Monday, January 23, 2012

A nicer place to live or faster roads–I know which I want

Friday, 20th January 2012: At the moment the weather seems to be changeable. It varies from freezing to around 10C almost on a daily basis. Some days it is calm, some days it can suddenly get blustery and although this part of the world (the Flatlands of East Anglia) is pretty dry we do seem to be getting a bit of rain. The weather graphs for Friday show persistent rain from about 9.30am through to 6pm and the graphs for the month of January show temperatures bouncing, the wind blowing and rain along with some sunshine as well.

Now I had a lunchtime meeting that was going to make an excellent excuse to get out for a ride and a bit of fresh air. Although I do have some cycling gear, including Lycra I am also in cycling being an every day thing that you can and should do in normal clothes. The trouble is the more cycling is marked out as a specialist activity requiring special clothing the easier it is to marginalise – think Lycra Louts or MAMILs.

The result is that cycling becomes marginalised and gives our politicians the excuse not to spend money on decent facilities, it allows motorists the excuse to transfer blame onto cyclists whether it is for not wearing a helmet or lights or bright gear. All of which really just allow motorists to drive faster and with less attention on the road. (IMHO).

One of the blame points appears to be on cyclists who jump red lights. Well look at this You tube video  “Cyclists don’t stop at RED” to see just how well behaved motorists aren’t.  When I saw it I couldn’t believe how wild-west the roads have become.

Mind you that was only a “few” motorists jumping red lights, the “majority of cyclists jump red lights.” Well no that is not true – a study in London by the Road Network Performance & Research Team looked at the “Proportion of Cyclists Who Violate Red Lights in London” showed that it was a small minority. It was still too large, but nowhere near a majority. (See Section 7, Summary on page 28. On average 16% of cyclists jumped red lights on a selection of traffic-light controlled crossings in London and yes I think it is mad too.)

Temporary Traffic Lights – Coton, a roof being re-thatched

One of the consequences is “Cotton wool children”. According to the article only one in five children play out every day, one in ten has never ridden a bike and a third have never built a den or climbed a tree. In our safety obsessed culture why would you let children do any of those dangerous things!

Despite have quite a few cycle accidents when I was a young lad and also falling out of trees a few times I didn’t actually break any bones until a couple of years ago (and well beyond being a young lad) when I was in a SMISDY and got knocked off my bike by a car driver who didn’t see me. (I got the classic, for cyclists, broken collar bone for his troubles.)

Anyone for tree-climbing? A Misty tree somewhere in Cambs

Although the guidance for motorists in this country is to pay special attention to  road users requiring extra care (rules 204  - 225) as a society I worry that we are over optimising the way we live for  motorists and their throughput. I reckon that many roads have gotten nosier, whether it is more traffic or nosier tyres I don’t know. The consequence is that many of us use mp3 players to drown out the unpleasantness.  Well apparently “Serious accidents triple for pedestrians wearing headphones”. This results from “inattentional blindness”.

If you read the article, look at the quote from the AA man at the bottom. It is funny how only “Pedestrians and cyclists seem to get lost in a private cocoon when  they’re on a mobile in the street, or wearing headphones”. If you take this to a logical conclusion then shouldn’t we also ban car stereos, SatNavs, hands-free mobile phones and talking amongst car occupants. After all driving a lump of metal around and suffering from inattention seems to be far more serious than bone, flesh and water.

I wonder if this was inattentional blindness? “Oops, I didn’t see the signs and flashing lights: Woman ‘lucky to be alive’ after driving into path of oncoming train”. Fortunately there were no serious consequences.

A Low Tech Level Crossing near Westley Bottom

In case you are wondering – although I got a cycle cape for Christmas the combination of wind and rain stopped me from trying it out – I ended up driving to my meeting instead.

Sad smile

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