Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Traffic Pinch Points - A Hazard To Cyclists

Karl McCracken, our guest speaker for Friday night has a post on his blog about pinch points and the hazard they present to cyclists.

This struck home to me, because there are three pedestrian refuges that I pass in quick succession on my way home from work each day which have caused me more than a few worrying moments recently. Actually, it's not the pinch points that cause the problem, it's the average motorist's inability to judge speed and distance that causes the problem, and this inability is highlighted at these pinch points.


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The first isn't too bad, but there are often parked cars around making the approach trickier. This is also the point where cars "released" from the throughabout back down the road catch up with me, meaning a nice succession of cars to pass me.


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The second is a bit trickier, as it's on an odd bend just after the top of a slight rise in the road and before a descent. It is not wide enough for a car to get through at the same time as me yet I often have cars desperately trying to get by me here. I often ride down the following hill swearing and gesturing to the car (now) in front of me.


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Then, still swearing, I meet pinch point number three where another car races past.

There's another one just after this, but I turn off here (squeezing past the car-for-sale parked half blocking the pavement, but that's a separate rant).

I'm going to be taking Karl's advice for dealing with these from now on:

I’m trying a modified technique:
I. Will. Own. That. Road. (Girlfriend).
Never mind this looking over the shoulder and pulling across if it’s safe - my moves will be accompanied by the full arm-out hand signal, and I will be riding through these kill zones at about 50-60% of the distance from the road’s edge. I will be doing this on every single one, and only IF when I get into one, I find that it’s ridiculously wide, will I then pull across to let cars pass safely.
It’s time to reclaim the streets

30 comments:

wuppidoc said...

Yes, do it, Mike! I shall do it as well as I did in the past, swearing at these drivers!!!!

wuppidoc said...

And say "Thank You" to traffic engineers that gave you these Pinch Points instead of proper Zebra crossings for pedestrians that would stop car drivers and not force you into these narrow situations.

These islands are simply made to make it easier for the motorists: pedestrians cross only one part of the road if they the motorised traffic allows that, then wait for the next gap to jump over the second part of the road. Zebra Crossings would allow pedestrians to cross the road in one go and we cyclists would not have these tight situations with cars. But Zebra crossings are too dangerous, we are told - for whom????

Karl McCracken (twitter: @karlonsea) said...

Wuppidoc - well said. There's actually a crossing near us that used to be a zebra crossing, but has been converted to a pelican crossing. My guess is that the additional expense was justified as it would reduce traffic delays . . . on a section of road where the 30mph speed limit seems to be more of an advisory minimum.

wuppidoc said...

Yes, Karl, that happens here as well, and we are all losing out except for the motorists. But they lose when more and more people get into their cars and congestion hits in.
Why can politicians not see, that congestion could be relieved by getting people out of their cars being offered better conditions for cyclists?
See you on Friday here in Darlington!

Brian V said...

I too hate these islands especially when made even worse if road edges ar built upon further decreasing the width of actual road available. There are two such beasts on Thompson Street West that I negotiate most days on my commute.
But I have to make this comment, 9 out of ten motorists do slow down behind me and when this happens I always give a wave in thanks and sometimes – not always - get a friendly wave back.
Coming from motorcycling to cycling I know the benefits of good mirrors and also the “Life Saver” glance over the shoulder, its saved my life on numerous occasions both in the UK and abroad and the comment “Never mind the looking over the shoulder” is seriously misplaced.
I have a mirror, a pretty large one as well, and I would never ride without it. How many “serious” cyclists have one? Not many.
If I am approaching one of these “Pinch Points” and my mirror tells me a driver is to close for my safety I stop and nine times out of ten the one behind gives me a wave and lets me through and of course I acknowledge this with a wave. The driver who did not slow down was the 1 in 10 and this type of driver will never change and raising your fists, swearing and shouting is the food that they thrive upon. I’m still alive is the key.
To advise that cyclists need to be more “Aggressive” is not the way forward. Keep on waving, acknowledge the consideration of others using the roads, let motorist be able to say cyclists are not that bad really.
It has also to be said that 1 in 10 serious cyclists are a pain in the arse as they seem to believe that they have to show car drivers that it is quicker to cycle in towns and cities by weaving in and out of traffic, racing down the inside lane and mounting pavements’ to get ahead to mention just a few. I see it every dam day.
Lastly why are these “Pinch Points” there? It’s to aid the safe crossing of the road for old people (such as myself), mothers with children on their way to school as at Thompson Street, perhaps the odd wheelchair and the infirm.

miketually said...

The pinch points are there as an alternative to safer forms of pedestrian crossing that would impact on traffic flow or residential parking.

Aggressive may be the wrong word to describe my approach to them. Assertive or defensive would be better. Stopping isn't really an option if I'm doing 20+MPH and a car is approaching from behind at 35MPH...

Inconvenient Truth said...

My experience suggests the opposite, Brian. 9 out of 10 drivers are unsure how to deal with me as a cyclist - in a wide variety of situations. The solution is to exert authority as a road user and take more space.
I wonder if this variation in experience is more to do with perception and expectation? I cycle in many countries, including cycling friendly ones. My idea of "cycling" has a completely different pace and form to motoring. "I would never ride without a mirror" assumes mixing with cars all the time. Ditto glancing over the shoulder. Pretty irrelevant in Assen or Bremen.
These pinch points are only built to help the elderly cross "safely" AFTER designing the roads in such a way to make them dangerous.
Our response as cyclists is a serious issue. Don't be duped into thinking that the way we design our urban roads here is inevitable. These designs would win "European Worst Practice" awards many times over. We deserve better.

Brian V said...

“Stopping isn't really an option if I'm doing 20+MPH and a car is approaching from behind at 35MPH...”

I only reach that speed going downhill Mike!!!!! Or when I have – sorry, used to - an engine! Yes, I can understand your need to make a very early decision to get well out of the kerb side before these pinch points. I would consider you as not the average cycling commuter! At that speed on a morning and evening you are probably going faster than the cars.

“"I would never ride without a mirror" assumes mixing with cars all the time.”
We have to for now in the UK and I find it safer to do so. Try one.

All I’m trying to say is do not recommend anything that points to “aggressiveness’” in the broad sense of the term on roads - It simply does not work unless you are in India, etc.
Often on a motorway riding a bike that could if need be well exceed the speed limit and out accelerate all but the most expensive top of the range sports cars I had cars “Up my Arse” or got cut up. I simply got out of the way and let them get on with it. I’m still here after 100,000 mile and more both in the UK and abroad. We as a group are VERY vulnerable.

wuppidoc said...

Brian, I understand your point. Surviving is more important than being on the right side morally. But we have to fight for better conditions and - sorry - sometimes we have to push motorists a bit to realise that we are there, we are human beings and we are not 2nd class. So more we are and the more confident we are (and friendly: waving thank you to a nice driver)the more they will develop respect.
Car drivers react like kids: If you show more love and respect to one of your kids (like politicians do with car drivers), then this kid will develop a spoilt and arrogant attitude towards its siblings, and they suffer. British politicians have to start to treat cyclists with the respect they deserve (because we shall help them solve the climate change problem, we reduce congestion on roads etc.). And that means taking privileges away from motorists: less space to them and strict speed limits (20 mph all over Darlo e.g.). Only when drivers realise that privilege time is over i.e. cycling is becoming more convenient than driving, they will develop respect towards us and even maybe get out of their cars.... Let us hope, that a new generation of politicians (or the general enlightenment of the establishment) sees the point and changes our world with us.
See you on Friday 7:30 pm in the Media Work Shop behind the Art Centre, discussing these things with our guest speaker Karl McCracken???

Brian V said...

Do they sell Guinness?
I’ll be there!

wuppidoc said...

Yes, in the Arts Centre you will be able to buy a Guinness and you will have to carry it over thru the backyard to the Media Work Shop.
Prost, Cheers, Skol, Slangivaaa, na sdarovje

Brian V said...

na sdarovje

Ha - Slivovich. Don't smoke while drinking!!!

Brian V said...

Podívejte se foward se na Vasi navstevu

wuppidoc said...

You won! What does the last sentence mean? nje gavarju pa polski.

Brian V said...

Look foward to seeing you.

ian... said...

Lastly why are these “Pinch Points” there? It’s to aid the safe crossing of the road for old people (such as myself), mothers with children on their way to school as at Thompson Street, perhaps the odd wheelchair and the infirm.

You'll probably find a strong reason they are used in preference to a zebra crossing, is that they are seen as a traffic calming measure.
That they often fail to do so is secondary, but they do prevent overtaking.
A wheelchair bound person, or a parent with a pushchair would be pretty vulnerable on the average-sized centre island!

Have a look at this one near where I live...

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=53.472725,-2.040694&spn=0,359.99858&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=53.472619,-2.040648&panoid=RbqeaCmp_Pd6lnMMO_sW_Q&cbp=12,349.74,,1,5

...the council has received no end of hassle for installing this cycle lane, which does nothing but install false confidence into a novice cyclist. This is heading uphill and heading out of town, so you can guess which pedal the motorists are pressing.

Karl's advice is sound, and is what you will also find in John Franklins book - Cyclecraft.

Inconvenient Truth said...

I'd be interested to know more about the hassle around that cycle lane, Ian.

Who is complaining about it? How wide is it? How wide is the road between island and pavement? And of course, the crucial point, why is it only a dotted line and not a wide, solid line?

We measured a couple of pinch points on the mainroad beside us here in Darlington. They are between 4.5m and 5m from island edge to kerb. We observed cars, lorries and buses passing - the island didn't slow them down at all, not surprising given that width.

Engineers in Bremen who recently re-designed a similar main urban route said 3m is sufficient width for motorised traffic each way. This would leave a generous 1.5m or more for a proper cycle lane on our road.

I know from close observation of cycle-friendly towns and cities around Europe that this is what is needed to get more people cycling. But attempts in the UK at doing the "right thing" get dogged by poor standards and a sports oriented cycling lobby who prefer to stay on the roads anyway.

wuppidoc said...

And when you look at this car on your picture: ridiculous. He or she does not have to drive like that, there is enough space for the car without touching the dotted line. And yes the line should be 25 cm wide and solid. And the cycle lane needs 1,50 width. Have a look at Hamburger Straße in Bremen, Germany:
http://www.nationaler-radverkehrsplan.de/praxisbeispiele/anzeige.phtml?id=2054

Motorists plus tram are sharing 6.05 metres alltogether, cyclists get a separate 1,50 m cycle lane, and that is the legal minimum!!!

wuppidoc said...

Ian, you seem to live near Manchester! We are going to show our film "Beauty and the Bike" in Manchester, 31st March 2010 in the Lass O'Gowrie, see here for details:
http://www.ibikemcr.org.uk/?q=node/732

and our web site
www.bikebeauty.org

ian... said...

Hiya,

The cycle lane has been complained about by cyclists - i'm one of them!
The width of the cycle lane is (at a guess) a metre at the most. The problem is that although the road is nice and wide, the have installed the islands to create a right turn refuge in the centre - the fact that they are dressed up as pedestrian refuges is just garnish.

I see your point about making the lane mandatory with a solid line, but i'd disagree that doing so would make it any safer - anybody roaring up the hill would still sway over to the curb because the space available between the curb and the island is insufficient - have a look at the 2nd photo on my blog...

http://lazyriderbicycleblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/pinch-point.html

...which shows how anything bigger than the car in the photos would have no choice but to drive in the cycle lane to get through.

I'll put my cards on the table & admit to not being a fan of cycle lanes on urban roads, partly because of all the junctions & the need for vehicles to stop at the sides of roads in such settings.

I'm no sports cyclist though - despite possessing amongst others, a roadbike (a practical one with mudguards :>D ). My most used bike is an 'urbanised' old mtb that does a grocery shopping trip once or twice a week. I'm a big advocate of utility cycling. The biggest changes I reckon would actually be of benefit are slowing down traffic & introducing 'strict liability' to help change the driver culture. Oh, and more bike parking wouldn't go amiss either!

Thanks for mentioning the your film showing in Manchester - I've seen the 8 minute preview and am looking forward to seeing the full version, along with a few pints of real ale! Incidental to the films question, our eldest daughter is 8 and it breaks my heart, but she refuses to learn to cycle - never mind stop! Maybe she is being spoilt by having the back of a tandem to ride on :>)

Take care,

Ian...

wuppidoc said...

To begin at the end: Yes, here I would abolish the island and install a proper zebra crossing: Pedestrians can cross the whole road much quicker, and then we can also have a properly sized cycle lane on both sides. Please, go and measure this stretch of road. Even for lorries you do not need more than 3m width , so with cycle lanes 9m of road space is needed.
We found in Darlington, that the motorists get round about 5 m each side just to themselves, we could easily even have 2m wide cycle lanes of both sides.
Yes, and you are right, this habit in Britain to make cycle lanes only advisory is cocking the whole idea up. Bad boys, into the corner, face to the wall!
See you in Manchester and we can then discuss the cycle path issue in natura.

Your daughter: Yes, it is a shame, we know the experience as parents. Cycling is not just fun but also such an easy way of getting your everyday physical activity just like that...These kids do not know how badly they treat themselves, and then look at their bodies when they become twens....

Brian V said...

Sorry Ian.
“Never mind this looking over the shoulder and pulling across if it’s safe”

No – This is wrong, it’s confrontational and aggressive and will only lead to one place – The slab.

To quote the great late Mustoe:-

Do not Zoom to your Doom.

As much as I admire Kracken – his talk was excellent – this is bad advice. I must get that mentioned book from our library.

p.s. I note a showing of the film in Manchester, this must infer personal cost as Mr.Kracken must have absorbed as well on his visit. I for one do not mind a small fee levied at talks ect. to compensate.

Anonymous said...

McCracken - I'm sorry Karl, it my keybaord that causes me problems with my spelling and grammar.

wuppidoc said...

Brian, can you explain your post about looking over the shoulder to me?

ian... said...

Ditto, i'm also confused :>?

If the 'mentioned book' is John Franklin's Cyclecraft then please do get it from your library. You will find it has much in common with motorcycle training, and it certainly won't advise anyone to “Never mind the looking over the shoulder”.

wuppidoc said...

Thanks

Brian V said...

Blog post:-

"I’m trying a modified technique:

I. Will. Own. That. Road. (Girlfriend).
Never mind this looking over the shoulder and pulling across if it’s safe - my moves will be accompanied by the full arm-out hand signal, and I will be riding through these kill zones at about 50-60% of the distance from the road’s edge. I will be doing this on every single one, and only IF when I get into one, I find that it’s ridiculously wide, will I then pull across to let cars pass safely.

It’s time to reclaim the streets"

miketually said...

The key word there is "accompanied". he's still looking over his shoulder.

I now start preparing to take the lane much further from the pinchpoint.

Generally, if you're signalling to pull to the right and looking over your shoulder a car will not overtake. By starting the manoeuvre well in advance, I can stay in to the left until someone doesn't overtake before pulling across well before the pinchpoint.

In practice, this means that I am in the middle of the lane for much of Haughton Road.

wuppidoc said...

What I find very difficult: If I put my arm out and look back to confirm, I find that car drivers still overtake. I am forced to take my courage together and move out anyway. How do you deal with that, Mike?

Brian V said...

The key word there is "accompanied". he's still looking over his shoulder.

That’s a play on words Mike!!!

Let’s go thr’o the correct way –
1) Look – even if you like me have a mirror – The “Life saver”.
2) Indicate.
3) Manoeuvre.

Easy.

It is extremely difficult to look and indicate at the same time on a cycle especially if like me you are getting on a little, It is also dangerous to do two things at the same time with one hand on the bars!
If you saw a car driver with one hand on the wheel you would call him to task and if you were in a car and the bloke in front simply indicated without checking what’s behind, would call him a bloody fool, a danger and a nuisance to us all.
Trouble is, you are on a cycle, don’t bend easily and no explosive bags deploy.