Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Take a message to Debra

Stop SMIDSY aims to raise awareness of bad driving and to collect evidence of it, to ensure that inattentive, arrogant or aggressive (ie bad) driving happens less.

Says Debra Rolfe.

And how will collecting evidence of the spectacular levels of lawless and reckless driving on our roads ensure that such bad driving happens less?

Debra doesn’t say. Which is probably wise, as Debra and the CTC are completely powerless in this regard.

The main reason people give for not cycling is that they are concerned about safety, even though cycling is actually relatively safe – the average cyclist would have to cycle for 21,000 years before suffering a fatal injury.

You can always tell a crap cycling campaigner by their love of fatuous statistics. And I doubt if Debra’s specious mathematics will be much comfort to the family of this cyclist, killed on a road where the conditions haven’t changed, where excessive speeding continues to this day, and where drivers regularly ‘lose control’ and smash into stationary objects. There is no such thing as an 'average cyclist' and what matters is exposure to risk, which where I cycle is massive. In the London Borough of Waltham Forest you even risk being killed on a segregated off-road cycle lane, if you have the misfortune to be using it when a high-speed driver 'loses control' and comes crashing off the North Circular road, through the barriers, and into the cycle lane. It's happened twice in the past 12 months, but luckily no one was using the cycle lane at the time. Another driver even managed to come off the road at the Waterworks roundabout and plunge down into the off-road cycle lane below.

No surprise that Debra is the campaigns director of the CTC, which idiotically claims – it’s scientific, you understand – that cycling in the capital is 2.9 times safer than it was previously. Not where I cycle it isn’t. It’s more dangerous than it’s ever been, and the past twelve months have been the worst year of cycling I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to cycle on the lethal roads of the London Borough of Waltham Forest. Its roads are packed with drivers distracted by texting, talking on handheld mobile phones, or staring at their SatNavs as their vehicles gracefully drift into the cycle lane. The phenomena did not exist ten or fifteen years ago, and is a good example of how a vulnerable road user's exposure to risk has increased, not declined, on London's roads.

My own SMIDSY experiences usually happen at road junctions, and result from drivers emerging from side roads without stopping to check if a cyclist is coming. They are encouraged to do so by the nationwide replacement of STOP signs and markings at side junctions by GIVE WAY signs and markings - an aspect of the road environment which seems to have escaped the attention of cycling campaigners and which needs reversing. Fat chance.

By taking part in Stop SMIDSY, you can help reveal the frequency of bad driving, and help us to make it safer for everyone.

How does revealing the frequency of bad driving help make the roads safer? The only thing that will do that is effective road traffic law enforcement, backed up by a judicial system which treats criminally negligent driving seriously. The only organisation which is working towards that goal effectively is RoadPeace. And the only thing likely to make the broad mass of Londoners feel that cycling is something worth trying is a safe, convenient cycling infrastructure – something which London signally lacks, and which is plainly not even on the horizon.