Cameras make you look for trouble

It was posted on a cycling forum that using a camera whilst cycling makes you look for trouble and that you are better off without them.

This response from the very well thought out MrOrigamist made me chuckle.

When they fitted flight data recorders (aka black boxes) to aircraft, pilots stated to behave differently. There were incidents of planes buzzing air traffic control towers, overshooting runways, doing loop the loops on the way to Malaga, playing chicken with each other, and worst of all, BA and Lufthansa Jumbo pilots would even engage in pretend dogfights over the channel. It’s madness, why do they persist with these flight data recorders when it’s obvious that pilots “instead of avoiding the accident…will have the tendency to go for it” same with cyclists, I suppose.

Cyclists don’t stop at red

Cyclists are often outed by other road users for not stopping at red lights. But no group is innocent at this.

A TFL study showed that 84% of cyclists in London stopped at red lights, so why is it perceived that we jump red lights?

Cyclists generally cycle through red lights when other traffic has already stopped at them, they cycle slowly, sometimes stop, and check if it’s clear to go. It’s clearly viewable by other road users and in most cases done safely. You get the odd Silly Cyclist who cycles through pelican crossings far too fast and without checking for pedestrians.
Where as other road users generally drive through the amber and red lights just after they have changed, they do it at high-speed and without checking. This can often cause crashes if the light sequence is very tight and you get someone pulling away from the lights early.

Which is worse? Well they are both technically as bad as each other. There is an argument that cyclists do it safely because they wait, look and then go. Where as motorised vehicles drive through the lights at speed and without checking, their vehicles are often considerably bigger, heavier and harder than a cyclist. Doing it safely and slowly doesn’t make it any better. The act of doing something so visibly wrong is damaging to the rest of us that cycle, hence why we are all tarred with the same brush.

Motorcycles in the bus lane

Yesterday TFL announced that motorcycles will now be allowed to use all bus lanes in London.

Previous to yesterdays announcement motorcycle use of bus lanes in London was on a trial basis, the second of its kind. Both trials lasting 18 months and on selected sections. This was to gain an understanding on the effect of allowing them to use the bus lane.

Collision rates in bus lanes in the second trial decreased by 5.8 per cent for motorcyclists and by 8.5 per cent for cyclists when compared with the first trial

Safety in numbers, as long as two wheelers stick together and don’t squabble about the space then I’m sure people will be more aware about us in the bus lanes.

In line with this increased enforcement, the average speed for motorcyclists in bus lanes reduced by 6.5 per cent during the trial, with the proportion of motorcyclists exceeding the speed limit decreasing by one fifth (51 per cent in September 2010 down to 41 per cent in September 2011).

41% of motorcyclists still speeding in the bus lanes? Seeing as how that was enforced by the Police, it shows just what sort of problem we have on our roads. People see speeding as acceptable even with the dangers of the bus lane.

Another study by TfL indicated that journeys made by motorcycles using bus lanes were, on average, more than 10 per cent quicker than those not using bus lanes and 36 per cent quicker than cars

It was quiet clear already to know that using the bus lanes is faster than sitting in a queue of cars. Seeing as how I can often keep up with a few motorbikes and mopeds over a few miles of bus lane and stop starts at traffic lights, 36% faster is a pretty good figure to hear. Now if only a bus lane went from my house to my work place.

As long as motorcyclists are aware that they need to share the bus lane with us (that is a two-way street) then I don’t have too much of a problem with the idea. But if they start behaving like the examples below, it is going to be a problem!

You can find out more information about the previous study here.

Good result for dangerous driving?

Fined £400 + £85 costs and 6 penalty points applied to their license. A good result for some pretty dangerous driving?

The fine is pretty substantial compared to some of the other cases I’ve seen about dangerous drivers bullying other road users. This fine was how ever for failing to nominate a driver.

The registered keeper of this vehicle was sent several letters by the Police and failed to respond to all of them. They were summoned to court for Failing to Nominate a driver and were fined £400 + £85 costs and given 6 penalty points.

It’s a shame the police couldn’t do more work to find out who the driver was a take them off our streets for good. But let’s be honest, this was probably a better results fine wise than if they were charged for dangerous driving. In fact they probably wouldn’t have been charged for dangerous driving, as the CPS pretty much always lowers the driving offence as a standard practise.

So whilst this is a good result, lets not get stray from the issue, the registered keeper may not be the driver in the video. The driver in the video may have gotten away free, we don’t know. The registered keeper could be trying to cover for a friend who may be banned, uninsured or be a wanted criminal, who knows.

You can watch footage of the incident below, the basics of it are as follows.
The driver came too close for comfort as we stopped at some traffic lights, I asked him if he could give me some more space.
The driver replied that it was OK because he hadn’t hit me.
As we set off there is a cement truck to my right and the driver gets closer and closer, my speed stays constant throughout and he edges towards me several times. When he is finally able to squeeze past (and leave me very little room) the driver then slams on his brakes trying to force me into the back of him. Luckily I’m more than aware of this stupid kind of move and I’m able to brake and swerve.

It has to be the worst incident I have had, the only one where I honestly thought I was going to get rammed of the road and potentially die. I feel that it’s a shame that the Police didn’t push more on this to find out who the driver was and get him removed from the streets!

Croydon’s Urban Motorways

As someone who has lived in or around Croydon all my life, I’ve never really noticed it before. That is until it was drawn to my attention by this post.

The post on As Easy As Riding A Bike is looking at a well-known cycling facility on Wellesly road. One that was in fact so bad on the first attempt, it was partially removed and modified. The post mentions how Wellesly road looks very similar to that of a motorway, several lanes of fast-moving traffic, no places for pedestrians to cross and some busses and trams thrown in for good measure. Standing back a little and it clearly divides the town centre in two. On one side you have central Croydon’s shopping plazas and entertainment areas and on the other you have a mass of office buildings, the busy east Croydon train station, Croydon Collage and the Fairfield Halls.

This isn’t the only road in Croydon that has similarities with a motorway. There are several flyovers and multilane roads that were designed in the 1950’s to help motor traffic move quickly from one area to the next. We have Roman Way, Croydon Flyover and The Purley Way for example. None of these roads have speed limits greater than 40mph and like all other speed limits, they are rarely obeyed by motorised traffic.

Roads like Wellesly Road and Purley Way are the kind which today should be very much avoided. They provide a fast and easy route though a busy area, taking away crossings for  pedestrians and providing traffic with the fastest route from A to B. The direct traffic flow with little traffic lights and long sight lines means vehicles travel much faster than they should and provide a dangerous situation for anybody who choose to travel by bicycle.

The centre of the town is pretty much surrounded by these kind of roads and it makes crossing the town by bicycle a difficult and sometimes unpleasant experience. If you have knowledge of the town there are various rat runs you can take to avoid said roads, but they usually involve crossing tram lines at tight angles or cycling through infrastructure which is not maintained.

TFL’s plans for Blackfriars bridge can be compared to these roads, hostile places for everyone that isn’t surrounded by metal, not pleasant to look at or use and certainly not inviting for clean modes of transportation.

If Chicago can do it, why can’t we?

Chicago have installed a protected bike lane that offers plenty of space to cyclists, keeps them visible and safe and it has seen a two-fold in the modal share.

TFL are currently reviewing the superhighways, something which has been marketed as super and safe to use. Unfortunately two cyclists have found out that they aren’t safer than other London roads, RIP.

So Chicago has taken space away from general traffic and given it to cyclists, installing wide cycle lanes, with buffer zones and flexible bollards. The space for cyclists is clearly laid out and is ‘protected’ from other traffic. Obviously a vehicle can go straight through one of those bollards and plough through a bunch of cyclists but that can happen at all kinds of cycling infrastructure. I would say that it was less likely to happen here.

The superhighways that TFL have installed on 4 routes in London are generally a bit of paint, sections of them are on quite back roads or on specific shared use cycle paths and the blue paint (faded in some areas) does clearly show the space that is allocated to cyclists. 90% of the time this space is only wide enough for one cyclist (not taking into account bus lanes) and is very rarely segregated from the general traffic. Watch the video below to see just how close the traffic can get to a cyclist in these blue lanes.

I don’t think installing similar lanes all the way along the superhighway routes is practical, there are certainly places which are quieter and don’t have the space for such facilities (sections of CS3 spring to mind). Sections such as alongside Clapham common still have 2 general traffic lanes with a popular left hook spot. At present motorists rush past as many cyclists as possible and then slow down to take the left turn which can be very dangerous.

Why can’t we implement similar lanes?

You’re causing traffic

Something I’ve had shouted at me as vehicles pass me or been told on other occasions. Statements like this show the stupidity and naivety of people who shout them.

For starters, the definition of traffic is not vehicles being held up or stationary but in fact just describes any vehicle on the road. So I am traffic, as are you and that is without other vehicles behind you.

Traffic: Vehicles moving on a public highway: “a stream of heavy traffic”.

Even if the word traffic meant a queue of stationary or slow-moving vehicles. Are cyclists the ones causing these queues? Or is it the hordes of other vehicles using the road?

I Love Taxi Drivers

Ok I don’t really, the majority of my worst incidences have been with taxi drivers and they seem to be invincible! From my experience the police pass any reports to the PCO and the PCO hold their hands up and say it’s up to the police to sort it out.

The public carriage office in its current state is a bit of a shambles, I have been provided a small amount of inside knowledge from someone who was involved with the PCO from a day-to-day basis on a professional level. I won’t go into detail at present, it would be a very long post but the end result is taxi drivers in London are basically untouchable and a few of them act as if they know that.

I’ve reported various incidences of varying degrees to the PCO, in every case I’ve not had a positive response, most of them result in a ‘It’s not our job to the police the roads’ and a few result in ‘we can’t view youtube videos so it’s your word against theirs’. It normally ends there, they are very understaffed and just don’t have time to look into these cases in enough detail.

I’ve tried reporting it to the Police but the MET handed over regulation and licensing of hackney carriages to TFL in 2000 and they seem to try to push the reports on TFL/PCO.

So far I’ve gotten not a single result from anything that has happened with a black cab. If you follow what I’ve published on youtube then you will know there are some real shockers.
I have had a few incidences which I’ve been told will be put on the driver’s record, but note these where not confirmed and the information did not come from someone who worked at the PCO. So I have no way to be certain.

Transport for London have provided a handy document that outlines the laws which govern hackney carriages and it states

In this Abstract, ‘The Licensing Authority’ means Transport for London (TfL) which will exercise the duties imposed by the London Cab Order 1934 as amended by the Greater London Authority Act 1999.

So it is up to TFL/PCO to apply the laws in that document. In the document is the Standard Scale, which is the different fines that TFL/PCO are to apply to drivers when the break various laws, unfortunately the fines are maximum and do not have to be that exact amount.

  • Level 1 = £200
  • Level 2 = £500
  • Level 3 = £1,000
  • Level 4 = £2,500
  • Level 5 = £5,000

Lets highlight a few of the laws and what fines should be applied to the drivers that break them.

39. Various acts of misbehaviour by taxi driver (Act of 1843 s28; Act of 1831 s 56)

(1) The following offences are punishable by penalty (Level 1) or two months imprisonment:

(a) Wanton or furious driving.

(b)  Causing hurt or damage to any person by carelessness or wilful misbehaviour.

(c)  Drunkenness during employment.

(d)  Use of insulting or abusive language during employment.

(e)  Use of insulting gestures during employment.

(f)  Any misbehaviour during employment.

(2)  The following offences are punishable by penalty (Level 1 )

(a)  Injuring or endangering the life, limbs or property of any persons by intoxication, wanton or furious driving or any other wilful misconduct.

(b)  Using abusive or insulting language or rude behaviour towards any person.

(c)  Assaulting or obstructing any police officer in the execution of his duty.

(3)  This type of behaviour is also contrary to laws of general application, for example the Public Order Act 1986, carrying where appropriate heavy fines and/or imprisonment.

So it is up to TFL/PCO to deal with drivers who; drive dangerously, injury someone, damage someones property, swear at someone, use insulting gestures.

In several case I have been sworn at, threatened and had people driving dangerously around me. So that would mean that several drivers should have gotten fines but instead they may have a mark on their record or they got away with it.

I guess I will have to push the PCO next time I have an incident with a taxi and get them to properly deal with the driver. At present it’s a joke and I get the feeling that taxi drivers are currently untouchable which is a problem when some of them think you shouldn’t be on the road and they are king.

Rapid Ready Mix

I uploaded a video a few weeks ago of a large cement mixer not driving perfectly on the road. Minor stuff including encroaching into an ASL and overtaking and pulling in just before some stopped cars.

Like I said, nothing major, but I uploaded it and forwarded it onto the Police so they could get in contact with the company and sort out this behaviour before someone gets hurt. I was going to forward it onto the company as well but didn’t get around to it.

Before I could contact the company I got a message from a subscriber on youtube, I’ll call him Mark, Mark had been in contact with the company and got an interesting reply.

I appreciate your concern but unfortunately I don’t think it was as dangerous as you’re making out. I would appreciate if “gaz545” could get in the bike lane rather than cycling on the line!

The reply came from someone who I shall name Paul, Mark replied to Paul and quickly set him straight on a few things, including positioning and the legal side of the ASL.
I also contacted Paul and wrote the following

Your comment to Mark, ‘I would appreciate if “gaz545” could get in the bike lane rather than cycling on the line!’.
Quite obviously you are not aware on how bicycle lanes function or the requirements of cyclists to use them. There is in fact no legal requirement for cyclists to use any cycle lane that is provided for them and we are often advised not to cycle in them because they are poorly designed, not wide enough and are often filled with glass and other sharp objects such as stones.

Whilst you would appreciate that I should stay in the bike lane, i believe it is fair for me to expect Rapid Ready Mix vehicles to drive safely around vulnerable users and in general on the road.
Your driver clearly broke the law when he crossed the first solid white line at the traffic lights, that is known as red light jumping, something which people often complain cyclists of doing but your driver is no better.
By also stopping in the advanced stop zone ( the big blue area with the bicycle logo in it) he put me and several other cyclists in his blind spot, whilst I can see that your vehicles are kitted out with all the required mirrors, that does not mean that your drivers uses them or that they are aware of any vulnerable road users to their left. I’m sure you can appreciate that not every cyclists is sensible and sometimes they put them selves in unnecessary positions which leave them in a position of danger.

His second action of cutting in front of me wasn’t as bad as i was first expecting but the principle of the manoeuvre is still dangerous. Overtaking cyclists, pull in front of them and then stop, very dangerous is it not? How would you feel if a driver on the motorway pulled in front of you and started braking? Would you think it was dangerous?
At first i thought he would be coming all the way across and this is where the issue is, not all cyclists would read this situation or simply wouldn’t care and would continue on their way up the left hand side whilst your lorry is turning in, this can often lead to cyclists being squashed under large vehicles and is a killer on London’s streets.

I would expect more from a professional driver, he got no further than if he waited safely behind in each case.

 

Neither my self or Mark got any more responses from Paul. Not what I was expecting but a later found out that the Police had sent the company a letter about the driving and giving them some advise about what they should be doing.
I guess that Paul heard about this in the office and decided that he was better off not replying to those who have the law behind them.