Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cycle accidents caused by others - shock

Illnesses are like buses - nothing comes along for ages (fortunately) and then you get two in a row - well two in December anyway. I started the week with something or other - an almost migraine-level headache and nausea - it did not last for more than 48 hours but left me feeling washed out and reluctant to cycle out in the cold weather. (Or perhaps that is just laziness!). The trouble is if I don't venture out then I don't take photographs and then my blog postings start to dry up. So my apologies for the sparsity of posts recently.

There has been some interesting reading in the press recently. There has been advice issued to councils (Local government groups in England that organise and run local services) by the Government to start introducing 20mph zones in all residential areas and near schools and to reduce speed limits on rural single-carriageway roads from 60mph to 50mph where there is a history of accidents. It is reported on the BBC website - "Lower speed limits advised for road accident blackspots". The BBC website also has an interactive graphic which shows different breakdowns of the accidents - for instance 3/4 of fatalities are men. They also have a map which you can use to investigate your own area for where roads deaths occurred in the period 1999-2008.

I think that there ought to be a pro-active introduction of the lower speed limits, but would prefer not to see wiggly roads with build-outs and road humps. I would prefer that average speed cameras be used. Why - well that way drivers tend to drive at the limit bot slow down and then speed up. This would make the roads quieter as well as safer and help the perception that roads were getting safer - which is a major factor when people consider whether to cycle or not.

Apparently Cambridge has been named as one of Britain's safest cities, here report in the Cambridge Evening News. There accident rate here was 15.7% lower than the national average - so OK - but nothing to really boast about. The data was also based upon a survey of accident claims rates by insured motor vehicles so does not take into account other road users - pedestrians and cyclists for instance.

My theory is that the traffic flow in Cambridge is now so slow so that it is the congestion that has resulted in a reduction in the number of accidents. However it is also possible that there has been a modal shift - with more people using other forms of transport. The measure for the level of danger is number of reported accidents per insured driver. So as most people probably keep their car but shirt of other forms of transport for their daily journeys the measure of danger might just reflect a shift in car usage to other forms of transport.

And finally.. That old chestnut about reckless cyclists being the cause of accidents has been laid to rest. The Guardian reported on a Bike Accident Study that suggests risky cycling is rarely to blame. A tiny proportion of accidents involving cyclists was caused by red light or stop sign jumping or lack of lights or high-vis clothing. A significant proportion of the accidents were caused by vehicles running into bikes. This certainly supports my view that the real problem is bad driving. I think that driving has become harder than it used to be and certainly more stressful - in fact life has become more stressful. This leads to too many car drivers taking an arrogant stance on the road and trying to blame others for their own shortcomings - which leads to a lack of consideration for others. I have started taking more note when driving of what happens at traffic light junctions - in a short journey yesterday I saw one car go through after the light had turned red for several seconds and other cars accelerate when the light turned amber. For some reason it is not so noticeable when larger vehicles jump the lights perhaps.

Because I have not been out on my bike for a few days (except to get the daily newspaper) I have picked a picture I took earlier in the year after we had some snow in March. Ely cathedral is in the distance. Why - well apparently we might be getting some snow overnight!


I have to go to London tomorrow - so will be cycling to the railway station - let's hope there is a nice carpet of snow.

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