What next for London's Cycle Superhighways?

ibikelondon - 26 November, 2014 - 09:24

The official consultation on the Mayor of London's ambition to build two new separated Cycle Superhighways across the city has come to an end, but those who are against the plans are still making their case strongly behind closed doors.

Transport for London received over 20,000 consultation responses, one of their highest response rates ever.  Of those, approximately 80% are said to be in favour.  Transport commissioner Sir Peter Hendy has hinted that TfL will listen to all concerns raised, and will publish revisions to their designs in approximately two months "that will work for everybody."

Cyclists make their concerns known in May's Space4Cycling protest.
Talking with the Evening Standard's correspondent Matthew Beard, Hendy said:
“One of the characteristics of this is that it’s highly emotional. I think the support for the scheme from the cyclists and the objections from the businesses are both heartfelt.  For one side to represent that the other has no case is false.”

However Chris Kenyon from CyclingWorks.London has been quick to point out that it is not accurate to portray the debate around the cycle tracks as one just between cyclists and business leaders:

“Rarely if ever has a scheme by TfL gathered so many CEO level signatures of support.  Surely that is the big story.  The backers represent every major industry sector and show that Londoners are in it together and believe that it's time for kerb protected lanes in the heart of the city.”

When the consultation closed at the weekend over 160 city businesses, institutes and organisations had written to Transport for London expressing their support for the Cycle Superhighway plans.  Support has continued to roll in past the deadline, including that of publishing group Pearson who employ over 4,000 staff, many of who cycle in London.

Whilst London Assembly member Kit Malthouse was busy last week telling the Mayor his constituents were desperate for the Cycle Superhighways to be extended through his borough, opposing forces were working to undermine the plans.

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry has proposed that the cycle tracks should be narrowed and only 'partially segregated' from traffic, allowing other road users to utilise the same space as cyclists.  A similar system operates for the existing Cycle Superhighways which have seen an increase in cycling numbers but have been roundly criticised by campaigners following a series of deaths on the routes.

Cyclists take over part of the proposed route of the east / west Cycle Superhighway.
Meanwhile lobbyist Howard Dawber, Strategic Adviser for the Canary Wharf Group, is clear that they believe the Cycle Superhighways will lead to unacceptable traffic congestion in east London.  He would do well to talk to academic and modelling expert Dr Rachel Aldred who goes in to detail on her blog as to why he needn't worry about the 'worst case scenario'.  Detail aside, the Canary Wharf Group is not an opponent the cycling community can afford to underestimate; they have unprecedented access to influential ears and a lie - or a badly researched briefing document - will get half way around the world before the truth has got it's shoes on...

All this is set against the backdrop of more consultations on further significant changes planned for London's road network; on revisions to Cycle Superhighway route 5 through Oval and Vauxhall, at Archway Gyratory, at Stockwell Cross, and plans to remove the Old Street roundabout.

Those who were around for the Battle of Blackfriars just a few short years ago will remember how cyclists had to fight and fight just to stop cycle lanes being ripped out in order to "maintain traffic flow".  It would seem that some elements of Transport for London have come a very, very long way since then.

But when it comes to winning over the rest of London - most especially its most influential interests - we can't afford to rest easily just yet.  Watch this space.

Think tank the Centre For London are hosting a debate on the 10th December; "Are Cycle Superhighways good for London?".  The Mayor's Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan, CyclingWorksLondon's Chris Kenyon and Canary Wharf Group's Howard Dawber will all be there.  Register to attend here.

Categories: Views

Stopping the march of the Advanced Stop Line

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 26 November, 2014 - 08:49

It’s noteworthy that the North-South and East-West Superhighway schemes, which (while not perfect by any means) are the most ambitious and inclusive designs for cycling currently on the table in Britain, barely use any Advanced Stop Lines (ASLs) on the length of their route. The Superhighways are good because they do not use ASLs, among other reasons.

Indeed, more generally, good cycling schemes don’t involve ASLs.

That’s because ASLs are lipstick on a pig. They are a tokenistic attempt to provide something a bit ‘cycle-friendly’, a veneer of legitimacy, while doing next to nothing to address objective problems of safety (and, as we shall see, often creating problems of safety), or to create an environment that feels safe and comfortable to cycle in.

Good cycling schemes separate cycling, temporally and/or spatially, at major junctions, or they involve lowering motor traffic levels to a point at which ASLs are redundant. The reason why ASLs are disappearing from the Netherlands is that the maximum motor traffic threshold for their use is roughly equivalent to the point at which traffic signals can, and should, be removed. That is – Dutch guidance only recommends using ASLs at a level at which traffic signals shouldn’t even be being used.

Earlier this year, I cycled for about 300 miles across the Netherlands, and I only encountered three sets of ASLs. Two sets were at objectively bad junctions -

One of those sets, at a junction in Nijmegen. Good by British standards, but poor by Dutch standards (and quite unsettling to encounter)

The other set was at either end of a new Fietsstraat in Utrecht. It’s questionable whether they are even needed.

Does this ASL need to be here? And if it does need to be here, shouldn’t that suggest a wider problem with motor traffic levels?

Everywhere else, I was moving through junctions that had so little motor traffic, they didn’t need traffic signals at all -

Or through junctions where signals were required, and cycling was separated from motor traffic.

Advanced Stop Lines are almost entirely absent in the Netherlands because they are a deeply mediocre approach; an attempt to accommodate cycling in an existing motor-centric template.

Why are they so dire?

Even if Advanced Stop Lines do work, they only do so on a part-time basis. When traffic signals are green, they offer absolutely no benefit at all – they’re just a large painted area on the ground. There’s no point them even being there.

When traffic signals are red, anyone who doesn’t want to find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation has to run through a complex assessment process, adjudicating the risk of attempting to reach the ASL. This flowchart from Magnatom summarises this process brilliantly.

What could be easier than that?

The problem is that human beings are fallible, and they will make poor decisions and mistakes about whether to attempt to reach the ASL, or to wait safely. Impatience can’t be designed out of us; we will always want to make progress. ASLs represent a very poor way of attempting to deal with that human fallibility, especially as they may encourage poor decision-making, and do nothing to prevent dangerous outcomes.

The thunderous main roads in Horsham have recently received some tokenistic green paint at three major junctions. Many of these ASLs are often difficult (or even impossible) to access.

Even when these ASLs are apparently accessible, considerable danger is presented, as in this instance, from just the other day.

Note here that I have highlighted a young child on a bike, completely ignoring this new ‘infrastructure’, and cycling on the pavement – entirely sensibly. These ASLs have done nothing to ameliorate the hostility of these roads; even for those people who evidently want to cycle, like this young boy.

An HGV is waiting at a red light, and a nice tempting ASL is within easy reach. But (because I am reasonably clued up about these matters) I know of the lethal danger posed by this kind of situation; I don’t know where the truck is going (it isn’t signalling, at this point, and even that shouldn’t be relied upon) and I also don’t know how long the lights have been red, and thus how long that truck is going to remain stationary. So I hang back.

As it happens, only a matter of seconds later – barely enough time for me to get on the footway and photograph what happens – the truck sets off, turning left, the driver signalling now, as he turns.


This is precisely the kind of situation in which people can and do get seriously injured; attempting to reach an ASL, they find themselves on the inside of an HGV that starts to move, and get caught up under it. Indeed, UCL academics who undertook a rigorous study of the causes of cycling deaths in London came to the following conclusions -

‘Do not undertake large vehicles on the approach to a junction irrespective of ASL provision’


That is – if you want to stay alive, or avoid serious injury, do not do what the paint is telling you to do.

What kind of ‘cycle provision’ is that?

Unfortunately there isn’t a great deal else, beyond ASLs, in the toolkit for designing for cycling at junctions. Our current guidance is woefully short on genuinely safe infrastructure at major junctions, and steps are only just being made to address this serious oversight. So it’s partly understandable why ASLs are still being painted out.

But their continued presence in manuals, and in new schemes, affords highway engineers, planners and (in particular) politicians a degree of complacency; it allows them to to avoid thinking about the ways in which cycling should be designed for at junctions, and to continue ignoring the serious safety problems, both objective and subjective, that these junctions present.

This is just the latest egregious example -

TfL’s plans for Deptford Broadway

Not the least bit ‘cycle-friendly’, despite the copious amounts of green paint. ASLs are an easy and obvious option, when you want to pretend you’re doing something tangible.

So stripping out the ASL from the toolkit – halting the march of the Advanced Stop Line – might just force us to think a bit more carefully about how to design properly at the kinds of junction pictured above, rather than adding in those green boxes and hoping for the best. We need to be forced to think about alternatives.

Categories: Views

Road Safety Week 2014: What was wrong with it?

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 25 November, 2014 - 00:36

Our last post is one of the most well-read and commented on since went live, with particular support on social media from supporters of cycling and sustainable transport. We’re aware that many people with good intentions feel that supporting Road Safety Week (RSW) is worthwhile. We don’t. As I concluded after a debate with Brake at the end of the post:

“…a generally “fluffy” approach appealing to people to try to be nice if they feel like it is exactly what has not worked to reduce danger on the roads – whatever the feelings of people involved (and I should add that these feelings are frequently highly commendable). Wanting people to be less dangerous and telling this to whoever wants to listen is not only not enough, unless you address important obstacles – often represented by your partners – it can become part of the problem.”

Brake initially responded by accusing us of insulting those bereaved by road crashes – which we strongly deny and bitterly resent – and then took the trouble to engage in responses to our concerns. We’re happy to continue the debate. To repeat: “I raise these issues because I hope they can assist people in developing and supporting programmes for road danger reduction: real road safety, Safer Roads for All.”

What has been happening in Road Safety Week?

Let’s look at some of the events in RSW that Brake has drawn attention to on social media. We think some clarification is needed on what Brake’s message is.

Pushing cycle helmets…

Philip Goose (Brake Senior Community Engagement Officer) claims (Twitter Nov 20th)that he supports the position of the CTC: Many people ask me why I think what I do on cycle helmets. I agree with the @CTC_Cyclists POV: …

But Brake is a long term supporter of campaigns for compulsory bicycle crash helmet wear . It both denies relevant evidence and replicates helmet mythology.

In RSW Brake supported an initiative to auction bicycle crash helmets signed by celebrities (such as the stars of  Strictly Come Dancing) , including the rugby player Danny Care. In 2012 Care was banned for drink-driving, arrested a few hours after tweeting “…Earn respect. Earn the shirt. Set the example.” Interestingly, the media noted this as one of Care’s three offences involving alcohol at the time. We are more interested in the fact that this supposed role model already had three points on his licence for texting on his mobile phone while driving, and six points for speeding.

Then there’s Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, and Southern Car Buyers, who seem to think cycle helmets have been mandatory in the UK for the last ten years…

…and Hi-Viz

Our last post refers to our concerns about advocacy of wearing hi-viz feeding into “Sorry mate I Didn’t See You” (SMIDSY) victim-blaming. Although Philip Goose tries to assure us that Brake is opposed to such victim-blaming (“quite the contrary”), an awful lot of RSW seems to be about hi-viz.

It could be the hi-viz vests given out by their co-sponsors Bridgestone tyres, RSW partners Specsavers or

the RSA Group. We noted  that Co-op Funeralcare (who work with Brake on child “road safety”) produced a video  which tells school children to wear the reflective yellow badges they were given (160,000 given out so far), and which tells parents that they can ”ensure your child stays safe by following a few simple steps…” such as not playing near a road, and walking on the side of the pavement furthest away from the road. And wearing the badges. Then there are the hi-viz wristbands handed out by North Ayrshire Police and hi-viz vests designed by Jet Petrol 


A launch with the Minister…

RSW was launched by the Road Safety Minister Robert Goodwill MP, and Brake’s Julie Townsend

As readers of know, one of our main problems with the official “road safety” establishment is the idea that genuine safety on the road can be measured by totting up aggregate numbers of road deaths and dividing them by the population, (see the piece here )

Sure enough, the Minister started his launch speech with “Britain has some of the safest roads in the world …”. RSW was also the occasion when a story appeared in which the Minister dismissed the provision of cycle infrastructure ” because there aren’t enough cyclists“, using a recycled extract from an earlier letter .

This all takes place against a background of the Government failing to allocate the funding required for the provision advocated in the “Get Britain Cycling” report (although the opposition are no better). Although Brake spokespeople may say they want this kind of funding, how do they square this with being paid by the Department for Transport to organise RSW?


…and the Police.

Although she was not present at the launch, Brake’s Press Release gave  prominence to Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ national lead for roads policing,  who is quoted as saying: “Our officers and staff do a vital job in enforcing important safety laws and protecting the public on the roads…”

But that’s the point: as we have pointed out here, here ,  and here we do not have the level and kind of traffic law enforcement we deserve.  Does Brake point this out to its partners in the police forces it works with in the UK? What we do get from Brake is a Press Release which claims that it’s survey “reveals the extent of selfish driving in the UK”. This surveys headline statistic is that there are:

Two fixed penalties for ‘careless driving’ or speeding issued every minute in the UK

This is broken down by region, e.g. LONDON: A fixed penalty for ‘careless driving’ or speeding is issued in London every seven minutes. 73,804 fixed penalty notices were issued for ‘careless driving’ and speeding offences in London in 2013 – one every seven minutes. 71,529 were for speeding, and 2,275 for careless driving (a fixed penalty newly introduced in August 2013).

So do these figures “reveal the extent of selfish driving” in the UK (or London)? Just taking London, we can assume at least some 3 million drivers are on its roads on a typical day…> It’s tricky to get exact figures: there are some 2.6 million cars registered in London, more come in from outside, and then there are the motorcycles, lorries, vans, buses  and taxis to consider, so 3 million is a conservative figure for the number of motor vehicle drivers on London’s roads on a typical day. We know that approximately 40% of drivers break speed limits when they can, and that more than half claim to do so from time to time. That would bring the annual number of potential speeding offences in London to hundreds of millions, not just over 70,000.

That leaves us with careless driving. Are Brake seriously suggesting that a proportion of less than one in a thousand London motorists drives carelessly just once in a year?   Is that the “extent of selfish driving”?

What was Road Safety Week actually about?

The dominant impression of RSW we have, particularly after Philip Goose’s contacts with us, is of a variety of different and often conflicting messages. During this week I discussed RSW with colleagues, with two conversations standing out. One view was that simply saying “road safety” is somehow seen as giving carte blanche to any view on how to achieve whatever anybody may think “road safety” actually is.  Similarly, a former Road Safety Officer commented that Brake and its partners throw together a hotchpotch of views that may be considered “road safety”. These views are expressed with or without evidence, blaming victims or not, or locating a problem without any real strategy to deal with it. For us that is not good enough.

Let’s take one example: Rhondda Cynon Taf Council

Here are Alaw Primary pupils suitably decked out during RSW. Questioned by Bike Commuter  @BikeCommuter2 about whether they had been required to wear this clothing, and how danger from drivers was going to be addressed the answer is:

We did! They always wear hi vis when out. It’s health and safety and, yes, it’s as well as ensuring drivers are considerate.

But that is simply wishful thinking. RCT Council do not ensure safe driving on their roads.

During RSW, Brake introduced road crash victims and those bereaved by road crashes to speak at events. In Rhondda Cynon Taf, a lady spoke movingly about her husband being killed while crossing the road on a signalled crossing by an 86-year-old driver, who then received the “punishment” of a one-year driving ban.

Our reason for criticising Brake and Road Safety Week is that it does not actually engage in a programme which could address the danger leading to such events. The cultural change required to achieve Safer Roads for All is undermined as much as it may be facilitated.

We do not insult road crash victims. In fact we believe that features of RSW add insult to the harm of so many road crashes, both to those immediately affected and to those at risk from road danger. In case Brake are really prepared to work for a programme of real road safety with Safer Roads for All: one based on the principles of Road Danger Reduction (of reducing danger at source), we’re happy to advise.

Categories: Views

How Britain solves a school run problem

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 24 November, 2014 - 11:05

‘Road safety week’ concluded last week; appropriately, I thought I’d share a small story of how boggling backward Britain is when it comes to prioritising walking and cycling in urban areas, and how we deal in such a peculiar way with issues of safety.

Arunside is a small cul-de-sac, close to the centre of Horsham.


There are only 62 separate properties in this cul-de-sac; that means the number of movements in and out of this close is minimal (or at least should be).

Only a matter of a few yards from Arunside are two primary schools. St John’s Catholic Primary is on the east side of Blackbridge Lane, and Arunside Primary School on the west, adjoining Arunside itself.

Arunside Primary School, and St John’s Catholic Primary School, with Arunside in the centre of the picture

In the 2011 census, there were 165 pupils attending Arunside, and 190 at St John’s. Around three-quarters of Arunside pupils walk to school, with the remaining quarter driven. The picture is less rosy at St John’s, where 60% are driven to school, and the remaining 40% walk. (You can find the census data for these schools here; but see the ‘health warning’ here).

Taking these two schools together, it’s reasonable to assume that there are around 150 motor vehicles arriving in this area and leaving again, every school day, both in the morning, and again in the afternoon, to drop off and pick up children.

In Summer 2012 – after much lobbying – the schools gained a zebra across Blackbridge Lane, the road dividing them. (You can see this crossing on the aerial view, above). This crossing has been accompanied by a School Safety Zone (SSZ) which attempts to stop parents parking on the road right outside the schools, with gigantic zig-zag markings -

… And a 20mph limit that only comes in to force at school opening and closing times.

20mph ‘please’

These (minor) interventions are welcome, and probably go some way towards explaining why Arunside, at least, has a reasonably good walking to school rate. However, virtually no children are cycling to these schools; Blackbridge Lane remains a hostile road, with a 30mph limit outside of this tiny (temporary) 20mph zone, and with plenty of motor traffic using it as a rat-run to bypass the traffic signals and queues in the centre of the town.

That still leaves around 150 motor vehicles arriving and departing twice a day; this presents a problem for the surrounding streets and cul-de-sacs – in particular, Arunside, as we shall see.

I was recently told that a lollipop lady actually volunteers here to allow school children, and their families, to cross this cul-de-sac. Not the main road between the schools; only the entrance to this dead-end road.

Where the lollipop lady helps people cross. Not across the main road; across this dead end road

I couldn’t quite believe this, until I passed by and saw it happening for myself.

Blackbridge Lane, with Arunside on the left. The two schools are on the bend in the distance.

Reminder – this a very minor side street, containing only around 60 properties. Why is a lollipop lady needed to help children cross it?

The simple answer is – because of the large number of cars being driven in and out it, at school time, by parents using it as a car park to drop their children off. The two cars in the photograph above – one entering Arunside, one leaving – are, of course, parents on the school run.

So a problem is evidently being created by the amount of cars being driven into and out of Arunside, during the school run. But the solution isn’t to ban parking here, or to redesign the junction so that the children walking across this side street have priority.

How children negotiate side roads on the school run, in a civilised country

No, the solution is to get a volunteer to stand here in a hi-viz jacket, twice a day, in an attempt to alleviate a problem that shouldn’t even exist in the first place.

That’s how we do things in Britain!

Categories: Views

To mount or not to mount

BicycleDutch - 23 November, 2014 - 23:01
You ask a lot of questions about how I create my videos. What camera do you use? How do you mount it? What software do you use for editing? Maybe … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Shared Use Paths create conflict and cause complaints about "speed"

A View from the Cycle Path - 23 November, 2014 - 18:11
Many countries build combined infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians. Wherever these shared-use (aka multi-use) paths exist, there are complaints due to the conflicts which occur. Many of the complaints are from pedestrians who find the speed of cyclists unacceptable on paths which they use for walking. This is a wholly avoidable problem. The cyclists in the video above demonstrate well David Hembrow
Categories: Views

A lack of Goodwill

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 21 November, 2014 - 14:37

Back in 2012, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain received a letter from Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport. It contained the following passages.

With reference to the Netherlands and Denmark, McLoughlin wrote

We do not place the same emphasis on segregation in the UK. Alongside high speed roads we encourage it but in urban environments space is often at a premium. Providing a broad, high quality cycle route segregated from motor traffic in these circumstances might be desirable but in many cases not always practicable. There are also concerns about the potential for conflict between cyclists and motor vehicles where these roads cross routes regardless of whether cyclists have priority.

In the UK, we tend not to encourage cycle priority in these situations because, given the relatively low current levels of cycling, there are concerns that motorists might fail to give way. That said, cycle priority crossings are not ruled out and local authorities are of course free to consider them if they might be suitable in a given situation.

If we begin to see increases in cycling in the UK that we all wish for, it is likely we would want to reconsider our guidance in general, and specifically our position on segregated cycle routes and priority at road crossings.

Many of you may have seen the letter Stuart Helmer received from Robert Goodwill MP, Under-Secretary of State for Transport, circulating today on Twitter. It is eerily familiar, not least because the passages quoted above, are repeated, word for word, in Goodwill’s letter, sent over two years later - with a handful of very minor changes, as highlighted below. Goodwill -

We do not place the same emphasis on segregation in the UK. Whilst alongside high speed roads we encourage it, in urban environments space is often at a premium. Providing a broad, high quality cycle route segregated from motor traffic in these circumstances might be desirable but in many cases it is not always practicable. There are also concerns about the potential for conflict between cyclists and motor vehicles where these routes cross roads, regardless of whether cyclists have priority.

In the UK, we tend not to encourage cycle priority in these situations because, given the relatively low current levels of cycling, there are concerns that motorists might fail to give way. That said, cycle priority crossings are not ruled out and local authorities are of course free to consider them if they think they might be suitable in a given situation.

If we begin to see the increases in cycling [in the UK] that we all wish for, it is likely we would want to reconsider our guidance in general, and specifically our position on segregated cycle routes and cycle priority at road crossings.

A few questions present themselves, perhaps the most important of which is – where is this text coming from?

The other question is – for how long can this text keep on being recycled, used again and again to justify inaction on the basis of low cycling levels? Will Ministers in 2025 be writing

If we begin to see increases in cycling in the UK that we all wish for, it is likely we would want to reconsider our guidance in general, and specifically our position on segregated cycle routes and priority at road crossings.

Or will they, by then, have begun to acknowledge that low cycling levels are their responsibility, flowing directly from their failure to champion safe, attractive and convenient cycling conditions in Britain?

Categories: Views

Is this London's most extreme bike ride? Danny Macaskill gets in a spin...

ibikelondon - 20 November, 2014 - 12:26

It's not every day you get invited on a mystery tour, to witness what was billed as "London's most extreme bike ride".   Planning the launch event for their virtual personal assistant, Cortana, Microsoft had been in touch promising thrills, spills, and world-famous trials bike rider Mr Danny Macaskill. Needless to say, I was excited!

Danny's stunt was kept under wraps right until the last minute, and the excitement built as darkness fell and we cruised up the river Thames on Wednesday evening. Everyone assembled on board snapped pictures of London's most famous landmarks as we neared our destination.
As the London Eye came in to view, so did a barge floating in the middle of the river with a massive slope and loop-the-loop built on top. What was about to unfold became clear, and I was blown away by just how epic the night was turning out to be.
Danny's London stunt is just another string to his bow, following the enormous success of his online videos including the most recent (and I'd argue best) film, The Ridge, which has already been viewed over 20 million times on Youtube.
Apparently Microsoft's Cortana acted as Danny’s personal assistant throughout his training for the event, arranging his meetings, setting appointment reminders, playing his favourite music, warning for bad weather and finding maps.  
He explains; "A career as a professional athlete can be quite hectic and as I prefer to spend as much time on my bike as possible – any help in organising meetings, travel plans and projects is great. This is one of the biggest set-ups I have ever ridden and the location is amazing. To have a five-metre loop floating on a barge is something surreal. I always look for new challenges and the chance to ride this massive loop with the help of Cortana is another achievement I can be proud of.”

Our boat moored by Victoria Embankment, putting Danny's loop in line with the London Eye.  As the crowd waited eagerly, I can't imagine what would be going through his mind.  Was he nervous? What if he fell? Would he over-shoot the slope and end up in the river?!
If Macaskill was nervous, he certainly didn't show it.  With a quick spin and a hop suddenly he was off, gathering speed on the steep slope before whizzing around the loop, then delivering a perfectly executed backwards wheelie on his front wheel.  

The crowd (which I noticed included trails pioneer Hans 'No Way' Rey) gave him a huge cheer, and it was all over too soon.
Riding a bike along the river Thames usually involves dodging lorries and massive pot holes, and there's been lots of talk recently about the idea of building a floating bike track down the middle of the river.  That's fine by me, just so long as it includes a 5 metre high loop the loop so we can all have a go!
Many thanks to Microsoft's Cortana for a great evening!

Categories: Views

Why don’t ‘urban realm improvements’ incorporate cycling?

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 20 November, 2014 - 09:23

This week Transport for London have been tweeting pictures of proposed station improvements, connected to Crossrail upgrades.

I’ve been struck – as have many others - by the way these designs appear to involve polishing a turd, and also by the way they completely ignore cycling as a mode of transport.

The West Drayton station visualisation includes a bridge that doesn’t include cycling.

The Ilford station visualisation has an expanse of fancy paving, combined with a fashionable narrow carriageway, with someone cycling right by the kerb. 

This is the A123, by the way – the traffic levels in this visualisation are a tad unrealistic.

Southall station gets fancy paving, and a nice coloured carriageway, with unrealistic traffic levels. No cycle provision.

Goodmayes gets a ridiculous ‘shared space’ treatment, miraculously free of motor traffic in this visualisation. No cycle provision.

Again, it’s fair to say this is a ‘charitable’ representation of motor traffic levels here.

Seven Kings actually looks like the best improvement out of a bad bunch; the road in front of the station is going to be closed off, and the existing ASL is going to be painted green. 

Not pictured – buses.

Another ‘fancy’ surface, serving no apparent purpose, outside Manor Park. Again, this is an A-road – the A117.

Forest Gate. Another A-road; another smear of expensive granite. 

Maryland station - three wide lanes of motor traffic replaced by… three narrow lanes of motor traffic. 

Acton station gets some lovely cycling-hostile carriageway-narrowing.

Fancy colouring for the car parking spaces outside Hanwell station (this is a dead-end, so they can’t really get this wrong).

And finally Chadwell Heath. It’s not really clear if there are any changes here at all.Crossrail’s own page on the ‘Urban Realm’ changes involved across London is here (thanks to Alex Ingram for spotting it).

A continuing difficulty in Britain appears to be an assumption that ‘cycling infrastructure’ is antithetical to ‘urban realm’. It’s seen as ugly, and associated with traffic engineering, and facilitating movement, which stands in contrast to what ‘urban realm’ designers think they are trying to create, a sense of place. White lines don’t fit in with the aesthetics of places like Poynton, or of Frideswide Square.

Of course, there’s no reason why cycling infrastructure can’t be blended into attractive urban realm – cycle tracks can be constructed from sympathetic materials for instance. The opposition seems to be based on what cycling infrastructure looks like now, rather than what it could look like, with a little thought and effort.

And the other problem here is a fundamental dishonesty about the function of the roads and streets that are being ‘prettified’ – this is the placefaking I’ve talked about before, or, more bluntly, polishing a turd. Rachel Aldred has also written about this issue at length. The assumption seems to be that cycling doesn’t fit in with these placemaking schemes, despite the fact that they still function as major traffic arteries. The paving might have been changed, trees might have been planted, the carriageway might be a different colour, but fundamentally it’s still a road with thousands of vehicles thundering along it every day.

Maybe having to include cycling infrastructure represents a tacit admission that the problem still remains. But it’s not particularly sensible to bury our heads in the sand, and to pretend that the barriers to cycling can be resolved with some planting and some surface treatments.

Categories: Views

Can there ever be too many people cycling?

BicycleDutch - 19 November, 2014 - 23:01
The Dutch have been very good at making cycling the best transport option for many journeys. So good, some argue, that the downsides are now becoming apparent and even annoying. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Bypassing the bypass

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 17 November, 2014 - 13:49

The reduction of motor traffic in British towns and villages is not a particularly alien concept. Throughout the latter part of the twentieth century, the bypass became an increasingly familiar, and often contested, way of reducing the effects motor vehicles were having on the centres of these settlements – namely, the problems of congestion and pollution resulting from an excess of motor traffic.

There is a rather fantastic ‘Look At Life’ film from 1962, showing how bypasses were built to deal with these problems.

Indeed, just as with the towns featured in that film, many of the towns and villages in my county, West Sussex, are now ringed by recently-constructed dual- or single-carriageway roads, designed to divert through-traffic away from the towns and villages themselves.

The villages of Ashington and Billingshurst both had bypasses constructed in the 1990s, taking the A24 and A29 trunk roads, respectively, away from the village centres.

The A24 now skirts Ashington, on a dual carriageway. You can see its old route, straight through the village itself

These were villages that were blighted by through-traffic, particularly Ashington, a small village that had a thunderous A-road running through the middle of it. The old route of the A24 is now considerably more peaceful.

This used to be a trunk road. Still motor traffic here, but nowhere near as much.

DfT traffic counts show that the A24 bypassing Ashington carries around 30-35,000 vehicles per day; it’s obviously completely inappropriate for that amount of traffic to be passing through the centre of a village. Bypasses are often necessary.

The town where I live, Horsham, also has a bypass. The original northern section (built in the late 1960s) was extended in the 1980s to incorporate a western diversion, keeping the main trunk roads, the A24 (running north-south) and the A264 (running approximately SW-NE) away from the town centre. In theory, this should mean that the town itself should have very little motor traffic passing through it; what motor traffic there is should only be accessing the town.

Bypasses are just as common in the Netherlands, and serve much the same purpose. A big difference, however, is that the Dutch are far more assiduous about ensuring that bypasses serve their original purpose – taking out the through-traffic from urban areas.

By contrast, in Britain, bypasses are often presented as ‘relief roads’, aimed at easing the congestion that through traffic might otherwise cause. You will still find little impediment to direct journeys by car through Horsham, Billingshurst or Ashington – the roads have remained largely unchanged subsequent to the construction of their bypasses, which are in effect an ‘additional’ measure to accommodate motor traffic. The roads are much quieter than they would be without bypasses, but they are still unpleasantly busy, and needlessly so.

In the Netherlands, by contrast, bypasses form part of a package of measures aimed at reducing motor vehicle use within town centres; they are, explicitly, a way of keeping the traffic out.

The Dutch city of Assen does, of course, have a ring road, the single-carriageway Europaweg. It is also flanked by a motorway, the A28.

Something of a resemblance to Horsham.

But what makes Assen different from a typical British town with a bypass, however, is a centre that is difficult to drive through (although it is still easy to access by car).

Some of the town centre streets are access-only, or allow only pedestrians and cyclists to use them.

Others form part of a network of one-way streets, arranged in such a way that their use, by car, makes no sense as a through-route, although they remain useful and convenient two-way routes for bicycles.

Other streets that used to be through-routes are now blocked off completely – although still permeable for bicycles.

Routes for motor vehicles into and out of the city centre still exist, of course – they haven’t been excluded from the city completely. To take just one example, deliveries to shops, restaurants and offices remain essential, and these will have to be made by lorries and vans.

It’s not just the city centre that has been carefully planned to favour bicycle use; residential streets in the suburbs are typically designed in such a way that the only people driving on them will be those seeking to gain access to a house or property on it, achieved through a combination of selective road closures, and/or one-way arrangements. Likewise, driving from a place of residence in a suburban street will often involve a circuitous route out onto a distributor road, while making that journey by bicycle will be continuous and direct. The street below, which heads into the city under the ring road from the new settlement of Kloosterveen, is a direct route for bicycles only, along the canal.

To make the same trip into the centre by car involves diverting onto the ring road itself. The route for cycling and walking is the shortest, and straightest.

Radial routes that still exist for motor vehicles will have bicycle paths running alongside them, making cycling into the city a safe and pleasant option for people of all ages.

Busy junctions are also easy to use by bike; there is no mixing with motor vehicles, achieved by means of a separated network of paths, or, more commonly in Assen, a dedicated green stage for bicycles –

It wouldn’t make sense to make the use of cars difficult in the city centre without providing a feasible alternative. A pleasant and attractive city centre has been achieved through facilitating, and prioritising, bicycle use both in that city centre and across the city as a whole.

The equivalent UK town or city has very little (and often none) of these advantageous measures put in place to enable sustainable modes of transport. Journeys by car are often just as short and direct as they would be on foot or by bicycle. Similarly, the major routes which a UK cyclist will have to use to get into and of town centres are typically unpleasant and hostile for cycling, being shared with high volumes of motor vehicles.

While Horsham has a bypass, it also has an inner ring road, constructed after the bypass was completed.

This means it’s still very easy to drive through the town. There is, undoubtedly, a large amount of motor traffic here that should be using the bypass instead. And without any attractive conditions to cycle in, many short trips within the town – to work, to school, to leisure facilities, to shops – will continue to be driven.

The safe, high-quality segregated cycle facilities common in Assen, which protect cycling on arterial routes, are non-existent in the UK. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that the car continues to be used for such a high proportion of short journeys in this country when the alternatives are not being prioritised, or made attractive. 56% of all British journeys under 2 miles are made by car. If we are really going to make a dent in that figure, the sound policy of bypasses needs to be accompanied by the measures the Dutch have put in place.

Categories: Views

Cycling Without Age in YOUR City

Copenhagenize - 13 November, 2014 - 09:58

Watch this TED x talk. It is inspiring. It is moving. It is important. Watch it and share it.

Not just because it's about bikes but because it is about caring for our elderly, rebuilding a volunteer-minded society and it is about how individuals with passion and vision can change things. Change things quickly, effectively and massively.

I know this individual. I work three metres from him every day. Ole Kassow is his name.

I met Ole in 2010 at TED x Copenhagen when I was presenting this TED talk. He introduced himself and told me that reading and Cycle Chic was the direct inspiration for selling the family car and banking on bicycles, as I wrote about previously.

Ole is the single most inspiring individual I know in my life. Full stop. The story, outlined in the above TED talk could have happened to many people, but of course it happened to Ole. And of course Ole took it to the next level, even though the development of the project Cycling Without Age / Cykling uden alder has taken him by surprise.

There are countless good points in the book The Culture of Fear by British sociologist Frank Furedi about the societal development since the 1950s - from a sense of community to a more egoistic, individual state of mind. This loss of community is regrettable. Fewer people volunteer for things, fewer people participate in organisations, etc.. It's easier to LIKE something on Facebook.

I don't need to write too much about Ole's Cycling Without Age project - he spells it out brilliantly in the TED talk, above. But I am amazed how the project has captured the imagination of so many people and how the volunteer-based participation bucks the societal trend in style. People of all ages are signing up to take the elderly for bike rides. Giving the elderly The Right to Wind in Their Hair with bicycles is something that has hit a nerve.

As I write this, there are about 37 municipalities in Denmark who are now rolling around with their elderly citizens. 150 rickshaws are on the cycle tracks of the nation, with many, many more on the way. Because of the demand, Ole is having a new rickshaw developed.

The international interest is just as massive. Eight municipalities in Norway are rolling. There is interest from twelve countries in starting up Cycling Without Age. Even as far away as Australia, New Zealand, US and Canada.

You can never plan for anything to go viral. It just does. When it's a passionate project about caring for our elderly, it's fantastic.

You simply can't not be involved. Wherever you are in the world. This is too important. Check this out:

Cycling Without Age in Your City?

I have been completely fascinated by the European Space Agency landing a probe on a comet 500 million km away from earth this week. I've been staring at the photos, absorbing all the articles. It's amazing. If I think about it, however, Cycling Without Age led by Ole and his team is just as impressive. The same "how is it POSSIBLE?" and "how do they DO it?" questions arise. I am amazed, inspired, impressed.

Let's not rest until rickshaws are rolling around the world and our elderly have been given the right to wind in their hair.

Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Cycle Bridge named after a ‘racing cyclist and rescuer’

BicycleDutch - 12 November, 2014 - 23:01
“Highly-commended” was the verdict of the British jury for a bridge near Hoofddorp in the 2014 ‘International Footbridge Conference’ in London. It is strange that this bridge was featured as a footbridge, … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Road Safety Week: What’s wrong with it?

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 12 November, 2014 - 22:15

What could be wrong with a campaign like this?. Well, quite a lot actually…

 The core message of Road Safety Week 2014…

Run by Brake, it is supported by large numbers of “road safety” professionals and members of organisations with an official remit concerned with safety on the road: (schools, local authorities, police forces, emergency services) and various motoring organisations.  This year’s theme is : “Look out for each other”. Let’s look in detail at the core message: (My numbering)

We all use roads to get around and most of us use them in different ways: often a mix of walking, catching the bus or driving, and maybe cycling, running or skating too. Of course, however we use roads, we are all people underneath just trying to get about, but some road users are especially vulnerable and need protecting by those of us in charge of vehicles. (1)

Yet sometimes it can feel like roads are angry places where different road users are in different tribes and competing for space and priority.(2) A simple lack of consideration and care can have awful consequences. (3) It can mean people feel less able to get out and about and less likely to choose walking and cycling: kids not being allowed to walk to school, commuters not feeling able to cycle, families being more inclined to always use the car. It can also lead to tragedy: people suffering horrific injuries or even being killed because of someone going too fast, too close or not looking out.

Wouldn’t it be better if, instead of being stressful and risky, streets were places where everyone looked out for and protected each other, particularly the most vulnerable?(1)

In this year’s Road Safety Week (17-23 November 2014), we’re asking everyone to look out for each other on roads, because being selfish can easily lead to tragedy. We’ll be particularly calling on drivers to protect people on foot and bike by slowing down to 20 in communities, looking longer and taking it slow at junctions and bends,(4) and giving people plenty of room. We’ll also call on everyone to put safety first and be considerate to one another,(3) encouraging people on foot and bike to never take chances (5), and make sure they can be seen (6).”

We’ll be appealing to everyone to show their commitment to care and compassion on roads by making and sharing Brake’s Pledge.

 …and what’s wrong with it

1. This is essentially patronising   . Also, the idea that rule or law breaking which intimidates, hurts or kills can be dealt with by a polite request to “look out” for potential victims is rather strange. Can you imagine a Health and Safety regime in industry, aviation, the railways or sea travel which relied on such polite requests? Indeed, following the central theme of the “road safety” industry since it was founded in the 1920s, the fundamental difference in potential lethality between Primary Road Users (cyclists and pedestrians) and the motorised, is neutralised. We are all, as the saying goes, “in it together”. (“…we are all people underneath just trying to get about”). Of course we are. It’s just that some (the motorised) have far more potential to endanger others than those that are not.

This view is that the people who get about outside cars (incidentally, the majority of people in the world) are seen by definition as “vulnerable” and to be “protected” by those who have the potential to hurt or kill them. How about the idea that those with far more potential to hurt, kill or just intimidate (the motorised) are Dangerous Road Users to be seen as the problem?

2. “Different tribes”. As above, the point is exactly that there is a difference between people when they are using different forms of transport. The fact that people may also walk or (less likely) cycle does not mean that they pose no problem for pedestrians or cyclist safety when they drive.

3. For whom? Again, the fundamental difference between endangering others and endangering yourself is glossed over. And anyway, people have quite different ideas about what constitutes appropriate care and consideration.

4. The central rule of careful driving is: “Never drive in such a way that you cannot stop within visible distance” – which can include “…slowing down to 20 in communities, looking longer and taking it slow at junctions and bends”. But decades of “road safety” highway engineering based on lengthening sight lines, more powerful street and car lights and “road safety” vehicle engineering with more powerful brakes, anti-skid etc. have worked against this. Shifting the burden of responsibility to “be seen” on to pedestrians and cyclists actually makes it more difficult to achieve this basic requirement for safer driving.

5. What is meant here by “taking a chance”? And how on earth are we supposed to live in a world where we don’t ever take any kind of risk? Highways and cars have been engineered to accommodate “taking chances” – or to be more precise, rule and law breaking – by motorists for decades. Even without consideration of how this collusion and connivance with ”taking chances” has exacerbated bad driving behaviour, if we are to assume that drivers require a forgiving environment, why can’t pedestrians and cyclists have one?

6. This needs to be mentioned again as it is key to so much “road safety” ideology. The picture below of the ideal pedestrian presented to children trickles into the collective imagination of how we should behave when travelling is on the web site of one of Brake’s partners,

This slots into a belief system where responsibility from drivers is reduced and transferred on to their potential (or actual) victims. For cyclists and pedestrians to really “be seen” we need a reversal of this belief system, with enforcement, car and highway engineering which is based on a cultural shift to place responsibility back where it belongs.

Genuine “mutual respect” means leaving behind the “Evens Stevens” campaigns and reducing danger at source. Not threatening each other’s lives is the only real mutual respect.


Bridgestone and sustainability

(An aside: A case of how a safety benefit is consumed as a performance benefit.

Taking a look at the twitter account of one of Brake’s partners, Bridgestone, I note their commitment towards motorcycle racing. The photograph below is a classic example of how “safe” technology (in tyre design and construction) allows people to take additional risk -

After all, could you corner at speed like this on a normal motorcycle tyre?)

Brake mentions a commitment towards sustainable transport. Indeed, one of the promises made in their Pledge is to drive less. But what actually works? A voluntary pledge which a tiny minority of motorists make while Government (funding Road Safety Week through the “Think!” campaign) plans more road building for more cars? While even a very large number of committed pledgers would be offset by far more who simply don’t want to drive less and are facilitated in driving more?

And do we think that the world’s largest tyre manufacturer would finance a campaign likely to result in less motoring?

Brake and cycle helmets

Brake is long term supporters of campaigns for compulsory bicycle crash helmet wear . It both denies relevant evidence and replicates helmet mythology.  Of course, Brake claim to be campaigning to create a “safer environment for cyclists” – but what do we actually get?

What we get is not a “safer environment for cyclists” – whether through law enforcement, highway or vehicle engineering – and I suggest that any efforts which may be made in these directions are the results of others than Brake. What we have had is a relentless push to make pedestrians and cyclists wear hi-viz, and cyclists war crash helmets.


Victim support

Brake is very effective at public relations and getting corporate sponsors on board. Some of the funding gained goes towards providing road crash victims support services. In our experience our friends in RoadPeace  provide a more in-depth victim support service, with detailed study of the post-collision processes, and of course a commitment towards road danger reduction.



So, if you want to get involved with activities at this time, we would suggest supporting RoadPeace with the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims with its campaign to reduce motor traffic speed

Or consider joining the National Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence with its demands 



Safety for all road users with a more sustainable transport system requires shifts in culture and attitudes to support (and be supported by) specific interventions. That means focusing on reducing danger at source – danger from motorised vehicular traffic. Brake consistently fails to do this, obscuring differences in the potential lethality of different modes of transport and regurgitating the (non-evidence based) mythology of hi-viz and cycle helmets.

We think that Brake and its partners are very much part of the problem of danger on the road.

Categories: Views

Squeezing out cycling with two-tier provision

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 12 November, 2014 - 14:13

The Frideswide Square redevelopment in Oxford has got me thinking (again) about the ways in which current road design – even in places with relatively high levels of cycling use – continue to treat cycling as a mode of transport that doesn’t exist, and why.

To recap, although this is a ‘Square’, it’s a busy junction, with around 35,000 vehicle movements, per day.

The Frideswide Square area, from above. The station is to the left, the city (roughly) to the right. Note the amount of bikes parked by the station (just above the trees)

This is, clearly, a vast area, but the plan is to create what amounts to a carbon copy of Poynton.


A ‘shared space’ scheme, with narrow carriageways and ‘informal’ roundabouts.

Where does cycling fit into this design? Answer – it doesn’t.

As with Poynton, people cycling will either have to share the carriageway with those tens of thousands of motor vehicles, combined with buses moving in and out of the bus stops, taking an ‘assertive’ position along the road, and through the roundabouts,  or if they don’t fancy that, they are going to be ‘tolerated’ on the footways.


The Cycling Embassy, along with the CTC, strongly objected to these proposals. This was covered in the Oxford Mail. The response from Oxfordshire County Council’s spokesman is worth quoting in full -

Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “We’ve had numerous discussions with cycle groups throughout the planning of this scheme and listened carefully to concerns.

“One of the most important things we’re trying to achieve is to keep vehicle speeds down to enable the whole place to feel more welcoming for pedestrians and cyclists as well as helping to keep traffic flowing more smoothly than now.

“If we provided cycle lanes on the road, the width of the road overall would increase to the point where we feel that vehicles will start to travel at higher speeds. This would make things less pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists.

“We have heard that there are still people who may not want to cycle on the road in Frideswide Square even if speeds are low and that is why we are proposing that some space in the paved pedestrian area of the square is shared between cyclists and pedestrians.”

Unfortunately nobody was asking for ‘cycle lanes on the road'; both the CTC and the Embassy were asking for cycle tracksphysically separated from motor traffic. The point about the ‘width of the road’ is therefore completely irrelevant. The road could be whatever width Oxford choose to make it, because cycling would be physically separate from it. (This basic misunderstanding isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring).

The final paragraph pretty much encapsulates the dead-end philosophy of catering for two different groups of ‘cyclist’. There are plainly many, many people who don’t want to cycle on busy roads; this is the main reason why cycling levels are so suppressed in Britain. Why this is apparently some kind of revelation to the council – ‘we have heard that there are still people who may not want to cycle on the road’ – is beyond me. These people are not being considered in these designs. They are being treated like pedestrians.

These kinds of proposals are a failure because they do not explicitly consider cycling as a mode of transport in its own right, designing for it in a way that responds to the needs of people actually using bicycles. What cycling that is taking place (and in this location, even with the existing poor conditions, quite a lot, several thousand movements a day) will continue to be bodged into a walking/driving model – that is, being treated as a motor vehicle, or as a pedestrian, neither of which is particularly attractive, to anyone. Cycling gets nothing, even in a location where it is reasonably dominant in an existing hostile environment.

I think this is why it is really important that a two-tier approach of catering for cycling – allegedly slow, less confident people on the footway, while the confident continue to use the road – is explicitly ruled out as a design strategy. It provides a mechanism for ignoring cycling completely, even in schemes that are being funded with cycling money.

The Perne Road roundabout in Cambridge, and the ‘Turbo’ Roundabout in Bedford, have both been funded with several hundreds of thousands of pounds of cycling money, yet what has been produced are roundabouts that do not design for cycling. At these roundabouts, you either continue to cycle on the roundabout itself, with motor traffic, like a motor vehicle, or you use the footway, like a pedestrian. This is fairly extraordinary, given the source of funding, but it remains possible because we allow cycling to be divided up this way, offering up a bit of what’s needed to different kinds of user, simultaneously watering down cycling to the point that it can safely be ignored, as it is in a multi-million pound scheme in Oxford. The two-tier approach is a complete disaster, and it has to be killed off.

Categories: Views

The SMIDSY-killing cycling jacket; we road test the dazzling Reflect360

ibikelondon - 12 November, 2014 - 08:30

We're often approached by companies interested in sharing their latest cycling "innovation" with us.  From gloves with built-in indicators, to cycling jackets with special pockets for storing a pizza, we've really seen it all.  So we were pleasantly surprised when a company got in touch claiming not only to have made the most reflective cycling jacket, but that it also started life here in London...

The REFLECT360 cycling jacket does exactly what it says on the tin; it reflects light back to other road users from every angle.  It's not just got a reflective strip or some shiny striping, the entire jacket is reflective, from top to bottom.  

I have my own reservations about high viz cycling wear, having started out my urban cycling career wearing a bright yellow builder's vest I grew to loathe.  But I've been pleasantly surprised by the REFELCT360 - here is a cycling jacket designed around safety features that you can actually wear in to the office or the pub without looking like an epic banana.  

I spoke to the founder of ProViz, Anthony Langly-Smith, to find out what inspired him to create the jacket:  "I'd been commuting by bike for about 12 years, and I was seeing lots of people going through Clapham up to London Bridge - on what is now the Cycle Superhighway route - and when I was at the traffic lights I would see three or four other people on bikes.  Now there are 30 or 40 people at every turn of the lights.  Unless you're actually there you can't quite fathom what a big change that was."

"At the same time there seemed to be a move away from cycling products that didn't just look like builder's jackets.  People wanted fitted stuff, waterproof stuff.  It started with me and my brother thinking about what our fellow cyclists might need on our commute to work, and has turned in to our business; now we're selling product in Chile, Colombia, China, Korea, Belgium, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand."

Anthony's latest product to come to market, the REFLECT360 range, has been garnering lots of interest with positive reviews on BikeRumor, the Evening Standard, and the Guardian among others. I found it was not just in reviews that this jacket got lots of attention; during our road test other cyclists came up to me at traffic lights to ask where it was from and where they could get one for themselves, astonished by the reflective quality now the nights are growing long.

"We launched the jacket in February and suddenly we had so many people coming to talk to us, taking photos, wanting to know about the material, wanting to know how this product came about. It was astonishing.  The success has bred an entire line; a rucksack cover, a vest, a gillet and a children’s jacket."

So what about the jacket itself? How does it work, and what's it like to ride around town in?

The waterproof material is covered with thousands of tiny microscopic glass beads which reflect light, throwing back light that approaches it from any angle.  The jacket itself is a well constructed design for cyclists, with taped seams, waterproof zips and pockets, a longer tapered back for good positioning on the bike as well as lots of adjustable seams and flaps to increase or decrease its breathability.  It feels strong and sturdy and should last well.

Riding around town I found the jacket fitted well, performed brilliantly in the rain and stood up to everything London's mucky roads could throw at it.  Whilst the material is a touch on the warm side, the addition of under arm vents helped me to keep my cool.  I'm usually high sceptical about the sort of claims made about these kind of products, but my reservations about the effectiveness of cycling "safety" kit evaporated too - I did feel noticeably more visible whilst riding around town in the jacket, and I think it would be invaluable on darker country roads.

London's cycle scene inspiring products which in turn help London's cyclists to feel more safe? We like that very much.

The REFLECT360 cycling jacket is available at Evans Cycles, Halfords and most good bike shops, or online directly from ProVisSports here.

Categories: Views

Risk: mathematical and otherwise

John Adams - 11 November, 2014 - 09:47

Draft of essay commissioned for a special issue of the Mathematics Enthusiast entitled “Risk: mathematical or otherwise”. Still time to make changes so critical advice welcomed, especially from mathematicians.


What role might mathematicians have to play in the management of risk? The idea of turning a risk, a possibility of loss or injury, into a “calculated” risk, a quantified probability of loss or injury, is one that has obvious appeal not just to statisticians and mathematicians – but to large numbers of others who would like to know the probability of failure before pursuing some intended course of action.

Conclusion: even when risks can be calculated with great precision, they can only be used to inform judgment, but not substitute for it. And it matters who is making the judgment. Read more …


Categories: Views


As Easy As Riding A Bike - 10 November, 2014 - 15:42

In yesterday’s BBC Sunday Politics piece on the Superhighways, presenter Tim Donovan repeated, in the form of a question, the City of London’s statement that the proposals are ‘heavily biased’ towards cycling and cyclists (that comment appears three times in this City response). Donovan included Canary Wharf in his comment that the plans are

heavily biased towards the cyclists

and he then followed this up with the statement that

They [the City] are saying that when you’re looking at changes, you are being biased towards the cyclist in the changes you’re putting in.

You can see these exchanges in this video of the whole section of the programme, from the six minute mark.

Gilligan makes the obvious point that this is (predominantly) a cycling scheme. If it wasn’t ‘biased’ towards cycling, something would be seriously wrong.

Other allegations of bias have been made by Michael Welbank of the City of London, as documented by Cycalogical. In this BBC piece, he argues

Cycling in towns is here to stay, and is going to grow, and we don’t resist that, we try to accommodate it… but normally… major infrastructure, you really want years to get everybody on-side… not just one group, you want everybody on side.

In the context of 50+ years of road and street design that has utterly failed to consider cycling as a mode of transport this is, frankly, a laughable comment. To suggest that when, for pretty much the very first time, cycling is being considered in a serious way on a few major roads in London, that such a scheme amounts to a sudden departure from the normal procedure of getting ‘everybody on side’ is deeply ahistorical.

Likewise, in an interview with the Guardian’s Peter Walker, Welbank makes a similar point, this time about cycling apparently being ‘prioritised’ -

All road users should have equal opportunities. At the moment [with these plans] we believe the cyclists are having priority to the disadvantage of other users.

This isn’t what’s happening, at all. Cycling is, for the very first time, being treated as a mode of transport suitable for anyone who might want to ride a bike, rather than the usual process of making token (and often completely ineffectual) changes. The only way in which this scheme could amount to cycling being ‘prioritised’ is if you are blinkered enough to believe that the existing road network has been designed and built to equally prioritise cycling and driving – that they are impartial, and mode-neutral.

Let us, hypothetically, imagine that there is no footway along the Embankment, as shown in the picture below. Understandably, very few people are prepared to walk along here. Transport for London then propose to install a footway, to make walking attractive enough for everyone, along this road.

Would that amount to ‘bias’ in favour of pedestrians? Would it mean that Transport for London are only considering the needs of pedestrians, failing to get everybody else on side’?

The BBC’s Tom Edwards, reporting for yesterday’s Sunday Politics item, finding out what it feels like to cycle on a road that isn’t ‘biased’ towards cycling

Let’s get one thing straight here. Roads and streets in London, and everywhere else in Britain, are almost without exception heavily biased – but heavily biased against cycling.

The changes that are being proposed to the roads like the one in the picture above aren’t some kind of ‘icing on the cake’ for the people already cycling there; a bit of extra ‘niceness’ for the existing cyclists.

These roads are extremely unsuitable for cycling, such that only a tiny percentage of the population would be willing to cycle there. The changes that will (hopefully) be implemented are really the bare minimum we should be expecting; they begin to put cycling on something approaching an equal level of consideration as motor traffic, and walking.

The only conceivable way in which these proposals could be seen as ‘biased’ is if the existing road network is taken to be equally attractive to people cycling, driving and walking. But that’s plainly a nonsense. Walking along the Superhighway route is not always pleasant, but it’s something that families can do, reasonably happily. By contrast, I have never, ever seen children cycling on these roads, except for the one day a year when they are closed to motor traffic.

So these comments about ‘bias’ and ‘too much prioritisation’ really amount to ignorance about cycling as a mode of transport, manifested as reluctance to move away from the existing state of affairs in which cycling remains the preserve of a small minority of the population. It’s perhaps forgivable that the general population continues to see ‘cycling’ and ‘cyclists’ as a minority pursuit, but the people in charge of transport – people who should be knowledgeable and informed – should really know better.

Categories: Views

City centre streets. Perfect for children on their own bicycles, if the city is truly planned for cycling. Cargo bikes shouldn't be required.

A View from the Cycle Path - 10 November, 2014 - 11:21
Something which people who visit Assen often notice is the lack of cargo-bikes. Somehow an expectation has grown up that cargo bikes are the way of transporting children by bicycle. Actually, children have their own legs and really should be able to use them to transport themselves as soon as they have the ability to ride a bicycle. This of course is only possible if the infrastructure is very David Hembrow
Categories: Views

Transport for London’s “Cycle Safety Action Plan”: Still getting it wrong.

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 7 November, 2014 - 22:32

Earlier this year the RDRF responded to Transport for London’s Draft Cycle Safety Action Plan (CSAP) here  and here .

I argued then that: “The draft CSAP is a fundamentally flawed document which fails in three main respects. Firstly, its idea of “safety” for cyclists is measured in a way which can indicate that having fewer cyclists and a higher cyclist casualty rate is BETTER than having more cyclists and a lower casualty rate. Secondly, it fails to differentiate between measures which reduce danger to cyclists (and other road users) and those which do not. Thirdly, it has no real way of assessing the effects of measures implemented.”

The new CSAP is now out . Apart from some typographical differences, there are only two noticeable changes. One of these changes seems to be simply cosmetic, the other could potentially have an effect, but I suggest is unlikely to. (So much for the effects of consultation). I discuss these changes below along with general comments: if these seem the same as before it’s because (apart from the two changes) the criticisms remain the same. So:

Let me refer to my experience here: for some years I sat on the Cycle Safety Working group at Transport for London (then representing the Borough Cycling Officers Group) and had a role in preparing the first CSAP. Reviewing its effects in September 2012 I wrote  “The above report indicates ways in which the CSAP has been inadequate. It also shows that insofar as issues are addressed and attempts made to implement necessary changes, the impacts made have been minimal or very limited. Pursuing the overall objectives of the CSAP will require substantially more commitment and resources to achieve a significant reduction in danger to cyclists (and often other road users) and a reduction in the cyclist casualty rate.”

I don’t think there has been any fundamental change since then. In fact, we seem to have gone backwards on the key issue of actually defining what the problem is. This is so basic that nothing worthwhile can really progress unless a clear definition of what the problem is has been agreed upon.

What is”Cyclist safety”? The measurement issue.

This is not an abstract academic issue. It is absolutely critical as a basis for any discussion about cyclist safety.

As far as traditional “road safety” is concerned, “Cyclist safety” is about the total number of reported cyclist casualties (generally “Killed and Seriously Injured”) per head of the population or in a given location – in this case London. It is NOT about what the cyclists’ organisations asked for – and what TfL for many years at the CSWG agreed on – namely an indicator based on exposure. This is sometimes referred to as a “rate-based” indicator, in that casualties are expressed in terms of the exposure of cyclists, for example cyclist casualties per journey made, distance travelled, or time taken cycling.

At various places in the draft CSAP the casualty rate is indeed considered as the indicator, but elsewhere it is not. For example, take this graph which was prominently displayed in the draft CSAP – and which has been dropped from the final version:

Figure 2 : International cyclist fatalities per million population, 2012


So, the casualty rate per journey, per mile or per hour spent cycling may be far lower in Amsterdam than in London. The experience of cycling in Amsterdam may be far more pleasant and inviting because of the lower levels of danger presented to cyclists. But for TfL, reviewing this graph in the draft CSAP: “Internationally, in terms of cyclist fatalities per million population (Figure 2), London had fewer cyclist fatalities in 2012 than many other cities such as Amsterdam and New York. TfL takes precisely the opposite view that we take, and as far as we are concerned this is a fundamental problem. Unless they invert this position we disagree on what we are trying to achieve.

Now, let’s consider the dropping of this graph and the quote above from the final CSAP. What we have instead is :”Other cities across Europe may have proportionally more cyclists, but London had fewer cyclist fatalities per million population in 2012 than many of these European cities”.

Which is still saying exactly the same thing: the metric which is valued by TfL is the cyclist death rate per head of the population, rather than per cyclist journey, or per kilometres cycled.

To be fair to them – following the persistent criticism of TfL made by RDRF and others for years – they do now admit the following in the final version of the CSAP:

International data comparisons of cyclist fatality should ideally be normalised for exposure using a common denominator such as journeys cycled or distance cycled. However, a lack of data in major international cities, including those where cycling is a popular mode of transport, presents a challenge for international benchmarking. Given that population data is readily available, it currently provides the only measure for comparison. TfL continue to seek accurate data to benchmark cycling risk in London with cyclised cities. (p.10)

Or to put it another way: we’re using the wrong measure but we have to because we haven’t got proper data.

But this is nonsense. It is quite easy to show that the chances of having been killed on roads in European cities that have far more cycling are lower. My suggestion is that TfL – and the “road safety” industry generally – are inherently biased against cycling (and for that matter walking, particularly by the elderly and children). This is because with far more cycling it is quite likely that we can get a lower casualty rate (per journey or distance cycled) but that the numbers of injured cyclists per head of the population may rise. To take the usual example: nationally the Dutch have a far lower death rate for cyclists when exposure is considered, but a far higher one per head of the population.

This is not just some sort of abstruse technical discussion: it goes to the heart of whether cycling is to be supported or not.

In fact we need to go a lot further. Even casualty rates are inadequate as measures. We should be looking at whether casualties result from a third party’s rule- or law-breaking, or from careless behaviour on the part of the cyclist. We should be stating that locations laid out so that cyclists are subjected to unacceptably high levels of road danger  (gyratory systems like Bow Roundabout or Staples Corner) are just that: particularly dangerous locations for cyclists, and that this is objectively so. When actual or potential cyclists are scared to travel through such locations we don’t need to talk about “subjective safety” – these people are making a correct analysis of the objective danger presented to them.

But considering these issues systematically – as I attempted in Local Transport Today last year – is apparently not on TfL’s agenda. There is some reference (“This draft plan, taken as a whole, seeks to improve the reality and the perception of cycle safety.” Page 9)  to concerns about people being deterred by their perception of safety – but this is not followed through.

This is a classic difficulty with traditional “road safety” which we have pointed out numerous times before, whether the offenders are TfL  or Government ministers  and where we agree with our colleagues in the London Cycling Campaign: “London Cycling Campaign has always called for casualties to be measured against exposure to risk. How risky is cycling per mile travelled compared to other ways of travel? Without such measurements the benefits of increasing cycling can be misrepresented in casualty data.”

Road Danger Reduction versus “Road Safety”: The “Who-Kills-Whom” question.

Our colleagues in the LCC correctly say: “…(we) will be assessing the 32 actions in the plan for their impact on reducing road danger. For each action we will ask:

  • Does this reduce the source of danger on the roads?
  • Will this action tend to encourage more people to choose a sustainable mode of transport?


… too few of the actions really address sources of danger.”

For us there is a fundamental issue about the difference between those road users who kill, or hurt, or endanger others and those who are killed, hurt or endangered. All road users may well have responsibilities, but there is a fundamental difference in actual or potential lethality between (broadly speaking) the motorised and those outside motor vehicles endangered by them. This difference is routinely and systematically neutralised by the “road safety” lobby. So:

Sharing the road

Research also shows that Londoners are concerned by safety on the roads; however they tend to consider the need for change to lie with others rather than themselves. This is a fundamental barrier to improving safety at present. Even though many people acknowledge that they take risks at times, they feel that they have appropriately accounted for the safety of themselves and others and that any risks that they take are calculated and ‘safe’.”

This paragraph perfectly demonstrates the determination to deny the difference in lethality between the different modes. Indeed, in the Foreword to the CSAP, Leon Daniels, MD of TfL Surface Transport, says:

 “Our high-profile marketing campaigns will bring balance to the debate (my emphasis) by showing drivers and cyclists how they can keep themselves and each other safe.

Rather as if drivers on the one hand, and cyclists on the other, pose the same sort of potential threat to other road users.

In this context, Figure 2 is interesting, because it shows that casualty rates for cyclists and pedestrians vary with age (excluding the over-80s) much less than for drivers and motorcyclists. This strongly implies that it is largely the behaviour of others, rather than their own behaviour, that causes cyclist and pedestrian casualties. For pedestrians and cyclists, the ratio between highest and lowest risk ages is just over 3 to 1. For drivers it’s over 12 to 1, and for motor-cyclists 33 to 1.

Analysing effects

Even without tackling this basic moral issue properly, there is a point about analysing the effects of interventions. “This new draft Cycle Safety Action Plan builds on the original, published in 2010,” (Page 5). But, as I argued in 2012, with the possible exception of resources directed at the freight industry to reduce cyclist deaths involving HGVs, there was precious little evidence for the effects of interventions. This doesn’t stop TfL baldly stating: “There are some notable successes achieved through the previous CSAP that have made cycling safer in London (Page 25)”

These “notable successes” are:

  • The publicity “cycling tips” campaign: publicity has the least success of all interventions, even according to the official “road safety” lobby.
  • The “exchanging places” campaign to warn cyclists of danger from HGVs. No doubt of some use until lorries (and the roads they travel on) are properly designed to minimise danger, but – as with all education – of limited benefit for fallible human beings. And no use for the (majority of?) cases of HGV/cyclist collisions where lorries overtake and cut across cyclists or hit them from behind. Or for the vast majority of cases of cyclist Serious Injury collisions.
  • Changes in regulations on lorry design and design of signals. No doubt worthwhile, but of limited benefit and yet to roll out in most cases.

That may seem like grumbling, but I can’t help wondering whether the changes achieved so far – or even those mentioned as potentially to be lobbied for in the new CSAP – are rather less than might be pushed for with other modes of transport. For example: “TfL will lobby vehicle manufacturers and representative organisations to make vehicles safer for cyclists by pushing for:

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking Systems to be fitted to all new cars as standard
  • research into the potential of a Rapid Emergency Impact Braking System (RIBS) to rapidly stop HGVs if they hit a cyclist, in order to prevent fatal crushing injuries

Which is all very well, but how about consideration for systems to be retro-fitted? And what happens in the meantime while the motor industry considers these devices? To take just the example of under-run guards on HGVs which could prevent cyclists (and pedestrians) from being crushed? Is it too much to suggest that TfL could actually part- finance installation of such devices – after all, with a £6 billion a year budget it shouldn’t be too hard to find the money.

Seeing cyclists as the problem

I have already discussed the basic problem of how “road safety” measures and generally conceptualises the safety of cyclists. But a further element of this needs consideration. By looking at the people who are hurt or killed rather than those hurting or killing them, crucial issues for other road users are avoided. Consider these issues:

  1. Speed: A change of heart?

This is the other apparent change from the draft CSAP, which said

Excessive, illegal or inappropriate speed of the other vehicle involved does not appear to be a major factor in cycling collisions.” (p.16)

We commented on this by saying in our consultation response that :

Speed is indeed not implicated in most cyclist Serious Injuries in London. But this is because most cycling in London is concentrated in inner London where speeds are low. Motor vehicle speeds are higher in outer London where there is little cycling. That doesn’t mean that speed is not an issue there – indeed, high speeds may be a deterrent and one of the reasons for relatively low uptake there. The suggestion would then be that speed control (or separate cycle paths on higher speed roads if speeds can’t be reduced) is indeed an issue.

 But the more important issue is that excess speed is discussed solely in terms of its effects on (existing) cyclists. Speed has been a preoccupation for transport professionals concerned with safety from the beginning. Even Colin Buchanan, architect of the car-centred urban transport systems of the 1960s onwards, advocated default urban speed limits of 20 mph. Would it not make sense to be part of initiatives for speed control and 20 mph which primarily benefit pedestrians? If you look at reducing danger at source you would do that – for the benefit of the safety of all road users. If you concentrate on cyclists as casualties, you miss out on that.

But now we have an apparent change of heart: on Page 18 of the final CSAP, where the fact that speed can be a contributory factor is recognised, along with “…reduction in (motor traffic) speed may assist with the perception of cycle safety”.

But will this actually lead to any change in terms of attempting to reduce speeds of motor vehicles? There is nothing new in the CSAP to suggest this (Para 21 , page 36 is referred to but doesn’t mention speed and is no different from the draft CSAP). Speed law enforcement is essentially about fixed cameras at sites where the “right number” of personal injury collisions have been recorded, and there are much discussed problems with a lack of enforcement in the new 20 mph areas.

And this is really the only significant change that TfL has made in response to consultation…


2. Other law breaking

The same applies to policing. There are areas where law enforcement would benefit the safety of all road users through a road danger reduction approach:


3. Conspicuity.

A key feature of focussing on those hurt or killed – essentially a victim-focused approach – is that it easily slips into victim-blaming. I have argued that this is a feature of the emphasis on hi-viz clothing for cyclists and pedestrians herehere , and here  , for example. Despite the lack of evidence for the value of hi-viz, we have measure 12: TfL will work with manufacturers and cycle businesses to help cyclists be safe by: challenging cycle manufacturers to increase the conspicuity of bicycles, for example building into the frame… retro-reflective equipment…, through innovator seminars.


4. Lights

On the same theme, there is a strong focus on lights, which are at least a legal requirement.

2007 -2011 fatalities. Fourteen of the collisions in the sample (26%) occurred in darkness or partial light, and in half of these collisions the cyclist did not have lights. Bicycle lights are a mandatory requirement and this lack of compliance needs to be addressed Page22

But how important is this issue for cyclists in London as what might be considered a cause of collisions? Firstly, the analysis I have carried out in one London borough (confidentiality required by use of official figures means I can’t name it) indicates that in no more than 1.5% of cases is contributory factor 506 (non-use of lights) a factor for all casualties (see this) Secondly, while I might have taken an unrepresentative borough, at least some 300 casualties’ were looked at, rather than some 64.

But most important, a detailed manual analysis – easily done with small numbers – would show whether this factor was actually key to the collision occurring. Was the behaviour of the cyclist and other road user(s) exemplary apart from the non-use of lights? Was it the case that an alert driver capable of seeing unlit pedestrians on typical well-lit urban roads would be unable to see an unlit cyclist?



  1. Close overtaking
during 2010-12 Conflict rank Manoeuvre description Seriously injured casualties (% of total) Fatal casualties (% of total) 1 Other vehicle turns right across path of cyclist 219 (13%) 2 (5%) 2 Cyclist and other vehicle travelling alongside each other. 180 (11%) 4 (10%) 3 Cyclist hits open door / swerves to avoid open door of other vehicle. 160 (10%) 3 (7.5%) 4 Other vehicle turns left across the path of cyclist 134 (8%) 9 (23%) 5 Other vehicle disobeys junction control & turns right into path of cyclist 114 (7%) 0 (0%)


One of the key complaints from cyclists is that drivers constantly overtake without giving enough room. Conflict types 2 and 4, covering some 20% of cyclist KSIs, involve changing driver behavior here. Some of this can be solved by segregation, but since this is not going to happen on most roads in London (and would take decades to install anyway even if desired) there is clearly scope for addressing the issue.

give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211 to 213 and 214 to 215).”. Lengthy discussion with MPS officers indicate that there are problems in addressing this without specific distances given, but there is apparently precedent with regard to cyclist “wobble-room” being required when overtaking. At the very least: Is it really too much to expect some sort of police activity in this key area when officers have been giving (misguided) advice to cyclists on helmets etc. in Operation Safeway?


And also…


“16: TfL will extend the safety principles of FORS”

Given the amount of time taken to get TfL to see sense over the “Cyclists stay back” stickers and the fact that they are still around, one hopes that these principles are properly sorted out.


  • Although TfL is taking the lead to make roads safer, TfL cannot achieve safe cycling for all alone. Ninety five per cent of London’s streets are the responsibility of London’s boroughs, making them essential to the success of this draft plan.”. Matters like policing are actually much more in TfL’s control than the boroughs. Also, TfL often dictates – over matters such as “smoothing the traffic” – borough behaviour, and of course allocates substantial funding to boroughs. Can it not similarly direct boroughs in the right direction on safety?
  • 2.2 While only two per cent of all trips in London in 2012 were made on a bicycle its importance is greater in the places and at the times that matter most. (p.7) Why does it “matter” which times and places people choose to cycle, and who has the right to decide this?
  • We have been critical of the way enforcement is done in London, but agree with a properly resourced enforcement programme. Only some of this will involve the Cycle Task Force but “increasing the number of police officers in the Cycle Task Force from 39 to 50 “ is hardly impressive.

Our response to the draft CSAP concluded:

We have made it clear to TfL, along with the other cyclist and road danger reduction organisations, that they need to measure danger in more appropriate ways in order to properly understand safety of cyclists and other road users, and to implement measures to control road danger at source.  There isn’t much evidence that TfL are listening to this message.

Removal of an embarrassing graph indicates that the message has been noted. But TfL are still not taking on board the message.






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