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Jeremy Vine rides penny-farthing along cycle lane... gets blocked off by a driver who ignored cyclist priority

The broadcaster was left asking: "If drivers can't see a penny-farthing, what chance does a child on a bicycle have?"...

Jeremy Vine was left wondering how he could possibly be more visible to some motorists after being blocked off by a driver while using a cycle lane on his penny-farthing.

The broadcaster and presenter regularly uploads videos from his cycling travels around London, his latest showing an incident while riding his penny-farthing on Cycleway 9 along Chiswick High Road in west London.

The protected cycling infrastructure gives users priority at junctions, such as the one at Devonshire Road seen in the footage, and has been designed in line with the recent Highway Code changes that mean drivers should give pedestrians or cyclists travelling straight priority when turning into a side road.

Having mounted his penny-farthing, Vine did not get far before a driver turned from his left before stopping in the middle of the junction, seemingly ignoring the three cyclists and one pedestrian waiting to cross Devonshire Road who should have had priority.

"Drivers must give way to cyclists on this cycle lane," Vine explained to viewers. "If drivers can't see a penny farthing, what chance does a child on a bike have?"

"Oh man, you don't even look," he could be heard saying as the driver pulled across the cycle lane. "If you can't see a penny farthing, you can't see a child," the video concludes.

Interestingly, the takeaway messaged Kevin Buck, a Conservative councillor for Southend West and Leigh, took from the video was that "these bicycles are very dangerous and should be banned".

"There's a reason they were abandoned many years ago in favour of the 'safety bicycle'!" he replied to Vine. "You complain roads are dangerous, yet deliberately expose yourself to greater risk. Someone WILL be killed using one, it's when, not if!"

It is not the first time Vine's use of his high wheel has led some to raise safety concerns, although in May 2020 it was a pointless helmet debate that the presenter's claim to being "the first person to cycle up the redesigned Park Lane on a penny-farthing" caused. Pointless because, well, he was wearing a helmet at the time. Never let the truth get in the way of a good Twitter row.

In February 2022, Vine was taken to hospital having crashed while riding his penny-farthing and sustained a black eye.

"I've been in the wars a little bit, as my mum would always say," he told his Channel 5 show. "Look at the black eye there, and I broke my glasses because I came off my penny-farthing. The thing is, when you're on it you're eight foot up, and I basically was on grass, no one around. I didn't see the divot, front wheel went into it, over the handlebars, I landed on my head, and a crowd gathered.

Jeremy Vine after penny farthing crash (screenshot via Twitter, Jeremy Vine on 5)

"When I went to A&E they said 'you're fine but you're lucky'. They said 'we've never written this ['was riding a penny-farthing'] on the form before'."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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17 comments

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Oldfatgit | 1 month ago
6 likes

Most drivers just aren't used to infrastructure that makes them give way immediately after turning in to a junction.

The give way signs could have been illuminated and have an audible Claxton, and it would not factor in to most drivers brain. As far as they are concerned, they are thinking about changing up a gear, rather than down a gear.

And placing the crossing on a table doesn't do anything to help either ... to most drivers, these tables are an inconvenience, and not a signal that something is different.

Education through media is the key ... and have representatives that are not afraid to tell the presenter or public that they have it wrong; that this a legal, lawful instruction and *follow through on punishment*.

Although ... personally, I'd rather tyre shredders that are on sensors and only allow vehicle traffic when the way is clear, but I guess that's not gonna happen.

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hawkinspeter replied to Oldfatgit | 1 month ago
8 likes
Oldfatgit wrote:

Most drivers just aren't used to infrastructure that makes them give way immediately after turning in to a junction. The give way signs could have been illuminated and have an audible Claxton, and it would not factor in to most drivers brain. As far as they are concerned, they are thinking about changing up a gear, rather than down a gear. And placing the crossing on a table doesn't do anything to help either ... to most drivers, these tables are an inconvenience, and not a signal that something is different. Education through media is the key ... and have representatives that are not afraid to tell the presenter or public that they have it wrong; that this a legal, lawful instruction and *follow through on punishment*. Although ... personally, I'd rather tyre shredders that are on sensors and only allow vehicle traffic when the way is clear, but I guess that's not gonna happen.

I don't think we deal with crossings/tables very well in the UK. It'd be better if they were coloured to look like they're part of the pavement rather than being part of the road. I'll leave it to chrisonabike to dig up examples of how it should be done.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
5 likes

Short - Jeremy Vine's example is neither fish nor fowl.  I think it's aiming at the common "side road crossing at junction" treatment - with space for a car to wait just off the main road.  However the way the colour is used is far from the Dutch version, and it seems someone also mixed in a bit of "continuous footway" in there (an "entry construction" in Dutch).

We've got the same in Edinburgh - you can see several in this video of the CCWEL.  Again in several of our cases I think the Dutch might go for the simpler "entrance construction" with "entrance kerb" - although again they might not given the volume of traffic on the main road!

I think in the UK the concern - understandably - is "but we must give the turning traffic somewhere to get out of the way".  That's really because some of our urban roads are too busy / have excessive speed limits.  Perhaps it's our overarching requirement to maintain traffic flow "maximise motor traffic capacity"?  It could be more pragmatic concern that other vehicles might drive into the back of any driver who stops and waits for pedestrians / cyclists?

It depends on the traffic flow / designation of the side road, but in NL I think they'd either have something like above OR (for a more minor side street) they'd have "continuous footway / cycleway".

On the latter: rather than repeat the usual, how about an evaluation of what we have actually built in the UK under that label from Living Streets (who set out to map every one in the UK)?  Not suprisingly they conclude:

Living Streets wrote:

There is a very high level of confusion over what is and what is not a
continuous footway, how they should be designed, and what their use aims to
achieve
 - Many of the designs being called continuous footways in Britain do not
convincingly continue the footway
 - Most of the designs being called continuous footways in Britain do not
provide high levels of pedestrian priority
 -  The use of these designs can create problems not just for some disabled
people, but for a wider group
 [...]
 - Structures used in other countries to create continuous footways are also
used on footway crossovers (private entrances across a footway), creating a
more inclusive design than is used at many British footway crossovers

However, Sustrans commisioned a study from UWE at selected locations and discovered that even though UK ones are wonky (and drivers are unlikely to get re-educated after passing their test) the better examples here are still pretty good at improving things for pedestrians without causing a massive spike in casualties.

However - we shouldn't waste cash building stuff which doesn't work - just do it right.  It's not hard - just go over to NotJustBikes, or The Alternative Department for Transport (there's another one here), or watch some of Bicycle Dutch's videos, or browse David Hembrow's site (or dozens of others).  Or even wander about on Streetview in NL.

The Dutch ones do vary but mostly follow clear and standard principles (unlike e.g. Edinburgh, which has taken multiple generations of duff designs to grope its way to something close to that).

Here's Robert Wheetman spelling out how to do that for UK audiences (and how to tell the good from the bad).

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chrisonabike replied to chrisonabike | 1 month ago
5 likes

Streetview doesn't have an up-to-date view of this junction (I get 2022) but there is one of the junction with Homefield road which looks similar.

I'd say it's not clear enough.  Choose - either be proper continuous footway / cycleway OR make it a side road junction.  If doing the latter then "waiting space" for a car is needed so it should be ... car-sized?

Also - if you're still going to contine the footway across the side road then it has to be really clear - it must not change (appearance) from the rest of the footway (same as the cycleway must not change).  That is to indicate this is NOT a road (so cars are "guests" - they're just permitted to cross the cycle path / footway here).

The example in the image looks like they couldn't decide ... and that likely means they should have just said "OK pedestrians, you are crossing a road" - so either a formal crossing (IIRC there are various legal requirements for that) or none at all and it's just informal.

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LordSandwich replied to chrisonabike | 1 month ago
3 likes

That junction looks like absolute hell to drive through! You have to wait for the vehicle traffic, the cycle traffic and the pedestrian traffic to be clear at the same time before crossing. Plus it's London so you have to deal with the idiot behind you leaning on the horn because you aren't breaking the law!

So glad I don't drive in London!

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chrisonabike replied to LordSandwich | 1 month ago
3 likes

That's probably how it goes in the London of today. Of course the *intent* (of the original designs) is to allow a driver to deal with one at a time! That's because cyclists move fast so quickly clear the junction (so you see 'em, pause, and they're gone) while pedestrians are slow so it should be easy to time your move safely.

Of course that's the *actual* Dutch designs - either:

1) a set-back cyclepath (normal Dutch intersection) where there should be a bit more space for a car to wait immediately after leaving / before joining the main road. Pedestrians would either have a marked crossing or probably expect to yield.

2) a "continuous cyclepath/footway" which does not have this "waiting space". Driver stops (either side of footway / cyclepath) and checks both are clear before rolling across (up and down a sharp ramp) dead slow. That is probably only suitable where the main road speed is low, there are low traffic volumes AND the side street traffic flow is very low. In the UK it's often the case that our "high streets" carry a lot of traffic. Even the side streets act as through-routes / connector routes as UK tends to have motor traffic permeability everywhere. Roll on more LTNs / filtered permeability!

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HLaB replied to hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
2 likes

Proper Continuous, they are starting to crop up in the UK 

https://images.app.goo.gl/PNqQvuzEp23egX3F6

https://images.app.goo.gl/BXFrKQYRmKMawPhs5

Robert Wheetman does a good blog:

Design Details 1 – Nicer cities, liveable places (wordpress.com)

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chrisonabike replied to HLaB | 1 month ago
0 likes

Per the excellent Mr. Wheetman (whose articles on continuous footway I've linked in my earlier post), some of those are questionable.  But it's getting to the "little details" though.  Which is good...

...but also not good as in "for crying out loud, you've clearly seen some proper ones, why can't you just copy that exactly?"

The UK seems to have infinite reserves of "yes but..." or "...and we'll just make a couple of 'improvements'...".  Yes, there are sometimes legal impediments to doing it "just like they do" but often it seems like whimsy.  And I know that the Dutch system is (surprisingly) light on the "unified legal standards" but generally they have a "best practice" and stick to it (otherwise local authorities could be explaining themselves in court if there are accidents).

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hawkinspeter replied to HLaB | 1 month ago
2 likes
HLaB wrote:

Proper Continuous, they are starting to crop up in the UK 

https://images.app.goo.gl/PNqQvuzEp23egX3F6

https://images.app.goo.gl/BXFrKQYRmKMawPhs5

Robert Wheetman does a good blog:

Design Details 1 – Nicer cities, liveable places (wordpress.com)

I had a look at some of Robert Wheetman's blogs last night. I thought his "I want my street to be like this" quite enlightening about the different attitude used to design roads

https://robertweetman.wordpress.com/2019/03/19/i-want-my-street-to-be-like-this/

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OldRidgeback | 1 month ago
11 likes

The only way to stop this is for cycle training to be a compulsory part of the driving test and also compulsory for all drivers renewing licences.

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JOHN5880 replied to OldRidgeback | 1 month ago
14 likes

I wish I was confident that would make a measurable difference. Unfortunately a large portion of our society do things they know can harm others simply because they don't care and are unable to stop focusing on themselves and what they want to do in every moment, with a blatant disregard for anyone and anything going on around them (if they're even looking and not taking a peek at something pointless on their phone. 

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C3a replied to JOHN5880 | 1 month ago
4 likes

I agree.

My view is that safe, careful, courteous and considerate driving requires empathy.

Empathy requires significant energy and processing to achieve - as applied to the road you need to be able to position yourself as someone else and anticipate their needs and likely choices.  Years of reviewing my own dashcam footage as a reflective learning tool for being a better driver has shown me that most drivers lack the headspace/ capacity / discipline to be empathetic when behind the wheel; they make last minute decisions and they make them badly (selfishly, dangerously).  The only way to survive is to have as much space around you as possible.

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FionaJJ replied to C3a | 1 month ago
1 like

I think this is the benefit of defensive driving being engrained. It is automatic to leave enough space, or slow down to account for lack of ability to see around corners etc. Not only do people have more time to spot things, the habit of driving that way leaves more headspace to deal with the variables.

Unfortunatley, too many drivers don't leave anything like the recommended  breaking distance between them and the car in front, and  they are on edge the whole time to make sure the gap is as small as they dare. 

Some complain that giving priority to those crossing a side street will result in a pile-up on the main road, but that requires at least two bad drivers in a row. The first bad driver being the one who didn't slow down adequately to give themselves enough time to see if there were any vehicles, or pedestrians in the space to avoid an emergency stop. The second being the vehicle behind who didn't leave a big enough gap and/or failed to consider that the car in front might slow down and/or stop to turn into a side street.

In Jeremy's example, I think it's a case of the driver not realising that Jeremy had priority, so didn't think to look. Better education and road markings will help. 

While I agree that Jeremy had priority and the woman should have waited, I'm not convinced she failed to see the other two cyclists, as they only arrived at the junction after she'd stopped, and would have cleared the space before they go there. At worst they may have had to slow down slightly to let her clear, but I don't see that as a big deal. Considerate drivers routinely slow down a bit to let someone out of or into a junction. Cyclists who go at top speed just to prove they've had to slow down to let someone in are just as annoying as those drivers who speed up to close any natural gaps that might be useful to those waiting to turn.

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chrisonabike replied to OldRidgeback | 1 month ago
7 likes

Surely "the only way to stop this is by mandating training, number plates, licences and insurance for cyclists and banning unsafe contraptions like penny farthings (add to list as you see fit eg. aerobars, recumbents etc.)" ?

People will do what they are facilitated to do - that's own cars and drive everywhere. And do so without needing to approach each journey as the operation of dangerous machinery needing sustained attention. They'll do what there is social pressure to do - same, plus use their phones all the time. They'll also do things there isn't strong social pressure *not* to do and that they can get away with - see phones.

OTOH there is social pressure *not* to be "odd" or do things associated with being poorer. That would currently be cycling in the UK. Note that because "humans" things are flexible - in NL cycling for transport is *not* seen as odd. And indeed can be prestigious eg. showing you can afford to live in the heart of an expensive area and easily cycle to engagements.

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Bungle_52 replied to OldRidgeback | 1 month ago
0 likes

I would think reporting to police would not do any harm. I think they would take action on this one and word would get around through family and friends.

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bobbinogs replied to Bungle_52 | 1 month ago
0 likes
Bungle_52 wrote:

I would think reporting to police would not do any harm. I [don't] think they would take action on this one and word would get around through family and friends.

Corrected that for you 

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Nagai74 replied to OldRidgeback | 1 month ago
0 likes

No proof of this, but wouldn't you imagine that the majority of drivers have ridden pushbikes at some point in their lives, even if only as kids?

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