24 May 2007

No tolls...

Everybody loves a nutter. Here's a lovable example of a whole bunch of them. Or perhaps we should be scared at their rough-pub-type extremism dressed as common sense:


Of course they have got some points right... but I just can't stomach their blanket opposition to anything that involves motorists sharing the road on an equal footing with anybody else (pedestrians and cyclists, for instance).

"Paths, pavements, bridleways and cycle lanes are provided free. Trains, trams and some buses are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer" - so, they conclude, why should motorists pay taxes to drive?. Why indeed - and let's remember, I am a motorist, a pedestrian and a cyclist, all in one.

21 May 2007

Reflexes, reactions

I was coming up Cheetham Hill from Manchester, on Bury Old Rd, the long stretch after The Fort and before Broughton. The road there seems to plateau after going up hill for a mile or so, and one gathers speed quickly before coming to the next slope. Right in the middle there's a pedestrian crossing at the traffic light. I won't mention the number of times that light has gone red when the pedestrians in question had already crossed. We've all done it, it's life, etc.

But this time, there were pedestrians who seemed to be waiting for the light to change. Motor traffic had come to a standstill... but I was doing fine, had my eye on the traffic light (my motorist bad habits linger on) and did not slow down. Then, all of a sudden, the woman who had been waiting for the lights to change, decided that if cars weren't moving she could just jump on to the road.

Then I made my near-fatal mistake: I yelled. No swearwords or angry words, just an instinctive cry of anger and panic. The woman's reaction was to turn her face towards me, open her eyes in frightened disbelief... and then she takes a step back. Which put her right on my path. Now I really had to slam on the breaks - front first, as my spiritual guru Sheldon Brown suggests.

To my credit - having through lack of foresight contributed to this incident - I managed to stop without either hitting the pedestrian or going over the handlebars. The woman was very apologetic. I wish I had had enough breath left to be polite and tell her not to worry. The irony is that, if I'd not yelled, she would have walked on, like ships in the night oblivious to me - and I probably wouldn't have had to stop in such a hurry. So there's a learning point then...

09 May 2007

David Chaytor's response...

Below is a response from my MP about changes to the Highway code. It appears to me to be equating lines on green paint on busy roads to 'segregated bicycle lanes' of the kind one sees in Belgium or the Netherlands?


Dear Mr Solis,

Thank you for your email about the current consultation on the Highway Code. I agree with you completely with regard to the importance of promoting cycling for many reasons, including public health and the environment.

The present government has done more to encourage an increase in cycling, through a wide range of policies, than any British Government in living memory. A key part of this policy has been to build a large number of cycle lanes in most towns and cities as part of the process of building a national network of safe cycling routes. The purpose of this network, which has been constructed following pressure over many years from cyclists' organisations, is to segregate wherever possible cyclists from vehicles for the benefit of cyclists and in the interests of road safety.

It would be quite illogical now to reverse this policy. This does not mean, however, that cyclists are to be prevented from riding on the main highway. It simply means that fifty years' experience of traffic management in Britain , and elsewhere in Europe , has proved conclusively that one of the most effective ways of increasing the number of cyclists on the road is to build separate cycle lanes linked together in cycle routes.

Consequently, I am afraid that I do not feel it appropriate to make any representations opposing the presumption that cyclists should use the designated cycle lanes wherever possible. However, you may wish to respond directly to the current consultation if you still feel that you wish to make the case against the proposed text of the new Highway Code.

Thank you for writing to me on this matter. Please let me know if you would like to discuss this, or any other aspect of cycling policy, in more detail and I would be very happy to meet you at one of my regular advice surgeries in Bury or Ramsbottom.

Yours sincerely

David Chaytor

03 May 2007

The new highway code

Letter to my MP:

Dear Mr Chaytor,

I understand that a new Highway Code is about to be approved, containing changes that undermine the standing of cyclists on the road and therefore compromise our safety. I am refering particularly to Rule 63 (http://www.dsa.gov.uk/Documents/consult/Responses/Highway_Code_Draft.pdf) which states that cyclists should use cycle lanes 'wherever possible'. Many such facilities are of poor standard, badly designed or just plain dangerous. Cyclists should not be forced to use such facilities against their better judgment. In short, cyclists should be allowed to use the road. A similar situation applies to the use of roundabouts.
This was debated a year ago (Handsard: 9 May 2006 : Column 24WH), when your colleague Mark Lazarowicz said that "It is important not effectively to encourage the idea that cyclists should be corralled into a small, often badly-maintained section at the edge of the road, and that they should not be entitled to use the rest of the road, like other road users, if they consider it appropriate to do so".

Surely there are many reasons - public health, the environment - why cycling should be promoted, rather than undermined?

Yours sincerely, etc

01 May 2007

Red, amber, green: how difficult can it be?

Motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike, a culture seems to be developing in the city centre, one that places disproportionate value in the pitiful gains that come from going through a traffic light that has 'just' changed to red. A sort of collective reasoning along the lines of 'red is the new amber' seems to have taken hold.

The various junctions along Princess St are examples of this.

Perhaps part of the problem is 'structural' - in other countries, turning times at junctions are regulated explicitly by the traffic lights - with filters for all directions. Here the position is 'it is OK if the road is clear', which is great until people begin to make 'selfish' choices, ie abusing the system.

The day before yesterday I got confrontational. I saw the light change and quick off the mark I advanced. A car coming from Portland St on my right, having seen the light change (green for me, red for him) but wanting to turn into Princess St., decided to carry on regardless - as if I didn't exist. I gesticulated wildly to signal that I wasn't stopping... eventually he gave up and stopped awkardly, past the line, at half-turn (phew!). I felt slightly foolish afterwards - my self-preservation instinct re-asserting itself, belatedly - but also somewhat satisfied to have achieved such a petty victory.

Each day, its battle...