Monday, October 12, 2009

Bicycle lights on Mill Road

Coleridge Conservatives surveyed cycles going over Mill Road bridge after pub closing time on a Sunday and Monday evening and found that only 50% of the front and back positions where there should have been lights had lights on either full or flashing. (We noticed that far more people had front lights than rear lights.)

This is one of the problems that we feel should be tackled before almost half a million pounds are spent annoying all vehicular users of the road and cyclists with 'vertical displacement' features.

The Mill Road safety scheme will be up for consideration at the next Cambridge Traffic Management Area Joint Committee at Shire Hall and the initial report on Mill Road is included in the agenda. I argue that the proposal should score badly on all three of the scoring categories mentioned in section 2.1 but I am not holding my breath that officers will agree.

Our survey was unscientific and small scale, but I suspect the result will surprise no-one...

UPDATE: Martin in the comments asked for the actual numbers corresponding to the above figures so here are the results from observing 89 cycles. You may notice a slight error.

fullflashinglow batnoneobscured
Out of townFront2983301
Into townFront82061



Martin said...

Not good survey results indeed.

The pie chart doesn't include numbers of people - could you add that?

Are you going to publish a survey on the amount of night-time speeding, which would no doubt be just as bad?

Chris Howell said...

Hopefully Andy can add some absolute numbers - I think it was several dozen surveyed so likely to be reasonably representative of this time of day - I'm guessing the situation would be better during the early evening, but it would be worth some more work.

The speed data I have doesn't go into detail of splitting car speeds by hour (I think this must be available - there seems to be a reluctance to just put all the speed surveys detailed info online...), but the most relevant camera to the bridge during the Aug07 speed survey indicates average speed 23.91mph, 85%ile 30.62, 14.4% over the limit, 0.3% 15mph over the limit (which indicates significantly less of a speed problem than say Coleridge Road, but slightly more of a speeding problem than most of the other sites surveyed on Mill Road.

Yes, I think there should be enforcement of speed limits on Mill Road, and on the bridge specifically a lower limit to discourage dangerous overtaking may be appropriate, but I don't think it would be unreasonable or particularly difficult for a program of education and encouragement and ultimately enforcement to be used to increase the number of correctly lit cyclists to much nearer 100% on roads with poor cyclist accident records like Mill Road.

Whilst sympathetic to the argument that insisting on helmets, flourescent clothing etc may just discourage cycling in favour of driving, when it comes to failure to use lights many cyclists are almost invisible at night so there really shouldn't be any excuse.

Martin said...

I completely agree that there needs to be more action, particularly police enforcement, as you say. Perhaps I am imagining it, but things do seem suddenly worse now that students are back.

I was specifically interested in the amount of night-time speeding - I think you've quoted the overall day figures as 14.4%/marginal and 0.3%/15mph doesn't match up with my experience of using Mill Road at night-time.

Given the amount of unloading during the day which causes so many delays (thankfully not made worse, thanks to the action taken by various groups re. the Wilco site), the overall average is likely not to see much speeding. It's night-time when there's a real problem from both invisible cyclists and speeding vehicles.

Andrew Bower said...

Hi Martin,

I've added a table with the actual figures to the end of the post.

I have to say I didn't notice any excessive speed myself.

We saw three vehicles pass cyclists on a solid white line in each direction. We weren't able to note whether the cycles were going over 10mph but I doubt it - they were mostly going very slowly.

I suspect you are right about most speeding happening at night, but do note that in fact recorded accidents occured 2:1 by day rather than night between 2004 and 2008.

Al said...

The CEN has picked this up, invented more cyclists and seemingly decided that this is a scientifically representative sample of all of Cambridge's cyclists here:

Why they couldn't just write about what you'd actually found (which is still pretty shocking) I don't know.

Would be REALLY interesting to know what % of those cyclists, lights or otherwise, were over the legal alcohol limit as well, but short of setting up a road-block and testing everyone there's no-way of knowing.

Keith Garrett said...

What problem are you trying to solve here?

Motorists not seeing cyclists? Mill Road is well lit and motorists are quite able to see them (if they can't then they couldn't see a pedestrian who is in the road way either).

Who is it unpopular with? The local residents? The people who use Mill Road as a tunnel into the city? The shop keepers?

Mill Road is a wonderful place yet the dominance of the car is turning it from an excellent shopping area to a smelly, dangerous place.

How about doing a full survey of all the shopkeeper's views about how people who use their shops travel there and then doing a direct survey of a few shops to see if their feelings are true.

Or maybe some research about how a significant change in modes of transport would affect commerce in the area.

Anything that is positive and has a useful outcome.

I'm not saying that cyclists shouldn't comply with the law, it just seems that you are picking on a group who cause no pollution, take up very little road space and would cause total gridlock in Cambridge if you forced them into cars.

Klaas Brumann said...

Slightly rewording Mr Bower's argument in the CEN: "... believes a planned £multi-million ... revamp of the A14 should only be considered following a crackdown on motorists flouting the law", e.g. using a mobile phone while driving, exceeding the speed limit, drink drive laws etc. I think the Coleridge Conservatives' argumentation is populist, wrong and anti-cyclist.

Chris Howell said...

Responding to some of the comments to date in no particular order...

The problem to be solved is the large number of injury accidents on Mill Road - we are disagreeing with the report to be considered by the committee this afternoon that the best way to tackle this is physical traffic calming and a 20mph limit. Personally, I think this will have little actual effect on the speed of the few vehicles that exceed the current limit, whilst making the road less easy to cycle down due to all the new humps.

Instead, better enforcement of problems such as unlit cyclists at night could be part of the solution. I cycle Mill Road approx 5 times more frequently than I drive it - but when I do drive I find unlit cyclists can be almost invisible at night until cars are far too close.

We've tried to make clear this isn't a scientific study that would allow a quantitative conclusion, but I'm happy the evidence is sufficient to draw a qualitative solution that there is a significant problem. To be fair to the CEN, they make the methodology used pretty clear not far from the headline.

The A14 situation is clearly not analogous - the measures planned for Mill Road are purely designed to improve safety at the expense of inconvenience to all road users needing to use it, so it does make sense to tackle road safety issues in other less intrusive ways first if these are clearly part of the problem. The A14 upgrade is about providing increases in transport capacity to support a very high growth sub-region, safety considerations are a secondary point.

We are strongly supportive of cycling in Cambridge, would encourage as many people as possible to use their bike whenever possible - we aren't calling for compulsory helmets or glow in the dark lycra (however desirable such things may or may not be) - just asking that cyclists meet the basic legal requirements so they are visible at night for their own safety.

Yes the police do need to tackle speeding motorists - see our posts on this topic in relation to roads in Coleridge where there are significantly more motorists significantly exceeding the speed limit than on Mill Road - Councillors are meeting with the police this week and I will again be making the point that people want action to reduce anti-social speeding on residential roads.

Andrew Bower said...

"I think the Coleridge Conservatives' argumentation is populist, wrong and anti-cyclist."

I see the knee-jerkers are out in force. If you read more of our blog perhaps you would realise that we were far from anti-cyclist.

Responsible cyclists are keen to get the message across that cyclists should use lights, partly because all cyclists get tarred with same brush when some routinely flout the law.

One thing I would point out, however, is that the "quote" suggests I'm blaming lack of lights as a principal cause of accidents on the road when I'm not, since two thirds of accidents happen in daylight.