Sunday, 4 August 2013

The War on the Scotland's Roads

It's a war out there. 

It's biker versus driver, man against machine, raw human power versus ancient fossil fuels.

No, it's not, that's complete Rubbish.

It is just people trying to get from place to place.  

Some choose to cycle. There are many reasons the may make this choice. It could be the appalling public transport, the cost or accessibility of driving, to get more exercise or just for the fun of it.

Others choose to drive.  There are many reasons they may make this choice.  It could be the appalling public transport, the speed and ease of driving, they may not want to get hot and sticky or just because of its familiarity.

They are not alien species, they are the same and away from the road you wouldn't treat each other any differently because of your respective mode of transport. Even on the road,  I reckon that 90% of the time they get on fine.  The problem is the other 10%. 

Complete separation of the slower, more vulnerable road users from the faster, more hazardous would be ideal but it won't happen on all routes and it won't happen overnight on those where separation will be implemented.  In the meantime, we do need to raise awareness of cyclists' vulnerability and the hazards that drivers of other vehicles cause. 

I have perceived a greater awareness of cyclists from some HGV drivers in recent months, who have made the effort to give plenty of space when overtaking or manoeuvring. I don't know whether it is a result of the "Give me cycle space" campaign or the widely reported spate of horrendous fatal accidents involving HGVs that have started to get the message across. 

Tomorrow sees the launch of the Nice Way Code campaign which aims to make the roads safer for all. If it has the desired effect, I welcome it.  Unfortunately, thanks to a prelaunch and social media presence it has come under heavy criticism.  It appears to play to existing stereo types:pedestrians texting while crossing the road, cyclists jumping red lights or on the pavement and drivers overtaking bike too fast. How this will help make the roads safer remains to be seen. 

Cycling on the pavement may well have prevented some of the most serious accidents which resulted in fatal or serious injuries and, while I don't condone skipping red lights, I haven't seen any statistics linking it to specific serious accidents.  Finally, I doubt that the as yet unnamed elderly couple, both in their eighties, killed while crossing the road in Largs this weekend were texting.

It is too early to assess the efficacy of the Nice Way Code but if it continues to focus on stereotypes and fails to tackle the real issues it is bound to be a failure. As it is the only show in town,  let's hope it succeeds. 

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Education Works

Education works. If you highlight bad behaviour, people will change their ways. Or perhaps not.

On my daily commute I pass one of those bright flashing signs that tell you how fast you are driving, just in case your speedometer isn't working. And almost every day it displays the speed of passing cars and, in the off chance that their speed has picked up just a little higher than the limit it is politely suggested that they *SLOW DOWN*. How do I know? Because I see it almost every day.

I'm not sure whether drivers just don't see it or they choose to ignore it but I suspect the latter. The fact that the same *SLOW DOWN* message is displayed so frequently indicates that the message has negligible impact. I'm sure if it was replaced with a GATSO speed camera more drivers would sit up, pay attention and slow down.

But then the big motoring organisations and car users would campaign to remove it: it's just a revenue generating cash cow. As past campaigns in parts of the national media have argued, it's just not fair to criminalise fine upstanding law abiding citizens who inadvertently omitted to stop breaking the law on approach to the camera.

This is another reason being nice won't make the roads a safer place. Without enforcement of the rules of the road, as defined in the Highway Code and legislation, many people will continue to flout the rules and in so doing, placing vulnerable road users at risk.

This post has been inspired by the Niceway Code campaign which appears to link poor driving to poor cycling skills hence if more cyclists stop at red lights fewer drivers will run over pedestrians or cyclists.

Follow Niceway Code on Twitter: @nicewaycode

Friday, 17 May 2013

Pedal on Parliament

All roads lead to Edinburgh this Sunday (19th May) for Pedal on Parliament (#POP2). The purpose of #POP2 is to raise the profile of cycling with our politicians, whether for sport, leisure or transport.  The Scottish Government want to increase the proportion of journeys taken by bicycle to 10% of all journeys yet there is lack of funding and a coherent strategy to achieve this target.

Pedal on Parliament has developed a list of demands to improve the experience of cycling in Scotland and in particular improve safety for cyclists and other road users. The demands are:

1. Proper funding for cycling.
2. Design cycling into Scotland’s roads.
3. Slower speeds where people live, work and play.
4. Integrate cycling into local transport strategies.
5. Improved road traffic law and enforcement.
6. Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians.
7. A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training.
8. Improved statistics supporting decision-making and policy.

Last year's event was attended by around 3000 people and this year organisers hope for an even greater turn out. I hope you can make it.

May the road rise to meet you and your ride be puncture free!