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Safer Roads For All
Updated: 1 hour 18 min ago

Does Labour support cycling?

2 December, 2014 - 21:31

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Michael Dugher MP (Photo: Daily Mirror: 2nd December 2014)

In the last week of November 2014, the Labour shadow Minister, Michael Dugher MP, set out Labour’s “cycling vision”. I reproduce the statement from Local Transport Today with comments:

Where this Government has refused to act, a future Labour government will deliver for cyclists

 This week, I visited Pakeman Primary School in north London and saw first-hand how the ‘Bikeability’ cycle course can give children the skills and confidence on their bikes.  Later that day, I also went to the Archway Gyratory to view exciting new plans for a remodelled junction and new cycling infrastructure.

Getting more people cycling through initiatives like these is really important. But there is still a lot more that needs to be done. 

In August last year, David Cameron said he wanted to start “a cycling revolution”.   Over a year later, and just five months before the end of this Parliament, all we’ve had from the Government is a draft Cycle Delivery Plan and an “informal consultation”.   What we need is real action now to ensure that the country benefits from safer roads, increased levels of cycling and effective road sharing for all types of road traffic.  Where this Government has refused to act, a future Labour government will deliver for cyclists. 

More people cycling every day is not only good for public health, it’s good for the environment and the economy.  And it’s also good for other road users too.  It frees up the roads for motorists, which results in less congestion, safer roads and better air quality. 

That’s an interesting view of the role of cycling: “It frees up the roads for motorists…” But if it does so, then more cars will be there than otherwise, which in terms of sustainable transport is the opposite of what is required. Even if the same number are there as before, problems from emissions etc. have not improved.

There is a growing consensus that the Government’s draft plan is not even close to what is needed to make a difference.  British Cycling, for example, said the so-called plan “falls short” on delivering on David Cameron’s promise and the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC), a national cycling charity, called it “derisory”.   

This verdict chimes with the Government’s overall record on supporting cycling.  It shut down Cycling England, the independent body to promote cycling, and abandoned Labour’s ‘Cycling Towns and Cities’ programme, which helped to promote the use of cycling locally. 

Labour has a good record of promoting cycling in government, with both the number of people cycling increasing and the number of road casualties dropping. 

 No, Labour does not have a ”good record of promoting cycling in government” . Cycling England was essentially a low-key quango which was set up because the commitment and expertise inside the Department for Transport was so low that help had to be sought from outside. Labour, under Chancellor Alistair Darling, repeatedly refused to allocate the funding Cycling England requested.

What Labour does have is a record of overseeing massive increases in motor vehicle traffic, despite claiming when it came to power that it would reduce motor traffic.  With the exception of London, it would be difficult to see any significant overall rise in cycling during the Labour years, despite it being far easier to increase a mode’s share when it is as very low, as it was when Labour came to power in 1997.

It is unclear whether the road casualties he refers to are in general or among cyclists – but both of these numbers tend to decline irrespective of formal “road safety” interventions – and there are hardly any which Labour could claim that it introduced to any significant effect during its reign.

In 2002, there were 300,000 trips made by bike in London per day, and 20 fatalities.  And by 2010, there were 490,000 trips made, and the number of fatalities had halved.  

 London is the exception, with Labour in power for most (but not all) of this period. The rise in cycling in London can be attributed to – well, what exactly? I would claim that I assisted in a small take-up of cycling in projects I ran when working for a London Borough in this period. But on the whole very little of the rise in cycling can be claimed as due to initiatives from London government under Mayor Livingstone. 

Cycling was due to increase in London for the simple reason that it could hardly go any lower, and there was rising demand for all forms of transport with population increase. Possibly the initial rise was due to the concerns about raising the costs of motoring with the prospect of the Congestion Charge – although eventually this only happened on a very small proportion of London’s roads where the Congestion Charge applies. And Labour is hardly pushing road pricing now.

 As for the death rate decline, that can largely be put down to a Safety in Numbers (SiN) effect as drivers became more aware of the increased presence of cyclists, as well as the long-term underlying trend. Some work in making lorry drivers less dangerous (although a lot of that is purely a SiN effect in the HGV driver community) was done; HGVs were involved in about half the cyclist deaths. But the outlook for serious injuries has been less dramatic. I don’t think it is possible to link specific interventions by Transport for London (with the possible exception of work with HGV safety) to casualty rate declines in any clearly significant way. I would say these have been marginal at best.

This progress did not just happen by chance, but through decisions that were made – initiatives such as ambitious road safety targets, Cycling England, and funding for Cycling Towns and Cities.  In addition, our ‘Sustainable Travel Towns’ – Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester – resulted in increased cycle trips by between 26-30 per cent.  And the six ‘Cycling Demonstration Towns’ (Aylesbury, Brighton and Hove, Darlington, Derby, Exeter and Lancaster) proved how targeted investment can deliver results with cycling rates increasing by 27 per cent between 2005 and 2009.

 I have mentioned Cycling England. I don’t think declines in road casualty statistics happen because of “road safety” interventions (including the setting of road safety targets) to anything like the extent that road safety professionals and Government think, The effects of projects in the programmes described are highly debatable. What can be said is that selecting a few cases of “low-hanging fruit” where interventions could most easily increase cycling and walking is hardly demonstration of a commitment towards active travel and sustainable transport policy, even if the results were as dramatic as claimed.

Labour would work to make further progress in government in 2015 by ensuring better cycling education, stronger road safety enforcement and enhanced road engineering for the benefit of cyclists.   To achieve these objectives: 

First, we will outline a proper long-term plan with clarity over funding sources. 

Why not do that now? The figure used by those pressing for the Get Britain Cycling programme is £10 per head of the population, rising to £20 per head.

This all has to  be put in the context of spending on road building for more motor traffic. When the initial Government plan for £15 billion to be spent this way came out on November 10th he attacked Cameron over for not spending enough on road building. (And in fact the £13 or 15? billion was probably an underestimate )  Anyway, we have had the announcement on December 1st – which was Mr. Dugher responded to as follows:   “yet another re-announcement” on road improvements, and in reality “no additional money has been announced“.

We know David Cameron’s record on infrastructure is one of all talk and no delivery. Infrastructure output has fallen significantly since May 2010, and less than a third of projects in the Government’s pipeline are actually classed as ‘in construction. “If ministers were as good at upgrading roads as they are at making announcements about upgrading roads, life would be considerably easier for Britain’s hard-pressed motorists, who have been consistently let down by this government.”

On top of this, Labour has not opposed the continuing decline in the cost of motoring under the coalition government. What it has done in power, and apparently intends to do in future, is to make motoring more convenient and attractive, and facilitate more of it.

Although this interview may well have been spun by the car fanatics at the Daily Mirror  , his first major interview indicates an even more car-dominated approach (see the Appendix below)

Second, we will be ambitious in promoting active travel.  Rather than waiting for over four years to produce a half-hearted ‘draft plan’ for cycling, we will act fast and ensure that our strategy delivers clear targets and has cross-departmental support.  Over half of all car journeys are shorter than five miles, and one fifth are under a mile.  We want cycling and walking to be made the easy and safe option for most short journeys. 

 I first heard a Minister (Lynda Chalker) saying that cycling would be “encouraged” in 1984 – that was one in power, not in opposition. The record since then for all parties in power is of a massive increase in car usage and no increase in cycling (except in London).

Third, we will ensure that the needs of cyclists are assessed at the design stage for major transport projects and maintenance schemes.   Active travel was not a consideration when much of our current transport infrastructure was planned, but this is no longer an excuse.  We will put pedestrians and cyclists at the centre of our roads policy, as opposed to the Government’s approach where they seem to just be an afterthought.  

This is presumably the ”cycle-proofing” we have heard so much of. It is interesting that this is not on existing roads, but only new schemes. Pedestrians and cyclists are not at the centre of roads policy. More cars and motor traffic are.

Fourth, we will ensure cycling becomes an ever safer transport option by looking to follow what the Labour Government in Wales has achieved through their Active Travel Act.

 Which is what exactly?

Fifth, we will introduce a powerful HGV Safety Charter, which will call on all HGVs to be fitted with safety kit, including rear-view cameras, rear warning signs for cyclists and flashing light beacons.   HGVs are involved in nearly 20 per cent of all cycling fatalities, but make up only 6 per cent of road traffic. This cannot continue.

By 2017, we want all HGVs fitted with audible warning systems for drivers, and side-guards and blind-spot elimination devices.  We believe these changes are paramount and, if necessary, we are prepared to legislate to ensure that they are brought forward. 

The immediate issue is the EU delay (although to be fair Labour has made the right noises here) on bringing in safer HGV cabs   hich undermines all these intentions, which are just fluff around the edge compared to a new design direct vision cab.

Before such cabs are standard – and for use of lorries when they are – there already is a national Standard for Construction Logistics: Managing Work Related Road Risk which addresses issues around the “blind spot”, driver behaviour and safer freight routing. That could be endorsed now.

And what about reversing the increase in speed limit for HGVs  just brought in by this Government? No mention of that issue.

Sixth, we will restore national targets to cut deaths and serious injuries, which have been dropped by the current Government, alongside clear goals to increase the number of people walking and cycling. 

 The author Douglas Adams once said: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Targets for cycling’s modal share have passed by , with the actual modal share far – and dismally – lower for decades, if not exactly “whooshed”. 

Seventh, we need to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done in cases where collisions lead to cyclist deaths and serious injuries. 

 The crucial point is to stigmatise behaviour which threatens other road users by having a clearly explained and understood programme of law enforcement and sentencing. Waiting until cyclists are killed or seriously injured (or even slightly injured) is missing the point. Penalising those who drive in a manner which endangers others only in that small minority of cases where someone is killed or seriously injured can be counter-productive.

And finally, we understand the need for sustained and certain support for cycling education.  That’s why we have committed to providing funding for ‘Bikeability’, which will ensure all children are trained in cycle safety from a young age.   

I have doubts about much of the “cycle training” which goes under the name of Bikeability: much seems to be creating the impression that cycling is inherently hazardous, with emphasis on hi-viz and helmets. How much genuinely empowering and enabling cycle training is going on? And if it of high quality, it needs to be available to adults who want to build up confidence.

So, Labour will implement real changes.   We’ve seen over the last four and a half years that it’s easy for politicians to talk about their support for cycling and promise a “cycling revolution”.  But people can see through the hype.

Er, yes.

What is needed is real action and a long-term strategic effort to promote cycling from both national and local government.  And this is what we will set out to deliver in 2015.   

 We’ll be watching.

 

APPENDIX Pandering to car fanatics?

Let’s look at what Labour’s spokesman says here.

“.. he admitted drivers have for too long been seen as a “cash cow” for governments who cream cash off them with fuel taxes and penalties.” Although motoring is cheaper, and law-breaking motorists stand little chance of (minor) penalties.

“.. he said he wants to represent “white van man, women drivers, small businesses and any other road user”. Although road users walking and cycling don’t seem to count.

Mr Dugher said: “Most ­politicians don’t talk about road users enoug,h and we have got to put right. The truth is the things that p**s off motorists are the things that p**s me off too.”

Does saying “p**s off” make you a man of the people?

Which motorists is he talking about? The lowest common denominator of rule- and law-breakers who think they have “paid a tax” which means they own the road? One of the major problems for cyclists is the abuse and prejudice which is based on the myth that motorists have “paid for the road” – this attitude feeds it.

The Barnsley East MP, who drives down the A1 each week to ­Westminster in his Vauxhall Astra,

( A minor point, affected by precise details of origin and destination – but why is the “proud son of a railwayman” not doing the 2¾ hour journey by train from Barnsley to central London rather than the 185-mile journey which would have be done at 67 mph average to be as quick?)

With regard to fuel taxes and road cameras, Mr Dugher – who admits he has three points for speeding – said: “The Government can’t see the motorists as a cash cow. Too often there’s that mentality”.

So paying a fair amount of taxation to compensate for the massive costs of motoring to public health, society and the local and global environment is “being a cash cow”?

“..11% of car ­journeys are under a mile. If car drivers switched just one car journey a month to a bus or coach that would mean one million fewer car journeys, and save two million tons of CO2.”

This is ludicrous. One journey a month is irrelevant – and how about switching to foot or bicycle? And no switch will occur with a few fine words, but making it far more attractive to walk or cycle and less attractive to drive might just work.

 

 


Categories: Views

Road Safety Week 2014: What was wrong with it?

25 November, 2014 - 00:36

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

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

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

What has been happening in Road Safety Week?

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

Pushing cycle helmets…

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

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

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

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

…and Hi-Viz

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

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

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

 

A launch with the Minister…

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

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

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

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

 

…and the Police.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was Road Safety Week actually about?

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

Let’s take one example: Rhondda Cynon Taf Council

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

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

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

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

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

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


Categories: Views

Road Safety Week: What’s wrong with it?

12 November, 2014 - 22:15

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

 The core message of Road Safety Week 2014…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 …and what’s wrong with it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bridgestone and sustainability

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

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

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

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

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

Brake and cycle helmets

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

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

 

Victim support

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

 

Events

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

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


Categories: Views

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

7 November, 2014 - 22:32

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

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

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

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

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

What is”Cyclist safety”? The measurement issue.

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

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

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

Figure 2 : International cyclist fatalities per million population, 2012

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Sharing the road

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

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

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

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

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

Analysing effects

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

These “notable successes” are:

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

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

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

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

Seeing cyclists as the problem

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

  1. Speed: A change of heart?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2. Other law breaking

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

 

3. Conspicuity.

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

 

4. Lights

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

And also…

 

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

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

 

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

Our response to the draft CSAP concluded:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 


Categories: Views

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 (http://www.southwark.gov.uk/location) 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 TLELondon@lcc.org.uk

 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 (http://www.southwark.gov.uk/location)

 

  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:

“SOARING”

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!

 

Essential?

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”.

 

POSTSCRIPT:

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