At the Big Cycling Debate on the 2nd March, one of the most astute questions from the audience came from Ralph Smyth of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. He wanted to know what the three political parties who had been invited to the debate would do to improve cycling levels in ‘middle Britain’ – those areas of the country that are not covered by ‘Cycle City Ambition’ money, the latest tranche of which had (conveniently) been announced that very morning.
Unfortunately the current cycling minister Robert Goodwill chose not to engage with the question that had actually been asked, instead deciding to talk about cycling in rural areas, waffling on about potholes, cycle routes along roads in rural areas that nobody is using because it’s too remote (apparently), the Tour de France in Yorkshire, and ‘cyclists’ preferring to use roads in rural areas.
This wasn’t what Ralph Smyth’s question was about. It was about what political parties should be doing to drive cycling across the country as a whole, not just in the city pockets that are fortunate enough to be granted funding. By focusing entirely on ‘rural’ cycling in remote areas the question was ducked by Goodwill.
And this is a serious issue – tens of millions of British people do not live in cities (let alone in those few cities that are getting DfT funding). They live in large towns, across the country, as well as in more rural locations.
Yet the story in most of these areas is one of rock-bottom cycling levels, and no sign on the horizon that things are going to change any time soon.
These areas will typically be the responsibility of local authorities that have –
Although many areas – places like Bristol, Brighton and Hove, Leicester, Cambridge, and other cities getting to grips with designing for cycling – are showing ambition and a willingness to do things differently, the story is frankly pretty bleak across the rest of Britain.
One of these places is West Sussex. Although the County Council likes to imagine that the county is ‘largely rural’ (see right), the vast majority of West Sussex’s 800,000 residents actually live in urban areas, places like Crawley (population 107,000), Worthing (104,000), Horsham (55,000), Burgess Hill (28,000), Littlehampton (28,000), Chichester (27,000), East Grinstead (24,000), Bognor Regis (24,000), Haywards Heath (23,000), Shoreham (19,000), and other towns and large villages.
Yet cycling levels across this temperate, largely flat county are dismal. Cycling to work levels in the large towns to the south of Gatwick airport scrape to a 1-2% mode share –
And things aren’t much better in the towns along the south coast, with only pockets of Chichester and Worthing bucking the 1-2% cycling to work trend, reaching as high as 5%.
These cycling to work levels – which we should remember are likely to far outstrip general cycling mode share – have actually fallen in many West Sussex towns since 2001.
I’m told that West Sussex’s cycling capital expenditure – from the council’s own budget – amounts to only a few tens of thousands of pounds a year. The council’s sole cycling officer has been made redundant; there is no cycling plan (the West Sussex Cycle Forum were asked to draft one themselves) and what money the County Council does receive from central government for sustainable transport, in the form of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF), has, and will, go to waste on poor schemes of questionable value. (To take just one example, over £100,000 of the £2.4m worth of LSTF ‘sustainable’ funding West Sussex won from the government has been spent in Horsham on… brand new traffic lights, specifically for motor traffic, to reduce queues for vehicles and hence lower pollution.)
That waste of LSTF cash will be examined in a series of forthcoming posts. The subject here, however, is the latest source of transport funding from central government, one distributed through LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships). This new funding stream is, again, going to fail walking and cycling in West Sussex, unless there is radical change.
What follows will be long and probably a little boring, but I hope it will be valuable as an insight into the disastrous direction transport is heading in places where there is little or no engagement with modes of transport beyond the car, and indeed no apparent willingness to even think differently. I may not get all the details exactly right, but in my defence I am trying to make sense of quite a complex process.
Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) were set up by the current government in 2011.
Local enterprise partnerships are partnerships between local authorities and businesses. They decide what the priorities should be for investment in roads, buildings and facilities in the area.
From a transport perspective, they are therefore obviously hugely influential, given that they are essentially determining what money should be spent on.
There are 39 of these LEPs in England and Wales. The pertinent one in this post is the Coast to Capital (C2C) LEP, which covers all of West Sussex, Brighton and Hove, a large part of Surrey, and Croydon.
As can be seen from the map, this a large and strategically significant area, covering the southern outskirts of London, as well as Gatwick Airport, several south coast towns and cities, and many major towns in Sussex and Surrey.
LEPs have no requirement for public involvement or democratic accountability. Here’s a select committee chairman, back in 2011 –
LEPs have a significant impact on their local community; they would be failing if they did not. Despite this, the ability for the local community to scrutinise their performance is patchy. If LEPs are to be held accountable for their performance, measureable indicators of that performance are needed. And they are needed in a format easily understood by local communities.
Four years later, in February this year, TransportXtra commented on ‘the lamentable efforts that most LEPs have made in opening themselves up to scrutiny’, pointing out that
the Campaign for Better Transport rightly criticised the LEPs last month, saying that decisions on the latest award of £1bn from the fund had been taken “behind closed doors”.
Funding is available from Coast to Capital for what they term ‘Sustainability and Resilience Schemes’ – a pot of £62.6 million, which was granted to C2C from central government, to be spent between 2015 and 2021. A list of current bids for portions of that funding is available here. Decisions will be made on who gets what on the 25th of March (i.e., next week) by the Local Transport Body – made up of these individuals. (The Local Transport Body’s role is to advise LEPs like Coast to Capital on what they think transport priorities should be).
I am going to look here at just one of those bids, put in by West Sussex – this is the West of Horsham Transport Package. This involves a substantial sum of money – well over £3m, to fund a £4m project. In essence it amounst to changes – major and minor – to four roundabouts on main roads to the west of Horsham.
These roundabouts –
Three of these roundabouts – the larger ones – lie in a line on the town’s existing dual carriageway bypass, built in the late 1960s to divert the A24 (which runs from the south coast to London) away from the town centre.The other, smaller, roundabout – Five Oaks, to the west- lies on the main road towards Guildford, from the bypass.
The 14-page application form from West Sussex for this funding doesn’t provide a great deal of detail (not even any plans of these schemes!) so I’m going to run through the 62-page Supporting Document for this application for funding, prepared for West Sussex County Council by CH2MHill. Strangely, it does not appear to be available anywhere online (I’ve only seen a copy because a colleague emailed a West Sussex transport planner to specifically ask for detailed plans of the schemes), so I’ve uploaded it here.
Very early in the document, we are told the rationale for these ‘upgrades’ –
The Farthings Hill Interchange and Five Oaks schemes are linked to the wider delivery of the 2,000 home West of Horsham development
The Great Daux Roundabout and Robin Hood Roundabout schemes are linked to the delivery of the 2,500 home North of Horsham development
That is, the two roundabouts to the south are linked to a large new housing development (currently under construction); the two roundabouts to the north are linked to another large (proposed) housing development, to the north of the town.
It is not clear why West Sussex are bidding for what amounts to funding from central government – through the Coast2Capital LEP – to mitigate the effects of increased motor traffic from these new developments. The developers are building (or are proposing to build) housing that is believed will generate more motor traffic, and yet it is the taxpayer that is being asked to cover the bulk of the costs of accommodating it. Indeed, 75% of the costs – the remaining 25% coming from Section 106 (developer) contributions.
In an ideal world, the costs of any necessary changes to these roundabouts should surely be covered by the developer themselves. But perhaps that’s too idealistic in 21st century Britain.
This also raises the question of what happens if this funding bid is rejected by the Coast2Capital LEP – West Sussex will have a £3m funding shortfall for these projects that are (apparently) necessary to accommodate motor traffic.
The supporting document then moves on to a presentation of the cost:benefit analysis for the four roundabouts. This is where things get very silly indeed.
Notice here that two of these roundabouts (the two that happen to be exclusively focused on easing congestion for motor traffic) have extraordinary cost-benefit ratios (BCR). These are the two ‘capacity’ schemes, listed at the bottom. The Robin Hood roundabout will cost £465,000, yet will apparently net £322 million in Present Value Benefits, meaning the benefit:cost ratio for this roundabout scheme is 693:1. The Great Daux roundabout is nearly as ludicrous at 506:1. This really is fantasy economics.
The other two roundabouts are termed ‘connectivity’ schemes, which purport to make walking and cycling more attractive (more on that later) and have negative cost benefit ratios.
The roundabout plans with the extraordinary alleged benefits do absolutely nothing at all for walking and cycling. The Robin Hood roundabout currently looks like this.
It’s a fairly straightforward crossing of a 70mph dual carriageway (running N-S), with the road to the west connecting with the village of Warnham, and the one on the right connecting to Horsham. There are (mostly) two lanes on entry and exit. Not much fun on a bike, or on foot, but the funding proposal aims to turn it into this monster.
Four lanes on entry, signalisation, and hint at a ‘turbo’ format.
A similar arrangement is proposed for the Great Daux roundabout, a kilometre to the north. Here the bypass meets the A24 at a T-junction roundabout.
This is to be replaced, again, by a signalised, turbo-ish roundabout with 3-4 lanes on entry. Again, no consideration of walking or cycling whatsoever.
Both these schemes could address existing severance issues for walking and cycling between Horsham and the villages to the west, and north-west. They don’t, however.
The justification for the massive expansion of both of these junctions is as follows –
The Horsham District Transport Study which assessed the impact of forecast strategic development and background traffic growth up to 2031 concluded that both junctions would require mitigation.
The truth is that motor traffic flows in and around Horsham are either steady or declining, over the last decade. Motor traffic in the town appears to be falling, at least on the three main roads with DfT count points.
And on the bypass itself – between these roundabouts – there has been very little change (perhaps even a slight decline) in motor traffic levels over the last decade.
That’s not to say that there might be a case for expanding these roundabouts. What’s scandalous, however, is that absolutely no account has been taken of walking and cycling connections in the plans that are on the table. It’s like these modes don’t even exist. And it is acknowledge in black and white -
The proposed scheme is on the strategic road network and is primarily aimed at providing journey time benefits to motorised vehicles, there are no sustainable transport benefits.
But of course there could, and should be. Roundabouts like this should have connections for walking and cycling built into them at the design stage. Grade separation, or at-grade crossings with minimal delay, should be an absolute necessity. But it seems you can get away with completely ignoring walking and cycling.
On to the extraordinary benefit:cost ratios presented in this bid. They are derived simply by adding up the value of time savings accruing to motorists over a 60 year period, using the DfT’s WebTAG. Also bear in mind that the DfT’s aforementioned traffic growth forecasts are lying behind this modelling. The comparison in time savings for motorists (between the scheme being built, and the existing layout) is built around the assumption of large increases in motor traffic –
Using the opening year 2023 and forecast year 2029 traffic flows, the difference in highway network performance between the base model and the ‘with scheme’ models forms the basis of the Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA).
The assumption being that these roundabouts will become completely ‘saturated’ (that is, clogged) without widening.
But here’s what the authors of the bid have to say –
It should be noted that using outputs from a junction model, as opposed to a strategic model, will overestimate journey time impacts because it is unable to account for traffic reassignment. In reality, a change to a junction is likely to either induce extra traffic to use it or divert traffic away depending on the nature of the scheme, thus diluting the predicted journey time impact. [my emphasis]
The dilution effect, however, will be offset by the economic, social, and environmental benefits that have not been included in the transport appraisal. On this basis, the proposed methodology is considered to be robust.
A methodology that produces Benefit:Cost Ratios of 700:1 for schemes that completely ignore walking and cycling is considered ‘robust.’
Yet, later in the document, it is again acknowledged that this ‘time saving’ comparison is fundamentally flawed –
In reality, the delay predicted by the junction models [without the schemes going ahead] would not occur due to traffic reassignment and peak spreading (people choosing to start their journeys earlier of later, outside of the peak hours). This, in addition to the manually assigned 2029 traffic flows means the journey time benefits of implementing the scheme would not be as high as predicted. It should also be noted that the junction modelling software will not be providing reliable analysis of journey delays once significantly over capacity.
These two roundabout schemes are being considered only in terms of motoring. This is made plain by the ‘Journey Quality’ assessments, shown below.
The ‘traveller stress’ of cycling across a four lane roundabout isn’t considered. ‘Traveller stress’ is framed only in terms of reducing drivers’ ‘frustration’ at delays and ‘fear of potential accidents’. Likewise ‘care’ for travellers is ‘explicitly for the motorised transport users’. If you’re not in a car – we don’t care.
The neglect of walking and cycling is completely unacceptable. These are not roundabouts in the middle of nowhere. I’ve set them into context, below.
The two roundabouts (framed in blue) lie between the Horsham and surrounding settlements, including a railway station on the line to London. These settlements are not any great distance from the town; Warnham to Horsham is 2 miles, as the crow flies. Likewise the railway station is just above the northern bypass, but essentially inaccessible if you are not in a car.
Moving on to the other two roundabout schemes, which purport to actually focus on sustainable travel. The Farthings Hill interchange is a grade-separated roundabout, sitting over the dual carriageway bypass.
It’s huge, scary, and fast, with slip roads onto and off the dual carriageway, and multiple junctions to the west, including another dual carriageway, a petrol station, and the entrance to Broadbridge Heath village itself. There is a path across the roundabout, skirting around the inside of the northern bridge, but you have to dash across two lanes of fast traffic on either side.
The proposals are to signalise this roundabout, entirely.
… providing toucan crossings and, erm, shared use footways.
While this will make the roundabout less lethal to cross on foot, or by bike, it’s hardly going to make it particularly convenient to cross. Whichever route you choose to take, you will have to wait at four separate toucan crossings.
With a bit of thought (and a willingness to actually prioritise walking and cycling) the number of crossings should really only be two - for instance, a bi-directional path on the northern edge of the roundabout, crossing only the two slip roads.
It’s worth adding that an extra third lane for motor traffic is being added to the slip lane entries onto the roundabout as part of this scheme, and also that the ‘shared use’ footpath will remain at a substandard width, below 3m in most locations. Furthermore there are no plans to connect these poor routes up with Horsham – the shared use footway simply ends on the main road into Horsham a few metres south of the roundabout, with (nonsensically) people expected to stop using the pavement, and join a busy main road, at an arbitrary point.
So really the alleged ‘sustainable’ benefits of this scheme are negligible indeed, only a by-product of a pre-existing decision to signalise the roundabout to increase capacity. The claim
For pedestrians and cyclists, the scheme will significantly improve connectivity and reduce severance between Broadbridge Heath and Horsham
is highly dubious.
Yet the reason this roundabout performs poorly on the Benefit:Cost Analysis (minus 15:1, compared to 500:1 and 700:1) is blamed on these toucan crossings.
The significant journey time dis-benefit is a result of traffic reassignment following the completion of the West of Horsham infrastructure and the introduction of the Toucan crossings.
There’s also this extraordinary admission –
A safer junction would encourage more trips using sustainable modes for commuting purposes (via the train stations) or for leisure trips.
It has not, however, been possible to quantify these benefits. Accordingly, they have not been considered as part of the BCR appraisal.
In other words, we don’t know how to quantify the benefits of people walking and cycling; so those benefits are not part of our analysis. Precisely the same admission is made for the final part of the scheme, the Five Oaks roundabout.
This roundabout is being downgraded, because a new dual carriageway road has been built further to the south, bypassing it.
The plan at the roundabout is principally to rearrange road arriving at the roundabout from the village. The existing junction, onto the roundabout, is being closed entirely, with the road being bent away to the east to a junction on the ‘old road.’ The intention is to increase the length of car trips through the village and hence to discourage ratrunning, which is a serious problem given that the village is (and remains) the most direct east-west route towards Guildford.
Whether this will work or not, I don’t know, but again the arrangements for cycling are pitiful. There is a shared use pavement coming out of the village (which is ridiculous, given that through-traffic is supposed to be being removed) which then extends around the roundabout like a conventional footway, with the opportunity to dash across two lanes of motor traffic. Just as at Farthings Hill, there is no attempt to connect this alleged ‘cycle provision’ up with places people might actually want to go. Despite plentiful space in the area the diverted road is being built, there are no plans to build either a cycleway or footway along this road.
This failure is even more acute because the new road has been built without any cycling or walking provision.
These roads are the existing, and new, direct routes towards Horsham. Again, in context –
Both of these roads will be surrounded by existing and new housing, and both run directly towards the centre of Horsham. Yet nothing is being done for walking and cycling on either of them, either as part of the planned development, or indeed as part of bid for funding from the Coast 2 Capital LEP. It’s another wasted opportunity to reap the benefits of a blank slate on the part of West Sussex.
Now a new bridge has been provided over the bypass. But the old bridge simply had to be go, because the bypass is being widened to eight lanes as it runs through the new development. And the new bridge is a design failure.
With sets of barriers built into it, and wiggly ramps to access it in remote corners of car parks, far from natural desire lines, it’s hard to see how it could have been made less direct and attractive.
On top of these failures to build high quality cycling infrastructure into brand new development (or indeed any kind of cycling infrastructure), West Sussex are compounding their problems by hoovering up millions of pounds of LEP funding on road expansion projects that – again – take either absolutely no account of walking and cycling, or provide for it shabbily in piecemeal, tokenistic ways, around the fringes of existing road projects.
This is the state of cycling where I live. It’s getting worse, not better.
We have already criticised Labour’s current shadow Secretary of State for Transport for his car-centrism. It seems that after a particularly lacklustre performance at the recent Times debate on provision for cycling in the next Parliament, some of his advisers had a few words with him, and he was rather upbeat in his recent talk to the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).
So would a Labour Government make things radically different and better for walking and cycling? We analyse his talk below. But first there have been some more bits of nonsense since we last posted on Dugher. Regrettably, it looks like he is still bent on an agenda which sees motorists as an oppressed minority to be pandered to with additional subsidy, soft touch and minimal law enforcement. So here’s what looks like the face of Labour’s transport shadow again.
Since our last post on Dugher, here are three episodes:
“Quite a number of journeys that people make are less than a mile. There is a lot of evidence that if people switched a proportion of their journeys you’d have a huge influence in terms of environmental benefits” , he explains, “but there’s a whole bunch of reasons why people in those circumstances choose to use their cars. there’s got to be viable alternatives. You’re only going to do that if you’ve got a bus network market that isn’t broken, as it is at the moment. You’ll only cycle to the station if, when you leave your bike there, there is a reasonable expectation that it will be still there when you return“.
Now, three RDRF committee members have spent a fair amount of time trying to get better cycle parking at stations. We think it is good and necessary. But is it the main reason why people don’t cycle to the station? Is it even in the top ten? Nor do people drive just because of problems with bus network efficiency (and we doubt that future Government is likely to massively change it).2. “Stealth cameras”
These utterances looked like they came straight from the Daily Mail, so let’s look at how they reported this. Basically, you have to be allowed to break the law except at limited locations (decided by the number of “accidents” that have occurred at their locations being high enough), and at those you have to be given the warning that you might be given a few points on your licence and a small fine (like Dugher)
Of course, if you really do want motorists to avoid paying, you could conceal cameras and have far more of them. Then drivers would know not to exceed speed limits anywhere, and not get fined.3. “Transport policy in England is too heavily shaped by people who don’t drive cars.”
Transport policy in practice means: declining costs of driving – when austerity economic policy means higher housing costs, static or lower incomes, etc – road building for more cars, predict and provide forecasting, minimal levels of walking and cycling. + cancelling a rise in fuel duty despite a big fall in the oil price and the govt’s desperate need for more income And that is “too heavily” shaped by people who don’t drive cars? And who are these people?
One quote from this interview is: “Given that most people spend most of their time travelling by road – politicians spend most of their time taking to the minority of people who don’t.” Of course , most politicians – of whom Dugher is just one – assume the view of a motorist-as-victim, without even having to talk to them. They certainly don’t base their policies on those who don’t drive, even if they bother to talk to them. And of course, the people who “travel by road” might be walking or cycling, or going by bus. But for Dugher (although he did try to correct himself on this in a tweet afterwards) “going by road” means going by car.
Another: “The idea that I should be cycling from Westminster to Barnsley to show that I’m not anti-cyclist, it’s just bollocks!” . No, but you could go by train. And maybe even cycle to the station. A minor point, affected by precise details of origin and destination – but why is the “proud son of a railwayman” not doing the 2¾ hour journey by train from Barnsley to central London rather than driving the 185-mile journey – which would have be done at a 67 mph average to be as quick?
(By the way, Dugher does like saying “piss me off” and “bollocks” a lot. Does this make him a man of the people?)…but do we now have a different Dugher ?
At a Campaign for Better Transport event, he said that .A Labour Government would “put cyclists and pedestrians at the top table of transport policy” with a cross-government Cyclist and Pedestrians’ Advisory Board to boost active travel, which would include ministers from across Whitehall, senior civil servants from the Departments for Transport, Education, and Health, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as cycling and pedestrian representatives, and chaired by the Secretary of State. An active travel strategy would then be put in place by summer 2016.
Other key elements in the announcement were a stated commitment to:
* Ensuring “justice is done and seen to be done in cases where collisions lead to cyclist deaths and serious injuries.”
* An end to “stop-start funding” for cycling.
* an in-depth review of how all government departments, agencies, local government, LEPs and the private sector are currently investing in walking and cycling. This will help determine the scale, sources and distribution of per capita funding we need for the future.”
So what conclusions can we draw from this? Cross-departmental working is necessary, and a commitment to Ministerial direction is welcome. But significantly it does not include the Treasury (who always have a big say in expenditure).
That may seem pessimistic, but we have been here before. A key problem with Cycling England (the quango abolished by the coalition) was its failure to get sufficient funding for projects. And in the party political debate, while the Liberal Democrat spokesman gave a figure for the amount of money to be spent on cycling, Labour and the Conservatives would not.
And then we have the issue of what that money would be spent on. The blogosphere is alive with tales of money supposedly to be spent on cycling being misspent.
On sentencing, we note that the reference is to cases of death and serious injury. But addressing danger to cyclists and pedestrians means using law enforcement – not just sentencing – to deter people from endangering others. How does this sit with someone whose best-known other comments on traffic law enforcement are about the supposed unfairness of having speed cameras which are not painted in bright colours?
Dugher’s stated intentions continue:
“…move cycling and walking from the margins to the mainstream – not only swelling the ranks of people cycling and walking to work, but giving people from all walks of life the confidence to ride a bike. We will ensure that we change how our streets are designed, improve traffic management and enforcement, and encourage people to change their travel behaviours.”
Encouragement: Some recent spring cleaning unearthed my delegate badge to the 1984 “Ways to Safer Cycling” conference, where the then Minister, Lynda Chalker, first stated Government intention to “encourage” cycling. The experience of the last 31 years does not breed confidence in Government’s effectiveness in encouraging cycling.
Improve: Without specified amounts of funding, clear definition of what this will be spent on, “improvement” can mean very little in terms of change.
How our streets our designed: Again, we don’t know what this will mean in terms of design standards and how widespread any new design – or more important, re-design – would be. And cyclists and pedestrians use roads as well as streets.
The RDRF has always taken the view that cycling and walking cannot be assessed, let alone genuinely supported as forms of everyday transport, outside the context of wider society and its culture.
Whether in terms of road space re-allocation, general engineering of new and existing roads, engineering motor vehicles, law enforcement and sentencing, land use policy, parking standards etc., that requires changes in transport policy and its implementation which will have an actual (or perceived) impact on motoring.
But everything we have seen from Dugher indicates that he inhabits a car-centred culture bubble. In this bubble drivers are an oppressed minority who must suffer no possible impact on their easily bruised sensibilities, whether policies will have any real adverse effects on their rights or not.
Are we done with the driver-dominated depiction of our destiny from Dugher? As usual, time will tell. My view is that it doesn’t look good.
The French are to continue with their programme for felling trees to protect motorists who drive off the road. This story illuminates yet again how “road safety” (The Telegraph piece correctly uses inverted commas) ideology and practice inherently colludes with homicidal rule and law breaking by the motorised, rather than working to reduce danger at source.
This is an old story. In 2001 it was reported that gangs of chainsaw-wielding motorcyclists (the “Anti-Plane Tree Commando”) were felling roadside trees in the name of “road safety”, and France has had a policy of felling such “obstacles” for some time.
What interest us are the arguments for and against the measure. Against the felling are conservation groups arguing for the beauty of the French countryside. While a noteworthy cause, that is not our principal concern. There is also an argument that shadows from roadside trees have a speed-reducing effect on drivers, and that the presence of trees can otherwise moderate driver carelessness. That’s more to the point, although not our main interest here.
The next argument is that there is no demonstrable effect (as seen through casualty statistics before and after felling) on casualty rates. That is a good point – and rarely comes up in discussion. But again, it is not the main point. After all, the history of “road safety” is history of measures being implemented regardless of the evidence on their success in reducing casualties.The risk compensation question
Often this is because, as we have seen again and again, drivers adapt to their perceptions of danger (risk compensation) and the “road safety” intervention largely displaces the risk elsewhere. And what is really interesting is how this happens not just in the short term – as displayed in the (lack of) change in casualties – but in the long term. These long-term effects are the penetration of our culture by unstated ideas about what safety on the road is all about. And that is our main point in this piece.
For what we think is really revealing about this episode in the history of “road safety” is the acceptance of, and conniving and colluding with, rule-breaking and illegal driving. Even where drivers are forced off the road into trees by other drivers, the problem for us is essentially that of motor vehicles being driven off the road. This, for those who don’t know, is illegal.
There are two problems with this. In the short term, measures which idiot-proof motoring produce (or at least facilitate) idiot motoring. Whether it be idiot-proofing the vehicle environment (seat belts, crumple zones, side impact protection systems, collapsible steering columns, air bags or ABS brakes), or idiot-proofing the highway environment (anti-skid, longer sight lines, crash barriers, hatching and wider centre lines), the evidence shows a worsening of driver behaviour.
This is through changes which are generally slight enough not to be immediately noticeable, but sufficient to counter much if not all or more of the benefits. This consumption of the safety benefits as performance benefits – as the technical literature calls it – also shifts the danger on to other road users, usually those who are less dangerous to others and more vulnerable.
In the longer term it has less distinct, but crucial, effect in terms of altering general assumptions about what the problem of danger on the road actually is. The deleterious effects of “road safety” practice and beliefs are on our society’s culture. For what really counts is how the commentary on the tree-felling in France hardly ever mentions that motorists are not supposed to drive their vehicles off the road.
The Road Danger Reduction opposition
There are exceptions: Chantal Fauché, the president of the Association for the Protection of Road-side Trees, blames successive French governments for creating an anti-tree psychosis among road users. “The politicians prefer to cut down trees rather than take any real action against speeding and drinking, which are the real causes of deaths on the roads,” she said.
But there is hope.
In presentations for some years I have been referring to this school of “road safety” engineering. In a key text (Rattenbury and Gloyns, Traffic Engineering and Control , October 1992) cutting down roadside trees is described as “like putting insulating tape on electric cable”: tree stumps should also be removed “as these can still be aggressive”; fences are “a particularly aggressive form of man-made structure” . Faced with this sense of motorist entitlement – a world where “my way” extends not just to wherever the driver feels like going on the road, but off it as well – the audience reaction is fascinating.
The traditional highway engineers don’t understand what the problem might be. Some may stare at their shoes as gales of laughter sweep from the (few) members of the audience from sustainable transport, cyclist, pedestrian or other road danger reduction organisations. I can report that there is more laughter as the years go on. For whatever reason, a generation including some professionals and campaigners prepared to support road danger reduction as opposed to “road safety” has appeared.
Errant drivers don’t deserve the death penalty for their violent law breaking – but then neither do their actual or potential victims, particularly if they are using transport modes which pose less of a threat to others.
The decent and humane way of addressing the issue is to reduce danger at source – whether through vehicle or highway engineering, law enforcement or whatever – for the benefit of all road users’ safety. The precise technologies (if any) don’t really matter.
In addition, while violent driver rule and law breaking is not only tolerated but accommodated by this society, arguments which shift blame on to cyclists and pedestrians simply have no basis (See this episode , for example). If careless, reckless, criminally negligent – whatever – behaviour by drivers is accommodated, then it’s unjust to treat that by those with less lethality to others any differently.
What matters is that we understand what the problem is. Doing that means deconstructing the ideology behind roadside tree felling and replacing it with something civilised. It means opposing “road safety” and replacing it with road danger reduction.
There was an intriguing (and revealing) detail in the thinking behind Lord Scott of Foscote’s strange intervention during a question about cycling safety in the House of Lords last week.
Lord Jordan asked the Minister of State for transport, Baroness Kramer, about the Government’s assessment of a recent YouGov poll, carried out for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Lord Scott saw this as the perfect opportunity to chip in, not with a helpful contribution to the debate, but instead with an evident personal bugbear – people cycling with headphones.
Does the Minister agree that a cyclist’s main protection should be his or her own eyes and ears? The eyes are there to warn against impending danger from the front and the ears ought to assist in identifying impending danger from behind. I cycle regularly from my flat in Camden to Westminster—it used to be Lincoln’s Inn, then it was the Royal Courts of Justice and now it is Westminster—and I am appalled by the number of cyclists who bicycle with earplugs in their ears listening to music. If they listen to music, they cannot possibly hear any danger approaching from behind. There are regulations to ensure the use of lights on bicycles in dark or dingy weather. Should there not also be a regulation to prevent the highly dangerous practice to which I have referred?
I say this is intriguing and revealing because of the form of the response to ‘danger from behind.’
Lord Scott of Foscote’s preferred approach to dealing with ‘danger from behind’ is to bring in legislation banning people from using headphones, so they will have a better chance of… hearing it coming. Great.
Worse still, the mere act of listening to music itself is described – apparently in all seriousness – as ‘highly dangerous’. By the same logic, someone who is deaf daring to cycle on London’s roads would be ‘highly dangerous’.
The misdirection is extraordinary. Listening to music while riding a bike is in no way dangerous, in and of itself. Indeed, I’ve compiled a picture post of all the things Dutch people do while riding bikes that aren’t the least bit dangerous.
What is actually dangerous isn’t a pair of headphones – it is, literally, the thing that’s coming ‘from behind’, be it an HGV, bus, van or car.
The proper response to that danger should either be to provide people cycling with their own parallel route, separate from those vehicles, or to limit the speed, volume and mass of that motor traffic on routes that are shared. This is called ‘Sustainable Safety’, and it explains why Dutch users of bicycles are far, far less likely to be killed or injured than their British counterparts, despite engaging in all kinds of allegedly ‘dangerous’ activity.
Rather than loading yet more responsibility onto the person most at risk, we need roads and streets that are designed to keep people safe, even when they’re engaging in harmless activities.
Westminster Council recently announced plans for improvements to Cambridge Circus, at the heart of the West End. Unfortunately these proposals – which do amount to some benefits for people walking in the area – make cycling through this already hostile junction even worse.
The plans primarily involve the addition of a diagonal Oxford Circus-style crossing, across the middle of the junction. Presumably this will run at the same time as the four crossings on the four arms of the junction.
However, they also involve the complete closure of the junction with Moor Street, just to the north of the main junction, which at present is a very convenient (and safe) exit point in and out of Soho. It’s currently cycle-only, on exit.
This is all the more strange given that Westminster are marking the route of Quietway 19 on these plans.
Westminster are proposing that the Quietway should take the route indicated in red, before going straight across Cambridge Circus, rather than using the logical cut-through of Moor Street, which will be entirely closed. In fact the diagonal markings represent bike stands, presumably a (futile) attempt to stop people cycling across this area. Rather than closing this road completely, it could of course be turned into an appropriately designed cycle-only cut through, with little detriment to the public space. It’s an easy road to cross, even now.
The road could be narrowed down to a cycle-only route, with a raised table, and even an informal zebra, to give pedestrians priority.
A complete closure, however, would mean people will have to cycle some distance up Charing Cross Road, which is hardly an attractive prospect.
Indeed, I cannot see this Quietway route being the least bit attractive for anyone, given that no substantive changes are proposed to the actual junction at Cambridge Circus. Coming from the south, the Quietway (again, indicated by the blue marking) involves crossing from Litchfield Street, onto Charing Cross Road.
Here you are simply dumped into two lanes of motor traffic. There is an ASL there, but good luck reaching it (and I would probably advise you not even attempting to do so).
This is a really horrible junction, a place I can’t imagine the target market of Quietways – alleged novice/nervous cyclists – feeling the least bit comfortable cycling through. Even hardened users like me – used to cycling on these kinds of roads – find it unpleasant and intimidating. Yet the Quietway simply gives up here. It makes the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling description of Quietways sound rather hollow –
a network of direct back-street Quietways, with segregation and junction improvements over the hard parts [my emphasis]
Where directness demands the Quietway briefly join a main road, full segregation and direct crossing points will be provided, wherever possible, on that stretch. [my emphasis]
Yet instead of ‘segregation and junction improvements over the hard parts’, Westminster don’t appear to be bothering to do anything at all here, simply dumping people cycling into the existing hostile junction, and indeed making their journeys more inconvenient and dangerous than even the current situation, by removing the Moor Street cycle-only route.
What hope is there for the Quietways programme if significant barriers on their routes – junctions like Cambridge Circus – are not being dealt with?
You might think that a grown human being shouldn’t have to do this – and you would be right, in my opinion. However, since there has been a lot of interest in this issue, we have a duty to follow through. (And anyway life is often about doing things you shouldn’t have to do).
So here goes: We are showing how you can play a part in the removal of stickers that are on the wrong vehicles (or wrongly worded stickers on vehicles for which they were intended) belonging to members of Transport for London’s Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS).
And it should indicate to TfL that we can cooperate with it.
Vans – which were never intended to have these stickers on them – belonging to FORS members
So, firstly, do read the post here and the follow up UPDATE: “Cyclists stay back” stickers and HGV safety in London to remind yourself what the fuss is about (the detailed history of this episode is in posts referred to in those).
Now you’re up to speed, we remind you that we thought that FORS could have a web site available to refer non-FORS members to explain why it has changed the wording of stickers, and why stickers should not be on vehicles with good driver visibility (cars, minibuses, vans etc.).
FORS (or to be more precise, the organisation running FORS for TfL) don’t think they can do this. They have told us:Stickers are issued to FORS operators and advice on how to display them is provided in the FORS Standard, through our FORS eNewsletters and on the back of the stickers themselves. Since taking on the concession we simply issue the new blind spot warning signage on behalf of TfL.
That’s a shame – hopefully TfL will try to be more forceful in getting the types of misuse we have referred to changed. We also think it should be able to influence non-FORS members – it wouldn’t take too much effort, and could be part of a campaign of recruitment for FORS
Instead, they’ve asked people to report sticker misuse to them:
Anyone who wishes to report the misuse of FORS stickers can do so via the FORS Helpline 08448 09 09 44 or email@example.com. You do not have to be a FORS registered or accredited company to do this.
So this is how you can work with TfL to cut the abuse of stickers. Please remember the following:
FORS said:“Any issues with London Buses, London Underground and any other parts of TfL should be directed to TfL.”
(We will try and get you a contact.)
Our suggestion is that there is enough to do for now under Number 2 above. Use a photo, date and location and the contact e-mail or phone number, and keep a record of what happens.
So, if you’re unhappy with stickers on the wrong kind of vehicle (albeit just on those of FORS members) here is something you can do about it.
Dr Robert Davis, Chai Road Danger Reduction Forum, March 5th 2015
By British standards, the Dutch town of Veenendaal has some exceptional infrastructure, but this is really a rather quite unexceptional Dutch town, in many ways. When I mentioned to Dutch people that I intended to visit Veenendaal while I was in the country last year, they couldn’t understand why.
From a distance – through the haze of a Dutch spring morning – it looks rather Soviet.
Veenendaal is the equivalent of a British new town, expanding rapidly from a very small post-war settlement into the large town it is today, which accounts for the rather featureless architecture. It was, however, winner of the Fietsstad (best cycling city/town) award in 2000 – more detail (in Dutch) here.
As it happened, I couldn’t book accommodation in Veenendaal, so I stayed in the nearby town of Wageningen, and only briefly passed through Veenendaal on my way to Utrecht. Nevertheless I hope the pictures and video I managed to take convey a flavour of the town.
The approach from the countryside to the south east is typical. A quiet rural road merges into cycling infrastructure. Here the cycle track passes over a canal, then under the ring road, in one smooth transition.
The road pictured below is access-only for motor traffic – it ends at this point for drivers. Only cycles can progress further, either through the underpass on the right, or the cycle path on the left.
Paths through neighbourhoods are straight and direct, and without interruptions, with priority over roads, and with bridges and underpasses where they are are needed.
… and cycle streets, on which motor traffic is allowed to drive, but only for short stretches (and in one direction only) meaning those routes are only used for access by drivers, while forming straight, useful routes for cycling. (Notice the block, however, which has obviously been added because Dutch drivers were not obeying the ‘turn right’ sign).
This really is a network that anyone can use, and would choose to use. When I passed through, at mid-morning, the people cycling in the town were all in normal clothes, going about their business as if they were casually walking. At this time of day, cycling was dominated by the elderly –
It may not be much to look at, but the town felt extraordinarily safe, friendly and peaceful. It’s a model of how the cycling infrastructure in our own new towns could have been constructed, with safe, direct and attractive routes everywhere you need to go, rather than discontinuous bits and bobs that abandon you unexpectedly.
Here’s a final video, showing the continuity of the infrastructure, from the railway station, right out into the countryside.
I’d like to go back to Veenendaal – I just need to persuade my partner it’s a suitable holiday destination…
Since our last post we have had our requested information from Transport for London about their Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS) and the (ab)use of warning stickers. We assess this response and analyse the new HGVs designed to be less dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists and showcased last week.The TfL Response
We have been informed that:
Well, those audits haven’t swung into action yet. Along with the FORS members using stickers on vehicles which should never have had them (minibuses, short lorries with low cabs, taxis and cars) illustrated, a short period of time in inner London today (27/02/2015) reveals these FORS members with stickers on the wrong vehicles:
UK Power Network (positioning off-side wing mirror properly might help)
FloGas London Borough of Brent
And this photo of a car belonging to FORS member Apex Lifts was sent to me:
We also have the problem of TfL’s own vehicles working for London Underground and London Buses (shown here):
TfL is not actually a member of their FORS, but should it be so difficult for someone in TfL to expect it to behave in accordance with the FORS criteria for stickers?
2. Our contact couldn’t give us a URL on FORS’ website to refer operators to. (Some people working for FORS members, most obviously transport planners/engineers working for London Boroughs, want to be able to refer colleagues in fleet management to the FORS criteria for stickers).
3. Our contact pointed out – as we knew already – that FORS has no jurisdiction over non-FORS members, who can buy stickers from other suppliers. (Incidentally, that’s a good reason for this issue to have not arisen in the first place). However, members of the public could refer operators to a FORS website explaining why FORS is now trying to make sure that no stickers should be on any vehicles other than buses or HGVs, and that even on those vehicles the appropriate wording should be used. Above all, the reasons for this – particularly not having stickers of any sort on minibuses, cars, and taxis – must be explained, as most freight operators won’t understand otherwise.
Our view is that if TfL is serious about cycling as a mode of transport, and the safety of road users near lorries, this should be done.
Meanwhile here are some non-FORS members spotted today in a short period of time in inner London with vehicles which should not have stickers:
A Tyrefix-UK van being tailgated by:
A Brandon Tool Hire lorry with apparently adequate nearside wing mirror and low cab, and a minibus. And some time ago one of my favourites (apologies if stickers have since been removed):
As stated in our previous post, this is not the main issue with regard to lorry safety in London – but it is indicative of Transport for London’s readiness – or lack of it – to tackle this and other safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists.Safer construction industry vehicles?…
Last week a major exhibition showcased new lorry designs for the construction industry. There is a particular problem with construction industry HGVs: vehicles like tipper trucks have been disproportionately involved in cyclist deaths compared to other HGVs, and TfL has taken some steps towards addressing this through support for CLOCS.
Below you can see just some of the vehicle designs which make it easier for lorry drivers to be able to see around them and – often less remarked on – smaller gaps between the vehicle body and the road surface, reducing the chances of pedestrians and cyclists being dragged under lorry wheels.
O’Donovan waste Mercedes-Benz design
So does this indicate that TfL are properly addressing the HGV safety problem? A lot of what was said is encouraging: Sir Peter Hendy (Commissioner of Transport for London) supported law enforcement to stop unfit drivers, “relentlessly hounding” bad operators, committing to reducing motor traffic capacity on new highway infrastructure for cyclists, looking at changing the concentration of freight in the morning rush hour (while aware of the problem that this can be a muck-shifting exercise which pushes freight on to people outside these hours), and above all:
“TfL are working towards a point where we’ll say if you want to work on one of our sites it’s got to be one of these – we’re not very far away from this. We’ll do everything we can to make this happen.”
Other speakers showed an awareness of issues beyond the traditional highway authority thought envelope: moving the construction industry’s health and safety focus on to road risk, increased rigour in procurement criteria for freight operators, pushing for more sophisticated technology on vehicles, both new and for retro-fit, retiming lorry delivery, etc
All of which looks good: moves in the right direction prompted not least by the activities by our friends and partners Cynthia Barlow (Roadpeace) and Kate Cairns (See Me Save Me) Unfortunately, there are important problems to be considered, and our duty is to do just that.
The first problem is specifically about construction industry vehicles (such as tipper trucks). When considering Sir Peter Hendy’s comments above, we have a commitment towards a requirement for the safest lorry design to be a feature of HGVs on construction sites operating for TfL sites: what about all the others in London? And when will this be required?
…and lorries in general
We also note that in the concluding comments to the conference by CLOCS chairman Brian Weatherly, he said, “When will CLOCS’ work be completed? Volvo has Vision 2020 – no one will be killed by a Volvo HGV in 2020. It would be an excellent goal for everyone in CLOCS to adopt. If we could achieve that we would know CLOCS has done its job.”
Here at RDRF we have something of a general problem with Volvo. We point out the adverse effects on other road users of drivers feeling that they have to less to worry about because of increased crashworthiness of their vehicle. And Volvo have historically been synonymous with greater car crashworthiness.
But let’s just focus on events last year: for this sorry story of blocking the introduction of safer lorries read this in The Times. Essentially, under pressure from Renault and, yes, Volvo, the French and Swedish governments blocked manufacturers from implementing more aerodynamic lorry designs.
Such redesign also benefits cyclist and pedestrian safety by having lower cabs with more driver visibility, and skirting and/or lower vehicle and cab bodies to reduce chances of being dragged under lorry wheels.
Since these lorries won’t be on the roads now until after 2020, one does rather wonder about Volvo’s Vision 2020.
An aside: The recent history of lorry design
At this point I should refer to a meeting I had at Transport for London (with my colleague from the London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group). This was at a time (I think 2002) before The Times started pushing for cyclist safety, when we had to fight hard to get anybody to take notice of the HGVs/Cyclists issue. We were met by, among others, a freight industry representative, who explained the 10-year cycle of lorry design, manufacture, sale and use.
Now, it was a while ago, and I may have got the details wrong (and they may have been inaccurately conveyed to us) but my understanding was this: Lorry manufacturers take about ten years to design, implement and manufacture a model, and this will then be bought and used by operators for another ten years before they buy the next model. We were told – as I recall – that the next design/manufacture cycle would start in 2010. New models would come in then, and by 2020 almost all HGVs would have the safer and more aerodynamic characteristics shown above.
But they didn’t. The episode recounted above – where RDRF joined others to lobby the EU to allow (that is just allow, let alone make mandatory) safer lorry design – indicates that the cycle we are now in ignored all the evidence about the importance of lorry design for cyclist and pedestrian safety in the 1990s and early 2000s, as well as the desire of operators to have more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The HGV problem in context
We have to say something else about the HGV issue. There is a specific problem of safety posed by HGVs for other road users, and in urban areas this is a particular problem for pedestrians and cyclists. I have dealt with the various ways this problem should be addressed here as follows:
We have been working on the safety issue for cyclists and pedestrians posed by HGVs, specifically in cities, since the early 1990s. There is a range of solutions which require implementing, namely:
Highway engineering which could eliminate potential collisions of all severities, and also do so with collisions involving all motor vehicles and create safer space. This is restricted to specific locations, and is less relevant for pedestrians, so attention is also needed to engineering HGVs so that drivers can be aware of who and what is around them. HGVs should also be engineered so that it becomes far more difficult (or impossible) for pedestrians or cyclists to be crushed, by skirting HGVs or otherwise reducing the gap between road surface and the body of the vehicle. Safety standards on HGVs can also be enforced by the police. Swift and high quality post-crash investigation, and the threat of deterrent sentencing for unsafe HGV operation are required. Construction sites and operators can be subject to appropriate procurement procedures to push forward relevant measures. Additional technologies such as black box recorders and pedestrian/cyclist-activated vehicle braking systems should be introduced.
HGV driver training is necessary, although low down the list of priorities. We are believers in cycle training, but the essential issue is reducing danger at source – from HGVs (particularly construction industry HGVs) which are currently unfit for purpose in a city. Not all of the million people who sometimes cycle in London can be reached or – even if experienced and careful – expected to avoid HGVs that hit them from behind or overtake and turn left. Even where a cyclist or pedestrian is careless or ignorant (as we all are on occasion) they do not deserve to be punished with death or serious injury. After all, motorists have their carelessness accommodated by highway and vehicle engineering – why shouldn’t cyclists or pedestrians?
For further discussion see the post by Bill Chidley here with RDRF comments below.
As at least half the cyclists killed in London are now killed in incidents where they go under the wheels of HGVs, plainly this is a specific issue for sustainable transport and road danger reduction in urban areas and London in particular. The relatively small number of vehicles, and the professional nature of their drivers, mean that there is less excuse for not dealing with this problem. However, it is worth remembering its place within the spectrum of problems, even specifically for cyclists.The table is based on Table 1 of TfL’s current Cycle Safety Action Plan: Ratio of cyclist KSI (Killed and Serious Injury) injury and collision involvement by mode share (2010-12) Other vehicle involved Average yearly number of KSI collisions involving a cyclist (2010 to 2012) Ratio of involvement to mode share %age involvement Car 1140 0.9 72 Light Goods Vehicles 176 0.9 11.1 Taxi/ private hire 75 4 4.7 Medium and Heavy Goods Vehicles (over 3.5T) 74 1.4 4.7 Bus 72 2.3 4.5 Motorcycle 51 1.4 3.2 TOTAL KSIs on average per year 2010 – 2012 1588 Source: STATS19 and Department for Transport data
The fact is that less than 5% of cyclist KSIs (98% of which are not deaths) involve lorries. A similar fraction exists for slight injuries, and probably near misses. (The proportions for pedestrians are even lower). Lorry danger is therefore a highly visible iceberg tip of danger on the roads in London, to cyclists and to other road users. And of that, danger from tipper trucks – essentially industrial equipment primarily used off-road – is just a part.
Transport for London has made an important step forward in addressing lorry danger in London through its support for CLOCS. Our concern is that while impressive efforts can be made with high profile issues (the “big and shiny” syndrome), its bureaucracy can get wrong-footed on a more mundane and routine issue. While the issue of stickers on wrong types of vehicle is of little importance in itself – although the large numbers of inappropriately stickered vehicles on London streets do send an unhelpful message, especially to drivers – it has reminded us about more general problems TfL has on sustainable transport in particular and cyclist safety in general.
We have spent plenty of time on www.rdrf.org.uk drawing attention to TfL’s wrong and dangerous targets for road safety , its inability to measure danger on the road properly, and its poor record on cyclist safety apart from some work on lorry danger . Then we have all the usual transport establishment issues about the methods of cost-benefit analysis (see these useful comments) ; bias in law enforcement ; the inequitable costs (to the user) of motoring compared to other modes, particularly cycling; a failure to consider areas – such as adequately accessible bicycles, cycling equipment or secure and convenient home parking – which affect the take-up of cycling; and “ road safety” ideology which blurs the difference of rule-breaking between motorised and non-motorised road users.
Partially addressing the use of one type of the most threatening type of vehicle involved in half the cyclist deaths (but less than one in twenty injuries) is welcome.
But only a very small part of what needs to be done.