I went out for a test ride today, just into Leicester for a coffee (and yes I confess I also had a slice of Velvet Chocolate Cake).
I didn’t try to keep any comprehensive record of law breaking. But here are some of the ones I noticed:
Cars breaking the speed limit.
From Syston through to the A607 at Thurmaston it is a 30mph limit all the way. There are some of the signs that light up when a driver exceeds 30mph. They almost never go out. Some drivers are aggressively speeding, you can hear them revving their engines at every junction and trying to take off as if in a race as they start off at each junction. As I rode through the pavements were crowded with kids on their way home from school. Yet there are no traffic calming measures, the cycle lanes are narrow and disappear at every junction, there are no safe crossings at any of the junctions for pedestrians and nearly all the drivers break the 30mph speed limit.
Cars going through red lights
The large roundabout on the A607 at Thurmaston has traffic lights on 3 of the 5 roads coming into it. I can’t think of a time that I have gone through this junction without at least car (or bus or lorry or van) going through one or more of the lights on red. The change from green now seems to mean “if you are close enough to be able to see this then accelerate fast”.
The same with the terrible junction of Melton Road and Troon Way. If, as the council say, this is an accident blackspot then why are there not cameras to catch the criminals who go through on red.
This van scared me enough that I have reported the driver of EJ59 JFN to Parcel Force. They came fast, right up behind me revving their engine loudly as I was preparing to turn right out of a narrow road, the road is barely wide enough for two lanes and buildings mean the junction is almost blind. They then overtook me despite parked cars making the next road narrow and zoomed round another junction. I caught up with them 2 junctions later. Notice that they have a defective nearside brake light (the cover is broken so all the lights are white) and they have driven through the white stop line into the pedestrian crossing.
Just around this corner they cut across to the wrong side of a 4 lane road and parked on a double yellow line (they were facing the wrong way on a section with a central barrier).
Since when did the laws about parking on double yellow lines not apply to vans? They seem to do it all the time with total immunity.
Bus, Taxi and Cycle only restrictions
On my ride from here to Leicester there are two places where the signs clearly indicate that the route is limited to Buses, Taxis and Cyclists. One is Thurcaston Road where it crosses the river. The other is the right turning lane from Abbey Street into Belgrave Gate. I can’t remember the last time that I went through these junctions without a car going through illegally.
Cyclists on the A6
I came home through Birstall, then along the A6 to the A46. There is a section of cyclepath here, not brilliant (it becomes shared at points when it gets narrow at bus stops and the light phasing means long waits at the 2 new junctions for new housing). By this time it was dusk and every car had their lights on. I queued to join the A6 at the traffic lights at Sibson Road (I have to join the A6 at the traffic lights , cross another set of traffic lights and then the cyclepath starts). As I queued, a cyclist on a nice road bike went through both sets of traffic lights, in stages, on red (in both cases he made it to the middle and then had to wait for the lights to stop the continuous traffic). He then zoomed off up the A6 dual carriageway in the misty dusk, wearing black and with no lights. I went up the cyclepath with two front and two rear lights. By top of the hill at the A46 he (in full cycling gear riding a light road bike) had gained a few hundred metres on me (wearing jeans, riding a cargobike on a shared use cyclepath).
I have just checked sunset times and I think he was just about legally ok to not have lights on (I think by less than 30 minutes). The street lights were not on but as I say I didn’t see a single car without their lights on.
Last year a friend of mine wrote off her car when she swerved to avoid a cyclist riding along the middle of the nearside lane of the A6 dual carriageway. That was late at night, there were no street lights and the cyclist had no lights (and yes there were witnesses who tried to tell the cyclist what had happened but the cyclist didn’t care and just rode off).
Even more than the section I was on today, the A6 north of the A46 appears to be used as a race track. When you use the cyclepath between the A46 and Rothley it is obvious that cars are accelerating away from the A46 roundabout as fast as they possibly can (you can hear and see the BMW’s, Audi’s and the like doing racing gear changes at high revs).
What to make of this last example?
The jumping of the lights was illegal and due to the level of traffic IMHO a total waste of time, he gained at most 10 metres on me. To do that he had to wait stuck in no-mans-land middle of two junctions while cars went past at high speed.
The riding on the A6 dual carriageway with no lights was just about legal. Was it sensible? Was it something that I should be campaigning to support?
What to campaign for?
In recent days I have had many repeats of the demands that all cyclists should continue to be able to use all roads (even one claiming he could cycle safely along motorways as long as he got 3feet of clearance).
As I have stated clearly my focus is on a transformation of our transport system to achieve (initially) a modal share of bikes for all journeys of about 30% (which is about where the Netherlands is now). As I have said before my reasons for that focus are:
- to save lives, particularly of children
- to tackle our huge obesity problem
- to tackle our poor air quality
- to free up our congested cities and towns
- to end our over dependence on cheap oil
- to help our over stretched NHS
- to help our hurting economy
- to work for healing of our fractured local communities
I am very ready to campaign against those who break the law such as speeding, going through red lights (and surely here I have to be even handed, if it is wrong in a car it is also wrong on a bike), ignoring restrictions etc.
If I am supposed to support the right of someone to cycle along tha A6 dual carriageway at dusk in black, with no lights, when there is a serviceable cyclepath I need to know
- how will supporting this save lives?
- how will supporting this encourage the building of a safe infrastructure?
- how will supporting this encourage parents to encourage their kids to ride bikes? (and ride themselves as well)
Clearly people vehemently believe I have been missing something. They clearly believe I am going to damage the very future of riding a bike in the UK if I do not make the legal right to ride on all roads the centrepiece of my own campaigning.
So far as I understand the arguments, those who have been cycle advocates for many years (both in terms of formal organisations and as individuals) argue that if I wish to campaign for an increased number of ordinary people riding bikes for transport it is essential that I make the right for cyclists to ride on every road my highest priority.
I confess I still don’t understand this.