Friday, February 09, 2007

Green ink time again?

WATCH FOR BIKES, originally uploaded by psd.

It's difficult to place bike advocacy stories in the local press without coming over as a 'green ink/no margins' nutter. Hopefully this latest attempt (published today) worked..

SIR, - After your recent editorial comment about St Peter's Street, St Albans, it's important to point out that bike lanes and off-road bike routes are not the only way to improve safety for cyclists. Well-designed bike lanes do provide an increased sense of safety for some and do encourage people to take up cycling, but they take a long time to plan and build and can be expensive. Sadly Herts Highways and local and county councils don't have a good track record in St Albans.

The recent development of a Cycling Strategy is a step in the right direction but it will take many years for a usable, linked network of on and off-road cycle routes to arrive. In the meantime, it helps no-one to imply that roads are too dangerous to cycle on when some changes to cyclists' and motorists' behaviour would make cycling considerably safer at little or no cost.

Here are a few common-sense tips for safe cycling on the road, derived from Cyclecraft, the Government-approved guidebook to safe cycling, or from the Highway Code.


n Don't ride in the gutter. Riding two to three feet away from the kerb puts bikes in a position where they can be seen by other road users and have some safe room to manoeuvre into if needs be. Riding here keeps you away from broken glass and other debris which traffic sweeps into the gutter and causes punctures.

n Always leave a gap when overtaking parked cars - riding into an open car door will hurt.

n Obey red traffic lights, just like other road users. A bike rider is soft and fleshy, other vehicles are hard and heavy. You will come off worse in any collision and you'll have only yourself to blame.

n Stay off the pavement unless there are signs indicating you're allowed to use it. Pavements are for pedestrians, unless you're young enough to be riding with stabilisers. Even if the pavement is clear, you will be more vulnerable to being hit by a car simply because you will be crossing driveways and roads in places where drivers are not expecting to see you.

n Be aware of other road users - making eye contact with drivers at junctions and glancing over your right shoulder to check what's behind you makes you more aware of what's going on and reduces some motorists' tendency to see you as an impersonal moving speed bump.

n Signal when you're turning or moving out - just like everyone else on the road. Doing this helps drivers predict what you're going to do.

n Use lights at night and on dark mornings and wear something brightly-coloured or reflective. The warm glow you feel at using eco-friendly transport does not make you visible to pedestrians or other road users.

n Don't pass lorries and busses on the inside. You may not be visible to the driver and you can be hit and seriously injured.

n Don't mistake the red-painted strips on Sandpit Lane and Hatfield Road for cycle lanes - they're (barely-effective) traffic-calming measures.


n Bikes have the right to be on the road so treat them like other road users. They don't have to use bike lanes which are often badly-designed, ill-maintained and dangerous. All but a tiny minority of cyclists pay taxes which pay for the roads, and many have insurance. (By the way, "Road Tax" hasn't been reserved for road spending since 1927, and even then road maintenance and construction was partially subsidised from general taxation.)

n Leave room when you overtake - passing too close is very dangerous since bikes may need to swerve to avoid potholes which you can just drive over. Do you really need to overtake when all it often does is get you to the back of the next queue 30 seconds faster?

n Bikes can travel quicker than you expect, so don't pull out too close in front of them at junctions or make turns without signalling.

n If you park on the road, look out for passing bikes when opening doors.

n These coloured boxes painted on the road at traffic lights are there for cyclists' safety, please leave them clear.

n Don't park in the few cycle lanes we have.

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