Tuesday, 15 November 2011

More than 1,000 cyclists. The Tour du Danger 2: Saturday March 17 - To the Olympics with our families and friends. As that's the only way this route will ever feel safe enough for most of them

Cycle Super Highway - same killer design
coming to a junction near you
Last weekend hundreds of Londoners took to their bikes and cycled through London to protest for safer roads. The turnout was amazing.

I've written my review of the ride here and ibikelondon has masses of pictures and a fabulous description on his site here.

Since the ride, there has been a palpable sense of expectation in the air:

Today, the Evening Standard reported: "There has been a growing sense among cyclists over the past few months that the Mayor's cycling revolution is running out of road."

In response to recent deaths on the cycle superhighway at Bow, there are signs that Transport for London is at last starting to listen (it should have but didn't listen a year ago when it was warned in formal consultation about the junction). The Mayor's office has confirmed a 'review' of this junction - a place with no pedestrian crossings and with plenty of space to create safe passage for cycling - and that there may be changes made before the Olympics. (Although it has also told cyclists to 'avoid' the area - impossible if you live there and can you just imagine the hell that would be raised if TfL told people they couldn't drive at Bow?)

On Saturday, former conservative mayoral candidate and board member of Transport for London Steven Norris presented a programme on LBC radio where he rejected the Mayor's suggestion that the Elephant was 'just fine' to cycle around provided 'you keep your wits about you' and made clear that "the Elephant is clearly not safe enough...the one thing that puts people off cycling is that they say 'it's not safe enough'"

Iain Dale, broadcaster on LBC radio and blogger also chimed in. We discussed cycling safety on twitter and he followed up by writing a comment to me on this blog: "After 20 years of not cycling I now use a Boris bike several times a week and enjoy the experience very much. I think London has made huge strides in becoming much more friendly to cyclists, but clearly more can be done....I doubt whether any junction like [Elephant] can be made totaly safe, but you are right, those statistics speak for themselves and show that something must be done."

Dale's other comment was this:

"The only political point I would make is that sometimes it would be nice if people acknowledged that Boris Johnson has done far more to promote cycling in London than any other politician has ever done. You can't reverse 50 years of more or less ignoring cyclging in 3 years, but the introduction of the cycle hire scheme, the super highways and other lanes are surely things we can all welcome."

Fair enough. Some of those may or may not have been Ken's ideas. But that's not what worries me at the moment.
Road narrowing. In vogue among London councils.
Totally destroys cycle routes
What worries me is that there is something deeply wrong going on at Transport for London. TfL has been warned again and again - in formal consultations, through informal means (three mass protests on Blackfriars Bridge with 2,500 people on bikes on the most recent ride, hundreds and hundreds of people writing to them), through votes in the London Assembly, through petitions from London Assembly Members - that its road policies are killing people unnecessarily. And yet it still seems plough on regardless.

Whether that's junctions like this one pictured left (Oxford Circus) where the road space is narrowed, putting cyclists directly in harm's way (same goes for Piccadilly - a brand new scheme - or for Tottenham Court Road, which is about to be designed like this as well).

Cycle route on cramped pedestrian crossing.
How to wind up pedestrians and create
a false 'war' between people on bikes & on foot
Or whether that's places like Vauxhall gyratory pictured left. Believe it or not, the cycle route is through the pedestrian crossing. There's barely enough space for pedestrians between the barriers let alone people on bikes. And yet there's actually tonnes of spare space here. It's simply that Transport for London thinks all that space should be given to motor vehicles not to pedestrians or people on bikes.

A lot of focus has fallen this week on Bow roundabout. But the problems are not just at Bow roundabout. A few weeks ago, the focus was on Kings Cross - scene of multiple collisions that have killed cyclists over the last three years. A few weeks before that, the focus was at Elephant & Castle, where the Mayor is refusing a scheme he had earlier supported and that would civilise the area for pedestrians, tube passengers and cyclists. This is a place with one cyclist killed and 89 seriously injured between 2008 - 10. That simply isn't right.

My point is the same as that made by a woman who cycles Cycle Super Highway 2 every day:

"It is lethal....I should not be arriving at my destination mentally saying “hurrah! I’m not dead!” And the worst bit of it is not that’s it’s dangerous, but, as someone said on Twitter last night, “it’s dangerous and it pretends not to be.”

The same goes for Clapham Road (Super Highway 7), Elephant & Castle (Super Highway 7), Blackfriars Bridge (no Super Highway), the entire stretch of Super Highway 2, almost all of Super Highway 8 down to Wandsworth, except for the short stretch along the river.

We've spent less than 0.03% a year of London's annual transport budget making London a safe place to cycle. And even then, much of that money has been blown on advertising campaigns that help no one rather than infrastructure.

First requirement - Allocate more of London's road spending to include cycling. And second requirement - allocate it properly. Don't pass off utter crap like Super Highway 2 or like the plans for a new Tottenham Court Road as being about cycling. They're not. They're about trying to throw a few bits towards cycling while making life generally worse for motorists as well. Nearly 50% of road journeys in London by car are under two miles. It's time we gave people the option to look at their journey and think, 'yup, that looks safe enough, I might take the bike instead'. It's just a bicycle.

And that is why I suggest we go back and we hold a second Tour du Danger. And this one will be bigger. Saturday March 17 we should ride from central London to the Olympics. I say 'I suggest it' but actually, I include Mark of ibikelondon blog in that and Charlie of Kennington People on Bikes. Plus support, so far from several members of the local branches of the London Cycling Campaign including Camden, Lambeth, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Southwark. I hope many many more bloggers, campaigners and, frankly, just all sorts of people will join us. (and in the meantime, please think about joining the London Cycling Campaign. Behind the scenes they have been doing amazing work to support and advise us without getting fed up with us for being complete pests. We're going to need a more formal body with enough members to stand up and be counted and LCC is making all the right noises)

Jenny Jones made this point: "I am an experienced cyclist who wants roads that are safe for a twelve year old to cycle on." The Cycle Super Highway to the Olympics is one that Transport for London thinks should be friendly for families who want to get to the Games. It's not. It's a bloody disgrace. But this ride will be family-friendly and safe for everyone if we get 1,000 of us to ride out there together.

So that's the aim. 1,000 people to cycle to the Olympics. Together. Because it's too scary for most people to do it any other way.

When I started this blog I said I would remain non party-political. And I hope I've managed that. This isn't about being anti-Boris. This is about asking him to tell Transport for London to make cycle routes that are safe enough for a 12 year old. Anything less is a failure in my book.

Saturday March 17th. Tour du Danger 2. From central London to the Olympics. I hope we'll make 1,000 of us. But we may be more. I'm doing this for my sister, her kids and for the many, many people who have contacted me to say they think it's time London became a place for their kids to cycle again.

More details soon from Cyclists in the City, from ibikelondon and from Kennington People on Bikes. With the full support of many of the marshalls and borough groups of the London Cycling Campaign who backed us for the ride last week.