How convenient is cycling in Malmö (Sweden)?

BicycleDutch - 10 December, 2018 - 23:01
Malmö was named Cycling Friendly City of the Year twice before in Sweden. What does that mean on an international scale? How cycle friendly is Sweden’s third largest city from … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Enough of cars... Overuse of motorized transport is destroying everything.

A View from the Cycle Path - 4 December, 2018 - 20:50
Le Curé: "I don't like cars". Three months ago our car reached the end of its economical life and we took it to be scrapped. I'm not missing it. I never used it much anyway. When we first moved to the Netherlands we brought our car with us from the UK but after we arrived it didn't move a single centimetre until more than three years had passed and we finally got around to registering and David Hembrow
Categories: Views

From main road to attractive people’s space

BicycleDutch - 3 December, 2018 - 23:01
Utrecht is reconstructing the streets directly around the historic city centre. These streets, alongside the former city wall and moat, were once supposed to become a four lane main road. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Is Copenhagen a City of Cyclists?

BicycleDutch - 26 November, 2018 - 23:01
The City of Copenhagen wants to be the best cycling city in the world and calls itself "City of Cyclists". How justified is that from a Dutch perspective?
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Government response to its “Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) Safety Review”.

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 22 November, 2018 - 17:11

Today the Government announced its response to the consultation on its “Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) Safety Review”. You can download it here and I suggest anybody interested in sustainable/healthy travel does so – this is a very important document.
Below I’m giving some first impressions – as I say, you should read the full document yourselves.

1. “Realising your vision”.

In this first chapter there is an enthusiastic endorsement of active travel, safety for people walking and cycling and the call for “A world in which a 12 year old can cycle, and walk, safely
1.3 Cycle lanes don’t cause congestion – nice to see the Minister, Jesse Norman, say this.
1.7 Repetition of how the Government wants cycling and walking to be the “natural choices” for short journeys, or as part of longer one: unfortunately this is “by 2040”.

2.11 Next year there will be a 2 year “plan” – the “Road Safety Statement”. I don’t know if this will be different from what is summarised under Chapter 10 ANNEX A in this document, which gives a 2 year “Action Plan” including research.

3. The CWIS safety review

3.7 This is where the consultation on cycling offences – which has drawn so much justified anger from road danger reduction campaigners – is referred to. Apparently the emphasis on what cyclists might do to pedestrians is “the other side of the coin” of what the CWIS Safety Review is about. What this seems to mean – and I admit that I’m not totally clear on this – is that the promised review of road traffic law is now not going to happen as it’s now supposedly good enough. This maybe explains the Minister’s extraordinary statement last year that : “We already have strict laws that ensure that drivers who put people’s lives at risk are punished…

4. Key themes

4.4. This the bit where we get the intention to : “build awareness, understanding and empathy between different road user types” and involves“…reviewing the guidance in The Highway Code to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians; (this is the soon to be announced consultation on changing the Highway Code – do watch this space) commissioning new research to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a change to a presumed liability system (presumed liability would help with insurance claims and is the norm throughout Europe) ; using ‘nudge’ techniques to encourage drivers to consider the needs of vulnerable road users (“Nudge” techniques are a rather mimsy way of getting change – polite requests rather than actually specifying that something is wrong) ; promoting and testing awareness of vulnerable road users in the drivers’ Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC); and developing a package of vulnerable road user training for public sector drivers.” (The last two have been done for some time in London and some other places: but CPC can often be a box-ticking exercise and a robust approach is both necessary and easy to achieve).

Prioritising the needs of cyclists and pedestrians when decisions are made:
4.5 – 4.8
This looks promising and is about reinstating the “Hierarchy of Road Users” – namely priority for pedestrians, then people with disabilities, then cycling, then public transport, when it comes to decisions about planning, policing and transport. That’s good, but those of us who worked in local authorities with a supposed commitment to the Hierarchy of Road users can remember that it would often be there only in name. The most interesting part is:
4.8 The Government will be: “encouraging local authorities to invest around 15 per cent of their local transport infrastructure funding over time on cycling and walking.” That looks good, but don’t forget that is infrastructure (not other support or subsidy), and “encourage” may not mean much.

Protection of vulnerable road users from motor vehicles
4.9 – 4.11
We would have thought that this was what the CWIS Safety Review was all about, but it somehow just gets these three paragraphs.
4.10 gets down to this task with a reference to segregation, and then : “protection can also involve legal measures, for example, improving the rules of the road and their enforcement”. That is where the question of road traffic law seems to have ended up. There is no idea of how we met get traffic laws that work, nor – more importantly – of what is going to happen to reverse the reduction in numbers of traffic police officers.
In fact not much at all here:
4.11 We get some minor measures such as educating drivers about cycling and walking as part of sentencing – but then the basic position with regard to the law and it’s enforcement does not appear to be changing, so this is unlikely to have any positive effect.

Improving awareness of vulnerable road users.
4.15 – 4.18
Not much here of value in my opinion. The current concerns about distraction of drivers just gets: “The spread of mobile phones and other electronic devices may play a role here.”(4.16)

Higher levels of compliance with the law and rules of the road
4.19 – 4.22

This should be an important section. However, in 4.19 the report seems to go along with the view that : “the UK’s road traffic laws and rules of the road are effective and well-designed” with simply a problem of lack of compliance. So how should this be addressed?
4.20 and 4.21 point out, with apparent sympathy, the views expressed that life would be better if the rules and laws were obeyed and complied with. Again, how is this going to happen?
What we get is basically just “investing £100,000 to support the police to develop a national back office function to handle video and photographic evidence submitted by the public” (4.22). Were big supporters of 3rd party reporting – but if it is to be taken up properly in the UK it will require a lot more that £0.1 million for back office staff. Cameras for local councils to enforce the small number of mandatory cycle lanes (and it’s “allowing” rather than supporting with finance) will not make much difference. The only other measures in 4.22 are the review on cycling offences and something (already mentioned) about education as part of sentencing that small minority of drivers who get successfully prosecuted.

Promoting a more positive image of cycling and walking
4.23 – 4.24
This is often the “somewhat hopeless” part of the strategies to support active travel we have seen over the past couple of decades. It gives an impression that “something is being done” while in fact very little is. There is recognition in 4.23 that people are concerned about baiting of cyclists in the media – but all we seem to get is a “Cycling and Walking Commissioner”. We also get “and reviewing The Highway Code to ensure that the principle of the hierarchy of road users is reflected in guidance” (4.24) although that could be interpreted in different ways.

Chapter 5. Infrastructure and traffic signs

This is supposedly about how “The Government seeks to ensure a consistent approach is taken to cycling and walking infrastructure design guidance so that all road users can benefit from the best facilities”(5.3), with reference made to the current updating of ‘Local Transport Note 2/08: Cycle Infrastructure Design’ (LTN 2/08) to reflect current legislation and to take into account developments in cycle infrastructure design, since its publication in 2008.”

But will highway authorities be required to implement these new standards? Ever since there was any kind of engineering of infrastructure for the supposed benefit of cycling, there has been continual debate that much of it is of little benefit, some useless, and some even worse. The response from the Government here in 5.10 is here:

We have carefully considered the calls for the Government to create national standards, as   opposed to guidance, for cycling infrastructure. We do not want to be overly prescriptive about what infrastructure must be like; the evidence is that this can reduce investment and/or lead to inappropriate designs and a lack of ambition and innovation. We believe it is better for local councils to continue to be responsible for their design standards and implementation…”.

So that’s a “No”. Poor examples of infrastructure will simply be “highlighted” .

Under “Strengthening planning policy on cycling and walking” I can’t see anything which is actually new. There is reference to under 5.12 (110): “applications for development should: ─ Give priority first to pedestrian and cycle movement”. But does this mean that there is a framework in place which actually gets this? My experience is that there is plenty of completely car dependent housing being produced under just this sort of framework: “should” doesn’t mean “has to”.
Under “Investment” I can’t see anything new – I hope I’m wrong, do comment below if I am!

This Chapter ends up with:
“5.29 While it is important to learn from best practice, contextual and cultural factors mean that the success of an intervention in one country at improving cycling and walking safety does not guarantee its success in another.” That is obviously true, and I wold be the first to say it. However, in the context of this report it seems a bit like a warning to not expect continental quality of cycle infrastructure. But maybe that’s just me.

6. Law and rules of the road

A key chapter here, with all eyes on the forthcoming review of the Highway Code – but this may take up to three years, just on the walking and cycling elements (6.5).

Under “Safety around schools” there is consideration about introduction of slower sped zones; and a review of pavement parking laws.

“Enforcement” (6.19 – 6.27) is dire. Apart from the very small amount given to back office support of 3rd party reporting, there is practically nothing. The actual issue of enforcement, which would require a massive increase in roads policing as well as a road danger reduction approach, is simply pushed on to Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables (6.19) , who don’t (with a few notable exceptions) have a good record on squeezing more and better roads policing out of contracting budgets.

All we get are somewhat unclear possibilities for enforcement of mandatory cycle lanes and Advance Stop Line boxes (“the issue is not straightforward…”), along with “However, the Government also recognises the need to avoid over-zealous parking enforcement…”(6.25). And, yes, dangerous cyclists threatening pedestrians (6.27).

“Sentencing” (6.28 – 6.35) gives us, well, nothing really. There is no comprehensive review of the law, and we have: “6.32. When we review The Highway Code, we will work with the courts and the Crown Prosecution Services as key decision makers to ensure that the principle of the hierarchy of road users is reflected in guidance”. It’s very difficult to see what that would actually mean without a full review of the law.

“Liability” does see some progress. Don’t forget this applies in civil law, so it does not appear to me that this is being considered under criminal law – which is anyway not being reviewed. Most European countries have some sort of presumption of liability in civil law in cases involving motorised vehicle drivers/riders on the one hand, and pedestrians and cyclists on the other. What we are getting here (6.42) is “We intend to work together with the Ministry of Justice to commission research to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a change in liability rules.”

“Registration and licensing of cyclists”. This gets a NO, as it should.

7. Training and educating road users

Not much here, in my view. There won’t be compulsory re-testing for drivers, except for a small minority who have been successfully prosecuted for various bad driving offences.(7.9/10); cycle raining for driving instructors; cycling awareness in various CPC modules; Bikeability (although there is no indication of proper levels of funding being available to those who want it).

8. Vehicles and equipment

The section on HGVs does refer to the Direct Vision standard being developed in London – but doesn’t say anything about rolling this out to other cities in the UK. Just some paragraphs on “awareness raising” of the issues. Very disappointing.

High visibility and helmets: Very disappointing. It does say:”… we believe wearing helmets, and also high-vis clothing, should remain a matter of individual choice rather than imposing additional regulations which would be difficult to enforce”.(8.11), but note that the reason for this is NOT – as we think it should be – an evidence-based approach based on the lack of evidence of benefits of hi-viz and helmets. There is still an assumption that these are basically good interventions, with no evidence referenced at all for hi-viz, and poor evidence for helmets being quoted. Despite the lack of good evidence, the Government is still saying: “we will continue to encourage cyclists, especially children, to wear helmets to protect them…” .

Motor vehicle standards: Nothing on making drivers take up any advances in telematics, just existing work such as Intelligent Speed Adaptation on some vehicles. Years ago we were promised automatic braking systems on motor vehicles to protect pedestrians and cyclists, and now…very disappointing.

9. Attitudes and public awareness.

As said above, this is the bottom of the list of interventions we need to consider, and there is nothing much here worth commenting on.

That’s my assessment. Do feel free to comment below. If you want to see what we think SHOULD  have gone into this document, see our response to the consultation here.

Dr Robert Davis, Chair Road Danger Reduction Forum, 22nd November 2018
Categories: Views

The Delft bicycle parking facility revisited

BicycleDutch - 19 November, 2018 - 23:01
In June 2015 I showed you the bicycle parking facility in Delft that had just opened at that time. It is an integrated part of the railway station that was … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Cycling with Disabilities and Injuries

Copenhagenize - 19 November, 2018 - 08:00

I haven't been on a bicycle for 7 days. The reason? A couple of cracked ribs. I've tried each and every day to cycle, but it hasn't been possible. When a simple cough is enough to bring tears to your eyes, riding a bicycle is a long shot. A serious blow to my pride but hey, at least I can walk around the neighbourhood. Which is nice.

Many Danish cities have small cars like these to measure the level of comfort on the bicycle infrastructure. I have a better, cheaper idea.

The city should just give citizens with broken or cracked ribs a smartphone, with activated GPS and a live line to a person at the Bicycle Office. Then they just ride around the city. Every time an OWWWW! or groan is heard, the GPS location is registered. That way the city will be able to map the spots that need maintenence. Now broken ribs are one thing, but what of citizens with more serious injuries or disabilities?

So I thought I'd whips together this article with photos of Copenhageners and other urban dwellers cycling with injuries or disabilities or using other vehicles that improve accessibility and mobility.

Like the shot of a Copenhagener in the morning rush hour (above) riding with what looks like a broken - or at least injured - hand, above. Still looking cool as you like.

Then there is this Copenhagener carrying her crutches with her on her bicycle. Fair enough, she might have been heading to the hospital - across the street - to deliver the crutches back.

Then I remembered this shot from a while back of a girl carrying her crutches and getting doubled by her mum. The bicycle is a versatile tool. I know several friends who, after many years playing sports, have problems with their knees. They are invariably advised to ride a bicycle by their doctors.

There is a bike for almost everyone.

If you also make the bicycle the quickest and safest way to get around a city, people will do so - whatever their physical challenges. The bicycle is a freedom machine for many people.

The dapper gentleman to the left may have reduced mobility for whatever reason, but he can get out and about with ease on this tricycle. Note his cane sticking out of the back.

I see the man in the right photo quite often. He rides a tricycle and only has one arm. A friend of mine knows him and I'm told that he only has one leg, too. He lost his limbs in a landmine explosion in the country he was born. He still gets about with ease on his wheels. Both of these gentlemen were impeccably dressed.

This gent is amazing and so is his cargo bike. A retrofitted Nihola lets him ride around the city with no lower arms and only one leg to pedal with. Fantastic.

If you're a legendary Danish rock star, like Steen Jørgensen (above), you have a certain look to maintain and Steen pulls it off to perfection. The fact that he has no left arm is of little consequence.

I took this photo in Tokyo. The man had some form of disability with his legs. It required effort for him to get the pedals to turn but you can bet that it was a fraction of the effort he'd use when walking.

The lady on the left has a kind of cast on her leg, but still rides. The two photos on the right are from last winter. The boyfriend was holding the girls' crutches and she moved slowly along - injured foot wrapped in plastic - on a child's bicycle they had borrowed. It was icy so the crutches were probably more dangerous than helpful so the bicycle stepped in to assist. They were heading to the hospital down the road.

I spotted this lady in Vienna, Austria. Carrying her walking sticks to help her after she got off her bicycle.

This quaint sign on this tricycle reads, "Slightly Disabled".

What with all the bicycle options for disabled - whether permanently or temporarily - it's not surprising to see a parking sign like this outside my local library. It reads "Invalid Bicycles", reserving a space close to the door for those who need it.


I took this photo in Montreal. A trike pulling a wheelchair behind. This takes intermodality to a whole new level.

This retrofitted Nihola (it really is the Danish brand that offers unique variations of their cargo bikes) is designed simply to carry a wheelchair with passenger.

This gent has his walker in the front of his cargo bike - intermodality once again.

You see many trike brands in operation in Copenhagen on a daily basis. This gent had what appeared to be Down Syndrome and he enjoys active mobility on this trike.

Electric Vehicles

Spotted in Amsterdam. An electric scooter with the wheelchair on a rack on the back. Compared to other cities, you see so many of such vehicles on the cycle tracks of Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Used by people with disabilities and the elderly. It's a massive market with many brands. Offering urban mobility to people who might be restricted to a wheelchair.

Cool as you like in Copenhagen.

If it is ripe old age that has reduced mobility, the bicycle still serves a purpose. I see this lady all the time in my neigbourhood. Always walking her bicycle with groceries in the basket. Perhaps too unstable to ride, but using the bicycle as a kind of crutch. Lovely.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

The Demonstration Cycle Route in The Hague

BicycleDutch - 12 November, 2018 - 23:01
The Hague was the second Dutch city to (partly) open a so-called Demonstration Cycle Route in September 1977. What has become of that route and what have we learned?
Categories: Views

A bicycle ride in Alkmaar

BicycleDutch - 5 November, 2018 - 23:01
Another “real” ride, because some of my viewers have asked for more rides that show a real journey from beginning to end. This time I rode a long way from … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The Tilburg Demonstration Cycle Route

BicycleDutch - 29 October, 2018 - 23:01
Tilburg was the first Dutch city to open a so-called demonstration cycle route in April 1977. What has become of that route?
Categories: Views

Autumn Cycling

BicycleDutch - 22 October, 2018 - 23:01
Rain, wind and bold colours. That is Autumn, well usually anyway. This year there hasn’t been much rain (the Netherlands is experiencing a severe draught) and the otherwise normal temperature … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Over the hills and far away - Drenthe has built a hill for cyclists

A View from the Cycle Path - 19 October, 2018 - 18:01
Steve, Peter and myself on "our" new hill: The "Col du VAM". It's the highest point in Drenthe at 4800 cm above sea level ! Each week, a small group of recumbent cyclists ride together from Assen on short touring rides. This morning three of us went on a 70 km round trip to ride up a new hill which Drenthe has created for cyclists of all kinds to ride over. "Our" new hill is now the highest David Hembrow
Categories: Views

Cycling alongside two canals

BicycleDutch - 15 October, 2018 - 23:01
Although we try to separate the routes for motor traffic and cycling as much as possible in the Netherlands, combining other types of infrastructure is often a good idea. On … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Zwolle: The Dutch city which changed its roundabouts from one unsafe design to another unsafe design

A View from the Cycle Path - 9 October, 2018 - 10:56
I've written three times before (1, 2, 3) about how the roundabouts in Zwolle cause danger for cyclists. Each time, I've pointed out that the use of the "priority" roundabout design in that city results in those roundabouts always featuring as the most dangerous sites for cyclists in the entire city. The top ten list of most dangerous locations for cyclists in Zwolle according to the David Hembrow
Categories: Views

Cycling in The Hague

BicycleDutch - 8 October, 2018 - 23:01
People cycling near the central station of The Hague in the afternoon rush hour, that is the theme of this week’s post. When I was early for an evening meeting* … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

A rebuilt gyratory that is still putting people in danger

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 3 October, 2018 - 11:08

The gyratory system around Victoria station in Westminster has been a genuinely horrible place to cycle for as long as I can remember. Getting to and from the station, or cycling past it, involves dealing with multiple lanes of one-way motor traffic, zooming off towards Park Lane, or thundering south towards Vauxhall Bridge.

The gyratory makes absolutely no concessions to cycling. If, for instance, you want to get from the station to the safety of Cycle Superhighway 3 – central London’s flagship cycle route, you have to make your way around two sides of a terrifying triangle, holding a position in the right hand lane of traffic heading north onto Grosvenor Place, before taking primary position on the left hand side as you skirt the edge of Buckingham Palace.

Cycling from Victoria to CS3

Cycle Superhighway 5 should have arrived in this area from Vauxhall Bridge, and should – quite sensibly – have connected up with Superhighway 3 in the vicinity of Buckingham Palace. However, it seems to have stalled right on the boundary of (guess who!) Westminster City Council, leaving anyone attempting to get between the two to negotiate a mile or so of unpleasant roads without any mitigation for cycling whatsoever.

Right in the middle of the Victoria gryatory stands the new Nova development. An incidental detail is that one of the buildings here won 2017’s Carbuncle Cup for the UK’s ugliest building, but I doubt that anyone cycling past has any time to assess its aesthetic qualities, given that they are busily trying to stay alive. Like Superhighway 5, this development should have represented an opportunity to make the roads around Victoria a bit less lethal for anyone attempting to cycle here. There’s even a detailed 60-page  Transport for London strategy document dating from 2014, the Victoria Vision Cycling Strategy (link opens a download automatically), which explicitly sets out the key challenges and requirements in the Victoria area, in the context of the then-Mayor’s Vision for Cycling.

However, while there have been some improvements in the area around the Nova development – in particular, widened footways, better public realm, and a surface-level crossing that has replaced a subway – it is unfortunate that, despite this golden opportunity to make some serious changes, cycling has been almost completely ignored as the roads have been rebuilt.

One of the biggest issues is that the gyratory around the Nova development has been retained. The new buildings still sit in the middle of what is effectively a giant multi-lane roundabout. The problem of trying to negotiate these roads without being diverted around hostile one-way systems remains, to say nothing of the total lack of protected space for cycling.

Buckingham Palace Road, 2017. New buildings, new footway, new trees, new road surface -the  same three lanes of one-way motor traffic.

Cycling towards the camera here remains impossible. And when the bus lane is occupied, cycling away from the camera is – while possible – an unpleasant and potentially dangerous experience.

Buckingham Palace Road, summer 2018.

4 metre wide bus lanes aren’t so great for cycling when they’re full of buses.

Much the same is true on Victoria Street, lying between Victoria station and the Nova development. Again, we have 2-3 lanes of one-way motor traffic thundering through here, exactly as before.

Victoria Street, looking east. The Nova development is on the left.

And again, this arrangement make no concession for anyone trying to cycle east (away from the camera).

Worst of all, it introduces a significant collision risk at the junction itself, where I am standing to take the photograph. On the approach to the junction, a wide bus stand narrows down significantly, leaving perhaps a metre of width between the kerb and stationary vehicles as a ‘channel’ through which people can cycle to reach an inviting advanced stop line (ASL). The area in question is indicated with the arrow, below.

Approaching the junction on Victoria Street.

That ASL looks very inviting, but getting there could be very risky indeed. There’s absolutely no guarantee that any large vehicle progressing through the junction will remain a safe distance from the kerb. Three separate examples below, taken within the space of a few minutes.

Anyone cycling up to the lights – forced into a tight merge by the narrowing of the road, and tempted to advance by a cycle lane leading to an ASL, could very easily find themselves squeezed between a lorry, or a bus, and the kerb. If any of these vehicles are turning left, like the National Express coach in the photograph below, the consequences could be lethal.

Someone has already had a very narrow escape here, taken to hospital in a critical condition after going under a left turning lorry at precisely this location.

From Get West London. The lorry is in nearly exactly the same position as the National Express coach in the previous photograph.

This is dreadful design, and it’s shocking that new road layouts this are appearing right in the centre of our capital city, with a blank slate to do so much better.

It may not be apparent from these photographs, but the footway on this corner is now very large indeed – nearly twenty metres wide, at the apex.

This is obviously a very good thing, in its own right. A left-turn slip lane for motor traffic has been removed and replaced with this footway, making the junction far more attractive for anyone walking here. But it seems extraordinary that, simultaneously, so little thought has been given to the safety of people attempting to cycle through here. They are almost literally being thrown under the bus. At a location where the building-to-building width is  30 metres, it is simply unacceptable to squeeze people cycling into a tiny space where they are already ending up under the wheels of HGVs.

Blink and you’ll miss it. The tiny, narrow and dangerous concession to cycling in this enormous space.

How can things be going so wrong with brand-new road layouts? How can we we rebuilding roads with 2-3 lanes of one-way motor traffic, without any apparent thought for cycling?

The distinct, unavoidable impression created from the new roads around Victoria is that it seems sufficient to treat cycling as a mere afterthought once the road layouts and widened pavements have been planned. Once the kerb lines have been defined, all that’s left to do is to add a painted bicycle symbol in a box just behind the stop line, and perhaps a tokenistic line at the side of the road, where there isn’t any parking, or a bus lane. Even if that might make a dangerous junction even more dangerous.

That’s just not good enough. These roads could and should have been rebuilt with protected cycleways, allowing people to travel to and from the Vauxhall area and central London in safety, or from west London towards central London. Instead they are still being put in danger, and cycling here will continue to remain the sole preserve of the fit and brave.

Categories: Views

Has ’s-Hertogenbosch forgotten this old road?

BicycleDutch - 1 October, 2018 - 23:07
A 700-metre-long stretch of a dual carriageway road lies abandoned in the town of ’s-Hertogenbosch. A long time ago this used to be the main route to Nijmegen (via Hintham). … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team – Setting the Gold Standard for road danger reduction policing

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 29 September, 2018 - 15:28
At the “Cycle City Active City” conference in Manchester in July Road Safety Minister Jesse Norman commended the work on policing close passing of cyclists sby PCs Mark Hodson and Steve Hudson of the West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team (WMPRHRT), saying his Department “plans to build on it – it is a very effective way of building awareness and reducing casualties”.

By now readers of posts on this site will be aware of the existence of operations policing the close passing of cyclists and related enforcement based on reducing road danger at source. Our last update of what is happening nationally is here.

This post is about the work WMPRHRT carry out in general. For us they have been setting the Gold Standard for road danger reduction policing with the typical resources (the Metropolitan Police being the exception that proves the rule here) of a Police Service.


The basic format is the same: plain clothes officers report ahead if they have been passed too closely; the driver is stopped and, generally using a mat, the driver then has Rule 163 of the Highway Code and its rationale explained to them. Some 26 of the 42 Police Services in the UK attended our September training day last year.

In the last year they WMPRHRT have been partnered by West Midlands Fire Service, who now do much of the educational work. This allows the police to carry out operations with four officers (one cyclist, one safety officer generally on a motorcycle, with two stopping officers at the stop site).

Here’s an example of what they do from Twitter in July:

Were you the cyclist on the A452 Collector Rd towards Chelmsley Wood who was “close passed” at about 8:30 am yesterday, & the offender was immediately pulled over & prosecuted by ourselves? If so can you please make contact with PC 3505 Mark Hodson. Please RT More
We’ve got excellent footage from our vehicle from behind the offence but we would just like to know if you were running a camera, not only for the prosecution but so we can use the footage “post” prosecution as part of our #OpClosePass programme

More training has been rolled out to West Mids fire crews to enable more close pass operations to take place. There is now a specific driver education power point presentation for anyone delivering roadside education: primarily aimed at Fire Service Crews, this will enable personnel to support close pass operations. For example: they have carried out a full day’s presentation to Royal Mail depot at Wednesbury. 30 drivers were given a presentation, practical input on the ‘mat with bike’ and also education on enforcement from Central Motorways Police Group.. This was very well received with lots of debate which was both constructive and thought provoking, getting the ‘drivers’ view of their relationship with cyclists. Royal Mail indicated that they had a positive impact.

• There are at least ONE PER WEEK close pass operations in their area, carried out with neighbourhood teams, mainly of PCSOs. About 3 (including up to 2 motorcyclists) come from WMPRHRT with up to 6 from the neighbourhood team. Each operation takes up to 3 hours.

9 – 16 vehicles are stopped for close passing in each operation.

• Whereas the principal purpose of stopping drivers who have “close passed” is to provide education, with prosecution being reserved for other offences which come to light after the stop, in West Midlands, some prosecutions for close passing ARE made (under Section 2 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act: “careless driving” /”driving without due care and attention”).



This occurs some 2 – 3 times per week.
A big issue for local drivers, who have been engaged with to find out their views, is that there is a fear that if they do comply with 20 mph they will be “tailgated”. Consequently “tailgating” – driving too close to the vehicle in front – can be targeted.


WMPRHRT police careless driving with regard to Rule 178 of the Highway Code, namely breaking of rules with regard to Advanced Stop Lines, to reduce “left hooking” incidents.


Leaving motor vehicles in dangerous position involves infringing the Road Traffic Act 1988 (Obstruction is a lesser offence.) This kind of policing has been very popular. Enforcement at School zig-zags has gone down well with people concerned about school children’s safety


Pioneered a few weeks ago, WMPRHRT got a lot of media attention for the tactic of using officers in a bus to look down into cars and spot mobile phone use.

Operation Top Deck has been launched by the force’s Road Harm Reduction Team and sees plain clothes officers equipped with video cameras peering down at passing motorists on the lookout for distracted drivers. Information is radioed to police bikers who divert offenders to a designated site where they are given an educational input, including a hard-hitting, virtual reality video highlighting the potentially devastating consequences of using a phone while driving. “

They tweet:

#OpTopDeck out again this afternoon with @ST_Police crewing the bus in company with PC Hodson from our team. 41 mobile phone offences detected in 3 hours. The evidence from bus is fantastic even in the poor weather this afternoon. Offending observed & evidenced from feet away!

After a recent night with a number of fatal Road Traffic Collisions:

West Midlands Police Road Harm Reduction Team Retweeted West Midlands Ambulance Service
At no other point in your life do you pose a greater threat of harm to others than when you are driving a vehicle, think about your responsibility when behind the wheel & the possible repercussions for all if you fall below #teststandard our thoughts are with all those involved
If you use a phone at any time whilst you are driving you are no better than a drink driver, you are a danger to society & we will take every opportunity to prosecute you. #OpTopDeck #thirdpartyreporting



As well as their award winning Twitter account, they have an important blog we strongly suggest you read. . It hasn’t been added to for a while – the emphasis now will be more on “vlogging” – but it’s worth a read.


This is an absolutely central part of the work WMPRHRT do. In conversation they make it clear that educational work, by itself, cannot be properly effective.

With 3rd party reporting, they have had some 350 – 400 reports up until November last year. There are some 50 – 80 reports now per month.3 cases have gone to court and resulted in guilty verdicts under Section 3 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act. Other cases where there has been a refusal to nominate a driver are pursued.

Whereas the on-road activity is educational, 3rd party reporting can result in prosecution. So far the ratio of education to enforcement (which results in either 3 points on the licence plus a fine, or a Driver Awareness training session) is 1:3.

They tweet about it here:

Not guilty pleas to 3rd party reported video offences are as rare as England penalty shootout wins… yet we’ve had both this week. Footage from a cyclists helmet cam used to prosecute by our TPO saw a mobile phone using driver in the dock today with PC Hodson in attendance. The evidence was tested during the trial & the defendant duly found guilty. There is no doubt that this type of prosecution will have a large part to play in making our roads safer places to be. Look out for the press release coming soon #protectingthevulnerable #driverbehaviour
Our thanks go to the submitting witness we welcome every opportunity to address the greatest #threatofharm on our regions roads #fatal4 Even with the guilty verdict some valuable learning has been taken away from today’s rare trial, we don’t get many due to the strong evidence Also we give due credit to the staff at our fabulous #TPO who have taken the 3rd party reported video offences on after the pioneering work by #hodsonandhudson & developed it to the point where they really do lead the way nationally. #biggerandbetter #thirdpartyreporting

And here’s a video

For RDRF 3rd party reporting is an absolutely key issue in roads policing and road danger reduction as a whole. As we said in our last post on the matter:

This is “the big news”: after Operation Snap rolled out in Wales last year, we now have an extension of it for forces throughout the UK with Nextbase launching the National Dash Cam Safety Portal (NDCSP) “a website that allows road users – cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists and pedestrians, as well as drivers – to easily send video of dodgy and dangerous behaviour to the relevant police forces via a single online hub.”. (For descriptions, see here and here ).

Police forces linked to the portal via their own platforms include: Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Cheshire Constabulary, Essex Police, Hampshire Constabulary, the Metropolitan Police Force, Norfolk Constabulary, North Yorkshire Police, Suffolk Constabulary, Surrey Police, Sussex Police, Thames Valley Police, Dyfed-Powys Police, Gwent Police, North Wales Police, South Wales Police. Forces who will receive footage directly from the portal include: West Mercia Police, Warwickshire Police, West Midlands Police and Wiltshire Police.

This can be a fundamental game changer. However, it will require sufficient evidence to be submitted, appropriate responses from stretched police services, and acceptance by the general public.

With increasing use of helmet cams, light/cams etc., there is a great deal of frustration at even very obvious examples of bad driving not being taken seriously by police forces. Here is an account from a (long) twitter thread of a well know helmet-cam cyclist, known as “Magnatom” of his experiences in Scotland:

“I’m often asked if I’ve reported an incident I’ve shared. The reality is I only rarely do go to the police. Unfortunately going to the police is not easy. First, you need to hope you get a sympathetic officer. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you get sneered at. Sometimes  you get dismissed. Sometimes you have to argue with them that, yes driving a car 30cm from my arm at 40mph is dangerous. Then, when they do take it seriously, it takes time to do the statement and burn the videos to CD. Then you rarely hear from the police again ..
Sometimes you do, but often you need to chase them. Then, sometimes the police make a mistake and don’t fill a form out right, or don’t send the case to the Procurator Fiscal on time. I’ve had a few cases dismissed because of that. Then the Procurator Fiscal take the case and you may never hear about the case again, unless you chase. You only ever hear about it if it goes to court. Some cases are dropped due to ‘not in public interest’ which is often code for, ‘we have too many cases and road safety isn’t a priority’. Some are given a warning letter, which is a waste of time. Then if you are very luck, you get a court date. By that is often delayed. Sometimes the delay happens before the court date, sometimes the delay happens when you’ve been sitting in the witness room for 6 hours. … Sometimes after having sat in the witness room for 6 hours the PF comes to chat with you and lies about a problem with the paperwork which you later find out was completely false. If you are super lucky at this point the defendant admits guilty and you aren’t needed. If you are unlucky you need to go into court as a witness. That, I can assure you, is not fun. In fact, its pretty damn horrible. Not only do they pick at your evidence, if they see fit, they character assassinate you. For an hour and a half. Then, at the end they find the defendant not guilty because they can’t be identified in the footage. It matters not that they admit driving the car at the time, on that road, or that you shout out the reg, and the make of the car is obvious. Or they are found not guilty because its not breach of the peace to shout aggressively in someone’s face that they are young to beat you up,Or that the precise position of the car wheels are not know at a specific moment which might mean they didn’t drive their car at you. If, you get beyond that and they are miraculously found guilty, then they get a slap on the wrist with a small fine and a few points. Less than they’d get if they were caught holding a mobile phone Oh and the charge is reduced from Dangerous to careless, because…. it’s just easier that way and despite everything that happened, despite how bad the driving was and the crap you’ve had to go through, you still feel guilty for pursuing it all. That’s why I don’t report as much as I could. The system is very, very, VERY heavily weighted in the favour of the accused and those driving the 1 tonne hunk of metal. My cases are only the tip of the iceberg. I know of many more serious cases that have failed because the system is broken, its underfunded and vulnerable user road safety is not a priority. .. and yet I still get people saying how I enjoy the drama…..that I enjoy getting people into trouble…. that I enjoy going to the police. No. I hate it. But if I don’t, and if you don’t, nothing will change.”

For us, using 3rd party reporting as part of road danger reduction policing is critical. It is an absolutely key element, along with several others, of the work that West Midlands Road Harm Reduction Team, along with that of other officers in West Midlands Police and their partners, carries out. Others – step forward Surrey Roads Policing Unit for their excellent work on Twitter – do good work in a variety of areas.

But at the moment WMPRHRT are setting the Gold Standard for road danger reduction policing.

Categories: Views

REVIEWS: “Building the Cycling City” and “Designing for Cycle Traffic”

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 26 September, 2018 - 18:14

Here are two different books which are required reading for anybody thinking about creating cities where cycling is a genuinely mass mode of transport: which, when you come to think about it, is anybody with a view of cities which are less dangerous, polluting (whether it be from noxious, greenhouse gas or noise emissions), unsustainable and unhealthy for those living and working in them.

Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality”, Melissa Bruntlett and Chris Bruntlett. Island Press. “Designing for Cycle Traffic: International principles and practice”, John Parkin. Institution of Civil Engineers Publishing.

This isn’t going to be a long review, because if you’re interested in this subject you’re just going to have to get hold of the books yourself!

The Bruntletts’ book is essentially a story of what’s happened in the Netherlands. I’d say it’s more of a background set of accounts from different cities. It may challenge some preconceptions, such as:

Looking at Amsterdam today, it would seem the 1978 policy equated to thousands of kilometres of bicycle-specific infrastructure, creating seamless network across the entire city. But the truth is actually a little more complicated and counterintuitive. This cycling utopia was built on traffic-calming rather than bike lanes. Instead of constructing separated cycle tracks on every street, officials started with speed-limit reductions, parking restrictions, through traffic limitations, and lane narrowings and removals”.(p.96)

What follows then, and is repeated at various places throughout the book, is statement of the central question of how examples achieved elsewhere in the past can be used as guides for the future: “Every city is different, and has to find their own ways to improve the city” (p.97).
Parkin’s book is a different thing entirely: a handbook for doing what it says on the cover. Although more expensive (but check out to see if any of the cut-price offers are still available from the publishers) it is something that every committed campaigner, planner and engineer will have to have. More importantly, as Parkin suggests in the podcast interview about his book , it needs, above all,  to be on the shelves of your local highway authority’s engineering department:

The aim of the book is to provide a coherent summary and evaluation of the principles and practices of designing for cycle traffic. It does this with reference mainly to Danish, Dutch, UK and US guidance and standards… A recurring theme throughout the book is that design not only needs to treat cycle as traffic, but also to create attractive and comfortable infrastructure for the riders.”

Each chapter has a clear overview and highlights, neatly separated sections, technical illustrations to satisfy any professional engineer and good quality references (yes., my book is in there!).

Here are a couple of favourite bits:

1. “One particularly common thought appears to be that cycling is ‘dangerous’, and, more than that, cycling causes the danger. The majority, by far, of collisions and injuries are caused by motor traffic. Cycling does not pose as much risk as many other activities in which people might blithely take part.” (p.28)

2. “The book does not use the term ‘vulnerable road user’ because this could imply that there are other road users who have the right and the privilege to make others feel vulnerable. Even if these other road users have the means (a motor vehicle) the ability to create vulnerability should be designed out of transport systems as far as possible and for obvious moral reasons… By contrast, the book does use the phrase ‘cycle traffic’ (p.2)”

Of course, neither of these books will provide “the answer” easily. Blueprints such as these have to be introduced into a society still in thrall to mass car use and yet more road building to accommodate (and generate) more motor traffic. How road users will behave, as well as getting more cycle-friendly infrastructure installed in the first place, is going to be affected – indeed confronted – by the ideologies and culture of accumulated decades of subservience to increasing mass motorisation.

But working out ways to get to a better future can be helped by demonstrating how existing societies have managed to provide a better alternative. Parkin’s book in particular will be a necessary tool when it comes to showing how the public highway can be laid out for the benefit of a transport system based more on the healthy and sustainable mode of cycling.

Categories: Views

Can a ride in Hilversum explain why I don’t own a car?

BicycleDutch - 24 September, 2018 - 23:01
When I had a meeting on a location in Hilversum the other day I went by bicycle. Hilversum is about 70 kilometres (about 43 miles) from my home but that … Continue reading →
Categories: Views


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