Pedal Power
Issue 97
March 2012

www.ldcuc.org.uk

Annual General Meeting

Please try and attend the AGM which takes place at John Storer House at 7-30pm on 12th March.

Woodthorpe Roundabout Safety Improvements

Leicestershire County Council are proposing to improve safety at the Woodthorpe roundabout by:

Whilst these will be helpful improvements, the problem lies with the original design which was based on maximising traffic flows rather than being friendly to non-motorised travel.

Licensed to kill?

By Michael Forrest

Even if this is accidentally read by the significant minority who make our roads dangerous and uncivilised, they will dismiss it, as they know that irresponsible behaviour on the roads is most unlikely to be detected, even less likely to result in any meaningful penalty.

Pedestrians, equestrians and cyclists, all making their way by non-mechanically propelled means, have an inalienable right to use the public highway.

But it is an illegal act to put any mechanically propelled vehicle on the public highway. Unless of course, a licence is granted to permit such an illegal act.

A licence is not a share certificate granting ownership of the road network, but a document granted to permit something which is otherwise illegal, under strict conditions specified in numerous pieces of highways legislation, and summarised for the rest of us in the Highway Code, which holders of this licence to commit otherwise illegal acts are required to read, learn, and apply meticulously.

Motor vehicles do no kill many of us, but drivers of motor vehicles do. Regrettably, our legislators, our public officials, our police and our magistrates do not take this seriously. Drivers kill far more people than do gun owners, yet licences to drive motor vehicles are casually regarded as a basic right, while gun licences are very rigidly controlled, with any deviations rightly resulting in withdrawal of the licence, with the likelihood of it ever being returned remote.

In the event of a vehicle mishap, it is almost invariably classified as an 'accident', when a more accurate description of most would be 'negligence', caused by failure of the holder of the licence to observe the specific conditions attached to the holding of that licence. If an elephant sits on the bonnet, or a car is struck by lightning, that may fairly be described as an accident. If a driver hits something, that driver may be fairly described as being negligent, for a condition of the licence is that vehicles must be driven in such a way that any obstacles can be avoided. Yet even our vehicle insurers, who might be reluctant to pay out unnecessarily, happily accept the claim that negligence is the same as accident.

Even if the police and judiciary take a far too lenient view of drivers ignoring the licence conditions, a sea change in 'accidents' would take place if insurers dug their heels in and refused to pay out unless a claim was literally for an accident, not negligence. But what a difference it would make to lives (literally) and to civilised society if licences were granted with the caution and penalties reserved for gun licences, and not a basic human right granted to all on reaching 17 years and passing a rudimentary test of competence to operate a motor vehicle. What about regular psychological profiling to screen out those willing to end your life in order to save a few seconds of their own?

Cities Fit for Cycling

Based on an article in CTC Cycle Digest

Members will no doubt be aware of this major campaign to increase safety for cyclists in Britain which is very much to be welcomed as it raises the public profile of cycling. The 8 point plan of action includes:

The emphasis on cycle facilities will need to be handled carefully. As we know, there is a strong tendency to put in what can be fitted rather than take space away from motor vehicles, which has meant that historically poor provision has been made for cyclists.

This issue has been highlighted by Understanding Walking and Cycling (UWAC), a research project carried out at Lancaster University in July 2010. The authors’ press release included: “…do not base policies about walking and cycling on the views and experiences of existing committed cyclists and pedestrians.” This has since been used by some local authorities to dismiss the views of experienced cyclists. The researchers have, however, acknowledged they would rather this sentence included the word “only” after “not”(!).

The report is based on small focus-group discussions. It found that most interviewees could not imagine themselves cycling regularly, and felt that ‘cyclists’ were not people like themselves. The authors concluded that it would require widespread introduction of segregated cycle facilities to transform their willingness to cycle.

Seville and New York have achieved spectacular increases in cycling using segregated facilities. However, the cost has been considerable: politically, financially and even in terms of cyclists' lives.

The way junctions work is clearly vital to cyclists' safety, given that this is where c.70% of cyclists' collisions occur. Segregation works in countries like Denmark and the Netherlands because their traffic laws give clear priority to pedestrians and cyclists over drivers turning across their path, even on a green traffic light. Moreover, these rules are well respected, thanks to ‘stricter liability’ rules which assume that drivers who collide with pedestrians or cyclists are responsible for any resulting injury damages. Conversely, Dutch-style segregation without Dutch-style traffic laws and driver behaviour could make cycle safety worse, not better.

As well as legal changes, good segregation also requires road-space and money; and delivering all three requires strong political backing for cycling. There is a real risk that calls for segregation will result merely in the cheap and nasty ‘get cyclists out of the way’ facilities.

If we can secure high-quality segregation – i.e. where there are few, if any, junctions and side-roads, and/or  high design standards and priority at junctions, then this might be a way forward. However, this remains unlikely and it is probably more realistic to aim to increase cycle use through more politically viable measures such as 20 mph schemes, parking restrictions, awareness campaigns to change the image of cycling, and other measures. After all, more cyclists means a stronger ‘cyclists' vote’, and this may well be the best way to reach the point where quality segregation becomes politically achievable.

Cyclenation Cycle Safety and Health conference

The ogre of cycling danger is constantly with us in the media, local authorities and other groups, impeding our efforts to get more people cycling more often. From facilities to helmets, networks to cycling standards, the truth gets trampled. But rebutting misinformation and criticisms of cycling is far from easy.

Be under no illusion, we are up against increasingly stiff opposition, despite all the pro-cycling rhetoric and strategies. Ironically, much comes from quarters which claim to promote cycling, oblivious to the fact that they’re doing exactly the opposite.

To help campaigners fully understand the issues and be ready to engage locally with the media, councils and others, Cyclenation has arranged a conference. This will bring together a range of experts, not just from the world of cycling, but also from the likes of the Transport and Health Study Group, mainly epidemiologists and other medical professionals .

The full programme is being finalised but will cover the relative risks associated with cycling together with the health benefits. The conference is free to Cyclenation members although attendees will have to fund travel and lunch.

Time and place: Saturday 21st April 2012, 10.30 for an 11.00 start to about 4pm at Carr’s Lane Church Centre, Birmingham. Updates will be available at www.cyclenation.org.uk nearer the date.

Traffic lights that turn green for bicycles

Based on an article in the ETA Newsletter

Crossroads in California have been equipped with radar that can differentiate between bicycles and cars, and triggers a green light for cyclists. The ‘Intersectors’ use microwaves to determine whether a vehicle has two, four or more wheels and adjusts the traffic light accordingly..

Can you imagine a robot on a bicycle?

Campaign member Ariadne Tampion did, in her new novel for children. Metal Molly tells the story of a little girl robot who goes to school to learn. It is charmingly illustrated by A-level art student Laura Buckland, the daughter of a longstanding Campaign family.

Metal Molly on bicycle

The book is aimed primarily at girls age 7-9, but has the potential to be a guilty pleasure for adults and teenagers too. It can be purchased online via www.metalmolly.info or with a chocolate lollipop from Chocolate Alchemy in Churchgate Mews, Loughborough. A list of additional retail stockists will be given on the website in due course.

(N.B. It is a lesser-known fact that Ariadne Tampion's 2005 adult novella Automatic Lover was originally written as a satire on the quasi-erotic marketing of top-of-the-range bicycles. This origin became obscured by the novella's novel-length sequel Automatic Lover – Ten Years On, which is a genuine exploration of the ethics and practicalities of robots as sexual partners, inspired by Ariadne's work with prize-winning artificial intelligence Joan.)

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