Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Highway Code Overtake Photo

I'm sure most cyclists have seen this, it certainly gets quoted a lot for obvious reasons. But how much room is actually being given in that photo? Well I thought I'd measure it (approximately). The width of the Audi shown is around 1733mm. I've tried place the measuring line at the wheel arches. I've had to guestimate as the Audi is not square on in the photo. The second line is measured approximately from the wing mirror to the cyclists elbow.

The measuring line on the Audi is 7.8 cm, the spacing line is 5.8 cm. 1733 x (5.8/7.8) gives around 1300 mm. Which is 4.3 ft

Here's the link to the Highway Code, 159-203

"give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (seeRules 211 to 213 and 214 to 215)."

Which to my mind is as clear as mud, since I don't believe there are any explicit guidelines for how much distance you should give to overtake a motorised vehicle.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The MUST GET IN FRONT Calculator

Bike Length: metres
Car/Truck Length: metres
Safety Distance: metres

Car Speed: mph
Bike Speed: mph

Distance needed to get in front:
Time taken:
Distance travelled by car:
Distance travelled by bike:

* Safety distance is the distance before and after the overtake

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul

Most people will have heard of Douglas Adams and his acclaimed Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy [sic], however, you may not b familiar with the Dirk Gently series. If you haven't read them they are well worth a read.

When a passenger check-in desk at Terminal Two, Heathrow Airport, shot up through the roof engulfed in a ball of orange flame the usual people tried to claim responsibility. First the IRA, then the PLO and the Gas Board. Even British Nuclear Fuels rushed out a statement to the effect that the situation was completely under control, that it was a one in a million chance, that there was hardly any radioactive leakage at all and that the site of the explosion would make a nice location for a day out with the kids and a picnic, before finally having to admit that it wasn’t actually anything to do with them at all. No rational cause could be found for the explosion – it was simply designated an act of God. But, think Dirk Gently, which God? And why? What God would be hanging around Terminal Two of Heathrow Airport trying to catch the 15:37 to Oslo? Funnier than Psycho... more chilling than Jeeves Takes Charge... shorter than War and Peace... the new Dirk Gently novel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Opening paragraph:
It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the expression "as pretty as an airport".

and here's what the cheeky git had to say about cyclists:

'He stepped out on to the street, where a passing eagle swooped out of the sky at him, nearly forcing him into the path of a cyclist, who cursed and swore at him from a moral high ground that cyclists alone seem able to inhabit.' — Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.

Monday, 8 October 2012

£6 Million for Cycling in Scotland, £5 Billion Wasted on a Road

After much campaigning pedal-on-parliament in Scotland has secured a paltry £6 million to spend on cycle-infrastructure (aka paint, HowTheBritishDoCycleLanes). Essentially nothing more than crumbs-from-the-table

At least it's something, but pales in comparison to the budgets of the big road building schemes. Worse still is this government is bending over backwards to try and find private investment for new roads (PFI). One such proposed scheme would see a private developer fund the expansion of the A14, with a initial outlay of £1 billion, but over the years it would seen a returned profit of over £5 Billion, channelled from tax-payers.

So what does £6 million look like compared to a massive mound of cash, that is £5 billion, that the government are happy to gift to profiteering road builders, aka rich friends of politicians?

Pretty sickening eh, when you think this is pure profit for a private company?

With 26 million households in the UK thats around £190 per house hold. So as you are all feeling a bit skint in these austere times, just dig a bit deeper and smile as you hand over 190 sheets to those lovely profiteers in exchange for some more concrete, and be thankful for a lazy* government that can't be arse to expand/build the road itself.

* possibly corrupt government

Thursday, 30 August 2012

British Cycling's: EDM, "Victims of Road Accidents"

 In response to British-Cycling's call for members to write to their MPs here's my response


Rt Hon. Nick Clegg
House of Commons

Re: Early Day Motion in support of British Cycling and Cycling Weekly’s Campaign for a review of the criminal justice system and how it should be changed to better protect road users

August 2012

Dear Nick Clegg,

I am writing to you as a constituent and concerned member of public, asking you to sign the Early Day Motion 407 “Victims of Road Accidents”, which is being supported by British Cycling.

As a cyclist and driver it is clear to me that the current justice system, the police and the coronial service often fall short in delivering results which value the life and rights of people to travel and cycle safely on our roads.

There are countless examples of cyclists that have been killed or injured due to gross negligence of drivers, whom have then gone on to either escape any criminal proceedings, or have been imposed paltry fines and sentences which do not reflect the seriousness of their actions.

Take for example, the death of Rev. Malleson who was riding home in Newcastle when a car attempted to overtake him at a narrow, traffic-calming pinch point. This was without doubt an inappropriate and dangerous place to overtake a cyclist. The driver’s car hit the central refuge and he lost control, which resulted in a collision that cost Rev. Malleson his life. This never made it to court. Instead the police and coroner deemed it an “accident” caused by the road layout and parked cars. How can it be acceptable to hit a cyclist from behind and not deem this to be the driver’s fault?

Other examples include a man who earlier this year killed a former British Cycling employee, and was given a paltry community sentence of just 200 hours, a fine and 18 months driving disqualification.

In the past few months, British cyclists have enjoyed tremendous success at the London Olympic Games and the Tour de France. Many more people are being inspired to take up cycling both recreationally and for travelling to work. However, many people are too afraid to use our roads, and believe cycling is a pursuit only for the athletic or brave. This is an extremely poor reflection on a country that is currently in the spotlight of world of cycling. It is imperative that we create a safe and welcoming environment if we are to build the cycling legacy this country deserves. That's why signing this EDM is really important right now. The justice system needs to be reviewed to ensure it is properly taking account of the consequences upon victims and their families when something goes wrong and is creating the right culture of care and responsibility on the roads. In addition police and coronial investigations should be standardised and reviewed across the country.

British Cycling are calling on the Lord Chancellor to undertake a full review of the process in conjunction with his colleagues at the Home Office and Department for Transport and this EDM is in support of that call. There's more information here:  (  on the British Cycling Website.

The EDM was tabled by Julian Huppert MP before the summer recess and has already received 16 signatures across all the main political parties.  It says:

“That this House notes that many victims of road accidents do not feel that the criminal justice system adequately protects or supports them in the aftermath of their case; further notes that it is important that those who have suffered traumatic incidents are given effective and sympathetic support as they attempt to rebuild their lives; welcomes the work of British Cycling and other groups, including CTC, Sustrans, London Cycling Campaign, The Times, Cycling Weekly, RoadPeace and Brake to raise the profile of the issue; and calls on the Ministry of Justice to review carefully the evidence they have submitted and undertake a comprehensive review of each part of the criminal justice system, from crash investigation standards through to sentencing guidelines, to ensure that it is fairer for cyclists, pedestrians and other road users who are hurt or seriously injured on the country's roads.”

As you can see, many organisations are in support of the review, as well as MPs.  I hope you will consider my request and sign the Early Day Motion.

Your support of this issue would mean a lot to me as your constituent.  I would appreciate a response to know how you’ve considered my request. 

Monday, 9 July 2012

Cycling on the Pavement

In most cases, cyclists should NOT cycle on the pavement. However, some cyclists do not always feel safe on some of our busier inner city roads and junctions. And children in particular may feel safer using the pavement.

The law was changed in 1999 to allow cyclists to be fined for riding on the pavement. However, the law was intended to target only cyclists using the pavement in an aggressive manner.

Here's what the then Home Secretary, Paul Boateng said issued in a letter to the Chief police officers.

“The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

This message seems to have been forgotten in case:

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Safety in Numbers

Does the CTC's cycling campaign, "Saftety in Numbers", make any sense?

Quote A:
"The emphasis must now be on tackling the fears that prevent people from cycling more or not cycling at all. This can be done by: improving driver behaviour, creating more welcoming and cycle-friendly streets and giving people the confidence to cycle more. This will be good not only for our health, but also for streets, communities and the environment."
Quote B:
  1. Drivers grow more aware of cyclists and become better at anticipating their behaviour. 
  2. Drivers are also more likely to be cyclists themselves, which means that they are
    more likely to understand how their driving may affect other road users.
  3. More people cycling leads to greater political will to improve conditions for cyclists.
Quote C:
"Research suggests that a doubling of cycling would lead to a reduction in the risks of cycling by around a third, ie. the increase in cycle use is far higher than the increase in cyclists’ casualties."
The idea is that more people cycling will somehow begin to influence drivers and how they interact cyclists. This idea by itself is flawed imo! Why? Because at present the number of routine cyclists is very small compared to the number of people who routinely drive. Hence, any increase in the number of cyclists has very little influence on the number of unsafe drivers.

For example lets assume that in one particular year 98% of all journeys are done by motor vehicle and the other 2 % are done by push bike. If the following year the number of rountine cyclists were to increase 2 fold then you would have 4% cyclists, and 96% drivers. But that doesn't mean safety increases!

If in the first year if you had 100 deaths, then in the next year you would expect the number of deaths to be 100 x (4/2) x (96/98) = 196 deaths. i.e. simply doubled.

The idea that drivers becoming cyclists would make things safer is a fallacy because it doesn't reduce the number of unsafe drivers by any significant amount. In the animal world safety in numbers usually means some other bugger is more likely to cop it. It does not mean a reduction in the number of predators.

In addition, where is the evidence that increasing the number of cyclists increases the competence of drivers? There are three possibilities that I can see in how drivers would respond to an increase in cycling. First there is the driver who is completely unaffected, and they would continue to drive in the same manner, whether that be dangerous or courteously. Second, there is the "bigot" driver who becomes more infuriated by seeing ever increasing numbers of cyclists in their way, and may in fact become more dangerous as a result. Thirdly, there is the driver who might, as the CTC hope, recongnise that the number of cyclists is increasing and begin improving their driving.

I think the last one is actually not as pertinent as the CTC hopes, because any driver showing an increased empathy towards cyclists was probably already a safer driver than the average. But crucially what would this mystical improvement be? Most drivers don't understand why cyclists ride primary, and don't always realise that overtaking a cyclist should be avoided at pinch points and when turning left. So how would they magically improve without proper education. The first quote, "improving driver behaviour", is the only thing that makes sense to me in this campaign, and would in my opinion lead to less deaths and accidents. However, over the years I have seen very little evidence to support that drivers are becoming more aware of cyclists.

However, we would get more cyclists if there was proper infrastructure.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Virtual Reconstruction of Cycling Death

This blog-post was prompted by my recent dismay at the low tariffs and leniency shown by the courts in prosecuting drivers that kill or injure cyclists. Take for example the death of  Rev. Michael Malleson which happened on a 30 mph high street in Newcastle.  Rev. Malleson was riding his bike through a "pinch point" formed by a pedestrian island when a driver of a car tried to squeeze through the gap, knocking him off his bike. Rev Malleson then died later in hospital. Incredibly the coroner and police deemed this to be a "genuine accident" placing no fault on the driver, and instead placing blame on the road layout.

What's scary about this is it might set a precedence. In essence anybody can now argue that if they hit a cyclist at a pinch point then it's the road layout to blame, or the parked cars rather than the driver. In addition, all they have to say is they saw the cyclist, tried to give them room, but then the road narrowed. Worst still is these decisions are being made by coroners (who might be pathologists), and not by a judge and jury.

After looking closely at the road layout on Google Street View, I believe the defendants testimony doesn't add up.

"Motorist Joseph Strong was driving behind him and saw him pull out, prompting him to pull over to give the vicar enough room."

"But a central reservation caused the road to narrow, and Mr Strong’s Skoda car clipped the kerb of the reservation as he tried to pass. His car turned slightly towards Mr Malleson, an experienced cyclist, and lightly clipped his handlebars."

It all sounds like there was very little time to consider the situation after pulling outwards, and that the pedestrian reservation came from nowhere. Did the road really suddenly narrow? Or did the defendant have ample time to assess the cyclist and the road ahead? The fact that he started to overtake and pull outwards strongly implies that he was determined to overtake the cyclist and wasn't paying attention to the road ahead, and whether it would be safe to overtake.

I strongly believe this is a simple case of a driver in auto-pilot mode, determined to overtake a cyclist, not slowing down, and then pushing his way through an inappropriate gap. I've have taken the liberty of mocking up a virtual simulation to gain a feel for how much time there was to assess the situation, and to see whether the "pinch point" suddenly came out of nowhere.

Construction of the virtual simulation was as follows.
  • The report indicates speeding wasn't an issue, so the driver is travelling at a approximately 30 mph throughout without slowing down.
  • Rev. Malleson, 69, was deemed an experienced cyclist. I was initially going to choose a reasonable speed of 15 mph, however, owing to his age I lowered it to 12 mph, but this may be an underestimate.
  • The road layout was created by taking a photo from google maps and placing it into a vitual editor. It was correctly scaled by measuring two key points in both google maps and the editor.
  • The duration from the start of the car moving in the video to the collision is exactly 6 seconds.
  • The initial positions of the bike and the car were calculated by calculating the distances travelled in 6 seconds at 12 mph and 30 mph, which are 32.2 m and 80.5 m, respectively.
  • The report criticised the parking so I placed two illegally parked cars on the hatched area before the island.

To my mind it is clear that there was plenty of time to assess the situation. The cyclist could easily be seen from a long way back^. In addition the idea that the road suddenly narrowed is nonsense. It was already narrow all long that section due to the parking bays, and the bollard and pinch point are clearly visible throughout, they didn't just appear out of nowhere.

^ It is important to note that in real life, the cyclist would be more visible than what is seen in this video. The video is compressed and is in 2D, a wealth of information that is present in 3D is not there.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

There is No Excuse

Is there ever an excuse to overtake a cyclist badly? I've been driving for almost 20 years and I've never had a problem with overtaking a cyclist on any stretch road. I was going to put together a video showing that overtaking a cyclist is rarely a problem, but then found someone on youtube had saved me the effort.

In most cases there is an ample of time to react to a cyclist, even on fast open roads if you are paying attention they are visible from many hundreds of metres away, and you usually have at least 10 seconds to react. Even in urban environments where you first see the cyclist from a smaller distance there is still plenty of time to anticipate the situation At first thought 10 seconds doesn't sound like much, but that a look at the video you can clearly see the driver has plenty of time to react to each cyclist he encounters.

I simply can't see an excuse for overtaking a cyclist badly or cutting them up.

The problem is people think they have an inherent right to overtake cyclists. They simply carry on at the same speed and will only slow down at the very last second if they are forced to do so. Sometimes people will give you room but usually it's by chance. This scenario happens too often

10 secondsSee cyclist - meh
9 seconds
8 seconds... Keep same speed
7 seconds
6 seconds... Keep same speed
5 seconds
4 seconds
3 seconds... Keep same speed (and perhaps move out)
2 secondsOh shit the road is narrowing, there's a bend and a car coming the other way
1 secondsWTD? Slam on brakes or overtake cyclist leaving little room?
0 secondsDamn cyclist! They shouldn't be on the road

There is no reason to drive like the above. It comes down to poor observation, poor anticipation, and is driven by the automatic assumption that they can overtake because they are in a car.

It's simple, if you see a cyclist you have to be prepared to slow down because you might not be able to pass them in a continuous movement. There is always plenty of time to assess the situation and then overtake when safe.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Cycling in the Peak District last weekend :) Amazing, it had actually stopped raining for long enough to finally get back on the wheels.

Here's us going up hill towards Burbage and Stanage edge, taking a scalp on the way

Descending down Higgar Tor at around 40 mph.

Us Ambling slowly up the 15 % hill from Hathersage back to the top of Stanage and getting a coffee at the top :)
Finally got my HD Helmet camera, a cheap version of the Drift, Gnarly 1080p HD.

Here's part of my commute to work, which is almost downhill all the way to Sheffield station. I usually get to around 30-40 mph going down the steep section to the notorious University round about

Monday, 30 April 2012

Yeah, got my bike picture on the Times Timblr #ilovemybike page.

Also got a mention in The Times Cycling Horror Stories. The University/Broomhill roundabout in Sheffield is a nightmare at commuting times for cycling. I'm usually forced to use the pavement, which I hate doing.