Necessarily Negativeis going to be one of the recurring themes of this blog.
Do I have to keep talking about all the down sides of trying to walk cycle in this city?
Yes, of course I do. I am blogging about traffic anxiety and the problems this causes with getting around. I can’t talk up the positives of walking or cycling until such a time that I can go out and go places and have a reasonable expectation that I won’t encounter situations which cause aggrivation.
It is the actions of individual drivers which make getting around this city a nightmare. It is Coventry City council which has repeatedly made decisions which have inflamed this situation and made it worse.
Does that mean I have to be negative about everything? No, of course not. Within the scope of a longer conversation or a response to a consultation, there’s always space to talk up the positives. I will elaborate on all of this in future posts.
Why don’t I even bother with constructive criticism these days? This is largely because this is what I tried to do in the 40 or so times I have been to planning meetings to ask for improvements to development schemes. The final straw was when comments I made supporting a development “in principle” were taken as not objecting, when actually I was raising some very valid material concerns. In a city where the council is this cynical, there is little point wasting time dressing things up.
There are also other people in this city and elsewhere who are doing a great job to paint a positive picture. I fully support everything they are doing., but the council also still needs to be held to account.
That gives me even more reason to be Necessarily Negative here.
“Only reason I won’t cycle is I am too 5h1t scared to do so.”
(as can be found within a matter of minutes on any cycling twitter timeline)
Is this just about infra?
Can it be fixed by enforcement alone?
Do we need more education?
Is this actually a mental health issue?
And if so:
A society addicted to cars?
A small number of extremely dangerous drivers?
Cars and Mental Health
Drivers and Mental Health
Bad Drivers and Mental Health
Psychotic Drivers and Mental Health
Traffic and Mental Health
We understand “traffic offences” are really traffic crimes, increasingly known as “road crimes”. In other words, the criminality is individual, not societal, although society tolerates it.
As I define (and tweet about it) in the absence of a better definition:
Traffic Anxiety (n)
A fear of traffic, in particular of acts of dangerous and aggressive driving, and bullying of vulnerable road users – especially cyclists.
“Traffic anxiety” is listed as a phobia which can be managed through counselling – most practitioners appear to be in the USA. This definition relates, much more literally to a fear of traffic jams, fear of being late etc.
Core mental health issues caused by traffic & bad driving
Noise, air pollution and worries about this (this is a general traffic issue)
Mental recover from actual crashes (this is separate topic of itself)
“Will I die” – this is the main issue I want to talk about.
Single point stresses – ie cars driven fast / erratically / fire cracker exhausts etc – past window when at home. Threat is from the noise, not the worry about being hit.
As a child with motorphobia, she used to grab her father’s hand at the slightest sound of an approaching vehicle.
Ideas with beers – 2nd of February 2021
At traffic anxiety
“A brief introduction to issues about mental health, cycling and other forms of transport”
Mental health and cycling
Mental health, cycling and recent issues relating to the equality act
What I’m going to try and talk about:
The core issues relating to mental health and transport, and particular active travel.
Why I think these are often ignored
Stating the glaringly obvious
Labels versus day-to-day living – specifically – bipolar, ADHD, autistic spectrum, general anxiety and specifically –
What I am defining as traffic anxiety and why this doesn’t exist in any psychological definitions that I know of
Motor phobia (vehophobia) – broadly, fear of vehicles and generally fear of road vehicles – why I think this definition is partially useful but also very unhelpful
traffic anxiety as understood, largely in the USA – fear of traffic jams
how we can relate this to what is much better understood – fear of flying
who am I to talk about any of this?
What I’m going to try and avoid:
Specific details about cycle lanes, LTN design features, things like traffic islands and the problems they cause (this is covered each week through other IWB presentations)
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) – I’m not in a position to talk about this, even if it’s clearly an issue in relation to mental health aspects of crash recovery.
Who am I to talk about this?
Broadly speaking, there is very little research that I am aware of which specifically covers the mental health aspects of traffic and dangerous driving, although I think that this is an emerging field, and in particular I would credit Dr Rachel Aldred at the University of Westminster and also Robin mas Munda in Toronto for starting some work in this field.
Whilst there is far more research data on the harmful impact of traffic in terms of air pollution and in terms of actual injury collisions, I think it’s reasonable to say there is general understanding that having to deal with traffic is stressful, but this is largely something that can be filed under “common sense”, and research is still extremely limited.
Furthermore, much of this research focuses on the problems of sitting in traffic – in other words what many of us would define as a partially self-inflicted wound – yes, you are stressed because you are in traffic, but you are also partly the cause of that traffic, however essential you perceive your journey to beat.
Injury collisions are also relatively easy to measure – even if there is no question that there is massive underreporting for slight injuries, I think it’s fair to say that Ks I figures in the UK are reasonably accurate, and these usually also ascertain a cause for each crash.
Traffic -related stress is much harder to deal with – it is a condition which is generally caused by many people rather than a specific driver, and unless there is an injury incident, it’s very hard to directly point the finger at one person.
When I talk about traffic anxiety and the stresses that I experienced going out on a day-to-day basis, I should be clear to point out that I think that these anxieties are deep rooted and I think that I could trace them back to certainly quite a young age, and even if I wouldn’t say that I had anything I would now define as traffic anxiety when I was at school age, I certainly had a fear of what I would call contact sport and really disliked ball games, especially the one with the oval ball that we invented here and Warwickshire (didn’t we have a perfectly good game of football to begin with)? Warwickshire wrists, no respect for the rules et cetera
I think that what I’m trying to define here as traffic anxiety is quite distinct from post-traumatic stress disorder which I definitely think is a very major issue by and of itself, and not just from people who have been injured in crashes but also from people who have had very stressful close shaves.
Although I have had the following labels given to me at some point by professionals who are qualified to do so, and although I’m always cautious because giving a long list of labels might imply that my general mental health condition is more serious, and I don’t think that’s the case, because I think that all of these conditions are Venn diagrams and does to a certain extent I fall between them, however, I can still say in terms of legal definitions of mental health and disability I either am or have, depending on which you prefer:
Bipolar (by far the most serious in terms of life risk, but also not something that I associate with the traffic anxiety that I really want to focus on) – correction – that’s not true – the 2016
autism spectrum disorder – sometimes labelled with the a word but I would rather not
specific anxiety – i.e. what I have defined as traffic anxiety
What do I think traffic anxiety means?
If I could write a definition or suggest a definition for a medical text?
Traffic anxiety (N)
Any form of anxiety which specifically relates to fear of motor vehicles in general or in particular fear of dangerous driving or of aggressive driving or of aggression from drivers, especially when this fear is directed at a vulnerable road user, for example but not exclusively, a cyclist.
What is motor phobia
Motor phobia is essentially defined as a fear of motor vehicles, and this does extend very much to fear of being harmed by motor vehicles. It is distinct from a fear of travel by car.
I don’t believe I have any particular fear of travel by car, as long as I have reasonable trust in the driver. If I have any sense of this fear that I would simply asked the driver to stop and I would get out – and I have done that a very small number of times.
Nor do either of these fears relate to “car sickness” – that is a form of physical motion sickness, and it is something that I’ve experienced as a passenger when travelling by car on very winding Scottish roads, but I’ve also driven on similar roads and not experienced it – I think this is because when driving, it’s much easier to respond to curves in the road.
Am I a driver myself?
I passed my driving test in 1998 and surrendered my driving licence on medical grounds in 2012. I never particularly enjoyed driving and I certainly would not have tolerated any work situation which required me to commute and sit in traffic daily, but I also have very little recollection of ever being fearful driving – in fact I have driven in a number of countries which other people would consider very dangerous to driving, and I probably experienced a huge sense of relief from getting back to the airport and returning the hire car, but the main reason why I’m in no rush to try and get my driving licence back is that I just don’t know how I would respond to the sort of idiotic driving I witness every few minutes when I’m out walking or cycling.
The DVLA require drivers to stop for a period of 6 months following a major manic episode, but I I am well outside this period, and my bipolar has been reasonably stable for around 10 years now – typically experiencing a mild but still disruptive episode every 12 months or so.
Hang on – wouldn’t they take an issue with that? Have a look.
Am I anti-car?
No, I’m anti-anti-car! I think that the whole war on cars mentality is simply pointless. We know that there are better ways of managing traffic and dealing with dangerous drivers but instead we just keep ignoring them.
I don’t hate cars but I’ve never particularly loved them either, I just think they are very overrated. They are also extremely inefficient machines for doing most of the jobs that they do, and I think this is why urban planners end up treating the car like a spoilt playground brat.
But apart from minor problems like killing people, forcing everyone to breathe in toxic fumes and tearing communities apart, the car is actually quite a good machine.
Specific issues with mental health:
By condition and mode?
Negative impact of general noise – affects everyone and really affects people far more when they are at home or possibly in certain workplaces brackets hence (hence bewilderment at the rather bizarre comments that transport is only about what happens when people move)
specific negative impact – noisy vehicles going past residential properties; noisy vehicles in the street (when walking, cycling, waiting for the bus et cetera)
negative impact of air pollution (can this be quantified as a mental health issue – probably not)
community severance – this has been researched with the well circulated diagrams about connections on different street types, so I’m not going to elaborate on that.
Fear that somebody is actually going to kill me – this is really something that is experienced far more by cyclist than anyone else, but which can still very much be an issue with pedestrians, and that is a particular issue for pedestrians with physical movement difficulties, especially for example when crossing the road or when having to move out into the road from the pavement because of obstructions to a wheelchair, hand cycle, mobility scooter or similar. I am only going to comment however on fear as I see it because it’s not my place to comment on how these problems might be experienced by someone in a wheelchair.
Sense of disconnect – if my brother can just get in his car to drive anywhere he wants, why is it so difficult for me to go anywhere, even if I can actually plan a trip so that the vast majority of it is away from road danger?
Problems with planning a journey – I do have very serious issues relating to the difficulty I have in actually getting out of the house in the first place, always running late, leaving behind key items like travel passes, missing connections even if I arrive at the stop/station with plenty of time, and also with actually following the route as I set out or intended. However, in terms of what I want to talk about here, I want to differentiate between what I would call internal problems – in other words, if I can’t find my keys before leaving the house, then there is only one person who is responsible for them not being where they should be by the front door – and that is me, and although I can have Canon do pre-covert have family members come round and help me with this sort of stuff, it’s not an equality issue in the same way that failure to provide a safe cycle route is, because there is nothing that I honestly believe any counsel or even any care worker or anyone else could do to assist me in getting to that point where I move from essentially my own personal and private business into the public domain.
However, the unnecessary traffic noise that I even have to deal with when dictating this presentation – this to me absolutely is an equality issue and I think it’s really important to point out that the most important beneficiaries of low traffic neighbourhoods when they are done properly never were cyclist in the first place I think we all know that – the real beneficiary comes from actually having peace and quiet on residential neighbourhoods being what they are designed to be.
Needless to say – we mustn’t dismiss the issue that by closing off rat runs, there is always going to be this initial displacement onto the main roads, and I think we should understand that a general and constant traffic noise is a mental health issue just as the occasional rat running car driving at insanely silly speeds and making a ridiculously amount of noise set against the quiet background is.
I should also say that I am trying to differentiate between what I would call traffic anxiety or essentially the mental health impacts of traffic as a public health issue because this really does affect large amounts of people, even if it is generally not documented, and some of the issues which I have to deal with because they are ultimately more personal, but which I cannot detach from this wider problem.
So – literally – there we go, as I dictate this, a car has gone past the window at an apparently reasonable speed and then gone down to the bottom Street and I have just heard multiple beeps. I don’t know who was beeping at who or why, but I know almost for certain that nobody was in any real danger and that the usage of the horn was entirely inappropriate – as it almost always is.
This irritates me because it’s unnecessary – just as I get extremely irritated when the local firecracker exhaust Panzer goes past, but I’m never going to be bothered by buses and trucks, even if I can hear both quite often. Now you might say – well I should still be bothered by trucks because their unnecessary because they might well be carrying really light loads or because they are simply just carrying consumer junk that we don’t need – really, no, I have no idea what each truck is carrying or where it is going and I’m not going to get bothered about that kind of detail, but I do get extremely bothered when one selfish driver has decided to make what I’m sure are illegal modifications that mean their car makes 100 times as much noise as a bus which is probably carrying 20 times as many people.
And I think this is a point that I’m just going to throw out for more discussion because I don’t know how many other people experience this, other than the fact that I do quite often read Twitter threads on similar veins.
In determining eligibility for PIP, the DWP consider that you have a problem with mobility if a typical journey takes 50% or longer when compared to the same person making that journey without a disability, or if you are frequently unable to complete your journey as planned, or if you are simply unable to make your journey at all.
Whilst all of the above apply to me on a day-to-day basis, the legal descriptors make no consideration for the extent to which a sense of stress or exacerbated anger is felt after the completion of each journey, and this is one of the biggest reasons why I cycle so little at the moment.
I know that I might be able to reach places in 20 minutes that will take one hour to walk, and I also know that I can incorporate loops on a cycle journey to the shops that include going through parks and other green space, and I know that many journeys are reasonably stressfree, but I also know that one even relatively minor incident could spark be into a sense of absolute rage that I might not be able to express at the time – other than a few shouts at the driver who is now long since left the scene, such that I then return home absolutely fuming and I don’t even get to put shopping away and frozen food away before ranting for 3 or 4 hours on social media – often in ways which are generally unhelpful.
Therefore as a general rule, if I’m considering a one hour cycle ride, I will always consider that is probably on average going to be at least one hour on top of that, especially of course if I have any videos to look at and possibly report.
I’ve been given very good advice from my consultant which is essentially to try and ignore as much bad driving as I possibly can, and my bath are reporting dangerous driving incidents is now set very deep – the driving has to be so bad that I know with almost certainty that they are going to get prosecuted for the offence, and usually there has to be a large malicious element in the driving, so I’m very unlikely just to report a close pass or someone pulling out carelessly in front of me.
This is also why I am now trying to set aside some time to develop road crime dot org as a portal for reviewing the kind of response to bad driving videos and comparing one police force with another. This is a separate project for which I hope to be able to give a presentation at some stage, but the reasons for doing this are very much because it feels like an offset for all the dangerous driving videos that I’m otherwise not submitting and of course for the fact that I cycle so little anyway.
This is also why I am ultimately somewhat hopeful for the future, even with all the negativity that we are currently having to deal with.
I think a very major leap forward will be this idea that new cars fitted with GPS speed limitations will become like rolling speed humps, and I also think that quite quickly, any driver who makes a decision to override these devices is going to expose themselves to a massively increased chance of being found at fault in any collision, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if insurers will very quickly start threatening to avoid all first party claims if the speed limit is have been bypassed, just as they do if the driver has been over the drink drive limit.
This is far more significant than the much longer term prospect of stage V self driving cars, and it could be a really massive game changer towards the idea of essentially normalising safe driving across the vast majority of the population and finally getting the social disgust that we need towards any aspect of road criminality.
Because I honestly think that if I felt that I could go out on a day-to-day basis knowing that the kind of aggressive behaviour that is almost a certainty when I go out at the moment is far less likely, then I think I would not just be able to cycle again without having to think about it so much, but I would probably also start driving again, and then I would essentially revert back to how I would have probably seen myself prior to 2007 as somebody who is absolutely fanatical about all modes of transport because I’m passionate about cities and about human scale places and because I know we have massive environmental problems to deal with, but ultimately I would be an occasional car driver, a regular train user, someone who was quite happy walking along the time, somebody who may be did or didn’t fly somewhere or take a car ferry once each year, and you know what – yes maybe I’d title 3 times a week but it would just be a nonissue as it always should be.
And to this end – although I think that both safe cycle paths and the conversion of every sidestreet to a safe low traffic neighbourhood are both fundamentally important, I am essentially a cyclist with enough experience that I would personally be able to manage on most roads which had neither of these treatments, if only the council rolled out the 20 mph limits that were promised in 2014, and there were enough drivers who were automatically restricted to this speed such that I didn’t worry about being tail dated every time anyone appeared behind.
Video cameras really aren’t the solution to any road safety problem, other than giving people who experienced direct road crime incidents the assurance that action is being taken.
In purely selfish terms, the most important things to me right now are rapid rollout of 20 mph limits so that they are ready when the first speed limited cars hit the market in no more than about one year from now, and simply any kind of knowledge that road crime policing is taken seriously right across each force – and of course I say that living in Coventry which is in the West Midlands, which is one of the best police forces that we have.
So I need to be careful how I say this – and as I say this – there goes another prat plans – to me personally right now I would say that my priority is actually about 80% policing and speed limits and enforcement and education and new-car technology and 20% infrastructure.
However what we need to do as a whole in order to enable mass cycling is the other way round – 80% infrastructure and 20% enforcement and education. But let’s not forget this difference. In terms of traffic and mental health and in terms of what I think is one of the biggest reasons why most people won’t cycle – it is the very small number of frankly psychopathic drivers who I think are putting people off far more than the much more general problem of traffic noise and air pollution and congestion and so on.
Not only do I think it’s important to make this distinction – because I think in terms of pretty much everything else relating to physical health and the desire to actually cycle and be able to breathe at the same time and of course I post Covid response and actually avoiding where injuries occur most often, then we need to do infrastructure and in particular we need to make sure that the new cycle path we put in have the best possible junctions (as per last week).
All of the data I have seen on cyclist collisions shows that the biggest risk factor comes from junctions and generally from driver carelessness at junctions. However I think by far the biggest fear factor comes from aggressive driving and in particular in my experience it’s nearly always the same thing every time – it is male drivers aged 30 to 50 who are typically driving older German diesels – and this is exactly what I have found every time I’ve looked up the car registration on the DVLA – and these are also very common very commonly the sort of drivers who might shout at you to “pay road tax” when they haven’t actually paid their own VD!
I find it amazing that we have been so good at creating some of the world’s best loved non-road crime dramas, and in fact, the whole concept of criminal investigation could quite possibly be traced back to Sherlock Holmes – yet we simply don’t seem to have any kind of concept whatsoever of looking at the criminal mentality behind what I would call deliberately and consciously dangerous driving – something that is quite different to mere careless negligence which might result in speeding 5 to 10 mph over the limit, which gives so many drivers the temptation to text in traffic (I’m not condoning it am just saying that we all know it happens) and which might result in that bald tyre going for a couple of months before it’s replaced – this is negligence and it might be conscience and of course this all needs to be dealt with, but it is not borne out of malice, and I know from once having to successfully defend a criminal damage charge for moving an obstruction to a pathway, I know that in criminal law we have this concept of mens rea – essentially is the mind made up is the is there an intent to do harm, because I don’t think most drivers think that way for a minute, and I don’t think that most drivers are a problem in terms of what I see as a traffic anxiety issue.
I think there is a small minority – yes we know that according to various surveys around 70% of drivers speed at certain given point and we know that probably at least half drivers half of drivers text during traffic at some point during any given month, but I think it’s only about 20% who would ever do things like tailgate a cyclist or pass very close, and of this, there is a much smaller fraction who will simply beep and harass and read every single time, or who are probably always on their phone where ever they go, or who get drunk and drive home practically every night – and this is a criminal element which needs to be treated with the sort of criminal investigation and dare I say it deductive reasoning that we are so good at both in terms of our fictitious crime dramas but also in terms of how we actually investigate other violent crime violent crimes, and in particular, gruesome though it is, how the UK has one of the best murder clean up rates of any country.
I think that’s enough!
Vehophobia: the fear of driving.
Amaxophobia, ochophobia, motorphobia, or hamaxophobia is an abnormal or persistent fear of being in, or riding in, a vehicle.
Most of the women in the US cause most accidents since many of them tailgate so much when there is no need to do that at all to begin with, and many of them really have a very serious problem which they do this on spite to cause trouble.
Chinese highways are growing busier and busier, leading many to buy SUVs to protect themselves against road rage accidents
A study released by Sanford C. Bernstein today claims that the reason we’ve seen such a surge in SUV purchases in China is large due to an overwhelming fear of road rage. Bloomberg reports that SUV registrations have shot up a mind-blowing 48% just in the first quarter of 2015; in fact, SUV sales account for more than a quarter of all purchases in that time period.
Of course, lower gas prices and crappy roads outside of the most populated Chinese cities are contributing factors to the rise in SUV ownership, but overwhelmingly, it seems people feel safer when behind the wheel of an SUV when a crazy person decides to jump out of his car and try to beat the crap out of them.
Road rage is becoming a very serious problem in China as the number of drivers continues to grow. In the last decade, Chinese drivers have increased ten-fold, and busy traffic and poor road conditions have led to many with low patience to do some crazy, stupid things. In fact, after a viral video surfaced online, showing a driver dragging a woman from her car and kicking her in the face, Chinese officials issued a statement urging drivers to act civilized.
But, because bad boys don’t make it a habit to listen to what officials have to say, it makes sense that these scared drivers are investing in SUVs. They might not offer much more protection from the craziness of the world, but at least drivers are seated a few inches higher.
The News Wheel is a digital auto magazine providing readers with a fresh perspective on the latest car news. We’re located in the heart of America (Dayton, Ohio) and our goal is to deliver an entertaining and informative perspective on what’s trending in the automotive world. See more articles from The News Wheel.
(This relates to a cycle ride from around September 2020)
Last night, I went out cycling for the first time in a few weeks. The last time I cycled anywhere, I went to meet a friend for lunch, and then as I was coming back through the city centre, a BMW driver pulled out from behind the car that was behind me, overtook both of us and then continued at what must have been about 40 mph, charging towards a visually impaired lady who was just crossing over the street on the other side. This was a very rare situation where rather than having a driver endangering me as a cyclist, I was a witness to an extremely inconsiderate piece of driving that caused considerable anxiety to someone else.
I honestly don’t know whether the police will have been able to do anything with the video, because the car was going so fast that the point where it came close to the lady was crossing the street was still some distance away, and as is so often the case, the danger that is very clear for anyone who was there to see didn’t really come across in the video that was recorded. However, in this case, the victim was happy to give me a statement, which was recorded in the same video and then sent to the police for them to decide what to do with it. My gut feeling says that these 2 videos combined might not be sufficient to issue a “notice of intended prosecution”, but because of the unique nature of this situation, that’s not really something that I can tell. However, I mean absolutely no doubt that if this driver ever did get a ticket and if he then contested it in court, then the testimony of 2 witnesses would be more than sufficient to result in a guilty verdict.
So I digress slightly, and that was a few weeks ago, and that was just one example of how running cameras really doesn’t necessarily mean that dangerous drivers will get any action taken against them at all, and even if they do, this offence would still have only got the driver 3 points, when clearly someone who thinks it appropriate to be driving at this speed in a city centre with a 20 mph limit really, as we all know, shouldn’t be driving at all.
Now when I say that I hardly cycle these days, and that I still avoid going out at all more often than not, I should also point out that the sort of anxieties that stop me from cycling aren’t just about having to deal with aggressive bully boy drivers, nor are they even just about the state of the roads and other infrastructure.
An additional reason why it tends to take me several weeks to get back cycling again after a stressful incident is that I just find it so much hassle to get everything ready again. Just consider how easy it is to get in the car and to go and drive somewhere – all you really need is your key or key fob, and then you unlock the door, open it, get inside, switch on the ignition and drive off. It’s all very simple! But even if you are reasonably well organised and even if you don’t run any video cameras, just going round the corner on a bike, especially in autumn and winter still needs bits which actually have to be physically attached to the bike (mainly lights), together with a lock, and maybe a puncture repair kit and similar (I confess that in the end I rarely carry these tools when I’m cycling locally as it’s far easier just to drag the bike back and do the repairs at home), and also as I went out on my mountain bike yesterday, I still need to think about what I’m wearing because trousers can still get shredded in the outer front cog.
Now in addition to all the organisation needed just to get going at all (and this in itself is still in addition to the things I need generally like house keys and wallet and phone and so on), I just won’t go anywhere now unless I’ve got a fully charged camera ready and mounted on both the front and rear of my bike. Yesterday, because I went out on my mountain bike, the rear camera was clipped into the backpack that I was carrying, rather than mounted on the frame – this is far from ideal, but anything to do with cameras isn’t always about ideal, sometimes it’s just about having something.
So finally, about half an hour after deciding that I was at last going to go out and enjoy a bike ride, I set out, both cameras running, on a route which is already quite deliberately selected so that as much of it is possible is going through parks or is on greenways or at the very least is on the quietest roads. The suggestion that anyone would go out cycling and would deliberately be looking for some kind of sense of provocation to me is frankly so bizarre and so ludicrous that it does make me wonder why people even mention it. Sure, if you drive behind me and beeped and tailgate and rev then I’m going to stand my ground, but why anyone thinks that people would honestly go out and seek this kind of situation is frankly beyond me – I do absolutely everything I can to avoid it, but the one thing I can’t avoid is the fact that all the strands of relatively peaceful roads still have to be linked by roads which invariably are not, and typically these roads might well be the sort of street that is busy enough and that might not look that bad to the untrained eye, but that is typically full of the kind of street furniture that always leads to these aggressive situations – in other words the bus stops and traffic islands and side road junctions and all the places with completely inappropriate parking that mean that the only way to maintain any kind of safe position is to ride right in the middle of the lane, in a position that drivers somehow managed to think is actually provoking them!
Anyway, I digress, so yesterday’s route was very much one where I want to avoid any unnecessary aggravation, but also yesterday was a situation where although I encountered quite a few incidents of extremely bad driving, there was nothing that is going to end up on any video that is remotely worth sending into the police. Hence for all this alleged trouble seeking that I have been engaged in just for the act of actually getting on my bike, nobody is going to get a ticket, nobody is going to appear in court, and nobody is even going to get a warning.
So here goes:
Driver one – Cromwell Lane, this is a row did I know is diabolically bad because it’s going gently uphill and it’s extremely narrow, but I still need to ride on the road for a short stretch. It doesn’t matter, it’s not good enough for the bully boy Toyota SUV driver who appears behind me about a minute after I joined the road. He is going left in his clearly indicating left and I’ve clearly turned around because I’ve seen that is indicating left, but of course my own speed is actually quite low, maybe just 10 mph, who knows, I don’t have an on-board computer and I shouldn’t have 2. He still continues right on my tail, but in fairness at least he doesn’t feel the need to beep or rev his engine. No doubt, this is all driving test fail stuff, and I think if I was a police officer doing a close pass exercise then I would pull him over, but this driver would probably just get a warning. This driver clearly need educating, and is also the prime illustration of why we need driving tests to be taken every 10 years, but I very much doubt that tailgating alone would result in a ticket for a due care offence.
Driver 2 – by now, I’ve been for a very muddy mountain bike ride across some footpath’s which are all around the roots of the new HS 2, and let’s just say that that’s another story, but as (yes, footpath, sorry) the footpath emerges onto a farm, there is an S bend in the road, so I can see a stream of cars approaching from the right and I know that another car is approaching from the left. Far better to let this car go past, so then I can at least start with a clear road as I’m turning right. To be absolutely clear – I really don’t want to be on this road at all, and in any other situation I would avoid it completely. It’s a nasty rural rat run, and it would still be nasty even if we had a rural backroad limit of 40 mph, yet of course it could actually quite easily be filtered and made for local access only, but that’s another story. It’s a rat run between business parks on the southern side of Coventry and the town of Kenilworth, and I know this, and given that it’s about 4:30 by now, I absolutely don’t want to be here, but I have no choice.
So within a few seconds of joining this road, driver 2 is coming towards me at a fair speed, and then his car suddenly veers into my path. Now this road is a country lane but it’s wide enough for 2 cars to pass, as long as they both slowdown. It is possible he was moving to avoid a pothole, but I don’t think so. I think he was choosing to be outwardly aggressive, and that he wanted to intimidate. Either way, I start shouting and as his car passes, this time back on the right (left) side of the road, I turn round and it’s quite clear that his numberplate has been deliberately tampered with because it is simply illegible. This driver and his car need to be taken off the road, I mean absolutely no doubt about that, but equally, there is nothing I can do about it. It’s getting dark at this stage and it’s a country road with no ambient light at all, I may be wrong, but I don’t think there’s a street and he was properly approaching at about 40 mph.
I may be wrong but I don’t think that any video camera on the market would get anywhere near capturing a numberplate in this situation – and even if it did, a situation that felt very intimidating to me as I was cycling might look completely innocuous when actually replayed.
Either way, he’s just another driver who needs to be taken off the roads to get away with it.
Just a couple of minutes later, driver for approaches very rapidly from behind, as the beam of light from an approaching car coming round the corner is clearly visible to me, so I make a hand signal which I guess is like signalling to turn right except I’m probably pointing back about 45°. To any even halfway competent driver, it’s extremely obvious that this is not the place to overtake – there’s clearly a car oncoming and the road is narrow and winding at this point.
But as ever, this driver must get in front, and getting front he does. Is it the worst overtaking move ever? No – he completed overtake just in time, and then slams on the brakes to go past the oncoming car. To me this is the clearest possible example of why bicycle camera is on helmet cameras and – cameras are essential safety devices, but again, given the lighting conditions, I’m not even going to look at the video.
This is a press release from June 2017. As is so often the case, the press took no interest at all. But if the council had wanted to introduce one right turn ban in the interests of traffic flow and safety, they would have been all over it. Additional note as this is re-posted in 2021 – unlike LTN’s, there was no consultation on this, whatsoever. Why would there have been?
Freedom of Information Request shows research into bus lane scrappage is completely compromised by lack of reliable evidence.
City transport campaigner James Avery has lambasted Coventry City Council over what he is describing as “fake facts” in terms of the way in which the council is going about abolishing bus lanes in the city.
Following a Freedom of Information request to Coventry City Council and a parallel request to Liverpool City Council, the latter which remains unanswered, the following details have been unearthed about the way in which the council is going about what it calls a “trial”of bus lane removal in the city, when in reality, just one councillor already has full authority to axe every single publicly funded bus lane in the city:
The council was specifically asked about the legality of discussions concerning bus lanes, what information they took from their “study tour” to Liverpool, and which other cities they looked at in order to consider the best ways of managing bus lanes.
The freedom of information request found that:
The council is conducting the bus lane trial without any kind of consultation – no public meetings took place at all before the decision was made, and one year after the council first considered the bus lane axe, no public meeting has taken place to date.
The “fact-finding” trip to Liverpool only considered information from the Labour-controlled city council, and no other sources. Despite the taxpayer funded trip sending no less than 5 representatives from Coventry City Council, not a single person from that group took even one bus ride in the city, there was no attempt to look at the main bus routes during the peak times, and nobody hired a bike in the city to look at the impact of bus lane removal on cycling.
Throughout the process, no other city apart from Liverpool has been looked at.
The council hasn’t looked at a single academic study of bus lane removal.
The impact on cycling isn’t included in any of the assessments.
No assessment whatsoever has been taken of the very severe additional risks which are being imposed on cyclists by being forced to mix with general traffic.
There is no study at all on the air quality impacts of bus lane removal.
Traffic lights are being modified to give buses priority – but this measure is only being implemented on routes which are in the bus lane trial, instead of being implemented citywide, skewing the results.
The council hasn’t taken any legal advice on the impact of bus lane removal in terms of the Equality Act, and in particular on vulnerable road users.
Mr Avery said:
We need to call this bus lane axe out for exactly what it is – a completely politically motivated plan to take Coventry back to the 1970s by removing measures which can actually help make the city move more freely by providing real transport choice, not just in terms of making buses run more smoothly and more reliably, but also because bus lanes provide a relatively safe environment for cyclists when compared with having to mix with other traffic.
I’m in absolutely no doubt that the first set of information is going to show an improvement, because it has been quite deliberately set up to do so.
Bus lane removal might look good at first, but in the long run, it just makes buses slower, so more and more people drive. This impact may occur over a period of several years, yet 2 1/2 years after their bus lane decision, Liverpool still refuse to release any data, despite being legally required to do so. The Labour controlled council in Coventry complains of “austerity” as they rip up a £40m scheme which was only recently installed.
Mr Avery continued:
All we have ever heard from the council is that they view empty spaces between buses as a problem, but they’ve never considered just how much empty space there is in each car, usually at least 3 seats of empty space. During peak times, buses are incredibly efficient users of road space, with one bus carrying as many as 70 or 80 people, but only using the same amount of road space as 2-3 cars.
Nobody would object to a reassessment of bus lane space if there was a particular shift in bus service pattern from one road to the next, or if there was already a reduction in general traffic, but in terms of road space management, the council is just giving up on anything but the private car.
The local plan, which was supposed to encourage transport choice, is just get weaker and weaker, and the council has continuously failed to bring in measures which actually make it easier to walk, cycle or use public transport.
This completely skewed bus lane trial is therefore absolutely an example of Trump style “fake facts”, and it can only make matters worse. As the US pulls out of the Paris climate deal, the actions of Coventry City Councillors who criticise that move are totally hypocritical.
 FOI Request to Liverpool City Council, July 2016. Complaint now with ICO.