Tuesday, 4th June 2013: Sometimes I don’t use the time I save not commuting by cycling, instead I go out for walks with my wife and in this case my daughter. Her exams went well – so she can now enjoy the loooonnnnnggggg break.One of the places my wife used to take the kids to when they were toddlers was Anglesey Abbey.
There is loads of space with gently rolling slopes that make it ideal for young ones finding their feet. Also they don’t allow dogs, I know that sounds harsh. But anyone who has had young kids will know how prone they are to getting dog poo on themselves and how unpleasant it is to remove it.
Finally, in my sales pitch for Anglesey Abbey, that same expanse of grass can also be used for a picnic, which is ideal with young kids. Now this time around we didn’t take a picnic, nor look around the house – we just had a very pleasant stroll around the grounds. It was late in the day and not at all busy – perhaps because there is so much space.
But first, a short while ago I was moaning that there were going to be trials for an 80mph Motorway speed limit and I basically felt the whole thing was a waste of time and money and it would seem that the Government agrees with me and has ditched plans. I think the RAC quote says it all:
The RAC said it was disappointed with the decision to drop the speed limit increase. Motoring groups had argued that 80mph is a safe speed in a modern car, providing drivers leave enough room between vehicles.
Anyone who drives will know that tail-gating is a real problem. Many times I have taken pictures form various bridges over the A14/A11/M11 showing tail-gating. My daughter was asked about the rhyme to help motorists ensure they leave an appropriate gap in her theory driving test.
Answers on a postcard … yes it is the Two-second rule. You ought to try it out next time you are in a motor vehicle. You start saying the rhyme “Only a fool breaks the two second rule” when the vehicle in front passes a static marker of some sort. Of course you should use a normal speaking rate and if you pass the marker before you have finished you are too close. According to the Wiki article some suggest that it should be three seconds and under non-ideal conditions anything up to six seconds.
It still surprises me how many vehicles tail-gate. Given that 50mph is 80.5Km/hr then every two seconds you travel 45m - pace it out. Apparently the average step length is 32”, which is 80cm. So 45m is 56ish paces. Clearly the smaller you are the more paces it would be. It is quite far isn’t it.
Even driving at 30mph (the usual UK street limit) the gap should be 0.4 * 45m = 18m or 22 paces. Quite a distance and necessary.
The trouble is as motorists we all have sympathy for the plight of other motorists when we pass some sort of incident. The thought is probably “there go I but for the grace of god”. The trouble is that “accidents happen” mentality is what leads to such poor standards of motoring. Here is an example of a Judge using the term “could have happened to anybody”, in a cycling fatality.
It seems to me we get hung up on sins of commission and sins of omission, to borrow a phrase. Clearly if someone deliberately steals from a shop say, then most of us would agree that is a crime and deserves some form of punishment. (I personally think that the “punishment” should also focus on helping the individual get off the treadmill of crime.) The same may also be said to be true in motoring terms,. If a person were to drive along a street with a 30mph limit, at 100mph then that would appear to be a deliberate act and it is easy to think that it should be punished in some way.
Where most people probably get a bit less certain is in the case of a driver straying over the speed limit – say driving at 32mph instead of 30mph. How should that be punished – well ACPO guidelines would appear also to consider that “accidental” and only recommend a charging threshold of 35mph (and summonses threshold of 50mph). Some of the reasons we drivers give is that modern cars are so much safer and have better brakes and are so much more powerful that it would be more dangerous to have to keep looking at the speedometer rather than look at the road.
I think that argument is slightly dodgy, since it implies a lack of driving skill, however one solution would be to make better use of GPS/electronic systems on cars. It wouldn’t be difficult to stick a few buttons on the steering wheel – say 20, 30 50 60 and after pressing them a warning would sound if the car was exceeding the limit set.
I was talking about this with my daughter, who has been driving for nearly three years (2 as a qualified driver) and she asked, “given we have a 70mph speed limit why are so many cars able to go much faster”. A quick check on the web throws up various spurious technical reasons but the bottom line must be that is is a political reason. After all coaches are fitted with speed limiters.
The trouble is despite the huge accident toll on the roads with over 24,000 people killed or seriously injured in the year ending Sept 2102, the effect is distributed through the country and through the year which dilutes the impact.
The trouble is that we forget that whilst the Highway Code might well say all the right things in terms of driving more slowly around vulnerable road users or driving more slowly when the conditions are not ideal. The trouble is much of the Code is just that a code. For instance:
205 There is a risk of pedestrians, especially children, stepping unexpectedly into the road. You should drive with the safety of children in mind at a speed suitable for the conditions.
The trouble is this is not quantified and so whilst the Driving Test might well spell this out, pretty soon young drivers will find themselves tail-gated when trying to follow the spirit of the Code.
We do seem to vilify drink drivers, “Judge’s fury at busy day for drink drive offences”. Yet other offences are not seen in quite the same light. When I am cycling and get overtaken by a vehicle with hardly a gap I can tell you I feel pretty intimidated
The trouble is whilst fines are a mechanism for punishment they also become a target for cheap comments such as “milking the motorist”. Which does imply that a lot of motorists take the view that the rules are arbitrary – or perhaps should only apply to the other motorists.
Still enough of that – time for some of my pictures of Anglesey Abbey. These trees (Silver Birch) are along the Winter Walk, but look good in the Spring as well. Apparently they get power washed to keep them looking clean and smooth?
The Winter Walk
This looks more interesting than implied by my picture – well that’s what I think. Wisteria growing up amongst other trees.
Wisteria in the trees
I wanted to get some in focus and some out – but didn’t change my depth of field enough.
I think of this as the Lightning Tree – it was a Redwood. I seem to recall the kids telling me it was struck twice.
Avenue of Trees – Horse Chestnut
Game birds are not my strong point – but with the power of the Internet a quick look suggests this may be a Partridge of some sort.
Game Bird – sticking its tail feathers out
This chap has a boring job – counting out the visitors as they leave.
And finally, finally some interesting pictures – post apocalyptic New York (courtesy of Apple Maps), the Windy City in fog and buildings abandoned by civilisation.