Tuesday, 29 January 2013

This is where I nearly died today

I present Milton Road, Cambridge.




Not much to look at is it? Its got an off road lane on the right there, but you're sharing with pedestrians (basically parents and kids at commuting time) and, as often as not, cars coming and going across it. But going in to town (the way you're looking in the map above) you're sharing a bus lane - which isn't bad, for the most part. Besides, that off road route vanishes at the junction up ahead - you can't ride it all the way to the city centre because even badly surfaced, shared use pedestrian slaloms aren't designed in a joined up way...

Now click on the little forward pointy arrow - just once. You'll see that right where you need some protection, right where the road narrows and there is a junction, all of the protection you have vanishes. For me, this morning that meant that cars were queuing from the junction back to the bus lane (that junction to the right leads to Gilbert Road) - and a flat bed articulated lorry pulled up in the lane to my right, right next to me. You can guess whats coming next, can't you?

The lorry wasn't indicating left - and obviously I couldn't tell if he was instead indicating right! When the lights changed he put his foot down and went for it, straight in to the lane I was in (thus going straight on, changing in to the left hand lane). I can be very, very loud when I have to be, but not as loud as he was leaning on his horn in response!

Go back to the image above, click on the forward arrow a couple more times, look at the space between the traffic island and the pavement. That gap is where, daily, motorists expect to go through two abreast regardless of whether they're grating a cyclist against that railing on the left. Oddly enough I find turning right there much easier than going straight on, at least there is no expectation of driving through the space I'm in if I'm in the right turn lane.

While waiting at the lights I saw four other cyclists. Three kids illegally mounted the pavement, rode to the left of the railing and back on to the road - none of them risked their lives in doing so, none nearly went under the wheels of a lorry. Another (pensioner I should think from the look of her) mounted the pavement and came back on to the road at the pedestrian crossing - that one therefore arguably also went through a red light. Oh, she also didn't nearly die as a lorry came within two feet of her.

Never mind, you're thinking. This is Cambridge, surely there's a plan for sorting this kind of thing out? Of course there is. We're prioritising antisocial cyclists who mount the pavement right there because they're the ones causing problems

Yes. 

Thats right. 

At a terrifying junction where motorists, daily, scare children and old folks off the road, where if you stay on the road you will face people trying to drive right through you, our councillors have decided that its cyclists who are the problem. Not the motorists intimidating them, they can do as they choose. They're targetting US.

Welcome to Cambridge - where the sheer number of cyclists on the roads brings out the very worst in a cyclist hating establishment every bit as pathetic and narrow minded as everywhere else in the UK. Be under no illusions - City and County Councillors involved in making that decision have declared themselves our enemy.

So, readers, what should one do at that junction? Ride legally on the road and, sooner or later, be sideswiped (yes, even if you're assertively in primary position, drivers coming from the right hand lane are VERY angry if you do that)? Or ride illegally on the pavement and maybe live to see another day? 

10 comments:

  1. A very good explanation of the problem. Let's hope your Cambs PCC reads this, tries cycling on this route, and decides to reverse his stated policy.

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    1. Alas, Cambs PCC has already come out as rabidly anti-cyclist :(

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  2. I cycle down this stretch of road every day - and have had very similar experiences to you. Except last time I was drifted into it was an Aston Martin.
    I've become pretty good at anticipating it, and positioning myself to avoid trouble. But I shouldn't have to.
    There's actually loads of room at this junction on the other side of the road + quite a wide pavement on the northbound side (to fit in the pavement parking - sigh). Could be so much better.
    Of course going north you have to magically move from the cycle lane - through the cars and buses turning left, to the centre lane. Also not much fun

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    1. An Aston? Well at least that would be a stylish demise :)

      Yes, you've got to get from the cycle lane to the right hand lane coming the other way - and while thats usually okay, it only takes one complete numpty to ruin it. Shortly before Christmas I had one get out of his car to berate me there because I had the audacity to be in the correct lane (right hand side) for the direction I wanted to travel (straight on).

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  3. I have run into trouble here too. When you approach with the lights at green, you get the cars bombing through at full speed and really close. Frightening! Taking primary doesn't help here, its an awkward width. I came to the same conclusion: I'd live longer if I took to the path.

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    1. Trouble is, safe cycling is viewed as less important to Cambridge than having two lanes for motorised traffic - its not that we can't have a safe junction there, its just not important enough to our road planners and councillors.

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  4. I used to go through here several times a week heading back into town from the nearby nursery. Cottenham Cyclist is correct in that taking the primary position in the left lane doesn't help much here because of the limited width: vehicles turning right in the next lane still come through too close and too fast. I used to position myself half way through the crossing, straddling both lanes, no doubt confusing and annoying the motorists behind me but it gave me enough time to clear the junction in relative safety. I was still never brave enough to risk it with my son on board.

    Actually, this isn't the worst point of conflict on this road. Just a little further down towards Mitcham's Corner there is a large traffic island with a shared use path. To use this you need to turn right across the stream of traffic bearing left. The only way to do this safely is to avoid the generously sized bus/cycle lane and keep primary position all the way down to the zebra crossing. You need a *very* thick skin to do this, especially at this location.

    Things can only get better when Mitcham's corner is re-developed, can't they?!

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    1. Yes, at the bottom end of Milton Road, where the bus lane disappears to the right hand lane to head in to town then you've got to cross the traffic in the lane now to your right - and all of those motorists are looking to their right at the traffic coming towards them, they're completely oblivious to the cyclist on their left. The experienced cyclist ignores that cycle lane entirely, of course, but I would contend that any such provision that can encourage us into a dangerous road position is just unacceptable.

      Getting on to the shared use bit on the traffic island is, as you say, even worse sometimes. Again, I think the issue here is that we're approaching from the bus lane to the left of the motorists - they're not looking that way, they don't see us, and if they do they don't want to let us out.

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  5. Martin Willitts12 February 2014 09:15

    So surely it's the drivers of the vehicles rather than the design of the junction that cause the problems? Drivers and cyclists alike are all trying to get to where they want to go and it's a shared road so they have to work together. Enforcing 20mph for example would change driver behaviour. Seems better to do that and other behavioural changes than fight for and pay for changes to the junction design.

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    1. Milton Road isn't going to be 20mph, its exempt from the new speed limit. Besides, right at the junction here you'll almost never see anyone going at 20mph - certainly in the example above no one was going that fast. The problem here was (as it always is) motorists squeezing cyclists off the road when the lights change.

      Cite one example, from anywhere in the world, where cyclist safety has been improved through asking motorists to play nice. It doesn't work - it has never worked, and the evidence from around the world is that it never will work. The only solution that has ever successfully seen a big fall in cyclist injury (and an increase in perceived safety, so an increase in cycling uptake - which is good for everyone, motorists included) is provision of good infrastructure.

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