Friday, April 23, 2010

Britain's most Sensible Bike Lane

The Daily Mail once again show their ignorance of road safety and cycling issues and pander to the petty prejudices of their readers with this story, headlined 'Britain's Barmiest Bike Lane'.

Anyone who cycles regularly knows that bike lanes are too narrow. Drivers seem to interpret the right-hand-side of the lane as where they can safely position the left-hand-side of their vehicle, and given that many bike lanes are only 1m or 1.5m wide, and the gutter is typically adorned with debris, storm drains, potholes, the correct position for a cyclist to be is on the right-hand edge of the lane, if not outside it altogether. The Highway Code advises that an overtaking motor vehicle should give a bike at least as much room as you would a car, which is unhelpfully ambiguous but the accompanying picture illustrates the point.
Given the way many motorists interpret bike lanes, this 'barmy' bike lane is actually very sensible because it encourages drivers to give cyclists the correct amount of room. The AA spokesman quoted in the article says "[motorists] may be worried about breaking the law even though they are allowed to cross it [the line]". If only more motorists were worried about breaking the law, and actually knew and observed the Highway Code, we wouldn't need bike lanes in the first place. Or extremely expensive road humps, speed cameras, traffic police that us law-abiding taxpayers have to pay for.

What is barmy is the Highway Code and the Road Traffic Act. They are too vague to allow successful prosecution of dangerous drivers who put other road users, particularly cyclists, at risk. In respect of advisory cycle lanes, the Highway Code says "Do not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line unless it is unavoidable", but it's advisory - it's not an offence to do so. Therefore, you can drive and park in advisory cycle lanes to your heart's content, and PC Plod will never bother you. Similarly, "give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you  would when overtaking a car" is only advisory, so behaviour which is clearly extremely dangerous and intimidatory is not a specific offence.

If you walk along the pavement. threatening and intimidating people with a blunt instrument, you'll be sent to prison even if you haven't actually hit anyone, and quite right too. But if you use a larger blunt instrument, a motor car, and propel it at high speed and in a threatening and intimidating manner, that's not an offence and you will likely never be prosecuted. Even if you killed someone, proving the offence of causing death by dangerous driving is almost impossible, which is why people like this get away scot free.

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