Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I really must get out more often–too geeky by half

I really must get rid of a few Tabs stacked up on my browser, I guess I need to be ruthless, I either comment on them or delete them, there is no middle ground.  After all I’ve got my sting, puncture and broken spoke to talk about two cycling posts from now.

I wish I could unequivocally say that cycling is safe – but accidents do happen. The Telegraph reports on a study of 700,000 crashes in the UK by the IAM (Licensed to skill)and the statistics indicate that “driver error or reaction” is listed by Police as a factor in 65% of fatal crashes. They make the point that improving driver skills would save lives, but I am not sure I believe that better training alone is the answer (as in a slight tightening of the driving test).  I do like the idea of a system that monitors the driver as offered by the Co-Op.  Since it will also provide feedback and benefit in the case of safer driving.

New Car monitoring systems being flown in

Apparently “the soaring cost of car insurance prices out teenage drivers” with the average annual cost of running a car at £3,090. I think that overall standards of driving have gone down coupled with more people being time-poor which leads to more rushing around. In addition as cars have gotten safer they have also gotten more expensive to repair in the event of an accident. Apparently average repair costs increased by 19% between 1992 and 1998 in Europe and are set to rise by a further 17% over the next six years.

The trouble is we tend to want benefits but without the cost and that isn’t always possible. For instance an IAM survey indicated the the “Public want 20mph limits, but not he enforcement”. Reassuringly the study also indicated that 49% and 43% want better safety (pdf) for pedestrians and cyclists respectively.  Which suggests that quite a chunk of people either like the idea of cycling or know relatives/friends who do.

Although here in Cambridge the “Police promise crackdown on speeders ignoring 20mph limits” My own feeling is that Mill Road is a nicer place to cycle or drive. Surprisingly It takes more focus to drive slowly, but when you do you have more time to assess what is going on around you, which does make it safer. You also generate less noise and as your speed is much lower in the even of a problem then it tends to be less serious.

Last year more than 32,000 were caught for speeding offences in Cambridgeshire last year. That is a fair number of people. Now I know there are those who might feel that many of the speeding restrictions and speed checks do not make the roads safer. They are the law of the land however. Just as cyclists shouldn’t jump red lights, motorists shouldn't speed. The trouble is that modern vehicles are generally much speedier, safer and quieter than in days of yore (well when I was a young driver) so the driver is more insulated from the world around them. In addition they generally have better radios/sound systems increasing the potential insulation.

Need more space on the roads – make cars smaller

So it really has become harder to stick to the limits. So perhaps there needs to be another approach? How can we make the driver more physically aware of their speed. When you are riding a bicycle you are only too aware of how fragile you are. Or is it only me who when cycling down hills at 40mph starts thinking about what would happen if the front wheel collapsed!

Steri-stripped eyebrow after my  independent crash (no helmet on either – March 2004)

The trouble is training only teaches you how to something correctly in doesn’t provide feedback when you don’t drive correctly and given society’s motor vehicle dependence and the cost of motoring and parking we see speeding fines as “milking the motorist” rather than an attempt at making our roads safer for all concerned. I do think that there should be a higher duty of care from those employing people to drive professionally as well as the drivers themselves. It would be interesting know whether  the speed awareness courses make a difference.

Actually instead of speed awareness courses perhaps the first step in any motoring transgression should be a driving awareness course. The transgressor has clearly shown a need and cannot really complain about having to pay for it and perhaps such courses should be spread out over time.  There might be a niche for course on how to cross level crossings safely though.

Apparently in this report in the Daily Mail “Bring back danger… ” there is pressure to bring back old-fashioned playgrounds as it is important that children develop the judgement skills concerning physical risk at an early stage so that they are better equipped in later life. I do wonder why this chap got fined though – he seemed to have a proper child seat, but just added extra taper to make it even more secure.

Where my son learnt about physical risk – Striding Edge, Summer 2003

The concern I have is that it would seem that many cycle lanes are not designed so much to make cycling an efficient and safe form of transport, but rather to get cyclists out of the way in the name of safety. Read this blog post if you don’t believe me “Telegraph and Guardian both reveal how completely useless the Mayor’s cycling revolution is”. Imagine the outcry from motorists if they had to stop to open and close gates along Motorways. The same Blogger has more of the same here – too many shared use paths basically relegate the cyclist down yet another rung in the priority stack. Is that how you encourage people to cycle – no that is how you encourage those who do cycle to jump red lights.

An interesting example of how Council's make cyclists lives “easier” was reported in the Daily Mail – “Is this Britain’s daftest cycle lane?”. What is the semi-circle for – well you could say it is to make it easier for a cyclists to turn right – whereas what it actually does is make it harder since the cyclist then has to cross tow flows of traffic. It does stop untidy cyclists blocking the road though.

Organic bicycle wheels being grown

It does matter though, as this post from the Cottenham Cyclist shows – “Somebody died on my commute route”. As reported in the Cambridge News – “Cyclist killed in crash named”. Interestingly the CC discusses the responsibility of “professional” drivers and their employees – in this case buses and taxis. It is pleasing to read that some Bus Companies are being more active (in a meeting “Helmet camera Cyclist”). Such tragedies do occur, and as I have commented on before cycle helmets are not proven safety devices - this poor cyclist was not saved by his helmet.

Cyclists are not the only vulnerable road users though – a teenager was hit when riding a quad bike and seriously injured in Cambridge recently. Mind you cars aren’t a guarantee of safety either – driver seriously injured as car overturns. This was in an area of Cambridge with 30mph limits.

I ought to finish on a high note though more of Kelly Brook in high heels cycling, and in the interests of balance Adam Sandler, but not in high heels. This Yehuda Moon cartoon says it all about cycling clothes!

All cyclists (and Potential cyclists) welcome – Ben Hayward Cycle shop - 2004

And on an amusing note – “one of our pet hates about our neighbours is when they steal our parking spaces on the road”. It’s funny how we think we own the road in front of our houses! Oh yes one very last thing – Cambridge is the UK’s geekiest city – now who would have thought that.


Power heading for Cambridge for all those electric cars (and computers)

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