Monday, 7 March 2011

Aspiring City politician suggests cyclists are a danger to pedestrians but no mention of cars or lorries. What are the real numbers?

This is the text, copied word-for-word from the hand-delivered election pitch of Virginia Rounding, who is standing for the position of Common Councilman (similar to a councillor in any other borough) in the ward where I work and where I have a 'corporate' vote. Councilmen tend not to have a political affiliation and it's most unusual to see one set out their views on local matters as honestly as Virginia Rounding has done. When I wrote to my local councilmen about the City of London transport plan, four of the seven had non-fuctioning contact details and only one of them bothered to respond. So much for democracy in action in the Square Mile. So I have to at least give Virginia Rounding some credit for actually attempting to engage with her electorate.

But what I can't work out is whether Virginia Rounding is generally supportive of or opposed to people cycling. Hands-up, I haven't done her the courtesy yet of asking and I will do. But on her twitter site Ms Rounding does actually refer to the insanity of the new gyratory on Blackfriars by linking to a recent Londonist article about how the new design is going to make this junction even more dangerous for cycling.

But then she writes about cycling on her campaign flyer in a way that I personally find extremely antagonistic.

As someone who walks, drives, buses, tubes, trains and cycles in the City of London, I'm far more aware of the conflict between me and motor vehicles than the "conflict" between me and cyclists, that she suggests in her campaign. When I'm walking around the City, it's the fast-moving motor traffic that worries me. Not the bicycles. On her list of issues, there's no mention of cars or HGVs. Just bicycles.
And what on earth is she saying about cyclists jumping red lights and self-inflicted danger? Her statement implies that it is acceptable for an elected official to openly campaign on the suggestion that that red light jumpers deserve whatever's coming to them. I don't condone jumping red lights but I think it's highly undesirable for a City of London political candidate to imply that cyclists inflict casualties upon themselves on the City's roads.

Let's just remember that 0.3% of pedestrian road casualties in London are caused by bicycles but more specifically, let's just remind ourselves what form of transport is the biggest threat to pedestrians in the City of London.

City of Police sent me these figures which form the pie chart above. They show that by far the biggest threat to pedestrians in the City are HGVs and large public vehicles, such as buses. Between 1 September 2007 and 1 August 2010, 3 people were killed in road incidents in the City; a further 52 were seriously injured and 278 slightly injured.

219 of these were injured by 'own actions' which includes stepping into the path of a vehicle, crossing on a red signal etc. Given that 87% of all other casualties involve motor vehicles, you can assume a similar ration of these injuries involve, er, motor vehicles.

But let's just remind ourselves how dangerous cyclists are to pedestrians. 15 incidents were due to the actions of cyclists. That compares with 19 injured by the actions of a car driver. And a total of 31 people were smacked in the head by the wing mirror of a bus or HGV. In fact, 62 people were hit by either a bus or HGV; eight  by a licensed taxi driver.

So, I wonder if Virginia Rounding knows about these statistics. 


  1. Are you going to the wardmote on Friday? Good opportunity to challenge her in front of electors (assuming any others turn up).

    Sounds like she may have swallowed the Barbican canard about "dangerous cyclists" - do we know whether the Cityplod ever minuted the correct stats into the next liaison meeting there?

  2. One more thing - my reading of Cityplod's numbers was that more cyclists are injured by the actions of pedestrians (stepping out into the road without warning, in some cases due to alcohol or drug inebriation) than vice versa.

  3. Danny,

    Many thanks for your response to my flyer, & for the statistics. One of my chief concerns is that communication should be improved in the City, including among users of all modes of transport, so we're taking some steps in that direction at least.

    Just to clear up a couple of points. I'm certainly not intending to imply that cyclists inflict casualties on themselves, or anything like it - merely that jumping red lights may put them into a more dangerous zone than if they didn't. Just as a pedestrian would be putting themselves into danger if they stepped on to a pelican crossing when the red man was showing. Secondly, I was writing in my list about things that had come to my attention when I wrote it - of which cyclists & pedestrians & the 'potential for conflict' - not actual 'conflict'- was one. This is not an exhaustive list, & I am grateful that you brought additional issues to the fore. And on the other side of my flyer I wrote of 'the often conflicting demands of transport users, including car drivers, tube and bus passengers, pedestrians and cyclists'. There are a lot of people out there competing for limited space, & I do recognise that cyclists are among the most vulnerable transport users in the City. I would support a lowering of the speed limit in the City, & more cycle-friendly routes. I would like to see a City in which everyone - not just the young & athletic - felt safe to cycle (& I think that's a long way off reality right now). To the observer, such as myself (no, I don't cycle & expect I would quickly come to grief if I did), it can look as though a fairly high level of assertiveness is necessary for a London cyclist to survive, & this in itself may put people off from taking up cycling. The 'Boris bikes' are helping to redress this, but there's still a way to go.

    I do hope we will be able to continue this dialogue & that it will have some useful results. I would be very pleased to meet you - & Paul M - at the Ward Mote. (And I don't know anything about the 'Barbican canard' about 'dangerous cyclists'; I do have personal experience of being knocked flying at a shared pedestrian/cyclist crossing in Shoreditch, but am trying not to let a few bruises cloud my judgment!)

    Virginia Rounding