Tag Archives: Speed limit

How many pass too close? Too many near killer drivers!

At the moment it seems to me that drivers (no matter what they are driving) pass too close most of the time. Note that academic research seems to support my experience

This makes me very angry!

I would say that at best when I am on a bike only 1 in 10 overtaking manoeuvres  feels safe. The rest of the time it is one of the following (sadly often an even more dangerous combination of these):

  • they are too close
  • visibility makes it dangerous (typically overtaking around a blind bend)
  •  they have to slam on their brakes immediately after overtaking because of stationary traffic or a junction
  • they cut in dangerously soon
  • they try to bully you by crowding behind you and revving their engine
  • they are speeding dangerously
  • they just don’t seem to be in control
  • they are using their mobile phone
  • they accelerate from behind me just as I am stopping because a traffic light is going to red

Given that ones of these “mistakes” by a driver could so easily kill me, my wife or one of my sons this fills me with dismay and anger.

  • Why do drivers not care about the lives of people I love?
  • Why do drivers only think of themselves?
  • Why is a total gain of zero seconds worth so much  more than someone’s life? Remember that in most cases drivers will not be delayed at all by overtaking a cyclists safely because they will still quickly catch the vehicle in front.

If you find a person on a bike swearing at you, shaking their fist at you, hitting your car then it is probably because in your reckless, greedy, selfish stupidity you have nearly killed them or someone they love.

What gap is needed?

1. I want a minimum of a 1 metre gap (that is more than 3 feet) from the outside of your wing mirror to the outside of my handlebar. If you are doing more than 30 mph then I want a bigger gap. If you are doing more than 40 mph then I want a gap the same width as your vehicle.

2. I want to be able to continue on my way without being forced to brake because you have cut me up or braked suddenly because there was no where for you to go.


1. If you find you have overtaken a person on a bike without leaving a 1metre gap then stop, get out of the vehicle, post your license back to DVLA and never drive again. Your incompetence is putting people in mortal danger. You have no right to a license to kill.

2. If you can’t overtake without leaving a huge gap then don’t overtake! WAIT!!!

3. If the road in front of a cyclist is not visible, or is not clear, if there is a queue in sight or a junction then WAIT!! Do not overtake.

4. If in any doubt whatsoever then brake, wait, do not overtake.

If you keep to this simple advice then you are much less likely to murder someone which I think we can agree is a good thing.


Why not change insurance for law breaking drivers who crash

I’m just wondering if a simple law change would help make our roads safer.

If you are breaking the law then your insurance should automatically become 3rd party insurance only.

  • If your car is stolen or damaged when illegally parked you will not be able to make a claim
  • If you are breaking the speed limit and are involved in a crash then you will not be able to make a claim for car repairs or a new car
  • If you are drunk and involved in a crash then you will not be able to make a claim for car repairs or a new car
  • If you are running a red light or fail to stop at a stop sign or whatever then you will not be able to make a claim for car repairs or a new car

This will not affect 3rd parties so if you damage someone else or their car or bike they will still get an insurance payout.




Change is slow but possible

Today we take our car in for a service, thinking about that I have realised that we have managed to make some positive changes during the last year.

  • We have moved from two cars to one
  • We have cut our annual mileage by over 50%. That is despite about 1/3rd of this years miles being in August and related to moving house, so I expect we will reduce it again next year.
  • I have made significant progress in reducing the speed at which I drive. It is becoming a rare event for me to break any speed limit which is a big change from the past. One side effect (beyond the critical one which is road safety) is that we keep the car’s computer at over 45mpg (which is not bad for a car shaped like a brick).
Much of the change this year it was helped by the Methodist Church moving us from rural Northamptonshire to Syston, just outside Leicester. Of course nnext time they move us it could be to somewhere where again a lot more driving is required.
However, beyond the move none of these changes have happened suddenly or automatically, they have been a focus for many years. For us they are part of a long term process of trying to put our world view into practice. We are not there yet (and there are many who inspire us through their much better examples) but taking this car for a service is a little reminder that we have been able to make progress.
Plus it does make a significant financial difference to have gone from at least 4 car services per year (two cars, each doing enough miles to need more than one service per year) to only one.

50 per cent rise in deaths on Oxfordshire roads after speed camera switch off

Ahead of the switching back on of Oxfordshire’s speed cameras on 1 April Thames Valley Police force has revealed that road deaths in the county rose by 50 per cent in the first six months in which speed cameras were switched off compared to a similar period the year before. via 50 per cent rise in deaths on Oxfordshire roads after speed camera switch off | road.cc

Surely the message is obvious. People are now dead (one extra person per month just in Oxfordshire) because the cheapest way of stopping drivers speeding was cut back.

We need the cameras back on everywhere!

We need more cameras and we need to invest in other ways of slowing down drivers everywhere!

Just one example of a mechanism that does not work is on the Melton Road between Syston and Thurmaston. There are the signs that flash 30mph when a car goes past breaking the speed limit. The signs hardly ever go out. I ride my bike on this road nearly everyday and it is an unusual day if a car or van goes past these signs without lighting them up due to their speeding. This is a road with the main entrance to a school on it and it is used by people walking & cycling between Syston and Thurmaston (including the only direct route from Syston to Thurmaston Shopping Centre). The speed limit should be at most 20mph and it should be enforced properly.

Speed kills and the government cut back on the most effective way we have had of reducing speeds to save almost no money (speed cameras are almost self funding unlike speed traps that require staffing).

Of course it would be better to actually re-engineer the roads to make them slower and make safety of pedestrians and cyclists the priority. But instead our politicians would prefer to spend our money on treating obesity and funding tax cuts for motorists.

Shame on all those who demanded or supported shutting down speed cameras.


On driving as a driver

In the last couple of days we have been out in the car twice. Once taking a son’s girlfriend home and the other to collect a son from Oxford. As I now ride more miles than we use the car for I have become more aware of just how bad the driving is on our roads. Just a few examples:

  • Yesterday in Leicester a tax started to pull out of a bus stop right in front of me. No warning, no looking, no indicating. Fortunately, I was driving at below 30mph and so was able to stop.
  • Also in Leicester yesterday on the Central Ring the lights changed to red in front of me. I was able to stop comfortably and I was far enough away that it was the obvious thing to do. No way could I have got through on amber. The car behind me then, pulled out, overtook me and accelerated through a completely red light.
  • At the roundabout on the Melton Road at Thurmaston I find it is impossible to start off as the light goes to green as there is always someone coming out of the shopping centre on a clear red. Happens nearly every time.
  • Today driving to and from Oxford I was surprised that at about 65mph (ranging between 60mph and 70mph) we were by a considerable margin the slowest car around. We didn’t overtake any cars (except those slowing down to turn off). If the cost of fuel is such an expensive issue how come everyone can still afford to break the speed limit the whole time?
  • Now that I am very determined to move away from earlier behaviour and keep to the speed limit or slower it makes it very obvious how impatient and aggressive drivers are. On 30mph limits there is often a car behind trying to find an opportunity to overtake. Yet it is also obvious how little the gains that are made are, rarely do you lose sight of an aggressive driver within a few miles of urban road. There is a significant amount of pressure put on you by other drivers to speed, with aggressive tailgating, gestures, weaving around behind you as well as under and over taking (often in dangerous situations).

I would be very interested in suggestions on how we could  change our attitudes and behaviour. I come away from time spent driving surprised there are not more deaths and injuries as well as even more convinced that we need both radical traffic calming on residential streets and separated cycle infrastructure on anything with a 30mph or higher speed limit.


Is 20 enough?

I think the 20’s plenty for us campaign is excellent and it does seem to be gaining momentum at the moment which is good news.

However, I am not convinced that 20 is enough.

Yes the chances of being killed by a car doing 20mph are much reduced. But around here 30mph speed limits are broken all the time, even on roads with “traffic calming” (generally speed plates, speed humps and pinch points). Drivers are still aggressive, inconsiderate and careless.

Yes I believe we need 20mph speed limits on all residential streets but we need much more than that if we are going to really make our streets safe and pleasant places to be.

Seems to me there are lots of good ideas around. I just hope that we can see “20’s plenty for us” as a battle and not the whole war so that when it is won we can get on with the next steps.


What happened to the law?

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.

Dangerous Vans

IMAG0402This 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.



Would like to ride, but too frightened so … ?

I meet a lot of people who like to talk about how they used to ride a bike but are now too frightened. Some have asked what they can do about this, so here are some thoughts.

Note that I do not blame anyone for feeling frightened to ride a bike in British traffic. It is especially natural to feel frightened for your children. After all cars are by far the greatest external killer of children today.

So if you are too frightened to ride a bike what can you do to change this?

Most of the people who say this to me drive cars themselves. The good news is that if you are too frightened to ride a bike but you do drive a car there is a lot you can do to make cycling safer.

Car drivers can easily make riding a bike seem less frightening. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Refuse the pressure of other drivers to speed, never break a 30mph speed limit again. In residential roads keep below 20mph. In Portsmouth the 20mph limit on all residential roads has reduced casualties by 22%. Don’t wait for a 20mph speed limit to be introduced, slow down now and in the process save lives and make it feel safer to ride a bike.
  2. Never pass a person on a bike with less than a 3ft (1m) gap. If you are doing more than 30mph then leave a bigger gap (at least an extra foot per 10mph). At 60mph you should be leaving a 6foot gap – about the width of a lane. If you cannot leave a gap this big then wait well behind until you can. While waiting for a gap to be able to overtake safely do not rev your engine or beep your horn or shout out of your window.
  3. Never overtake a person on a bike if you are going to have to brake or stop soon afterwards. For example if there is a pinch point, a roundabout, traffic lights, parked cars etc.
  4. Do not park on the road, especially where there is a cycle lane.
  5. Do not park on a road within 1/2 a mile of a school
  6. Do not pass through traffic lights just as they are changing
  7. Remember that in traffic bikes will be faster than you. Always check your mirrors and look around before moving
  8. Watch your speed on rural roads, more drivers die on these roads than anywhere else. the maximum speed limit on a single carriageway is 60mph. Consider not exceeding 50mph to reduce the chances of you not seeing but hitting a cyclist.
  9. Change to a smaller, slower car. Resist the temptations of 4×4 or sports models as they will only mask your speed from you and tempt you to drive faster.
  10. Do not be surprised if a people do not ride bikes on cycle paths – they are often dangerous, unsuitable and inconvenient. if you see someone on a cyclepath then be prepared for them to join the road at any point as cyclepaths frequently end with little or no warning.

If you are not a driver then start requesting that people who give you lifts show the same courtesy and thought for cyclists. If they do not then look for a lift from someone else, do not let them believe that it is acceptable to put lives at risk.

If you would like to be able to ride a bike without feeling frightened then try to find an opportunity to visit the Netherlands and ride a bike. Consider how a Dutch style infrastructure in the UK would make you less frightened. Consider joining the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain and supporting the campaign for a high quality Dutch style infrastructure for us. Write to your local counsellors, County Council, MP and MEP demanding 20mph speed limits on all residential roads, enforced restrictions on roadside parking and Dutch style cycle paths (headline features include: separated lanes, 2.5m minimum width for one directional, 3m for two direction, priority at junctions, …).

In other words make the existing people who cycle feel safer about it and campaign for real change towards an infrastructure where you too will feel safe to ride a bike again.


What won’t bring about mass cycling (1) 20 mph zones

I agree: Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest: What won’t bring about mass cycling (1) 20 mph zones.

But I do have some proviso’s as I think 20mph speed limits are important but they are not enough to transform our streets on their own.

Slowing all vehicles down is a good thing. It should be obvious to all that 20mph limits are good for safety given the huge increase in death rates as speed increases. This alone should be enough to make 20mph speed limits for towns & cities the default.

20mph speed limits are a key factor in reclaiming our streets for the community. As traffic slows down (and is reduced by people diverting onto main roads) our streets become friendly places again. Our communities become friendlier and stronger.

20mph speed limits are a quick, simple and cheap way of improving where we live. For example Syston, Leicester where I live, could easily be made a 20mph area. There are very few roads into the town and it would be very easy to implement a town wide 20mph speed limit. The impact on journey times would be negligible (very often even 20mph is not possible on much of the Melton Road anyway).

However, to radically increase cycling and pedestrian modes of transport we need a whole raft of solutions implementing. These include:

  • Strict Liability. My understanding is after a crash the heavier/larger vehicle is assumed to be responsible unless they can prove they are innocent. Quite rightly this means that a cyclist is assumed to be at fault if they hit a pedestrian. Most significantly (in terms of injuries and deaths) car drivers are assumed to be responsible if they hit a cyclist or pedestrian. After recently riding in the New Forest I don’t know how it works out if a cyclist and New Forest Pony collide 🙂
  • Segregated Facilities: So far as I know there is no city in the world where cycling has a large and growing modal share of transport which does not have a commitment to segregated facilities for cyclists.
  • Traffic calming: Nowhere has a completely segregated cycle network, but places where cycling has a significant model share have invested in traffic calming. There are many forms of this:
    • reduced routes into cities for cars
    • removed all through routes for cars from housing estates.
    • removed through routes for cars in cities.
    • park and ride systems.
    • investment in public transport
    • slower speed limits
    • congestion charging
    • narrower roads
    • reduced parking facilities
  • Just legal processes. This means policing, the court system and sentencing. For example if you kill someone while driving then the “normal” charge should be manslaughter and the punishment should include a lifetime ban from driving. We need strict enforcement of speed limits (many times more speed cameras than we have now) and enforced restrictions on mobile phone usage. Both with much greater penalties such as 6 points on your license, minimum £100 fine (which increases with the % you were over the limit so that 40mph in a 30mph limit has a much higher fine than 80mph in a 70mph limit). We should copy the Swedes, if you are caught speeding by a school then your vehicle and license are immediately confiscated.
  • Clearing the streets. When there is chaos with vehicles seemingly abandoned at random (as so well illustrated with alarming regularity by freewheeler) there will never be a significant increase in the number of pedestrians and cyclists and streets will not be freed to be positive contributors to our communities. This will mean radically reducing on-road parking (charges will have to go up massively to reduce demand and there will need to be real levels of enforcement).
  • Network planning. Cycle facilities in the UK never appear to be the result of connected thinking. They do not join up. They are not focused on whole journeys. Network planning links housing schemes,  schools, shops, businesses, stations with door to door routes and large volumes of cycle parking and priorities at junctions. It also works with public transport so that bikes can be stored at stations/stops or transported on the trains/buses/trams etc.
  • Getting rid of the “blame the victim culture”. Two examples of this:
    • Reflective jackets: By all means force cyclists to wear reflective clothing, but only when this is applied to all “at risk”. That means we need to
      • require all black cars to be painted fluorescent yellow (in fact all cars)
      • have all drivers and passengers need to be wearing reflective jackets – so they are safe when they get out of the car,
      • fix lights to all the ponies roaming freely around the New Forest and make them wear reflective jackets,
      • cover all street furniture and kerbs in reflective paint.
    • Helmets: Cyclists not wearing a helmet are not to blame when a multi-ton vehicle kills them. We can require cyclists to wear helmets when
      • all car drivers (who frequently suffer from head injuries in crashes) have to wear helmets by law.
      • all vehicles are light enough that a piece of polystyrene is strong enough to protect my head if they run over me (all tests to be carried out on Jeremy Clarkson).
      • all traffic speeds are low enough that a bit of polystyrene can absorb the full impact
      • cycle helmets are actually tested and shown to be effective for protection against cars and hgvs at all angles and at the speed limit.

So I totally agree with Freewheeler than 20mph zones are not the complete answer (and I don’t think there are any examples of them being the complete answer), however, they are still very worthwhile.


Drivers if there is no queue behind you, slow down as you are going too fast

My slogan for the week:

Drivers if there is no queue behind you, slow down as you are going too fast

Temperatures are below zero. Snow is falling. Residential roads have not been gritted and many still have snow right across them.

Yet drivers are still breaking the speed limit.


Why do we see the speed limit as if it were the slowest speed you are allowed to do rather than the maximum speed in good conditions.

We all need to slow down when driving or more people will die. Hence my slogan

Drivers if there is no queue behind you, slow down as you are going too fast.


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