Monday, January 9, 2012

What are the causes of Cycling Accidents?

Friday, 6th January 2012: There is a lot of debate about how to get more people cycling and of course the old chestnut of whether cycling is dangerous or not. I like to think that ultimately decisions and choices should be based upon data or facts. The trouble is it can be quite difficult sorting those “facts” and then working out what are the causes and the effects. We can’t forget that changes can also have unintended effects. (Rabbits were introduced into Australia for hunting purposes – causing massive ecological changes.) Mix in a political angle, not too mention how such things are costed and you end up with a right mess. 

That seems to be where “Cycling” is in the UK at the moment. At times like this you have to try to simplify the issues. So, I suppose that at its simplest Cycling is a Mode of Transport first and perhaps a sport (or exercise) second. There have been several “Bike Booms” over the years, however in the boom of  the 1890s the safety bicycle was one of the main reasons that roads got paved. Why was it so popular – well I guess it was “cheap” personal transport. There are many other benefits that can be derived from cycling – but they are derived from its main role and to be fair there are also some disadvantages.

So fast-forward to now and let’s ask the question – what sort of place to we want to live and how can we at a minimum sustain it and preferably improve it. Now this is not a question for those with money or car owners or people in work, this is a question for all society, We were all young and most of us will get old – so we need to consider what the long-term consequences are.

Why, when an old-person wants to cross a road, why should they have to go out of their way to a crossing and then wait until the lights say they can cross. Who in their right mind lets kids wander around their area because of those busy roads? Although it wasn’t like that when I was younger. Why has it become acceptable to give motor vehicles such a priority over our lives. Why do we have to endure the noise and air pollution and loss of countryside?

Why have so many village shops, pubs and post offices closed – which no-one thinks about until they’ve gone and then it is often too late to do anything about them. It has been said that “Opium is the religion of the people” (by Karl Marx of course), well I think that “cars are the crack cocaine of modern society”. Great if you are a rich footballer who can afford a stable of the finest cars.  But for the less well off they become a habit that needs feeding and it isn’t going to get any better and there is not a lot our Politicians can do about it. Yes they  can paper the cracks, but lets face it petrol is going up in price – it’s called supply and demand.

So why this diatribe? Well the habit needed paying for in my case. The Squealing Pig had to go in to have the parking sensors fixed. As Joni Mitchell once sang “you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone” certainly applies to parking sensors.  I am not looking for sympathy here, at least I can afford to get it fixed. As is my custom I popped my bike in the back of the car, that way at least I got a bit of fresh air by taking a slightly scenic long-cut on the way home.

Now I believe that cycling is most definitely a Mode of Transport and not a Dangerous Sport and has many, many benefits one of them being it is fun. I circled away from Marshalls Garage down onto Stourbridge Common and instead of heading home decided to cycle up through to Quy and make a decision then. There is something about cycling as the sun is coming up.

I joined NCN51, cycled through Ditton Meadows, stopped at the crossing on Ditton Lane, where you seem to wait for ages. The motor vehicles have definitely got the priority on that road. Then onto the shared-use path leading off from Thorpe Way. It is a pleasant detour, but why was that path made so narrow?  I sometimes wonder whether the power that be deliberately create narrow shared-use paths to bring cyclists into conflict with pedestrians and dog walkers. There is a master-plan to marginalise cyclists in society.

Then I passed under the large Cycle sculpture, shown here- but at a different time of year.

The Newmarket Road Park & Ride Cycle route exit

The sight that greeted me was this one – one of a sun rising and lighting up the trees along the edge of the car park. So I pulled off the cycle lane, so as not to block other cyclists and to take my camera out.

Well that was the intention. I then found myself rolling along the ground as my bike slipped away from me. I had no idea what was happening but as I tried to get up and started slipping I realised that I had inadvertently cycled on black ice.

I haven’t fallen off my bike for a while, but this increases the number of accidents that have been related to cycle paths. Personally I would much rather cycle on a cycle path than on the road. However I also agree that there is probably a grain of truth in the suggestion that cycle paths are not safer than roads. Just as cyclists are considered as second-class citizens so are the “special” facilities built for them. My only serious cycle accident was on the road – a car ran into me and broke my collar bone in a SMIDSY.

This is the place I fell off, just as I reached the red-brick between car parking space. I suppose you could say what was I doing cycling on the parking area and it is my own fault. However given the Car Park is manned and they apparently do a risk assessment for things like ice I just think this is an example of how bicycles are not treated as a Mode of Transport. I did report it and got a sorry mate. I had to stop and straighten things up on my bicycle as the saddle had been knocked skew-whiff.

I want proper cycle facilities please and would happily see congestion charges being used to that end here in Cambridge – Congestion Charges Bring life to Cities.

The good news was that I had slowed down before the fall and I am getting better at rolling rather than sticking my hand. So I only have some minor bruises around me knees and shoulders. My trousers got a bit abraded and so did my front light.

At least I didn’t have my bicycle stolen by this “Cowardly and despicable thief”.

You can just about make out the patch I slid on, near the white, ninety degree corner marking. As this cyclist went by I was in two minds about warning them. However didn’t because I figured that if they didn’t quite hear me and cycled towards me then they were bound to fall.

After sorting my bike I decided I needed to cycle for at least some distance before heading home to make sure it was OK. If it wasn’t ok then my back up plan was to lock it up at the P&R and get the bus back.

I was OK to cycle and so was the bike and so I did go up to Quy and back although I found myself watching the track surface like a hawk.

Here is my shadow projected by the early morning sun onto a newly ploughed field.

My aches and pains increased slightly during the day, but not enough to stop me cycling off to collect my car. Full marks to the Service Advisor who was very pleasant and kept me informed on what was happening to my car. Part of the wiring harness needed replacement.

Cambridgeshire County Council has a policy, but the news groups still report black ice cycling accidents and it took a lot of people to complain to get the County Council to take notice.  That is in a City many would consider to be one of the best places to cycle, unlike London – where despite having a cycling Mayor things seem to be going from bad to worse.

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