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Conference on road danger reduction and enforcement in London

22 September, 2014 - 14:45


A one-day conference ‘Road Danger Reduction and Enforcement: How policing can support walking and cycling in London’

Organised by RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims; the Road Danger Reduction Forum; CTC, the national cycling charity; and the London Cycling Campaign, the conference will highlight what the Metropolitan Police Service and Transport for London are doing to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety, and what changes campaigners would like to see. The conference is aimed at non-professional road safety campaigners, Councillors, and transport, health and road safety professionals concerned with safety on the roads.

The conference will be chaired jointly by Lord Berkeley, President of the Road Danger Reduction Forum and Vice-President of CTC, and Baroness Jenny Jones MLA.

The conference, which is free of charge, will be hosted by LB Southwark at 160 Tooley Street ( on:

Saturday November 1st  :  10.30am – 3.45pm.

  To register for the conference send an e-mail with your name and e-mail address to

 Lord Berkeley says: “Attention is rightly directed at how our streets are engineered for people walking and cycling. But we also need to have road traffic law properly enforced – for the safety of all road users – if we are to reduce danger to cyclists and pedestrians.

The conference has been welcomed by the 20’s plenty campaign and the Transport and Health Study Group. Conference programme is below here:

Road Danger Reduction and Enforcement: How policing can support walking and cycling in London

Venue: 160 Tooley Street (


  Schedule Speakers 10.15-10.45 Registration and coffee 10.45 Opening comments Lord Berkeley, President Road Danger Reduction Forum (RDRF) CHAIR MORNING SESSION 10.55-11.35 Road Danger Reduction and Enforcement Dr. Robert Davis, Chair RDRF 11.35-12.00 Enforcement and the Criminal Justice System Amy Aeron-Thomas, Executive Director, RoadPeace, National charity for road crash victims 12.00-12.15 Break 12.15-12.45 Enforcement: reducing danger to walkers Brenda Puech, Hackney Living Streets 12.45-13.15 Enforcement: reducing danger to cyclists Charlie Lloyd, London Cycling Campaign 13.15-14.00 Lunch. (A sandwich lunch will be provided)   Baroness Jenny Jones, MLA. CHAIR AFTERNOON SESSION 14.00-14.10 Southwark Cycling Strategy and policing Cllr Mark Williams, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, Southwark Council 14.10-14.40 Roads Policing and Transport Command: new approaches MPS Roads Policing and Transport Command

Representative 14.40-15.15 Enforcement—a priority for Safer Streets for London Siwan Hayward, Deputy Director, TfL Enforcement and On-Street Operations 15.15-15.45 Roundtable: LCC, CTC, RoadPeace, RDRF, CTC (The national cyclists’ charity) and close

Categories: Views

Mythology in the reporting of an injured cyclist

5 September, 2014 - 12:34

Here’s how to do a bit of reporting which is not just sloppy, but (no doubt unwittingly) contains important prejudices about cycling.

Here we go:


A City worker who helped save the life of a seriously injured cyclist has called on people to sign up for “invaluable” first aid training as the number of similar accidents soars. “

Now, what is this “soaring”?

More than 4,600 people were injured last year — an increase of more than 20 per cent on the year before.”

Firstly, this includes the category known as “Slight Injuries” – which is a highly dubious category to use because of the high rate of non-reporting. Trying to assess a trend (what you need to do if “soaring has – or has not – occurred) involves using the category known as “Serious Injuries”. (Sometimes this “SI” category is called “KSI” to include the 5% or so of Killed and Seriously Injured that result in death before 30 days.)

And has this number “soared” when looked at over a period of years? And looked at in terms of the rise in cycling in London since 2000, has the RATE of Serious Injuries per distance, time or journey travelled “soared”? Actually, it has gone down.


The rate for the job?

Department of Transport figures reveal a huge increase in cycling injuries in London, which has the highest cycling casualty rate in Britain.

Er, no. Looked in terms of a rate which involves exposure (per journey, time travelled or distance covered) the cycling casualty rate has declined significantly since 2000 and is probably the LOWEST cycling casualty rate in Britain. So you have got it the wrong way round.

Is this important? Yes, it is – because this way of thinking is inherently biased against having more people cycling. As far as these characters are concerned, the Netherlands – with a cycling  casualty rate about half as high as the UK, but with far more cycling casualties because they have 15 – 25 times more cycling, has a WORSE casualty “rate” (per head of the population) than the Uk does!



Gemma Tinson had done a St John Ambulance course months before coming to the rescue of the woman who fell off her bike in Richmond Park. ..: “It should be essential for cyclists in London to learn first aid” (my emphasis)

Now, no doubt obtaining First Aid knowledge can be a very socially responsible thing to do. For everybody. But why cyclists? Why not pedestrians (many of us have seen people collapsing in the street and requiring medical help when walking). Or motorists, who are involved in collisions where people get hurt in rather greater numbers than cyclists falling off their bikes, as in the case in this story?

I’m not nit picking here. It just seems that this story is redolent of the “cycling is dangerous” mythology. Remember:

  • Cycling is less dangerous to others than driving is – by a long chalk.
  • Cycling is not inherently hazardous.
  • A lot is needed to be done to reduce danger to cyclists – and other road users – by reducing danger at source, from motor vehicular traffic. But the casualty rate for cyclists in London is low, and has declined. Say so, if it has.

Getting danger reduced for cyclists – and others – should be the objective. This means understanding what is going on and not relying on common mythology.

“The community”

Another bit of mythology

Ashley Sweetland MBE, of the St John Ambulance cycle response unit, said: “We know the London cycling community looks out for each other, which is why we want to equip as many cyclists as possible with the first aid skills to help when the unexpected happens.

What is this “cycling community”? I’m proud to have been a member of cycling clubs and organisations for 35 years. It’s great. But it is largely a sporting or cycle touring community. If we want cycling to be normalised as a form of everyday transport, it will not be a “community” and more than there is a “walking community”.



I haven’t actually given an analysis of the latest figures because I happen to be in a hurry today. But why don’t you have a look at the figures as gathered by transport for London? As the journalist should have done


Categories: Views

“Road Danger Reduction and Traffic Law Enforcement” Conference Novmeber 1st 2014

1 September, 2014 - 14:50
 “Road Danger Reduction and Traffic Law Enforcement A One Day Conference on Saturday Nov 1st 2014  If we are to achieve Safer Roads for All Road Users, what kind of Traffic Law Enforcement do we need?


Organisers: RoadPeace; Road Danger Reduction Forum; CTC: the National Cyclists’ charity and London Cycling Campaign. Hosted by London Borough of Southwark.

Venue: Southwark Council


Lord Berkeley (President RDRF), a.m.; Baroness Jenny Jones MLA, p.m.


Dr Robert Davis, Chair RDRF.

Amy Aeron-Thomas, RoadPeace.

Brenda Puech, Hackney Living Streets.

Charlie Lloyd, London Cycling Campaign.

Speaker from Transport for London.

Speaker from Metropolitan Police Service.

 More detail and publicity closer to the date
Categories: Views

“The Primary School Fights Back Against Parent-Jam!”

1 September, 2014 - 00:19

The following is a translation of an article in the German tabloid Bild which may be of use to colleagues working on School Travel as an indication of attitudes elsewhere in Europe. Note what the Germans – including the equivalent of the RAC or AA – see as the problem

Careful dear children – your parents drive here!

PARKING-CHAOS ENDANGERS CHILDREN Primary School Fights Back Against Parent-Jam! by G. ALTENHOFEN 30.08.2014

 An ordinary day at the Primary School in Düsseldorf- Niederkassel: Traffic-Chaos from Parents parking cars among School Children

Düsseldorf – With roaming 4x4s and over-parked Zebra Crossings, the Traffic-Chaos in front of schools is getting ever worse! Because so many of the town’s Parents bring their Children in cars, it’s getting dangerous in front of schools, for pupils and pre-schoolers.

NOW THE PRIMARY SCHOOL FIGHTS BACK AGAINST THE “PARENT-JAM”! ‘Careful, dear Children- your Parents drive here’, it says provocatively on the warning sign in front of the Niederkassel State Catholic Primary School -the sign put there by the School leadership.

 Headmistress Imke Hankammer by the “warning sign”.

Headmistress Imke Hankammer: “Because of the School Run, there are always dangerous situations for those children who come on foot. Cars are parked so ruthlessly that little ones cannot see at the crossing- or be seen. We’re very afraid of what might happen.” Valeria Liebermann, mother and chairman of the Parents’ Association, sees it the same way: “Parents mean well, when they bring their children, but they just thoughtlessly endanger other children.” The State also praises the initiative. Andrea Blome, Chief of the Traffic Management Office: ‘We support the request that children come to school on foot, escorted by adults to begin with. That way they learn independence'”.

 A 4×4 sits in the absolute no-parking zone in front of the zebra crossing.

 Headmistress Hankammer talks personally to the “Taxi-Parents”.


ADAC warns of incidents [ADAC=German equivalent of RAC] The ADAC also warns of “incalculable safety risks from Parent-taxis“, which present a double danger. Firstly in front of schools, and secondly, in other accidents- which according to ADAC involves more children in parents cars (10,363 in 2013) than when they are on foot. An ADAC survey of 750 primary schools in the region concludes: “The fewer the Parent-Taxis waiting outside Primary Schools, the safer the way to school.”



Thanks to David Robjant for the translation: Some notes by him here:

‘Vorsicht’ carries the force and tone of ‘Beware!’, only there isn’t an obvious way of putting that into English without messing up the sentence, because you’d need an explicit ‘of’, and it’s precisely by playing sardonically with the identification of the monster that the German sentence communicates. You could have ‘Dear Children, Beware: your Parents drive here’, but I think that loses the special emphasis given to ‘dear’/’liebe’ in ‘Vorsicht liebe Kinder, hier fahren eure Eltern’. There’s a reproach contained in the way this placement of ‘liebe’ draws attention to the contrast between the parent’s stated attitudes (‘I love my child’) and the general upshot of their actions.  After all, the sign faces the street where the *Parents* can see it- it’s not really for communicating anything to the children!  All that needling of the parents is much better preserved in ‘Careful, dear Children – your Parents drive here‘.

Categories: Views

What’s wrong with Transport for London’s Cycle Safety Action Plan (Part Two)

23 July, 2014 - 17:40

(continued from the previous post)

Seeing cyclists as the problem

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


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

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

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


  2. Other law breaking

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


 3. Conspicuity.

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


4. Lights

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

2007 -2011 fatalities. Fourteen of the collisions in the sample (26%) occurred in darkness or partial light, and in half of these collisions the cyclist did not have lights. Bicycle lights are a mandatory requirement and this lack of compliance needs to be addressed Page19

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

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


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


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

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


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

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


  • The Boroughs :

    Although TfL is taking the lead to make roads safer, TfL cannot achieve safe cycling for all alone. Ninety five per cent of London’s streets are the responsibility of London’s boroughs, making them essential to the success of this draft plan.”. Matters like policing are actually much more in TfL’s control than the boroughs. Also, TfL often dictates – over matters such as “smoothing the traffic” – borough behaviour, and of course allocates substantial funding to boroughs. Can it not similarly direct boroughs in the right direction on safety?

  • 2.2 While only two per cent of all trips in London in 2012 were made on a bicycle its importance is greater in the places and at the times that matter most. (p.7)

    Why does it “matter” which times and places people choose to cycle, and who has the right to decide this?


  • The Cycle Task Force upgrade

    We have been critical of the way enforcement is done in London, but agree with a properly resourced enforcement programme. Only some of this will involve the Cycle Task Force but “increasing the number of police officers in the Cycle Task Force from 39 to 50 “ is hardly impressive.




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



Categories: Views

What’s wrong with Transport for London’s Cycle Safety Action Plan (Part One)

23 July, 2014 - 17:14

This is our response to the draft Cycle Safety Action Plan  issued by Transport for London, which you can respond to here  by Thursday July 25th .

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

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

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

What is ”Cyclist safety”? The measurement issue.

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

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

At various places in the draft CSAP the casualty rate is indeed considered as the indicator, but elsewhere it is not. For example, take this graph prominently displayed:

Figure 2 : International cyclist fatalities per million population, 2012

 So, the casualty rate per journey, per mile or per hour spent cycling may be far lower in Amsterdam than in London. The experience of cycling in Amsterdam may be far more pleasant and inviting because of the lower levels of danger presented to cyclists. But for TfL, reviewing this graph: “London is performing well when cycling in London is compared against national statistics” (Page 9). TfL takes precisely the opposite view that we take, and as far as we are concerned this is a fundamental problem. Unless they invert this position we disagree on what we are trying to achieve.

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Sharing the road

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

This paragraph perfectly demonstrates the determination to deny the difference in lethality between the different modes.

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


Analysing effects

Even without tackling this basic moral issue properly, there is a point about analysing the effects of interventions. “This new draft Cycle Safety Action Plan (CSAP) builds on the original, published in 2010,” (Page 4). But, as I argued in 2012,   with the possible exception of resources directed at the freight industry to reduce cyclist deaths involving HGVs, there was precious little evidence for the effects of interventions. This doesn’t stop TfL baldly stating:  “There are some notable successes achieved through the previous CSAP that have made cycling safer in London (Page 25)”

These “notable successes” are:

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

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

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

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

Categories: Views

Will the Tour de France be good for cycling in the UK? Part Two

11 July, 2014 - 23:56

I have already confessed my love for cycle sport in general and the Tour de France in particular – while arguing that that the Tour in Britain may have had a negative effect on the prospects for everyday cycling.  It’s not just that the benefits of cycling as sport for cycling as transport are limited – the Tour de France is, after all, not supposed to be more than, well, the Tour de France. It’s that the impressions of what “cycling” is, as derived from the Tour and cycle sport in general, can actually impede the progress of cycling as transport.
I’ve enjoyed the Tour in the UK, and will stay glued to it. But it is time to review the situation with some observations of where we are and what the effect of the Tour may be.

Talking it up…

The rule of the Smarter Travel movement is to be positive, talk up the alternatives to car use, and not to be negative about car use. Being sceptical about benefits of the flavour of the month is not smiled on by the powers that be. But – and remember, I’m speaking as a cycle sport nut – that is exactly what we have to do. In this case I’m not the only one.

…and the reality

A good review of the amount of cycling in the UK is provided here. It’s nicely scientific; not coming to definite conclusions about whether there are small trends (outside the obvious increases in inner London this century) upwards or not. The point it makes is that any upward trends there may be are just that: small. It also shows how a continuing cycling modal share of around 1 – 2 % nationally is regularly associated with government and other officials talking up cycling. We are led to believe that if a large number of people are not cycling already, they very soon will be. The history of my career as a transport professional is of politicians from Lynda Chalker in 1984 onwards talking about how government wants to encourage cycling. Take a look at the graph below to see what’s happened

Let’s take a swift look at some cycling themes which have been brought to my attention in the last week:

1. Here’s the view we had of the Tour passing by near the Olympic site:

And the road after they have gone: remember this is part of a mainly purpose built environment close to the Olympic site.:

Has this road been designed as if people are going to cycle down it? Will the Tour de France visit lead to necessary changes?

2. This story in Cycling Weekly

So, the problems with Operation Safeway  look set to continue, with the Met telling cyclists to wear helmets and hi-viz while – I hope this report of what the officer said is wrong – there is reluctance about enforcing the law “because we would be accused of it just being about revenue”.

3. This tweet from Green MLA Jenny Jones:

Jenny Jones‏@GreenJennyJones 14h
While #cycling this morning a cabbie shouted at me: ‘Why no hi viz? You look like a pedestrian.’ Don’t they have to look out for them too?

Any prospect of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association taking disciplinary action?

4. Road Safety GB North-East

Then the “road safety” publicity in South Yorkshire  (which appears when the Tour de France visits) comes up again from “Road Safety GB” in the North East with the same old (to be polite) “problems”:

5. On the day that the tour de France visits, the government announce even more money to support the country’s car culture.

One can go on, and on, and on…The point is, will the Tour de France visit help to deal with the car-dependent and anti-cycling culture of which these (few of many) cases are manifestations? Or make no difference? Or hinder?
Now, obviously the failure to achieve a significant rise in cycling’s modal share can’t be attributed to cycle sport. But it does have some bad effects, which I can illustrate again:

Crash Culture

I mentioned here  the high tendency – compared to normal urban cycling in the UK – of Tour de France racers to crash. Since then the two main British stars, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish, have crashed out in front of billions of viewers. Based on watching TV coverage, it is easy to see how “Cycling” can be seen as inherently hazardous, with a relentless stream of crashes. that must be a key element in any image of “cycling” drawn from the Tour.

Photo: Baltimore Sun


Speaking for “cycling”

The go to spokesmen for “cycling” are now those with deserved reputations for expertise when it comes to the sport, who are now supposed to be authorities on cycling in general. Of course, Sir David Brailsford, as the architect of Olympic and Tour de France wins, has to be worth listening to. But on transport policy and safety on the roads? Try this: “It’s quite clear when you stand back and look at it,” he urged. “If cyclists took a little bit more time to think about motorists, and people in cars took a little more time to think about people on bikes, everybody would win.”
No, it is not “quite clear”. This is just the old “road safety” policy of the “even stevens” approach, which ignores the difference in potential danger to others of the two forms of transport.



Me, I’m going to carry on being glued to the TV and websites, as I am every July. I’m hooked on the magic. But every time a racer hits the deck or displays his bandages, I’m not just feeling their pain. I’m thinking about the negative effects of the Tour de France on the prospects for sustainable transport. Cycling as sport does not have to be cycling as transport – but I do have concerns about it getting in the way of it.



Categories: Views

Will the Tour de France be good for cycling in the UK?

4 July, 2014 - 17:20

First, a confession: I am a cycle sport nut. I used to be a keen racer (albeit to no significant effect in terms of results), have a much repeated link with England’s greatest ever road racing cyclist , and frequently take part in sportives and Audax events. I watch all the main races and fret over the minutiae of transfers, alleged drug taking, fancy new equipment etc. on the sport web sites. I shall immerse myself in the magic as the Tour de France passes my east London vantage point.

I will happily use the occasion as a break from the world of car dependency and the social acceptance of road danger that we find unacceptable. And yes, I do know that the Tour de France is not supposed to usher in a world of mass cycling. The Tour de France is the Tour de France: nothing more, nothing less.

However, there is a view that The Tour de France and cycle sport generally are associated with a supposed big increase in everyday cycling: let’s just talk it all up and we’re on our way. I think there are issues about the difference between cycle sport and everyday cycling, about negative features of cycle sport and the image of “cycling” which we need to look at. So, when you take a break from the excitement, you may wish to consider the following:

Sport and Transport

Sport is, well, sport. Cycling as a form of everyday transport – for ordinary people wearing ordinary clothes to make ordinary journeys for ordinary everyday purposes of shopping, working, education, visiting people in their communities – is what I am more concerned with. It is that which justifies social and political support for, among other things, mass allocation of resources.

Cycling as transport is a key element – probably the key element – in dealing with the problems of an unsustainable system centred on excessive car and road freight usage. Cycling as transport is particularly under-represented in the UK compared to similar kinds of society in northern Europe. Cycling as transport is necessary for increased health of the users of the mode, reducing danger to other road users, noxious and greenhouse gas emissions, visual intrusion, noise pollution, destruction of rural and urban environments through road building and increased or stabilised levels of motor traffic, costs of road building, and the loss of local community.

Cycle sport is something else: some people move from it to use cycling as a form of transport, and vice versa. I have, but many don’t. Plenty of racing cyclists are locked into car usage for most journeys (including to and from bike races). Even if a “Wiggins effect” bolsters numbers of active sporting cyclists to, for example, French levels, we are unlikely to have more than a fraction of 1% of journeys made by them. A lot of the people who get into cycle sport would have been doing some form of sport anyway, so the health benefits for the people doing it may be small anyway.

And then some key groups who may become the “utility” cyclists of tomorrow may be actually be put off by muscular young men with specialist clothing and equipment. There is a small change with the (slightly) increased profile of women’s racing – but then the women who feature in mass cycling countries are not there because of the influence of women sporting cyclists, any more than they are trying to emulate male racers.


These women are not cycling because they are influenced to do so by cycle sport Crash, Crash, Crash…

With a love of cycle racing comes an acceptance of crashing. (Minute remnants of my skin are no doubt lodged in the debris of the Eastway cycle circuit which was destroyed to make way for the Olympic Velodrome). In the 2012 Tour de France, I calculated that of the 45 withdrawals at least 20 were due to sustaining what in road safety we classify as “Serious Injury” (SI) (That does not include Geraint Thomas racing with a fractured pelvis) That’s about 10% of all the riders over the three weeks. Although that year may well have been worse than previous ones, these injuries happened in a period of some 90 hours, equivalent to about 4 months of typical commuting for an urban cyclist.

To translate that into London cycling terms, that would result in some 25% of cyclists being seriously injured every year – about 65,000. Instead there are some 400 – about 150 times fewer. Even allowing for non-reporting, we have a difference of dozens, if not a hundred times fewer. If we used the (I think less valid) exposure measure of distance, it would still be the case that tour de France riders are far, far more likely to suffer SI than people cycling in London.

What Bradley Wiggins and the cream of racing cyclists do to become role models is, as only a few have pointed out, far more hazardous than urban UK cycling, at least the London version of it.

It is, unlike cycling as a basic mode of transport, inherently hazardous.

Wiggo’s race crash in 2011


…Crash, Crash, Crash…

You may wish to do some calculations of your own: lists of withdrawals with reference to crashes are publicised, so the data is quite good. You can also see the equivalent of road safety’s “Slight Injuries” by looking at the crashes shown on television which don’t result in the more severe injuries.

Compare the injury rates (with time as the unit of exposure) to London or other locations – London is best because of better information, particularly on cyclist exposure levels. To do this count up the numbers of riders still in the race, use 40 kph as a rough indicator of average speed (the time given at the end of each day is for the first over the line), and the length of distance over a given stage. Add up after three weeks and voila!

Wiggo race crash in 2014


…Crash, Crash, Crash….

There is another key feature of cycle sport’s inherently hazardous nature. Sometimes it is pointed out that this high injury rate happens despite the racers having:
• The best maintained equipment
• The highest level of bike handling skill
• A commitment to avoiding crashes – crashes reduce the chances of getting to the finish line quickly, and sustaining injury requires time and energy to recover.
• High quality emergency care immediately available
• Excellent quality physiotherapy and massage care for injury.
• The latest bicycle crash helmets, expertly fitted
• Information on race radio about hazards on the course
• Awareness of the parcours layout based on careful study of each stage, including speed humps and other street furniture.
• An absence of motor traffic: there are motor vehicles on the course, but only a small proportion of incidents involve them.
• Fewer problems from errant pedestrians. There are incidents, as there are millions of spectators – but most are aware of the presence of the race in a way in which typical pedestrians in urban areas are not aware of cycle traffic.

In fact I suggest that it is actually wrong to say that the high injury rate happens despite the racers having these “safety aids” and other features. It happens, at least in part, because they have them. Risk compensation/behavioural adaptation theory has time and again shown how safety benefits are consumed as performance benefits. The Tour de France and high-level cycle racing are no exception.

Wiggo after race crash 2013 (note shorts): Photo Fabio Ferrari/AP


…Crash, Crash, Crash.

Does it matter? Yes, I think it does.

Cycle sport fans inevitably use the word “cycling” based on cycle sport, and everyday cycling is supposed to slot into that conception of cycling.
“Cycling” is inevitably seen as being inherently hazardous. If the images of “cycling” and “cyclist” are of “cyclists” crashing and hurting themselves, that’s bad. It distorts discussion of issues like cycle helmets and is just plain misleading and negative.


Racing cyclists as role models

As I have mentioned before,  people basing their views on their experience as bike racers are not good role models for everyday cycling. From the way they get about, to their tendency to adhere to a subservient notion of cyclists’ place in the transport system, cycle racers – the latest is Sir Chris Hoy  – don’t tend to get it right. Indeed, the saintly Chris Boardman who (with the exception of an ill-advised appearance on Top Gear) almost always gets it spot on, is the exception that proves the rule. And he has made it clear that he is interested in everyday cycling, and would trade his Olympic success for success on that front.

Chris Boardman (Photo Normally he isn’t smiling when he comments on everyday cycling because he knows what’s going on.


So what does happen?

The mantra is that “cycling is popular in the UK”  I do see lots of sporting cyclists out on my training bashes, but apart from London and one or two other places, cycling has not been taking off as a significant form of everyday transport. There was no increase, even including leisure cycling, between 2011/2012 and 2012/2013

The brutal truth is not just that the fantastic success of Team Sky and Team GB has not led to a move towards cycling getting above a 1-2% national modal share. It is not even that there are minimal benefits from cycle sport feeding in to cycling as transport. It is that there are significant negative elements, particularly its association with crashing, that exist.
None of that stops me from saying: “Vive le Tour! Bonne route, bon courage et chapeau aux coureurs!”. But I do think it is something to consider.


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