Saturday, 1 May 2010

Thoughts after reading another blog...

Th following was posted as a reply to the cycling lawyer's post on cycle craft

Its all about affordances, the things cyclists do, cycling on the left, letting cars past, crossing red traffic lights, overtaking on the inside, are all things that feel natural, and pretty safe. The things drivers do (accelerating and driving quickly between traffic holdups, pulling in to the left to allow oncoming traffic through, paying attention to the front/right of the vehicle) are the things that are 'natural' for drivers. (and there is a similar list for pedestrians, like assuming nothing will be travelling very close to a kerb, and nothing on the road is silent, therefore walking off the pavement before looking to the right is perfectly safe). Although there are regulations and guidances that suggest people behaviour counter intuitively, there are always likely to be conflicts.

Proper segregated cycle infrastructure is quite comfortable to use as a cyclist, but even in Amsterdam its probably not as 'fast' as travelling on the road with motor vehicles, I'm sympathetic with the point of view that decent cycling infrastructure also means less opportunity to travel on the road, but even so it might be worth it. The useless on road cycling lanes in the UK don't reflect the basic affordances of cycling (or driving) well, they are too narrow to reflect the differences in speed of cyclists, and they are often used by cars when overtaking (or parking). Cycling in the prime position does help prevent the acceleration and braking cycling of driving, but I suspect leads to high levels of frustration. As a cyclist I do use the primary position on occasions, but I also recognise that it could trigger dangerous levels of frustrations in a small number of drivers. I try and read the road as a driver as well as a cyclist and not get in the way unless strictly necessary.

As a cyclist I find one of the most frustrating things is where a driver zooms past me, then cuts in in front of me and stops, because they have reached
a 'parked car chicane' and can't get through when a vehicle is coming in the other direction. I could have, but now I am forced to stop. I don't want to do the equivalent to drivers (even though some sooooo deserve it!).

Driving is massively frustrating (and enraging), its full of starts and stops, and when I drive now I immediately want to be back on a bike. A small number of drivers cannot deal with these levels of frustration, and their behaviour becomes dangerous as a result. A small number of drivers, but I have to treat every driver as though they are one of the enraged ones. I do think the frustrations of driving, traffic levels, diminishing and increased costs of resources, will eventually poison private motorised traffic. ...but (alas) not yet.

There isn't a perfect solution, ideally people should share the space across different modes of travel. I've cycled in a lot of countries, and the countries between different modes of travel seem to lie in different places. In most of the world cyclists and pedestrians seem to mix more easily than in the UK. Cyclists do seem to be being driven off the road by rising levels of traffic, perceived status of cars over cyclists, faster larger, wider cars, and faster 'uncrossable' roads penetrating cities. The countries that retain high levels of cycling have much more properly segregated cycle infrastructure, its not a perfect solution for cycling. It feels like a defeat, but maybe its the only victory we can have at the moment.

Its hard establishing segregated cycle lanes in the UK, because the space for them usually comes from car parking, and quite often they are seen as pavement overflow space by pedestrians. In Portsmouth we just had a new seafront cycling lane, and its triggered a lot of virulent opposition in the local press (even from some cyclists).

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