In opposition to segregation

“Once allow us to be put on separate roads and there will be an increasing outcry to keep us to those roads and to forbid us access to the ordinary roads of the country.”

Who said that? When did he say it and what was he referring to?

Self Propelled Traffic Association

Opposition from a president of the CTC in 1878 to compulsory cycle paths, perhaps? Wrong.

A complaint from the Self Propelled Traffic Association of 1895? Nope.

Mind-blowingly, it’s by William Joynson-Hicks, writing in the Motor Union’s Journal in 1909. Joynson-Hicks, a Conservative MP petrolhead was Minister for Health, 1923-4 and Home Secretary, 1924-29.

It’s amazing to realise that motorists once had the same fears as cyclists today; that they’d be shunted off to a hinterland, segregated from other road users.

Who Pays For Britain's Roads?

The Joynson-Hicks quote – and many other little nuggets of history – has come from my researches for I’m working on a timeline of road funding, starting with the Roads Improvement Association, an organisation founded in 1886 by the Cyclists’ Touring Club and the National Cyclists’ Union.

The RIA wanted Britain’s dusty roads to be sealed with tarmac. The organisation pamphleted MPs and presented a strong case from “cads on casters” (the Lycra Lout equivalent of the late 19 Century, a reference to cyclists coined by uppercrust horse-riders) but the issue wasn’t taken seriously until adopted by the nascent ‘automobilism’ lobby.

Part of this lobby was the Self Propelled Traffic Association. It wasn’t self propelled in the sense we know today, it was in the sense of propelled by an engine, not a horse. A prominent cyclist sat on the SPTA’s council: E. R Shipton, secretary of the Cyclists’ Touring Club.

The SPTA was one of the organisations later to merge into the Automobile Association (AA), founded in 1905.

Edmund King, the AA’s current president is a cyclist: he often tweets about rides on his Whyte MTB.

Cycling also shares some history with the AA. In effect, the organisation was helped into existence by cyclists. In March 1905 a fellow called Walter Gibbons wrote to Autocar magazine suggesting a Motorists’ Protection Association for the Prevention of Police Traps. Two other motorists replied saying arrangements had been made to patrol the Brighton road to warn motorists of said police traps. The first patrols went out in April 1905. Guess what they used as patrol vehicles? Yep, bicycles.

Within months, this informal arrangement of a “special staff of cyclists” was formalised into an organisation and it appointed a full-time secretary: it was called the Automobile Association.

‘Road tax’ video to turn petrolheads


No bicycles. No mention that cyclists have every right to be on roads (not) paid for by motorists. Just footage of a rather famous pre-1973 motorcar, as used in a movie and a TV advert.

[iTunes link for getting Chitty road tax video on iPods and iPhones].

‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ is one of the world’s most loved movies and is a lead-in to the video below. There’s then a critique of the DVLA’s 2002 TV advert for ‘road tax’, which used the original GEN11-registered car from the movie. Earlier DVLA TV ads for ‘road tax’ (grrrrr!) said ‘pay your road tax’. However, pre-1973 cars merely have to display a tax disc, they don’t pay for it. Ditto, today, for low CO2 Band A cars. So, the 2002 advert said ‘get your road tax’, perhaps a nod to the fact that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang didn’t have to pay car tax.

The car was built in 1967 and modelled to look like a 1920s car.

Nowadays, the DVLA’s TV adverts call VED by its most descriptive name: car tax. Hopefully there will be no backsliding to the days when Parker from the Thunderbirds could have his strings cut for “not paying road tax.”

DRIVERS: slow down to save £440 a year (and kill fewer cyclists & pedestrians)

If only VizTopTips would do a section on spoof tips for motorists.

PETROLHEADS: Drive like your grandmother, not a hooligan. Over the year you’ll save enough money to buy an even louder and more annoying sound-system.

In all probability, the ‘save dosh’ tack would likely have more societal impact than the ‘slow down’ tack.

A 2008 poll on reported that, because of the credit crunch and petrol price hikes, 21 percent of the 6055 who completed the online poll were driving “less aggressively/more efficiently.” 12 percent were driving less.

Petrol to soar Daily Express

Drivers who rev away from traffic lights and try to make tiny gains are not just rude and dumb, they’re also wasting lots of money. If it was pointed out to them that driving less aggressively could actually save them hundreds of pounds a year this might have a more dramatic effect on car speeds than any amount of ‘speed kills’ promotions.

The average motoring citizen in the UK doesn’t give a stuff about the safety of pedestrians or cyclists. The trend towards more and more aggressive driving is not from just ‘Boy Racers’ but yummy mummies in their SUVs and nurses rushing to work.

Of course, motorists will continue to drive unthinkingly fast on city streets and the Government won’t create a publicity campaign explaining how efficient driving is a big money saver could be a real winner.

Cheaperior is a HUGE website. It has 7 million unique visitors a month. Site owner Martin Lewis gets his many staff to send out a weekly email to 3+ million signed-up recipients. Most of the readers are Daily Mail types (just 1 percent read the Financial Times). Some already admit to being slow and careful “grand-dad drivers” but with such a massive readership, Lewis’ advice on driving more efficiently could be making more motorists slow down, improving safety for vulnerable roads users.

In this poll Lewis asked: “Have high fuel costs changed the way you drive?”

The price of petrol is at a record high. There are three main ways to cut the cost of fuel; you can drive more efficiently, up your car/van/bike’s efficiency via decluttering and other tricks, and use comparison sites to find cheaper fuel. Which of the following best describes changes you’ve made in the last two years?

The answers were: (emphasis my own)

I use the car less. 13%
I drive less aggressively/more efficiently: 21%
I’ve decluttered the car/made it more efficient. 1%
I use the car less AND drive less aggressively. 12% (this is an interesting stat!)
I drive less aggressively AND have decluttered the car. 6%
I use the car less AND have decluttered it. 3%
All the methods above. 13%
I don’t drive. 5%
I got rid of my car. 3%
I made all these changes more than two years ago. 6%
I’ve not changed at all. 17% (dimwits)

Sadly there was no answer ‘I now use my bicycle as well as my car.’

Lewis has written earlier stories on more efficient driving.

It’s possible to drive the same distance in the same time, yet use considerably less fuel. It’s simply about driving more smoothly to boost your fuel efficiency.

Accelerate gradually without over-revving. Speed up smoothly; when you press harder on the pedal more fuel flows, but you could get to the same speed using much less power – a good rule is to stay under 3,000 revs.

Think about road position. To do all this takes road awareness, so the more alert you are, the better you can plan ahead and move gradually.

In many ways this all comes down to one little rule of thumb…

Every time you put your foot on the accelerator, remember the harder you press the more fuel you spend.”

Read it and weep

Check the calendar. It’s NOT April 1st. The comments below from a former roads minister in Australia defy belief.

Carl Scully – now, thankfully, out of Government so out of harm’s way – was roads minister in New South Wales from 1996 to 2005. In a frank, forthright – and frightening – article in the motoring section of The Age newspaper he has become an overnight sensation. Are his views on cycling shared by other high-ups around the world? Is this how many policy makers, who say they want to promote cycling, really feel about it?

Amazingly, Scully puts it print what many ‘vehicular cyclists’ have long feared: that building cycle lanes isn’t for benefit of cyclists, it’s an excuse to get cyclists off the road (perhaps all roads), out of the way of cars, which could then be allowed to travel faster.

Scully also flags his ignorance by introducing the old chestnut about cyclists “not paying for roads,” probably the most used and abused anti-cyclist argument there is, and which, of course, is false because roads are paid for out of general taxation, and cyclists pay tax.

Cyclists do not have the same rights as motorists on roads

Despite a massive increase in funding, policy and delivery, the bicycle lobby groups remained at best sceptical, and at worst disappointingly hostile.

Perhaps this was because I made it quite clear that I believed riding a bike on a road was profoundly unsafe and that where I could I would shift them to off road cycle ways.

No one would suggest it is safe for pedestrians to be on the roadway, so why should it be any different if a pedestrian gets on a bike?

While individuals do take all sorts of risk voluntarily every day, either by necessity, or for the thrill of it, the road is quite a different environment.

The claim put to me often by cycling lobby groups, “that bicycles are non-motorised vehicular transport and have as much right to be on the road as any other vehicle”, was a claim I rejected firmly every time.

In rejecting the “we have a right to be on the road” mentality of cyclists and their lobby groups, I also took a measured and balanced policy position on how best to separate bicycles and vehicles from our roads over time.

Shifting cyclists off our roads or even banning them was neither fair nor entirely possible without providing off-road alternatives. I made a decision that all future major road infrastructure would be built with off-road cycle ways.

Without infrastructure alternative for cyclists, it may be necessary to regulate the manner and time in which they may use our roads.

But, the lone cyclist travelling in the middle of a vehicle lane at morning or evening peak hours is not only unsafe for the cyclist, but is often quite unsafe for motorists as they weave around them.

I would be happy to see a ban during morning and evening peak times. Time-of-day cycling would ensure that our roads during peak periods are for the sole use of vehicles and not for the use of cyclists.

Cyclists are unlikely to be happy being regulated to time-of-day cycling or to footpaths and off-road facilities.

But, before rejecting this option out of hand, they should consider not only how unsafe it is to be sharing the roadway with vehicles, but also acknowledge that it is motorists who pay fuel levies, tolls, registration and licence fees, as well as the huge cost of buying and running a motor vehicle.

Apart from a negligible amount of GST on their equipment, cyclists pay nothing towards the cost of the roads they wish to use and rely on motorists to fund most of the cost of cycling infrastructure.

Being more aware of this may make more cyclists a little more sensitive to the needs of the motoring public.

Avoiding Godwin’s Law
Scully won’t know this, but his views on getting cyclists off the roads has a long and inglorious history. Cycle campaigner John Franklin has a great online history of the cycle path; he shows that cycle path construction has often been financed – and certainly promoted – by the auto lobby.

Scully would no doubt be proud of such initiatives. He might be less enamoured of the other great promoters of compulsory use of cycle paths: the Nazi party. According to Godwin’s Law, to cite Nazis in a web story is tantamount to losing the debate but there’s a genuine reason for citing them in this case.

Franklin bases part of his history of cycle paths on ‘From Cycling Lanes to Compulsory Bike Path: Bicycle Path Construction in Germany, 1897 – 1940, Volker Briese, The 5th International Cycle History Conference, Cambridge, 1994.’

1920: Quote from first Dutch Roads Congress: “After all, the construction of bicycle paths along the larger roads relieves traffic along these roads of an extremely bothersome element: the cyclist.”

1920s: Mass construction of cycle tracks in Germany. Motive: to remove disturbances in the fast flow of motor vehicles caused by cyclists. Propaganda cited paths as pro-cyclist, and first use made of ‘safety’ argument to get cyclists to use them. Many arguments between police and cyclists, the latter prefering to use the newly tarmaced roads.

1926:Cycle tracks made compulsory for cyclists in Germany.

1934: New German legal instruments to address “the problem of disciplining cyclists” who did not use cycle tracks. Bicycle associations outlawed by Nazi regime.

WWII: Use of cycle tracks made compulsory in Netherlands, under Nazi occupation.

‘Black box’ video cameras should be fitted to all motor vehicles

Hopefully, the day will come when all cars, vans, and trucks are fitted with ‘Total Event Data Recording’ cameras. Footage of driving is looped over and over on SD cards: when there’s a smash the driver has to hand over the SD card. Sometimes the driver will be exhonerated. Other times the fault will be plain for all to see.

In the US, SmartCam is used by fleet operators to improve driver behaviour. With a forward-facing camera and one trained on the driver, every little transgression is recorded. Busted drivers have to take part in an education program. There must be lots of teachers on that program…

Interestingly, SmartCam is also used by families (rightly) worried about teen drivers. Watch this video for a whole series of roadside transgressions by teens: applying make-up, not paying attention, falling asleep, texting, and just being plain stupid.

DriveCam costs $1000 a year per vehicle. Not cheap. New to the UK are in-car cameras from Roadhawk and Smart Witness Journey Recorder. At about £300 these cameras are not much more expensive than a satnav and could help genuinely good drivers prove how good they are on the road. But, for 99 percent of the population, there would be a general fear that such a camera would capture normal driving, ie bad driving.

Here’s a video from a Roadhawk user who found out that his car had been taken for a spin – a 125mph spin – by the garage that was meant to be fixing a radiator leak:

Dunno, but who do you think caused this crash?

The camera company said: “Watch as car comes out and crashes into another. Luckily the driver had the Car Camera Recorder so (s)he will have evidence for the insurance companies.”

The camera company seems to be ignoring the needless acceleration and the fact a shunt from the rear is generally considered to be the fault of the car behind not in front.

Incidentally, on an earlier posting I mentioned the merits of using bike-cams for commuting.

Video naughty drivers

Bike Cam Commute from on Vimeo.

There are a ton of ‘here’s my commute’ helmet-cam videos on YouTube. Some feature extreme examples of SMIDSY, sorry-mate-I-didn’t-see-you. If your commute is often spiced up with bad driving, consider fitting a small video camera. It’s what I did in the video above (also available on YouTube).

Of course, fitting a camera on your handlebars won’t capture the moment when some texting idjit hits you from behind but, for those with seeing-red problems, riding with a bike-cam may just calm you down. You can stay serene behind the lens, surreptitiously filming the rants and raves of the apoplectic motorist you’ve just dared to impugn.

SMIDSY from on Vimeo.

Even with this many LEDs, there will still be the driver that knocks you down and says: “Sorry, mate, I didn’t see you.”

Motoring texters need to be shamed, like drunk drivers

Driving while distracted with cellphone

I grabbed the shot above in London last year. Seeing drivers chatting on their phones is not unusual. It’s a deplorable, dangerous practice that impairs concentration. Perhaps worse, though, is the act of texting while driving. This requires both lack of concentration and an eyes-down technique that has death written all over it. Sadly, the death is usually of some unwitting person who comes into the path of the driving texter, as has been shown in numerous death-by-texting ‘accidents’ over recent years.

The other day – while a passenger in a car – I witnessed a driver texting on the M1. He was on the inside lane, no doubt going a little slower than usual for “safety”. As we drew parallel to him I could see him fiddling with his phone, looking down at the keyboard and screen, and bobbing eyes-front now and again to make sure he was roughly in the same lane he was in before he started texting.

As we were overtaking (I asked my wife to get well away from such a dangerous driver) I didn’t have time to take a photograph. Anyway, had I done so he might have wobbled and crashed; or chased after us to show his displeasure at being caught on camera.

Such unthinking morons text away from motorways, too. They kill. Texting while driving is not yet as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, but the sooner it is, the better.

I’m no huge fan of the No 10 Downing Street petition site. It’s toothless (Gordon Brown has not resigned, despite a popular request asking him to) and more of a diversion than a tool for democratic change. But it’s a focal point for campaigners and can bring out the best in their prose.

Allan Ramsey, for instance, has penned some of his best stuff thanks to his ‘mobile menace’ petition. It’s now got 1100+ signatories, a far cry from the tens of thousands of petrolheads who have signed a petition asking for speed limits not to be dropped.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to introduce driving ban and phone confiscation, if not car confiscation, for drivers caught using/holding mobile phone – potentially lethal weapon.

Ramsey campaigns for Roadpeace and is an inveterate letter writer, getting his views published in numerous local newspapers and cycle magazines. He also emails bike editors like myself. Part of his latest email is carried below. Whatever you think of his tactics, he talks a lot of sense.

Since reading the story about Leigh [Dolby’s] death, I have been deeply troubled.  But then which cyclist wouldn’t have been?

Leigh was a very experienced, capable and responsible cyclist. On August 30, 2007, Leigh’s life came to an abrupt, a tragic, an undignified and senseless end.  While training for a 225 mile charity ride, which he’d planned to celebrate his 55th birthday just two days later, he was hit from behind by a driver.  Why?  Was it because his killer was otherwise engaged – composing and texting trivial-trash on his hand-held mobile phone?

Instead of looking at the road ahead, as one is supposed to do by law, especially when driving at a speed which can kill, which basically amounts to any speed,  was Leigh’s killer looking down towards his knees, trying to focus on a tiny little screen and composing useless information by pressing tiny little buttons?

Despite admitting to driving dangerously, Thomas Duffield was found guilty of the much lesser crime of causing death by careless driving, and was subsequently sentenced to just 12-months in jail.  To make matters worse, when Leigh’s family appealed that the sentence was too lenient, the Lord Chief Justice in his wisdom ruled:  Not at all!

When Labour peer Lord Ahmed was involved in a fatal collision not too long ago, the judge ruled that although the records showed he had been texting in the moments just prior to the collision, because it couldn’t be proved that he was actually texting at the moment of impact, the incident could not be considered to be one of causing death by dangerous driving.  Consequently, Lord Ahmed was found guilty of just dangerous driving – no death to answer to – and [not] jailed accordingly.  

However, he instantly appealed against the decision, and after serving just 16 days of a very lenient 12 weeks, he was released – with a huge smile on his face.  Not so the family of his 28-year-old victim.  Isn’t life in the UK dirt cheap?

Now though, new sentencing guidelines are calling on judges to consider up to seven years jail for drivers causing death by texting.  What we really need are much tougher sentences for drivers who simply just use a mobile phone, in fact, even just holding one whilst driving is dangerous.

Anyone who is as troubled and as fearful as I am about drivers who ignore the mobile phone ban, and would like to see the current £60 fine and three penalty points replaced by phone and car confiscation (so that innocent lives aren’t confiscated) plus a driving ban, (as with drink driving), then they should petition on-line.

“Ha-ha, biking Boris nearly got boinked”

The now famous incident of London Mayor Boris Johnson nearly being killed by a stupid truck driver (famous to cyclists, anyway…we’re spreading it virally as a There But for The Grace of God Go I parable) is bound to featured on this week’s comedy news quiz Have I Got News For You.

Because it’s Boris, the video will be played for laughs but, of course, the criminal actions of the truck driver – trying to squeeze past a group of cyclists on a bend, over speed bumps and with too little space to overtake safely – will be a reason for mirth, not condemnation.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the truck driver may face some sort of sanction. His crime? Being caught. On camera. These sort of ‘accidents’, sadly, are not rare but it’s unusual for there to be a celeb involved and unusual for the CCTV footage to be made public so quickly.

Andrea at wants the truck driver to be banned from driving in London and for the video above to be sent to all haulage companies as a warning: ‘[I’d] send an email to all companies who employ lorry drivers, and tell them: “Drive like this and we will impound your fleet.”’

@karlOnSea calls the incident an “assassination attempt.”

Karl also points out the tousle-haired one was wearing a bike helmet, not something he’s noted for. In a spirit of helmet-wearing safety, here’s my video of a game you could once place online thanks to the UK’s Department for Transport.

Following complaints, the game has now been culled. Complaints? What’s the world coming to when you can’t hit kiddie heads with a mallet?

Colchester’s Mr Angry: please don’t explode

No Cycling sign in London park; cyclist ignoring

Over on I answer a load of queries sent in to the site. Most are either too banal or too localised to be worth broadcasting. Everybody gets a personal reply but some of the questions are of general interest. These get posted to the FAQ section – with an answer – for all to see.

Generally, the questions are from new cyclists, worried parents or returnees to the fold. Sometimes the questions are from non-cyclists and these tend to be more strident. One came in earlier today. I answered it at length. J Clift of Colchester (who I assumed is a Mr.) really doesn’t like people cycling on pavements [US=sidewalks]. I don’t either. It bugs me when I see adults riding on what are clearly footpaths. But I know why those adults are not riding on the road.

See if you agree with what I wrote to Mr Clift.

Q: “I am somewhat angered these days by the amount of people who ride on pavements, young and old, and no-one in authority seems to care or be about to stop this. The public just seem to think they can do this because there are no effective actions to stop them. I just grow angrier and madder by the day. Sometimes I have suggested to the riders they are illegally riding but I fear for my safety! What can I do before I explode?!”

No Cycling

A: Cycling on the pavement is illegal and cyclists can be fined £30 on the spot (and often are).

But, just as motorists routinely break traffic laws (running red lights, driving in bus lanes, habitually speeding, driving while talking on mobile phones), sadly, some cyclists also break the law and cycle on pavements (i.e. footways).

Sometimes this is ignorance of the law. Other times it’s laziness. Often it’s due to confusing local authority cycle facilities: many pavements have been designated as cycle paths and yet, just a little further on, the very same stretch of ‘cycle path’ reverts to being pedestrian only.

Mostly, however, it’s out of fear of motorised traffic. Not that cycling on the pavement is necessarily safer than being on the road. Sometimes motorists mount footways and kill people. For instance, on Friday, a pregnant woman in Carlisle was killed by a dangerous driver who hit the woman while she was walking on a footway.

Rest assured, all the official advice from cycle organisations is for cyclists not to ride on footways. has a page all about ‘cycling and the law’, where cyclists’ rights and responsibilities are spelled out in no uncertain terms.

This article leads with the ‘cycling on pavements’ issue. A bike shop in York also has a Stop At Red campaign aimed at cyclists who run lights. I don’t know of any motoring organisation that has a similar single-issue campaign aimed at stopping motorists committing the same offence.

Many motorists also routinely park on footways, a dangerous practice for passing pedestrians, wheelchair users and pushchair pushers. It’s also very damaging to pavement slabs; costly for councils to repair.

In an ideal world, no cyclists, drivers or pedestrians would break the law: but we don’t live in an ideal world. By all means campaign against cyclists using footpaths but perhaps there are mitigating circumstances on some of the footpaths in your local area (speeding motorists, poor signage of where cycle paths start and finish etc)?

If the majority of those you see cycling on footways are youths in hoodies, ask your local police to take some action. Maybe they’ll send out some bike bobbies to nab the worst offenders? A few FPNs (fixed penalty notices of £30) might reduce the problem.

Looking on the positive side, it’s probably better to meet a hooded youth cycling on a pavement than meeting the same youth acting illegally in a car. Cyclists riding on footways are wrong and irritating; they’re very rarely life-threatening.

Don’t explode. Take up the footway cycling issue with your local council. Consider widening your campaign to include complaints against all forms of anti-social transport behaviour. In fact, if your local streets were made safer for cycling, there would likely be less need for cyclists to ride on footways.

Cars are heavy, fast and potentially lethal to flesh-and-blood cyclists and pedestrians. If your area saw dramatic reductions in car speeds, I’d warrant you’d see a dramatic reduction in traffic violations by cyclists.

Driving while distracted with cellphone