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Lapping up the crumbs again

It’s been a while since I had a go at the CTC on here. I was hoping that they were turning themselves around, after taking on the national Space for Cycling campaign, the headline of which is protected cycleways along main roads.

Unfortunately it seems that the CTC is like a big old container ship – it takes quite some time to turn it around. It started to turn – slightly – about a year ago, but since then I wonder if there’s been fighting at the helm or something, because it seems to have gotten stuck part-way. As far as I can see it’s just been sat there for the last six months, seemingly doing nothing much.

So I was saddened to see the CTC falling back into its old ways, cosying up to a cycling-hostile government by gratefully accepting yet another patronising pat on the head. This time, the crumb is a £1 million fee given to the CTC, who are going to spend it trying to convince people to oil their old bike, as if that’s going to make the slightest difference to the cycling rates.

I wouldn’t mind so much if the CTC was doing this off their own initiative. I wouldn’t get excited about it, but nor would I care so much. It would be another pointless exercise in futility. Meh.

But the involvement of the DfT – the actual British Government Department for Transport – stinks. The DfT shouldn’t be involved with frilly stuff like this, it should be about big infrastructure, major policy, long-term investments – and with every other form of transport, they are. They’re planning a railway so expensive that it won’t even be finished until half of my readers are dead.

But what do they do for cycling?

“Events in towns and cities, delivered in conjunction with bike re-cycle centres to present members of the public with an opportunity to:

  • Fix a cycle so it can start to be used and learn how to maintain it
  • Trade a cycle for one better suited to individual needs and donate surplus cycles
  • Learn where best to cycle in their local area and discover local cycling activity
  • Receive cycle training to increase confidence in cycling on the road”

Great. More “encouragement” – because that’s worked so well in the past, hasn’t it?

And the CTC legitimises this bullshit by putting their name to it, validating the DfT’s pathetic attempt to buy off the cycling lobby. Then again, that million quid must have been hard to resist, and Sustrans would have probably taken it if the CTC hadn’t, so you can’t really blame them I guess.

But I have doubts about any campaign organisation that accepts money from the very people their campaigning should be aimed at. It always leads to meekness, unwillingness to bite the hand that feeds it. Just look at how Sustrans changed from being a vocal campaign group into a compliant union of third-sector professionals addicted to government hand-outs.

The other annoying thing is, the DfT know that people don’t want to cycle on the roads as they are. They know that soft measures don’t work. They even admit as much in their puff-piece for this scheme:

“In 2013, 42 per cent of adults in Britain had access to a bicycle, yet 63 per cent said they had not ridden a bicycle in the past year. Despite this, 37 per cent of adults in Britain agree that many of the short journeys (less than 2 miles) that they currently make by car could just as easily be made by cycling.”

And what’s their solution? Maintenance classes and training. Whoop-de-fucking-do.

Survey after survey tells us that the main reason people don’t cycle is fear of motor traffic. All the statistics point to better infrastructure leading to increased ridership.

We don’t need more statistics and reports, we just need someone to roll them up and hit Robert Goodwill over the head with them.

And we need the CTC – and other campaign groups – to have the guts to say “no thanks, that’s just pointless busywork. Can we have decent minimum design standards and serious long-term investment instead please?”

 


Addendum: Somehow I missed this comment, from CTC chief Paul Tuohy, on the Road.CC article:

“The minister’s backing is a sign of the level of importance that the Department for Transport is placing on getting people back into the saddle, for which we are enormously grateful.”

On the first point I agree – the minister’s backing is a sign of the level of importance the DfT places on cycling – unfortunately Tuohy doesn’t seem to realise that the level of importance is near zero.

Secondly, “we” (I assume that’s just the CTC, he’s not speaking for all of us is he?) are “enormously grateful” for this piddling little insult/£1m sweetener. I can hear the slurping sound from here – is that chocolate on your face, Paul?

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BOW BEFORE THE POWER OF THE CYCLING LOBBY

Note: A couple of people have mentioned that perhaps this blog post seems insensitive, given recent events in the Middle East. And I know what they’re thinking – I did consider whether to post this or not.

It’s certainly not my intention to make light of the atrocities being committed by ISIS. My goal here is to parody recent comments by LTDA boss Steve McNamara where he compared cycle campaigners to terrorists, by juxtaposing the peaceful goals of cycle campaigners with the rhetoric style of a terrorist organisation.

McNamara’s comment was (surely?) tongue-in-cheek, and he’s taken a lot of stick for it, but there did already seem to exist this bizarre notion that cycle campaigners are a powerful force with selfish, harmful goals – when the truth is, cycle campaigners are mostly ignored, really struggle to gain anything, and their goals are safe, healthy travel which is accessible to everyone and from which all of society can benefit.

Parody does sail quite close to the wind, and for some people this article may have crossed a line, so I felt it best to add this explanation. I hope nobody’s too offended.

I have recently been sent a video which shows three people sat in a darkened room, dressed in winter hats and smog masks. I believe they are the leaders of BICIC – the Band Intent on Creating Irresistible Cycleways.

The location is hard to determine but I can see bicycle tyres stacked up in the background, and one of the three is holding a hand-pump.

There’s a flag in the background that looks like this:

A logo for BICIC, a parody of the ISIL logo, featuring a bike wheel

 

Only one person speaks in the video. Here is a transcript:

—TRANSMISSION BEGINS—

At long last, London has begun to fall under our onslaught of reason and well-researched facts! Many people now recognise that the bicycle is a mode of transport that makes sense and should be safe for anybody to use!

There are still those who resist our progress, but the heretical dogma of the heathen merely encourages us to fight on.

We have kept our heads low since our major victories of the 1970s, where we defeated the menace of motor-dominance and brought safe, healthy travel to generations of Dutch people.

We have since suffered under the hands of the hated Vehicularists, led by Forester and Franklin, who peddle their vile creed which has resulted in almost total domination by the motor lobby.

After our long slumber we are now active once more, and our peaceful campaign for low-cost, safe, healthy transportation for all is finally becoming recognised to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, and improve public health.

There are some who liken us to violent gangs, though our methods are merely the written and spoken word. That they stoop so low proves that the pen really can be mightier than the sword, and it shows how frightened they are of our mighty pen.

Cities across the world have now begun to see the possibilities created by safe, inviting walking and cycling infrastructure, and at long last we have achieved our first minor victory in London.

There is still much work to be done, comrades. There are still battles to be fought and minds to be won. And never forget that there are many who will attempt to derail our inevitable victory.

Onwards!

Healthy travel options for all!

—TRANSMISSION ENDS—

 

Blimey.

Perhaps they’re linked to these guys?

 

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More Dutch cycling scenes in a British context

Sorry for the long intro, it just happened by accident. Click here to jump straight to the pictures!

Over two years ago I posted this article featuring images where I’d cut out people from photos of the Netherlands, and placed them in typical British urban scenes.

They were well-received and seem to have been shared widely. My favourite response was from this guy who described how you can tell by the shadows – the shadows! – that the toddler isn’t really cycling around the Elephant and Castle gyratory.

The intention was to show that to make cycling an accessible transport choice for anyone in Britain, we need to change the roads. Training and encouragement just won’t work. The vast majority of people don’t want to cycle amongst motor vehicles – well driven or otherwise – and huge sections of society simply wouldn’t be physically able to.

Satire versus propaganda

Funnily enough, I was recently reading some old posts on the much-missed Crap Waltham Forest blog and came across the image below, created by training company CTUK, used to promote their services some years ago.

A photoshopped image of a smiling young woman cycling in the outside lane across the notoriously horrible Waterloo Bridge in London, while a van and a car can be seen behind her.

Don’t worry about that car that’s about to undertake you – you’ve had training!

How I laughed! That’s Waterloo Bridge in London she’s riding on (ignore the cut-and-pasted St. Paul’s cathedral dome), and I can assure you that few people experience such carefree joy while riding across there. Photoshop to the rescue.

The idea that cycle training will make you smile with glee whilst riding in the outside lane amongst speeding motor traffic towards the terrifying maelstrom of taxis that is the Waterloo Imax roundabout is just pitiful.

But what I found funniest of all was that this image could easily have been on that previous post of mine. It’s a ridiculous juxtaposition of what cycling should be like and what cycling in the UK is actually like.

But while my images were designed to show how ridiculous it is to expect people to cycle amongst heavy motor traffic, this image was being presented as a positive vision to promote cycle training!

I can see now why the guy on the Birmingham forum thought that this was a pro-VC image, as my satire was only one step removed from the propaganda released by vehicular cycling advocates themselves.

Vehicular cycling flat-Earthers will clutch at any straws to suggest cycling amongst motor vehicles is preferable to Dutch-style cycleways, whether it’s misrepresenting reports and statistics, or presenting rare, stage-managed occurrences as normal.

Unfortunately, while vehicular cycling training may indeed help a small number of individuals, it simply isn’t a route to mass cycling – though the training industry won’t say this, as they presumably don’t want to offend their friends with the chequebook at the (real) Department for Transport.

Now, the pictures…

Anyway, if there are any vehicular cycling supremacists out there that want to keep making ridiculously grandiose claims, here’s some more images they might like to employ. (Click on any image for larger version.)

A photo of two girls on bikes outside their primary school in the Netherlands has been cut out and pasted onto a photo of a horrible road in Hackney

Such confidence – Bikeability can achieve so much! (Click here to see the girls safely back in Assen. UK photo by Rossi)

A photo of a late-middle-aged woman riding a bike in the Netherlands has been cut out and pasted into a London traffic scene, scarily close to a bus

Remember, you don’t need speed to practice vehicular cycling techniques. Just maintain eye contact with the driver, all will be well. (Here she is back on home ground. UK photo by Rossi)

A photo of five young girls cycling in the Netherlands, mixed with the horrible bus-choked reality at Hackney Central

Remember to take the lane through the junction, girls – especially you at the back! (NL photo by David Hembrow, UK photo by Hackney Cyclist)

A group of commuters in Utrecht, cut out and pasted into a photo of Euston Road in London, complete with thundering HGV and black cab.

Cycling is for everyone, a great way to get fit too! (But not really in the UK.)

A photo-montage of a Dutch family (mothers, several children) on an outing by bike, pasted into London's busy and dangerous Kings Cross

The whole family can enjoy days out by bike – just remember to clearly signal your intentions to the tipper truck driver! (Here they are not having to worry about tipper trucks.)

(Yes, the last two are repeats from the 2012 post, but much improved over the originals!)

 


Epilogue: I shouldn’t have to say this again, but here it is anyway: I’m not against cycle training per sé – if someone wants to ride a bike bike in the UK today and they want advice on how to do it, then fair enough. Nor am I against vehicular cycling as a method of coping with Britain’s awful roads.

But to suggest that vehicular cycling training can have anything more than a miniscule effect on the number of people cycling is nonsense. Cycle training is not a route to mass cycling. Even some of cycle training’s biggest names admit that cycle training just isn’t reaching the masses.

And after yet another cycling death involving someone with plenty of cycling experience, how much skill do we expect the average person to possess in order to cope with riding a bike amongst motor vehicles?

 

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Cycleway design in Berlin and beyond

I often see people refer to studies of German cycleways where the conclusion is that they’re dangerous, then claiming that these studies are evidence that all cycleways are therefore dangerous.

(Actually, I say ‘studies’ but it’s usually just a link to this, an English summary of one study from 30 years ago, written by one of Forester’s army of tedious greybeards.)

There is this false notion of “northern European countries” being some homogenous mass, all of them covered with identical cycling infrastructure, and that means a German study critical of German cycle infrastructure is therefore critical of the very concept of cycle infrastructure.

But the truth is that there’s huge variation between these countries. The Netherlands leads by a country mile, Denmark a distant second, and everywhere else is a runner-up. The UK didn’t even enter the race.

To use the phrase “northern European countries” with regards to good cycle infrastructure is to beat around the bush: you mean the Netherlands. Say “the Netherlands”. Sure, it’s not all perfect, but that’s where the best stuff is, by far, and in great quantities.

German engineering at its worst

So these people who quote studies of German cycling infrastructure are missing one major point: German cycleways are crap. So the studies merely prove that crap cycleways are crap. It’s certainly no smoking gun.

Quoting a study of German cycleways from today would be bad enough, but in the 1980s they were even worse, judging by some of the older stuff here in Berlin. To use that study to argue against good quality cycling infrastructure is like quoting the Hindenburg disaster to argue that travelling on an aeroplane is deadly.

No modern cycling infrastructure advocate should be asking for what we have here in Berlin, or holding it up as a shining example.

I don’t claim to have visited every German town and city, but I’ve been to a few. Some places are better than others, but in none of them has there been anything worth writing about. Even the most average Dutch town has far better infrastructure by comparison.

As I now spend my days in Berlin, let’s look at some Berlin cycleways, shall we?

First of all, it’s important to remember that cycling infrastructure in Berlin is unreliable. There’s no network, just disjointed paths which you can never be sure aren’t about to suddenly end without warning. And often where there is a cycleway, it’s narrow, rutted or covered with foliage. So the bits I’m covering here are the parts where reasonable cycleways actually exist, and not the majority of roads where there’s nothing (painted lanes don’t count).

Junctions with traffic lights

The biggest problem with Berlin’s cycleways is the major junctions. For some crazy reason, instead of keeping bicycles and motor vehicles separate at this most dangerous point, the standard design actually brings bikes towards motor vehicles!

A protected cycleway in Berlin which suddenly becomes unprotected at a junction

Rather than continue in a straight line to the junction so that bikes and turning cars meet at right-angles, the cycleway suddenly swerves left into the blind spot of turning vans. (See for yourself here.)

That’s right – the intentional design here leads people on bikes into the blind spot of motor vehicles that might be turning. That the cycleway might have been hidden by parked vehicles until just before the junction doesn’t help.

And then, to top it off, the separation ends, usually just before the junction proper. So suddenly you’re cycling on the road, right alongside motor vehicles which may be turning across your path.

The signal phases aren’t separated either, so turning motor vehicles and bikes going straight on get a green light at the same time. This isn’t necessarily a huge issue as drivers here are used to giving way to people walking and cycling when turning on green, but as the bike lane is now right up alongside the turning cars, as soon as the front car begins to turn, the cycle lane is blocked.

This bizarrely crap design also means that the “free right turn” which is taken for granted in the Netherlands doesn’t exist here. This adds much time and effort into a journey by bike, as well as danger.

It isn’t at all like the true protected intersection [1] [2] or simultaneous green junction that bike infrastructure advocates want.

People of all ages and abilities using a simultaneous green junction by bike

Simultaneous Green junction in the Netherlands. Bikes get a green light to go in all directions at once, while all motor vehicles are held at red lights. Complete safety, as well as convenience and speed. (Photo: David Hembrow)

Unsignalled junctions

Unsignalled junctions aren’t much better. There’s little consistency for a start, every cycleway is treated differently at side-roads. (The only consistent aspect is that it’s nearly always rubbish.)

For example, here on Frankfurter Allee, rather than the cycleway continuing in a straight line or bending away from the main road at a junction, it bends towards the turning cars instead, guaranteeing poor visibility angles and reducing reaction time.

Furthermore, the cycleway drops down to carriageway level, and is marked out only in paint. In essence, it becomes a painted cycle lane, offering no protection at all.

A cycleway on Frankfurter Allee in Berlin, where bikes are suddenly diverted into the blind-spot of turning drivers for no reason at all.

The few dozen people driving into this car park have priority over the thousands of people riding and walking along here. Take a look for yourself here.

Another example, here on Schönhauser Allee, is better than above. But there’s still much wrong with it. The corner radius for turning cars is too large (it should be tight to slow down turning cars). The cycleway drops down to meet the road, there’s a visible kerb which confuses visual priority, and a bumpy change of surface on the cycleway from tiles to paint.

A cycleway crosses a minor side-road in Berlin, but the quality of implementation is poor

I know this probably looks like a dream to all my UK and US readers, but please know that this isn’t good enough.

Contrast those with the usual design for these roads in the Netherlands, where the cycleway continues at a raised level, and so does the footway – it’s the driving infrastructure which is disjointed, not walking and cycling.

The view of a Dutch-style continuous-path minor junction from the view of a bike rider. The cyclepath and footpath both continue across the junction, and the minor road is disconnected from the main road. Cars have to mount the pavement and cross both paths to get between the two roads.

There’s little doubt who has right of way from this point of view. The white squares make riders aware that there’s a potential hazard at that section, and bollards prevent cars from leaving their allotted area.

Here, turning motor vehicles must turn at a sharp angle and mount a sloped kerb, which ensures slow speeds, and cars cross the cycleway at 90º, giving good visibility. This also gives people on bikes to know that a car is turning long before any collision may occur, unlike the common German design where the bike path is right alongside the turning car, so there’s no time to react if the driver hasn’t seen you.

Better cycleways are the answer, not Vehicular Cycling

Anyway, I won’t go in to more detail about why Germany’s cycleways are poor. (And yes, I’ve been to Bremen, I wasn’t impressed there either.)

That many German cycle campaigns are anti-cycleway should tell you all you need to know: German cycleways are poor quality. But many of these campaigners, unfortunately, are campaigning for Germany to become more like the UK: i.e. painted lanes and battling for road-space with motor vehicles, and the 2% journey share that comes with it.

The way to achieve more and safer cycling – as found in a tiny, low country just to the West – is to improve the quality and design of cycleways, not to get rid of them altogether.

Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent here. The main point is this:

Quoting studies of poor-quality, outdated designs doesn’t disprove the very concept of separate cycleways, but instead reinforces the need for using the best designs.

Anyone who quotes studies of German cycleways as proof that all cycle infrastructure is a bad idea, is either uninformed or abusing the truth in order to mislead.

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Camden’s West End Project: Compromise or Capitulation?

So after last year’s debate about Camden’s plans for a thorough re-do of Tottenham Court Road and surrounding area, the council has come back with some finished plans.

David Arditti covered it twice, Rachel Aldred analysed it, and Danny of Cyclists in the City questioned the merits of the scheme. MaidstoneOnBike presented his own plan for Tottenham Court Road. Mark of the iBikeLondon blog has been largely in favour throughout, but I really couldn’t disagree more.

The essential problem with the scheme is that Camden continue to prioritise motor vehicles, at the expense of people on foot and on bikes.

During the day, cycles and private motor vehicles will all be funnelled onto Gower Street, and it doesn’t really fit. Well, it does, if the footways are trimmed back a bit, and nobody ever wobbles, but only just. It will never be a pleasant ride, even when the cycleway isn’t being used for parked vans.

Meanwhile, the spacious Tottenham Court Road will be turned into a copy of Oxford Street, i.e. end-to-end buses, with all the dangers that entails and air so thick with pollution you can almost chew it.

To describe the planned Tottenham Court Road as “a primarily pedestrian route” is pure hyperbole, considering that for 13 hours a day it will be open to all traffic in both directions (opening up new motor vehicle routes that currently don’t exist).

Camden's drawing of how Tottenham Court Road will look. Pure propaganda.

The sun will always shine, the buses will be invisible, people will walk wherever they please, the lion will lay down with the lamb…

Where are all the buses in this photo? What will it look like at 5 past 7 in the evening, when it’s open to all traffic in both directions? The photo is pure propaganda.

The stepped cycleway on Gower Street is a compromise in itself, the bare minimum that we should accept, both in width and design (it should be wider and better separated). Yet now we’re expected to also accept vans parking on it right in the middle of the day (10am to 2pm) – a compromise upon a compromise.

Do you know how annoying it is to find someone parked in a cycle lane? Well, now imagine that to ride past it you have to hop down a kerb into the general lane, then hop back up once you’ve passed. (Or, more likely, people will hop up onto the footway, causing more conflict there instead.) That’s what’s being planned on Gower Street – In 2015! By intentional design! – and I don’t think it’s an acceptable compromise.

A van parked on a cycleway, blocking it.

Coming soon to London! Camden’s boldest urban design scheme yet, so ambitious, great for cycling! (Photo: Car Sick Glasgow)

While any sort of cycleway can seem like a miracle in London, the planned Gower Street cycleway feels like such a token effort to me. It only exists in short, intermittent lengths between junctions, where it will become a painted lane with an ASL at the end.

Camden's plan for Gower Street and Grafton Way junction.

The brown areas are raised carriageway, so there will be just painted lanes, no physical separation. There’s a lot of this on the Gower Street plans.

The junctions themselves offer no protection, just at the point where it’s most needed. Apparently these painted lanes and ASLs are “to make it safer for cyclists”! Someone at Camden Council has got a very dark sense of humour.

Is this what we campaigned for? Is it even remotely suitable for all ages, all abilities?

I’m clearly not the only one who feels this way, judging by the comments on London Cycling Campaign’s news article about the plans.

But don’t just take my word for it, have a look at the plans yourself. There’s a lot of cycle lanes and ASLs on them.

There comes a point at which compromise becomes capitulation, and to praise these plans is to cross that line.

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A Study of the Obvious, a Franklin-on-Your-Shoulder, and the Myth of the “Inexperienced Cyclist”

Yet another ridiculous news story has landed, this time about some students at Edinburgh University who have attached electrodes, cameras and microphones to people’s heads to see how stressed they feel riding around in a park compared to a huge, busy roundabout.

So it’s another piece of research you can file under “No Shit, Sherlock”, then. (“Do people on bikes feel stressed when faced with multiple, swirling lanes of massive trucks? There’s only one way to find out. Approve that research funding, professor!”)

But the real kicker is this: rather than use this data to identify which roads and junctions most urgently need updating with modern, cycling-friendly infrastructure, the intention is to develop a smartphone app which will then act as a mini John Franklin (or worse – John Forester) telling you to take the lane and watch out for car doors, as if it’s going to make the slightest fucking difference to anything.

I mean, come on, seriously? Does anyone really think that this will “encourage reluctant cyclists”? 25 years of Cyclecraft haven’t worked, turning it into a nagging back-seat passenger is unlikely to have any effect either.

The roundabout in the video looks awful. The real-life Franklin and Forester could stand at the side of the road, both yelling at me to take the outside lane, and I’d still choose to get off and walk. No smartphone app is that persuasive.

Are you experienced?

Why does this false concept of the “inexperienced cyclist” who needs only encouragement and advice keep cropping up? This is a prevalent idea, that people new to cycling are shrinking violets who just need some handy hints and exposure to horrific conditions to turn them into a road warrior.

Well I call bullshit on that. I’m an “experienced cyclist” but I’d get off and walk too, because I’m not so insanely numbed to danger that I’m willing to ignore it and pretend that my range of hints and tips are what keep me alive.

By any measure, most residents of the Netherlands are “experienced cyclists” – even the laziest Dutchman will have vastly more cycling experience than the average Brit – and yet I can’t imagine many of them would happily launch themselves across Crewe Toll roundabout.

A woman cycles on a smooth, wide cycleway, separated from both the footway and the carriageway.

This woman probably has more cycling experience than 99% of the British population. It’s likely that she rides a bike several times a week, and has done for decades. Does that mean she’s ready to Take the Lane™ at your nearest gyratory?

Everyone’s welcome

To add insult to injury someone from the local cycle campaign turns up to “welcome” this, seemingly because anything that’s remotely connected with bikes must be welcomed.

Has the council painted a bike symbol somewhere? We welcome it! Has the government announced £73 funding for more paint? We welcome it! Has somebody just said the word ‘bicycle’? We welcome it! Is there a dog turd which somebody has ridden a bike over, leaving the imprint of the tyre? We welcome it – because after all, it’s got something to do with cycling, so it might encourage that one extra person we need for the government to finally take notice of us! What else was the last 35 years for?

There is one aspect of this project that the campaigners don’t like though, and that’s reality. You see, this project involves people actually riding bikes in Britain, and therefore the grim reality of cycling on British roads is captured in the video footage. The campaigners fear that this might put some potential cyclists off.

That’s right, it’s video footage of the roads that’s putting people off cycling, not the roads themselves! Don’t fix the roads, just stop broadcasting footage of them, that’ll make the problem go away and we can get back to slapping the council on the back every time they mention cycling!

“This is bad enough in a car”

Interestingly, the video shows a brief clip of the research footage, where the students have transcribed what the riders were saying as they rode the route. “Experienced” cyclists’ spoken comments are shown in yellow, and comments uttered by “inexperienced” cyclists (AKA “normal people who aren’t desensitised to danger”) are shown in white.

In the article, the student claims that “the inexperienced cyclists make very emotional comments and were getting very stressed, whereas the experienced cyclists were just stating the obvious like ‘here comes another truck'”.

But looking at the short section of footage shown in the report, the “experienced” cyclists don’t seem particularly calm and collected either. They suggest a state of alertness that I’m sure not one of the motor vehicle drivers felt:

“Obviously roundabouts could be a lot better for cyclists” … “This is bad enough in a car” … “Roundabouts are pretty mental” … “Sharpish on to the roundabout while I can” … “There’s a van just behind me, he’s a bit keen to get on to the roundabout, I hope he gives me a chance” … “Feel very small compared to all these cars on this huge roundabout”

And remember, those are the quotes from the “experienced cyclists”! I don’t think any number of smartphone apps are going to fix that junction.

Screenshot from BBC News report, showing footage of cycling journey around a roundabout, superimposed with quotes from those cycling, such as 'Roundabouts are pretty mental'

“That’s scary, man” – you got that right!


Interestingly there is one comment, though without context, either from someone blessed with the gift of seeing the bright side of everything, or from one of those full-time cyclists who carries their bike around the supermarket and wears their greasy hi-vis to bed:

“It’s probably slightly easier on a bike, because you have a far, far better field of view.”

That’s a thin silver lining on a very dark cloud.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel-vision

Anyway, I’ll leave this Scrooge-like rant with a note of positivity, and that is this: Our message that better infrastructure is the main answer must be getting through, as the final paragraph is essentially an admission that the subject of the piece is bunkum:

“But their work has already reminded us why campaigners argue it is investment in improved infrastructure which is most likely to encourage more of us to choose two wheels in future.”

Exactly right. And with that, I wish you all the best for the season. Thanks for reading.


PS. The article claims that “campaigners point out that Edinburgh, and some other places, are already well on the way towards achieving 10% or an even higher cycle share of journeys.” Can anyone tell me which campaigners are saying this, as I’d really like to hear some justification of that patently false claim.

 

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Justice and Progress

There’s a lot of anger following the inquest into the death of Michael Mason, and justifiably so.

A driver hit and killed a man who was riding a bike directly in front of her car. For some unknown reason she didn’t see the man on the bike directly in front of her, but the police decided that this was not worth bothering the criminal courts with.

For more information about the case, I suggest you read this piece by Martin Porter QC, who represented Michael’s family at the inquest, this piece by Mark Treasure, and this piece by Evening Standard journalist Ross Lydall.

It’s a sad case, yet one more example of the UK establishment’s acceptance of road deaths.

But it’s also another example of why mixing cycling (or walking) with motor vehicles is never desirable.

Michael Mason was a very experienced rider. According to Ross Lydall’s blog post, he’d been “cycling daily throughout his adult life” – i.e. for over 50 years.

So he’s been riding a bike ever since the Beatles’ first single was released, since Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister.

In short, this guy really knew how to ride a bike.

So if someone as experienced as Michael Mason can get hit and be killed, any of us can. All those tricks and tips you think keep you safe when out cycling on the road? Michael probably had figured all those out before you were even born.

And yet his skill and experience wasn’t enough to save him. No amount of training, experience, testosterone or guile can save you from a car being badly driven. There’s no Bikeability level that will save you from a surprise rear-end shunt.

What would have prevented Michael Mason’s death, however, is a Dutch-style physically-separate cycleway.

Had there been proper cycleways along Regent Street – as there should be – then he would have been nowhere near that car, however badly driven it was. His death should never have happened.

And yet this simple truth still evades many.

The whole “shared space” concept is based on mixing motor vehicles with people walking and cycling, for example.

There’s recently been a glut of “cycling design guides” which suggest that mixing modes is desirable, even at low speeds. (Note: Mixing modes is sometimes acceptable when motor vehicle volumes and speeds are very low, but it’s never desirable.) Often cycling is touted as a way to “tame” motor traffic, while in reality the motor traffic intimidates and discourages people from cycling.

And there are still plenty who believe that becoming “skilled up” to cope with the current conditions is the only way forward for cycling in this country – despite the fact that many cyclists who are killed have a high level of skill.

This awful case shows how badly wrong those people are.

The aftermath of Michael Mason’s death shows us how shockingly lacking the British justice system is.

But the collision itself reminds us how lacking Britain’s road system is, and why it needs redesigning.


 

People using bikes on a cycleway in the Netherlands. A busy bus route, but bikes and buses are kept apart.

None of these people are at risk of being hit from behind by a car.

 

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