Autumn Cycling

BicycleDutch - 22 October, 2018 - 23:01
Rain, wind and bold colours. That is Autumn, well usually anyway. This year there hasn’t been much rain (the Netherlands is experiencing a severe draught) and the otherwise normal temperature … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Over the hills and far away - Drenthe has built a hill for cyclists

A View from the Cycle Path - 19 October, 2018 - 18:01
Steve, Peter and myself on "our" new hill: The "Col du VAM". It's the highest point in Drenthe at 4800 cm above sea level ! Each week, a small group of recumbent cyclists ride together from Assen on short touring rides. This morning three of us went on a 70 km round trip to ride up a new hill which Drenthe has created for cyclists of all kinds to ride over. "Our" new hill is now the highest David Hembrow
Categories: Views

Cycling alongside two canals

BicycleDutch - 15 October, 2018 - 23:01
Although we try to separate the routes for motor traffic and cycling as much as possible in the Netherlands, combining other types of infrastructure is often a good idea. On … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Zwolle: The Dutch city which changed its roundabouts from one unsafe design to another unsafe design

A View from the Cycle Path - 9 October, 2018 - 10:56
I've written three times before (1, 2, 3) about how the roundabouts in Zwolle cause danger for cyclists. Each time, I've pointed out that the use of the "priority" roundabout design in that city results in those roundabouts always featuring as the most dangerous sites for cyclists in the entire city. The top ten list of most dangerous locations for cyclists in Zwolle according to the David Hembrow
Categories: Views

Cycling in The Hague

BicycleDutch - 8 October, 2018 - 23:01
People cycling near the central station of The Hague in the afternoon rush hour, that is the theme of this week’s post. When I was early for an evening meeting* … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

A rebuilt gyratory that is still putting people in danger

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 3 October, 2018 - 11:08

The gyratory system around Victoria station in Westminster has been a genuinely horrible place to cycle for as long as I can remember. Getting to and from the station, or cycling past it, involves dealing with multiple lanes of one-way motor traffic, zooming off towards Park Lane, or thundering south towards Vauxhall Bridge.

The gyratory makes absolutely no concessions to cycling. If, for instance, you want to get from the station to the safety of Cycle Superhighway 3 – central London’s flagship cycle route, you have to make your way around two sides of a terrifying triangle, holding a position in the right hand lane of traffic heading north onto Grosvenor Place, before taking primary position on the left hand side as you skirt the edge of Buckingham Palace.

Cycling from Victoria to CS3

Cycle Superhighway 5 should have arrived in this area from Vauxhall Bridge, and should – quite sensibly – have connected up with Superhighway 3 in the vicinity of Buckingham Palace. However, it seems to have stalled right on the boundary of (guess who!) Westminster City Council, leaving anyone attempting to get between the two to negotiate a mile or so of unpleasant roads without any mitigation for cycling whatsoever.

Right in the middle of the Victoria gryatory stands the new Nova development. An incidental detail is that one of the buildings here won 2017’s Carbuncle Cup for the UK’s ugliest building, but I doubt that anyone cycling past has any time to assess its aesthetic qualities, given that they are busily trying to stay alive. Like Superhighway 5, this development should have represented an opportunity to make the roads around Victoria a bit less lethal for anyone attempting to cycle here. There’s even a detailed 60-page  Transport for London strategy document dating from 2014, the Victoria Vision Cycling Strategy (link opens a download automatically), which explicitly sets out the key challenges and requirements in the Victoria area, in the context of the then-Mayor’s Vision for Cycling.

However, while there have been some improvements in the area around the Nova development – in particular, widened footways, better public realm, and a surface-level crossing that has replaced a subway – it is unfortunate that, despite this golden opportunity to make some serious changes, cycling has been almost completely ignored as the roads have been rebuilt.

One of the biggest issues is that the gyratory around the Nova development has been retained. The new buildings still sit in the middle of what is effectively a giant multi-lane roundabout. The problem of trying to negotiate these roads without being diverted around hostile one-way systems remains, to say nothing of the total lack of protected space for cycling.

Buckingham Palace Road, 2017. New buildings, new footway, new trees, new road surface -the  same three lanes of one-way motor traffic.

Cycling towards the camera here remains impossible. And when the bus lane is occupied, cycling away from the camera is – while possible – an unpleasant and potentially dangerous experience.

Buckingham Palace Road, summer 2018.

4 metre wide bus lanes aren’t so great for cycling when they’re full of buses.

Much the same is true on Victoria Street, lying between Victoria station and the Nova development. Again, we have 2-3 lanes of one-way motor traffic thundering through here, exactly as before.

Victoria Street, looking east. The Nova development is on the left.

And again, this arrangement make no concession for anyone trying to cycle east (away from the camera).

Worst of all, it introduces a significant collision risk at the junction itself, where I am standing to take the photograph. On the approach to the junction, a wide bus stand narrows down significantly, leaving perhaps a metre of width between the kerb and stationary vehicles as a ‘channel’ through which people can cycle to reach an inviting advanced stop line (ASL). The area in question is indicated with the arrow, below.

Approaching the junction on Victoria Street.

That ASL looks very inviting, but getting there could be very risky indeed. There’s absolutely no guarantee that any large vehicle progressing through the junction will remain a safe distance from the kerb. Three separate examples below, taken within the space of a few minutes.

Anyone cycling up to the lights – forced into a tight merge by the narrowing of the road, and tempted to advance by a cycle lane leading to an ASL, could very easily find themselves squeezed between a lorry, or a bus, and the kerb. If any of these vehicles are turning left, like the National Express coach in the photograph below, the consequences could be lethal.

Someone has already had a very narrow escape here, taken to hospital in a critical condition after going under a left turning lorry at precisely this location.

From Get West London. The lorry is in nearly exactly the same position as the National Express coach in the previous photograph.

This is dreadful design, and it’s shocking that new road layouts this are appearing right in the centre of our capital city, with a blank slate to do so much better.

It may not be apparent from these photographs, but the footway on this corner is now very large indeed – nearly twenty metres wide, at the apex.

This is obviously a very good thing, in its own right. A left-turn slip lane for motor traffic has been removed and replaced with this footway, making the junction far more attractive for anyone walking here. But it seems extraordinary that, simultaneously, so little thought has been given to the safety of people attempting to cycle through here. They are almost literally being thrown under the bus. At a location where the building-to-building width is  30 metres, it is simply unacceptable to squeeze people cycling into a tiny space where they are already ending up under the wheels of HGVs.

Blink and you’ll miss it. The tiny, narrow and dangerous concession to cycling in this enormous space.

How can things be going so wrong with brand-new road layouts? How can we we rebuilding roads with 2-3 lanes of one-way motor traffic, without any apparent thought for cycling?

The distinct, unavoidable impression created from the new roads around Victoria is that it seems sufficient to treat cycling as a mere afterthought once the road layouts and widened pavements have been planned. Once the kerb lines have been defined, all that’s left to do is to add a painted bicycle symbol in a box just behind the stop line, and perhaps a tokenistic line at the side of the road, where there isn’t any parking, or a bus lane. Even if that might make a dangerous junction even more dangerous.

That’s just not good enough. These roads could and should have been rebuilt with protected cycleways, allowing people to travel to and from the Vauxhall area and central London in safety, or from west London towards central London. Instead they are still being put in danger, and cycling here will continue to remain the sole preserve of the fit and brave.

Categories: Views

Has ’s-Hertogenbosch forgotten this old road?

BicycleDutch - 1 October, 2018 - 23:07
A 700-metre-long stretch of a dual carriageway road lies abandoned in the town of ’s-Hertogenbosch. A long time ago this used to be the main route to Nijmegen (via Hintham). … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team – Setting the Gold Standard for road danger reduction policing

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 29 September, 2018 - 15:28
At the “Cycle City Active City” conference in Manchester in July Road Safety Minister Jesse Norman commended the work on policing close passing of cyclists sby PCs Mark Hodson and Steve Hudson of the West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team (WMPRHRT), saying his Department “plans to build on it – it is a very effective way of building awareness and reducing casualties”.

By now readers of posts on this site will be aware of the existence of operations policing the close passing of cyclists and related enforcement based on reducing road danger at source. Our last update of what is happening nationally is here.

This post is about the work WMPRHRT carry out in general. For us they have been setting the Gold Standard for road danger reduction policing with the typical resources (the Metropolitan Police being the exception that proves the rule here) of a Police Service.


The basic format is the same: plain clothes officers report ahead if they have been passed too closely; the driver is stopped and, generally using a mat, the driver then has Rule 163 of the Highway Code and its rationale explained to them. Some 26 of the 42 Police Services in the UK attended our September training day last year.

In the last year they WMPRHRT have been partnered by West Midlands Fire Service, who now do much of the educational work. This allows the police to carry out operations with four officers (one cyclist, one safety officer generally on a motorcycle, with two stopping officers at the stop site).

Here’s an example of what they do from Twitter in July:

Were you the cyclist on the A452 Collector Rd towards Chelmsley Wood who was “close passed” at about 8:30 am yesterday, & the offender was immediately pulled over & prosecuted by ourselves? If so can you please make contact with PC 3505 Mark Hodson. Please RT More
We’ve got excellent footage from our vehicle from behind the offence but we would just like to know if you were running a camera, not only for the prosecution but so we can use the footage “post” prosecution as part of our #OpClosePass programme

More training has been rolled out to West Mids fire crews to enable more close pass operations to take place. There is now a specific driver education power point presentation for anyone delivering roadside education: primarily aimed at Fire Service Crews, this will enable personnel to support close pass operations. For example: they have carried out a full day’s presentation to Royal Mail depot at Wednesbury. 30 drivers were given a presentation, practical input on the ‘mat with bike’ and also education on enforcement from Central Motorways Police Group.. This was very well received with lots of debate which was both constructive and thought provoking, getting the ‘drivers’ view of their relationship with cyclists. Royal Mail indicated that they had a positive impact.

• There are at least ONE PER WEEK close pass operations in their area, carried out with neighbourhood teams, mainly of PCSOs. About 3 (including up to 2 motorcyclists) come from WMPRHRT with up to 6 from the neighbourhood team. Each operation takes up to 3 hours.

9 – 16 vehicles are stopped for close passing in each operation.

• Whereas the principal purpose of stopping drivers who have “close passed” is to provide education, with prosecution being reserved for other offences which come to light after the stop, in West Midlands, some prosecutions for close passing ARE made (under Section 2 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act: “careless driving” /”driving without due care and attention”).



This occurs some 2 – 3 times per week.
A big issue for local drivers, who have been engaged with to find out their views, is that there is a fear that if they do comply with 20 mph they will be “tailgated”. Consequently “tailgating” – driving too close to the vehicle in front – can be targeted.


WMPRHRT police careless driving with regard to Rule 178 of the Highway Code, namely breaking of rules with regard to Advanced Stop Lines, to reduce “left hooking” incidents.


Leaving motor vehicles in dangerous position involves infringing the Road Traffic Act 1988 (Obstruction is a lesser offence.) This kind of policing has been very popular. Enforcement at School zig-zags has gone down well with people concerned about school children’s safety


Pioneered a few weeks ago, WMPRHRT got a lot of media attention for the tactic of using officers in a bus to look down into cars and spot mobile phone use.

Operation Top Deck has been launched by the force’s Road Harm Reduction Team and sees plain clothes officers equipped with video cameras peering down at passing motorists on the lookout for distracted drivers. Information is radioed to police bikers who divert offenders to a designated site where they are given an educational input, including a hard-hitting, virtual reality video highlighting the potentially devastating consequences of using a phone while driving. “

They tweet:

#OpTopDeck out again this afternoon with @ST_Police crewing the bus in company with PC Hodson from our team. 41 mobile phone offences detected in 3 hours. The evidence from bus is fantastic even in the poor weather this afternoon. Offending observed & evidenced from feet away!

After a recent night with a number of fatal Road Traffic Collisions:

West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team Retweeted West Midlands Ambulance Service
At no other point in your life do you pose a greater threat of harm to others than when you are driving a vehicle, think about your responsibility when behind the wheel & the possible repercussions for all if you fall below #teststandard our thoughts are with all those involved
If you use a phone at any time whilst you are driving you are no better than a drink driver, you are a danger to society & we will take every opportunity to prosecute you. #OpTopDeck #thirdpartyreporting



As well as their award winning Twitter account, they have an important blog we strongly suggest you read. . It hasn’t been added to for a while – the emphasis now will be more on “vlogging” – but it’s worth a read.


This is an absolutely central part of the work WMPRHRT do. In conversation they make it clear that educational work, by itself, cannot be properly effective.

With 3rd party reporting, they have had some 350 – 400 reports up until November last year. There are some 50 – 80 reports now per month.3 cases have gone to court and resulted in guilty verdicts under Section 3 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act. Other cases where there has been a refusal to nominate a driver are pursued.

Whereas the on-road activity is educational, 3rd party reporting can result in prosecution. So far the ratio of education to enforcement (which results in either 3 points on the licence plus a fine, or a Driver Awareness training session) is 1:3.

They tweet about it here:

Not guilty pleas to 3rd party reported video offences are as rare as England penalty shootout wins… yet we’ve had both this week. Footage from a cyclists helmet cam used to prosecute by our TPO saw a mobile phone using driver in the dock today with PC Hodson in attendance. The evidence was tested during the trial & the defendant duly found guilty. There is no doubt that this type of prosecution will have a large part to play in making our roads safer places to be. Look out for the press release coming soon #protectingthevulnerable #driverbehaviour
Our thanks go to the submitting witness we welcome every opportunity to address the greatest #threatofharm on our regions roads #fatal4 Even with the guilty verdict some valuable learning has been taken away from today’s rare trial, we don’t get many due to the strong evidence Also we give due credit to the staff at our fabulous #TPO who have taken the 3rd party reported video offences on after the pioneering work by #hodsonandhudson & developed it to the point where they really do lead the way nationally. #biggerandbetter #thirdpartyreporting

And here’s a video

For RDRF 3rd party reporting is an absolutely key issue in roads policing and road danger reduction as a whole. As we said in our last post on the matter:

This is “the big news”: after Operation Snap rolled out in Wales last year, we now have an extension of it for forces throughout the UK with Nextbase launching the National Dash Cam Safety Portal (NDCSP) “a website that allows road users – cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists and pedestrians, as well as drivers – to easily send video of dodgy and dangerous behaviour to the relevant police forces via a single online hub.”. (For descriptions, see here and here ).

Police forces linked to the portal via their own platforms include: Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Cheshire Constabulary, Essex Police, Hampshire Constabulary, the Metropolitan Police Force, Norfolk Constabulary, North Yorkshire Police, Suffolk Constabulary, Surrey Police, Sussex Police, Thames Valley Police, Dyfed-Powys Police, Gwent Police, North Wales Police, South Wales Police. Forces who will receive footage directly from the portal include: West Mercia Police, Warwickshire Police, West Midlands Police and Wiltshire Police.

This can be a fundamental game changer. However, it will require sufficient evidence to be submitted, appropriate responses from stretched police services, and acceptance by the general public.

With increasing use of helmet cams, light/cams etc., there is a great deal of frustration at even very obvious examples of bad driving not being taken seriously by police forces. Here is an account from a (long) twitter thread of a well know helmet-cam cyclist, known as “Magnatom” of his experiences in Scotland:

“I’m often asked if I’ve reported an incident I’ve shared. The reality is I only rarely do go to the police. Unfortunately going to the police is not easy. First, you need to hope you get a sympathetic officer. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you get sneered at. Sometimes  you get dismissed. Sometimes you have to argue with them that, yes driving a car 30cm from my arm at 40mph is dangerous. Then, when they do take it seriously, it takes time to do the statement and burn the videos to CD. Then you rarely hear from the police again ..
Sometimes you do, but often you need to chase them. Then, sometimes the police make a mistake and don’t fill a form out right, or don’t send the case to the Procurator Fiscal on time. I’ve had a few cases dismissed because of that. Then the Procurator Fiscal take the case and you may never hear about the case again, unless you chase. You only ever hear about it if it goes to court. Some cases are dropped due to ‘not in public interest’ which is often code for, ‘we have too many cases and road safety isn’t a priority’. Some are given a warning letter, which is a waste of time. Then if you are very luck, you get a court date. By that is often delayed. Sometimes the delay happens before the court date, sometimes the delay happens when you’ve been sitting in the witness room for 6 hours. … Sometimes after having sat in the witness room for 6 hours the PF comes to chat with you and lies about a problem with the paperwork which you later find out was completely false. If you are super lucky at this point the defendant admits guilty and you aren’t needed. If you are unlucky you need to go into court as a witness. That, I can assure you, is not fun. In fact, its pretty damn horrible. Not only do they pick at your evidence, if they see fit, they character assassinate you. For an hour and a half. Then, at the end they find the defendant not guilty because they can’t be identified in the footage. It matters not that they admit driving the car at the time, on that road, or that you shout out the reg, and the make of the car is obvious. Or they are found not guilty because its not breach of the peace to shout aggressively in someone’s face that they are young to beat you up,Or that the precise position of the car wheels are not know at a specific moment which might mean they didn’t drive their car at you. If, you get beyond that and they are miraculously found guilty, then they get a slap on the wrist with a small fine and a few points. Less than they’d get if they were caught holding a mobile phone Oh and the charge is reduced from Dangerous to careless, because…. it’s just easier that way and despite everything that happened, despite how bad the driving was and the crap you’ve had to go through, you still feel guilty for pursuing it all. That’s why I don’t report as much as I could. The system is very, very, VERY heavily weighted in the favour of the accused and those driving the 1 tonne hunk of metal. My cases are only the tip of the iceberg. I know of many more serious cases that have failed because the system is broken, its underfunded and vulnerable user road safety is not a priority. .. and yet I still get people saying how I enjoy the drama…..that I enjoy getting people into trouble…. that I enjoy going to the police. No. I hate it. But if I don’t, and if you don’t, nothing will change.”

For us, using 3rd party reporting as part of road danger reduction policing is critical. It is an absolutely key element, along with several others, of the work that West Midlands Road Harm Reduction Team, along with that of other officers in West Midlands Police and their partners, carries out. Others – step forward Surrey Roads Policing Unit for their excellent work on Twitter – do good work in a variety of areas.

But at the moment WMPRHRT are setting the Gold Standard for road danger reduction policing.

Categories: Views

REVIEWS: “Building the Cycling City” and “Designing for Cycle Traffic”

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 26 September, 2018 - 18:14

Here are two different books which are required reading for anybody thinking about creating cities where cycling is a genuinely mass mode of transport: which, when you come to think about it, is anybody with a view of cities which are less dangerous, polluting (whether it be from noxious, greenhouse gas or noise emissions), unsustainable and unhealthy for those living and working in them.

Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality”, Melissa Bruntlett and Chris Bruntlett. Island Press. “Designing for Cycle Traffic: International principles and practice”, John Parkin. Institution of Civil Engineers Publishing.

This isn’t going to be a long review, because if you’re interested in this subject you’re just going to have to get hold of the books yourself!

The Bruntletts’ book is essentially a story of what’s happened in the Netherlands. I’d say it’s more of a background set of accounts from different cities. It may challenge some preconceptions, such as:

Looking at Amsterdam today, it would seem the 1978 policy equated to thousands of kilometres of bicycle-specific infrastructure, creating seamless network across the entire city. But the truth is actually a little more complicated and counterintuitive. This cycling utopia was built on traffic-calming rather than bike lanes. Instead of constructing separated cycle tracks on every street, officials started with speed-limit reductions, parking restrictions, through traffic limitations, and lane narrowings and removals”.(p.96)

What follows then, and is repeated at various places throughout the book, is statement of the central question of how examples achieved elsewhere in the past can be used as guides for the future: “Every city is different, and has to find their own ways to improve the city” (p.97).
Parkin’s book is a different thing entirely: a handbook for doing what it says on the cover. Although more expensive (but check out to see if any of the cut-price offers are still available from the publishers) it is something that every committed campaigner, planner and engineer will have to have. More importantly, as Parkin suggests in the podcast interview about his book , it needs, above all,  to be on the shelves of your local highway authority’s engineering department:

The aim of the book is to provide a coherent summary and evaluation of the principles and practices of designing for cycle traffic. It does this with reference mainly to Danish, Dutch, UK and US guidance and standards… A recurring theme throughout the book is that design not only needs to treat cycle as traffic, but also to create attractive and comfortable infrastructure for the riders.”

Each chapter has a clear overview and highlights, neatly separated sections, technical illustrations to satisfy any professional engineer and good quality references (yes., my book is in there!).

Here are a couple of favourite bits:

1. “One particularly common thought appears to be that cycling is ‘dangerous’, and, more than that, cycling causes the danger. The majority, by far, of collisions and injuries are caused by motor traffic. Cycling does not pose as much risk as many other activities in which people might blithely take part.” (p.28)

2. “The book does not use the term ‘vulnerable road user’ because this could imply that there are other road users who have the right and the privilege to make others feel vulnerable. Even if these other road users have the means (a motor vehicle) the ability to create vulnerability should be designed out of transport systems as far as possible and for obvious moral reasons… By contrast, the book does use the phrase ‘cycle traffic’ (p.2)”

Of course, neither of these books will provide “the answer” easily. Blueprints such as these have to be introduced into a society still in thrall to mass car use and yet more road building to accommodate (and generate) more motor traffic. How road users will behave, as well as getting more cycle-friendly infrastructure installed in the first place, is going to be affected – indeed confronted – by the ideologies and culture of accumulated decades of subservience to increasing mass motorisation.

But working out ways to get to a better future can be helped by demonstrating how existing societies have managed to provide a better alternative. Parkin’s book in particular will be a necessary tool when it comes to showing how the public highway can be laid out for the benefit of a transport system based more on the healthy and sustainable mode of cycling.

Categories: Views

Can a ride in Hilversum explain why I don’t own a car?

BicycleDutch - 24 September, 2018 - 23:01
When I had a meeting on a location in Hilversum the other day I went by bicycle. Hilversum is about 70 kilometres (about 43 miles) from my home but that … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Another reconstructed city centre street in Utrecht

BicycleDutch - 17 September, 2018 - 23:01
Retailers in the Utrecht shopping street Oudkerkhof are very pleased with how their street was reconstructed. Some seem to think it was done at their request. But this transformation was … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Riding e-bikes does not lead to health benefits

A View from the Cycle Path - 12 September, 2018 - 15:34
A recent study ("Transport mode choice and body mass index: Cross-sectional and longitudinal evidence from a European-wide study" by Evi Dons and others) compared the effect of different modes of transport on the BMI of thousands of European commuters. Each participant provided details of their height, weight and age as well as their mode of transport, followed by a second survey 18 months David Hembrow
Categories: Views

A new bridge in a residential area

BicycleDutch - 10 September, 2018 - 23:01
It was freezing cold and everything was covered in a white coat of snow when this new bridge was festively opened for pedestrians and cycling early March this year. To … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Another relaxed Boxtel bike ride

BicycleDutch - 3 September, 2018 - 23:01
Another relaxed ride in the town of Boxtel in this week’s blogpost. I showed you an example in that town in an earlier blog post. That was a ride on … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Building a legal rainbow crossing

A View from the Cycle Path - 30 August, 2018 - 20:54
My last blog post included the photo above, which no-one commented on. Many places have of course installed rainbow crossings before Assen, but some careful thought went into this which I think is noteworthy. Bear in mind that rainbow crossings have two purposes, which are not related to one another: The political purpose: A rainbow crossing indicates that the city within which it appears David Hembrow
Categories: Views

Can Sydney Go Dutch?

BicycleDutch - 27 August, 2018 - 23:01
When I posted on Facebook that I would spend my holidays in Australia this year, I soon received a message from someone of the city of Sydney. “Would it be … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

New cycle bridge at Nigtevecht

BicycleDutch - 20 August, 2018 - 23:01
A brand-new cycle bridge over the Amsterdam Rhine Canal, between the villages of Nigtevecht and Abcoude can be used since early August. Since I was in Australia at the time, … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Riding in the dark

BicycleDutch - 13 August, 2018 - 23:01
The days are incredibly long in the Dutch summer. At the end of June there is daylight from about 4 am to 11 pm. And yet I managed to ride … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Instead of blaming individuals, fix the system

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 8 August, 2018 - 09:00

Doubtless many of you will have seen this video of a ‘near miss’ on the A38 in Bromsgrove, in which a child narrowly escapes serious injury, thanks to the quick reactions of a driver – a fireman, Robert Allen.

I wasn’t sure whether to post this but if it stops a child from being killed on the road it’s worth it! Today a child rode out in front of me, across the dual track, without looking! Thankful I was driving under the speed limit & reacted quickly! #neverchanceit @BromStandard

— Robert Allen (@HWfireRAllen) August 5, 2018

I wasn’t the only one to notice that the way this incident was framed – both on social media, and in the media more generally – focussed entirely on human actions. On the one hand, the quick thinking, forward planning and skill of the driver, and on the other, the mistakes and foolishness of the children.

Framed in this context, the only way to prevent near misses (or even serious injuries and fatalities from occurring in future) is to ensure that all drivers are as quick-thinking and careful as this one, and also to ensure that children don’t behave impulsively, and don’t make mistakes and misjudgements.

But unfortunately both of those things are actually very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Children, especially younger children, have serious problems judging the speeds of approaching vehicles, due to their difficulty in perceiving visual looming (HT AndyR_UK). On top of that they will inevitably be impulsive, fail to concentrate, or become distracted. Equally, drivers won’t be paying attention 100% of the time. They will also get distracted. They are fallible. They will not all be as cautious and as quick to react as Robert Allen. Because they are human beings, not robots.

So the only realistic way of preventing these kinds of incidents from happening in the future is to design the danger out of the crossing. We can’t rely on human beings not do stupid things, or to not make mistakes, because it’s not who we are. The only rational response is to minimise the chances of collisions occurring in the first place, and to minimise the severity of those collisions if they do happen. The alternative – attempting to get children to behave properly in the context of this type of crossing – is nothing more than applying the flimsiest of sticking plasters to a gaping wound.

If we look at the location, it’s a little bit ambiguous whether the posted speed limit is 60mph or 70mph, because the crossing is at exactly the point where two lanes (60mph limit) become a four lane dual carriageway (70mph limit).

But whether it’s 60mph or 70mph doesn’t really matter – as Ranty Highwayman observes, either way, these are still very high speeds for children to be processingespecially where drivers will be distracted by the process of merging back down to one lane in the in the oncoming direction, or focused on accelerating up to 70mph as they move into two lanes from one in the facing direction.

On top of that, we have the pedestrian barriers – presumably installed with the intention of stopping people from cycling straight out into the road – acting to steer anyone cycling up to the crossing into a position parallel to the road, where any oncoming motor traffic will be directly behind them. 

Rather than naturally facing that oncoming traffic, children (or anyone else cycling here) will have to look right back over the shoulder to process it. Frankly the entire layout is a recipe for casualties, which the ‘Sign Make It Better’ warning does nothing to fix (not least because it’s only about 50 feet from the actual crossing – not a great deal of help when it comes to alerting drivers of the potential danger).

I’m not sure when this road was built, and the period in which it was thought this was an appropriate type of crossing for a road of this context – but it’s far from unique. There are several similarly lethal crossings of 70mph dual carriageways in West Sussex, usually the result of existing routes or lanes being severed by the construction of new roads and bypasses, with absolutely no consideration given to the safe passage of people walking and cycling across them. I can think of at least three on Horsham’s northern bypass, which was built in the late 1980s. Below is just one of them.


There’s housing behind the trees on the left hand side of this location, and a railway station a couple of minutes’ walk down the lane to right. It’s not only the danger that is infuriating – it’s the fact that people could be walking and cycling, easily, to and from these locations, but have these horrendous barriers put in their way. The road simply shouldn’t have been built like this – it should have had underpasses integrated into it during construction, to allow people to cross it freely, and in safety.

The Bromsgrove example is perhaps even more pressing, however, as the road is a clearer example of severance – with housing on both sides of the road. If the A38 were a Highways England road, then under the IAN 195/16 standard (which I’ve covered here) a grade-separated crossing would be a mandatory requirement for a 60mph limit. If that’s not possible, then the speed limit should be lowered, the motor traffic lanes should be narrowed significantly, and the crossings should involve clear sightlines, with only one lane crossed at a time. Something like this kind of thing, which I saw on a distributor road in the city of Zwolle.

There are no signals; this is just a simple priority crossing, with cycles having to give way to motor traffic. However, only one lane has to be crossed a time, motor traffic speeds are much lower, and the visibility is excellent, for all parties. This really isn’t rocket science.

If the council wish to retain a 60mph limit, or four lanes of motor traffic, then that obviously means that human beings should be separated entirely from the road, to insulate them from the increased danger that attempts to cross such a road at-grade would involve. An underpass is the obvious answer in that traffic context.

That would plainly be an expensive undertaking, but really there’s no other safe way of addressing the severance posed by a multiple lane road with such a high speed limit.

Obviously I don’t know the local situation, but I suspect it may be much more appropriate to ‘downgrade’ the road to an urban distributor, with single lanes in each direction, separated by a median, and with a much lower speed limit. That would allow the ‘Zwolle’ type of crossing to be employed, and safely. But there are many other places where that is impossible, or at least undesirable. The Horsham example is one location where the traffic volumes and road context – an explicit bypass – should really necessitate grade separation.

To a large extent, we’re reaping the harvest of decades of road-building and planning with little or no thought for the safety and convenience of anyone who wasn’t in a motor vehicle – people cycling and walking along these roads, or attempting to cross them. It’s going to be difficult and costly to undo that damage. Perhaps it’s not surprising, therefore, that we all reach for the superficially easy option of attempting to change human behaviour, rather than changing the system, when we’re confronted with incidents like the one in Bromsgrove.

Categories: Views

Meanwhile in the town of Houten

BicycleDutch - 6 August, 2018 - 23:01
The town of Houten is the current titleholder in the biennial election of the “best place to cycle in the Netherlands”. The town won the election organised by the Cyclists’ … Continue reading →
Categories: Views


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