Police in two major cities, Bristol and Edinburgh, have been targeting cyclists and motorists – including those who illegally encroach on Advanced Stop Lines (ASLs), also known as ‘bike boxes’ – in safety campaigns that coincide with Road Safety Week. In both locations, police say that there is confusion among motorists about what ASLs are for as well as a lack of understanding about the rules surrounding them.
From Wednesday, Avon & Somerset Constabulary has targeted busy junctions at rush hour on main roads into the city including Gloucester Road and Whiteladies Road, reports the Bristol Post.
Officers have issued warnings to cyclists who failed to stop at red traffic lights or rode on the pavement, and to drivers and motorcycle riders who ignored ASLs or hatched yellow lines at box junctions.
They have also targeted cyclists riding without lights in the evening as part of the initiative, called The Road Pavement and Safety Operation, which is focused on educating and warning cyclists and motorists.
Avon & Somerset Constabulary has provided road.cc with details of the number of cyclists and motorists stopped under the initiative between Wednesday morning and this morning’s rush hour, as well as the issues they were warned about.
It said that 69 cyclists were warned for riding through a red light, 48 for cycling on the pavement and 48 for riding without lights.
Among motorists, 255 received warnings for being in a cycle box at a traffic light, six for failing to comply with a red light, and five for ignoring yellow box junction markings.
Three cyclists have died in the Bristol-Bath area this month – one in an incident in which no other vehicle is believed to have been involved – but Sergeant Sean Underwood told the Bristol Post that the campaign, which has the support of Sustrans and the Bristol Cycling Campaign, was “well timed but coincidental."
According to Avon & Somerset Constabulary: “The idea of the scheme is to try and help cyclists and motorists understand what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to riding and driving around the streets of Bristol.
“It’s been well documented that there are tensions between the two groups and it may just be down to a genuine lack of understanding about the law in this area.”
A spokesman for the force told road.cc: “The feedback we have received is really positive. Most motorists we have spoken to didn’t know about the cycle box offence, which just goes to show there is a lack of awareness about proper use of the road.
“Members of the community and local shop keepers have been very pleased to see us.
We asked what police considered to be the greatest dangers to bike riders, and were told: “Cyclists in Avon and Somerset have a variety of things to be aware of. These include pedestrians, motorists and other cyclists.”
Regarding the issue of enforcement, the spokesman added: “There will be a review of the scheme after Christmas and a decision will be made as to what to do next.”
In Edinburgh, police have already moved beyond offering advice and warnings to motorists driving across ASLs when the lights are red to issuing them with £100 fines and 3 penalty points on their driving licence.
Cyclists jumping red lights, riding on the pavement or who do not comply with No Entry signs will also be fined £100, reports The Scotsman.
The newspaper adds that 200 motorists and cyclists were issued with warnings last week, while this week’s efforts, which come to an end today, have focused on enforcement.
The initiative may be rolled out to other cities in Scotland, with Superintendent Iain Murray, who is head of road policing at Police Scotland, commenting: “The Edinburgh plan is a local initiative in answer to particular issues that exist in the capital.
“Where similar concerns exist elsewhere in the country, a variant of the plan might be considered.”
Talking specifically about the initiative in Edinburgh, Constable Stephen Kirk said: “The first week of the initiative was aimed at educating road users whose behaviour on city centre roads warranted intervention.
“This week we will be focusing more heavily on enforcement and taking tough action against anyone we identify as repeat or blatant offenders.
“The ultimate aim of the initiative is to reduce road casualties in the city centre at a time of year where casualty numbers rise, particularly among cyclists.”
Cycling campaigners in Scotland are split on the benefit of ASLs, however.
Dave de Feu of Lothian cycling campaign, Spokes, welcomes them, telling the Scotsman: “Advanced stop zones are not the ideal solution, but hugely better than nothing. They give all road users better vision – of everybody, by everybody, and there is evidence of reduced casualties at such junctions.”
But Dave Brennan, who founded Pedal on Parliament , says they are “the spawn of Satan,” describing them as “a retrograde step and waste of money, which give cyclists a false sense of security.”
Specific problems he highlights are the visibility of cyclists in ASLs from the cabs of lorries, and the risks riders might be exposed to as they filter through traffic to reach them. He also calls for segregated cycle lanes.
IAM’s policy director, Neil Greig said: “The police seem to be going about this in the right way, with an information and warning campaign before they start hitting drivers with fines.”
“I have no doubt drivers do sometimes invade advanced stop lines, but it can be inadvertent or through ignorance of their function.”
Use of ASLs is covered by Rule 178 of the Highway Code, which states:
Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.
Reflecting concerns over rules regarding ASLs, Police Scotland has published a note clarifying them on its website, in response to queries from members of the public.
In London, where six cyclists have been killed as a result of collisions with large vehicles this month, the Metropolitan Police conducted a similar exercise earlier this week targeting bike riders and lorry drivers in particular.
Earlier this year, the city's cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, revealed that police were going to get tougher on motorists who infringe ASLs and on cyclists who jump red lights - although again, he highlighted that many motorists do not understand the law regarding ASLs.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.