Tuesday, 25 August 2015

I Am An Irresponsible Parent.

I'm not going to make any detailed comment on this, I'll let you guys do that for the time being. This is the response to the letter I sent yesterday to Bridon Contracts. You can read the letter I sent here, or find it at the bottom of the response.

My only comment on is to state, I did at no time hit, tap or come anywhere near anyone's window. That is a complete fabrication. I also didn't weave and any arm movements are explained in my original letter.

So, here it is.

Dear Mr Brennan

Thank you for your e-mail, however my operatives had informed us of the situation on Sat, I can appreciate that you were just making sure your children were being kept safe as far as your thoughts were on the road by the actions you yourself had taken by banging car windows and manoeuvring out and waiving your arms around which I am sure was also making your children nervous.

The industry we are in we have to carry out risk assessments every time we undertake any activity and I am sure if you were to have stood back and asked yourself what are the risks if I take my children on very busy road when as in your words they have not ascertained the main road confidence albeit you are experienced but to take young children on this type of road when you know that they could not keep up with normal traffic speed or become very nervous.

Although you say your children wanted to go this way home my comment to you as not only a parent but myself also being a grandparent I would have explained to them how dangerous this could be for them and agreed to provide extra training and waiting until they were older.

Please be assured I have spoken with the operatives and there is always two sides to every story and I have taken the view that both parties were at fault with regards to the situation that had occurred.

The purpose of being competent to use the road and like all equipment is to be trained prior to usage whether it be a bicycle, tools or a vehicle on the road. Have your children passed their cycling efficiency test or been trained to use the road in a safe manner.

What I would suggest is all parties think about their actions that day and as I say every time you point the finger at someone you always point 3 back at yourself!

My operatives are not please that you had taken photos of them as I am sure you would not be happy if they walked up to your children and had taken photos of them without your permission! It is ileagal.

Best Regards
Brian Whittingham

My original email:

Dear Brian,

Apologies for the long e-mail, but please bear with me.

I am a father, and as fathers sometimes do, I like taking my children on bike rides. I am fortunate in that my two oldest, D 10 and M 8, are very keen on cycling. On Saturday morning the weather was clement and thus I decided to take my two boys on a bike ride along the canal close to where I live. We live in Torrance.

Unfortunately the canal is not right next to our house. In fact we need to cycle a relatively short distance to get to it. There are two routes that we can take, one that requires us to on the path and then via some dirt cycle path, or via the road. On the way out we went the path way and had no problems in doing so.

After a while out on the bikes my two boys decided they wanted to return home, but they suggested to me that they wanted to come back the other way. They wanted to do this for two reasons, firstly because there is a relatively fast hill to come down, they enjoy the feeling of speed on their bikes, but secondly because they are keen to learn how to ride on the roads, just like their dad. You see, I am a cyclist who commutes by bike daily to my work at the Southern General Hospital, which is a round trip of about 24 miles a day, a commute I have been doing for a number of years. I have quite a considerable amount of experience cycling on the roads.

I am of course, not a fool. The roads are a difficult environment for a cyclist to be, especially the roads around Torrance. I have suffered my fair share of bad driving when out cycling. However, I also know how to keep my kids safe. I know the techniques for riding in a small group such as this and I know that my children are capable of it. Thus I agreed with M  and D that we would ride the alternative route of which 0.9 miles was on the road.

The first 0.5 miles on Torrance Road were uneventful. The road was relatively quiet and for a large part downhill, and when cars did come from behind us they passed with great care and gave us plenty of room. It was only after we joined Balmore Road for the last 0.4 miles that we noticed an issue.

D and M were ahead of me, I was behind and taking a strong position in the lane. This discourages close passes, especially on my children. We were cycling at the speed of my youngest which was probably about 10mph along this road. Yes it was quite slow, but it would not take us long to get to the turn onto Tower Road and to get out of the way of the following cars. A few vehicles did appear behind us, and unfortunately at first as the road was busy coming the other way, it was not safe to pass. A short distance further and I heard the first toot of a horn. I say toot, but it was angrier than that. It wasn't from the driver behind us, who was being patient, but appeared to come from the driver behind. This was an early indication to me that trouble was brewing.

Cycling with my children in this way means I need to keep communicating with them. "a bit further right M", "move a bit closer to your brother D", etc. So knowing that there could be an issue shortly I checked they were in the correct road positions. At this point my youngest, who was at the front said, "should I indicate yet". I suggested that it was too early. Then an opportunity arose for the first car behind to overtake. They did so without a problem. Then the second car, which turned out to be a grey van overtook. Their passenger window was down.

I have no idea exactly what was shouted by the two occupants of the vehicle, but I can assure you it was abusive, threatening and horrible for my kids to hear and be subjected to. I was understandably furious. Perhaps I shouldn't of done, but I waved for the driver to pull over. I did this mainly because I wanted to get a good look at their faces, so if I had managed to get enough details I could take this horrible incident to the police. They drove on.

The next two cars again passed without incident. At this point we were getting closer to the junction and my son had asked if he could signal yet. As he asked another car overtook and again we had horrible abuse shouted at us, for what I can only assume was the short hold up. At this point, feeling very flustered and concerned for the state of mind of my children and their safety I said "yes indicate", and he, I and D all did so. This was of course earlier than I would indicate if I was riding myself. However, I had two flustered children and an understandably flustered 'me', to get safely to the right hand turn and off the road that had very quickly turned hostile.

That is when your employee decided it was a good time to overtake, when myself and my two kids were indicating we were about to turn right. Your employee gave me a 'dagger' look as he drove past. My dismay at this maneuver was compounded by the fact that the driver them proceeded to turn right up the very road that we were about to turn right up. He saved himself a whopping four or five seconds at my reckoning.

If you can understand everything that I have written above, I hope you will understand that I was angry with your driver, who stopped just along the road from my own house. As I passed I indicated (and I at no time swore, which amazed me) that that was a terrible maneuver which had put me and my children especially in danger. His answer was that it was me that was dangerous and me that was putting my children in danger.

I took my kids back to the house and returned to speak to the driver. My intent was only to get his name. He refused to provide me with his name. He and I went on to discuss the incident. The driver agreed that he had overtook after I had signaled but suggested that he had done so as I "had been waving my arms around" and riding dangerously. Yes, I had perhaps been waving my arms around, but that was at the drivers who were abusing my children and also in an attempt to try and control my children. I was pointing to where they should ride at a stressful time.

What the driver repeated a number of times was that he thought I was dangerous. We eventually got to the bottom of that when he clarified that it was 'dangerous of me to take kids on the road' and that 'he would never do that'. Effectively he was suggesting I was a bad parent. At this point, I asked for his name once more. I was refused and so I took his picture (attached).

So am I a bad parent? Does the fact that your driver thinking that I am a bad parent excuse his overtake? If I was indeed waving my arms around and cycling dangerously, is that a good time to overtake? Should you perhaps wait behind?

We live in a world that values the motor vehicle above all else, and I say that as someone who owns and drives one. Delay of any kind is unacceptable. Drivers, not all of course, but a significant proportion, will endanger you or abuse you if they feel that their delay has justified it. On this occasion two drivers felt that a short delay justified abuse towards me and my children and one driver, your employee, couldn't be bothered waiting a few seconds to allow a father and his two boys to safely get out of that abusive situation.

Might I ask that you pass this message on to the driver and let me know what his response to it is. It may also be worth pointing out that I am one of the organisers of a campaign called Pedal on Parliament. This is a campaign that is pushing for the government to invest in proper cycle infrastructure to make the roads safe for all. This would include where appropriate segregated cycle infrastructure that would keep the majority of those 'pesky cyclists' out of the obviously much more important car drivers ways. I suspect though that this particular road would not suit such segregated infrastructure and despite my best efforts it might still be the case that me and my children might hold up your driver for a few seconds.

Perhaps next time he would chose to wait a few seconds instead. is that a lot to ask?

Best regards

David Brennan

Monday, 24 August 2015

A Letter About My Family

Here is an e-mail I've just sent to a local company. I'll let the letter do the talking.
Dear Brian,

Apologies for the long e-mail, but please bear with me.

I am a father, and as fathers sometimes do, I like taking my children on bike rides. I am fortunate in that my two oldest, D 10 and M 8, are very keen on cycling. On Saturday morning the weather was clement and thus I decided to take my two boys on a bike ride along the canal close to where I live. We live in Torrance.

Unfortunately the canal is not right next to our house. In fact we need to cycle a relatively short distance to get to it. There are two routes that we can take, one that requires us to on the path and then via some dirt cycle path, or via the road. On the way out we went the path way and had no problems in doing so.

After a while out on the bikes my two boys decided they wanted to return home, but they suggested to me that they wanted to come back the other way. They wanted to do this for two reasons, firstly because there is a relatively fast hill to come down, they enjoy the feeling of speed on their bikes, but secondly because they are keen to learn how to ride on the roads, just like their dad. You see, I am a cyclist who commutes by bike daily to my work at the Southern General Hospital, which is a round trip of about 24 miles a day, a commute I have been doing for a number of years. I have quite a considerable amount of experience cycling on the roads.

I am of course, not a fool. The roads are a difficult environment for a cyclist to be, especially the roads around Torrance. I have suffered my fair share of bad driving when out cycling. However, I also know how to keep my kids safe. I know the techniques for riding in a small group such as this and I know that my children are capable of it. Thus I agreed with M  and D that we would ride the alternative route of which 0.9 miles was on the road.

The first 0.5 miles on Torrance Road were uneventful. The road was relatively quiet and for a large part downhill, and when cars did come from behind us they passed with great care and gave us plenty of room. It was only after we joined Balmore Road for the last 0.4 miles that we noticed an issue.

D and M were ahead of me, I was behind and taking a strong position in the lane. This discourages close passes, especially on my children. We were cycling at the speed of my youngest which was probably about 10mph along this road. Yes it was quite slow, but it would not take us long to get to the turn onto Tower Road and to get out of the way of the following cars. A few vehicles did appear behind us, and unfortunately at first as the road was busy coming the other way, it was not safe to pass. A short distance further and I heard the first toot of a horn. I say toot, but it was angrier than that. It wasn't from the driver behind us, who was being patient, but appeared to come from the driver behind. This was an early indication to me that trouble was brewing.

Cycling with my children in this way means I need to keep communicating with them. "a bit further right M", "move a bit closer to your brother D", etc. So knowing that there could be an issue shortly I checked they were in the correct road positions. At this point my youngest, who was at the front said, "should I indicate yet". I suggested that it was too early. Then an opportunity arose for the first car behind to overtake. They did so without a problem. Then the second car, which turned out to be a grey van overtook. Their passenger window was down.

I have no idea exactly what was shouted by the two occupants of the vehicle, but I can assure you it was abusive, threatening and horrible for my kids to hear and be subjected to. I was understandably furious. Perhaps I shouldn't of done, but I waved for the driver to pull over. I did this mainly because I wanted to get a good look at their faces, so if I had managed to get enough details I could take this horrible incident to the police. They drove on.

The next two cars again passed without incident. At this point we were getting closer to the junction and my son had asked if he could signal yet. As he asked another car overtook and again we had horrible abuse shouted at us, for what I can only assume was the short hold up. At this point, feeling very flustered and concerned for the state of mind of my children and their safety I said "yes indicate", and he, I and D all did so. This was of course earlier than I would indicate if I was riding myself. However, I had two flustered children and an understandably flustered 'me', to get safely to the right hand turn and off the road that had very quickly turned hostile.

That is when your employee decided it was a good time to overtake, when myself and my two kids were indicating we were about to turn right. Your employee gave me a 'dagger' look as he drove past. My dismay at this maneuver was compounded by the fact that the driver them proceeded to turn right up the very road that we were about to turn right up. He saved himself a whopping four or five seconds at my reckoning.

If you can understand everything that I have written above, I hope you will understand that I was angry with your driver, who stopped just along the road from my own house. As I passed I indicated (and I at no time swore, which amazed me) that that was a terrible maneuver which had put me and my children especially in danger. His answer was that it was me that was dangerous and me that was putting my children in danger.

I took my kids back to the house and returned to speak to the driver. My intent was only to get his name. He refused to provide me with his name. He and I went on to discuss the incident. The driver agreed that he had overtook after I had signaled but suggested that he had done so as I "had been waving my arms around" and riding dangerously. Yes, I had perhaps been waving my arms around, but that was at the drivers who were abusing my children and also in an attempt to try and control my children. I was pointing to where they should ride at a stressful time.

What the driver repeated a number of times was that he thought I was dangerous. We eventually got to the bottom of that when he clarified that it was 'dangerous of me to take kids on the road' and that 'he would never do that'. Effectively he was suggesting I was a bad parent. At this point, I asked for his name once more. I was refused and so I took his picture (attached).

So am I a bad parent? Does the fact that your driver thinking that I am a bad parent excuse his overtake? If I was indeed waving my arms around and cycling dangerously, is that a good time to overtake? Should you perhaps wait behind?

We live in a world that values the motor vehicle above all else, and I say that as someone who owns and drives one. Delay of any kind is unacceptable. Drivers, not all of course, but a significant proportion, will endanger you or abuse you if they feel that their delay has justified it. On this occasion two drivers felt that a short delay justified abuse towards me and my children and one driver, your employee, couldn't be bothered waiting a few seconds to allow a father and his two boys to safely get out of that abusive situation.

Might I ask that you pass this message on to the driver and let me know what his response to it is. It may also be worth pointing out that I am one of the organisers of a campaign called Pedal on Parliament. This is a campaign that is pushing for the government to invest in proper cycle infrastructure to make the roads safe for all. This would include where appropriate segregated cycle infrastructure that would keep the majority of those 'pesky cyclists' out of the obviously much more important car drivers ways. I suspect though that this particular road would not suit such segregated infrastructure and despite my best efforts it might still be the case that me and my children might hold up your driver for a few seconds.

Perhaps next time he would chose to wait a few seconds instead. is that a lot to ask?

Best regards

David Brennan 


Friday, 14 August 2015

My Letter to Asda

Dear Mr Clarke,

Unfortunately I am writing to you with regards to the driving of one of your HGV drivers. Let me explain.

I am a cyclist, that is I cycle from my home in Torrance to my work at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow (recently renamed
Queen Elizabeth University Hospital). It is a 11 mile cycle each way. Sometimes on my way I encounter poor driving that puts me at significant risk. I therefore wear cameras to provide proof in case of any incidents. On Thursday (13th August 2015) I had the day off. However, as a cyclist who campaigns for safer roads via a blog (www.magnatom.net) and via a campaign I help to run (www.pedalonparliament.org), on this occasion I was cycling along my normal commuting route heading to a cycle campaign meeting in Milngavie. This meeting was with local council officials and representatives of other cycle organisations to discuss some local cycle infrastructure. Thus I was cycling along Balmore Road at approximately 10:15am (13th August 2015).

It is along this road that I encountered one of your drivers. Rather than describe the incident I will provide you with some video of it from my helmet camera and my rear view camera. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY3AA8C1IEk)

 



As you will see from the footage I was quite shocked by what was a terrible overtake. Driving of this standard is not acceptable from a car driver, never mind an HGV driver where the consequences are potentially more severe.

You are probably not aware, but very recently British Cycling has just released a video describing the issues surrounding cyclists and overtaking. It is well worth a look (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9pmw2ckQSU). 




Would you consider sharing this with your workforce?

Obviously the overtake in this case was well below the standard expected of a competent driver. Please could you investigate this issue, and do everything in your power to ensure that driving like this doesn't occur again.

Your sincerely,

Dr David Brennan

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Red Lights, and Red Herrings.

Let me get one thing straight from the start. I don't red light jump. I don't feel a need for it.

Right. Glad I got that out the way.

Some people on bikes do red light jump. That's a fact. I am though, as I have pointed out on numerous occasions, not guilty of the sins of others, and thus their red light jumping in no way whatsoever reflects on my cycling.

No matter how many times I or others refute it of course, many commentators use red light jumping as a crutch upon which to build their arguments. Just today Mr Loophole, though he didn't  say it specifically suggest that behaviour like it justifys the need for bike registration and legislation.

You can listen to the interview here.


Yes, we've heard it all before. But it got me thinking......

Why is it that we actually have rules on the road? Why don't we just let everyone get on with it? Surely everyone would do their best, to avoid getting killed? Well, history tells us different, and it all began with men with red flags, running in front of cars. Today we have strict rules and regulations that are there for a reason....to protect us from risk.

Driving a car is associated with risk. When you drive a car you are propelling a 1 tonne hunk of metal, plastic and fabric along at high speed. It has considerable momentum and has the potential for surprisingly considerable destruction.

Cycling on the other hand is, as Carlton Reid put in the interview above is.'a benign form of transport'. Now neither of us are claiming that cycling is risk free with regards to other road users. It is entirely possible for a cyclist to kill someone. It is however a very small risk, possibly not too dissimilar to someone accidentally running into someone and knocking them over if they are out jogging.

In that same interview (above), Mr Loophole (Nick Freeman) who is a lawyer known to get drivers 'off' charges, suggested that we need 'legislation to help identify cyclists', 'legislation to allow cyclists to be banned' and we 'need to force cyclists to wear helmets'.

I'm not going to touch on the helmets. That is dealt with very well elsewhere. I'm going to focus on one particular type of 'transgression' that Mr Loophole is almost certainly referring to.

Red light jumping.

I'll focus on that as it is something that many hate, many think is dangerous and because it has accurate statistics associated with it.

First the stats.


The source for this table can be found here. TFL

This table discusses the cause of cyclist casualties in London, a particularly busy (by UK standards) city for cycling. It shows the top five causes. Interestingly the top 5, contrary to what many might believe or suggest, does not include cyclists red light jumping. In fact the top 5 reasons are not the cyclists fault at all, they are the drivers fault.

The actual rate of cyclists accidents which are caused by cyclists running red lights, something that 'many apparently do', is 2% according to the Department for Transport.

It would appear that the nasty cyclists who are cycling terribly and running red lights are actually doing it..... umm, errr,.....well.....safely. The risk of cyclists, running red lights appears to be very small.

This got me thinking, as did this incident that I recorded the other day on my camera.



I was annoyed at the time, but the reality is that what they did was very, very safe. None of them were riding fast, none of them endangered anyone, and I'm certain that had someone been crossing, that they would either have stopped or cycled past with plenty of room to spare.

So running red lights is generally safe for cyclists to do, it would appear.

Then today I read the news from Paris that there, at certain traffic lights (almost certainly like this one), cyclists would be allowed to run the red light.

Now let me make this clear. I don't condone red light jumping here in the UK and I won't be doing it, but the reality is that cycling through a red, if done with care, is very rarely risky to anyone.

OK, so what's my point?!

My point is that the very thing that Mr Loophole and friends, get all worked up about...dangerous lycra louts, blah, blah blah, is a whopping great red herring. Cycling really is a benign form of transport. The health benefits to the nation as a whole far, FAR, FAR, outweigh the very small risk that cyclists pose to others and themselves.

The real risk, to everyone on the roads, are those that drive the 1 tonne plus of metal around.

That's not anti-car in any way, remember I drive one myself (and not a small one), it's just a fact.

So what of the law?

Well, when it comes to road law, its purpose is to keep those who use the roads safe. Road law is not there to pander to Mr Loophole and Mr Angry (perhaps the same person). Just because many are ignorant of the real risks and get angry when a cyclist runs a red light, or pavement cycles or God forbid...legally rides two abreast.....does not mean any new laws or registration is required. What it does demonstrate is that people get angry for no good reason and they often take that anger out on the cyclist, who is an easy target.

The answer, as I have said, many, many times, is to change our infrastructure, something that Mr Loophole and I agree on.

I did laugh though when Mr Loophole said

'Cyclists riding on our roads'.

No. They are not your roads. They are everyone's road. The problem is that they are currently designed as roads exclusively for the motor car. It's time we all took them back.

Monday, 20 July 2015

When Cycle Lanes Can Be Dangerous

Let's start with two pictures that I tweeted earlier.



Hmm.


Way back at the planning stage of this Bears Way cycle lane myself and others pointed out that having a two way lane on one side was a very big compromise. It would have been much, much better to have a single direction lane on both sides. Now I understand that there were issues with local acceptance of the scheme that would make that difficult. It wouldn't have been easy, but at the time I and others pointed out that it would be likely that cyclists coming in the 'wrong direction' would find the lane too difficult to use, unless, and this was a very big unless, the entry and exit points were very well designed.

My pictures above demonstrate that they are not. They are a disaster. In this one entrance/exit:

  1. Not only do you have to give way to pedestrians who are crossing the road (this is not necessarily a bad thing), but why a give way, and why do cyclists have to give way but drivers do not?
  2. How do you actually get into the lane coming the other way? The hatching suggests that you can't use the main entrance. Instead you need to come in via the pedestrian island. This means you need to stop at the pinch point, cycle/walk onto the island (which is not wide enough for a bike) and then across into the lane.
  3.  The blue paint. I have no idea what this blue paint means. It is dotted along various parts of the lane. It is slightly raised, rough, and very close to the colour of the road. It will certainly not be visible at night.
  4. This is the doozy. As you approach the exit, as a cyclist, you need to start looking behind you. If you see a car behind you, indicating or not, you have to assume that the car could be turning left. Until you know it is safe to continue, you should stop. That's how a give way works. So, this give way effectively removes the normal priority in this situation. Instead of the overtaking vehicle having to yeld to the cyclist, the cyclist mus yield to overtaking traffic. This is, quite simply, a serious accident waiting to happen.
  5. Rather than continue the curbing up until the turn itself, they have finished it early. That creates a lovely sweeping curve that will encourage the drivers to turn fast......into any damn cyclist who doesn't cede to the almighty motor vehicle, will be hit at speed. Nearly all the turns on this lane are sweeping like this. 
Once you are in this lane, it's actually not too bad. Yes there are issues that I've discussed elsewhere, but it does actually make you feel safer (except the weeping turns which I discuss below...). However, this one part of the lane is downright dangerous in one direction, and downright dangerous and awkward in the other.

The upshot of this is, that I and other cyclists are generally choosing not to use the lane. It's very awkward to get into and out of, and by the time I do that (heading north), I'd be half way along the road. I discussed this with the engineer (see my reply on this blog) I pointed out that designing a lane that most cyclists would not chose to use would lead to conflict. And so it was for me recently, just before I went on holiday two weeks ago....

It was pouring of rain, the roads were greasy, and I had two people driving cars who sat right on my backside, and who both shouted at me that I should be in the cycle lane. That is, they justified their driving so close due to me not using the cycle lane that they think I should be using.

Build bad, build conflict.

I can't show you the video yet as I've not had a chance to edit it, but I will do. I had actually thought about reporting one driver to the police it was that bad, but my holiday got in the way. I'll have it up in a day or so.

I did though do a quick calculation. I looked at the speed I average along the length of road next to the cycle lane. I average 20mph. The speed limit here is 30mph. The distance is 0.84 miles. It turned out that if a car is stuck behind me the whole way and sits at 20mph instead of 30mph (no-one would dream of speeding along here...oh no...), then I would hold them up for 46 seconds.

46 seconds.

Now neither of the people driving cars two weeks ago were behind me for the full length of the road. In fact they weren't even behind me for half of it. The reality is that they put my life in danger in poor conditions (sitting 0.3 seconds from my rear wheel) for the sake of 10 seconds..... at most.

Worse than that, when I get out of the way of the second car (I actually GOT out of the way and I pulled right over to the side), they stopped for about 15 seconds to tell me that I should be in the cycle lane, so their own prejudice held themselves up more than I did.

Let me though, be absolutely clear. East Dunbartonshire council took a leap of faith. They have reallocated space from motor vehicles to cyclists and they have done so, as far as I can tell, with minimal impact to pedestrians. Perhaps even with a slight improvement for pedestrians. I really, really, REALLY want to love this. Honestly I do. I'm desperate to be positive about this. I just can't be.

As it stands, it's not crap, it is dangerous.

Change this lane to south only, and take the leap of building a lane on the other side heading north, extend it and do away with the crazy exit give ways and then we would have something that East Dunbartonshire could be proud of. But....and this is an absolutely humungous but.....use designs standards like this, build it like this, make cyclists cede to motor vehicles like this......and I and many other cyclists won't use it. Sorry.

I'll say it again, as it's very, very important....

Build bad, build conflict.

This project has proven the point.