Way back in the 1970s, Horsham built a stub of inner ring-road, a dual carriageway that was later extended in two stages to (almost) encircle the town centre. It’s called Albion Way.
It involved almost entirely demolishing a church…
and blasting a dual carriageway through a high street, to link up with a new Sainsbury’s, built on school playing fields (you can see the car park by the ‘A’ on the map above).
Frankly, it’s a bit of a monstrosity – overkill, given that it duplicates a bypass that encircles the town. The severance is crap for people walking and cycling, who only have a few places they can cross it, which are (with one exception) pretty awful.
Motor traffic on Albion has consistently fallen over the last decade, and it needs to be resolved. But even in its current form it represents a bit of a mixed blessing. The town planners who initially set about building it were quite clear that motor traffic should be removed and displaced from the town centre – and that has been achieved, pretty well. The area enclosed by the ring road has only one route through it, as shown below.
This is a one-way road – all the other streets in the town centre have been pedestrianised, or are dead-ends, or do not form useful routes to anywhere, and are only used for access. And the centre of Horsham as a whole was one of the first 20mph zones in Britain, dating back to 1992. As well shall see, the only route through the centre has traffic calming in the form of humps and a cobbled surface, and is deliberately tortuous, in an attempt to discourage people from using it as a through route, rather than the longer ring road (although in my experience many people still try).
It’s pretty good, and I have sung the praises of the town centre before, which has been improved further over the last few years by the progressive removal of motor traffic from more streets.
The only problem… is that cycling has been forgotten about. The town centre is impenetrable from most directions by bike, because of the one-way route through it (that doesn’t have an exemption), and pedestrianisation. There is no useful, direct route across the town from north to south, nor from east to west, nor from west to east. The only route through the town centre is by following the existing one-way street. This lack of permeability is really quite poor.
This may change. West Sussex County Council won some Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) cash in the last round of bidding, which has to be spent by April 2015 – some of that cash is coming to Horsham, to construct (amongst other things) a cycling route across the town, from the station (which lies to the north of the town centre) through to the south. This will obviously have to tackle the one-way system.
The planned route will come from the station, over the inner ring road on an existing shared walking and cycling route (running along the bridge in the picture earlier in this post). It then arrives in the Carfax, where it is confronted by the one-way road in the centre of the town.
The route will have to run from where the photograph is taken, to the red brick building in the distance. There is a huge amount of space available here, but there probably isn’t going to be much money to play with. That means relaying the street (playing with the cobbles!) to make the carriageway wider is unlikely.
My instinct tells me a simple contraflow would be the most straightforward (and cheapest!) approach – simply legalising cycling in a contraflow direction. But there are issues. The carriageway is not especially wide, and while the volume of traffic is not very high, at all, there are potential conflicts with a loading bay on one side, and a combined bus stop/loading bay on the other. This picture gives some idea of the potential difficulties.
The other alternative is to route the contraflow to the left (as we look at it) of that loading bay, but this is not particularly wide, and would obviously impinge upon walking. It’s probably a non-starter.
I’ve taken a short video of this section of road, at one of the busiest times of day, 5:30pm. This is when the density of people driving through the town centre tends to be highest – to pick up friends or relatives at the end of the day, to grab some cash from the banks nearby, or simply to use it as a shortcut. This is obviously combined with the buses – the frequency is not especially high, but it could be a problem.
See what you think – it gives a flavour of how difficult it could be to cycle in a contraflow direction, and also how easy it could be!
Outside of the morning and evening, I think a straightforward contraflow could work absolutely fine. The street is very quiet. Indeed, in the evening, and the middle of the day, it can be absolutely deserted. It’s also a low speed environment, with pretty good (by British standards) traffic calming.
But it could obviously present difficulties at peak times. The street is awkwardly designed, as far as two-way cycling is concerned – the narrow bits are in precisely the wrong place. Optimistically, if it is made obvious that there will be people cycling in a contraflow direction to people driving through the centre, my hope is that people will exercise common sense and not crash into each other.
The advantage of this approach is that will cost next to nothing, beyond signage. If, as I fear, it’s not good enough, and people simply can’t behave, then it will have to be changed.
My ideal solution would simply involve cutting out much more of the motor traffic – stopping the use of the Carfax as a route, by installing a bus gate halfway through it. Buses could still pass through (this is an important bus stop, right in the centre), but private motor traffic could not. The roads would be returned to two-way, for all vehicles.
This would stop people driving through, but would still allow access for people loading and delivering, and to the disabled parking bays in the town centre. Indeed, we have already had an (accidental!) trial of this system last year, when the humps in the Carfax were being repaired, and the route was blocked.
This closure point here would be the natural position for the bus gate. While these repairs were taking place (for over a month) people could still access all parts of the town centre, but couldn’t drive through. I even have a picture of a taxi driving the ‘wrong’ way down the section of road that will need two-way cycling!
This would be the ideal solution, but it would represent a bigger change, all for a mode a of transport that people around here don’t really think exists. It would be a much harder sell. The contraflow would be easier to implement, but sub-optimal.
I’m wondering what you think.
So another person cycling on a motorway has been stopped by the police.
The last time this happened – just a few weeks ago – Beyond the Kerb succinctly described the different types of ‘idiocy’ involved here.
I don’t for one moment condone the idiocy of venturing onto a motorway on a bicycle. And I suspect nor do you condone it. It’s insane. It’s incredibly dangerous. And it’s illegal, and in this case a fine was levied.
But nor do I for one moment condone the idiocy of highway engineering that directs people to behave in precisely the same manner (with about a quarter of the width of tarmac to cycle on and far fewer safety criteria for the road as a whole). Yet, most people do condone it. It’s insane. It’s incredibly dangerous. Yet it’s legal, and people get paid for it.
On the A3, just a few miles from where our first idiot had his collar felt, is engineering that designs in the exact behaviour he exhibited; behaviour that attracted widespread and vociferous criticism from the police, the media and an angry public. And this is far from an isolated example of such engineering.
The latest example of motorway cycling is even more delicious, in that the motorway the man was stopped on is, objectively, far less dangerous than the A-road he had previously been cycling on, which simply ‘becomes’ a motorway at Sunbury.
Lets take a look at these roads.
The chap was ‘surrounded’ by police vehicles and escorted from the motorway with a £50 fine.
The cyclist apparently joined the motorway after riding along the A316, but “didn’t think to stop and walk off,” as the police put it.
Well, quite. Given that the objective conditions on the M3 are superior to the A316, and that the two are essentially the same road, I can see where he’s coming from.
The cycling schemes in Bedford and Southampton – the ‘Turbo’ roundabout, and the Itchen Bridge junction – have been hitting the headlines recently. A post by SmallTown2K (who has been taking a thorough look at the Southampton scheme) goes some way towards explaining why what has ended up on the ground is so compromised -
In traffic engineering parlance, the junction does not operate satisfactorily in the AM peak. What this means is the junction is over capacity. I have no baseline Arcady (roundabout modelling software) for the roundabout to compare to, but the signals are likely lower in capacity and this indicates liable to cause congestion.
Obviously, traffic will readjust and vehicle congestion isn’t the be all and end all, except, in Southampton, almost everyone drives and angry drivers don’t re-elect people. Further, and perhaps less dramatically, as a highway authority, Southampton CC is bound to a Network Management Duty which means they must secure the “expeditious movement of traffic”, albeit that traffic is defined as all road users. In that vein it should be noted for non-locals that the Itchen Bridge is a key bus corridor and congestion over the bridge would affect all these routes and the large number of people thereupon (which offhand I would guesstimate outnumber cyclists in the order of 10:1).
It is this intersection of ‘keeping the traffic moving’ (conceived in terms of motor traffic) and political unwillingness to do anything that might disrupt ‘traffic’ (again, motor traffic) that has seen the removal of the ASLs from the original plans, the extra length of stacking lanes, and so on. The quality of the junction was sacrificed.
There’s a similar story behind the Bedford ‘Turbo’ roundabout. The council simply didn’t want to do anything that might have reduced the volume of motor traffic on the roundabout, resulting in the bodge that is finally going to see the light of day, with cycling effectively pushed onto shared use pavements, with a roundabout design that has the stated intention (whether it will succeed or not is another matter) of increasing motor traffic capacity.
The problem is that cycling is, as always, seen as something ‘extra’ to be accommodated around existing motor traffic, rather than a way of reducing congestion on the network as a whole. In a post yesterday Herbert Tiemens, of the Dutch Cycling Embassy, commented that
congestion easily evaporates with only a low percentage changing cars for bicycles
But we don’t seem to appreciate this in the UK – perhaps because we can’t get our heads around the fact that ‘ordinary’ people could actually switch from their cars to cycling, for short trips, if the conditions were more acceptable.
The truth is that designing junctions properly for cycling hugely increase the capacity of these junctions in terms of the movement of people, even if capacity for motor traffic is reduced.
I dug out an old video of mine, shot in Groningen in 2011, just to demonstrate how efficient junctions can actually be.
This is the north-west corner of Vismarkt, right in the centre of the city, at about 5:30pm.
The video is only 3 minutes long, but I managed to count around 350 people passing through this intersection in just that time – probably an underestimate, because the video doesn’t capture people crossing on the arm to the right. This is a rate of 2 people every second, which amounts to at least 7000 movements per hour. All this in a small space, with no need for signalisation, or delay.
By comparison, busy junctions like the Bedford ‘Turbo’ roundabout currently handle 25,000 vehicles over a 24 hour period, as does the roundabout at the northern end of Lambeth Bridge. This junction in Groningen is much, much more efficient at moving people about.
I’m not suggesting that the motor traffic on these roundabouts can, or even should, disappear. The broader point is that shifting people out of their cars and onto bikes would serve to reduce congestion, not increase it – even if that means taking junction capacity away from motoring. But it has to be done properly, so that cycling is a genuine, attractive alternative.
Many town and city centres in Britain have extensive pedestrianised areas. Often these areas will be surrounded by busy distributor roads, designed to accommodate the motor traffic that has been excluded from the pedestrianised streets (and which in practice have served to induce demand for driving within urban areas).
Given the hostility of these roads for those on bikes, it is not surprising that pedestrianised areas are attractive routes for cycling, even when (as is often the case) cycling is illegal within them. Pedestrianised streets are also important routes and destinations in their own right. So should cycling be allowed in pedestrianised areas?
Here’s what the Dutch CROW manual has to say -
Pedestrian precincts can be found in many city centres. Although this measure was prompted by the annoying presence of motorised traffic, many of these precincts are now only open to pedestrians, in order to create a pleasant and safe shopping atmosphere. However, the question is whether it is always necessary to prohibit bicycles as well as motorised traffic. After all, compared to the latter, cyclists cause hardly any nuisance. Another issue is that central areas and pedestrian precincts that are closed to cyclists often form a major barrier. Furthermore, these areas also accommodate a great many destination points for cyclists. Bicycle-friendly policy ensures that these destinations remain accessible to cyclists.
The manual then suggests that bicycle and pedestrian traffic can be combined if the number of pedestrians, per metre of route width, is below 200 per hour. (To take an example, for a ten-metre-wide shopping street, this would amount to 2000 pedestrians per hour walking past an imaginary fixed line on the street.) Above this level, the CROW manual does not recommend allowing cycling on these streets.
For pedestrian volumes of less than 100 per hour, per metre of route width, the CROW manual recommends ‘full combination’ – that is, just allowing cycling on a pedestrianised street, without any delineation. Between 100 and 200 pedestrians per hour, per metre, it recommends a marking out of a cycle route, with or without height difference, depending on pedestrian volume.
We have practical examples of this in the UK. East Street, in Horsham, is now closed to motor vehicles between 10:30am and 4:30pm each day, but with cycling still permitted. For these six hours, it’s a pedestrianised area, with cycling in it. After two years, there hasn’t been a single incident involving cycling, or complaint (as far as I am aware). There have been only two (slight) pedestrian injuries, both involving motor vehicles, outside of the ‘pedestrianised’ hours. It works well.
However the background assumption in the UK seems to be that cycling is ‘a problem’, that needs to be clamped down on, and eradicated in pedestrian areas, even where there is scope for its introduction. Cycling is banned on Guildford High Street during the day, for instance, despite this being a very wide street (and despite it forming part of the National Cycle Network).
Cycling is also banned, entirely, in the centre of Stevenage.
And there are doubtless many other examples. Councillors in Peterborough are agitating for a complete ban on cycling in the town centre.
The rationale for these bans – or the refusal to lift them – is usually a single incident (or even just an anecdote) about a near miss, or a collision, involving a pedestrian and a someone cycling. This is a poor basis for making policy, and, if applied to the road network as a whole, would lead to the wholesale closure of roads to motor vehicles.
Amazingly enough, we actually have some pretty good Department for Transport recommendations on cycling in pedestrian areas, that date back to 1993 – TAL 9/93 [pdf]. This guidance was itself informed by a Transport Research Laboratory study, PR15, Cycling in Pedestrian Areas - conducted at a time when the TRL was an executive arm of the DfT.
That study was based on hour-long footage of 21 pedestrianised sites – 12 in Britain (Beeston, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Chichester, Leicester, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough (2) and York) and 9 in Europe (3 each in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands), followed up by 12 hour video recording sessions at four British sites, and questionnaires.
There are some very interesting findings.
The TRL study gives some background on the nature of the injuries at three of the sites studied in greater detail -
The central conclusion of this TRL study – and one repeated by the DfT guidance – is that
Observation revealed no real factors to justify excluding cyclists from pedestrianised areas, suggesting that cycling could be more widely permitted without detriment to pedestrians.
One of the main reasons for reaching this conclusion is how people cycling in these areas behave. They have an interest in self-preservation; they slow and adapt their behaviour to how people are walking around them. The study makes an analogy with people running in pedestrian areas. They run faster when the street is open and clear, but when it is busier and congested, they slow. (And we wouldn’t dream of banning running in pedestrian areas!)
The study contains some interesting data on how people cycling behave, particularly in those study areas where cycling is not permitted. One example is East Street in Chichester, which had a formal ban at all times in 1993, when the study was conducted. I’ve graphed the data below.
What is really noteworthy here is how people cycling behave. At the start and end of the day, very few people are dismounting (the blue line) – despite cycling being illegal. As the day progresses, however, the number of people dismounting increases, with almost everyone choosing to dismount in the middle of the day.
There is a clear match here between dismounting rates (in blue) and the number of pedestrians on the street, per hour (the red line). When the street is busiest with people (with several thousand people walking along it, per hour) almost everyone is dismounting. Conversely when the street is much more empty (with around a thousand people walking along it per hour, or less) the dismount rates are much lower.
These patterns are repeated throughout the other British and European study sites in the TRL report, whether cycling is legal or not, suggesting that the governing factor on whether people choose to dismount or not was not legality, but the density of pedestrians on the street. Indeed, it’s these densities that inform the CROW guidance on whether cycling should be allowed, or not.
The standout message, therefore, is that cycling behaviour naturally adapts itself to pedestrian environments. Rather than clampdowns and enforcement, perhaps we should be moving to trials of cycling in pedestrian areas, and examining how people behave and respond. The evidence shows that we can trust people to make the right decisions.
I couldn’t make it to Street Talks on Monday, to hear Mustafa Arif of the London Cycling Campaign discuss the Space for Cycling campaign, although I did manage to follow some of the discussion on Twitter. One tweet in particular stood out -
— Bruce McVean (@brucemcvean) February 24, 2014
That is, how does cycle campaigning break out of the bubble, and convince people who don’t go anywhere near a bike on a day-to-day basis that demanding change is something they should be involved in?
There are no easy answers here, but I think one profitable angle is fun. People who don’t consider themselves ‘cyclists’ will ride bikes at some point during the year, but usually only under certain conditions.
They will ride bikes along seafronts, when they are on holiday.
They will ride bikes around central London on a day out, when the roads are closed for them.
British kids in general like to whizz about on two wheels, even at a very young age.
The trouble is that this experience of cycling – on holiday, or on seafronts, or under certain conditions – does not seem to correspond to the British public’s everyday perception of cycling, which is… not fun. In fact it often looks like absolute misery.
To be clear, I’m not blaming people for wearing hi-visibility clothing, or helmets, or pollution masks. They are a response to generally atrocious road conditions – a way for people to help themselves feel safer.
And those road conditions are the central issue. People cannot imagine themselves cycling around in our towns and cities, even if they are happy to hop on a bike when they are on holiday. It just looks completely foreign, dangerous, even absurd.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. Ordinary day-to-day cycling could be as fun and enjoyable as it is on a seafront, or on a day out. We just have to change our streets to allow it.
Cycling to school could be fun.
Cycling in cities could be fun.
Cycling across a busy urban junction could be fun.
Cycling by a dual carriageway could be fun.
Trips from the city into the countryside could be fun.
Cycling around as a family could be fun.
You get the idea.
The challenge, of course, is convincing the British that this fun, stress-free mode of transport could be available to them on a day-to-day basis, if we want it to be; that it doesn’t have to look like it does now, on the streets of most British cities and towns.
Can we bridge that gap? I hope so.
Could one of the biggest barriers to the implementation of the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling be… the Mayor himself?
I ask, because of an extraordinary discussion at the Transport for London Board Meeting on the 5th February, kindly uploaded to Youtube by Tom Kearney.
Here’s what Boris had to say during this discussion of cycling in the capital. (If you wish to listen for yourself, this passage starts at around 7min30).
What we did, for instance, between the Bow roundabout and Stratford – we’ve taken huge amounts of road, because, basically, there isn’t much traffic there. But, on the Embankment, for instance, it might be that some of those lavish-looking drawings just produce too much congestion.
…. I think one of the reasons you’ve got to go for segregation is partly demonstrative. You’ve got to show to potentially timid, new cyclists that a lot of work is being done to try to help them. You’ve got to show the world that cycling is stuff that is going on in a big way in London. But for my money (actually it’s all of our money) the best investment you can make, I think, is just in designating large sections of the road network… as places where you are going to find loads of cyclists. That was the philosophy behind the Cycle Superhighways. I still think it’s the right way to go. I still think, broadly speaking, an integrationist approach is the right way to go. What you want to create is a culture amongst all road users of all classes that cycling is going to take place, in a big way, on this road. And you’re not going to have segregation everywhere… It costs too much, and in my view, speaking as a cyclist, once you get beyond a certain level of proficiency, it is totally pointless. Totally pointless.
For instance, on the stretch between Stratford and Bow, you’ve got this beautiful oxbow lake kind of thing that goes off behind the bus stop – floating bus stops – at colossal expense. I forgot to use it the other day. Y’know, because I was just bombing down the road. And lots of cyclists will take that attitude.
There is so much wrong with this it provokes the question at the start of this post. On the basis of what Boris is saying here it appears that Andrew Gilligan – the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner – will have to fight against the attitudes of the Mayor himself to implement the policies in the Mayor’s Vision.
Boris explicitly states here that, in his eyes, the purpose of segregation is simply demonstrative. To ‘show’ people that something is being done - even if he doesn’t agree with the policy.
Boris still thinks that the old form of the Superhighways – without any separation at all, and just a blue stripe on the road, ‘is the right way to go’.
Boris thinks that ‘creating a culture’ amongst road users that cycling is ‘going to take place’ on this road is the way forward – an ‘integrationist’ approach.
Boris thinks that segregation is ‘totally pointless’ as an intervention, ‘once you get beyond a certain level of proficiency’.
That is – Boris is apparently only thinking about ‘cyclists’ like himself; not about what the vast majority of Londoners might want. He is not listening to what campaigners are demanding. He is denigrating the very policies that will be required to increase cycling levels in London in any significant way.
These comments are so clueless I had to double-check the date – but yes, they were uttered just a few weeks ago. Shocking.
The epithet ‘kerb nerds’ seems to have been coined to describe those people who think that, on roads that carry a certain volume of motor traffic, travelling at a certain speed, cycling as a mode of transport should not share the same physical space as that motor traffic.
This label tends to ignore the fact that the Dutch model of cycle provision – which ‘kerb nerds’ like me tend to highlight as best practice – actually involves a surprisingly small amount of this kind of lateral separation. The Dutch employ other methods – usually falling under the umbrella of ‘unbundling’ – to separate cycling from motor traffic. Motor traffic is removed from the vast majority of streets in urban areas, concentrated on a larger grid of distributor roads, or displaced onto through roads. (Bypasses genuinely are bypasses in the Netherlands).
‘Kerb nerds’ don’t believe in cycle tracks everywhere. They’re just another tool in the toolbox – one which, for some reason, a certain group of cycle campaigners insist on ruling out anywhere.
Beyond this basic misunderstanding, the label ‘kerb nerds’ also serves to overstate the important of kerbs in creating physical separation on the routes that actually require it. I suspect the problem here is that the people most vigorously opposed to ‘kerbs’ are only aware of the kind of physical segregation they see on a day-to-day basis, in the places where they live in Britain. (This is the most charitable explanation – wilful ignorance of Dutch practice is another).
This is the kind of physical separation they might be imagining – a hard step down into the carriageway, then a hard step back up over another set of kerbs.
I can only assume it is this type of cycle provision that – to take just one example – Councillor Vincent Stops of Hackney has in mind when he writes things like -
The problem with kerbs
At the heart of the cyclecentric, separated space campaign is a desire to see additional kerbs installed to “protect cyclists from motor vehicles” or for cyclists to be diverted onto the pavement in tracks, for example around the back of bus stops… This is said to benefit cyclists, but ignores the problems that will be caused to pedestrians, particularly older people and the visually and mobility impaired. Pedestrians (whom hitherto transport planners have put at the top of the transport hierarchy) want to see wide, level, continuous and clear pavements and to be able to cross the street at will. Pedestrians do not want additional kerbs and complexity introduced into the street. Pedestrians do not want to have to look out for cyclists on the pavement, nor do they want to have to cross a cycle track and perch on a foot wide kerb before crossing the carriageway.
The introduction of kerbs and the paraphernalia of separated tracks flies in the face of years of work to establish that our streets are not there simply to cater for movement, but are also places for public life. Just at the time that walking policy has made a shift towards reduced segregation – for example by the removal of guard railing etc. – and more shared space some cycle bloggers and campaigners want to shift cycling provision towards more separation.
His post has this picture of a ‘cycle track’ in it, apparently to demonstrate what ‘kerb nerbs’ want to install on every street in London.
This is the contraflow cycle track on Pitfield Street, Hackney, which Cllr Stops writes
serves a cycling function, but by no stretch of the imagination can this be described as an attractive and walkable street. For able bodied pedestrians it’s horrible to cross, for older people and disabled pedestrians it is un-passable. It is poor urban design.
Here’s the thing - kerb nerds would agree with this description.
There shouldn’t be any need for this kind of treatment on Pitfield Street – it could have motor traffic removed on it, through filtered permeability, or through opposing one-way systems. The parallel main roads, the A10 and the A1200 should be taking the through traffic.
But more than this. Cycle tracks do not need to look like the one Pitfield Street. They do not need to resemble ‘trip hazards’, or obstructions.
How many miles of trip hazards is Boris going to install. I’m sure Hackney will continue to focus on what’s important for cycling and peds.
— Vincent Stops (@VincentStops) March 7, 2013
Good cycle tracks – the kinds ‘kerb nerds’ want to see – are not something anyone will trip over.
Now of course it is undeniable that cycle tracks represent something ‘extra’ to cross, if you want to walk from one side of the road to the other. But this isn’t necessarily worse. How much harder is it to cross a busy road, with cycles in the traffic stream, than it is to cross the road in stages, with cycles subtracted from that general traffic stream? (Indeed, how many people on that route are cycling, instead of driving, because the environment is attractive to do so?)
And, rather than presenting barriers to Dutch people with mobility problems, cycle tracks are liberating – they are an excellent way to get about.
If cycle tracks are designed well, then the distinction between ‘pedestrians’ and ‘cyclists’ disappears. Cycle tracks are simply another way for people – everyone - to get about, not just ‘cyclists’.
Only if you have a fixed conception of what a ‘cyclist’ could possibly be would you describe cycle tracks as ‘cyclecentric’. They aren’t barriers; quite the opposite.
The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain has more detail on what good cycle tracks should look like.
You might be the kind of person who thinks that someone riding a bike should do everything possible to make themselves visible to drivers. That they should wear hi-visibility jackets. That they should be reflective, and illuminated.
Well, if you ever cross the road at night, you might want to pay attention to what judgements that are emerging from courts – judgements like this one - might mean for the clothing you have to wear.
A MINICAB driver who struck a pedestrian in Kingsbury has been cleared of causing death by careless driving.
Wahidullah Hoori, 41, had just turned off Edgware Road in Kingsbury when his 05-reg Seat Alambra people carrier hit Barry Southgate as the slow-moving 64-year-old crossed Kingsbury Road, at 11.50pm on April 11 2012.
Mr Southgate, of Theobald Crescent, Harrow, died nine days later from his injuries at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, west London.
Prosecutor Nicholas Bleaney told jurors: “The prosecution say he should have seen him and had plenty of opportunity to see him and Mr Southgate was doing nothing dramatic.
“He was walking along at a relatively slow, pedestrian speed – something any driver in any part of the country, particularly in London, has to deal with all the time.
“He did not suddenly come out from behind a tree and his movements, we say, were pretty obvious. Speed isn’t an issue. The turn was conducted at a normal speed. The accident, we say, was caused by carelessness.
“He [Hoori] should have stopped in time to avoid a collision or at the very least swerved to avoid him.”
Mr Southgate had helped plaster a wall at a friend’s house before he and his friend went for a drink at The Moon Under Water in Varley Parade, The Hyde in Colindale, where the victim drank two pints of real ale.
His bus home sped past as the two left the pub and so Mr Southgate, who was also known as Barry O’Reilly, decided at 11.30pm to walk down Edgware Road and had just turned the corner into Kingsbury Road when he was hit by the nearside front grill of Hoori’s minicab.
Mr Bleaney said the defendant made a statement to police that he had been working since 2pm on the day of the collision, that he had had a day off the previous day and had consumed neither alcohol or drugs before the crash.
Witness Raluca Frunza told the court: “I saw the old man. He was on the other side of the road. He was walking really slowly because he was on crutches. He was not using [the traffic island] to cross the road. I heard a noise like a metal-to-metal noise and heard a male scream, a yell, and then I realised that the car had hit the old man.
“I saw a lot of blood on the floor.”
There is some more detail on this case from the ‘expert witness’ providers, Wayman Experts, who provided ‘expert witness’ testimony in court, that appears, by their own estimation, to have contributed to the driver being found not guilty.
Mr Dave Burgess of Wayman Experts was instructed in this matter following a road traffic collision that occurred on the A4006 Kingsbury Road, London at approximately 2353 hours Tuesday April 10th 2012.
Mr Hoori, the driver of a Seat Alhambra taxi, collided with a pedestrian who sustained fatal injuries. During their investigation the Police obtained CCTV footage of the movement of both the pedestrian and vehicle immediately prior to impact, although the collision itself was not in view of the camera.
The prosecution alleged that the pedestrian should have been seen and that there were no obstacles preventing Mr Hoori from seeing the pedestrian.
The pedestrian was wearing dark outer clothing and walking with the aid of at least one crutch at a slow pace.
Within his report Mr Burgess highlighted a number of issues, to include the blind spot created by the vehicle ‘A’ pillar and the pedestrian conspicuity. [my emphasis]
Following a trial at Wood Green CC, the jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty to the charge of Causing Death by Careless Driving.
What does this all mean?
It means that if you are walking in a lit, urban area at night, wearing ordinary clothes, and you are struck and killed by a driver who should reasonably be able to see you as you cross a road, that driver will be found not guilty due, in part, to your lack of ‘conspicuity’.
Don’t think that wearing hi-visibility clothing is just a ‘cycling’ issue.
Imagine that you are responsible for improving the walking environment in an area where walking rates are exceptionally low – perhaps making up around a few percent of all trips that are made.
You would probably start thinking about the kind of changes that would be required to make walking a pleasant, attractive and obvious option.
Routes for walking would have to be direct. They would have to be free from stress and danger, and obstructions. They would have to be convenient, and be of suitable width. And they would have to go everywhere that people needed to go.
You would, ideally, like to end up with a dense walking network, which has all these qualities. In short, you would be designing for walking, to ensure that it makes sense as a mode of transport in its own right.
After this period of abstract thought, you reach for your bookshelves, and pull out the official guidance, published by the Department for Transport – Walking Infrastructure Design.
You start reading the Introduction.
Planning and designing high-quality infrastructure involves developing individual site specific solutions, but there are some common requirements that need to be satisfied. The underpinning principle is that measures for pedestrians should offer positive provision that reduces delay or diversion and improves safety.
Sounds good! You read on.
When designing improvements to walking infrastructure, the hierarchy of provision (Table 1.2) offers useful guidance on the steps to be considered.
Eagerly, you flick to this Table 1.2, which offers ‘guidance on the steps to be considered’. You discover that the first ‘step’ you should consider is
Traffic volume reduction
‘Traffic volume reduction’? You scratch your head.
This makes little sense. What does this have to do with walking, and improving the environment for walking? ‘Traffic’ (meaning motor traffic) is an entirely different mode of transport; shouldn’t a manual for improving walking infrastructure focus on precisely that?
Perhaps, you wonder, the Hierarchy of Provision in ‘Bus Infrastructure Design’ suggests considering first ‘train travel reduction’, or ‘plane travel reduction’.
But of course it doesn’t, and nor does ‘Walking Infrastructure Design’ (mainly because neither of these documents exist). However, Cycling Infrastructure Design does exist, and unfortunately it suggests you go about planning for improving the cycling environment in precisely this unfathomable way – by suggesting you reduce an entirely different mode of transport as a first step.
A strong objection here is that the Hierarchy is confusing policy with outcome. Reducing motor traffic should be the result of improving the environment for walking and cycling, yet it is presented here as the actual design policy.
But an even stronger objection is that the Hierarchy fails to focus on what it should actually be dealing with – the bicycle. In a recent lecture, Professor John Parkin described the Hierarchy of Provision as
a completely inappropriate way of planning for cycling. It denies the existence of cycling a a distinct mode.
Indeed, the Hierarchy represents
planning for cycling with reference to another mode, rather than designing for cycling itself.
It’s hard to disagree with this assessment. As I’ve argued before, the Hierarchy of Provision embodies the historical fixation of cycling campaigning on fighting motor traffic. The focus here is not on improving the environment for cycling, but on abstract goals that may, or may not, have side benefits for cycling.
It is woolly and unfocused, and when used as a planning tool we find that it is all too easy to skip through all the steps and end up right at the bottom, with the conversion of footways to ‘shared use’ – because this is the easiest option. Indeed, at this same lecture, a transport planner working for a client mentioned that the scheme she was implementing involved shared use pavements – not because this was the best design solution, but because that was what the council wanted. And the Hierarchy does little or nothing to stop councils plumping for this option.
At another lecture last week, I heard Keith Firth of SKM Colin Buchanan stating that
What’s great about the Hierarchy of Provision is that infrastructure is quite a long way down the list.
Well, this might be true in an ideal world, a world in which councils would actually consider the wholesale removal of motor traffic from their towns, reducing the need for the amount of physical alteration needed to the street environment. But unfortunately we don’t live an ideal world, and that means the fact that design solutions that might be very, very important in particular contexts are ‘a long way down the list’ is actually a serious problem.
Dutch town and city centres, while often largely devoid of private motor traffic, do not simply relegate physical infrastructure into last place. Even on wide roads that only carry a limited amount of motor traffic, we still find the same kind of cycling infrastructure that would be appropriate on much busier roads.
This kind of approach makes no sense according to the Hierarchy, because it is a combination of serious motor traffic reduction, and physical separation. The difference flows from the fact that the Dutch design for cycling. They design to make sure that cycling is comfortable, safe, attractive and convenient. They don’t design for it with reference to other modes of transport.
The other manifestation of the curious way we design for cycling around other modes of transport is the distinction we have between ‘on carriageway’ and ‘off carriageway’ provision. We can have ‘on carriageway’ cycle lanes that, protected by a kerb, amount to a cycle track. But we can also have ‘off carriageway’ provision that essentially amounts to the same thing.
The distinction is hard to fathom, but it stems, again, from a failure to design for cycling as a mode of transport in its own right. ‘On carriageway’ means treating bicycle traffic like motor traffic; ‘off carriageway’ means treating it like walking traffic. In other words – how do we fit cycling in, around other modes of transport.
But we shouldn’t be thinking like this. We need a comprehensive approach to planning for bicycle use, that starts from the kind of thinking we would employ for designing walking networks, and ensures the quality of routes, whatever kind of treatment is appropriate at a local level.
We need to design for cycling in its own right.
Thanks to John Parkin for providing the inspiration for this piece
On Wednesday, Beyond the Kerb wrote
Much of the time, it feels like the view that it’s simply not acceptable to kill people in completely avoidable collisions and then say “Well, it happens” is some form of extremism, and that the rest of society stands around blankly and says, “What are you on about? Of course it’s acceptable. You expect me to actually not drive into people?”
This was provoked by the case of a man who had been killed cycling in Southampton, David Irving, killed despite doing everything he could to keep himself alive, beyond not even cycling in the first place, and yet ended up being blamed, by implication, for his own death. Nobody else was at fault.
A very different case was reported by the Evening Standard yesterday – that of a nine-year-old boy, killed outside his own home. But it betrays the same extraordinary willingness to exonerate and excuse the person who crashed into him, and to blame the victim.
The family of a nine-year-old boy who was killed by a speeding driver today branded British justice a “joke” after the man’s 21-month jail sentence was cut almost in half.
Redwan Uddin was riding on the handlebars of his brother’s bike as they played near their east London home when Ibrahim Waseem, 23, crashed into them at 39mph in a 20mph zone.
He was jailed for 21 months at Snaresbrook crown court in November but on Tuesday had his sentence cut to 12 months by appeal judges. It means he could be released after serving six months following his conviction for causing death by careless driving.
The boy’s tearful uncle, Abu Ahmed, 25, an accountant from Whitechapel, today told of the family’s “devastation” at the new sentence, which he branded “a holiday”. He added: “We have lost faith in the British justice system. It’s a joke. We applied to have the 21-month sentence lengthened but we didn’t even get a reply. He appeals and he has his sentence halved.
“We have to live with this for the rest of our lives and he could be out after six months. The justice system favours the criminals and not the victims.”
Marks & Spencer worker Waseem had been driving in Woodhouse Grove, East Ham, near the brothers’ home, when he lost control of his Mazda on a speed hump and ploughed into the boys in June 2012.
Waseem, who was convicted of driving without insurance in 2008, fled the scene and dumped his car but later turned himself in to police. Lady Justice Rafferty, sitting with Mr Justice Collins and Judge Nicholas Hilliard, said the appeal court’s “heart goes out to Redwan’s family”. But Waseem was “extremely remorseful”, she said, and pointed out the crash occurred as Redwan was perched on the handlebars of a bike, without a helmet, travelling the wrong way down a one-way street.
Lady Justice Rafferty concluded: “We are confident that 21 months was manifestly excessive.”
Waseem was also disqualified from driving for at least 12 months.
‘At least twelve months’. Great news.
In the David Irving trial, the jury was directed, by the judge,
to ignore Highway Code [rules 93 and 237, advising drivers to] slow down or stop if dazzled [because the] Highway Code is not law.
That’s fine if you are driving a car. If you are driving a car, the Highway Code isn’t relevant, because it isn’t law.
But in the case of Redwan Uddin – who, let’s remember, was a nine-year-old boy, someone we should hardly expect to be fully conversant with road rules - the Highway Code suddenly becomes relevant in mitigation.
(Let’s not even stop to think here about the absurdity of a situation in which young children can’t even play on a bicycle, travelling in any direction, on the tiny street in front of their own house, and have to wear helmets in case a car comes flying out of nowhere at 40mph).
Was he wearing a helmet? No – well, that’s relevant.
Was he on the handlebars? Yes – well, that’s relevant.
Was he cycling the wrong way on a one-way street? Yes – well, that’s relevant.
But in any sane assessment of what happened here, all these details are completely irrelevant. Redwan Uddin could have been crossing the road, on foot, without a helmet, without being perched on handlebars, and would have been killed in precisely the same way.
He could have been cycling the correct way, with a full face crash helmet, on a saddle and not the handlebars, and would have been killed in precisely the same way.
What killed Uddin was a very heavy metal object flying off a speed hump at 40 mph, on a residential street, piloted by a deeply irresponsible man.
Yet once again the judicial system scrabbles around to find minor details, to lessen his responsibility.
The deadline for responses to the consultation on Transport for London’s Central London Grid is this Friday. Both London Cycling Campaign and Rachel Aldred have provided detailed responses, which I recommend you read; I thought I’d add some comments of my own to complement theirs, and also to remind you to respond yourself.
The idea of a Central London Grid is an excellent one – a network of direct routes that connect up across Zone 1, and that are (or should be) suitable for anyone who wants to ride a bike. The stated intention is to compose it mostly of routes away from main roads – around 75%. The remaining 25% of the Grid will be composed of main road interventions. These percentages can be quibbled about, but they sound reasonable. What is absolutely essential, however, is that the form of the Grid, and the treatments at ground level, are suitable, and there are worrying signs that the Grid will fail on both counts.
This isn’t all the fault of TfL. There is intransigence from Boroughs, particularly Kensington and Chelsea, who (as we shall see) have effectively eviscerated the Grid network in their borough. There is a higher density of Grid in Westminster, but again this is a borough that seems determined to fit cycling in around the margins, not provide for it in any useful way. There are also problems with the Royal Parks, firstly with even allowing cycling within them, and also with closing times.
But there are issues with how Transport for London is approaching the Grid. Firstly, in regarding what, precisely, is an ‘adequate’ Quietway, and secondly with ‘dual networking’ – treating Quietways as a kind of network for a slow, nervous cyclist, while main roads remain the preserve of the faster, confident existing cyclist.
Some of the proposed Quietway routes will follow streets and roads that have had measures already put in place to cut out through traffic – Goldsmiths Row in Hackney fits into this definition. However it is not clear from the TfL Grid document whether measures will always be put in place to ensure that motor traffic is greatly reduced on the Quietway routes.
It seems to me as if the Grid is being put on streets that have already had proper traffic reduction measures installed, and on streets that are deemed to be ‘adequately’ quiet already. But the scheme is crying out for a definition of what ‘adequate’ actually means, in terms of the volume of motor traffic – this could then set a benchmark for when measures like filtered permeability would have to be applied. The TfL document states
Like the name suggests, Quietways will use the quietest roads possible while balancing the need for directness, usability and safety. In some busy parts of central London there are no absolutely quiet roads, but all will be significantly less busy than the alternatives, with fewer vehicles, travelling at lower speeds
Well, there may be ‘no absolutely quiet roads’ in some parts of central London, but that suggests that the Grid should create these quiet routes, through deliberate interventions, not attempt to pretend that they are suitable simply by virtue of being a bit quieter than the horrendous main road nearby. The Grid is being presented almost passively, when it should be an active intervention to create safe and inviting conditions.
The other issue is the aforementioned ‘dual networking’. The TFL document has this definition -
Quietway routes are slower than the main roads. They are not aimed at speedy commuter cyclists, who will almost certainly stick with the fast main roads. They are intended for people who want to avoid the main roads and want to take it more slowly and calmly – the new kind of cyclist we want to attract.
The problem here is that if Quietways are ‘slow’, then nobody is going to want to use them, be they a faster lycra type, or just an ordinary person on a Boris bike. Quietways should be suitable for all – they should precisely be aimed at commuter cyclists as well as everyone else, because cycling needs fast direct routes to be attractive.
The additional danger here is the age-old problem with dual networks; that you end up with two different types of route that are both inadequate in different ways. The Quietways are fiddly and unusable, while the main roads remain hostile and unsuitable for most, justified on the grounds that if you don’t like it, well, there’s a Quietway over there, somewhere else. The Grid has to have Uniformity of Provision - the idea that all its routes should not trade off safety against convenience, and should be desirable and attractive for anyone who rides a bike. This is the essence of the Dutch approach to designing bicycle networks. They do not design different kinds of route for different people – that is a recipe for poor provision.
Now onto various specific issues. The Grid network in Kensington and Chelsea is hopeless.
Not only have Kensington and Chelsea blocked the routing of a Superhighway down Kensington High Street – they do not want cycle tracks on this road – they have also provided some suggestions for a ‘Quietway’ network in their borough that are, frankly, insultingly bad. There are lines on this map that just stop and start – they don’t even join up! Kensington and Chelsea need to be told in the strongest possible terms that this simply isn’t good enough. There has to be a coherent east-west route as part of the Grid here – through Holland Park (where cycling is currently banned) and the Royal Parks, and/or through the streets of the borough, to the south.
There are issues here with Parks too – as I understand it Kensington Gardens closes at dusk, effectively rendering it useless for much of the winter as part of a cycling ‘Grid’. If routes are being placed in parks, access should not be compromised. Hyde Park as a whole closes at midnight.
Sections of the Grid that run through The Royal Parks will form useful, pleasant routes. The proposal to close the Outer Circle of Regents Park to motor traffic will make this an excellent route, as well as improving the quality of the park as a whole. Likewise a route up the eastern side of Green Park is much needed. The Royal Parks need to be urged to support these suggestions, and also to ensure that the routes are properly designed, and wide enough, to ensure that people walking and cycling do not come into conflict with each other.
Westminster, for all the criticism it has come in for, is actually ahead of Kensington and Chelsea in one important regard – it will be allowing (hopefully) Superhighway 11 to run across its borough, and of course the main East-West route will run along some important roads in Westminster. Both of these routes will (or should) be fully segregated. However, there are issues with the fiddliness of the proposals for Quietways in Westminster. Particularly around Paddington, and in St James, the Quietways seem to meander all over the place, avoiding roads and streets that require interventions. Back street routes in Westminster need to be pleasant and direct.
In Camden, Hackney and Islington, the Grid looks pretty good, and includes some streets that already carry high volumes of cycle traffic, particularly the Tavistock Place segregated track, and the Clerkenwell Road.
It’s good to see these kinds of direct routes in the Grid. It is important, however, that whatever treatments are employed on these roads, they will be made suitable as genuine Quietways.
The final issue I’d mention here (doubtless there are many more) is in the City, where there are a number of serious blockages, particularly London Bridge, where a Superhighway doesn’t actually connect with anything.
This area is crying out for a sensible, continuous north-south route, straight across the City, and doesn’t seem to have got it. There isn’t one. The obvious choice would be across the horrible five-fingered Bank junction, with closures or filtered permeability on some of the approach roads. The area is teeming with people on foot, on public transport, and on bikes, and yet most of the space has been allocated to the private car. The Grid should represent a golden opportunity to address that imbalance.
So please do comment on the Grid before the end of Friday – reply to firstname.lastname@example.org. All responses to the Consultation will be used to bolster the Grid concept, to revise it, and to improve it. It’s vitally important that it is implemented properly.
The car industry seems to have convinced itself – understandably enough, from their perspective – that the solution to transport in urban areas is simply to convert existing private motor vehicles to run on electricity, rather than combustion engines.
The latest evidence of this belief comes from Renault UK, who appear to be arguing that electric cars should be allowed in bus lanes.
Leading cities should do more to encourage the use of electric cars by investing in charging facilities and allowing zero emission vehicles to use bus lanes, says the head of Renault UK. Kenneth Ramirez said that it was important to create a “wave of acceptance” around electric vehicle technology to encourage their uptake, calling on London Mayor Boris Johnson to follow Norway in allowing electric cars to use lanes reserved for public transport.
He told RTCC: “In London that would be an interesting approach. In other cities having legislation that requires new buildings have a dedicated number of parking spaces with charge stations already included.”
But bus lanes don’t exist to encourage the ‘uptake’ of electric cars. They exist to relieve congestion, and to make more space-efficient modes of transport viable. Flooding bus lanes with electric cars would render them redundant, because buses would become mired in the same congestion that necessitated their implementation in the first place.
This is all part of a wider pattern of failing to address the problem of excess car use in urban areas, and for short trips. Electric cars only deal with one particular issue – tailpipe emissions.
Motor vehicle manufacturers would like to imagine that the only issue that matters is carbon emissions. Or – more specifically – reducing carbon emissions from private transport, because unless electric cars are charged from power provided by renewable energy, the emissions are simply displaced elsewhere.
They do this by pretending that demand for driving is fixed, and not created by the physical environment – by the way our roads and streets are laid out. A classic example of this kind of thinking is a piece by Paul Everitt, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, in the Times, a few years ago. He wrote (£) -
From its invention, the car has provided an unquestionable level of personal mobility, giving people the freedom to travel where they like, when they like. For many, owning a car is no longer a luxury but a necessity that allows them to commute to work, take the kids to school and do the weekly shop. There is, and always will be, an important role for the car. But in a low-carbon future, the car will have to be cleaner and greener than ever before…
… As the global demand for cars increases it is essential that we retain and grow our share of the market. Designing, developing and manufacturing the technologies and vehicles of tomorrow is our route to a more sustainable future.
Well, not really. Electric cars are still a very inefficient use of resources and energy, and don’t address the myriad other problems caused by excess private car use. If we are truly aiming at a ‘sustainable future’, we need to be shifting a good proportion of the 40% or so of trips of under 2 miles that are made by private car in Britain to genuinely sustainable modes.
While there is a sensible case to be made for powering motor vehicles with better energy sources, the motor industry should not be allowed to pretend that this is the end of the issue. It’s not just the clogging of bus lanes that is counterproductive; it’s clogging our urban areas as a whole with the inefficient private car that is destructive and wasteful. That means we need space for cycling, not a continuation of the same patterns of designing for private motor vehicle use, however it is powered.
Along with concerns about surrendering the road to motor vehicles, one of the main reasons for opposition to the physical separation of cycling from motor traffic is a fear of being ‘held up’.
This is the worry, from people who cycle already, that their journeys will be slowed down, by being blocked on narrow cycle infrastructure by people who can’t cycle as fast as them. I’ve attempted to dispel this notion – at least with regard to Dutch cycle infrastructure. Separation from motor traffic should not mean that you are impeded.
But with the tube strikes over the last couple of days, it’s quite clear that physical separation of cycling would provide considerable benefits. The pictures of Superhighway 7 in particular that appeared yesterday show the uselessness of ‘cycle routes’ that become clogged by motor vehicles.
Danny Williams also took a picture of Superhighway 7 yesterday -
Here is cycle super highway 7 in action this afternoon. It’s so good you can only use it by dismounting pic.twitter.com/TJfm5tLJck
— cyclistsinthecity (@citycyclists) February 6, 2014
Contrast this with the videos that have emerged of people cycling along the segregated sections of Superhighway 2 over the last few days. The segregation is far from brilliant (indeed in places it is worryingly bad), but cycling has flowed smoothly and easily past static motor traffic.
I suspect this uselessness of the original Superhighways was built in from the start. There’s a very revealing interview with TfL by Andreas of London Cyclist, dating back from when the Superhighways were launched, in 2010. TfL provide this justification for not segregating the Superhighways -
Segregation however, is not something that is being considered for the cycle superhighways. TfL said the routes are simply not being used frequently enough to warrant separation of traffic. It is only during peak hours that you will see many cyclists in the lanes. TfL claim that segregating the lanes would create many problems for loading vehicles. They also claim that cyclists don’t want to be treated differently to other vehicles.
The implication of this is essentially that cycling was not considered enough of an important mode of transport in its own right to necessitate space being set aside for it – ‘routes not being used frequently enough’. TfL believed that the space properly-designed Superhighways would have taken up needed to be used instead for motor vehicles. Indeed, despite much progress in the last couple of years, this is probably the prevailing attitude within the organisation.
But I think we’ve seen over the last few days how wrong-headed this approach is proving to be. Despite the chaos on the transport network, with very little tube network running, desperately overcrowded buses, and clogged roads, cycling remains a non-option, principally because cycling through traffic – even traffic that is mostly stationary – is just deeply unattractive for most people.
I noticed that David Arditti left a comment below that London Cyclist article, in July 2010, which sums up the problem.
The big thing that tends not to be understood in the UK about segregated cycle lanes, Dutch-style, is that their main purpose is not safety, per se, as cycling is inherently quite safe anyway, it is the prioritisation of space for cycle traffic. It is, in other words, to give the bike a competitive advantage in the struggle for space on the roads, which makes bike journeys quicker and more efficient, as well as more pleasant. There is no other effective method of preventing parking, loading, queuing, bus and taxi stopping in cycle space, and general obstruction by motor vehicles, other than physical segregation. This is why it is used so extensively on the continent. It is not that the continentals have some malign control agenda to push cyclists off the general roads. Arguments that segregation slows down fast commuter cyclists are incorrect. It only has this effect if badly done, with insufficient capacity or other design faults. Fast commuter cyclists benefit equally with slower cyclists from the advantages that proper continental-style cycle tracks create. [my emphasis]
It’s hard to put it better than that. Space for cycling is needed for competitive advantage; to ensure that it isn’t impeded by congestion, and that journeys by bike are painless and pleasant.
This applies in the Netherlands too, where long queues of vehicles can easily be bypassed on cycle tracks – so easily you forget there’s actually ‘congestion’ on the road network.
There is a small entrance to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, from St Giles’. It brings you into the grand central courtyard from the east, through a corridor in the building, rather than via the direct and obvious entrance from the south on Beaumont Street.
On my recent visit I noticed that a walkway has been built across this corridor, linking the main Ashmolean building (to the left) to the wing of the building, on the right.
This obviously makes it more inconvenient to walk along the corridor, than to pass across it.
Presumably these steps – or walkway, depending on your perspective – have been installed to allow step-free access throughout the museum buildings. The ‘extra’ steps for people passing along this corridor, rather than across it, are not much of a problem for those who have already come up the ten or so steps from the street. Anyone who can’t manage steps will be entering the museum from the main entrance on Beaumont Street, up ramps.
But the arrangement got me thinking about priorities, and about choices.
For short trips, most people have the option to walk or cycle to their destination. It’s technically possible to walk or cycle short distances. A great percentage choose not to, however – nearly 40% of all trips under 2 miles in Britain are driven. But why?
Because we’ve built steps across their routes – steps that make driving easier. Driving has the smooth, continuous route on this walkway, while walking and cycling have to struggle up and over the steps built for it. The ease and convenience of driving has been purchased at the expense of making walking and cycling more difficult, and more hazardous.
A concrete example. Take this roundabout in Didcot.
It’s possible to walk or cycle from left to right, across this roundabout – but you have to come a huge distance out of your way, push a button, wait for a crossing signal, then travel back up to where you actually want to go. Driving from left to right, on the other hand, is a more-or-less direct route, that can be taken at speed.
This is the way we design for walking and cycling in Britain, in microcosm. It has to fit in at the margins, fenced away, and given indirect routes that skirt around and yield to the ‘dominant’ mode of transport, motor traffic. While this continues, all the talk of ‘encouraging’ and ‘promoting’ walking and cycling will ring hollow.
I don’t like it. The only continuous connected space is road space. Need more for cycling and walking. Tired of lillypadding around my city
— Katja Leyendecker (@KatsDekker) February 4, 2014
Pictured below is the junction between Biltstraat – a main road in Utrecht – and Goedestraat, a residential side road.
It doesn’t even look like a junction, because the cycle track and the pavement extend across the side road. It’s driving that has to go up and over the steps, while walking and cycling has the level walkway.
Yet at equivalent junctions in the UK we seem to go out of our way to make walking and cycling hostile and unattractive.
This is the junction of Ashley Road and The Parade in Epsom. Ashley Road is a one-way road, that forms part of the A24 gyratory in the town. Needless to say cycling here on this fast and busy road is inadvisable if you are not confident. The Parade, on the left, is a residential side road – actually a dead-end. But it has a ludicrous flared treatment, and barriers to stop you crossing in the most natural place.
Walking and cycling are eradicated by this kind of design, just as they are in Horsham, where simply crossing the inner ring road into the town centre from the west means the use of four separate signalled controlled crossings.
In urban areas in Britain, it’s driving that has been given the most convenient and direct routes, without delay, diversion, interruption or inconvenience. It has been put up on the walkway, at the expense of walking and cycling, so it’s no surprise that it continues to dominate as a mode of transport, while walking dwindles and cycling remains essentially non-existent.
The steps need rearranging.
Two news items popped up almost simultaneously in my inbox recently. Each described a collision, but in a slightly different way. The first -
A LADY was taken to hospital after a man on a push bike crashed into her.
Police were called to the scene at Forder Hill, Cawsand at around 4.30pm this afternoon by ambulance staff.
A first responder – member of the community with advanced first aid training – was on the scene first followed by ambulance staff and police.
And the other -
A speeding driver has been told he must live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life after the tragic death of a popular roofer.
Cyclist Brent Jelley, 23, collided with a Ford Fiesta driven by Halstead resident Joshua Rumble, in Swan Street, Sible Hedingham on October 21, 2012.
Rewording the first article in the manner of the second, we get
A lady was taken to hospital after she collided with a push bike ridden by a man.
Which doesn’t sound like gibberish at all.
Scotland’s The Nice Way Code campaign got an almighty and justifiable thrashing from campaigners last year, particularly for its nonsensical advice, and notions of collective responsibility. However, with one judgement, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has managed to make me feel sorry for it.
Here’s a still from one of the Nice Way Code videos – ‘Think Horse’.
Fairly unexceptional, you might think.
Yet this particular scene apparently prompted five people to write in complaint to the ASA.
Five complainants challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and harmful, because it showed a cyclist without a helmet or any other safety attire, who was cycling down the middle of the road rather than one metre from the curb.
‘Irresponsible and harmful’.
This is complete guff, of course. At no point was the cyclist travelling ‘down the middle of the road’. ‘The middle of the road’ in these cases never refers to a precise location, more to the fact that someone is in someone else’s way, or slightly inconveniencing them. And the lack of safety attire or helmet is neither here nor there – these are not legal requirements.
Over and out, you might think. Complaints dismissed, chucked straight in the bin. Reasonable points about national guidance on how to cycle, the need to make cycling look ordinary and attractive, and the lack of legal requirements are commendably made by both Cycling Scotland and the advert’s producers. Indeed, Cycling Scotland point out that the making of the advert was actually supervised by one of Scotland’s most experienced cycling instructors.
But it seems the ASA know better, for they have UPHELD – UPHELD - this complaint. They write
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Cycling Scotland that any future ads featuring cyclists should be shown wearing helmets and placed in the most suitable cycling position.
In more detail, particularly about what the ASA think is ‘the most suitable cycling position’ -
We understood that UK law did not require cyclists to wear helmets or cycle at least 0.5 metres from the kerb. However, under the Highway Code it was recommended as good practice for cyclists to wear helmets. Therefore, we considered that the scene featuring the cyclist on a road without wearing a helmet undermined the recommendations set out in the Highway Code. Furthermore, we were concerned that whilst the cyclist was more than 0.5 metres from the kerb, they appeared to be located more in the centre of the lane when the car behind overtook them and the car almost had to enter the right lane of traffic. Therefore, for those reasons we concluded the ad was socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.
There is so much wrong with this it is impossible to know where to start. But just a couple of things leap out. The advert has essentially been banned because it contravenes recommendations in the Highway Code about helmets. Not rules – advice. The word used is ‘should’, not ‘must’. Here’s the relevant section -
This ruling opens the door to adverts being banned if the people cycling in them are not wearing ‘reflective clothing and/or accessories’. Even an advert featuring someone riding a bike in darkish clothes could be banned by the logic of this judgement – because you ‘should’ wear light-coloured clothing.
It also suggests that vast numbers of car adverts should be banned. Why? Rule 152.
You should drive slowly and carefully on streets where there are likely to be pedestrians, cyclists and parked cars.
You should drive slowly and carefully in urban areas. All those car adverts showing cars zipping around are toast, according to this judgement – at least they should be. Just one example.
Not especially slow and careful in areas where there are likely to be pedestrians. So I suggest people get busy and start filing complaints on the basis of this judgement.
If they were feeling mischievous, they could actually file complaints to the ASA about Department for Transport and Transport for London adverts suggesting cyclists ride centrally. Because, you know, that’s ‘socially irresponsible’ and might force a driver to even slightly enter a different lane, causing them to spontaneously combust. The ASA should be taking this seriously, and slapping down the DfT and TfL.
And the final silliness – look back at the still of the advert that’s the source of the complaint. There’s someone riding a bike, fairly slowly, without head protection, being overtaken by someone in an open-top car which can legally travel at 70mph, with his head fully exposed in the event of a crash.
Then ponder the absurdity of judging only the former activity as ‘irresponsible and harmful’.
The winter is of course the period of the year when people riding bikes get urged to ‘lighten up’ and to make themselves visible. It is easy to lose count of the number of articles and police campaigns on the subject – the latest in a long line in recent months is this from Oakham Police, covered by the Rutland Times.
Police are advising cyclists to be seen and be safe while riding at night.
During January and February officers in Oakham will target cyclists who ride their bikes without lights at night.
PCSO 6017 Martin Clarke said: “We have received a number of complaints about cyclists riding at night without any lights.
“This is not only illegal, but presents a danger to other road users as well as the cyclist themselves.”
During the campaign police will stop any cyclists not wearing safety equipment and reminding them to use lights, helmets and visible clothing.
PCSO Clarke added: “Persistent offenders may be prosecuted.”
People who persist in wearing invisible clothing may be prosecuted?
But seriously. The subject of illumination and visibility is an interesting one, especially when placed in historical context. Over time, the burden of being seen has increasingly been placed on the people who pose little or no danger – to make themselves more and more obvious to the people who are posing the danger.
Where did this obsession with illumination come from?
Before motor cars arrived on the roads, the only piece of safety equipment someone using a bicycle would possess would be a front lamp. Obviously this showed other people using the roads in the dark that you were approaching, but its primary purpose was to allow you to see where you were going, and what obstacles might be in your way. There was no need to make yourself visible to the rear, because the onus was anyone approaching you from behind to spot you.
Interestingly, even after the numbers of motor cars that were on the roads had increased sharply, a front light remained the only piece of equipment that cyclists were expected to use. No hi-viz. No rear light. There was only one ‘extra’ tool of visibility required – a rear reflector.
The very first Highway Code – dating from 1931 – is quite clear on the subject, in its advice to ‘pedal cyclists’.
Remember that in the dark you are not easily visible to following traffic. Act accordingly and keep well to the left of the road.
If you do not use a red rear lamp remember to keep your red reflector clean and properly fixed. [It is an offence under the Road Transport Lighting Act to ride at night without either a red rear lamp or an obscured and efficient red reflector.]
So in 1931, you could quite happily and legally ride a bicycle that didn’t have a rear light, provided you had a reflector. In today’s world of hyper-illumination and garishness, this probably sounds incredible to most people, but, at the time, even the law requiring just a reflector was met with much grumbling by those who used bicycles. They were merely pedalling along, and it would be the person who was approaching them from behind who should have sufficient illumination to spot them, and to act accordingly.
There is a serious issue here. It is entirely possible that many drivers today simply do not expect there to be obstacles in the road that are not illuminated, or reflective. Trees can be in the road when it is dark. Cars can be parked on the road when it is dark. People can be in the road when it is dark. We don’t expect any of them to be reflective, or clad in hi-viz, or to have lights (although perhaps in the case of pedestrians it is only a matter of time, as we shall see below).
This was something the Cyclists’ Touring Club appreciated back in the 1930s, writing to the Times in 1934 that
The club does not see the necessity for supplementing the reflector (approved by the Minister of Transport after exhaustive tests) with a white patch or any second compulsory device. Anything of this kind merely tends to lessen the responsibility of the motor driver and to encourage faster and more careless driving, to the ever-increasing danger of the unlighted pedestrian.
If motorists drove in accordance with the Highway Code, so that they could pull up within the distance of the road they could see to be clear, they would never have any difficulty in avoiding running down cyclists. To make compulsory the use of rear lights on cycles might be one step towards legalizing a standard of night driving which would increase the dangers on the roads not only to cyclists but to other road users as well.
It was in this year, 1934, that cyclists using just a red rear reflector were now required to additionally have a white patch on the rear of their bike, by the 1934 Road Traffic Act. The traditional design of the classic Dutch bike is an artefact of this period (perhaps Dutch readers could provide some information on the legal history in the Netherlands!).
From 1939, with restrictions on headlights required during blackouts, it became compulsory, for the first time, for red rear lights to be used at night, in the Second World War. This proved to be the basis for a permanent law. In March 1945 (while the country was still at war) the government pushed a Bill through Parliament perpetuating the use of rear lights, once the war was over.
So, curiously, it is World War II blackouts that gave rise to the compulsory use of rear lights in on bicycles. Before this period, it was up to drivers – and indeed anyone cycling – to spot the presence of un-illuminated cyclists ahead of them.
Doubtless this use of lights was, and still is, largely a pragmatic measure. It just ‘helps’ to have a bit of illumination to allow drivers to spot you more easily, especially on dark roads, and with the speeds of motor vehicles increasing. In the modern world, it is unthinkable to cycle on dark country roads – where vehicles could have an approaching speed of 40-50mph – without a rear light. I certainly wouldn’t dream of doing this.
The picture in urban areas is rather different, however. Here street lights are almost universal, and vehicle speeds are (or at least should be) much lower – no more than 30mph. A reasonable question here is that, if it is so difficult to perceive a bicycle without a rear light, what does that mean for pedestrians without lights on their person, who are crossing the road, either at junctions or on zebra crossings? Bear in mind that a bicycle will be travelling away from a driver, giving an extra amount of time to be spotted, unlike a pedestrian, who will typically be stationary in the direction the driver is approaching from. Pedestrians are also far less likely to be wearing clothing with reflective patches. Or lights.
The absence of a rear bicycle light, when cycling in urban areas, under streetlights, is widely seen as reckless and dangerous, yet we do not insist on these standards of illumination for pedestrians who will, very often, be in the road. The increasing prevalence of ‘shared space’ – which has the intention of making it easier for pedestrians to mingle in places where people will be driving – makes this philosophical question all the more pertinent.
I always have a rear light on my bike, but it is entirely reasonable to argue that my higher standard of illumination puts un-illuminated pedestrians at greater risk when they venture into the road. Rear lights on bikes creates a general precedent for objects in the road being illuminated; un-illuminated objects (or people) will be less readily perceived under these conditions than otherwise.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the standards that used to be applied solely to people riding bikes are now shifting towards people walking too. There was the notable case last year of an insurance company appealing against a payout for a brain-damaged young girl, hit by a driver on a country road, because she wasn’t wearing a hi-visibility vest. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before we expect people crossing the road not just to have reflective clothing, but even lights. I hope that day never comes, but this is the direction we are travelling in.
Of course this doesn’t mean I think bicycles should not have front and rear lights, or that I ever ride without them. Indeed, the two bikes I use on a regular basis have lights permanently attached to the bike, and that will always be ready to go, at the flick of a switch – powered by a dynamo. The bicycle itself is my visibility tool, with reflective elements built into it – pedal reflectors, reflective sidewalls, and reflectors (in addition to lights) both front and rear.
This kind of visibility is largely unobjectionable, because it is subtly built into the vehicle, and requires no extra cost on my part – I don’t need to wear any special clothing, or carry around any extra items. Unfortunately bicycles in Britain are rarely sold with lights fitted to them, as part of the bike. When autumn rolls around, people find themselves caught out. This is true even for bikes which are explicitly marketed as ‘city’ or ‘utility’ bikes. You wouldn’t expect to buy a car without headlights, and yet it is apparently the norm for bicycles, even for those that will never be used for sporting purposes.
Riding without lights is, of course, illegal, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it – but it is not hard to feel that the reaction to people who do ride at night in urban areas without lights is often overblown. If you ‘nearly hit’ someone riding without lights, well you could just as equally have ‘nearly hit’ a pedestrian in the road. You should be driving – or riding – to the limits of your own visibility, not relying upon people or objects in the road to make themselves visible to you, because we don’t expect them to, unless they happen to be on a bike.
I suspect many people who fixate on this issue would have a heart attack in Dutch cities like Utrecht or Amsterdam where, at night, the levels of people who have functional lights on their bikes is considerably lower than in Britain – on some evenings, at a rough guess, typically around 50 percent are riding without any lights at all. Reflective clothing is non-existent.
But this never strikes me as being particularly hazardous – the environment in these city centres feels safe, much more so than British urban areas. Encounters with motor vehicles are limited, and where they do occur, they are at slow speeds, and in areas where pedestrians are mingling in the street anyway.
Indeed, cyclists here essentially amount to wheeled pedestrians. They look like them, they move like them, except at running or jogging speed. Lack of lights just doesn’t seem like a serious problem, although there are frequent operations by Dutch police. The broader issue is one of civility, and what we want our towns and cities to look like. Reflective clothing, and excessive lighting, just doesn’t feel appropriate in high density areas. It is the wrong answer to the problem posed by motor traffic.
You need to make a short trip with your children, by car.
The first thing to do is to dress them (and yourself) appropriately. That means ensuring you are wearing dayglo reflective tabards, and crash helmets. Driving a car is very dangerous, and you also need to ensure that you are visible to other road users. They will not be expected to see you, unless you are glowing, and illuminated.
The next step is to get your car ready. There isn’t anywhere secure to store your car on the street, so you’ll have to fumble it out of the shed. You will need to unlock your car, and then attach lights and luggage to your it.
The vast majority of cars sold in Britain are for recreational purposes – for driving around in the woods, for instance – meaning that they have no coverings over their wheels, or anywhere to store possessions, or lighting systems. These have to be fitted by the buyer, in their own time, and at extra expense.
Most people don’t know how to do this, and so water and filth from the road will get distributed over them when the roads are wet. Consequently they don’t drive when it is raining. They don’t use their cars to shop either, because they don’t have anywhere to put the items they have bought.
The transmission of nearly all cars is exposed. Grease can easily get on your clothes, so you have to wear clips to keep them out of the way. Without regular maintenance, the transmission will go wrong. This means many cars languish, rusting, in back gardens, because they have quickly broken and people can’t be bothered to fix them.
Fortunately you are one of the few car enthusiasts, who has taken time to learn the intricacies of how your car works, and how to adapt it (as much as you can) for everyday use, and how to fix it. (Travelling by car in Britain is – strangely – the only mode of transport that requires this degree of intimate knowledge.)
You – and you children – sit in your car, open to the elements, with no protection from crashes with trucks. Being hit by one of these vehicles will obviously be catastrophic.
Unfortunately almost all the other vehicles on the roads are trucks, travelling at their normal, regular speed of 40mph, far faster than the maximum speed of your car, which is 20mph.
Driving cars is deeply unpopular. You are one of the few people who chooses to make short trips by car.
The government makes regular exhortations about the benefits of car driving, and ‘encouraging’ people to use cars, but to little or no effect. Car use remains the transport choice for a tiny minority of people.
Going anywhere by car will require you to travel in the same space as the trucks everyone else is driving, which bear down on you alarmingly. There is no legal alternative.
Your natural instinct is to drive to the side of the road, out of the way of these trucks, but official guidance is to drive your car in ‘the primary position’ at places where you sense conflict could occur (which is nearly everywhere in urban areas), directly in front of the trucks roaring up behind you.
No truck driver understands why you do this – you seem to be deliberately positioning your much slower vehicle in their way – and many will become furious, honking their horns and yelling at you to ‘drive your car at the side, in the car lane’. (Car lanes rarely exist, and when they do, they are functionally useless, being narrower than your car. Official training suggests you don’t use them).
This abuse – although unpleasant – is much better than the alternative of you (and your children) being hit or crushed in your car, because truck drivers feel free to squeeze past you. Roads are now designed for the way trucks travel, not the way cars travel, so truck drivers will frequently attempt to overtake you in dangerous locations.
There are a small number of cars on the market that would allow you and your children to travel side-by-side, but travelling in this way is, like the ‘primary position’, usually seen as a deliberate provocation.
You have reluctantly chosen instead to buy a narrow car, with your family positioned in a long line, safely spaced out from each other – out of the way of truck drivers.
While this car has the advantage of not annoying truck drivers, it means you can’t hold a conversation with anyone else in your car. Travelling in single file like this is something you do sadly, and you dreamily lust after a car that would allow you to travel with your children beside you, without being yelled at by truck drivers.
Being isolated from your children like this is frustrating, and you yearn to be able to listen to music, or to listen to the radio as you travel, like truck drivers do. Unfortunately this is extremely dangerous and you will be subjected to severe opprobrium by anyone who sees you doing this. How could you isolate yourself from the sounds of truck drivers speeding up behind you?
Even travelling by car with children is seriously frowned upon. Truck drivers say you are irresponsible, and putting them at risk, placing them on the roads with trucks. Better for you to transport your children in a truck, they say.
Stubbornly, you stick to your principles, although you are not entirely sure why.
Your town has a large number of one-way streets and roads. These roads used to be two-way, until the large number of trucks that appeared on the roads meant that they had to be adjusted, for ‘traffic flow purposes’.
Consequently what should be a short trip is about twice the length it could be, as you have to travel the long way round on these one-way roads, with the trucks. One-way roads aren’t too much of a problem for truck drivers as, being much faster, they hardly notice the extra distance.
You wonder to yourself why on earth it is that your considerably narrower car can’t be allowed to travel in both directions on these streets, while trucks travel in just one direction, but don’t dwell on it too much, as it is depressing.
Sometimes you are tempted to just pop up one of these one-way streets to save yourself a huge amount of distance, and exposure to danger from trucks, but you are a Good Car Driver, and would never do anything to Give Car Drivers A Bad Name.
The same goes for driving on the separate bits at the side of the road. These are very tempting places to drive on, especially in places where the number of trucks is especially thunderous. However, you are strictly forbidden from doing this, and truck drivers will berate you for ‘being dangerous’. Again, you don’t want to Give Car Drivers A Bad Name. Your reputation as a car driver is bad enough as it is.
You wish that the simple act of driving your car from A to B could be simple, direct and painless, and free from scary interactions with trucks. You wish that you could drive it with your children beside you, and that you didn’t need to wear special equipment. You wish that driving a car didn’t require constant vigilance, and awareness of the potential hazards about to be presented by trucks being driven around you.
Surely such a place couldn’t exist?
The news that the police should use some discretion and not issue Fixed Penalty Notices to anyone who rides a bike on a footway, irrespective of the local context, the type of person riding, and how they are behaving, was predictably greeted with a degree of outrage and hysteria – outrage and hysteria whipped up, deliberately or otherwise, by the British press.
A small part of the problem here is down to the word ‘cyclist’, which tends to conjure up in the mind of the average Briton an image of a young or middle-aged man, wearing odd-looking clothing, and travelling ‘at speed’ (although not faster than motor traffic) – or, failing that, a teenager or ‘youth’ tearing around antisocially on a mountain bike. Giving these cyclists ‘permission’ to ride on pavements is plainly not a good thing.
There are obvious reasons for this association – these are, usually, nearly the only types of ‘cyclist’ most people will see on a day-to-day basis. Other types of cycling – other types of people cycling – have largely disappeared in Britain, thanks to the hostility and/or inconvenience of our road system.
The Daily Mail chose to illustrate their news item about discretion on pavement cycling with this (old) picture -
A burly-looking man travelling purposefully on the pavement, which has plenty of people on it. If there is a kind of person who should be on the road – and who probably couldn’t complain about getting a ticket – this is it. Hardly appropriate to illustrate the issue.
The Daily Mail could, of course, have used a different kind of ‘pavement cyclist’ – one like this, for instance.
This is the kind of discretion that is being advised by the minister for cycling – not forcing young children to share space with motor traffic when they pose little or no danger or inconvenience to anyone walking.
Unfortunately when we hear the word ‘cyclist’ we don’t immediately think of very young girls riding tiny bikes with pink baskets. ‘A cyclist’ is not a child.
But it is this trickiness about the word ‘cyclist’, and what it suggests, that is part of a wider problem. When plans talk of ‘improvements for cyclists’ the public will unfortunately, and inevitably, have an image of the type of people cycling now, not the people who could be cycling, if conditions were right – people like them, or their children. ‘Why are we doing things for cyclists?’ they might ask – why are we doing things for a tiny minority of people, and strange ones at that, who wear funny clothes.
There is no easy way out of this – for us to stop thinking about ‘cyclists’ in this way will require wholesale changes to the way our roads and streets are designed, so that the word ‘cyclist’ will encompass everyone and lose its divisiveness. But in the meantime it’s probably helpful to avoid using ‘cyclist’, when reasonably possible – not because it’s intrinsically bad, but because it has unhelpful connotations.
Doubtless at some point in the (hopefully near) future we can reclaim it.
Note: some of what follows isn’t actually true. But only slightly.
In a move that has caused controversy in the pedestrian community, James Cracknell has come out in favour of a law to make it compulsory to wear a helmet when you walk across the road.
Speaking on the Sportlobster programme, he said
I was cycling down Route 66 in America, and a fuel truck hit me. His wing mirror hit the back of my head. The truck hit me at 70mph, and I would be dead without the helmet I was wearing.
But I’ve been thinking. What if I’d been hit hit by that truck while I was walking at the side of that road? Surely a helmet would have saved me in exactly the same way?
You know, we need to protect our heads when we’re on the road. Not just while cycling. But also while we’re walking. Use your head. Wear a helmet.
Cracknell admitted that, when it comes to helmets,
The pedestrian community is strangely ‘anti’ being told what to do. So you can’t have legislation that you should wear a helmet, because it’s an invasion of your rights to do what you want.
However, he was quick to point out that there’s no real downside to wearing a helmet for crossing the road.
But what’s the worst that can happen if you wear a helmet? There’s no downside, apart from maybe having slightly messy hair. That’s it. Whereas the upside is enormous.
And if you think it’s an invasion of your privacy, or someone telling you what to do, to wear a helmet when you walk across the road, imagine having someone wipe your arse for the rest of your life. That is the downside. Or not even surviving! The best thing that could happen is that someone has to wipe your arse for the rest of your life. I would choose to wear a helmet, and have slightly messy hair.
Actor Ralf Little – also appearing on the programme – was quickly won over by Cracknell’s faultless logic.
Why wouldn’t you wear a helmet for walking across the road? What’s the worst that can happen? You’re out walking anyway. Who cares what your hair looks like? It doesn’t matter.
Indeed. Messing up your hair is trivial, compared to the risk of suffering a catastrophic brain injury, if you get hit by a driver. He continued -
I follow James’s missus Bev, and she’s been tweeting over the last few days about Schumacher, and the need to wear a helmet when you cross the road. And the anger – this bizarre anger – from people, this response of going ‘how dare you’, this real vitriol she’s been getting… All she’s saying is, ‘listen, it would be a good idea if everyone was safe when you are on the road.’
Quite right. It would be a good idea if everyone was safe when they are on the road. Just protect your head. What kind of idiot would object to that?
Cracknell also pointed out the extra importance of wearing a helmet while walking across the public highway. Racing drivers wear helmets on racing tracks, where they are surrounded by drivers who are competent and know what they are doing. However -
On the road, you don’t know what anyone else is going to do.
Wise words. Racing drivers are highly trained, whereas drivers on the road are amateurs, and are more likely to crash into you when you walk across the road. They might not be wearing their glasses, and hit you on a pedestrian crossing, causing catastrophic head injuries. Or they might be travelling at 55mph in a 30mph zone, and hit you on a pedestrian crossing, causing catastrophic head injuries. You don’t know what anyone else is going to do.
It’s simple, says Cracknell. What’s the downside? Wear a helmet when you cross the road. How can anyone argue against something that will save your life? How?
Please do read Beyond the Kerb’s piece The Brick Wall, if you haven’t already