Thursday, 17 September 2009

Do us London cyclists know the rules of the road?

I believe that you can be safer as a cyclist in London if you are also a car driver. When you drive you quickly get a sense of when cyclists appear to "pop up" from nowhere. This is useful information when you are then on a bike.

The other thing - you get a good sense of which side of the road to drive on. Quite often, on the Regent's Canal on my way to work, I'm surprised to find that fellow cyclists don't seem to be riding on the left. I put this down to the fact that they don't want to fall into the canal, so ride as far away from it as possible.

But another explanation might be that people really aren't used to roads, and road signs. A couple of days ago I went past this bit of cycle lane near Tavistock Square in London. I was amazed by how many cyclists did not attempt to follow the directions:

To me, this means: "OK guys, you now have to go over to the right, to the other side of the raised bit of concrete. Oh and by the way, the cyclists coming from the other direction have to give way to you so don't worry, they'll stop..." In fact, that's not how most people read it - certainly the bit about "don't worry they'll stop".  So I guess I'm wrong. Or, perhaps, it's just a really confusing bit of signage.

Sorry, I'm beginning to sound a bit ranty. I'll be quiet now.


John Speare said...

Wow. That picture brings up a bunch of questions for me. I commute daily in Spokane, WA, USA. We have some bike lanes, but nothing like that, where it's protected and provides a two way bike-travel section on one side of the road.
That particular bit of infrastructure is especially interesting to me -- since I've worked with the city's citizen bike advisory board to implement more bike facilities -- I can't imagine our city taking cycling seriously enough to put that kind of thinking and infrastructure on our roads.
I also wonder what it would be like to be cruising along on that stretch and seeing another cyclist coming at me and how to negotiate the "pass" -- or what if it's rush hour and there's 100's of cyclist passing through this section?
Thanks for posting. Very interesting.

muppix said...

That piece of design was crafted by somebody at the local council with absolutely no idea whatsoever of traffic flow and roadcraft, possibly a 40-something unmarried female with a cat. Looking at it objectively, you can tell that the only reason to route the left-hand cycle lane over to the right is to avoid having the cycle lane nearest the motorists travelling at a different direction to the other traffic. Not only would this be an acceptably good thing (the cyclists could see said traffic and make eye contact with the drivers, something that leads to safer passing in my experience) but the entire debaucle would have been avoided had the kerbed island been built in line with it's foreground sibling. Or not at all.
Anybody not capable of following this ridiculous signage should be forgiven on the grounds that it's not every day you see public money spent in quite such a pointless and misguided way, and a certain amount shock is to be expected.
Oh, keep up the blog, I enjoy it very much.
-muppix (motorcyclist, driver, cyclist, IAM member. In that order.)

KarmaCycle said...

Thanks very much for both of your posts, John and muppix ... funnily enough I cycled down that exact path again this morning and was intrigued to see that the cyclist in front of me did actually stop, and stay stopped while quite a big stream of other cyclists passed from the inner section to the "outer" section. I waited behind her. I suspect she is one of the few people who really do wait, "obeying" the directions. But as you say Muppix - I think if you're travelling reasonably swiftly, you'd be hard-pressed to interpret what you're meant to do quickly.

Abimbola said...

Think KarmaCycle interpretation of the cycle lane sign is most likely correct...

Happily cycled in Oxford, but have never had the courage to cycle in London...

KarmaCycle said...

Welcome to the blog Abimbola -(I like the name, by the way) - I know what you mean about cycling in London, and Oxford is somehow just so much more ... civilised!

I spent quite a bit of time cycling in and around my local park when I first started cycling in London. Somehow that gave me the confidence. And I also do a lot of cycling along the canal - which although it still has its hazards, is less lethal than the roads.

Would love to hear more of your thoughts on this or any other topic ... it's great to get some feedback on one's mad ramblings.