Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Increase in Cyclists to blame for unexpected rise in deaths and injuries on Cambridge Road

Friday, 8th June 2012:  Now I though I’d escaped the lurgy early, but I succumbed. It was a combination type of illness, a sore neck, followed by 24 hours tonsillitis, then feeling ok for a day before getting a sore throat and then the dreaded cough. I also felt lethargic. Now none of this was serious, but has it put me off cycling, in the rain anyway. It has been pretty wet every other day or so so far in June.

There certainly has been a fair bit of rain recently – with “Stormy skies ahead” promised. (Although we have yet to have hailstorms like Colorado – so thick it is as if it had snowed.) We also have hosepipe bans around and about and have been repeatedly told that there is no way the recent spell of wet weather will make up for the couple of years of low rainfall (in the South).  Mind you if you live in the Thames Water are you can take comfort that the Chief is getting a £420,000 bonus. he must be doing something right – although the article does suggest a drop in profits and deteriorating satisfaction rates – so I am not quite sure what it is he is doing right.

However if we fast forward to now (when I am actually writing this post) – “Drought: Three water firms set to lift hosepipe bans”. Humm, do they actually know how to run water companies?

So although I had to pop to the Science Park for a Friday morning meeting which is hardly a spit away I didn’t have the “energy” to cycle. So I drove, now I have a Diesel Land Rover which features in this cycling blog as a reminder of ills of car ownership. (I am not looking for sympathy, just doing my public duty to show how car ownership is not a bundle of laughs.

The good thing is that by driving I was also going to do my bit for road safety. What you say, how does that work – well apparently “Rising number of cyclists blamed for higher than expected deaths and injuries on Cambridgeshire roads”. Those blooming cyclists are riding 8% more in the county and 14% more in the city and the Council might miss their safety targets. The 2011 Joint Road Casualty Data can be found here and the pdf on pedal cycles here.  Just like certain Government Ministers the data tends to use measures such as Accidents per 10,000 Population rather than per billion kilometres cycled. The danger is that simplistically the easiest way to hit the targets is to discourage cyclists and get us all in cars – which are safer!

Oops they do have a rate of death and serious injury chart 1.3 (“dig those medieval Excel chart colours).  Pedal cycles are second only to Motor Cycles. Mind you another way of looking at  the data is to consider the number of deaths and seriously injured per some number of hours.

Here are the minutes reviewing the Council’s performance against targets. Is it just me, or is it pretty disgraceful that the budget numbers all come first and only when we get to 4,3 Amber indicator’s does the deaths and serious injuries on the roads get discussed.

It also gets picked up in the Cambridge News although this time there isn’t the completely unfounded “blame on cyclists”. They still like a headline though – “Motorists accused of intimidation as cyclist injuries rise”. The article indicates that the increase in killed/serious injuries for cyclists was 14% although the number of cyclists increased by only 8%. (in the County, versus 12% for the City).

Well it is a good thing that the City Council has signed up  to the Times cycle campaign because that means they’ll do something about it… Although “fit for purpose” cycling facilities are a lot less expensive than building roads they still cost money. You can’t just slap a bit of paint down and share a few pavements and think that the job’s done. If you don’t spend money then it costs lives. This also goes against the hope that more cyclists on the road make it safer for cyclists.  Mind you there is not enough of the data to understand quite what is going on. Here is RadWagon’s take on it Cambridgeshire Cycling Gets More Dangerous..  One of the important factors is that you can either make roads safer by making them virtually undriveable traffic calming, or you can enforce the existing laws that impinge on real safety. Sadly there is too often the belief that car accidents are random accidents – despite the guidance in the Highway Code.

So I set off in the Squealing Pig, doing my bit to help our Council hit their targets (my nickname for my Land Rover discovery 3 – after it developed a strange intermittent squealing noise from the brakes). The last time I drove my car was on the way back from having the Air Conditioning mended. So less than five miles. Well this time, less than half a mile down the road the engine warning light came on – so I turned around and borrowed my wife’s car.  Which was a good thing because my car is diesel and hers is petrol – and after the push to get us all to drive more fuel efficient diesel cars it turns out they’re are a “major cancer risk” (another reason for  segregating cycling and motor vehicles).

Talking of warning lights the AA is upset that the Police are ticketing motorists who flash other motorists to warn them of speed traps. I admit to being concerned that the AA believes that issuing tickets is a “moral and legal minefield”.  I am an associate member and I expect the AA to come out and sort my car out when it breaks down – not defend law-breaking that has a direct impact on road safety.   Let’s all have GPS systems in our cars and be done with it.

Have you noticed how motor vehicles rarely speed where there are average speed cameras. Let’s develop low cost average speed cameras that would be an alternative to GPS trackers and despite what is said IMHO it seems to do the trick and slow everyone down to a safe and constant flow. I certainly think it makes driving through roadworks much easier when all the vehicles are pretty much at the same speed.

When I got to where I was going I rang the Land Rover Garage (Marshall) who said they were fully booked until the 20th June, but might be able to look at it if I popped it in. I don’t use my car that often, but I wasn’t comfortable driving around with a fault showing so I said I would pop it in and they could keep it until they fixed it.

After my meeting I went home and had a quick look on the Web. My first thought had been that the problem was caused by the Air Con fix – a lose wire or something. The Web indicated that faulty EGR valves (exhaust Gas Relief) which are more for efficiency than anything. They also sounded expensive (as there are two) and whilst the car would be drivable other faults might get masked. So I popped my bike in the back of the car and nipped over to Marshall’s Garage.

I had things to do so basically nipped straight home and only took one picture. This is the route taken by NCN51 through the Park & Ride on Newmarket Road. Basically you end up cycling through the middle of a car park – not the safest route I would have thought.

The P&R has both lockers and a small number of cycle racks that are used but don’t fill up. This P&R doesn’t really attract cyclists from the surrounding villages like the P&R over at Babraham Road. Apparently that attracts staff at Addenbrookes how park for free and then walk/cycle to the nearby hospital thereby saving the coast of staff on-site parking.

I did wonder how much these lockers are and whether there is any space.  - but all I could find was a contact number on this CCC Cycle Parking page also proudly boasting Ten bikes per day are stolen in Cambridge. Not all P&Rs have them and I am not totally sure what the rationale is – they don’t seem to be marketed much. There was a summary of the situation performed by CCyC in 1999 so that is also out of date.  Here is a typical story – you cycle 10,000 miles around the world only to have you bike stolen on return to the UK. It was locked – that was in another cycling areas – Bristol – where it is Better by Bike.

NCN51 passing through the Newmarket Road P&R

Late morning I got a call from Marshals, they had found a spare Bod who had been able to fix my car.  So I nipped back on my bike, the problem was a lose sensor lead, they’d fixed it and washed and vacuumed the car – all for free.  I have to say the service from Marshalls is pretty damn good a the moment – it almost makes up for how unhappy I am with the Squealing Pig.

My occasional drives do remind me that it is better by bike though. Although worryingly there were 26 arrests in first week of drink-drive crackdown. One of the factors in  the County’s road safety problem?

Also whilst on the subject of car parking – well Cambridgeshire County Council made £4,000,000 in parking tickets over the last two years apparently with 80,000 tickets issued. Quite a few motorists who aren’t law-abiding then.

And finally here is a link to some more celebrity cycling Pink and her daughter enjoying a ride.

In case you were wondering I seem to cough loads especially when I go to bed and when I wake up.

 Sad smile


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