Streets at war: Cyclists… lorries… and… pedestrians

October 5, 2013 23:33 1 comment

With the economic crisis more cyclists have taken to the road and conflicts have intensified between the three groups of road users. Politicians and user groups are dealing with different historical legacies in the UK, Spain, and Portugal. Could the Dutch tradition of bringing motorists and cyclists together be the way forward?

 

 

La guerra de las calles5Graham Douglas

 

Cycling in cities has become more popular in recent years, accelerated by the search for cheaper transport since the beginning of the economic crisis in Europe.

This was the case in Britain in the post-war period, for the same reasons, but since the 1970’s car use has increased enormously forcing cyclists into smaller and smaller spaces.

La guerra de las calles2The pressure of numbers has brought out the underlying problems resulting from limited space in cities. Too many cyclists have died in London, crushed by lorries turning left at traffic lights, and it is partly this fear that has encouraged cyclists to use the pavement and to run red lights.

But both of these responses bring them – often literally – into collision with pedestrians.

I was left with a bleeding hand once in Brighton when a cyclist – with no bell – ran into me as she tried to ride across the road among a group of pedestrians, and of course cyclists are usually neither insured nor are bikes registered with number plates.

La guerra de las calles3And it is an everyday occurrence in London for pedestrians to be shouted at by cyclists ignoring traffic lights at crossings. All these things fuel a culture of hostility between cyclists and motorists.

The Prisma contacted cycling and motoring organisations in the UK, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands to find out what issues are most important and what is being done about them.

 

la Guerra de las calles12In Portugal…

…the Highway Code has recently been changed to permit cyclists to ride two abreast in bus lanes, and to require motorists to keep at least 1.5 metres away when passing them, something which is almost impossible on narrower roads. The response from the Portuguese Automobile Club was to say that this ‘privilege’ should be paid for by obliging cyclists to take out 3rd party insurance. A suggestion met with ridicule by many cyclists.

Mario Alves of the Portuguese cycling organization MUBi also considers it unrealistic and unworkable, and notes that the danger from accidents involving motorists is much greater, in a country where there are 5,000 accidents annually involving uninsured cars and 50,000 vehicles without a current annual safety certificate.

La guerra de las calles6MUBi also point out that cycling on pavements is illegal in Portugal except where there is a marked cycle track, and that doing so often puts cyclists in more danger than on the roads, due to the large number of obstructions and garage exits on pavements.

MUBi’s attitude to pedestrian complaints is sympathetic, agreeing with a correspondent who described it as ‘terrorism’, putting children especially at risk, and suggest that one improvement might be if the present Fundo Garantia Automovel, which covers accidents involving uninsured vehicles were extended to include uninsured cyclists.

They have also succeeded in getting the Lisbon Town Council to stop putting cycle lanes on pavements and to move existing ones onto the road.

 

La guerra de las calles4In Spain…

…the current issue concerns the government’s attempt to make cyclists wear helmets, which might seem like a sensible suggestion from the point of view of public health and safety.

However John Rawlins of the cycling organization ConBici refers to the World Health Organization view that the risk due to cyclists not wearing helmets is far outweighed by the health benefits of cycling.

ConBici also suspect that the idea of cyclists being obliged to be insured is driven by a marketing push from insurance companies. ConBici lobbying has almost certainly defeated the compulsory introduction of helmets for all cyclists, but they will be required for children.

La guerra de las calles8Responding to other questions, Rawlins says that deaths caused by lorries are much less of a problem, because they are mostly banned from entering Spanish cities, while the issues of cycle tracks on pavements are similar to Portugal, and ConBici is campaigning to have them moved onto the road.

As in the UK, theft of bikes is a problem which puts many people off from cycling, although it can be seen as a reason for cyclists to insure themselves.

 

La bicicleta como medio de protesta6In the UK…

I contacted both of the main motoring organizations, the Cyclists Touring Club and the London Cycling Campaign, none of whom replied. In pleasant contrast was the detailed response I received from Neil Greig at the Institute of Advanced Motoring, whose website dedicates a space to cyclists.

Regarding cycle tracks, the IAM view – in contrast to those of ConBici and MUBi – is that cycle tracks should be moved onto the pavements, as long as they are clearly marked.

They argue that the greatest danger to cyclists comes from motorists, so the two need to be separated, but acknowledge that even in Holland, where cycling is best established, it took decades to develop the infrastructure of cycle tracks and secure bike sheds.

la-bicicleta-como-opcion-51In their policy briefing they point to the need for large vehicles to be fitted with effective mirrors, and for the expansion of innovative schemes where roads give equal priority to drivers and cyclists at a speed limit of 20 mph.

Besides that, the IAM does not believe in obligatory insurance or the compulsory wearing of helmets, but places a lot of emphasis on improved training for cyclists and motorists, something with which both MUBi and ConBici agreed.

IAM believes that training for cyclists should be available from more local authorities and employers, and included in the National Curriculum in schools.

Another suggestion was the introduction of dedicated traffic lights at busy junctions, but current UK law does not allow the necessary lower-level lights.

In the UK press, cycling organizations have welcomed the efforts of the Greater London Authority to improve cycling safety, while criticizing many politicians outside London for their lack of interest beyond speech-making.

 

La guerra de las calles7In the Netherlands…

…the main cycling organization, the ANWB (Royal Dutch Automobile Club), is probably unique in representing both cyclists and motorists, and illustrates how the history of cycling in different countries continues to determine the problems, or lack of them, that exist today.

Founded in 1883 it has 3.9 million members in a population of only 17 million. By 1890 it was already advocating cycle paths, and began building them, even having its own steamroller for the purpose.

In 1896 it was established to the extent of offering insurance to cyclists and providing first aid and tool boxes at hotels and other locations.

La guerra de las calles9In 1900 it became a tourist organization for both motorists and cyclists, soon supervising the quality control of petrol sold to motorists, and contributing to the relaxing of speed limits on cycles.

The first Dutch motorways were built in 1934, incorporating parallel cycle paths, and traffic regulation in cities has always required safe provisions for all road users.

Nowadays most new bikes in Holland are sold with certified locks and theft insurance.

La guerra de las calles10In the 1990’s generous government funding supported the provision of new cycle paths, of which there are now 35,000 km in this small country, while other changes included reducing the vehicle speed limit in cities to 30Km per hour, and re-introducing the universal rule of precedence to traffic from the right – which has also just happened in Portugal.

Despite all these positives the increased numbers of cyclists has recently led to more accidents on cycle paths, something the ANWB is addressing with a more stable bike design: the Life Cycle.

 

Peace on the Roads?  While the rights and territories of the three groups are still being hammered out the best advice is: “Be aware – or beware”.

Share it / Compartir:

1 Comment

Leave a Reply


*



The Prisma News

  • Culture, Visual Arts Van Gogh: fury, genius and pain

    Van Gogh: fury, genius and pain

    The certainty that Montmajour at Sunset was painted by the Dutchman Vincent Van Gogh Dutch revives the madness that the unique viewpoint of this artistic genius always produces.    Frade Ibis Brito   In fact, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has announced to the world the discovery of this new work...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Listings, Multiculture, Music, Our People Willy Claure, on Cueca rhythm

    Willy Claure, on Cueca rhythm

    On Tuesday the 24th of March the Bolivian guitarist and composer will give his first UK concert at the Bolivar Hall in London.   With a career lasting more than 30 years, Claure is one of the most outstanding guitarists in modern-day Bolivia. His repertoire is essentially based on popular, traditional...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus Democracies

    Democracies

    In principle, the term “democracy” implies that the people (demos) are in power (kratos) and thus, that they participate.   Mabel Encinas   However, by contrast with participatory democracies, in representative democracies, we need to ask ourselves whom the government represents and who the...

    Read more →
  • Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus Urban revolution now

    Urban revolution now

    On Tuesday I was invited to a book launch organised by the Urban Hub at University College London. The book was Urban Revolution Now: Henri Lefebvre in Urban Research and Architecture.   Steve Latham   Edited by academics Łukasz Stanek, Christian Schmid, and Ákos Moravánszky, the book was a...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus Woman is asserting herself, so they are killing her

    Woman is asserting herself, so they are killing her

    On International Women’s Day, the statistics did not record a single man being killed at the hands of his female companions, as if being manly was just a matter of violence.   Armando Orozco Tovar   On this day women trotted, ran, climbed and walked in big gatherings around the world, less so in...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Lifestyle, Ludotheque, Music Music and drugs: a friendship that goes back a long way

    Music and drugs: a friendship that goes back a long way

    Music and drugs, drugs and music, they seem to go hand in hand. History has left us many examples of the degradation an artist or a group can suffer when they decide to bring the two together.     Miriam Cantalapiedra Barrocal   The fusion of music and drugs has its own history, which goes back...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Listings, Screen Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2015

    Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2015

        The 19th edition of this event will be held from the 18th to the 27th of March, where among other films shown there will be five set in Latin America.   The international organisation Human Rights Watch will present this edition of the event, which will include 16 documentaries and feature...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Listings, Multiculture, Our People, Visual Arts Malika Sqalli: home and identity

    Malika Sqalli: home and identity

    A journey within. This is the message of a group of photographs showing the different stages in the life of artist Malika Sqalli and her work, and will be exhibited at the Arab British Centre from the 17th to the 27th of March.   Photos by Malika Sqalli   This is a solo exhibition in London...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Globe, Latin America, Lifestyle, Music, Okology Latin America by birdsong

    Latin America by birdsong

      From the sounds of species in danger of extinction, various Latin American artists have come together to create original songs and make a record.   A Guide to the Birdsong of South America is the name of the project, which has the aim of exposing the dangerous situation suffered by these animals. Around...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus The man of the flame

    The man of the flame

    Who will have a photo of him? There is the one of the iconic guerilla hero taken in Havana by Korda, with a fortunate shot of his camera. But who made a portrait of Oscar Gil? Or who wrote about his short life? Because when they killed him he hadn’t reached 30.   Armando Orozco Tovar   This is...

    Read more →
  • Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus Immigrant music

    Immigrant music

    I met her on a Friday night. She was helping at a youth project in inner London, to which she had been invited by a mutual friend who was a youth worker.   Steve Latham   She ran some ice-breaker games with games to loosen the kids up, for the first session of a new club promoting performing arts...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Human Rights, On Stage, Politiks The Grandson… Argentina and its’ missing people

    The Grandson… Argentina and its’ missing people

    The Theatre for Identity “Teatro x la Identidad”, a movement that for 15 years has seen actors, directors and people from the theatrical world bring the message of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to the stage, returning to The Calder Bookshop and Theatre, this time with the stage play “The...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus Women!

    Women!

    People say sometimes the first thing that comes to their minds (we all do, I guess; however, some of us try to avoid it or at least to rectify when we get it wrong).   Mabel Encinas   Saying things like ‘excessive traffic is migrants’ fault’, ‘English people have also the right to...

    Read more →
  • Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus What does UKIP mean?

    What does UKIP mean?

    Last year’s Rochester and Strood by-election victory for the United Kingdom Independence Party candidate, Mark Reckless, was a game-changer for British politics.   Steve Latham   It came hard on the heels of UKIP’s Clacton win by Douglas Carswell; both new MPs standing for seats they had previously...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus The illustrators of life

    The illustrators of life

    “There is too much blood; too much violence”,  Albert Camus.  I had thought that I would start the year with good memories and nostalgia. However, the Charlie Hebdo massacre has brought back memories of when, in the late 80s, Castaño’s paramilitaries shot down ‘JUCO’ militants –...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Multiculture, Our People, Visual Arts Angelika Berndt and the invisible culture

    Angelika Berndt and the invisible culture

    She has worked on projects in Africa, Asia and Europe, although her work is based mainly around Latin America, the region in which she grew up.   Juanjo Andres Cuervo Photos by Angelika Berndt    She first started in photography by helping the non-government organisation Anti Slavery International...

    Read more →
  • Comments, Culture, In Focus, Pages Words to remember Clarice Lispector

    Words to remember Clarice Lispector

    Writing, says Lispector, is not knowing what’s coming next. To find out, we throw another word out, as bait: which words will take the bait, if indeed any? Or will nothing follow but a void?   Carlos Skliar*   If it’s true that the world started with a yes, wrote Lispector, if it’s true...

    Read more →
  • Culture, Globe, Latin America, Music Danzón: a dance that overcame discrimination and racism

    Danzón: a dance that overcame discrimination and racism

    The first night of 1879 was calm and fresh, and those attending the Artistic and Literary School, currently the Sala José White, rested after performing a dance.    Wilfredo Alayón   At the conductor’s signal, an orchestra that had regaled those at the soirée on 1st January began to play...

    Read more →
  • Comments, In Focus Power, for whom?

    Power, for whom?

    I met Isidoro Morantes on that 2nd day of January, at the age of 84. People say on that day his age was not noticeable like other times. In spite of his vitality making you forget for moments his advanced years, he was an old man.   Armando Orozco Tovar   That night Isidoro seemed younger asking for...

    Read more →
  • Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus Birdman flies

    Birdman flies

    As we came out from the cinema, my wife commented that “Birdman” is the kind of film any man in his fifties is bound to identify with – she, of course, meant me.   Steve Latham   The movie is centred on the emotions of a man in the midst of his mid-life crisis, wondering whether his life...

    Read more →