I wrote this yesterday for the Scotsman, to accompany this article. Not sure if it's gone in or not. It's a slightly more critical take than the last time I blogged about ASLs but not contradictory.
If you talk to drivers about ASZs, you get a lot of funny answers. Many seem honestly unaware that they have just crossed a stop line. One taxi driver told me that after 7.30pm they didn’t apply. Another driver – hearing my foreign accent - told me to learn the rules of the road (it’s rule 178 of the Highway Code if you want to check it out, and I’ve cycled here for nearly 20 years).
Stopping at a stopline is about the most basic skill driver needs, but it seems to bring out the worst in people. Drivers hate cyclists ‘getting a head start’ while cyclists will desperately try to get to the front of a queue of traffic to get into the perceived haven of the ASZ.
But ASZs aren’t about cyclists getting ‘ahead’. They’re about protecting cyclists from being ‘left-hooked’ by drivers turning while cyclists are going straight.
Every cyclist has had a driver tell them to get ‘out of the road’. But the gutter on the left is the most dangerous place for a cyclist, especially at junctions.
So, yes, it would be good if drivers stayed out of ASZs, and police enforced them.
But ASZs are also a red herring. They’re not big enough to protect cyclists from HGV’s blind spots and they can be dangerous to get to. Painting ASZs on roads is essentially a ‘tick-box’. It means the council can say ‘look we’ve taken cyclists into account’.
But if there’s not road space for cyclists to get there, or if there are parking bays on top of the cycle lanes, then the ASZ is basically useless.
If our junctions were properly designed for the safety of all users – pedestrians, cyclists, and motorised vehicles – we wouldn’t need ASZs at all.