If you are free tomorrow evening you should pedal your way to Russell Square for a London Cycling Campaign protest commencing at 6:30PM. The aim is to highlight the need for designated cycle space following the third cyclist fatality in just three weeks.
Long have I wondered why the world must label days with pointless themes; ‘Hug Day’ on 21st January, ‘Doughnut Day’ the first Friday of June, or ‘Talk Like Shakespeare Day’ on 23rd April seem to serve no particular purpose. Tomorrow marks the beginning of ‘Bike Week’ around the UK, and unlike so many other it represents an actual purpose: to increase awareness, organise social events, and offer nervous newbies an opportunity try their cycle legs in a safe environment.
Bike Week will be taking place 15-23rd June 2013, and events vary from charity rides, free bike health checks and tune ups, races, skills training, or social gatherings such as thematic film screenings for anyone who doesn’t fancy risking the weather.
…Stay safe in the door zone.
The easy answer to this ‘How To’ is that you cannot be safe in the door zone. I have previously written about this subject [here], and it important to reiterate that being ‘doored’ is one of the great unmentioned cycle risks as this rather graphic video shows:
I came across the image above today, and after getting my head around the differences in road layout (driving on the right!) and trying to imaging the traffic chugging along to my left instead of my right, was reminded of the two images below. These should be relatively familiar to you: on the left is the poster publicised by TFL to discourage cyclists from ‘undertaking’ HGVs, and the image on the right is the same poster but with the addition of the very recognisable Cycle Superhighway blue road markings.
Generally people assume that the cycle lane is the safest place, but as you can see, between blind spots, the door zone and the simple fact that not all motorists indicate their intentions when they plan to turn left, it is sometimes far safer to take prime position in the centre of the lane. What happens if there is a pothole in the cycle lane and you lose control? You should always allow yourself enough space to manouevre, and although curb hugging may feel comforting, it’s an illusion of safety. Unless there is enough space to allow for a vehicle to safely overtake you, you should discourage them from doing so for your own welfare. This is particularly true at traffic lights, where motorists will often creep into the Advanced Stop Zone, forcing you aside as they zoom off ahead of you.
Remember, it’s better to take abuse for blocking the lane than a wheel across your skull if something goes wrong.
“Where are you going to my pretty maid?”
“I’m going a’cycling, sir” she said
“May I come with you my pretty maid?”
“Yes if you can keep up with me sir”, she said.
Thank you to Ingrid, author of Postmodern Pain for sending me this picture of a poster from the Beamish Museum in County Durham. The museum tracks the industrial developments of the nineteenth century, this poster is for Beamish Motor and Cycle Works (pictured above, by Rob Langham @flickr)
I’m sure you are aware of the recent uproar caused by Addison Lee boss John Griffin when he declared that his drivers should break the law by driving in London’s bus lanes (see video here), promising to reimburse any fines that they might incur for doing so, whilst encouraging an attitude of SMIDSY (“sorry mate, I didn’t see you”) as being something that cyclists just have to get used to.
The courts are currently in the process of blocking AdLee cabs from entering bus lanes, but do your part by raising awareness amongst your friends: this article from The Evening Standard might help towards making your blood boil.
If you haven’t read the inflammatory article from Addison Lee’s ‘Chairman’s Column’ of their free Spring 2012 Add Lib magazine, see what you make of this:
“Green party candidates and others are up in arms about what they see as the murder of Cyclists on London Roads. There has, as we all know, been a tremendous upsurge in cycling and cycling shops.
This summer the roads will be thick with bicycles, These cyclists are throwing themselves onto some of the most congested spaces in the world. They leap onto a vehicle which offers them no protection except a padded plastic hat.
Should a motorist fail to observe a granny wobbling to avoid a pothole or a rain drain, then he is guilty of failing to anticipate that this was somebody on her maiden voyage into the abyss. The fact is he just didn’t see her and however cautious, caring or alert he is, the influx of beginner cyclists is going to lead to an overall increase in accidents involving cyclists.
The rest of us occupying this roadspace have had to undego extensive training. We are sitting inside a protected space with impact bars and air bags and paying extortionate amounts of taxes on our vehicle purchase, parking, servicing, insurance and road tax. It is time for us to say to cyclists ‘You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up’.
John Griffin Chairman”
If you want to make a stand, you can sign a petition to have Addison Lee’s license revoked: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/33116
Now, as a passenger, I cannot deny that AddLee provide a great service, but as a cyclist I have been in many situations where Addison Lee cabs have overtaken only to quickly turn left into me, overtaken without giving sufficient space to ensure my safety, turned left without indicating thus not giving me time to manouevre and all those inconsiderate faults that make cycling dangerous in cities.
The danger is not because I am ‘throwing myself onto one of the most congested spaces in the world’, it’s because these drivers aren’t just being permitted to disregard vulnerable cyclists, they are being encouraged to do so through the ignorant spiels of those who are too comfortable armoured within their vehicles where even if they do happen to get a little blood under their wheels it will only take a drive through the car wash to cleanse their consciences.
Signing the petition isn’t really about killing off Addison Lee, it’s about killing off the disgusting attitude that makes people think that if cyclists die then maybe they should have been more careful.