Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Imperial Winter Series Race 3

A balmy 11 degrees but with a fairly stiff south-westerly wind and with the skies changing from bright to threatening as the race progressed and some light rain eventually appearing.  The 3rd cat race was not that full, probably about 30 of us.  At the start line Richard C requested a more exciting race than last week.  I was sorry not to be able to oblige.  For me it was just dipping my toe gently back into racing after 3 months recovering from a spill.  Here I felt safe sitting in towards the back regaining trust.  Far ahead there were some attempts to form a break with one group of six making some promising headway at one point into the wind on what is now the home straight.  I was a bit over anxious about the final bends close to the finish and went into them last and crossed the line just behind the bunch.  I was happy to have finished and that everybody remained upright.  Objective over the coming weeks is simply to regain some confidence.
After I remembered to turn the Garmin on about a lap in, we did 25 miles in a smidgen over an hour.  Average 24.7 mph.
Results and report should be here shortly

Friday, 14 December 2012

Legal Update R v Beiu; R v Aydogdu

This afternoon two juries in two separate London Crown Courts have delivered their verdicts in cases which have involved Defendants that have been (allegedly) responsible for causing death and very serious injury to two cyclists.

On 4th November 2011 Mary Bowers, a journalist with The Times, was struck down by a left turning lorry at a light controlled junction very close to her workplace in Wapping.  The lorry was being driven by Petre Beiu.  The evidence placed before the jury included that Ms Bowers was visible to be seen in front of the lorry for many seconds before he overtook her and turned left across her path; that Mr Beiu was talking on a hands free telephone at the time and that in the aftermath of the collision he jumped out of the cab leaving the handbrake off so that the lorry continued to roll over Ms Bowers.  Ms Bowers sustained devastating injuries which are seriously underestimated by describing her brain injury as 'significant'.

The jury decided that Mr Beiu was not guilty of dangerous driving.  They convicted him instead of careless driving - an offence which he had accepted, though the Judge had still left the jury with the option of acquitting on that charge as well.

Mr Beiu was fined £2,700 and banned from driving for (just!) 8 months.

On 6th August 2011 Sam Harding was riding his bicycle in a bus lane along Holloway Road.  As he passed a parked car, Mr Aydogdu, opened the door (wide according to the prosecution and a crack according to the Defendant) into the path of Mr Harding who hit the door and then was struck by a bus.  It transpires that Aydogdu had applied some reflective coating to his side windows which blocked 83% of the light.  The jury this afternoon decided that Mr Aydogdu was not guilty of the manslaughter of Mr Harding.

Following on from the case of the Townend brothers, these cases must give rise to concerns over how seriously the average jury considers the obligation not to endanger cyclists.  A jury reflects the society from which it is drawn and whilst cycling remains stuck at a modal share of 2% of journeys it is going to be an exceptional jury that contains even one regular cyclist.  That should change, if and when the proportion of cyclists on the roads increases.  However in rather a catch 22, the number of cyclists on the roads is inhibited by the apparently low value that the legal system appears sometimes to place on the value of the life of a human whilst cycling.

I commented at the time that I considered that the decision in the Townend case was perverse (the jury acquitting the Defendant of even causing death by careless driving); the verdict in the Bowers case is astonishing and to be honest the result in the Harding case was, to me, not unexpected.

In the Harding case it appears to me that tragically a combination of factors combined to result in the tragic outcome.  First, Aydogdu's daft decision to coat his windows so as to restrict his ability to see out (and that of others to see in).  Second, the pressure that cyclists often feel under to ride too close to the left.  In February (after Mr Harding's tragedy) The Times, as a part of its campaign published a 'Guide to Safe Cycling' which included advice to cyclists to look in wingmirrors and windscreens of parked cars to see if anyone in the car might be about to open a door.  NO!  The correct advice is DO NOT RIDE IN THE DOOR ZONE.  If for some extraordinary reason (narrow road, oncoming bus for example) you have to then slow to a walking pace.  At the time I advised discarding the Times guide in favour of  British Cycling's 'Effective Traffic Riding'.  Nonetheless there is definite pressure remaining on cyclists and encouraged by most cycling 'infrastructure' that deters many of us from adopting the safest riding position in the centre of our lane.  Third the opening of the car door which must have been done without careful observation even if the jury determined it was not gross negligence.  Fourth the bus driver (though exculpated by the prosecution at Aydogdu's trial) should have been holding well back behind a cyclist or ought to have been giving him a car width's space if overtaking.  I do not know the detail of the evidence but it seems to me surprising that a cyclist falling into the road would be run over by a bus if best driving practice was being followed.  Sadly my experience commuting in London is that very often buses get much much too close.  This tragedy illustrates why they (and others) must not do so.

It is important to recognize that the correct charging decisions were taken in each case.  The fact of acquittal does not in any sense indicate that the bringing of the charges was not justified.  Far too often I have had cause to complain in these pages that the appropriately serious charge was not pursued and it is only right to acknowledge that the police and CPS have been conscientiously doing the right thing in the cases I refer to above.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Cycle Super Highway 9. A Response.

Last month, believing the plans for CSH9 to be out for consultation I submitted my observations.

I have today had a response from the Head of Transport at the London Borough of Hounslow.  I reproduce it below followed by my response:

Sent: 13 December 2012 11:05
To: Martin Porter QC

Subject: RE: Cycle Superhighway 9

Dear Mr Porter

Thank you for your email and its attachment. 

This is merely an interim response as I am on leave from today, returning early January.

The consultation process has not yet begun.  Subsequent to the Central Hounslow Area Forum report, TfL expressed a wish to consult along the entire BCS9 route in a joined-up fashion – this is now likely to happen in April 2013.

The Cycle Superhighways are targeted primarily at people who want to cycle to work.  They aim to get existing commuter cyclists to cycle more, encourage leisure cyclists to start cycling into work and give new cyclists the support and confidence they need to start. They are designed to provide safer, faster, more direct and continuous routes between outer and central London.  As I am sure you will be aware, cyclists have many levels of ability and have a range of needs and aspirations in terms of infrastructure.  It is unlikely that all of these can be completely met with the provision of the cycle superhighway infrastructure but we will aim to provide a step-change in facilities for the great majority. 

Few cyclists would be able to match traffic speeds in outer London, even in peak periods, unless they ignore red lights.  Where there are long peak-hour traffic queues, we sometimes have bus lanes, which provide excellent cycling facilities.  Even fewer cyclists would be able to match traffic speeds in the off-peak, and of course even commuting cyclists may travel at different times of the day.  Facilities that allow cyclists to ride alongside motor traffic and be safely overtaken by it (and “undertake” it when the traffic is slower) should cater for the majority of cyclists needs. All the outline designs are under review prior to consultation, and the plans presented to the CHAF are clearly marked as draft and subject to further discussion.

In closing, I’d point out that my team and I are all keen and experienced cyclists, of differing levels of fitness and ability.  We are doing our best to ensure that the design of the cycle superhighway through our borough best meets all of our needs and those of our residents, workers and those who cycle through our borough en route elsewhere.



Chris Calvi-Freeman
Head of Transport
Regeneration, Economic Development & Environment Department
London Borough of Hounslow
Civic Centre, Lampton Road, Hounslow, TW3 4DN

And my response:

From: Martin Porter QC
Sent: 13 December 2012 11:59
To: 'Chris Calvi-Freeman'

Subject: RE: Cycle Superhighway 9

Dear Mr Calvi-Freeman,
Many thanks for your response which as requested I shall treat as interim and I look forward to a more full response in due course.  Please let me know if I need to resubmit my evidence for it to be taken into account when formal consultation takes place.
Although your response is interim there are some points that I feel need to be challenged.
Most cyclists can match average traffic speeds on the congested roads that lie between Hounslow and Central London (i.e. the route of CSH9).  I know this from personal observation.  I simply do not understand why you bring traffic lights into this, as both cyclists and motorists have to stop at red signals.  If speed limits are introduced and enforced that will calm the peak speeds that motorists reach as they accelerate into the next traffic queue.  Traffic lights can be phased to assist cyclists better than they presently do.
Second, a 1.5m lane is not a facility that enables cyclists to ride safely alongside a stream of traffic which includes many buses and HGVs for the reasons I have stated.  You appear to believe that if such facilities encourage cyclists to undertake moving traffic that is a good thing.  Let me assure you that is bad, not good, for cyclist safety.
Third, you imply that although the infrastructure you propose may not be helpful to me, it will assist others with different needs and aspirations.  I do not see that it will.  Many people wish to have segregated infrastructure where there is a physical barrier between cyclists and motor traffic.  For this to be worth doing it has to be done very well (“Going Dutch”).  The proposed plans with 1.5 metre wide lanes do nothing to distance motorised traffic from cyclists while at the same time they make it harder to integrate properly with traffic in the safest possible manner.
I am afraid I am sceptical that your team’s experience as cyclists is a true substitute for seeking proper advice from qualified  cyclist instructors.  I am hoping that all of your team to whose experience you refer have at least completed Bikeability level 3.
Let me assure you I am not making these observations to be awkward.  However as a taxpayer and a cyclist I hate to see public money squandered on misconceived solutions that actually make the position worse..
With best wishes
Martin Porter

Friday, 7 December 2012

My Response to All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group

My evidence to the APPCG is here.
I hesitate to publish it since it is a personal response based on my experiences and is intended to cover what I perceive to be a gap in The Times and associated campaigns.  Segregation (especially if it comes with the assumption which most would make that the existing streets are for the segregated motorised, and not non-motorised, traffic) cannot it seems to me be the only answer for the foreseeable future.  We need a civilising of our streets (and Highways bar Motorways) everywhere so that they are more pleasant and inviting places to cycle.

CTC Magazine Article on Road Rage

My article on the whole Scott Lomas Road Rage Saga as printed in the CTC Magazine is now available here.

I add only the comment that I feel that the reason that it is hard sometimes to resist getting into a counterproductive row with motorists who endanger us when we are on our bikes is that we know that formal come back of the sort that ought to occur either will not happen or will happen at greater cost to us than to the miscreant.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The BBC and 'The War on Britain's Roads'

It was with some trepidation that I watched this Leopard films production last night.  Thank heavens for Michael Hutchinson on the Today programme this morning.  It is a great shame that he was not on last night's film to explain rather better certain aspects of cycling to a largely non-cycling public.
The shots from helmet camera cyclists has been done before (and I think rather better) on the BBC's One Show back in February 2011, without the false 'them and us' dichotomy which the programme makers took care to emphasise by, for example, filming all cyclists in cycling jerseys.
The positive side of the programme was the portrayal of the courageous way in which Cynthia Barlow, Chair of Roadpeace has worked tirelessly for the last 10 years, since the tragic death of her daughter, first to find out what happened to her and second to minimise the risk that the same happens to others.  The work done by her and also Kate Cairns (similarly affected by tragedy) and others would have made great television.
'War on Britain's Roads' has had a gestation longer than an elephant's.  I was approached by Leopard Films some 18 months ago and certainly got the impression then that the planned show would be more focussed on road safety.  It is almost as though someone has looked at a proposed script at some stage and required it to be spiced up with a lot more focus on the trading of insults.  Since happily no punches were thrown, I do not care what happened after the black taxi driver who had cut up a cyclist had stopped and I care nothing for his acknowledgement in subsequent interview that he had overreacted.  Having tracked him down I would have liked the filmmakers to ask why he apparently makes a habit of passing cyclists with inches to spare and whether he has any familiarity with rule 163 of the Highway Code.  Above all I would like to know whether he acknowledges that even if, by some good fortune, he has yet to run into a cyclist, his behaviour contributes to intimidating would be cyclists off the road.  The unfortunate fact is that it suited the program's thesis better to portray the taxidriver and cyclist as two sides of a coin whilst both were standing on tarmac having a row, rather than beforehand when the driver was driving a substantial vehicle badly around vulnerable roadusers and the cyclist was not presenting any danger to anybody.
Sadly many people will take from this programme whatever they like to reinforce their own existing prejudices.  My own view is that one group that come over badly are the Police, and particularly the Metropolitan Police.
-Why did Cynthia Barlow have to spend her money on a private investigator to find out what happened to her daughter?
-With all the clips of bad driving shown on that film, why is that only one has resulted in prosecution (and no, the one was not the dreadful tanker on the roundabout)?  The black cab driver referred to above was guilty of driving without due care and consideration when he passed cyclists who had nothing to do with his subsequent confrontation.  As it is he is left still believing that his driving is acceptable.
- Why did the police not investigate the Bexley assault properly, leaving it to the victims to identify the assailant?
- Why did the Cycle Task Force officer depicted  (the one who did not hesitate to thread through a junction against a red light to catch an errant cyclist) allow a taxi driver, who had intimidated a variety of cyclists and passed close enough to have his cab bashed, on his way with reassurance he had done nothing wrong?  (I thought the deferential tone adopted with the driver in contrast to the silly patronising 'get a whistle' tone he adopted with the cyclist spoke volumes).  Unfortunately, as Sgt Castle of the Task Force explained to me when I met them, they do not believe in taking motorists up on close passes because they regard it as 'too subjective'.
There is no 'war' on the roads in the conventional sense or in the sense that the programme implied, with two sides fighting it out.  The death and destruction is all on one side.  We do not need 'peacekeepers' to keep the two sides apart.  There is however a battle in getting the authorities (who after all encourage us onto two wheels) to do sufficient for our protection.  Cycling is reasonably safe but it has an image problem and is often not perceived as safe.  I have recently completed my submission to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and have tried to emphasise that there should be a very low level of tolerance towards those who harm, endanger or threaten vulnerable road users.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

My Response to DfT Consultation on Increasing HGV Speed Limits

Response ID ANON-KMPX-Z9JK-8
Submitted on 2012-12-04 11:05:12.725334
1 What is your name?
Martin Porter
2 What is your email address?
3 What is your organisation?
4 Policy option 1: Raise the national speed limit for HGVs over 7.5t from 40 to 50 mph on single carriageway roads. Is this
your preferred policy option? Please explain your answer.
These roads already have a poor safety record in comparison with other types of road in the UK.
Single carriageway roads are often used by cyclists and the increase in speed in the heaviest vehicles will increase the actual and perceived hazard and danger
to them.
All the problems identified in the consultation papers ('platooning', fairness and competition) can all be dealt with better by lowering the speed limit for lighter
vehicles by 10mph and by better enforcement of limits.
England and Wales is criss-crossed by a fairly comprehensive network of motorway and dual carriageway roads. Heavy traffic will be diverted from motorways
and dual carriageways onto single carriageway shortcuts if there is no longer a significant speed differential.
Above all, lowering speed limits will save lives and this is a step in completely the wrong direction.
5 Policy option 2: Raise the national speed limit for HGVs over 7.5t from 40 to 45 mph on single carriageway roads. Is this
your preferred policy option? Please explain your answer.
For precisely the same reasons given above,
6 Do you consider there to be any additional policy options, or variants of policy options 1 and 2? If so, please explain
fully and provide any evidence you may have.For example, only increasing the speed limit for HGVs over 7.5t on single
carriageways where the national speed limit applies, and retaining the 40 mph limit at other times
Keep the current speed limits for heaviest HGVs and lower the speed limit of HGVs up to 7.5 tonnes to 40 mph and lower the speed limit for light motor vehicles
to 50 mph on single carriageway roads.
7 In your opinion does the current 40 mph speed limit cause any of the following: unnecessary costs to vehicle
operators; congestion; avoidable overtaking collisions; an uneven playing field for businesses; or anything not
mentioned in this list? Please explain your answer and provide any evidence you may have.
No. This is a leading question. The blame for these supposed problems cannot sensibly be laid at the door of the 40mph speed limit. Better enforcement of the
limit would level the playing field as would the lowering of speed limits for lighter vehicles.
8 We welcome views from HGV operators and trade associations about whether they feel the balance of savings and
costs of extra speed detailed in the Impact Assessment reflects their own experience or expectations?
9 If the speed limit for HGVs over 7.5t is not raised on these roads, collisions as a result of ‘platooning’ could continue. If
it is, the frequency of collisions could decrease due to a reduction in ‘platooning’, though on the other hand the severity
of collisions could increase.
The 'platooning' problem is best dealt with by lowering the speed limit of the other vehicles.
10 Do you have any opinion or evidence on the effect of ‘platooning’ on road safety, or on the frequency or severity of
collisions involving HGVs on single carriageway roads and what effect an increase in their maximum speed limit on these
roads would have on safety? If so, please provide it in response here.
An increase in maximum speed limit will obviously have a detrimental effect on road safety. It is amply demonstrated that speed kills. It is beyond any sensible
dispute that equalising speed downward (and not up) would save lives and injuries.
11 Do you have any opinion or evidence on what effect an increase in the maximum speed limit for HGVs over 7.5t on
these roads would have on non- HGV vehicle speeds such as car speeds?
It is likely to increase car speeds which will itself have a detrimental effect on road safety.
12 The Department invites information on where there are single carriageway roads which are subject to the national
speed limit, or are signed at 50 mph, in areas where there are air quality problems.
13 What impacts, if any, do you think there will be to the following if an increased speed limit for HGVs over 7.5t on single
carriageway roads is introduced? a) Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs). Local authorities may have specific
evidence on the effect on AQMAs in their authority; b) EU air quality standards [1] ; c) Noise levels; d) Areas currently
identified as noise hotspots [2]
14 If as a result of either of the policy options being implemented there was a reduction in ‘platooning’ do you think there
would be a significant impact on: a) Noiseb) Air quality
'Platooning' has a calming effect in slowing general traffic and therefore reduces the adverse impacts on noise and air pollution.
15 Do you think either of the policy options goes against the underlying principles of the EU Environmental Noise
Directive [3] or of the Noise Policy Statement for England?[4]
Yes, both do.
16 Do you think that all of the potential health and social costs of the policy options have been considered in the Impact
Assessment? Please provide details if you think costs have not been included.
It is government policy to encourage cycling. These are roads that are frequently used by cyclists. Overtaking of cyclists by heavy vehicles on single carriageway
roads is potentially hazardous and requires a great deal of care on the part of the HGV driver. The HGV driver travelling at 40 mph has a much greater
opportunity to see a cyclist ahead and to plan his overtaking manoeuvre.
It is a serious omission that the encouragement of cycling has not been considered in the Impact Assessment.
17 Do you believe an increase in speed for this class of vehicle on these roads will cause more HGVs over 7.5t to use
single carriageway roads, which do not currently?
Yes, clearly.
HGV operators are likely to calculate and use the quickest route. Currently it is worth a modest detour to use motorways and dual carriageways, which are far
more suitable for HGVs, because they are then able to travel significantly faster. If the speed limit differential is reduced more HGVs will be attracted away from
motorways/dual carriageways and onto single carriageway routes.
18 Do you think some freight may switch from rail or water to HGVs, if the speed limit is increased on these roads for
these vehicles?
Yes for the same reasons. Any reduction in the time taken to transport by road will increase its attractiveness relative to other modes of transport.
19 Do you think that there may be added wear and tear on these roads if the speed limit is increased for these vehicles?
Local authorities may have specific comments or evidence, with regard to roads in their authority.
Yes, obviously. An HGV braking hard from 50 mph will put far more stress on the road surface than it would braking from 40 mph.
20 Local authorities have powers to alter speed limits on the local road network, including non-trunk primary routes, in
line with guidance set out in Setting Local Speed Limits, DfT Circular 1/06.[5] Do you think that the increase in the national
speed limit for HGVs over 7.5t on single carriageways, would make it more likely that local authorities would introduce
more local speed restrictions, and if so on which roads?
It would mean that they should introduce more local speed restrictions but in practice they may well not get around to doing so until many avoidable collisions
have occurred.
21 If you are an organisation that provides information and you believe that an increased speed for this class of vehicle
on single carriageways would incur costs for your organisation in the form of publicity or conversion costs please
indicate what these may be. Also please advise whether these costs would be reduced given a lead-in time between
announcement and policy implementation as a result of costs being rolled into existing plans.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Imperial Winter Series Race 1

A first for me, I turned up on Saturday afternoon to the first race of the Imperial Winter Series as a spectator and to show a bit of support for a novice rider from my club.  Places for the 4th cat event sold out indicating that the popularity of the sport continues unabated at a grass roots level even in near freezing temperatures.  Encouragingly all rode safely and skilfully even around the final twists leading up to the finish line and all remained upright.
Good therapy for me too to watch such a well organised event.  There are still, to my mind, unresolved issues arising from my crash last September but I hope to have made sufficient mental and physical recovery to join in this series shortly (if I can secure a place!)