An interaction with a pair of impatient Police Officers (see below) motivated me to write this post.
The Highway Code is quite clear where one should ride a bicycle on a road with parked cars:
look well ahead for obstructions in the road, such as drains, pot-holes and parked vehicles so that you do not have to swerve suddenly to avoid them. Leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles and watch out for doors being opened or pedestrians stepping into your path
But we know that most of the Highway Code rules aimed to protect vulnerable road users are ignored by drivers, Police and traffic engineers.
Here is a road in Westminster:
A couple of years ago I raised this issue with Edgar Agrar, a vile toad, at the time Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment, pointing out that
- the signs encourage people to ride on the door zone
- anyone riding safely to the right of the signs gets honked by obnoxious drivers
His response: the signs are there just to alert drivers of the presence of cyclists; a response so idiotic that he could only have copied it from the king of bullshit, Boris Johnson, whose antics cost the lives of at least six people on blue paint.
BTW, in the world capital of bullshit, Argar has been duly rewarded with a seat in the House of Commons, to add fodder to that den of idiots, also called Tory back-benches.
However, even the handful of enlightened engineers probably fail to understand the subtleties of safe road positioning.
In the picture above, A is the door zone; to be avoided. However, B is also unsafe, because it leaves a gap just wide enough for a car to squeeze through; therefore to avoid close passes, one needs to ride at C, i.e. in the middle of the road.
The problem of course is that to the driver behind you it looks like you are being intentionally obstructive; well, tough, if she honks, there is only one way to respond:
This is an unwholesome way to design streets and makes an unpleasant environment to ride bicycles; which is why most people don’t and why the sub-standard proposals for the Central London Cycling Grid are such a disappointment.
Vision Zero means designing unnecessary conflict out of our roads. Here are the key concepts:
- Residential streets like the ones above should not carry through traffic;
- Through various interventions, it must be made clear to motorists that they are guests on residential streets;
- The width of residential streets needs to take into consideration not just the door zone, but also the width to the right of Channel B; it should not encourage close passes.
Just a few metres ahead the road narrows:
Here riding in the middle of the lane does not generate hostility, because it is obvious that there is no space to overtake. Too many roads in London are the wrong width: they encourage either close passes or hostility.
On Friday afternoon, as I was riding on Channel C in the wider section of the street, I noticed blue lights coming from a Police van, driving behind me. I found a gap in the parked cars and let it pass; except that the Officers (incidentally of British Transport Police) had no urgent call: they just wanted to tell me off for slowing their progress.
What I fail to understand is why people are in such a hurry to breathe the fumes of the car stopped at the next set of lights; but after all, given a normal distribution of intelligence, half of the people are below average. The issue however is that street engineers have to acknowledge that most people when enclosed in metal boxes become bestial, and this should not endanger or inconvenience the rest of us.
One of the most important things that needs to happen in London is the establishment of the Motoring Grid. The Police Van shouldn’t have been on that road in the first place. They were just rat running. Rather than taking the red route, they should have been on the Blue Route, because they had no business to fulfil in Fitzrovia.
Appendix 1 – After having tweeted the incident, I received a call from a BTP officer; we had a chat which he followed up by writing the following:
I have identified the officers who were driving the vehicle that had an interaction with you today. I have given the driver an appreciation of the challenges faced by Cyclists that use London’s congested roads and their vulnerabilities.
We need to credit the willingness of the police to engage with people unhappy with their behaviour; however it seems more an exercise in PR than actually admitting that an abuse of power had taken place, symptomatic of an institutional culture which is deeply unsympathetic towards vulnerable road users.
Appendix 2 – Some people have asked whether the BTP have jurisdiction on public highways. They used to be confined to police the railways, but the Terrorism Act has widened their remit … to tackle Lycra Terror.