Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Policing is here to stay but infrastructure for bikes doesn't feel quite so certain.

Some of us attended a meeting with the City of London last week about cycling.

It was an interesting meeting and I'll be writing up more about it over the coming few days.

One key topic that came up was the issue of cyclists being killed or seriously injured in the City (KSIs). That is a statistic keenly watched by the City. And rightly so. The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured within City boundaries has been on the up since 2003 (with a slight dip in 2007), rising to  19 last year. The City's view is that in percentage terms things are actually getting slightly better. That is because the number of cycles on the move is considerably higher than 2003. The City calculates 24,000 people passed through on cycles between 7am - 7pm on an average weekday last year, versus 7,600 or so per day in 1999. In our meeting, City officials acknowledged that this year the numbers could be in the low 30,000s. So, in terms of total cycle volume, KSIs are down and, wahay, the number of people cycling in the City is well and truly on the up.

So far so good.

And what's more, this year, the number of KSIs to date is only five.

That's a record low. And what's interesting is what the City is thinking about why that's happening.

What became abundantly clear in that meeting is that the City thinks road safety policing is the primary contributor to that drop. And it may well be.

So far this year, City Police have ticketed 1,667 cyclists for what they call 'illegal' cycling. 1,304 of those are for red light jumping. A new trick, by the way, is to have a plain clothes officer spotting RLJers and radio-ing a uniformed colleague further along the street. To be fair, this is being applied to all traffic, not simply cyclists.

To be honest, we can't really object to policing of the highway code so long as it's fair.

However, this is where I wonder if things need to be thought about a little more.

Take a look at this document: Cycle Safety Action Plan

What's abundantly clear about this plan, is that the City favours policing as a way of improving its KSI statistics because it doesn't result in a direct cost to the City coffers. To quote from the report:

"Financial and Risk Implications

4. None"

Fine. But what about infrastructure? The City is planning to spend millions on fancy paving slabs around the Barbican and St Paul's. In terms of its own hard cash, the City was talking last week about putting a whopping £20,000 into cycling infrastructure next year. Yes, it's also trying to raise money from TfL for projects but when it comes to putting its own plentiful resources where it's mouth is, £20,000 is what cycling gets. At best, that's a handful of one-way streets reverting to two-way for cycling. (By contrast, I am sure I remember numbers floating around about the newly installed and renovated kitsch Victoriana fountain at the end of CarterLane near St Paul's costing £0.5million of City money.)

The City knows its junctions are where most of the cycling KSIs take place. But it's policy is going to be to police those junctions rather than make them safer by changing what George Bush might call 'facts on the ground'.

" All of these activities are focused on casualty hot spot areas and junctions, including Bank, London Wall/ Moorgate, Holborn Circus, Ropemaker Street/Moorgate, Aldersgate Street/London Wall."

As a case in point, the new plans for the Barbican area include lots of nicely designed and widened paving areas. This may possibly lead to narrow, therefore slower traffic speeds. And that is probably a good thing for cycling, to be honest. But the City is not including any plans in its Barbican scheme to improve the Beech Street / Aldersgate junction for cyclists despite the fact that it knows it has a problem here. Cyclists are stuck behind two lanes of traffic here and often resort to cycling on the pavement. A not very virtuous circle ensues: cyclist cycles along Beech Street cycle lane which suddenly stops before the traffic lights heading west; cyclist stuck behind lots of traffic; cyclist hops onto narrow pavement; cyclist upsets pedestrians also on narrow pavement; pedestrians vocalise their anger very efficiently at City Police or City resident meetings. Ergo, the City sees the cyclists as a problem. So its money is going to pedestrian space not cycling and pedestrian space. To be fair, the City did try to raise funds to sort out this junction in its superhighway/cycle hire funding for this year but TransportforLondon denied the funding. What's upsetting is that the City seems to have given up attempting to resolve the problem and clearly won't attempt to do so with its own street landscaping money.

I'm not sure what to think. There is some good in some of these street landscaping projects. But the signs are that safer cycling facilities in the City aren't a priority because it's much cheaper to get the same results using police patrols rather than by improving infrastructure. I think I'll cycle home now and feel like things are never going to get much better in London.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

City's main bike routes about to get worse?

Queen Street southern side - plans
 Various City reports out last week show how cycling simply won't be featuring in new road layouts at St. Paul's and around the Barbican. Also, how the Queen Street junction north of Southwark Bridge is about to get even more confusing for cycling.

This news follows on from what had seemed like a fairly productive meeting with the City last week when there was talk aplenty about positive cycling news. A full report on that meeting coming soon. But in the meantime, if you want some really depressing news, take a look at these.

Key gripes - Queen Street looks like it will be even more confusing than it is now. Barbican gets no cycle facilities at the junction with Beech Street and Aldersgate despite the fact that even the City knows it's a problem junction. The City attempted to secure funds from TfL but with that avenue exhausted it seems the City would rather spend its own money on paving slabs than providing a safer way for cyclists to travel west out of Beech Street tunnel. The list continues and a full review of these reports will be online soon but in the meantime, if you're interested, you can download the originals here.

St Paul's Churchyard report

Queen Street (north end of Southwark Bridge) report

Barbican area plans

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Cycle route du jour

"The Corporation of London and the City of London Police work constantly to maintain the ‘Square Mile’ as a safe environment for all road users.

Whilst improvements are being made to benefit individual user groups, the Corporation recognises the need for a step-change in provision for cycles and supports the high quality routes of the London Cycle Network +."

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

No more space for Boris bikes docking stations. Really?

Boris bike cousins in Montreal
If you're reading this, there is a fair chance you may be an occasional user of the humble Boris bike. And if you are, you may have noticed the peculiar fact that they are near impossible to source in the City in the evenings and that it's near impossible to dock your Boris bike after about 8am. That is until the Serco people come along with their white vans and reposition some bikes.

Anyhow, this is a rambling way of making two points about the bikes. First is that City officialdom seems quite pleased with the bikes. When we attended meetings with the City a year ago, there were predictions of carnage in the streets as unwary City cyclists hit the streets.

The City is wary of its poor record on road injuries among cyclists and feared the scheme would make for even worse statistics.

So imagine our excitement to hear, at a meeting on Monday evening, that the City is broadly happy with the scheme and regards it a success. There were some suggestions (and this is my interpretation) that the scheme is leading to a new, slower, safer and, more polite cycle culture in the square mile. That's very much the message it would like to hear, at least.

So far so good.

The even better news is that Transport for London wants to talk with the City about placing more docking stations within the City bounds. Good on them. If London ever ends up like Montreal, where the Boris bike cousins dwell, there will be docking stations on every other corner. Have a look at the Bixi map here. A single small park gets one docking station on every corner.

Not so good on the Bixi front in London, though is the prevailing view within the City that there simply isn't room. Two more docking stations would be the City's saturation point, according to one of the more senior people on Monday. Two more docking stations for the entire City? Is that all?

The City has an issue with cycle parking on street level. Its great that we'll soon be seeing more bike parking in City carparks. But if you've ever tried parking your bike near St Paul's or Fenchurch Street. The prevailing view is there's not enough room for more cycle parking. That counters with the City's recognition that it needs up to 27,000 bike parking spaces if it is going to ever meet demand. The review of that bike parking is underway so things may yet change.

But the point is that Boris bike docking stations seem to equal on-street bike parking in some City quarters. And on-street cycle parking is a bit of a no-no. Hence the problem.

If you're a user of Boris bikes, you'd probably like to see more of them and for them to be more widely available.

At the moment, the City's thinking is to resist too many new docking stations.

If you want that to change, then shout about it to your aldermen listed here, to the City officers or even to your employer. If just one senior board member at a bank or a law firm writes a note to one of the City's politicians saying they'd like more Boris bikes near their offices to get to meetings with, I can almost guarantee the City will sit up and listen. It might not be the most democratic way of thinking, but it's how the City thinks about these things.

The Road Fund Licence

Apologies in advance. This is seriously off-topic as far as City of London cycling is concerned. But we bought a car last week. Heinous crime, I know. We bought it with one of these cunning financing packages where the dealer ties you into three years of payments and effectively leases the car back to you. And as part of the package, you buy your Road Fund Licence so you can drive it away. Yes, that's correct. Apparently, according to Volkswagen UK's whizzy computer system, we have just paid our contribution towards the Road Fund Licence. There's no such thing, of course. It's Vehicle Excise Duty as this excellent website explains. I protested I didn't want to pay for a fictional Road Fund. Blank stares all around the dealership. What's this nutty cyclist on about? No wonder most motorists think we don't belong on the roads. And much much more on that coming later.....

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Those City Police liaison meetings

I've posted this week and last week about City Police safer wards meetings and why they are important for setting some of the road safety agenda. Much more on this next week when we are planning to analyse just exactly how the City spends its budget on road safety and cycling infrastructure on anything other than road safety and cycling infrastructure. It's rather upsetting when you read the detail.

If I've encouraged at least one or two people to attend one of these meetings, that would be a result in itself.

And so, here's a list of the meetings.

You do need to have some sort of connection to the meeting. If you work, live or travel through that part of the City, for example.

•Barbican Side, Monday 11th October 2010, 7.30pm
Location: Tudor Rose Court, 35 Fann Street, EC2Y 8DY

Current priorities are:

1.Address cyclists disregarding red traffic lights at the junction of Beech Street and Aldersgate Street EC 2Y8 specifically between 7:30am and 9:30am

2.Address anti social behaviour in and around the Golden Lane Estate and the Barbican EC1Y during the evenings and early mornings when clubs within the Smithfield area close

East Area Business Community Partnership meeting, Thursday 18th November 2010, 10:30am
Location: To be confirmed

Current priorities are:

•Address inconsiderate road users at crossings in Fenchurch Street EC3P 3HY and Leadenhall Street EC3V 1PP during rush hour, mornings and evenings, Monday - Friday

•Anti social behaviour caused by begging in Coopers Row EC3N 2BQ area during the late afternoon and early evening.
West Area, Wednesday 22nd September 2010, 1.00pm
Location: The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, Black Friars Lane, London EC4V 6EJ

Current priorities:

1.Prevent and deter thefts from person's in and around St Paul's Cathedral

2.Address traffic offences in Fleet Street at the junction of Ludgate Circus and at the junction of Fetter Lane between 8:00am and 6:00pm

3.Address anti-social behaviour related to licensed premises in the Hosier Lane, West Smithfield and Cloth Fair areas on Thursday, Friday and weekends between 8:00pm and 3:00am

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

"With children cycling on pavements, what happens when they get older?"

I posted last week about the City of London police safer wards meetings.

Last week I received a copy of the minutes of the most recent meeting in the City North area. That's roughly the area from the Barbican across to Liverpool Street and down to slightly below London Wall. For a detailed map of the policing areas, see here

The next meeting for the North Area is in October. I'll post meeting dates for all the City areas later this week and the current list of priorities in each policing area.

A group of us attended one of these in December. The policing priority at the time was to target cyclist offences. The feeling in the room was that the police should push the City to abandon its recently inaugurated two-way cycling streets. During the course of the meeting, we swung the priority from cyclist offences to all road user behaviour. We also swung the room in favour of the two-way cycling streets. In its initial minutes of the meeting, the police failed to even mention some of these changes. It simply noted 'Several people stated ...concerns for safety with the current trial where cyclists can travel in both directions on a number of one-way streets.' After some back and forth, the police admitted they had incorrectly minuted the meeting, acknowledged that more people supported the two-way for cycling than opposed it and then changed the minutes.

One big issue is that a significant bulk of the attendees have what I'd describe as a hatred of cyclists. The fact that 77% of people killed or seriously injured on the City's roads are pedestrians or cyclists hit by motor vehicles means nothing to them. Perhaps that's fair enough, given their experiences but it's a problem because the point about these meetings is that the attendees vote in the priorities for the policing area. They also hold the Police to account about how they implement those priorities. So if a bunch of people who don't like the idea of cycling turn up, then you get measures targeted at cyclists. Make that a bunch of people who don't like motorists using their mobiles while driving or don't like unsafe lorry operators then you get likewise. But you have to fight to keep that decision on message.

The next meeting in the North area will report back on the two policing priorities, namely:

"Address poor road user behaviour at Beech Street/Aldersgate Street and South Place/Moorgate.

Address anti-social behaviour in and around Gold Lane Estate and the Barbican."

And these are the sorts of issues that come up for discussion and which the Police are using to decide their priorities (quoted directly from the minutes):

"Cyclists take their life in their hands.

The policy is to increase cycling, especially with the Hire Cycles. We need to up the anti.

The Europeans will make it a free for all.

With children cycling on pavements, what happens when they get older? PC Worsfold said this was a good point and she would get back to the person concerned."

What's all this about: 'We need to up the anti'? Is this some sort of war against cyclists? Or, 'The Europeans will make it a free for all'? What about the terror of children riding on pavements? This is the level of debate that is happening in these meetings and it is these sorts of comments that influence how the police decide what their priorities should be in policing neighbourhoods in the City. It's not about cyclists jumping red lights (and by the way, 3,500 cyclists have been ticketed riding through red lights at Beech Street junction since last October). When you actually sit in these meetings, it feels more like a group of people almost at war with the idea of cycling.

Some residents of the Barbican are also pushing for the plain clothes police to catch cyclists committing offences:

"I was a casualty at this junction. Why don’t you catch them in plain clothes? PC Houghton explained that this has been done and she has taken part in such operations."

Perhaps this is all making a mountain out of a molehill. But what is happening is that the police agree to address poor road user behaviour and then this turns into an action point that is aimed solely at cyclists.

So, we have a policing priority to address poor road user behaviour. And when it comes to reality, that transforms into the following action point: "Address cyclists disregarding red traffic lights at the junction of Beech Street and Aldersgate Street EC 2Y8 specifically between 7:30am and 9:30am"

This post really isn't about asking the Police not to ticket red light jumpers. But it is about getting a sense of balance into local policing priorities. If you are happy to let things be as they are, then don't pitch up. If you think the police should be targeting road users committing other 'offences' (say, driving while holding a mobile phone, heaven forbid driving a car through a red light, speeding etc), the perhaps you should consider turning up to whichever area meeting is relevant to you.

This has rambled on long enough now so I'll post meeting dates in my next post but if you want to find out more in the meantime then take a look here, click on your area and then on current priorities or on meetings. In all but one area, you'll notice, cycling (represented as traffic offences) is top of the agenda.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Cycle Super Highways and bike hire survey

A brief entry, this:

The London Assembly is surveying people about the Cycle Super Highways and about bike hire. My own view is that the CSHs are a bit of a disaster. The bike hire, by contrast, feels like a refreshing and exciting way to get about. If you want to get your views about either back to the Assmebly and on to Transport for London, the survey is here. It only takes a couple of minutes to complete.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

City Police vs City of London? Do they love us or hate us?

St Paul's Cathedral has not one bike stand
My recent post about the City promoting cycle chic got me thinking.

If you go to the City's cycle style promotional pages, you'll see that they love the idea of nice people cycling around the area:

"Cycling is not only a great way to get around town but also a very stylish mode of transport. Look at great cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam where people cycle in suits and dresses. The City of London wants to encourage cycling in any clothing."

They love us. We are stylish. We don't pollute the streets. We reduce congestion. Hooray, we think.

And then we come to this. The City of London has its own police force. City of London Police has a Safer City Wards team. The team aims to provide you, the worker or resident in the City, with "the best possible policing service and we are here to listen and respond to matters that concern you the most."

Ok, so you like us cyclists. You want us to be safe on the City's streets as well as stylish. After all, we are vulnerable road users. Some 77% of all the incidents involving people killed or seriously injured on the roads in the City are either cyclists or on foot. Surely then, your job is to make sure we are catered for.

Oh no. I think not. What does the Safer Wards team think are the priorities for people in the City? These are they:

"How You Can Take Action

Special Constables: you may also want to consider becoming a Special Constable. Special Constables are trained officers who offer their services to the City of London on a voluntary basis. Find out more about how you

Cycling: Please report any incidents of careless/dangerous or inconsiderate cycling, as this allows us to identify 'hotspots' and deploy our staff to challenge this behaviour.

Rough sleepers and street drinkers: inform us in real time, as this allows us to intervene in a timely fashion and potentially defuse or prevent any escalation."
So, we're twinned with rough sleepers and street drinkers. Not that we have a problem with rough sleepers and street drinkers per se.
Don't like it? Want to do something about it? Perhaps consider attending one of these:
Community Partnership Meetings
"This meeting gives residents/business workers, in fact all members of the community especially if you represent a number of people in your place of work, the opportunity to decide the Ward Policing priorities for the next two months ahead.

New members are always welcome"
We'll be posting more details about forthcoming meetings soon. There are several taking place later in September. If you care about how you're perceived when you happen to be on a bicycle in the City of London, then please think about pitching up. It will take you 90 minutes at most. And you'll probably get a free cup of tea and a biscuit. We really do need to represent ourselves properly and that needs some hands on deck.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Cycle Chic - The City gets it

Cycling in style.  
This just in from the City of London:

An evening celebrating cycling as a fashionable form of transport in the City


Sign up here or pitch up on the night:

Event details
Friday 17 September 2010
6.00pm – 10.00pm
Grand Ave, Smithfield Market, City of London, EC1A 9PQ Map
Bike parking available, and I should hope so too!

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?