You’re not held up by people cycling – you’re held up by other people driving (and yourself)

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 6 July, 2015 - 20:50

Imagine a street that carries 14,000 cyclists a day, on the street itself. That equates to around 1,500 people cycling along the street per hour, or 25 every minute.

Imagine driving down that street. Surely a nightmare for any self-respecting driver who wants to make progress. A miserable experience. You’d never be able to overtake, what with all the cyclists trundling in front of you, often two or three abreast, taking up the whole road.

Well… no. Actually overtaking in a car on this street is pretty easy.

… It’s even easy to overtake with people cycling two abreast, in both directions. Even a very wide three abreast doesn’t present a significant problem.

This doesn’t compute, surely!

How on earth can it be easy to overtake when there are so many bloody cyclists in the middle of the road?

The answer is quite simple – the reason drivers can overtake easily is because there aren’t many other drivers using this street.

Take a look at the photographs again. There isn’t oncoming motor traffic to prevent an overtake. There’s also limited on-street parking (just one set of bays, on one side of the road, in designed bays) meaning the road itself is not obstructed by parked vehicles.

Quite clearly it is other motor vehicles – both moving and stationary – that makes overtaking difficult, because a vast amount of cyclists ‘clogging’ a road doesn’t necessarily represent an impediment to motoring progress.

To compare with a British example – struggling to overtake a cyclist heading away from the camera here?

Or here? (Looking in the opposite direction on the same street)

That’ll be because of the large amount of oncoming motor traffic, preventing you from moving out into the opposing lane, and the amount of parking on both sides of the street, greatly reducing the available width of what is, in reality, a very wide road.

Really, how could it be otherwise? How can a human being two feet wide, on a road that is 35 feet wide, …

…. seriously present an impediment to progress, without other big blocky things (including the vehicle that you yourself are driving) greatly reducing the space available?

In reality, hell is other drivers – not other people people cycling.

Categories: Views

Self driving cars and the child-ball problem

John Adams - 6 July, 2015 - 17:48

“…if a ball were to roll onto a road, a human might expect that a child could follow. Artificial intelligence cannot yet provide that level of inferential thinking.”

This quotation from 2012 has already been overtaken by the extraordinary progress in the development of self-driving cars. But programming a self-driving car to anticipate a child following a ball is the easy part of the problem. 1 The tricky bit is programming the car’s response. … read more

Categories: Views

A "Pinch-Point" design which slows cars without "pinching" bikes

A View from the Cycle Path - 6 July, 2015 - 06:30
On-road cycle-lane approaching a pinch-point. A potentially dangerous situation for cyclists. Note how from this view the driving lanes appears to narrow at the pinch-point. Pinch points are often installed on roads to slow motor vehicles and to provide crossing places for pedestrians. They are often dangerous for cyclists. Road lanes which suddenly narrowed to encourage drivers to slow down David Hembrow
Categories: Views

Tour de France in Utrecht

BicycleDutch - 5 July, 2015 - 23:01
It seems impossible that you missed that the Tour de France started in Utrecht this weekend. But I did miss it, at least, I couldn’t be there! I was in … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Everyone cycles in Antwerp (who knew?!)

ibikelondon - 5 July, 2015 - 17:21

I'm in Antwerp, Belgium, which will host stage 3 of the 2015 Tour de France tomorrow.  I'm here for the Tour (follow my Twitter feed for live updates tomorrow) but hadn't appreciated what a great cycling city Antwerp is.

Home to about a million people its Belgium's most populous city, blessed with a compact historic core which is criss-crossed by a web of tram lines and very good cycling infrastructure.  There's tonnes of Tour fans in town, and roadies were out in force riding the route ahead of tomorrow's stage, but I also saw lots of just about everybody else riding a bike as well.

As you'd expect, cyclists share with other traffic on small and quiet roads here, but where volumes or speeds of cars are high the bikes are given their own space.  And I was glad to see there was plenty of new cycling infrastructure in place and that it was well maintained; always a sure sign that a city cares for its cyclists.

From the moment you step off the high speed train at Antwerp Centraal (and oh my goodness me, train fans, what a station it is) the fact that you're in a cycling city is apparent - deep in the bowels of the station there's acres of secure bicycle parking, a mechanic's workshop and a bike hire station. There's a suite of city bike share schemes - depending on how long you need a bike for - but if you're just visiting I recommend Fietshaven's Yellow Bike scheme, where you can rent a fantastic bike for a full 24 hours for just €13.

It was great to see the beautiful merchant's houses in the bike and pedestrian-friendly city centre.  Cyclists are exempt from having to follow most one-way streets here, and bike parking abounds. But it is not just in the old town that the city has been thinking about bikes.  There were acres of heavily-used bike parking outside the nearly-new Berchem Station, and smooth, wide brand-new bike tracks to get you there. 

Beneath the river Scheldt, the 1933 Saint Anne's tunnel accommodates people on bike and foot, and allows you to take your bike down the original wooden escalators before a leisurely ride beneath the river with excellent acoustics!

I found drivers to be courteous and interaction between riders and cars seemed friendly. What's more I saw cyclists of all ages out enjoying a summer's Sunday ride.  Indeed, the leisurely cycle track that follows the railway south out of the city is so popular it could well do with being made even wider - that's what we call in cycle planning circles "a nice problem to have".

Antwerp had never been on my list of places to visit before. I knew it was here, of course, and that it was really just a short trip by train from London.  I had a vague idea that it was famous for diamonds, and shipping, but that was about it.  Well, more fool me.  Antwerp punches above its weight; both as a cycling city and as a destination in its own right.  I couldn't think of a nicer weekend away than riding around here by bike.

For more info on cycling in Antwerp go to Visit Antwerp.
Check for a profile of tomorrow's stage departing from Antwerp.
You can get to Antwerp via the Eurostar in about two hours, with tickets from £80.

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Categories: Views

Trying it out

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 3 July, 2015 - 11:54

Last year I wrote about the stalled attempts to improve Bank junction in the City of London. The problem appears to be the time it is taking the City to model the effects of potential changes to the junction – in fact, the City are developing a new model from scratch, which is taking eighteen months, meaning results won’t even be in until Spring 2016.

Our next task will be to build a computer traffic model to assess what is likely to happen if traffic is prevented from crossing the junction for example in certain directions or times of day. Information from pedestrian and cycling movements will also help to develop solutions. This is likely to be a big piece of work and will take some time to complete but it is very important to have credible options for alterations to the junction. We hope to have this work completed by early 2016.

As I wrote then, this is a very time-consuming and expensive way of finding out something that could be established by trial arrangements, on the street itself; this could involve closing or restricting some of the streets in the area to motor traffic. Such a trial could be temporary, meaning that if genuine chaos did ensue, then the layout could be reverted back to normal very quickly, with alternative arrangements tried at a later date. The results of such a trial – given that they correspond to the real world – would also be much more accurate than those provided a model, even a very expensive one.

Of course tragedy struck at this junction last month, with the death of Ying Tao. If action had been taken more quickly to try out arrangements to improve Bank, rather than waiting years to develop and test a model, then improvements could already have been in place by now.

In a similar vein, in their response to the consultation on Quietway 2 in London, Transport for London rejected closing parts of the Quietway as a through-route to motor traffic, for the following reason –

Some respondents to the consultation felt that closing Calthorpe Street and/or Margery Street to general traffic would be a more appropriate intervention. The changes proposed at this junction are due to be delivered this year, in line with the opening of the new Quietway route. These suggestions would have a wider impact of LB Camden and LB Islington’s road network and would require much further investigation. It is considered this would not be deliverable within the timescale, as investigation would be needed of the impact on adjacent streets.

Such a measure would apparently require ‘much further investigation’, because of the impacts on the surrounding road network.

As it happens, I was passing along this very road – Calthorpe Street – earlier this week, and was amazed to discover that it was actually filtered, in the way respondents to the consultation had been calling for.

Well, not in exactly the same way – people cycling were bumping up onto the footway to get around the closure. But the effect is the same. What look like some water main repairs have seen the total closure of this street to motor traffic.

Was there carnage on the surrounding streets? Total gridlock? I didn’t come across any, at least nothing out of the ordinary for London. At the very least a simple trial closure like this could be implemented for, say, six weeks to genuinely investigate whether such a closure would cause gridlock elsewhere. It would also give residents (who, by the way, are in favour of such a closure on this street) a chance to experience the benefits in terms of quieter and safer streets for a short period, buying-in support for a permanent closure.

What seems to be at play here, both at Bank and with TfL’s response to closure requests, is what Rachel Aldred has recently called

The terrifying spectre of delays to motor traffic

Fear of holding up drivers, even for a few more minutes, seems to be crippling, to such an extent that rather than just trying out closures we will spend years developing models, or carrying out ‘much further investigation’, to establish what we could find out quickly and easily by on-the-ground trials.

To be fair, some local authorities are much bolder, and are keen and willing to experiment with reducing routes and capacity for motor traffic. Last year Camden coned off a lane on the entry to Royal College Street, just to see what happened.

Answer – nothing happened. Traffic still flowed.

That means there’s a whole lane’s worth of space that can be (and is now) being re-allocated to cycle provision on St Pancras road, in the form of a stepped cycle track.

And this week Camden announced plans to trial reallocating an entire vehicle lane along the Tavistock Place route to a westbound cycle lane, restricting this road to one-way for motor traffic, in opposing directions (which should mean a large reduction in through motor traffic too). The existing two-way track, grossly over-capacity, will become a one-way track. More about this in a future post.

Waltham Forest are also keen to experiment; their bold mini-Holland scheme of closures to through traffic is now becoming permanent.

And in Leicester – were the Cycling Embassy spent last weekend for their AGM – the council is apparently keen to trial lane closures in advance of building cycling infrastructure. This cycle track on Newarke Street, built on a vehicle lane, was preceded by a coning off of the lane in question, to examine the effects on motor traffic.

Spot the lawbreaker.

And a similar ‘coning off’ was recently performed by Leicester City Council on the nearby Welford Road – a lane was deliberately taken away to see what happened.

Again, we were told that the impacts on motor traffic were minimal – and presumably some cycling infrastructure is now planned for this pretty scary road.

Finally, CycleGaz spotted another recent temporary trial arrangement on Norbury Avenue – this one for three months.

Road closed to cars on Norbury Avenue to prevent it being used as a rat run.

— CycleGaz™ (@cyclegaz) July 1, 2015

These kind of trials don’t really require that much boldness; they’re cheap, quick to install, and can be reversed at the end of the trial if they prove to be unpopular, or if genuine gridlock does actually result.

Why can’t other councils and transport authorities break out of their paralysing fear of effects on motor traffic, and emulate what Camden, Leicester, Waltham Forest, Croydon and other councils are willing to try out?

Categories: Views

Cargo Bike Logistics on Harbours and Rivers by Copenhagenize

Copenhagenize - 1 July, 2015 - 18:05

Urban logistics is just one of the many challenges facing our cities. After Copenhagenize worked for three years on the European Union project Cyclelogistics, we have cargo bikes on the brain and provide cargo bike logistics as one of our services. We also live in a city with 40,000 cargo bikes in daily use. As ever, we look for solutions not only for other cities, but our own. During the Cyclelogistics project we determined that there is a massive potential for shifting goods delivery to bikes and cargo bikes. 51% of all motorised private and commercial goods transport in EU cities could be done on bicycles or cargo bikes.

Great. Let's do that. But how to do it best? Lots of small companies are already operating in cities with last-mile service for packages, which is great. DHL is rocking Dutch cities with cargo bike deliveries and UPS and FedEx are getting their game face on, too. But we need to think bigger and better.

The City of Copenhagen created the framework for the idea of setting up a consolodation centre south of the city where logistics companies could drop off their goods in their larger trucks. Last mile service could be provided by smaller vehicles so that the trucks stay the hell out of our city. The industry has been slow to pick up the baton, however.

Copenhagen's City Logistik website hasn't been updated for a while because industry is lagging behind. This film explains their basic concept:

Sådan virker Citylogistik from Citylogistik on Vimeo.

There are a lot of packages to be delivered to the citizens in cities. In the Netherlands, for example, over half of all shoes are bought online. That is a lot of shoeboxes needing to get out to the people. In Europe we speak of the Zalando effect - similar to Amazon in North America.

Last mile service by smaller vehicles is great for cities but what about the solutions that are right there under our nose? What about the most ancient of transport corridors in our cities - the rivers and harbours.

We at Copenhagenize Design Company propose having barges - electric if you like - plying the waters of Copenhagen harbour. Dropping off small goods at specially designed piers at strategic locations on the harbourfront. Secure facilities that keep the goods stored in lockers. Depots designed especially for cargo bikes to arrive and pick up goods - or drop them off - in order to deliver them to the people and businesses in the various areas and neigbourhoods.

Our urban designer Adina Visan took our idea to the visual stage. Envisioning iconic off-shore depots for urban logistics along Copenhagen Harbour - or any city with a harbour or river.

This should be the new normal for goods delivery in Copenhagen.

Depots arranged to serve the densely populated neighbourhoods on either side of the harbour.

Designed for a fleet of cargo bikes that can roll in, pick up goods in lockers, and roll out again onto the cycle tracks of the city.

What are we waiting for?Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Wooden cycle bridge in Harderwijk

BicycleDutch - 29 June, 2015 - 23:01
An exceptional new wooden cycle bridge can be found in the town of Harderwijk on the former Zuiderzee (now IJsselmeer). It was opened on 11 December 2014 by several aldermen … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Study Tour round-up (June 2015 with Cambridge Cycling Campaign)

A View from the Cycle Path - 29 June, 2015 - 13:56
Study Tour participants from Cambridge riding on a canal-side cycle-path in Assen. Our study tours in Assen and Groningen have been quite popular this year. The feedback section of the study tour website shows where most of the people have visited from and there are plans for more visitors. The photos below show some of what we currently demonstrate on study tours: This photo may not appearDavid Hembrow
Categories: Views

Time to Stop the Killing

Vole O'Speed - 28 June, 2015 - 20:57
Tomorrow, Monday, sees a vigil and die-in at Bank junction in London at 5:30pm to mark the deaths of Ling Tao, killed there on 22 June by a tipper truck, and Clifton James, killed the night before on Forward Drive, Harrow by a car. There has already been a large protest at Bank organised by London Cycling Campaign on Wednesday morning. Whether or not you went to that one, I urge you, whatever your usual mode of transport, if you are interested in making London a more civilised city thast tries harder to protect its people from the dangers of the roads, to attend the vigil and die-in tomorrow.

I've attended this year two similar events in London organised by the group Stop Killing Cyclists. This group has developed, under the leadership of the admirable Donnachadh McCarthy, into a powerful and well-organised 'conscience' for road safety in London, operating in the capital in a complimentary manner to the London Cycling Campaign, separate from it and with different methods, but similar goals. Where we used to get ghost bikes placed by a few anonymous souls at the site of a cycling fatality, and little else, we now get a significant demonstration with speeches from the relatives of bereaved and from campaigners, and then a protest that involves people lying in the road with bicycles for several minutes. We now have this very time there is a cycling fatality in London. It is systematic, and London's authorities now know it will happen every time, and that the movement is likely to grow until these unnecessary deaths stop.

I did not attend the event that marked the death of Esther Hartsilver in Southwark on 6 June, so I'll not discuss that one here, but I will write about the previous two Stop Killing Cyclists events, both of which I attended, commemorating Michael Mason and Moira Gemmill, as they illustrate starkly and respectively the twin issues the UK must address to make cycling (and walking) safe: road justice and infrastructure.

 Michael Mason was given fatal injuries by a on 25 February 2014 driver on Regent Street who simply ran him over from behind. He was a cyclist with half a century of experience doing everything right, and he was just struck down on a busy central London street by a driver who just claims she 'didn't see him' and can't explain why. The police believe they have insufficient evidence to prove a charge of causing death by careless driving, and so no action has been taken against the driver at all. No case has been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service.

It would be had to imagine a clearer case of failure of road justice. The Metropolitan Police's response to a complaint over their failure to prosecute shows their mentality: rather than taking an objective view,  they themselves construct a one-sided 'case for the defence', seeking to try to invent inadequate and incoherent reasons why the driver 'did not see' Michael Mason, whose visibility was was obvious to witnesses, rather than putting the case before a jury to decide. They say (my comments in italics):
  • Mr MASON (Deceased) was wearing dark clothing, the collision having taken place during hours of darkness. (Irrelevant. He had bright lights)
  • An independent witness at the scene (Neil TREVITHICK) stated that with the sea of brake lights, flashing lights and movement it would be difficult for a driver to pick out anything. (What? 'Sea of lights and movement'? This is what a busy shopping street is always like in the early evening. This is what road users have to cope with all the time. Drivers have to have adequate sight and responses and control of their vehicle and their speed must allow them to react to everything occurring on the road. This is a pathetic attempt to abrogate responsibility from the driver. It might be something that a non-expert accidental witness might come up with, but it has no place as a justification in a police report.)
  • CCTV traced corroborated how busy the area in general was, with both motorists and pedestrians. (Same comment as above)
  • All witnesses traced could not describe in any detail the lead up to the collision. (Irrelevant. As they were not involved in the collision, this is no surprise.)
  • Mr MASON was not wearing a cycle helmet, the cause of death being head injury (A helmet may or may not have saved his life, but this is irrelevant to deciding whether the driver was culpable for the collision that killed him.)
Of  course a jury may have taken the same view as the police, but at least a trial would have tested this view. The view will probably now be tested by a private prosecution of the driver by the relatives of Michael Mason, that is being funded by the Cyclists Defence Fund, to which I urge readers to donate. If this is allowed to stand without further legal or political challenge, the position seems to be that any good and responsible cyclist cycling in every way within the law can just expect to be be killed by a driver running them over from behind, there need be no rational explanation of the incident, and the driver may just walk away from such a killing with no legal procedure following and a blameless record.  The implications are quite horrific for all who cycle on our roads.

Stop Killing Cyclists vigil for Michael Mason in Regent Street on 13 MarchThe vigil in Regent Street on 13 March saw Michael's daughter give a moving tribute to her father and an account of the desperate situation for the family that the police's unfair and unbalanced treatment of the case has created. There were also speeches from Donnachadh McCarthy and Nicola Branch of Stop Killing Cyclists, Cynthia Barlow of RoadPeace, Caroline Russell of the Green Party and Roger Geffen of CTC. Following this the police facilitated the protesters to lay themselves and their bikes down in the street for two minutes. Here is part of Donnachadh's speech:

Sadly police incompetence in this case continued beyond this point. An announcement that had been made that the the case was in fact going to be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which was seen as most likely a response to the protest and publicity, was then reversed, without apology, and with a further effect on the family that can only be imagined.

The vigil and die-in held on 20 April for Moira Gemmill was even more impressive. Moira,  an acclaimed museum designer distinguished for work at the Museum of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Collection was the fifth cyclist to be killed riding in London in 2015, the fifth to be killed by an HGV, the fourth by a construction lorry, and the fourth woman. There was an additional big issue in this case, though, apart from the usual one of the danger of lorries and their drivers' blind-spots and the apparent statistical extra vulnerability of female cyclists. The Millbank and Lambeth Bridge roundabout, where the crash occurred, is known as an especially dangerous junction. for Millbank and Lambeth Bridge junction, crashes 2005–2113. 'Too many incidents to display'If you have ever tried cycling round this roundabout you will know why it is one of the most dangerous in London. It has heavy traffic volumes and is a terrible design that encourages speed and aggression. It was identified as a junction requiring urgent work by Transport for London in 2012. It was also a focus of a conference in October of that year nearby at Church House in Westminster entitled the Love London Go Dutch Cycle Conference, sponsored by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and involving the London Cycling Campaign, Dutch consultancy firm Royal HashkoningDHV, Transport for London and others, and attended by then Under Secretary of State for Transport Norman Baker.

There was a working party consisting of campaigners and Dutch and British roads experts sent on the morning of the conference to examine the Millbank roundabout and come up with better designs. The better design proposed was a Dutch-style roundabout with a priority cycle track and parallel zebra crossings. There was discussion on this in the afternoon. I remember the bafflement of the Dutch representatives who couldn't quite understand the objection to their tried-and-testyed standard Dutch design from elements of the local contingent that it would not be able to cope with the number of vehicles that the roundabout currently does. They understood that to create a safe cycling environment and an attractive city for walking you have to reduce traffic to reasonable levels with designs not calculated to maximise motor throughput! They couldn't, at a fundamental level, understand why people would actually wish to have in the historic centre of a city and close to a world heritage site a motorway's worth of polluting, noisy, aggressive, fast and dangerous cars and HGVs.

Transport for London subsequently went away on worked on designs for the roundabout, and came back with something one-one much liked. It was a classic two-track provision compromise with shared pavements for "less-confident cyclists" and on-road cycle "awareness-raising" markers for the others, with raised tables under zebra crossings at the entrances and exits. It was roundly condemned by LCC and the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain (but not by CTC, who seem to think "tightening-up corner geometries" was all that was required).

TfL's 2012 design for Millbank roundabout
It appears Westminster council had their own reasons for opposing TfL's proposed changes, though what their argument was never publicly made clear. TfL announced finally that they would not processed with the proposed changers, and would not do anything else to the roundabout in the short term, but that they would trial a Dutch-style roundabout at the Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire. The trial roundabout was indeed built in Berkshire in 2013, but no results from this trial have yet been published. Following the publication of The Mayor's Vision for Cycling in London in March 2013, Andrew Gilligan, the Boris Johnson's Cycling commissioner, often publicly suggested that temporary emergency changes could be made to known danger-spots for cycling on the road network, but no such action was ever taken, anywhere in London. There was clearly a lack of political support for this common-sense view.

The memorial for Moira Gemmill at Millbank roundaboutI can't report on the speeches that were made at the vigil and die-in for Moira Gemmill on 20 April, as the demo was so huge I could not get within (amplified) earshot of them. During the die-in the entire junction became a human and bike interlaced carpet, the low spring sun shone, and the tulips in the centre of the roundabout went a deep shade of crimson. There was a special quaity of silence, and this brief tweet with accompanying picture I made seemed to strike a popular chord, as it had 126 retweets and 47 favourites.
Genuinely amazing scenes. Lambeth Bridge #MoiraGemmill #StopKillingCyclists 
Sea of cyclists on the Millbank roundabout commemorating Moira Gemmill during the die-in on 20 April. Maybe Westminster or TfL thought that "Dutch-style roundabout" meant planting lovely red tulips on it.Hints are about now that Millbank roundabout may finally get a re-working as part of the Mayor's 'Better Junctions' programme, but that cannot now happen before 2016, and in the meantime it remains as deadly as ever.

Another junction that is well known as dangerous is the complex Bank intersection in the heart of the City of London. Bank junction has been admitted by the local authority, the City Corporation, to have "One of the poorest road safety records in the City, particularly in relation to injuries to pedestrians and cyclists" and they further, shockingly, state  "The junction does not work well for any mode of transport" Their head-scratching has been going on over this since at least October 2011, with seemingly no end in sight. The City have an extraordinarily leisurely project timetable in which
Our next task will be to build a computer traffic model to assess what is likely to happen if traffic is prevented from crossing the junction for example in certain directions or times of day. Information from pedestrian and cycling movements will also help to develop solutions. This is likely to be a big piece of work and will take some time to complete but it is very important to have credible options for alterations to the junction. We hope to have this work completed by early 2016.So that's just building this model by early 2016. No actual building of anything on the ground. The latest from the Corporation suggests they will not have finished building whatever new design  they eventually come up with before 2020 or even 2021!

Mark Treasure asked in July 2014:
Rather than just building a hugely complex model from scratch to find out what happens when a junction is closed to motor traffic, couldn’t the City just do it, on a trial basis? If the result is genuine chaos, then the trial can quickly be abandoned. There are good reasons for thinking a trial of this kind – closing roads at Bank temporarily – would not result in chaos. The main one is that the area is ringed by major arterial roads, composed of London Wall to the north, Aldgate and Tower Gateway to the east, and Upper Thames Street to the south.All are designed to carry large volumes of motor traffic, and all lie very close to Bank itself. These are the roads that should be carrying through traffic; the area around Bank should, realistically, only be carrying private motor traffic that is accessing the area. Certainly, the Bank junction should not be carrying through motor traffic in an east-west direction, as there are two major roads to the north and south – just a few hundred metres away – that were built for this purpose. So – why not just try this? Try it now, rather than spending eighteen difficult months building a model from scratch. You’ll get results that correspond to the real world, and much more quickly! One can draw a sharp contrast between the London approach and that of New York under Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, with her mantra "Do bold experiments that are cheap to try out". While New York is certainly not yet any kind of cyclists' or pedestrians' paradise, the radical changes achieved in locations like Time Square and Broadway with quick and temporary infrastructure used to experiment with concepts that can later be made permanent represent a possibility that seems anathema to the lumbering structures of London government.

While these structures, the boroughs, the City Corporation, TfL, and the Department for Transport, continue to quibble, delay, and argue about what should be done to known dangerous junctions, the dead bodies metaphorically pile up. Ying Tao, a 26 year-old management consultant was crushed at Bank last week, the eighth cyclist to be killed in London this year, the seventh by an HGV, the sixth by a construction lorry, and the sixth woman. About 12 hours earlier 60 year-old Clifton James became the second male cyclist to be killed in London this year, dying from head injuries caused by a car on Forward Drive, Harrow, a bad suburban rat-run on which traffic regularly exceeds the 30mph limit, furnished with two confusing mini-roundabout junctions on which drivers often fail to give way to cyclists. This death is quite local to me, and in fact I have written about the corridor on which Mr James was killed before, pointing out the uselessness of painting "awareness-raising" cycle symbols  on rat-run urban roads. It's funny how these places that the cycle campaigners and bloggers keep writing about as dangerous but which don't get changed are the places where we see the deaths.

I was speaking to a friend yesterday who is a professional scientist and a cyclist, but not involved in cycle campaigning. He asked me, "Why can't we analyse the incidents in which cyclists die and put in place measures that prevent the repeated occurrences of the same kind of incident?" Why indeed. More enlightened societies, like Sweden, have a 'Vision Zero' concept where they attempt to carry out precisely this kind of investigation, analysis, and remedial process systematically in every case with the aim of reducing deaths to zero.

In the UK it seems priorities lie elsewhere. The best way to challenge this is to make a big fuss on the streets after every death until priorities do change. The stark language of the "Stop the Killing" movement takes its cue from the successful Dutch 'Stop the Child Murder' campaign of the 1970s. I believe we will eventually succeed with this in the UK as well, but we are far behind. The more people we get to events like tomorrow's vigil, the more publicity we generate, the harder time we  give the politicians and civil sevants responsible for the current mess, the sooner we will approach our own Vision Zero and also make London and other British towns and cities safe, pleasant and attractive place to cycle and to walk.

There is a more detailed history of the Millbank roundabout saga by Alex Ingram here.

Categories: Views

Utrecht welcomes the Tour de France but what's the legacy for a city that already cycles?

ibikelondon - 28 June, 2015 - 08:30
It's a year since the world's greatest cycle race kicked off in Britain and 'Tour fever' swept the country.  From the hills of the north York moors, to the streets of London, millions turned out hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite Tour de France rider flash past.

Thousands of spectators packed the tiny Essex village of Finchingfield to watch Le Tour pass by in 2014.  With roads closed for miles around, most arrived by bicycle (including me!)

Everything has to have a "legacy" these days (thank you, London 2012) and the Grand Depart in Britain was no exception. Echoing last year's route, members of the public can now emulate their cycling heroes and ride Britain's hills alongside pro riders in the Tour de Yorkshire, encouraging more people to take to their bikes.  There was even a Knighthood for Grand Depart organiser Gary Verity.

This Saturday the Tour de France is heading north once more, this time starting in the Dutch city of Utrecht.  Home to canals, festivals and Miffy the bunny, it's a compact and charming university city stuffed with cycle tracks and people on bikes.  So, in a city that already has a mainstream cycling culture, will the Grand Depart be all of that big deal for the Dutch?

'Cyclists' riding in Utrecht, where the Tour de France will begin this weekend.
I've heard cycle campaigners on both sides of the equation disparaging sports cycling in mass cycling countries.  On one hand, the argument goes that sports cycling is all well and good but it is not the "right kind" of journey by bike that cities so desire.  On the other, some dedicated roadies discredit cycling provision in case it detracts from their right to ride as quickly as they can.  I can see merits in both arguments, but on the ground in successful cycling cities the reality is very different.

Sports cycling is alive and well in the Netherlands (as multi-time world champion and Olympic gold medallist Marianne Vos and 2014 Tour de France stage winner Lars Boom attest) and there is no shortage of people pulling on their lycra on a Saturday morning to head out for a long spin in to the country.

The Dutch use bikes like we use cars and buses; it is an everyday and ordinary activity.  So it seems perfectly natural that their language makes a distinction between 'being a person who uses a bike' and 'being a cyclist'. A fietser is someone who uses a fiets (a bicycle) whereas someone with all the kit and the fancy sports bike is called wielrenner, literally a 'wheel runner'.  When the Dutch say cyclists don't wear helmets or special gear they mean it sincerely as 'fietser' is only ever a description of someone using a Dutch bike going about their day in a very ordinary way.  This is not to say sports cyclists don't exist in the Netherlands and people aren't out there in all their kit putting in the miles.

As this video by Mark from the always excellent BicycleDutch blog demonstrates, the cycle tracks of the Netherlands are home to plenty of wielrenner.  The reason you don't see them so much in bike blogs and photographs about the country is that they are somewhat obscured by the everyday and ordinary fietser all around them, much as Britain's sports cyclists are overwhelmed by the everyday and ordinary car journeys going on around them.

I can't help but feel that if we had the same linguistic distinction here in the UK, perhaps Transport for London wouldn't have dipped in to the cycling safety budget to the tune of £6million in order to host the Tour last year, instead of spending that money on making roads safer for bike riders of every hue.  (Rumours abound that TfL bosses, keen to spend the cycle budget on anything other than actual changes on the road, are keen to lure the Grand Depart to London again soon)  If we had the same linguistic distinction between cyclists and cyclists as the Dutch do, perhaps there might be a clearer understanding of what is needed to bring about those everyday and ordinary journeys by bike? 

Utrecht is a beautiful energetic cycling city and I have no doubt it will give Le Tour a fantastic send off this weekend, heralding a summer of brilliant cycle racing.  It would be interesting to see - once the professional wielrenner have wheeled out of town - how Utrecht carries on being an everyday and ordinary successful cycling city; it could be a 'legacy lesson' for us all.

Categories: Views

School run shenanigans

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 24 June, 2015 - 09:09

News from Sussex Police

Woman convicted of driving dangerously outside Crawley school

A Crawley woman has been sentenced for driving dangerously outside a school.

Leanne Andre, 43, of Friars Rookery,  Crawley, pleaded not guilty to driving dangerously in October 2014 when she appeared at Crawley Magistrates Court on 11 June, but was found guilty.

Andre received a 12-month Community Order of 90 hours unpaid work, was ordered to pay total court costs of £810 and has been disqualified from driving for 12 months as well as then having to take an extended driving test.

The incident happened in Gales Drive, Three Bridges, on the afternoon of 23 October last year.

Andre had parked her vehicle illegally in the bus stop directly outside Three Bridges primary school whilst picking up her children from the school. The local Three Bridges community policing team was patrolling the area at the time in response to numerous reports of dangerous parking  near the school at opening and closing times.

They put a notice on the windscreen of Andre’s car pointing out that it was parked illegally.

Upon Andre’s return to her car a PCSO approached her explaining why the notice had been issued. She responded by directing verbal abuse at him, and drove off. A Police Constable asked her to stop but instead she accelerated towards the officer, swerving just to avoid contact, and continued gaining speed as she drove away, giving no consideration to the parents and children who were waiting, as she claimed she was in a rush.

Officers had the registration number and description of the car and subsequently went to Andre’s home nearby to arrange to inteview her under caution.

PC Jo Millard said; “Andre’s actions on that day were irresponsible and dangerous. We will take action against offenders driving in such an anti-social and dangerous manner.”

No doubt this would have been a full-page spread in the Daily Mail, coupled with earnest coverage on Radio 4, if Andre had abused and threatened police officers while on a bike. ‘Do cyclists have entitlement issues?’ ‘Is it time for cyclists to wear number plates to curb their bad behaviour?’ ‘Do they need to wear hi-viz identification vests?’

But as it is, it will pass completely under the radar, just another example of everyday traffic violence that passes without comment.

Bloody cyclists.

But this isn’t even why this story caught my attention – I spotted where Andre lives. Friars Rookery. Which is…

… 300 metres from Three Bridges Primary School.

It is, literally, just down the road – so close the police officers could presumably see her turning back into her own street.

Crawley is a New Town, meaning most of the main roads in it are lovely and wide. Cycling infrastructure (sometimes of reasonable quality, mostly of dubious quality) did arrive on the major roads, but unfortunately residential distributors like Gales Drive didn’t get any.

No continuous footways across the side roads either, meaning young children walking to school have to ‘take responsibility’ for crossing side roads while dangerous and aggressive drivers like Andre emerge out of them to take their own children to school.

Slow clap, Britain.

Categories: Views

Main cycle route in a city expansion

BicycleDutch - 22 June, 2015 - 23:01
Cycling in the newest parts of cities and towns in The Netherlands is almost always very convenient. That is because these areas were designed with cycling in mind from the … Continue reading →
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Us, not ‘Them’

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 22 June, 2015 - 20:45

Sad as it is to say, I suppose there’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary about another sequence of deaths and serious injuries of people riding bikes – the most troubling and unsettling being yet another woman being crushed by a left-turning tipper truck at a notoriously dangerous London junction – running in parallel with a series of poorly-timed articles and programmes , apparently driven by a media industry that seems determined to pour petrol on the flames of what should be a deeply serious issue, for the sake of ratings.

A feature of these articles in newspapers, or appearances on TV is the reference to people cycling as ‘them’, or ‘they’. All from the last few days.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit B.

Exhibit C.

Glenda Slagg nonsense there, from Sarah Vine, Fiona Phillips, and Angela Epstein, respectively.

Of course the trick with this kind of ‘journalism’ is to play to what you think is your audience, parroting their prejudice back to them. And sure enough the response was predictable –

Who is this ‘them’, though? Who are ‘they’?

Pictured below are just some of the 51 people who have been killed riding a bike in Britain so far this year.

Keep the word ‘them’ in mind.

Stephanie Turner

Clifton James

April Reeves

James Stephenson

Alan Cronin

Akis Kollaros

Michael Beard

Esther Hartsilver

Les Turnbull

Adam Jones

Alexander William Clark

Clive Wright

Claire Hitier-Abadie

Andrew Wolfindale

Craig Armitage

Dan Climance

David Thomson

Federica Baldassa

Jamie Murray

Karen Clayton

Kian Gill

Mairead Boucherat

Moira Gemmill

Paul Miller

Robert Betteley

Sally Shalloe

Yvonne Wyeth

Timothy Smith

‘Them’? What do these people have in common, beyond the tragedy of their deaths, and their mode of transport at that time?

They’re just ordinary people. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons. Not ‘them’. Ordinary people who just happened to be riding a bike.


Categories: Views

London is changing, and it's all down to you. But what next for cycle campaigners?

ibikelondon - 22 June, 2015 - 08:30
I've been away from the blog for a few months travelling, moving house and standing back to watch as London begins to change in a way that was unthinkable just five years ago. As construction in the city centre begins of high quality cycle routes for the first time, it is worth taking a moment to assess how we got to this point, and to ask "what happens next"?

The North / South Cycle Superhighway is finally under construction.
My last article here was about the serious attempt by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Authority to have Mayor Boris Johnson's Cycle Superhighway plans stopped. In a classic filibuster they threatened to submit the entire scheme to Judicial Review in the High Court, which would have added months and innumerable expense to getting the routes built. In the end the LTDA slinked quietly away, and the Board of Transport for London gave construction the green light. (Though not until Board members, some with shocking conflicts of interest, had gone over the proposals in minuscule detail for some 90 minutes.)

Cycle campaigners - myself included - have been saying for many years that the pace of change in London has not been fast enough when considered against the annual death toll of people on bikes and the growth in numbers riding. And yet, in many ways the pace of change has now accelerated faster than anyone could have imagined even just a few years ago.

The upgraded Cycle Superhighway 2 in Whitechapel, which is opening in sections and where floating bus stops are working well. (Picture via Twitter with thanks)
In 2010 I demanded to know if the London Cycling Campaign and the Cyclists Touring Club were even prepared to push for decent cycling infrastructure or not. There was no consensus among cycle campaigners as to how best go about creating conditions for mass cycling, and even less agreement as to whether segregated cycle paths were even desirable. The integration / segregation conundrum sparked heated debates, both online and off. Respected cycling journalist and author Carlton Reid disparaged from the comments section of my blog;
"We ain't gonna get the sort of cycle infrastructure we'd all love. Ever.
In such a car-centric society as the UK it would be next to impossible to take meaningful space away from cars."But here we are some 5 years later, and construction of high quality, segregated cycling infrastructure is already underway in London.  The plans are by no means perfect, but they will be revolutionary. When TfL's previous Cycle Superhighways were built - effectively little more than just blue paint - cycling levels on those routes leapt.  Imagine what the effect is going to be with safe new routes, separated from traffic and useable by all abilities?  We didn't just get the kind of cycle routes that people said were impossible, they're going to be game changers too.

Aldgate Gyratory is being largely rebuilt, due for completion in September 2016.  Segregated cycle tracks in Oval will arrive by next spring.  Construction is underway on the North / South Cycle Superhighways from Elephant and Castle to King's Cross, also due for completion by next spring.  The most contentious cycle route of them all, the East / West Cycle Superhighway along the Embankment, is currently causing a little light traffic chaos along the river and will be operational by May 2016, not withstanding gaps in the Royal Parks who continue to dig in their heels, and in so doing reveal their prejudices.

Welcome to the future! This segregated road space on terrifying Vauxhall Bridge will soon become a two-way cycle track. (via @citycyclists with thanks)
Cycle campaigner's integration / segregation argument has largely gone away, with most (cough, Hackney, cough) now acknowledging that where traffic volumes and speeds are sufficiently high then separating cyclists is desirable.  As consensus emerged, much was made of the need for any new cycling infrastructure to be as fast and direct as the experience of riding in the road, and rightly so.  The internet brought us easily accessible examples of best practise from overseas, whilst popular protests in London rallied around dangerous junctions and the need for design rather than behaviour to provide safety.  This spawned the London Cycling Campaign's fabulous "Love London, Go Dutch" campaign and #space4cycling which, in turn, led to the Mayoral promise to build better routes.

Charting this progress is in itself an interesting exercise.  I am struck by just how far we have come; my talk at the 2012 National Conference on Urban Design detailed how design and conditions on the ground emerged as the campaigning issue of our time.  This consensus has in turn led to new routes being built on the ground.  Here's the audio and slides from that talk, if you fancy a lunchtime history lesson.

Design Led Cycle Safety; how the cycling community came to value urban design from ibikelondon on Vimeo.
My 2010 talk on Design-led Cycle Safety charts how campaigning has changed in London.
Once that consensus emerged, London's cycle campaigners became increasingly resilient. Lots of new faces got involved, the LCC's policy was hammered in to shape by brilliant contributors like Dr Rachel Aldred whilst activists became advisers, working as much behind the scenes as in front.  Brilliantly conceived activations were put together specifically with media impact in mind, and activist's work became targeted and with achievable aims.  The pop-up business campaign CyclingWorks.London was instrumental in helping the new Cycle Superhighways plans scrape through TfL Board approval, in the face of exceptionally powerful opposition from the likes of Canary Wharf and their corporate lobbyists.  Without the names of the 170 company CEOs pledging their support for the plans, I am not sure we would have made it.  In a recent speech the Mayor's Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, highlighted just how tight the fight has been:
"It was at times nightmarishly difficult to manage this, and we saw some absolutely ferocious resistance, kicking and screaming, and we saw a lot more passive resistance, heel digging and foot dragging from whom Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman called Old Men in Limos; you've heard of the MAMILs, those were the OMILs. A lot of objections, which would nearly always start with the words 'Of course I support cycling..."Gilligan went on to highlight how, with the helps of the likes of CyclingWorks, the OMILS were "comprehensively outfought in the PR and public support battle."
"You'll have to read our memoirs, if anyone wants to publish them, to find out how difficult it all was and how close it all came to not happening.""I think we've made enormous progress - unprecedented progress - over the last couple of years, but I believe we're still in the foothills of making London a cycle friendly city and the task for Londoners is to make sure the progress we've made continues after May [2016, the next Mayoral election]."I think this is an honest assessment and shows how hard campaigners have worked to date.  Gilligan has been a highly effective banger together of heads, but will he wish to continue as Cycling Commissioner when Boris Johnson steps down as Mayor next year? Furthermore, will the movers and shakers at Transport for London want to go back to playing just with buses and trains once the political drive for cycling moves on?

Work is underway on the Embankment for the East / West Cycle Superhighway (via @jonokenyon with thanks)
Despite the amount of work involved to date, campaigners cannot yet rest easy. In the short term we'll need to ensure the new segregated routes are fit for use and finished to a high quality. They'll also have to continue powerfully putting the case to the rest of London that the disruption they're currently experiencing will be worth it.  Transport for London will need to ensure their spanking new cycle routes are maintained, cleaned and enforced - a cycle track with a truck parked in it is no good to anyone. 

In the longer term efforts must now begin to focus on the Mayoral election in 2016.  Without political will for cycling in City Hall in the future it will be too easy for TfL to draw back from their cycling responsibilities.  'Love London, Go Dutch' and #space4cycling were aspirational campaigns which captured the wider public's imagination about how London could be.  As the results of those campaigns begin to take solid form, it's important to find a way to convince London that more of the same would be a good thing.

Brand spanking new cycle tracks in south London - look how smooth they are! (Pic via @citycyclists with thanks)
Away from the cycle tracks, lethal lorries remain a chronic issue for vulnerable road users in our city, and much more can still be done on this issue to get the shocking and seemingly inevitable annual death toll down.  There is only so much campaigners can do, whereas Boris Johnson has the power to effect lasting change in the last 10 months of his Mayoralty.  To keep the pressure up on Transport for London he should appoint a cycling representative to their Board, an easy and much overdue move.  He should also push ahead with urgent reforms of lorry safety.  In doing so, he'd help to secure his long term cycling legacy and make it harder for future Mayors to unpick his good work.

For now, everyone who has attended a protest, written to the Mayor, tweeted, signed petitions and helped keep the momentum going should take a moment to reflect on how far London has come - both in terms of consensus and successes - and enjoy watching the new cycle routes being built.  But there's going to be more work to do to elevate London from "the foothills" of being a cycling city.  We need to get ready for what's next.
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