Saturday, 1 December 2012

It has been some time since my last post. It isn't because cycling in Waltham Forest, and London more generally, has become such a wonderful experience that I no longer have anything to moan about.

I just haven't found the time to put together a full post. I have a rather eclectic mix of less than half finished posts, the last of which was actually only 8 words long before I gave up.

In the meantime, I have to say quite a lot has been happening with cycling in general. We have had Bradley Wiggens, and his coach in accidents which has reignited the cycling safety debate, albeit not in a particularly constructive way when radio channels such as LBC debate whether cyclists should be allowed on A roads.

In the time between posts the weather has taken a significant turn for the worse. It is now very cold, wet and windy  as opposed to the summer which was slightly less cold, wet and windy. What has pleased me is that, even in these conditions, I am absolutely not the only cyclist on the roads. It may be my inexhaustible optimism, but I do feel that more people are cycling these days. Around 8am on the A10 between Stoke Newington and Aldgate there appears to be more cyclists than private cars. Where I was once the only cyclist on the Tottenham Hale / Seven Sisters part of the A10, I now see more. Walthamstow also seems to have more cyclists. I assume Waltham Forest and TfL will attribute this to the power of whatever warm and fuzzy social media advertising campaign they have running at the moment , but I wonder if the recession and appalling traffic might be more the reason.

In the last couple of months a few cycling news stories have caught my eye, but none have made me more open-mouthed with incredulity than a feature that was run on an Australian news programme. I have never visited Australia but a friend of mine worked there for around two years. He said there were many things which surprised him, most in a very good way. But one thing that astonished him was Australian government's obsession with health and safety. I suppose this might account for their laws about cycling and helmet use. This strikes me as odd  in a country where virtually any animal on land or sea, no matter how big or small, appears to be venomous to a ridiculous degree - I would have thought living around so many animals which can kill you in a myriad of painful and innovative ways would have imparted a certain laissez faire attidute to health and safety.

Anyway, the story may be one that is now fairly well known. A reporter for a news programme happens to see a woman cycling with a child in a trailer on a busy street and then proceeds to follow her around in his car whilst his passenger is films the cyclist and shouts "IS THAT SAFE" at her. Presumably cycling in the city with a child might be safer if it didn't involve lunatics tail-gating her whilst shouting.

For those who wish their blood pressure to be raised, the television article can be found here. The cyclist's side of the story can be found here.

The most astonishing part of the video was the "expert" who viewed the footage as if the mother had left the child to play with fireworks in the middle of railway tracks. Multiple cutaways showed his face in various contortions ranging from pity to disgust to rage. This was followed by an almost equally astonishing demonstration of what would happen if a car hit something soft and squidgy at 60 kph. As if the audience might need help to make the mental leap on the consequences of fast travelling metal making contact with flesh and bone. I wondered what would happen if the "expert" was shown footage of an average school commute in Copenhagen or Amsterdam or Berlin. Presumably he would self combust with indignation.

It led me to thinking how cycling, and its "dangers" are handled by various country's media and government. The action of cycling one's child to school in this film was viewed as some kind of suicide mission where the mother had lost her mind and was subjecting the child to a near death experience. At no point did anyone producing the film think "Maybe our roads should allow people to choose to cycle their children to school. Maybe this would help people's health. Maybe it would ease congestion. Maybe it might be a neat thing to encourage what with the obesity problems and our CO2 emissions being some of the highest per capita in the world".

In London, TfL would view someone cycling with their child as proof positive that London was now a cycling city. They might even produce some Youtube videos about it involving minor celebrities and some roads emptied of the normal traffic. The press are now either pro-cycling such as The Times and The Guardian or dress up general distrust of anyone daring not to use their car as "we would like them if they weren't law breaking communists"  (eg. Daily Mail). Although local and national government still haven't got to a stage where they would encourage cycling by doing anything to hamper "traffic flow", at least in the UK we appear to have moved on from the stance taken by the Australian film.

In the Netherlands and Denmark, the act of someone cycling their child to school would be viewed as completely normal. If the cycling conditions in the film were in Copenhagen or Amsterdam I imagine that the question the viewers would ask would be "why are we allowing cars to endanger this cyclist and child" rather than "why is this cyclist on our roads?"  Which is where hopefully the UK will end up sometime in the near future.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The criminal classes

Cyclists are lawless reprobates. That much is pretty much fact.

So it is useful to know that the esteemed research tome, Auto Express, have managed to quantify exactly how lawless and naughty cyclists are by using rigorous scientific methodology. And it appears that 74.2% of cyclists are  scofflaw scumbags as opposed to 12.1% of the motoring community. It must be right - the survey is so precise that the results can be measured to a tenth of a percent. That is some kick-ass data collection going on there folks.

So what are the principle crimes of these cyclists that merit the headline of "Cyclists break more road rules than motorists"? Well here is the list

Cyclists  %*   Fault                      Cars    %**

287      29.4  No reflective clothing      NA      NA
104      10.7  No indicating               49     1.6
 90       9.2  No helmet                   NA      NA
 84       8.6  Pulling out without looking 25     0.8
 58       5.9  Jumping lights              12     0.4
 44       4.5  Wearing headphones          42     1.3
 33       3.4  Almost causing collision    17     0.5
 16       1.6  Mounting pavement            0     0.0
  0       0.0  Waiting in cycle box        83     2.6
  0       0.0  Crossing a stop line        83     2.6
  2       0.2  Using phone                 38     1.2
  1       0.1  Eating                       9     0.3
  0       0.0  Blocking crossing           22     0.7

719      74.2  Total                      380    12.1

If you look at this you will realise that cyclists are so lawless that, with the no reflective clothing or helmets, they are breaking road rules that don't even exist. That is taking lawlessness to another level - they are turning our roads into some kind of traffic equivalent of the OK Corral!

Then we have the objective categories of "pulling out without looking" and "almost causing a collision", which cyclists also seem to excel at. Although, strangely they don't seem to be particularly adept at waiting in the cycle box - presumably because it was full of cars.

Of course minor offences such as speeding weren't included as this type of slight oversight by drivers is completely understandable and would simply skew the results. As would counting the number of drivers without correct tax/insurance/license (hint : at last count it was 13% in London).

Of course, the cyclists might say that only the cars in front of the queue have the opportunity to, say, wait in the cycle box, and that 83 cars encroaching on the ASL might mean that every red phase of the lights had it stuffed with cars, but one can overdo the scientific rigour.

The really laughable thing about this article is that the publishers (Dennis publishing) pulled the online version pretty quickly after cyclists complained to them in droves and started to organise a campaign to boycott the publishers new cycling magazine due for launch in a few weeks. I guess it wasn't considered particularly good PR to have a sister publication vomiting up half-baked articles slagging off the core demographic of a new magazine.

For those interested, the new cycling magazine by Dennis publication will be called "Tax Dodging, Scofflaw rule breaking outcasts". No, not really, apparently that wouldn't fit on the cover using the standard typeface. So they decided upon "Cyclist". Presumably, once they got to naming the magazine the journalists' creative and imaginative flair had been exhausted putting together the cycling statistics for their sister publication.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

So who is Kierin, anyway?

The Olympics - and team GBs proficiency at the cycling events - have generated a rather odd phenomenon. Which I have termed expertise by association.

I shall explain.

Clearly lots of people are excited by the Olympic cycling since we won lots of races. But most people have no idea about the format or rules of these cycling races, which can look quite confusing. My friends and family then decide that, because I cycle, I must be au-fait with finer points of the sport. And I get asked questions. It hasn't occurred to them that I use my cycle to go to the shops and visiting people instead of in a velodrome. I admit that I sometimes put on my tracksuit and huff and puff around London on the cycle in an effort to get fit (a futile effort since I invariably come home hungry and longing for a curry). But I think this scant qualification to be classed "an expert".

My mother asked me the other day about the rules concerning Kierin*. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about - I actually thought for a while that she was talking about someone called Kierin. I explained to her that since she had watched a Kierin she probably had much more knowledge about the sport than me, who had never heard of it, or seen it, before she mentioned it. And this is my mother. Who, frankly, should know better than most my relationship to any type of sporting endeavour (I enjoy the types of sport where others play it and I watch it, preferably in a pub).

It amuses me that, because I happen to cycle, I am assumed to be an expert on the cycling sporting world. The fact that cycling as a sport has only a very passing interest for me seems to confuse. But do all people who drive know about motorsport? The assumption that I understand Kierin is analogous to assuming that my mother will understand the finer points of Nascar because she drives to the shops.

I think this confusion between cycling as a sport and cycling as a transport option arises because cycling is considered a hobby, something that only the super fit or slightly eccentric indulge in. Therefore if one cycles one must be really into it. Thankfully attitudes are changing, especially in London where a more diverse range of people are tend to use the cycle to get around, but the assumption still persists, especially in my mother's generation.

But the confusion between cycling as a transport option and as a sport and hobby is understandable when politicians appear to make the same mistake

For example, Boris' olympic cycling legacy was launched on Friday. A two day extravaganza of cycling including a kind of souped up "sky-ride" and cycling races around London. Which is all very nice, but hardly much of legacy for cycling as a transport option. Unless Boris thinks that I can wait a year to do my shopping until he shuts the roads for a day or so. 

Any Olympic legacy that helps cycling as a transport option seems rather distant. I am not an ardent believer in segregated cycle infrastructure, but a legacy where streets were started to be treated as places for people as opposed to conduits for traffic would be a legacy. Some courageous decisions on how our roads work would be a legacy. Slowing traffic to facilitate walking and cycling would be a legacy. An event that allows people to ride their cycles on pleasant roads for 1 day a year isn't a legacy, it is more a "here is what you could have won" if those involved in planning our roads weren't quite so beholden to traffic smoothing and grew some kahunas to implement some of those platitudes and aspirations they spout about cycling.

* Note : I know that Sir Chris Hoyle won the Kierin and so we should be pleased about this event, but any sport whose rules are so lax that they allow one of the competitors to sneak in with a motorbike really needs to take a good look at itself. For most of the race the competitor who had fitted the motor was in front, as you would expect, and it was starting to get a bit like a procession. Thankfully, in the race I saw, the sneaky motorcyclist careered off the track - presumably with engine trouble or something - with only two laps to go to allow those competitors who hadn't stretched the rules a shot at Gold.  

Friday, 10 August 2012

Barmy Bow Bollards

I felt that there was little that could be done to the Bow junction that could possibly make matters worse. All the check boxes had appeared to have been ticked : cycle superhighway covered in vehicles? Tick. Motorway style exits allowing cars to speed far in excess of 30mph? Tick. Zero policing of speed? Tick. Cyclists deposited on roundabout against left turning traffic? Tick.

The new scheme at the roundabout lights made matters slightly better if one could work out the meanings of all the light phasing - for instance not asssuming that a green cycle light meant proceed onto the roundabout. And that drivers didn't jump the lights or encroach the ASL. Or take off so quickly from the lights that they catch up, and left hook, the cyclists. And cyclists didn't mind waiting twice the number of phases as cars. But the scheme is a testimony to the fact that TfL view traffic flow above cycle and pedestrian safety. As if anyone by now didn't know this.

So, imagine my surprise, when I was cycling up to the Bow Flyover (the roundabout was a mess of traffic as per normal) during the Olympics to find this.

Whoever had decided to put these cones in had done it! They had exceeded my expectations on how unpleasant they could make Bow for cyclists!

For the Olympics the inner lane of the flyover has been coned off. As I approached it I suddenly felt with dread that I would have to either retain primary on the available lane and suffer the consequences of drivers frustrated that I was delaying them, maybe by seconds, to the next traffic lights, or hug the cones and have them pass within inches of me at the typical law breaking high speeds found on this flyover. A cyclist in front of me chose the latter option and it looked utterly terrifying. A van shot past and how it missed him is a mystery to this day. Presumably the advice would be to claim the lane but this is only good if you have a strong constitution for angry motorists.

Then, I realised that there was a little cycle roundal and a tiny gap in the cones which appeared to indicate that cycles should enter the coned area. I popped in there, although the signs were so unclear I wasn't certain that I wasn't going to meet roadworks or something nasty over the top of the flyover. When I crested the flyover I realised all was OK and proceeded down the other side. To the end where there was a tiny exit and a give way sign. Frankly, you need all the speed you can get to negotiate the slip road traffic travelling at 40mph+, and this scheme makes you slow down to slalom through the tiny gap whilst attempting to swivel your head around 180 degrees to check for traffic. Which has no idea that cyclists may be merging since there are absolutely no signs or indications aside from a lonely "give way" sign for the cyclists and a tiny gap in the cones.

Having done this route several times now, I realise that it is intended for cyclists to dive into the coned area and then patiently wait for a gap in the traffic to exit onto the road to the outside lane. It is like a scene from Mad Max except slightly more dangerous.

The question I have is why? Why do this? Why have the entrance to the coned area for cyclists so small and positioned such that you need to get into the outside lane to access? Why have the exit at the bottom of a steep slope where the signs are so confusing and the cyclist is left with absolutely no priority to merge with two streams of fast moving traffic?

The answer is because the coned area has nothing to do with cycle safety or convenience. It is so that traffic merging from the roundabout can do so without having to give way to traffic coming off the flyover. And then someone decided to stick an access point for cyclists so they didn't get in the way of the cars. Absolutely no thought has been given to how cyclists will use this road layout, or whether it is easily followed, safe or convenient. I would very much doubt anyone involved in this little scheme has ever cycled it. It is, again, symptomatic of the fact that cycling considerations and infrastructure are a very poor relation to traffic smoothing.

To say these things are an afterthought is unfair - it indicates that some thought went into the plan for cyclists in the first place.

It does, however, indicate a couple of interesting things

1) The Olympics, as fine as they are, will have absolutely no positive effect on moderating local roads to become more conducive to cycling. The Olympics are a boost for cycling due to the heroic efforts of Bradley Wiggens and the cycling teams on the track, but the local transport bodies will not be delivering any help to create a legacy that helps people make the transition to using cycles instead of cars.

2) Bow flyover is massively underutilised by vehicles. This is obvious, even at standard rush hour most traffic goes off to the A12 link roads and leaves light local traffic to speed off over the flyover. Reducing the flyover capacity for vehicles has had no appreciable effect on traffic flow at all. There is a whole load of tarmac on the flyover that could be used for other things - such as a really nice cycle lane and it wouldn't even have any effect on the traffic. Yet I suppose that when the Olympics end, the configuration will be reset and cyclists choosing the Bow Flyover instead of the horrible roundabout will still have the exciting prospect of trying to gauge whether that speeding driver coming up the inside lane behind them has spotted them or is too busy texting / chatting / eating.

3) To make the current arrangements a bit more obvious and friendly to cyclists would cost next to nothing. A bigger sign to show cyclists that they can use the inside lane. A slightly different arrangement of the cones to let cyclists enter the coned area without slaloming into the outside lane. Some signs maybe at the end of the coned area to tell motorists to watch out for cyclists merging into the lanes. Hell, they could go wild and put down some road markings to show that cyclists may be merging, possibly even a rumble strip or two to encourage motorists to moderate their speed to something closer to 30mph than warp factor 7.

The last point strongly indicates to me that consideration to cycling isn't just being horribly compromised by "traffic flow" and lack of funds, but also by a complete lack of understanding of how cycling works. Whoever designed this little coned section should have been someone who had cycled it. The flaws become apparent immediately if you actually use it.

The Olympics have been a fantastic. The cycling at the Olympics has been a triumph with gold medal after gold medal. But cycling to the Olympics has been a farce. At a time when cycling makes more sense than ever, when the profile of cycling is higher than ever, we need people new to cycling to be doing it at least in part because of the road planning, not in spite of it. Because with the current state of the roads, many of those enthused by the Olympics to cycle for transport or leisure will give up and return to their cars after a couple of weeks. And that would be a very sorry legacy indeed.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Beetle Mania

So, there I am cycling along the Bow  Road. There are plenty of cyclists. I am wearing a fetching hi-viz tabbard. There is a cyclist in front of me. There is a cyclist in front of him. Behind me there are some cyclists further behind. It is difficult to miss this number of cyclists in fetching shades of high-viz.

I look behind as we start to get towards the junction. I notice a blue Beetle some way behind and indicating left. I move slightly to the right to try to prevent a left hook. Besides there is a huge gap between me and the cyclist behind me - more than enough to slot in behind, slow down and safely turn left.

But clearly this isn't quick enough for this driver. They pull out to the next lane and then cut right across both me and the other cyclist to turn left.

If safety in numbers works, I am left pondering what kind of cycling density is required to stop some motorists pulling this kind of manoeuvre. I am troubled that the answer may be having to get to the density that prevents this type of driver room to open their door to enter the vehicle in the first place.

More Bow Barmyness

My previous post was the first time that I had tried out the new road scheme on the Bow roundabout. Since that time, I have used the flyover as I have done for several years. However, the other day the wind was fierce, and the flyover is exposed so I thought it better to use the roundabout.

There were a fair few cyclists around, interestingly around half used the flyover, the other half using the roundabout - but of those using the roundabout a significant number eschewed the new cycle scheme completely and cycled in the traffic flow.

I wasn't one of them. I elected to use the new TfL "early start" scheme. I was second in the queue and had a couple of cyclists behind me. I didn't like the look of mingling with the traffic and considered that the specially developed cycle facility would surely be better than that. And I was somewhat intrigued to understand what the facility was like to use with several cyclists - last time it had just been me.

The video below is the result.

There are many things to note from this video.

Firstly, the poor pedestrian with a buggy and small child having to dash across the A11 off ramp exit to cross the road. And also note that not only are there no pedestrian lights, but on this crossing there isn't even a dropped kerb, so she has to lift up the buggy whilst sprinting across 3 lanes of traffic with no signalling and a small child in tow. One can only assume that she had to do the same thing with the "on-ramp" whilst dodging cars entering the A11 west-bound.

Secondly, the cyclist in front of me isn't lightening fast at getting away from the lights, but they aren't exactly the slowest either. Clearly the motorcyclist, who one can hear giving the bike full throttle to get around in front of us is an unmitigated moron who, if they have a license, clearly obtained it by some miracle that managed to get their small cluster of brain cells corralled together for enough time to fool an examiner that they were someone who should be let loose with a vehicle. Frankly, on this video evidence, allowing the motorcyclist access to anything more dangerous than a plastic spoon should be thought a mistake. If that motorcyclist had misjudged the gap, or the cyclists been a bit quicker we could be having our third ghost bike at this junction. I have reported this incident to Roadsafe, who I hope will do something about it. If I ruled the world (or at least the TfL roads) this idiot would be banned from a license for the foreseeable future and made to cross the bow roundabout continuously until they realised how antisocial and ill-educated they are for pulling this kind of stunt.

But these incidents show the fundamental flaws in the approach taken to junctions such as Bow. The fact that a pedestrian and child have to scamper like hunted animals simply to cross a road is disgusting. This isn't a civilised space - no amount of regeneration and fancy paving is going to make a difference to the fact that - in this configuration - no-one outside a car will have any desire to be anywhere near this area. And even in a car it is pretty horrible - the traffic is too fast, the lanes are too wide. And it shows the huge flaws in the "early start" system because the highest priority of the scheme is to implement something with no impact on traffic flow at all. The feed in lane is one cycle wide, meaning that you feed in as a queue to wait at the next lights. The scheme relies upon drivers not encroaching on the ASL,  and it relies upon the fact that drivers won't simply try to bully their way through like the motorcyclist. It relies upon the fact that everyone using the facility has the ability to sprint away from the line and across the junction in the time it takes the cars to traverse the several metres of ASL - woe betide anyone not taking off  like they are in the tour-de-France.

TfL on their website say they are redesigning Bow Roundabout to improve cycle safety. This might be what they would like to happen, but with the compromise of having a scheme that cannot impede - to any extent - traffic flow, they have implemented something really deeply flawed. TfL say on their blurb that they believe that the Bow Roundabout scheme is the "first of its kind in London". But I don't believe this to be the case. There are in fact many instances of poorly thought out cycle facilities which are utterly useless because their functionality comes a very poor second to keeping traffic flowing to the next queue. Unfortunately, reflecting on my experiences at Bow, TfL have simply managed to add another scheme to this list.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Cycling Bow roundabout

It has been a little while since TfL announced that they were going to change the layout of CS2 at Bow roundabout due to 2 deaths in the latter half of 2011. TfL have finished their new scheme on the eastbound carriageway and there have been interesting reports (from diamond geezer and aseasyasridingabike) of how this new junction works and what improvements, if any, have been achieved for cyclists.

Bow junction is a road system I have to tackle on a cycle on a reasonably regular basis. Having once ventured onto the roundabout, realised how dangerous it could be with two lanes of traffic sometimes trying to turn left, I have always used the flyover. The flyover isn't exactly cycling nirvana - it is quite steep, vehicles break the speed limit to a ludicrous degree, one has to be very assertive and claim the lane whilst checking to see if you might need to bail left into armaco if some driver is no inattentive as to plow through you. And then, nature doesn't help - the flyover is very exposed and cross winds can be fierce. And the eastbound side has a long and dangerous slip road allowing drivers to speed before they even get onto the A11. So, the popularity of the flyover with cyclists is less to do with the suitability of it for cycling and more to do with the fact that the alternatives are even worse.

When I first heard of the alterations - and TfLs much announced first "early start" lights - I was cautiously optimistic. Then I saw the youtube computer simulations of the scheme and became somewhat more sceptical. So, with the scheme finished (after some alterations due to vehicles becoming impaled on the kerb), I thought it only sensible to try the scheme. I decided to use the roundabout instead of the flyover eastbound the other day.

Below is my video of the new scheme - with some annotations.

There were three things that struck me immediately.

1) This is absolutely no better for pedestrians at all. The few pedestrians I saw were still running between light phases as cars surged onto the A12.
2) Presumably TfL have to stick to guidelines (I assume from the DfT) which  appear to believe that cyclists don't exist and end up making schemes like this clunky at best and dangerous at worst.
3) There had been an overriding factor with the scheme which was that traffic flow should not be impacted at all by anything implemented.

I will take point 2 first. The cycle lights are at the same height as the standard lights. The red light on the cycle  light is simply red, whilst the amber and green are cycle shaped. I can only assume this is because there are some guidelines concerning traffic lights that completely ignore the fact that signals for cyclists would be better to be a bit lower and all displayed in a cycle shape. The confusion caused can be quite large. It has been reported that cyclists and motorists were getting confused by the different lights (I think there are 8 in total) even to the point that some cyclists were assuming (not unreasonably) that the green filter cycle light allowed them safe passage onto the roundabout when in fact traffic was still crossing from the right and they were supposed to stop at the standard lights a few metres away from the cycle filter. I saw one instance of this with my own eyes and my heart was in my mouth as a cyclist - completely unaware of the danger - crossed the roundabout and just missed a car. My conclusion is that the DfT have generated many, many rules concerning traffic signalling and street furniture and very few of them are geared towards anyone travelling by cycle. And TfL (and local councils) will slavishly follow these guidelines to build "facilities" that are clunky, wierd, or dangerous, or all three combined. For further proof just look at some of the signage around one way streets with a cycle contraflow because DfT currently doesn't allow a no-entry sign with cyclist exemption.

Point 1 is important because bow junction doesn't just present a barrier for cyclists. I have heard stories of elderly pedestrians catching the bus one stop simply to avoid having to cross this junction. I would call that beyond unsatisfactory. It is simply wrong and idiotic. If we want this area to be "regenerated" then not allowing locals to cross the road in favour of vehicles streaming out of London seems a very odd way of going about it.

And then there is point 3. The fact is that when I used the scheme correctly, it was just about OK. It was better than before, but short of TfL implementing an Indiana Jones set for cyclists, pretty much anything would have been better. The cycle lanes are too narrow, CS2 stops half way around because Newham council took a dislike to blue paint, there is a frankly bizarre build-out of the kerb as you exit which seems to be a bike lane to nowhere but confused the hell out of me, and the lane on the Newham side is, as one has come to expect with any cycling facility in Newham, crap.

On the lights on the roundabout entry, if there are no cars trapped in the ASL and you are a reasonably quick cyclist, and are prepared to wait for two phases of lights (one cycle, one standard), then you do get a bit of a headstart on the main traffic. But I wouldn't advise anyone hanging about once the lights turn green. Or taking it as read that no driver will jump / misread the lights. To the point that in the video above, even a police van completely jumps the lights.

But why have TfL implemented a scheme in a known blackspot that is probably just about workable only for cyclists who are relatively quick and savvy? I have seen questions on blog comments wondering why TfL don't simply look at other countries to see how this type of cycle "early start" works elsewhere. But these questions miss the reason why the scheme is like it is. Of course TfL understand about how The Netherlands, or Germany, or even some US cities now give cyclists their own phase at junctions to remove potential conflict. The reason that this scheme is complicated and cumbersome is because of point 3. It appears that maintaining the same phasing for vehicular traffic defined the entire nature of the scheme. After all, if it didn't, why have the rather unique double phasing - why not have a simple cycle phase integrated with a new pedestrian crossing on the A12 exit? Because this would have taken time away from vehicular flow.

So, we are left with this new scheme. Already signs exhorting cyclists to stop at the red signals have gone up as a response to the confusion over the two sets of lights. When I used the scheme at rush-hour, no other cyclists used it with me - they all went over the flyover. Because the current cyclists over Bow tend to be battle-hardened commuters who will take the quicker options and have learned how to manage in a deeply hostile environment. And those who would like simply to use a cycle to get to Bow, or Stratford are very unlikely to leap on their cycles with this new layout.

It is a shame. It shows the compromises that are currently considered necessary to our road layouts to preserve traffic flow and the priorities that lie behind such schemes.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Road Tax...

.. is a topic I have consciously ignored on this blog. Simply because anyone who trots out the road-tax argument as to why car drivers can treat cyclists badly is either unable to use reason or is trolling. Either way it doesn't compel me to engage with the argument.

However, "road-tax" has been in the news again courtesy of the cyclists' friend, John Griffin - boss of Addison Lee. Who thinks cyclists should be told "You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up".

Ignoring the rather presumptuous assertion that anyone would actually want to be part of Mr Griffin's gang in the first place, the issue of tax - specifically "road tax" - is used time and again. Yet it is such a bizarre argument that countering it incurs the danger of being dragged down to the same level. Yes, it is true that "road-tax" was abandoned in the 1930's and it is actually Vehicle Excise Duty which is basically a (rather crude) pollution tax. Yes, the roads, like pretty much everything else, is paid out of a central pot; there isn't a special fund to build and maintain roads whose income is derived from "road-tax". Yes, there is a coherent argument that says the total externalities of cars actually comes to a lot more than the money derived from "road-tax".

But all of this is trying to present logical arguments against a premise that is fundamentally illogical. And the people who use the "road-tax" argument aren't looking to engage in rational debate.

However, when I hear the "road-tax" argument, I do wish to run this to its logical conclusions. 

Firstly, the argument is based upon the assumption that paying more tax infers more rights. This is an exciting development. I have, for many years, had company cars. My last one was a large, rather plush, "executive saloon" which had a large engine and a CO2 emission that wouldn't have pleased anyone in the Green party. I paid quite an extra-ordinary amount in tax for the privilege of sitting in traffic in a leather seat, and when I chose my latest vehicle, I decided to forfeit a badge and leather seats for something that cost me less in tax. According to the "I pay roadtax" philosophy does this now mean I have less rights on the road? How about people driving smart cars or a Prius? Since they don't pay "road-tax" should they be bullied to the side of the road by those that do?

And why should the concept of inferring more rights based on tax paid be used solely with road transport? Why not infer more rights for, say education or NHS access based upon tax paid? How about those who pay more tax having more "rights" to influence where that tax is paid by access to politicians and government? 

Of course this is all nonsense, because the idea that paying more tax infers more rights is also - generally - nonsense. Actually it is something that is usually viewed as undemocratic and unhealthy to society - just look at the scandals involving the very wealthy and politicians. 

Cyclists and pedestrians have a right to the road in law which isn't extended to driving motor vehicles who use the road only by permission. 

So, as much as Mr Griffin wants to blather on about road-tax, the simple fact is that, thankfully, we don't need to "join his gang" to use the road.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Well Done Waltham Forest

I might have missed the article which has caused me optimism for improvements in cycling in Waltham Forest. I haven't seen it widely reported.

However, this article details a plan which has been passed by the council to introduce 20 mph on most of the borough's residential roads, and to allow cyclists to travel both ways on one-way streets. For reasons that I struggle to fathom, the conservatives saw fit to vote against the plan on the grounds of "safety".

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the average speed of travel when using a car on most streets in Waltham Forest makes 30mph seem a fairly distant dream. When one is spending most of the time sitting in queues for junctions, the difference between doing 20mph or 30mph on the short stretches which are free of traffic is unlikely to improve journey time by anything meaningful. And 20 mph will make the residential roads much more amenable to pedestrians, residents and cyclists alike.

The one-way streets are somewhat more contentious, but on roads that have had cycle contraflows enabled, I rarely find an issue cycling them in opposition to traffic flow. Many of these roads have been restricted to stop rat-running and therefore can accommodate two way cycle traffic with little issue. It appears to me from reading up on the subject that one of the issues was actually how to amend signs to allow contra-flow cycling - no entry signs weren't allowed with cycle exceptions apparently, spawning some quite un-intuitive signs and road treatments to accommodate.

So, Waltham Forest should be commended for its plans. It looks like there is a general will to improve matters for cyclists (as well as other non-motorised road users). I do think there is one problem with 20mph though. In that, where roads have been designated 20mph, it is a rare driver that actually sticks to it. My road is a 20 mph traffic calmed one, and I witness every day drivers going way above 30mph, less still 20mph, on it. It is a road with a high number of residents with children, and driving at these speeds shows the lack of consideration one is sometimes up against. So, it isn't enough to simply designate 20mph zones, thought needs to be given to policing it as well. And this is tricky.

Maybe what is needed is a brave redesign of our residential streets along the "home-zone" lines, where it is really difficult to speed in the first place. Maybe we need to look for the police to blitz certain areas in relation to speeding in order to raise the profile. And these schemes could also look to take off the road many of the illegal and uninsured drivers who are statistically more likely to be involved in accidents than those legally using the roads. Apparently, at the last estimate, the percentage of drivers who are illegally using roads in East London may be as high as 10%. Imagine taking these drivers off the roads. Maybe the roads will be slightly less congested - maybe it is even possible that those forced out of their cars would transition to the cycle?

The Speed of Progress

Today, I did a local round trip of around four miles by car. Traffic was much lighter than on an average day - even though on a Sunday one gets stuck behind cars parked on yellow lines. Average speed was 14 mph.

Last week, I drove to Camden one morning, after the 9am school run had finished. I averaged 9mph. Parking cost me the best part of 10 quid.

Last time I drove locally at around 4:30 - 5pm, a short journey of a couple of miles took the best part of 45 minutes. I drive at this time (the perfect storm of the school run and end of work) very occasionally to validate my reasons for using the cycle.

I travel to Camden on my cycle at a much faster average speed. And I am an unfit cyclist on an old and heavy bicycle. The local average in my car today was about the same as my average on a cycle, and this was in traffic that didn't hinder me particularly.

Remind me again, how do bicycles hold up traffic?

Addison Lee Boss : Breaking the law and running over grannies is OK

OK, so he didn't actually say this - but seeing as he is defending his editorial in his Addison Lee magazine by saying he may have used some poetic license, I thought I would as well.

I should imagine most people now know that John Griffin has urged his drivers to use London bus lanes and he will pay the fines whilst AL and TfL slug it out in the court on Monday. Then, he wrote an editorial in the AL magazine which seemed to imply cyclists (especially novice ones) have only themselves to blame if they are run over. And then capped it all by dropping in the classic "cyclists don't pay road tax" canard to end.

I am not going to analyse what he said in the editorial, since other sites have covered this far better than I could.  I do wonder about the logical reasoning of a man who, in one breath, can encourage his drivers to break the law, whilst on the other berate cyclists for using ipods. Considering the collection of youtube videos showing Addison Lee drivers texting, on the phone, and generally throwing themselves around the road, one might think he would be better worrying about this than the actions of cyclists.

Now, in The Times he seems to be trying to "clarify" his comments by saying that he is simply concerned for cyclists and thinks that we need more training. He says "If my article causes a debate around whether cyclists need training and holding to the same standards as other road users, bring it on". If  by "standards [of] other road-users" he means some of his mini-cab drivers' then, judging by the videos linked above, he has set the bar really rather low.

One can deconstruct his comments and subsequent backtracking  sorry - "clarifications" until the internet runs out of storage space, but the really interesting thing is why he thought printing these types of comments, and openly asking his drivers to flout the law by using bus lanes would actually pose no issues. Those of a more cynical nature may wonder whether he believed the significant cash donated to the party of current government bought him a certain indemnity. Others may wonder whether he realised that he won out over the M4 bus lane by flouting the law and then managing to get the fines cancelled, and thought he could do the same here. Certainly I doubt he expected this type of reaction to either statement. The story has now run in nearly all national papers, has spawned a protest group and been aired on radio. It has even brought black cab drivers and cyclists together in unity against Addison Lee - a truly spectacular achievement.

But much more than this, his comments and actions have irritated people who cycle in London. People who work for companies that use his services. People who may be in a position of authority to review or influence these contracts. Already there are posts from managers saying they have cancelled their use of Addison Lee, and rumours of bigger cancellations.

And this is what is really amazing. That John Griffin - a man savvy enough to build a large business - doesn't actually understand that cyclists aren't some odd-ball phenomena designed to fling themselves under his taxis. They aren't some militant out-group that are hellbent on destroying capitalism. They are simply people getting to work, going home, doing some shopping, meeting friends, going out.

They are, in short, his customers.

The Open Road

Recently I have had to travel by car for work quite extensively. It isn't something that I particularly enjoy, and driving is no longer something that can be defined by most as pleasurable - certainly not anywhere near London.

I have had to drive from E17 to the M4 / Chiswick roundabout and back again a couple of times in the last week. None of the journeys were without severe congestion, even though I was travelling outside the rush hour. Indeed if one wants to travel around the North Circular without fairly serious queues you will need to do this before 6 in the morning or after 10pm at night. I have even been stuck in tailbacks at around midnight at Henley's corner. I frequently travel this road at 5:30am and, even at this time, traffic is building heavily.

To illustrate the issue, my last trip from E17 to M4 was started around 9am. I averaged 11 mph for the whole trip - a journey time of not far short of 2 hours. To re-iterate - this was 11mph average outside the standard "rush-hour", on a road that is generally 40mph or 50mph speed limit. On my cycle I manage a better average.

So it is with a certain incredulity that I learn the government are predicting a 42% rise in traffic in London over the next 25 years.  What average speed is likely if this comes to pass? I should imagine it to be speedier to abandon my car in the queues and walk to my destination over the top of the gridlock. If this predicted growth is accurate (and there are doubts over whether the government understand the change in dynamics with travel), then no amount of road building will stop the whole system grinding to a halt.

I am unclear as to what the government plan to do about their predicted growth in traffic. Anyone who isn't completely car centric must see that the situation is unsustainable now, less still if we are going to add half as many cars again to the system. No amount of tinkering around with traffic lights in the name of "traffic smoothing" is going to change matters - what is needed are significant changes in attitude to travel, from individuals who currently decide to cover a couple of miles in a car to planning which allows offices and homes to be constructed far away from transport hubs, and roads constructed in such a way to make travelling by car easy and every other mode difficult.

Attitudes have to change. I heard a woman on the radio the other week say that fuel price increases have meant that she has a choice between driving the children to school or buying food. Not only are attitudes like this incredible, but the fact that they aren't challenged even on public radio is even more amazing. We are so emotionally tied to the car, that any alternative is simply viewed as crazy. How has it come to this? How can we think that we can add another 43% to the road networks in London?

I do see changes in attitude starting to happen. This year I saw more cyclists during the winter than previous winters - and now the weather is getting better I am very much heartened by the numbers of cyclists I see on local roads. My heart was lifted when I went to the shops in Walthamstow this weekend to find that all the spaces for cycles were completely full (shortly before becoming rather irritated that I had to try and find somewhere else of course!) But to wean us all from cars needs so much more. New offices and homes shouldn't just have the odd cycle stand as a sop to environmental guidelines, they need to be considered in relation to train stations, bus routes, shops and existing dwellings. The lady on the radio the other day has to be shown other options, and those options have to be made as easy and attractive as travelling by car.

It is all perfectly possible. In fact, if the alternative is another 42% traffic on our roads, any alternative to this is the possible, and simply trying to cater for more traffic is the impossible.

I will be back on the cycle tomorrow. And despite the sometimes horrible infrastructure, the challenging roads and delights such as Bow flyover, I cannot wait to get back onto a mode of transport that doesn't trap me for hours on a journey that should take a fraction of that time.

As a finale, let me share with you two videos taken around Tottenham Hale in the morning. One shows the chaos caused by a single accident, the second shows that the standard state of affairs isn't much better. Surely we can do better than this?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Pavement Parking Pandemonium

The tarting up of the streets of Leyton and Leytonstone for the Olympics is now well under way (Waltham Forest use the phrase "improving the streetscape" instead of "tarting up" but I suspect you get the general principle).

Pavements are being dug up around the area such as this area of Leytonstone High Road.

This "improving the streetscape" has been in operation for a little while, and appears to consist of the council digging up the pavement, installing expensive stone blocks in attractive patterns, and then allowing cars to park on the result. Here, in true Blue Peter fashion, is one they made earlier...

One can see the nice arrangement of stone blocks just waiting to be covered up by parked cars. I have to say the whole effect of "improving the streetscape" is somewhat undermined for me by the globs of uneven tarmac scattered along the edge of the road. And yes, dear reader, you are right to assume that the bits of uneven red tarmac with the liberal smatterings of  potholes and jutting out kerbstones is the cycle lane. Inviting, no? Waltham Forest may be planning on re-surfacing the road, but I wouldn't bet my house on it.

Meanwhile, the roads which have had this treatment for a while appear to be causing motorists some confusion. Consider this 4x4 parked in Wood Street the other week.

A CCTV enforcement car was taking some interest in it as it is illegally parked on the pavement. But on the other side of the road the cars are legally parked on some of those fancy stone blocks which have been installed for around six months. In fact the gap left for pedestrians by some of the legally parked cars on this road is less than the gap you can see between the 4x4 and the wall. There were spaces behind the cars on the other side of the road for the driver of the Land Rover to park. Maybe the driver is exceptionally lazy and couldn't be bothered to cross the road (there are no crossing points for pedestrians anywhere near, but that is OK since the building on the right only houses a popular indoor playcentre - so no need to help families with young children surely?). Or maybe the driver saw all the pavement parking along the whole length of this road and didn't understand that this is only OK if the car is parked on some expensive fancy stones as opposed to everywhere? Who knows?

Monday, 16 January 2012

I remember when all this was fields...

Draper's fields to be exact.


Drapers Field - to be shut for 2 years


Draper's fields have been given to the ODA for the period of around a year and a half to accommodate logistics services for the Olympic village (seen in the background of the second photo). 

A BBC report on the the community usage of Draper's fields can be found here. The site was playing fields and an astroturf pitch used by a local school and clubs. According to this report in the local paper, the astroturf pitch was used by 1,380 (an oddly precise number!) people a week alone. The report also headlines with the fact that the site may be used for VIP parking - something not in any planning documents I have seen, so either the ODA are keeping very quiet about this, or it is an unfounded rumour.

Now, I understand that the large Olympic village will require logistics support on an equally large scale. I also understand that open space near the Olympic village may be in short supply, and Draper's field is ideally situated. It is unfortunate that the open space is one of the few in this part of Waltham Forest, and will mean that clubs and local schools will not have access to it for more than a year.

The council have been compensated £3.5M by the ODA, which they say will go to turning back the site to an even better sports facility - with the fields opening again for the public in September 2013. They say that the compensation will not only allow redevelopment of the Drapers site, but will go towards improvements in other parks as well. What concerns me most is that I haven't managed to find any documents relating to what the redevelopment after the games will actually involve. The planning statement from the ODA (found as pdf here) is very light on use after the games since Waltham Forest will be in charge of the "legacy component" (I presume this means that Waltham Forest will be given the site as is and will then change it back to leisure use themselves). Waltham Forest were going to submit plans for the changes to the field after the games, but I haven't been able to find any details of these plans online (or indeed any mention of them).

After the ongoing saga of the arcade site, I prefer not to trust Waltham Forest with regeneration plans, especially ones that are unspecified before the event occurs. Maybe I am just not a trusting soul. I would be interested to know if Waltham Forest indeed have plans for the field that are available for the public. 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Smile - it could be worse...

... and then I smiled and it steadily got worse...

Not only have we the insipid Bow Roundabout design from TfL - one that delays cyclists twice as long as other traffic yet gives them barely any extra protection anyway -  but there appears to be even more bad news.

I was reading a blog on the Bow Flyover by "Over The Hills and Faraway",  which was commenting on the proposed Bow Flyover changes. (I am reading all I can about the changes in the hope that TfL are actually playing an early April Fools joke and I have missed the announcement that they were only kidding, and will, of course, be implementing something half reasonable.)

So imagine my concern when I read in the blog:

The Highway Authority for the Bow Roundabout Flyover and the road immediately to the east of the roundabout (Stratford High Street) is the London Borough of Newham. TfL has commenced discussions with Newham to seek approval where changes to accommodate these options may be required on their roads.

So, decisions to implement the flyover plan will rest with Newham council. Remember them? Yes, the  oligarchy run by Sir Robin Wales - the mayor who hates cycling enough to block the Cycle superhighway extending to the games for the Olympics (although they say they can look at it after the games - yeah, great). The mayor that banned the woodcraft folk, from a council cabinet meeting because they were going to protest about the laughable cycling facilities in the borough. I mean he actually barred the woodcraft folk! Maybe the council cabinet were too busy polishing all those chandeliers...

So it is probably fair to say that if you are a cyclist who needs to negotiate the Bow junction... well we are truly f*ck*d.

Call me Nostradamus if you wish, but I have some predictions for the future of cycling at the Bow Flyover:

TfL will implement the bow roundabout "early start" cycle "facility" as is, despite protests from cyclists and cycling groups. Meanwhile the Bow flyover plan will fall into the pit of despair that is Nehwam council's transport department, never to be seen again. Or maybe it will end up in cubicle 3 of the bathroom facilities, where its absorbency qualities are thoroughly tested...

Meanwhile motorists will continue to disregard the bow roundabout ASLs - especially since the traffic will be queueing at peak times anyway and no-one ever polices ASLs - so even the minuscule advantage given to cyclists with the scheme will be lost. Cyclists will get royally p*ssed off waiting twice as long as the motorists at the junction in order to be left hooked anyway, and will decide to jump the filter lights or ignore the filter lane altogether. Near misses will continue. People will complain. Police will clamp down at the junction - not at ASL encroaching motorists - but by fining cyclists not availing themselves of the magnificent facilities bestowed by TfL. Meanwhile TfL will put on their worried face again and drivel on about "cycle training" and the London Mayor will explain how he has absolutely no issues with the junction, positively enjoys it, and is stunned that anyone "with their wits about them" would have a problem. Most cyclists will continue ignoring the lethal roundabout and negotiate their way onto, and over, the flyover with absolutely no help from the road layout at all. TfL will announce the cost of the scheme implementation, which will be at least three times as much as any reasonable person could conceive it could possibly cost. Since computer modelling to ensure motor vehicles aren't inconvenienced in the slightest costs serious wedge. And then everyone carries on as normal with TfL slipping their time-scale for 5% model share by another 20 years, and hoping that some more promotional videos with minor celebrities will get everyone leaping on their cycles.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Bow(ing) to traffic flow?

In my previous post, I was cheered by TfL's response to the issues at Bow for cyclists. There appeared to be additions of cycle only lights to separate cycles and traffic wishing to turn onto the A12, as well as the consideration of cycle lanes over the flyover with light controls to aid cyclists on and off of the flyover.

So far, so good. For those who use the flyover, a way of being able to access it without trying to control a very wide lane of traffic splitting between the roundabout and the flyover, and for those who prefer the roundabout some lights to safely allow cyclists to proceed past the exit slips to the A12.

I was pleasantly surprised that these measures were being implemented, especially on the roundabout where previous suggestions at "Toucan" crossings for pedestrians and cyclists were dismissed by TfL as being too disruptive to "traffic flow". It looked like "traffic flow" (meaning, presumably traffic with an engine as opposed to traffic without) was taking less priority to safety at last.

However, I might be being cynical, but I am suddenly becoming very sceptical of these new plans, after looking at the plans and videos on the TfL site. Specifically these two videos

Now, the text indicates that the improvement is :

A cycle 'early-start' phase at the traffic signals on the eastbound and westbound entrance to the Bow roundabout. This would provide a dedicated green light phase to allow cyclists to travel ahead of other traffic 

But is this actually tying up with the videos (which is the entrance to Bow Roundabout Eastbound)?

I say this because the change appears to be a set of cycle lights in the cycle filter lane which controls cyclists entering the (larger) ASL. Once in the ASL, the cyclists are controlled by the standard lights which are green for both vehicles and cyclists.

So what would be the point of that?

Well, I suspect that the cycle lights go red when the standard lights are green to stop cyclists moving into the ASL and progressing through the junction with the traffic.

So conflict is being stopped by only allowing cyclists to progress at the green traffic light who are already ahead of the traffic in the ASL. If this is the case, then cyclists arriving at the junction at the green traffic light will be held in the filter lane by the red cycle light until the general traffic lights go red. Then the cycle lights will go green to allow the cyclists to proceed to the ASL where they will have to wait for a full rotation of the standard lights before being able to proceed when the standard traffic lights go green.

No wonder TfL isn't worried about "traffic flow" - the disruption is to cyclists, and not motorised vehicles. Also there are a few issues on top of the fact that, if this is a correct interpretation of the scheme, it will be massively inconvenient to cyclists :

1) The "early start" phase doesn't look like an early start at all. It looks like a standard head-start given by the gap in a deeper ASL. Slower cyclists will surely still come into conflict with vehicles if the vehicles are driven aggressively and the cyclist is slow. How big is the ASL to give a decent enough head-start? How fast will a cyclist need to pedal to avoid agressively accelerating cars?

2) Won't the ASL simply be populated with the normal assortment mopeds, taxis, and cars as per many other ASLs? In which case there won't be any advantage given to cyclists at all.

3) What happens if the roundabout gets backed up (as it often does)? Not only will this fill the ASL with vehicles, but the vehicles already on the roundabout may end up conflicting with the "early start" cyclists from the ASL.

I hope I have misread the video. I have watched it a few times and cannot see how else the scheme works. If I am correct in reading the scheme, then TfL will be making very little safety improvements, at the expense of delaying cyclists for a couple of traffic light cycles. It doesn't seem like much of a step forward.

I hope I am wrong...

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Bow Roundabout Update

I saw this article on the BBC website today.

After the Bow cyclist fatalities last year, TfL and the Mayor promised a review and report on the junction. This was in November, and as a general member of the public, I hadn't heard much since. Hence my scepticism   when I saw some large yellow warning signs appear a month or so ago.

It appears, however, that the junction has been reviewed, and TfL have some possible alterations in mind.

1) Addition of cycle lights on the Bow roundabout to give cyclists a headstart over the traffic.
2) Addition of cycle lanes on the flyover with lights to allow easy access for cyclists to the flyover.

The second proposal would see the east-bound carriage-way reduced from two to one traffic lane to implement a cycle lane, and presumably west-bound, the hatchings would be reworked to accommodate a cycle lane there.

In my opinion, both these suggestions show the start of some sensible changes. Most cyclists I see use the flyover now, as do I, so I would err towards option 2 if I had to choose (or maybe TfL could implement both?!). Traffic over the flyover is typically very light - I am amazed at how few cars use it (most are going onto the A12 it would appear) even in rush hour. So reducing the lane count shouldn't cause disruption to motor-traffic. 

The first option also looks promising, but only if the lights really create a safe route for cycles. Since all cyclists will be going in one direction (back onto the A11 slip road - the A12 is prohibited for cycles), I would have thought some cycle priority signals could be able worked with pedestrian crossing time, thus making the junction permeable for both cyclists and people on foot. I would prefer the flyover option because the roundabout is simply horrible for cyclists, and I would need to be convinced about any solutions that TfL have implemented to make it safer and more usable.

Leon Daniels said that TfL are committed to implement improvements before the Olympics. Which is an ambitious deadline considering that this is only 6 months or so away.

This news looks positive from TfL. From the small amount of information in the news report, it looks like the options have been thought out - I didn't think anything involving lights for the motor traffic would be considered because of "traffic smoothing" considerations, so TfL have surprised me with these proposals.

Here is hoping that the ideas, which sound good on paper, translate into some good facilities to allow permeability across the barrier that is currently the Bow interchange.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Nero fiddles...

The 2012 competition for the James Martin  award is off to a flying start - the accolade for most obnoxious rant against cyclists in a newspaper may be won before the year has properly started!

This time, instead of being a cook who sharpens his pen against the lycra louts, it is the MD of "Radio Exeter" in this piece.

To properly appreciate the invective that Paul Nero has unleashed upon us anti-social cyclists, I have picked out some passages.

SO I'm driving through the ridiculous 20 mile-an-hour system that's been designed to stop people going to Topsham when there's a decision to make. Should I knock this ignorant cyclist off his bike, blast my horn so that he is in no doubt about my displeasure, or slow down further so that the tailback that's built up between the rugby ground and the roundabout becomes longer still?

Thus starts the article - with no punches pulled on the stupidity of a 20mph speed limit. Clearly the yoghurt knitting town planners have put pedestrians and residents above Mr Nero's ability to go from A-B in his car. Outrageous! Don't they know who he is? Clearly, as MD of Exeter Radio  he has places to go, deals to strike, important meetings to attend. Small provincial radio stations don't simply run themselves without some hard work by people like Mr Nero, and pedestrians and other road users simply need to understand the importance of people such as him travelling between traffic lights as quickly as possible.

And then to make matters worse - there is one of those appalling cyclists in Mr Nero's way. You have to start to feel his pain at that point. This cyclist appears, from Mr Nero's article, to be impeding progress to the next tailback! Hence the author's dilemma - to quietly fume or knock this upstart aside?

Someone who doesn't understand the importance of Mr Nero's progress around the back roads of Dorset might wonder if it is a proportionate response to consider causing injury or worse to another human who impedes their progress by a minute or two. Some who don't understand the distress might wonder if this sounds just a teeny bit psychotic. They might wonder if cyclists are singled out for this retribution or whether Mr Nero metes out such summary justice to anyone who slows him down. What would be his response if Mr Nero was delayed by, say, an elderly couple at  the front of the checkout queue hunting for change? One might imagine that he would consider a decision between fuming behind them or punching them repeatedly in the face until they stepped aside. After all Mr Nero is a busy man; who wouldn't blame him for resorting to such summary justice?

But the cyclist is in luck. Mr Nero is not a man who forgets he is a role-model in society.

As a responsible citizen I slow down. I fume. And I add fumes. Slow-moving traffic wastes fuel and adds to carbon emissions. Idiots who ignore cycle paths should appreciate that future generations of children will drown as global warming wipes out Lympstone. And it's their fault.

Here, Mr Nero's impeccable logic cuts through the eco babble. Those pesky cyclists think they might be helping reduce pollution by using transport which doesn't produce any, but they actually cause hapless motorists like Mr Nero to add to carbon emissions. Do cyclists not realise that Mr Nero is actually helping to save the planet when he drives quickly? For Christ's sake why don't they think of the children?! Thoughtless lycra clad bastards. 

As Mr Nero points out - it is all their fault for daring to use the roads.

I could go on, but I think I should let Mr Nero's rapier-like penmanship do the talking. 

Except to say that those who wish to know more about the hero behind the devastating expose on cyclists may be interested to know that, as well as the comments section on the article linked there are other ways to show your appreciation for his work.

Such as on Exeter FMs facebook page here. (Mr Nero appears to be wilting a little in the comments on this page, so any support from people appreciative of his article would surely be welcome..)

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


Ruminating on the year just past, I remembered the "Tour De Danger", and the two deaths on CS2 at Bow roundabout which happened just before this event.

The pressure from the media and the London assembly prompted TfL to say that they were going to review all SuperHighway junctions and report back on the bow roundabout as a matter of urgency. This was reported on 18th November 2011.

Has the urgent report been compiled and delivered yet?

What I have seen are a series of large yellow notices asking Drivers to be nice to cyclists, and for cyclists to try to avoid traffic. Such as this one below

I am not really sure how effective the signs are going to be. Especially this one, which had been twisted around to face the pavement. As a cyclist using this road, I might prefer a lowered and policed speed limit whilst the design is considered.