protect them too.

UPDATE: I've put up a map giving some measurements of this incident at showing this car was doing ~45mph within ~1foot of me. I've measured the time using MS Live Movie Project on a frame-by-frame basis. I've taken the car width to be 5.75ft, the bike width as 2ft, and placed my centre at 2ft from the kerb (exactly placed as the IAM suggests).

Not 20 seconds later, completely shaken, I get another driver not using their brain.

If these 2 events happened to a parent I would completely understand them never letting their children on a bike. It's perfectly clear that riding a bike can be so dangerous because this country has so many complete idiots able to wield 1 ton of metal as a weapon. More cyclists die on the roads of this country (inferred 150 in 2007) than by a gun (59 in 2007). And yet it's the gun crime that gets the headlines. Worldwide, over a million people die on the roads every year, over 3000 a day. It ranks in the top ten causes of death worldwide (higher in the developed world!). Period.

So, I'm now not happy. I toddle on doing more than muttering. Luckily I had no more scares or close calls. But it's made me more determined to get laws changed, people educated, priority given over to the vunerable, and more done to calm our town streets and country roads.

This is a classic example of 1980s style thinking when it comes to cycling priorities.

It's always a trying time on a bicycle. The road to the right of me has straight on and left as roundabout options. You'd have thought most people would remember that they should signal when turning left, but it's very few how do remember. A driver learning site suggests everyone should be signalling as I'm in full sight.

It makes this junction lethal, as you simply cannot tell if the vehicle is coming down this road or not. The idea, I guess, is that all cyclists should completely stop, look around and wait until there's not a car in sight, then progress slowly and carefully across the road. Anyone who's ever been on a bike knows how ridiculous this is.

Finally, a van doing a rather ridiculous manoeuvre in the middle of Trumpington.

The usual case of "I do what I want, whatever the consequences for anyone else" rudeness. I can't help but feel that rather than reverse, this van ought to go 50 yards further up the road and turn around at the junction.

So, there it is. Just one of those cycling days. Although it's really very indicative of why, in the current climate, the UK will never become a mass cycling country. Depressing.

Friday 6 May 2011

Ipsden - Mapledurham Circuit

A map of the 20 mile route.

I didn't video all of the circuit just the bits that seemed interesting to me (mostly offroad!).

Out of the top field from Brazier's Park and up the road. Phone call interrupts ride.

Remainder of ride to King William the Fourth in Hailey. Pub with the best view in the country.

Ride up the green lane from the King William the Fourth in Hailey to the Stoke Row road through Ipsden Heath.

From Stoke Row along track to Wyfold Court

From Wyfold Court along to the old fort towards Cane End.

Route through stables at Cane End and on towards Mapledurham.

Small final section of offroad on towards Mapledurham.

Thames River Path from Mapledurham to Whitchurch Road.

Thames River Path from Whitechurch to Goring. The dangerous slope section have recently had the steps removed making it quite hairaising!

Thames River Path from Whitechurch to Goring. After the dangerous slope section the path becomes easier but no less exciting.

Sunday 13 February 2011

What We Did in the Wood Workshop

and adjoining, well er, space!

We filled up the "fixed pole" bay.

And made new geodome struts from the willow out front.

And finished by playing pick up sticks.

Mind you, all the poles are nice new lat poles with properly nailed top ends.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

An Hour in a Cyclepath: Hills Road Station Road to Brooklands Avenue

Some safety concerns with 70 vehicles in 1 hour in cycle path

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

Along Hills Road there have been some fantastic developments to help cyclists travel and protect them from general traffic, whilst also aiding traffic flow. The new Hill Road Bridge is a good example of some well thought out design. I was a bit concerned that the previous version, which was so good, couldn't be improved upon. I was wrong.

Enough about the bridge, I'm more concerned with other bits here. The section of this city-centre-to-town-outskirts route between Station Road and Brooklands Avenue is proving a little difficult for road users. Here it is in detail on a sunny day.

Notice the cycle-path sign right at the beginning, but also notice the dashed white line on it's edge. What does that mean? Then, at 15 seconds in, a bus-stop appears, directly after which a cycle path sign appears. I assume this to make sure it's obvious that this is only a cycle path from the end of the bus-stop, so bus drivers know. Again, that dashed white line borders the main road. Then at 36 seconds a second dashed line appears in the middle of the lane, about 1 metre outside the bike lane. Now, what does that mean? At 46 seconds, the dashed line bordering the cycle path disappears leaving the other dashed line which gives the appearance of a two car-lane approach to the coming junction, despite roughly two-thirds of the inner lane being covered by red cycle path tarmac. Finally, the red tarmac disappears at 51 seconds at the pedestrian crossing.

So, where is there a cycle path along this section? Where should cyclists feel protected from traffic?

Let's start with what does that dashed line mean? Article 140 of the The Highway Code makes it fairly clear.

  • Cycle lanes. These are shown by road markings and signs. You MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation. Do not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line unless it is unavoidable. You MUST NOT park in any cycle lane whilst waiting restrictions apply.

Or does it? What does it mean by "unavoidable"? I have to cross a cycle lane when I park, that seems pretty unavoidable. But what about just to avoid non-moving traffic that isn't going the same way as your vehicle? As mentioned, this is on the way towards a junction with two separate routes for traffic. So maybe to avoid stopped traffic in the outer lane (waiting to turn right) is considered "unavoidable"?

I've tried looking up the Road Traffic Act (as referred at the bottom of the Highway Code quote) but can't find anything readable. Mind you, this means there's an interpretation under law here, not just the Highway Code. I think I'd choose the interpretation that short of crossing the cycle path, any entry is avoidable.

But then there's the problem of when does the cycle path end. When the second dashed line appears? When the first dashed line ends? Or when the red tarmac ends? Again, I, like most cyclists, would suggest that the red tarmac is the defining issue. But that second dashed line does confuse most vehicle drivers.

Here's a short video (turn the sound down, Radio 6 was on!), taken over one hour that I've cut to pick up vehicles straying into the cycle path. In all fairness, most vehicles did stick with my interpretation of the cycle path and avoided the red tarmac. However, this video is over 6 minutes long, implying that for 10% of the time, there is a vehicle on the red tarmac. This shows that a significant proportion of vehicles either are confused or don't share my interpretation. And, just to add, I didn't pick up the large numbers of vehicles that just clipped the edge.

I make that a total of 70 vehicles including 37 cars, 22 buses, 5 taxis, and 6 vans (please do check, I may be one or two out!). Two particular items to note: at 2:06 a learner/instructor driver and at 5:07 a cyclist having to make a manoeuvre to avoid a car pulling into the cycle path.

So, what's going on? Although there is clearly a need for better education around cycle lanes, especially if my interpretation of the cycle path is correct, there is a clear need for clarification along this stretch. The road needs to be clearly marked so that drivers and cyclists know what is where. At the moment this just isn't the case.

Clear road markings would help all road users understand their path along the road. Cyclists would know that they need to slow down earlier if their path boundaries are not guarenteed to be free of motor vehicles making manoeuvres. Drivers would know that they cannot just move over because their journey is slightly impeded.

Especially important is the high proportion of buses spotted to buses on the road. Other vehicles have a much lower proportion. (Sorry, no figures, but just look at 22 buses compared to 37 cars, that's 1 bus to every 1.68 cars!) One reason for this maybe that bus lanes and cycle paths are coloured using the same tarmac. Go into town a bit in the other direction, there's a good example outside St Paul's Church. So, I'd guess a proportion of bus drivers think that this is a bus lane, despite the clearly marked cycle path signs early on. Clearly, that's a big educational gap!

Now, I've had further experience of buses in this cycle path, down near the bus-stop. Here is a cyclists-eye view of when vehicles move into the cycle path.

Stationary traffic, what cycle paths where made for! A school student and I are making our way up the inside as allowed. The second bus along is determined to get into the bus-stop and accelerates forwards and into the cycle path whilsts we are on it's inside. HEE-BEE-GEE-BEES!!!! Both of us jam on brakes thinking we are about to be deposited either onto the pavement or under the wheels. With our space cut in half, the bus stops. Not because we have been spotted but because it cannot go any further forward in traffic. We can only tell this once we've both negotiated the limited space left to move along the cycle path. And it's at least 40 metres before the bus stop itself. So, why is it pulling into the cycle path in any case?

If you know any constructive answers to the above questions, please feel free to let me know. And the "constructive" is intended to show I'm not interested in the very-slow-to-get-it drivers who'd prefer to get all cyclists off the road, despite that approach increasing the congestion they'd have to suffer!

Oh, and a reminder of the financial breakdown to the answer of that age-old failed "You don't pay road tax" is here.