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Cyclists must help themselves?

Cyclists must help themselves?

Hardly a week goes by without another victim blaming letter to the papers, the latest was entitled Cyclists must help themselves (quoted below in full):

Wearing a helmet while cycling may be a “peripheral issue”, according to W Henderson (Promote cycling, not use of helmets, Letters, July 27).

However, surely it is highly desirable in urban traffic? We do not enjoy the excellent traffic segregation and social cohesion of “Denmark and The Netherlands”, nor are we ever likely to. The antiquated and cramped fabric of our towns and cities and our unwillingness to think, and spend, boldly – it’s the British way after all – have seen to that.

No-one disagrees that cycling is good for you and should be encouraged and funded more, but if the increasingly shrill cycling lobby insist on their right not to do everything reasonable to be seen and be safe, then “strict liability” – the proposal that in the event of a collision the motorist is presumed to be at fault – cannot be seriously entertained. In particular, the perverse refusal to use high-visibility accoutrements, good lights and a warning bell is unacceptable and stupid. Legislation is the only way.

 

I am saddened by the knee jerk victim blaming attitude expressed in this letter. Repeated studies have failed to find evidence that wearing “Hi-visibility” clothing make any significant difference to the frequency of cyclist or pedestrian road casualties. It is important to note that the UK has one of the worst records in Europe for pedestrian safety. Before anyone said that the numbers of pedestrians killed or seriously injured on our roads is declining, this is entirely due to the fact that people are walking less, once that is taken in to account pedestrian KSI rates are rising.

The evidence from repeated studies of collisions involving motor vehicles and vulnerable road users, that in over 85% of cases it was the drivers that was solely at fault. In under 15% of cases was there joint liability between drivers and vulnerable road users, and in only about 1% of cases was the vulnerable road user solely at fault for the collision.

It really is time that we learned from other countries that there is a better way. All but five countries in Europe (those being the UK, Cyprus, Malta, Romania and Ireland) have some form of “strict liability”. Why is it that the opponents of the current campaign for introduction presumed liability in Scots civil law, are not holding up Romania as a beacon of freedom and liberty?

Do cyclists really need more insurance?

Do cyclists really need more insurance?

From time to time I get e-mails from PR people asking me to write something on this blog. Recently the same e-mail from a PR person (working on behalf of a firm of insurance brokers) has arrived in my in-box from several different directions, evidently several people felt that I might like to write something about it. So what were the contents of this e-mail? Just in case you are interested, here it is:

Hi,

With the relationship between motorists and cyclists often being reported as at boiling point, Policy Expert [a firm of insurance brokers] has just published the results of a survey into differing attitudes between the two – with some surprising results.

Cyclists fared well in the survey overall, with 15% of motorists saying they wished there were more cyclists on the roads, and a further 30% considering them completely harmless.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the survey also found that 35% of cyclists believe they should have insurance to be allowed to cycle on the road, and a third of cyclists would drink and bike, with 31% saying they would cycle after having two or more pints of beer or large glasses of wine.

These, and the rest of the findings are available here: [Link to insurance brokers website]

If you’d like to see the full survey results I’d be happy to send those across to you.

Thanks, let me know what you think.

So what do I think about it? Now, where do I start? Maybe with “the relationship between motorists and cyclists often being reported as at boiling point”. Is this really true? In the real world: No. The media like to play up idea of a “war” on Britain’s roads, but no such war exists. There is however there is a problem with a culture of bullying among a few reckless motorists, and the promotion of a casual disregard for the lives of others by the motor industry and its marketing agents.

Before going further, maybe I should make it clear that there are not two different species, one called “cyclists” and one called “motorists”. There are just people using the roads, everyone has a right to mobility, but there is no right to drive. As I have pointed out on this blog before, the operating of heavy and potentially dangerous machinery in a public place is an activity which is only permitted under licence, and with that licence come responsibilities, something I will come back to later.

Having visited the Policy Expert website and looked at the blog post “Motorists vs cyclists – The Results!”, I wasn’t clear on what exactly the point of this survey of their customers was, I can only assume that is was to find a way to draw attention to their insurance brokering service by suggesting that people need to buy more insurance.

You will notice that I am not linking to the site. This is because I have no desire to give them free advertising or increase their search engine optimisation (if you want to find it, there is enough information provided above to search for it). But having been invited to give my thoughts on the survey, I intend to do so.

According to the PR person: “Cyclists fared well in the survey overall, with 15% of motorists saying they wished there were more cyclists on the roads, and a further 30% considering them completely harmless”. What is that supposed to mean? Let’s just look at a few facts here, on average 3,000 people are killed by badly driven motor vehicles on UK roads every year, whereas fewer than two are killed by recklessly ridden bicycles in an average year (and that’s two too many in my opinion). The simple truth is that cyclists do very little harm to others but motorists have the potential to do a great deal of harm to others (both directly and indirectly). It is the potential to do harm to others that caused Parliament to pass the Motor Car Act 1903, which introduced “the crime of reckless driving”, and imposed penalties. It also introduced the mandatory vehicle registration of all motorcars, and made it compulsory for drivers of motorcars to have a Driving Licence (although the driving test was not made compulsory until 1934). This Act was replaced by the Road Traffic Act of 1930, which in turn also introduced the driving offences – dangerous, reckless and careless driving and driving whilst being unfit and under the influence of drink or drugs (although it wasn’t until 1967 that an alcohol limit was set and testing brought in). The Act also brought in a requirement for compulsory third-party insurance for all motor vehicles driven on the public highway. The reason for these changes? The level of harm done to others by the drivers of motor vehicles. The first death caused by a motor vehicle in the UK occurred in 1896, but it wasn’t until 1926 that detailed records began to be collected (in that year there were 4,886 fatalities, bear in mind that there would only have been a handful of cars on the roads in 1926, compared with today).

However, the PR person tells me that “the survey also found that 35% of cyclists believe they should have insurance to be allowed to cycle on the road”. This is rather curious, why should cyclists be required to have insurance to be allowed to cycle on the road? As I have just pointed out, cyclists do very little harm to others, even the results of this survey suggests that they are “completely harmless”, so why would they need insurance to be on the roads? Well the PR person suggests that this is might be because “31% [of cyclists] saying they would cycle after having two or more pints of beer or large glasses of wine”. Um, so what? Would anyone suggest that people going to the pub and then walking home should have 3rd party insurance? Of course not.

Other findings on the “Motorists vs cyclists – The Results!” site include the admission by 16% of motorists surveyed that cyclists keep traffic levels down. This is at least a small positive, but then it goes on to talk about “road tax”, blithely ignoring the simple fact that Road Tax was abolished in 1936, and that Vehicle Excise Duty is a tax on pollution not on road use. The fact that they bring up this spurious rubbish shows two things, one: motorists have a dangerous and unwarranted sense of ownership of the roads (even when the Road Fund was in existence, 1920 -1936, the majority of the cost of road building and improvement came from general and local taxation) and two: that the people who carried out the survey haven’t bothered to do a bit of basic homework before carrying out the survey, so how can they call themselves “Experts”?

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2013

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2013

Today is the annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there are 1.24 million road traffic deaths every year and Road Traffic Accidents (RTA) are the number one cause of death among those aged 15-29 years. However, it is the young and the elderly who are most vulnerable on our roads.

Here in Scotland I recently discovered that there is a framework for road safety in Scotland, which was drawn up in 2009. As part of this framework there is a 0% casualty target for the year 2020. Sadly in Scotland over the last four years there has been a rise in the number of vulnerable road users killed or seriously injured, which suggests that the strategy currently in place is failing badly and needs to be revised.

Here are a few headlines from the last few days. This is not an extensive list, just a short snapshot:

Girl killed in lorry accident named
Woman killed in two-vehicle crash
Motorist dies day after car crash
Woman seriously injured in A9 crash

How much space should you give a cyclist when overtaking?

How much space should you give a cyclist when overtaking?

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”

Give vulnerable road users space

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.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2012

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2012

Just in case you didn’t know today is World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2012. It is commemorated on the third Sunday of November each year – to remember the many millions killed and injured on the world’s roads, together with their families and many others also affected, as well as reflect on the tremendous burden and cost of this daily continuing disaster.

Why do we need such a day? Well death on the roads is now so common it doesn’t always get reported in the press and it is not taken seriously in our courts (a president set after the death of Bridget Driscoll in 1896). It has been estimated that over 1% of people alive today in England and Wales have lost a close family member in a fatal road traffic crash, since 1971. This includes 131,399 parents who had lost a child and 107,384 offspring who had lost a parent. The authors of the paper these figures came from concluded that “this may imply a greater public health burden of road traffic crashes than previously estimated”. Yet out elected leaders still don’t want to take it seriously. They could clamp down on driving offences, or take practical steps to make our roads safer, such as lowing and enforcing speed limits, and providing safer infrastructure. It is time we called an end to this carnage, we have to stop drivers getting away with murder, manslaughter, unlawful killing, or death by misadventure, these deaths are not mere “accidents”, that all tragedies.

Reply from Marco Biagi MSP

Reply from Marco Biagi MSP

Following my letter to Marco Biagi sent by e-mail (sent via WriteToThem.com) on the 2nd November 2011, I have now received this reply, which I give below.

Mr Harding,

Spokes was kind enough to publish my original reply of 12 October to the many campaign emails I have received on this topic from Spokes members (http://www.spokes.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/1110-G-Raab-ANON-to-Marco-Biagi.pdf). In that I undertook to investigate further, and I have been doing so. I am however happy to reiterate the points made in the original email [to the SPOKES cycle campaign 12th October 2011].

I want to see a healthy, active and sustainable Scotland. As I said in my original email I depend on active and sustainable travel myself as I do not drive. There should be more that unites us than divides us on this issue.

The SNP manifesto promised to “increase the proportion of transport spending on… active and sustainable travel.” This includes more than cycling and walking, such as the Green Bus Fund, to which I referred previously. There is no basis to suggest that will decrease with the current levels of information on how much will go to active and sustainable travel from the £50m Future Transport Fund. It may also be that the proportion is being calculated over the three years of the spending review. It is therefore simply wrong to accuse the Scottish Government – or indeed, individual MSPs since we stood on that manifesto – of ‘reneging on promises’ without more clarity. I am still attempting both to secure information on this from the Scottish Government and to emphasise the importance of active and sustainable travel personally upon Ministers.

On checking the Scottish Government budget I found that what was described in your email and by Spokes as a dramatic increase in spending on trunk roads and motorways does is mainly made up of the Forth Replacement Crossing, an increase in winter preparedness funding and the ever-rising bill from Private Finance Initiative contracts signed by the pre-2007 Scottish administration. I do not therefore think it is a useful comparison.

Table of data

There is a very broad – though I appreciate not unanimous – agreement that the FRC is necessary. We can however all recognise that this is a single, one-off project. As this is such a distinct and one-off project I would argue that it deserves its own budget line rather than being brought in to a recurrent line such as Motorways & Trunk Roads.

I’m afraid we also disagree on the role of local government. As I pointed out in the first email, Scotland’s local authorities are currently responsible for local roads, pavements and cyclepaths. They contribute to attaining national objectives through the generous funding they receive in their annual grant. This core funding next year will total £10.02bn. They are already expected to meet ambitious national expectations using this funding in schooling, child protection, homelessness, waste management and a whole range of critical areas. If the people of Scotland do not think they are doing an adequate job of this they are entirely entitled to vote their local councillors out. My intention to engage with the City of Edinburgh Council on their local delivery, which I referred to in my original email, was based on this recognition of the state of affairs and my desire to live in a more sustainable city. It was in no way ‘cheeky’ as Spokes have suggested. Indeed, Transform Scotland’s ‘Civilising the Streets’ report from June 2010 highlighted both Stockholm and Freiburg as examples of good practice of substantial increases in cycling, and in both cases singled out strong local government leadership as crucial to this goal. Edinburgh has tremendous potential for increasing cycle uptake and I would hope to see this city become a similar example of good practice for other cities to look at and emulate.

Yours
Marco

Marco Biagi
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for the Edinburgh Central constituency
(Scottish National Party)
The Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP

 

While I welcome Marco’s desire “to see a healthy, active and sustainable Scotland”, I find his commitment to achieving this rather less convincing. The logic of his arguments given above is rather weak and to off load the responsibility of meeting targets set by the Scottish Government on to local government without providing the additional funding to achieve these targets rather feeble. It also sends out the wrong signal, that because we are now suffering the effects of past short sighted transport nothing can be done to give us a better future. If fail to learn the lessons of the past, we are doomed to repeat the a same mistakes.

An open letter to Marco Biagi MSP

An open letter to Marco Biagi MSP

Given below is the content of an e-mail which I sent to Marco Biagi MSP via WriteToThem.com.

Marco Biagi MSP
Edinburgh Central
Wednesday 2 November 2011

Active travel is a great idea as it achieves so many policy objectives
: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, and it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer). In addition, people who use active ways of travel to get to work are more productive, and it is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save money (the future savings in health cost alone make it worthwhile).

So can you explain why the Scottish National Party is reneging on it’s manifesto commitments?

The SNP election manifesto, promised to “increase the proportion of transport spending on … active and sustainable travel.” (see pages 8 and 37-39) and yet the current budget proposals will cut £15m from the funding for cycling and walking while at the same time dramatically increasing spending on trunk roads and motorways. This is the opposite of the manifesto promises made by your party before the last election.

Before you try to tell me this is an issue for local authorities only, it is not! It is the Scottish government which has which has set a target for 10% of trips to be by bicycle by 2020, included this target as a ‘milestone’ in its RPP plan to reduce Scotland’s carbon emissions, and included this target in its national strategy to combat obesity.

It is completely unreasonable for the government to set targets, particularly such ambitious ones, and then not provide a realistic level of funds towards meeting these targets. The setting of such ambitious targets, which will benefit the Scottish people as a whole, is to be applauded. However, this is an issue of funding and not about how to carry out changes on the ground, without the funding the rest is empty rhetoric.

If you are genuinely interested in making Scotland a better place to live then you should be urging your fellow MSP to stick by the commitments made in the SNP election manifesto to increase the proportion of transport spending on active and sustainable travel.

Yours sincerely,

Kim Harding

Addendum: 22nd November 2011 I am still waiting for a formal reply to the e-mail I sent to Marco Biagi MSP, which I would expect as a matter of common curtsy. So far the only response has been on Twitter, “You’ve already seen reply on this issue because SPOKES published it. Meanwhile been asking pqs and meeting gov. Working on it.”
Later in the day I received a reply, see here.

The Sacred Driving Licence

The Sacred Driving Licence

Today saw the launch of the “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020“. Never one to miss a photo opportunity, David Cameron had agreed to help launch the UN’s Decade of Action for Road Safety and managed to get Britain’s two Formula One racing drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, to join him. We also had the announcement from Transport Secretary Philip Hammond of the introduction of On-the-spot fines planned for careless driving, as part of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety. All of this sounds like the Government is keen to do something about reducing the damage done. The Framework clearly says that “Road deaths and injuries are a tragedy for all those affected. And as well as the terrible human cost, they impose a heavy economic burden.” This sounds all very well, but let’s just have a closer look:

First, why were two racing drivers at a photo call to promote “road safety”? Button has a number of convictions for speeding and Hamilton has been charged with speeding in the UK and reckless driving in Australia. Not good role models in a country where 40% of young drivers think there is nothing wrong with breaking the 30mph limit by 10mph or more.

Secondly, there is a major problem with the Strategic Framework for Road Safety in that its central theme is absolving the majority of those drivers from their responsibility for most of the danger on the roads. It does this by diverting attention onto the very worst drivers, but has no serious intention of dealing with these people either!

The new strategy says that, instead of drivers being taken to court for driving offences, police can fine careless drivers. Offenders will get a fine of at least £80 and three points on their licence. This is not about making the roads safer, it is about cutting costs, by avoiding taking people through the court system. It isn’t even intended as a deterrent. In a country where you can be fined £1,000 for dropping litter, why is it proposed that an activity which puts lives at risk should only attract a fine of £80? Why is there such a reluctance to deal with the issue of danger on our roads?

We all have the right to use the roads, on foot, riding a bicycle or riding a horse, there is no right to drive. Driving on the public road is a privilege only permitted by licence, this licence is granted under trust after passing a driving test. The driving test is there to ensure that drivers can drive to a safe minimum standard. It is well known that the majority of accidents collisions on our roads are caused by driver error. This is why there needs to be a clear hierarchy of liability, with those capable of causing the greatest harm taking a greater level of responsibility.

However, we have somehow allowed the situation to arise where the holding of a driving licence is increasingly being seen as a sacred right. There are hundreds of drivers on the roads with 12 penalty points. All too often drivers who have broken the law (and the trust placed in them when they received their driving licence) avoid a driving ban, by claiming such a ban would inconvenience them. The courts will not accept such a defence for any other form of criminal activity, car crashes have long been a greater killer of the young than violent crime, so why such a softly, softly approach to driving?

In this country you can legally hold a shotgun under licence, however if you were to accidentally discharge it over the heads of people in a public place, you would expect to lose your licence. No court would accept the defence that it was OK because no one was hurt, or that it was caused by a momentary lapse of concentration, or that you had been distracted by a phone call on your mobile, or that such a ban would cause you inconvenience. Before anyone complains that this is not a fair comparison, being hit by a motor vehicle is just as damaging as being shot, the level of kinetic energy is about the same. It doesn’t make a difference to the person who is killed or seriously injured, whether they were shot or hit with a motor vehicle, they are still dead or maimed either way. Drivers should never forget, cars can kill!

We have a situation where most people think that they are better than average drivers, but at the same time 40% of drivers feel that they would fail a driving test if they had to take it again tomorrow. Until we have a change of attitude, drivers will undoubtedly continue to blame everyone else on the roads but themselves.

Addendum:
Sadly the Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke QC, MP, seems to be incapable of understanding the concept of dangerous driving. Apparently “ordinary dangerous driving” isn’t a serious problem, but then this is a man who doesn’t think all rapes are a crime. All rape is rape and all dangerous driving is dangerous, both destroy lives. I just wish Ken Clarke would stick to playing records on the radio and leave the serious stuff to people who understand the real world. My thanks to Joe Dunckley for the tip off.

More news has come to light, this time from Scotland, where at least 387 drivers have more than 12 points on their licence:

More news has come to light from Scotland where at least 387 drivers have more than 12 points on their licence

Some thoughts on cycling safety

Some thoughts on cycling safety

I was recently asked to write something about cycle safety. OK, so it was for another place, but I thought I would try it out here first. Well my first thought was “is cycling dangerous”? Well no, not really, over the last 40 years cycling, along with most forms of road travel, has become safer, mainly due to attempts to idiot proof cars.

Cyclists account for only 4% of road fatalities (2008 UK figures) compared with 17.1% for motorcyclists, 19.6% for Pedestrians, and 50.2% for car occupants. When these figures are adjusted to reflect the numbers of people travelling and the distance they travel, we find that riding a motorbike is the most dangerous, followed by travelling in a car! The level of risk involved in cycling is about the same as (or lower than) walking, even though most cyclists are riding on the road (it should be noted that in the UK on average 70 people are killed by motor vehicles on the pavement every year). Indeed regular cyclists have a life expectancy that is at least 2 years longer than average, they have fitness levels of someone 10 years their junior, also better mental health and are healthier in older age.

It is strange then that many people’s perception of road safety is the opposite. I often hear parents saying that they won’t let their children ride on the road, even though they did as children, because “it is more dangerous now”. Where does this idea come from? When I did start to research this post, I carried out an internet search for “cycle safety”. The top hits were mostly sites sponsored by the British Government, which all start by telling you how dangerous cycling is and quoting the number of cycle casualties, without putting the figures into context. An object lesson in how not to promote cycling as a safe activity and put them off by using fear. The simple fact is, cycling is safe when compared to risky activities such as gardening and travelling by car. The most effective way to reduce the likelihood of injury when cycling is to increase the number of people who cycle. When cycle use doubles, the risk of injury per cyclist falls by 35% to 40%. Having clearly stated that cycling is safe, it has to be recognised that no activity is 100% safe and there are risks out there. So what can you do to minimise the risks further?

First off, your bike should be the right size for you and set up so that you are comfortable. If you are not sure how to do this, then seek advice from an organisation like the Bike Station or your local bike shop.

Next, make sure you maintain your bicycle properly, here are a few things to check on a regular basis:

  • Tyres: take a quick look, make sure are no tears or bulges in the tyre wall, then check the tyre pressure. If it is low, pump up and wait a few minutes to check for any punctures, and if necessary change the inner tube.
  • Wheels: spin both wheels, watch for wobbles which may suggest a loose or broken spoke. If the spokes are fine and the wheel still wobbles, don’t ride as the wheel need to be serviced. Finally check the quick release levers (if fitted) on the wheel hubs and make sure they are secure so that the wheel will not come loose.
  • Brakes: check the brake pads and replace if worn. Test the brakes by rolling the bike forward (while standing next to it) and applying the front brake, the back of the bike should rear up. Then roll the bike back and apply the rear brake, this time the front of the bike should rear up. If necessary tighten the brake cables. Also check that the cables are in good condition and not frayed.
  • Controls: stand astride of the front wheel, gripping it with your knees, and waggle the handle bars, to make sure nothing is loose. If there is movement don’t ride, as the bike needs to be serviced. Also check the brake and gear levers and cables, to make sure they are in good working order.
  • Drive train: check the gears by lifting the rear wheel off the ground and turn the pedals by hand. If the gears do not change easily, the gear cable may have stretched. Also look at the chain, it should be clean and running smoothly, oil if necessary, especially if it shows signs of rust. Then grip the pedal tightly and check to see if there is any play in the crank-arm/bottom bracket. If you find problems here, again don’t ride as the bike needs to be serviced.
  • Saddle: make sure the saddle is the right height for you and is in line with the frame, also make sure the maximum height mark on the seat post is not visible.
  • Drop Test: lift the bike 5-10cm off the ground, then let it drop, is there anything loose or rattling?

Advice for cycling on the roads:

If you are new to cycling or haven’t cycled on the road for a long time, then cycle training could be a good idea. The CTC maintains a list of Accredited Cycle Trainers qualified to the National Standards throughout the UK. Remember, cyclists do have the right to ride on the roads, and they should ride with respect to the rules of the road and other road users.

So here are a few things cyclists should do:

  • You should always be able to stop within the distance you can see.
  • Ride positively and decisively. It helps motorists to understand what you plan to do.
  • Think ahead. Anticipate drivers’ actions. Catch their eye.
  • Be visible. Ride well clear of the kerb, wear something colourful, and always use lights in poor day-time visibility or after dark.
  • Show drivers what you plan to do. Always look and signal before you start, stop or turn. Ride a straight line past parked cars rather than weaving in and out between them.
  • Move over, when it’s safe and convenient. Two-abreast is often OK, but try not to hold up other traffic.
  • Follow the Highway Code, it is there for everybody.

And a few things cyclists should not do:

  • jump red lights, it is not big and it is not clever
  • ride on pavements (unless they are shared use paths or you are under the age of ten)
  • ride across pedestrian crossings (unless it is a Toucan crossing)
  • attempt to filter up the left hand side of long vehicle waiting at road junctions, even if the driver is not signalling left.

Just to keep things balanced (let’s not forget that driver error is the cause of 85% of road traffic accidents), here is a list of things drivers should do:

  • do not jump red lights, the Highway Code applies to you too
  • Think bike. Expect to see cyclists, and take care.
  • Slow down and drive smoothly. Keep within speed limits. Expect sudden movements by cyclists, especially in windy weather and on bad road surfaces.
  • Signal: always at roundabouts and every time you pass a cyclist.
  • Watch for riders on the inside, don’t overtake them before you turn left. Don’t cut them up.
    Don't cut up cyclist
    (Rule 182 Highway Code)
  • Give cyclists space – at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car – and never force past them.
    Give cyclists space
    (Rule 163 Highway Code)
  • Be patient – a few seconds for a cyclist will not affect your total journey time, it is all those other cars on the roads which are causing the congestion.
  • Right-turning cyclists need space and time.
  • Park considerately and always look for cyclists before opening a car door.
  • Use dipped headlights, cyclists are dazzled by full-beam headlights, just like everyone else.
  • Expect speed from bikes. Think of a bike as a vehicle – it is. Cyclists can be fast movers – 20mph or more.
  • Advanced stop lines: Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g., if the junction ahead is blocked. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.
    Advanced Stop Lines
    Rule 178 Highway Code

Finally a few other things which drivers should know:

  • Cyclist do have the right to use the roads and they do pay for them as well, we all pay for the roads.
  • Cyclists can feel threatened by inconsiderate driving. They have a right to space on the road and need extra room at junctions and roundabouts where cars change speed, position and direction.
  • Cyclists ride away from the kerb, not to annoy motorists but:
    • to avoid drains, potholes and debris
    • to be seen as they come to junctions with side roads
    • to discourage drivers from squeezing past when it’s too narrow
  • Cyclists turning right are exposed – and need extra consideration from motorists, especially on multi-lane roads with fast-moving traffic.
  • Cyclists can be forced into faster traffic – by vehicles parked in cycle lanes, at junctions or on double yellow lines, so be considerate when you park.

Final thoughts:
Mutual respect and consideration for other road users makes for safer and more enjoyable travel for all. Acknowledging a courtesy does make a difference, so don’t be shy.

Your views wanted on Active Travel

Your views wanted on Active Travel

The Scottish Parliament’s Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee is holding an inquiry into “Active Travel – walking and cycling”. The Committee is keen to hear your views on walking and cycling. The Scottish Government says that it would like to see 10% of journeys being by bicycle by 2020.

The formal remit of the Committee’s inquiry is to consider – the progress being made in developing active travel; any barriers to further progress; and the further action that may be required by the Scottish Government, local authorities and other bodies to ensure that significant progress is made in the development and implementation of active travel in Scotland.

You are invited to respond to the issues identified by the Committee and posed in the six questions below. You are free to answer as many or as few of these questions as you wish.

The six questions:

  1. What more can be done to encourage people to change their travelling habits and walk and cycle more?
  2. Is enough progress being made in developing and delivering improvements in the uptake of walking and cycling?
  3. If not, what are the barriers to progress? (for example, lack of policy development, lack of political leadership, lack of funding/investment, the lack of prominence given to active travel in transport policy development, project planning and construction etc.)
  4. Why do walking and cycling policies set out in national, regional and local transport plans not result in a greater modal share for walking and cycling?
  5. What further action is required by the Scottish Government, local authorities and other bodies to ensure that significant progress is made in the development and implementation of walking and cycling, particularly if transport is to make a greater and more meaningful contribution to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions?
  6. What can Scotland learn from good practice/successful implementation in other countries?

The closing date for written submissions is Friday 11 December 2009. To make things easier I created a MS Word doc file you can down load here (16kb).

They ask that before you submit your views, that you read their policy for handling information received in response to calls for evidence (pdf 15kb). Information you provide will be treated according the Scottish Parliament’s privacy and data policy. Your views may be published by the Parliament and will be treated as a public document unless you indicate other. Your views will be made available to the Committee. For more information see here.

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