A few weeks ago the City of London held a cycling safety event, aimed in particular at women, following an astonishing 30 serious injuries to female cyclists in the Square Mile since 2010, and three deaths.
And this week a haulage company was running a similar event in Cambridge, with a familiar-looking shape on the ground in front of an HGV.
— Camb. Cycling Cam. (@camcycle) October 6, 2015
That’s the area you shouldn’t be in; definitely not an Advanced Stop Line,.
It’s hard to criticise these events – they are, after all, well-meaning, and for the people who attend them they may learn something about the potentially lethal dangers posed by cycling on the carriageway with HGVs, and with motor vehicles in general.
The City of London Corporation wants to encourage more women to ride to work as part of a target of having 10 per cent of journeys made by bike. Today’s events include a conference and an “Exchanging Places” event until 4pm in Guildhall Yard that will enable women to experience the “blind spots” that limit the view of cyclists and pedestrians from the cab of a HGV.
But of course these events are only scratching the surface of the problem. They can’t possibly reach everyone who cycles on Britain’s roads, and even the tiny minority of people that do attend will still make mistakes, or errors, that could result in death or serious injury.
These certainly aren’t the kinds of events that you could imagine being run by any other branch of transportation. Because the message is effectively –
find out just how dangerous your transport environment is, thanks to our indifference and/or negligence.
It’s like the airline industry running an event publicising the dangers of sitting in particular seats on the plane.
Yes, those are the seats to avoid. Unfortunately they do have a tendency to fall out of the plane.
Or – to parallel the way these ‘Exchanging Places’ advise you not to use exact same painted markings that have been applied on the road ‘for cycling’ –
Low-level lighting will guide you to the nearest exit. Except that under certain circumstances that lighting should be completely ignored, as it may lead you to an extremely dangerous area of the plane.
Or – to parallel ‘educating’ people to cycle away from parked cars – perhaps a bus company advising you on how to safely use their buses.
Please be aware that, although we have provided seats at the side of the bus, these are in places where panels can suddenly swing out and hit you. Stay out of the ‘panel zone’.
Events like these, warning of these kinds of dangers, would be laughable, scandalous even, but they’re completely standard fare when it comes to cycle transportation. The only reason we’re not rolling around laughing, or gasping with horror, is that they come against a background of decades of inertia; decades of assuming that it’s completely fine to mix human beings on bicycles with very large vehicles, or vehicles moving at high speed. Decades of assuming it’s fine to paint stuff on the road under the pretence it might achieve something, even if that paint should selectively be ignored. Decades of assuming that if you don’t fancy riding a bike in that environment, then… tough. Have you tried some cycle training?
This is only normal because, well, we’ve just grown to accept it.
Meanwhile there’s a country just a few hundred miles away which doesn’t accept this. Which attempts to apply the same rigour about safety for people cycling that we rightly expect from other modes of transportation.
… That prevents HGVs from turning, when you are moving through a junction.
… That ensures minimal interactions with motor traffic, whatever the road or street, whatever the location.
It’s actually quite shocking when you come across evidence that the country hasn’t always been like this; when you find those roads and junctions that remain unaddressed, relics from the past, when (like in Britain today) the country just expected people to get on with it, to mix with large vehicles and hazardous situations as best they can.
The country was changed; principally by consistently applying the same kinds of standards that we expect when we travel by other modes of transport, to cycling.
Why should we tolerate different standards in Britain?