Tag Archives: roadsafety

Presumed Liability: Who Benefits?

Topically for me, Denmark got a mention during this UCL Cycling @ Lunchtime talk about presumed liability (gets into its stride at 7m45s) although that wasn’t what made it memorable.

Derek Halden, presenting on behalf of Road Share (a campaign rather than a charity – at least under that name) gave a fairly factual explanation of what PL is, what it isn’t, and how it would help victims like a 13 year old Scottish girl who had to wait 10 years for a claim of compensation to be settled. But for one thing. Something that acted like a magician’s misdirection or one of Lynton Crosby’s dead cats. The suggestion that introducing PL reduces casualties.

As I recall, my twitter timeline erupted into a polarised slanging match. Nobody was thinking about victims – people ‘encouraged’ by the authorities and various cycling orgs to get on their bikes in a transport system that’s stacked against them when it goes wrong – because they’d moved on to a cerebral pissing match about what works best in the absence of any hard evidence to prove or disprove where PL ranks.

Based on that my conclusion is this: DON’T DO IT.

No matter how much you qualify the statement by pointing out that it’s a correlation rather than a proven cause, don’t suggest that simply by introducing a legal framework to look after victims it will prevent them becoming victims in the first place. Regardless of how good safety stats are in some of the places where PL operates, there are still people there being knocked off their bikes or their feet. They are the people who need presumed liability and would suffer most if it didn’t exist. Don’t lose sight of who it actually benefits.

And that was despite a slide devoted to how PL is misrepresented and misunderstood(!) and which had the best piece of advice I’ve seen for some time…

“Systems thinking needed.”

More on that to come [insert link here].

Foreign Fieldwork

Keep Right! Does Copenhagen’s success as a cycling city derive from the rigorous application of this simple rule?

That, until I missed the deadline for abstracts, was the title of my submission to this year’s Cycling and Society Symposium. So waste not want not, longer than an abstract but far from finalised, here’s where I currently am post-processing a three day study tour in and around Copenhagen.

I stayed in the fabled City of Cyclists for four nights in an apartment in a harbourside development in Christianshavn. Every morning I got up early and entered the flow of bike traffic circulating around the city’s central streets, copying what everyone else did, getting a feel for how it ‘works’ there, until it was time to follow my GPS back to that day’s meeting point and join the rest of the group. This train of thought is largely concerned with cycling on the busy stuff.


You quickly learn to keep right on a busy bike track as a newbie from a lefty-land, and that’s where you’ll find the kindergarten kids cycling to school on their own bikes, with either a parent giving a helping hand alongside or shadowing directly behind. Once you’re amongst the crowd on the correct side of the street, ‘keep right!’ isn’t something you need to give any conscious thought to – you have the visual indicators of the pavement on one side and the road on the other. Pavement slow and objectively safe, road fast and subjectively scary, and within the bike track itself an effective gradient of increasing speed running out from the pavement towards the road. I don’t think the kids or I were putting any mental effort into trying to remember our right from our left – we were just instinctively staying out of the way by keeping to the edge. Continue reading

A Pause for Thought

KingsThere’s a guy I see most weeks rides an old Raleigh Twenty Shopper around town. Like everyone else doing their own thing around town, once he’s parked up you wouldn’t know whether he’d walked, ridden or driven there, unless you happen to take a particular interest in people that ride classic british utility bicycles. Should that be allowed? To remain anonymous I mean.

Many think not, and what’s becoming most disturbing to me is that it appears to be some of the self identifying champions of ‘cycling’ who are the most vociferous in calling for mandatory measures to make people on bikes stand out in the crowd. I’ve got a theory about the tension between an individual’s natural desire for self preservation and the negative effect that has on the group of individuals as a whole – it’s like an arms race where apparent gains are wiped out by an accelerating mutually assured destruction – but it doesn’t explain why someone would care about a stranger’s wellbeing at least as much as their own. What’s in it for them?

Is it about fairness? Hell, if I’ve got to carry around all this extra stuff and stick out like a sore thumb then why shouldn’t you?

Is it about trial by association? Those people jumping on bikes and going places without a second thought are giving me a bad name. Make them stop it!

Is it about personality? A certain proportion of the population are intrinsically rule based – everything would work perfectly if everyone would just follow the rules all of the time. Which while being undeniably true is also a never ending source of disappointment for those afflicted with it on account of the rest of the human race being round pegs. Creating a law to force people to follow their rules would surely solve the problem.

Whatever it is, it’s a distraction. The question we ought to be asking is is it desirable, is it even possible, to get large numbers of people to dress in a particular way most of the time?

Looking around, people who are required to wear some form of identifiable clothing are either paid to do so, are participating in a sporting activity, are children, or are being persecuted for political ends. One of those is usually backed up by the use of a police force to coerce compliance.

Making short journeys by bike normal and convenient requires using a bike to be normal and convenient. Making cycling abnormal and inconvenient for the majority will do what? Well, it’ll prevent more people being killed and injured on bikes by the tried and tested method of keeping people off bikes in the first place.

If we’re at all serious about making bikes a useful decongesting mobility aid for the short journey, the very niche where it has the most chance of success, we need to start with a common understanding of what normal and convenient is along with some measures to ensure that convenience doesn’t come at the expense of an unacceptable increase in risk of injury.

A solution predicated on discrimination won’t work and isn’t worth having. If we can agree on that I can get on with part 3 of Using a Bike for Short Journeys. If we can’t, you’re wasting our time.

Stop and Preach

I’ve downloaded this for my earphones…

Everybody’s talking at me.
I don’t hear a word they’re saying,
Only the smallness of their minds.
People stopping staring,
I can’t see their faces,
Only the cavern behind their eyes.

I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Thru’ the pouring rain,
Going where the cycling suits my clothes,
Turn my back on the South West wind,
Sailing on summer breeze
And skipping over the North Sea like a stone.


Jimmy Crackednut’s Guilt Trip

BrainAs the title of this blog suggests I fall over a lot. I fall off my bikes too. And out of my wheelchair – backwards as a rule. Usually it hurts.

Although I say so myself I’m pretty good at assessing the risks. The reason I’m pretty good at it is because I’ve got a lot of data to work with. Over the years, and I’m getting on a bit now, I’ve developed a fairly good idea of how likely it is to happen, which injuries I’m likely to sustain, and how bad they’re likely to be. And yes, I can confirm that alcohol increases the risk considerably.

To date, statistically, the chance of something really quite nasty happening to me is highest when in the shower. I take precautions but I still do it. Obviously wearing a helmet isn’t one of them.

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Like a wheel within a wheel

Dutch style roundabout test TfL

Transport Research Laboratory, Bracknell, England, 2013.

Bikes. Transport. Research. England. For the details check out the BBC report.

That’s bikes and transport. Not bikes and sport, or bikes and leisure, or bikes and recreation, or bikes and charity rides, but bikes with a place, and a space, in the transport network.

Just close your eyes for a moment and imagine sailing around Five Ways Roundabout in Witney, or anywhere else you might be trying to ride a bike, without having to mix with the cars, vans, busses, and lorries that are focussed on every other vehicle rather than you. Feeling relaxed? You can open them now.

What’s significant about this is that someone, somewhere, is taking responsibility for the safety of people on bikes. And it’s not just about bikes. Someone, somewhere, is also thinking about taking the stress out of driving around people on bikes.

Which is marvellous, because people can get on with riding their bikes without worrying about how dangerous it might be, or leave the house without worrying about crushing a loved one.

I wonder who’s responsible for the safety of people using bikes in Witney? They must be thrilled too.

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
The modern era of the bike
Continues on apace
Like the circles that you find
Riding rings around your mind

A Plan for Disability Cycling

The Get Britain Cycling inquiry wrapped up yesterday – rather caught me out because I’d gotten used to the sessions being midweek! Anyway, let’s get back to that question raised a few weeks ago…


I think it was put by Sarah Wollaston MP and following through the letterbox of twitter I don’t recall anybody addressing the disabled aspect of it. With the benefit of some time to reflect on it, this is what I would have said given the opportunity…

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One Inclusive Cycle Network

During the first session of the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ inquiry on Wednesday the panel asked a question about getting some under represented groups in the cycling community out on their bikes, the disabled being one of them.


I have a whole other post lined up to address that question but coupled with a reminder about a chance encounter last year it drew a few other inclusive thoughts together. I’m not saying anything I haven’t said before, I’m just finding another way to say it because it continues to fall on deaf ears – every time I pick up a policy document or refer to some guidelines about cycling I see the same exclusive recommendations.

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Got A Light Boy?

BikeLightComing back from Oxford at lighting up time this week I was reminded just how far behind our northern european neighbours we are when it comes to being cycle friendly.

A few years ago you’d rarely see another soul along the A40 cycle path, and having a good light to see by was just a case of buying the brightest one you could afford. On dark country roads this even seemed an advantage in that it made approaching drivers think twice about exactly what it was coming towards them.

Now though, it’s just a pain in the retina for fellow bicycle users – as cycling becomes more popular, so being blinded by the latest photon light bomb coming towards you becomes more common.

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Many A True Word…

An Aussie, a Geordie, a Farmer’s Boy from Chippy and a Copper from Yorkshire walk into a club on Corn Street to raise money for Maggies Cancer Caring Centres. It was a scream, but you had to be there. And if you haven’t been there, you really should. Comedy night at Fat Lil’s is a great local night out. Next one’s September 14th, tickets from Rapture in the Woolgate.

I’d never thought about it but I guess it’s no surprise that police work in Scunthorpe is a rich source of stand-up material. I can’t recall all the gags during the evening, but I won’t forget the last.

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