On my commute in to work the other day, I was riding in the bus lane in the Newtown Area of Birmingham. Traffic from Birchfield Road emerges from an underpass which bypasses a traffic island. Cyclists are permitted to ride in the bus lane. Normally that means just having to watch out for buses. However, there is a left turn just ahead. Traffic coming from Birchfield Road often drives across to the left across the bus lane to take this left turn.
On this particular morning, I noticed a Pilkington glass lorry. He was coming uphill (having just come out of the underpass) and was slowing down. I was going downhill having come down from the island above the underpass. I was going ahead at the next lights and I was gaining speed. The lorry intends to go left. I am gaining on him rapidly as he slows right down and he looms towards me somewhat ominously. I see his indicator and brake. I realise what he intends to do. Thankfully, we have both seen each other. When he realises that I have slowed right down and that I am not going to come through, he makes his move.
So you might ask, why should I be drawing attention to this little incident when nothing bad happend.
When I viewed the footage, I realised how much we depend on looking out for each other on our roads. Many of the deaths of cyclists on our roads have involved cyclists who have been crushed by left turning heavy goods vehicles. I ask myself, if I had continued at my previous speed and the lorry driver had not seen me, I would be dead. As I was in my lane and he was in another lane, it would have been his fault because I am entitled to proceed in my lane at the speed that traffic in my lane is proceeding. That's would not be much comfort to my wife and children. However, since I did not want to tangle with him, I gave way. There was noone right behind me. What would have happened, if a bus was just coming up behind me and had not noticed me? By braking to avoid the lorry, I could have been hit by a bus.
In the Netherlands, the construction of proper road infrastructure has reduced the risk that a moments inattention of a cyclist or a lorry driver does not result in an inquest. People do make mistakes. Death should not be the consequence. We have it within our power to reduce the death toll on our roads by providing proper Dutch style infrastructure.
Tim Beasley, Partner, Levenes Solicitors Birmingham Office.