Blijf uit de dode hoek

“Stay out of the blind spot”

Where have I heard that before?

Fixed that for you.
But these posters were repeated on a dozen lamp posts here:

It is, surely, irrelevant? Unlike London’s “superhighways”, there can’t be many Dutch roads left that could create this kind of situation, especially not in Amsterdam, where I spotted the avenue of posters. The kind of roads that carry big trucks generally give bicycles their own dedicated space; and the city streets where bicycles and traffic mix generally do not allow such big trucks. And in the few situations where bicycles and trucks could mix like this, the truck driver would not overtake the cyclist while preparing to make a turn (sorry, what am I talking about, these situations are always the dead cyclists’ fault for positioning themselves on the inside of a truck, never the surviving truck drivers’ fault for passing a cyclist while turning).

It’d be interesting to know how big a problem this really is in the Netherlands — and why the Dutch government (for I believe it was they) thought it important to put up posters about it.

Just Stay Indoors

How best to get the road safety message to the yoof of today? A catchy hook? A rap? Too passé. A cartoon? Too juvenile. What about zombies. Brilliant. Depict an apocalyptic world populated by undead victims of road traffic accidents. The kids will love it. Or be too terrified to ever leave their homes. But that’s a risk you take if you’re Newcastle City Council. The first line of the council’s new Road Safety website states:

Traffic is the single biggest cause of accidental death for 12 to 16 year olds.

The second is suicide. Being a teen is ace! Alongside gory, gratuitous mocked up photographs of zombified traffic victims, are tabs on cycling and pedestrians. These are divided into facts and, er, survival skills. Because transporting oneself outside of a vehicle is that dangerous. Here are a few of those facts.

  • Teenage boys are six times more likely to be killed or seriously injured on bikes than teenage girls.
  • Young people aged between 11 and 16 are more at risk of being killed or seriously injured as a pedestrian or cyclist in road accidents than any other age group.
  • Wearing a cycle helmet can improve your chances of survival, and reduce the chance of serious injury.

Firstly, your chances of being killed as a cyclist as ridiculously low. Far, far lower, than as a motorist. There were 104 pedal cyclist fatalities in 2009. To begin a section on cycling with the assumption that YOU MAY DIE is to basically scare off a generation of teenagers from forming walking and cycling habits that could become embedded in part of a healthy lifestyle.

In a similar vein, the section on walking warns teens that:

  • Young people aged between 11 and 16 are more at risk of being killed or seriously injured as a pedestrian or cyclist in a road accident than any other age group.
  • Traffic is the biggest cause of accidental death of 12 to 16-year-olds.
  • 1 in 5 teenagers report having been involved in a road accident.

Again, I see this as scare-mongering – in addition to being told that if they walk home late at night they will be kidnapped and murdered, they will now also be mown down by vehicles, unless they drive or board them.

Why are the council ploughing money into an “edgy” campaign that will only serve to turn teens away from cheap, healthy modes of transportation? People who start walking and cycling in their teens, generally keep walking and cycling. I’ve lost count of the number of peopel I’ve met in their twenties who want to cycle, but are unsure of where to start, and wish they had kept it up instead of stopping once they hit 13. Cycling isn’t dangerous, if you teach drivers to look out for cyclists properly, and if cyclists feel safe on roads. Similarly, if pedestrians have places to cross, they don’t get run over.

A savvy website may grab attention, and make the council feel “hip”. Unfortunately, the cost of outreach schemes, when the health service is overstretched due to heart disease rates skyrocketing years down the line is a lot harder to predict.

–Dawn

Weekly War Bulletin, 14 Aug

A slightly delayed one, as I just caught up with the newsfeeds after returning from Beijing — of which more later this week.

The justice system’s response to killing somebody by driving a car over the speed limit in a residential area as an unsupervised learner driver?  Eight weeks curfew and £85 legal costs.  A curfew.

It’s alright, though.  A car insurance company tells us that all our transport problems can be solved if everyone on the roads just shows each other a bit of respect.

The Chief of Cambridgeshire Police agrees: driving offences are the middle classes’ anti-social behaviour of choice.  I propose reforming the legal treatment of anti-social driving such that motoring offences come with a simple easy to assign ASBO that indefinitely bans the Motorist from going within one mile of a motor vehicle.

But the hundreds of pedestrians killed by cars?  Pffft.  They were probably listening to iPods, so they’ve really only got themselves to blame, shows research by Motorist lobby group.

Anti-social Motorists caught by the dwindling traps are electing to sit through re-education programmes to save themselves from points.  But the ultimate natural alternative traffic calming has now been discovered: carefully positioned trees.

I have no interest in cycling as a competitive sport, and apparently a competitive sportsman cyclist who I’m informed is accomplished in the field has no interest in cycling outside of the velodrome, preferring to race around in his jag without looking where he’s going.

More farce on the tube as failure to follow safety procedures leads to a runaway engineering train chasing panicked passenger trains for four miles.  And boss Peter Hendy jokes that tube staff haven’t got enough to do: ho ho ho, look at you all, nothing to do, he he, I may as well have you all fired.  Hah.

With record passenger numbers, Heathrow is clearly full: the T3 drop-off had a 5-car crash.

Spoilt brats play smash the toys in Knightsbridge; charged with dangerous driving.  It’s alright, just a bit of fun, don’t worry, we’ll pay somebody to clear up afterwards.

Allegedly more people are cycling.  Or they’re cycling a tiny bit further.  Or they’re buying new bikes, at least.  The CTC are celebrating this historic victory.

Where have all the hire bicycles gone?  Try this map.

Careful with these hire bikes, though.  After they arrived in Denver, the Republican candidate for state governor uncovered the bikes’ role in an internationalist anti-American plot.

Posh South Bank restaurants want riff-raff on bikes banned from the riverside.

While the train operating companies want to know if you’d be interested in hiring a bike from their stations…

There’s a bug in the oyster system: TfL don’t seem to have worked out quite why it’s double charging some customers when they top up — and don’t seem all that bothered about finding out.

Finally, while I’d usually hate anything that came out of a marketing department on principle, I’ve been suckered into giving free marketing to the creators of this ad.  Your moment of zen…

Weekly War Bulletin, 3 July

US Embassy nearing £3 million in unpaid congestion charge fines.  Afghanistan owes nearly £35,000 to the boroughs in parking tickets.  The diplomats claim immunity from paying these taxes.  Because unlike water and electricity, for which they are presumably required to pay, the highway is not provided as a service, it’s a human right.

Motorists are being asked how much they should be fined for breaking the rules.  In other news, turkeys promised referendum on christmas.  They haven’t done much of a job of promoting their “consultation”, but I think I’ve tracked down the instructions here, should any of our readers wish to have their say.

In the Highlands, councillors are getting on their bikes to save money.  The Highlands.  That’s the council with the lowest population density in the UK; the biggest mountains; the convoluted coastline and isolated islands; the long wide trunk roads to nowhere; the few, slow railway lines; with harbour towns at the end of fifty mile roads and scattered crofts on single track lanes, a hundred miles from the county town.  And there are councillors in London who think it not inappropriate to drive a car around town.

Having beautified the M40 last week, 25 tonnes of rubbish on the railway at Banbury were the next target for those seeking to keep the home counties looking perfect.

Private train operating companies are asking the government to allow them to fight over the scraps of public money left to the railways.  Those that loose out can always fall back on the confusing fares fraud to raise revenue.

What did they expect of a man from Yeovil?

Allegedly there is anger at Edinburgh airport introducing a £1 — a whole one pound — charge for using their drop-off car park.  That’s the war on the Motorist, that is.

Wi-fi going down the tube?  Haven’t they been saying these things for years?  Surely it will get cut off under the terms of the digital economy act anyway?  And only at stations?  What use is that?

Three day 200 mile journey on free bus pass.

In the Congo, a speeding oil tanker driver has been involved in a collision with a village, killing 200.

The “Road Safety Foundation”, front for the AA and road lobby, gets free publicity with claim that road safety has been achieved by road construction — but that more needs to be done.

Searching the news for “crash” is an eye opener.  Just a small selection of those from this week… Three year old has severe facial injuries after crash. Elsewhere, another has head injuries.  Nine year old cyclist collides with car in Perterborough.  Pedestrian collides with lorry in Berkshire.  Van shares the road in Manchester.  Bin-man dies after bungalow collides with rubbish truck in Kent.  Tree collides with car in Warwickshire.  Tractor collides with lorry in Essex.  Railway bridge collides with double-deck school bus in Flintshire.  It’s not the only Welsh bridge playing up: there are calls for a new bridge to be constructed after a pesky grade II listed crossing has repeatedly collided with lorries and then demanded accurate reconstruction.  In Staffordshire, another grade II listed bridge has been involved in a similar incident with an 80 year old driver.  And a lorry/bridge collision in CambridgeshireIn Ealing, shopping centre roof collides with Mercedes in innocent mix-up between brake and accelerator.  Tyneside metro train hits car.  Milk tanker crashes in Wiltshire, spilling its load.  Impaled Motorist saved by four-leaf clover.  Lorry driver arrested for death of teenager.  Lorry driver arrested for death of biker.  Taxi driver charged for death by dangerous driving.  Drivers charged for deaths of pensioners.  Sir Ranulph Fiennes charged after driver seriously injured.  Traffic cop in court after causing death with sports car.  Fireman in court for crash on emergency call.  Farmer jailed for causing death by trailer.  Two year ban is the penalty for driving into pregnant woman; lorry driver who killed school kid also “spared” prison.  And finally, another cyclist hit by a truck from the Shard building site.

Just a small sample of the more interesting stories from the week.  For every one of them there is a straightforward death-on-the-road story.

But the BBC’s Nick Bryant has been exploring solutions to dangerous roads.  Pedestrians need to look where they’re going, he finds.  Stop listening to music, taking phone calls, talking to people, and looking around at the scenery; and don’t whatever you do try walking after a drink.  In other news, those seeking to end rape announce that the solution is for women to cover up and stay indoors.

Your moment of zen: