Loughborough & District
Cycle Users' Campaign

Pedal Power
Issue 108
January 2014


Town Centre to Station route changed

Leicestershire County Council has made changes in the route along Nottingham Road between the railway station and the town centre. Gone are the very narrow “cycle lanes” and these have been replaced with cycle symbols on the road.

Apart from changes with paint, the Council has also enlarged the pedestrian/cyclist island in the middle of Nottingham Road to the south west of the Morley Street junction. This will now just about accommodate a tandem but is probably too small for bicycles with trailers.

The size of the cycle symbols painted on the road is much smaller than envisaged when some cycling representatives discussed the (limited budget) scheme with officers. The suggestion was that these should be at least 1.5 metres wide to make it clear that cyclists were fully entitled to space and to keep out of the “car door” zone.

Campaign member Tim Birkinshaw has commented:

“The route to the station down Nottingham Road is fairly obvious (although the turn onto the shared path, just before the Morley St. lights is not very obvious, and if you follow the road (with the advanced stop lines) you end up going a fair way up the new road to get in the vehicular entrance.

Coming the opposite way (from the station to town) what is the proper route to use? Is it meant to be on the road? None of the three crossings is a Toucan; all have only pedestrian signals. I have crossed the link road (reverse of the way in) then I have worked out four options to cross to the other side of Nottingham Road, none of which is sensible (or legal?). The signage suggests that I should use the pedestrian crossing (and then cycle up the pavement?). Which is the right/safe/sensible way?”

Tim has also pointed out that there is a quiet route from the station to town using the Toucan that leads into Glebe St and then Ratcliffe Road, but this has not been signed or publicised.

Problems with storing bicycles

Letter from Sophia Howard

In response to the front page article in issue 107 (Nov'. 13) I too have the same problem with storing my bicycle at my rented Housing Association flat, since bicycle sheds were not thought of when the block of flats were built. There is a small car park, with the number of spaces built on the assumption of half a car per household in the block of flats.

I had considered campaigning for the Tenants to have a bicycle shed where cycles, prams and child buggies could be safely stored, but tackling anti-social/criminal behaviour has become a higher priority.

So for the time being, I am storing my bicycle in my very small kitchen. This means having to wheel it across the carpet in the entrance hall/corridor and in the wet weather this results in muddy drips and tyre marks on the carpet – not ideal.

Ideally, there should be legislation so that new-build social housing must include indoor cycle, child pushchair storage space, so that Tenants can lock up their small vehicles dry and secure.

Why Drivers don't see us

Campaign member Michael Forest has drawn attention to an article entitled “A Fighter Pilot's Guide to surviving on the roads” that was written by RAF pilot John Sullivan for the Forces Pension Society Journal.

The point is made that what we “see” is in fact selected by the brain and what is analysed is based on evolved priorities. Only a small part of the retina, in the centre, can generate a high resolution image. Peripheral vision is much less precise and the brain “fills in” detail. However our peripheral vision is “good” at spotting movement across our field of vision, which the eye then focuses on, but not very good at spotting movement towards us if there is little lateral movement.

Another “feature” of our eyes is that when we move our head and eyes to scan a scene they don't move smoothly, they actually move in a series of very fast jumps (saccades) with short pauses (fixations) when an image is passed to the brain (in effect taking a series of high speed photos). If this did not happen we would only perceive a blur.

Fighter pilots need to appreciate this, since it is possible for our eyes to “jump over” a small oncoming object (such as an attacking enemy jet or in our case a cyclist). This combined with the fact that the brain “fills in” the picture with what it expects to see, means that it is quite possible for a driver to fail to see an approaching cyclist, particularly when they are on a collision course and the angle of approach remains constant.

John suggests that cyclists should wear bright clothing as colour gets picked up in peripheral vision and use flashing lights since these are perceived as movement in the periphery. Also if possible avoid cycling along straight roads into the sun, since this makes cyclists almost invisible to car drivers (who should appreciate this and be driving much more carefully in such circumstances).

Ban and replace “Nuts” behind the wheel?

By John Catt

I attended the Cyclenation/CTC/Leeds City Council conference on 5th October where Carlton Reid, editor of BikeBiz, gave a thought provoking “blue sky” talk hypothesising that there is a better and more cost effective way of improving the safety of cyclists, than installing separate provision along the lines adopted in the Netherlands.

No doubt many readers will have heard of the Google driverless car project that has now completed 300,000+ miles on public highways without the intervention of a human being or causing any crashes. They can now be licensed in the state of Nevada. These vehicles use

  • the navigation technology (already employed in the ubiquitous dashboard SatNavs);
  • external people/obstruction detection (already standard on Volvos);
  • low power wireless (wifi) to communicate with the internet and other cars so equipped;
  • an onboard computer (a powerful smartphone could do the job) controlling the steering, braking and power (all electronically controlled in modern cars).

Such a car has

  • all round awareness of everything in its environment;
  • knowledge of its position and ability to navigate (taking into account internet traffic reports);
  • the rules of the road programmed in;
  • the ability to communicate with other vehicles to allow negotiation of road space;
  • the ability to maximise engine efficiency, report defects and maintenance required;
  • travel in tight aerodynamically efficient “trains” with other driverless cars;
  • wake up passengers on reaching its destination
  • .

This may sound very far fetched, but Google has successfully demonstrated the concept and the technology is available and steadily getting cheaper. The main driver for change is likely to come from the commercial sector. Lorries and buses, with all round detection of people and vehicles, will be much safer than a human driver who is overloaded with the requirement to monitor numerous mirrors as well as traffic and the road ahead. In addition a driverless vehicle will not need to stop for rest periods, so owners will be able to get much greater utilisation from this capital asset along with optimal efficiency in the way it is driven.

Once the costs fall further then the obvious use for driverless cars is as taxis. Without the cost of a driver, together with a much improved safety record bringing down insurance premiums, the cost of taxi travel will be much reduced. In turn this could have implications for car ownership. Cheap taxis would be more economical than running your own car and increased usage and computer control would mean that they would be both ubiquitous and readily available. Passenger would be offered discounts if they were prepared to deviate from a direct route to pick up other passengers or could pay full price for a direct faster service. Such a service might result in the taxi and bus businesses merging. Such low cost services will be immensely beneficial to those not able to drive due to disability and to those who like a drink when they go out to socialise.

Longer term this could have an effect on housing requirements. Currently we use cars very inefficiently for what is a capital asset. The majority are stationery for most of the time, simply wasting valuable space. If we move to sharing driverless cars we will not need to build housing estates where a third of the space is dedicated to meeting the needs of the resident cars and immense areas for car parking in towns will no longer be required.

Whilst pure speculation, it seems possible that the much reduced danger imposed by driverless vehicles combined with a large part of the population no longer owning or driving cars could result in an irresistible political force for the banning of dangerous “driver” cars from the public highway. Such cars would be confined to private tracks.

If the public highways were limited to driverless cars there would be no need for segregated cycle facilities as such vehicles would be programmed rather like Asimov's robots to obey “the laws of driverless cars”.

  1. A car may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A car must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A car must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Such vehicles would always give pedestrians and cyclists plenty of room and drop their speed to an appropriate level.

We can but dream.

Click image to enlarge
Google Driverless Car - Shocking Effects
Via: Aptus Insurance

Cyclists' behaviour and the law

Based on a paper by Cherry Allan for the CTC

The CTC has published a policy document that in summary suggests that:

  1. Cyclists should behave responsibly and within the law. However, cyclists pose little risk to others.
  2. Cyclists should not have to choose between acting legally and keeping safe (e.g. children prohibited from cycling on the footway even alongside busy roads). The law and those applying it should take this into account, as should the planning and design of the road network.
  3. Whilst we encourage cyclists to undertake cycle training and to have insurance cover, making training or licences compulsory for cyclists is unworkable and would deter people from cycling occasionally or giving cycling a try. It would not solve any problems and the running costs would be prohibitive.

Ed. I think campaign members would take a similar view.

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