Sunday, 30 October 2011

TfL admits there is priority for different transport modes on London's streets - the Mayor and Conservatives claim there isn't. The result is more people being killed. Boris, make it safe to cycle. Now!

Cycle lane under the bus. Bow flyover. Courtesy
DiamondGeezer blog
I was struck by an open letter on the pages of the London Cycling Campaign last week, written by a friend of Brian Dorling, the man struck down and killed on his bicycle at the ridiculously-designed Bow roundabout Bow cycle super highway. 

The author made the following point:

"It seems frankly appalling that cyclists are actively encouraged to follow a corporate-sponsored cycle route that leaves them at a junction already and widely known as an accident waiting to happen....Please assure me, and those of us close to Brian, that (without reference to the consequences of interfering with the flow of motorised traffic) cyclists will be warned they are entering a Danger Zone at this location and that alternative routes are provided"

Everywhere you look across London, you see the same theme cropping up again and again, namely that TfL is more concerned about safe and smooth streets for motor vehicles than about safe and smooth streets for pedestrians and cyclists. It is a policy that kills people for reasons that are utterly avoidable.

Bow Roundabout 

"As a very local pedestrian, I remain amazed by how incredibly life-threatening the Bow Flyover roundabout is...TfL's overriding priority at the Bow Flyover roundabout is clearly vehicular traffic. Cars and lorries and buses would be held up if pedestrian crossings were introduced" Diamond Geezer blog

Marylebone Road, pedestrian killed on crossing: 

"How many more dead? ...Pedestrians have warned that these signals give insufficient time to cross and that staggered crossings encourage people to rush across the road.” West End Extra newspaper

Cyclists killed recently in Camden: 

"I’ll list just a few on-the-road design defects on TfL-controlled roads that I’ve been fighting, for years, in vain to remedy for cyclist safety..Camden’s well-meaning officers do pursue TfL persistently but ineffectively.They are being totally disregarded with impunity by TfL. It’s time to press the nuclear button and try to overturn the rot at the top of TfL." Councillor Paul Braithwaite, Liberal Democrat, Camden Council writing in Camden New Journal

'Cycle lane' under HGV, buses. Thanks Boris
Elephant & Castle - the most dangerous junction in London:

"[TfL] can't allow that [square, that removes the killer roundabout] because it would interfere with the traffic flow too greatly". Eleanor Kelly, Deputy Chief Executive, Southwark Council talking about TfL killing off regeneration plans in favour of motor traffic flow, London SE1 newspaper

Blackfriars Bridge

TfL's initial message about why it was abandoning previously agreed plans to create a safe junction for cycling and pedestrians at the north side of Blackfriars Bridge because it "would greatly restrict traffic movement"

Caroline Pidgeon, current Chair of the Transport Committee on the London Assembly was completely right when she said this earlier in the year: "[TfL] favours smoothing the traffic flow for motorists and worsening conditions for pedestrians and cyclists"

So I was not at all surprised to see this comment from Transport for London last week in a note written to Labour Assembly Member John Biggs about Blackfriars: "It is true that [road] designs will involve some prioritisation of one mode over another."

There we have it. Transport for London finally admits that its streets do prioritise different modes of transport over each other. Something that is has striven to deny again and again since the Mayor Boris Johnson took office. 

In the summer, the Conservative group on the London Assembly published a report on road congestion in London. The report said "Neither the Mayor nor the Government should impose an artificial road user hierarchy as this inevitably has the effect of effect of deliberately slowing down some users. Further to this, the Mayor should encourage cycling by emphasising that it is cheap, healthy and quick, not by worsening conditions for other road users."

It's all smoke and mirrors. The Conservative party claims it does not support the priorities of one road user over another. The reality is that Transport for London knows it is creating a priority on London's streets. It is the priority of the motor vehicle. That's why those cycle lane pictures in this article are full of motor vehicles. They're not cycle lanes. They are bits of blue paint that won't interfere with motor traffic. Which is why more people are being killed in London on foot and on bicycle. 

By failing to enforce a priority on London's streets, the Conservatives in London are tacitly allowing Transport for London to get away with it anyhow. TfL is - in my view - imposing a set of priorities through the back door. The motor vehicle is king. And if you want to cross the road or cycle in safety, you're going to have to fit in as a second class citizen. 

Bollocks to 'encouraging cycling by emphasising it is cheap, healthy and quick'. Make it safe.

For an excellent review on 'encouraging cycling by emphasising it is cheap, healthy and quick' read this review here on VoleOSpeed blog. 


  1. The best way to improve traffic flow on Sunday would be to have this day with the same parking restrictions as any other. Having cycled today, there were long tailbacks on major roads due to parking, some of which verged on the insane.

    It seems OK to make the roads more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians in the name of traffic flow, but something as simple as parking restrictions - well that is clearly too much!

  2. The top photo is actually from Diamond Geezer. AsEasyAsRidingABike just reproduced it (with attribution)

  3. "It is a policy that kills people for reasons that are utterly unavoidable." unavoidable?

  4. That isn't a cycle lane, it's a ghost lane, and that's the official term!