Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Transport for London denies its roads are killing people. 12th October Blackfriars Bridge. Be there!

Brand new London cycle route designed by TfL and
Westminster. Can you spot the problem?
Earlier this week a young woman was killed cycling near Kings Cross station. The Evening Standard's original report quoted Transport for London stating that cycling casualties in London were in decline. That original article has been removed and replaced with something that has been massively edited down. One reason may be that cycling casualties are doing anything but going down. 10 people were killed cycling on London's roads last year. So far this year, 13 people have been killed cycling in London.

What's more, although cyclist fatalities declined between 2009 - 10, "when those figures are combined with the number seriously injured, there was an eight percent rise in cycling casualties, despite a decline among other road users."

I would suggest the Transport for London spokesman originally quoted in the Evening Standard was being less than honest with Londoners about its record in keeping us safe while cycling on London's roads.

And that's not a huge surprise, really. As the blogger at Cycling Intelligence points out there four cyclists have been killed by HGVs within metres of this same spot in the last few years:

In 2006, Wendy Gay was crushed by a lorry as she rode in a cycle lane on Euston Road close to the British Library.Also in 2006, Emma Foa died after she was run over by a lorry on Goodsway. In 2007, Madeleine Rosie Wright died at the junction of Pentonville Road and Penton Rise after she was hit by a lorry. This week, Joo Lee was killed at the junction of Pentonville Road and York Way.

And guess what Transport for London has to say about the way it designs junctions like Pentonville Road? Transport for London has the audacity to claim that junctions on its network are safe for cycling. When it described the new junction it has designed at Blackfriars to a committee of London Assembly Members, TfL had the chutzpah to claim "This junction is not atypical of other central London junctions which work successfully for cyclists." In other words, it is saying this junction is just like many other central junctions and that these work successfully for cyclists.

My view is that the statement by Transport for London is utterly irresponsible and frankly immoral.

Compare this Dutch junction with almost anywhere in London. Hmm, which one feels safer?

Cycling is an after-thought squeezed into TfL's roads so long as it doesn't get in the way of motor vehicles. The Mayor is encouraging more and more of us to cycle. But he's failing to fund that initiative properly and he's failing to tell Transport for London to give cycling a proper place on London's roads. He can't have it both ways. Either he wants people to take up cycling and he funds it properly and forces TfL to design a proper place for people to cycle. Or he will see that death toll keep rising.

If you have five minutes to spare, I urge you to compare Transport for London's cycling facilities with those of the Netherlands. Just take a look at these facilities on this page and think how safe and easy that would make your own cycle journey. It might even encourage other people who don't currently cycle to ditch their cars. But we're having none of it in London. Because the Mayor doesn't want to upset the 'motorist'. I'm a motorist. Most people who cycle are motorists. Plenty of motorists are beginning to think the status quo needs to start changing.

I'm going to Blackfriars next Wednesday evening to make my point. It's not about Blackfriars. It's about all the roads in London and to encourage the Mayor to start dealing with cycling properly. Wednesday 12th October, 6-7pm Blackfriars Bridge. You should be there.


  1. It's only fair ask for the most frequented bicycle routes to be of high quality, isn't it. It's never been about fighting the cars or anything else, but about balance. When the balance is skewed people loose their lives.

  2. Your pic shows two foolish cyclists with no comment from you. They should be in front of the truck, to be in driver's field of vision, or behind it, where it can't harm them. Yes, let's make London safer for cyclists, but cyclist behaviour needs to change as well as TfL policies.

  3. At least when it comes to fatalities, TfL's argument that cycling casualties in London are in decline is based on shaky evidence.

    Since 1986 the number of cyclists killed in London per year varies massively. On average, from 1986 to 2010 , 17.2 cyclists died per year.

    The average from 1986 to 1999 was 18.3 while from 2000 to 2010 it was 15.9. However, the yearly variation is huge. For example, in 2004 only 8 cyclists died. One year later the number rose to 21. The worst year as 1989 with 33 fatalities.

    All in all, the absolute numbers of dead cyclists are very small (fortunately!). Statistically this makes it almost impossible to detect any reliable medium to longterm patterns. Statisticians call this the “law of small numbers“.

    A recent academic paper by Andrei Morgan et al. ( “Deaths of cyclists in london: trends from 1992 to 2006“) puts it this way " … the number of cyclists killed in London remains small, meaning that even if trends were present, they may not have been detected."

    Take care,

  4. I share your opinion that this is no longer about just Blackfriars bridge but all of roads in London!

  5. Anon. Your comment "Your pic shows two foolish cyclists with no comment from you. They should be in front of the truck, to be in driver's field of vision, or behind it, where it can't harm them. Yes, let's make London safer for cyclists, but cyclist behaviour needs to change as well as TfL policies."

    The cyclists were there, in at the stop line when I took this picture. The driver of the HGV drove up to the stop line, putting the cyclists in that position. Whose behaviour do you think should have changed at that point?

    Should we all cycle in the middle of the carriageway do you think?

  6. I'm guessing that pictures of Oxford Circus, with the narrow single lane and no ASL, its exactly the same design as the horrible junction outside Lambeth Townhall in Brixton and the soon to be even more awful Blackfriars bridge.

    It wouldn't take much with some paint and an extra bicycle traffic light phase to make these junctions substantially better, but as they are now they are lethal. I'm left with the only reasonable assumption that TFL are playing some kind of anti cycling game to discredit Boris Johnson. There's just no other reasonable explanation for their utter contempt of people trying to cycle around London.

  7. I think that everyone who studies road casualty stats knows that it is irresponsible to draw conclusions from one year's numbers, especially for small numbers such as cyclist fatalities or casualties in a single borough. As horrific as this years death's have been TfL is correct to say that the rate of casualties and fatalities is declining considering the 150% rise in cycling.

    The four recent deaths in the immediate area of KingsX StPancras does show up a massive failure in transport planning. Transport for London does not have full responsibility when major rail projects disrupt our streets. When CTRL rebuilt St.Pancras their out-of-London transport planners refused to consult with cycling groups about the disastrous road layout they designed. There was (and still is) scope for a quiet east west route under the tracks at St.Pancras and over the tracks at Kings X where there used to be a bridge.

    As well as the mess around Blackfriars, Network Rail is planning to block all the minor road links when they rebuild London Bridge Station

  8. How will we ever encourage families, the less confident and less fit that cycling is safe? Not while the car has priority in planning legislation. Failure of imagination means London is trapped in gridlock. Check out Cycling Embassy of GB for the way forward, LCC

  9. @cyclists in the city "Should we all cycle in the middle of the carriageway do you think?" Yes, if that is what it takes to stay safe.

    Lurking in the gutter like those two, so they can nonchalantly prop their foot on the kerb - they're inviting a motor vehicle to come up and overtake them. I mean, seriously, what were you expecting the truck driver to do here, when the cyclists have pulled over so far to the left?

    I am not saying London roads are great for cyclists, they aren't. But even in our most ambitious campaigning, surely we aren't asking for segregated cycle lanes and special cycle facilities at every single stop light in the whole of London? And even if we are, what should we do in the meantime? Shouting at TfL may relieve our feelings but it doesn't get me to work any easier.

    I am sure even in the Netherlands and Copenhagen there are times where cyclists have to just mix it in with other traffic? So what do they do? Surely even in the most perfect cycling city there comes a point where you have to take responsibility for your own safety and adopt a more defensive style of riding to minimise your risk. Not every cycling accident in London is TfL's fault.

    1. What they certainly would not have to do in Holland or Denmark is share the lane with lorries. And when separated bike lanes don't exist, it's because the volumes of cars are so low (such as in neighborhood streets that dead-end or have no-thru traffic for cars), and/or the speeds are so low it's not necessary (30 kph). Usually these streets would have both because you need both for it to be pleasant and safe.

      I read about people comparing apples and oranges all the time when they try to say that not all roads in Holland have separated bike lanes. And so that must mean that we're (the US) not doing so bad right? They couldn't be more wrong. The main street in my city of Tallahassee (Tennessee St; doesn't even have painted bike lanes) has 6 traffic lanes (7 including left turn lanes at junctions) receives more than 50,000 cars per working day and has speed limits as high as 45 mph towards the edges of the city. Hardly the same as a dead-end street with 18.5 mph speed limit and maybe one or two hundred cars per day.

      I won't even consider giving anyone a "nice try" for attempting to pull this comparison off.