Different standards

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.

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.

A country that keeps you separated from lorries when they are turning across your path.Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 15.58.34

… That prevents HGVs from turning, when you are moving through a junction.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 22.55.22

… That provides separate roads for cycling, alongside roads where vehicles are travelling at 50mph or more.Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 22.58.07

… That ensures minimal interactions with motor traffic, whatever the road or street, whatever the location.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 23.09.34

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.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 23.03.08 Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 23.03.55

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?

This entry was posted in Exchanging places, Promotion, Safety, Sustainable Safety, The Netherlands. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Different standards

  1. Dan B says:

    Different standards don’t work for anyone. Cycle infrastructure needs to be obvious to everyone so people don’t walk or drive where they shouldn’t, and people know where to ride – every time. London is currently cocking this up again with a mixture of blue, green, black, red and ‘other’ paving for cycle paths, often all in the same journey. Why is it that hard to do properly?!

  2. Guido says:

    You are criticizing advanced stop lines in the beginning of your article. Remember however that these are common in the Netherlands as well. In fact: the junction in Utrecht in the 3rd photo has an ASL in the street on the left (which is a bit too short). I agree that separated traffic is preferable in any situation, but ALS is a good 3rd on streets where separation is not implemented yet/not possible. But I agree with a big ass truck behind you, you must be way in front of it to be visible, this does not happen to me often, probably because ALS are more restricted to side streets which have less truck traffic. Also in the Netherlands separation is often only done in main traffic lanes. In side streets cycling lanes are often marked by no more then paint. Agreeably this feels a lot less safe and more exposed.

    • Har Davids says:

      I usually feel a lot less safe and exposed if a big lorry is only inches away from me. But overall, drivers in The Netherlands are pretty considerate. It’s not rare to see a muscle-car giving way to a cyclist or pedestrian.

    • ASLs do exist in the Netherlands, of course. But they will either be old, and due for replacement with a better solution, or (as you say) they will only be used on low traffic streets, and junctions – in fact, probably in places where traffic is low enough not to have signals at all.

      • Hendrien says:

        Just recently there was put one in place in the village I work. But it is one of two I know of in a very large area.
        The onze that was put in, was on a redesigned crossing, with seperate demand driven traffic lights for cyclists, so they have a head start. The crossing has a lot less car traffic than before.
        Result of the redesign the flow is much quicker and as a cyclist I hardly have to wait anymory.
        The car drivers have to readjust to the situation. I see them sometimes on the ASL and sometimes they go past red, because of the green cycle light. No big deal, because of less traffic.

    • Andy K says:

      Advanced Stop Lines (ASLs) were an experiment in the Netherlands decades ago. They haven’t been built in decades and are quite rare these days. They are progressively being removed. I challenge you to find more than a dozen of them.

      Their inadequacy is obvious: you end up mixing scary heavy flows of motorised traffic – dangerously turning left and right in conflict with, no less – with people cycling. Modern Dutch standards state that motor vehicles / bicycles crossing paths should be done as close to right angles as possible (with a run-up not too curved) for optimum visibility. ASLs obviously violate this principle and are the worst option.

      • Guidoguido says:

        I agree to both of you, I see them being replaced often, so I can imagine them ALS’s not being painted anymore (but too lazy now to google it). It was also removed up ahead on this road on photo 3: crossing Amsterdamse Straatweg and Marnixlaan.

        • jeldering says:

          I agree that one sees ASLs infrequently in the Netherlands, but sometimes they are still being put in: for example here on the Prins Hendriklaan that was transformed into a fietsstraat recently: https://goo.gl/maps/D7Qauuy3fCB2

          I guess the excuse here is that this is already a low car traffic street and plenty of space is available for cyclists to reach the ASL.

          • Of course, that’s the exact opposite of where they’re put in in the UK – ASLs end up on huge multi-lane speedways, completely inappropriate. And that’s where the big dangerous trucks are that people are being warned about in a hopeless attempt to mitigate that poor design decision.

            • Jitensha Oni says:

              Interesting the ASL has taken such prominence in the discussion. What seems to be a minor intervention in the NL with a limited range of applicability has become pretty much a de facto standard at signalised junctions in the UK. That is of course precisely what you’d expect for a cargo cult (see also blue paint “we saw it in Copenhagen” etc).

              • USbike says:

                Regarding Copenhagen’s ASL’s, they do have one important difference to the ones discussed here: they do not position you in front of motor vehicles. Now, I’m only speaking strictly of the ones where the cycle track actually leads up to the intersection and the stop line is positioned closer to it than the one for motor vehicles, and not about the cases where the cycle track becomes a cycle lane as well as a right turn lane for motor vehicles. The infrastructure in Denmark in general is not as good as what the Dutch have, but ASL’s/bike boxes seem to get used so interchangeably, as if there are no differences between the types.

          • Frank says:

            And here’s another new one in Amsterdam, https://goo.gl/KcjhEl.
            But you’re right, the number of cars is also limited here. Cars are guided to a parallel road 100 meters away, https://goo.gl/pRFljX. A higher number of cars there, therefore no ASL but separated bicycle paths.
            Naturally on the road with ASL, cyclists greatly outnumber the cars.

  3. Paul says:

    Good post as usual. Part of the reason for the mess on the roads is that there is no overall ownership. Even in London some roads are under the control of TfL but most are run by individual boroughs with local electors to keep happy. A simple national mandatory standard would help but Governments are scared of the spending that would be needed to implement it.

  4. Pingback: Cyclists are Inconvenienced by Motorists ALL the Time … • Average Joe Cyclist

  5. ORiordan says:

    They did design Boris buses with an open platform that people could fall off, but I think they have now realised this so the buses keep the doors shut when it is moving.

  6. Notak says:

    I think the thing about ASLs is that they represent a shift in priorities. They were first introduced in UK way back in the early 1990s or even late 1980s as a means of prioritising bike journeys – making them faster and easier, because they wouldn’t be held up by queues of traffic. I don’t think safety was the initial purpose of them; that was an additional reason which has been emphasised more as the emphasis in cycle provision (and traffic management generally) has shifted more to ‘not having accidents’ rather than ‘completing journeys’.

    • fonant says:

      ASLs make no difference to being held up on a bike by queues of traffic. You need cycle lanes or cycleways to help if motor traffic actually blocks people on bikes.

      The idea of ASLs was to enable cyclists to (a) wait in a visible location at traffic lights, (b) get a small head-start on the motor vehicles, and (c) have an easier way to reach the right-hand lane of a multi-lane road when turning right at traffic lights. A small additional benefit was the idea that motorists were given a message that “cyclists are allowed, and should be expected, to be here”. They were a safety idea, an attempt to reduce the concentration of bicycle crashes at junctions.

      In practice (a) fails if there are high-cab lorries around: the ASL leads you into the lorry driver’s blind spot. (b) fails because the head-start is not much use, and cars get annoyed by the cyclist “getting in the way”. (c) fails most of the time because the ASL is useless when the traffic is moving, which is most of the time.

      ASLs are/were popular in the UK because it enabled highway authorities to do something visible but cheap “for cyclists” that didn’t have any impact on motor traffic flows (which they still want to maximise, for some unknown reason). Cycle campaigners used to like them because it was something that might actually be done “for cyclists”, and it felt nice to see something being done, even if that something was of very limited practical use. Vehicular cyclists like them because ASLs legitimise the practice of deliberately positioning yourself on a bicycle so that you are in the way of following motorists.

      • Notak says:

        You say they make no difference to being held up, but then your second paragraph lists three ways in which they are intended to help! And yes, I do think that all three of those, but especially b) and c), are considered as ways of speeding and easing cyclists’ progress in traffic. For example, making it easier to reach the r/h lane – and that applies equally to reaching the r/h side of a one-lane road – is certainly an improvement on the once-recommended (perhaps it still is?) technique of waiting at the kerb for a gap in traffic.

        I’ll grant the reasons your third paragraph gives as to why ASLs don’t in practice work that well, but nevertheless, the intention was there (and to an extent, the effect too; my general impression is they’re actually more use at peak times and in areas of relatively high cycle traffic).

  7. In my view City of London is much more closer to the point than the writer: They invited women.
    They didn’t meet the point: They spoke about “blind spots” in a technical meaning.

    In Germany an examination about victims of HGVs showed the same pattern as in GB:
    BASt (Bundesanstalt für Straßenwesen, Federal Road Research Institute) 2004, “Gefährdung von Fußgängern und Radfahrern an Kreuzungen durch rechts abbiegende Lkw”” (“Endangering of pedestrians and cyclists by left-turning HGVs at crossings”):
    … victims were mostly cyclists (78 of 90)… Females (> 60%) have a much higher share than males. The share is approximately 2:1 and this is not the share of cycle traffic, which is the other way round. Male: female like 2:1.

    The Guardian, 21.05.2010:
    ” Women cyclists ‘at greater risk from lorry deaths’
    Ten of the 13 people who died in cycling accidents in London last year were women.”

    They cited a secret study of Transport for London (TfL).

    “Women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by a lorry because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot, according to a study. The TfL study has not been published – a move that has angered many campaigners.

    The report by Transport for London’s road safety unit was completed last July but has been kept secret. It suggests that some cyclists who break the law by jumping red lights may be safer and that cycle feeder lanes may make the problem worse.

    The study claims that 86 per cent of the women cyclists killed in London between 1999 and 2004 collided with a lorry. By contrast, lorries were involved in 47 per cent of deaths of male cyclists. The findings help to explain why the growing popularity of cycling by city commuters is resulting in frequent deaths of young women in similar circumstances.”
    (rudi.net “Women cyclists are more likely to be killed in traffic: TfL suppresses report”)

    I think that jumping red light thing only touches the point, but doesn’t really hit it.

    Maybe it is a more cultural thing I Think that “blind spot” is a lack of civilization a clash of cultures.
    Lorry driver is not the best paid job. Many lorry drivers are more familiar with a rough style of traffic: Power sets the law. This is a common traffic style all over the world. The more manly the traffic the more power counts for much. It’s normal, that the weaker one has to give way.

    On the other hand the women who are cyling often are well educated ones. They are accustomed to politeness, respect and a behaviour that at least sticks to the law. They behave so because civilization and the law protect and favor theys as they are the weaker ones.

    And therefore they expect this behaviour from others. This is their fatal mistake.

    For men it is easier to deal with power and with recklesness. They are more used to it and they don’t expect a lorry driver to be polite.

    Women as cyclists have to learn the rule of raw power. Women have to be told that as a cyclist there is no cvilization, no respect and no law on the street that they can rely on. The safest way is to keep the distance to the powerful. The logic of power is recklessness and, this is the logic of the road, the more the power the more the distance the smaller one should keep.

    • Paul says:

      Pretty bleak view of life. That may be the status quo but it needs changing.

      • Okay, maybe my English is clumsy (To German natives: I shame me so for my English😉 )
        First: It’s really refreshing for me as a German looking at British Blogs on cycling. British cycling campaigners do a very good job and your level of discussion is astonishing me. I wished car industry in Germany would have had left only 10% of your spirit in our cycling campaigners.

        Nevertheless in my opinion the main issue of urban cycling is culture and civilized behaviour of society.
        HGV related accidents with cyclists and the huge share of young women exemplify that main issue.
        It is not a lack of technical grasp of young women. When it is that especially young women have to fear about their bodily integrity and about their lives in public space then things are going heavily wrong in society.
        To deal with the menace it is mutually obligatory to address the danger to the women and to address the development to the publicity.
        I think it is wrong to keep silent in order to don’t threat anybody or to keep away somebody from cycling. Sometimes it is better to put the finger in the wound (speaking German). The British are very proud of their civilization and their sophisticated intercourse. They are right and, besides, looking from abroad it’s an amiable thing to be proud of that. That could be the basis to work on the issue of dead and threatened young women in public space.

        This is no technical issue.
        “Learning about cycling safety around lorries. Keep well in front so you can be seen.” (From above, Hanson UK)
        I know that talking very well. “It will be safer to cycle in the carriageway so the car drivers will see you better.” Bullshit.
        No! Keep away! Flee! Campaign for distance!
        Mind the wolf of the tale: “Why do you have such large eyes?”, Little Red Riding Hood asks. – “Because I want to see you better.”, the wolf answered.

  8. Bikesy says:

    Dear god man, these riders in the photos… where’s their helmets?! 😉

    • That wouldn’t help. If you were crushed by an HGV, your head is the least of your concerns. An ASL where the stopping line is set back maybe 10 metres would help, but ASLs really aren’t the best solution. The more Copenhagen style junction used on the CS2 upgrade has separate signals for bikes and left (and right) turning cars and a two stage left, but even that is not good enough because there is nothing protecting you if someone runs a red light from the cross street. The protected junction, ubiquitous across Netherlands, protects you as you make that right turn, and even permits left turns at any time. And is also good for keeping you safe while you go straight through a junction. Simultaneous green also lets you make left turns at any time, and you can go in any direction where at the end of your movement you would find yourself on a space you are legally allowed to cycle on (cycle path, cycle lane or 30 km/h road sometimes) while not permitting any cars or motor vehicles from crossing your path.

  9. Floortje says:

    In the Netherlands we start teaching children in elementary schools about the dangers of ‘blind spots’ of large vehicles. These lessons are done with real trucks, on the schoolyards, very practical and very convincing for the children. And the ASLs in the Netherlands are somewhat safer, because there are almost always lots of bicycles waiting in front of the cars and trucks, which makes it hard for drivers not to see them. In my city, Hilversum, the last few ASLs are being replaced by seperated bicycle paths with bicycle trafficlights.

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