Thursday, 14 April 2016

Cycle advanced stop lines in the safety spotlight . . .


Cycle advanced stop lines in the safety spotlight

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In a bid to raise awareness among cyclists about sharing urban road space with heavy vehicles, one London borough is telling them to keep out of the very areas around trucks that road markings around the capital may encourage them to use.

A picture on a webpage published by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) entitled ‘Never Cycle on the Inside of a Lorry’ (click here toview) shows police officers taking part in an ‘Exchanging Places’ cyclist training day mapping out the blind-spot areas around a typical heavy truck. These correspond almost exactly to the nearside on-road cycle lanes and advanced stop line which have been installed on many traffic-light controlled junctions in the capital.

Typically, these advanced stop line (ASL) junctions have a designated cyclepath marked on the road near the kerbside, which then leads to a ‘cycle-only’ box taking up the entire width of the road at the mouth of the junction.

Critics have argued that this could potentially encourage cyclists to pass through the dangerous blindspot between any waiting truck and the kerb, and then pull out into another blindspot immediately in front of the truck’s cab: the argument being that cyclists at the ASL who cannot get off the mark quickly enough risk being struck from behind, while those beside the truck may well find themselves trapped if it turns left.

A report by researchers at Loughborough University and University College London entitled Pedal Cyclist Fatalities in London (R Talbot et al, originally issued in 2013 and republished last year) included among its messages to cyclists: “Do not undertake large vehicles on the approach to a junction irrespective of ASL provision” – and to drivers: “Do not drive right up to or into an ASL, as this reduces visibility of the cyclist.”

The report was based on analysis of police collision files between 2007 and 2011, and undertaken on behalf of Transport for London (TfL).

It examined four particular instances of HGV/cyclist crashes where both vehicles had moved off from stationary at a green light, the cyclist having been in an ASL, where: “it was thought that the cyclists were intending to travel straight ahead and one or more were in collision with the truck as it commenced its left turn.”

The fact that the ASL had positioned cyclists in an area with limited direct vision from the truck was thought to have played a contributory role in all four cases. In two cases no Class VI mirrors were fitted on the truck, and in one case the truck entered the ASL inappropriately.

The report also claimed that in one case the driver was using a handheld phone at the time, and that in another, the driver was using a hands-free phone.

While the report said ASLs had been present in 12 crashes involving trucks, it said they “did not necessarily contribute to the crash.”

However, it noted: “When a HGV is directly behind an ASL the driver has limited direct sight of cyclists within the ASL… Even when [Class VI mirrors are fitted] cyclists are not always noticed by the driver.

“The presence of, and entry markings to ASLs also encourage cyclists to undertake vehicles in order to enter them, which increases the likelihood of conflict with left turning vehicles. The point at which signal lights change is a particularly vulnerable time for the cyclist.”

Solutions proposed by the report included advanced phasing for cyclists alongside ASLs, where cyclists would have their own green signal; and also a ‘no vehicle’ zone in between the motor vehicle stop line and the start of the ASL, which would increase the likelihood of cyclists being seen and the time available for them to move off.

The report added: “Where left turning and straight on traffic is separated, [ASL] entry points should be between the two lanes. The same applies if there is a separate right hand lane. For some junctions it may be more appropriate to encourage cyclists to enter the ASL at any point.

“In addition, ASLs may be inappropriate at some locations – especially those where the junction design creates a pinch point between the cyclist and other vehicles. In this case alternative solutions such as segregated infrastructure should be considered to avoid the conflict caused by undertaking.”

TfL has so far failed to make a substantive response to Transport Operator’s request for clarification on ASL junctions, specifically the extent to which accident data from such junctions has been gathered and risk assessments carried out – but has said that it is: “only responsible for five per cent of London’s roads.”

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