Sunday, 13 December 2009

Tip to Tip in Picton Street

When looking at road conditions near the bus station, a commentator said "On a more serious point, when I overtake a cyclist I give them plenty of room but when I pass them in the opposite direction I don't see why I should - I trust other motorists are like minded - see 12 secs in!"

Whoever wrote this does not do any driving round Bristol. Otherwise, they would have realised that the oncoming car gave the cyclist exactly as much room as they would any oncoming car. Bristol's streets are narrow, and the easiest way to ensure that you don't bash your car against parked vehicles is simple: drive as close as you can to the oncoming vehicle. That usually works. The only time it does not is when there isn't room for two vehicles to pass. And then? Negotiation time. The Nash Equilibrium: whoever has the least to lose wins. Sometime's that's hidden in phrases like "Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement", but what it comes down to is if you value the extremities of your vehicle, there are some parts of the city you should not go.

Some people with 4X4s often fall for the belief that their vehicles are more robust, that they should automatically get through first. But that's a lie, made worse by the way the raised seating position makes it harder to see where the ends of their vehicles lie. No, the driver who gets the right of way is the one driving the 1970s volvo: indestructible and fully depreciated, or the battered ex-minicab: nothing left to lose.

Accordingly cyclists are in trouble. Their body parts are where wing mirrors go, so their cue that something has gone wrong is not a noise from their car, more sharp pains in their hands. Which is why we think they should be banned from Montpelier. It's too narrow, and the Nash Equilibrium ends up with them in Accident and Emergency, rather than the usual scene of us drivers shouting at each other, flipping back or picking up their mirrors, and driving off.

Look at the video of Picton Street. There isn't room for the bicycle to pass the oncoming car just where one of the residents has parked up on the pavement with the double yellow lines. Both parked car and oncoming car are vehicles their owners don't value much, and their wing mirrors are stronger than the cyclists hands. Fortunately, the driver is paying attention -Montpelier is to narrow for phone conversations- and the negotiation is completed quickly and safely.

But the bicyclist is at a disadvantage: they rely on the voluntary goodwill of the car drivers. Normal wingmirror negotiations are between near-equals, and now there are these bicycle people demanding more rights. It isn't going to work


Downfader said...

That driver forgot the bit in the highwaycode about giving way to vehicles travelling uphill.

I have to say, I've come shockingly close to knocking wingmirrors off with my hip these past two weeks by the way drivers have barged through small gaps.

SteveL said...

Don't think the "uphill" rule applies in town. Never seen it :)

Anonymous said...

Surely the bike should give way because it has the obstruction on their side of the road? THe car shouldn't have been parked there, but still you can't just swing out into the road and expect the oncoming car to stop. I wonder what they would have thought if it was the other way round: would the cyclist have stopped to allow the car to swerve around the obstruction??

Dru Marland said...

Does the Highgway Code mention giving way to traffic travelling uphill? -or, for that matter, giving way when there is an obstruction on your side of the road? -in the first instance at least, I was under the impression that it was no more than good manners and common sense. In the incident recorded on this clip, hd I been driving down the hill I would have given way to the cyclist coming up the hill; and, were the positions reversed and I were cycling downhill, again I would have given way. What would you have done, 6P?

SteveL said...

Highway code 155,

This is the country road section, "155

Single-track roads. These are only wide enough for one vehicle. They may have special passing places. If you see a vehicle coming towards you, or the driver behind wants to overtake, pull into a passing place on your left, or wait opposite a passing place on your right. Give way to vehicles coming uphill whenever you can. If necessary, reverse until you reach a passing place to let the other vehicle pass. Slow down when passing pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders."

Monty has its own rules about passing places and rights of way. Speaking of which, who painted the bollards?

SteveL said...

The highway code reference as a link you can click

green tomato said...

who painted the bollards? probably that van driver again, tired of reversing into them.
The council were right about the replacement one, the galvanised 'retractable' bollard installed after Living Streets complained about vans and cars parking on Picton Square (next to Bells Diner, if you don't know where I mean). It was said to be unbreakable, and it has been hit so many times it is almost horizontal, but - not broken!