Road Safety - Cars, Pedestrians and Cyclists
There was a great article buried in yesterday’s Sunday Times about how the received wisdom of the last 50 years’ urban road design is set to be overturned. The End of the Road for One-Way Street revealed that the Department of Transport’s new road design guidelines, the Manual for Streets will see streets designed as “social places, not just traffic spaces”. Examples include:
- Narrower roads (and wider pavements?)
- Unexpected sharp corners
- Deliberate blind spots and junctions
- Introduction of ’shared space’ - roads and pavements at the same level
The aim of all this is to reduce the sense of confidence that drivers feel - wide roads with pedestrians segregated off, and lots of forward visibility tend to encourage riskier driving behaviour. Studies by the Transport Research Laboratory and the Dutch experience of “woonerf“ have both pointed to the use of bollards, irregular road layouts and play areas improving conditions to pedestrians.
Slowing traffic down is something I welcome. However . . . my last experience as a cyclist of using a shared space with pedestrians does not have particularly good memories. While at university, I regularly cycled to lectures on the campus. The problem is that a bike is silent, so unlike a car, pedestrians simply cannot hear you as you approach, and I lost count of the number of times someone would step off the pavement literally 2-3 feet in front of me. I guess this kind of proves the point though - the only option for me was to SLOW DOWN!
In other news on this morning’s Today Programme, there was an article about how the government is introducing a new training scheme to replace the old Cycling Proficiency Test. I took this when I was at school, aged ten. Basically, you got to take your bike to school for three days, and skip lessons (woo wooo!), while under the tuition of a jolly sensible chap, you were taught how to ride your bike safely on the road - things like how to approach a junction, looking over your shoulder lots, being aware of other road users. At the time, the ‘roads’ we practiced on were mad up of cones and old fire hoses to simulate road markings.
The new scheme will actually see the instructors and teachers take the the roads themselves, more like learning to drive for real. And a good thing this would be.
HOWEVER, in the spirit of good radio, they had two interviewees with somewhat different views - one (a politician . . . . ) wanted to go further, and make riding tests compulsory. He was from the all-cyclists-are-inconsiderate-red-light-jumping-oiks side of the argument. Which is something that’s now up for discussion on the Today Message Board. Surprisingly enough, most of the contributors don’t seem to share this view! One idea that’s been put forward seems to make a whole bunch of sense:
“This cycling test should also be compulsory for physically able people taking a driving license. This would make drivers aware of what it is like cycling in a busy town environment and maybe be slightly more understanding.” (Mrsanna)
I think this would be a great idea - I’m sure that it was spending so long cycling with traffic before I got behind the wheel of a car, or ever sat on a motorbike (sadly not allowed though - apparantly “motorbike” is pronounced “d-i-v-o-r-c-e”) that made the transition, and passing the tests so easy. I’ve been driving for 20 years and have never had a ticket, and never been involved in an accident where I myself wasn’t stationery (in other words, two shunts from the rear).
And finally, this month’s Cycling Plus features an article on where to be on the road to be safe. This is all pretty much common sense stuff, but still worth a read. It includes:
- “Primary” position - basically the middle of the lane you’re in so as to assert your position. Useful when approaching junctions, roundabouts, or other hazards, where you could really do without cars even trying to overtake.
- “Secondary” position - about a metre from the kerb / parked cars, so you’re not in the gutter (and broken glass, nails, drain covers, etc), but still visibly on the road. You’re also far enough from parked cars to have time to avoid that door that suddenly opens in front of you.
- Single file Vs two-abreast. The latter may be perfectly legal, but single file is often more apropriate / courteous.
- Positioning and getting into position to turn right (i.e. across the flow of oncomming traffic).
The magazine also features an intermediate ride route based around Rochester (my home town!), and reviews of more pedals & bags than I’d care to shake a stick at. This is the second copy I’ve bought . . . and I’ve just checked that I seem to own more breathable, cycle-suitable tops than work shirts now. OMG! I’m turning into a Cyclist!