Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Crime and (very little) Punishment

Cycling casualties rose in the year ending March 2011. From the released statistics from the DfT, 1,870 people died  and just under 25,000 people were killed or seriously injured on our roads in the 12 months to March 2011.

Pedestrian, Motorbike and car casualties and KSI all fell - pedestrians by 1% and 3% respectively, but car casualties and KSI fell by the most - 7% and 9% respectively.

Why pedestrian casualties fell is anyone's guess. Maybe there are less of them, maybe they learnt to run faster. Or possibly cars are now designed with pedestrian impact safety as a criteria. Certainly being in a car has become dramatically safer over the years, despite the huge increase in road traffic. This is no accident (excuse the pun). Untold money has been poured into road, and car, design to make the occupants safer. And whilst roads have become safer for car users with huge amounts of planning going into things such a motorway and A road design, this has had the effect of driving out non-motor traffic from the roads. So why has cycling had an increase in casualties? Maybe it is because of an increase in miles cycled, but then again motoring has increased over the years hugely and safety also increased -  with the use of funds. Could it be that, whilst motoring has had billions poured in safety, cyclists have had to make do with advice like "take primary", or make use of cycle lanes that direct one into the path of car doors, left turning vehicles and prioritised side roads?

Maybe the decrease in car casualties and the increase in cycle casualties is due to car drivers becoming more diligent and careful, whilst those naughty cyclists are just reckless fools, flinging themselves at hapless drivers? Below are some videos,all taken on three trips in the last couple of weeks, that might point towards the real problem - motorists able to pretty much get away with anything on a regular basis.

The first two highlight the most endemic problem associated with motorist behaviour that currently blights nearly all our roads. It is so accepted that when 14% of motorists are found to be speeding on a road in Woodford Green, the police don't think this a problem. And the operation itself highlights the magnitude of the issue- if 14% of motorists are caught speeding when the police are by the roadside in big yellow POLICE jackets and waving around speed-guns one can only imagine the amount of speeding that goes on when they aren't around. Yet this criminal act, which has been completely normalised on our roads, kills people and makes roads utterly unusable for others.

Take the first video. Filmed on Saturday afternoon in Leytonstone High Road - a reasonably busy road. The speed of the car, coupled with its road position and the location of side turnings makes this a very anti-social piece of driving.

The second video is my favourite piece of road - the A11 into Stratford. Now, even in the pretty high amounts of competition in sh!t driving on the road, this BMW driver still manages to stand out amongst the crowd. The cyclist on the right is trying to make his way to the right turn at the lights. Some may say that his road positioning could be improved, but, frankly, there is absolutely no way of making this turn safely. Certainly the vehicular cycling method of "taking the lane" would have got him smeared over this BMW. This car was travelling so fast that I shoulder-checked as I entered the road and there was no car on the Bow Flyover. Thankfully, I did a final shoulder check and saw him careering down the road, hence my change in road positioning to the left. No way was I about to assert myself in this situation. This road is 30mph - but this is an utter joke. If Newham wanted to do something to help cyclists they might have thought about us when they "remodelled" the road for the Olympics. Or perhaps put in average speed cameras to keep the speed down. But there is nothing - aside from a hugely overworked 30mph flashing sign. Possibly because Newham council (ie. Sir Robin Wells) have absolutely no interest in cycling

Then we have the "didn't see" or "didn't care" approach to cyclists. Many motorists are clearly busy people, and there is little point in dallying around waiting for cyclists or pedestrians to get out of the way. Obeying the highway code and giving some thought to the safety of other road-users is clearly a nice idea, but not when you are in a hurry. How important is a cyclist or pedestrian's journey if they didn't decide to use a car anyway?

So, as this Audi driver kindly demonstrates, cyclists should be prepared to yield to important people in German cars.

Finally, we have the last word in the true hierarchy on our roads. Whilst we stop at the lights near Tottenham Hale tube station, this very important driver in the Mazda decides to push past me and cross the lights at red, whilst pedestrians are still crossing. Clearly he beeped his horn a couple of times, so any casualties (for example the young family still crossing) would only have themselves to blame. 

So there we are. Clearly the transport planners scratch their heads and worry about the cycling injuries until they realise that what is actually required is to train the cyclists better. So that they know that they need to be positioning themselves right in front of drivers such as those above. That will sort things out for sure....

1 comment:

  1. That audi went straight into a traffic jam. If I'd been on a bicycle they'd be going to the audi dealers to buy a new wing mirror by now.

    As for the last one, isn't there a bit of the Met that pretends to do something when you complain about driving?