Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Are cyclists and pedestrians victims of conflicted thinking in the City of London?

On the one hand, if we want to improve safety for cycling and walking, then we cyclists and walkers must apparently cycle and walk "more safely".

Take a look at the City Together Strategy: The Heart of a World Class City 2008 - 2014. It includes the following strategic aims:

"· To encourage sustainable forms of transport.
· To encourage walking and cycling safely."

On the other hand, if we want to improve safety for cycling and walking, then maybe we should get cars off the road. That might be the logical conclusion you reach in reading The City Planning Officer’s Capital and Supplementary Revenue bids for 2011/2012:

"8. Bank Junction: There were 32 reported accidents during this period of which 30 involved cyclists or pedestrians. Most accidents occurred on weekdays between 7am-8pm. The major contributing factor to cyclist and vehicle accidents is poor behaviour due to driver frustration to short green times."

Which one is it? Should we be cycling 'more safely'. Or should we be trying to tame poor driving behaviour to enable those of us who cycle and walk through the City to do so more safely?

On a less sarcastic note, there is a lot of interesting and worthy stuff to review in the planning officer's report and we'll report back on that in time. But the point about Bank junction is absolutely critical. Far too much of the debate surrounding cycling strategy in London is about making cyclists cycle 'legally' or 'more safely' and yet here is the City admitting in its official records that, as far as Bank junction is concerned, drivers are the biggest threat to pedestrian and cyclist safety. If you want to see Bank junction's road safety stats for yourself, then Ted's map is the place to start.

Is the solution to road safety to 'encourage walking and cycling safely' then or should it be to keep those drivers with poor behaviour well away from cyclists and walkers?

City Police seem to know squarely where the problem lies. Here's a slightly edited press release from August 19:

"You said - we did: Hotspot junctions targeted

When asked what the key issues are that impact on City workers and residents, inappropriate road use is raised on a regular basis.

In response, the City of London Police have ....looked closely at those junctions which were causing the most problems to our City community.

...A total of 323 tickets to people failing to conform to traffic signs were issued. The majority of these tickets were for people failing to comply with red traffic signals.

... people with tickets were offered the option of having their ticket cancelled if they attended an education road-show at the Guildhall. Around half of the people issued with a ticket chose to attend. Attendees were given an opportunity to sit in the cab of an HGV to help them understand a drivers limited view from their cab - this is aimed at reducing the number of deaths on the road. This was coupled with a safety film providing advice and guidance on staying safe whilst cycling and cycle security/maintenance.

We recognise that inappropriate road use will be a continual issue to deal with and we will continue to run operations to target offenders, providing education and ultimately enforcement for those that fail to comply and put others in a position of danger."

The bit in bold makes us laugh. Poor driving causes the majority of accidents at one of the City's busiest and most dangerous junctions. But City Police implie it is only cyclists that put others in a position of danger.

Don't get us wrong. We don't condone red light jumping. We really don't. But we seem to have two conflicting strategies.

Strategy One:

The City's Together Strategy and City Police want us to cycle more safely. The Police imply that enforcing appropriate road use is primarily a matter for cyclists' road behaviour.

Strategy Two:

And yet, the City's Planning Office recognises that cars are the cause of the accidents at one of the City's biggest junctions.


Shouldn't the debate be about how the City's streets can be designed to tame the behaviour of dangerous drivers of motor vehicles, the ones causing most of the casualty statistics?


  1. An excellent analysis that calls out some of the BS that goes on in terms of reactionary Policing. So, if we need to follow Strategy Two (as strategy one is clearly futile) how do we go about this? Who do we need to be reading this in order for mindsets and road layouts to change?

  2. Thanks Mark. I was reading your writings on similar last week and agree with your line of thinking. It's like there's an internal battle (and this isn't just the City, it's national) between conflicting strategies. And I genuinely think that the groups that represent cycling (CTC, LCC) just don't get it. They vacillate between both of these sets of strategies themselves. Even cab drivers are beginning to see sense in segregation. See this in the Standard from earlier this week:

    "If Boris is serious about increasing London’s road bike capacity he should insist that councils are forced to provide dedicated lanes for their use, identification on bikes increasing the ability to prosecute law breakers and cyclists take out 3rd party insurance, then we can all jog along happily, as for joggers that’s for another post."

    Maybe it's time for a different sort of cycling campaign group?