Considerate Cycling 51: Bristol Cyclists, Pedestrians, Police Data and Emergency Admissions to Hospital

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This blog was co-authored by Rob Harding (who did all the real work)

 In Bristol, as in the UK as a whole, there are two main sources of information on road traffic incidents causing injury and involving cyclists. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

Police incident records, known as STATS19 reports, give a specific location for the incident, a series of context details and a brief account of what happened. The reporting Officer also ticks one or more “contributory factors” from a long list to give some sense of “why” things had gone wrong. In some cases, from reading these reports, it’s possible to form a view on who was most at fault. We know, however, that there is a degree of under- or even mis-reporting and that police themselves have some concerns as to the accuracy and consistency of the reports. Some are completed at the scene, others might be done some time later and it is not hard to imagine that on busy days some might not be reported at all.

Bristol Council’s Highway and Transport Management Department use the STATS19 data to analyse trends and to rank contributory factors within the city (“failed to look properly” is far and away the most commonly cited factor). They also add the location and summary details of each incident to the map displayed on the Bristol – Pinpoint Local Information page. National data can be explored here on the UK Government data website or here on the excellent CycleStreets collision map, one incident at a time, with lots of detail.

Augmenting the Police data, Bristol City Council’s Directorate of Public Health produce figures for Bristol emergency admissions to hospital due to transport related accidents. These are records of Bristolian residents who arrive at hospital A&E Departments following transport related “accidents” (their choice of word). These figures comprise allBristol residents’ admissions whereever in the country the traffic-related injuries were incurred. They are thought to be more comprehensive than the Police reports but incidents are not identifiable by street location and, while they identify the types of road user, they don’t identify the more detailed factors that might lie behind the road traffic injuries.

So what does the Bristol Emergency Admissions data tell us about cyclists and road traffic incidents in Bristol?

In 2014 44 Bristol cyclists were admitted to hospital as a result of collisions with motorised vehicles. Separate studies, by BCyC members of incidents in Gloucester Road and Cabot Ward, suggest that a majority of these are associated with motor vehicle drivers “failing to look properly” or some other factor that relates to motor vehicle driver behaviour. As well as these casualties, 113 more cyclists were admitted to hospital as a result of non-collision transport incidents. Given the lack of narrative or the identity of specific locations, it is difficult to pin down causes and propose remedial actions for these non collision accidents but road surfaces (that could be remedied with prompt action) are associated with a significant proportion.

Plotting them against time of year shows peaks in December and June. A 2010 survey, biased towards commuters, suggested that 25% of incidents were the result of ice but that still leaves a large number unaccounted for.

As far as trends are concerned, in the last five years an average of just under 40 Bristol cyclists were hospitalised each year as a result of collisions with motorised vehicles. This compares with an average of just over 27 per year between 2003 and 2007 (the earliest years for which we have figures). While it is difficult to accurately adjust these figures to allow for the increased level (perhaps a doubling) of cycling in the city, they would not seem to suggest that cycling has got more dangerous. On the other hand it cannot be said that they demonstrate a clear “safety in numbers” effect either.

With regard to pedestrians, in 2014 73 Bristol people were injured as a result of collisions with motorised vehicles compared with 5 injured in collisions with cyclists. Put another way, 93.5% of pedestrians admitted to hospital were injured in collisions with motorists compared to 6.5% injured in collisions with cyclists. The latter figure includes those injured when stepping off the pavement and into the path of cyclists as well as those injured by pavement cyclists (it is not possible to break the figures down any further). The figures do show that the overwhelming number of pedestrian casualties are caused by collisions with motorised vehicles and, because lower collision speeds cause lesser injuries, provide clear evidence of the need for 20 mph enforcement, even if there was no reduction in the number of collisions. Injury increases with mass and with velocity and every day in Bristol there are, on average, 5 Police reports of road traffic casualty incidents of one sort or another.

Considerate Cycling 37: Custom and Law Are Good Friends But Bad Enemies

The Downs in Bristol are one glorious open area with over 400 acres of grassland and trees. A Committee protects the ancient right of all Bristolians to enjoy them, unspoiled, in perpetuity. Among the prohibitions that assures that right is a ban on cycling. It applies on all grassed areas and on the well-surfaced footpaths that cross the Downs

There is one exception. A good wide track has been added along Durdham Down adjacent to Stoke Road and bicycle logos have been painted at intervals along it. It covers quite a lot (but not all) of a route between student residences to the north of the Downs and Whiteladies Road to the south. A narrower pedestrian path runs in parallel to it, but closer to the busy road that also serves as a car park for visitors to the Changing Rooms and Tea Shop beyond the cyclist in my picture.

I went there today to take some photographs of happy cyclists enjoying the good weather and the excellent facility. As I sat down by a tree I took a first picture (see above) and settled down to consider how to go about getting the shots I had imagined. After about fifteen minutes only two other cyclists went past, and none came from the direction that would allow me to get the sunlit smiling faces I had hoped for.

It was a puzzle. Behind me I had noticed several cyclists on the road. Eventually a mother and child came past on the cycle track. I took the next picture as they approached the mums with pushchairs who had been chatting for the last five minutes and who barely looked up as the child rang a polite bell of warning.

Another five minutes passed and while no more cyclists came by, several pedestrians did. Along the cycle track. The pedestrian path remained empty. I gave up my mission and set off homewards along Ladies Mile, one of the roads that cross the Downs. Crossing Ladies Mile was a footpath, a metre of so wide, with NO CYCLING painted in large white letters on each side of the road. I stopped to look and within a minute several cyclists had already arrived, crossed the road and departed, making confident use of the forbidden track.

I spotted this well-dressed woman in smart clothes on a smart bike, flagrantly disregarding the NO CYCLING instruction beneath her very wheels. What was I to make of the conundrum? These weren’t odd random events. I’ve actually noticed it happening before. People were using the forbidden track to cycle on, and the dedicated cycle track to walk and talk on. Both sets seemed content with the arrangement.

My theory is that people are happier when what they want to do is legal and grumpier when what they are doing isn’t allowed. Even when the converse is true, wise legislators adjust the law to marry practice if no harm comes of it.

Dear Downs Committee,

I think that some of the cycling restrictions on the Downs could be lifted, and some of the paths could be adjusted or shifted so that most Downs users felt even happier about their enjoyment of such a wonderful resource.

Yours faithfully

Sam Saunders

Considerate Cycling 17: Too Many Compromises?

There is a newly amended junction on the Greater Bristol Bus Network that, I think, needs sorting out. Preferably by a sharper mind than the one I was born with. In trying to improve bus timings it has created some puzzles for other kinds of users. These include, as we shall see, schoolchildren walking to and from school.

Here is a scruffy plan of the junction. The north-south road is the main bus route, Whiteladies Road. Coming in from the west is Tyndall’s Park Avenue. Over on the east side is St Paul’s Road.

There are two user-controlled crossings, just two, shown with dotted lines. Each of the four corners has its standard traffic lights and each user controlled crossing has a button with lights for cyclists and  pedestrians. In addition a cycle lane has been painted on the north-south side of Whiteladies Road and there are Advanced Stop Lines on all four approaches. Clear?

Well, I’m not sure. For one thing there are several moves that must not be made. This left turn is puzzling a couple of pedestrians who are speculating on crossing where no crossing is provided but it is legal.

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On the same part of the junction these schoolboys are using their athleticism to get home. They seem to have been attracted by the empty ASL and the drop curbs that suggest “cross here”. But they are running, just in case.

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And so are these schoolchildren, with what looks like a more pressing reason to do so.

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The right turn there is legal, and the driver did slow down and use a horn. But still, I was only near the junction a couple of times for a few minutes (trying very hard to see a logic in the arrangements). And there was this cyclist too:

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He is travelling north to south on Whiteladies Road. He will have just passed this No Left Turn sign.

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I have no idea what happened next, but my second photograph from the same position as the first looks like this:

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Notice that he is over the edge of an ASL. He seems to have crossed the junction and then doubled back to cycle diagonally across Tyndall’s Park Road, possibly taking advantage of drop curbs on the two crossings. Look carefully and you will see the green cycle light showing. Notice, too, that another couple of schoolboys are waiting to cross Whiteladies Road where there is no light controlled crossing for them. Tyndall’s Park Road at this time of day has a steady stream of school pupils on this side of the road, because this is the side the school is on. Logically they will be making the same choices on the way to school in the morning. If they made the double crossing required to get over Whiteladies Road with lights, they might still have to cross back over St Paul’s Road again (with no lights to help)  to continue their journey.

I expect by now that you are now feeling as confused as I do. To help you get everything fixed in your mind, here are some more illustrations of what happens when a City Council tries to please everybody and ends up confusing an old duffer who just wants to know “What am I supposed to do here?”.

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There’s my cycle lane to The South.  Is it just “advisory”? Looks like it. I bet that camera saw me taking pictures at some point.

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It looks like a cyclist has accepted the invitation to mount the pavement here. Tyre tracks tell the story. Perhaps it was to avoid the “No Left Turn” and scare the pedestrians? On the other hand it could be one of Bristol’s many unsigned “Shared Space” areas.

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See that drop curb again? Just the thing for enticing school children onto the main bus route. Shame about the vehicles waiting in the cycle space. And heaven help anyone who used it in a self-propelled wheel chair.