On behalf of ConBici and all Spanish cyclists I would like to thank the Road Danger Reduction Forum for their support in opposing plans by the Spanish government to ban cycling without helmets. With your help we are winning the argument in the media, but government has not yet shown any indication that it will change its plans.
Some 20 city councils (including Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza, and Bilbao) have publicly called for the proposals to be scrapped, so even if the government does ban cycling without helmets, it will probably be unable to enforce the law as the local councils control the city police forces. However, even this very pragmatic consideration leaves the government unmoved. If you wish to follow events, the CTC and the European Cycling Federation are covering the story as it unfolds on their websites.
“Cameron climbs aboard cycle revolution” announced The Times (April 25th 2013) to describe the statement of the Prime Minister in response to the “Get Britain Cycling” (GBC) report. But describing his response we see that while he “endorsed the report”, he “stopped short of committing himself to forcing through change”. Chris Boardman, the former Olympic and World champion with years of experience in supporting cycling as a form of everyday transport, criticised the Prime Minister’s lack of ambition: “It is the kind of statement that is incredibly frustrating and even makes me angry”. Is Boardman right to feel this way?
Let’s look at the PM’s response:
In Prime Minister’s Questions on April 24th , Julian Huppert MP the co-chair of the AAPCG asked the Prime Minister, David Cameron MP, whether he will “look at the report, will he make sure he produces a cross-departmental action plan, [and] will [he] give his personal commitment to leadership to get Britain cycling?”
The Prime Minister replied,
“I don’t always agree with what the honorable gentleman says, but on this occasion he is absolutely right and the House should heed what he says, we should be doing much more in our country to encourage cycling, I think the report has many good points in it, I would commend what the Mayor of London has done in London to promote cycling and I hope local authorities can follow his lead in making sure we do more.”
According to the same Times report, he said: “We should be doing much more in this country to encourage cycling”, although actually – so far – when it comes down to it, he won’t be.
As usual, the responsibility is shoved down to local authorities under the “localism” excuse. What this means is that the buck is passed to bodies with no significant extra funding and practitioners either untrained in supporting cycling and/or unsympathetic to it.
Worse still, modeling and appraisal guidelines – set by the government – based on maintaining or expanding highway capacity for motor vehicular traffic will tend to work against any moves to reallocate road space from motor vehicles to cycling. Properly measuring danger to cyclists – a key point we have drawn attention to and raised in Professor Phil Goodwin’s full GBC report by, for example, John Dales– won’t have happened. There will be no financial incentive for highway authorities to properly provide for cycling, nor disincentive for not doing so.
As one of the few progressive highway engineers puts it : “So, there we have it, Cameron is not bothered about leading on what is a national issue which touches far more than just transport. He essentially thinks it is down to local authorities to deal with this issue, using the Mayor of London as the example of best practice; and they have all done so well up until now!”
What about Boardman’s frustration? Now, I have a history of scepticism concerning Government activity with regard to cycling. Over the last twenty eight years I have seen successive Ministers announce how there is going to be far more cycling and that this will happen because of their various initiatives. With possibly some limited local exceptions, these somehow fail to materialise into much in the way of significant efforts delivering widespread and permanent change in travel behaviour. We have had the National Cycling Strategy, Cycling England, the London Cycle Network, the London Cycle Network Plus – and cycling’s modal share is more or less where it was.
One learns to avoid frustration by not expecting a link between fine words and meaningful action. After all, as I said in analysinging the GBC report “At some stage progressing the pro-cycling agenda means coming up against the institutions and ideology of car culture and a car-centred society. We will see what happens to the recommendations of the GBC report when government responds. And of course, that is the big question: how will government actually respond? Watch this space.”
So much for frustration – what about anger?
Don’t forget that this Government (with the full support of the opposition) in its last budget, refused to implement a paltry 3p per litre increase in the price of petrol. Delaying this planned increase means continuing a policy of cheap motoring , in this case giving motorists (in an age of supposed austerity) approximately £500 million per annum. All to cut a cost that could be recouped by driving some 40 fewer miles a year or simply driving more fuel efficiently for a few journeys. That £500 million for cycling could be a move towards the annual spend recommended by the GCB report.
There is, however, a glimpse of hope. According to BikeBiz “The Government’s response to the Get Britain Cycling report has been less than effusive so far but perhaps ministers are keeping their powder dry for the expected launch of a new cross-departmental body that could be announced in June? BikeBiz has learned that the new organisation may be called OAT, the Office for Active Travel. It will have an initial budget of £1bn”.
So the next date to watch out for is in June, and we may all be happily surprised. Otherwise it will be time, yet again, for justifiable anger from Chris Boardman and also all those of us committed not just to cycling and a healthy and sustainable transport system, but to a decent and civilised society.
Today sees the launch of the Summary and Recommendations of the “Get Britain Cycling” report. Reporting on this on the front page of The Times we see “Cyclists are set to win revolution in road safety”. Is this so? Road Danger Reduction Forum President Lord Berkeley is one of the Panel members of The Get Britain Cycling Inquiry. I have a reputation for pessimism (or as I would say, healthy scepticism) and as RDRF Chair I give a detailed analysis of the Summary and Recommendations below.
Make no mistake, along with Mayor Johnson’s “Vision for Cycling”; the production of this report is a pivotal moment for the possibility of not just cycling, but sustainable transport as a whole in Britain. So: are cyclists – and all those of us interested in the development and implementation of sustainable transport policy indeed “set to win”?
The report by Professor Phil Goodwin is one of the outputs of the Get Britain Cycling (henceforth GBC) Inquiry, here I just analyse the main Summary and Recommendations. Nit picking alert: this is an in depth consideration of an important report, so I do go into some detail.
Foreword, Cycling in Britain: The Potential for Growth, Vision. These introductory sections are upbeat and correct in calling for the UK to look at levels of cycling elsewhere in Europe and to extend the modal share up to these levels by measures including contesting the cycling stereotype of sporty young affluent men. There is an ambitious target of 10% modal share by 2025 and an absolutely correct demand for strong political leadership. The recommendations come under five areas:
What could go wrong? The money has, of course, got to be spent properly. It also does not make sense to have “cycling projects” if other developments occur which are overly car dependent or anti-cycling (although those issues are addressed elsewhere). I would be concerned that traditional transport practitioners would do as little as possible with any statutory requirements on the spend of this funding.
2. Redesigning Our Roads, Streets And Communities
3. Safe Driving And Safe Speed Limits
The preamble to these recommendations correctly refers to cycling as being a safe activity, and that more cycling leads to safer cycling. I would suggest, however, that enforcement of road traffic law should actually focus more on rule or law breaking by motorists (such as overly close overtaking) before collisions occur.
4. Training and Education
5. Political Leadership
My main criticism (indeed my only significant one)of the GBC report is that the need to reduce the privileges of the motorised is underplayed. These privileges are not just in the ease of rule and law breaking, which is covered to some extent, but in terms of road space (car parking, carriageway lanes etc.) available, which is briefly referred to. I would suggest that we need to talk about raising the price of motoring, which I fear is becoming not sufficiently greater than that of cycling. This is not merely inequitable, but will restrict the take up of cycling by those who find it too expensive – a fact which is not often referred to.
But on top of this, I would suggest that the need to reduce motor vehicle traffic is not only helpful – and perhaps necessary – to cycling, but a necessity for a sustainable society. Cycling is a lot more than “not car”, but “not car” is an important part of what it is, and justifying the arguments for it. A good emphasis in GBC is the need for the improvement of the environment for society in general, not just in the experience of cycling. Of course, it is going to be difficult for parliamentarians to argue this to the government, and I suspect this is why GBC has not.
That said, the most noticeable feature of the GBC report is how good it is. I really do find it difficult to be critical of almost all of it. It is difficult to tap into my normal pessimism. This is a serious and impressive piece of work to lay before government.
And of course, that is the big question: how will government actually respond? Watch this space.
We normally restrict ourselves to what happens in the UK, but the Spanish government’s proposed anti-cycling law is significant for Europeans, and many of our readers are potential cycling visitors to Spain. So check up on what is proposed here and if you want to support the excellent Spanish cyclists of Conbici do write in as suggested to the Tourism Ministry. You can do this in English, but below we present you with our letter to the Traffic Directorate in Madrid with a Spanish version provided by the RDRF translation service.
Ms María Seguí Gómez, Director, Traffic Directorate, Madrid
Email: email@example.com 1 April 2013
Dear Ms Seguí Gómez
The Road Danger Reduction Forum would like to express concern regarding the proposed new traffic regulations and their impact on cyclists.
Cycling initiatives adopted in cities such as Bilbao, Seville and Barcelona provide sound examples of urban planning for cycling which deserve the attention of other European cities. However, the new traffic proposals appear to be influenced by prejudice against cycling, despite its status as non-polluting and good for health.
We are particularly concerned about the introduction of obligatory helmet use, the intention to ban children from riding unaccompanied by an adult, and the instruction to ride as closely as possible to the pavement, as if the bike were an unwanted obstacle on the road.
Measures should be introduced to protect cyclists and reduce speed, rather than banning children from cycling. This would improve safety for all road users, improve public health, and help to address the dominance of motor traffic in many of Spain’s cities.
There is clear evidence from Australia, New Zealand and the United States that forcing people to wear helmets by law reduces the numbers of people choosing to cycle.
Countries with high cycle use, such as the Netherlands, Germany and those in Scandinavia have addressed road danger issues not through anti-cycling legislation, but by facilitating it, protecting cyclists and reducing road speeds, eg 30kmph default in urban areas.
As well as making life difficult for Spanish cyclists, the DGT’s proposals risk negative impacts on cycling tourism from Germany, the UK, Holland and Scandinavia. Many cycling organisations are already warning their members of these damaging proposals.
We urge you to reconsider these anti-cycling proposals, which are unparalleled in the European Union.
Dr Robert Davis
Chair, Road Danger Reduction Forum
Sra María Seguí Gómez, Directora General, Dirección General de Tráfico, Madrid
Estimada Sra María Seguí Gómez
En nombre del Road Danger Reduction Forum (Inglaterra) debemos expresar nuestra preocupación por las nuevas medidas propuestas para la reforma del reglamento de circulación, que prepara la Dirección General de Tráfico, en lo que se refiere a los ciclistas.
Las iniciativas bici de ciudades como Bilbao, Sevilla y Barcelona son ejemplos de planificación urbana para otras ciudades europeas. Pero las prepuestas nuevas de la Dirección General de Trafico parecen estar influenciadas por prejuicios contra el ciclismo un medio de transporte que no contamina y es recomendable para la salud.
Particularmente nos preocupa la introducción del uso obligatorio del casco, la penalización del uso de la bicicleta por parte de niños y las medidas relativas a circular lo más cerca posible de la acera, como si la bicicleta fuera un obstaculo.
En vez de ilegalizar el uso de la bici por parte de los menores de edad, deberían de introducirse medidas para incrementar la seguridad de este medio, que tendría como resultado una mejora en la salud de los ciudadanos y una reducción a los problemas de tráfico urbano que registran muchas ciudades españolas.
Existe evidencia clara de países como Australia, Nueva Zelanda u Estados Unidos, que las medidas para hacer el uso del casco obligatorio tienen como resultado un descenso en el uso de la bicicleta.
Países con un uso elevado de la bicicleta como Holanda, Alemania y Dinamarca no introducen este tipo de medidas, sino otras para facilitar y proteger el ciclismo, como por ejemplo el descenso de la velocidad para reducir el peligro de colisiones.
Además de actuar de obstáculo en el uso de la bici para los españoles, estas medidas tendrán un efecto negativo sobre el turismo procedente de Alemania, Inglaterra, Holanda y países escandinavos. Muchas organizaciones de ciclistas se están haciendo eco de las propuestas y empiezan a advertir de estas medidas.
Por todo ello le urgimos a reconsiderar estas medidas, que no encuentran paralelo en legislacion reciente de ningun país de la Union Europea.
Dr Robert Davis
Presidente, Road Danger Reduction Forum
We have posted on the “Get Britain Cycling” enquiry before – and although regrettably we were not called to give evidence, some good contributions have been made to the enquiry. In this post – after asking you support EDM 679 directly or through the CTC – we give a view on two talking points that have arisen: The revelation for some MPs that the police do not enforce road traffic law, specifically 20 mph limits (who knew?) and the AA president gratifying some cyclists by saying that drivers shouldn’t threaten to kill them (which we’re supposed to be impressed by?)Law enforcement
The big shock for some MPs was the news that the police (through ACPO) didn’t feel that they wanted to enforce 20 mph speed limits, followed by some restatement of their position by the police, with a discussion about the different ways of achieving speeds below 30 mph. (A useful account is here ). Now, it can be worthwhile to rehearse the arguments for different kinds of speed control in the context of highway engineers aspiring for what they would consider good quality traffic management ( a good summary is here ). But actually the main arguments – the merits of 20 mph limit areas defined by signing as opposed to 20 mph zones defined by physical measures like road humps – have been known to transport professionals for some time.
We held a seminar in March 2011 summarising the debate. 20s Plenty For Us persistently push the case for 20 mph areas: there is nothing new here. But our surprise at the MPs surprise is that anybody with any knowledge of compliance and driving should have known anyway that road traffic law is not enforced. What did these MPs really think? Never mind 20 mph, just consider the 30 mph limit – which has existed since 1935 and is broken by about a third to a half the drivers who can do so. Have they never sat in a car and looked at the speedometer to realise that the driver and/or those passing are breaking the speed limit?
But, as we are often reminded, speed is only one area of rule and law breaking. The main offences anybody concerned with a civilised road environment would come under those which could be prosecuted as careless or dangerous driving. In fact the chances of prosecution for these offences are extremely low, and then generally only after collisions – and then normally only when someone is reported as injured.
So, in one sense it is nice to have a shocked reaction from the MPs. But in another, it is not so welcome to see just how naïve they are.
MORE TO COME
This letterw as one of two – the other drew attention the numbers of people killed on the roads, hence the heading.
If my analysis in these posts here seems more critical than that of some cycling bloggers and cycling groups, this may be because I have experience of the lack of positive effects of numerous talked-up cycling strategies, initiatives and “visions” from those in power over the past 25 years in the UK. Not a few of these were hailed at the time as “step-changes” or “sea-changes” in support for cycling. My justification for an in-depth analysis of this document is that unless we understand what is being incorrectly assessed and proposed, we won’t get it right this time either. The key point is to understand what opportunities are now open (or need to be pushed for afresh) in the current climate. Hopefully this analysis will allow for campaigners and practitioners alike to prepare accordingly.
But first, there are stillSome more problems: The Vision thing:
Discussing the Vision with colleagues, I’m struck by how many concentrate on the wording, tone, and what they claim is “the basic message” of the document. With not a little reading between the lines, those most impressed by the document detect a fundamental break with the past. This is, allegedly, the first time a commitment has been made towards a cycle-friendly environment.
But most of the admirable sentiments in the documents are ones that I have come across before. Reference to engineering the highway to make the environment for cyclists less hazardous and more welcoming, has been made – albeit in different ways – since “Ways to Safer Cycling”1984. The need to think about cycling right from the beginning, rather than as a bolted on afterthought, has similarly been echoed since at least the launch of the long-abandoned National Cycling Strategy.
I remember sitting on a working group producing guidelines on cycling for local government associations in the early 1990s where plenty of good stuff about getting all relevant Council departments involved was clearly stated. Did it get us anywhere?
There is a fundamental point here. I am quite happy to accept that Andrew Gilligan and others have an honest commitment towards cycling, and I share some (but not all) of their tactics and strategies to achieve this. The point is this: There is a big difference between a vision (stated in general, and often abstract, terms) and the specific objectives required in order to achieve it.
Here is an example:
“We will closely monitor all major new planning applications, schemes and developments…to promote meaningful pro-bike content and discourage anti-bike content.” (p.28)
Admirable sentiments, which if forcefully pursued for all developments, could have a fundamental effect. But let’s work through this:
More to come
A key part of the funding (already announced before the publication of the Vision) goes to non-highway (or off-road) infrastructure. I’m absolutely in favour of moving beyond the usual highways and transportation planners fixation on the highway environment. But the spending has to obviously go in the right direction – and I’m not sure it does.Beyond infrastructure
There are a number of reasons why it is crucial to support cycling in ways apart from highways and off-road engineering. The loss of a cycling culture in the UK means that there are significant problems in the following areas:
I can’t say exactly how many people don’t cycle because they can’t afford a reliable bike and accessories, put it somewhere convenient for everyday travel where it won’t get stolen, or were never shown how to ride a bike. But it is likely to be significant.
For example, we know that a third to half of all people cycling in the summer stop when the clocks go back. On top of this, even this winter hard-core are significantly less likely to cycle when it rains.is it too absurd to suggest that subsidising or allocating good quality wet/cold weather clothing to potential cyclists would help people cycle?
On top of this, there is a simple moral question. There is massive subsidy for people travelling by the les sustainable and healthy modes of public transport. (I’m not even going into the hidden subsidy for private car use). Why shouldn’t cyclists get assistance with equipment, including home parking, to help them cycle as well as necessary improvements to the environment they cycle in?
Yet there are precious few examples of initiatives to address these issues. I am lucky to work on LB Ealing’s Direct Support for Cycling programme (Disclaimer: my views are not necessarily the same as Ealing Council’s), winner of the 2012 National Transport Award for achievements in cycling and previously LCC and CTC awards.What is “cycle training”… ?
A key element of successful encouragement and inspiring confidence is through the right kind of cycle training such as that described here and here . Modern National Standards (now branded as “Bikeability”) cycle training as introduced by RDRF supporters in York and elsewhere in the late 1990s as an alternative to the defunct “Cycle Proficiency” in an attempt to get beyond “round the comes in the playground” and breed confidence among children and adults to cycle in real world conditions.
But how much that goes under the name of cycle training is actually carried out in this spirit? My impression is that plenty is still based on imparting a message that cycling is inherently hazardous, with a stress on helmets and hi-viz . In London there has been controversy over the terms of a pan-London procurement process for cycle training set up for boroughs that couldn’t define their own criteria. And naturally, supporters of Road danger reduction would ask why a lot (but not all) of the cycle training is managed by officers working under the “road safety” agenda, rather than cycling specialists.
“Pretty miserable stuff, not just because of a failure to address creating safer streets, but also because all this ‘education’ and ‘encouragement’ is only directed at children themselves. There is nothing in this strategy that talks about getting drivers to behave better, or ‘educating’ them to drive more carefully around children. Nothing. It’s victim-blaming of the worst kind…Of the ten ‘initiatives’ TfL are proposing to increase child safety, every single one involves training or educating children. There’s no mention of reducing environmental danger.”
This is perhaps a little unfair as reference to “environmental danger” – or what we would call the source of danger, namely the threats from motor vehicular traffic – is made (partly) in the “Vision” document where there is reference to a safer cycle route environment to schools (p.25). It is also the case that there will have to be some work by transport professionals with children and young people irrespective of highway layout and broader questions of road danger.
However, As Easy as Riding a Bike is basically right: the overall approach of TfL here and other “educational and training” approaches accepts the status quo of road danger. It continues all the dreary repetition of assessing safety in terms of aggregated reported casualties, as if the critique made of the “road safety” lobby in this respect had never happened. It does not empower or enable children as non-motorists now or fort he future. Cycling tends to be seen as sport, not as avaible normal form of everyday transport. There is little on the rights of children and non-motorised users. When we are going to see a real critique of the car-centric staus quo in a robust programme for children and young people?
In fact, a critical issue is the way that imbibing the “road safety” message will impact on these young people in a few years when they are quite likely to be motorists themselves. One of the reasons for a victim-blaming culture and acceptance of road danger is precisely the “road safety and education and training” that people have had when at school. Despite an admirable approach of not “dangerising” cycling –while recognising danger and the need for cycling to “feel safer” (the first four paragraphs on page18) in the Vision, I suspect the approach taken in many London boroughs will do the opposite.…or “Smarter Travel”?
Along with the traditional domain of “road safety” , the last decade has been a stamping ground for “Travel Awareness” and “Smarter Travel” initiatives. Based on informing people about alternatives to car use, its advocates – generally the people who work in this area – claim that these are effective. My view is sceptical of these claims. Yet a large proportion of the new ringfenced funding for cycling – through the Boroughs – is in this area.
It is characterised by “talking up” alternatives to car use, rather than pointing out it’s adverse effects on public health and the local and global environment. It is generally referred to as a “soft” approach, and is essentially about marketing.
My view is that non-highway infrastructural approaches are desperately needed, not least to break out of the mind-set of Highway Authorities, however progressive they may appear to be. But it needs to feed into a new social and cultural infrastructure: its aims have to address the very hard issues raised above about the obstacles to cycling which are not just in the physical highway environment. The virtue of Ealing’s Direct Support for Cycling programme is that it is indeed hard in its approach to tackle some of the barriers to cycling that a Council can – if it wants to.
Regrettably, few Boroughs show an interest – although a significant coterie of practitioners have – in this kind of approach. Housing estates feature ample (and free) car parking, but little or none for bicycles. Recovered and second hand bike centres to allow social classes C,D and E to access affordable bikes and accessories are few and far between. Genuine support for actual or potential cyclists is not really on the radar of too many in the boroughs.
My view is that is part of the dominant car-centred transport culture which will need to be addressed to get any real vision off the ground: see the next post…
While giving praise where it is due: I continue this in-depth analysis with some more Problems:The Boroughs
Mayor Johnson: “I do not control the vast majority of London’s roads, so many of the improvements I seek will take time. They will depend on the cooperation of others, such as the boroughs…”.
Indeed. After all, 95% of the roads in London are owned by the boroughs. This not just an excuse – although I believe TfL could apply more pressure on the boroughs to carry out a pro-cycling programme.
Regrettably, the boroughs do have to come under this list of Problems in assessing the likely effects of Mayor Johnson’s “Vision for Cycling in London”
There is a long history of local authorities in the UK that are not interested in cycling, or don’t “get” cycling in any meaningful way. This generally does not involve any specific hostility. But it does involve an agenda of prioritising motor vehicle use – well before “smoothing the traffic” became TfL’s mantra – in a way which will disbenefit the prospects for cycling. They have a history of embracing “road safety” ideology, as opposed to the handful of Councils in London taking road danger reduction seriously instead, with all the associated problems for cyclists that flow from it.
And that’s just the specific departments concerned with transport policy. Officers concerned with “Regeneration” frequently have agendas based on accommodating or increasing motor traffic, as do housing departments. Even where some Councillors are committed to cycling, they have short terms of office in which to contend with others, even in their own political bloc who may oppose them. They then have to work through the labyrinthine complexities of a Council bureaucracy. Even where senior officers are committed, it is quite usual for others in the hierarchy to impede their efforts.
There are particular problems relating to Cycle Training, Smarter Travel initiatives, and of course, “road safety” education, which I address in the next post.
But here I will list just a few instances of the kind of issues which come up in the boroughs which relate only to the everyday problems of those officers trying to progress cycling. These are based on conversations with fellow officers with whom I have discussed the current situation in the last few weeks. They are all in Boroughs which claim to have a commitment towards supporting cycling – I haven’t even bothered with those with a reputation for being anti-cycling (like Barnet, Newham, and Westminster). Identity is withheld to protect the innocent.
Borough A: There is no dedicated cycling officer because the official policy is “multi-modal” and cycling is supposedly included in it as a serious mode of transport. In principle this could be the right approach, but it does mean that the policy does have to be genuinely non-discriminatory when it comes to cycling – and this is not so. My colleague has installed some segregated cycle facilities and wishes to continue doing this – but his/her boss is making this conditional on there being no loss of car parking spaces. This rather puts the damper on his/her ideas: so much for an equitable “multi-modal” approach.
Borough B: A “Biking Borough”, no less.
Borough C: The officer allocated with a cycling brief is subject to continuous dismissal by office colleagues of the idea of cycling as a form of everyday transport. Cycling is not considered viable because (a) Women can’t do it because they will be sexually assaulted when cycling, and not just at night; (b) Motoring is far more accessible and always will be – and it is the duty of the Council to provide as much car parking and road space for cars as desired in order to accommodate it; (c) Cyclists are always riding on the pavement and through red lights so deserve what they get.
Elsewhere there are regular tales of difficulties in removing car parking from obstructing safe cycling (in cycle lanes or otherwise), a general opposition to any notion of sustainable transport policy, and ignorance or confusion about highway design guidelines. The London Cycle Design Standards are disseminated in seminars which a handful of Borough officers have attended. The fashion for extended footways with narrowed traffic lanes is hardly discussed in terms of its effects on cyclists.
I could go on. And on. I am not trying to be negative, but this is the background which colleagues will find recognisable, and which members of the public will not generally be aware of.
Of course, some Boroughs have a genuinely positive attitude which can win through – but even in these cases it will be a struggle. It all means that, if the enthusiasm evident from many commentators on the Vision is to be rewarded, that change needs to occur within the Boroughs.
A moderate suggestion
How could this change happen? There is rather more to the relationship between TfL and the boroughs than the fact that TfL does not control the roads in them. TfL give some £100 – £150 million every year to the boroughs in Local Implementation Plan settlement. While this money is for the boroughs to spend, TfL can, in principle, have an effect on the kind of spend which happens.
Indeed, a notable feature is how TfL has so far been likely to oppose measures which are seen as possibly reducing motor traffic capacity, even when a borough (for reasons such as increasing pedestrian signalled crossing time) has wanted to do so. And we see in the Vision that:
“We will not be asking boroughs to remove traffic or, in the vast majority of cases, change parking on the two-way cycle streets, unless they want to”.(p.11).
How about changing that to encouraging steps necessary to support cycling – which may well include reducing road space for motor traffic and car parking?
My suggestion is that, apart from assistance to a small proportion of Outer London boroughs (the “mini-Hollands”), which will only affect at best 15% of the part of London which is least attractive to cycling, that TfL actually restrict support to those boroughs that are not sufficiently supportive of cycling. It should be quite possible to reduce LIP settlements and other supporting programmes for boroughs if they don’t have a properly audited programme of support fro cycling. After all, support for cycling has been part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) since the Livingstone mayoralty, with the aim of 5% modal share by 2026 continued in mayor Johnson’s MTS 2.
In my view, if there is any chance of putting a positive vision for cycling into practice throughout London, this kind of change is going to have to happen.
The letter below was published in the Guardian
• Some of your correspondents (9 March) appear to regard such antisocial behaviour as trivial, deserving of “a fine and a wigging from the beaks”. Hardly an effective deterrent when Mr Huhne’s previous driving conviction and three-month ban didn’t appear to have much of an effect. Perhaps this case will encourage drivers to be more careful, and to avoid wriggling out of their obligation to accept minor penalties on the rare occasions they are caught.
Dr Robert Davis
Chair, Road Danger Reduction Forum
In fact it was quite heavily truncated: the main points I was trying to make were:
If you are a motorist and want to avoid this kind of Huhne/Pryce scenario:
This is the biggest current story for anybody interested in sustainable transport policy. As the ever sensible Chris Boardman correctly commented: “This is the most ambitious cycling development and promotion plan in the UK in living memory, perhaps ever.” However, you don’t have to be a cynic for the excitement of first part of that sentence to be somewhat cooled by the “in the UK” part of it.
As a London cyclist of 35 years standing, campaigner for most of those years and transport professional in London for 25, here is my assessment of what the “Vision for Cycling” may – or may – not mean for London.Reactions
Reactions are as may be expected: praise from campaigners CTC “breathtakingly ambitious” , the London Cycling Campaign “ground breaking” , and the Guardian: “bold thinking”. Even the response from opposition politicians in the Green and Liberal Democrat parties is mainly along the lines that the Vision – specifically with regard to the increase in funding and programmes for Outer London Boroughs – is good, but just not good enough.The Good News
To start off with, here (in no particular order) is what looks good:
Normalising cycling: “I want cycling to be normal, a part of everyday life. I want it to be something you feel comfortable doing in your ordinary clothes, something you hardly think about”. This is part of the third outcome devoted to increasing cycling: “We will ‘normalise’ cycling, making it something anyone feels comfortable doing”. Elsewhere this is described as “De-Lycraification”. The cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan, has specifically talked about cycling being something that doesn’t require helmets and hi-viz. At the launch Chris Boardman went helmetless, as has the Mayor on so many of his cycling appearances.Photo:Guardian
I think this is crucial, and indeed a critical part of Mayor Johnson’s legacy is his own habit of everyday cycling wearing normal office clothes.
Andrew Gilligan: Obviously Gilligan is not just a “Johnson crony”: he is plainly committed to supporting cycling as significant form of transport.
More money: Although previously announced, this funding is ringfenced for cycling and stands at a level higher than ever before.
The right kind of vision: the following kinds of phrase are welcome: “Cycling will transform more of our city into a place dominated by people, not motor traffic” .(Better places for everyone). And in the Mayor’s introduction: “Cycling will be treated not as niche, marginal, or an afterthought, but as what it is: an integral part of the transport network, with the capital spending, road space and traffic planners’ attention befitting that role.” Nobody supporting cycling can complain about this kind of statement being made so clearly.
Outer London: After the (to put it very kindly) minimal success so far of the Biking Boroughs project, we have a promise of £100 million targeting the least favoured part of London ”… very high spending concentrated on these relatively small areas for the greatest possible impact. In many ways, this will be the most transformative of all our policies.”
Replacing car use? : There is a definite suggestion that cycling will replace car use. The illustration of the Victoria Embankment flagship scheme – on the cover of the document – shows a road currently with five lanes of general traffic reduced to three for motor traffic. Cycling is stated to be the desirable alternative for car journeys of short distances to town centres in Outer London.
All of this is undoubtedly good news. As a practitioner, I have been excitedly preparing for the bidding process for the extra funding since it was first flagged up some weeks ago. I am not denying the potential benefits of the Vision. But that does not stop me having to analyse exactly what it might – and might not – mean for actual and potential cyclists in London, and the possibilities of a sustainable transport system. We have, after all, had supposed “step changes” and “sea changes” before – older readers will remember the Star Routes, London Cycle Network, London Cycle Network Plus, CRISP studies, Biking Boroughs …The problem with visions is that they really need to become good quality realities.
So we need to have a critical analysis of what is on offerThe problems The role of infrastructure
Most discussion of cycling has revolved around highway infrastructure types. I have my doubts about exactly beneficial constant reference to continental types of highway layout actually is – even if the best are somehow imported wholesale into the UK context. (Take a look at the interventions by myself and Carlton Reid here ). Let’s see what is on offer:
These are interesting, but lets’ not forget that they will cover no more than some 2% of London’s roads when completed in 10 years’ time, with what appears to be a facility primarily for the already dominant demographic of middle class commuters.
What this means is that a small minority of the highways that cyclists have to use will be on one of these programmes. This is a classic problem with looking at the problems for cycling in terms of highway design – most of the highway network inevitably gets missed out. But , as both the Green and Liberal Democrat parties have pointed out, particularly with the “most transformative” mini-Hollands, the vast majority of actual or potential London cyclists in Outer London will miss out. And that’s if the design standards employed actually meet the requirements of cyclists.
This is particularly obvious with the case of some of the junctions crossing the trunk roads in London, particularly the North Circular. These have been commented on as major barriers to cycling for some time – but they are not specifically addressed in the “Vision”, not even in the one to three “mini-Holland” Boroughs. There are also, of course, problems with gyratories in Inner London – such as Hackney – which continue to be unaddressed.
Finally, a big change – following the deaths of two cyclists in quick succession at Bow roundabout – has been the TfL Junctions Reviews. These have raised various alternative options (with varying degrees of complaint) at some key junctions on TfL controlled roads. The Vision intends to continue this process – but at fewer junctions. Quality is to be emphasised over quantity. But why not both?
All of this suggests that the schemes with their various brand names will be addressing only a minority of the places people cycle in, and with yet to be determined quality.Money, money, money
As ever, the amount of funding has been questioned, by the Greens, Liberal Democrats and LCC . An increase in funding would certainly allow for more junctions in the Junctions Review, and more Outer London and gyratory schemes to be financed.
As with many TfL funding arrangements, considering the amounts to be spent can become somewhat complex. I’ll just raise some issues: How much is Barclays to put into the Cycle Hire and CSH schemes which give it a substantial advertising impact? How much will back up LIP (Local Implementation Plan) funding to Boroughs which should already be supporting cycling?
Without being greedy, the amount allocated really does need to be seen in the context of TfL’s budget of £5 billion per annu. Cycling is at some 2.5 – 3% modal share with a 5% target over ten years – some £150 million per annum rather than £90 million would seem appropriate. Of course, s mentioned, LIP funding is supposed to benefit cycling. But this is questionable and the relative benefits of cycling compared to public transport in terms of health and sustainability are higher. And this is without raising the issues of “external costs” which could be paid by drivers through road pricing.
I’d also raise a question which few consider: why should “cycling money” be used to treat junctions designed in ways which endanger and/or inconvenience them? Why shouldn’t that money come from general highways budgets like LIPs? All in all, even given the mantras about austerity, there is a case for substantial increase in the funding.
But of course, it would have to be spent properly. And here we are looking at a whole new lot of issues.
In amongst all the fuss about Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London, the Get Britain Cycling Inquiry , the pressure from motorists’ organisations to cut fuel duty (well, there should be a fuss about this) one important item has slipped under the radar – apart from for those genuinely interested in the safety of all road users.
This is the 30th anniversary of a move successfully lobbied for by the “road safety” lobby, which –although it took them 26 years to admit it – led to “a clear reduction in death and injury to car occupants, appreciably offset by extra deaths among pedestrians and cyclists (my emphasis) So, how many cyclists and pedestrians is it alright to kill in order to protect car occupants from bad driving? Other issues apart from the moral one are revealed by this episode, so do read on:
When I have raised this, many colleagues simply don’t want to discuss the matter. It’s all over, forget about it. Now, I have to admit to wearing a seat belt on those infrequent occasions when I travel by car. And I don’t seriously advocate banning seat belts and replacing the steering column with a sharp spike – although it would dramatically improve the care taken by drivers.
So here are some reasons why it’s important:
Just in case anybody thinks this means that RDRF does not care about the safety of car occupants – nonsense! As we have made clear from the start, we believe in safety for all road users, which is why it is on our mast head. As we said at the time of seat belt legislation there were (and of course still are) numerous ways in which car occupants can be protected. These measures are based on reducing danger at source – from the inappropriate use of motor vehicles – which would protect all road users. Sadly, the idiot-proofing of the car and highway environment, of which seat belt use is a key part, has impeded the prospects of achieving this.
Finally, I re-iterate comments made before:
“The seat belt law experience is highly relevant today in respect to matters other than cycle helmets: however much eyes may roll at the prospect of statistical analysis of a law passed decades ago, this matter is highly pertinent.
Local Transport today published the following letter from me in their current issue under the heading “Question climate change scepticism, not climate change” (p.16 LTT 615 08 February 2013)
“You refer to global warming as “a theory that has commanded a vice-like grip on Western political thought for two decades” (“What do we really know?” LTT 614). Even if the evidence for anthropogenic climate change were just a “theory”, it is difficult to see what the supposed “vice-like grip” has been.
If there had been merely a gentle guiding – with perhaps the occasional firmer incentive – one doubts if we would be pursuing the familiar litany of business-as-usual policies: road building and other accommodation of current or increased levels of motor vehicle use.
Indeed, to copy your use of the forceful metaphor, we seem to be in a straitjacket of constant pandering to those who want to drive how, when, where, and for whatever reason they want. The same sort of picture applies to aviation.
And that’s just the transport sector.
As you say in your Editorial, the impact of transport decisions can often be different to those which supposedly justify them, and we need to be critical of the decision making process.
Perhaps some sort of self-criticism with regard to climate change would be justified – with robust commitment as distinct from vice-like restriction – for the Editor of our favourite transport journal?
Healthy scepticism is one thing, nihilism another.”
Dr. Robert Davis, Chair Road Danger Reduction Forum.
www.rdrf.org.uk PO Box 2944, LONDON NW10 2AX
The use of the “accidental death” verdict has been campaigned on by our friends in RoadPeace . Let’s look at two recent cases:
“A man who used to chauffeur the stars of Carry-On films around Pinewood Studios died after being involved in a head-on crash while driving on the wrong side of the road near Poitiers, France. Douglas Lewis, 75, and his wide Pamela, 77, of Slough, Berkshire, were returning from their Spanish villa when they crashed into an oncoming van at 50 mph last April. Mrs Lewis was killed instantly, while Mr Lewis died three months later from his injuries. The Windsor Coroner returned a verdict of accidental death”. (The Times, 2nd February , 2013)
Of course, it may not be the case that the former professional driver was actually on the wrong side of the road – this report may be wrong. In fact, according to the only other report of this case I can find, the only issue worth reporting on was the difficulties the family had in repatriating the injured driver. In this report there is no mention of the head-on crash resulting from Mr lewis driving on the wrong side of the road. If he was not driving on the wrong side of the road, I give my apologies to the memory of the driver and his family for suggesting otherwise.
However, if it was the case that, like other drivers who proceed down the wrong side of the road, this “accident” resulted from breaking one of the fundamental laws relating to driving, I would suggest that this was not just an “accident”. In such a case, indeed, a verdict of “death by misadventure “would be appropriate, and even “unlawful killing” for the death of Mrs Lewis.
At the very least, the Coroner could have cautioned the public about the risks posed to others (what about the van driver?) of elderly motorists driving on the Continent. Even if – or perhaps particularly if – they have been professional rivers with the inevitable sense of proficiency such employment brings.
After all, this Coroner, Mr Peter Bedford, is not above making comments where elderly road users die. Two years ago he commented on the case where an elderly cyclist had been hit by three cars (another “accidental death”) in ways which not only avoided remarking on the apparent careless driving of the motorist(s) involved – see the comments on the account here - but suggested that , although “Whether it would have changed the outcome I cannot say”, you guessed it – the cyclist should have been wearing a helmet.
By coincidence, while writing this post, RDR supporter Mike Chalkley sends a copy of a letter he sends to the Bournemouth Echo in response to their report of another “accidental death” verdict
“While the death of 77 year-old Margaret Howells under the wheels of a 40 ton articulated lorry while she tried to cross Wimborne Rd in Winton last year was horrific enough, the responses by the coroner and investigating officer are nothing short of obscene.
Mr Payne (coroner) said “it was just one of those sad things that can happen”. PC Beard (investigator) said “pedestrians should not cross in front of vehicles with their engines running”.
The fact is, people WILL cross the road outside of the crossings. Indeed, it is not actually against the law to do so. Quoting the Highway Code will not prevent this. Winton is a thriving shopping centre with a huge amount of footfall. Many shoppers are elderly, young or foreign and will not have read the code or the article in this paper. As for the rest of us, why should we have our lives as pedestrians further hindered? Soon we will all be expected to wear helmets and hi-viz.
Why do we allow such dangerous vehicles on this stretch of road during shopping hours? Why do we continue to allow this road to be used by arterial traffic when Boundary Lane and Talbot Avenue are so close by? What should be a pleasant local centre is a mass of congestion, pollution and collision risk.
And why, once again, do we jump at placing responsibility for avoiding accidents on vulnerable victims, not those presenting the danger? The relentless shifting of responsibility away from those endangering others becomes part of the problem.”
I would add comment on the expectation that a 77 year-old is supposed to walk 100 yards to cross the road properly (and presumably another 100 yards back on the other side of the road).
Also the “blind spot” question of a lorry driver not being able to see a pedestrian I front of him which has been campaigned on for years by RoadPeace and now See Me Save Me . In particular, see the comments by a lorry driver on the report in the Bournemouth Echo.
Did the Coroner refer to this issue in this case?