Too close

I’ve blogged about the joys of commuting between Lancaster, Wigan and Leigh a few times before (here, here and here). I’ve lost count of the number of close passes and near misses that have happened to me in the last six months, but today’s encounter was the worst.

I was cycling through Lancaster, making my way to the train station, along the A6.


The cycle lane is little more than some leftover paint, but it is better than nothing (maybe). As I came towards the traffic lights with Meeting House Lane, a car pulled alongside me with the left indicator flashing. The passenger definitely saw me. You can guess what happened at the junction.




The driver didn’t bother about me in the slightest, and just turned left on me, leaving me with no choice but to also turn left. If I had tried to go straight on I would have ended up a crumpled heap on the road. If I’d been lucky I would only have suffered cuts and bruises and a buckled front wheel. I could have ended up with a ruined bike and a broken collar bone.

What saved me was the indicator, so I was ready to be ignored, as was the fact that I was also turning left. I never indicate at this junction, as that is a guarantee that a driver will turn left on you. The photos above were taken later in the day, but it wasn’t dark when the incident occured, and I was wearing one of those stupid fake police jackets that say ‘Polite’ on them. You’d have thought that there would be no way you could miss me, although apparently you can.

That particular junction is a known danger area for pedestrians and cyclists. The Council has even added a mirror on the traffic lights so that lorry drivers can see cyclists. There are also signs telling everyone to look out for cyclists.20170424_182104

I was visibly shaken as the car continued up the road. It then turned into the station, which was where I was going. The car parked up and the passenger climbed out. I thought about going over to confront the driver, but I wasn’t rational and my body was flooded with adrenaline, so I left it.

All I want to do is go to work and then come home unbroken. I don’t want my wife worrying every day, not knowing if I’ve made it to work safely, or if I will be coming home again.

The cycling revolution has a long way to go yet.

Commuting and Air Quality

Part of my commute involves cycling from Wigan train station to my office in Leigh; the red line in the image below. The blue splodges are Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs). In the smaller inset map you can see the Greater Manchester AQMA in the middle (lots of splodges), with the Liverpool AQMA to the west and Sheffield’s AQMA to the east.


The Manchester AQMA was created with air quality modelling software, so only those areas where the annual mean concentration is above a certain level are highlighted. You can see the various splodges that I cycled through in Wigan, with a few more at busier junctions all the way to Leigh.


I would have liked to have used the ‘clip’ function in QGIS to calculate exactly how far I cycle each day inside the AQMA, but my GPS route doesn’t have the required attributes to do the job. I’m sure there is a way of converting to the correct format, but my knowledge of GIS isn’t the best. My commute is just over 11 km, with approximately 1 km inside various sections of the Greater Manchester AQMA.

Most of my journey is busy with traffic, so I am probably exposed to quite high levels of pollution, but studies have shown that the exercise from cycling benefits me far more than the exposure.

As I near the end of my commute in Leigh, there is another splodge of AQMA right on top of the office where I work, quite apt for a bunch of air quality scientists.


The NO2 annual mean objective is 40 ug/m3 (micro grams per cubic meter), and as any good air quality scientist will tell you, if you are exposed to pollution concentrations above 40 you will die tomorrow, and less than 40 you will live forever. I’m joking of course, but this is why air quality is an objective and not a hard and fast ‘level’, which any city in the UK should be able to achieve, if it is a priority. Cars would appear to be more of a priority in most cities, especially between Wigan and Leigh.