At 10:30pm I was cycling home on sheet ice. It was no problem on a bike although walking would have been difficult.
In some places the ice was under fresh frozen snow, in other places the snow had melted during the day and now the water had frozen. In other places the snow had been compacted and polished into ice by cars.
On the 3 or so miles home I used separated cycle paths, minor roads and avoided riding on any main roads.
After just a few days of riding in the snow and I am at ease doing so. I have now ridden about 40 miles in the snow and ice. In that time my bike has slid away from me only once.
The problem comes when I need to go near cars. On separated cycle paths there is no problem. On most residential roads there is no problem. But on roads where there are many cars it is a very different story.
The problem is that car drivers are so insulated from the world around them.
On my bike I am very aware of the surface and how much grip I have. I know about slowing for corners because if I go too fast I will come off and I don’t like hurting myself. On shared paths I am very aware of pedestrians, we connect, I can’t ignore their humanity, I can see them slipping and sliding.
In a car everything is done to hide, protect, insulate the driver from the world around. The heater will have hidden the real temperature, the traction control will have hidden the lack of grip, the sound system will hide the humanity around, the ice not fully cleared off the side windows and mirrors will hide the people around.
The insulation from the world means that it is only when you are sliding out of control towards a child, a cyclist, a pedestrian that you discover that you have no grip.
For everyone’s safety we need to reconnect drivers with the world around, remove layers of insulation. Here are some suggestions:
We need to end the various legal insulations between drivers and the consequences of their actions. For example:
- Implement strict liability
- any driver who has killed anyone to lose their license permanently
- any driver who has injured anyone to lose their license for 5 years
- any driver convicted of an office such as dangerous or careless driving to lose their license for several years
- the penalties for speeding to be massively increased. Two offences should mean losing your license for several years. Speeding fines should be be increased 10x (if people can’t pay then take the car as payment)
- parking fines to be increased 10x. These to earn points on the license (eg 4 offences means losing your license for several years)
- Driving without insurance, tax or license. Take the car away immediately and scrap it. Take away their license for life. Require significant amounts of community service. Implement a fine through the tax and benefit system (treat the fine a bit like a student loan).
- If you are caught speeding outside a school then your car and license should be immediately taken away pending fine/points etc.
- There need to be a visible and audible signals when anti-lock brakes are activated. These need to be visible to all passengers and also to people outside the car.
- The same with traction control. When it is activated then everyone in the car and outside need to be aware.
- These warnings should continue for some time after the activation. As a cyclist I want to know if the car approaching me has needed anti lock brakes or traction control in the last 60 seconds or so as I may need to get off and run for my life.
- There needs to be an automatic speed limiter applied following use of anti lock brakes or traction control. Say for 10 minutes after activation the car should be limited to 20mph. If there are further activations in that time then the time should be increased significantly.
- I would also like to see gps controlled speed limiters with radio control. They would prevent anyone breaking the speed limit anywhere but would allow for speed limits to be automatically lowered due to weather and traffic conditions
- Immediate implementation of a 20mph speed limit on all residential streets.
- No 30mph limits within the boundaries of a town or village (eg in a town the size of Syston, about 12,000, there is no need for any 30mph limits).
- In freezing conditions any road that has not been gritted should have a 10mph speed limit