Thursday, 20 October 2011

Lord Mayor of London: "Cycling is the way to travel". But how many more of us need to die before Boris Johnson's TfL designs separate traffic flows for cycling, keeps us away from HGVs and buses?

I tweeted the City of Westminster earlier this week. My tweet was triggered by them suggesting parents should encourage their children to get out and about more. My comment was: "@CityWestminster wants children to lead active/healthy lives. Try asking child to cycle on your streets to school? Cycle-unfriendly policies".

Westminster's response was drivelling, in my opinion: "@citycyclists We have lots of free educational schemes to help cyclists get the best out of the city - see here…" Right, so some training will help kids cycle around Parliament Square, will it? Or around Aldwych? Or down the Edgware Road. No, frankly Westminster council, it won't. It hasn't yet and it never will.

I truly believe Westminster Council dislikes bicycles and that provision for cycling is almost non-existant in Westminster.

Why do I feel so strongly? Because this time last year I met Councillor Lee Rowley, who is responsible for transport in Westminster. What did he tell me? He said this: "You lot are getting more attention than you deserve...You should be allowed to cycle but you shouldn't need anything from us to help you do it.."If you don't think [the cycling facilities are good], you should drive." Context is important here. This was at a party and he was off-duty and relaxing. But he wasn't joking. We were discussing this very much in the context of him knowing I write this blog and him having told me about his councillor role.

Let's compare and contrast. A couple of years ago, the City of London felt like somewhere that was fairly anti-cycling. A lot of dangerous junctions and policies that didn't help at all.

A lot of the junctions are still there. But they're improving. And the City has at least had the foresight to put together a strategy that might just start to reverse some of the anti-cycling policies of the past. There's more on that strategy on this page here.

Just as significantly, cycling is starting to be seen as something, 'normal' in the Square Mile. Have a look at the video above. This is an event earlier this month - the City Cycle Style event - run by the Lord Mayor of London for his charity in which the Lord Mayor of London says this: "" today's congested traffic environment is the way to travel". Compare and contrast with Westminster.

And yet Transport for London thinks that cycling is an activity that should be specifically undertaken in that congested traffic and seems to believe that junctions should be designed for maximising the flow of more and more motor traffic. It dithers for four whole years about putting in a couple of advanced stop lines at Kings Cross, and rejects a design that might actually make this a safe place to cycle. It rejects calls by people to make Blackfriars a place where people can cross the street in one go or make safe turns on their bicycles. It threatens to reject a plan to remove the horrendous roundabout at Elephant & Castle that would benefit tube passengers, businesses, pedestrians, bus passengers and cyclists. Why?

A few weeks ago, a young woman cyclist was hit by an HGV at Kings Cross and killed. Today, another woman cyclist was hit at Kings Cross. This time by a bus. Earlier this week a woman was knocked off her bike on Parliament Square. She just told me she has a broken back. The Kings Cross Local Environment site is doing an amazing job pushing for change at Kings Cross. But in my view, the 'safety' benefits that Transport for London is proposing at Kings Cross are derisory. Some paint. That's it. Likewise at Blackfriars. And all over London. These aren't isolated incidents. The increase in cycle deaths and collisions is a result of a policy of encouraging more motor vehicles through London's streets and encouraging cycling to mix with that heavy congestion. What should be happening is the creation of separate flows of traffic for motor traffic and cycling traffic. If you want to see something inspiring, a vision of what London could be like, then look at this page here.

Boris Johnson is at the head of Transport for London. According to the City of London video, he wants a 'cyclised London'. I agree with the Lord Mayor of London (Mayor of the City of London/Square Mile) - cycling is the way to travel. So what the hell is Transport for London thinking and why is it not designing London's roads so people can walk and cycle safely. Roads like those in the Netherlands, or New York or Paris?

Transport for London - how many more of us need to be killed before you start designing roads with separate flows for cycling and motor vehicles?


  1. "You lot are getting more attention than you deserve...You should be allowed to cycle but you shouldn't need anything from us to help you do it.."If you don't think [the cycling facilities are good], you should drive."

    We should pin that to every letterhead, noticeboard and messageboard for every cycling group in Britain to make us remember the intransigence of those we are up against.

  2. I can't quite understand why someone would be so opposed to making cycling safer and easier. I don't know why he refers to people who cycle as "you lot" - for some reason every person who cycles seems in his mind to be a part of a movement or a sect, looking to overturn the current status quo...
    The tides are changing though. Comparing to this time last year it's a huge leap forward. Streets are teeming with people on bicycles, and the there's a lot more normal clothing and town bikes around. The attitudes are changing and I bet once the square mile becomes more cycle friendly other boroughs will follow suit. Keep up the good work!

  3. "You lot are getting more attention than you deserve...You should be allowed to cycle but you shouldn't need anything from us to help you do it.."If you don't think [the cycling facilities are good], you should drive." - There speaks the voice of ignorance.

    It's quite clear that the 'powers that be' seem to believe that 'people who cycle' are not in-fact people. These 'powers that be' clearly believe that more cars is a good thing and that people on bikes is the problem. Therefore eradicating people on bikes is the solution, except of course they have the whole situation backwards.
    Plus of course, if more people cycled instead of drove, many other societal problems would be reduced we'd end-up with less traffic pollution, road deaths and injuries, traffic congestion, noise (and deaths due to noise), obesity and the other diseases of inactivity, deaths and morbidity due to traffic pollution, carbon emissions etc.

    The question is why are we elect such stupid people in the UK? Presumably, it's because of a failed media that to a large extent have sold-out to big business.

    The recently revealed Atlantic-Bridge link between the Tories and the US Climate Denial Industry is bad news.

  4. On the back of the corporate manslaughter case re. King's X, I think it's time 'we lot' became more militant. If the Dutch changed the culture with 'Stop the Child Murder' we have a parallel with the almost-daily deaths/serious injuries to young women.

    The post says that things are improving in the City, and some of the minor back-streets are being made cycle-friendly. But coming into the City from either side (eg. on CS3 from east, or Blackfriars/Tower Bridge from south or Holborn from west) you're thrown into terrifying junctions, and the City doesn't seem to be doing enough to join up these main cycle routes.

    Every discussion on cycling in the mainstream quickly descends into talk of red-light-jumping, car tax etc etc - as if there's almost a Godwin's Law at work (The Clarkson-Dickhead Law...?) But the young women being injured/killed are not this stereotypical lycra-clad red-light-jumper, and are a sympathetic case around which to hang a hard-hitting campaign.
    In these massive multi-lane gyratories, it's the road design more than the drivers at fault, and others have highlighted these design faults.

    Maybe a sensible joint approach by cycle organisations, bus companies and haulage firms working together might finally shame Boris and TfL into sorting this out? Maybe if the Clarksons of this world somehow figured out that separate cycling infrastructure leaves more road-space for themselves, they wouldn't see it as 'something FOR cyclists is a LOSS for drivers?'

  5. We all know that Westminster City Council has an inglorious history of a virtual coup, followed by anti-democratic “gerrymandering” to eliminate the natural opposition and introduce more Tory voters by evicting tenants from council homes in the central area and selling those properties to yuppies. I don’t know whether Lee Rowley was part of that conspiracy, for which Shirley Porter managed to evade justice, but I doubt the culture has entirely changed there.
    Rowley is clearly a libertarian Tory. Of those, there is a wide spectrum, from those who honestly believe in their doctrine of freedom of personal choice, and actively promote policies which genuinely facilitate true freedom, through honest souls who probably don’t really appreciate that implementation in practice actually favours freedom for the rich or influential at the expense of the less well-off or powerful, to the cynical core who only really promote it as a cloak for their true aims of preserving the privileges of their wealthy backers. I wonder which type Rowley is?
    In any case, what does he mean by “you people”? The cycle couriers? The young professionals who can’t afford to run a car and don’t see the point in a congested urban environment? Or does he mean the City slickers, who might naturally see their personal interests in general terms best served by a Conservative administration, who could well afford to park their Range Rovers all day in the local NCP but who have made a lifestyle choice not to use them, or perhaps even own them, but to have the personal freedom and yes, perhaps even the smug self-satisfaction of knowing that they are contributing less to global warming? In the City at least, they form a significant part of the cycling commiunity
    TfL is not the only adversary in this conflict. For every progressive local authority such as Hackney, Southwark or yes, perhaps even the City of London, there is a regressive one like Westminster. In this area at least, delegating powers to local authorities is a dumb idea as the users of a municipality’s roads are not confined to the residents and electorate of that municipality, and journeys frequently span several municipalities. The new Transport Secretary should act to take back control, and exercise it progressively.

  6. Perhaps a day could be arranged where every cyclist and pedestrian with access to a motor vehicle does drive it into London.

    That would provide such people with a real education.

  7. Maybe I should drive.. or better yet.. get the gf to drive while I draft her car into work.