Operation Close Pass day – Still trying to get Lancs & M’side Stats

My posting below from 26th April mentioned a national policing campaign which was held on 14th April this year called ‘Operation Close Pass Day’ when police forces across the country would be sending out officers on cycles to try to catch those drivers who dangerously overtake cyclists by passing far too close to them. Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/04/26/a-random-act-of-abuse-on-a-beautiful-day/

Photo from Cycling UK showing the likely change to the Highway Code for passing a cyclist.

I said back then that I awaited a response from both Lancashire and Merseyside Police about how they engaged with the campaign day and the results of their participation. To date, I’ve still had no response so, with the help of Cycling UK, I’ve now contacted them both again this time via their respective Road Safety Partnership websites in the hope that they will answer my queries.

Close passing of cyclists is highly dangerous and in my part of the world, the roads where it seems to be a big problem are Southport Road and Moss Lane in Lydiate and Prescot Road in Aughton, although it can happen on any road particularly where it’s one which vehicles are driven along at high speeds. Even drivers who would normally leave plenty of room when overtaking a cyclist can end up passing one far too closely. This often happens where a vehicle has started an overtaking manoeuvre and then the driver sees another vehicle approaching on the opposite carriageway. Obviously, most drivers will pull back in such circumstances but the impatient ones carry on sometimes coming within inches of a cyclist. Sadly, this can lead to cyclists being knocked off their bikes just because a driver is in too much of a hurry.

The present Highway Code is a little vague about this as it says that as much room as possible should be left when overtaking a cyclist. The plan is to change that to 1.5m of room must be left when overtaking a cyclist as the photo above demonstrates.

So there you have it or in the case of Lancs & Merseyside Police there you don’t have it as I still do not have their data from the campaign day. Let’s hope my contact via their Road Safety Partnerships delivers or it will have to be Freedom of Information Requests and I really hope it does not have to come to that.

A random act of abuse on a beautiful day

Cycling along Acres Lane in Great Altcar yesterday was glorious; the countryside and weather were just right for peddling. However, someone had to spoil it and they achieved that by abusing a fellow cyclist all because they had been slowed down by a bike. Indeed, instead of simply safely passing the cyclist, they had to draw up alongside wind down the passenger window and take a bit more of their day to ensure they were fully understood by the cyclist, if you get my drift!

So what was it all about? Testosterone, selfishness, petrol-headedness, intimidation of a more vulnerable road user – your guess is as good as mine but one thing I have yet to see as a daily cyclist around Sefton and West Lancashire Boroughs is for such behavior to be exhibited by a female driver. Yes, abusing/intimidating cyclists is very much a male-dominated hobby in my experience.

And what you might ask was my fellow cyclist doing other than peddling along a country lane to get this chap so upset? Nothing at all, he was simply going about his lawful business, following the Highway Code and enjoying his day.

When I’m cycling pedestrians are the most vulnerable things on the road. When I’m driving pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists are the most vulnerable things on the road. It’s the mindset of drivers who think they are the most important thing on the road that’s dangerous. Powered vehicles are never the most important, except on a Motorway.

Yes, I’m fully aware that some (usually male) drivers very much disapprove of cyclists and that they think we should not be allowed on our roads. I’ve even had one barmy driver tell me to get onto the pavement, which of course is telling me to do something which is illegal (although rarely enforced)!

Photo from Cycling UK showing the likely chage to the Highway Code for passing a cyclist.

Cycling UK, of which I’m a member, recently told me that many UK police forces had taken part in a campaign (#OperationClosePass Day) to tackle close-passing of cyclists. This practice is sadly a regular thing you get used to but it’s dangerous and often caused by poor driving or even done deliberately to intimidate cyclists. The Highway Code presently says a driver should leave as much room as possible when passing a cyclist but that is soon to be changed to a more specific distance to leave beween a cyclist and a passing/overtaking vehicle. I raise this aspect now of course because close-passing of cyclists is very much related to the kind of driver behaviour which I observed yesterday.

I’ve asked both Lanashire Police & Merseyside Police to publish information about how they participated in the safety campaign but have yet to hear back from either Force. The idea, as I understand it, was to send out coppers on cycles, dressed in plain clothes/cycling gear, so that they could identify bad/dangerous drivers who were not observing a safe passing distance when overtaking. I’ll let you know what I get back from Lancs & Merseyside Police.

Virually all cyclists are drivers too but many drivers are not cyclists. Cycling is getting more and more popular for fitness and environmental reasons so the conflict bewtteen cyclists going about their lawful riding with drivers who want them off our roads is only going to become a bigger issue. The police really need to tackle dangerous and intimidatory driving that’s why initiatives like #OperationClosePass Day are so important.

Cycling and crossing Maghull’s ‘Berlin Wall’

The new (ish) cyclist unfriendly Alt Junction in Maghull

Maghull is very flat so you’d expect it to be perfect to cycle around and yet the busy A59/Northway cuts Maghull in half. I’ve always said it’s akin to the Town’s own Berlin Wall when it comes to cycling and even to some extent walking. I have of course blogged about this matter many times before and called upon Sefton Council to improve the lot of cyclists wanting to cross and cycle safely along Maghull’s great divide. Here’s a link to a previous posting of mine on this matter:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/09/03/maghull-lydiates-berlin-wall-the-bible-of-cycling-infrastructure/

I was and for that matter still am unimpressed with the new(ish) Alt junction as, in my opinion, it’s not cyclist-friendly. Expecting cyclists to dismount and then follow the same circuitous route that pedestrians have been landed with at this junction is not encouraging folks to leave their cars behind, in fact, it probably has just the opposite effect!

So, why do I return to this subject now? Well, improvements are afoot as shared-space cycle/pedestrian routes are being constructed on either side of the A59 between the Town Hall/Hall Lane and Damfield Lane junctions. The Damfield Lane/A59 junction, which has a poor accident record, is also being turned into a traffic-lighted one.

So the lot of cyclists is being improved although clearly, an A59 safe cycle route needs to pass through all of Maghull and indeed Lydiate to reach the cycle tracks along the A59 to the north of Robins Island in West Lancs. But don’t be churlish Robertson progress is being made which should be welcomed, and I do indeed welcome the progress.

Here are some shots of the work presently being undertaken at Damfield Lane and along the A59 to the Hall Lane junction:-

Looking towards the Town Hall/Hall Lane junction with the new and widened shared space path.

Elevated view of new Damfield Lane junction layout.

Damfield Lane junction looking north

It will be interesting to see how cyclist-friendly the Damfield Lane junction is when works are completed because from my perspective cyclists should not have to dismount to travel through a junction as seems to be the highway engineer’s want at the Alt junction. Junctions should be designed so that cyclists can go through them safely whilst pedalling not via having to walk.

I’m sure there’ll be much more to comment on as our presently very limited local cycling network is painfully slowly expanded.

Rolling back Beeching half a mile at a time

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

Some time ago government made a high profile bid for the railway enthusiast/environmental vote by saying they were putting up money to reinstate the railway cut-backs of the 1960’s Beeching era. It was all good stuff but when you have an idea how much a railway costs to reinstate then the amount of money on offer was to say the least rather insignificant whereas the expectations raised have been very significant. The amount on offer was (and I think still is) £500m and some experts think that’s only enough to reinstate around 25 miles of track in total!

Here’s a link to the original press coverage via the Independent’s website:-

www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/fleetwood-rail-cuts-beeching-grant-shapps-borders-railway-west-coast-a9304686.html

And here’s the list of projects bidding for the money!:-

assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/969125/restoring-your-railway-all-bids.csv/preview

Clearly Pandora’s Box has been opened and unless vastly more money is put into this pot there’s going to be some angry and potentially feeling misled people about. Even if you say two thirds of the projects won’t make the cut the rest will cost many billions of £’s.

Locally, there are two projects on the long list of bidders – reconnecting the Burscough Curves (which used to connect the Southport – Wigan and Ormskirk Preston lines at Burscough) and the reopening of Midge Hall Station on the Ormskirk – Preston line. As a member of OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Assn) I’m reasonably informed about both bids as they’ve been campaigned for over many, many years. The Burscough Curves project did not make the 1st round approval process to be progressed via this particular funding route. In effect a revised bid is required. The Midge Hall Station project may see the light of day via planning gain money associated with a large housing development close to it, although that’s been talked about for ages too.

So with expectations being so high and very significant efforts being made with regard to each bid how will the potentially many let-downs be handled?

My thanks to Jonathan Cadwallader for the lead to this posting

Maghull – When its railway was a main line

I’m returning to the railway photos of former Maghull resident and British Rail employee Neil Reston. The 3 photo’s in this posting were all taken from the same spot where Poverty Lane Maghull crosses over the what is now the Ormskirk Line of Merseyrail but until the late 1960’s was a main line north to Scotland from Liverpool Exchange Station.

All 3 photos are of northbound trains with the lead photo being noted as a Glasgow train. They were all taken in 1968 which is right at the end of through trains using the line from for former Liverpool Exchange Station to Scotland.

I have more 1960’s photos to work my way through of railway scenes across Merseyside from the Neil Reston Collection which was kindly passed on to me by his family.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

A trip around Unilever’s Port Sunlight railway system in 1963

I continue to work my through the photographic collection of Neil Reston, a former BR employee, who lived in Maghull. His collection of mainly 1960’s black and white railway photos was generously passed on to me by his relatives.

This posting is all about a visit to Unilever’s Port Sunlight premises by the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society on 26th October 1963 and takes the form of a look at the small brochure produced for the visit and a number of photos. Enjoy……

Duchess of Kent loco

Control Centre

Control Point

Main line to factory

Lever Bros guads van

Lever Bros wagons

I wonder if anyone reading this posting will have been on that RCTS tour. It would be interesting to hear of experiences of the Port Sunlight railway system at any time.

Please click on each scan to enlarge it