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Letters: Cyclists’ safety is now critical

 

London cyclng

Mean streets: Three cyclists have been killed in the past two weeks

 

When the (presumably fit, experienced and confident (40km/day)) editor of NCE announces he is too afraid to cycle (Comment, 5 February), this is a shameful reflection on our government (inadequate policies), our justice system (not fit for purpose, lessons not learned) and our engineers (far behind best practice in attitude and design). What hope then for the target group aged 8 to 80 years old getting on their bikes?

Our construction industry doesn’t help by sending blind lorries (and drivers) out on our roads.

Six years ago last week Joao Lopes drove his 32t fully-laden tipper lorry right over the top of Eilidh Cairns and her bike at Notting Hill Gate. He failed his eyesight test. He went on to run down and kill pedestrian Nora Gutman 15 months later. He wasn’t wearing glasses. He was released from a four-year jail sentence last year. He and his victims; failed by government, failed by the justice system, failed by the industry.

In the last two weeks we again have seen three cyclists killed and one pedestrian hit by ­construction HGVs.

I urge those with the influence in the industry, especially leaders of forthcoming major infrastructure projects, to sign up to the new national construction logistics and cyclist safety standard (CLOCS) as a matter of urgency.

See Me Save Me is campaigning to eliminate the blind spots in lorries, the blindness of the justice system and blind eye that the construction industry turns on its dangerous activities.

This week an HGV driver joined our campaign. We welcome industry partners. Together we can stem the futile loss of life faster.

I wait impatiently for the day our editor gets back on his bike.

  • Kate Cairns, founder, See Me Save Me, kate.cairns@gmail.com


CP Scott said: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”, so I welcome Mark Hansford’s freedom to repeat three times in a short editorial that segregation of cycle traffic from motor traffic is a “terrible mistake”. Some facts may help, though. A lack of road space means that anything we can do to encourage more cycle use, which is less space hungry than motorised vehicles, is to be ­encouraged.

Evidence suggests that achieving high levels of cycling is, among other interventions, linked with the provision of separate cycling facilities along heavily trafficked routes. I suspect, however, the seemingly eponymous power of segregation will continue to create divided opinion. Our duty as professional engineers is to gather the best evidence available on appropriate and safe designs for such separated routes, and this, Transport for London has been doing.

Contributory factors are recorded when collisions occur. In collisions involving bicycles in 2013 in Great Britain, 73% of cases have contributory factors recorded relating to driver behaviour, and 50% of cases have contributory factors recorded relating to bicycle rider behaviour. That is to say, cyclists were less likely to have contributory factors recorded against them than drivers of motor vehicles in collisions involving bicycles.

If we are going to use anecdotal evidence, however, here is mine: I have commuted by bicycle for just over 40 years and not suffered a single collision or injury. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet unduly, I hope this as much a result of my skill and judgement as it is simple good fortune. In addition to appropriate infrastructure provision, such skill and judgement is, of course, something to be encouraged amongst all road users.

  • Professor John Parkin (F), chair of the Institution of Civil Engineers Cycle Working Group

Professor of Transport Engineering, University of the West of England, john.parkin@uwe.ac.uk
While agreeing with Mark Hansford that to make cycling safer it is necessary to enforce the Highway Code I cannot accept that the provision of segregated cycle routes is a mistake.

He perceives the main risk to himself as a cyclist is other cyclists. This surprises me and I wonder if it is because London not only has more cyclists but more than its fair share of irresponsible cyclists? My limited experience of cycling in London suggests this. In Swansea, where I live, occasional letters appear in the local press complaining about thoughtless cyclists, but incidents are rare.

An important point is that injuries on segregated paths are generally less severe than those involving motorised vehicles. Nearly all pedestrian and cycle fatalities are on our roads.

The way forward is surely to have an appropriate mix of segregated cycle routes and routes on roads, with or without cycle lanes. These need to meet demanding criteria, so I was pleased to read in Will Mann’s article in the same issue of NCE that London mayor Boris Johnson intends to deliver his new routes to a “high standard”.

Cycling needs to be encouraged for many reasons of which health is one. I am now 80 and cycling is still my main means of transport. Could the good health I enjoy be related?

  • David Naylor (M), davidjohnnaylor@sky.com

Your contention that all road users should adhere to the Highway Code resonated with me as a car driver.

In Stirling and its surrounding beautiful countryside I notice that the majority of cyclists do not seem to know that the Highway Code either advises or requires them to wear high visibility clothing or bands both day and (especially) after dark. Even if the bike is lit, the wearing of black or dark clothing does not help a vehicle driver to see the cyclist in good time; some lights are very small in any case.

I recently passed a group of approaching cyclists at night on an A road where a couple but not all were lit and all were wore dark clothing; a 100m farther on, another single cyclist passed without lights and dressed in dark clothing.

  • Keith Henry (F), henryglenburn@btinternet.com

 

Chartered status needs high standards

I resigned from the ICE’s Academic Qualifications Panel (AQP) and, in the belief that we are dumbing down the route to chartered status, stood for and was elected to ICE Council. So I follow the ongoing discussions about standards with interest.

Engineering Council UK (ECUK) chief executive Jon Prichard cannot be right to imply that an MEng degree is not part of the output standards required in the make-up for Chartered Engineer status (NCE 29 January). The majority of Chartered Professional Review (CPR) candidates hold accredited MEng or BEng plus MSc degrees as having defined output standards including knowledge and understanding of engineering principles.

However, AQP, in assessing candidates with cognate but non-civil engineering degrees, allows progression to CPR without demonstration of knowledge and understanding of engineering principles. This is contrary to ECUK’s regulations, which require those without accredited degrees to have the same level of knowledge and understanding (of engineering principles key to our discipline) as those with exemplifying qualifications.

It is not about qualification versus experience, as stated by Arvind Kumar (Letters 29 January). It is about knowledge and understanding of engineering principles, demonstrated by accredited qualification or Technical Report Route, and practical experience to achieve the output standards required of a chartered engineer.

  • Frank Marples (F), frank.marples@gmail.com

Are EngTechs not qualified for Safety Register?

Why is it that membership of the ICE Safety Register is open only to IEng and CEng members of the ICE, and others, namely “professionally qualified” members of “other” Engineering Council UK-licenced bodies?

As an Eng Tech (TMICE) am I being told I am less valued than IEng and CEng? The ICE should decide where its aims and objectives are going. On the one hand the ICE is driving forward EngTech membership, and EngTech’s are being told they are valued “professionally qualified” members of the ICE, but on the other hand it appears that EngTech’s do not appear to be considered worthy of equal consideration for membership of, for example, the ICE H&S Register.

A couple of years or so ago now I entered a health and safety competition in NCE (my one and only entry in any NCE competition), and won. Based on the ICE assumption that presumably EngTech’s somehow lack professional competence in health and safety, I can only presume I must have been the only competition entrant; as I won a case of 12 bottles of excellent (so I am told) wine, but not being a wine drinker myself, I can’t vouch for that.

  • Stuart Nagle (TMICE), 93 Allington Drive, Rochester, Kent ME2 3SZ

 

Masters degrees versus more apprentices

I read with interest Martin Blower’s article ‘Do Geotechnical Engineers need an MSc?’ (NCE 5 February). It struck me I had read similar articles in either NCE or Ground Engineering or both probably every year throughout my 30 years-plus career in the industry. Geotechnical engineering and engineering geology-based Masters degrees are a valuable means of entering the industry and a variety of courses are available. The majority primarily cater for geologists wishing to join the civil engineering profession and introduce them to the more numerate areas such as soil mechanics. Many civil engineers also enter the geotechnical profession directly and generally contribute to the more numerate geotechnical design arena.

As skills shortages in engineering are generally becoming more acute would it be of value to the geotechnical profession in developing higher apprenticeships to help attract and develop a larger proportion of the next generation of ground engineering professionals?

  • Malcolm Eddleston, Dominion House, Temple Court, Birchwood, Warrington WA3 6GD

 

ICE must have another female president

I support the campaign in NCE being led by the editor to promote the position of women engineers in our profession. We have had a succession of industry’s worthies signing up to his crusade.

NCE is a vigorous and vocal promoter of the cause of equality and I refer to the editor’s Comment (15 January) following two letters seeking clarification of definitions of feminism and equalism. It would be easy to get carried away by such debate. What we are talking about is treating women in engineering exactly the same as men. He is issuing a strong call to action, no less, which will “drive out the apathy around gender equality that pervades our industry”.

Where is that apathy most apparent?

It is seven years since Jean Venables was elected the first female president in 2008. Who is the next woman on the presidential road to succession? And when will that be?

The proportion of women in the Institution is approaching 20%. In a quest for equality there should be a second female president soon, say in 2018. This would be not merely a gesture, but a tangible boost to encouraging more women members into our Institution. Council should include in its procedure for selecting a president the concept of equality, and this might include intervals based on proportionality. There should be no implication of a quota.

The composition of Council is very male dominated. This should also be addressed. Let us widen the sermon on gender equality and push for women to get a fair share on Council and of being President. The President of the Institution is a prestigious position, and should not be the exclusive prerogative of men with the very occasional woman.

You, as editor, have perhaps the most powerful single voice in our profession and are in the best position of us all to have the present arrangement consigned to history.

  • Tom Patterson (F), ­tompatterson@ntlworld.com
  • Editor’s note: It is certainly time that Venables was succeeded. But by whom? That is the major challenge. I’d welcome suggestions.


Tidal power can answer our energy needs

I would have rephrased Tim Chapman’s question to: “Does low carbon mean tidal power?” It is pleasing that the Swansea Bay tidal power scheme has started and now is the time for many more projects to be brought forward. The Seven Barrage will provide an enormous contribution to the country’s energy generation.

Because this is a maritime nation, we have an endless source of energy surrounding us and every effort should be made to harness it.

With the varying tidal movements around the coastline and each power unit connected to the national grid, there is always power being generated and so the need to store large amounts of energy is minimised. Nuclear power will leave future generations with huge long term pollution and decommissioning problems.

  • Derek Smith (M), Jaysfield, Graffham, Petworth, West Sussex GU28 0QB

 

What are doctors doing about feminism?

Apparently 80% of senior gynaecologists in the UK are male. I wonder if the medical profession is being challenged in the same way as we civil engineers?
I share the disquiet expressed by Peter Leckie and David Yarwood (Letters 15 January) regarding the politically motivated debate regarding gender parity and the slightly ludicrous claims of support from some senior figures in the industry expressing ‘feminist’ (sic) aspirations.

I find it strange that we are being encouraged on the one hand to challenge sexist language and on the other to support feminism.

There is more to any individual than their gender - we have all had to overcome barriers and prejudices to progress in our chosen profession.

Tony Putsman tony.putsman@xps.org.uk

  • Editor’s note: I agree we all have to overcome barriers in life. The simple point though, surely, is that we should not be erecting unnecessary ones?

Why it’s time to give thorium a chance

thorium

Future power: Thorium is abundant and far safer as a nuclear fuel than Uranium

I agree wholeheartedly with Tim Chapman (NCE 8 January): it is a grave mistake for any country to totally ignore the potential contribution that nuclear power can make to an overall energy need.

I am intimately aware of the shortcomings shared to a greater or lesser extent by all renewable energy sources against which new nuclear has to be judged; this through a personal involvement in the engineering development of wave/wind energy devices in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to a lifelong interest in the subject in breadth.

In 2009 David MacKay authored Sustainable energy -without the hot air; this tour de force handily puts into numbers what we can expect from the various energy options available to us.

It is freely available online and comes greatly recommended as a first read.

In the few years since there has developed a worldwide interest in thorium as a preferred source material for the next generation of nuclear power.

As one example, China is reportedly putting its research on a “war” footing aiming to have a prototype thorium plant up and running within the next two years.

Research is ongoing in this country but is currently in need of a massive injection of funds to maintain momentum.

The thorium cycle, if it can be engineered at a competitive cost/benefit ratio, has many potential advantages over other sources of energy.

Thorium power is vertiginously green in that it makes use of, and hence effectively disposes of, hitherto waste uranium as part of the power generation process.

Certainly, in my opinion, it is worthy of a punt by government.

  • Malcolm Woolley, malcolmwoolley@uwclub.net

Readers' comments (2)

  • Tom Patterson is correct in his call that it is time for another female president; it is a call that has been echoed for the roles of Scotland Region Chair and Edinburgh Branch Chair. Unfortunately it won't happen unless women engineers step forward and volunteer to be involved.
    Over the year and a half that I've been in post as Chair of the Edinburgh Branch, I have been putting out the message that we need colleagues from all areas of the profession to be involved as that is how they will maximise the value of their membership. For the Edinburgh Branch this call is especially true for technicians, male or female. Please step forward and get involved.

    Michael Woods IEng MICE
    ICE Health & Safety Registered
    taff-mtw@blueyonder.co.uk

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  • Re. Keith Henry's comment "... majority of cyclists do not seem to know that the Highway Code either advises or requires them ...". It seems he is unsure - but it is an advisory for clothing, just as there is the exact same advice for pedestrians (Rule 59). There is a requirement for front and back reflectors to be fitted on the bicycle and to be lit after dark. This should of course be enforced, for the safety of everyone.

    In fact, cyclists are more likely to be drivers than not (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2010/aug/10/cycling-boom-survey) and have very good knowledge of the highway code - beating drivers in knowledge quizzes(http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/latest-news/cyclists-beat-drivers-road-safety-survey-146059).

    ultimately the answer is better road infrastructure which accepts people will make mistakes, but limits the effects of those mistakes by separating vehicles that have huge disparities in mass and velocity. That is, high quality, continuous, segregated cycle lanes and an end to the relentless prioritisation of private motor vehicles in town centres.

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