Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The ASZ - All Scooters Zone

The Guardian Bike Blog asked the other day "How can safety at Advanced Stop Zones be improved for cyclists"?

Well, it might be rather jolly if the average motorist, and indeed motorcyclist, took the first bit of notice of them.

There are differing opinions on the ASZ, and I wouldn't say that they are the panacea to all cycling woes - but they are useful for getting some distance between yourself and motorised traffic, and are good for when you are filtering. I tend to use them when traffic is heavy and I am filtering, or if I going to turn right at a junction where the ASZ allows me to position myself correctly. I rarely bother with them if the traffic is light, preferring to stay behind the vehicle in front of me.

But the ASZ has to be one of the most abused rules by motor vehicle users, outside speeding infractions. Scooters seems to be almost drawn to these zones as if they have some kind of strange magnetic attraction. Maybe some kind of seductive siren call emanates from the traffic lights - a call only heard by scooterists?

The ASZ is, hardly surprisingly, barely policed. In fact the closest I have seen the police take an interest in the ASZ are the couple of times when they themselves have rocked up into it whilst I have been waiting for the lights.

I also think that there are significant tranche of motorists who have no idea what an ASZ is, why cyclists need to use them, and why drivers shouldn't. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there are a significant number of drivers who have no idea on the rules of the ASZ and, indeed, that encroaching it on red is illegal (theoretically carries a £60 / 3pt fine). And why should they? Their function has hardly been publicised, and the policing of them is non-existent.

Secondly, there are the drivers who simply know that no-one cares about the ASZ and use them anyway - I guess to get "ahead" of other lanes, or simply to try to push away filtering cyclists. I have heard comments about how silly it is to let cyclists "push in front" to "slow down" traffic, normally from people who have no concept of the average speeds one can attain as a cyclist in London in comparison to those in vehicles. 

So, to answer the Guardian's question, one could make ASZs more amenable to cyclists by making sure drivers knew how to act around them, and to enforce them in the first place. I always think that ASZs lend themselves to being used with cycle only lights - if something is in the ASZ then cycle only lights turn green for a time to allow cyclists to clear the junction. And enforcing them with red light cameras. One can only speculate at how quickly drivers might learn not to encroach an ASZ if they realise that doing so adds on another lighting phase to their wait...

So I leave you with the current state of ASZs. Another video taken recently, on the A10. Note the van changing lanes to undertake the traffic. Note how the driver goes right into the ASZ on red. Note also the cyclists waiting at the ASL who now have a large van "cuddling" up to them. Some may say the cyclists were over too near the kerb, but that misses the point, which is that someone licensed to drive several tonnes of machinery shouldn't be so moronic as to try to push past a cyclist at a red light. If I was the Bromponite waiting at the front, I would have gone on the pedestrian phase and jumped the lights simply to get away from the van - which may have been turning left for all I knew.

When this type of driving results in prosecutions then the ASZ will be respected. Until then I will resign myself to making close acquaintanceship with vans, lorries, buses, scooters, cars and motorbikes - all of whom seem to want to join the ASZ party.


  1. I can't actually get that worked up about motorbikes in ASLs - it makes me feel better about my own occasional infraction eg anticipating the lights changing, and larger PTWs (NOT little Vespas) accelerate so fast anyway that I always feel safer when they are in front of me.

    When we challenged the City of London Police on their failure to tackle ASL infringements in their bad road behaviour campaigns, which always seem to sweep up a disproportionate number of cyclists jumping lights, they explained that there is a technical defect with the law on ASLs - I think it was that they can't issue fixed penalty notices for ASL infringements, and taking every case to magistrate's court would be burdensome.

    What bothers me far more is motorbikes in cycle lanes, and the one crossing Blackfriars Bridge northbound is notorious in this respect. They race up the inside, straying into a very busy bike lane where pedal cycles are quite often two or more abreast as faster overtakes slower, so that they (the PTWs) can get in front into the ASL. Being a stroppy sort myself, I then cycle to the front and position myself right in front of them to ensure they lose the advantage they think they gained - mercifully bikers do seem to differ from cabbies and white van men in that they don't normally get really nasty.

    What really doesn't help, at least at Blackfriars, is that PTWs are permitted to use the bus lane, in Boris' baleful experiment, which he insisted on extending despite the evidence that it increased both motorbike and other non-motorist injury accidents. As one of TfL's masterful pieces of "lies, damned lies, and statistics" their Network Operating Strategy consultation states that 51% of "cyclists and car and van drivers who were aware of the trial" approved of it. Presumably that means that if you include those unaware of the trial, a minority approved, and if you separate cyclists from the others (a curious compounding if you ask me) I'll bet a large majority of cyclists definitely disapproved.

  2. The RH lane is for vehicles turning right -you can see that from the indicators on those vehicles borrowing to indicate. Going into the LH lane was the right thing to do from a straight on perspective. It even waited until the bus lane ended -which is a lot more considerate than your usual Bristol van.

    That doesn't mean entering the ASL was legal, and it shows that the cycle path approach to it is hopeless; a "left hook lane"

  3. Hi Steve,

    The RH lane is for turning right or continuing straight on, the LH lane is for left turn or straight ahead as well.

    The van was correct to go into the LH lane, no worries about that, but then encroaching on the ASL with cyclists already in it was anti-social, and I would be concerned what he would do next (left turn?)

  4. Paul,

    When PTW enter the ASL it normally leaves room for us cyclists. But there are times when the ASL is so full of scooters that it leaves one stuck to the left after filtering, and because PTWs are filtering as well it is often something one cannot anticipate in time.

    I dislike the PTW getting in front of me and then realising they cannot get through. It is irritating. But I really hate the fact that some take the bus lane as an opportunity to fly down past traffic, treating cyclists as an obstacle course. I have, before now, been in primary to stop bullying taxi drivers close passing at speed, to find that a motorcyclist has decided to undertake, even though there is plenty of room on the outside.

    Don't get me wrong, most PTW are great, and sharing the lane is fine. But the increase in KSI on motorbikes in bus lanes shows that there are significant issues.