My last post argues in favour of the potential benefits from traffic policing, but that – unlike the apparent bias underlying Operation Safeway – it needs to be done differently. The key point is to prioritise law and rule breaking done by those with greater potential to endanger other road users. Otherwise the bias, which is not so much against law breaking cyclists as in favour of law and rule breaking motorists, will continue. So here are some ideas:
Some of these areas are related specifically to cycling, but others have a more general relevance – which should make them more attractive. Some are referring specifically to law breaking, whereas others refer to infringements of the Highway Code only – although this can be mentioned in the kind of roadside talks the MPS has been having with cyclists about issues such as hi-vis wearing which are not legal requirements.
According to Baroness Jenny Jones MLA: “The Met now take over 40,000 uninsured vehicles off the road every year, but a 2008 estimate by the vehicle insurers body, thought there were 400,000 uninsured vehicles in London alone. “
“By 2011, around 68 people were still being injured or killed every week in collisions involving hit and runs.(failing to stop/report:RD) One of my big concerns about hit and runs is the way that it disproportionately impacts on cyclists and pedestrians. In 2010, cyclists accounted for nearly a fifth of casualties arising from hit and runs even though they account for only 2% of trips on our roads.”
A crack down using ANPR technology could push this a lot further and be popular among motorists who don’t like being hit by uninsured drivers. A crack down would also lead to more revenue from an increase in payment of Vehicle Excise Duty which would justify extra policing in this area.
On the downside, this is just dealing with an extreme minority an taking attention away from the majority responsible for most driver law and rule breaking. It can also back up the common prejudice that third party insurance paid by motorists (at least at 100%) is fulfilling a responsibility rather than insuring against responsibility.2. Other extreme bad behaviours
Motorists who can’t see where they are going (recently one in three drivers in Poole failed an eyesight test) ; drive under the influence of drugs and drink; have Alzheimer’s or other debilitating medical conditions; while banned etc., etc.
The same proviso as in 1 above applies – these are just iceberg tips of illegal driving. But maybe the Police would get more respect if, for example, they tackle drivers who can’t see before advising cyclists (and presumably pedestrians) to wear hi-vis without any legal or evidence base.
There are issues about how to identify offenders, but my experience is that they are revealed during routine legally justified stops by officers. And if there are problems in locating such individuals, they need to be resolved.3. Lorries
On the first day of the operation 20 HGVs were stopped and 60 offences were found to be committed, including vehicles in dangerous condition and drivers who had been working too long. About 30,000 HGVs are in use in London every day. Is it reasonable to suggest that a few hundred or so are stopped every day? Every time there are crack downs on illegal HGVs high levels of infractions seem to be revealed. The threat of being delayed, let alone losing drivers, should focus the minds of operators. Perhaps this is why the prospect of law enforcement in this area turns some of them into victim-blamers.4 . Speeding
I won’t give a specific reference here. Suffice it to say that approximately 60% of drivers admit to breaking sped limits, and the proportions exceeding 30 mph vary from about 35% to 50% at the times when lack of congestion allows them to break this law. With 20 mph areas becoming prevalent in London, and with constant debate with the MPS about gaining compliance, this is surely a key area where resources could be deployed – for the benefit of pedestrians as well as cyclists5. Close proximity issues
Here is a bit of evidence. If you read the 2008 Cycle Safety Action Plan you can see this kind of evidence.
Pages16-17: Conflict type 2: Close proximity collision between cyclist and vehicle Collisions arising from a close proximity collision between cyclist and vehicle caused 37% (121) of serious injuries and 47% (7) of deaths of cyclists. all seven of the fatalities involved a goods vehicle. This category includes the following manoeuvres (listed by frequency of cyclist killed or seriously injured):
o Cycle and other vehicle travelling alongside each other (12%)
o Other vehicle turns left across the path of cycle (9%)
o Other vehicle changes lane to the left across the path of cycle (3%)
o Cycle and other vehicle collide when both turning left (2%)
o Other vehicle starts off or pulls out into path of bicycle (2%)
o Other vehicle changes lane to right across path of cycle (1%)
o Cycle performs overtaking manoeuvre into path of right turning vehicle (1%)
o Cycle changes lane to right/left across path of other vehicle (<1% each)
This analysis reveals one of the key complaints from cyclists: drivers constantly overtake without giving enough room. Some of this can be solved by segregation, but since this is not going to be on most roads in London ( and would take a while 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.
Is it really too much to expect some sort of police activity in this key area when officers have been giving (nmisguided) advice to cyclists on helmets etc. in Operation Safeway?
To be addressed by highway engineering and good quality cycle training: but opening doors without looking will still be a rule breaking threat to motorcyclists and cyclists. Section 42 of Road Traffic Act 1988 states that a person who fails to comply with the Regulations is guilty of an offence. In this case, the Regulations are Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, IS 1986 No.1078, reg 105, “No person shall open or cause or permit to be opened any door of a motor vehicle or trailer on a road so as to cause injury or danger to any person”.7. Failing to obey ATS (Red Light Jumping)
Not just cyclists. See the interesting discussion on motorists doing this here.8. Post collision investigation
Our colleagues in RoadPeace and the CTC have long argued that there is a serious problem with inadequate post-collision investigation involving injured cyclists and pedestrians.9. Car Crashes?
Here’s a radical one. How about investigating car crashes? One or more drivers is likely to have been breaking rules or laws in order to crash. The vast majority of collisions do not require reporting to the police because they do not involve reported injury – but that doesn’t mean that they don’t involve rule or law infractions. More activity here?10. Do not restrict policing to locations where collisions have occurred.
Proper assessments of danger are going to involve looking at places where people may have not been hurt or killed. By restricting policing to in this case to areas where they have a large proportion of endangering behaviour is missed out. This may be partly why a high proportion of the Fixed Penalty Notices (some 35%) have been given to cyclists.
Obviously speeding motorists are not going to be caught at heavily congested locations in inner London in the rush hour. That doesn’t mean that speeding is not a general safety problem. Indeed it may well be a particular problem for cyclists in 20 mph zones or in outer London where cycling levels are low. Just because there are few cyclists out there – often precisely because of their perceptions of danger from motorists – does not mean that this and other forms of motorist law- breaking are not problems.11. Not from a fixed position.
Use bodies like the (enlarged and changed) Cycle Task Force more to police from within the traffic.12. More of it. A lot more.
As Baroness Jones has pointed out, traffic policing has been massively diminished over the last couple of decades. It needs to have its levels reinstated – but it has to be targeted in the right areas.Institutionalised discrimination?
From the unfortunate comments by the Metropolitan Police commissioner and other cases the approach of the MPS to traffic policing has – correctly in my view – not met with a good response from cyclists. Nor has it from those of us concerned with the wellbeing of cyclists and pedestrians as part of a programme of having safe roads for all in London.
The term “institutionalised discrimination” has been used. For those of us who have been brought up in local authorities and elsewhere in public service, the equal opportunities approaches used to address discrimination in so many areas do, I believe, have relevance here.
The point is precisely that this is not about personal malevolence or bigotry. Indeed, discussing these issues in terms of background beliefs should actually assist our discussions with the police into how a productive approach to traffic policing can be developed.
The police services have made absolutely fundamental changes in their attitudes to women, disability etc. over the last couple of decades. Many police officers are passionately committed towards reducing danger at source. Is it too much to ask that the MPS (and other forces) accept that they may have a culture which impedes progress by being improperly biased away from dealing with rule and law breaking behaviour which endangers others?
Hopefully this piece can help us all towards a more satisfactory traffic policing programme.
After a spate of cyclist deaths in London, cyclist safety is on the national agenda. For some, getting cyclist safety in the public eye is inherently good – we’re not so sure. The key issue is, after all, to do the right things for the safety of cyclists. Last week we were told that there is a “new zero-tolerance approach” with a “huge escalation” in policing involving “stopping lorries and cars and where there is unsafe driving they will be taken off the road.”
But is a blitz on unsafe driving – under what is called “Operation Safeway” in London – actually happening? We don’t think so. So what exactly is going on?Some Background: Andrew Gilligan’s response to the spate of cyclist deaths
Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan has responded to the reaction to the spate of cyclist deaths in London in an intelligent and well-argued piece :
(a) Fundamental re-engineering of HGVs. There should be no gaps between the body of the vehicle and the ground that pedestrians or cyclists can easily be pulled into. This is particularly relevant for construction lorries, industrial equipment allowed onto streets full of pedestrians and cyclists in a way no other type of device would be. Even more fundamental, the drivers should be able to detect any pedestrians or cyclists close to their vehicle, on all sides.
(b) Law enforcement with regard to numerous types of law infringement.
(c) Appropriate sentencing, using black boxes on vehicles and based on deterring rule- and law-breaking drivers and freight operators.
(d) Highway engineering
are of more importance, both for cyclists and – don’t forget – pedestrians:
2. The spate of deaths does not necessarily indicate that conditions in London have got worse. “In the first half of 2013, only three cyclists died in London – one every two months. In the recent spate, it was every two days. Are these same streets 30 times more dangerous than just a few months ago?” Exactly.
3. The rate of reported Serious Injuries is no worse than ten years ago. And SIs are a more reliable statistical indicator in London than deaths. That rate does appear to have got worse over the last few years, but it’s too early to say if this is a short- or long-term trend.
4. “The chief executive of the London Cycling Campaign wrote last week: “We want to know when the dying will stop.” Well, we can, and we do, promise to improve safety. But we cannot, and do not, promise to eliminate cyclist deaths. If that is the test the cycling lobby sets us, we, and every large city on Earth, will fail.” Good point. It is vital to measure cycling safety in a way which is different from the present convention of totting up the total number of cycling deaths. Gilligan is absolutely correct to argue for a careful way of discussing cyclist safety. Working out alternative measures of safety has been a key commitment of RDRF since our inception.
5. “I fear the furore is aiding those who say we shouldn’t encourage cycling. I’m afraid it’s scaring cyclists away.” Unlike some of the new wave of bloggers, I disagree that highlighting each incident will help us move towards reducing danger. These bursts of attention can easily be reduced to victim-blaming and false “solutions” to the problems of the safety of cyclists and others on the road.
6. “…we can’t simply slap in panic changes”. Exactly. Although this does rather contradict what seems to be happening with the policing “blitz”. (And by the way, what is supposed to “make cyclists safer at the expense of other people’s safety.”?)Some more background: Unfortunate comments by the Mayor
For some of the bloggers, the problem is essentially one of the Mayor not installing the right infrastructure, or not doing it quickly enough – points which Gilligan has made a reasoned response to.
What I think we need to look at now – with London Cycling Campaign organising a mass “die–in” today - at the end of the first week of “Operation Safeway”, is to ask some questions about the attitudes underlying traffic policing. Whatever kind of infrastructure is in place for cyclists, there will still be danger on the roads for them and other road users. The Police are a key part of the apparatus charged with responsibility for safety on the road. Their approach – and understanding what it is and how it links in with the rest of the “road safety” establishment – is absolutely key to achieving safe roads for all.
Traffic policing: Are we all in it together?
After the latest apparent problem with London’s traffic policing (a quota supposedly being set for arresting errant cyclists) British Cycling policy advisor, Chris Boardman, said that the police should be concentrating their efforts on larger vehicles.
“If you don’t have the resources to prosecute everyone who breaks the law, then it makes sense to start with the people who can cause the most harm and work down from there.”
“The bigger and heavier the vehicle you have got, the more damage you are going to do. I certainly would not let law-breaking cyclists off the hook, but they wouldn’t be top of my list.”
That pretty much sums up what a civilised approach to traffic law enforcement should be. But that is not what it has been. As we have continually pointed out , the approach taken has been to attempt to neutralise the difference between endangering others and being endangered. As with numerous “Share the Road” campaigns, there is a tendency to slot into appeasing the prejudices of those who are endangering cyclists and others. For a good current example and critique go here:Evidence
A crucial theme in “road safety” ideology is that programmes – such as law enforcement – are based on evidence. Let’s have a look at what has been happening so far in London:
According to Chief-Superintendent Glyn Jones, who is in charge of the current operation, “If you’re going to cycle in London, wear a helmet, wear high-vis, make sure your bike has the right lights, don’t wear headphones and obey the rules of the road. That way you will be a lot safer.”
The first four of these recommendations either have no or minimal evidence to back up the assertion that you will be “safer” (only one is required by law) as follows:
Headphones: no research has been done;
Lights: legally required but – according to analysis of STATS 19 reporting forms, the last annual Borough reports I looked at had the relevant code (506) as implicated in under 1% of cyclist casualties. (STATS 19 forms in London are completed by officers the Metropolitan Police).
“Rules of the road” is vague, and presumably refers to red light running – although even this seems to be implicated in a small minority of cyclist casualties. There is evidence which was gathered for the Mayor’s Cycle Safety Action Plan – which in a former role I had a part in contributing to – and it is not referred to as a base for policing in the “blitz” we are supposed to be having. There is no reference to acquiring confidence from assertiveness learned in good quality cycle training: perhaps the Met is not interested in having more of such people on the road?But should we be surprised?
If we were to follow such evidence we would be referring mainly to what motorists get up to, and risk offending the sensibilities of the Great British Motorists (or at least what these are feared to be – the reality may indicate that law enforcement would go down quite well with many motorists). Discussing this matter with traffic police officers I have been told that, as the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Robert Mark said: “Policing must be by consent” – which in this context means going along with the prejudices of those who are far more likely to endanger others than cyclists are, namely ordinary motorists.
And it is ordinary motorists who are committing most of the rule and law infractions on the road. While an extreme minority of rogue law-breakers are far worse than the average motorist, and far more likely to be involved in collisions, they are just that – a minority. This leaves us with a problem: as John Adams and others have argued, the nature of human risk-taking is such that there are always problems with road safety interventions unless there is a background cultural change. Actually having an effect on danger from motorists will require more than a “blitz”, however well targeted it is.
However, my suggestion is that part of getting the cultural change required could well involve law enforcement. It is just that it has to be properly targeted – at those most likely to endanger others, and for the benefit of safety for cyclists and other road users endangered by rule- and law-breaking. The next post gives some ideas as to what that policing could be.
After a week where cyclist safety in London has hit the headlines, it might seem strange to look at this issue. I was pleased to represent the RDRF at the Bow roundabout protest organised by the London Cycling Campaign addressing issues about danger to cyclists and pedestrians there.Spot the RDRF Chair at Bow roundabout protest (Photo London Cycling Campaign)
But actually the comments by the Commissioner of Transport for London on this subject – bike lights, that is – tell us a lot about the way “road safety” is thought of. Here are his comments:
“I think the interesting thing is the safety record of the Barclays cycle hire bikes is very, very good and I’ll tell you why. Because they’re big, they’re quite slow and they’ve all got lights on the front and the back and the lights flash all the time – and actually, I wish every cyclist in London had decent lights on the front and the back.”
So let’s look at the evidence:BARCLAYS HIRE BIKES
I have written before at some length about the safety record of people using these bicycles. Now, the record might not be as good as I (or Sir Peter Hendy) make out. Nevertheless, they don’t seem to have a worse record than that of other bicycles being used in London, or as bad as some feared.
The reasons, as I and others – apart from Sir Peter – have suggested are:
By contrast, Sir Peter suggests that injury and death to users is reduced because Barclays Hire Bikes:
According to the latest figures compiled by Transport for London (for 2012), about 28% of London’s casualties arise from incidents occurring during the hours of darkness, the same as in 2011. In 2010 , which one can assume was roughly similar to 2011, 22% of pedal cycle casualties occurred during hours of darkness. In other words, using the usual “road safety” conventions, collisions for cyclists are less of a problem in hors of darkness than for other road users. Now, I am not saying we should follow this convention. All the differential indicates to us is what we know already – cyclists are less likely to tarvel in hours of darkness compared to hours of light compared to other types of road user. It just suggests that there may be no reason for looking specifically at these kinds of collision in particular.
The real issue is:2. How significant is the non-use of cycle lights in collisions involving cyclists?
The best thing to do is consult the “contributory factors” as specified in the completion of STATS 19 forms by officers of the Metropolitan Police Service. As professionals know, these are limited by being the opinion of the investigating officer arriving at the scene of the incident after it has occurred. Nevertheless, it is the one source of evidence the authorities (such as Sir Peter’s transport for London) have, and in my view gives a good base – easily accessed by professionals through ACCSTATS – to inform us.
In this case, the relevant factor is number 506:
506 Not displaying lights at night or in poor visibility Poor visibility includes twilight or other poor light conditions and/or weather related conditions (e.g. rain or fog). Includes cyclists riding at night without lights as well as motor vehicle driver/riders who have failed to turn on their lights (whether intentionally or not).
This can be easily searched for, so I took a quick look (and it can be done quickly) at the last year’s Pedal Cyclist figures for the Borough I have been working for. The usual confidentiality applies, so I am keeping some of the information vague without changing any of the relevant statistical details. I can say that in a Borough with just under the average number of cycling casualties for a London Borough for 2012 (at just over 100), the total number where 506 was included as a contributory factor was – one, or under 1%. Also, the proportion of incidents occurring in hours of darkness was actually over the 22% figure quoted in section 1 above at 27%
Of course, at this low level in other years, or in other boroughs, the number might go up. I would urge colleagues working in other boroughs – or stakeholders such as the local branch of the LCC – to try to look at this figure. Again, it really does not take long to access.
But there is more to it than this. The MPS have made a commitment to include factors not just on a “tick-box” basis, but if they believe they were actually contributory. In the one case I looked at there were other factors involved which I would have through more relevant than the non-use of bicycle lights.
So:3. What is the real significance of use or non-use of bicycle lights for cyclist safety?
If the use of lights seem to be of marginal relevance to cyclist safety on the brightly lit streets of London, why is it that their non-use can arise such ire? Why are they regarded as being of such importance?
Of course, I am not suggesting that cyclists should not use lights. And there may be situations on unlit paths, particularly to alert pedestrians, where – apart from the legal requirement – they are more than advisable. All I am doing is what I have been suggesting in the last few posts (here, here , and here ) on Hi-Viz arguing that the stress on cyclists and pedestrians buying lights or Hi-Viz can act as a diversion from what needs to be done for real road safety – safety for all road users.
Safety issues are always culturally defined, essentially expressing power interests often – as with all ideology – without being aware of it. Recommendations for achieving safety on the road are often, if not always, picked out of a hat as what is thought to be “obvious”. We need to see them as not obvious at all – instead confirming the prejudices that bolster the current inequitable status quo.
At the very least we should expect that Sir Peter Hendy – probably the most important transport professional in Britain – makes his judgements based on some real evidence.
Consider the front of this leaflet from the Department for Transport and Transport for London:
Below I discuss whether this approach is justified in a society which genuinely wanted a civilised approach to the safety of pedestrians and others.
In no particular order, here are some points I think worthy of consideration:1.Basic data (i)
“Twice as many people are killed when crossing the road away from a controlled crossing”. Without an idea of relative numbers of people crossing at, near, or far away from crossings, this doesn’t actually tell us what the relative chances of being killed at different locations.2. Basic data(ii)
“The majority of pedestrian related collisions occur within 50 metres of a crossing, so going a little out of your way could save your life”. Is it really the case that just about everything is alright on a crossing, not too bad some distance away where there is no crossing nearby, and the only problem is those pedestrians who can’t be bothered to walk a few metres further along?3. “…going a little out of your way…”
Actually, for a lot of disabled and elderly people, an extra walk of up to 100 metres to cross the road is not that convenient. Besides, current thinking among professionals is to provide ease of crossing that coincides with pedestrian desire lines.4. “Be seen. Be safe”
We have published a few posts on this subject recently, for example showing the lack of evidence for this being effective. http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/03/hi-viz-for-cyclists-and-pedestrians-the-evidence-and-context/ If we want to be pedantic about it, wearing “light, bright or colourful clothing” is not going to make any difference at (“especially at”) night because it is not reflective – but that’s not the point. Apart from the lack of evidence – and in my last discussions at an official meeting with a DfT officer there was no evidence given – this is breeding a culture of guilt among those pedestrians who choose or unable to wear a “light, bright or colourful…coat, scarf or hat” as they get about.
Much more important, what effect does this kind of material have on existing or future motorists: if there is insufficient restriction on motorists who are unable or unwilling to watch out for pedestrians, is this not exacerbating the problem of pedestrians being seen, rather than helping to deal with it.5. The “One False Move” for our times?
In 1990, Adams, Hillman and Whitelegg published One False Move… A Study of Children’s Independent Mobility .
The title was taken from a “road safety” poster of the time – no doubt indicative of a car-centred culture with a formal message based on scaring child pedestrians and their parents, and associated with parents restricting their children’s mobility accordingly. Of course, these restrictions on children’s independent mobility are not just because of fear of motor danger, and messages in government publicity are only a small part of this culture. Nevertheless, there is an association between – unacceptable levels of? – motor danger and these messages with what can be suggested is a measure of threat from an official source.
It may well be annoying to see pedestrians who are taking an unnecessary short cut just off a crossing, but apart from all the questions raised above, let’s consider this: we will have to cross roads away from crossings, quite apart from having the right to do so. Is a message “CROSS HERE FOR A & E” not exonerating motorists from their responsibilities and issuing a threat of injury to people engaged in a lawful activity?
The phrase does get used a lot, but is there a case to say this campaign is victim blaming?
(Note: I have scanned some of the leaflet, I can’t find an electronic link but it is dated October 2013 and refers to www.tfl.gov.uk )
Below is the text of this article which appears in the current issue of Local Transport Today Issue 635 15 Nov 2013. Subscribers to the electronic version can also read it here
Last year the Ministers for cycling and road safety sparked outrage by suggesting that the Dutch had an inferior cycling safety record compared to the UK. Of course, in terms of cyclist deaths per 100,000 population – the conventional “road safety” metric – it is worse. In terms of deaths per journey, distance, or time travelled – it is far better.
From a Road Danger Reduction (RDR) point of view, as opposed to the conventional “road safety” (RS) view, the people complaining were right – the human experience of risk per trip is contradicted by the official view. And the official view inherently discriminates against having far more cycling, unless the death or other casualty rate (per distance, journey etc. travelled) goes down by a greater factor.
Let’s consider the alternatives. Remember that this is not an arcane exercise for professionals, but goes right to the heart of what people want in terms of safety, and how people adapt to perceptions of danger (risk compensation), with some awkward issues being presented to the RS lobby.
A better measure than the dominant one – as has been flagged up by cyclist groups, some enlightened Councils, and even central government – is one taking some account of exposure: journeys, time, distance travelled. (Incidentally, much of this article applies to pedestrians as well). It does take resources to do counts, but they are necessary to give a meaningful indicator. Presenting the information this way also has the benefit of showing that cycling, particularly in London, is far less hazardous than is often made out.
But we need to go further. Although subject to the usual problems of knowing exactly what happens in and before a collision, we have a good idea of the movements preceding cyclists becoming “Killed or Seriously Injured” (KSI), certainly in London. As well as helping identify preventive measures, this determines who is legally responsible: we thus open the discussion out into who kills or hurts whom. So we could have useful indicators of chances of a cyclist in a given year being hurt or killed by a – legally responsible – car driver.
If, by “Cyclist safety” we mean what cyclists can do to other road users, we get a useful indication that cyclists are much less likely than other road users to be involved in incidents where others get hurt or killed. How about a “Who Kills/Hurts Whom” indicator, where a mode is portrayed in terms of the chances of its users being in a collision where somebody else gets hurt or killed?
The debate really takes off with the idea that a given location is/is not safe because there are few cyclist KSIs. The RDR movement has long struggled to show that there may be an absence of casualties because of low exposure – very often precisely because the location is seen as being hazardous.
This is not just a subjective whim. Locations like large gyratories, and places where cyclists may have to cross multiple lanes of fast flowing motor traffic, are places with higher than average dangers from motor traffic.
In that sense, professionals dismissing the fears of actual or potential cyclists are wrong. And we can measure objective danger factors: levels of Bikeability skills required to negotiate a junction, numbers of lanes to cross, speed of motor traffic etc. As Basil Fawlty might say, the fact of greater danger at some locations is often “bleedin’ obvious”, irrespective of or even inversely related to cyclist KSI numbers. And there are plenty of general indicators of road danger – for all road users – which can be usefully appended: the usual percentiles of speed, proportions of drivers unregistered, numbers of insurance claims made by motorists, etc.
Where does this measuring actually lead? Looking at locations with so-called “accident problems” has always been pretty hopeless as a guide to action for cyclist safety. Quite apart from the points above, there are issues with low numbers and non-reporting.
What do we actually want? This is a moral and political point. RDR differentiates between incidents such as a drunken cyclist falling off his bike and ones where the cyclist is struck by an illegally driving motorist. Neutralising that difference, which is the effect of RS totting up numbers of “cyclist Road Traffic Accidents”, is unscientific as well as immoral. And the key point is to draw attention to the need to reduce danger at source, namely from the (inappropriate) use of motor vehicles. After all, a safety issue can be responded to by any kind of supposed “safety intervention”, irrespective of the chances of actually reducing danger.
Naturally, in a car-dominated society, such talk leads to the accusatory “but it can be the cyclist’s fault”. But the fact that motorists can be responsible for hurting or killing themselves has not prevented construction of the “forgiving” environment for them: airbags, crumple zones, seat belts etc. by vehicle engineers; felling roadside trees, crash barriers and anti-skid etc. by highway engineers. All of this idiot-proofing is known to have exacerbated the idiocy, if not produced the idiots. Creating a forgiving environment for cyclists (and others) by reducing danger at source might well collude with carelessness by cyclists – but those who colluded with rule- and law-breaking by motorists can hardly argue against doing the same for rule-breaking that is less dangerous to others.
RDR ultimately means a change of culture – whether expressed through law enforcement, vehicle or highway engineering or just plain human behaviour. At the very least, aggregated cyclist KSIs must now no longer be the dominant measure of cyclist safety. Instead, targets must be based on exposure, objective danger factors, and legal responsibility for collisions.
Below I post a scan of Chapter 9 from “Death on the Streets: cars and the mythology of road safety“. Since the subject of cyclist and pedestrian conspicuity has raised such interest, I took another look at the evidence for conspicuity aids such as h-viz clothing, and the context in which the advocacy of such items occurs. In the twenty years since publication, I am not aware of any fresh evidence which contradicts the conclusions to this Chapter, or the Precaution which I suggest is taken when considering advocacy of hi-viz.
(Double click on each page/double page to read)
Our last post has generated more visits than any other. I refer to some comments received and a couple of news items below:
The post stirred memories for Charlie Lloyd of Australia in the 1960s where thousands of free yellow raincoats were handed out by the police (“I have a vague memory that this campaign was dropped after a year or two due to no measurable effect on casualties”) along with a catchy song. That in turn reminded me of “Wear Something Light at Night” I can half remember the tune of this campaign from the 60s - Be safe be bright, wear something light, Wear something light at night! – the advice to carry out a rolled up newspaper or “ a shopping bag will do as well” and my schoolgirl cousin distraught that she did not have the recommended white raincoat.
Of course, this could just have stuck with me because I have a professional and academic interest in “road safety” publicity. But I think the point is that this kind of material, presented to impressionable young people leaves an imprint, plays a crucial role in the construction of “road safety” ideology. In this case assisting in the usual shift of responsibility from those with the greatest potential lethality to those most at risk from it is about “being seen” As Julian Beach put it with a specific example and an associated thought experiment:
“There seems to be a gradual shift from looking to making things more visible, and a consequent shift in responsibility from the person who should be looking to the people who need to be seen. Daylight Running Lights on cars are probably the worse example of this, because they make those without DRLs less visible; particularly cyclists, who get lost in the mass of glaring white LEDs. Perhaps if we replaced high-output car headlamps with candles, people would drive more carefully!”
Fonant raised an interesting point:
“The problem of high-viz becoming “normal” may well cause problems the other way too: what should the emergency services wear to distinguish themselves from members of the public? This could already be a problem: in a crowd of people you can no longer expect the people in high-viz to be emergency service professionals, they may just be cyclists or school children.”
And with another example:
“Clearly, as with many “road safety” initiatives, the encouragement of high-viz is just another “arms race”. We used to have speed limit signs with a red border round a white circle with the limit. Then they added bright yellow backgrounds to make the signs “more visible”, and then they started painting roundels on the carriageway too. Now we even have roundels with red backgrounds on the carriageways, and motorists hardly notice the original speed limit signs anymore!”
Finally, echoing the central cautionary point we were making:
We have to stop pandering to the inattentive motorist, so that they are allowed to become even more inattentive, and we must start punishing motorists who don’t look where they’re going properly”
Let’s see how this relates to a story that was reported two days ago.A case of impaired vision?
: “The family of a journalist who was hit and killed by a short-sighted driver who was not wearing his glasses have branded the justice system “ridiculous” after his dangerous driving charge was dropped.
Laurence Gunn, 32, was struck and hurled into the air by Mohammed Rashid’s Ford Focus in the centre of a zebra crossing in Hampstead on March 3 last year. Mr. Gunn, from Maida Vale, was knocked unconscious when he landed and died in hospital from head injuries the following day.
Rashid, 23, was not wearing his glasses at the time — a condition of his being allowed to drive. Judge Aidan Marron QC ruled last week at Blackfriars crown court that the prosecution had failed to bring enough evidence to prove Rashid had caused death by “dangerous” driving. Instead, Rashid pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.”.
Now, consider this report from December 2012 in road.cc :
Nearly 6000 drivers had their licences revoked in 2011 because their eyesight was so poor, a 10 per cent rise on the previous year – and among bus and lorry drivers a 39 per cent rise. 5,285 licences for cars and motorbikes and 685 lorry and bus drivers’ licences were stopped last year because holders could not pass a standard eye test.
Transport minister Stephen Hammond told the Mail Online: “Licensing rules have an important part to play in keeping our roads safe. We must make sure that only those who are safe to drive are allowed on our roads while at the same time avoiding placing unnecessary restrictions on people’s independence. “
“All drivers must meet certain minimum eyesight standards. There are additional checks for drivers of large goods vehicles and passenger carrying vehicles, which we strictly enforce. This is to protect the driver and other road users given their size, the number of passengers and the likely additional distance and time spent on the road.”
Labour MP Meg Munn said in Parliament: “A recent report showed that in 2010 road accidents caused by poor driver vision resulted in an estimated 2,874 casualties.These figures provide information on how many drivers who have come forward and reported problems with their vision to the DVLA had their licenses revoked or refused.“I will be continuing to seek further information to ensure that robust measures are in place to check drivers’ vision, so we can continue to improve road safety. For most people it is simply a matter of getting their eyes tested to ensure they have glasses or contact lenses if required.”
The responsibility is on drivers to state when their eyesight is too bad to drive, but police can undertake roadside vision tests.Under Department for Transport rules, all drivers should be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away, with glasses or contact lenses if necessary. They should also be able to pass an eye test with an optician and have an adequate field of vision. (my emphases).
In my book “Death on the Streets: cars and the mythology of road safety” I referred in my chapter on this subject to evidence (p.145) that between one and million motorists were then estimated to be unable to pass the existing eyesight test. As the case has not been tried (and is sub judice) we don’t know if not wearing glasses was the reason for Mohammed Rashid driving into Laurence Gunn.
What we do know is that there is no evidence to suggest that the number of one to two million has come down. It is indeed the case that “police can undertake roadside vision tests” – but how often does this happen – have you been stopped in a random check by police? I doubt that this happens in an effective way, no doubt because the motoring lobby (along with the “road safety” lobby) is “at the same time avoiding placing unnecessary restrictions on people’s independence”. (Which “people”, we might ask).
But the issue, in my view, is not so much the inability to see because of defective vision, as the inability because of driving too fast or other forms of rule and law breaking.
Even that is only part of the problem: the real issue has to be watching out for other road users.
And how much of this is less likely to happen because of the process of shifting that responsibility away from drivers as part of the hi-viz advocacy and associated campaigning?
Wearing hi-viz apparel in the UK probably started on the railways in the 1960s. So that train drivers and track workers could see each other from further away, the fronts of trains were painted yellow, and the workers donned hi-viz jackets. In the following decades it gradually spread – first to traffic policemen, then to all the emergency services, then to other outdoor workers.
Some individual cyclists and motorcyclists thought it must be a good idea, and it wasn’t long before schools started using it when moving a group of child pedestrians around.
Now, they’re doing it for pets and even chickens as well as shoelace reflectors fro school kids.Compulsory use of hi-viz is already a reality for many workers and children. One of us has been required to wear hi-viz when visiting towpath surfacing works, presumably so that digger drivers could see me better. There’s a real possibility that hi-viz could become compulsory for cyclists .
The obvious questions that arise – or rather, the questions that should be asked, are:
- What is the evidence that wearing hi-viz is a sensible precaution, and in what circumstances?
- What are the consequences of use of hi-viz for those who don’t wear it?
- In a culture which accepts hi-viz wearing as normal and desirable, what is the effect on the safety and well-being of cyclists and pedestrians generally?
On railways, there’s a clear benefit from being seen as far away as possible. Trains take a long time to stop, and drivers normally don’t expect people on the track. And lack of sharp bends means that drivers can see to a point where you might be visible in hi-viz and invisible without it. The same can apply on motorways – drivers aren’t expecting pedestrians, are going fast, and have long sightlines.
(Note: The key element here is what drivers expect.)
But what about ordinary roads – such as a bending A-road with a 50 or 60 mph limit? Sometimes sightlines are long, but often they will be shortened by sharp bends. Lights can sometimes be seen round bends at night, but hi-viz can’t – day or night. So hi-viz is a poor substitute for lights in this situation. The only safe way is for drivers to be able to stop in the space they can see to be clear. The most basic rule of safe driving, in the Highway Code and elsewhere, is to “Never drive in such a way that you cannot stop within visible distance“.
At town driving speeds, drivers can stop within 10 metres. Are there any circumstances under which you would be visible in hi-viz and invisible without, when that close? Does it help (bends permitting) to be seen 50 or 100 metres away in this situation? By definition the motor vehicle that collides with you is rather close
Cyclists have questions to answer too. “Being seen” is not just a question of the driver seeing you because they have been actively working to do see you – or to put it another way, watching out for you – but you putting yourself in a position where they are more likely to do so. Hence the emphasis on taking the correct position in modern assertive cycle training
In a 2012 paper, (Miller, P (2012) The use of conspicuity aids by cyclists and the risk of crashes involving other road users: a population based case-control study. Miller tried to analyse the actual effect on cyclist casualties of wearing or not wearing hi-vis. To the surprise of many, he found that there was no statistically significant benefit – in fact he measured a non-significant disbenefit, after controlling for all the factors he could. The study was a case-control study, and therefore very susceptible to confounding factors, especially as riders who choose to wear hi-viz are likely to be more risk-averse than those who don’t. This would tend to reduce the apparent risk of cycling wearing hi-viz as against not wearing it, but this wasn’t found.
So it’s far from clear that there’s any safety benefit to cyclists from wearing hi-viz in urban areas, where most collisions happen.What are the consequences of use of hi-viz for those who don’t wear it?
As the fashion for hi-viz has spread, is it far-fetched to suggest that this will have adverse effects on those who don’t use it? It is surely a reasonable hypothesis that drivers become used to seeing cyclists and pedestrians as people who are going to be wearing bright clothing and/or hi-viz will become less likely to watch out for and therefore see those who don’t. The big losers here will be pedestrians, as smaller proportions of walkers will volunteer to wear hi-viz for what is still seen (so far) as a normal, non-hazardous activity.
People, as readers of this blog should now know, adapt to what is around them.In a culture which accepts hi-viz wearing as normal and desirable, what is the effect on the safety and well-being of cyclists and pedestrians generally?
We now deal with the longer term effects of this move. There limited resources in a society which can be used to address safety issues. A significant part of this effort – both through formal “road safety” agencies and in everyday culture – is to instruct those potential victims of road danger to think of themselves as at least partly responsible for being hit by a motor vehicle if they are not wearing hi-viz. We would suggest that this, along with other trends to place the burden of responsibility away from the source of danger on the road to those at particular risk from it.
Previously we have argued that this fashion needs to be seen in its political dimension (small “p” for the power relationship between different road user groups). Does it not make sense to suggest that this fashion feeds into and exacerbates the classis excuse of SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You)?A precaution BMW Education If
Does it not seems a sensible precaution to view the advocacy and wearing of hi-viz as indeed a victim-blaming red herring and part of the problem of danger on the roads?
(This post is by Dr. Robert Davis and Colin McKenzie)
We take a break from today’s debates to look at the response to motorisation and its attendant danger from some commentators at the time. Britain tends not have a group of people described as “intellectuals”: however celebrated and articulate people who would pass as such in any other European country existed and gave their views on road danger. Some of this work comes out in ordinary journalism – see the reports on Carlton Reid’s web site such as this others elsewhere. Here I give extracts from AP Herbert , Max Beerbohm and W.S. Gilbert (the Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan).
All were considerable – that word again – intellectuals and had commitments towards addressing social problems. Herbert was an MP and campaigner for causes such as Albanian independence, but above all for law reform. Gilbert was a magistrate. Beerbohm’s satires were gentle attempts to correct the excesses of contemporary life. None of their work can be seen as extreme radicalism: indeed their satire in other areas of life can often be seen as affectionate, and all were knighted. In that sense, the critique of elements of motorisation was capable of appealing to the thinking middle ground of British society.
One point which emerges for me is that while these people were delivering views based on a serious and carefully thought through analysis of motoring and road danger, their views were often expressed with a degree of humour, irony or sarcasm. This was partly because their work involved a degree of lampooning and humour – Beerbohm was described as a parodist, Herbert as a humourist and Gilbert’s work involved lampooning of establishment figures. But maybe it was also because of their isolation from any kind of political movement with which they could ally themselves.
W.S. Gilbert became a Justice of the Peace in Harrow had a reputation for toughness with errant motorists who came up before him.
He wrote this to The Times on 3 June 1903:
Sir,–I am delighted with the suggestion made by your spirited correspondent Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey that all pedestrians shall be legally empowered to discharge shotguns (the size of the shot to be humanely restricted to No. 8 or No. 9) at all motorists who may appear to them to be driving to the common danger. Not only would this provide a speedy and effective punishment for the erring motorist, but it would also supply the dwellers on popular highroads with a comfortable increase of income. “Motor shooting for a single gun” would appeal strongly to the sporting instincts of the true Briton, and would provide ample compensation to the proprietors of eligible road-side properties for the intolerable annoyance caused by the enemies of mankind.
The only difficulty that occurs to me is as to who shall undertake the rather delicate job of stopping the motor (tearing along at perhaps 35 or 40 miles an hour) after the motorist has been killed or disabled. But, without doubt, Sir R. Payne-Gallwey has considered this point, and will supply a practical suggestion as to how it is to be dealt with.
Your obedient servant,
Harrow Weald, June 2.
A. P. Herbert here satirises (with the reference to telling a grandmother to suck eggs being the key) the London Passenger Transport Board with its invocation to pedestrians to avoid making unnecessary journeys. (This was based on the wartime campaign to reduce journeys by motor vehicle in order to save petrol with the slogan “Is Your Journey Really Necessary” – a slogan which some environmentalists have considered revisiting).Crossing The Road by A. P. Herbert
(With mild apologies to the L.P.T.B.)
O silly Brown, O silly Brown,
Be careful, do, in London Town.
Do not attempt to cross the square
If motor-cars are moving there.
For vehicles, at any speed,
May hurt you very much indeed;
And, I’m afraid, the chances are
You will not hurt the motor-car.
Think, too, before you leave this side:
‘Is such a journey justified?
Would it relieve the nation’s load
If I were now to cross the road?
Does it much matter where I am?
Does anybody care a damn?’
An act that does not aid the war
Is wasted effort. What is more,
Who knows if you may not delay
A Civil Servant on his way,
Or make some Minister of State
A priceless half a second late?
Besides, its generally best
For people to remain at rest.
All motion must be friction too
And wears away the strongest shoe.
Shoe-leather is extremely rare,
And so is stuff to pave the Square.
In short, ignore the itch to roam;
Stay where you are, or stay at home.
And if in some remote retreat
Your Grandmama you chance to meet
Absorbing raw old-fashioned food
By methods primitive and crude,
Do not, however hard she begs,
Instruct her how to suck her eggs;
For she, in my considered view,
Can suck her eggs as well as you.
Written September 13, 1942 this verse first appeared in the Sunday Graphic, This version taken from A. P. Herbert’s book “Less Nonsense” published by Methuen & Co in 1944. Page 6-7
In Misleading Cases, a regular column he wrote for Punch on the idiocies of the legal system, he imagined the case of a pedestrian knocked over by a car and accused of being the culprit for having been in the way.
The pedestrian’s contention was that the motor car should be regarded in law as a wild beast — not least because of ‘the boast of its makers that it contains the concentrated power of 45 horses’.
The pedestrian had to be the innocent party, he argued, ‘because if a man were to gallop 45 horses tethered together at their full speed past a cross-roads, no lack of agility, judgement or presence of mind in the pedestrian would be counted such negligence as to excuse his injury. ‘The fact that the 45 horses are enclosed in a steel case and can approach without sound or warning, does not diminish, but augment, their power to do injury.’
The extract below is from Max Beerbohm’s “Speed”, broadcast in 1936, then printed in the Listener and reprinted in “Mainly on the Air” published by Heinemann in 1946. Parts of this article were reprinted in a pamphlet by the Pedestrians Association.
I find the comments on third party insurance a classic case of how reason contradicts the received views of the “road safety” lobby.
(if you can’t read this scan – click on image – it will be here in normal font shortly)
In the parliamentary debate on “Get Britain Cycling” it wasn’t just the CTC who thought that “the most impressive speech came from Labour’s frontbench spokesperson, Shadow Secretary of State Maria Eagle”.
We look at her contribution below, in the context of the evidence we have to assess what Labour is likely to actually do if it comes to power. For while Labour formally endorsed “Get Britain Cycling” at their annual conference , there are key areas where necessary commitment to achieve the aims of the report is apparently lacking.
We start with the main points from “the most impressive speech”:
First, we must end the stop-start approach to supporting cycling, which means that we need long-term funding of the infrastructure needed for dedicated separate safe cycling routes. Ministers recently set out annual budgets for rail and road investment up to 2020-21, but they failed to do so for cycling infrastructure, which means that while there is a £28 billion commitment for roads, we have only a one-off £114 million from central Government for cycling, and that is spread across three years. It is time for a serious rethink of priorities within the roads budget with a proportion reallocated to deliver a long-term funding settlement for cycling infrastructure.
The priority for investment to support cycling must be dedicated separated infrastructure to create safe routes. The focus has too often been on painting a thin section at the side of the road a different colour. Genuinely separated cycle routes are vital not only to improve safety but, as we have heard from many hon. Members, to build confidence and to encourage those who are not used to cycling to make the switch to two wheels. It is also important that a commitment to new infrastructure does not become an excuse not to improve the safety of cyclists on roads where there is no separation. The priority should be redesigning dangerous junctions where almost two thirds of cyclist deaths and serious injuries due to collisions take place. We need a much greater use of traffic light phasing to give cyclists a head start.
Secondly, we need to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, so I propose a cycle safety assessment before new transport schemes are given the green light. In the same way in which Departments have to carry out regulatory impact assessments and equality impact assessments, there should be an obligation to cycle-proof new policies and projects. We need new enforceable design standards and measures to ensure compliance.
Thirdly, we need national targets to cut deaths and serious injuries to be restored, but they should sit alongside a new target to increase levels of cycling. The number of cyclist deaths is tragically at a five-year high. Of course, targets alone are not the only answer, but they help to focus minds and efforts, so Ministers are wrong to reject them. However, it is vital to ensure that targets do not perversely lead to local authorities and others seeing the way to cut deaths and injuries as discouraging cycling. In fact, cycling becomes safer when more cyclists are on the road, so we should learn from the success that has been achieved in European countries that have set clear goals to increase levels of cycling alongside the policies necessary to achieve that.
Fourthly, we should learn from Wales and extend to England its active travel legislation, which sets out clear duties on local authorities to support cycling. Local authorities are central to devising, prioritising and delivering measures to support cycling, so it is important that additional support from central Government is matched by clear obligations. To assist councils, we should provide them with a best-practice toolkit to boost cycling numbers that is based on what we learned from the cycling city and towns programme and evidence from abroad. Councils should be supported to deliver 20 mph zones, which should increasingly become an effective default in most residential areas.
Fifthly, we must ensure that children and young people have every opportunity to cycle and to do so safely. The Government should not have ended long-term funding certainty for the Bikeability scheme, nor axed the requirement for school travel plans. Those decisions can and should be reversed.
Sixthly, we need to make it easier for cycling to become part of the journey to work, even when the commute is too far to do by bike alone. Employers can play an important role in providing access to showers, changing facilities and lockers. However, our public transport providers need to step up and do much more too. Instead of the Government’s approach, which has been to propose a weakening of franchise obligations, we should toughen up the requirement to provide station facilities and on-train space for bikes in rail contracts.
Seventhly, we need to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done in cases where collisions lead to the death of cyclists and serious injuries. I welcome the recent commitment from Ministers to initiate a review of sentencing guidelines. It is vital that this is a comprehensive review of the justice system and how it protects vulnerable road users, and it should be concluded without delay in this Parliament. We are certainly willing to work with Government to implement sensible changes that may be proposed.
Finally, we need tough new rules and requirements on heavy goods vehicles that are involved in about a fifth of all cycling fatalities, despite the fact that HGVs make up just 6% of road traffic—there is clearly an issue there. We should look at the case for taking HGVs out of our cities at the busiest times, as has happened elsewhere in Europe, including in Paris and Dublin. As a minimum, we should require safety measures on all HGVs, including sensors, audible truck-turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars, as well as better training and awareness. I have previously suggested to Ministers that the £23 million that is expected to be raised annually from the new HGV road-charging scheme could be used to support the road haulage industry to achieve that. I hope that that idea will be taken seriously and considered by Ministers, along with all those clear proposals. Taken together, I believe that that would be a significant improvement in the Government’s current approach, and it is something that all parties could support across the House.
That’s pretty good.
Of course, there are some issues here:
We could go further – but to be fair, the eight points are not bad.
However, my view is that the statements so far from Ms Eagle indicate that Labour – so far – does not have the basic commitment to advance the aims and objectives of the “Get Britain Cycling” report.
Why it just is not good enough (1) Targets
I have to say that I’m wary of targets, particularly after the National Cycling Strategy set targets which just sailed past unmet. But consider Chris Boardman’s comments :
“The government refused to set targets after the Get Britain Cycling report. They say targets don’t work. Well I can tell you not having recognised, tangible targets to aim for doesn’t work. Another term for setting targets is being accountable for your performance; it enables you to measure progress against a meaningful yardstick. In my time at British Cycling, the only athletes who avoided setting themselves targets and measuring their progress failed.”
If targets are set with appropriate funding – and the possibility of removal of such and other transport funding if progress is not met – perhaps they can play an important part in moving forward.
Why it just is not good enough (2) Money, money, money…
The most obvious point was made by Chris Peck of the CTC:
“but the weakest part of that was the [lack of pledged] money.”
Figures (of at least £10 per head of the population to be spent on cycling) have been quoted at length in the report and elsewhere – why didn’t Maria Eagle make the necessary commitment here? Let’s not forget that Ms Eagle has been in the forefront of promoting High Speed Rail 2 with its £40 billion cost. Would it be that difficult to give a firm spending commitment to cycling in this context, if you were serious about it?
In the first point of her eight we see:
Ministers recently set out annual budgets for rail and road investment up to 2020-21, but they failed to do so for cycling infrastructure, which means that while there is a £28 billion commitment for roads, we have only a one-off £114 million from central Government for cycling, and that is spread across three years. It is time for a serious rethink of priorities within the roads budget, with a proportion reallocated to deliver a long-term funding settlement for cycling infrastructure.
Is she going to criticise the £28 billion spend? Because, if not, there is plainly enough money in the transport budget – whatever austerity programme Labour chooses to follow – for money to be available for cycling.
My view is that the £28 billion spend should be criticised – in which case there would be even more money to be spent on sustainable transport.
But it gets worse: while all this has been going on, we have the cancellation of the fuel tax accelerator – and the promise of fuel duty being frozen during the rest of this Parliament. That means a loss to the Exchequer of about another £500 million per year. All this when the £10 per head of the population for cycling would be just £600 million per annum.
I would go further – if we are to reduce emissions from the burning of petrol, we need not only to reduce motor vehicle use but also to shift to far more fuel-efficient engines in cars. A key driver for this would be significantly increasing the price of petrol, and/or carbon rationing. Besides, if petrol prices did not go up with more fuel-efficient vehicles, driving would be very similarly priced to cycling – reducing yet further one of the key possible advantages of cycling over driving.
Why it just is not good enough (3) The Great God Car in Labour’s transport policy
All of this makes us ask – what kind of transport policy do Ms Eagle and the Labour Party actually have? Her past comments do not inspire confidence – one idea was raising the motorway speed limit ; She has also said that she “was preparing a radical overhaul of Labour’s motoring strategy”, hoping that her policy will “revive its reputation among drivers who accused the party of ‘waging war on the motorist’ while in government.” This includes possible incentives such as paying motorists (through discounts on VED) if they have not been caught by speed cameras.
Is bribing motorists by paying them for not being caught speeding a good way to enforce road traffic law?
The problem is that as long as motoring continues to be encouraged – quite apart from all the adverse effects on the local and global environment, community and public health, etc. etc. – how exactly is cycling going to be encouraged? Encouraging someone to drive a long distance to work or the shops through reduced fuel duty, more road building for cars, and associated planning allowing adequate car parking for all this, will impede the prospects of that person cycling to work. If road space needs to be re-allocated away from motoring to cycling, how does that fit in with encouraging motoring?
We have been here before
A commitment towards sustainable transport was made by John Prescott at the start of the last Labour government. The commitment towards reducing motor vehicular traffic was not only dropped but reversed. And Prescott was for ten years a key player in the Labour Party, wielding more clout than Maria Eagle is likely to.
With this background to Labour transport policy, the current statements of Maria Eagle do not inspire confidence.
2013 – 20th year of the Road Danger Reduction Forum
The last post gave some detail on how anti-cycling this Government is. Of course, we are aware that the current government is a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in it. But the Liberal Democrats have now officially adopted the Get Britain Cycling report recommendations as Lib Dem policy , and it is fair to say that the Liberal Democrats have, on the whole, tended to be more positive on the cycling front. Indeed, they may well have been a corrective force against some of the worst of the Conservatives’ efforts on transport policy. Let’s look in more detail at the Liberal Democrats and cycling.
Some Liberal Democrats, in particular the excellent Julian Huppert MP (Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group) have said many good things about supporting cycling – although so have individual MPs of all parties. The issue is: what can we expect from the Liberal Democrats as a party?
The Get Britain Cycling recommendations were officially adopted as Lib Dem policy at the 2013 party conference, including £10 per head cycling spending and 10% of journeys being by bike by 2025, rising to 25% by 2050. The Lib Dems are the first major party to adopt these recommendations, which also include research into tougher penalties for dangerous and careless drivers and strict liability, and a requirement for local authorities to provide for cyclists in planning.
At the party’s conference in Glasgow, the motion, proposed by the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group chair Julian Huppert, was also supported by Cycling Minister Norman Baker.
It’s worthwhile quoting further from the Cycling Weekly report on the comments of the NGOs in response to this:
Sustrans Policy Advisor, Matt Hamsley, said: “Cycling Minister Norman Baker urged the conference to support the recommendations, and should now put pressure on his coalition colleagues to do the same.
CTC’s Chris Peck added: “It is really good that Julian Huppert has pulled the party towards the important part of it, which is a round of money, because that is the hardest for parties to stand behind. [Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Transport] Maria Eagle showed some pretty good leadership by putting forward her 8-point plan, but the weakest part of that was the [lack of pledged] money.”
He added that the hard part in the short term it is to transfer Get Britain Cycling into coalition policy and into the Lib Dem manifesto for 2015.
So we have some kind of formal commitment from the Liberal Democrats. The problem is, as the CTC say, to have that in the official manifesto for the election, and – above all – a willingness to impose the requirements upon a coalition partner, since everybody accepts that the Lib Dems will not be the next government on their own. Assessing the prospects of this happening should involve looking at the record of the Lib Dems so far, particularly the Minister, Norman Baker.
I consider his views in three episodes here:1. How much money is this Government spending on cycling?
Of course, Ministers tend to talk up what they do, and/or repeat what their civil servants tell them. It may also not be politic to criticise the coalition government of which his party is the junior partner. But he could have argued along the lines of “we are spending a lot, and more than previous governments, but could spend a lot more if we are to get up to European levels”. He doesn’t. And his arguments are full of very obvious holes.2. How does the Government measure cyclist safety?
This statistical sleight of hand brings to mind the embarrassment caused when he and his then fellow Minister made complete fools of themselves when they argued that Britain had a better road safety record for cyclists than the Netherlands . As I argued at the time, this nonsense was actually based on a fundamental feature of how the “road safety” industry measures safety, which inherently impedes attempts to increase the amount of cycling – as this will be seen to oppose “road safety”. This is absolutely critical to an understanding of “road safety”, and I would urge you to read this post again.
3. Does this Government want cyclists to feel safer?
The London Assembly’s transport committee December 2012 report suggested the Government consider adopting the practice of what is referred to as strict liability (actually it is presumed liability) in civil law for drivers where cyclists or pedestrians are in collisions involving motor vehicles. Baker opposed this in a letter to the Committee reported in Local Transport Today (LTT 620 19 April – 02 May 2013), although this seems to go against what has been suggested in the “Get Britain Cycling” report, which his party now supposedly endorses – although of course the wording is about “research” into it, rather than anything more concrete
Baker, I think, got a lot of his response wrong in opposing a measure which is commonplace in other countries. But let’s focus on a key sentence in his letter opposing presumed liability:
“It (presumed/strict liability) would also remove the incentive for road users to act responsibly, which could have an undesirable effect on road safety”
Actually he means pedestrians and cyclists, rather than all road users – motorists would have more of an incentive to act responsibly, which is a key reason for bring the measure in.
What he is suggesting is that road users – specifically pedestrians and cyclists – change their behaviour in response to their perception of risk, or what we call “risk compensation” or behavioural adaptation. We hope he has taken on an understanding of the work of John Adams, including shorter works showing the lack of evidence for beneficial effects of “road safety” interventions.
It would also be good if he could announce – if we are talking about cyclist safety – how at least one key “road safety” measure adversely affected (to put it mildly) cyclist safety.
This is not incidental. As with his nonsense about measuring cyclist safety, he is making a fundamental mistake and promoting a barrier to supporting cycling. He is doing nothing less than opposing a measure on the basis that it might make cyclists feel safer.
I suggest that hese three episodes do not inspire confidence in the Liberal Democrat Minister with responsibility for cycling.
In addition, what are the Liberal Democrats prepared to do when it comes to road building programmes? Why have they not spoken up against the additional subsidy to motoring involved in talking away the (minimal) fuel tax increases? These are key issues to address if we want to achieve modal shift from car use.
We have already given first impressions on the Government response to the “Get Britain Cycling” report . After the dust has settled from the Parliamentary debate on the report, it’s time to take stock. The bitter truth is that there is a contradiction between Government pro-cycling rhetoric and what it is actually prepared to support, with fundamental ideological and institutional barriers in place to prevent genuine support for cycling.The Parliamentary Debate
It’s gratifying to see that 100 MPs turned up to the debate, with support given to the Get Britain Cycling report:
The debate ended with an unopposed vote in favour of the motion “That this House supports the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report ‘Get Britain Cycling’; endorses the target of 10 per cent of all journeys being made by bike by 2025, and 25 per cent by 2050; and calls on the Government to show strong political leadership, including an annual Cycling Action Plan and sustained funding for cycling.”
But as the CTC put it: “Unfortunately the vote is not binding on the Government!”
It may seem churlish, but I have been listening to government ministers proclaiming their support for cycling since 1984, since when we have witnessed a massive increase in – motoring.
Lots of positive (and, it has to be said, some misguided) contributions in a debate may well assist further pushes for cycling as part of sustainable transport policy and reducing road danger. To be part of that push I joined the cyclists in the demonstration that London Cycling Campaign organised outside while the debate occurred:(Note the meaningful slogan) SO WHERE IS THE GOVERNMENT WITH REGARD TO CYCLING?
Let’s briefly refer to four key areas, with a more detailed look at funding:
Professionals and campaigners are used to central Government going on about the importance of the local in making decisions. In effect this tends to mean that:
(a) Responsibility and necessary support for sustainable transport is shifted away from those who have the real power and resources.
(b) Where local decisions are made in a progressive way, pressure from the centre – despite the rhetoric of localism – will tend to minimise their prospects of success.2. Funding.
Probably the most obvious area of failure, this needs looking at in a little more detail.
Commentators on the Government response to “Get Britain Cycling” have highlighted the fact that the minimal investment in cycling is for limited periods in limited areas. This is in strong and stark contrast to the amounts of money put in to promoting motor vehicle transport (this is what “investing in roads” generally means). It is in strong contrast to the long and sustained time periods of pumping money into building infrastructure for cars and lorries. For example, in their typically super-polite way, the CTC point out:
“CTC and other cycling groups welcomed the Prime Minister’s support for cycling and his effective endorsement of the figure of £10 per head of annual spending on cycling. CTC has long regarded this as the minimum needed to start catching up with continental levels of cycle use. However CTC also pointed out that his actual spending commitment covers just 1/10 of Britain’s population for 2 years, (my emphasis) and that substantially increased funding is now needed for several years, if local authorities and others are to develop the organisational capacity, the funding programmes and the cycle networks needed to substantially boost cycle use over the longer term.”
But it gets worse. This should all be looked at in the context of the Government’s pro-car and pro-lorry road building . And also the promotion of the £42 billion High Speed Rail Two.
It can also be looked at in the context of items which tend to slip under the radar. For example, this year the £500 million donation by our Government (admittedly over ten years) to the automotive industry to, well, help it. So much for leaving things to the market.
Or what about the cancellation of the fuel tax accelerator in the last budget? By cancelling the pathetically small 3p per litre increase, the Government saved a typical motorist some £20 per annum – the equivalent of some 40 miles’ driving costs. That lost the exchequer some £500 million per annum – exactly the sort of sum which has been agreed to be necessary for ring-fenced cycling funding.
And, yes, it gets even worse. For, as we have pointed out for some time in posts such as this and on the costs of motoring, there is a general problem with the cheapness of motoring. Against the background of rising costs of essentials such as housing, even before this Government, motoring costs have remained stable or declined.
Then there are issues about how fuel-efficient cars are hardly likely to become attractive until fuel costs rise or fuel is rationed.
In addition, it might be worth comparing the cost of cycling with that of driving. Bodies like the CTC and LCC have long argued for allowances of some 25p per mile for cycling – yet motoring can cost a fuel-efficient car driver less than twice that. A couple may find it cheaper to sit in a car than cycle together – what kind of message is that’s ending out?
Just in case you need any reminding of how this Government allocates funding on local transport schemes, take a look at this report by Campaign for Better Transport and CPRE.
Are you in any doubt that, in terms of allocation of financial resources, this Government massively discriminates against sustainable transport in general and cycling in particular?3. Law
The lack of motoring law enforcement, and the leniency and lack of deterrence in sentencing, are key indicators of inadequate concern for the safety of cyclists – although this is just part of a general problem for all road users, with those outside cars simply being more at risk.
The one move made by the Government in response to “Get Britain Cycling” is discussed under point 11.
Early in the New Year, the Sentencing Council (an independent non-departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice) will undertake a review of the sentencing guidelines for the offences of causing death by careless driving and causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving.
In other words, the vast majority of driving resulting in serious injury won’t be discussed (because it involves “careless” rather than “dangerous” driving). You can forget about the vast majority of injuries (classified as “slight”), let alone intimidatory behaviour or bad driving in general. Nothing about speeding or the debate on “presumed liability” – this has already been opposed by Minister Norman Baker. Nor the levels of law enforcement required to actually achieve necessary change.4. The Great God Car
All of this is underpinned by a car-centric, car-supremacist culture. There is no point arguing for changes – in law and its enforcement, engineering, education etc. – without a recognition of the role of this culture. Without it we don’t realise the reasons for replacing car use by sustainable modes such as cycling. Without it we don’t appreciate what barriers the necessary means to support cycling have to overcome.
The whole point about culture is that it is about what we don’t talk about. It is about how we regard as unproblematic matters which, if we are going to make the necessary changes, we have to start questioning. That isn’t happening with the present Government.SO HOW ANTI-CYCLING IS THIS GOVERNMENT?
Plenty of MPs in the parties forming the coalition, particularly the excellent Julian Huppert for the Lib Dems, are saying the right kinds of thing. And there are distinct prospects of progress on cycling in London, with funding which (indirectly) comes from central Government.
But for the Government itself, in terms of real progress towards a proper approach to cycling as part of a civilised transport policy? My view is that it is fundamentally discriminatory against cycling as a viable everyday form of transport. It does not properly address road danger to cyclists (and other road users) or challenge negative and stigmatising portrayal of cyclists. It gives grossly inadequate and inequitable funding to, and general provision for, cycling compared with other forms of transport and car use in particular.
And that’s anti-cycling enough.
In the next post we are going to look at whether the opposition is putting forward any programme which would be better.
I nearly threw my lunch up in response to this gruesome bit of victim-blaming – so do prepare yourselves before viewing it. A natural reaction of any civilised person concerned with safety on the road would be outrage, and that’s entirely appropriate. I have to say that there is also plenty of justification for just expressing that outrage and refusing to go any further – many will feel that addressing elements of this message might dignify it as part of a responsible discourse on the subject.
Nevertheless, we will do so because, if nothing else, we can show how the ideology of traditional “road safety” allows those who endanger others to try and justify themselves. Critically analysing this garbage should help us in dealing with the problem of danger on the roads in general, and not just from the RHA. So, have your sick-bags at the ready and here we go…
Some of us have been campaigning for over 20 years about the situation where freight is carried on roads used by pedestrians and cyclists in vehicles which are not fit for purpose. After much campaigning, the industry has finally installed mirrors on HGVs enabling drivers to see where pedestrians and cyclists might be. We have to ask, how have we got into a situation where it’s seen as acceptable for large vehicles to move into space that their drivers cannot see?
Some operators consider electronic surveillance devices. Some have delivery of cyclist awareness courses like Safe Urban Driving as part of the legally required Certificate of Professional Competence. But they don’t push for all vehicles to have the latest electronic surveillance linked to black box recorders, or to have devices closing the gap between the vehicle body and road surface (which is how pedestrians and cyclists come to be crushed when hit). A range of practices would be seen in other industries as basic health and safety requirements – but not here. In fact, even the emphasis on the “blind-spot” forgets that the basic requirement should be on the potentially dangerous to be able to see, rather than on their potential victims to be seen (“Never drive in such a way that you cannot stop within visible distance”).
After plenty of campaigning from cycling groups and others, the Mayor of London has recently been making more of an effort to enforce requirements on basic safety equipment in parts of London – to which parts of the freight industry have reacted angrily .
We have a (limited) move towards some basic law enforcement on dangerous lorry use. That’s the reason for the rubbish from the Freight Transport Association, and now the RHA.THE ANALYSIS
Cue hysterical laughter.
Well, how dare you? But that’s the point: the culture generated by official “road safety” ideology allows the dangerous to present themselves as partners with their actual or potential victims. The difference between endangering others and being endangered is neutralised as if we are indeed, “all in it together”.
The key issue is to show how “road safety” ideology allows evasion of key responsibilities – if you allow it. That’s why we constantly analyses and criticise it.
But more needs to be done here. There needs to be some serious questioning of the viability of partnership working of cyclists and other groups – and bodies like Transport for London – with the FTA and RHA if they carry on behaving like this.POSTSCRIPT ONE
The current issue of Private Eye (no 1349, p.12) quotes the FTA’s EU affairs manager describing how – due to cutbacks in DfT staff in London – he sometimes represents the Department for Transport in EU meetings. “…recently FTA defeated the European parliament” on proposals to make small goods vehicles carry digital devices to record speed and driving hours.POSTSCRIPT TWO
The RHA is a key collaborator in the activities of Fair Fuel UK . Apart from the environmental destruction inevitably associated with not increasing the cost of petrol, these efforts are a central part of the belief system that motorists have “paid their way” or “paid for the road” – with inevitable hostility towards the non-motorised.
Out yesterday, here are some first thoughts on this Government response which you can see here. Do read the “Get Britain Cycling” report and our comments on it when it came out, The ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report’s 18 recommendations are given below. I give comments on how the Government has responded:
1. Create a cycling budget of £10 per person per year, increasing to £20.
The key recommendation of ‘Get Britain Cycling’, this is basically dodged with reference to some one-off and/or local schemes and Bikeability training. The idea of ring-fencing cycling money – which Mayor Johnson in London has had a stab at – is not there. Not to mention having the amount suggested, let alone anything commensurate with spend on roads or High Speed Rail.
As one blogger puts it: “The first recommendation of the Get Britain Cycling Report, that the government commit spend equivalent to £10 per head a year to cycling, ultimately increasing to £20, isn’t answered at all; instead, we’re told about investment that has been made, such as the recently announced Cycle City Ambition funds, which only apply to a handful of successful bidding cities, and not at all to towns or rural areas. t’s also a one-off injection of central government cash, and therefore even in those areas that benefit from it, cannot be considered as being “in excess of £10 per head per year” as the government today claims it to be.”
2. Ensure local and national bodies, such as the Highways Agency, Department for Transport and local government allocate funds to cycling of at least the local proportion of journeys done by bike.
Dodged with the “localism excuse”. (This funding is not ring fenced and allows local authorities to decide and implement the solutions that best suit their localities).
3. Cycle spending that makes a tangible contribution to other government departments, such as Health, Education, Sport and Business, should be funded from those budgets, not just the DfT.
“In recognition of the contribution cycling (and walking) make to health, the Department of Health (DH) has announced new funding of £1 million over the next two years to be shared across at least four of the eight Cycling Ambition Grant cities”
The rest of the response is a sort of “localism excuse” based on the devolution of public health to local authorities. How much money is your local authority public health section putting into cycling, and what is it to be spent on?
4. A statutory requirement that cyclists’ and pedestrians’ needs are considered at an early stage of all new development schemes, including housing and business developments as well as traffic and transport schemes, including funding through the planning system.
Here we have a list of various guidelines. For example:” Through the revised Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions, due in 2015, Government will be making further changes to make it easier for councils to install cycle facilities, by removing the requirement for Traffic Orders for mandatory cycle lanes and exemptions for cyclists (such as ‘No Right Turn Except Cycles’). “
Not very dynamic really. More importantly, there have been various guidelines and suggestions around for years – how often are they used?
5. Revise existing design guidance, to include more secure cycling parking, continental best practice for cycle-friendly planning and design, and an audit process to help planners, engineers and architects to ‘think bike’ in all their work.
As 4 above, basically a reference to guidelines, some of which do involve facilitation of some minor changes such as revision of Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions.
Then the localism excuse: “. Decisions on how best to provide for cyclists on local roads are rightly matters for the local authority” – and the traditional killer excuse for blocking support for cycling ” – … they have a duty to balance the needs of all road users when considering how to design and manage their road networks, “
.6. The Highways Agency should draw up a programme to remove the barriers to cycle journeys parallel to or across trunk roads and motorway corridors, starting with the places where the potential for increased cycle use is greatest.
In his statement on 12th August 2013, the Prime Minister announced that cycling will be at the heart of future road developments. I beg to disagree with the Prime Minster: I would say that supporting increasing dependency on car use and more motor vehicle traffic is at the heart of such developments.
There is reference to “cycle-proofing” – a buzz-phrase we will be hearing more of – which the CTC has welcomed: “He committed to ensuring that all new big road developments will incorporate the needs of cyclists into their planning and design. This reinforced the commitment made in Action for Roads – that the Government will cycle-proof the trunk road network and minimise situations where major roads are a barrier to cyclists, pedestrians and communities.”
Will this happen? Also, if we are due to have a transport policy based on more roads and more cars, where are the cyclists going to come from?
Then there is reference to some schemes costing a few million pounds and the intention to train up engineers.
7. Local authorities should seek to deliver cycle-friendly improvements across their existing roads, including small improvements, segregated routes, and road reallocation.
The localism excuse again: “The Department for Transport expects local authorities to up their game in delivering infrastructure that takes cycling into account from the design stage”.
“Local authorities have a duty to consider the needs of all road users, including cyclists and pedestrians, when managing their road networks.” I wonder if any LAs have actually been successfully sued for not “considering”.
8. The Department for Transport should approve and update necessary new regulations such as allowing separate traffic lights for cyclists and commencing s6 of the Road Traffic Act 2004.
It is intended that the new regulations will be brought into force in 2015. As well as new traffic lights to give cyclists a head start at junctions, other measures being considered include:
o Removing the requirement for a lead-in lane for cyclists at advanced stop lines, making it easier for highway authorities to install advanced stop lines at junctions;
o Options for joint crossings for use by both pedestrians and cyclists;
o New designs of filter signals for cyclists as an alternative way of providing a head start at traffic lights;
o Options for bigger cycle boxes (advanced stop lines), to accommodate the growth in cycling, and to make it safer for cyclists at junctions;
o Removing the requirement for Traffic Orders for mandatory cycle lanes and exemptions for cyclists, such as ‘no right turn except cycles’. This will make it easier for local authorities to install cycle facilities.
Not exactly setting the world on fire. This paragraph also refers to work which has already been done – I have to say that it does look like padding which is not informative to any professional transport practitioner.
9. Extend 20 mph speed limits in towns, and consider 40mph limits on many rural lanes.
Localism excuse again. “ Local authorities are responsible for setting local speed limits in line with their local conditions and requirements.”.
10. Improve HGV safety by vehicle design, driver training, and mutual awareness with cyclists; promote rail freight and limit use of HGVs on the busiest urban streets at the busiest times, and use public sector projects to drive fleet improvements.
Nothing very new in the response. Nothing about linking in new technologies to black boxes or presumption of liability
11. Strengthen the enforcement of road traffic law, including speed limits, and ensuring that driving offences – especially those resulting in death or injury – are treated sufficiently seriously by police, prosecutors and judges.
This starts off with what looks like a reiteration of the “We’re all in this together” attempt to neutralise the difference between the potential effects of cyclist and motorist rule and law-breaking:
“All road users have a duty to use the road network in a safe and responsible manner and to obey road traffic law”
But maybe that’s just me…
The Ministry of Justice is the lead on sentencing matters and has responsibility for sentencing policy
Early in the New Year, the Sentencing Council (an independent nondepartmental public body of the Ministry of Justice) will undertake a review of the sentencing guidelines for the offences of causing death by careless driving and causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving. Proposals will be subject to a formal consultation.
The Department for Transport also hosts a Justice Sub-Group of its Cycle Stakeholder Forum. The Sub-Group includes representatives of the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, the Sentencing Council, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Metropolitan Police, and a number of cycling representatives. The remit of the group is to consider the present arrangements within the criminal justice system to ensure that it supports the Government’s ambition for walking and cycling by protecting cyclists and pedestrians.
The Justice Sub-Group is commissioning research to investigate the link between police reported road traffic incidents where cyclists or pedestrians are killed or seriously injured (STATS 19 data) and prosecutions to better understand how the justice system works for these vulnerable road users.
The Group will meet with the Crown Prosecution Service to discuss how revised charging guidance for prosecutors will work in relation to cyclists and pedestrians.
This might look impressive, but wait:
12. Provide cycle training at all primary and secondary schools.
13. Offer widespread affordable (or free) cycle training and other programmes to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to give cycling a try, as evidenced by NICE.
A lot of localism excuses here.
14.Promote cycling as a safe and normal activity for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Starting off with “Cycle safety is very important,…” this section does not really answer the recommendation. It is worthwhile looking at the document to see what is really a rather lazy response.
This could have been the place to point out the lack of evidence of, for example, hi-viz. Or to review the last erroneous attempt to study the effects of cycle helmets, discredited by the CTC.
“The Government is committed to turning Britain into a cycling nation to rival our European neighbours. This means introducing policies that will make it easier for everyone to cycle, regardless of their age or background. “ the reaction of many will be to say – well, how about doing so?
15. The Government should produce a cross-departmental Cycling Action Plan with annual progress reports.
16. The Government should appoint a national Cycling Champion, an expert from outside the Department for Transport.
“The Government has no plans to appoint a national Cycling Champion. However, the Cycle Safety Forum Subgroup provides external expert help and advice.”
Chris Boardman would have been an ideal candidate – well known and personable. He is also knowledgeable and willing to speak his mind – which is probably why he was not selected
17. The Government should set national targets to increase cycle use from less than 2% of journeys in 2011, to 10% of all journeys in 2025, and 25% by 2050.
This response is a combination of the localism excuse and reiteration of figures for money which has been spent.it has drawn criticism as being symbolic of the lack of commitment for cycling by the Government.
I would suggest that the failure to give targets is not that important – we have had targets before, as in the National Cycling Strategy. Unless they are backed up by plans to achieve them, with the threat of removing funding if they are not being achieved, perhaps they are over-rated.
18. Central and local government and devolved authorities should each appoint a lead politician responsible for cycling.
So: No proper ring-fenced funding, no real pressure on local authorities to deliver, no real law enforcement or move towards making drivers genuinely responsible for rule and law-breaking, no real understanding of cycling as inherently non-hazardous and a willingness to promote it as such.
Now that I have your attention: the clue to my question is in the quotation marks. As we line up for the September 2nd House of Commons debate on cycling , I discuss below how the phrasing of the question tells us about many of the problems confronting cycling.
As any transport professional concerned with cycling and sustainable transport knows, discussion of cycling at both central and local governmental level has featured regular episodes of consideration of cycling over the last three decades. A key feature, even with a strong positive slogan (“Get Britain Cycling”) is the idea that something or some things should be “done for cycling”.
I don’t know how much this will figure in the September 2nd debate, but I want to consider this form of argument because I think it (unintentionally) shows up many of the problems which need to be addressed if we are indeed to “Get Britain Cycling”.
1. Doing cycling/cyclists a favour.
A key element in the “doing something for cycling” approach is the patronising attitude. Cycling and/or cyclists are to be considered for the powerful who may wish to do them a favour. It’s a kind of lord of the manner nonsense. Take this example from Christopher Snelling of the Freight Transport Association in his piece in the collection “Get Britain Cycling” which comes with Landor Press’ Local Transport Today:
“When cyclists jump red lights or undertake vehicles they put themselves at risk and decrease the motor driver’s enthusiasm for giving them the consideration they deserve”.
As with all dreadful arguments there is an element of truth here: it is a good idea to try to obey the law and be cooperative. (It is even more important to avoid endangering pedestrians by stopping at red lights – a more important consideration than “putting themselves at risk” which interestingly does not get mentioned).
What is interesting here is that although friendly consideration is good, why should it be based on an “enthusiasm” which can be withdrawn if the driver feels like withholding it? This is a bizarre world where the motorised operate with a kind of noblesse oblige towards the lower orders – if they feel like it.
Is there any other scenario in a workplace or in air, maritime or rail transport where crucial health and safety regulations could be flouted if someone with the potential to endanger others decided not have sufficient “enthusiasm”?2. Trivialising cycling.
Part of the patronising of cycling/cyclists is to look at it as “fun activity” or in terms of cycle sport (the Prime Minister’s recent announcements of – quite trivial – amounts of funding for cycling were made a at a sports event). Of course, cycling can very often be fun, and cycle sport is great: countries with high modal shares of cycling tend to have a good grass roots cycle sport scene. But that is the point: for cycling to justify proper resource allocation, what counts is cycling as a normal, everyday form of transport. Even the (necessary) consideration of children’s cycling runs the risk of presenting cycling as something which is not quite adult and therefore not really serious.3. Dangerising cycling
There is a view that stressing the dangers posed to cyclists is always positive and will lead to the powers that be dealing with them. My experience suggests otherwise: we end up with red herrings of hi-viz and helmets and road danger remains unexamined. We need to focus on where danger to cyclists and other road users comes from – namely from the inappropriate use of motor vehicles – and address it properly. Going on about cycling being “dangerous” – not least in bringing together both the transitive (dangerous to others) with the intransitive (dangerous to cyclists) – is often not helpful in doing this. Take a look at Andrew Gilligan’s interesting take on how we talk about the dangers to cyclists here.4. Victim blaming cyclists
Even while nominally “for” cycling/cyclists, this approach features victim blaming It is cyclists who are responsible for not “being seen”, not those with responsibility to look where they are going. It is cyclists who should wear crash helmets, whether there is any evidence for a population which takes up wearing helmets having a lower casualty rate or not, or whether there is any more chance of car occupants having more head injuries than cyclists or not .5. Problematising cycling/cyclists
The common feature of the above themes is a focus on the cycling element of the traffic mix where the other elements are not seen as problematic. Cycling then appears as essentially some kind of problem. Even though it is only a few decades since cycling was commonplace, with as high a (journey) modal share nationally as motoring, Even though otherwise similar countries in northern Europe have far higher cycling modal shares. The key to this is the other elements in the traffic mix which are not seen as problematic.6. The gorilla/elephant in the room
Hamlet without the Prince. The gorilla/elephant in the room. The bull in the china shop. A key feature of discussing transport policy and safety on the road is the way in which what motorists get up to is not talked about as a problem.
This is a key feature of “road safety” ideology, normalising driving, even when it is rule and law-breaking.
In transport policy, this is most obvious with the Department for Transport’s traffic forecasts, with the built in assumption of increased motor traffic. This leads to persistent commitments to supporting this increase, despite arguments being previously accepted that such increases were neither inevitable nor desirable.
Another way in which motoring is not talked about is the questioning of its cost. Costs of housing (bought or rented) may have spiraled; hours worked may have increased; pensions may have been lost; wages (for public sector workers and others) may have been cut; becoming a student may be more expensive, etc, etc. But the idea that motoring should become more expensive or at least not cheaper is hardly ever raised.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT MOTORING: Pointing out the elephant/gorilla in the room
I hope that the debate on September 2nd will be less likely to feature the familiar themes described above. Nevertheless, I think it worth pointing out that cyclists and others may miss out unless there is some more questioning of the transport status quo. Essentially this comes down to two factors:
A. Cycling/cyclists need certain things to change which are likely to affect the motoring status quo.
Many motorists will be prepared to accept this, some won’t. Take a look at the Get Britain Cycling recommendations such as “strengthen the enforcement of road traffic law, including speed limits, and ensure that driving fences…are treated sufficiently seriously…”; or “reallocation of road space”.
Other changes “think bike at the beginning of a design” are more a question of challenging the status quo insofar as it is manifested by the culture of traffic engineers and transport planners, but the point is the same: a status quo favouring relatively unrestricted motoring will be perceived by some as threatening.
B. If we are to have a sustainable transport system with a more civilised attitude towards safety and non-motorised users generally, we need to challenge basic beliefs and practices in car and “road safety” cultures.
At some point the demands for support fro cycling require justification. There is a tendency, most noted among “Smarter Travel” practitioners, to try to achieve modal shift away from cars without saying that there is anything wrong with the car-centred, high motor traffic, status quo.
I would suggest that this is exactly what is needed – not just because business as usual will prevent any real support for cycling.
For example, if we continue with DfT forecasted increases in car traffic, where will n increase in cycling come from? Is it likely to just come from public transport – and although cycling is superior in most respects to public transport use, is this what we want?
I think that stating the problem with continuing unquestioned car dependency is all the problems associated with the kind of mass car use we have, from the various kinds of emission, loss of local community, wasted resources etc. Presenting cycling as a key part of the solution to these problems actually gives justification to the programme for supporting cycling, and moves it away from just being special case pleading.
Much of this will not be easy for some people, including transport professionals who like to think of themselves as well disposed towards cycling.
To take another example of taboo-busting: If we continue with low motoring costs – which could become even lower with more fuel efficient cars – there will be even less price differential between cycling and driving. This may not be much of a factor in achieving modal shift towards cycling – we just don’t know – but it hardly sends out the right signals about which forms of transport and land use planning the society we live in values.
Let’s see what happens on September 2nd.
After Bradley Wiggins’ annus mirabilis of success in 2012, his progress in 2013 has been disappointing: missing out on his aim of winning the Giro d’Italia and now announcing the end of his Grand Tour ambitions. We can now reveal the “real reason” for this – the same as for his injury and consequent failure in the 2011 Tour de France.
As readers of this topic know I really don’t want to rubbish the greatest ever road racing cyclist from Britain * (and my ex-club mate). But while he is justified in his status as sporting legend, when it comes to his views on cyclist safety – well, he should have read these posts, or just not commented on the subject. Because after his comments on the Barclays Bike Hire Scheme – a broken collarbone in the Tour de France. And after his comments after the Olympics he has had a so far lacklustre 2013. And now he has been getting it wrong again.
For we can reveal that the “real reason” for these disappointments has been, yes :The Curse of the Road Danger Reduction movement
If you’re a legendary cyclist and you say these kind of things despite being given advice – well, The RDR Curse may be visited upon you.
Now, of course, there are those of you who like thinking and referring to evidence who might suggest that the notion of a curse is ridiculous, superstitious, nonsensical rubbish.
And yes, it is.
But then so are plenty of beliefs in contemporary society, and people still hold them. Of course, belief in the effectiveness of cycle crash helmets is not necessarily worse than “asking the angels” for good health, or throwing salt over your shoulder to ward off the “evil eye”.
But there are problems with ignoring evidence. Not least the red herring of cycle helmets being trailed across the national press recently, with even a reasonably balanced article getting it wrong on some issues. Before the crucial debate in Parliament on September 2nd we need to get the right facts in front of us, and that is not happening.
We want Brad Wiggins to win the World Time Trial Championships in 2013. No curse will get in his way. But we would like him to talk sense like another legend of British cycle sport or just stick to what he does well and leave the topic alone.*Chris Froome has a British passport, but isn’t actually from Britain.
September 2nd looks like being a critical day in the history of attempts to achieve the aims of the RDRF – reducing danger in the roads as part of a sustainable transport policy. Here are three things for you to do:ONE: GET YOUR MP THERE AND IN SUPPORT:
Get your MP to attend the debate and make them aware of the issues and the need to support the motion: That this house supports the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report ‘Get Britain Cycling’; endorses the target of 10 per cent of all journeys being by bike by 2025, and 25 per cent by 2050; and calls on the Government to show strong political leadership, including an annual Cycle Action Plan and sustained funding for cycling.
A list of organisations has supported a briefing to MPs (RDRF has so far been missed off the list for some reason, but even if don’t get put on we support it). You can use this briefing to write to your MP on templates that the CTC and BC have set up, or just do your own. Here is my off-the-cuff effort:
Dear Ms Jackson,
As one of your constituents and Chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum, I urge you to attend the debate on September 2nd.
This is the current text of the motion to be debated on 2 September 2013:
“That this House supports the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report ‘Get Britain Cycling’; endorses… and sustained funding for cycling.”
I ask you to speak in favour of this motion. Our view is that a civilised society should aim to reduce danger to cyclists through a variety of means such as:
* Good quality highway engineering
* Reduced speed limits on roads where people live work and play – and which are enforced
* Increased road traffic policing and deterrent sentencing, primarily through endorsement of driving licences
* Engineering of motor vehicles to reduce the potential to endanger others
These measures would be of benefit to the safety of all road users, particularly pedestrians , as well as cyclists. They would also encourage more cycling, to the benefit of public health and alleviation of a variety of social and environmental problems.
The ringfenced funds required may appear large at a time of austerity – but viewed in the context of the fiscal costs of the problems that can be alleviated by cycling, and the massive expenditure on less sustainable and healthy forms of transport, they can be fully justified.
I do hope you can attend the debate and support the “Get Britain Cycling” report’s reccomendations.
Dr. Robert Davis, Chair RDRFTWO: SIGN THE PETITION
It is here . You should have already signed it, but you probably have friends and social media contacts who haven’t.THREE: GO ON THE RIDE.
London Cycling Campaign have organised a protest ride on the day of the debate. It is London specific, but that shouldn’t stop it from being linked into the national issue of the need to support cycling.
It is directed at Mayor Johnson, but if – like us – you see a lot that is positive in his Vision for Cycling - you can see the ride as helpfully urging him to move forward in the directions he and Transport for London have indicated they wish to progress on.
I personally wouldn’t have organised it around “dedicated space for cyclists” – a bit on road traffic justice would have been nice , but I didn’t organise it. And the segregationism is tempered by “Local streets should be transformed into spaces that are safe for cycling and walking by removing through motor traffic and reducing its speed”.
The point is the show of numbers. And you might want a “We ARE the traffic”; “Yes, we DO pay for the road” slogans on banners, although carrying banners on bikes is always a little clumsy.
One excuse for the continued discrimination against cycling as a mode of transport is that supporting cycling requires money. I will address this excuse in the next post.