05 October 2010

Blame the Cyclists and Pedestrians

Watch the Blind Angles
I got handed a boiled sweet the other day, which is nice. Some lovely young ladies in goofy reflective vests were handing out these packets to cyclists in Copenhagen. The spiral pattern kind of matches the large warning stickers that are currently on the bike lanes at selected intersections.

The text reads "Watch out for blind spots" meaning that cyclists are being warned to watch out for trucks turning right.
Fair enough. But I've been looking around at the stickered intersections, like the one below.
Watch Out for Angles/Angels
I can't for the life of me find any campaign material warning trucks and cars to watch out for cyclists and pedestrians. Not one sign. No electronic signals at an appropriate height to warn truck drivers of the prescence of cyclists on the right. Nada.

It's the City's Traffic Council - Byens Trafikråd who are involved in the campaign, which has been running on and off for a couple of years. A couple of years! Still no corresponding warnings for the drivers of the large, dangerous machines. But then these are the people who have previously warned cyclists to use lights in this happy, cycle-promoting way...

Such is the car-centric development in this country at the moment. Is it really so difficult to at the very least even the campaign playing field? Like this campaign that places the responsibility on the vulnerable traffic users but that has no corresponding campaign for the drivers of the vechicles that actually do the killing and injuring.

Human beings, whether choosing to propel themselves around their city on foot or on bicycle, should not be bullied by car-centric campaigns and certainly not by taxpayer funded organisations. Run by people with so little understanding of marketing and scientific data that it's embarassing.

In somewhat related news, there was a campaign recently for Danish trucking. It was a well-executed campaign, with a catchy music video and events on public squares to raise awareness about how important trucks are for the transport of goods. The campaign is called "Holder DK kørende" or "We keep Denmark rolling".

The tone was simultaneously indignant and pleading. They are itching to regain some respect for their work in this age of awareness about pollution, traffic congestion and bad press about trucks causing accidents. Despite the folksy rap, using actual truckers, the campaign was a bit desperate.

We do, however, approve, of the inclusion of cyclists being seen in the rear view mirror at 0:13 in the video. It's dark and rainy but at least the truckers are trying to win hearts and minds.

The lyrics around there include "We sometimes stop in the street. Sorry if we take up space... but goods need to be delivered!..."

This wasn't an inexpensive campaign. It is quite professional. I'd prefer professional, intelligent traffic safety campaigns ON THE STREET aimed at motorists - of the same quality as this - instead of getting handed a boiled sweet on a street corner with a wagging car-centric finger waved in my face.


Anonymous said...

In London, they have been forced to introduce Lorry-cycling safety measures, due to the high number of deaths, particularly among female riders.

Anonymous said...

Mikael, You are absolutely right! That is so incredibly car centric, that it really hurts!!! Those trucks should be stopped instead, the door opened, the lady should hand them a sweet with text "take car of the cyclists" or something! Because the cyclists get harmed by the trucks, and not the other way round! Crazy world! In Vienna, Austria, we sometimes experience similar car centric statements, especially now before the elections. We respond to this with a letter and the final question: Do You think that cars are going to vote for You, or people?

Anonymous said...

@ 1st post from Anonymous from London: interesting measures. At least they try to do something. A great solution would probably be to introduce max speed of really maximum 20 mph as described here: http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk/
Make traffic slower and it gets safer, exponentially! Average speed is so slow for motorized traffic anyway, so 20 mph would not affect anything negatively. To the contrary, people would really benefit! Not the economy, not trucks, not car, but people live in the cities, are inhabitants of the cities. So every measure to protect them and make they lifes nicer should be taken!!!

Kim said...

Interesting, no one seems to want to give a name on this one. It is also interesting that the comment that car centric statements increase before elections, certainly we have seen that in the UK. We had the new Transport Minister promising to "end the war on motorist", now that he has been elected, he has started saying that e-car and more roads are the solution to congestion.

It is also notable that the safety measures in London were only introduced after the Mayor had a close call with a lorry, before that he had little interest.

The 3rd Anonymous poster also makes a good point about reducing the speed limit to 20mph. I am looking forward to the introduction of a blanket 20mph speed limit in Edinburgh, as this can only be a good thing.

For what it worth my own thoughts on cycling safety are here.

christhebull said...

@3rd Anomynous - the problem here is with cyclists being right hooked (or left hooked where you ride / drive on the left). 20mph would be good (the Danish equivalent would be 30km/h), but it wouldn't prevent this type of incident with lorries. From a UK perspective, narrow cycle lanes leading into blocked ASLs encourage dangerous riding. Also, the "overtake cyclist and then turn across his path" manouvre is a problem.

Frits B said...

Dutch trucks are increasingly equipped with extra mirrors to catch cyclists sneaking up on them. On the other hand, what's the harm in alerting cyclists that trucks need some space when turning?

Anonymous said...

There was an auto website that blamed Pedestrians for the fact that cars are now "boring" because they have to comply with pedestrian safety standards.

I commented that maybe it was auto drivers who run over pedestrians who are to blame.

Anonymous said...

Drivers are not the only one's to hate pedestrians... ;-)

Cyclist with a truck drivers license (but not a pro truck driver) said...

Although I fully sympathize with you, and want more people to bike and better infrastructure for bicycles, I was very offended by this post.

By posting stuff like this, you're acting like a self-righteous bicycle-evangelist. That might be the intention, but it leaves little room for conversation between different types of people in the traffic.

You make it sound like truck drivers like to hit pedestrians and cyclists. Trust me, they don't. There's nothing worse than being involved in an accident, especially when you're "safe" and the other people involved are hurt.

This campaign does not "blame" the cyclist or pedestrians. It merely notifies them, that they're approaching a dangerous intersection. I know the law says that cyclist have the right of way, but that doesn't change a thing when the cyclists ends up with a broken skull.

IF a truck driver does not see you, it's much better to stop on your bike than "fight for your right". You will lose more than a few seconds if you're hit. But believe me: Truck drivers are NOT happy to cut corners and sacrifice other people security just to deliver their goods faster.

So please. Don't see ghosts where there's none. The campaign just notifies cyclists that they're approaching a dangerous intersection. It doesn't say it's the cyclists fault. It doesn't say trucks have the right of way. It just says: Look out.

And I think we can all agree, that everybody need to be observant in the traffic.

Bottomline: I support your "project", but I think you should turn down the rhetoric a notch. Digging a trench between cyclists and everybody else will benefit no-one.