No, I'm not talking about my cycling, I'm talking about the way my brain works. I don't even notice my brain working away in the background, but I'm pretty sure it usually is. It's the only way I can explain the fact that the idea for today's blog come into my mind, out of the blue, whilst I swept the kitchen floor.
The infrastructure is fine.
To be fair I'd been working towards the idea from earlier in the day. It started when I tweeted a question to @nicewaycode.
Hi @nicewaycode I wonder what your thoughts are on a blog I wrote about ASLs quite a while back. http://www.magnatom.net/2012/01/advanced-stop-lines-spawn-of-satan.html … They are a danger.
It's funny, at the time I wasn't even entirely sure why I tweeted that question, except for the fact that I knew that the Nice Way Code encouraged drivers to keep out of ASLs. As you'll see from the above linked blog, I'm not their greatest fan.
Only later, whilst seeping up the various bits of tonight's dinner off the floor, did the whole thing come to me.
The biggest problem with Nice Way Code, and any campaign that tells cyclists what they should do on the UK's roads, is that they all assume the infrastructure is fine.
Let me explain. Let's take the ASL advert above. This one isn't actually aimed at cyclists, it's asking drivers to keep out of the ASL. However, the logic holds.
You will of course have read my ASL blog by now and know that I am not a fan. Of course, I am only one person, but I know from feedback from that particular blog that I am not alone in thinking they are bad for cyclists. In fact, in any civilised cycling nation, i.e. ones that have 60% cycling modal share within their large cities, they just don't exist. There are other more elegant and far safer ways of dealing with cyclists at traffic lights. So the campaign is trying to ask drivers to respect something that isn't fine. ASLs aren't fine.
The red light jumping advice is similarly flawed.
I don't jump red lights. I do admit that some cyclists do. In fact in the past I have chastised cyclists myself, and have used the argument that it reflects on all of us. I actually saw the light (pardon the pun) on that one a while ago. I realised that I do not have any responsibility for other cyclists, only myself, just as I don't have any responsibility for any other drivers when I drive my car.
Some cyclists are, though, idiots (as are some drivers) and they do jump reds unnecessarily. However, as much as I hate seeing cyclists red light jump, some do it for another reason. By far the biggest proportion of cyclists jump reds just before they start turning green. For them it feels safer to get away before the mad rush behind them as soon as the light hits amber. Personally I don't feel the need to 'leave early'. However, I am not your standard cyclist. I have cycled almost non-stop for eight years. I've cycled on busy roads. Even before I started, I looked up safe road cycling techniques. I learned a set of tools that made me feel safe at most junctions from the start. Mind you when I first started I didn't feel safe everywhere and as a result I avoided some of the busy roads and busy traffic light junctions by....
...riding on pavements.
Yes I fell foul of the next Nice Way.
Some less experienced cyclists choose not to use the pavements. Instead, their safety mechanism is jumping the light a bit early. Why?
The infrastructure is not fine. Cyclists feel the need to get away from the mad rush because they don't feel protected.
I could keep going with nearly all of the slides (perhaps you can do it for me). For example, the don't pass on the left of HGV slide...this one...
..offers some good advice. I never pass down the left of an HGV or large vehicle. But....look at the infrastructure we have (and I'm coming full circle here) and ASLs direct you to pass on the left at the very junctions that you should not pass on the left.
The campaign, no matter what it said around these subjects, was bound to fail. We don't have the infrastructure in this country which is consistent enough or safe enough to base a safety campaign around. What is sound advice at one junction is downright dangerous at the next. Safety for cyclists has been designed out of our roads, not into it.
Sure, you can tell a driver to give a cyclist a bit more room as one of the slides does, but yet again, without proper enforcement it becomes meaningless. How many of us, even with helmet camera footage have been told by the police....you weren't hit, so there is nothing we can do (that's rubbish by the way).
Things are different if you pop over to the Netherlands. You wouldn't have the ASLs for a start. It's rare for people to ride on the pavement over there, because the cycle paths are so damn good you can't help wanting to use them. People rarely cycle down the right (wrong side I know) of an HGV because they are, for the most part, kept separate. Perhaps the only one that would still stand (at all) over there is the red light jumping one. I've saw people jump red when I was over there. However, the Netherlands understands the vulnerability of cyclists and protects them by law, even when they have been daft. Why? Because the benefits of cycling, and putting up with the odd red light jumping cyclist far.....FAR outweigh the downsides.
The whole argument over the Nice Way Code has been pretty heated. Emotions have been, understandably, very high. But in the cold light of day, when you apply a bit of logic I think it is pretty clear. Spending on education just won't work where the environment is designed with only one mode of transport in mind. Get some real investment in proper infrastructure going and yes, advertise away. Then you would have something safe to advertise about.