Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Invisible Green Arrow

In Germany 

Yes, in Germany we have something called Cyclist’s Green Arrow (ah, well, Grüner Abbiege-Pfeil für Radfahrer, you clever clogs): cyclists can legally ‘ignore’ the traffic lights and turn regardless of their colour (traffic light, not skin, you silly). 

It simply looks like this, nothing special:
Green Arrow
Cyclist's Green Arrow
But the message of the little green arrow is far-reaching.
  • It acknowledges that a cyclist’s width is much smaller than a vehicle’s
  • ...and that cycling is a safe method of transport around pedestrians
  • ...and that the activity of cycling is beneficial and deserves extra attention
  • Cyclists are worth it! Cyclists have been listened to, the behaviours of cycling was studied, and the needs of that transport group were taken on board. Translating into something that gives them the advantage. 
  • On a minor note of cycle convenience: once a cyclist has gained momentum, it’s personal! It’s your own energy. You invest muscle power in moving forwards. It’s not just a little flick of a toe on the gas pedal, no. If cyclists had a choice, “they won't stop”, it’s just that much harder to gain cruising speed again, compared to walking (low speeds) and driving (aforementioned toe-tip). 
All that in a little arrow. 

['Surprisingly' drivers can use the Green Arrow too. However it's the cyclist who benefits most as they can weave alongside the stationary cars.]

Back in Britain

In the meantime, back in Britain, second class citizenship remains the standard for cycle folks. Something just for cyclists? Unheard of here. Frowned upon. We are asked to be grateful and languish in the gutter, or simply cycle ‘assertively’, take the lane and “you’ll be fine, dear”. And. If you do do something wrong. Ton. Of. Bricks. On. Your. Head. Your fault. You didn’t wear head protection anyways.

Operating in a system that’s dangerous to cyclists and deters people form cycling, isn’t really what cycling is supposed to be all about, is it! It won't get peeps saddling up. And yet they all keep saying that they want us to cycle: DfT, councils etc etc. What a swizz! And I won’t patronise you extolling the benefits of cycling to society, the environment, your purse, communities, societal fairness, city centres, the local economy... you all know that already.

Fairness on our roads? Meh. Certainly not for cyclists!
The road system is not safe for people on bikes (small sponge-like objects amongst tons of fast moving metal exo-skeletons); the balance is blatantly tipped towards drivers 
  • power to kill and cause serious harm
  • legal system
  • court decisions
  • road and junction layout
  • space allocation
  • unwritten rules and accepted mannerisms on the road
I have decided to make a stand. And innovate.

So here it is: my Invisible Green Arrow (IGA). Some call it Red Light Jumping (RLJ). I call it making mends. I think it’s better to make your own rules than complying and risk dying. Of course, certainly nothwithstanding general ethics: the Golden Rule.

By responsible IGAing, I can at least actively managing my own risks. I am in charge of my  destiny, not the impatient motorist revving their engine behind me or the bus driver slowly creeping up my rear. I see it as an offsetting scheme for all the counterproductive measures that are put in cycling’s way. Sometimes silly, sometimes dangerous, cycle lanes stop before they even start, see Newcastle Cycling Campaign’s loopy lanes and if you haven't got enough, here's more 'inspiration' on the excellent CEoGB website.

Green arrow
IGAing - how it works

What about pedestrians?

As a cyclist partaking in IGAing you only ever need to pledge one thing: to take due care. In other words give way to the crossing and jaywalking pedestrian (magenta bits above). This isn't much of an ask I think. As a cyclist I do that anyways, following the vulnerable road user hierarchy. (As a continental cyclist doubly so due to being used to mode-integrated traffic light phasings in Germany where pedestrians, cyclists and drivers have green lights simultaneously.)

On a similar note of road fairness: pedestrians should rise up too. And, as luck will have it, it's a bit easier to do too! Simply arm yersel with Highway Code 170. And cross that road! Don’t be bullied into submission by the motorist. And keep (jay)walking!

What about motorists?

And note that no motorist was harmed or even inconvenienced in the IGA process. Trust me, drivers don’t like IGAing, because cyclists have - for once, just once - the upper hand.

Meanwhile, I keep on cycling (and naturally walking) - always despite not because - and will remain a proud member of a minority that gets vilified by UK society.

Cycling in the UK is just not as easy as riding a bike! If it were I wouldn’t have had to write this blog post to stay sane.

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