Somewhere, Beyond The Screen…

These are not a Hazards. They are the Dukes of Hazzard. The driving standards in Hazzard County are quite tepid compared to modern Britain.

According to Wikipedia…

‘Hazards are sometimes classified into three modes:[1]

  • Dormant – The situation has the potential to be hazardous, but no people, property, or environment is currently affected by this. For instance, a hillside may be unstable, with the potential for a landslide, but there is nothing below or on the hillside that could be affected.
  • Armed – People, property, or environment are in potential harm’s way.
  • Active – A harmful incident involving the hazard has actually occurred. Often this is referred to not as an “active hazard” but as an accident, emergency, incident, or disaster.’

The Times, as part of its excellent ‘Cities Fit for Cycling’ (#cyclesafe on Twitter) campaign, has created a map where people can select a particular area and plot specific junctions, roads or routes that they find hazardous for riding a bicycle whilst stating why. Already plotted are places where a hazard has become an accident, emergency, incident or disaster (based on Department for Transport’s 2010 data).

They [sadly] only need a few more to make it to the 10,000 entries milestone so I urge you to go online and have your say. If you can, have your say on major thoroughfares such as Trunk Roads near where you live that you might ride as they are the most direct routes but won’t due to the perceived risk involved from high speeds to traffic volume. Bicycle riders are entitled to use these, despite many being Motorways in all but name, but because they lack high-grade separated paths alongside them favouring instead rather ‘optimistic’ bicycle signage at slip roads, subjectively they are as practical, comfortable and family friendly as an Annual Naked Bike Ride across Siberia. You won’t find many pinpoints on trunk roads like the one close to where I grew up (A3) not because they’re safe (although with decent sight lines, steadier curves and gradients, in theory they should be) but because only the quick and the brave will use them.

There are more active ways to get involved in campaigning on Saturday 28th April; firstly the Pedal on Parliament in Edinburgh

It has been organised by a diverse [and lovely] group of cyclists from around Scotland (including the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain Secretary, Sally Hinchcliffe) following calls in the Scottish parliament for action on the Times campaign. They request your presence at the Meadows at 2pm for a 3pm start to cycle a  1.5 mile route to Holyrood, before a mass picnic. There will be ‘feeder’ rides from outlying areas of the city. If you are Scottish or just happen to be living in Scotland but above all care about cycling in Scotland, please attend.

On the same day in London is The Big Ride

This is part of LCC’s ‘Love  London, Go Dutch’ campaign, calling on the Government to place the same emphasis on cycle safety as they do in the Netherlands. They have a petition which, at this time of writing, has amassed 33,797 signatures which is a marvelous effort from LCC staff and all the volunteers that have been out on the streets gathering support.

They’ve even made a film…

To add to the long list of things to protest about, The Times reported on the 16th that John Griffin, the founder of Addison Lee, wrote to his 3,500 drivers telling  them to use the restricted lanes and promising to pay any fines incurred. This is part of an ongoing campaign for private hire vehicles to use bus lanes. This story has already received good coverage in CycaLogical and Cyclists in the City. Lest to say, when I lived in London I used to cycle to Camden Town from Morden and then Brixton every day, I found Addison Lee drivers to be the most memorable, often driving like the Blues Brothers on Amphetamines. They still stick in my mind, years later.

And, on the subject of sticking, the BBC reported earlier this week that a study has found that traffic pollution kills 5,000 people a year in the UK, with 2,200 in London. What is Boris Johnson’s solution, I hear you cry (or choke). According to this excellent post from Vole O’Speed,

Johnson’s “solution” is to put pollution suppressants in front of air quality monitors, so reducing the number of occasions on which the PM10 value is reported to be breached and reducing the number of smog alerts, both preventing the public from being warned of the dangerous conditions, and attempting to circumvent the discovery of legal breaches, and application of fines. This is what the Campaign for Clear Air in London, a non party-political organisation, condemns as “public health fraud on an industrial scale“. And as the MP for Brent North, Barry Gardiner, said in a Tweet yesterday: “Boris’s pollution suppressors near air quality monitors is like putting breathing apparatus on the canary in the mines!” 

It reminds me of a nursery rhyme I tell my two-year old son

Mr Johnson went to London
in a smog filled hue
he stepped in pollution
and thought the solution
was to buy a big job-lot of glue

I may have changed the words slightly.

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Cycle Campaigning Simplified No 6 – The Highways Agency

..what do you mean 'why has it got to be built?' It's a bypass! You've got to build bypasses...

Once upon a time Great Britain was a green and pleasant archipelago criss-crossed with a rich lattice work of highways and byways, footpaths and bridleways. However, successive car-centric policies over the decades in the name of progress has led not only to a massive expansion of highways, but the creation of environments extremely hostile to any other mode of transport.  

Carriageways were widened, then ‘upgraded’ to dual carriageways becoming motorways in all but name. Not only did they start to bypass the communities the original roads were meant to serve but severed the byways, bridleways and footpaths that would have continued to link communities, in turn leading to greater car-dependency. In the Worthing District of Sompting, close to where I live, the A27 has been so wonderfully ‘upgraded’ that to get to the houses, church and the South Downs to the north you can either run like Usain Bolt (which rules out a few parishioners) or drive a longer circuitous route. No bridge or underpass was provided.

These ‘Strategic Roads’ have also led to car-dependent development on Greenfield sites such as out of town shopping centres & business parks leading to urban srpawl.

Nowadays, Trunk Roads and Motorways are overseen by the Highways Agency.  Whereas Cycling England was a Quango, the Highways Agency is ‘An Executive Agency of the Department for Transport’. They have a big shiny website, with updates on closures either due to road works, incompetent driving or genuine accidents. They have Regional Control Centres  resembling Cape Canaveral (except instead of directing man to the moon, they’re directing mankind around Swindon) and people looking very smart and knowledgeable in suits and High Visibility tabards – essential wear if you want to look official.

They have a vision too:

‘We have a vision for our Agency to be:

‘The world’s leading road operator’

We have set five goals which will indicate progress to achieving this vision:

  • We provide a service that our customers can trust
  • We set the standard for delivery
  • We deliver sustainable solutions
  • Our roads are the safest in the world
  • Our network is a dynamic and resilient asset

To realise this stretching vision, and to guarantee continued service delivery in tougher times, we are developing our organisation to meet the significant challenges that we face. At the Highways Agency we are proud of the progress that we have made to increase our commercial awareness, develop and deliver innovative solutions, and build the capability of our workforce. Moving forward, we will demonstrate a broader range of skills, and be flexible to satisfy our customers’ and stakeholders’ range of expectations.’

Brings a tear to the eye doesn’t it?

One problem is that the Highways Agency (and Traffic Police) really believes the hype and Management Speak. Calling it a ‘Strategic Road Network’ with its ‘Innovative Solutions’ really gives all that use it and work on it that wonderful warm glow of overblown self importance – and yet more chances to wear high-viz tabards.

God, I'm Important!

In the section of their website dedicated to cycling, walking and equestrians, they set their mission statement out as follows (and I’ve provided a few links to articles within which might be of interest):

I know. It’s bringing a tear to the other eye isn’t it?

In reality, if you are a cycle campaigner, you will rarely encounter the Highways Agency unless a major new road scheme or ‘upgrade’ is planned. Their remit covers Motorways and Trunk Roads – not all ‘A’ Roads. When you do however, they will regard you with even greater contempt (from experience) than Council Highways Engineers as they have an even greater desire to get you off their roads and onto infrastructure, however crappy and dangerous. As cyclists, you don’t fit into Big Strategic Road Networks For Rapid Big Vehicles And Executives On Big Business. Like encounters with local Highway Departments cycling doesn’t fit into computer generated models.

Even if everone was driving happily within the speed limit, Trunk Roads are simply not that pleasant to cycle on with their pollution, noise, overpriced refreshment stops and proximity to fast moving traffic.  There could have been separate parallel cycle provision such as in the Netherlands. It could have linked up now cessated Bridleways and Byways and keeping vital, pleasant quieter links between cities, towns and villages.

A problem resulting from Trunk Roads and Motorways that you will encounter as a campaigner is that other road options for pedestrians & cyclists become less pleasant too. When road building projects occur (such as the A34 Newbury Bypass) they are justified by claiming that they relieve congestion elsewhere. More often than not, the reverse happens but by the time a report has come out (if you get to see it) the local surrounding roads have become more dangerous and the trunk road is perceived as inaccessible to all but the most dedicated club cyclists and time triallists.

As Noel Coward might have elegantly warbled, ‘Only Mad Dogs and Clubmen go out on a Trunk Road Run’

SPENDING REVIEW UPDATE! It looks as though the A11 ‘Upgrade’ in East Anglia  is to go ahead. This £134m scheme (up from £115m) will apparently save 3 minutes on off peak journeys! Upgrade of course means conversion to dual carriageway making it really unpleasant for anything other than a motor vehicle.  

Freewheeler has posted on the A11 in the past.

As someone has quipped on the CTC Forum,

‘Personally I think £115 million to save three minutes of my time is well worth it – my time is valuable. And in case anyone is worried about the stress and lack of exercise-related illnesses likely to arise from the new road, the government has also announced that the NHS budget is to be ring fenced. So good news all round.’

It’s like Thatcher never left!