I commented adversely yesterday on the casual use by the student newspaper Cherwell of the word “blackspot” to describe the junction where a student was killed under a lorry last week.
By chance, I today came across a Cherwell article of 27 January 2006 headed “Risk factors for student cyclists” which was about a report by Oxford City Council on cycling hazards in the city. A number of “blackspots” were highlighted. They did not include the King’s Arms junction.
The article also reported that that 13 million cycle trips per year are made in Oxford, a figure which must be taken into account in any assessment of hazard or risk.
Today also brought an article in the Times about a study by Transport for London on accidents involving cyclists. Amongst the possible reasons given for fatalities were cycle feeder lanes which encourage cyclists to get to the front (that is, just in a lorry driver’s blind spot) and railings against which they can be crushed. In more than half the fatal crashes, a lorry was turning left. It seems that the more aggressive attitude of male cyclists actually reduces their risk – jumping the lights takes them clear of the lorry where women tend to follow the rules, remaining out of the driver’s view.
The real message here is this: the obvious conclusion is not necessarily the right one. My first article on this subject suggested that those who whine that something must be done, and those in authority who might rush to do something just to be seen to be doing something – the norm in Oxford – might this time pause and think before opening their mouths and our wallets to alter the layout of this junction. What are the facts, what is the hazard, and what is the risk?
Oxfordshire Highways have no idea that hazard and risk are different concepts. I have challenged them in the past, and in a different context, to produce statistics to back up the generalised assertions of the something-must-be-done brigade, and found that the idea of working from hard facts is quite alien to them.