Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Two more London cyclists killed this week. One-third of those killed aged under 18. Meanwhile, Transport for London to temporarily close bus lanes and ban bikes from Olympic Lanes. Why not just ban bikes entirely?

This is a junction on a new cycle super highway in junction this morning. Shared with tipper trucks like this one. We are
the only global-scale city in the world designing new cycle infrastructure this badly

Earlier today, the BBC confirmed that another two people have been killed cycling in London over the last week - one man by the driver of (yet another) tipper truck in Ealing late last week, another man was killed by a car driver in Mitcham this morning. Horrifyingly, the Paralympic cycling gold medal hopeful Rachel Morris was also driven into by a car driver while training near Guildford at the weekend. She is unlikely to recover in time to make the Games. Can you imagine anything more horrific than enduring a nervous system malfunction and having the guts and the courage to fight it and become a Paralympic champion, only to be run over by someone driving a car into the back of you while training? It is to British Cycling's credit that the organisation is not only backing her but also calling for far a far tougher approach by the criminal justice system on behalf of all road users.

It's worth noting that at this point in the year, ONE THIRD of all people killed on bikes in London this year have been aged 17 or under. A horrifying statistic. A 17 year old cyclist killed by a hit and run driver. A 9 year old boy killed on his bike by a hit and run driver. And a 10 year old boy hit and killed on his bike by a black cab driver.

Also today, the Guardian picked up on a press release by the Environmental Transport Association which notes that, during the Olympics, London cyclists will be banned from using many of the city's bus lanes (in many places the bus lane won't be in operation and will be filled with general traffic, so no safe cycling there) and simultaneously banned from overtaking queuing motor traffic that is using what used to be bus lanes by using the Olympic Games Lanes (which will be on the right hand side of the defunct bus lanes). Try to get out of  a hairy situation in a cramped, narrow general traffic lane or attempt to get past queues of stationary lorries and you'll be slapped with a whopping £130 fine. As I understand it, there will be police stationed all along the Olympic routes to catch miscreants.

As the Association puts it: "More than nine out of ten Games Lanes are situated on the outside of traffic queues, but cyclists will not be allowed to enter these ‘offside’ Games Lanes for what are described as ‘safety reasons’ – a policy at odds with national standards for cycle training and one described as potentially highly dangerous by the ETA."

The Environmental Transport Association goes one step further and accuses a Transport for London director of "suggesting that cyclists should sit in traffic queues rather than overtaking slow-moving traffic". I think the TfL director in question should try using a bike in London. I suspect he hasn't.

Over at Hyde Park, meanwhile, one twitter user noticed: "Without warning and with no signs the cycle lane and advanced stop line that crosses Park Lane from Hyde Park into Upper Brook St/Grosvenor Square has gone". Bye bye the only safe west to east cycle crossing of Park Lane - a 10 lane motorway. 

And, as many of you already know, the safe routes for cycling around the Olympic Park itself are gone, closed for the duration of the Olympics. You can add your voice to "Open Our Towpath" campaign by signing up your support on their facebook page.

New Olympic Lane being installed on the Embankment
This is supposed to be the "greenest" Olympics ever. You might have thought cycling would be a part of that. No chance. Pardon my French, but cycling has been well and truly shafted by the London Olympics. The roads - already woefully lacking in any meaningful cycle infrastructure - are being made even more dangerous for people to cycle on. You're being discouraged from driving. Now you're also being discouraged from cycling. 

But at least one Conservative councillor thinks people are just being pessimistic. The councillor responsible for cycling in the borough of Richmond has issued a press release that almost beggars belief: “If we want to encourage more people to cycle", says councillor Katharine Haborne. "maybe we should stop going on about how dangerous it is because, frankly, it isn’t and we’re just putting people off."

I couldn't disagree more. What's putting people off is that cycling in London has become a preserve of only those fit enough, fast enough and brave enough to play with the tipper trucks. And even then, most of us only cycle to work and back and don't risk cycling at times when we can't use the bus lanes.

That's nothing to do with 'going on about how dangerous it is', councillor Haborne. People aren't stupid, they can see for themselves how cycling is simply ignored as legitimate form of transport in London. So they drive. Want to change the cycling culture in this city? Then change the infrastructure. And the culture of the roads. Don't want 'cyclists' jumping red lights? Then build infrastructure that encourages all sorts of people to use bicycles and watch as the majority pedal along nice and quietly in every day clothes.

Clearly not enough space for a bike lane here.
Via AsEasyAsRiding blog
And please don't start insisting that 'there's not enough space' for bike lanes. Councillor Harborne would do well to read a fantastic blog post over the weekend by AsEasyAsRidingABike in which he points out pretty conclusively just how much space there is to install cycle infrastructure in London. The only thing that's lacking is political will. As Mark puts it: "The real issue in London is not ‘physical constraints’ or ‘a lack of space’ but rather how that space is allocated. In other words, how those ‘other road users’ might be affected. In many places, they needn’t be affected at all, because the amount of space is vast. But I think Boris has to grasp the nettle and recognise that space will need to be reallocated if he is going to ultimately solve the problems of congestion in London."

And if the Olympics are any sign of what's to come, space is going to be reallocated. But it's going to be taken away from people on bikes and given over to people in BMWs. I'm excited about the Olympics coming to London, I'm happy to accept some disruption as a result. But it's evident that, outside of a few small teams, Transport for London has systemically failed to even think about cycling as a legitimate transport form. And that bodes pretty badly for the future, after the Olympics are behind us.

Cyclegaz has written an excellent post about Mitcham Road, where a man was killed cycling yesterday morning. Cyclegaz was also knocked off his bike on this road. He puts the blame squarely on the road layout. I agree with him.