I’m a cyclist. There, I’ve said it. Not every day, and not when it’s cold or wet, but I do find a bike’s a good way of getting around the city. I’ve always cycled so I feel generally at ease in traffic. I try to be a courteous road user, so I don’t jump lights, ride on the pavement, or knowingly commit any of the other misdemeanours that get pedestrians and motorists annoyed – not least because I am both of these too.
There’s been a lot of discussion about cycle safety recently. Locally the Headington & Marston e-democracy forum has been busy with the subject. Nationally The Times has launched its “Cities Fit For Cycling” campaign. I even got my picture in the paper at the Headington crossroads, a junction which someone had said was the most dangerous in Oxford.
It got me thinking about how safety at junctions could be improved without further upsetting other road users. I don’t like the idea of allowing cyclists to filter on red lights because it would take a long time for other users to get used to it and it would just add to the perception of cyclists being a nuisance. Instead I came up with another idea.
I think as many traffic-light controlled junctions as possible should have those areas ahead of the stop line where cyclists can wait in front of the other traffic. It gives them a safe area and should mean fewer riders waiting on the left kerb alongside buses, lorries and cars, which I’m sure must be one of the most dangerous places to set off from. And then there should be a short phase on the lights when there is a green light just for cyclists. (Some pedestrian crossing lights already have this symbol, and with modern LCD lights and computer control it shouldn’t be too expensive to install.) This phase only needs to be long enough for cyclists to get started and cross the junction in whatever direction they’re going – say 30 seconds – then the light turns to green for all traffic.
This would mean cyclists are not competing for road space at the junction when they are more vulnerable than normal: starting off, maybe wobbling a bit, perhaps trying to signal with one hand, maybe having to stop in the middle of the junction to wait before turning right, and so on. For sure some motorists will grumble at a 30 second delay, but I think it would be worth a try.
Does this sound a good idea? Would it work? Or is there a snag I haven’t thought of? Leave a comment and let me know. Remember, you read it here first!