Response from the RTA/RMS regarding Pyrmont cycle traffic control

So I wrote to the RTA about the trouble with the Union Street cycle corridor, which I've been blogging about for the last few days. I include the response here in full. My initial approach garnered a specific name, so here's what I sent:

Hi John,

I've been given your email to forward the below enquiry. I've re-pasted the enquiry here. Not sure if you'll end up receiving this two ways:
Traffic lights/delays

I'm a blogger with an interest in cycling, among other things. I've recently posted about sensor-activated cycle lane traffic lights in Sydney - which made the SMH news yesterday due to a police crackdown on riders jumping the lights    
I've noticed they don't work well and are, I think, poorly installed (see the post for details) and I'd like to talk with someone regarding what type of sensors are installed in sydney (pressure or magnetic?), where, and what exactly can be done to improve matters. 
My first post on the topic is here: 
 I'd prefer to correspond by email so that I've got a clear record of what's said, rather than phone call, but I can be contacted on 0405 xxx xxx    
Jason Brown  
@drunkenmadman on Twitter

Relatively promptly, I got a response. Dr John Ronczka is the Senior Sustainable Transport Officer for the RTA, which gives him the remit over cycling and alternative transport schemes. This means he's the guy to talk to about cycling issues, and he's a pretty nice guy too, as you can see from the response: 

G'day Jason,
Thank you for your Email dated 12 March 2012 in regards to traffic lights/delays.
Both the Roads and Maritime Services and the City of Sydney have been in partnership in improving the detection of cyclists and indicating the best position on the pavement for a cyclist to be detected.  There is expected to be release of outcomes from the joint work possibly in late 2012.
The work associated with cyclist detection has not finished yet, so it's useful to get such detailed feedback as yours.
Please note that current studies are suggesting that the detection of the presence of bicycles is dependent on the cyclist staying on the loop located in the pavement and not moving past the stopline.
The delay experience by all road users is designed to be generally the same so no road user is disadvantage of another.
In terms of enforcement of cyclist 'red light running'  this is a matter for the Police Force.
All the best
Dr John Ronczka
Senior Sustainable Transport Officer
Sustainable Transport | Traffic Management

Roads and Maritime Services

It doesn't answer every question I have, and I've sent a follow-up, but it certainly goes some of the way. The use of the word "loop" specifically in the wording appears to confirm that the sensors in Pyrmont are induction loop sensors, and therefore the drain covers noted in my previous post are a serious problem, since they appear to contravene the RTA's guidelines specifiying a 300mm (1ft) gap between sensor and drain cover. It raises the other questions over bikes using non-ferrous metals for their frames and components - notably carbon or aluminium frames - how sensitive are the loops? Are they sensitive enough to pick up a bike whose main ingredient is aluminium and really only includes steel in spokes, hub axles, bottom bracket, brake disks and a few bolts? After all they only work on ferrous metals. And how far to the side do any lobes in the field extend? And how can my ~12kg aluminium bike hope to outcompete a drain or manhole cover, which Google tells me can weight as much as 50kg?

It does also seem to confirm that one needs to stay within the sensor area to get a light, so merely passing over the sensor won't help, and neither will moving off the sensor to a more confortable spot. But the main takeaway is that the RTA/RMS seems to be aware of issues with cycle detection and are undertaking studies right now, with results expected at the end of the year.

I'm certainly not a lawyer, but I'd say this fact alone should be enough to cast doubt on the validity of fines issued at cycle lights in Sydney. I'd love it if someone with more legal nous than me could look into this.

Still, I'm sure the RTA/RMS has plenty to think about in the light of today's major bike crash in Botany. This involved club riders, and I strongly suspect, though I obviously can't yet prove, that the problem will turn out to be the driver severely underestimating the speed at which a rider can travel, since it's difficult to imagine he could not see a large knot of club riders approaching. Even I, an unfit late-30s rider on a nobbly-tyred full-suspension mountain bike, can average ~25km/h on a flat road ride and peak out at well over 60km/h on the hills. Club riders on light machines can obviously outstrip my numbers quite significantly.

I'm about to increase my own average speed significantly with the delivery of a superlight carbon road bike in the next day or two, so I'm intrigued and ever so slightly worried about drivers being unable to judge my pace. If this blog goes all quiet, send an ambulance...

Wrong again, Meryl

Australia's most debunked woman, and occasional president of the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) is at it again. Here's a little tweet she fired off this morning:

I wonder, readers, if you can guess what I'm going to say next?

Yes, that's right. Predictably, the article to which Meryl Dorey links says nothing of the sort. In fact, it says:

Barely two weeks after World Health Organisation (WHO) declared India as a polio-free nation, an 18-month-old female child was admitted to a state-run hospital in Kolkata with suspected polio on Monday.

The child, Sumi, a resident of Indrabala village near Baruipur in South 24 Parganas district, was admitted with symptoms of paralysis with disability in movement and fever.

The child’s stool samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune and School of Tropical Medicine in Kolkata for confirmatory tests. The reports are expected next week.

That's pretty clear, right? Unconfirmed. Polio-like symptoms. Don't know what it is. Tests are being run.

Now, those of us who've been with Stop the AVN since near the beginning will remember Meryl's own demands and assertions over a certain pertussis diagnosis about three years ago - Meryl was certainly not going to accept a diagnosis without firm scientific evidence then, and made several public statements to the effect. What's different here? Well, of course, the glove is on the other hand. When the conclusion is anti-vaccine, Meryl accepts it at face value. When the conclusion is otherwise, she demands an impossible level of proof.

More priceless is the first comment on the Hindustan Times Story.

I'll just re-iterate that for copypasters and googlebots:

Another foolish story by HT... Dont Panic... this was case of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP)... there are 40 such case in 2012 already reported in 24 Parganas (S) only. The child is completely ok now.. It was a case of transient flaccidity. stool is being collected (like any other AFP case). Dont Panic...

there will be at least 1 AFP case/1lakh under15 population/year even after polio eradication (cause-traumatic neuritis, GB, Transverse myelitis, other viral neuritis etc)

That couldn't have been scripted better, but one last thing. Note the timestamp on Dorey's tweet. Note the time of this post. Note the "13 hours ago" on the story comment.

The comment was on the page when Dorey tweeted her nonsense interpretation. Not only did she fail to read the story properly, she failed to look at the comments (of which there are only 3) AT ALL.

This woman doesn't deserve an internet connection, never mind a public platform to comment on vaccine issues.

This is not polio. This is not provocation polio. This is a farce.

She's utterly incompetent, and she demonstrates it herself on a regular and somewhat hilarious basis. Thanks Meryl.


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