Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

You may recall in my last post I mentioned riding home from The Big Ride with my eldest and finding some rather helpful road design in my local area. One way streets and no-through roads for cars had bicycle lanes joining them, enabling cyclists to continue on whilst cars are forced out onto the main roads unless they need local access.

Well last week I finally remembered to go back and re-visit the area with the helmet cam running this time to record it.

I left in the approach on the main road to show the conditions the roads can be used to avoid. As a fairly confident cyclist I’ve got used to the busier roads however this stretch (often heading the opposite direction) has had a few interesting bits; From drivers complaining when I stop for pedestrians crossing, drivers on their phone who moan when you point it out, reading a newspaper at the wheel not to mention the usual close passes it’s certainly a busy stretch!

A map of the area can be viewed here:

First off a little disclaimer: The wide angle lens does distort the gaps as I’m filtering, due to riding in London an awful lot I’ve come to learn pretty well what gaps I can make and what I can’t! So whilst the first 2 1/2 minutes might have you wincing as I go into what appear to be tiny gaps rest assured there was enough room 🙂

I start off the clip in the lower left corner of the map, on Leonard Road, coming round the sweeping right before doing a left on the roundabout to follow Streatham Vale/Greyhound Lane (the yellow road on the map). I ride up here until I reach Aberfoyle Road (opposite Woodgate Drive) where I wait at the lights before turning left. You can see this road is marked as one-way on the map and at the zoom level above you would be lead to believe this road does join with Abercairn Road however if you zoom in closer you can see the road is split with a narrow path between.

This can be seen in the footage at 2:51, a small cycle lane has been provided to allow cyclists to pass through, meaning we don’t need to follow the same one-way system that motorised traffic does. Whilst I am now effectively doubling back on myself imagine coming at Aberfoyle Road from the other direction to where I started and turning right onto it to start. I then proceed down Carnforth Road and turn right onto Broadview then right again onto Abercairn to come back to this point to show the end of the route you could use to avoid Streatham Vale/Greyhound Lane southbound.

At 3:55 you get the view from the opposite side of the cycle through route showing the other cycle path that joins the two roads together and thus allowing cyclists to continue on Aberfoyle Road (which is nicely blocked at this point!) and then on round to Eardley Road to join up with LCN5.

I then re-trace my previous tracks instead this time I turn left at the end of Broadview and head down Abercairn. You will need to zoom in a bit on the map to see the narrowing of Abercairn just after Bates Crescent. This is blocked off for motorised traffic with a single small cycle path to the right (wrong side of road as I approach from this direction) which can be seen at 5:05. This can be safely negotiated however as each side of the barrier is effectively a dead end.

Once I am through there I continue on Abercairn and follow it round before re-joining Leonard Road roughly where I started. This also highlighted a small problem as whilst I had excellent visibility from my left onto the roundabout of approaching traffic the view to the right was very hampered by the white van parked in the bay (I think!) on the corner, meaning I had to venture some way into the lane to check it was clear! Thankfully the Focus appear to want to turn up Abercairn so I could proceed.

As you can probably tell from this clip the backroads where very quite and felt much nicer to ride on, I think the safety point can be shown rather well at 5:00 with the children playing out on the street 🙂 The design of the roads here, by blocking off would could have been a handy rat run to avoid the often congested Streatham Vale/Greyhound Lane for motorised traffic, has ensured that they are only generally used for residential access. The cycle paths that have been provided do however mean it is practical to use for a cyclist and when I came back this way with my 11 year old daughter from The Big Ride it was much more pleasant then the main roads where I was constantly on edge.

I really do wish we had more streets designed like this over here, it may not only encourage more cycling as it feels safer it would also offer an incentive as you can go where cars can’t! Cars by their very nature are able to travel faster (in theory at least) so why shouldn’t they be sent on a more circuitous route whilst the slower cyclists is given a more direct one? Unfortunately this would probably be seen as inflicting more hardships on motorists by reducing their choices however I think this needs to be weighed up against the reduced transport choices for the 98% of our population who don’t cycle as they don’t feel safe.

Taking my life in my hands

Posted: February 22, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Not my own words but those of our great PM:

I’d been meaning to do a post about why I’m attending the Cyclesafe Flashride but I think Mr Cameron has hit the nail pretty much on the head (with a sledgehammer….). I think the reason I don’t stop riding is because I’ve just become used to the poor conditions and treatment I receive whilst out riding and have adjusted my riding accordingly. Sharing multi-lane road systems that scare even Olympic athletes has become part of my daily routine as I try and get to and from work.

The situation gets worse once I’m move further away from the city centre, where the relatively fast moving but wide multi-lane raceways are replaced with smaller main roads and side streets. It’s on these sort of streets I normally encounter the driver who can’t spare a few seconds for my comfort and decides to scrape past with hardly any space, again this is something I’ve become accustomed to. Some people do seem to like to see just how close they can get and for their efforts they earn a spot on Youtube. Some however do actually wait patiently for a safe space and give me plenty of room, something which should be common place is all too often a pleasant surprise.

I think it’s because of this why I’m so nervous in letting my eldest attempt to ride to her secondary school next year. The route there and back involves travelling down a road that is going to be fairly busy during the school run and is punctuated with quite a few traffic island pinch points. As an experienced and confident rider myself I feel fairly comfortable asserting myself through these but I can’t expect the same of her can I?

David Cameron’s comments in here are pretty much straight out of their campaign material and the “template” response most of his party sent out in response to Cyclesafe campaigners. £15m investment? Yeah I’m sure that’ll make a *huge* difference! Considering Boris spunked  £10-20m per Cycle “Super”Highway just in London alone Cam’s £15m for the entire country is going to be spread VERY thinly! The whole cyclist training thing is another great piece of spin, you can throw around a few large numbers and make it look like your doing something! After all why bother trying to educate 30m drivers about how to act respectfully around cyclists and about their rights on the road when you can just target the much smaller minority of cyclists and arm them with techniques to tackle the car-centric roads we now have?

So in a nutshell the reason I’m attending the ride this evening is because I want cycling to be accessible. To anyone. To everyone. Everyone from my 11 year old daughter to my 52 year old mum should be able to hop on a bike and go for a ride without “taking their lives in their hands” and without needing to attend a special training course!

Following on from my recent dealings with Siobhain McDonagh (MP for Mitcham & Morden) in regards to my HGV incidents and her contacting each company directly I thought it best to let her know that Advanced Fuels had actually started dealing with it more seriously. I also took the chance to bring up the Cyclesafe Campaign, seeking her support for it if possible. I received her response earlier this week:

Thank you for writing to me with your concerns about how to improve safety for cyclists. I
am very glad to hear that Advanced Fuels are now taking your complaint more seriously, I do
hope that the matter will be resolved shortly. However, I am disappointed that your complaint
with PJ Brown is not being treated in the same manner, I shall continue to make enquiries into
this on your behalf.

I welcome efforts to increase the take up of cycling and want cycling to be considered more
often as a transport solution, and as a way of keeping fit and healthy. You may have seen that
I signed a motion in Parliament aimed at reducing accidents, and I am especially concerned
about the continuing number of accidents involving lorries and cyclists. I know that this has
also been a concern of the London Cycling Campaign. Like them, I support making it easier
and more pleasant to cycle, and am pleased that more and more people are travelling in this
way. I want cycling to be as safe as possible, and I certainly support the recent campaign to
improve safety.

I sincerely hope that the campaign launched by The Times will make a significant difference
to the safety of cycling in London, so that you can have confidence in allowing your eldest
daughter to cycle to school.

So looking rather promising on the cyclesafe front, she hasn’t done a “copy and paste” job like it appears some other MP’s (including the PM) did when contacted by other concerned members of the public, neither has she suggested cyclists put themselves in danger. It’s also good to know she is still going to make some enquiries with PJ Brown following their rather shocking response in the previous post.

Now a bit of a call to arms, although if your reading this I’m sure you’re already aware, there is a flashride planned for next Wednesday (22nd Feb) in London – the evening before the cycling debate in parliament. Details can be found here or here. I strongly urge any cyclists to try and attend, having been on the Blackfriars flashrides myself in the past they have all been excellent fun. There’s a great sense of community and you can’t help but grin as you look around at a sea of cyclists 🙂

Following on from my last post I was rather surprised to see another letter awaiting at home this evening once I got in with the House of Commons markings on the envelope 🙂 Not bad, that’s a quick response!

Image

Well I guess this goes someway to explain the views expressed by the Transport Manager who first responded if this is what the MD is like! Both the drivers may consider their driving ‘satisfactory’, after all it is “their living at risk” (no mention of my living or actual life you’ll notice….) so I guess that’s fine! But you have to appreciate driving is “emotionally demanding” for everyone. Clearly Mr Brown completely ignores the stress that cyclists are put through by the small minority of selfish drivers who seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to terrorise vulnerable road users. Of course then there are those cyclists whose close encounters with HGV’s didn’t end with them being able to complain to the company themselves.

But then why bother listening to the person who rides around with a hidden agenda with my ‘hating’ of any road users other then cyclists…

FWIW Mr Brown, if you even bother to read this, I’m not anti-car and pro-bike I’m just anti-idiot – regardless of their chosen mode of transport.

And here’s the video of the pass that the MD thinks is acceptable.

HGV Incidents Update

Posted: February 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

Just thought I’d post a quick update about the HGV incidents I mentioned in the previous post.

Firstly thought I’d like to say a big thanks for all those who took the time to read the last post and offer some advice. As you’ll see below some of it actually helped 🙂

After sending a chase e-mail to Advance Fuels I eventually got a response. Below is the e-mail trail after the chase:

Advance Fuels:

I have just received your email ref a complaint about one of our drivers on purley way I have viewed your video. And yes you do have a point on overtaking our vehicle does seem close but I would like to point out if you watch your video he overtook you on a clear part of road and pulled back over when he had passed you from what I can see on video he has not made you swerve into curb or made change direction the road does look as it narrows that aside I will be talking to driver on this matter and then decide on what action to take please feel free to contact me on this matter with any suggestions on what course of action you feel would be appropriate for me to take

My reply:

Hi <name removed>,

 

Thank you for getting back to me on this and taking the time to view the clip. At the time as I was approaching the traffic island I could hear the sound of a large vehicle coming up behind me. My shoulder check at the start seemed to confirm they where gaining on me rather quickly hence I had to brake to avoid coming into conflict with them as we approached the narrowing. Unfortunately it’s difficult to tell I’m slowing down in the video.

 

I consider myself a fairly confident and able rider, my usual commute takes me into central London where I deal with generally much larger and busier junctions, however having such a large vehicle pass so closely is rather un-nerving. A little bit of patience and then overtaking me once we’d past the traffic island (with a bit more room then the PJ Brown driver left me!) would have been more considerate. I appreciate drivers are normally on a tight schedule and having to contend with traffic isn’t easy (I used to do field engineering so spent most of my day driving between sites) but considering I caught up with one lorry at the next set of lights and then passed your truck shortly after that he didn’t really save himself that much time.

 

Thank you again for taking the time to look into this matter.

 

Regards

Their response:

Thanks for your reply I can assure you I will be pointing out your comments to the driver and make sure he is more aware of other smaller road users in future and to take more care while overtaking and where possible leave extra room when it is a cyclist I hope this acceptable to you and hope this will be a end to the matter

Following on from that my reply was “That would be acceptable”. I got the feeling from the second, rather poorly written reply, that they may be having a word with the driver which is a bit better then what PJ Brown said!

 

 

Fast forward a bit to last night and as I’m getting changed from the commute home the wife suddenly says “You got a letter today!” in a rather excited tone and hurries towards the front door to fetch it…”It’s from the House of Commons..”

My brain starts ticking over as I remember who I’ve e-mailed links to the previous post too…”I think I know what that might be about”

Imagine my delight as I find a lovely covering letter from my local MP Siobhan McDonagh attached to 2 letters addressed to the MD’s of Advance Fuels and PJ Brown requesting an investigation into the actions of their drivers 🙂

At some point I will try and get the full text of the letter up but I certainly consider that a bit of a result, not sure they’ll be so keen to fob off an MP 😉

The letter said I should expect a response within 4 weeks so I’ll be making a note in my calendar to chase it up if I don’t hear anything back…once I do I’ll post another update.

PJ Brown – Do they care?

Posted: January 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

You’ll have to bear with me if this comes out in a bit of a mess but I’m rather irritated at the moment…

Last Friday, 20th January, I was cycling to a training course down in Kenley and heading down the Purley Way when this happened:

Not the best of starts to the day. I edited out the footage, uploaded it to Youtube on the Saturday

Sevening they penned out an e-mail to PJ Brown on the Sunday morning:

Hello,

I would like to make a serious complaint about one of your drivers I encountered on the morning of 20/1/12 whilst cycling to work.

At approximately 8:30 I was headed southbound on Purley Way in Croydon when the driver of one of your lorries with registration GK08 PGU performed a very unsafe pass on myself, barely leaving me any room.

When I caught up with the driver with the driver at the next set of traffic lights a few hundred yards up the road and gestured my disapproval of his poor driving the driver then pulled forward into the bike box (therefore jumping the red light as he passed his stop line) and shouted ouf the his cabin window, calling me “maggot” and complaining I was riding too far out from the kerb.

At the time of the pass I was travelling on a slight downhill section at around 30mph (it’s a 40mph limit) about 3-4′ from the kerb in what is known as “primary” position and it taught by Bikeability and the IAM as  a safe position to use when either approaching pinch points or when overtaking by a motor vehicle would place the rider in danger. Having had the HGV before your one do a very close pass just before a traffic island I was trying to be more cautious.

Highway code rule 163 gives a very clear description and picture of how much room a cyclists should be given when overtaking and in all honesty I’d expect more from such a large vehicle due to the wind buffeting.

The incident was caught on my helmet camera and can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/4oPB-ZUrgnQ.

Just so you are aware I will also be contacting Advance Fuels to complain about their drivers behaviour also, however I believe your drivers apparent lack of respect for my safety and his attitude at the lights ahead warrant some looking into and I look forward to hearing back on how this matter is being dealt with. I have had a look over the Health and Safety policy on your website and believe this driver is in breach of a few clauses with regards to respecting the safety of the public, given the high proportion of HGV’s involved in cyclist accidents and fatalities and don’t believe this sort of driving is an anyway acceptable.

Thank you

I got a response from there this morning:
Good Morning,I have read your complaint reference our Driver and the advance fuel
vehicle. The road narrows to a singular track where these two incidents
took place and vehicles are not to cross the chevron area.
Your footage does not show the distance you are away from the kerb and
our driver states you were a lot further from the kerb than you have
stated. My driver did not jump any red light but only moved forward to
acknowledge yourself. Admittedly he called you a ‘maggot’ but you had
created a new era of ‘cycle rage’ gesturing and a vile torrid of abuse
to other road users. You also enticed trouble at the traffic lights.

Regards

<name removed>
Plant & Transport Manager

Nice eh? Seems from reading this they think the drivers actions where reasonable and could only be expected with my “cycle rage” and I enticed trouble at the lights….
Not much I could do asides from a new reply to summarize my feelings on the matter:
Hello,

Thank you for the response. I’m guessing you haven’t actually looked at the section of the Highway code that I mentioned that demonstrates the safe distance to pass a cyclist? If so you can clearly see both the drivers in this case failed to give me adequate space.
I also believe my footage gives a fairly good representation of the distance I was riding out from the kerb, cyclist are NOT required to hug the gutter. As a commenter on the video stated the consequences of striking the kerb would have resulted in a crash.
As for my reaction at the lights I’d put that down to the adrenaline from having 2 rather large vehicles coming past at extremely close quarters. The mere fact that neither hit me doesn’t make them “safe”.
Anyway I’m guessing from this response no further action will be taken with this “driver” so I will now be forwarding a copy of the video to the Met Polices Roadsafe unit and see what they think about it.
Thank you
I’ve just finished the Roadsafe submission so can only hope they’ll take it a bit more seriously then then PJ Brown, who like most construction companies have a nice shiny PDF on their website detailing their “health and safety” policy….which apparently can be ignored when it suits them!
I’m not going to let this one rest. Given the number of cyclists killed by HGV’s (and this isn’t even central London!) I don’t think driving like that shown by either of those in the clip is in anyway acceptable!
So what are your thoughts; Was I riding too far out? Where they safe passes and did I “over-react” at the end?
I have also contacted Advance Fuels and await their response….
Check here to see the response I got from the MD after my MP wrote to them.

.

Flow like water

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

Having read a blog post recently (can’t remember the exact article….) from a cyclist who claimed he didn’t like to be called part of traffic as he was able to move (at least during the rush hour) at a much higher pace then the motorised traffic it got me thinking of how best I could convey this myself.

I personally don’t mind being called “traffic”, I am a road user and on occasions when the motorised traffic is particularly heavy I am left at a standstill. I take pride in my filtering ability, something which I’ve had plenty of chance to build up with over 4 years of riding in central London, but there are occasions where I just can’t safely fit through any gap. In these cases I’ll wait patiently for a safe gap then get on my way, jobs a goodun!

Then it struck me the other night as I was nipping between the slower moving cars and trucks on The Highway heading towards Tower Bridge, I’m (or the collective “we” for most cyclists in fact) are more like water flowing round rocks. It’s just in this case though the rocks are actually big metal boxes and they can roll forwards themselves. We don’t tend to hold up the traffic, in fact I think my journey times would improve greatly if I woke up tomorrow and all the motorised traffic had been removed from the roads! I often find myself having to ease off as I get stuck behind a slow moving motorists due to the sheer volume of traffic 🙂

Take this evening for example, I pulled up alongside one particular company van on Albany Road as I waited to turn onto Camberwell Road. I didn’t think much of it at the time until I caught up with and eventually overtook the same van on Streatham High Road, some 4-5 miles later 🙂

So for my motorised brethren who think bikes are slow…..just remember we can go with the flow, all whilst you are staring at the rear window of that vehicle in front 😀 Maybe one day you’ll make the change, stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution.

This also brings me to another point