Views

The myth of the "tipping point" and the fragility of cycling.

A View from the Cycle Path - 12 June, 2014 - 20:13
It has become popular to make statements about cycling somehow taking on a life of its own and growing without further investment once a particular modal share has been reached. A fairly recent example of this sort of thinking appeared in a grant application document from Birmingham City Council: "Birmingham is working towards the ‘tipping point’, a common pattern within cities, where a modest David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/06/the-myth-of-tipping-point-and-fragility.html
Categories: Views

‘Critical mass’

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 12 June, 2014 - 11:37

Over the last few years it has seemed (to me at least) that the notion of a ‘critical mass’ of riders being a key plank of cycling policy has lost its credibility. The idea of ‘safety coming from numbers’ has, quite correctly, been replaced by a more mature understanding that numbers should – and indeed have to – come from safety, and from feelings of safety.

To that extent I was quite baffled by the comments that the Labour Transport Secretary Mary Creagh came out with at the meeting yesterday in the House of Lords, to launch Bike Week.

It was a speech that could have been written five years ago, with claims that the debate about segregation is still ongoing, and an argument that cycling infrastructure can’t accommodate demand for cycling, so we shouldn’t have it. She pointed specifically to the cycle tracks along Tavistock Place as being oversubscribed, and unable to cope with the numbers of people cycling on it, as a reason why cycle tracks are bad.

To me, this missed the point spectacularly. The demand for these tracks – widely acknowledged as substandard, ever since their compromised construction – demonstrates that the principle of separation from traffic is popular.

Popular, despite the low quality

That’s not an argument for removing cycle tracks and simply mixing people with motor traffic. It’s an argument for either improving the standards of poor cycle tracks so they can cope with demand, or for separating cycling from motor traffic in other ways – through measures such as filtered permeability, both of which are potential solutions for this route through Camden.

But instead, Mary Creagh appeared to think that cycling infrastructure in principle isn’t capable of coping with the ‘critical mass’ of riders on London’s roads. Where 20mph limits exist, she argued, separation isn’t required. That ‘critical mass’ of riders is sufficient.

Firstly, this begs the question of how she imagines Dutch cities – which have cycling levels ten times higher than London, a genuine ‘critical mass’ – manage to function. Do they simply mix people with motor traffic? Absolutely not. On main roads they separate, employing the measures that Mary Creagh seems to think can’t cope with demand.

Secondly, the very notion of a ‘critical mass’ on London’s roads is deeply questionable. I suspect it is easy for MPs to convince themselves such a thing exists when they have been on a large group ride, with a police escort, through central London at rush hour. It feels as if there are lots of people cycling, and indeed this is genuinely true for many roads in central London, at rush hour.

But this phenomenon is very localised, both temporally and spatially. Spatially, it is limited to central London. There is no critical mass, at all, in vast swathes of London. Cycling is essentially non-existent in many boroughs. And just as importantly, the ‘critical mass’ is limited to a short period of the day. Outside of rush hour, cycling returns to being non-existent in central London.

Just after we had finished listening to Mary Creagh, @lofidelityjim and I pedalled from the Houses of Parliament to Kings Cross. I didn’t keep an exact count, but it’s safe to say we saw no more than a dozen people cycling on this four mile trip.

Where is the ‘critical mass’ of riders in these photographs?

I then had to head off to Farringdon area, visiting Old Street along the way. Again, cycling is non-existent here in the middle of the day, on routes that are informally famed for the high levels of cycling on them at peak times.

A ‘critical mass’ isn’t an effective way of making cycling more attractive, when its existence is very shaky indeed.

But much more importantly, it’s not even an acceptable way of ‘catering’ for cycling in its own right. When I look at large numbers of people cycling amongst trucks and buses, weaving their way through, or fighting for space, I don’t think to myself that that is a reasonable way forward for cycling. Quite the opposite – I’m horrified that we are essentially forcing people to cycle in this way; refusing to give them safe conditions that prioritise them as a distinct mode of transport, in their own right. This is what happens when you pour lots of people cycling onto busy roads. [Video by CycleGaz].

Espousing ‘critical mass’ as a way forward for cycling is, in truth, an abdication of responsibility. It says nothing at all about how you get a ‘critical mass’, and nothing at all about how that mass should be catered for, if it arrives.

Whether you have significant numbers of people cycling already, or none at all, it simply won’t do to employ it as a concept, in place of strategic thinking about the quality of the cycling environment. It’s high time it was put out of its misery.


Categories: Views

‘Critical mass’

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 12 June, 2014 - 11:37

Over the last few years it has seemed (to me at least) that the notion of a ‘critical mass’ of riders being a key plank of cycling policy has lost its credibility. The idea of ‘safety coming from numbers’ has, quite correctly, been replaced by a more mature understanding that numbers should – and indeed have to – come from safety, and from feelings of safety.

To that extent I was quite baffled by the comments that the Labour Transport Secretary Mary Creagh came out with at the meeting yesterday in the House of Lords, to launch Bike Week.

It was a speech that could have been written five years ago, with claims that the debate about segregation is still ongoing, and an argument that cycling infrastructure can’t accommodate demand for cycling, so we shouldn’t have it. She pointed specifically to the cycle tracks along Tavistock Place as being oversubscribed, and unable to cope with the numbers of people cycling on it, as a reason why cycle tracks are bad.

To me, this missed the point spectacularly. The demand for these tracks – widely acknowledged as substandard, ever since their compromised construction – demonstrates that the principle of separation from traffic is popular.

Popular, despite the low quality

That’s not an argument for removing cycle tracks and simply mixing people with motor traffic. It’s an argument for either improving the standards of poor cycle tracks so they can cope with demand, or for separating cycling from motor traffic in other ways – through measures such as filtered permeability, both of which are potential solutions for this route through Camden.

But instead, Mary Creagh appeared to think that cycling infrastructure in principle isn’t capable of coping with the ‘critical mass’ of riders on London’s roads. Where 20mph limits exist, she argued, separation isn’t required. That ‘critical mass’ of riders is sufficient.

Firstly, this begs the question of how she imagines Dutch cities – which have cycling levels ten times higher than London, a genuine ‘critical mass’ – manage to function. Do they simply mix people with motor traffic? Absolutely not. On main roads they separate, employing the measures that Mary Creagh seems to think can’t cope with demand.

Secondly, the very notion of a ‘critical mass’ on London’s roads is deeply questionable. I suspect it is easy for MPs to convince themselves such a thing exists when they have been on a large group ride, with a police escort, through central London at rush hour. It feels as if there are lots of people cycling, and indeed this is genuinely true for many roads in central London, at rush hour.

But this phenomenon is very localised, both temporally and spatially. Spatially, it is limited to central London. There is no critical mass, at all, in vast swathes of London. Cycling is essentially non-existent in many boroughs. And just as importantly, the ‘critical mass’ is limited to a short period of the day. Outside of rush hour, cycling returns to being non-existent in central London.

Just after we had finished listening to Mary Creagh, @lofidelityjim and I pedalled from the Houses of Parliament to Kings Cross. I didn’t keep an exact count, but it’s safe to say we saw no more than a dozen people cycling on this four mile trip.

Where is the ‘critical mass’ of riders in these photographs?

I then had to head off to Farringdon area, visiting Old Street along the way. Again, cycling is non-existent here in the middle of the day, on routes that are informally famed for the high levels of cycling on them at peak times.

A ‘critical mass’ isn’t an effective way of making cycling more attractive, when its existence is very shaky indeed.

But much more importantly, it’s not even an acceptable way of ‘catering’ for cycling in its own right. When I look at large numbers of people cycling amongst trucks and buses, weaving their way through, or fighting for space, I don’t think to myself that that is a reasonable way forward for cycling. Quite the opposite – I’m horrified that we are essentially forcing people to cycle in this way; refusing to give them safe conditions that prioritise them as a distinct mode of transport, in their own right. This is what happens when you pour lots of people cycling onto busy roads. [Video by CycleGaz].

Espousing ‘critical mass’ as a way forward for cycling is, in truth, an abdication of responsibility. It says nothing at all about how you get a ‘critical mass’, and nothing at all about how that mass should be catered for, if it arrives.

Whether you have significant numbers of people cycling already, or none at all, it simply won’t do to employ it as a concept, in place of strategic thinking about the quality of the cycling environment. It’s high time it was put out of its misery.


Categories: Views

How to make motor traffic feel unwelcome

BicycleDutch - 11 June, 2014 - 23:01
Utrecht has decided that the dominant types of transport in the old city centre should be cycling and walking. Streets which are due for maintenance are therefore reconstructed to reflect … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

How to make motor traffic feel unwelcome

BicycleDutch - 11 June, 2014 - 23:01
Utrecht has decided that the dominant types of transport in the old city centre should be cycling and walking. Streets which are due for maintenance are therefore reconstructed to reflect … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

True Story

Chester Cycling - 11 June, 2014 - 21:50

When talking with some colleagues in the tea room, the topic of bad driving, and more specifically bad overtakes came up. After hearing a few stories, I shared a few of my own horror stories of close passes on national speed limit roads from a cycling perspective. After this, the topic of cycle helmets came up, so I dutifully explained that the reality of cycle helmets falls short of what the general public often imagines.

From across the room, a chap chimes in with a story from the days when he used to cycle in to work. He told jus that several years ago, he was riding his bicycle without lights, in the dark down an unlit country lane. He collided head-on with another chap on a bike without lights. Both were injured, the other chap quite badly so.

At the end of his story, he turned to us and said, “I bet he wishes he was wearing a helmet that day. I know I do.”

Personally, I’d have gone for lights.


Categories: Views

Waiting at bus stops is dangerous

Vole O'Speed - 11 June, 2014 - 19:23
I'm not sure if this post might be interpreted as being in poor taste following on closely from a real death, but here goes. It's just that an incident that actually occurred yesterday has caused me to reflect on the risk of different transport modes, again.

I was cycling from Edgware to Willesden Sports Centre yesterday evening, when, almost there, I came across a police cordon preventing access to Harlesden Road. Both road and pavement were cordoned off. I managed to get through to Donnington Road by going round via the southern part of Harlesden Road. This was cordoned as well, but not across the pavement, so I wheeled my bike, and a policeman acknowledged me. I could see that a part of a tree had broken off and hit the bus stop in Harlesden Road near the Donnington Road junction. When I went back at 9:45pm, all was clear again and the tree was removed.

I learn from the Brent and Kilburn Times and Evening Standard today that a 57-year old woman was killed by the tree, and a man was seriously injured. Both were waiting at the bus stop.

The last cycling death in Brent that I know of was in 2008. So at least as many people have been killed in Brent waiting for buses as have been killed cycling in six years. There is risk of death in all transport modes. However, I don't think this latest incident will cause many people to stop using buses in Brent. It will lead to calls for better safety inspections of trees, probably, and that would be sensible, though clearly risk due to falling trees will never be eliminated. The risks associated with using buses, waiting for them, and walking on the pavements are randomised in such a way that no-one in good mental health is going to seriously worry about them, and be put off from those activities by statistics associated with them. If you have a concept of "Acts of God", then this fatal incident is close to that. It might have been preventable, but not obviously so.

The risks around cycling are totally different. They are far more predictable and they are connected, by and large, with the design of the roads. This is why those risks put most people off from cycling. Their systematic quality means that you can minimise them, as the statistics show most people who cycle in Brent minimising them, by diligence, alertness, tactics and behaviours designed and learned to diminish risk in an active, constant, dynamic manner. This is a two-edged sword, however. It creates statistical safety, but the fact it has to be done erects a giant behavioural and mental barrier to cycling that the vast majority of the people in Brent are not willing to scale most of the time (Brent's modal share for cycling is between 1 and 2%). Willesden Sports Centre contains travel advice printed on the foyer wall in big letters, telling users, amongst other things, what a good idea it is to cycle there, for all sorts of reasons. But even given the fit and healthy population who will be frequenting the centre, a small minority do so. The centre boasts about 20 bike stands, and a car park that will contain hundreds of cars.

Donnington Road, the road giving access to the Sports Centre, is a road where the engineers at Brent Council have tried really hard to reduce vehicular speeds and increase road safety. But they've done it in  all the wrong ways, and made it a trial to cycle on.

Donnington Road, looking east, on the approach to the sports centre, which is the next turn-off to the right (Google Street View)You can see that in this Google Streetview image of Donnington Road just approaching the sports centre from the west. The engineers have radically narrowed the lanes on an already narrow road with frequently-placed islands. Between the islands, road space is wasted with hatching. They've put speed tables at the islands. What perhaps you cannot see in this picture is that there is a significant uphill gradient going east. Also you do not see how the road surface has deteriorated at the speed table edges since this view was imaged in July 2012.

The problem is that Donnington Road remains a significant motor-traffic through route, as well as giving access to a school and the borough's largest sports centre. It's a useful cut-through for traffic between Harlesden and the Queens Park and Brondesbury Park area. So there's plenty of traffic, and if you are riding up that road, and riding defensively, or assertively, however you choose to put it, you will be putting yourself in the middle of that narrow lane for a long way, trundling slowly uphill, negotiating the decaying surface and hitting the sharp speed table edges, and choosing to act as a "rolling speed bump", holding up any traffic (including buses) behind you, exactly as Brent's traffic engineers intended. The result is not actually dangerous. It's just not a nice experience. It's the kind of experience that puts people off cycling in Brent.

Going back home I use an obscure route via the small pedestrian bridge over the River Brent off Lawrence Way, in Neasden, to avoid the giant gyratory systems in Neasden, that I have described before, and then get into Barnhill Road, and attempt to use the cycle facilities (that I actually originally requested and drew the first design for) between there and Old Church lane, Kingsbury. There's a nice cycle gap through the closure of Barnhill Road (or it would be nice if it wasn't so frequently blocked by the local inconsiderate car parkers), but the crossing on Blackbird Hill, used to reach the cycle contraflow in Old Church Lane, to head towards Kingsbury, is about 50 metres up Blackbird Hill from the Barnhill Road junction.

Looking north-west up Blackbird hill from the Barnhill Road junction, Google Street ViewThe planners' intention was that cyclists do a left turn at this junction, into the narrow inside traffic lane, on this road full of buses and lorries, then negotiate round any buses stopped at the stop you see in this view, then do a quick left up a short dropped kerb, just beyond the bus stop, on to a stretch of pavement designated "shared use", to do a "jug handle" manoeuvre to aim for the Toucan crossing, where you press a button, and wait a long time, and have to take care to avoid conflicting pedestrian flows.

This is all totally standard stuff, straight out of the Department for Transport's best cycle infrastructure advice, as in Local Transport Note 2/08. But in terms of convenience and effectiveness for cycling, it is all Professor Brainstawm amateurishness in design in action. It is an unacceptable risk to ask cyclists to take to join a hugely congested, fast road, with absolutely no space to cycle in, joisting with huge lorries, only for a few metres, before asking them to dive onto a pavement and shared crossing and asking them to play nice with children and parents and small dogs while performing a 270 degree turn on a sixpence. The result will be cyclists cycling on the pavement, and behind the bus stop that you can see, annoying people waiting at the stop. Or it will be people who don't want to risk their lives, or risk being a nuisance to pedestrians, and getting hated, just not cycling. If you have to keep walking stretches with your bike, that's not cycling. You might as well choose another method of transport. On this occasion, as I did this manoeuvre, as required by the design, as safely as I could, trying to avoid conflict with people at the bus stop, I got honked by the driver of a police car, not apparently on an emergency call, who didn't want to let me on to the road. "Why bother to try to cycle legally?" I asked myself.

This place could have been so much better, if there was integration between transport planning, and building planning, in Brent. Since this image was taken, Lidl have rebuilt their car park, at a higher level. They would have needed permission for this; it was major work. This planning permission should have been linked to a compulsory public land-take alongside this pavement; just 4 metres would have been enough, enough to build a cycle track between Barnhill Road and the crossing and put the bus stop on an island between the track and the road. This was a known issue. It is a pinch-point that has been flagged-up in (forgotten) Brent cycle network consultation exercises and rides that i have taken part in. It would not have soleve all the cycling problems in Blackbird Hill, but it would have been a big step forwards. But this sort of joined-up planning just does not exist in London's local government.

So the problem was not solved, and now, with the construction of a sort of castle wall around the car park, it is likely never to be solved, short of reducing Blackbird Hill from three lanes to two, which seems very unlikely.

The "castle wall" being built around the new, high-level Lidl car park last year, making the problem of lack of space for cycling on this critical corner even more permanent.It's not the statistical danger of cycling in Brent that causes it to be such an unpopular activity. It's the feel of it – the feeling that you are always in the way, doing something strange, something not properly accommodated by planning, something not really understood by anyone else on the roads. Waiting at bus stops is at least as dangerous, but doesn't have these characteristics. And, of course, the old and vulnerable wait at bus stops in Brent, they don't cycle. As I pointed out before, that skews the statistical risks. The risks of cycling are minimised by the fact the activity is done by the people with the fitness, skills, alertness and agility to minimise them. They don't reflect true environmental safety; far from it. Cycling here is done by the sort of people who go to sports centres, or, actually, by a small sub-set of those people. In the Netherlands it is done by everyone.

Another man at the activity I go to at the sports centre told me that, to get fitter, he was thinking of starting cycling there. I told him that, in all honesty, I could not recommend it.
Categories: Views

Shanghai's cycling culture hangs in the balance; but it's not just because of the motor car.

ibikelondon - 9 June, 2014 - 08:30

I was fortunate enough to visit Shanghai recently.  It's an energetic and complex mega-city (24 million residents, and counting) where modernity is meeting the old ways of Chinese living.  I'd heard before how this former city of bicycles had become enthralled to the motor car, but I hadn't expected the very fabric of the city itself to contribute to the decline in cycle culture.



Cycling rates have decreased in Shanghai in recent years, and the same problem can be seen all over China.  In decades past China was called the "Kingdom of the Bicycle" where massive populations were moved around by massive amounts of bikes.  As recently as 1998 some 63% of all journeys in the city of Jinan were made by bicycle.  By 2011 that figure had fallen to 10%.  In Shanghai, cycling rates fell by 60% over the same period.  These sobering figures are from the World Bank, who are rarely breathless about this sort of thing.I flew to Shanghai on a Chinese airline.  Every commercial on the entertainment package - without exception - was for a private car.  It was the same in the in-flight magazine.  Cars that gave you feelings of freedom, cars that helped you keep your family safe, cars that would help you reconnect with your kids after a busy day at the office, cars that would help you find (and keep) a girlfriend.  I was fully prepared to witness the reality of the idea that a rise in private car ownership had directly contributed to the decline in cycling rates.  What I discovered was something rather different.
On the streets of Shanghai, signs of an impressive-by-UK-standards cycling rate can still be seen everywhere.  There are manned bike parks outside shopping malls, deliveries of goods of every shape and size being made by bicycle, labourers plying for work from one construction site to another using bikes to get around.  Kids being collected by grandparents from school by bike, and even bottles of gas being delivered on bicycles through the tightly packed streets of the Shikumen Longtang residences; a style of back-to-back row housing famous in Shanghai.  But all the cyclists I saw were just a small percent compared to what you would have found just a few years ago.  Where have all the cyclists gone?


To say that Chinese cities are changing at breakneck speed almost seems like an understatement.  We all know the stories of entire towns and districts being built in the time it would take for us to raise a few houses.  Change builds quickly, and sweeps aside everything in its path.  Just twenty years ago Shanghai did not have a single metro line. Now it has 14, carrying roughly 6 million passengers per day.  Passengers are whisked to the airport at 430kph on a new maglev train.  The 632 metre high Shanghai Tower is the tallest building in Asia - the second tallest in the world - and popped up in just 5 years. The city has an active car ownership restraint programme, auctioning number plates to deliberately inflate their value, but this did not stop the number of cars owned in the city increasing by an additional million in just 5 years between 2005 and 2010 to 3.1 million.  In 2010, when asked if she'd like to go on a romantic bike ride, dating show contestant Ma Nuo caused an uproar responding, "I'd rather cry in the back of a BMW than smile on a bicycle." (Source: The Atlantic)

All across Shanghai densely packed Longtang housing is being cleared to make way for wider roads, shopping malls and high rise housing, each new tower fenced off from the next. In these new developments the subjective experience for pedestrians and cyclists is greatly diminished with bike lanes ripped out and new roads built without any sidewalk.  To be clear, much of the old housing is cramped, dark and with only very basic sanitation, with many people living together in conditions we would consider positively Victorian.  But on the streets there is a palpable sense of social cohesion with people sitting out the front of their homes, talking to neighbours, trading with passers by and only ever a short bicycle ride away from commerce, education or parks.  Door-to-door traders ply their wares, children play in the lanes, old people gather around tables for tea or to enjoy card games, and all in a predominantly car free environment.Traditional Longtang housing is being demolished all across the city to be replaced with high rise residential towers. As these neighbourhoods are cleared and replaced with high rise residential towers (at great profit for the people to who the formerly unowned land has been assigned), the residents who move in to the new units gain light, air, electricity and private bathrooms.  But down on the ground they loose a richly patterned street life that was sustained by the shape of the city and the types of building in it, which in turn supported high cycling rates.   Instead, people travel the greater distances presented by their new homes on the burgeoning transit system, or in cars.  As more people travel in this way, so there are fewer cyclists, and space for cyclists, and so conditions deteriorate further and the decline continues.
New developments create poor amenity for both walkers and cyclists.The idea that massive increases in private car ownership rates have led to the demise of the bicycle in China is too readily accepted by Western commentators.  We know, from the experience of successful cycling countries such as the Netherlands where there are both high cycle and car ownership rates, that the two can live together simultaneously.  The decline of the bicycle in China is more complex than at first it seems.  The World Bank says; "Conditions for both pedestrians and cyclists have been deteriorating across Chinese cities in the last few years. This is due to a combination of factors, including the lack of policies prioritising these users, cities sacrificing space for non-motorised traffic to be used for motorised traffic, the spatial growth of cities resulting in longer trips, and specific difficulties related to the big arterial roads of a typical Chinese city.""You don't know what you've got till it's gone"In short, as Shanghai strives to update itself, it risks destroying its cycling culture.  Not because some people can now afford a car or two, but because the form of the city itself is changing the way people travel.  In high towers residents are no longer able to make short trips to neighbours by bike, whilst below ground the metro waits to speed Shanghainese further and faster.  At street level the conditions for cycling are no longer pleasant or efficient enough to convince as many people to ride a bike as once was the case.  It's a cliche to quote Joni Mitchell singing "You don't know what you've got till it's gone", but for all its modern style and progress, in the case of Shanghai I'm inclined to agree.

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Categories: Views

Being a member of an out-group, a little perspective, and the supposed dangers of mopeds on cycle-paths in the Netherlands

A View from the Cycle Path - 6 June, 2014 - 15:16
I've been a member of an out-group for one reason or another for almost all my life. I've lived as an immigrant in more than one country, by following a diet which some people felt they had a right to criticize and most of all by cycling as everyday transport as this is something people can see and form an opinion on without even having to talk to the person involved. Yes, even white men can be David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/06/being-member-of-out-group-little.html
Categories: Views

Friday Throwback: Ezquerra in the mountains

ibikelondon - 6 June, 2014 - 08:30
Continuing our occasional series of photographs from cycling history, this week we're going back in time to the 1934 Tour de France, when Spanish rider Fédérico Ezquerra powered his way to the top of the Galibier mountain in this classic photograph from the Dutch National Archives.
  The pace cars, bike frame and technology may have all moved on, but the cyclist's physique and look of grim determination would not look out of place in the great race today.  Two years after this photo was taken, Ezquerra won stage 11 of the 1936 Tour de France in Cannes - the only stage victory of his long career.Ezquerra died in 1986 aged 76, but you can still ride in his shadow today.  The exact spot where this photograph was taken is captured on Google Streetview and still looks like a fantastic ride, 80 years later....The Friday Throwback is our ongoing series of posts looking at images of cyclists from The Commons on Flickr. You can catch every post from ibikelondon by connecting with us online; join the conversation with us on Twitter @markbikeslondon, or give us a "Like!" on our Facebook page. Share
Categories: Views

Saddle up for the Smithfield Nocturne this Saturday!

ibikelondon - 5 June, 2014 - 08:30

London is lucky enough to host a number of exemplary cycling events every year, and a firm favourite is taking place this Saturday!



The London Nocturne at Smithfield Market returns for its 8th year of cycle racing at all levels; from elite road racing teams battling it out for glory, to high jinks on Penny Farthings, and folding bike races.  For the first time this year there will even be a Boris Bike Race taking in laps of the historic meat market, though whether the Mayor himself will take part on his namesake bicycle remains to be seen...

The races run late in to the night, and the atmosphere builds as darkness falls.  There's always a great crowd, the surrounding Smithfield pubs stay open late and put on entertainment, and a series of bike-related stalls offer everything from t-shirts to team kit for sale.



I think the charm of the Nocturne is grabbing a hot dog and a beer with mates and banging the boards as your favourite riders rush past, but if you prefer a few more creature comforts then grand stand and hospitality tickets are on sale too.  Wherever you stand, you're guaranteed a close up experience of the thrill of professional road racing, whilst the Penny Farthing races are a real spectacle.  In the pro races, Tyler Farrar will be riding for Team Garmin-Sharp, Chris Sutton for Sky, Ed Clancy for Rapha Condor JLT, and World Track Champion Katie Archibald will lead the way in the women's field.

Getting to the Nocturne is easy too: Barbican Underground and Liverpool Street national rail stations are both nearby, and this year organisers have plotted a series of routes to get you to the Nocturne on the best way possible: by bike (though bring a few locks, cycle parking is sometimes in high demand here, see below!)



Races kick off on Saturday with the folding bike preliminaries at 4PM, with the Scwalbe Elite Criterium crossing the finish line around 10PM. Full race listings can be found on the Smithfield Nocturne website.

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Categories: Views

Amsterdam can send mopeds to the carriageway

BicycleDutch - 4 June, 2014 - 23:01
Amsterdam will finally be able to send (light) mopeds or scooters from the city’s overcrowded cycle paths to the carriageway. The Minister of Transport sent a letter to the House … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Amsterdam can send mopeds to the carriageway

BicycleDutch - 4 June, 2014 - 23:01
Amsterdam will finally be able to send (light) mopeds or scooters from the city’s overcrowded cycle paths to the carriageway. The Minister of Transport sent a letter to the House … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

How about some real traffic law enforcement?

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 4 June, 2014 - 22:52

Developing a culture which opposes endangering others on the road – the core element of road danger reduction – will need the appropriate responses from the police to such behaviour. We are concerned that while claims are made about a “cycle safety crackdown” in London, in reality there was no real “blitz” on unsafe driving , and that fair traffic policing
is still not on the agenda. The cases below are mainly in London and concern cyclist safety, as this is the area that has a current high profile: but other cases are given, chosen just by what has presented itself to me recently:

1. Two cases of “dooring”.

About 8% of all cyclist Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) casualties in London involve car doors opening on cyclists and either hitting them or forcing them into a collision (see TfL’s Cycle Safety Action Plan (p.16) . The RDRF has been instrumental in developing cycle training programmes which show cyclists how to ride outside the “door-zone” (often to the chagrin of some drivers) , and some separation is achieved by some good quality cycle facilities on main roads, but the fact remains that cyclists will often be close to car doors, and sometimes have to be.
Rule 239 of the Highway Code includes: you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic.

(a) Matthew Sparkes

He “has lost his faith in the Met’s ability to police our roads fairly” Read his story – it s worth reading in detail – here:

 

(b) GN

He is a well-known figure in the London cycle trade. Last October he was doored in an incident which left him with a broken vertebra, broken collar bone, broken rib and punctured lung. The driver confessed to having not checked his mirrors when a police officer attended – the incident happened to occur outside * Police Station in North London – but there have been no charges against him.

 

2. Jake Thompson

Jake Thompson was a teacher killed on a pedestrian crossing when hit by a lorry whose driver escaped conviction after police investigation errors, including failing to interview the driver for four months after the collision. This case, including the findings of the independent inquiry fought for by Jake’s parents, is described in the Western Daily PressNorthern Echo, Bristol Post and Durham Times .

As our friend Kate Cairns  (sister of Eilidh Cairns) says: “A catalogue of errors” – the same phrase eventually used (verbally and unofficially) to me. How many other cases have suffered the same? And are still doing so?
This is in the most serious case of a road death (only revealed after the persistence of action by Jake’s parents): no wonder there are questions about policing of incidents with less serious consequences, let alone rule- or law-breaking behaviour.

 

3. John Bowman

John is a transport planner working in west London. In this case no offence has occurred; it is, however, revealing of police attitudes at a time when a “crackdown” is supposed to be happening:
“I was cycling eastbound along Uxbridge Road in between Church Road, Hanwell and Eccleston Road, West Ealing when I was hooted at by a police van.
When I waved my arms to enquire what the hoot was for I was asked to pull over. I immediately pulled over and the officer asked me why I wasn’t wearing high visibility clothing: I explained that it wasn’t a legal requirement and they said that it was in my interests.
I asked why they had hooted at me and they responded saying I was cycling in the middle of the road. I explained to them that there was van parked on the road which resulted me in needing to be in the middle of the lane and that there was a bus in front of me which was about to stop at a bus stop some metres ahead. The police refused to acknowledge there was any bus even though a few seconds before they hooted at me, traffic came to a standstill including the police van, when the bus had to wait for oncoming traffic in order to pass the van parked on side of the road.
They insisted that I either use the cycle lane, a cycle lane which had pondings at a number of points and in which the ground is uneven pretty much along the length of it, with one officer stating that I should at least be close to the cycle lane. They also stated that I was causing delay to drivers, I questioned this reasoning as I had been delayed just seconds before by the bus in front of me needing to overtake the parked van and that cyclists on average go quicker than cars on this stretch ( I also pointed out to them that I first noticed the police van at the junction of Uxbridge Road with Dormers Wells Lane a distance of about 1 mile and I had caught up and overtaken the van in that time.)
I was doing nothing illegal and I get frustrated by car drivers hooting at me for doing nothing illegal. By having police vehicles hooting at me for doing nothing illegal gives out the wrong message to other drivers.”
RDRF Committee member Colin McKenzie suggests the following ten points that MPS officers should be trained to be aware of:
- Cyclists are not required to wear hi-vis, and there’s no evidence that doing so makes them safer
– Cyclists are not required to wear helmets, and there’s no evidence that doing so makes them safer
– Cyclists are not required to ride in the gutter, and there’s evidence that doing so makes them less safe
– Cyclists are allowed to ride on the carriageway of all roads in London except motorways
– Cyclists are not required to “get out of the way” of motor vehicles
– HGVs pose special danger, and cyclists should be discouraged from passing them on the left
– Cyclists need to use their positioning to ensure that they can be seen easily
– Cyclists should look behind frequently
– Cyclists are not required to use cycle facilities, and there is no evidence that doing so makes them safer
– No sticker on the back of any motor vehicle overrides drivers’ responsibility not to move into road space that is already occupied.

 

4. An incident in Chorleywood.

It is unusual, even for a transport practitioner with a special interest in safety, to witness a Road Traffic Incident from start to finish. Last autumn I witnessed someone driving with obvious uncertainty towards a junction to make right turn. Despite the obvious appearance of a cyclist approaching – and shouting a warning – she turned into his path and caused a collision, leaving him with, thankfully minor, injuries.

Eben with clear evidence, no charge was brought, and the elderly lady driver was simply required to take a “driver awareness” lesson.
There is substantial debate about the value of “speed awareness” and “driver awareness” courses. Suffice it to say that in this case, even with the cost of the course borne by the driver, this is likely to be less than the cost of increased insurance following penalty points from a careless driving conviction and the (small) fine. And this is for learning what a motorist is required to know in the first place, after an innocent third party has been injured…

These cases have not been scientifically selected. If details of one day’s collisions or near misses in just one area of the UK, and the police (lack of) response to them were recorded, the picture would be far more forceful. I do, however, think it worthwhile recording these instances to give a snapshot which I’m afraid is indicative of how far we have to go to get civilised road traffic policing in this country.

 


Categories: Views

Hold your breath, it's a ride around London like you've never seen before!

ibikelondon - 3 June, 2014 - 18:31

Cutting edge and cookey promotional videos are ten a penny these days, all hoping to have that certain quality which makes them go viral.  So when I nonchalantly clicked on a link via Twitter saying how TOTES ZOMG the following video was, I didn't have high hopes.  How wrong I was.

What happens when you take a handful of trial riders and freerunners and set them loose on a Boris Bike in central London?  This, that's what:



There's a lovely cameo from bike fix supremos London Bike Kitchen at the start, and aspects and angles of Regent Street, Oxford Circus and Trafalgar Square that will boggle your mind.  (Who even thought it would be possible to bunny hop a bike up and down on top of the lions at the foot of Nelson's Column?!)  This being London - and full of Londoners - no one bats an eyelid as someone rides a Boris Bike along the hand rail of a bridge across the Thames.

All this urban street jumping japery has a purpose, of course, and that is to promote something.  In this case it is for a new social media website called FightMe which, so far as this old fool could tell, was a repository for Nathan Barley types doing daft things with iPhones likely to come back and haunt them at later stages in their career.  But never mind all that, just enjoy the energy and skill of these incredible riders and their adventures in our city!

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