Do ASLs help cyclists?

As I was cycling home the other day, I was looking at how other cyclists use the ASLs and filter lanes. Do they help us in situations where there are vehicles waiting at the lights.

The ASL is meant to provide cyclists with the space to take a controlling position in the lane and be in a position where they can easily be seen by the driver behind them. Providing them with safety whilst they set off .
But there are several issues with this;

  • There are often other vehicles in the ASL
  • Most of the time there is only one legal way to enter the ASL
  • The filter lane is often on the left of vehicles
  • The filter lanes can often be blocked
  • Most cyclists don’t understand where you should position your self

The first 4 points are self-explanatory but what do I mean by cyclists don’t understand where to position themselves? As I said further up, the whole point of the ASL is to let cyclists position themselves in a position where they are in control of their lane as they set off and they are in a position to be seen. I see far to many cyclists that use the filter lane and ASL to get in front of the traffic but then stop on the left by the pavement. This means you can get the usual close pass when you start again.

I also see issues when using the ASLs on the Cycle Superhighways. The amount of cyclists that you can have around you whilst you are commuting is approaching 40. Even with half that number you will have issues as people don’t use the whole length and width of the ASL. If you get 2 or 3 that stop on the left then the entry to the rest of the ASL will be blocked and lots of cyclists are stuck next to vehicles, which is the worst place to be when setting off in traffic.

The ASL has one major flaw, have a look at this image and see if you can see it.
The blind spot of the lorry is highlighted in black and that shape looks a lot like an ASL and feeder lane.

The ASL should be avoided if there is a large vehicle at the front of the queue!

I’ve had a few problems recently where I need to hold a primary position for quite some time after the ASL. This can often anger drivers, even when you are going near 30mph! And it can result in a dangerous situation.

In some cases I will filter to a point where I can fit into to traffic, several cars from the front. This will mean that I can take control of the lane, get through on the next phase and it will be easier to prevent an overtake from the behind vehicle if I keep up with the vehicle in front.

It is certainly possible to live without the ASL and I think in some cases it is a cause for concern as many cyclists have the ‘must get in front’ mentality, putting them selves in a dangerous situation because the lights have changed or because they stop somewhere they shouldn’t.

What do you think about ASLs?

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Cyclists on the Bridge

Picture this, it’s 8.30am on Friday the 20th of May and the pavement on the south to north bound side of the bridge is full of cyclists. Cyclists which were called to this location by the LCC and campaigners less than 24 hours ago.

The result was nearly 300 cyclists cycling over the bridge each way as slow as possible. By my Garmin device, we travelled 0.83 miles in 14 minutes and 30 seconds. That gives us an average speed of 3.4mph.

We stopped outside of the TFL building on Blackfriars road, only a stones throw away from the bridge, to voice our concerns to them in person but they didn’t want to talk. I suspect because we caught them off guard, I heard that they didn’t even know we where coming.

All in all it was a good ride and we only had a few minor issues with motorcyclist that where in a rush to get to somewhere. Below is a 3x speed video i recorded.

Something that is hard to make clear, is why we did this.

TFL have rejected several plans which would have suited many people’s needs and instead have tried to push plans through that favour the motorist and fast-moving, dangerous traffic.

The upgrade to Blackfriars station is going to produce a huge increase in pedestrians that are using the area. But in TFL’s plans, pedestrians and not being looked out for, the speed limit of cars is being increased and space is being taken away from pedestrians and cyclists to allow another lane for vehicles. Which resembles a motorway.

Cyclists we will also be affected, our cycle lanes will be smaller and we will have faster traffic moving around us. If you choose to turn right at the north side of the bridge then you will have to cross 3 lanes of traffic which is moving at 30 mph (well that is the limit).

So the reason we grouped together as cyclists, bloggers, cycling groups, road users and people of the city is to voice our concern over the plans to put vulnerable road users at the bottom and allow faster and more dangerous vehicles to have the priority.

We are meant to be going through a cycling revolution in London but as anyone that knows, it was not Boris that came up with or laid the initial plans for the Cycle Superhighways or the Cycle Hire Scheme. The two leading schemes of the revolution. It seems that the cycling revolution can only progress if motorists are not hindered.

I must say a big thanks to the London Cycling Campaign, Mark at i bike london, Danny at Cyclists in the City and the MET Cycle Task Force.

LCC, Mark and Danny have provided us with fantastic information and detailed descriptions about the plans and potential issues with the designs for Blackfriars bridge. And they helped organise and publish the plans for this group ride. Without them, where would we be?

And a big thanks to the MET Cycle Task Force. An ever-growing group of officers that watched over our event and spoke to a few impatient motorcyclist. They are working hard to prevent and catch bicycle thieves and make the roads of London a safe place for any mode of transport to use. I even got my bicycle security marked after the event, a big thanks again for that 🙂

[UPDATES] Missed the time in the post, time added back in.

Did London Beat Copenhagen

Someone on a cycling forum posted a link to this website which boasts about a new cycling facility in Copenhagen for cyclists who stop at red lights.

Leave it to Copenhagen. While other bike geeks fight over guerilla-painted bike lanes, or shine them on the street with laser gadgets, or dream of floating them in mid-air, the City of Copenhagen and the bike advocacy group ibikecph installs a simple, low-tech fix that makes riding in the famously bike-friendly city even easier.

In the picture above is what i’m calling the cyclists balance beam. It’s being put in by a company to help cyclists get going after being stopped at a red light. It means you can stay in the saddle and move away quicker.

London had these years ago. Back then we called them railings and their primary design was to protect pedestrians at crossings. They went all the way around crossings apart from where you could cross. They had a few issues, it kept pedestrians in and meant they had to cross at specific locations, drivers felt because pedestrians where not going to be running free they could drive faster and cyclists got crushed up against them!

Cyclists in London have been using these railings to balance on whilst stopped at red lights. Although we didn’t have the bottom section for our feet, we managed alright with just our arms holding us up 🙂

But over the past few years the London councils have been removing these. And it’s because of the reasons above. Major Boris Johnson wants to make the streets and roads a nicer placer to be, by making pedestrians feel more open to the environment and vehicles slowing down (year right) and hopefully less deaths from cyclists being trapped between the railings and vehicles.

These will only work for safety reasons at segregated cycling facilities. Copenhagen I hope you are listening, the UK did this first 😛

Avoiding close passes

A few months back I was trying to think of a way to get motorists to give us a little more space when overtaking us. There isn’t really much we can do that would be legal, which makes; flame throwers, paint guns and window breaking pins out of the question.

The one thing we do have in our arsenal is our arms. I’ve started to indicate to my right if i suspect a driver is going to give me a close overtake.

And from my unscientific research it seems to be working. An indicate to the right is making drivers either stop their overtake or they give me more room. Either way it is putting the doubt into the mind of the driver about what I’m going to do. Which is something the highway code suggests anyway

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.

A fair percentage of drivers don’t seem to think about this and overtake at a distance which many cyclists do not think is safe.

This is only executable when you think someone is going to overtake far to close, sometimes it’s hard to even be aware of the moment when you are about to be clipped by a wing mirror!

FPN for Careless Driving

Yesterday it was announced that there is a plan to allow police to issue on the Fixed Penalty Fines (FPN) to road users who driver dangerously, carelessly and inconsiderately.

The fines will be issued for doing such things as tailgating, undertaking and cutting up other road users. They are certainly welcomed but will they have an effect on how people behave whilst surrounded by metal?

It seems that the fines are here to make the roads safer in the UK and to force drivers to act better on the roads. Another angle is that the fines will skip the process with the CPS, which means it’s relatively fast and the paperwork is minimal in comparison. This means it’s a pull you over, ticket you, on your way kind of job rather than lots of desk work filling out forms for all involved. Basically dealt in the same way as speeding tickets.

At present there are minimal amounts of police on the roads. As I’ve mentioned before the roads are essential un-policed and we are in this current situation because drivers are not being fined, cautioned or warned about what they are doing wrong and thus it becomes an everyday part of their driving.

As Roger Geffen, the CTC Campaigns and Policy Director said:

A careless driving fixed penalty notice is welcome, but should only be used where no injury has occurred and the driving is demonstrably careless, not dangerous. We have concerns that too often driving which is objectively dangerous is treated by police and prosecutors as merely ‘careless’.

He raises a good point that dangerous driving is often toned down. Is this just because we are used to it?
I often get comments on my videos that go something like this:

Close passes are a part of cycling, live with it

Just because it’s something we are currently ‘used’ to, doesn’t mean we should put up with it. Passing a cyclist too closely can be very dangerous and is something that is hardly ever addressed!

Unfortunately there are planned cuts in the police force, which is only going to mean even less police officers on the roads.  Looking at the laws relating to mobile phone use whilst in a vehicle which was introduced in 2003, the number of drivers which still talk away whilst driving is not getting any lower. Clearly the message is not getting through and the drivers know there is little chance they will be caught! Is this just going to go down the same road?

On a good note, a lot of clips of bad driving were shown today on the news. And as the list of cyclists that use cameras gets longer, so does the footage of bad and inconsiderate driving.

We need to continue to highlight the issues we are having on the road with dangerous and inconsiderate drivers. So far this year we have had large amounts of media coverage and things can only get bigger!

News containing videos from cyclists

The Decade of Action for Road Safety

Today see’s the UN launch a campaign for 10 years of action on reducing deaths and casualties on the roads across the globe.

It’s certainly a goal that is very large and one which save millions of lives a year if it is achieved. Can the +100 countries involved get there heads together and make the roads across the globe a safer place to travel along? I certainly hope so.

View the website >

How uploading cycling videos damages cycling

A commuter cyclist in the London morning rush ...

Image via Wikipedia

There are many reasons why myself and other cyclists upload footage to youtube but what is often not thought about is the damages such videos can do for cycling?

Many of the cyclists that upload videos are doing a vast amount of cycling each year, several thousand miles. A small minority of drivers will cause issues and those are uploaded on to the internet. It really isn’t a fair example of all the good drivers we have interactions with and many of us simply don’t have the time or effort to upload every good interaction we have with another road user.

I would personally say that I have over 1,000 interactions with vehicles per week, be that me passing them or them passing me. And i only will have issues with at worst, 30 of them. That is a really rough figure of 3% of drivers causing an issue.  This gives the impression to potential and other cyclists that it is worse than it really is.

I recall my business studies teacher in school telling us how bad press travels 7x faster than good press. And I think the same applies to these videos. The videos of good cycling experiences of good driving is often rather boring in comparison to the bad driving (at least that is the impression i get when i upload videos and look at the stats), the good videos don’t get anywhere near as many views as the bad ones.

Our behaviour in the videos can also have an effect on how the public view cyclists. Many already hold an opinion that we are all ‘lycra louts’ so breaking basic road laws such as red lights will just add to the reasoning behind their misinformed opinion.

Shouting at other road users also gives an impression that we are bad tempted and aggressive road users, when in reality cyclists are often a lovely bunch of people and are always up for a chat. I’m certainly guilty of this my self and I try to behave but often when you get a motorist nearly taking you out (not for dinner), the adrenaline is pumping and sometimes you say things you wouldn’t normally. Unfortunately people view these videos and think all cyclists are like this all the time, when we really aren’t.

*UPDATE*

Cycling in a position which is incorrect can also be damaging to cycling. Other cyclists may see a video of a cyclist passing a parked vehicle far too closely. And then they might copy this behaviour. Cycling in the door zone is very risky and can lead to death.
As cyclists who upload video we should try and perfect our riding style so that we are always in the correct position. This is very hard and I don’t think anyone would say they are perfect but it helps other cyclists learn.

Cyclists need to show that we have issues on the road and we are often ignored by authorities because we are the smaller vehicle. But it can have a bad side effect of putting people off cycling and making people think that cyclists are the bad one.

Croydon – A cycling Borough

The Mayor, Boris Johnson, announced yesterday that £4,000,000 would be spread across the 13 cycling boroughs of London that he had named in 2010.

Those boroughs are Barking & Dagenham, 
Bexley, 
Havering:, 
Redbridge, 
Brent, Ealing, 
Haringey, 
Hillingdon, Hounslow, Bromley, Croydon, 
Kingston and 
Merton.

Croydon will be receiving the largest amount of money, £450,500 which should go towards making Croydon a better place to be a cyclist. Be that adding more cycle facilities, adding more parking or offering cycle training.

And Croydon certainly does need that! At present cycling isn’t great in Croydon, despite being the London borough with the highest population of people and the 5th largest borough the cycling facilities are poor and parking is hard to find outside of the town centre.

When you do find a cycling facility it will be the usual crap, substandard, not maintained, not cleaned and often putting you in danger. Many cyclists have stated the danger of the cycle lane that travels along Croydon Road (A236), for miles cyclists are encouraged to cycle in the door zone and I see many unaware cyclists falling into just that potentially life costing trap!

Croydon has had 5 cycling facilities in the well-known cycling facility of the month which is run by Warrington cycle campaign. Each is a great example of the fine work and thought that is given to cyclists in Croydon. Don’t think we are any different to anywhere else, this happens all over the country!

Will nearly £500,000 improve cycling in Croydon? I shall certainly be on the look out for new and updated cycling facilities but i doubt that what we get will be any better than what we already have!

Croydon will certainly be a tough place to improve. Cars are relied on heavily by anyone that doesn’t live near a shopping centre, supermarket or local shops. Places like the Purley Way which contain a vast array of shops is very impracticable to travel to and from by bicycle. Bulk purchases are made in these shops and bringing them back on a bicycle would be a challenge.

Croydon isn’t exactly known for its road planning anyway. Look at Valley Park as an example. It contains a vast amount of shops including the only Ikea in South London, cinema, dining and a large B&Q. Yet there is only one way in and out!?
Which stupid designer thought of that idea?
It’s almost impossible to get out of there on a busy afternoon as everyone has had the same idea and gone shopping!

Croydon will never become a cycling town if the council doesn’t start looking after cyclists. Adding new facilities and parking is great! But if they are not maintained then  how can we use them safely?

Another example from Croydon Road (A236) is a small section just after Mitchem common and before the petrol station. A small section of cycle lane is in very poor quality, it is always filled with water, stones and glass. And just yesterday I had to move a tyre out of it.

I can only hope that we won’t be sold the same fairytale that TFL is doing with the Barclays Cycle Superhighways!