Saturday 3 July 2010

Adam Eff pays the wingmirror tax

There's a fancy new bicycle magazine out, Boneshaker, full of lovely photographs, very well printed, by some people affiliated with the Bristol Bike Project.

Those things show something worrying: we are losing the battle of hearts and minds. It's all very well getting AA and RAC press releases into the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph papers, it's all very well having Jeremy Clarkson on TV, but people are starting to suspect that Top Gear is made up, and it's all a bit 1980s in the not-very-cool-1980s way. Not so much Audi Quattro as Bryan Adams. What do we get as car books and magazines for example? Hayes manuals. Not very compelling.

No, we need a  way to win. But it shouldn't need violence: that rarely solves problems, just makes viewpoints less flexible. Which is why we are sad to hear that someone in a van clipped one of the Boneshaker Magazine's photographers, Adam Eff, while cycling along the St Marks contraflow.

In his own words:
From: Adam
Date: Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 10:40 PM
Subject: Van caused me pain on St Marks contra-flow

I am in pain. Apologies if this message is overly long.

A few hours ago I was heading to Sweet Mart on St Marks road in Easton using the contra-flow down St Marks road when a large van came towards me at considerable speed (too fast in my opinion but maybe 20mph or under... either way too fast for this narrow stretch of road being crossed by pedestrians shopping etc). He didn't slow, continued to accelerate towards me to the point where I braked hard (actually only going slow as I was already slowing to stop outside Sweet Mart) and had no choice but to pull in hard to the edge of the road or go under him. I tried to hold my position out from the kerb (as taught during the level 3 lesson last year) but had to make to choice to try and stay alive at the last second. He must have assumed he was allowing me a foot or two to get around the edge of him, but his large wing mirror that adds an extra foot or two onto the width of his van clipped me, and this combined with the swerve caused me to end up upside down in a heap on the pavement. I have a very sore swollen and cut knee (gradually getting worse as the evening goes on). Also have bruises and scrapes to elbows and arms and inner thigh and back of left knee. The adrenalin has now truly worn off and I feel knackered, sick, shaky and slightly pissed off to put it mildly.

His first comment on getting out of his van was that I was "going the wrong way down a one way road". I pointed out that it is a contra-flow and not the wrong way for cyclists and then went to point out the bicycle markings and lines on the road at the point where it happened. This is where it all started to turn into a bit of a farce as of course the markings have all but worn away, and I have to say I could understand why he wasn't expecting anyone to come the other way. I can imagine anyone would find it hard to understand what the last few remaining blotches of surviving white paint mean. He also said if it was a cycle lane it should be painted a different colour. Interesting to think that is what people expect to see. He also expressed his opinion that the road is not wide enough for bicycles to be coming through the other way (maybe more true for large vans than for general car traffic).

Looking at Googlemaps street view it's clear to see that the white blotches on the floor were once an arrow and a bicycle symbol and that the arrow for the traffic traveling the opposite way seems to indicate that they should be traveling under the parked cars.

At this moment in time the bicycle symbol currently looks like this ...

or a wider view with what is left of the arrow....

We both exchanged details and debated it in a friendly enough manner for as long as we could before traffic behind him started beeping him to move. We didn't involve the Police.

A friend of mine also recently had someone in a van drive aggressively towards her on this stretch and then shout that she was "going the wrong way"

It appears that the signs slightly before this point for motorised traffic coming the other way do not get any message across to anyone and do not get noticed. They are there though...

I've noticed the markings here have been unclear for some time now.

I come across similar conflict regularly on Cobden Street coming up from Church Road as the markings are also worn enough to no longer really exist there either (also been unclear for considerable time too). Also on Victoria Avenue vehicles still do not seem to expect bicycles to be coming from the Contra-Flow direction, even though cars can and do travel in that direction too here as it's actually a two way road with a plug point with no entry for motorised traffic. Both are assumed to be one way by drivers. I've been shouted at in both places that I'm going the wrong way, had people speed up towards me, or just be caught out by surprise and brake suddenly at the last minute. People are obviously not expecting bicycles to be coming the other way and are not seeing the signs or markings ( if they are there). Often there is no way to go to get out of their way if I wanted to. in the case of St Marks road today my only option (if it hadn't happened so quickly and there had been time to think it through) would have been to get up onto the pavement. Not much chance of that in the space of one second on road tyres, although I guess that's actually what happened in the end, but not out of my choice or within my control.

Often the problem is with vans and commercial vehicles. This is becoming more obvious on Cobden Street as the larger commercial traffic is increasingly coming from Feeder road using Barton Hill as a cut through.

I still feel that there needs to be a better way to mark contra-flows with more definite and on-road markings to properly inform people to expect bicycles.

This is the third time that I've been hit by a large vehicle this year. It's now beyond a joke and I've had enough. My partner is also reaching the point where she no longer wants me on a bike on the roads as it is causing her a lot of worry.

What can be done? Who should I be talking to about this? If the markings are eroded or unclear who is responsible for that situation still being the case and currently partially for my pain, injuries and damages to my bike (ripped bar tape, buckled front wheel etc)? The driver felt that the road markings were impossible to recognise and I have to agree with him.

I have photos of his vehicle in position, of the worn away road markings and of the general scene. Also a few to show cars coming through and the position they use.

This has happened on the day that I tried to persuade my neighbour to not drive from Redfield to his work next to Temple Meades every day (a journey of less than one mile) and to cycle instead. His answer was that it's too dangerous and he'd have to cycle on the pavement, so won't do it. I'm trying to work out the irony of me reassuring him that it's not dangerous, before setting out and getting knocked off, yet again.

Thanks if you've taken the time to read all of this. Any replies, thoughts and possible solutions appreciated. I'm off now to soak my cuts and bruises before my knee seizes up completely.

Obviously, we do extend our sympathies, and not just in "look what you did to my wing mirror" kind of way. Adam may be working for "the other side", but -and this is a secret- we have used some of his videos. Also, it's good to see that at least one person never seems to be enjoying cycling in Bristol, as when he was caught suffering up Bridge Valley Road

One thing to consider here is why did the markings on St Marks Road get worn away? It can't be from bicycles, far more likely to be cars and vans. Which shows that there isn't really room to have a bike contraflow here. We don't actually propose banning bicycles from one single street (it's not our grand vision which covers a wider area of the city and a bigger ban), but why not open it up to two-traffic entirely. One way streets just create unrealistic expectations of speed in a city, whereas the two-way streets of Montpelier are self-traffic-calming, usually.  The alternative: remove the parking outside the (excellent) supermarket, Bristol Sweet-Mart simply wouldn't work as everyone is used to short stay parking there.

1 comment:

Jon Rogers said...

Sorry to hear this Adam.

He saw you, he did not slow and he hit you. That is careless driving or even dangerous driving and IMO the police should be involved.

Even if he thought you were cycling the wrong way up a one way street doesn't give him permission to hit you.

I agree that the road markings need a refresh and have requested it.

Get well soon