Considerate Cycling 30: One idiot can do a lot of reputational damage

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I hope Google don’t mind.  I was crossing the road yesterday and something very odd happened. I was outside Boston Tea Party standing on the central reservation facing that big clump of trees you can see in the picture. It was dark at the time. Both northbound traffic lanes were empty as far as the eye could see and I set off towards the left hand side of the picture. I was looking straight ahead and walking inside the dotted lines you can see ahead of an ASL.

The was a sudden rush of air and a scuffle of bicycle tyres as someone fizzed past me on a bicycle at maybe 15 or 20 mph, within a metre from me. I’ve put a big fat red dotted line to show his trajectory. He had come down a hill, cycling in a contraflow cycle lane lane in the wrong direction. He had then turned onto the northbound lanes to head south passing me and then the central reservation on the wrong side before joining the southbound lanes as shown by the dotted line.

This is not the first time I have seen this happen on this junction. It seems to be a regular occurrence. Personally I think it’s rank idiocy and I suspect that every time it happens there will be one more sworn enemy of cycling signing up to the This is Bristol comment feature.

With idiocy of this calibre, pro-cycling arguments are harder to make. I wish it didn’t happen, but I suppose I have to accept that it always will.

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9 thoughts on “Considerate Cycling 30: One idiot can do a lot of reputational damage

  1. “With idiocy of this calibre, pro-cycling arguments are harder to make.” Oh, indeed, but what can you do? Almost everyday as I cycle over this area I see some idiot cyclist doing something equally stupid. I probably shouldn’t say it, but if they do it often enough maybe they would by natural selection be removed from the gene pool.

    Nice blog BTW.

    1. Thanks for the compliment bsk. And for the dark humour. The numbers of cyclists whose DNA never reappears in another generation because of bad cycling are fortunately very low indeed. Let’s hope that talking and writing about these things help to spread the word that cycling can make a really positive contribution to our attempts to make roads less, rather than more hazardous. The sad fact is that the largest numbers of road fatalities come from motor vehicles hitting pedestrians. In Bristol we’re looking forward to most of our roads getting a 20 mph limit.

  2. [Ok … I see I’m going to be the contrarian here but … ]

    Hello Sam. Been reading your blog but too lazy to comment so far (I only wanted to say things like “ooh yes, I agree” or “gosh that’s interesting”).

    This post does gets a comment though, because (a) I live very close to that junction myself and (b) I have noticed and wondered about the “cycling the wrong way down a contraflow” thing myself (not at this specific place, but in a variety of other locations).

    I think that the words “inconsiderate”, “idiot” and so on, might be useful as a broad descriptions but that they have no real explanatory value. I suspect that there are a number of things going on here. The first is that most or many “people who ride bicycles” are not like us! The fact that you wrote this post and that I read it clearly mark both of us as transport geeks – but most people just accept the roads as they are, as a sort of fact of nature. I suspect that it is unclear to many people how cycle-infratrucure is intended to be used and this person simply thinks they are supposed to ride on anything marked as a bike lane – the concept of “contraflow” is not an immediately obvious one. The fact that it looks blatantly dangerous to do so would not necessarily occur to them – to a surprisingly large extent, people (and, to forestall charges of being a git, when I say “people” I am very definitely including myself) just follow what they take to be instructions.

    This particular junction has a fairly high level of cycling accidents. As you come down Arley Hill and get to the junction you find yourself in a queue of traffic some of which might be going straight on (to Montpelier) and some of which might be turning right towards the Stokes Croft. The few times I’ve used this junction on a bike I’ve only ever gone straight across – but it’s not clear to me how best to position myself for the right hand turn. It’s one of those messy situations where one becomes very aware that many drivers don’t bother to indicate their intentions and there seems no “official” place to put oneself. I tend to deal with this by making a *big* hand signal – but on the whole bike riders are even worse at signals than car drivers and if your micreant cyclist had never seen another cyclist give a signal, why would they give one themselves?

    There’s more that I could say, but I need a cup of tea. The really interesting question is “how could this junction be re-engineered?”.

  3. That’s a brilliant response Steve – it makes writing the thing in the first place worthwhile. The whole junction is bewildering in all sorts of ways. Nearly all the injuries have been a result of vehicles turning right into Kwik Fit across two lanes of traffic and then hitting cyclists in the inside lane. That problem should be solved by making the right turn impossible – putting in an extended barrier back from the lights. Part-time bus lanes and car parking are further complications and light timings (especially for pedestrians) add incitements to “misbehaviour”. Something is in the pipeline. It will be interesting to see what it turns out to be.

    But your main point is the crucial one. That cyclist was no more an “idiot” than I am. Which is to say he was the same kind of idiot as me – one who finds idiosyncratic and improvised variations in the arrangement of road junctions quite a challenge. He could even be doing what he thought was “right”. There is also the point (one we have all made before) that unpleasant surprises don’t necessarily indicate unsafe situations. (Spiders in the bath have killed very few people in England).

  4. I think this helps campaigning in a strange way because it shows the need for rebuilding. This happens often when there is one way lane only on one side. I think it is helped in part by car drivers shouting at cyclists to get in the lane and out of their road. But where are the traffic police that should be challenging both shouty drivers and salmoning cyclists?

  5. The insights us transport geeks are deriving from observing, commenting and discussing (as well as from reading and researching) seem to be passing a lot of employed highway people behind. Their posts within austerity-battered local authorities are being sacrificed to enable the private sector to take over far more of the activities that we used to think of as essential services. Their opportunities to improve thing might even be receding.

    But maybe you’re right. Perhaps there will come a tipping point where things have got so silly that the need to change direction becomes impossible to ignore.

    1. The private sector has been heavily involved in both North Somerset (Halcrow et al) and Norfolk (Mott MacDonald, Lafarge and more) for years. It’s caused problems when an external contractor made claims that is factually incorrect in a report and the council refused to correct it because that would be infringing the contractor’s copyright! More to the point, why aren’t the contractors’ workers up-to-date with the latest best practice for designing for cycling?

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