road safety

Warning to van drivers- stop talking bollocks and learn how to drive 5

On the way to work on Thursday I passed a van belonging to a company called PTS (probably this PTS, the logo looks the same. On the rear left hand corner of the van was a sticker which read (roughly, this is from memory)-

“Warning to cyclists! This van may turn left, do not pass on the inside.”

The person who had this printed up and attached to the van may have thought they were being helpful. Some of you may wonder why they’re bothering to state the obvious. I saw it and translated it to-

“Warning! The driver of this van may be a moron who doesn’t know how to use their mirrors or indicators. We’ve stuck this bullshit notice here as an attempt to cover our arses if they do anything stupid.”

Cyclists know that drivers sometimes turn left. That is why, whenever we’re going up the inside of traffic, particularly close to junctions, we’re on the lookout for drivers who are about to make manoeuvres. When drivers have the sense and decency to indicate it makes our, and their, lives so much easier.

I can’t help thinking that telling people you may do something stupid at some point in the future isn’t a valid defence when you go ahead and do that stupid thing. It probably makes the stupidity worse. The sign on the PTS van feels like a lazy attempt to blame any future victims when the company should be ensuring the competence of its drivers. They should make sure they’re drivers understand mirror-signal-manoeuvre, not make excuses for them.

I cycled past the van on the inside.

Bikes are brilliant, drivers are shite

Yesterday afternoon I set off to ride into town. On Burton Road I sat in the filter lane, waiting to turn right onto Yew Tree Lane. There was a car coming the other way and I reckoned the gap wasn’t wide enough to make it across in time. The driver pulling out of Yew Tree, on the other hand, thought they had loads of time to turn right. Without bothering to look at what was in front of them.

The car hit the pannier rack on the back of the bike, damaging the rack and mudguard enough that they needed replacing. I managed to keep from falling over, though something did whack my inner right thigh hard enough to give me a big oblong bruise. As it becomes more distinct I may be able to work out what I bashed against.

I slapped the side of the car and rather loudly berated the driver then pulled my bike out from in front of it so we could clear the junction and they could apologise and arrange to pay for any damage. Except they didn’t stop. Though it appeared they were going to pull in at first, they decided not to and just turned down the next junction and drove off. Luckily the driver behind them had taken their licence plate, so I’ve reported them to the Police. Hopefully they’ll get a fine and points for dangerous driving and/or leaving the scene of an accident, but I’m not optimistic.

Having written about my incident I would like to point out that it’s only the second time in 21 years of cycling around Manchester (and one or two other cities) that I’ve been hit by a car. I did once ride into the back of a car because I let myself get distracted by the driver who should have been behind me but was actually beside me and trying to be on top of me, but that’s something else. I’ve fallen off a few times as well, often for comedy reasons. (Ride over an empty drinks can and the ends curve in and lock around your front wheel. This can then rotates with the wheel until it hooks under your mudguard, locking the wheel and throwing you over the handlebars.) But, really, my riding career has been safe and enjoyable overall.

I’ve spent thousands of hours, and covered thousands of miles, on my bikes. I’ve saved thousands of pounds in bus fare and visited parts of the city that I wouldn’t have got to otherwise. I’ve commuted and ridden for pleasure, transported stuff and gone shopping. And, until last year when I went soft and became rain averse, bikes have provided exercise which has kept me slimmer than anyone who eats and drinks as well as I do deserves to be.

Bikes are brilliant. If only we could get those idiot drivers off our roads.

The Government has declared war on pedestrians, cyclists and the environment!

Not really- or at least, not formally- but they have, in the shape of Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark, echoed motorists self-pitying rhetoric as justification for yet more regressive policies. Two parking related policies- one encouraging more sensible use of space in new builds the other attempting to encourage more people onto public transport- have been “relaxed”. So we’ll get more suburban sprawl and more urban jams and the people who’ll suffer because of this aren’t the drivers or the politicians hoping to win their votes.

There is no war on motorists. There have been policies which have attempted to reduce congestion, and many of us would like drivers to take more responsibility for the damage they, collectively and individually, cause, but that’s not a war. If it were a war it would be fair to say that the motorists are winning. They kill thousands of people every year and injure scores more- and quite often get away with it, receiving minor or no punishment. They have newspapers and politicians on their side and a prejudice amongst the public which somehow paints the far less dangerous cyclist as the great evil of the highways.

If the Government really wants to make life easier for “decent, ordinary motorists” then some tough love would be a better prescription than the constant coddling they do at the moment. More actively punish dangerous drivers- such as the idiots who talk on their mobile whilst driving. Enforce parking restrictions more rigorously, particularly around schools at the start and end of the day. Close some roads and reduce the speed limit on others. Make short, inefficient, road clogging car journeys a thing of the past. (I don’t know how to go about that last one, but millions of journeys every year are walking distance and millions more are cycling distance. The pointlessness of these journeys- and the health and wealth benefits of doing them by foot or pedal- needs to be made clearer to drivers.)

We’re not at war with drivers, no matter how much they behave like the enemy. But we should be at war with the sort of selfishness and blindness which gives rise to dumb phrases such as “the war on motorists”.

Get off my road!

There’s something about news items featuring cycles, particularly stories with a bearing on safety, which brings out the idiots. John Paul Allen was hit and killed by a car on Liverpool Road in Eccles. Which is a tragedy in itself, so why must the morons pile on in the reports comment thread just to compound it? There’s a load of the usual rubbish- Red light jumping, riding on the pavement, etc.- cited even though nothing in the report suggests Allen was doing any of these things. Yet when someone says that perhaps the driver was to blame (statistically more likely by 3 to 1 and almost certainly the truth as revealed in other comments) one of the reactionaries gets defensive and starts frothing and complaining about being victimised.

A complaint rattled out repeatedly by some of the haters is that cyclists don’t pay Road Tax, so they don’t deserve to be on the road. Nobody pays Road Tax, it doesn’t exist. Roads are funded out of Council Tax and general taxation. Even I, currently earning so little I don’t pay any income tax, fund road building through Council Tax and duty on essential items such as beer. Demonstrating their continued incomprehension, one of the commenters suggests that even though Road Tax isn’t real he’s allowed to cite it because he thinks it’s real. Sometimes I’d like to be able to reach through my monitor and slap people.

Another thing which annoys me about reporting of fatalities on the road is the coyness about what happened- the cyclist was “in collision with a Honda Civic”. Who hit whom? “In collision with” makes it sound like the bike rode into the car, when it’s almost certainly the other way around. I understand that there may be a wish to spare the grieving family further pain (in which case why allow the nasty, anti-cycling, “he was asking for it” tone in the comments?) and the paper may not be allowed to give out details which could prejudice a future conviction. But I’d like to see blame in these accidents correctly apportioned. Occasionally it will have been the fault of the cyclist, but many, many times more it will have been the driver who made a mistake which killed another person whilst they could walk away.

As the Government’s transport policy stands to make us all, but primarily cyclists and pedestrians, less safe on the roads, we need to more loudly point out that drivers are not the victims they claim to be and they should get a sense of proportion.

Drivers don’t think

Okay, the full title of the post I’m linking to is Drivers don’t think cyclists should be on the road, says DfT report, but observation shows my version is valid as well. I’ve not yet read the full report linked to in the post, but many of the points are laid out by Bikehub anyway. Drivers need to learn to share the road. Even if they don’t get out of their car and experience the freedom of riding, they could experience a health benefit if they’d just learn to stop being stressed about not making it to the next red lights a whole, ineffectual, ten seconds earlier.

I hate how drivers keep killing pensioners

If you read opinion pieces in papers, and even moreso the comments section on any piece about road safety and bicycles, you could be forgiven for thinking that the greatest evil on the roads these days is cyclists who run red lights. Even though I’m not the RLJ (red light jumper) type, and get exasperated by the people who cross pedestrian crossings when they should be stopping instead, I want their critics to shut up or develop some perspective.

Cyclists do not ignore the amber light and then hit a pensioner whilst going 45mph. They’re unlikely to hospitalise two teenagers by driving into them. On a very, very rare and unfortunate occasion a cyclist will hit a pedestrian and kill them. But for every time this happens well over a thousand people are killed by motor vehicles.

So until people give a proportionate amount of opprobrium to drivers who ignore, or speed up for, the amber light, use their phone whilst driving, turn without signalling, speed and commit any number of other potentially fatal sins they can’t expect me to respect their opinion when they whine about cyclists.

The School Run patrol

Bedford Borough Council is doing something drastic to make its roads safer- it’s taking on the school run. The council has invested in a car mounted camera system which can be used to patrol outside schools and record instances of bad driving, so selfish parents are going to start getting fines for dangerous driving.

Unsurprisingly, spokesmen for Big Brother Watch, Association of British Drivers and TaxPayers’ Alliance fail to get the point, basically whining that mums who break the law should be allowed to get away with it. School runners who park on double yellows are a danger, they put other parents’ children, and other road users, at risk, cause congestion and are promoting unhealthy and antisocial behaviour to their kids.

My only issue with the council is the impression they give that this will be an ongoing, multi year operation. They should aim to stop this sort of behaviour completely, so that the car can then be used to penalise those bastards who park in cycle lanes.

This statistic explains so much

52% of 1000 drivers surveyed by a used car retailer didn’t know the correct sequence of traffic lights. This would explain, but not excuse, the excessive number of idiots who speed up on amber. Could the new Transport Secretary spend a little money educating dangerous drivers? I’m sure the country would save much more than it cost in the long run.

The new Transport Secretary is a danger to my safety

If Phillip Hammond is as clueless as he sounds then he’s going to make my life more dangerous. While some cyclists put themselves at risk through their behaviour there are a far larger number of drivers endangering other people with their actions. And they don’t even have to be the sort of idiot who thinks the road belongs to them. A member of Team Spinneyhead now has a broken collarbone after an otherwise mild mannered and pleasant driver opened their car door on him.

Drivers need to be more aware of what goes on around them, and how all the things which make them safer distance them from, and endanger, the rest of us. They need to go slower on most urban roads and be removed completely from some. And they need to see more cyclists on the roads, which isn’t going to happen if the policy on cycling is “build more off road paths and they’ll go away”.

Do double yellow lines mean anything? 2

Do double yellow lines mean anything?

This is a Mercedes parked on double yellow lines and well up onto the pavement. Nothing so strange about that. But it’s parked right in front of the entrance to the Bootle Street Police station in the centre of Manchester. I’ve blanked out the number plate, because anyone who can get away with this obviously has a bit of clout, but if the Police would like to actually do their job…….

I know that parking on double yellows down a little used side street isn’t much of a crime, but doing it right outside the Police station shows a bit much arrogance and contempt for the law for my liking.

27 percent more idiots on the roads

Mobile phone use by drivers has risen by 27 percent. When you look beyond the headline that’s between 1.4% and 2.6% of road users (white van man lives up to the stereotype by being at the high end). It may not sound like a lot, until you’re crossing the road or cycling along it when one of these fools comes along.

Hypocrite on board

I’m cycling along, passing a parked car when the traffic lights ahead turn amber. Immediately, the car behind me starts revving its engine. I pass the parked car and pull in. A ford focus accelerates past me and goes through the lights just as they turn red. Somehow I’m not surprised that there’s a ‘Baby On Board’ diamond in the rear window.

Update And then, on the way home….

There’s a cross junction on Yew Tree Road where we have to give way. I come up to the junction behind a van. After it pulls away I draw up to the line and look right. There are some cars approaching, but they’re far enough off to ignore. I look left. There’s a pickup, much closer.

Before I get a chance to judge the pickup’s speed the driver behind me lays on his horn and leans out the window and starts shouting at me to move (he’s going left and I’m blocking his way).

I give him a look and make a sort of “What?” gesture with my hand. He carries on shouting at me.

I look left again. The pickup has pulled onto the pavement and parked. If the shouty moron had kept his hands off the horn and his mouth shut I could have spotted this earlier and already been across the junction and out of his way. But he can’t see this. He thinks it’s my fault that he held me up.

Now I’m pissed off, so I don’t set off just yet. I don’t hold him up for too long, though. Morons in cars are unpredictable enough. Angry morons in cars are even worse. As we go our separate ways he gets the finger and some abuse in return from me.

So. If you’re an angry impatient moron in a silver/ pale blue Renault Clio next time keep your mouth shut and you might get there sooner.