Monday, February 07, 2011

Cyclist Safety - Two Approaches

View Larger Map

Ever since the death on the A167 Darlington to Croft road in June 2008 of cyclist Norman Fay, and the serious injuries sustained by his friend and fellow cyclist John Stephenson, I have been meaning to blog about the circumstances, and the wider ramifications, of this tragedy.  The Cycling Campaign has for some years now been calling for a separated cycle path along this stretch of road. As is clear from the picture above, for most of the length of the road, this is eminently possible on the grass verge. It is widely recognised as one of the most dangerous for cyclists in Darlington, and indeed discourages many residents of Croft and Hurworth with whom we have talked in the past from cycling at all.

When Norman and John's accident occurred, the Cycling Campaign raised the incident at the following Borough Council's Transport Forum (which has now, by the way, been abolished). The response was appalling. One death, and another life-threatening injury it seems, was not enough to justify considering any kind of cycling facility. Some members of the committee took it upon themselves to laugh at our concern.

We also attended the inquest into the tragedy, which took place in September 2009 in Chester-le-Street. The inquest was extensively reported here in the Northern Echo. As the article noted, in this accident the driver of the car involved never faced prosecution.

This incident reflects the two core problems for cyclists in the UK - lack of infrastructure where it is actually needed, and motorist behaviour. But it also reflects a third and related problem - the attitude of our establishment to cyclist safety. This was brought home to us all, literally, in last night's episode of Top Gear, when cyclists' "favourite" Jeremy Clarkson jokingly suggested that cyclists deserve to be "cut up" because they don't pay road tax. Top Gear is one of the BBC's top income earners from sales abroad. A campaign of complaints to the BBC about the show has already been initiated, and follows hard on the heels of comedian Steve Coogan's attack on the programme's presenters for their casual racism.

Disinterest in cyclist safety locally, and institutionalised backing for aggression nationally, reflects a deeper belief in the UK that cyclist safety is something the cyclist should worry about, not wider society. So the one element of Cycling England that gets retained following its demise next month will be Bikeability, the cycle training programme - training, that is, for survival on our car-oriented road system. If cycling safety was really deemed a collective concern, society at large would take much greater responsibility for developing safer infrastructure. Now, what little that was being developed nationally is to be dropped. Cyclist safety will be strictly a private affair.

Contrast the reaction in Darlington to the Croft tragedy, and the BBC's love of Top Gear, with how the media in the Netherlands dealt with an accident involving cyclists and a car, as described in this great little video from Mark Wagenbuur.

EDIT: In the light of all the Jeremy Clarkson hoo-ha today, one member of the Cycling Campaign has suggested we jest back:


Kim said...

I posted up my complaint to the BBC about Top Gear, interestingly most of the hits, so far, have come motoring forums (and from a Dr. Who forum), where the death of non-motoring road users is very much seen as a joke. It is a sad reflection on our society :-(

Mikael said...

Regarding the rural road, here's what we would suggest if it were in Denmark:

Inconvenient Truth said...

Exactly what we need, Mikael.

londonneur said...

I have also posted my complaint and have reciever many hits today.


Good, Jeremy needs to write better material.

KatsDekker said...

Mr J Carkson Esq needs to get off his high horse and onto a bicycle. Simples!

wuppidoc said...

Fascinating, that little film from the Netherlands, and very pleasant, the picture from Denmark. Germany has a lot of these cycle paths beside trunk roads as well.

In Darlington, we were told that a cycle path beside this road to Croft is too expensive. My answer is: MAKE THIS ROAD A ONE WAY ROAD AND DEDICATE THE OTHER LANE TO CYCLISTS.

No cost at all, just a bit of paint for the separating line in the middle of the road, which has to be a solid line (no over taking as well for motorists).

The cars can use another road to come back (via Hurwurth e.g.). A bit of a deviation, but cyclists are asked to do so in Darlington all the time (advisory quiet side roads instead of direct arterial roads). Why not ask motorists to take this on themselves? They might think it over and get their bikes out. Bingo!

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy Mr Clarkson, even though I don't have a driver's licence (I'm Dutch, what do I need a car for?) or any interest in cars. He is outrageous, he is funny, and I enjoy the 'Top Gear Challenges', such as 'building your own caravan and touring Britain with it'.

For years I thought it would be a good idea to challenge Mr. Clarkson and his two driving buddies to ride from Groningen to Utrecht to Amsterdam on a Dutch granny bike. It would be amusing to us and an eyeopener to him.

Think of it: Jeremy Clarkson is as much a victim of the lame (or should that be 'non-existent') cycle infrastructure as any British cyclist. He is just louder and more obnoxious about it.
He doesn't like cyclists 'cramping his style'. Dutch cyclists don't like cardrivers cramping their style and endangering their lives. It's a match made in heaven!

Ultimately, both Jeremy Clarkson as the British cyclist want the same thing: not to be bothered by eachother.

Get Jeremy Clarkson as a spokesperson for good cycle infrastructure, I say!

Anonymous said...

I've put up with this sort of casual violence for so long without doing anything but today I finally posted a complaint to the BBC.

Only last month I was cut up by two youths who told me to "F*** off out of the road". I wonder if they watch T** G***?

In comparison, the video from the Netherlands is like a postcard from a paralalel universe.

miketually said...

I wonder if the driver who beeped and gestured at me this morning going over the railway bridge on Haughton Road watches Top Gear?

Bloody cyclists riding in the middle of the lane( on a narrow bridge where there's solid traffic coming the other way) holding him up!

Unfortunately, he turned off Haughton Road just before I caught him to politely enquire.

wuppidoc said...

British drivers have been "educated" into the habitus of being first class on the public space called road. SOME of them use their brains when they see a non-motorist like a cyclist struggling to get from A to B on a British road in a town like Darlington. In Mike's case they wait until the narrow bit is over and then overtake carefully.

MOST of them behave like ......, what Mike just told us.

Change the road infrastructure into a cycling friendly environment and things will change slowly. Car drivers then learn another habitus.

Brian Vigurs said...

If I lived in either Croft or Hurworth and wished to cycle into Darlington, I would use – and often do - Roundhill road which is quite and usually used by locals alone. This road is slap bang in the middle of Croft , Hurworth and Neasham. It also avoids that steep hill as you turn of the A167 just before the Croft Bridge, although you could split the gradient by using the back roads as you enter Croft, Linden Drive, Baxby Terrace and Belgrave Terrace.
If you can cycle up that steep hill over the East Coast railway in one fell swoop, you must be of the “Head down – Arse up” brigade.
If the Roundhill road route is used, you would arrive at the Neasham roundabout junction on the ring road and you would also see that a path has been laid either side of the roundabout, the inclusion of a refuge on the ring road would join it up nicely (for now).
If this was put to the council as a second alternative to a 3 mile stretch of dedicated cycle track beside the A167, you may not have incurred the humour of the officials present and may just have gotten the refuge which would have been better than nothing.
I have some pictures of the route described – It is also on Darl’o cycle mapping as a “recommended route” .

miketually said...

I rode out to Hurworth on a weekly basis for a couple of years, a couple of years ago, and agree that Roundhill Road is the best option.

The right turn into it is a bit hairy just after coming off the roundabout though. And on the road itself I had several incidents with very close-passing vehicles.

Brian Vigurs said...

When you arrive in Hurworth Mike, you hit on the NCN 52 to take you all the way to Whitby!
What we really need is another bridge on that outer ring road ………………. Made from FRP………… Same as that thing on Haughton road that I can never seem to find :)