Take Care on London’s Roads

An e-mail I got from TFL…

I am writing to both cyclists and drivers to remind them to take care on London’s roads.

Cyclists are reminded to:

  • Be aware of blind spots all around large vehicles. It’s often safer to hang back
  • Make eye contact with drivers to make sure they have seen you
  • Not ride through red traffic lights. It’s dangerous and you can be fined £30
  • Allow space between you and parked vehicles. Doors may be opened suddenly

No mention of what drivers are reminded to be aware of on the roads. Hopefully a bit of education about cyclists and their needs on the road but that is probably a long shot.

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.

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.

Cyclists are pack animals

At least that is what labyonnette of youtube thinks. He posted the following comment on my Why are cyclists using video cameras video.

Most of these incidents reflect a very sensitive individual who is over reacting to quite normal road occurences. Listen to the aggressive yelling, its typical of of you low IQ, low education, gay, self opinionated, paranoid prima donnas who think they own the road. You have absolutey NO tolerance of morists and you are pack animals often gathering together to intimidate motorists. Well boys you dont frighten me, I’ll cut you up at every opportunity. Give blood, run over cyclist every day

What a charming individual, with some incredible opinions about cyclists and those that choose to record what happens to them on the road. The road conditions and drivers are only normal to him, because that is the way he drives.

Boston cyclists have it rough too

Cyclists across the globe have to deal with inconsiderate drivers that don’t understand our needs or that we are allowed to use the road. Many of us have taken to using cameras, a cyclist in Boston recently posted a video of a driver who was very impatient as he cycled down a busy road with lots of hazards, the driver could have easily changed lanes to pass the cyclists but instead choose to sound his horn and pass him with only inches to spare.

As always, the driver shortly stopped in traffic and got out of his car asking the cyclist if he wanted a fight. Quite rightly the cyclist didn’t want to get into a fight with someone who was more than likely several times the size of him.
When the cyclist went to the Police they where not interested in what happened, even when the cyclist stated that he had the whole incident on video. I’m sure most of us have experienced problems like this, lets just hope it changes as the grow of camera use in cyclists increases.

Do RLJing cyclists pose a risk to the rest of us?

I’ve often asked cyclists that don’t stop at red their reasons behind their behaviour. More often than not they say something along the lines of

I don’t hurt anyone by doing it and it saves me time

But is that true? It’s been said that drivers often think that all cyclists jump red lights. And they expect that every cyclist is going to continue through a red light which has just changed from amber. This is probably one of the most dangerous things to do and often a cause of collisions at junctions.

It affects those of us who stop at red lights because the drivers aren’t expecting us to stop and they want to get across the junction, this can mean any cyclist stopping at a red light which has just changed is at risk from being shunted from behind.

I was lucky in the video below, the driver just missed me, I presume he thought I wouldn’t stop.

Time Spent at Traffic Lights

I commute from urban Greater London into central London each day, taking me roughly an hour door to door. The distance is around 16 miles each way but can be more or less depending on my route.

The biggest problem for any cyclist in a city is going to be traffic lights, it’s understandable why some choose to cycle through red ones when you face over 100 potential red ones each journey.

I’ve looked at a weeks worth of commuting, not all on the same route, but roughly the same time and distance. I know that on each route I’m facing around 100 red lights if not more. On average I’m spending 13% of my commuting time waiting at traffic lights. That is around 7 minutes per journey or 14 minutes a day.

It’s a bit of a pain to spend that much time waiting at traffic lights, I might look into a slightly different route, but I suspect it will mean a shorter and potentially slower journey.

How much time do you spend waiting at traffic lights per journey?

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.

Delays at crossings in the United Kingdom

This is a response to David Hembrow’s post ‘Delays at traffic light controlled crossings’

Crossing roads in the UK as a pedestrian or as a cyclist is generally a pain! The roads really are aimed at the traffic traveling along it. Pedestrians are often forced to wait a substantial amount of time after they have pushed the button to cross the road and even then, you might not have much time to cross.

For example, the video below shows the traffic light sequence at hyde park corner, plenty of cyclists and pedestrians use this daily.

As we can see from the video, pedestrians and cyclists have 6 seconds on green to cross, 8 seconds of no light and 82 seconds of red light. Pushing the button actually has no effect at this junction as the phase is designated and is based on the traffic light sequence on constitution hill.

David Hembrow shows us what it could be like!

As David says in his post. The delay caused to motorists for this ‘priority’ to pedestrians and cyclists is actually very minimal.

I cycled the route for the up coming Barclays Cycle Superhighway Route 8 that will be launched in July. Work is being done on the route at the moment but it takes advantage of some already in place facilities. These facilities include several traffic light controlled crossings and the time you have to wait at these is very different to what cyclists and pedestrians expect in the Netherlands.

The first crossing is a 24 second wait. No so bad but could be better. The second crossing however is appalling, we waited nearly 50 seconds but nothing. And we both decided it was best if we cycled across the junction whilst no traffic was coming.

This act of crossing whilst traffic isn’t coming is actually very common in the United Kingdom. Because pedestrians are often forced to wait a large amount of time to wait. This actually has a repercussion on the traffic using the road. As the crossing request from the pedestrian is not cancelled, the lights will change at some point and there may not be anyone there to cross, so vehicles have to stop for nothing.

This also has an effect on cyclists when these types of crossings are involved with building off-road routes, they become a pain to use as they can take several times longer to travel a set distance when comparing it to using the road.

For example the Vauxhall Gyratory has an off-road cycle path that goes all the way round, but again pedestrians and cyclists are forced to wait long traffic light phases. I can cycle around the gyratory and leave the exit i want in under 30 seconds but using the off-road route takes over 5 minutes in the test run I did! [The video is 1min 47 seconds long and is sped up by a factor of 4.]

With crossings like these, off-road cycling routes are hardly appealing to cyclists. I personally know that I would, and do, prefer to cycle on the road where I can get to my destination in a reasonable time!