This year Pedal on Parliament is going to be bigger and better than ever, make a note in your diary to be on the Meadows in Edinburgh at 15:00 on Saturday the 18th of May 2013 and make sure you are there to be a part of history. Together we can make Scotland a cycle friendly Nation!
Last year I got involved in an event which turned out to be far bigger than any of us expected – the first Pedal on Parliament. Ever since, people have been asking if we could do it again. Well, the answer is yes! There will be a Pedal on Parliament II, on the 18th May 2013, and this time it is going to be even bigger and better.
Why is this important? Last year 3,000 people turned out to join the ride, and this has had a real impact in moving cycling up the political agenda,and not just cycling but active travel in general. This is where Pedal on Parliament is different, we are not just another cycling group, we have always said that we want to make the roads safer for everyone. When our eight point manifesto is fully implemented, Scotland will be a better place for everyone. As Alistair Gray put it, Work as if you are in the early days of a better nation. So the clock is ticking, tell all your friends to be there, come and be a part of Pedal on Parliament II and we will make Scotland a cycle friendly Nation.
As readers of this blog will know, I have had an interest in how to get more people to use bicycles as transport for some time now. So when I saw this film on the subject I knew it was something which I had to put on my blog.
The key lessons I take from this film are that a conscientious choice needs to be made for safe roads for all. This needs to be backed up with very deliberate decisions on design, policy and education, as “there is no better bang for the buck than investing in bicycling”. However, as I have pointed out before, the Dutch didn’t get their bike lanes without a struggle, and that is why we need to keep up the pressure for change. So, there will be another Pedal on Parliament, and change will come.
Some time back I wrote a post called Give cyclists room. I have noticed over the following years that this post gets regular traffic, from people coming with search terms such as “How much space should you give a cyclist when overtaking?”. So I thought, as an ex-driving instructor and a regular cyclist, this would be a subject worth revisiting.
Let’s start with the basics, as a driver you should first ask your self two questions before overtaking: “Do I need to overtake?” and then “Do I really need to overtake?” Many drivers don’t seem to have the ability to consider their journey as a whole, instead they merely concentrate on the next 100 metres of road (if that much). Let’s be realistic, yes that cyclist might be going slower than you, but is it really worth putting their life at risk to get to end of that queue of stationary traffic waiting at a red light 10 seconds earlier? Most of the time the cyclist will probably catch up, pass you while you are sitting waiting for the lights to change, so what have you gained?
Likewise, on a rural road that group of cyclists might only be travelling at 20 mph and you may have to wait behind them for a mile before you can find a safe place to pass them. But in terms of your overall journey time, it will probably delay you by less than a couple of minutes. Therefore, unless your journey is genuinely part of a life and death emergency, there is probably no real need to overtake at all. They have just as much right to use the road as you do, and yes they are allowed to ride two abreast. When riding as a group, it is generally safer for all concerned if cyclists ride two abreast than than be strung out in a long line. If the road is clear and it is safe to overtake, then treat them as if you were overtaking a large vehicle which can not move out of your way.
Having decided that you are going to overtake, it is very important that you make make sure that:
the road ahead is sufficiently clear
other road users are not about to overtake you, and that
there is a suitable gap in front of the road user you plan to overtake
This is all laid out in Rule 162 of the Highway Code, which then goes on to say in Rule 163 “Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should: … give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”
This is followed up in Rule 212 which states “When passing motorcyclists and cyclists, give them plenty of room (see Rules 162-167). If they look over their shoulder, it could mean that they intend to pull out, turn right or change direction. Give them time and space to do so.” So the advice in the Highway Code is clear. However, it is just that, advice, the Highway Code only tells drivers that they should give vulnerable road users space on the roads, not that they must. This is an important distinction, because where the Highway Code uses the word must, it is indicating the Rule is a legal requirement and there is a penalty if the Rule is disobeyed. Where the word should is used, failure to comply with the Rule “will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, but may be used in evidence in court proceedings to establish liability”. It is perhaps unfortunate that the Highway Code isn’t a bit firmer on this, but this is what we have, unless Parliament can be persuaded to change it.
Many drivers consider themselves “good drivers”, some even consider themselves to be “advanced drivers”. However, before we go any further, I would like to make it absolutely clear that driving fast or simply being a member of the “Institute of Advanced Motorists”, does not make you in any way an advanced driver (although some advanced drivers may do these things). Advanced Driving is about recognising hazards in good time and responding to them appropriately, which generally means slowing down. Rather than trying to explain how this would work in real life situations, I have found these videos which show clearly how it should be done.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that roads are not for cars, but are for people, however they choose to travel. Holding a driving licence confers on the driver no more right to the road than that of any other road user, but does permit them to operate potentially lethal machinery in a public space. This is a privilege and not a right, and one that comes with responsibilities.
Addendum: This post was accidentally lost and recreated from Google’s cache.
There has been much debate recently about cycling safety, almost entirely about helmets, but I an amazed at the lack of emphasis on visibility.
Few will argue that helmets are not a good idea, but all roadway users – cyclists, walkers and runners – should be obliged to wear high-viz vests.
Given the impossibility of dramatically improving our old urban infrastructure and winding country roads to anything like the standard of the Danes or the Dutch, cyclists who perversely choose dull or black clothing or ride without lights are endangering themselves and others.
The law should be changed to make high-viz mandatory and the Scottish Government could win praise for common sense by handing out the vests free (buying them in big numbers will bring the cost down to pennies each).
Then the police will have no excuse for continuing to ignore the current cycling anarchy, which is set to become much worse as the popularity of the sport explodes post-Olympics.
1 Alder Grove,
I felt this was so misanthropic I had to reply. I have reproduced my letter to the Editor here (just in case it doesn’t get published in The Herald):
I was saddened to read David Roche’s letter of the 8th Aug, while no doubt Mr Roche is well meaning, he is badly misinformed in so many ways.
His first assertion is that “Few will argue that helmets are not a good idea”, evidently he has never read the letters section of the British Medical Journal where there was a lengthy debate about the value of cycle helmets. Most of the correspondents with a public health background were against the promotion of cycle helmets as the overall effect on public health has been shown to be negative. Also the scientific literature has shown that high rates of helmet wearing in countries such as Australia and New Zealand, have not led to any significant reduction in serious injuries to cyclists. There are an increasingly large numbers of people who argue that the compulsory use of cycle helmets is a very bad idea.
There is no evidence that making cyclists and pedestrians wear Hi-viz reduces the prevalence of collisions on the roads. No amount of high visibility clothing can make drivers look and pay full attention to the road environment. Making people wear Hi-viz will have no positive effect and would simply alienate a large section of the population. We are all pedestrians at some stage. It would be far better to change our road environment to make it safer for all, applying the Dutch principles of Sustainable Safety (“Duurzaam veilig” in Dutch). It is notable that pedestrians and cyclists in the Netherlands are eight times less likely to be killed or seriously injured in road “accidents” (per Km travelled) than people in the UK. Let us not forget that the cost to the NHS from people involved in road collisions is in excess of £10Bn annually.
Mr Roche then asserts that it is impossible to improve our infrastructure to Dutch or Danish standards, on the grounds that we have country roads and old urban areas. I am sure that it would come as a great surprise to the Dutch and Danish people that their countries do not have country roads and old urban areas! It should also be noted that virtually all of their excellent cycling infrastructure was developed after 1980, there is no reason why we can not do the same. Nor does it have to take 30 years to achieve. We don’t need to experiment to find out what works, the Dutch have already done that for us! All we need to do is follow the lead of the Americans and import Dutch expertise and adapt it to local conditions. Many measures, such as reducing speed and volume of motor traffic can be applied quickly and cheaply, to the benefit of the whole population. There is demand for such measures, as shown by the 3,000 people who Pedalled on Parliament in April.
I for one would welcome a reduction of the Mr Toads on the roads, who take the approach that it is for everyone else to keep out of their way. Instead we should follow the Swedish “Vision Zero” policy that requires that fatalities and serious injurious are reduced to zero by 2020.