Saturday, 3 December 2016

Volvo Road "Safety" Programme


Fantastic! Some altruristic company that makes trucks is finally acknowledging their part on keeping vulnerable road users safe. I can't wait!


But then I looked through the "educational kit" material. Oh, it's for people riding only, with a few notes about how hard it is for people driving, because obviously they are the only people thinking about this. Hmmm.

Well, let's keep going. I was thinking there would be lots of "see and be seen" actions that are taught in #BikeAbility, about moving out and holding the right part of the road from an early position, about getting eye contact, about signalling, about knowing when you have priority. And how people driving respond to that.

But no, there's none of that.


A Bit More Analysis


There's lots of pretty pictures, lots of photos showing sharks have sharp teeth and cactuses have sharp needles. Yes, I hear you asking, quite what that has to do with cycling? I've no idea too!

The only bit that has any relevance to road cycling is a few diagrams showing where truck drivers can't see people low down. Yes, this is just a sexed up version of Exchanging Places.

So, let's just get this straight. A company that can design a truck so that the driver could see people lower than their cab, doesn't do it. Something in their control and THEY DON'T DO IT. They just tells others that their lorries are designed NOT TO SEE YOU.

To show you just how poor this response is, look at the way one truck company in Cambridge, the cycling capital of the UK, is working on this. Mick George is phasing in these lorries where the driver can see much clearer.



In Depth


The presentation is very flash, there are lots of very cool images and videos, although embedded in a Powerpoint presentation so there's no way of pulling them up and analysing them bit by bit. Then, to add to the confusion, they are all based on the European standard of driving on the right. This does get very confusing, and probably especially so to any child that this is aimed at. Why do all this flash photo and video stuff, then not get it the right way round for the UK? It's not hard to do!

So, onto the key frames that are important. Here they are in one diagram.


So, A and B are about people walking not riding. Let's knock them off for now, although they are also pretty ridiculous. C is a definite stupid move from someone riding. I'm not sure anyone disagrees with that and also it's pretty obvious. What's the education statement here? Even young kids know this. Don't move out in front of a large vehicle. Duh!

Then there's D and E. Oh gosh, I don't know where to start. The diagram at D is a classic example of just very poor driving from the LORRY DRIVER. How did they overtake, then turn across the rider? When looking at the notes, this is not what the lesson is meant to be about, the diagram is very misleading. This is meant to show a lorry stopped at traffic lights, then a rider coming up the inside (on the wrong side for the UK), then the lights changing and the driver turning to the inside (on the wrong side for the UK). Has the driver indicated they are turning whilst stopped? No idea. Why are there no lines on the diagram showing a traffic light scenario? No idea. What educational value does this have set out like this? Really, really not sure it has any the way it's presented.

And then E. Again, not very clear what on earth this is about. Looking at the notes, this is meant to be a quick lane change due to something going on ahead. So, this is ON THE DRIVER again. They shouldn't be doing emergency moves into vulnerable road users, whatever is ahead.


And, as a final point to the absurd, the presentation has lots of film of people mountain biking. What on earth has that to do with utility riding? And, just to push another irrelevancy, one section starts with the silliness of not wearing a helmet. YES, I'd use a helmet when off-road jumping and risky riding. This has no relevance to road riding. Go on, show me how well that'll go down in The Netherlands. The land of cycling that virtually no-one uses helmets because they are not relevant. Or, importantly, will do ANYTHING FOR YOU IF YOU ARE HIT BY A LORRY.

So, to parody Macbeth, this a a flash, pretty presentation full of sound and fury signifying nothing. And yes, you need to look at the quote just before that.


What Should We Do When Riding?

Well, the first thing would be to not accept these dangerous lorries on our roads. They are designed dangerously. Simple. Another thing would be to press for places where people cyling and lorries do not mix. Again, design the danger out.

And, what's the positive thing to do right now? Simply put, read the Highway Code (221) that says don't ride up the inside of HGVs. Make sure you are seen by putting yourself in a position where you can see drivers. Look for mirrors. That's it. That's more than this presentation is about.

Further training, if you want it, is through #BikeAbility. This is so much more than this presentation. It involves quite a bit and teaches so much more. It's also taught to ~10 year old pupils in the UK, and around 2 million have been through it. Which does bring up another issue with this presentation. They are aiming it at 12 year olds. This is well behind the UK aim for training.

One thing can be said, there's no mention or visual image of hi-viz clothing or paint. I think Volvo got their fingers burnt when they did that little promotion a year or so ago. That's another story.



Final Marks


So, what's the final score for this? How much educational benefit does it have to people riding? Well, I think I'd give it a 1 out of 10. It does cover "don't pull out of a side road in front of a lorry".

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Traffic Calming


So NICE have come up with some important things about how poor our road infrastructure is and how it increases pollution.



I'm especially pleased to see they've pointed out the negative issues speed humps cause.
“Traffic calming measures such as speed humps ... may increase emissions by adding to decelerations and accelerations,” it says. “Ensuring motorists drive steadily at the optimum speed can reduce stop-go driving and reduce emissions.
I'm sad to see they don't talk about the better alternatives, just what doesn't work. I'm sure a lot of motorheads will start yelling "Rip them out now, pollution, think of the children (and let me speed without concern for others)". Obviously, completely the opposite of what NICE is suggesting, although it'd be "nice" if they pointed that out.

Again, we've not got far to go before we see what does work, it's just over the North Sea in, yes, The Netherlands.The Telegraph did a piece (all the way back in 2012) on how they work it out with something called "woonerfs". There are 3 principles behind these areas:
  • traffic speeds are forced down to "footpace", typically well below 12mph. 
  • the principles are applied consistently nationwide so they are instantly recognised by road users everywhere. 
  • legal liability is heavily weighted against the motorist in the event of an accident.
It's interesting to note that this has support from the population and professional drivers organisations.

The piece then talks about how this is engineered on the ground.
Clever use of planting, play areas, chicanes, even the position of the houses, means there isn't a straight road in sight.
And it's praise of the result is great!
there's little need for speed signs; our pace automatically falls to a crawl, underlining the designers' dream that children should roam the streets in safety
Note that this starts to sound like UK schemes like Exhibition Road which many speed campaigners really don't like. But compare the "Clever use" quote above and look at the picture of this development and you can easily see how the UK scheme totally fails. It's a massive straight space, encouraging speeding and, as a result, pushing other transport modes out of the way.



So, why can't we do this in the UK? Actually we already do. Look at new developments in St Neot's and Peterborough.

In Hargate, a new development south of Peterborough, you'll find it hard to find a place with a straight road. Additionally, there are no quick routes through, no road to start on that'll take you all the way through. You have to know your way and make a variety of turns.


Entering (picture shows leaving) St Neots from the east and the road wiggles around, for no obvious reason. There's space for it to go straight, but it doesn't, it has an open space with trees instead. This naturally slows everyone driving down without thinking about it.


These two areas are showing the main signs of the engineering of woonerfs, although still have a few things to work on. And, of course, it's missing the principle priority issue. The result is ground breaking, as The Telegraph points out.
woonerfs are not only possible but desirable, because they transform neighbourhoods into garden cities
underlining the designers' dream that children should roam the streets in safety
Not only do The Netherlands do this with new developments, but they retrofit older neighbourhoods. The've figured out it's not that difficult to do, unlike our country that seems to accept the blank myth that "we don't have space". We do, we just choose not to be clever about it. The Dutch have been clever.
Woonerfs have been retro-fitted over several square miles of side roads
And to complete the quote from above.
Amsterdam proves that retro-fitted woonerfs are not only possible but desirable, because they transform neighbourhoods into garden cities
So, while we moan about pollution, invest vast sums of money in speeding up our journeys on major trunk roads by a few minutes for a few years only (before it returns to the same old congestion), there's great examples of what we can do to transform our neighbourhoods and remove urban pollution at the same time.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Lincolnshire Police Give Really Poor Cycling Advice



So this appeared recently as a clipped section from Lincolnshire Police safety advice to children.



I thought the tweet comment was a reasonable summary of their poorly thought out leaflet. I thought it also deserved a lot more analysis and a good run through on how it directly and indirectly contradicts the GOVERNMENT advice on cycling practices, importantly the Highway Code and BikeAbility training.

Lincolnshire Police Leaflet.

The leaflet is here, although I've just focussed on the "on road" statements. It's rather telling that they choose to advertise to children by showing someone falling off. This is well known to play on children's fears and put them off riding. Not exactly a good way to encourage children.

So, the 4 statements they have asserted.
  • A. Never ride on the pavement. Keep to the cycling lanes or ride in the same direction as the cars. This is the law.
  • B. Before you turn a corner, check the way is clear (look behind you) and signal to tell people where you are going.
  • C. Keep a wide distance near parked cars they may siddeenly open a door.
  • D. Keep to single file on the roads, this is much safer.

Statement A.
This is just a really poorly written statement and easily misinterpreted. The "This is the law" bit makes it look like all parts of this are legal requirements. They are not.

1 "Never ride on the pavement". Except when it's a designated cycle path. As written in Highway Code rule 62: Cycle Tracks. These are normally located away from the road, but may occasionally be found alongside footpaths or pavements".

2. "Keep to cycling lanes". No, not a legal requirement at all or even good advice. BikeAbility says ride an arms length from the kerb. For multiple reasons this is the optimal position and is often at odds with poorly designed cyclelanes. This is subtly admitted in Highway Code rule 63: "Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills".

3. "Ride in the same direction as cars" is the only bit that gets close to a legal requirement. Although I know many places that have one-way streets for cars that allow people to cycle the other way.

Statement B.
Again confusing. "check the way is clear (look behind you)" just doesn't make sense. It's because it's missing the reasoning and talking about what you are acutally doing.

It is good advice to look behind you and signalling is a good idea. However, the reasons why are completely overlooked and may result in riders doing completely the wrong thing. The idea about looking behind is to enable a rider to move out to a controlling position to stop poor overtaking close to a junction. Also, if there's no-one to signal to, don't do it, keep your hands on the handlebars.

Statement C.
The only statement that has my support. Always "a open door and a bit more" when passing a parked car. This is one of the biggest collision risks with people riding. I will note that advise to look behind when pulling out, vital if passing a parked car, is completely missing.

Statement D.
This is just plain wrong. Doubled-up riding is recommended when dealing with hazards. Making a group of riders look more like a car or bus means a great reduction in risky or rushed overtaking and from oncoming traffic (see here for more details why). Reguarly, BikeAbility instructors will move groups of children around on the road, and they'll employ doubled-up riding quite regularly and when appropriate.

In Highway Code Rule 66: "never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends". So, that's not more than doubled up, and don't do it when it might be difficult to do. And to complement this, BikeAbility will teach riders to ride in the centre of a lane when narrow or round a bend to stop poor overtaking then.

In Summary.
It's really important that organisations of authority in the areas covering good cycling practices act and promote consistently. Whilst Lincolnshire Police probably were trying to do this, their half-handed attempt is, at best, poorly thought through. At worst it's just downright dangerous.

Here are all the GOVERNMENT sources of this advice for people cycling, which does seem at odds with what Lincolnshire police believe.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Cycle Parking in CB1

Developers at CB1 are coming down hard on people locking bikes the the tree guards around. They try to claim it's all rail commuters that do this.




I decided to have a look on Saturday, so no weekly commuters included. I find that there's still loads of bikes, a lot not close to the station. Clearly this isn't commuters but locals, a good proportion of which are a long way from the station cycle park.

It's fairly obvious that there's inadequate local cycle parking stands. So this lies soley at the feet of the developers. And there's a clear way to improve the situation, put in more.

Go HD see * at bottom

At the start
0:40 Mill Park
2:00 Station Place









* How to go HD.















Thursday, 29 September 2016

King William the Fourth and Braziers Lane


I have to joy of volunteering at Brazier's Park in Oxfordshire every so often. I usually take the Friday off to enable me to set up for our group, just in case the weather or other circumstances make it a hard job. However, the majority of the time, I get a few hours around lunchtime for myself. So, the bike comes out and I ride into the hills.



This is located in the edge of the Thames valley, and is sited just below the Chiltern dipslopes near Goring. Thus it has a bit of climbing, and I choose the pleasure of old tracks for the up and down sections.

A short way into the journey up the first track, the King William the Fourth offers the perfect opportunity to stop and lunch. With awesome Brakspears straight out of the barrel and a good menu it's great. And then the view from outside makes it perfect. The hills and valleys toward the Goring Gap a spread out in front of you giving 10 miles of wooded and farmed landscape. And then, it just gets silly as Red Kites circle in front of you.

And here's the clip (music warning!) with a variety of start points which open YouTube in a separate window.
Go HD see * at bottom

At the start
0:12 Turning Out of Braziers
0:33 Ipsden
1:09 King William the Fourth
3:18 Event Staff
4:03 Turning Out of Braziers
4:30 Great view from top of Braziers Lane


There was an odd thing going on at the farm (in *Homer*, I kid you not!), which meant I met with event staff at the top of the track.

Also note that I met horses on my way round. I start flicking my brakes gently a good 100 yards away. The horses pick up on it first and start turning their heads. I doing it gently and slowing, as braking does, from a long distance out to make sure the animals are aware and the riders do pick it up from a fair distance as well. This gives everyone plenty of time to react, move and take care of all involved.

Great fun for a mid day break from work!








* How to go HD.