Thursday 8 May 2014

Why shouldn't I ride on the pavement?

This morning I was out on Arbury Road again. I was passed my multiple motons who were well in excess of the 20mph limit. One went through the red light during the pedestrian phase by the Doctors surgery, presumably its double points for a sick person, another completely ignored the red light I'd already stopped at in front of him at the Campkin Road junction. Because cyclists always go through red lights you know. And three different drivers passed within 18" of me.

I also passed a cyclist on the pavement on my left. He was at no time endangered by close passing motorists. He wasn't at quite the same risk from speeding drivers. And at no point did a red light jumping motorist scare the willies out of him. In fact his ride looked pretty mellow compared with mine.

He caught up with me at the end of Arbury Road, where there are cycle routes on three of the eight path approaches, including one that inexplicably ends around 6' from the junction (we're meant to dismount there, I prefer teleportation), and a fourth that randomly ends without any sign so that people can drive cars all over the pavement. He went from the end of the cycle path on Milton Road at the pedestrian phase, so despite arriving after me he got go before I did.

I had to wait in traffic with the cars. The driver at the front was indicating, none of the others were - and all but the one at the front (who was indicating left) were turning right - none went straight on. Or, in other words, I kind of had to guess my best road position based on the assumption that the motorists were all lying about where they were going. 

Reflecting upon this journey, its fairly obvious why no one wants to ride on Arbury Road (and why this is one of the least visibly cycled routes in Cambridge). Its horrible. The 20mph speed limit should create a presumption that a cyclist travelling within 5mph or so of the speed limit needn't be overtaken merely to get slightly closer to the red light in front - but because its not meaningfully enforced the new speed limit has changed nothing. So because the Police aren't making my journey safer by enforcing the laws on motorists - all but one of whom were breaking the law today - why ought I be expected to obey the law and face greater risk from illegal driving?

This is not 'two wrongs make a right', its 'why should I be the only one not breaking the law when acting legally means I'm the only one at risk'?

Going to the North Area Committee this evening to plead the case for actually giving a damn about cyclist safety, no doubt to once again face off with people who want us flayed alive. 

Oh, whats the bloody point?


  1. I don't think I'll make it this evening. However, last time we prodded on ShapeYourPlace the local police team seemed to be doing nothing about the 20mph priority. They have now done a single crack-down, in hi vis, just before NAC, when they've had three months of this priority. This strikes me as an incredibly cynical attempt to be able to report that they've done something, and on this basis I think the priority is not ready to be discharged.

  2. I completely agree with you, as regards the horrible conditions we have to endure on the roads (I cycle and drive equally around Cambridge; usually bike to work, and drive to further destinations, e.g. the villages or using the A14/M11 to further afield).

    However, I have a few friends in their 60s/70s/80s who are afraid to walk on the pavement, often in the afternoon, as scores of Netherhall girls cycle in random patterns on the pavements within a few inches of them. Pavements, where they have not been dualled into cycle paths, are often too narrow to allow cycling on. I often shout at cyclists who cycle on the pavements, as it is illegal (even if the roads are sometimes awful). Especially if they cycle on the pavement just feet away from the cycle lane on the road.

    We absolutely need more dedicated cycle paths, such as the Chisholm Trail, and for our council to stop spending money allocated for cycling on general road works (such as the Hyde Park corner junction and Perne Road roundabout)

    I long everyone to be forced by insurance companies to use a Google-style self-driving car, so it will be much safer for cyclists and pedestrians, since the police are incapable of properly policing motorists behaviour. I'm 42 now - how much longer, Google et al?! 10 years? 20?

    1. I get why its good for pedestrians if we're off the pavements. But when I look at the path I was passing by on Arbury Road, other than when its got cars parked on it (so they're part blocking -both- sides) its not at all impossible for someone to ride cautiously down it without causing much of a problem - I see this most days.

      The Netherhall girls you refer to have got nothing to do with me of course - and that they do something thats annoying to the fogeys around there has no implication for what I might choose to do and vice versa. The question really is, why ought I be the sole legal road user when to be so means I'm putting myself at risk?

      As for Chisolm trail, again, thats has nothing to do with me. I live nowhere near it and it ain't likely to be going anywhere I want it to go - like most people I live on a street, connected by roads to other roads, and I desperately need those roads to be safe enough for me to ride on, whether its by dedicated cycle lane or not. Totally agree that investment in cycling needs to actually be for cyclists and not for cars - as we've seen far too often, but what ought we do until then? Bluntly, should I continue riding on Arbury Road knowing full well that each time I do so I'll face angry, agressive, dangerous, illegal motorists? Or should I use the path?

    2. I suppose the only thing to be said for the fact that the police don't police drivers is the fact that they spend very little time policing people on bikes either. Viewed purely dispassionately as cost/benefit exercise, you could well decide that the occasional £30 fine for cycling on the pavement is a price you will happily pay for a less stressful, safer journey. Much as one assumes that many drivers weigh the chance of being caught speeding against their desire to speed, and come down on the side of breaking the law.

      When it comes down to it, enforcement of this sort cannot be the primary means of changing individual behaviour. We have a culture where 20mph is considered 'too slow' for an urban environment, even as average speeds plummet due to congestion. Until 20mph feels like the right speed for areas where there are high numbers of vulnerable roads users, until we have humanised our streets, enforcement is kicking against a larger car-dominated culture. I don't murder people because I have internalised all the reasons why it is bad, not because I'm afraid of being caught.

    3. The question really becomes one of how we get the cultural change in motoring in this city - and I'd argue that enforcement is a necessary part of that change. As you say, you've internalised reasons why wrong things (like murder) are wrong - we can't expect people to learn that breaking the speed limit is wrong without enforcement being part of the answer.

      Sgt. Wragg at NAC was straight up that they've done three or so sessions of enforcement - wasn't any cynical attempt to portray this as more than it was, and that so far they've angled this as educational. And he's taken the point about how visible the police were - whether thats meant as part of the educational approach (or has value as such) is open to debate I think.

      Same chap last night who described how he got done for speeding over 30mph on Milton Road as being his own fault but actually the fault of the cyclist he was overtaking who needn't have been on Milton Road also complained that its actually hard to drive at 20mph. We need to get the message home that if you can't drive legally, you can't drive. Not that he's rubbed me up the wrong way by referring to my 'alleged' bats, but thats another story.

      I suppose what I'm getting at in the blog entry above is that its frustrating being the 'good guy' who obeys the law when that act is punished by those who are breaking the law.