Ducking the issue with electric cars

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 10 February, 2014 - 11:50

The car industry seems to have convinced itself – understandably enough, from their perspective – that the solution to transport in urban areas is simply to convert existing private motor vehicles to run on electricity, rather than combustion engines.

The latest evidence of this belief comes from Renault UK, who appear to be arguing that electric cars should be allowed in bus lanes.

Leading cities should do more to encourage the use of electric cars by investing in charging facilities and allowing zero emission vehicles to use bus lanes, says the head of Renault UK. Kenneth Ramirez said that it was important to create a “wave of acceptance” around electric vehicle technology to encourage their uptake, calling on London Mayor Boris Johnson to follow Norway in allowing electric cars to use lanes reserved for public transport.

He told RTCC: “In London that would be an interesting approach. In other cities having legislation that requires new buildings have a dedicated number of parking spaces with charge stations already included.”

But bus lanes don’t exist to encourage the ‘uptake’ of electric cars. They exist to relieve congestion, and to make more space-efficient modes of transport viable. Flooding bus lanes with electric cars would render them redundant, because buses would become mired in the same congestion that necessitated their implementation in the first place.

This is all part of a wider pattern of failing to address the problem of excess car use in urban areas, and for short trips. Electric cars only deal with one particular issue – tailpipe emissions.

  • they don’t reduce congestion;
  • they don’t reduce road danger;
  • they don’t provide independence and mobility for those who cannot drive, or who choose not to;
  • while they can improve local air quality, they don’t solve other public health problems;
  • they don’t make urban areas more attractive and pleasant places.

Imagine what a difference it would make if all these vehicles were powered by batteries

Motor vehicle manufacturers would like to imagine that the only issue that matters is carbon emissions. Or – more specifically – reducing carbon emissions from private transport, because unless electric cars are charged from power provided by renewable energy, the emissions are simply displaced elsewhere.

They do this by pretending that demand for driving is fixed, and not created by the physical environment – by the way our roads and streets are laid out. A classic example of this kind of thinking is a piece by Paul Everitt, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, in the Times, a few years ago. He wrote (£) -

From its invention, the car has provided an unquestionable level of personal mobility, giving people the freedom to travel where they like, when they like. For many, owning a car is no longer a luxury but a necessity that allows them to commute to work, take the kids to school and do the weekly shop. There is, and always will be, an important role for the car. But in a low-carbon future, the car will have to be cleaner and greener than ever before…

… As the global demand for cars increases it is essential that we retain and grow our share of the market. Designing, developing and manufacturing the technologies and vehicles of tomorrow is our route to a more sustainable future.

Well, not really. Electric cars are still a very inefficient use of resources and energy, and don’t address the myriad other problems caused by excess private car use. If we are truly aiming at a ‘sustainable future’, we need to be shifting a good proportion of the 40% or so of trips of under 2 miles that are made by private car in Britain to genuinely sustainable modes.

While there is a sensible case to be made for powering motor vehicles with better energy sources, the motor industry should not be allowed to pretend that this is the end of the issue. It’s not just the clogging of bus lanes that is counterproductive; it’s clogging our urban areas as a whole with the inefficient private car that is destructive and wasteful. That means we need space for cycling, not a continuation of the same patterns of designing for private motor vehicle use, however it is powered.

Categories: Views

What is the Advertising Standards Authority for?

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 9 February, 2014 - 20:53

Health warnings on car ads?

First, the good news. The idiotic ruling of the ASA described here has been withdrawn following a veritable storm of protest. It is good to see that a diverse (and normally often disunited) community of cyclists and others concerned about a civilised approach to cycling and safety on the road can swiftly summon up good quality arguments and have an effect.

But this is just the start. This matter is far from being resolved, and it may well be that the outcome is a quite unsatisfactory judgement about the portrayal of cycling. We need to examine the issues regarding ASA judgements on matters of safety on the road in more detail.

 Where we are now:

The ASA has in effect admitted that it was wrong to object to Cycling Scotland’s video presentation of the position of the woman cyclist. Since this is the position recommended by National Standards cycle training they could do nothing else. However, on the matter of a helmet and the normal clothing of the cyclist (without “safety aids”) we do not yet know what decision the so far unspecified “independent review” to be set up by the ASA on this matter will make.

Supposedly, decisions by the ASA on matters such as these are based on the Highway Code.  On that basis, the CTC has raised the issue of advertisements which show pedestrians not wearing hi-visibility clothing in the dark: after all, the Highway Code requires that, so why shouldn’t the ASA censure such advertisements? It’s an interesting issue to raise as it suggests some absurdity about the ASA’s methods.


The politics of it all

But we need to go rather further than this.  To start off with, let’s look at the rules in the Highway Code. In our opinion there is no adequate evidence base for either the cycle helmets or the pedestrian hi-viz recommendations.

What this suggests is that the problem lies with some of the recommendations in the Highway Code. That is certainly the case, but it also raises the issues of Highway Code rules (and the law) as they relate to the behaviour of motorists. That is where it gets interesting.  You might wish to consult a copy of the Highway Code as it relates to driving.

 What becomes apparent is that the rules – including the more important laws, on matters such as speed – are broken as a matter of course. Typical driving involves infringing the recommendations of the Highway Code. Otherwise you would not have some four million motor insurance claims annually. Car occupants would not want to wear seat belts (and that’s even without going into the effects of the use of these “safety aids”) .

Now, I am not one to exaggerate the dangers posed by motoring in a way which might put people off cycling and walking. I am just saying that rule and law breaking by drivers is so commonplace and is regarded as such by the powers that be to such an extent that motorists feel the need to be protected from it.

So, take  4.1 and 4.4 of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code ), namely that “Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18” (rule 4.1) and “Advertisements must not include material that is likely to condone or encourage behaviour that prejudices health or safety” (rule 4.4). 

Now, there is an argument for “Health Warnings” such as these on car advertisements 

Or the one at the top of this post. But I am not referring to the environmental issues about car use: at present it is legal to pollute, congest, and cause widespread environmental destruction, poor health etc. by regular use of the cars that are advertised or shown in advertisements. The point is that even without such “behaviour that prejudices health or safety”, just in terms of the recommendations of the Highway Code, typical driving which we know will be done in cars shown in advertisements will indeed be “behaviour that prejudices health or safety”.

  What is the ASA for?

My view is that the ASA is basically a self-regulating body set up by the advertising industry. A large part of the advertising is, of course, for motor vehicles. These vehicles will inevitably be used on UK roads in ways which damage people’s health and safety through breaking of the rules and laws pertaining to legal motoring. Is there any real possibility that the ASA will take any effective measures to prevent the advertising of these vehicles? In that sense, the blogger who says  “The Advertising Standards Authority – not fit for purpose is wrong. The problem is exactly that the ASA is fit for the purpose of facilitating car advertising.

That doesn’t mean that advertising of cars should be stopped, although the idea of health warnings may be an interesting way of raising consciousness  Also, it may seem a little unfair for the ASA to have to mediate in matters of safety on the road. As the fortnightly transport professionals’ magazine Local Transport Today (7/20 Feb 2014) suggests “When asked to think of influential organisations in the transport debate, the Advertising Standards Authority wouldn’t be at the front of most people’s minds”. Ultimately we need to be looking at the recommendations in the Highway Code as the source of the problem. But the ASA is in it now, and as LTT say “…the ASA should be prepared for criticism…”.


In the meantime…

There is a lot at stake here for cycling and sustainable transport. If every organisation (including commercial advertisers) is effectively forced to ensure that all cyclists in adverts (other than ‘fantastical’ adverts) are wearing helmets, this would really undermine the ability of advertisers to use smart-looking cyclists to epitomise free-thinking, healthy, independent-minded individuality. A source of positive promotion for the image of cycling would be denied to us.  We really need to take this very seriously indeed.

It could be worthwhile getting the cycle industry to understand the potentially negative long term effects of portraying cyclists in the way the forthcoming London Bike Show  does:

Of course, the ASA codes do not refer to online and print advertising, but the principle is important.

Categories: Views

Disappearing traffic lights. How a second transport revolution in the Netherlands made mass cycling possible despite the rise in cars

A View from the Cycle Path - 8 February, 2014 - 13:29
Assen's first traffic lights were at this junction, once the most busy. The first traffic lights in the world were installed in London in 1868. This gas operated signal exploded shortly after installation. It wasn't until the 2nd decade of the 20th century that electric traffic lights were invented and these were swiftly adopted. By that time, an increasing number of deaths and injuries due David Hembrow
Categories: Views


As Easy As Riding A Bike - 7 February, 2014 - 08:31

Along with concerns about surrendering the road to motor vehicles, one of the main reasons for opposition to the physical separation of cycling from motor traffic is a fear of being ‘held up’.

This is the worry, from people who cycle already, that their journeys will be slowed down, by being blocked on narrow cycle infrastructure by people who can’t cycle as fast as them. I’ve attempted to dispel this notion – at least with regard to Dutch cycle infrastructure. Separation from motor traffic should not mean that you are impeded.

But with the tube strikes over the last couple of days, it’s quite clear that physical separation of cycling would provide considerable benefits. The pictures of Superhighway 7 in particular that appeared yesterday show the uselessness of ‘cycle routes’ that become clogged by motor vehicles.

Northbound Superhighway just visible, under several buses.

Danny Williams also took a picture of Superhighway 7 yesterday -

Here is cycle super highway 7 in action this afternoon. It’s so good you can only use it by dismounting

— cyclistsinthecity (@citycyclists) February 6, 2014

Contrast this with the videos that have emerged of people cycling along the segregated sections of Superhighway 2 over the last few days. The segregation is far from brilliant (indeed in places it is worryingly bad), but cycling has flowed smoothly and easily past static motor traffic.

I suspect this uselessness of the original Superhighways was built in from the start. There’s a very revealing interview with TfL by Andreas of London Cyclist, dating back from when the Superhighways were launched, in 2010. TfL provide this justification for not segregating the Superhighways -

Segregation however, is not something that is being considered for the cycle superhighways. TfL said the routes are simply not being used frequently enough to warrant separation of traffic. It is only during peak hours that you will see many cyclists in the lanes. TfL claim that segregating the lanes would create many problems for loading vehicles. They also claim that cyclists don’t want to be treated differently to other vehicles.

The implication of this is essentially that cycling was not considered enough of an important mode of transport in its own right to necessitate space being set aside for it – ‘routes not being used frequently enough’. TfL believed that the space properly-designed Superhighways would have taken up needed to be used instead for motor vehicles. Indeed, despite much progress in the last couple of years, this is probably the prevailing attitude within the organisation.

But I think we’ve seen over the last few days how wrong-headed this approach is proving to be. Despite the chaos on the transport network, with very little tube network running, desperately overcrowded buses, and clogged roads, cycling remains a non-option, principally because cycling through traffic – even traffic that is mostly stationary – is just deeply unattractive for most people.

I noticed that David Arditti left a comment below that London Cyclist article, in July 2010, which sums up the problem.

The big thing that tends not to be understood in the UK about segregated cycle lanes, Dutch-style, is that their main purpose is not safety, per se, as cycling is inherently quite safe anyway, it is the prioritisation of space for cycle traffic. It is, in other words, to give the bike a competitive advantage in the struggle for space on the roads, which makes bike journeys quicker and more efficient, as well as more pleasant. There is no other effective method of preventing parking, loading, queuing, bus and taxi stopping in cycle space, and general obstruction by motor vehicles, other than physical segregation. This is why it is used so extensively on the continent. It is not that the continentals have some malign control agenda to push cyclists off the general roads. Arguments that segregation slows down fast commuter cyclists are incorrect. It only has this effect if badly done, with insufficient capacity or other design faults. Fast commuter cyclists benefit equally with slower cyclists from the advantages that proper continental-style cycle tracks create. [my emphasis]

It’s hard to put it better than that. Space for cycling is needed for competitive advantage; to ensure that it isn’t impeded by congestion, and that journeys by bike are painless and pleasant.

This applies in the Netherlands too, where long queues of vehicles can easily be bypassed on cycle tracks – so easily you forget there’s actually ‘congestion’ on the road network.

If we’re serious about shifting people from private cars to cycling, then we need to insulate cycling from the negative consequences of driving – and that includes gridlock.

Categories: Views

Friday throwback: riding with your 'fro intact

ibikelondon - 7 February, 2014 - 08:30
Every Friday here at ibikelondon we're looking at images from the Flickr commons of cyclists from around the world over the years.  Last week we looked at how the 1970s oil crisis forced children to ride to school.  

Sticking with the 1970s, this week we visit the District of Columbia in the United States, where this photograph of black teenagers cycling along the banks of the Potomac river was taken.  I like this picture for a number of reasons; I like the quality of the light on this seemingly carefree spring day, I like the clothes the guys riding bikes are wearing (and the fact that "cycling apparel" seems to be entirely absent in this image).  And I really like their hair, especially the afro the chap on the left is sporting.

It has to be said, you don't see many afros aboard bicycles in London and indeed black riders here are a minority within the minority of cyclists themselves.  This fairly epic Reddit thread on how to find a bike helmet that's compatable with your 'fro is most enjoyable, but there are more serious considerations at hand too.  Everyone knows the story of 1900s black American track cyclist Major Taylor and the racial segregation he faced, but there's been much less debate as to why it wasn't until 2011 that a black man lined up to race a stage of the Tour de France. (2011!!)

Racial politics aside, I like that this photo from 1973 captured a great moment between a group of friends out on their bikes one sunny afternoon - I wonder if they are still riding together today?

Why not connect with ibikelondon online? 
Join the conversation with us on Twitter @markbikeslondon, or give us a "Like!" on our Facebook page.

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Categories: Views

Velsen, nominee for best cycling city

BicycleDutch - 5 February, 2014 - 23:01
Velsen is one of the five nominees to become best Cycling City of the Netherlands in 2014. Chosen from a long-list of 19 municipalities, these five municipalities compete to take … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The steps

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 5 February, 2014 - 12:55

There is a small entrance to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, from St Giles’. It brings you into the grand central courtyard from the east, through a corridor in the building, rather than via the direct and obvious entrance from the south on Beaumont Street.

The view into the Ashmolean courtyard from St Giles’

On my recent visit I noticed that a walkway has been built across this corridor, linking the main Ashmolean building (to the left) to the wing of the building, on the right. 
This obviously makes it more inconvenient to walk along the corridor, than to pass across it.

Presumably these steps – or walkway, depending on your perspective – have been installed to allow step-free access throughout the museum buildings. The ‘extra’ steps for people passing along this corridor, rather than across it, are not much of a problem for those who have already come up the ten or so steps from the street. Anyone who can’t manage steps will be entering the museum from the main entrance on Beaumont Street, up ramps.

But the arrangement got me thinking about priorities, and about choices.

For short trips, most people have the option to walk or cycle to their destination. It’s technically possible to walk or cycle short distances. A great percentage choose not to, however – nearly 40% of all trips under 2 miles in Britain are driven. But why?

Because we’ve built steps across their routes – steps that make driving easier. Driving has the smooth, continuous route on this walkway, while walking and cycling have to struggle up and over the steps built for it. The ease and convenience of driving has been purchased at the expense of making walking and cycling more difficult, and more hazardous.

A concrete example. Take this roundabout in Didcot.

Courtesy of Google Streetview

It’s possible to walk or cycle from left to right, across this roundabout – but you have to come a huge distance out of your way, push a button, wait for a crossing signal, then travel back up to where you actually want to go. Driving from left to right, on the other hand, is a more-or-less direct route, that can be taken at speed.

This is the way we design for walking and cycling in Britain, in microcosm. It has to fit in at the margins, fenced away, and given indirect routes that skirt around and yield to the ‘dominant’ mode of transport, motor traffic. While this continues, all the talk of ‘encouraging’ and ‘promoting’ walking and cycling will ring hollow.

I don’t like it. The only continuous connected space is road space. Need more for cycling and walking. Tired of lillypadding around my city

— Katja Leyendecker (@KatsDekker) February 4, 2014

Pictured below is the junction between Biltstraat – a main road in Utrecht – and Goedestraat, a residential side road.

It doesn’t even look like a junction, because the cycle track and the pavement extend across the side road. It’s driving that has to go up and over the steps, while walking and cycling has the level walkway.

Yet at equivalent junctions in the UK we seem to go out of our way to make walking and cycling hostile and unattractive.

Courtesy of Google Streetview

This is the junction of Ashley Road and The Parade in Epsom. Ashley Road is a one-way road, that forms part of the A24 gyratory in the town. Needless to say cycling here on this fast and busy road is inadvisable if you are not confident. The Parade, on the left, is a residential side road – actually a dead-end. But it has a ludicrous flared treatment, and barriers to stop you crossing in the most natural place.

Walking and cycling are eradicated by this kind of design, just as they are in Horsham, where simply crossing the inner ring road into the town centre from the west means the use of four separate signalled controlled crossings.

In urban areas in Britain, it’s driving that has been given the most convenient and direct routes, without delay, diversion, interruption or inconvenience. It has been put up on the walkway, at the expense of walking and cycling, so it’s no surprise that it continues to dominate as a mode of transport, while walking dwindles and cycling remains essentially non-existent.

The steps need rearranging.

Categories: Views

Default to Green: cyclists have priority while drivers wait for the lights to change

A View from the Cycle Path - 4 February, 2014 - 19:39
Assen has 28 sets of traffic lights. Three of them are set up in such a way that they default to green for cyclists. i.e. their usual situation is showing a green light for cyclists and they will only switch to red for cyclists and green for motor vehicles a sensor leading to the junction is triggered by the motor vehicle. Red shows cycle-paths, blue shows the direction from which cars areDavid Hembrow
Categories: Views

Bike the strike! Let's get London to work on two wheels

ibikelondon - 3 February, 2014 - 22:43

Unless there's nothing short of a diplomatic miracle, London's Underground network will come creaking to a halt from this evening for a 48 hour strike.

Whatever you think about the politics of the strike, there's no denying that the Underground carries more people every day than the rest of the UK rail network put together.  In a nutshell, that's an awful lot of people who still need to get to work on Wednesday and Thursday morning...

Most of you reading are probably already committed cyclists and know the joys of using a bicycle to get from A to B in the city and how easy, fast and stress-free it can be. 

But there's plenty of people in London who will be considering using a bike to get through the strike who might be feeling nervous, may be inexperienced at cycling with London traffic or simply may not know the way overground to their place of work.

So here at i b i k e l o n d o n we thought we'd combine the goodwill of the London cycling community with the magic of social media and put together BikeTheStrike!

The way it works is simple; if you're a cyclist and you'd be happy to guide another slightly apprehensive rider to work, add your details and draw your cycle route on to our #BikeTheStrike action map, which you can find here.  

 List where you will depart from (local landmarks, tube stations, or pubs are good places to gather), at what time you'll leave, what your Twitter handle is so people can reach you, and which tube stations you will pass on your way to your destination.

On the other side of the cycling spectrum, if you're a rusty rider looking for someone to show you the way, or to give you a bit of gentle encouragement, check the map for routes near you, and tweet any ride leaders whose route suits your needs, et voila you've got your very own bike buddy to show you the way and take you gently across town and in to the office.

People leading rides are in no way liable for you during your cycle journey, and there's no assumption of legal responsibility here (phew, that's the nasty legal bit out of the way) but if you need some "blitz spirit" to help you get to work during the strike, the London cycling community is here for you.

So, what are you all waiting for?  Get mapping and tweeting your route right now, and who knows what new two-wheeled friends you might meet along the way? #BikeTheStrike!

Top tips for rusty riders:
  • Give your bike a quick once over before you leave;
  • Pump up your tyres, give your chain a spin, squeeze your brakes
  • Pack your waterproofs and a spare set of clothes. (Cycling in the rain is surprisingly okay. Sitting at your desk all day in wet knickers is not.)
  • Don't forget your lights - not only a legal requirement but damn useful too as it will be dark when you leave work in the evening.
  • Keep an eye on social media, note the contact details of your BikeTheStrike ride leader, tell someone where you are going.
  • You'll need a lock to secure your bike at your destinaton (preferably two)
  • Don't forget to say thank you!

Top tips for BikeTheStrike ride champions:
  • Try to map your route accurately, and mention the stations you will pass; some riders may wish to "get off" along your route.
  • Try to set an easy pace as some of the riders may not be as used to hurtling through central London streets as you are.
  • Consider setting off earlier than usual when roads are quieter, and to allow yourself more time.
  • If you say you're going to do a ride, do it!
Individually, each ride may only have one or two participants, but across town that could really add up to a lot of people who've managed to avoid the crush of the buses or having to take leave because they can't get in to work.  Together, let's get London to work on two wheels!

Check out the BikeTheStrike route map, and add your cycle journey today.

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Categories: Views

A small difference

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 3 February, 2014 - 12:47

Two news items popped up almost simultaneously in my inbox recently. Each described a collision, but in a slightly different way. The first -

Woman taken to hospital after crash with cyclist at Cawsand

A LADY was taken to hospital after a man on a push bike crashed into her.

Police were called to the scene at Forder Hill, Cawsand at around 4.30pm this afternoon by ambulance staff.

A first responder – member of the community with advanced first aid training – was on the scene first followed by ambulance staff and police.

And the other -

No criminal action taken against death crash driver

A speeding driver has been told he must live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life after the tragic death of a popular roofer.

Cyclist Brent Jelley, 23, collided with a Ford Fiesta driven by Halstead resident Joshua Rumble, in Swan Street, Sible Hedingham on October 21, 2012.

Rewording the first article in the manner of the second, we get

A lady was taken to hospital after she collided with a push bike ridden by a man.

Which doesn’t sound like gibberish at all.

Categories: Views

What should we learn from the Advertising Standards debacle?

Vole O'Speed - 2 February, 2014 - 23:56
I didn't cover Scottish Cycling's regressive, victim-blaming Niceway Code advertising campaign of last year at the time, partially because this is a London-focused blog and partially because many other bloggers gave it a good thrashing anyway (in fact it actually spawned new blogs and Twitter feeds that came into existence just to attack it), but mainly because it was the type of thing we get from time to time that goes away quickly, leaving the world no different for it ever having existed, so it didn't seem particularly worth while.
Four months after this dismal campaign ended, the affair came back in a new form. The wheels of the Advertising Standards Authority had turned slowly, and they had assessed the hundreds of complaints the Nice Way Code's dreadful adverts had generated. And they had decided to uphold one complaint (made by five separate people, apparently), with the effect that the absurd and dehumanising "Think Horse" commercial could not be broadcast again, despite the fact that Scottish Cycling had no intention of broadcasting it again, as the money for the campaign had run out long ago.

So a dreadful commercial was banned by the ASA. That's good. Except their reasons for banning it were crackers, based on ignorance of cycle safety, ignorance of accepted cycle training, and ignorance of the Highway Code, and, more worryingly still, showed ASA executing bizarre "mission creep", attempting to police the media according to their own completely arbitrary concepts of "Health and Safety", rather than sticking to their job of determining whether adverts are truthful or legal:
We considered that the scene featuring the cyclist on a road without wearing a helmet undermined the recommendations set out in the Highway Code. Furthermore, we were concerned that whilst the cyclist was more than 0.5 metres from the kerb, they appeared to be located more in the centre of the lane when the car behind overtook them and the car almost had to enter the right lane of traffic. Therefore, for those reasons we concluded the ad was socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.This set a terrible precedent, so suddenly cyclists were at the barricades again, this time defending Cycling Scotland's advert, with a massive campaign of emails, blogs and Tweets directed to getting the ASA to change their minds, that extended to MPs and attracted sympathetic comment even in the right-wing press.

The ASA's judgement was so obviously bonkers that it clearly could not stand, and it hardly lasted a day before they announced:The ASA has withdrawn its formal ruling against a Cycling Scotland ad pending the outcome of an Independent Review. That followed a request from Cycling Scotland, in which it argued that the ASA’s criticism of the positioning of the cyclist was incorrect. The decision to withdraw was made by the ASA Chief Executive in light of a potential flaw in our ruling. Once the Independent Review process is complete we will publish our decision on our website.This may or may not be the end of the matter. Roger Geffen of the CTC argues, with some justification, that
It would be wrong to start celebrating prematurely. It is noteworthy that the ASA’s announcement only references a "potential flaw" in their ruling on the cyclist’s road positioning, without mentioning their non-use of a helmet or other ‘protective equipment’. .....what if the ASA is looking to ‘save face’ by backing down on road-positioning, while sticking to their guns on helmets, citing the Highway Code Rule 59 in their defence? If we end up with the ASA imposing de facto censorship of helmet-free cycling on TV, that would be an appalling blow to the promotion of cycling as a safe, enjoyable, aspirational and (above all) perfectly normal way for people of all ages and backgrounds to get around for day-to-day journeys or for leisure.Well it certainly would not be good. But I'd like to take a step back from all this agitation about one stupid and insulting advert.

For the initial crime was Cycling Scotland's anti-cycling Nice Way Code campaign. Just because they had one of their adverts struck down by people with even less idea of how to build a safe cycling culture than them did not make them into Good Guys worth in any way supporting or defending, and I'm not going to start doing that.

Furthermore, the whole furore around this just shows how far we are away from concentrating on what is important in building a safe cycling culture. That's physically building an environment where cycling works for anyone who wants to do it. Adverts and PR and image-making aren't actually all that important. They are a  side-show. Cycling in the Netherlands and Denmark does not work because everybody has the right attitudes, and cycling has the right image, it works because they have built the correct physical environment. The image is better there as well, yes, and attitudes are slightly different, but this follows from the engineering of the physical environment and the consequent democratisation of cycling. Britain at this particular historical period, however, has lost sight of her past engineering prowess, and since the 1980s has become obsessed with spin, advertising and image, thinking these more important, and this extends into the cycling world and is manifested in the attention given to this whole controversy. The energy directed into this would probably be better spent elsewhere: in campaigning for tangible change (as indeed LCC is doing with its Space for Cycling campaign).

Though I'm totally against the use of helmets for normal cycling, I've never discussed the subject here. Why? Because the whole subject generates more heat that it's worth. People can wear whatever they like. What I'm campaigning for is an environment so safe and so conducive to cycling that the suggestion that cyclists should normally wear helmets in that environment would be dismissed as absurd by any average person, as it is in the Netherlands. Just as the suggestion that people walking should normally wear helmets would be dimissed as absurd by any average British person now. I consider that we will get to that point through campaigning for infrastructure change, not by talking about helmets.

So infrastructure change remains resolutely my focus. We'll get the right attitudes when we have enough people cycling, that it's no longer in any way a niche activity, and we'll get that when conditions are subjectively safe enough, guaranteed by concrete infrastructure, not by hopes of good behaviour. Then the attitudes that ASA demonstrated in their ruling against Think Horse, as well as the attitudes enshrined in the Niceway Code campaign itself, will be as generally unacceptable as racism and homophobia.

In the present environment though, the conclusions that ASA came to first, before they rowed back, are perfectly understandable. They are, in a sense, correct; ASA is, or was, merely reflecting common understanding of how the roads should work with respect to bikes and motor vehicles. Their ruling showed up various pieces of hypocrisy not of their making, and therefore it is wrong to blame them wholly for it.

I wrote before of The problem with assertive cyclingMy argument in that post was essentially that cycle training in the Bikeability sense embodies a lie, which puts cyclists "between a rock and a hard place". The lie exists in the fact that the government would never impose a statutory duty on motorists to overtake cyclists in the manner recommended by the Highway Code, and enforce that. Motorists would regard it as intolerable that they were held up by cyclists all the time, and always had to dawdle behind them, if they had to allocate them a whole lane, and change lane to overtake them.

The ASA were just interpreting practice on the road as they found it. We can shout and shout about how cyclists should be taking the primary position and motorists should have to change lane to overtake, but in the real world, most of the time, this does not and cannot happen. The road situation shown at 0:35 of Think Horse strikes me as hugely untypical: the width of the road, the lack of oncoming vehicles. the space available. The cyclist actually seems to have no reason to be riding so far from the kerb. It's not a realistic scenario, and has nothing to do with the problems I encounter every time I get on a bike in London, which are about how you get through without intimidation on multi-lane roads full of moving vehicles, or on parked-up residential streets that are effectively only one lane wide, and where nobody can overtake or pass anybody without squeezing through, and I'm not clear what anybody was ever supposed to learn from it. If they'd shown a realistic situation of conflict, where a motorist is forced to wait for a whole minute or two while a cyclist gets to the end of a road where safe overtaking is impossible, and told us what we are supposed to do there, that would have been different. But this is no help at all.

What's supposed to be going on here, and what is anyone supposed to learn from it?  0:35 from Think HorseSomeone in the ASA thought that this cyclist was in a funny position in the road (which, actually, they are) and thought it showed somebody doing something "socially irresponsible" (not that any car advert approved by ASA ever showed anyone doing anything socially irresponsible, of course). But this is just how most members of the public would probably regard it.

With the helmets issue, the problem lies more clearly with the Highway Code itself. This says cyclists should wear helmets. You and I know there is important distinction in the Code between places where it says should and places where it says must, but this will be lost on most people, and clearly was on the ASA adjudicators. There's a "common-sense" argument which could have run, in their minds: "The Highway Code says cyclists should wear helmets, therefore there must be some good reason for it to say that, therefore it must be unsafe and socially irresponsible of cyclists if they don't heed that advice, therefore we should ban this advert for that reason". There's a parallel here with the "not guilty" verdicts that juries often come up with in road death cases, that campaigners find deeply unacceptable. The actual purpose of juries is to take a "common-sense" view of the case, whatever that means, and in a car-oriented society, where the cyclist is regarded as a distinctly peculiar creature by most, and majority sympathy lies with the motorist, the result will be these miscarriages of justice that we see.

What's the real problem here? The problem is that the Highway Code mentions helmets at all, and uses this word should. The Highway Code should be clearer. It should be a set of rules that everyone must obey at all times on the public roads, punishable by law if they do not. It has no business getting into dubious behavioural recommendations, like helmets for cyclists, high-vis clothing for walkers or luminous leads for dogs. If Parliament wants those things to be law (which it does not), it should make them the law.  The Department for Transport should throw all the shoulds out of the Highway Code. Every one of the shoulds is just a way of transferring a little bit of blame on to those not responsible for road danger, but who suffer disproportionally from it. The shoulds, in their quasi-legal, quasi-rescriptive character,  just confuse the public, and ASA is merely reflecting that confusion. A great number of people, including me, would dispute that cyclists should wear helmets. There is a great raft of data and argument against it, so familiar, I am sure, to readers of this blog, that I will not go into it. I don't think it is particularly surprising that ASA are confused about this subject, which is not their speciality, when the DfT is so confused.

It's correct to point out, as CTC do in the link above, that ASA never try to enforce in advertising any of the other Highway Code shoulds, such as high-vis for pedestrains at night, and therefore they are clearly singling out cyclists for dicriminatory treatment. But clearly, also, there is no reason for all shoulds to be considered equal. It would probably appear as "common-sense" to the ASA adjudicators that clothing for pedestrains is just a matter of personal choice, but that there are serious safety issues invoved in the attire of anyone getting on a bicycle.

This is the sort of discrimination we have to combat, and, in the end, I suspect it will persist until we can normalise everyday utility cycling into British society. This can't happen until we get a massive re-engineering of our roads and streets such that it ceases to be the case that the only pleasant and practical way to use them is in a motor vehicle. I can't get too het up about the banning (or not) of one silly advert based on an argument between two sets of people, both of whom have regressive attitudes. Let's put the effort into getting real change of the streets. So often I hear people say, "We need to change the attitudes now, as it will take too long to get decent infrastructure in". Well, it only seems to take a long time to get decent infrastructure in because we never really start. Getting that start should be the focus of our efforts.
Categories: Views

Friday throwback: the children forced to cycle to school

ibikelondon - 31 January, 2014 - 10:31

Introducing a new series of light-hearted posts here on ibikelondon which - every friday - will explore the wealth of cycling images, videos and paraphernalia that can be found on online archives such as the Flickr commons.

Why are we looking to the past?  Because an image speaks a thousand words, and nothing quite gets debate stimulated like looking at where we've come from (and as the old cliche says, if we don't know where we are coming from, how do we know where we are going?)

Today's images are from the fascinating United States National Archives and depict school children in February 1974 "forced" to cycle to school because of the oil crisis.  With fuel in short supply there simply wasn't enough around to power school buses for extracurricular activities like trips to the local swimming pool or museum.  As "No Gas" signs went up on the pumps all over north America, car pooling was touted as a smart way to share and conserve limited fuel supplies.

These kids may not have had any choice but to me they look like they're coping with style (they do say that in fashion what goes around comes around, and I'm loving the clothes these kids have got on!), and though they wouldn't have known it then, Portland (where this photo was taken) would go to become America's cycling nirvana with some of the highest cycling rates in all of the United States.

If you're heading out on two wheels yourself this weekend, wherever you go ride safe and have a good time.  In the interim, why not connect with ibikelondon online? 
Join the conversation with us on Twitter @markbikeslondon, or give us a "Like!" on our Facebook page.  

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Categories: Views

Ride into the city: 5 kilometres priority

BicycleDutch - 29 January, 2014 - 23:01
Cycling must be convenient and fast to be a viable alternative to the car. The Dutch achieve a very high average speed for cycling because you can cycle almost non-stop … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

An idiotic judgement by the Advertising Standards Authority

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 29 January, 2014 - 15:52

 You are not supposed to see this picture

A piece of idiocy by the ASA has caused justified anger among cycling groups and others concerned with a civilised approach to danger on the road.


You can read about it here here; and here  and the CTC’s comments are here:

 The RDRF objects to the ASA’s decision on the basis that:


1. It does not understand that the positioning of the cyclist is absolutely correct in terms of the advice given by Bikeability (National Standards) cycle training. RDRF committee member Ken Spence points out:

As an author of most of the Bikeability curriculum I can say that the cyclist in question is not cycling in the “middle” of the lane. She’s actually exactly where I would tell her to be in the circumstances. The road itself is an extremely wide single carriageway and the fact that the car can overtake her at a wide berth without crossing the central markings proves my point about her position. To be pedantic the middle of the lane in question would be considerably further out. She’s actually more in a secondary position given that there is a half metre drainage strip at the edge of the carriageway moving the effective running carriageway edge a half metre out. The ASA are quite wrong  in their adjudication. A minimum of 0.5 metre does not mean exactly 0.5 metres.

 Also, take a look at this elaboration of the photo by Singletrack:


2. Although the Highway Code at present recommends helmet wearing, there is a lack of evidence that this can reduce cyclist casualty (even cyclist head injury) rates. See the evidence on


3. If the ASA is going to oppose representation of anybody who is not apparently obeying all the recommendations of the Highway Code, it would have to ban advertisements featuring such behaviours as pedestrians walking about at night without hi-viz clothing.


4. Of course, the ASA could take note of the fact that typical driving tends to involve not just infringing Highway Code recommendations but the law, for example on breaking speed limits. The fact that this behaviour may not be explicit or even visible (as with driving when fatigued) does not excuse condoning such behaviour.


Taking this seriously would involve not just restricting a large proportion of all car advertisements, but representations of typical motor traffic in any advertising. Take a look at (and contribute to) the CTC’s site here.


We are not suggesting that most advertisements featuring examples of typical driver behaviour which may, or are likely, to be infringing the rules and recommendations of the Highway Code should be banned -  too many would have to be restricted. But that would be more fruitful than focussing on supposedly rule or recommendation breaking behaviour by those much less likely to endanger others – even if the recommendation was based on sound evidence, which helmet wearing is not.




Organisations such as the CTC are writing to the ASA, you may wish to sign this petition  on    as well as contacting the ASA directly trough their complaints arbiter Sir Hayden Phillips whose receiving e-mail is .



Categories: Views

Trying to Take the Bicycle Seriously. Ish.

Copenhagenize - 29 January, 2014 - 14:30
The Human League concert today at Danish Parliament

Today saw the final conference of the three year Bikeability research project in Denmark. Or Slutkonference, in Danish, which would make you wonder if you had the right room if you didn't speak Danish. But I digress. On the second sentence... which might explain alot.

Bascially, bicycle planning in the Kingdom of Denmark coasted to an internal hub brake stop today. 230 of the nation's planners, advocates - and others in pursuit of a free lunch - gathered at the Danish parliament (all the Borgen fans just started paying attention...) to hear the results of the research project.

Conference title: Take the Bicycle Seriously - The future of bicycle planning. Boom. Sounds good. Promising. Inspiring.

That's why I went along. I have a sincere personal and professional desire and hope to be inspired and learn about new research findings. I even went on my birthday, so eager for inspiration am I.

Back in 2010, I went for a bike ride to launch this project, with the likes of former Science Minister Helge Sander, Brian Holm and others. Today was the culmination of the project.

Basically, 16.5 million kroner ($3 million USD) was pumped into the project from government funding and the list of partners is long. University of Copenhagen, Danish Technical University, University of Southern Denmark, Aalborg University, Danish Cancer Society, Danish Cyclists' Federation, Delft University of Technology and I-CE (Interface for Cycling Expertise, Netherlands)

My hopes were high.

Which meant there was a long way to fall.

The conference was interesting. It's also interesting listen to old Human League records, even though you've heard them before many times. There was, however, nothing new under the cycling sun today.

Here's the one minute version of the conference:

- New research confirmed older research.
- Cycling is good for the public health. (repeat 43 times)
- The Netherlands are way ahead of Denmark on national cycling levels.
- Density in cities is good for walking and cycling.
- Cycling levels are increasing in larger cities, falling in the provinces.
- People just want to get from A to B fast.
- Infrastructure increases cycling and therefore public health.
- Accidents happen in intersections.

The lunch was great, though. The coffee less so.

16.5 million kroner for a Human League record.

At lunch I asked ten random colleagues the same question: "So, what do you think? Anything new?" To which they all replied, "no, not really." But the meatballs were delicious.

I remember remarking three years ago when I heard that cycling was heading into an over-complicated, over-academicised project that for 16.5 million kroner we could just build some infrastructure and launch positive campaigns to encourage cycling and that branded car-culture as being old-fashioned and unwanted in our cities. That a project like this was seemingly a waste of time and money. It might not be a waste - reconfirming existing research is always nice - but the fact that the target was completely off is a concern.

During the conference all the things that we know about cycling were repeated ad nauseum. What was completely and utterly ignored was the elephant in the societal room. The automobile. For THAT kind of money, you'd think they would have tackled the present and immediate problem - reducing car traffic in our cities. Making driving more difficult. More expensive. Taking away space from cars and handing it to bicycle users and public transport.

Instead of wasting 16.5 million kroner, everyone could have stared at this poster until their eyes crossed, then went out and actually did it:

The poster took me an hour. The idea for it popped up in my head in an instant back in 2008. It is free.

Give the 16.5 million to a team of young marketing students and urban planning students - or a third grade class - and you would see results. In less than three years. Without having to heard that same old record over and over again.

I don't like being disappointed. It's frustrating and unpleasant. But the chain fell off this project and the bike shops are closed. We should expect more from one of the great cycling nations of the world.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

"Smoothing traffic flow"? It's FINISHED - we won the battle for Blackfriars Bridge!

ibikelondon - 29 January, 2014 - 08:30

In 2011 Transport for London proposed to tear the cycle paths out of the north junction of Blackfriars Bridge, increase the lanes for motorised traffic from two to three, increase the speed to 30mph and take out vital pedestrian crossings - all on one of the busiest river crossings in central London where people on bikes make up the majority of all traffic.

Cyclists had been killed on the bridge before, and the cycling community's response to Transport for London's plans was unified and unequivocal; if they went ahead then cyclists or pedestrians would be killed there again.  Thousands of you signed petitions and added your image to a picture protest wall.  Cyclists forced the Mayor of London Boris Johnson (who is Chair of TfL) to state that "more work needs to be done on cycling over Blackfriars Bridge".  All of the major parties (including the Conservatives) backed an Assembly motion calling for TfL to retain the existing 20mph speed limit and "revisit the plans for the bridge".  Campaigners even discovered that TfL's own safety audit recommended they review their own plans.

Protests on Blackfriars Bridge captured the media's attention - and helped to put pressure on TfL and the Mayor. Exhausting all democratic options, cyclists and pedestrians joined forces to demonstrate on the bridge.  Called to the streets by myself and fellow blogger Danny Williams from Cyclists In the City, there were three demonstrations on the bridge, each larger than the last.  The demonstrations - which saw thousands of cyclists cover the entire bridge as BBC and ITV cameras looked on - were the beginning of a resurgent and more direct force for cycle campaigning in London.  The London Cycling Campaign also joined the demonstrations and were overwhelmed by the response their own proposed designs for the bridge received.  As a battle ground, Blackfriars became the launch pad for the Love London, Go Dutch campaign and the biggest cycling protest ever seen in London, not to mention more guerrilla campaigns such as Stop Killing Cyclists with their die ins and Bikes Alive with their Kings Cross flashrides.  This zeitgeist of protest inspired The Times to be bold in their reaction to one of their own journalists being run over, launching their Cities Fit For Cycling campaign and financing the Get Britain Cycling parliamentary enquiry.  And the Mayor, re-elected on the back of the cyclist vote, announced the largest and most comprehensive cycle spending program ever seen in the UK. Politicians of all political colours join the protests on Blackfriars Bridge  In short, the battle for Blackfriars Bridge marked a turning point in London cycle campaigning where the space provided for safe cycling was seen as the key to success, as oppose to just the competence of the cyclists who use it (or perceived lack of).
And now, two years after those initial heady protests, people power has finally won on Blackfriars Bridge. This week Transport for London announced they will this summer introduce an experimental 18 month traffic order on the bridge and surrounding roads reducing the speed limit to 20mph limit - one of the protest's key initial demands.   Furthermore, the bridge's north junction will now be completely redesigned and reconstructed in order to accommodate a new largely separated north-south cycle route from Elephant and Castle to Kings Cross, which will intersect with the Mayor's east-west "Crossrail for bikes" which is slated for construction later this year.

TfL's proposals for Blackfriars Bridge Road - we're not quite there yet, but we're a thousand miles away from the rhetoric of 2011.
Whilst we haven't quite yet got to the point where construction is underway, this week's news is nevertheless a highly significant turning point.  In 2011 the Mayor stated "...a speed limit of 20 mph isn't necessary and could be a serious impediment to smooth traffic flow".  On Blackfriars Bridge we've shown that the 'smoothing traffic flow' arguments simply don't add up, and that people have to be put first.  In my opinion, it's a milestone that everyone who wrote letters, signed petitions and protested should be extremely proud of.
The 20mph 'test zones' on Blackfriars and London Bridge will join with a larger 20mph zone across the City of London which will be consulted on shortly after being voted for by the Corporation last year; another scheme initially requested by cycling and pedestrian campaigners.
In short, it may take a lot of blood, sweat and tears, it may take a long time, and we may have to wait before organisations like TfL are prepared to admit to losing face, but above all campaigning works.
Well done London!  Next stop, space for cycling 2014....
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Categories: Views

Design Lines on Værnedamsvej - Copenhagenize Fixes - Part 5

Copenhagenize - 29 January, 2014 - 05:00
Part 1: Introduction - Desire Lines on Værnedamsvej 
Part 2: The Desire Line tool applied to an asymmetrical intersection (Værnedamsvej, Gammel Kongevej, Svanholmsvej)Part 3: The Desire Line tool applied to a complex intersection (Værnedamsvej, Vesterbrogade, Frederiksberg Allé)
Part 4: The Copenhagenize Fixes - The Intersections
Here we are. Bicycle users can enter Værnedamsvej and leave it in good shape. Now it's time to showcase our proposals to redesign this lovely 12 meter wide, neighbourhood street.
Here is our vision: making clear space for bicycle users on the road, creating parking for bikes (which doesn't exist right now, except in the adjoining street Tullinsgade) and improving space for the pedestrians.
Here are the proposals in 4 steps:
  • Creating a 30 km/hour zone in order to increase the safety of the bicycle users and pedestrians
  • Turning the entire street into one-way for cars
  • Creating a designated, contraflow bike lane for the bicycle users heading against the one way
  • Creating parklets and parking zones alternating between both sides of the street, resulting in a curving car lane that forces motorists to slow down. The parking zones for cars are located only along the car lane. In front of the school, instead of a parklet, the pavement is extend in order to create space for the children hanging out after school.

Here is our vision of a parklet including bike racks.

This rearrangement is quite similar to the layout the Copenhagen Municipality made in Elmegade in Nørrebro. Moreover, another solution would be to turn the street into a bike street, giving to the cyclists the priority towards the cars - who are in the minority on this street.
We have decided not to propose to turn Værnedamsvej into a shared-space street with a reduced speed for cars and space for pedestrians and cyclists on the whole width of the street. Indeed, we consider the number of cyclists too high for creating a peaceful environment for all the users of the street. 
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Be nice to the ASA

At War With The Motorist - 29 January, 2014 - 00:07

I am sure that if you have not already, you will soon be reading an account of the Advertising Standards Authority’s embarrassing adjudication on complaints made about Scotland’s “Nice Way Code” series of “won’t everyone just play nice on the roads?” adverts. Briefly, of all the things that the ASA could have picked up on in the Nice Way Code, the offending footage ruled to be irresponsible by the ASA are (a) showing a roughly realistic proportion of people riding bikes with and without helmets, and (b) showing somebody riding a bicycle more than 0.5 metres from the side of the road. Other people will give you the full story.

I’m not an expert on advertising regulation, but I guess the first ruling sets a precedent against any future advertising featuring helmetless cycling. Things like TfL’s Catch Up With The Bicycle campaign. A depressing but not entirely unpredictable result of the lazy fact-free assumption on helmets that seems to have put down deep roots in this country (and started growing the fearsome thorns of shouty emotional anecdote). The second ruling is the more interesting and hilarious of the two. This one effectively precludes any future advertising of the standard long-established government guidance on road positioning, as taught in the official “Bikeability” cycling proficiency training. Like the advertising TfL and the DfT (under the Think! brand) are currently running on buses and billboards in London and several other English cities. But again, others will have more time than me to explore the amusing implications of the decision.

No, I only really popped into the discussion to say one thing, in the spirit of the Nice Way Code: be nice.

Obviously someone at the ASA has made a spectacular cockup, and they deserve a day’s mockery and ridicule for such an achingly absurd, side-splittingly ludicrous joke of an assessment.

But, occasional slapstick stupidity aside, I’m sure the ASA are not bad people.

Clearly some junior adjudicator got out of his or her depth, read one document they didn’t entirely understand, and remained ignorant of the actual relevant research and guidance in the field. Sure, there should have been processes in place to prevent errors of such a preposterous magnitude from ever getting so far as publication, but I have no doubt that with the blunder now evident to all, the ASA will be working fast to fix the mistake, and will ensure all is put right before the DfT and TfL are forced to put their adverts on hold while more time and money is wasted formally challenging it.

I’m sure they’re good people, and I’m sure they’ll have this one under control in no time. So be nice to them.

By all means clog up their system with satirical reports intended to mock, and with serious test cases designed to force contradictions, but do be nice.

That’s the Nice Way Code, after all.

Categories: Views

The Advertising Standards Authority – not fit for purpose

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 29 January, 2014 - 00:01

Scotland’s The Nice Way Code campaign got an almighty and justifiable thrashing from campaigners last year, particularly for its nonsensical advice, and notions of collective responsibility. However, with one judgement, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has managed to make me feel sorry for it.


Here’s a still from one of the Nice Way Code videos – ‘Think Horse’.

Fairly unexceptional, you might think.

Yet this particular scene apparently prompted five people to write in complaint to the ASA.

Five complainants challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and harmful, because it showed a cyclist without a helmet or any other safety attire, who was cycling down the middle of the road rather than one metre from the curb.

‘Irresponsible and harmful’.

This is complete guff, of course. At no point was the cyclist travelling ‘down the middle of the road’. ‘The middle of the road’ in these cases never refers to a precise location, more to the fact that someone is in someone else’s way, or slightly inconveniencing them. And the lack of safety attire or helmet is neither here nor there – these are not legal requirements.

Over and out, you might think. Complaints dismissed, chucked straight in the bin. Reasonable points about national guidance on how to cycle, the need to make cycling look ordinary and attractive, and the lack of legal requirements are commendably made by both Cycling Scotland and the advert’s producers. Indeed, Cycling Scotland point out that the making of the advert was actually supervised by one of Scotland’s most experienced cycling instructors.

But it seems the ASA know better, for they have UPHELD – UPHELD - this complaint. They write

The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Cycling Scotland that any future ads featuring cyclists should be shown wearing helmets and placed in the most suitable cycling position.

In more detail, particularly about what the ASA think is ‘the most suitable cycling position’ -

We understood that UK law did not require cyclists to wear helmets or cycle at least 0.5 metres from the kerb. However, under the Highway Code it was recommended as good practice for cyclists to wear helmets. Therefore, we considered that the scene featuring the cyclist on a road without wearing a helmet undermined the recommendations set out in the Highway Code. Furthermore, we were concerned that whilst the cyclist was more than 0.5 metres from the kerb, they appeared to be located more in the centre of the lane when the car behind overtook them and the car almost had to enter the right lane of traffic. Therefore, for those reasons we concluded the ad was socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.

There is so much wrong with this it is impossible to know where to start. But just a couple of things leap out. The advert has essentially been banned because it contravenes recommendations in the Highway Code about helmets. Not rules – advice. The word used is ‘should’, not ‘must’. Here’s the relevant section -

The Highway Code

This ruling opens the door to adverts being banned if the people cycling in them are not wearing ‘reflective clothing and/or accessories’. Even an advert featuring someone riding a bike in darkish clothes could be banned by the logic of this judgement – because you ‘should’ wear light-coloured clothing.

It also suggests that vast numbers of car adverts should be banned. Why? Rule 152.

You should drive slowly and carefully on streets where there are likely to be pedestrians, cyclists and parked cars.

You should drive slowly and carefully in urban areas. All those car adverts showing cars zipping around are toast, according to this judgement – at least they should be. Just one example.

Not especially slow and careful in areas where there are likely to be pedestrians. So I suggest people get busy and start filing complaints on the basis of this judgement.

If they were feeling mischievous, they could actually file complaints to the ASA about Department for Transport and Transport for London adverts suggesting cyclists ride centrally. Because, you know, that’s ‘socially irresponsible’ and might force a driver to even slightly enter a different lane, causing them to spontaneously combust. The ASA should be taking this seriously, and slapping down the DfT and TfL.

And the final silliness – look back at the still of the advert that’s the source of the complaint. There’s someone riding a bike, fairly slowly, without head protection, being overtaken by someone in an open-top car which can legally travel at 70mph, with his head fully exposed in the event of a crash.

Then ponder the absurdity of judging only the former activity as ‘irresponsible and harmful’.

Categories: Views

Desire Lines on Værnedamsvej - Copenhagenize Fixes - Part 4

Copenhagenize - 28 January, 2014 - 05:00
At CopenhagenizeDesign Co. we certainly trust bicycle users' abilities to ride on the safest, easiest and quickest routes. The key to our Fixes is almost always found in our observations of the Desire Lines of the bicycle users and their behavior. We firmly believe that before redesiging the street the intersections on either end must be fixed. Here are our proposals.
Northern intersection: Værnedamsvej - Gammel Kongevej - Svanholmsvej
To redesign this intersection we will use respect the Desire Lines of the bicycle users who use it. We'll propose changes to the infrastructure to maximise the safety of the intersection and make the wayfinding more clear.
Our Desire Lines analysis shows that there are two problems caused by the asymmetrical nature of the intersection Værnedamsvej and Gammel Kongevej:1. For bicycle users leaving Værnedamsvej a usual Copenhagen Left is unnatural, causing bicycle users to make a direct turn. This seems a safe route, but could be better communicated to motorists. 2. The end of the Svanholmsvej is narrow, causing a lack of space for the waiting bicycle users.
We propose rearrangements mostly based on the traditional painted bicycle lanes in order to organise the intersection. Further down at the junction between Gammel Kongvej and Alhambravej, a blue lane has been painted on the ground to encourage cyclists to make a safe Copenhagen Left.

Here, on Værnedamsvej, without questioning the classic and specific way to turn left at an intersection, we prefer to accept the fact that bicycle users turn directly. Indeed, based on our observations, 0% of cyclists make the two-stage turn. Moreover, we noticed that bicycle users have a tendency not to wait on the right side on the street, since they know that no cars can turn in the street. So they wait at the traffic light in the middle of street ready to turn left.

In order to improve the relation between the cars and the bikes, we suggest to create a bike box in front of the traffic light. We're not a big fan of bike boxes, but this is one situation where it will work. Bicycle users will have the priority over the cars and will start turning at the intersection before them. This infrastructure is not usual in the streets of Copenhagen except at some T-intersections, but here it a way to replace the two-stage left turn.
Regarding the bicycle users waiting at the corner of Svanholmsvej and Gammel Kongevej, moving the crossing back and creating a waiting area can be a solution to make space for them. Slightly reducing the extension of the pavement at the corner is a way to find space. But it is the one-way street, so this solution implies that a traffic light dedicated to the bicycle users is added.

Currently, they use the pedestrian signals on the other side of the street to figure out when they can cross the intersection. It's a bit of a dodgy situation. Creating a cycle track heading north to south on Svanholmsvej is a solution. This would involve removing the car parking on the left side of the street and it must be analysed at the scale of the district.

Southern intersection - Værnedamsvej – Vesterbrogade – Frederiksberg Allé
At the intersection between Værnedamsvej, Vesterbrogade, Frederiksberg Allé, it is atypical that so many cyclists use the cross walk and the sidewalk. We can consider this behaviour as a sign pointing out that this intersection does not meet cyclists' needs.

Actually, the Desire Lines' observation shows that this intersection is not at all designed for cyclists leaving Værnedamsvej. The main issue is to design an intersection that allows the cyclists turning right on Vesterbrogade and crossing it.

To fix this abnormality in the City of Cyclists, here are our suggestions:
  • Moving back the traffic light for the cars
  • Making space for the bicycle users in front of the cars
  • Reducing the width of the pedestrian crossing
  • Setting up a traffic light for bikes at the end of Værnedamsvej and another one at the end of Frederiksberg Allé. These traffic lights will turn green for the cyclists in the same time as the light dedicate to the cyclists on Vesterbrogade, when all the traffic lights for the cars are red.
It's possible to paint a blue lane on the ground between the traffic light on Værnedamsvej and the one on Frederiksberg Allé in order to create a clear and official lane for the cyclists. Currently,  we can not disregard the fact that 41% of the cyclists leaving Værnedamsvej use this space.

Because of the complexity of this intersection a temporary solution tested during a few months while Municipalities analyse the behaviour of the cyclists, pedestrians and car drivers may be required.

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


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