Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A bit of a rant about motoring

Back from my “hols”: I didn’t mean to be away from my Blog for quite so long, if I had I would have mentioned it. However as usual a variety of things have all conspired to keep my from cycling.  As is happening around the UK quite a few parents are seeing there children go of to study for the first time. In my case my daughter, worked very hard to achieve some excellent results to get to the University of her choice. Once the results came back then we went from not really having to think much about what next to full on planning. She confirmed her choice and then it was a case of working out what accommodation she was going to get and what stuff she would need for that accommodation.

So as a result of her choice of University I and driven what seems like miles and indeed was around 1,500 miles over the last week or so.  We had a weekend away helping my daughter settle in – which actually means acting as Sherpas to carry her stuff up a couple of flights of stairs to her room.

Because it was convenient we then broke our journey back to call in on my mother and stay with her for a night and then bring her to Cambridge. She stayed for a week and I took her back yesterday. So last week I had a little break – she is still active so we enjoyed some nice weather and became tourists (in our own city). 

Mind you before all of that I did have to go to London a couple of times and when I find a minute will post the pictures I took. during this “break” I have also had a new rear wheel built by Ben Hayward Cycles along with a bit of fettling on my Marin to prepare for the Winter weather.

So I will get around to those “back-fill” Posts but I thought I’d post about the two most recent things on my mind. Of course one of those has to be the Cambridge Guided Busway Cycleway – or should that be the CGB Cycleway or even the CGBC.

I claim you “read it here first” – Cambridge First reports that Skaters put “Guided Busway to good use” with students using the smooth tarmac surface to train for an upcoming race. I suppose the second bit of CGB news was bound to happen with “Two cars driven onto guided busway in one day”.  It would appear that in one case a pensioner made a mistake and managed to avoid signs, guides and car traps to find herself on the concrete tracks. In the second instance a woman followed a bus onto the tracks.  It would seem that the CGB was somewhat more resilient to those problems than a proper railway would have been – mind you you would think it would have been harder to drive you car onto train tracks.

I have been meaning to check out the progress of the Cycleway works between Swavesey and St Ives for a while – but stuff got in the way. Fortunately the “Travelling the Cambridgeshire guided busway” Blog has a post – Cycle path Swavesey to St Ives with an update and pictures. It is good that there is work taking place.

Finally – for now anyway, having drive a gazillion miles the length and breadth of this country – well it certainly feels like it I have been thinking about our roads. Rather I have been thinking about the quality of driving, the congestion on the roads and why (I think) we need to revolutionise our thinking.

Yesterday whilst taking my mother back we travelled along the A14, fortunately it wasn’t that congested going west. The eastbound carriageway was however chock-a-block. Although we didn’t actually survey the traffic a large number of cars seemed to have a single occupant.  In fact it seemed that as many as 3 in 4 cars had a single occupant. Despite all the moaning about petrol prices being so expensive we still prefer the convenience and “solitude?” of our cars.  Perhaps if more people did share then it would be cheaper and quicker.

On the way back I also passed the results of an accident on the A14 which caused huge tailbacks on the other side. – “Family ‘lucky to be alive’ as lorry and caravan collide” at the same time there were reports about an accident on the M11 involving three cars and two lorries. Also another recent accident was reported on the A14 – “Seven vehicle collision closes A14”. Also when my Mum and I were heading up the A14 we passed a lorry with a tyre that had started to disintegrate.

So what are the common denominators?  Well lorries seem to be involved in all three accidents, tyres seem to have been involved in one of them and in the lorry problem I saw.  I also saw a lot of lane switching by cars (and lorries) as they jockey for position.  Under such circumstances it only takes a slight mistake to create a serious accident. In my view busy roads call for better driving standards. Having said that I am not surprised to see suggestions to raise the speed limit on Motorways to 80mph. Whilst it might raise the accident rate slightly I think it is careless driving under packed conditions that causes motorway accidents.

I also found that motorway driving was easier when all the vehicles moved at a uniform speed. without any evidence I find that now we have average speed cameras on road works on motorways it creates a smoother flow which makes driving much easier. When there were road works but no average speed cameras then the traffic flow was much less even – turbulent even.  Which reminds me you see a lot of tail-gating on motorways as well. Another factor that increase the probability of a serious accident in moments of inattention.

I started writing this yesterday, but even this morning there are reports of two lorries crashing on the A14. Interestingly another news item  - “Business boss blames ‘sever overloading’ for A14 delays”, which talks about the problem but not about the solutions.  The A14 is in my mind a dual-purpose road, on the one hand it is an important haulage route and on the other there are hotspots of commuter congestion (between Huntingdon and Cambridge).

One focus could be on the lorry traffic, we could switch it onto the trains, or perhaps use a concept familiar to electronic engineers and go do TDM (time division multiplexing) and close the road to lorries during the working day and perhaps offer inducements to overnight lorry usage.  Haulage is more important to the economy than many of us all taking up space in our single-occupant cars. The trouble is lorries and cars don’t really mix on very busy roads  and when lorries crash it has a large impact.

The other focus needs to be on removing the cars. Commuting to and from work has to be one of the worst ways to burn up the resources of our planet, waste lots of time and pollute it at, all at the same time. Do we really want to build more and bigger roads when already the countryside in the UK is under pressure. We also need to sweat our assets and make the “corridors” we do have more efficient and effective at moving people. We really ought to try and ensure the roads are there for those essential journeys and off-load the rest.  There needs to be a revolution in our approach to work. We either need to get people closer to where they work (Cambourne?) or make it easier to be connected to work, whilst at home. 

I personally would also like to see more safety systems in cars and other motor vehicles.  A classic case is that of the door pillars in cars, they used to be thin and small making it easier to see vehicles at junctions, especially motor cycles. Nowadays those pillars have been made thicker so that the car is much safer in the vent of a crash. The trouble is that compromises the drivers view at junctions increasing the risk of a SMIDSY (Sorry mate I didn’t see you).  I have experienced this both on a motor bike and on a bicycle with a car pulling out in front of me and then the driver freezing as I suddenly “appeared from nowhere”.

So the safety focus should be on making drivers safer for the benefit of those around them, not just for their benefit.  GPS loggers could track and warn speeding drivers, do it too often and you have to go back to driving school.  I am also in favour of moving in from the points system of driving penalties and onto a training for drivers, hit them with time penalties and encourage them to learn as well. We all have a duty to other road users – especially those who don’t drive large “armoured” high-speed luxury wagons. (And yes although I much, much prefer cycling I do have a 4x4 – so I am not totally anti-car.)

The next post will be more bicycle themed, I promise (with my fingers behind my back, just in case).

No comments:

Post a Comment