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Tuesday, 26 February 2013
A shrine on Limpsfield Road

imageThese poignant images are from the B269, Limpsfield Road between Warlingham and Limpsfield, near to the scene of the accident that I witnessed in August 2012.  The flowers, cards, sign are in memory of Wayne Michie, a 35 year old man from Sevenoaks who was killed here on 26th January 2009 when he collided with an oncoming vehicle. I took these photos on 2 February, and the flowers may have been placed here on the third anniversary of Wayne’s death by his family.

image

This stretch of road is something of an accident blackspot, with accidents on 27th May 2012, 16th October 2011, 24th September 2012, and according to the UK Crash Map over 70 additional accidents between 2005 and 2011.  Of these 70 accidents, 10 were classified as “serious” and 2 were “fatal”.  Wayne Mitchie’s flowers remind us that all the people who were involved in these accidents had families and friends who were affected by their death or injury.

Part of the problem with this road is that it is a B category road, that has been built to A category quality. The speed limit is 60 mph, which means that many cars exceed that speed, and that the closing distance between 2 cars in the event of a collision is in excess of 120 mph. Here is a random video that I took of cars using this road, which illustrates the problems of speeding, tailgating and needless over-taking.

As a footnote, this road has some history: In 1965 the Member of Parliament for Reigate, raised a question about the safety of another section of this road (closer to Limpsfield) after after six accidents were reported between 1st January and 21st May, 1965, of which two were fatal. Even before that, in the era before the motor vehicle, it is alleged that there was a nasty carriage accident on this road, resulting in a “ghostly haunting”.  I have written about this here and here.

 

Posted by bigblue on 26/02/2013 at 07:30 AM
Filed under: EuropeUnited KingdomEngland • (4) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share

As a motorist and life-time resident of Oxted I am fully aware of the dangers in using this road especially in times of poor visibility due to fog.  In recent times, due I suspect, to the Bradley Wiggins effect, an increasing number of cyclists are to be seen riding in packs, occasionally three abreast, and causing unnecessary obstruction, this when there is a separate pedestrian/cyclist lane along its length built at considerable expense.

I would agree that where a dozen, or more cyclists are on the move the single track provided is less than adequate but, during your film two, solo, cyclists are seen ignoring the facility.

I should appreciate your comments on the behavior of both the ‘pack’ and ‘solo’ cyclists, neither of the latter shown were wearing high visibility clothing.  It is not only motorists that cause or contribute to accidents.

Posted by Gee Gee  on  26/02/2013  at  06:58 PM

Hi Gee Gee, thank you for your comment and questions. I think it is important that all road users respect each other and “get along”. I understand that cyclists should not ride more than two abreast, and all cycle clubs (I don’t ride with one but have read some of their rules) enforce that on their rides. They also don’t like to ride in a cluster or long continuous pack, because it might make it more difficult for cars to overtake, so they leave “gaps”.

My experience is that cyclists ride two abreast, or as a single rider in “primary position” (centre of the lane) where they judge it would not be safe for a car to attempt to squeeze past them. In order for a car to overtake they would then have to adhere to section 163 of the Highway Code, and move into the lane of oncoming traffic (when it is safe and legal to do so). In a narrow country lane there is often no space to overtake even a single cyclist (or horse or tractor) safely so the driver needs to be patient and wait until the next “passing point” for the cyclist to move over. So in some circumstances it shouldn’t make a difference to the driver if there are two abreast, because even if it was a solo rider it would not really be safe or legal to pass.

That said, it sounds though as if you have experienced something else, which is wrong, which I cannot justify, and which I don’t have any experience of anyway (either as a cyclist or a motorist), except once or twice when I drove up the tail end of a London to Brighton cycle race/event.

I also don’t feel comfortable seeing cyclists on the busy B269 road, and I am sure that I see more that use the road than use that cycle path you mention.  Towards the end of the video I crossed the road to the path (because that is what I use when cycling along there). I would not recommend anyone to do otherwise. However I do join the road for about 200m at the Titsey Hill end, where the cycle path crosses over because the condition for that stretch (near Botley Hill farmhouse) is quite atrocious, and dangerous. I fell and hurt myself there quite badly once.

For me, on my mountain bike, the rest of the cycle path is not too bad. But it is not great, and I suspect that is why most cyclists, who are on road bikes, avoid it. It has a number of potholes, and there are bad sections, especially at the farm entrances and at the road crossings. For most of the year the path is also very narrow, and overgrown. In summer it is overgrown with nettles and it is not pleasant being lashed by these plants when cycling along the path!

Since the path was created/widened in 2003 it seems to have deteriorated. Here are some descriptions of it by cyclists:

Hazard Description - This cycle path is possible the worst laid & maintained piece of tarmac in the area. There are two main areas that are plagued by ridges and ruts too numerous to accurately describe. It has recently had a few token repairs but this has not made it any easier to use. This is an important alternative to the adjacent busy and fast main road.  

(November 2008),

Hazard Description - the cycle-path along side B269 ,Croydon Rd especially at the Farm entrances AND the junction with Beech Farm Rd

(December 2009)

The cycle path occassionally receives attention, perhaps when someone lobbies the local council hard, as in this case.  I have also had two punctures due to the condition of the path, which is on a downward trajectory.  I tend to agree with Jeremy Clarkeson when he says that motorists and cyclists should be segregated more, which requires that proper provision be created for cyclists, and not “tick box” exercises or unmaintained paths by local councils.

Finally I’m not sure why those cyclists aren’t wearing hi-vis clothing. I do, but I’m also not sure how important it is in conditions of good visibility. What I did establish was that of those 70+ incidents between 2005 and 2011, only one involved a pedal bike (and that involved a slight injury) in an incident at the intersection of Slines Oak Road. There also appears to be some evidence from a Bath University study that drivers overtake cyclists more dangerously if they perceive the cyclist to be more expert or to be wearing a helmet.

Somehow that gives me no comfort!

Posted by bigblue  on  26/02/2013  at  11:06 PM

What I did establish was that of those 70+ incidents between 2005 and 2011, only one involved a pedal bike (and that involved a slight injury) in an incident at the intersection of Slines Oak Road.

Do you know the ratio of motor vehicles to bicycles?  It could be that the road is statistically more dangerous for bicycles but there are just far fewer of them.

Posted by Janet  on  26/02/2013  at  11:37 PM

@Janet - point taken. Cyclists may be in more danger than drivers, statistically, but it does show that motor vehicle drivers are more than capable of causing accidents on this stretch on their own (without any influence by cyclists)?

Posted by bigblue  on  27/02/2013  at  06:58 PM

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