This (short) post is going to look at a paradoxical situation in British road road design, one that means that a very dangerous way of dealing with turning conflicts is legal, while a much safer way of dealing with those turning conflicts is illegal.
Here’s the legal situation. Take any signal-controlled crossroads. It’s perfectly acceptable to paint a cycle lane, against the kerb, on the inside of a lane of left-turning motor traffic. We are then quite happy to release, with a green signal, both a person on a bike in that cycle lane – who might be going straight ahead – at exactly the same time as a driver turning left from the lane on that cyclist’s right.
We even do this with fairly new road layouts.
In other words, we’re completely okay with this kind of conflict being designed into new roads, as long as there’s only a line of paint separating you from the bus or the lorry waiting alongside you on your right.
But let’s say we change this arrangement slightly; change the position the person on the bike is waiting at, relative to the driver of the car, bus, or lorry. Something like this.
The person cycling is moved forward into the junction, where the driver can see them, so far forward, in fact, that if they get a green light simultaneously, the person cycling will have cleared the junction before the driver makes his or her turn. Even if they do happen to meet, they will do so at a perpendicular angle, so both parties can see that a conflict is about to occur, and adjust their behaviour accordingly. There’s even a nice BicycleDutch video explaining the advantages of this design.
But of course in Britain it’s not possible to do this, because it amounts to a ‘conflicting green’. Drivers turning left with a green must not meet someone crossing their path with a green signal.
So there we have it. It’s completely acceptable for drivers to turn left across someone cycling if that person on a bike is right next to them, separated only a bit of paint – that’s not a conflicting green. Meanwhile if that person on a bike is situated in a much safer position, more visible, and more likely to be out of the driver’s way before the turn is completed – that is a ‘conflict’, and not legal.
Such is the British approach to road safety!