Thursday, 14 May 2015

Bears Way: Heaven or Hell?

I was like a kid before Christmas.

I was literally bouncing off walls.

Yes, the first potentially semi-decent segregated cycle lane on my route to work is now being built. I've talked about it before and you can find what I've said already here.

The keen eyed will have noticed that my first two sentences of this blog are however using the past tense. Why, well, now that East Dunbartonshire has started building the lane, the reality is starting to set in. If it continues to go in as planned it is going to be far from perfect. In fact, I might not even use it! Rather than explain it to you, let me share a letter I have sent to one of the council officers in charge of the project.


Hi xxxx,
I hope you are keeping well.

I have been watching the building of the 'Bears Way' segregated cycle route with some considerable interest and I look forward to trying it when it is finished. I am desperate for some good quality infrastructure.

In the past I discussed with the design team some of the issues with the designs, i.e. the need to cross over, the fact that it was a two way lane etc. However, since I have seen the work progress I have some new concerns. My first is the treatment of cyclist heading north as they approach the Burnbrae Roundabout. Previously the lane continued on north beyond the roundabout. It wasn't ideal, but at least it kept cyclists going in that direction away from what is a horrible roundabout. Now cyclists are abandoned on the pavement and are expected to then use the junction to join the join the roundabout. This is definitely a step in the wrong direction. Having also spoken to a few cyclist who head north (I head north east onto Glasgow Road), I understand that a new pinch point has been created at the new crossing. This is obviously concerning.




This morning I was also very concerned at some new bollard signs going up. They are placed just before junctions and the arrows suggest that cyclist must give way to traffic coming from side (minor) roads. Is this correct? I'll be quite shocked if it is, as this would effectively stop me and many other cyclists from using it. Why use a segregated lane that is significantly more inconvenient to use than the main road? Would a main road ever be built where drivers were expected to continually stop for cars entering it?


My final issue for the time being is the floating bus stop being put in near Burnbrae. First let me congratulate you on building the lane this way. I think the idea is excellent. However, I am concerned at the step angle that cyclists will need to turn to allow for this. This might not be an issue if the lane was one, way, but traffic is supposed to be using it in both directions. This area has a high potential for collisions, especially in the wet and when the council inevitable does not clear leaves and muck as often as it should.



I have attached a few images from my helmet camera that demonstrate the areas I am discussing.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your reply.

Best regards

David Brennan

 For me personally the biggest issue is the treatment of cyclists at junctions. If the priority isn't correct and it isn't properly signed and controlled (raised tables could be a solution) then the lane is very poorly designed and one I might chose not to use.


I'll let you know when I get a response, but feel free to let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Exhaustion and Exhilaration

....and breathe!

Yes, we've had another POP, and boy....what a POP!

Photo courtesy of Markus Stitz (https://fearlessandunique.wordpress.com)

I think the picture says it all! Well almost....The exhilaration is not in doubt, as it was a fantastic POP. 

The weather which looked like it was going to be terrible all week, turned at almost the last minute. I ended up have a slightly burnt face! 

The cyclists and pedestrians turned out in, once again, spectacular numbers. People and bikes of all shapes and sizes were everywhere!

The speeches ranged from poignant, through promising, to rousing. We even got some interesting words and promises from the Transport Minister Derek Mackay. Something that we at POP will certainly try and find out more about over the coming few months! The speeches themselves are well worth watching and all can be found here.

I am without doubt, exhilarated by the whole day!

Mind you, I am also absolutely exhausted! As you may have heard during the day, I've had a wee cold/flu bug type thing recently, and whilst it was fine yesterday, I think I'm paying for it a wee bit today. Don't worry, nothing serious, just a wee bit more of a cough and a feeling of overwhelming tiredness. 

So, I'll keep the blog short for now. 

I will though sign of with one last picture.

 
What!?! Is this a PaperBike being stolen!? The one my wife was riding at POP and had loaned from Laid Back Bikes (Many thanks) !!?

Don't panic!

In fact this is Alan from Bike Station Edinburgh helping me out of a tight spot. After POP the POP team alighted to a pub nearby. My wife and kids came along and I locked the bikes up with a new lock I purchased a few days earlier. As I went outside to unlock them, the key snapped in the lock.

Oops! 

Alan came to the rescue!2 minutes 45 seconds later (yes that's all it took) and the bikes were free! 

Oh well, not the perfect day, but almost! :-)

Thank you everyone for everything. It was not only a wonderful day, but it was a day we sent a strong message to our politicians. 

We want a safer cycling Scotland! 







Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Law is an Ass.

Today I went to court.

Well, I say I went to court, I actually didn't make it into court. I only made it as far as the witness room. There, I was waiting to go into court to testify against a driver who was charged with dangerous driving.

This is the incident for which the driver was charged.



As suggested in the video, I never got into the court room because the charge was dismissed. Let me explain what happened...

(Please note that what follows is either fact or my honest opinion. The driver is of course innocent until proven guilty....)


So I arrive at Dumbarton Sheriff court and find my way to the witness room. I am soon joined by another gentleman in a suit (yes I was wearing a suit!) and a police officer. Straight away I recognise the police officer as the one I reported the incident to and he is talking to the other gent in the suit. Very quickly I work out that the suited gent is in fact the driver of the oncoming car that had to brake in my video. We strike up conversation...

It turns out that the gent (let's call him Jim)...that Jim was not only a driver, but a cyclist to. Jim and I had a good long chat about cycling in general, about training, sportives, bad drivers etc. We obviously mentioned the incident itself, and I asked what his recollection of it was.

All I saw was a car coming quickly towards me in my lane!

Jim told me he was shocked by it and told people at work when he got there. Despite the police not catching up with him for a month or so (holidays), he remembered the incident and was able to give a statement.

We were both surprised that the case had got as far as court, as we agreed the driving (in our opinion's) had be terrible.

We also chatted to the police officer, who seemed a friendly chap. The officer pointed out that the driver might be defending himself as, and I didn't know this, driving charges don't qualify for legal aid. I wasn't sure I wanted to get cross-examined by the driver, but...it had to be done.

We later discovered via the court clerk that he was represented by a lawyer after all and that there was a legal 'issue' that was being discussed.

A while later, the clerk came in and informed us that the case was dismissed. He couldn't say why, though it was suggested it was a 'procedural issue' and I might be able to find out more tomorrow by phoning the Procurator Fiscal. I will of course do that.

That was that.

The driver walked away without charge.

I am not happy (to put it mildly).

Again, I stress this is my educated opinion.....but that driving was dangerous. End of. Pure and simple. I had to brake sharply. The oncoming driver had to brake sharply. Had either of us not reacted in time.....I dread to think what would have happened.

The driver in this video is free to continue driving, charge free.

This ladies and gentleman is....no, no...,....I'm not going to swear. He isn't worth it.


What I will say is this.... You cannot depend on the legal system protecting you. If the driver can hire a good lawyer, and if there is the slightest, tiniest gap in what the police or PF has done, they will get off. Don't believe me? Just read here.

I am not saying we shouldn't report these drivers to the police. Quite the opposite, I will continue to do so, and hopefully the police and PF will learn whatever lessons are needed to get the prosecutions. I have more cases to come over the next couple of months and I will of course keep you informed of my progress.

However, if we really want the roads safe for cycling, we cannot depend on the law to protect us. I also firmly believe that we cannot depend on education.

What can and will bring safe, mass cycling is investment in infrastructure. It is the only modification that has been demonstrated time and time again, in place after place, to make a difference. So we know the answer, and we know that we want more cycling and that we want it to be safe. How do we get there?



I cannot stress enough how much of a difference POP is already making and will continue to make, but we only have the clout that YOU give us. Let's turn out in our thousands and send a strong message that, enough is enough.

Let's make Scotland a cycle friendly nation!!


Monday, 20 April 2015

Just Do it!

Hello!

It's been a while. Sorry about that. Life has got in the way, (cars in need or repair, vacuum cleaners braking, boilers breaking, me getting flu...etc).

Anyway, enough of that. This blog has one simple message.

Go to Pedal on Parliament!!



Credit: Jon Davey Photography

Yes, I could write a huge long blog extolling the reasons why you should go, but I suspect you know them already. What you may not know is just how important it is that YOU go.

It's absolutely vital!!

Apathy is a huge issue with campaigns like this. Many of you will have been to POP before, and we are hugely grateful for that! It can though, be so easy to think.....well, I've been the last couple of years, so I'll probably take this year off.

Please don't!!

Your presence makes a difference. Each person there is one more person that the Transport minister will see calling for safer cycling (Yes he will be there!). He is a new minister and he has yet to set his priorities. So far the omens are good and he has said and done all we can expect of him up until now. But the big tests are to come, so now is the time to make your voice heard and your presence felt!

As well as coming along yourself, please try and bring someone else, someone who hasn't been before, along with you. Imagine if each person who came last year, brought one other person!! Remember you don't even need a bike! Come and walk with us!

There are so many terrible things going on in the world right now. Politics itself is often marred in negative stories and imagery. POP is however, a hugely positive movement. Come and join us and do something positive.

Help us help you, make Scotland a cycle friendly nation!!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Dear John....

Recently I had the most shocking of replies from a company I have ever had.

You've not read it?! Oh....you can read it here.

Pretty shocking, isn't it?

Ok, so it was probably a one off. Attitudes similar to that are pretty rare. No-one else in a liveried vehicle would act like that surely?

Ummm......errr......

Watch this.





Oh, ok, so there are plenty of drivers who will try to push through where there is no space and there is no actual gain in pushing through. They haven't actually responded in a similar way........have they?! 

Well.....

On this particular occasion I e-mailed the 'gentleman' about the incident before I had had a chance to edit the video. I wanted to make sure that the incident was fresh in his memory when he read my questions. I must admit though, I actually thought this 'gentleman' wouldn't respond.

He did.

This was my e-mail to him:

Dear John,

I am sure you remember me from earlier on today. I was the cyclist who
spoke to you on Balshagray Avenue this morning at about 8:30am. I asked
you why you felt it necessary to drive so close to me. As we didn't have
time to finish our conversation I was wondering, could you please let me
know why you drove in that manner and why you felt it was necessary to
drive less than a car length from my back wheel? Why did you also feel
the need cut in very sharply after overtaking me?

I look forward to receiving your reply.

Best regards

David Brennan
To the point, but polite I think.

Later that evening I managed  to edit the video and put it online.

I received the following reply....:


Mr Brennan,

We seam clearly have different opinions on this said 'incident'. Why you suddenly jolted from the left side of the lane into the middle of the road as l was about to overtake is beyond my reckoning then give out gesticulations at rush hour? 1st rule of the road - keep left! You state that l cut back in sharply as I  did overtake but not to my knowledge. If l did get too close then l apologise as it was most certainly not  my intention to do so. Respect of the road and consideration to other users comes from both sides Mr Brennan not just for bikes.
I noticed that you have got your social media friends to do your dirty work for you on your say so  (two sides to every story ) but where l come from real men deal with these things themselves. 
I cosider the 'incident' and this conversation closed and the whole matter a misnomer.
I bid you a good day and safe travels in the future.

Regards

John Lamb
 Ok, let's break this down.

Why you suddenly jolted from the left side of the lane

Did anyone see me jolt? Anyone? Go and have a look at the video. Watch it as closely as possible. Watch particularly the rear footage which shows the tracking of my rear wheel and thus provides a good reference point for my position on the carriageway.

Do you see it?

Ah yes, I see it now. I do jolt, at approximately 2:19......Yes, I jolt towards the kerb, not out into the middle of the lane as John suggests. I did this because he started overtaking rather close and I felt the need to use my escape space....yes the space I create for myself by taking the road position I do.....to keep out of harms way.

I'm not sure why that jolt is beyond reckoning....

Gesticulations at rush hour.

I must admit I am a bit confused by this one. Is John suggesting that gesticulating at other times is acceptable, but not at rush hour? Is it that gesticulations, i.e. palm back towards the driver trying to dangerously overtake, is unacceptable? Should I keep my head down, keep quiet and let John drive through me?

Perhaps indicating isn't allowed either. That might make sense as John doesn't employ that technique here.


1st rule of the road - keep left!

Umm, errr......I'm assuming John means here that I should be keeping to the left of the lane. I've had good look at the highway code cyclists section and I cannot for the life of me find this rule 1 or in fact any rule that suggests that I should be cycling on the left, especially on a dual carriageway such as this. I can, though find a very interesting rule suggesting that drivers should give cyclists 'at least' as much room as a car when overtaking. Something like this....




Not sure how John would have been able to pass me with the car in the other lane, without crossing the lane separator and have left me as much room as in the picture above. Hmmm..

You state that l cut back in sharply as I  did overtake but not to my knowledge.

I think it's pretty obvious from the footage that John did indeed cut in rather sharp. It is my opinion, and it is only an opinion, that John did this to make a point. If however, this was not the case, then the driving was just crap. Very crap. Simple as. Yes there is an apology there, but as he does not accept that he did it, the apology is very hollow.


Respect of the road and consideration to other users comes from both sides Mr Brennan not just for bikes.

So John, exactly where did I not show you 'respect'. Was it when I dared to filter past about a mile of traffic and end up in front of you? Was it when I was 'gesticulating' for you to not run me off the road? Was it when I dared not to move out of your God given right to take up the road that I was occupying?

Exactly where did you show me respect? Not my bike, as you suggest, but me? Where does your 'respect' take into account that you have a large metal cage surrounding you and I don't? Where exactly?

I noticed that you have got your social media friends to do your dirty work for you on your say so (two sides to every story ) but where l come from real men deal with these things themselves. 

I can only assume that after I posted the video, some people contacted you. If they were abusive, I'm sorry to hear that. I do not condone that and I ask that if and when people contact drivers in my videos that they do so respectfully. However, I do not in any way take responsibilities for their actions. We are all responsible for our own actions, aren't we John?

In that regard, I will post this follow up e-mail that John wished me to share with you:

Additionally Mr Brennan,



I respectfully ask you to get your friends to retract comments made which l consider tantamount to slander based on no knowledge or facts.



Without predudice 



John Lamb 

As for suggesting I'm not a real man.....pfft. Enough said.

 
I cosider the 'incident' and this conversation closed and the whole matter a misnomer.
I bid you a good day and safe travels in the future.

I'm not entirely sure how an incident....sorry, 'incident' as John likes to label it, can be considered a misnomer.....oh wait, I get it, he considers that labeling this an incident is wrong. Hmm. Perhaps in your eyes John, but then, as mentioned above, you were surrounded by a big metal cage and I wasn't. You were in no danger whatsoever, and I was. Thus I have to say, it isn't your place to suggest this incident is closed. Far, FAR from it...

It will be closed when you agree you were too close. Would you drive that close to a family member of yours for instance? Would you be happy for your fellow passenger to be cycling on that road with people driving that close to them? Do you honestly think there was enough room to pass me safely within that lane? What would you have done had I not gesticulated? Would you have kept going?

If so, why not come out for a cycle with me John. Come commute with me to work. Let's see how you like 'incidents'. This is a real offer.

Is there a moral that we can learn from this story? I think there is. This is a driver who has been trained. He has passed a test. At some point he possibly even read the highway code, though he has a very poor recollection of it. He is licenced and insured. He pays tax. (Then again we all do....). He drives a van that advertises who he is and how to contact him. Yet, he still drives like this and has the arrogance to suggest that there was no incident and that I should be over on the left to let him pass me unsafely.

Education, licencing etc might work on some, but there will always be drivers who will take liberties with others safety because they feel aggrieved in some way. A road like this will never be safe for all.

We need to design the effects of bad driving and bad drivers out of our road. We need to make hard decisions and we need to invest in people friendly, not car/van/bus/HGV friendly infrastructure. That is why Pedal on Parliament needs your support, and needs it now.

Stop accepting that this is just the way it is. Stop accepting the lot we are given. Make your voice heard. Come to POP on the 25th April 2015 in Edinburgh.

Will I see you there John?