On 7th February, the University of Salford hosted a Road Safety Conference in Manchester. Participants included Devon and Cornwall Police, Cycling UK, Sapa , Transafe Network, Rospa, Bikeright and the Motorcycling Industry Association to name a few. The sole purpose of the day was to review and discuss the ways that the number of tragic incidents on the roads can be reduced.
It was clear that major developments in technology are helping. Sapa manufacture aluminium poles (used for traffic lights, street and motorway lampposts) that change their behaviour when hit by vehicles at speed. Traditionally, lampposts would not budge and the vehicle would take the full force of the impact. Sapa poles absorb some of the impact and flip like a blade of grass landing horizontally exactly where they were once vertical.
The Motorcycle Industry Association are producing a Motorcycle Safety and Transport framework with the National Police Chiefs Council and Highways England to reduce the number of incidents involving motorcycles.
The Honest Truth campaign started by Devon and Cornwall Police is a great initiative aimed at educating young drivers on how their behaviour affects others. A cycling character is in the process of being included.
It was a fascinating and rewarding day, meeting people who are looking outside the box to reduce the number of road traffic incidents.
Four days later however, the reality of current road use kicked in.
During the six days away from the Capital there were three deaths to cyclists in four days and two further fatalities involving pedestrians in London. That’s a total of five deaths at five separate incidents in six days. For all the conferences in the world – things have to move forward faster.
The Department of Transport has a National Standard under the brand name Bikeability which includes informing cyclists about road positioning that maximises visibility to other road users. This road positioning is the opposite of the position of cycle lanes. The number one question from HGV drivers is always, “Why do cyclists come along side my vehicle into the blind spot, especially when I’m indicating that I’m turning left, the siren is going “Caution, vehicle turning left” but the cyclists keep coming. Why is that?”
Why is it that the Department of Transport spends millions of pounds funding the Bikeability cycle training scheme that implicitly includes ensuring trainees do not use the cycle lanes without thinking first.
Cycle lanes and infrastructure, like a blanket of air, let the cyclists feels that they are in the correct place on the road. Why would they question it? Should they question Give Way signs and red lights? No. It’s a cycle lane telling them where they should be. Why doesn’t cycling infrastructure meet their own National Standard?
If a cycle lane runs along a row of parked cars – why would the cyclist need to consider that as not a good place to cycle?
At the same time the money is being spent on cycle training, the DfT are spending millions of pounds putting in cycle infrastructure that does not make sense and often puts the cyclists in the wrong place.
Equally the Royal Parks continue to put in cycle infrastructure and rules that are neither logical nor applicable. By law it is impossible to fine a cyclist for speeding because a cyclist does not know the actual speed at which they are travelling.
A week later an appointment in Camden meant cycling passed the five places where five women have died whilst riding their bikes. It is so sad and totally unacceptable.
The current trend is for stats. Government bodies want stats to quantify expenditure. City of Westminster spend thousands of pounds every year carrying out surveys. The latest one I believe is the near miss survey. All the while that these surveys are being funded and researched, the status quo on the roads in the borough does not change. The speed limit stays at 30mph which often turns to a minimum not a maximum.
If they want to know the importance of the speed reduction – perhaps they could contact Richard Forman who is, as detailed in this article, extremely thankful that the speed limit where he was driving was 20mph.
The biggest piece of research City of Westminster could do would be to take 10 paces outside their own front door from where if they look to their right they will see the spot where a 36 mother of two went under the wheels of a tipper truck.
If they look to the right they will see where a 30 year old female cycling on to Victoria Street from Palace Street went under the wheels of a tipper truck. A key question is always why do cyclists cycle on the left hand side of lorries.
How much more proof do they need?
The biggest preventative to people taking up cycling in London is fear of death. Literally. Newspaper headlines are all too horrendous and dreadfully frequent. The fact that 400,000 people die from pollution-related illnesses every year remains lesser known as is the fact that 25% of road traffic incidents involve drivers aged 25 and under.
The pressures on the National Health are huge. Type 2 diabetes costs 4% of their budget every year. Obesity in children is at its highest level. Health, Education and Transport are key requirements for all of us. Understanding how to use the roads, keeping fit and healthy whilst reducing the pressures on the London transport system are key.
Isn’t it time for these three departments to join together. Can insurers be involved in funding bicycles and training schemes? A keep fit campaign on two wheels? The power of cycle training should never be underestimated – eye contact with other road users and appropriate road positioning are paramount. That doesn’t automatically mean being in a cycle lane.
Certain car manufacturers are in the process of spending, according the press, billions of pounds developing self-drive vehicles. Would some of that money be better spent designing built in alcohol and drug sensors that text the car details to the police. If the DVLA are supporting Satnav, the National speed limits need to be reduced to reflect the distraction. Sensors detecting speed of travel and the speed limit could combine and if the speed is over the limit, the details again sent to the police.
90% of people who ride bikes, drive cars. The Highway Code is known to them but the first thing they do when they get on a bike is to hug the pavement, merging into the pavement furniture.
The inconsistency of road use amongst cyclists confuses drivers and gives them a fright. This creates adrenalin which makes the driver become aggressive. Equally if a cyclist is passed at a close proximity, the fright and adrenalin created makes the cyclist aggressive.
Isn’t it time to stand up and look ahead. If this was a communications exercise and someone designed a telephone everyone could have in their home and it came with a big cable that was connected to the wall so you couldn’t move further than the length of the cable – would people think that was genius or would they think we were stepping back in time. The Go Dutch Campaign created by the lobbyists London Cycling Campaign has a sole purpose of creating funds for the LCC. It is not about cycling. LCC does not promote nor encourage their members to cycle to the National Standard. Stop Killing Cyclists should call themselves Stop Killing Cycling. Anything that has a die-in is never going to encourage people to take up cycling.
It’s time to turn the wheel. Investing in information not infrastructure would be revolutionary. The key issues are
Road Use Education for all road users (combining the CBT and Issues for horse riders) so that the hazards of puddles, pot holes, drain covers, pinch points, road positioning, not using cycle infrastructure, along with the power of eye contact – encouraging road users to look, plan and think
Reduce all speed limits – encouraging road users to look, plan and think
Remove 90% of traffic lights at junctions and make them roundabouts – encouraging road users to look, plan and think.
Remove 60% of give way lines and change them to stop lines – encouraging road users to look, plan and think
Take out 90% of cycle infrastructure – encouraging road users to look, plan and think
Invest in policing – encouraging road users to look, plan and think
Adapt British Cycling activities e.g. riding in a peloton, time trials on open roads etc to ensure that cyclists meet the national standard – encouraging road users to look, plan and think
Bike manufacturers should develop and install anti bike theft items – using an RDF chip that sends a text to the bicycle owner and shows them where the bike is moving to.
The Health and Safety Executive should apply to the Road.