Speed Cameras are Pointless

A GATSO speed camera

Image via Wikipedia

The GATSO camera, the most common in the UK, is the most pointless device for catching and dealing with speeding motorists. They only catch the idiots that don’t notice them and they only succeed at slowing down the traffic to the limit at their location.

In the middle of 2010, a few councils across the UK decided to announce they would switch their speed cameras off. Much to the pleasure of the motorist. Stats from Swindon’s shut down show very minimal decrease’s in casualties and seriously injured, but is this a good enough reason to scrap the speed cameras?

The main reason for the switch off is the government cuts to the Road Safety Grant, which funds the speed cameras. It seems that some small changes in road casualties are another reason but in reality we will need to see a stronger change over a period of time, rather than a small change over a year.

In the past week the BBC reported that most speed cameras in the England and Wales aren’t functional. A freedom of information request was put in by Which? magazine.

47% worked at any given moment in all 43 police authorities in England and Wales.

Its study also highlighted big regional differences, with all 60 cameras in Sussex working compared to just 10% of Lancashire’s 287 sites

Which? also did a survey of nearly 2,000 people and they were split as to whether speed cameras made the roads safer.

47% saying they did and 45% disagreeing.

Speed cameras make people think about their speed, but in doing so, they may be distracted from hazards in front of them.

The one time I notice all road users obeying the speed limits is through average speed check zones, these are most often found on motorways or busy/large A roads during road works. But why not apply these along roads where there is an issues with speeding in general?

Speeding on Britons roads is a big factor in crashes and casualties, we should kill our speed and not one another. Removing or keeping our common GATSO camera will not affect how the vast majority of motorists speed daily.

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The Red Light Jumping Gods

Any sensible cyclist knows that breaking the law is a big no no. It gives us (cyclists) a bad image and can potentially be dangerous.
Each day I see several cyclists whizz through lights with no consequences.  Which is good, i don’t wish harm to anyone but sometimes it’s good to see them fall foul of a common issue for cyclists, such as your chain coming of your chain ring.

IAM – The new cycling membership

With the current changes taking place at the CTC, many members are looking for somewhere else to join to get their benefits.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) have been the cyclists friend in the past few years, giving us support and agreeing with us on topics such as primary position.
It’s come to the point where IAM have teamed up with John Franklin, the author of Cycle Craft, and written a book called  How To Be A Better Cyclist.

IAM recently started offering a membership scheme for cyclists which offers:

  • The book “How to be a better cyclist”
  • IAM Total Cycle Assist policy, looking after you and your bike whilst on the road and in the even of an incident
  • 10% discount vouchers for Halfords
  • Hi-viz draw string bag
  • Other exclusive IAM discounts services
  • Regular e-newsletters

The IAM Total Cycle Assist policy has been around for several years and it offers you, all your bikes and your direct family coverage.  You get access to a 24/7 help line for immediate expert assistance, which isn’t actually 24 hours a day, it’s actually only 8am to 6pm Monday to Saturday and the rest of the time you get a voicemail. You’ll get a brand new bike if your own is damaged beyond repair, this is on a like-for-like basis. They also offer £100,000 legal expenses insurance cover, private physiotherapy and treatment.

The membership costs £15 which is half the cost of the current CTC membership which is approaching £40. I could see a few cyclists moving over to this, just to see what it’s like. The only problem I see is backing a charity which is so car pro. You expect when you join the CTC or similar, you are aiding in the running of the group/charity for improving cycling for all of us but will we get the same if we join the IAM or will they put the money in the general fund which will go to the vehicle based activities?
Not that funding the IAM in general is a bad thing, they do great work and they want to make the roads a safer place for everyone.

You can read more about the IAM cycling membership here

Popularity of the Cycle Superhighways

TFL released a press statement yesterday stating that cycle journeys have increased by up to 100 per cent during peak times on route 7 and 3.

The headline is a bit misleading unless you look at the numbers and the smaller print at the bottom. The 100% increase was only on a few sections of the routes (these sections are not mentioned) and the real increase is more around 70% with the CS7 (A24) seeing a jump from 2724 in 2009 to 4092 in 2010 and CS3 (A13) seeing a jump from 1388 in 2009 to 2932 in 2010. These where taken during a 12 hour period and where both done in October.

What we can’t tell is how many of them are new cyclists, it may just be that the extra 70% of cyclists that are on these routes have just migrated from another route near by because they now feel safer with the larger number of cyclists.

So whilst it is clearly positive that we see such large numbers of cyclists on a single route during a 12 hour period. There may not actually be any new cyclists on the route.
Lets also not forget that the A24/A3 has been a popular route for cyclists to get to the city for quite some time now, and I suspect that CS7 was chosen as one of the first routes to be a pilot as it would be very hard for it to fail.
What will really tell is how the next 10 Cycle Superhighways do on improving the numbers.

60 per cent of cyclists said the blue coloured surfacing made them feel safer. Overall, more than three quarters asked said that the Barclays Cycle Superhighways had improved safety for cyclists.

If only it was the case that we where safer in the blue lanes. I’m afraid that in some situations the cycle superhighways put cyclists in danger by taking them next to parked cars and leaving them to cross a busy lane just outside oval. The cycle lanes don’t stop people from driving like idiots on the roads and until that behaviour is sorted no amount of paint will make us truly feel safer.
The later section of that quote leads me to believe that motorists believe that the blue lanes make us safer, hopefully not because they think we now have a defined place on the roads along these routes. As I often find I’m in need to leave the superhighway and take control of the road due to a pinch point or obstruction of some sort.

Lets not forget that the superhighways are not just about blue paint and that TFL and the local councils have done a fantastic job of improving the routes for cyclists (even if it isn’t quite at the level we want).
There are 40km of new or improved cycle lanes, 94 new or improved ASLs at least five meters deep, 46 signalised junctions improved to provided quicker journey times and create more space for cyclists, 39 safety mirrors installed at junctions, 2,372 new cycle parking spaces along the routes and 1,362 extra cycle training hours delivered.

BUT we are missing some important data in this press release with regards to traffic and public transport along side the cycle superhighways.
What effect is there on traffic?
Is there a decrease in the use of cars?
Are the buses/tubes/trains quieter?

The Roads are Un-policed!

I asked my self the other day when was the last time I saw a traffic police car on the road driving around? hmmmm… I thought long and hard but couldn’t give my self a definitive answer. Either they are doing a great job of hiding but not catching anyone or there aren’t any.

With the lack of Police patrols on the roads, drivers get away with speeding, drink driving and using their mobile phone whilst driving. In the case that they do get caught, the fines and penalties are not large enough to stop them from doing in the future. And as the motorist is aware that there aren’t many patrols, they know the chances of getting caught is slim.

I see people breaking road laws on a daily basis and not once do they get caught, they put other road users at danger and can serious hurt or kill innocent people. But how can we solve this problem?

More police on the roads.
That’s right, if we put a bigger police presences on the roads, then people won’t act like idiots all the time. They can use unmarked cars to blend in with regular drivers and catch people red handed. With more police on the roads and more fines given out, it will mean that the points system will actually work. As you have more of a chance of getting caught then you are more likely to get points and reach the limit. This will mean that over time, the people on the roads will be the safe drivers.

Fines relative to income
A £60 fine is nothing to someone driving around in a £60,000 car who earns more than £200,000 a year. I suggest that we do what Finland do and fine people relative to their last known income. This will help cover the costs of the extra officers required to catch offenders.
In finland a fine was handed out for €170,000 (£140,000) to a driver that was going around 45mph in a 30 zone. The police in the UK could make a comfortable living if people were charged that much.

CPS need to give decent sentences for traffic crimes
The amount of times I see a news report of a conviction given to a motorists for killing an innocent road user and the sentence is below poor. The fine isn’t high and they are only in jail for a few years and if they get a driving ban, it often runs along side the jail sentence which often means by the time they come out, they are allowed on the roads again.

But is it really the polices fault that driving standards are so bad? Well it kind of is, if the roads are un-inforced then people get away with bad driving a few times and then they continue to do it. Lets not forget how people learn to drive, the test isn’t particularly hard and the theory you are required to ‘learn’ is often forgotten as soon as they have passed the theory test.
As a cyclist I would like to see a section of the test that is devoted on how to drive around vulnerable road users and the duty of care they should have towards us.
At present drivers are put onto the road without any real experience around cyclists and the mentality of most drivers is that the speed limit is in fact a target. What the often fail to see is that over a set distance a bicycle can actually be just as fast and that rushing past us actually gets you no where.
I also think that there should be some re-testing involved , everyone 5 years you should have to go back and take your test to prove that you know what you’re doing and you haven’t picked up any bad habits.

Driving is a privilege and not a requirement or should I say, driving should be a privilege. I myself am a driver, and I know what sort of damage my vehicle could do to someone, because of this I take care when I’m driving and I look out for other road users.

Recently, Martin Porter QC (A cyclist and a helmet camera user) called out for courts to do more to protect cyclists after the tragic death of former boxer Gary Mason.

I don’t claim to know anything about how the Police work, my ideas about funding and more staff to catch more drivers may be a wild dream that is never practical, but we can all have our little perfect world.

Ding Ding – The Unheard Bicycle Bell

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Bicycle bells are now attached to the handlebars of bicycles sold in the UK, but do they work?

The answer to the above isn’t that straight forward. Bicycle bells are designed to be used to warn people of your presence, this basically means you can use it on two road users, pedestrians and cyclists. I personally have never found my self in the situation where i need to use a bell, if I need to make someone aware of my presence i will use my voice. It has the advantage of you being able to control the volume easily and being able to use a polite tone, such as ‘Good day, please may I pass’

That doesn’t mean the bell doesn’t have it’s use. Look at the video below, a bicycle bell is used by a pedestrian on pedestrians and he films the results. It’s amazing to see how people move out-of-the-way but in reality, how many cyclists have had this experience? I expect only a handful

Clearly the bicycle bell has its place, but is that place on the handlebars of every bicycle sold in the UK?

With the current boom in cycle commuting, I would guess that most bikes sold are either going to be used off-road or on the road during commuting. This will mean that most interaction with pedestrians will be whilst they are around roads and whilst they are walking to and from work.
This means that if you are trying to get the attention of a pedestrian or cyclist during this time, the sound of your bell will be competing with traffic noise and the music that some pedestrians will be listening to. I would expect that the bell won’t be heard and you will be wasting your time by dinging it, It’s certainly not a sound I hear often and I spend many hours on the road around other cyclists every week. A question to ask, is how does the dopler shift affect the sound of the bell when using it on a pedestrian that is about to step out in front of you.
I’ve also seen some cyclists try to ding their bell at vehicle drivers, it really isn’t loud enough for them to take notice, and they certainly won’t react in time to avoid any danger. If you wish to use something against a vehicle, I would suggest using the aizround which punches out about 115db compared to around 80db for a bicycle bell. It’s also a sound which vehicle drivers are more aware of.

The bicycle bell has its place, and that is on the handlebars on some bikes, the ones which are taken on shared footpaths by considerate owners who wish to be polite to other users of the footpath. The government think that putting a bell on a bicycle will change the behaviour and attitude of cyclists towards pedestrians, the bell will not achieve that.

In conclusion, I suggest to ditch the bell, use your voice but above all, look out for people more/as vulnerable than you. Take care when cycling around pedestrians, as they can move unpredictably.

2010 – A short look back

2010 was a long and interesting year for me, I started a youtube channel and a blog about cycling, unfortunately the blog took the back seat as I got some very good results from my videos.

Combined they lead me to have some wonderful experiences with meeting people and getting to know some people who have common goals and interests. It included meeting with several people involved with the Barclays Cycle Superhighway, getting a test ride on the Barclays Cycle Hire bicycles before they came out and meeting the police officers behind the Road Safe London scheme.

My youtube channel has been a great success with over 600 current subscribers. This year alone I have had 410,788 video views. And with that only being my first year, i hope that I can improve on that greatly over the next 12 months ahead.

Towards the end of the year I started a new cycling series called ‘Silly Cyclists’, which is now a regular feature I do. It’s earned nearly 30,000 views in its self and is getting some great feed back.

The last time I rode my bicycle in 2010 was when I had an RTC. At present I don’t want to comment on the incident as there is an ongoing investigation by the police. But I think it shows that these things can happen to anyone.

What will 2011 bring? who is to know, but I wish to continue with my videos and put a bit more emphasis on my blog, so keep checking in to see what I have to say, you never know, one day it might be interesting.