Anyone who regularly cycles on our roads will be in no doubt that there is civil war out there between the humanly propelled two wheelers and those that require four wheels to get about. A revolution in the way we travel is happening and, as with all revolutions, there are those who object to or fear change but change we must have if we are to address the numerous problems associated with over-dependency on the motorcar.

In 2008, a staggering 2,538 people were killed in this country as a direct result of motor cars on our roads and a further 229,000 were injured. During April-June 2009, a 19% increase in deaths or serious injury to UK cyclists was recorded.

A human activity which causes this level of carnage ought to be subjected to serious scrutiny and control. However the convenience of the personal car has led to the development of a car culture which largely exempts motoring from the strict regulation and punishment of other areas of life in which poor practice costs lives. Too many motorists are literally ‘getting away with murder’.

‘Car culture’ has been growing apace since the 1950s as more and more space has been given over to motorised vehicles at the expense of non-motorised resulting in the ‘car is king’ mentality. In an attempt to redress this, local authorities are required by central Government to promote cycling and walking by building road infrastructure designed to assist walkers and cyclists.

Advance Stop Lines (ASLs) at a junction with traffic lights have a lead-in cycle lane to allow cyclists to get to the front and move off safely before faster moving motors. These ASL boxes are clearly marked and yet so often abused by motorists, many ignorant of their purpose and that they commit a criminal offence by doing so. Likewise, on-road cycle lanes are designed to give cyclists segregated road space and come in two designs.

Mandatory cycle lanes are marked by a solid white line and motorists must not drive or park in one. The Highway Code states an Advisory cycle lane is marked by a broken white line (compare with short equidistant lines of a parking lane) and motorists should not drive or park in one unless it is unavoidable; situations include ill driver or car breakdown.

Such Advisory Cycle Lanes have recently been installed on the Winchester Road A35 in Southampton between its Hill Lane and Bassett Avenue junctions, designed to facilitate cyclists safely entering and exiting this busy artery, often congested with traffic. Sadly, motorists seem ignorant of the Highway Code which is regularly updated and should be familiar to anyone using the highway. Persistent parkers block this newly installed cycle lane, making the road even more hazardous for cyclists as moving motorists don’t expect cyclists to need to move into their road space, creating yet more conflict. However in the event of a collision, evidence of encroachment on even an advisory cycle lane may be sufficient to lay the blame at the foot of the offending motorist, so offenders beware!

If Southampton wants to be taken seriously as a cycle friendly city, should not its Councillors and police be leading the way in enforcement and education of motorists as well as pavement cyclists who after all wouldn’t be there if they had their own safe road space on which to ride.

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