Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Guinea pig on wheels

It looked like an interesting day out of London, or at least something different: being one of a bunch of test cyclists for the Transport Research Laboratory's mock-up of a separated cycle path running round the outside of a traffic roundabout. However, no photos or videos are allowed, and they'd rather anyone else didn't know too much about what they're looking at, for fear of biasing the way people behave in or react to the tests.

Enough to say it involved using one of their bikes (acquired from the London cycle hire scheme) for a couple of sessions performing various possible ways of using the roundabout, with different forms of entrance to and exit from the cycle lane, and cars making their own way round, with stops to check reactions after each test, and a questionnaire at the end.

As ever in experiments and surveys, it doesn't seem possible that any individual reaction could tell them much, not least because in my usual blithe over-confidence, I wasn't particularly noticing the various subtle differences in layout and markings (perhaps that was the point). I did suggest it might need some more realistic circumstances (the odd pedestrian stepping out without looking, motorists jumping the give way lines, van drivers cutting in unexpectedly - that sort of thing); but they just smiled politely.

Still, there was a cup of tea, a chocolate biscuit, and time to chat about things like the quirks of recumbent bikes, Horrific Accidents I Have Known, and when it will be economically feasible for the cycle hire stands to be equipped with one of these newfangled 3D "printers" to produce cycle helmets on demand.

Oh, and £50 for expenses. Did I not mention that?

It was all over at a civilised hour, but then the limitations of public transport outside London became clear: buses only every half hour, and a slight delay en route meaning a half-hour wait for the next London train. That would have been the sum total of that observation, but then.................. (to be continued)

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