National, pinchpoints and cycling safety

Nationally cycling safety has been a real talking point over the last weeks, and may turn into a vote winner for the London mayoral election. There were numerous examples of Big Rides, Pedal on Parliaments, Select Committees and other events and initiatives, all picking up on this important subject of making cycling safer and open it up to the general public.

Locally we were reminded of how vulnerable cyclists are when the Journal http://www.journallive.co.uk/north-east-news/todays-news/2012/04/21/heaton-vicar-died-after-bike-hit-by-moving-car-61634-30806136/ reported on the inquest held into the death of Rev Michael Malleson on Heaton Road in late 2011. In the hope to find out more about the dubious circumstances of this tragic incident, and to hear what the council proposes to do, we have contacted nine ward Councillors (Ouseburn, North and South Heaton), the police and the local media.

Of course, the discussion will rumble on amongst cyclists whether a ghost bike http://ghostbikes.org/ could or should be installed. Ghost bikes are people, this video seems to tell us www.vimeo.com/41141667.

A ‘South Gosforth roundabout’ http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3392962.ece, which got to be the ‘double-about’ Haddricksmill, has been highlighted in The Times ‘Cities Fit For Cycling’ campaign, and again, we’ve written to ward Councillors to draw attention to this walking and cycling nightmare.

Meanwhile we will continue to point out the obvious to our council: pinch points on roads are a danger to cyclists. Supported by LTN 2/08 Cycle Infrastructure Design http://assets.dft.gov.uk/publications/local-transport-notes/ltn-2-08.pdf (which is kept to lovingly hidden by the DfT on their website that we think it’s a conspiracy) – it states that:

“Central reserves, refuges, traffic islands, and buildouts can create pinch points for cyclists which can bring them into conflict with motor vehicles. For example, drivers may attempt to overtake cyclists ahead of the narrowing to avoid being delayed (speed reducing features on the approach can help here). Drivers may also attempt to overtake a cyclist within the narrowed section.”

“… refuges and islands in particular can create hazardous pinch points for cyclists. If they are introduced and it is not possible to provide a cycle bypass, the width available should either be sufficient to allow vehicles to overtake cyclists safely, or narrow enough to discourage overtaking altogether.”

The latter rarely works well, and depends on conflict and driver’s decision-making at the expense of the cyclist.

Whilst vulnernable cyclists are often asked to share road space with the much more powerful drivers of cars, lorries and buses, the regular road design rarely seems to improve cycling safety. When will “they” listen?