27 August 2012

In praise of ASLs

I've been meaning to write about ASLs for a while. Now, there's a wee debate about them on-line and it seems a a good time to weigh in.

I know some people, like my good friend Magnatom,  are, shall we say, wary of the supposed virtues of ASLs.   His advice is certainly worth following.  On the whole, I'm more agnostic, and find the near total lack of enforcement frustrating.   But, if I can't easily get into an ASL, I will happily hang back in the queue of traffic. If I'm near the front andd going straight, I'll be centre in the ASL, avoiding those unsignalled left turns.

However, over the summer, while school was out, my routine varied a little, and I found myself riding different routes.  In doing so, I realised that I kept feeling uneasy in one particular intersection.  I was surprised at various actions by cars.  Not aggressive,but strange.  Like the smiley woman who came right up beside me and grinned at the kids through her window, when I was turning right and she was going straight on.  And then I twigged - this is the ONLY ntersection near me or on oany of my 'usual routes' with traffic lights and no ASLs.  There is an almost identical intersection one block along, but with ASLs.  And the riding experience is totally different there.  Not great - the light sequence is too short, making a right turn is tricky, but the ASLs make it that bit more comfortable, and just as well because that intersection's on the way home from nursery.

So, while they may not make all drivers into angels, and they certainly don't make cyclists invulnerable, I miss them when they're not there, which must mean they make a little difference at least.

23 August 2012

The last 10 yards....

School restarted last week, and my 5 year old decided she wanted to ride her own bike, and not the tandem.  This was fine with me, as it gave me a chance to ride my 'mid-life crisis bike' (more about that soon).

But reflecting upon it (via twitter, as one does...), it occurred to me that although none of the ride is particularly enjoyable, the most dangerous section by far is the last 10 yards or so, in front of the school gates.    We ride down a busy bus route, with too many HGVs and commuters, we go through a potentially dodgy roundabout, and have to make a right-hand turn across traffic, uphill.  Not nice, considering the entire ride is only 0.4 of a mile.

But all of that is fairly easy.  The problem is when we turn in front of the school, and she has to pass behind the cars that are dropping kids.  That's when the fun starts - doors opening, cars reversing, total madness.  There's one particular driver who has twice now reversed at us without looking in his mirror (he's trying to make room for oncoming traffic, which is supposed to have priority, but that's no excuse for not looking).  And then, why do cars drive down a cul-de-sac in front of a school?  It sure doesn't save you any time!Why not drop the kids somewhere safe that doesn't require narrow turns?  Do they really need to be driven that last 10 yards too?

What's even more depressing is that I know the parents that drive and who I see dropping their kids every day, are the hardcore.  The vast majority of the kids walk, and quite a lot of the parents cycle.  The cycle racks are full of scooters.  There were maybe 10 bikes there today.  (I'm sure most parents prefer scooters because it keeps the kids on the pavement.)  But the point is, they use 'active travel' as a default option, with cars used to drop off once in a while.

But how do we get the hard core, set in their cars, group out?  Even if they just walked or cycled once in a while, it would surely improve their driving and awareness of the children and other pedestrians?  I'm thinking here of a particular van which last year reversed backwards over the crossing in front of the school gate, while kids were still running across....

Sometimes that 10 yards seems a long way to go....