Tuesday 31 January 2012

Advanced Stop Lines: The Spawn of Satan?

Advanced Stop Lines (ASL) are the Spawn of Satan. There I've said it. I'm certainly not mincing my words.

So what exactly has led me to this opinion? 

First let me show anyone who doesn't know what an ASL is, a picture of one.

It's a pedal bus....honest!

Oops! Sorry, there seems to be a bus in that one. I'll try again.

There you go. It is usually a red or green zone in which is designated for cyclists to wait in when the traffic lights are red (yes a lot of us do stop!). It places the cyclist at the front of the traffic queue. The idea is that you are very visible to the traffic behind you because you are sat right in front of them. Most of the time that works really well. Unfortunately there is one minor problem if you have an HGV behind you.

The blind spot of an HGV marked on the floor

Ah. That's unfortunate the blind spot is exactly the same shape as the ASL. That is a bit of a problem, but that is not why I despise them so much.

There are many ways that you can categorise cyclists. Lycra clad cyclists, shopping basket cyclists, all the gear/no idea cyclists etc. The list is very long. However, when it comes to utilisation of cycling infrastructure (and I am ignoring anarchist cyclists who ignore all infrastructure) there are two types of cyclists. Experienced and inexperienced. There are significant differences in how these two groups use ASLs.

Some would disagree, but I'd class myself as an experienced cyclist. I've been at it for over 6 years now, and I try to keep myself safe. So what goes through my mind when I approach a junction with an ASL?
You can probably tell from the flow chart that more often than not I ignore the ASL. I either don't need it, won't gain any advantage by using it, or find it too dangerous to get to.

So what goes through an inexperienced cyclists mind when they approach the same junction?
OK, I'll admit I may have been a bit simplistic and made a huge sweeping generalisation, but there is some truth behind it. Many cyclists see ASLs as a target.

There is an ASL at the front of that queue, I'm damn well going to use it!

To be fair it's an understandable response. You would expect that cycle infrastructure was designed and implemented in such a way that it would make cycling safer. It is probably reasonable, as a new cyclist, to expect this.Unfortunately, this is often far from the reality. Left side feeder lanes are an excellent example of this. 

What a wonderful feeder this is. It's not only  extremely narrow and takes the cyclist right next to the wobble cobbles, it also incorporates its very own slippery yellow lines. Marvellous. But it gets worse. Look ahead. This feeder, and many like it encourages the cyclist to filter up the left hand side of traffic on approach to a left turn.

Let's imagine the cyclist filters up here and the lights change whilst the cyclist is still in the feeder (an inexperienced cyclist who hasn't worked out the timing of the lights). The cars start pulling off. The car that is now moving at about the same speed as the cyclist and is to the cyclists right is taking the left turn. However, this driver didn't indicate, which happens from time to time. The driver also hasn't noticed the cyclist to his left, which also happens from time to time. Unfortunately the cyclist hasn't been cycling long enough to develop fully operational cycling spider senses, and so doesn't anticipate the left turn. He keeps on pedalling.

The car turns and....crunch. One very hurt cyclist. 

Now imagine the same scenario except this time the car, is not a car, it's an HGV.......

But cyclists filter up the left hand side at junctions where there no ASLs!!!!

Correct. I still think ASLs are partly to blame for this. Imagine that the inexperienced cyclist has came across a few junctions where the infrastructure, that is surely designed to be safe, encourages them to filter up the left.  What do they then do when they come across a junction without an ASL? Filter up the left of course. It must be safe!!

I suspect this cyclist is a great believer in ASLs...

You can probably sense a pattern emerging now. It would seem I am not a big fan of ASLs. I haven't even mentioned the fact that they are generally ignored by drivers anyway, or that the painted surface is sometimes more slippery than normal tarmac or that their very existence sometimes antagonises drivers. I could probably write a book, just on ASLs.....probably not a very interesting book, admittedly.

There is, though, one final rusty nail that needs to be hammered into the coffin. For me, the worst thing about ASLs is that they waste time. No, they don't waste the time of road users. Yes I feel they waste time for the council employees that have to paint them, although that is not what irks me the most.

They waste huge amounts of cycle campaigner time. I am always saddened to hear of campaigners and campaigns who wave flags and claim victories when they have convinced a council to implement more ASLs. 

It's further proof of the councils commitment to cycling.....

Oh no it isnt!!

It is time, effort and money wasted on cycle infrastructure that is downright dangerous, encourages poor cycling practice and has probably contributed to the deaths of some inexperienced cyclists. The councils only implement them to tick a box. To fulfil a commitment that might just get the councillor a few extra 'cycling' votes at the next election.

It is time to stop wasting time with utterly useless infrastructure and think big. If we really want to increase the modal share of cycling then we need to put infrastructure in place that doesn't just tick councillors boxes, but it make cycling safer, easier and more convenient.  

This is why I now fully support the objectives of the Cycle Embassy of Great Britain. Not because I think we need another campaigning organisation, there are plenty of those to chose from, but because they will not accept second rate infrastructure.

Lets make a stand and Amsterdamize, the streets of Britain!    

Thursday 26 January 2012

My Cycle Embassy of Great Britain Entry

A great meeting is about to occur.

Brilliant minds from the 4 corners of this fair land (by fair I mean fairly damp) will be meeting in a secret room. Their aim is to solve problems that have perplexed and confused all who have seeked solutions over the years. (Yes I know this is bad grammar and stuff. It's a magnatomism). They will lock themselves in this room, only occasionally popping out for a wee bike ride to clear their thoughts, until they find the answers. And answers they will deliver.

No pressure then! ;-)

Yes the Cycle Embassy of Great Britain is meeting in London for its policy bash. Along the way they intend to look at some real life cycle infrastructure, or lack of it, to see how they can Amsterdamize it, i.e. design it right!

Unfortunately one of the greatest minds of them all can't make it....oh and I'm busy that weekend too.... so instead I will deliver my own wee teaser. How would we redesign this section of 'cycle infrastructure' so that it actually works?

The video 'commentary' describes the issues.

Additionally at the end of this lane is a roundabout. It’s quite an infamous roundabout, as the following incident happened when coming in the other direction.

An almost identical incident has happened recently, again with an HGV. Unfortunately due to an ongoing police investigation I can't share the footage. Very bad driving in both incidents, however, I feel that the roundabout design has a part to play.

For reference the 'cycle infrastructure' starts here at Hillfoot Station

View Larger Map

It heads north on Milngavie Road, becomes Main street, then reaches Burnbrae Roundabout (where I had the incident coming the other way)

View Larger Map

and then finishes further north here.

View Larger Map

The road is nice and wide, so I think there is ample opportunity to make this a shining example of how we can Amsterdamize Glasgow.

Good luck to those meeting in Londinium.

Friday 20 January 2012

Driving Dystopia

I've now got video adverts on some of my videos. Not on any of my incident videos, i.e. videos that focus on specific drivers or cars, they will always remain free of adverts. I have them on my general videos. Not that I make much money of course. I'm still waiting to get past the payment threshold. I don't expect to give up my day job anytime soon!

Oh and before anyone asks I will pay tax on any earnings...if I ever get any!!

I was looking at one of my videos the other day, a video of me filtering past about 2.5 miles of stationary traffic. I couldn't help laugh at the video that had been selected by Google to play at the start of mine. It was of course a car advert. It was for a Nissan Qashqai car that I would never consider buying. What was most amusing was the contrast of the advert to my video.

In the advert the Nissan car drives along deserted roads. No other cars to be seen (except in one scene where there is a nice free-flowing section of motorway/highway). I must admit the roads looked a joy to drive and it probably would be fun to drive a car in conditions like that.

Then my video starts, and reality sets in. There I am on my bike, filtering past hundreds of stationary cars, all held up by the hundreds of stationary cars in front of it, which are held up by hundreds of stationary cars in front of them.

Not quite the Driving Utopia suggested by the advert.

I may have passed this car on a road that was a little bit busier.

So advertisers...if you want to sell more cars off the back of my videos, you might want to focus more on features that make it a little less stressful being stuck in a long queue of traffic......

Buy one Nissan Qashqai and get one commuting bike, free....

Sunday 15 January 2012

Now You See It, Now You Don't


The observant among you will have noticed that the video in my previous post has disappeared. There is good reason for this, although I can't go into too much detail about the reasons at the moment.

All I can say is that the police have changed their approach to this incident quite dramatically.  It is now in the cases best interest for the video not to be in the public domain.

Obviously I will keep you informed of any progress. In fact I was in the process of writing a very detailed blog on the incident, that will now have to wait.

Watch this space.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

HGV incident

I'd be interested in your thoughts about this video.

Please feel free to leave your comments here or on my YouTube channel.

I'll write a lot more detail about this incident shortly. It might take a day or so though, as there is a lot to it. It might even be followed up by a guest blog by a Traffic Police officer.

Watch this space.

Monday 9 January 2012

Admission of Guilt

There are a number of drivers who, through there reaction following an incident, make it quite clear that they were guilty.
Let me explain.

I'm cycling along a nice straight dual carriageway road at a reasonable speed. Cars are overtaking in the outside lane with no difficulty. Then, out of the blue a car drives right up to my rear wheel and overtakes far too close. A 'typical' close pass. There was of course no need for it, as there was nothing stopping the driver taking the outside lane.

Cyclists will know exactly what I am about to say......I catch up with them at the lights 50m down the road.

I pull in front of them at the lights and look around and make a gesture that they should give a bit more room Nothing rude. They put their hand to their ear suggesting they don't understand, when it is quite clear that they do, and then comes the admission of guilt.....

They signal 'you should be further over to the left', i.e. 'You're too far out.'

This driver wants me over to the left. It might be a good idea....

How is this admitting guilt? Not only does it prove the fact that they saw me, it also proves that they were fully aware of my position on the road and that they were unhappy about it. 'It was too far out'.
I was too far out for what? 

The answer is that I was too far out for them to overtake safely without them moving into the outside lane. So they understand that I require space in an overtake.Why then do they proceed to overtake within the lane? Why, having pointed out that I was impeding their progress within the lane that they wish to remain within, do they proceed to pass whilst remaining within the lane that they have indicated that they know they should not be within (a long sentence I know!)?

There are two possible conclusions:

1) F*ck it.
2) I'll teach you.

F*ck it: I can't be bothered pulling out. I'll have to expend 0.1 calories turning my wheel a fraction to give you the space that is required. I know what I am doing anyway. You'll be fine.

I'll teach you: You have absolutely no right cycling that far out in the lane. Why the hell would you do that?! I bet you are doing that to make a point. Right, I'll pass close to you just to make a point back. Just close enough to give you a wee fright. I know what I am doing.

So you know what you are doing do you?

Guilty as charged.