Below we recount the story of the introduction of these stickers and the problems they’ve caused for cyclists. As an episode of incorrect and abused messaging, the issue is important – but not one of the major problems most would cite about cycling policy and its implementation in London or elsewhere. Writing the day after yet another cyclist is killed under the wheels of a tipper truck in London, obviously we see dealing with this problem by reducing danger at source (as explained below) as the priority. Yet for us the issue is revealing of problems with the transport establishment’s treatment of cycling.
Firstly, the problems have not yet been resolved: inappropriate stickers and (more important) stickers on vehicles they were never intended for are still there – even on TfL vehicles!
Secondly, it’s taken nearly two years after complaints were first made to get even the limited progress we can now see. Bureaucracies like TFL will always have problems in rectifying mistakes (which is a good reason to not make them in the first place). But the length of time involved, the difficulties TfL had in realising that mistakes had been made, as well as the fact that stickers on the wrong vehicles are still out there even on TfL’s FORS members’ vehicles lead to us a question:-
Is this story an indication that Transport for London simply doesn’t understand cycling and/or take it seriously in the way it might consider other forms of transport?
People who cycle in London, and many who ride elsewhere in the UK, were annoyed by the stickers that started appearing on the back of commercial vehicles nearly 2 years ago, telling cyclists to STAY BACK. Intended for (large) lorries and buses, they were applied with a lack of discrimination to all sorts of other vehicles – cars, vans, taxis, short and lighter lorries with perfectly adequate ability (through use of mirrors and direct vision) for their drivers to see cyclists and pedestrians in their vicinity.
Irresponsible vehicle operators now had official stickers telling cyclists to know their place and stay out of the way of their betters.Timeline
I (CM) first complained to TfL about the stickers in Summer 2013. (The reasoning is described in a post here written on December 18th 2013.)
Road Danger Reduction Forum then co-ordinated a complaint – with CTC (the National Cyclists’ Charity), the London Cycling Campaign, RoadPeace (the national road crash victims’ charity) and the Association of Bikeability Schemes – to Transport for London, saying that the wording was inappropriate and that stickers should anyway not be on vans, taxis, small lorries and cars for which they had not been intended. Carefully reasoned and constructive suggestions as to how these failings should be resolved were explained here on February 19th 2014 .TfL responded in a rather inadequate fashion necessitating another co-ordinated response from the organisations on April 30th 2014. And then TfL chose to give yet another – let’s say “inadequate” again because we try to be polite – reply to press enquiries rather than replying to us directly. By now even seasoned campaigners were getting annoyed enough to say that we – road danger reduction and cycling groups – were being treated with contempt on 30th May 2014.
The anger expressed seemed to have an effect, and on June 25th 2014 RDRF and the other organisations involved, plus representatives of the London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group, attended a meeting at Transport for London chaired by Lilli Matson, Head of Strategy and Outcome Planning, with nine other TfL officers concerned with safety, freight and fleet operations, buses, taxis, and marketing and communications. We were glad to say that the outcome was very positive. TfL agreed to reword stickers for larger lorries and buses, and 8 months later the reworded stickers are starting to outnumber the originals. (Lorry_BlindSpot_TakeCare and Bus_Caution_BusPullsInFrequently).
We understand that new stickers will be on all buses by mid-May 2015, and that some 5,000 stickers for HGVs have been distributed by TfL’s Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme, out of some 48,000 ordered (about 30,000 HGVs are on the roads in London daily).
At the time we concluded:
“Of course, none of this deals with the core issue of properly engineering HGVs so that their drivers are aware of cyclists and pedestrians – why is there a “blind spot” in the first place? It does not deal with engineering out the amount of space between the vehicle and the road surface which is implicated in them being crushed; nor the issues of highway engineering which would minimise this kind of occurrence in the first place; nor issues of rule- and law-breaking which endanger other road users as well as cyclists and pedestrians.
Nevertheless, one part of this problem was the idea that while a “blind spot” exists it would be useful to advise cyclists how to correctly position themselves, and we were prepared to support this. Unfortunately the issue was mishandled for some time – now we hope the mistakes are being corrected.
Finally, we suggest that all this is happening because of a concerted and well-argued response by RDRF and our sister organisations. (A similarly positive outcome in June 2014 has come here). This suggests that watchfulness informing coordinated action by groups wanting road danger reduction is necessary. We look forward to the changes outlined at our meeting with TfL. Watch this space.(emphasis added)”
So where are we now?
Above I mention the changes to stickers for buses and HGVs and their imminent introduction – some two years after initial concerns were voiced. That’s the good part. But what about the real problems of stickers on vehicles for which they were never intended?
In Mayor’s Question Time answer 2014/4047 Mayor Johnson stated that “TfL has emailed 6,069 operators registered with the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS), including all those working on TfL contracts, requesting that all safety stickers are removed from vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, including vans and cars, and that existing HGV stickers are replaced by the new ones.”
But this isn’t working. Either TfL hasn’t made the instructions clear enough, or operators are wilfully ignoring them – including parts of TfL itself! Here, are photos taken of London Underground and London Buses service vans with stickers taken in 2015:
And Clear Channel “operating for London Buses” in 2015:
And Initial “working in association with London Underground” last year (note the off-side mirror):
Or how about black cabs – nominally regulated by TfL? Here are a couple photographed recently:
And one also showing the use of a “Cycle Superhighway”:
If TfL can’t get it right, what chance is there of other operators doing so? Let’s take a look at some well-known members of FORS:
London Boroughs of:
Here are some recent pictures of other inappropriately used stickers by vehicles used by FORS members last year.They may have been taken off these vehicles since these photos were taken, in which case apologies, but stickers were recently seen on vehicles used by major contractors Murphy:
And other FORS members recently spotted (again, apologies if stickers have been removed from these vans since the photos were taken):Cappagh Group 2015) & Rexel (note warnings to pedestrians not to walk near van) Brammer & Abbey Gate (amended stickers, wrong position, wrong vehicle)
HaveBike (Yes, Bicycle recovery…) UK Power Networks
Remember, this is just a selection of vehicles belonging to FORS members .
The virus spreads
Once the signs were out, not only did they appear on vehicles they had not been intended for, but in other positions (captions below photos):
Such as the side of an HGV belonging D Smith (FORS member) above…
cut into pieces and put in three places…
…on the side of a van belonging to Active Plant (FORS member)
…and (my favourite) on the front of a van.
Oh yes, there is this one on scaffolding in the City (HT Cyclists in the City). Then other signs started appearing:
Sainsbury’s fitted new vehicles with a massive message trumpeting danger: as LCC pointed out, maybe this wouldn’t have been necessary with a better designed vehicle.
Or “We have done you and pedestrians a very big favour by being able to see around us, so that we can now see you if we feel like looking.” Errm, maybe “doing your bit” involves rather more than this?
And this one: perhaps just a more extreme expression of the basic message?
Naturally some of the worst cases of sticker wording, positioning, and use on the wrong vehicles, is not done by members of FORS. But if TfL in general, and FORS in particular, was clear about what was wrong in the first place, then it would be possible to :
But there is no well-known website page which operators can be referred to.
In 2014 we asked TfL to publicise a web page which could (a) remind FORS members of what they are supposed to (not) do and (b) could be used by members of the public – or a TfL/FORS member of staff? – to inform non-FORS member operators about sticker (ab)use.
We have asked again, but as yet there has been no response.
Perhaps vehicles cold be leafleted, for example:OPERATOR TO REMOVE THIS STICKER See Highway Code Rules 159, 161, 163, 169, 180, 182, 184, 202. See www…..
All of this has spawned pro-cyclist stickers, the most well-known of which is:
See it’s use here . But others have appeared on bicycles, such as these :
..with designs for posters to go on motor vehicles circulating:
And adaptations on existing stickers:
As well as a personal statement:
The HGV problem
We have been working on the safety issue for cyclists and pedestrians posed by HGVs, specifically in cities, since the early 1990s. There is a range of solutions which require implementing, namely:
Highway engineering which could eliminate potential collisions of all severities, and also do so with collisions involving all motor vehicles and create safer space. This is restricted to specific locations, and is less relevant for pedestrians, so attention is also needed to engineering HGVs so that drivers can be aware of who and what is around them. An absolutely critical factor is that HGVs should also be engineered so that it becomes far more difficult (or impossible) for pedestrians or cyclists to be crushed, by skirting HGVs or otherwise reducing the gap between road surface and the body of the vehicle. Safety standards on HGVs can also be enforced by the police. Swift and high quality post-crash investigation, and the threat of deterrent sentencing for unsafe HGV operation are required. Construction sites and operators can be subject to appropriate procurement procedures to push forward relevant measures. Additional technologies such as black box recorders and pedestrian/cyclist-activated vehicle braking systems should be introduced, not least for introduction on to other motor vehicles.
HGV driver training is necessary, although low down the list of priorities. We are believers in cycle training, but the essential issue is reducing danger at source – from HGVs (particularly construction industry HGVs) which are currently unfit for purpose in a city. Not all of the million people who sometimes cycle in London can be reached or – even if experienced and careful – expected to avoid HGVs that hit them from behind or overtake and turn left. Even where a cyclist or pedestrian is careless or ignorant (as we all are on occasion) they do not deserve a death or serious injury sentence. After all, motorists have their carelessness accommodated by highway and vehicle engineering – why shouldn’t cyclists or pedestrians?
Our analysis indicates that through the early 2000s a “Safety in Numbers” effect occurred as HGV drivers became more aware of the growing numbers of London cyclists – but this is by no means enough for us to rely on by itself. The measures above have to be implemented. This the real issue which need to be addressed, with the “Cyclists stay back” issue – in itself – of minor importance.
But sometimes these minor issues become important. The lack of understanding – or perhaps unwillingness to accept – what has been problematic about the messaging and (ab)use of the stickers by TfL is important to us. We think it indicates general problems in TfL‘s thinking and practice, which impede addressing the HGV and other issues for cycling and sustainable transport in London.
Sometimes minor issues are indicative of big problems.
This post written by Colin McKenzie as RDRF Committee member and Dr Robert Davis, RDRF Chair.
Hat tips to all who submitted photographs or whose photos I have used, including Bill Chidley, Cyclists in the City, The Ranty Highwayman, Jono Kenyon, Ken Peters and Alex Ingram, . Apologies to those we have missed out.
If any operators shown have since removed stickers, do feel free to notify us through submitting comments below.
It’s been a while coming, heralded by regular progress updates and advance extracts from the author, but here we are: 2014 saw the publication (in a variety of formats and eventually to be available free in extracts) of Carlton Reid’s magnum opus. Has the advance publicity by the author been justified?Yes, it has.
It is indeed packed full of references, anecdote, social history, facts and illustrations of interest to anyone concerned about the status of different forms of road transport. I could have done with reference to the work of John Adams, the 1990s Road Danger Reduction movement and, yes, my book, but you can’t have everything – particularly if you have a packed 300+ pages to start off with. This book is a lot more than a dry history of road building with a focus on the 20th century: it fascinates with a steady stream of revelatory contemporary views on who those roads were for. As such it is, above all, a contribution to the debates we should be having now on transport policy.
Take the example of segregation as the answer to the problems for cyclists. Carlton Reid shows that the pre-war attempts at cyclist segregation in the UK were far from the boon you might think from considering many modern advocates. The views of the cycling organisations at the time were justifiably sceptical or hostile not just because of the poor quality of the cycle tracks, or even the danger as cyclists were at increased risk when dumped into motor traffic at junctions. They realised that the official view was essentially one of cyclists being a problem to be marginalised, not least as revealed in the 1938 Alness Commission.
As such they were rightly suspicious of what would befall cyclists not just where the inadequate and dangerous new tracks were proposed, but elsewhere as well. After all, segregation elsewhere had been very obviously to the detriment of cyclists. In the most car-centred society in the world (with the possible exception of the USA), Nazi Germany, use of inferior cycle paths was mandatory for cyclists and part of a clearly anti-cycling agenda (p.253).
What numerous examples like this show is how, above all, roads are about the rights, freedom and power of different kinds of road user. The discussion is therefore highly political: both in terms of the power exercised by different kinds of road user and the governments that support or undermine them.
And for the author, this has been a motivating factor in writing the book, not least over the “I pay a tax for the road” mythology espoused by too many motorists. It is not only justifiable, but necessary, to counter this mythology. I don’t think it is overstating the case to say that this mythology impedes the possibilities of having a sustainable transport policy. It supports subsidising motoring – as well as road building for more motor traffic – at a time of austerity. It backs up a sense of motorist entitlement which facilitates rule- and law-breaking driving and threatens the safety of cyclists, as well as being a part of abuse and discrimination.
So Carlton Reid is a man with a justifiably righteous mission: showing motorists that roads were in fact not built for them and that they ought to realise that cyclists were there first.
My problem is: is that approach actually going to deal with the anti-cycling prejudice and motorist sense of entitlement? After all, any old bigot can say that even if roads were built for cyclists they just think they should now be there for motorists (in general and themselves in particular). After all, what does the fact that roads were not built for cars actually mean?
Carlton seems to me to be overly optimistic in hoping that this history will win over the Great British Motorist. Indeed, he goes a lot further by pushing the story of – as the subtitle states: How cyclists were the first to push for good roads and became the pioneers of motoring. Are cyclists supposed to be proud of this? Does it have a useful and positive relevance to the struggles ahead?
What it does achieve is a Foreword from the President of the Automobile Association, Mr King. In it he suggests that “It would be healthy for some of the Mr. Toads out there to read this book…” but getting some of the most bigoted to read a book isn’t going to make much, if any, positive difference. And King wants to tell us that “Motorists and cyclists are not two tribes” and that “Car v Cycle arguments” should be demolished. But this “We’re all in it together” type of argument will not get us further in the right direction.
In fact, it confuses the issue. Many cyclists (but by no means all) are indeed also motorists. But that tends to obscure the fact that when driving they are far more likely to endanger others on the road, as well as damage the global and local environment and have an adverse effect on public health. My view is that we need to emphasise that fact. Indeed “Car v. cycle arguments” which show that the former mode is far more of a problem to society than the latter are exactly what we need.
Take the key example of the “road tax” myth. In my view it is not enough to talk about when a specific “Road Tax” was abolished and what Vehicle Excise Duty is. More robust arguments are needed. I have tried to show how costs of motoring have fallen and that driving is subsidised. There are dangerous pitfalls with cost benefit analysis, but if Edmund King could suggest to his members that motorists – compared to cyclists – do not pay their way we could get somewhere. There is nothing to suggest that he is going to object to the declining costs (to the motorist, that is) of motoring.
Nor is he likely to take a robust approach to law enforcement (too much of that and you start losing members of the AA). Or of the cuts in highway capacity for drivers that would be required if modern segregation for cyclists (unlike the 1930s type) is to work well; or the change in enforcement and culture to reduce danger from drivers to cyclists where there is no segregation.
Carlton Reid provides us with a splendid illustration of how the dominance of the motor vehicle has developed over a short period of time: the implication is that a more civilised and equitable relationship with the more benign forms of transport and the environment can obtain. The issue is how to make this happen.
There has been (in our view, justified) outrage about the case of Michael Mason who was run down and killed in central London in February 2014 (reported here and specifically on the inquest here by Martin Porter QC ) largely because the driver was not charged and prosecuted for any driving offence. Issues have been raised about traffic law enforcement which coincide with our conference in November 2014 and the formation of the Traffic Justice Alliance which hopes to address them. Below is our take on the issues, including the response of the Mayor of London to this case.
For us this indicates, above all, a critical and serious failure on the part of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). Other issues are raised, such as the discrimination against cyclists voiced in this case (although, as commented on this post by chairrdrf, attitudes towards pedestrians are often as negative as those towards cyclists – and indeed an example is given in another comment to this effect here).
The central point is that there was no charge made by the MPS against the driver, despite the weight of evidence and the guidelines of the CPS , with the CPS not even consulted. This is why the Cyclists’ Defence Fund has decided to assist Mason’s family in the steps they may take to secure justice, with further protest from the London Cycling Campaign
The issue is addressed by one of the commenters on The Cycling Lawyer’s report
Anonymous 17 December 2014 at 19:59
Far be it from me to question a QC’s reporting ability but I can’t help but think there is something missing. As a police officer who served for 22 years this case should have been a walk through for a Due Care charge, and if, as I assume, the death was caused by the effects of the collision, then a charge of causing death by careless driving would have equally been a walk through. But the case was not taken through CPS and why not? CPS guidelines state that a decision on such a case must be taken by a senior representative but they weren’t even asked. As it is reported here, something stinks about this case. Still, as with all actions by the Met, the motto is “Never attribute to malice anything adequately explained by stupidity.” I do hope that someone commences a private prosecution, then at least the CPS might actually look at it. I don’t particularly want the driver punished, but she should be brought to account.
While it might seem obvious what is wrong here, it needs to be clearly stated. If an apparently obvious case of rule- and/or law-breaking driving results in someone (who has been behaving according to the rules) being killed, then a civilised society would expect somebody to be held accountable. This need not exclude methods to engineer vehicles or the highway to reduce the possibilities of such incidents, but as long as such possibilities exist – which they will, whatever forms of segregated or other cycle facility are introduced – then the relevant laws and rules should be applied.
Indeed, this is not simply of concern for cyclists, but for all road users at risk from careless or dangerous driving. The failure to take danger from drivers of motor vehicles seriously has always been an issue, but is even more obvious in an otherwise highly risk-averse culture. Nor is this something which should be seen as vindictive: trying to get a reasonable level of law enforcement with deterrent sentencing (which need not involve custodial sentencing except in extreme cases) is simply a requirement of living in a civilised society.
Questioning of the Mayor of London
Bear these issues in mind when we see how Mayor Johnson responds to questioning on this case by Jenny Jones MLA in this extract here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVANkYv0csk:Jenny Jones’ questioning…
While Jenny Jones has been (and continues to be) a good supporter of Road Danger Reduction, there are some points missed here:
Even if we are witnessing reduced chances of cyclists being hurt and killed – and unlike some others, we believe it can be useful to point out the low chances of being seriously hurt or killed when cycling on London’s roads – what does this mean in the context of the Mason case?
In an assessment of TfL’s first Cycle Safety Action Plan, I have argued that reductions in cyclist casualty rates have little to do with TfL’s initiatives:
But, anyway, none of this addresses what the purpose of initiatives by TfL and the MPS should be. It needs to be repeated that these initiatives should be based on road danger reduction or, as the MPS are now saying, “harm reduction” principles. Looking at traditional measures of “road safety” is inadequate at best. Even showing that an initiative has reduced cyclist casualty rates per journey made by bicycle is of limited use. Road users need to know that threats to their safety are seen as problems whether or not people have actually been hurt or killed by them: the current Near Miss project refers to behaviours that don’t result in injury but nevertheless intimidate.
One can go further. Ultimately the issue is an ethical one: it is about the morality of allowing some road users to endanger others. The Mason case shows that a key way of addressing this – through traffic law enforcement – is not happening.Discriminatory policing?
The November 1st 2014 Road Danger Reduction and Enforcement conference has, I believe, been a key event in focusing attention on the need for high quality traffic law enforcement. The conference was called by organisers RDRF, RoadPeace, CTC and LCC because whatever highway infrastructure is in place, road users in general and cyclists and pedestrians in particular will still be at risk from inappropriately driven motor vehicles. Hosted by LB Southwark, the conference was notable in being booked out despite being held on a Saturday, with Councillors from seven Councils in London as well as transport and road safety professionals and campaigners. Before the Michael Mason case there has been a clear demand for enforcement as part of a programme of stigmatising and deterring behaviour which endangers others.
In my presentation I raised the issue of whether the MPS – and other police forces in the UK – are biased in ways which do not allow for a non-discriminatory focus on harm reduction. Looking at policing in this way is not an attack on the police – quite the contrary. It is arguing, as Equal Opportunities culture (taken up the police as well local authorities) has propounded throughout its development, that discrimination occurs through failing to question background assumptions. It argues that discrimination happens when everyday beliefs are the basis for actions, whether intentionally or not.
This issue was raised at various times during the conference. Two important comments were made by Sgt Simon Castle (MPS), a long serving traffic police officer and currently working for the Cycle Task Force. On the question of whether there is excessive concern on cyclist misdemeanours compared to those of drivers, he commented that he had no problem dealing with cyclist law-breaking if motorist law-breaking was targeted as well he had no problem dealing with cyclist law breaking if motorist law breaking was as well.
But that’s what so many of us see as the central problem: we do not think that the numerous forms of rule and law breaking driver behaviour (whether as careless or dangerous driving or other offences) are addressed in a way which reflects their potential to threaten others.
The other comment was in response to my suggestion that a form of equal opportunities procedures should be used to deal with preconceptions of unacceptable road user behaviour. Sgt Castle’s comment indicated that police officers do indeed reflect the prejudices of the population as whole: “The police are the people and the people are the police”. But if commonly held prejudices are indeed held by those charged with enforcing the law, that should be seen as the problem – and one we need to address as a priority. It should not be seen as an acceptable fact of life.The Traffic Justice Alliance
Those attending the conference demonstrated a massive desire to see the MPS developing a Traffic Law Enforcement Strategy and action plan based on a harm reduction (or road danger reduction) approach. Key asks were for:
In order to push this Road Danger Reduction and Traffic Law Enforcement agenda along, a Traffic Justice Alliance has been formed in London: so far organisations RoadPeace, Road Danger Reduction Forum, LCC and 20s Plenty, and Cllr Caroline Russell (LB Islington) and Brenda Puech (Disabilities consultant) are represented on its Committee. We’ll be publishing the formal Key Performance Indicators we would like TfL and MPS to employ; our involvement with local communities in matters such as achieving compliance in 20 mph areas; and reviews of what we see as the issues with regard to levels of law enforcement and traffic offences in London.
Watch this space…
Postscript: To help the family of Michael Mason you can make an online donation to the Cyclists’ Defence Fund to support its work on cycling and the law – such as challenging unduly lenient law-enforcement of dangerous drivers, unjust prosecutions of cyclists, and highway and planning decisions which disregard cyclists’ needs. Or see information on other ways to donate to CDF here
In the last week of November 2014, the Labour shadow Minister, Michael Dugher MP, set out Labour’s “cycling vision”. I reproduce the statement from Local Transport Today with comments:
Where this Government has refused to act, a future Labour government will deliver for cyclists
This week, I visited Pakeman Primary School in north London and saw first-hand how the ‘Bikeability’ cycle course can give children the skills and confidence on their bikes. Later that day, I also went to the Archway Gyratory to view exciting new plans for a remodelled junction and new cycling infrastructure.
Getting more people cycling through initiatives like these is really important. But there is still a lot more that needs to be done.
In August last year, David Cameron said he wanted to start “a cycling revolution”. Over a year later, and just five months before the end of this Parliament, all we’ve had from the Government is a draft Cycle Delivery Plan and an “informal consultation”. What we need is real action now to ensure that the country benefits from safer roads, increased levels of cycling and effective road sharing for all types of road traffic. Where this Government has refused to act, a future Labour government will deliver for cyclists.
More people cycling every day is not only good for public health, it’s good for the environment and the economy. And it’s also good for other road users too. It frees up the roads for motorists, which results in less congestion, safer roads and better air quality.
That’s an interesting view of the role of cycling: “It frees up the roads for motorists…” But if it does so, then more cars will be there than otherwise, which in terms of sustainable transport is the opposite of what is required. Even if the same number are there as before, problems from emissions etc. have not improved.
There is a growing consensus that the Government’s draft plan is not even close to what is needed to make a difference. British Cycling, for example, said the so-called plan “falls short” on delivering on David Cameron’s promise and the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC), a national cycling charity, called it “derisory”.
This verdict chimes with the Government’s overall record on supporting cycling. It shut down Cycling England, the independent body to promote cycling, and abandoned Labour’s ‘Cycling Towns and Cities’ programme, which helped to promote the use of cycling locally.
Labour has a good record of promoting cycling in government, with both the number of people cycling increasing and the number of road casualties dropping.
No, Labour does not have a ”good record of promoting cycling in government” . Cycling England was essentially a low-key quango which was set up because the commitment and expertise inside the Department for Transport was so low that help had to be sought from outside. Labour, under Chancellor Alistair Darling, repeatedly refused to allocate the funding Cycling England requested.
What Labour does have is a record of overseeing massive increases in motor vehicle traffic, despite claiming when it came to power that it would reduce motor traffic. With the exception of London, it would be difficult to see any significant overall rise in cycling during the Labour years, despite it being far easier to increase a mode’s share when it is as very low, as it was when Labour came to power in 1997.
It is unclear whether the road casualties he refers to are in general or among cyclists – but both of these numbers tend to decline irrespective of formal “road safety” interventions – and there are hardly any which Labour could claim that it introduced to any significant effect during its reign.
In 2002, there were 300,000 trips made by bike in London per day, and 20 fatalities. And by 2010, there were 490,000 trips made, and the number of fatalities had halved.
London is the exception, with Labour in power for most (but not all) of this period. The rise in cycling in London can be attributed to – well, what exactly? I would claim that I assisted in a small take-up of cycling in projects I ran when working for a London Borough in this period. But on the whole very little of the rise in cycling can be claimed as due to initiatives from London government under Mayor Livingstone.
Cycling was due to increase in London for the simple reason that it could hardly go any lower, and there was rising demand for all forms of transport with population increase. Possibly the initial rise was due to the concerns about raising the costs of motoring with the prospect of the Congestion Charge – although eventually this only happened on a very small proportion of London’s roads where the Congestion Charge applies. And Labour is hardly pushing road pricing now.
As for the death rate decline, that can largely be put down to a Safety in Numbers (SiN) effect as drivers became more aware of the increased presence of cyclists, as well as the long-term underlying trend. Some work in making lorry drivers less dangerous (although a lot of that is purely a SiN effect in the HGV driver community) was done; HGVs were involved in about half the cyclist deaths. But the outlook for serious injuries has been less dramatic. I don’t think it is possible to link specific interventions by Transport for London (with the possible exception of work with HGV safety) to casualty rate declines in any clearly significant way. I would say these have been marginal at best.
This progress did not just happen by chance, but through decisions that were made – initiatives such as ambitious road safety targets, Cycling England, and funding for Cycling Towns and Cities. In addition, our ‘Sustainable Travel Towns’ – Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester – resulted in increased cycle trips by between 26-30 per cent. And the six ‘Cycling Demonstration Towns’ (Aylesbury, Brighton and Hove, Darlington, Derby, Exeter and Lancaster) proved how targeted investment can deliver results with cycling rates increasing by 27 per cent between 2005 and 2009.
I have mentioned Cycling England. I don’t think declines in road casualty statistics happen because of “road safety” interventions (including the setting of road safety targets) to anything like the extent that road safety professionals and Government think, The effects of projects in the programmes described are highly debatable. What can be said is that selecting a few cases of “low-hanging fruit” where interventions could most easily increase cycling and walking is hardly demonstration of a commitment towards active travel and sustainable transport policy, even if the results were as dramatic as claimed.
Labour would work to make further progress in government in 2015 by ensuring better cycling education, stronger road safety enforcement and enhanced road engineering for the benefit of cyclists. To achieve these objectives:
First, we will outline a proper long-term plan with clarity over funding sources.
Why not do that now? The figure used by those pressing for the Get Britain Cycling programme is £10 per head of the population, rising to £20 per head.
This all has to be put in the context of spending on road building for more motor traffic. When the initial Government plan for £15 billion to be spent this way came out on November 10th he attacked Cameron over for not spending enough on road building. (And in fact the £13 or 15? billion was probably an underestimate ) Anyway, we have had the announcement on December 1st – which was Mr. Dugher responded to as follows: “yet another re-announcement” on road improvements, and in reality “no additional money has been announced“.
“We know David Cameron’s record on infrastructure is one of all talk and no delivery. Infrastructure output has fallen significantly since May 2010, and less than a third of projects in the Government’s pipeline are actually classed as ‘in construction. “If ministers were as good at upgrading roads as they are at making announcements about upgrading roads, life would be considerably easier for Britain’s hard-pressed motorists, who have been consistently let down by this government.”
On top of this, Labour has not opposed the continuing decline in the cost of motoring under the coalition government. What it has done in power, and apparently intends to do in future, is to make motoring more convenient and attractive, and facilitate more of it.
Although this interview may well have been spun by the car fanatics at the Daily Mirror , his first major interview indicates an even more car-dominated approach (see the Appendix below)
Second, we will be ambitious in promoting active travel. Rather than waiting for over four years to produce a half-hearted ‘draft plan’ for cycling, we will act fast and ensure that our strategy delivers clear targets and has cross-departmental support. Over half of all car journeys are shorter than five miles, and one fifth are under a mile. We want cycling and walking to be made the easy and safe option for most short journeys.
I first heard a Minister (Lynda Chalker) saying that cycling would be “encouraged” in 1984 – that was one in power, not in opposition. The record since then for all parties in power is of a massive increase in car usage and no increase in cycling (except in London).
Third, we will ensure that the needs of cyclists are assessed at the design stage for major transport projects and maintenance schemes. Active travel was not a consideration when much of our current transport infrastructure was planned, but this is no longer an excuse. We will put pedestrians and cyclists at the centre of our roads policy, as opposed to the Government’s approach where they seem to just be an afterthought.
This is presumably the ”cycle-proofing” we have heard so much of. It is interesting that this is not on existing roads, but only new schemes. Pedestrians and cyclists are not at the centre of roads policy. More cars and motor traffic are.
Fourth, we will ensure cycling becomes an ever safer transport option by looking to follow what the Labour Government in Wales has achieved through their Active Travel Act.
Which is what exactly?
Fifth, we will introduce a powerful HGV Safety Charter, which will call on all HGVs to be fitted with safety kit, including rear-view cameras, rear warning signs for cyclists and flashing light beacons. HGVs are involved in nearly 20 per cent of all cycling fatalities, but make up only 6 per cent of road traffic. This cannot continue.
By 2017, we want all HGVs fitted with audible warning systems for drivers, and side-guards and blind-spot elimination devices. We believe these changes are paramount and, if necessary, we are prepared to legislate to ensure that they are brought forward.
The immediate issue is the EU delay (although to be fair Labour has made the right noises here) on bringing in safer HGV cabs hich undermines all these intentions, which are just fluff around the edge compared to a new design direct vision cab.
Before such cabs are standard – and for use of lorries when they are – there already is a national Standard for Construction Logistics: Managing Work Related Road Risk which addresses issues around the “blind spot”, driver behaviour and safer freight routing. That could be endorsed now.
And what about reversing the increase in speed limit for HGVs just brought in by this Government? No mention of that issue.
Sixth, we will restore national targets to cut deaths and serious injuries, which have been dropped by the current Government, alongside clear goals to increase the number of people walking and cycling.
The author Douglas Adams once said: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Targets for cycling’s modal share have passed by , with the actual modal share far – and dismally – lower for decades, if not exactly “whooshed”.
Seventh, we need to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done in cases where collisions lead to cyclist deaths and serious injuries.
The crucial point is to stigmatise behaviour which threatens other road users by having a clearly explained and understood programme of law enforcement and sentencing. Waiting until cyclists are killed or seriously injured (or even slightly injured) is missing the point. Penalising those who drive in a manner which endangers others only in that small minority of cases where someone is killed or seriously injured can be counter-productive.
And finally, we understand the need for sustained and certain support for cycling education. That’s why we have committed to providing funding for ‘Bikeability’, which will ensure all children are trained in cycle safety from a young age.
I have doubts about much of the “cycle training” which goes under the name of Bikeability: much seems to be creating the impression that cycling is inherently hazardous, with emphasis on hi-viz and helmets. How much genuinely empowering and enabling cycle training is going on? And if it of high quality, it needs to be available to adults who want to build up confidence.
So, Labour will implement real changes. We’ve seen over the last four and a half years that it’s easy for politicians to talk about their support for cycling and promise a “cycling revolution”. But people can see through the hype.
What is needed is real action and a long-term strategic effort to promote cycling from both national and local government. And this is what we will set out to deliver in 2015.
We’ll be watching.
APPENDIX Pandering to car fanatics?
Let’s look at what Labour’s spokesman says here.
“.. he admitted drivers have for too long been seen as a “cash cow” for governments who cream cash off them with fuel taxes and penalties.” Although motoring is cheaper, and law-breaking motorists stand little chance of (minor) penalties.
“.. he said he wants to represent “white van man, women drivers, small businesses and any other road user”. Although road users walking and cycling don’t seem to count.
Mr Dugher said: “Most politicians don’t talk about road users enoug,h and we have got to put right. The truth is the things that p**s off motorists are the things that p**s me off too.”
Does saying “p**s off” make you a man of the people?
Which motorists is he talking about? The lowest common denominator of rule- and law-breakers who think they have “paid a tax” which means they own the road? One of the major problems for cyclists is the abuse and prejudice which is based on the myth that motorists have “paid for the road” – this attitude feeds it.
The Barnsley East MP, who drives down the A1 each week to Westminster in his Vauxhall Astra,
( A minor point, affected by precise details of origin and destination – but why is the “proud son of a railwayman” not doing the 2¾ hour journey by train from Barnsley to central London rather than the 185-mile journey which would have be done at 67 mph average to be as quick?)
With regard to fuel taxes and road cameras, Mr Dugher – who admits he has three points for speeding – said: “The Government can’t see the motorists as a cash cow. Too often there’s that mentality”.
So paying a fair amount of taxation to compensate for the massive costs of motoring to public health, society and the local and global environment is “being a cash cow”?
“..11% of car journeys are under a mile. If car drivers switched just one car journey a month to a bus or coach that would mean one million fewer car journeys, and save two million tons of CO2.”
This is ludicrous. One journey a month is irrelevant – and how about switching to foot or bicycle? And no switch will occur with a few fine words, but making it far more attractive to walk or cycle and less attractive to drive might just work.
Our last post is one of the most well-read and commented on since www.rdrf.org.uk went live, with particular support on social media from supporters of cycling and sustainable transport. We’re aware that many people with good intentions feel that supporting Road Safety Week (RSW) is worthwhile. We don’t. As I concluded after a debate with Brake at the end of the post:
“…a generally “fluffy” approach appealing to people to try to be nice if they feel like it is exactly what has not worked to reduce danger on the roads – whatever the feelings of people involved (and I should add that these feelings are frequently highly commendable). Wanting people to be less dangerous and telling this to whoever wants to listen is not only not enough, unless you address important obstacles – often represented by your partners – it can become part of the problem.”
Brake initially responded by accusing us of insulting those bereaved by road crashes – which we strongly deny and bitterly resent – and then took the trouble to engage in responses to our concerns. We’re happy to continue the debate. To repeat: “I raise these issues because I hope they can assist people in developing and supporting programmes for road danger reduction: real road safety, Safer Roads for All.”What has been happening in Road Safety Week?
Let’s look at some of the events in RSW that Brake has drawn attention to on social media. We think some clarification is needed on what Brake’s message is.Pushing cycle helmets…
Philip Goose (Brake Senior Community Engagement Officer) claims (Twitter Nov 20th)that he supports the position of the CTC: Many people ask me why I think what I do on cycle helmets. I agree with the @CTC_Cyclists POV: http://www.ctc.org.uk/campaign/cycle-helmets-evidence …
But Brake is a long term supporter of campaigns for compulsory bicycle crash helmet wear . It both denies relevant evidence and replicates helmet mythology.
In RSW Brake supported an initiative to auction bicycle crash helmets signed by celebrities (such as the stars of Strictly Come Dancing) , including the rugby player Danny Care. In 2012 Care was banned for drink-driving, arrested a few hours after tweeting “…Earn respect. Earn the shirt. Set the example.” Interestingly, the media noted this as one of Care’s three offences involving alcohol at the time. We are more interested in the fact that this supposed role model already had three points on his licence for texting on his mobile phone while driving, and six points for speeding.
Our last post refers to our concerns about advocacy of wearing hi-viz feeding into “Sorry mate I Didn’t See You” (SMIDSY) victim-blaming. Although Philip Goose tries to assure us that Brake is opposed to such victim-blaming (“quite the contrary”), an awful lot of RSW seems to be about hi-viz.
It could be the hi-viz vests given out by their co-sponsors Bridgestone tyres, RSW partners Specsavers or
the RSA Group. We noted that Co-op Funeralcare (who work with Brake on child “road safety”) produced a video which tells school children to wear the reflective yellow badges they were given (160,000 given out so far), and which tells parents that they can ”ensure your child stays safe by following a few simple steps…” such as not playing near a road, and walking on the side of the pavement furthest away from the road. And wearing the badges. Then there are the hi-viz wristbands handed out by North Ayrshire Police and hi-viz vests designed by Jet Petrol
RSW was launched by the Road Safety Minister Robert Goodwill MP, and Brake’s Julie Townsend
As readers of www.rdrf.org.ukwill know, one of our main problems with the official “road safety” establishment is the idea that genuine safety on the road can be measured by totting up aggregate numbers of road deaths and dividing them by the population, (see the piece here )
Sure enough, the Minister started his launch speech with “Britain has some of the safest roads in the world …”. RSW was also the occasion when a story appeared in which the Minister dismissed the provision of cycle infrastructure ” because there aren’t enough cyclists“, using a recycled extract from an earlier letter .
This all takes place against a background of the Government failing to allocate the funding required for the provision advocated in the “Get Britain Cycling” report (although the opposition are no better). Although Brake spokespeople may say they want this kind of funding, how do they square this with being paid by the Department for Transport to organise RSW?
…and the Police.
Although she was not present at the launch, Brake’s Press Release gave prominence to Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ national lead for roads policing, who is quoted as saying: “Our officers and staff do a vital job in enforcing important safety laws and protecting the public on the roads…”
But that’s the point: as we have pointed out here, here , and here we do not have the level and kind of traffic law enforcement we deserve. Does Brake point this out to its partners in the police forces it works with in the UK? What we do get from Brake is a Press Release which claims that it’s survey “reveals the extent of selfish driving in the UK”. This surveys headline statistic is that there are:
Two fixed penalties for ‘careless driving’ or speeding issued every minute in the UK
This is broken down by region, e.g. LONDON: A fixed penalty for ‘careless driving’ or speeding is issued in London every seven minutes. 73,804 fixed penalty notices were issued for ‘careless driving’ and speeding offences in London in 2013 – one every seven minutes. 71,529 were for speeding, and 2,275 for careless driving (a fixed penalty newly introduced in August 2013).
So do these figures “reveal the extent of selfish driving” in the UK (or London)? Just taking London, we can assume at least some 3 million drivers are on its roads on a typical day…> It’s tricky to get exact figures: there are some 2.6 million cars registered in London, more come in from outside, and then there are the motorcycles, lorries, vans, buses and taxis to consider, so 3 million is a conservative figure for the number of motor vehicle drivers on London’s roads on a typical day. We know that approximately 40% of drivers break speed limits when they can, and that more than half claim to do so from time to time. That would bring the annual number of potential speeding offences in London to hundreds of millions, not just over 70,000.
That leaves us with careless driving. Are Brake seriously suggesting that a proportion of less than one in a thousand London motorists drives carelessly just once in a year? Is that the “extent of selfish driving”?What was Road Safety Week actually about?
The dominant impression of RSW we have, particularly after Philip Goose’s contacts with us, is of a variety of different and often conflicting messages. During this week I discussed RSW with colleagues, with two conversations standing out. One view was that simply saying “road safety” is somehow seen as giving carte blanche to any view on how to achieve whatever anybody may think “road safety” actually is. Similarly, a former Road Safety Officer commented that Brake and its partners throw together a hotchpotch of views that may be considered “road safety”. These views are expressed with or without evidence, blaming victims or not, or locating a problem without any real strategy to deal with it. For us that is not good enough.
Here are Alaw Primary pupils suitably decked out during RSW. Questioned by Bike Commuter @BikeCommuter2 about whether they had been required to wear this clothing, and how danger from drivers was going to be addressed the answer is:
We did! They always wear hi vis when out. It’s health and safety and, yes, it’s as well as ensuring drivers are considerate. –
But that is simply wishful thinking. RCT Council do not ensure safe driving on their roads.
During RSW, Brake introduced road crash victims and those bereaved by road crashes to speak at events. In Rhondda Cynon Taf, a lady spoke movingly about her husband being killed while crossing the road on a signalled crossing by an 86-year-old driver, who then received the “punishment” of a one-year driving ban.
Our reason for criticising Brake and Road Safety Week is that it does not actually engage in a programme which could address the danger leading to such events. The cultural change required to achieve Safer Roads for All is undermined as much as it may be facilitated.
We do not insult road crash victims. In fact we believe that features of RSW add insult to the harm of so many road crashes, both to those immediately affected and to those at risk from road danger. In case Brake are really prepared to work for a programme of real road safety with Safer Roads for All: one based on the principles of Road Danger Reduction (of reducing danger at source), we’re happy to advise.
What could be wrong with a campaign like this?. Well, quite a lot actually…The core message of Road Safety Week 2014…
Run by Brake, it is supported by large numbers of “road safety” professionals and members of organisations with an official remit concerned with safety on the road: (schools, local authorities, police forces, emergency services) and various motoring organisations. This year’s theme is : “Look out for each other”. Let’s look in detail at the core message: (My numbering)
“We all use roads to get around and most of us use them in different ways: often a mix of walking, catching the bus or driving, and maybe cycling, running or skating too. Of course, however we use roads, we are all people underneath just trying to get about, but some road users are especially vulnerable and need protecting by those of us in charge of vehicles. (1)
Yet sometimes it can feel like roads are angry places where different road users are in different tribes and competing for space and priority.(2) A simple lack of consideration and care can have awful consequences. (3) It can mean people feel less able to get out and about and less likely to choose walking and cycling: kids not being allowed to walk to school, commuters not feeling able to cycle, families being more inclined to always use the car. It can also lead to tragedy: people suffering horrific injuries or even being killed because of someone going too fast, too close or not looking out.
Wouldn’t it be better if, instead of being stressful and risky, streets were places where everyone looked out for and protected each other, particularly the most vulnerable?(1)
In this year’s Road Safety Week (17-23 November 2014), we’re asking everyone to look out for each other on roads, because being selfish can easily lead to tragedy. We’ll be particularly calling on drivers to protect people on foot and bike by slowing down to 20 in communities, looking longer and taking it slow at junctions and bends,(4) and giving people plenty of room. We’ll also call on everyone to put safety first and be considerate to one another,(3) encouraging people on foot and bike to never take chances (5), and make sure they can be seen (6).”
We’ll be appealing to everyone to show their commitment to care and compassion on roads by making and sharing Brake’s Pledge.…and what’s wrong with it
1. This is essentially patronising . Also, the idea that rule or law breaking which intimidates, hurts or kills can be dealt with by a polite request to “look out” for potential victims is rather strange. Can you imagine a Health and Safety regime in industry, aviation, the railways or sea travel which relied on such polite requests? Indeed, following the central theme of the “road safety” industry since it was founded in the 1920s, the fundamental difference in potential lethality between Primary Road Users (cyclists and pedestrians) and the motorised, is neutralised. We are all, as the saying goes, “in it together”. (“…we are all people underneath just trying to get about”). Of course we are. It’s just that some (the motorised) have far more potential to endanger others than those that are not.
This view is that the people who get about outside cars (incidentally, the majority of people in the world) are seen by definition as “vulnerable” and to be “protected” by those who have the potential to hurt or kill them. How about the idea that those with far more potential to hurt, kill or just intimidate (the motorised) are Dangerous Road Users to be seen as the problem?
2. “Different tribes”. As above, the point is exactly that there is a difference between people when they are using different forms of transport. The fact that people may also walk or (less likely) cycle does not mean that they pose no problem for pedestrians or cyclist safety when they drive.
3. For whom? Again, the fundamental difference between endangering others and endangering yourself is glossed over. And anyway, people have quite different ideas about what constitutes appropriate care and consideration.
4. The central rule of careful driving is: “Never drive in such a way that you cannot stop within visible distance” – which can include “…slowing down to 20 in communities, looking longer and taking it slow at junctions and bends”. But decades of “road safety” highway engineering based on lengthening sight lines, more powerful street and car lights and “road safety” vehicle engineering with more powerful brakes, anti-skid etc. have worked against this. Shifting the burden of responsibility to “be seen” on to pedestrians and cyclists actually makes it more difficult to achieve this basic requirement for safer driving.
5. What is meant here by “taking a chance”? And how on earth are we supposed to live in a world where we don’t ever take any kind of risk? Highways and cars have been engineered to accommodate “taking chances” – or to be more precise, rule and law breaking – by motorists for decades. Even without consideration of how this collusion and connivance with ”taking chances” has exacerbated bad driving behaviour, if we are to assume that drivers require a forgiving environment, why can’t pedestrians and cyclists have one?
6. This needs to be mentioned again as it is key to so much “road safety” ideology. The picture below of the ideal pedestrian presented to children trickles into the collective imagination of how we should behave when travelling is on the web site of one of Brake’s partners,
This slots into a belief system where responsibility from drivers is reduced and transferred on to their potential (or actual) victims. For cyclists and pedestrians to really “be seen” we need a reversal of this belief system, with enforcement, car and highway engineering which is based on a cultural shift to place responsibility back where it belongs.
Genuine “mutual respect” means leaving behind the “Evens Stevens” campaigns and reducing danger at source. Not threatening each other’s lives is the only real mutual respect.
Bridgestone and sustainability
(An aside: A case of how a safety benefit is consumed as a performance benefit.
Taking a look at the twitter account of one of Brake’s partners, Bridgestone, I note their commitment towards motorcycle racing. The photograph below is a classic example of how “safe” technology (in tyre design and construction) allows people to take additional risk -
After all, could you corner at speed like this on a normal motorcycle tyre?)
Brake mentions a commitment towards sustainable transport. Indeed, one of the promises made in their Pledge is to drive less. But what actually works? A voluntary pledge which a tiny minority of motorists make while Government (funding Road Safety Week through the “Think!” campaign) plans more road building for more cars? While even a very large number of committed pledgers would be offset by far more who simply don’t want to drive less and are facilitated in driving more?
And do we think that the world’s largest tyre manufacturer would finance a campaign likely to result in less motoring?Brake and cycle helmets
Brake is long term supporters of campaigns for compulsory bicycle crash helmet wear . It both denies relevant evidence and replicates helmet mythology. Of course, Brake claim to be campaigning to create a “safer environment for cyclists” – but what do we actually get?
What we get is not a “safer environment for cyclists” – whether through law enforcement, highway or vehicle engineering – and I suggest that any efforts which may be made in these directions are the results of others than Brake. What we have had is a relentless push to make pedestrians and cyclists wear hi-viz, and cyclists war crash helmets.
Brake is very effective at public relations and getting corporate sponsors on board. Some of the funding gained goes towards providing road crash victims support services. In our experience our friends in RoadPeace provide a more in-depth victim support service, with detailed study of the post-collision processes, and of course a commitment towards road danger reduction.
So, if you want to get involved with activities at this time, we would suggest supporting RoadPeace with the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims with its campaign to reduce motor traffic speed
Or consider joining the National Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence with its demands
Safety for all road users with a more sustainable transport system requires shifts in culture and attitudes to support (and be supported by) specific interventions. That means focusing on reducing danger at source – danger from motorised vehicular traffic. Brake consistently fails to do this, obscuring differences in the potential lethality of different modes of transport and regurgitating the (non-evidence based) mythology of hi-viz and cycle helmets.
We think that Brake and its partners are very much part of the problem of danger on the road.