Sunday, 5 June 2011

TfL is the enemy. Head of Surface Transport at TfL: “There is no evidence two metre bike lanes improves safety”


This man looks like my granddad used to.
But his letter implies he might not care
 about my safety on a cycle much....
TfL road boss's letter seems to suggest cyclists don't need space on the roads that is properly safe from motor vehicles

As CycleoffFutility and Crap Walthamstow asserted last week, if you're someone who walks or cycles in London, TfL is your enemy.
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Last week, the Guardian flagged an academic survey that concludes “the UK will never get anything close to a European-style mass cycling culture without some major (and to me, seemingly unlikely) changes, notably the construction of proper-width, segregated lanes on all main urban roads.”

Notice the point about 'proper-width' cycle lanes on main urban roads.

A colleague recently wrote to Leon Daniels at Transport for London. Mr Daniels is the new head of surface transport at TfL and was formerly Customer Service and Communications Director, UK Bus at First Group. He is responsible for the safe and efficient delivery of London's bus services, its taxis, river services, street management, congestion charging and the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme.

The letter to Mr Daniels picked up on Blackfriars Bridge and the concern that because TfL is adding one motor vehicle lane in each direction, cycle lanes will only be 1.5 metres wide and next two very narrow (and now faster speed limit) motor vehicle lanes.The letter also refers to other concerns about the junction design which I will deal about in a future post.

TfL has responded on Leon Daniels's behalf. And that response on the issue of cycle lane width is very illuminating. I quote in full:

"I am sorry that you do not believe the latest design is adequate but where possible we have incorporated improvements for both cyclists and pedestrians into the junction design. Maintaining the southbound cycle lane and widening the northbound cycle lane will provide cyclists with their own road space throughout the junction. Banning the left turn from New Bridge Street into Queen Victoria Street has permitted the extension of the cycle lane leading into the junction from the north and the provision of an Advance Stop Line in this location. A new cycle right turn facility will also enable cyclists to travel from Victoria Embankment onto Blackfriars Bridge both safely and more directly.

Where possible TfL look to widen cycle lanes to two metres, as proposed for the initial section of the northbound cycle lane, however, the constraints of the highway coupled with our duty to maintain a smooth traffic flow in this location have prevented us from widening all cycle lanes throughout the junction. The London Cycle Design Standards recommend a minimum width of 1.5 metres for cycle lanes and whilst TfL acknowledge that 2 metres will increase the comfort levels experienced by cyclists there is no evidence to show that this extra width creates a safety benefit.

I would like to reassure you that measures, have been taken to ensure that no vehicle will encroach into these cycle lanes.

Our latest design proposes to designate all cycle lanes as mandatory. Vehicle footprints have been tracked throughout the junction to ensure that there is no encroachment of motor vehicles into this dedicated cycle lane."

The head of surface transport at TfL is stating that, in an environment with three motor traffic lanes in each direction (only 3.0m wide each), that there is no additional safety benefit in a 2.0 metre-wide cycle lane versus a 1.5 metre cycle lane.

In 2002, the Department for Transport published its Drivers' Perception of Cyclists report. The first statement of the report is that "one of the main deterrents to cycling is a fear of traffic, often attributed to the attitudes and behaviour of drivers". Our Mayor is, in theory, encouraging a Cycling Revolution (although this article shows how he's not supporting the rhetoric with any financial backing). If fear of traffic is a deterrent to cycling, then keeping cyclist and driver as apart from each other as possible is surely something that TfL should be pushing for. In fact, the DfT's very first recommendation states: "....physical road features that force cyclists and drivers into close proximity should be avoided, or where this is unavoidable, motor vehicle speeds at such locations should be reduced". As it happens, TfL is INCREASING the speed limit in this junction and adding two more motor vehicle lanes, in other words, the exact opposite of the DfT recommendations.   

Even TfL's own Cycle Safety Action Plan, published last year, states that 'close proximity collision between cyclist and vehicle' is the biggest cause of serious injury or death of cyclistsi n London.

But let's leave the reports alone for a bit and look at common sense:

Broadly speaking, the closest a cyclist should ever ride to the kerb is 0.5 metre (wheel position) - and the preferred position is nearly double this.
The closest a driver (or another cyclist) should ever overtake a cyclist is with 1 metre clear gap (or more, if you follow the Highway Code)
As a fellow cyclist put it to me, Mr Daniels, the arithmetic isn't hard: if a driver drives on the edge of a cycle lane, s/he is guaranteed to be too close if the lane is less than 1.8 metres wide (0.5 + 1.0 + 0.3 (half width of cyclist). A 2-metre lane gives a slight extra margin and will be comfortable for most cyclists most of the time.

I for one believe there is plenty of common sense in cycle lanes being two metres wide even if I can't give you the exact evidence to prove it. I also know that two metres is the minimum you need (to support the Guardian's statement last week) to encourage people on to bikes in the first place. If you don't believe me, have a look at one of London's 1.4m bike lanes on Vauxhall Bridge in action here and see how closely that coach passes the cyclists.
A gap of 20 or 30cm might mean a small dent if any problems occur between two motor vehicles passing each other slowly here. If one of those vehicles is your own flesh and bones on a cycle, a single error of judgement, or a pothole, equals serious injury or death. Perhaps TfL needs to sit up and realise that someone on a cycle is not the same as someone behind the steering wheel in these situations.

If you want to encourage Londoners to drive, then give them Blackfriars as you've (re-)designed it and continue to claim it suits everyone's needs.

If you want to encourage Londoners to cycle, then design it right. But don't try to palm us off with something that encourages driving and try to pretend this will actually encourage cycling. 


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If you agree, then you've got two days to lobby your London Assembly member to do something about Blackfriars Bridge. 


Either by signing the London Cycling Campaign's letter of support online here


Or by writing to your Assembly Member here


Good luck.