Thursday 31 October 2013

Level Crossings and red lights

As the govt has just announce 32M for level crossing safety, its worth noting that they have recognised that infrastructure changes are needed, because attempts to change driver behaviour are failing.

Where are the fucking mutual respect campaigns "Be nice to trains and they won't kill you?"

The answer, they've tried, they've failed. Which shows how useless mutual respect campaigns are: if they don't teach people to respect trains, what chance have cyclists.

Why are so many vehicles running level crossings? Why are the numbers up? That is something that the network rail have seemed to miss completely, though the BBC has picked up on it,: Jumping the lights is now a mass motoring offence.

Drivers are used to running red lights -even if they are MPs they do it- and now treat red lights as a hint. The lack of experience of level crossings may also be a factor -they don't look like normal lights- but how can you miss dropping barriers? The answer: you can't, you can instead make a decision to swerve round them because either you are going too fast to stop, or you are too impatient to wait.

It's precisely because so many people run red lights in town that the chance of being stopped has dropped -leaving level crossings last only place where the government cares.

Maybe if RLJing was enforced everywhere, aggressively, railway lines would be safer too

Saturday 26 October 2013

Surrey, or why do the home counties hate cyclists?

Last week a debate, broadcast on the radio, about cycling in Surrey.

Reviews by Big Blue Meanie and Surrey MTBer. give a view from the cyclists perspective

  1. Claims that cyclists (lycra louts, MAMILs -leisure cyclists explicitly) are bringing the county to its knees by locking the hard-pressed-motorists in their houses on the hundreds of road closures every year.
  2. Claims that the narrow country lanes are too narrow for bicycles and cars, with the implication being: no cyclists.
  3. Claims the cyclists are a threat to horses.
These are all: bollocks.

But they get their airing, they get their national press

The key protester, Ian Huggins,  who puts a sports car on his page, complains about cyclists stopping him getting to work, at his pigeon shooting business. Yes, thats right: The man who wants to keep cyclists out of surrey makes a living by encouraging leisure uses of surrey. Can he not see how hypocritical it is that he complains about leisure cyclists when his own business model is based on people playing at weekends? No, he can't because he's blinded by his own arrogance: that surrey is for cars

Selected comments from the petition, showing that a recurrent theme is not "the road closures", it is the presence of cyclists holding up traffic, cycling too fast (this is on roads where cars are going faster) and generally coming in from outside.

  • The volume of cyclists riding 2-4 abreast now on our roads is ridiculous & dangerous
  • The bike riders come flying down the lanes, often 3 or 4 abreast at great speed, alternatively, they ride in long lines making it impossible to pass them.
  • "This madness must stop; the roads and public spaces are for everybody, and the needs of some should not outweigh the needs of others. "
  • It's not only the closing of roads that infuriates me, it's the fact that EVERY Sunday we get swarms of these idiots on their precious bikes riding in packs...GET THEM OFF OUR ROADS.
  • Cyclists hav become a pest.
  • Hugely congested roads made worse by cyclists, who pay no road taxes and continually break the law.
  • The numbers of cyclists on our roads, which are not designed for use by cyclists and motor vehicles at the same time:- IS NOW BECOMING DANGEROUS
  • Why should the cyclists completely take over our local roads whilst paying not a penny in insurance or road fund licence.
  • Fed up of lycra clad louts on the local roads
  • kettled in their own homes, unable to pursue their own activities in order to facilitate the amusement of cyclists who neither live nor pay tax here
  • Spoiling the quality of our life in Surrey.
  • We are all suffering owing to the huge increase in the number of cyclists practising for the various events especially at weekends
  • Surrey's narrow lanes cannot accommodate cycles & cars. 
  • This is a problem emerging all over England, not just Surrey. 
  • The cyclists are dangerous and abusive need to be stopped
  • I have moved my horses away from Surrey as it became too dangerous to ride out in the countryside.
  • Monday to Sunday, on most days cyclists are training in this area. The roads are not suitable and during rush hour they cause a major hazard.
  • yet again the cyclists take over the roads
  • County residents are being bullied off the roads byt he rampant fad for cycling
  • I drive daily on the minor roads blighted by groups of inconsiderate cyclists
  • Cyclists present a road hazard and should stick to off road routes
  • They are a serious menace and should be kept inside the M25 
  • Every weekend we already have aspiring Bradleys hogging our roads 
  • Impose a fine for the large groups of cyclists blocking up roads 'practising'
  • The roads are not a recreational facility, we pay for their up-keep so we can drive on them not close them, 
  • We are already plagued by convoys of cyclists riding two or three abreast
  • We have since been plagued all year round by uncaring and unwelcome cyclists 
  • We are inundated with cyclists every weekend
  • groups of cyclists who have no consideration for motorists...Our country lanes used to be such a pleasure to walk or drive along.
The signers view cyclists as outsiders coming in "training" for the big event. They can't understand that the cyclists may be coming out for fun, and that killing the one-day closure events isn't going to make them go away. They also can't seem to recognise that if a road is too narrow for cars and bicycles -maybe the cars shouldn't be there?

All these signatures are a sign of a problem: residents of the home counties who have seen a rise in road cycling emanating from London, one that goes head to head with the residents expectations of their right to drive a crossover-SUV round country lanes at 60 mph. But it is precisely their habits of racing round so fast that has killed everyday cycling in the area, that and the fact that a key role of the home counties is to be extended commuter country for London. They may complain about people from "inside the M25" coming out with their bicycles, but these same people will drive into London -even if now they feel too threatened by cyclists to drive round Richmond Park,.

Anyone who wants to ban cyclists from London from cycling in their county has just lost the right to drive their car in London or any other city. Why should London care that people from Surrey want to drive to work? They've chosen to live out of town -tough. As for people coming out from London at weekends -that's why you have businesses like golf and shooting alongside farming. You can't start being selective about what Londoners do when you come to your area.

This petition goes way beyond Surrey -and as the comments show, it goes way beyond one or two closures. No, it is a sign of conflict between the rural commuters -those who choose to live in the countryside for a quality of life that depends on fast journeys by car, and those who want to cycle round the countryside. Sportives may be the flashpoint, but its clear that cyclists in general are unwelcome.

This is where the BBC's article "Power to regulate Surrey cyclists 'limited'" comes into the mix. It sounds like the residents do want some restriction on cycling, but  as the police say, "we are limited about how much we can regulate cycling which is not part of a race."

Are the police really responding to the petitioners saying "our hands are tied?" That's not a good start.  Because if this Surrey attempt to ban cycling -which is what it boils down to- keeps going on, it's going to get more press, and more of the other home counties joining in. 

The New Forest is clearly another flash point, along with the Chilterns. Near Bristol, it's less inflammatory: there's more space to the south of the city, the cotswolds and then Wales nearby. But even here, the haters will be hearing about Surrey and thinking "we need to regulate them here too"

Wednesday 16 October 2013

cycling campaigners: dress normal for the photos

In Reading cycling campaigners are rightfully protesting about cycling conditions.

Yet they are sadly, doing this by appearing in photos covered in hi-viz, waterproofs and helmets. Even in space4cycling the flouro vests made an appearance along with helmets.

Wonderful as these protests are -especially the regional ones -all cyclists must stop dressing like this for press events as it makes everyone look fucking wierd to the usual regional press commenter fuckwits!

Even if you normally go for the full commuter regalia of building-site chic, hiviz & reflective, helmet with headcam and a set of gloves, when you are being photographed for the press -be it a mass protest or only one or two of you in front of some shit cycling farcility -take the time to dress like a person, not like a cyclist. Or at least hide the safety gear before the cameras come out.

Why? It makes you look normal. It makes you look like a person, not "a cyclist", member of the outgroups who get all the bike lanes and yet still aren't grateful.

You all need to present yourselves as residents and commuters trying to make your journeys to the shops, workplaces and schools safe for all people, of age groups, rather than the niche that is todays dedicated commuter.

Dress like you would dress in the Netherlands, not how you have to dress to feel vaguely safe going round your current mess of a town or city. For the sake of all the people we are trying to build bike paths for.

Important Update: the comments and tweets imply this is slagging off anyone who wears hi-viz and helmets. As far as the People's Cycling Front are concerned you can cycle round wearing hi-viz, tweed, MTB-style merino wool tops, Daily Mail T-shirts -and whatever head gear you want. If you commute in Bristol, you'll know that waterproofs are usually something to put on most of the year -or at least have to hand. And if you are going to get a bike-specific waterproof, reflectives and yellow bits are an option that may increase the chance of being seen.

For press events, when you are going to be seen in the local papers, put all the bike-specific gear out of sight. You don't want to come over as "the cyclists", just "people who choose to cycle round sometimes". You need the readers to identify with you, rather than distance themselves. Exception: maybe some helmets for the kids so you don't get denounced (even more) for endangering your children.

Sunday 6 October 2013

The FTA: Britain's NRA?

The US Natiional Rifle Association is an organisation that promotes the us of lethal weapons across the USA
that brings death to its county, through
  • Lobbying politicians for support of its agenda
  • Actively resisting all proposals to add stricter restrictions on the possession and use of weapons.
  • Demanding looser restrictions in possession or use of the weapons.
  • Actually helping write the legislation related to the use of their weapons
  • Demanding the right to bring their weapons into places their clearly don't belong.
  • Speaking to the press after deaths cause by the weapons they advocate
  • Consider the deaths of people -adults and children- a price society has to pay.
  • Declaring that the deaths of the victims could be prevented through their training and possession of the same weapons.

If you change the weapon from "firearm" to HGV you find that the Freight Transport Association appear to have the same agenda and tactics.

Lorries, brought into cities and even bus lanes,  "self regulation". Bigger vehicles. No more training requirements, No extra limits on existing Lorries.

A couple of weeks ago we had their press team out blaming the victims on a day someone was killed by one of their weapons. They will have been at all the party conferences, pushing for less restrictions, no doubt express sympathy for the murder of so many cyclists, but arguing that it was the victims' fault -and If they were better trained it would be less of an issue.

And, if Private Eye is to be believed, they've been sitting in for the UK government in EU meetings on the forthcoming rules for large trucks across Europe.

For anyone who says "there is a cycling lobby", well, the new cycling activist groups may be loud, may be generating press -but none of them get to represent the UK government during legislation discussions; none of them get to have a stall at conferences.

Which is why the road lobby gets billions, while the cyclists get crumbs, crumbs that then get frittered away on mutual respect programs -because taking away road space is too hard -and not possible to do if you only have 18-24 months of time to spend everything.

What we do have is the ability to make noise, to approach the MPs in the cities, the MPs in the councils, lobby the new Police Commissioners (a losing battle for the Daily Mail fuckwits who mostly got elected, but still necessary).

And we need to get the press out that make the FTA look bad, to make them feel threatened.

Because if there is one difference between the NRA and the FTA is that the FTA are funded by companies with tangible business goals. And if they start to see that the alternative to making our streets safer is to be blocked out of cities entirely -Dublin style- then maybe they will come to their senses.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

"I can't help it if a cyclist gets in my way"

Today in the Daily Telegraph we not only have a cyclist killer, but one that refuses to acknowledge that any of her actions resulted in the death of a young woman.

Judging by the statements made so far, Dr Helen Measures,

  1. Was driving near Stonor by Henley on Thames on a shopping trip on Monday  15 July,  2012
  2. Was held up by some cyclists on her lane
  3. Overtook them at a blind corner
  4. Was "surprised" to meet some oncoming cyclists
  5. Didn't back off her manoeuvre
  6. Killed one of the oncoming cyclists
  7. Refuses to accept any responsibility

While doing the usual court-sympathy-gambits, "weeping" at the death, saying she herself was "a keen cyclist", she absolutely refuses to accept that her actions were at fault.
  • She was "surprised" to see Mr Pontin and his girlfriend suddenly coming towards her as she rounded the curve in the road, but felt they still had enough room to get past.
  • "I don't know why I didn't see them," 
  • "I felt the safest decision was to continue straight ahead because they were in single file.
  • "If I had been concerned, I would have stopped suddenly."
Rather than admit that you shouldn't be surprised to see anything as you round a curve in the road, she thinks continuing on was acceptable -presumably they were just cyclists- then blames the cyclist for getting in her way while trying to squeeze past them

"I can't help it if a cyclist, with all due respect, falls over as I'm approaching them and comes into my line of travel."You do not make a manoeuvre if you don't think it is safe to do so. Had everyone stayed upright, there would not have been an issue.”

Imagine she'd come round the corner and seen an HGV coming. Would she have braked? Of course she fucking would. Yet just because it was cyclists she felt she could carry on, that it would work out -and instead she killed one of them.

Yet she refuses to accept her guilt.

This woman killed a cyclist who was doing nothing wrong, because she was so impatient to reach her destination she not only chose to overtake blind, she decided that once she'd seen the cyclists, she would continue the overtake. And now she pretends it wasn't her fault.

To add insult to fatal injury, the CPS only has her down from careless driving, so even if this killer is convicted, it'll be a non-custodial sentence (think of the child left on her own), and 3-6 months without the car. If overtaking on a corner and being surprised by oncoming traffic isn't driving dangerously, they may as well repeal a law that is clearly not needed.

LFGSS discuss the death in 2012 -again the surrey commuter problem: drivers expecting speed  round country lanes, and unable to accept the existence of cyclists or the need to overtake them safely.
It ends up with whole stretches of country road that you can race down without dipping below 70mph if you know them well - and you're fine, so long as there isn't a stationary or slow-moving obstruction in the road.
Sounds exactly like what this unrepentant killer was doing.

At the same time,  in coverage of the death and its impact on family and friends, the vice-chairman of Stonor Parish Council wanting a triathlon rerouted, for the safety of the cyclists -rather than attempting to make any attempt to improve safety, such as pushing for a lower speed limit.

The winding country roads of England stopped being a pleasant place to cycle on weekdays some time ago -at least in commuter suburb zones, such as Surrey, the Chilterns and South Gloucs. The rural roads are rural ratruns, and even on a quiet road you fear the sound of a car coming up past, worrying if this will "be the one".

And what do we get: we get the residents of Surrey trying to ban the cyclists.