On getting cycle space

There’s an advertising campaign going on around here. It is just a Scottish thing. I’ve seen some adverts on the back of buses, but the film I’ve only seen online. It isn’t bad, I think. It is better than the Nice Way Code, anyway, even if we would rather the money was spent on building cycle lanes (what length of cycle lane do you get for the cost of one advertising campaign?), or even on campaigning for proper, segregated cycle lanes. “If I can touch your car, you are driving too close to me”, is not a bad rule of thumb. Of course there are subtleties – one is “unless I have chosen to put myself in that position” (there being a difference between filtering through stationary traffic, when I am in control of what is happening, and being close passed by a vehicle doing 60mph, when I am not). I know that campaigns for minimum passing distances talk about 3 feet or even more, which is more than arm’s length, but arm’s length is at least a start.

So I thought I would have a play with the whole arm’s length idea. When I’ve been moving out to pass a parked vehicle, instead of stopping signalling once I am out, I’ve kept my arm out if I don’t want someone to pass me there. If I am going through pinch points, or there’s oncoming traffic such that I don’t want to be overtaken, I’ll stick my arm out. This makes me look bigger, I think, and is probably a bit confusing as it will look as though I want to turn right. I don’t mind confusing motorists, though, at least they are looking at me… I don’t know how much difference it has made – I did got hooted at by the driver of some massive coach, but if they thought that there was space to overtake me then they were wrong and my signal worked!

You can’t control traffic with arm signals alone, though, as I was reminded to my cost the other evening. I was heading up South Charlotte Street to get to the George Street cycle lane. South Charlotte Street is wide, slightly uphill, and has a shocking surface. There wasn’t anything behind me as the lights changed, so I set off, and suddenly a whole pile of traffic came flying up behind me. I was just too far to the right of the right-hand lane, and got a bunch of close passes at what felt like over 30mph. (Bring on 20mph speed limits…) And the Powers That Be wonder why there aren’t that many cyclists in the George Street lanes, when you need nerves of steel to get to them?

On the Women’s Cycle Forum

The other week I went to the Women’s Cycle Forum, part of the excellent Edinburgh Festival of Cycling (EdFoC). I really enjoyed last year’s, so I was looking forward to this one. I really liked the fact that the 2 main speakers were not actually cycle campaigners, but women from successful campaigns in other areas – “No More Page Three” and “Playing Out“. The No More Page Three woman was particularly interesting and did a good job of talking about the lessons she’d learned that could be applied to other campaigns. “Playing Out” was also interesting; it is a very different kind of thing to No More Page Three in that it is an ongoing happening rather than a single-issue campaign. I really enjoy this blog which is (partly) about a play street in London.

Once we’d heard the two main speakers we divided into groups and this is where I think I made the wrong choice. I joined the group lead by Katja Leyendecker who is the leader of the Newcastle Cycling Campaign. I grew up near Newcastle and enjoy Katja’s blog so I was interested to meet her. Unfortunately the discussion in the group all got a bit technical for me and I didn’t feel there was much I could contribute (or do with what I learned); in retrospect I think I should have gone to the group about women in cycle campaigning. Anyway at the end of all the discussion we came out with the Build A Better World Bingo card. Which is nice, and fun as well as serious, but leaves me feeling like I don’t really know where to start. I mean, I merrily take the lane on a 40mph road with pinch points, and mostly avoid routes away from roads because then I have to slow down for pedestrians and dogs so in some ways I don’t need change for me. And yet; I do use some shared paths rather than mix with traffic, and I dislike having to deal with big trucks, and I know that just because I have learned to have a brass neck for my own safety, it doesn’t mean that most people are content to be shouted at just because the learner driver took their time overtaking me; so there are things I would like to change. And of course most people don’t see cycling as a viable or sensible way of getting around at all. That doesn’t give me any good ideas about what I can do to change things. Maybe I just need to pick something small and do it.