Wednesday, 30 November 2011

City of London and TfL - winding up motor drivers by turning you into a speed hump on your bike. New schemes designed to 'benefit' people on bikes fail drivers and cyclists

Going to school - One reason cycling infrastructure
needs space (although note car parked
in bike lane in distance)
Last week, I met with some people at the City of London to see what they're up to in terms of things cycling-related.

What struck me during that meeting was just how little is going on.

First the good news. As I posted last week, budget has been found to open up some streets to two-way cycling. There will also be some new on-street cycle parking which should be announced soon.

One very big piece of news is that the City has secured commitment from Transport for London (again) to review (also again) whether it's possible to remove Aldgate gyratory and make this a two-way environment (again). Let's see what happens.

Less encouragingly, we talked about Cheapside - the street that runs from Bank to St Paul's and about St Paul's Churchyard which runs east from Fleet Street and along the southern side of the cathedral.

A year ago, the City embarked on schemes to make these better places to walk. It has widened the pavements and removed a lot of space from the road.

Police biker stuck in the motor traffic flow.
The problem? The motor traffic doesn't flow. You're
basically stuck surrounded by belching buses

My own view is that the schemes are a disaster for cycling. Anecdotally, I sense that cycling numbers along these roads have also decreased since the changes. I asked people on twitter what they felt about the new Cheapside. Here's what people said:

  • "It's meant to slow down cars. But the taxis don't slow down or stop for pedestrians"
  • "Better for pedestrians, worse for cyclists. Narrow & pinchpoints. See few cyclists here now!"
  • "Worse. Traffic moves slowly. You have to hold primary [road position] which aggravates motorists"
  • "It's deluded. For pedestrians much better. For cycling - a nightmare"
  • "Endured months of diversions assuming it would be better when finished & now it's almost unridable"
£3million pounds+ spent on this road scheme and it's clearly failed to 'greatly benefit cyclists'

Why's that?

Firstly, the roads are now so narrow, that motor vehicles can't really get past people on bikes. And vice versa.  

That means you're either stuck between buses or you have to overtake by crossing the middle of the road. Which is also largely impossible, because the motor traffic on the other side is stuck in a queue as well. Scenes like this one (above) are typical. Person on bike stuck in the middle of motor traffic going nowhere. Fabulous.

New Cheapside exta narrow road layout
Note how close the van is to the guy on his bike

The other clincher is the addition of new pinch points, particularly on Cheapside. Motor vehicles try to overtake you between the pinch-points, then realise there's not enough room, then slam in behind you or literally scrape past you. Just like the bloke driving this van is doing as he buzzes the guy cycling in this picture on the left.

What really gets me is that several people at the City of London told me quite proudly how all of this would work so well for cycling, how it would make people's journeys quicker on buses, how it would be a much nicer street to walk along. Why? They were certain that the re-design of the junction at the St Paul's end of Cheapside would encourage motor drivers to avoid using Cheapside as they are now directed away from the street. That junction is certainly far nicer to cross on foot now than it was. But it's had absolutely no effect in terms of intervening to reduce the numbers of motor vehicles using the street.

Revealingly, the Department for Transport issued a report by the consultancy TRL this week that looked at ways to make the road infrastructure safer for people on bikes.

Much of the bicycling press seized on the report's conclusion that reducing posted speed limits is the primary way to reduce cycle collisions. And one of the key aims of both the Cheapside and St Paul's schemes was to slow motor traffic. But what's happened is that you now have even bigger queues of belching traffic going nowhere. And, yes, I suspect collisions with cyclists will decrease. But that's only because people are avoiding having to try and squeeze down these narrow roads, especially when they're stacked with buses and lorries just idling there and there's no way to get past them.

Now for the really gloomy news.

There's even more of this road-narrowing planned. I haven't seen the detailed concepts yet but both Cannon Street and Fleet Street are under review.

In other words, it will be almost entirely impossible to cycle from east to west through the City during the day when the high motor traffic volumes mean nothing is moving. You'll just have to sit there soaking up the exhaust fumes and looking at the extra wide pavements. Would you fancy cycling with your five-year old along those sorts of roads on your way to or through the City? No? I thought not.

As one commentator has added below, this is coming all over London. You can see the plans for Tottenham Court Road on this site here. Same terrifying use-people-on-bikes-to-wind-up-people-in-motor-vehicles road design. In essence, see that picture of a five-year old at the top of the page? The current fad in urban road design is to place that five year old on a newly-narrowed road; have buses overtake her giving a few centimetres of space (because that's all the space that's left); encourage her to get to the front of the queue in a bike lane and advanced stop line; wind up the bus and taxi drivers behind her (quite understandably); who then overtake her even more closely because they (quite fairly) feel just as frustrated by the whole thing as the person on the bike. It's not only dangerous, it defies common sense.
That report I mentioned by the Department of Transport is a very confused piece of thinking. However, it gets one thing right. Road infrastructure should be designed 'using a behavioural-based approach'.

I think the behaviour that has been applied by the designers of Cheapside, Tottenham Court Road and St Paul's Churchyard is unbelievably poor. Their understanding of road user behaviour is to use children, old people, commuters on bikes as devices to slow down other people in motor vehicles. This is wrong for people on bikes and it's just as wrong for people in cars. It's like a trick - wind up the motorist by putting the cyclist in a sort of dodgems game. It slows down the road, yes. But it massively winds up motorists and makes cycling dangerous and difficult when it shouldn't be. Frankly, I don't see why I should be a dodgem car when I'm on a bike.

Friday, 25 November 2011

More streets going two-way for cycling in the City of London. Shame about the main routes, though

The City of London people confirmed today that a batch of new streets will be going two-way for cycling from late January. I've mapped them to give more of an idea where the are. You can scroll around the map above to see the locations of the new two-way streets.

Essentially, some of these will open up handy new routes to avoid a few nasty junctions.

  • Carter Lane will now be two-way for cycling along its entire length. This allows people to avoid a nasty and congested stretch along St Paul's Churchyard / Ludgate Hill and to get to and from Blackfriars Bridge avoiding Farringdon Street. 

  • Opening up Watergate means you can head towards the north west as soon as you get off the Blackfriars northern junction and slip through back roads up to Fleet Street.

  • Probably best of all is Stoney Lane near Aldgate which allows a (slightly convoluted) route through the back streets from Fenchurch Street up towards Spitalfields, avoiding Aldgate gyratory.

  • Also news (to me at least) is Bunhill Row. Not in the City of London itself but in Islington. This streets is an obvious north-south route for people coming from north of Old Street. According to people in the City, this will be going two-way for cycling some time in early 2012.

A further five City streets have been approved to become two-way, subject to funding.

That's all good news. But doesn't take away from the fact that several main routes have been made considerably worse for cycling in recent months. The newly-narrowed carriageway in Cheapside and along St Paul's Churchyard makes for fairly nasty and dangerous cycling conditions. During the day, these are rammed with motor traffic crawling along. And the only way to get through this on a bike is to either just sit there in the middle of the fumes or to overtake, essentially on the opposite side of the street.

I think Cheapside has been a disaster for cycling. It was billed as being all about improving conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. It has been a boon for pedestrians. It's considerably worse for cycling. More to follow.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

In 2008, the Mayor promised 'a London where children & adults cycle and walk to school or work and feel safe to do so'. Today he announced a review of his cycle strategy. Can London's cyclists trust him?

Can cyclists trust Boris Johnson to
make this sort of thing normal?
"The Mayor of London has met with the family of Brian Dorling, a cyclist killed in east London on October 24, and expressed his condolences for their loss."

So starts today's press release from the Mayor's office which continues to announce the following initiatives:

a) Immediate review of all major schemes planned on TfL roads and all junctions on the existing Cycle Superhighways. That review will look at all options for ensuring that the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and all road users remains paramount. Bow roundabout will be studied first with results available 'within weeks' - remaining junctions by the spring.

b) Reviews of construction industry vehicles and various marketing campaigns focussing on road safety.

c) The development of these initiatives will seek the input of a wide range of stakeholders, including the construction and haulage industries, cycling groups and local representatives from across the capital.

Hmm, say I.

There's lots of promise in this release. But as I mentioned last week, so much of this 'review' has already happened. For over six years, Transport for London consulted - through a number of expensive consulting firms - with thousands of cyclists and other 'stakeholders' about every single main junction in London. There's a massive database of the stuff. You can go and look at it yourself here. 

However, as I mentioned last week, Transport for London has so far ignored that vast amount of research and there's very little evidence of it being taken into account at any of London's major junctions.

Fancy joining this cycling here with your kids?
Cycle Superhighway coming right here soon!
It is significant that the Mayor acknowledges something needs to be done. And good on him for putting this on the agenda. This being politics, I can't help but notice the 'review' won't finish until the spring - ie just in time for the Mayoral elections.

In other words, I sense that London cyclists are at last on the political map. And staying there.

However what really isn't clear to me is what any of this means. What is a 'review' exactly? Who does the 'reviewing'? Will it be the same people who designed many of these schemes in the first place or will it be people with any empathy at all for cycling and walking? Will it be people who might actually ever cycle through these junctions? When I met one of the TfL officials responsible for the original (slightly modified since) Blackfriars, she was genuinely stunned that I felt her scheme was a complete betrayal of pedestrians and people on bikes.

In other words, I'm not sure if we can trust this development.

What I will be watching is Bow roundabout. Bow is the first junction to undergo review and something is supposed to happen 'within weeks'. I think Transport for London needs to show it is prepared to implement radical changes at Bow. That junction must not simply be 'reviewed' but the changes must be implemented. And fast.

I believe that cyclists are looking for a watershed from Transport for London and the Mayor.

A few weeks ago, the Mayor described Elephant & Castle roundabout as a place that anyone could cycle through provided they 'kept their wits about them'. Frankly, that isn't good enough. 

TfL board member and an LBC radio presenter told the Mayor quite publicly that his attitude to cycling at Elephant was wrong 

What I feel needs to change is an attitude from the Mayor's office and from Transport for London that assumes normal, everyday people are happy to fling themselves on bicycles across multiple lanes of fast-moving motor traffic. They need to feel they are able to use Cycle Superhighways safely not just from 7-10am when the bus lanes operate but at night, on the way home from shifts at the hospital. They need junctions that look and feel sensible to cycle through. And they need to be able to feel they can cycle with their kids. So many people have contacted me saying they wish they could have joined the recent Tour du Danger but were worried about cycling in London with children. I think it's terribly sad London has evolved into a place where you can't feel safe on the street with your kids. 

Green Party mayoral candidate Jenny Jones has made some extremely clear points about the way the Mayor is designing London's roads:

"If I was in charge of the transport system and I told my engineers to design roads that speed motorists along at the expense of pedestrians or cyclists, then that is different. People can die and do." She hits the nail on the head. This is exactly what local bloggers in Bow like DiamondGeezer are quite rightly furious with the Mayor for rendering it impossible to safely cross the road at Bow roundabout.

Jenny Jones continues by pointing out elsewhere: "The Mayor...wants roads that are safe for him to cycle around. In contrast, I am an experienced cyclist who wants roads that are safe for a twelve year old to cycle on. That is the gulf between us."

Please no more of this. It's insulting. It's a
death trap. It's not necessary. 
And that's the thing. This could and should be a debate about what sort of London we want to live in. Do we want a London where people are designed out of the streets so that more and more motor traffic can pump through the network? Or do we want people to feel they can choose quite happily to just get on a bike or walk. Remember that TfL admits roughly 50% of all car journeys in outer London are under two miles. People are driving because it's just easier and feels safer. We have to choose if we want to go on with crap air quality, crap congestion, crap petrol costs. Or if we want the Mayor to give us a choice.

Remember, this is the Mayor who scrapped the pedestrian and cyclist bridge over the Thames. This is also the Mayor that scrapped plans to turn Whitechapel High Street (part of the Olympic Cycle Superhighway) into a calmer High Street with space for cycling. The same Mayor that scrapped plans to make Parliament Square calmer and safer by closing one side to motor vehicles. The same Mayor that allowed Transport for London to ignore its own long-standing commitment to making Blackfriars junction safer.

And even more importantly, this is the Mayor who first launched the Cycle Superhighway scheme shortly after he sold Londoners a vision of: "a London where  children and adults cycle and walk to school or work and feel safe to do so." Sounds similar to the language of Jenny Jones, doesn't it? Except in reality, when he had to nail his colours to the mast, Boris Johnson actually told those children to man up and just fling themselves around Elephant roundabout. Err, I think not.

This is the Mayor who completely ignored the early warning signs. Back in summer 2010, The Telegraph's Andrew Gilligan was saying this about Cycle Superhighway 7: "the route is pointless, verging at some places on the dangerous". Same story repeated all over again.

What this comes down to is whether or not you can trust the Mayor to come good on this review. Bow is his first chance to get it right and to undo the massive amount of damage I think he has done in recent weeks. It had better be a bloody good review. And an even better commitment to deliver. And there needs to be tangible evidence of more to come. At Blackfriars, for example. And at Oval. All places where cyclists have been killed in the name of faster motor traffic.

He promised last time. And he massively under-delivered. This time, his review will be complete by the spring. But he has to show delivery at Bow and elsewhere in London before the spring. Otherwise it's just more empty promises.


Monday, 21 November 2011

Bow roundabout deaths of people on bikes: Is another major London property developer going to come out against the Mayor's transport plans? Time for big business to start making itself heard

Cycling to London Olympics? - this is end of the route
Last week, hundreds of people including the local London Assembly Member John Biggs congregated at the Bow Roundabout to pay their respects to two people killed, in my view, entirely needlessly by poor road engineering schemes. Cycle Superhighway schemes that entice cyclists into feeling they have a safe cycle lane but are in fact, nothing of the sort.

The site of these latest deaths is immediately next to an area scheduled for redevelopment - Strand East - announced with much funfare last month.

Pictured left, an image taken from Gehl Architects - the firm that will design the master plan for Strand East, a redevelopment owned by LandProp - a division of Ikea Group. Gehl is well-known to many people who use bikes. He is a passionate advocate of improving the quality of urban living by 'orienting city design towards the pedestrian and cyclist' and his thinking is absolutely spot-on.

Ikea has hired Gehl here to create an urban master plan that will 'open up non-motorised transport infrastructure'.

Various sources have told me that LandProp (the company that is building the site) is less than pleased with the Mayor about Bow roundabout. For several months, apparently, the developers have been trying to shake Transport for London into doing something about the lack of safe cycling facilities, the utter lack of pedestrian crossings and the insane motorway-like conditions of the High Street along here. In other words, here is a developer preparing to put massive investment into the area immediately next to Bow roundabout and to make this a decent, liveable urban environment. Yet, from what I can tell, the Mayor's insane 'smoothing the traffic flow' strategy means their requests are all in vain and this simply won't ever be a safe place for people to live, for people to cross the road or cycle into town or into Stratford.

Is the Mayor encouraging good urban property development here and then undermining it with a transport strategy that will completely undo the cycling and pedestrian-friendly nature of the Strand East development? I think so.

Bow roundabout is a disgrace.

Following two completely unnecessary deaths in the last few weeks, the Mayor has finally been prodded into action. He has insisted on a review of the roundabout scheme and on all the Cycle Superhighway junctions to report back this week.

Spot the bike lane? Under the lorry!
The fact is that he doesn't need a review. The issue is very simple. The Mayor has two transport strategies. a) 'Smoothing the traffic flow' and b) the 'cycling revolution'. Almost all the money is spent on the former and should the two strategies ever come into conflict, then 'smoothing the traffic flow' always wins. His conflicting strategies mean that people on bikes or pedestrians are shoed into major road schemes as a kind of after-thought. This explains why the Mayor is allowing Transport for London to build Cycle Superhighways with death-trap junctions like Bow, or like this one at Southwark Bridge Road.

This also explains why the Mayor's road engineers consistently ignore recommendations from their consultants to make junctions safer. They ignored the road engineers completely at Blackfriars, they ignored the recommendations to make cycling safer at Kings Cross, and they ignored the consultants who recommended schemes to make Bow roundabout safer. They are about to embark on insanely dangerous road schemes at Vauxhall, Victoria, Peckham and all over London along new and utterly compromised Cycle Superhighway schemes.

I think it's time that some of London's property developers came out in public and criticised the Mayor's road policies more openly.

I wrote a few months ago about another property developer - in the City of London. This company owns some of the most iconic real estate in the world. This is what that developer had to say about the seven lane-wide section of Farringdon Road where it has recently finished a new office development.

Letter from significant global real estate developer to Transport for London about Farringdon Road:

"Any cyclists find this red route an intimidating and unpleasant environment along which to cycle as the wider-than-average street and multiple lanes encourage drivers to drive at high speeds....We consider that a redesign of Farringdon Street is necessary to order to provide a more attractive cycle friendly environment".

But the Mayor isn't listening. Last week, after Mayor's Question Time, the BackBoris2012 team continued to put out press releases via email and twitter about how great it is that the Mayor is both re-phasing and removing traffic lights so that motor vehicles can get about more easily. That policy is just one reason that people are being killed at places like Bow and Kings Cross.

It is a policy shared entirely with Transport for London. In TfL's Draft Network Operating Strategy, the road authority is very proud that it is removing safe places to cross the road. Directly opposite one new development of several hundred flats, TfL is delighted that "A proposal for a new pedestrian crossing was dropped by the developer after being persuaded by TfL that pedestrian demand was more than adequately met at two nearby junctions". In other words, build hundreds of new homes but don't provide anywhere for those new people to cross the road. They'll have to drive.

The Mayor is letting Transport for London design people out of London.

The roads are being designed for maximum throughput of motor vehicles. He's not listening to cyclists. He's not listening to pedestrians. He's not even listening to massive global real estate developers.

Jan Gehl and Ikea Group are going to have to shout very loudly to get their masterplan to work in London. Because it seems the Mayor is encouraging developers to build a city where people walk and cycle. But he's allowing his transport strategy to build completely the opposite - a city of motorways, where you can't cross the road, where you can't cycle with your kids.

This week's review of the Cycle Superhighway junctions had better be bloody good. And it had better have teeth. Otherwise it might not just be people who bike who start revolting.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Result! Mayor tells TfL to review ALL cycle super highways and major cycle routes on its roads and report back. Now the work really begins

Cycle Super Highway or car park?
Word hot off the press according to BBC journalist Tom Edwards - author of several hard-hitting reports about the rapid increase in people being killed out on bikes - is that the Mayor has said Transport for London will 'review all major schemes on Tfl roads and review safety on all superhighways Inc bow & report back as matter of urgency'.

About bloody time.

I am writing this before we've seen the Mayor's statement.

Several of the junctions on Boris's Cycle Superhighways and the roads that link them are a bloody disgrace. You shouldn't have to try and bomb down an A-road on a 1.5metre wide strip of 'advisory cycle lane' (ie some dotted white lines) between three lanes of fast-moving motor traffic. It's just plain wrong and is a situation that doesn't exist in any other civilised city.

As the London Cycling Campaign rightly points out, the Mayor needs to force Transport for London to actually look at its roads and think how would cyclists use this. For too long, cyclists have been fobbed off with transport engineers talking to them about the models or the traffic flow strategy don't support safe places for cycling. It's not about traffic flow. It's about how individuals act when they cycle (or how they are too afraid to cycle in the first place).

If the Mayor's call for a full review by Transport for London focusses exclusively on traffic flows and on computer models and does not take into account the behaviour of people on bikes, it's as good as pointless.

Transport for London already knows what people on bikes think about its roads. For years, it asked hundreds of people to spend their days working with it to create a massive database of each and every main route. It dragged hundreds of cycling people along those main roads and wrote everything down, paying consultants millions of pounds to write reports about how cyclists look at every junction and every bit of street.

One such report is this one dating from 2004 - a report close to my heart. It is the report on Blackfriars junction that recommends either a) modify the layout to enchance cycle provision and provide better pedestrian crossings or b) significant realignment of the road. Seven years later when that scheme came to be funded as part of the scheme for a new station at Blackfriars, no one looked at these reports.  There are hundreds of such reports covering all parts of TfL's road network and you can download them here. In other words, millions spent and everyone knew the problems, everyone knew how to solve them. And despite that fact, Transport for London still went ahead and is now implementing a scheme at Blackfriars that marginalises people on bikes or people who want to cross the road.

Transport for London has already engaged with people about biking around London. And from what I can tell it has ignored those findings.

Spot the cycle super highway. This is what it looks
like at Chelsea Bridge most of the time
The London Cycling Campaign points out that Transport for London ignored recommendations from its own advisors Jacobs Consultancy at Bow roundabout that recommended traffic signals specifically for cyclists and pedestrians (toucan crossings) and separate cycle tracks should be installed.

Tonight there is a vigil taking place at Bow roundabout to mourn the loss of two people on bikes. Two people killed - in my view - by negligent engineering.

The Mayor has stated again and again in the last couple of weeks that he believes road engineering is not the answer to making London's streets safer or to making London a place where every day people just get on bikes and get about doing normal things on bikes.

I fundamentally disagree with almost everything the Mayor has uttered on this topic in recent weeks.

We have yet to see what the wording of this review will contain. But it must distance itself from the Mayor's recent comments and must show that the Mayor really does take his responsibilities seriously. He wants a cycling revolution. He needs to tell Transport for London to make junctions and main TfL roads safe to cycle through and he needs that to be achieved from the perspective of people on bikes.

The evidence is all around him. TfL knows what it has to do. The question is whether TfL's review will just be a sop to the Mayor or whether they Mayor is really going to give TfL enough direction to make safe space for cycling and that he will insist on a minimum set of principles.

The London Cycling Campaign is completely bang on the message here: Everyone who cycles on London's roads should expect their journey to be safe, enjoyable and convenient .

No-one expects magic to happen overnight. But we need the Mayor to tell Transport for London to lay down some absolutel minimum standards - such as not having to cycle across five lanes of motor traffic to reach the Super Highway lane and not having to weave between multiple lanes to turn right at Blackfriars. And he should ask the Met to back that up by policing the menace of speeding, driving on mobiles and driving without licences.

This review is a crucial chance for London to get it right. It is also a crucial chance for the Mayor to show he means business. And I, for one, hope he pulls his punches. If he fails, his reputation will be mud.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

National embarrassment: TfL builds cycle lane to Olympics. Two people killed already. Tells cyclists not to use it.

This video shows the cycle route to the Olympics from start to finish. Bear in mind, this looks like a Sunday when the bus lane is in operation (only six hours a day) and that on most days the road is considerably busier than this. Mid-week or outside the bus lane times (ie most of the time), both lanes are packed with motor traffic, parked cars, a lot of HGVs. Most of the time you're not protected by a bus lane in any case and the Super Highway is just some blue paint. There are some massive junctions on this route with no space given to cycling. Especially towards the end of the video, you can see just how much spare space there is to create a safe junction for people on bikes at Bow. At the London Cycling Campaign AGM last night the people who met with Transport for London officials to survey the route when it was planned said that Transport for London had agreed then and there to build radically safer space for cyclists to get through these junctions. For some reason, TfL then chose not to implement those designs and built something on the cheap instead. No-one really knows why.

Leon Daniels, the man who is in charge of London's roads thinks this is the way that families and visitors should travel to the Olympics. On his blog, he quotes information that has been parroted elsewhere by Transport for London: "One of my correspondents stated recently that there is no provision for cyclists at the Olympic Games. This is not true!"

The best definition I have seen of the route to the Olympics is by a woman who cycles the route regularly: "If I were either the Mayor of London or Barclays, I would be absolutely furious, utterly livid, at what is being done to cyclists in my name."

Let's just be clear, this is a route that has killed two people on their bikes in the last few weeks.

Olympic cycle route - pic courtesy
London Cycling Campaign
This isn't rocket science. As the London Cycling Campaign points out, there are two main routes for people to get to and from the Olympics by bicycle:

One option is along the Cycle Super Highway pictured left, underneath the left turning lorry. There is masses of space here for alternative solutions - for a bike route that isn't shared with lorries for example. It wouldn't even require the removal of any road space from motor vehicles (and by the way, this identical design with an identical left hand turn for lorries is about to be installed on Vauxhall gyratory)

Alternative route suggested by TfL?
pic courtesy London Cycling Campaign
The other option is to head over the flyover, pictured left.

As the London Cycling Campaign makes very clear, in a civilised city, neither of these options is acceptable.

The Cycle Super Highway scheme that has been  implemented here by Transport for London is killing people. The situation is so bad that TfL director Ben Plowden has promised to look "very closely" at the cycling superhighway which ran through the Bow Roundabout.

He also said cyclists would be advised to avoid the route, which runs to the Olympic Park, during next year's Games.

Get that?

Transport for London has spent millions building an impossibly dangerous bicycle route for families and visitors to cycle to the Olympics. And a Transport for London director is now telling people not to use it, only months after it opened.

The thing is, the only other routes which avoid it are shut for the Olympic works.

Frankly, it's a bloody disgrace. The Olympics are meant to leave a legacy to London. Transport for London could have built a proper, wide, safe cycle route along this road. There is tonnes and tonnes of space to do that. But it chose not to. I feel it chose to build a bike lane on the cheap so as not to interfere with its agenda of 'smoothing traffic flow' for motor vehicles. 

Let's just put that in perspective. Here is another video from a cyclist going around Bow roundabout.

The fundamental problem is that TfL et al. want us to cycle and walk more - but are not prepared to compromise traffic flow in order to help us do this."

Paris has an entire cycle network that criss-crosses the entire city from end to end. It looks like this.

One bigger routes, the cycle paths are significantly wider. I'm not saying London cycle paths should look identical to this. And Paris is not cycling perfection. But it's building a hguely different cycle and street culture to London. Paris has built something that says this-is-designed-for-safe-easy-cycling all over it. London's Cycle Super Highways say this-is-designed-for-cars-and-you-cyclists-can-just-fit-in-and-try-not-to-get-killed.

Very different.

Paris was a contender for the Olympics. Do you think you would have been able to cycle safely to a Paris Olympics?

I think I'd much rather take my car to the Olympics in London thanks.

What you've built out to Bow, Boris Johnson, is a national disgrace. It should have been built properly and you should have made sure of that.

If you want to see a blistering review of just how much space there is for cycle infrastructure and just how TfL has completely and utterly ballsed it up, have a look at this blog as well.  For a more measured and balanced view from the excellent local diamondgeezer blog, see this piece.

There will be vigil this Friday at Bow roundabout in memory of the two cyclists killed there in recent weeks. Click here for more information.

The London Cycling Campaign is petitioning the Mayor to sort Bow junction properly. It takes 20 seconds to send your petition. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

More than 1,000 cyclists. The Tour du Danger 2: Saturday March 17 - To the Olympics with our families and friends. As that's the only way this route will ever feel safe enough for most of them

Cycle Super Highway - same killer design
coming to a junction near you
Last weekend hundreds of Londoners took to their bikes and cycled through London to protest for safer roads. The turnout was amazing.

I've written my review of the ride here and ibikelondon has masses of pictures and a fabulous description on his site here.

Since the ride, there has been a palpable sense of expectation in the air:

Today, the Evening Standard reported: "There has been a growing sense among cyclists over the past few months that the Mayor's cycling revolution is running out of road."

In response to recent deaths on the cycle superhighway at Bow, there are signs that Transport for London is at last starting to listen (it should have but didn't listen a year ago when it was warned in formal consultation about the junction). The Mayor's office has confirmed a 'review' of this junction - a place with no pedestrian crossings and with plenty of space to create safe passage for cycling - and that there may be changes made before the Olympics. (Although it has also told cyclists to 'avoid' the area - impossible if you live there and can you just imagine the hell that would be raised if TfL told people they couldn't drive at Bow?)

On Saturday, former conservative mayoral candidate and board member of Transport for London Steven Norris presented a programme on LBC radio where he rejected the Mayor's suggestion that the Elephant was 'just fine' to cycle around provided 'you keep your wits about you' and made clear that "the Elephant is clearly not safe enough...the one thing that puts people off cycling is that they say 'it's not safe enough'"

Iain Dale, broadcaster on LBC radio and blogger also chimed in. We discussed cycling safety on twitter and he followed up by writing a comment to me on this blog: "After 20 years of not cycling I now use a Boris bike several times a week and enjoy the experience very much. I think London has made huge strides in becoming much more friendly to cyclists, but clearly more can be done....I doubt whether any junction like [Elephant] can be made totaly safe, but you are right, those statistics speak for themselves and show that something must be done."

Dale's other comment was this:

"The only political point I would make is that sometimes it would be nice if people acknowledged that Boris Johnson has done far more to promote cycling in London than any other politician has ever done. You can't reverse 50 years of more or less ignoring cyclging in 3 years, but the introduction of the cycle hire scheme, the super highways and other lanes are surely things we can all welcome."

Fair enough. Some of those may or may not have been Ken's ideas. But that's not what worries me at the moment.
Road narrowing. In vogue among London councils.
Totally destroys cycle routes
What worries me is that there is something deeply wrong going on at Transport for London. TfL has been warned again and again - in formal consultations, through informal means (three mass protests on Blackfriars Bridge with 2,500 people on bikes on the most recent ride, hundreds and hundreds of people writing to them), through votes in the London Assembly, through petitions from London Assembly Members - that its road policies are killing people unnecessarily. And yet it still seems plough on regardless.

Whether that's junctions like this one pictured left (Oxford Circus) where the road space is narrowed, putting cyclists directly in harm's way (same goes for Piccadilly - a brand new scheme - or for Tottenham Court Road, which is about to be designed like this as well).

Cycle route on cramped pedestrian crossing.
How to wind up pedestrians and create
a false 'war' between people on bikes & on foot
Or whether that's places like Vauxhall gyratory pictured left. Believe it or not, the cycle route is through the pedestrian crossing. There's barely enough space for pedestrians between the barriers let alone people on bikes. And yet there's actually tonnes of spare space here. It's simply that Transport for London thinks all that space should be given to motor vehicles not to pedestrians or people on bikes.

A lot of focus has fallen this week on Bow roundabout. But the problems are not just at Bow roundabout. A few weeks ago, the focus was on Kings Cross - scene of multiple collisions that have killed cyclists over the last three years. A few weeks before that, the focus was at Elephant & Castle, where the Mayor is refusing a scheme he had earlier supported and that would civilise the area for pedestrians, tube passengers and cyclists. This is a place with one cyclist killed and 89 seriously injured between 2008 - 10. That simply isn't right.

My point is the same as that made by a woman who cycles Cycle Super Highway 2 every day:

"It is lethal....I should not be arriving at my destination mentally saying “hurrah! I’m not dead!” And the worst bit of it is not that’s it’s dangerous, but, as someone said on Twitter last night, “it’s dangerous and it pretends not to be.”

The same goes for Clapham Road (Super Highway 7), Elephant & Castle (Super Highway 7), Blackfriars Bridge (no Super Highway), the entire stretch of Super Highway 2, almost all of Super Highway 8 down to Wandsworth, except for the short stretch along the river.

We've spent less than 0.03% a year of London's annual transport budget making London a safe place to cycle. And even then, much of that money has been blown on advertising campaigns that help no one rather than infrastructure.

First requirement - Allocate more of London's road spending to include cycling. And second requirement - allocate it properly. Don't pass off utter crap like Super Highway 2 or like the plans for a new Tottenham Court Road as being about cycling. They're not. They're about trying to throw a few bits towards cycling while making life generally worse for motorists as well. Nearly 50% of road journeys in London by car are under two miles. It's time we gave people the option to look at their journey and think, 'yup, that looks safe enough, I might take the bike instead'. It's just a bicycle.

And that is why I suggest we go back and we hold a second Tour du Danger. And this one will be bigger. Saturday March 17 we should ride from central London to the Olympics. I say 'I suggest it' but actually, I include Mark of ibikelondon blog in that and Charlie of Kennington People on Bikes. Plus support, so far from several members of the local branches of the London Cycling Campaign including Camden, Lambeth, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Southwark. I hope many many more bloggers, campaigners and, frankly, just all sorts of people will join us. (and in the meantime, please think about joining the London Cycling Campaign. Behind the scenes they have been doing amazing work to support and advise us without getting fed up with us for being complete pests. We're going to need a more formal body with enough members to stand up and be counted and LCC is making all the right noises)

Jenny Jones made this point: "I am an experienced cyclist who wants roads that are safe for a twelve year old to cycle on." The Cycle Super Highway to the Olympics is one that Transport for London thinks should be friendly for families who want to get to the Games. It's not. It's a bloody disgrace. But this ride will be family-friendly and safe for everyone if we get 1,000 of us to ride out there together.

So that's the aim. 1,000 people to cycle to the Olympics. Together. Because it's too scary for most people to do it any other way.

When I started this blog I said I would remain non party-political. And I hope I've managed that. This isn't about being anti-Boris. This is about asking him to tell Transport for London to make cycle routes that are safe enough for a 12 year old. Anything less is a failure in my book.

Saturday March 17th. Tour du Danger 2. From central London to the Olympics. I hope we'll make 1,000 of us. But we may be more. I'm doing this for my sister, her kids and for the many, many people who have contacted me to say they think it's time London became a place for their kids to cycle again.

More details soon from Cyclists in the City, from ibikelondon and from Kennington People on Bikes. With the full support of many of the marshalls and borough groups of the London Cycling Campaign who backed us for the ride last week.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Transport for London and road safety for pedestrians and cyclists - A personal note to Conservative London Assembly Member Richard Tracey

View Larger Map

Richard Tracey, Conservative member of the London Assembly was one of several London politicians asking Transport for London about cycling safety last week.

His contribution to the discussion was to ask Leon Daniels, head of surface transport - the man responsible for London's roads - this one question about the roundabout pictured above.

"It has already been touched on by colleagues about the relative safety of the pedestrians, and indeed young mothers and fathers pushing buggies, against those of cyclists. I have actually got one case on Cycle Superhighway 8 in my constituency where the flow of cycles going both ways, north and south, are on a pavement which really leaves very little space for pedestrians. In a situation like that - it has been put in and it is proving to be really very hazardous - is there some opportunity to change that? Do you come back and review the thing and can you change it? Can I give some hope to my residents that that will actually be changed to make it safe for them to walk there?"

I don't think he's wrong to ask the question. And he's actually correct about the narrow width of the pavement. But I do think the man has an obsession with this one issue. I have seen a lot of Richard Tracey's correspondence wtih 'his' residents. Every single time, he brings up the same issue.

The bigger point, though, is this: The roundabout in question is pictured above. It is the end of Prince of Wales Drive. Mr Tracey is so upset about the design of the Cycle Super highway on this roundabout that he has asked Leon Daniels specifically to trog out and come and see it for himself.

What I find astonishing is that Mr Tracey seems not to realise the Cycle Super Highway has changed absolutely nothing at this roundabout. The same ludicrously dangerous cycle lane has been there for well over a decade. All that's changed is the colour on the cycle track. You can see the earlier track in the google maps image above.

The issue at this roundabout is that the cycle track is completely and utterly useless. It is dangerous for pedestrians. It is extremely dangerous for cyclists. And drivers don't understand it either.

To get from Chelsea Bridge to Prince of Wales Drive using the Cycle Super Highway by bicycle you would need to cross several roads, giving way six separate times to motor traffic. The motor traffic is either queuing to get on the roundabout which means you can't physically get yourself across the road anyhow or it is speeding off the roundabout which makes it pretty dangerous to cycle directly in front of the motor traffic on to the cycle lane. As a pedestrian you face exactly the same issues. There should be proper zebra crossings here to enable pedestrians, cyclists and children to get to and from the park and around the Super Highway in safety.

The scheme is, as Mr Tracey says, way too narrow to be shared by pedestrians and cyclists. The roundabout, however, is extremely wide. And there is plenty of space to redesign it and give some space to pedestrians and cyclists. But Mr Tracey misses the point. The cycle track and the pedestrian crossings (or complete lack of them) aare dangerous for cyclists AND pedestrians. This scheme is designed to be safe and practical only for motor traffic - it is not designed for pedestrians OR cyclists.

He also misses the point in correspondence with one of 'his' residents when he says: "For the vast majority of cyclists the decision to do so is informed by a simple cost benefit analysis. Cycling to work is cheaper than any other option bar walking, it will often be quicker than the alternatives and it has the benefit of being fantastic exercise"

Pictured left, the 'car park' of a major City of London employer. Do you think these cyclists did a simple cost benefit analysis and chose to cycle because it is cheaper than walking, Mr Tracey? No, I thought not. I think you need to take a proper look at your prejudices, maybe look at some of the very solid research that Transport for London produces about who cycles in London, and then update your opinions based on fact.

Something else Mr Tracey came up with recently at an event hosted by Sustrans:
"I don’t see that smoothing the traffic should clash with cycling. Quite frankly, the point of roads is to be able to get from A to B, whether you’re on a bike, or on a bus, or in a private motorcar, or in a taxi. So it is our duty as government to make sure that there is a smooth flow – and of course cyclists are a part of that.”

Except that your job as an Assembly Member is to understand the dynamics of 'smoothing the traffic flow'. Transport for London prioritises the smooth traffic flow of motor vehicles over the smooth traffic flow of pedestrians and cyclists. It admits that is the case.

What pedestrians and cyclists both need as this junction (assuming the current road design remains) is one of these. A sodding great sign, now seen all over cities in America. 

I would have thought, Mr Tracey, that those parents with small children deserve a pedestrian crossing so they can get to the park across this roundabout without having to dart in front of motor traffic that is accelerating off the roundabout or without having to dodge idling motor vehicles trying to get on the roundabout. Cyclists should be included in that prioritisation as well.

But no. Instead of fighting for something that would benefit pedestrians, benefit children, benefit parents AND benefit cyclists, you are stirring up a phoney war between pedestrians and cyclists and basing your views on out-of -date prejudices about who these cyclists are. I think you'll find that an awful lot of those cyclists actually are the same people who are walking their children to the park at the weekends.

The real issue here, Mr Tracey, is that Transport for London is prioritising motor traffic flow over pedestrians and cyclists. What should happen here is: a) build zebra crossings so people (especially children) can get to and from the park safely on foot and on bike b) take a little bit of space away from the 3.5 lanes of motor traffic around the roundabout so there is enough room for everyone.

And let's leave aside the fact that in your statement at the Sustrans event you claim a duty as part of the government. You're part of the London Assembly, Mr Tracey, not the government. And 'your' residents, as you describe them, deserve better of you when it comes to the roads and their safety. On foot and on bicycle.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

We're doing this so that you, your children and your friends aren't the next casualties of a systemic, killer culture of laissez-faire at Transport for London.

This week I have come under a lot of pressure from people with trenchant party-political views about the work that I have been doing with Mark of ibikelondon blog and the amazing volunteers from the local branches of the London Cycling Campaign who supported and marshalled yesterday's Tour du Danger  - a tour of TfL's Top 10 Most Dangerous Junctions for Cyclists in London.


Hundreds of people came together yesterday to push the Mayor to take cycling safety seriously. As the ride went on, it grew at each junction as cyclists joined in to support us. With the exception of one idiot black cab driver on the Mall (who tried to a) overtake 400 cyclists and b) plough into a marching band) the mood was unlike any other cycling event I've ever seen. Bus drivers leaned out and supported us. Pedestrians waved, cheered and clapped us. Some motorists were outraged at having to wait an extra 60 seconds until we passed. But the overwhelming majority seemed to understand and support our message. Joanna Lumley, we thank you in particular for your support on the day. And we thank the many London Assembly politicians and Simon Hughes MP who stood with us as well.

Our key message was that we reject Boris Johnson's statement that major junctions such as Elephant & Castle are 'fine [to cycle around]...if you keep your wits about you'.

I disagree with that statement on reasons of fact: 89 serious cyclist casualties in the last 24 months at that one junction alone - a rate of almost one a week. Let's just remember what a serious casualty might look like. The woman knocked from her bike on Parliament Square three weeks ago has a broken back. I know because she tells me how she is dealing with the collision, how she is worried for her career, how she needs help for the panic attacks she is suffering. I know that Mary Bowers - the woman knocked from bicycle by an HGV on her way to work at The Times - is still in a coma.

The woman killed at Elephant two years ago was a very experienced cyclist: 'She often said that roundabout wasn't safe'. The Evening Standard pointed out "Something has to be done quickly to stop this kind of thing happening again and again." Two years later, Transport for London with support from the Mayor (it appears) is proposing to do almost nothing to change the roundabout when it re-models it soon.

Paris cycle street
Remember these are all adults. Experienced cyclists. Their 'wits' may or may not have been engaged at the time. The woman I mentioned who was knocked off at Parliament Square is bright and articulate. I suspect she had her wits fully about her when she was shot from her bicycle.

And let's remember, none of these people are children. Why's that? Well, in the view of Iain Dale - a blogger and broadcaster on LBC radio - : talking with me on twitter last night: "I wouldn't let children cycle on London roads anyway." (UPDATE: Please see Iain Dales's clarification of that comment in the comments posted below. I think he's being perfectly fair.)

The wife of Brian Dorling - the first of two cyclists killed in the last three weeks on the Cycle Super Highway at Bow commented on the BBC website last night that while watching the reconstruction at Bow roundabout, she had seen three cyclists experience near-misses. In a separate comment to a article earlier in the day, Mrs Dorling had said: “Whoever designed the superhighway on that roundabout is completely negligent,” a point she reiterated to the BBC.

London cycle street
What has surprised me this week is that I have come under pressure from a number of people for my 'political views'. A number of people who support the Mayor have accused me of being blinkered by 'my political leanings'. If only they knew what my political leanings are. But they don't.

The fact is that I am not doing any of this to be anti-Boris Johnson. Nor to be pro-Ken Livingstone. The fact is that this is above party politics.

The dangers that cyclists face on London's roads are not confined to Bow roundabout, to Elephant & Castle or to Kings Cross. They are about the way that Transport for London looks at London streets and about how it designs them in totality. They are about the culture of aggression on London's streets that impact all of us - drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. The problems are systemic. Transport for London truly believes that some advanced stop lines and blue paint is all it takes to make a street safe for people to cycle there. I'm sorry to say it so strongly but these are complete gimmicks. Just look at the insanely dangerous scheme that Transport for London proposes for the new Cycle Super Highway between Victoria and Peckham. It is repeating the designs that have killed people again and again at Kings Cross, at Bow and at Elephant. And it's not good enough.

I believe it takes much more. It needs real facilities for people so that they can cycle safely without exposure to HGVs, such that a 14 year-old could cycle to school. Iain Dale, I'm not sure if you're with me on this point about children and cycling. A teenager should be able to cycle to school in London. That isn't the case at the moment. But it ought to be.

There will be more Tours. We will give the next one more time. We will make it bigger. And we will make this point:

It is not the job of cycling charities to design streets that are safe for cycling. It is the job of Transport for London and the boroughs. And it is the job of the Mayor to set the pace. Not to abdicate all responsibility for unnecessary deaths with a fatuous comment about people who don't have their wits about them. 

We thank those of you who came. We thank those of you who marshalled. I also want to thank the Metropolitan Police teams who have supported and advised us. But more than that, we thank the Londoners who didn't come but who saw us and who supported us on the day. We're doing this so that you, your children and your friends aren't the next casualties of a systemic, killer culture of laissez-faire at Transport for London.

More information on the next Tour coming very soon


For further information please see the excellent reporting:

Evening Standard

BBC London News


BBC One London News

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Boris Johnson's cycle revolution. I don't see how a single London cyclist could vote Boris after watching his performance today.

UPDATE: A review of the cycling Tour du Danger yesterday. Why we're doing this and what it's about


The London Assembly questioned the Mayor, Boris Johnson about cycle safety earlier today. You can see some of the session on the clip above where Green Party mayoral candidate Jenny Jones asks some very sensible and well-informed questions.

The London Cycling Campaign has responded extremely firmly to the Mayor. Its chief executive asking “Does the Mayor really not believe in redesigning bad junctions?...Is the answer that traffic speed is more important to the Mayor than the safety of vulnerable road users?"

I think that just about summarises the Mayor's attempts to wriggle out of some serious questions about road safety. Not shown on this clip but raised elsewhere in the session, Boris Johnson stated: "Elephant & Castle  fine. If you keep your wits about you, Elephant & Castle is perfectly negotiable. I want people to feel confident. The cycle superhighways are about building confidence."

There have been 89 cyclist casualties on the Elephant roundabout in the last two years. And the Mayor thinks everything's fine. Jenny Jones's put-down was very to the point: "The Mayor, as an experienced cyclist, wants roads that are safe for him to cycle around, I want roads that are safe for a twelve year old to cycle on."

At 2.47 minutes into this clip, the Mayor talks about how it 'grieves me to see the way that [Transport for London] is blamed' when there are cycling accidents. Hear that again? Yes, he grieves for Transport for London. Not for the dead cyclists but for his transport authority.

Other lowlights from the debate:

Boris Johnson - "I sometimes don't think physical streetworks are the answer...the answer is often to educate HGV drivers and to educate cyclists." Right. Try telling that to a 12 year-old cycling to school. Don't worry, just trust the HGV driver. Perhaps like this one, the man who drives an HGV, has defective eyesight, whose truck ran over and killed cyclist Eilidh Cairns two years ago and is now being questioned about hitting and killing a pedestrian last month. 

Mark of ibikelondon blog kept up a running commentary on the debate this morning and you can see some of the more irresponsible comments made by the Mayor on his twitter page here.

Gems like this:

Mark, quoting Boris: "'It is not possible to put in dedicated cycling infrastructure without disrupting the flow of traffic(!)' Has he been to Vauxhall?"

or - "BJ: The answer is not in physical interventions but in educating HGV drivers. < Where did he get this idea from?! We need both."

New York - normal bike lane
The fact is, road design does matter. There are insane road schemes all over London, crap junctions like Elephant that are terrifying to cycle through. Some of us can manage them. But most people look at them and think, no chance, I'm not cycling around that. So they don't. They drive, take the bus or walk.

Physical interventions are in place in every civilised city. Like this picture here of Third Avenue in New York - bike lane kept well away from motor vehicles.

There's plenty of space in London to get junctions and main roads right. They don't all have to look like this one in New York  but they do need designing to take cycling into account. At the moment, London's roads are designed for motor vehicles. Cycling and pedestrians are sort of shoe-horned in at the last minute. The whole farce at Blackfriars shows that in very clear detail.

But the Mayor of London has now denied that junction improvements are key to improving cycling safety. Or to increasing the number of people who cycle instead of drive.

Transport for London -
normal bike lane
I have to hand it to several Assembly Members who really do 'get' cycling. Caroline Pidgeon (LibDem), Val Shawcross (Labour), Andrew Boff (Conservative) and John Biggs (Labour) have all worked hard to campaign for safer cycling. They asked sensible, intelligent and useful questions today. Jenny Jones of the Green Party has been extremely clear and focussed on this topic to make cycling a major campaign issue.

You can see more of the debate on the BBC, whose transport correspondent Tom Edwards, has covered matters in an extremely measured way on tonight's news coverage.

After watching the Mayor today, he's lost my vote completely. Someone else said it better than me. Writing on her Rosamundi blog: "Let me remind you that this is supposed to be a “safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city [which] could be your best and quickest way to get to work...Cycle Superhighway 2 is desperately, appallingly dangerous and pretending not to be."

Boris Johnson is exactly the same. He's pretending that his cycling revolution is safe, fast and more direct. But I think he's forgotten the safety bit and he is pretending that some lessons for HGV drivers is all it takes. It doesn't. It takes proper design of London's streets to put cycling into our streets, not just feed a few leftovers to the people on bikes.

I can't bring myself to vote for Boris after watching this and I don't see how a single London cyclist could vote Boris after watching his performance today.


If you want to get involved:

I'd urge you to join us for our Junction Flashride to protest for safe junctions for pedestrians and cyclists. All around London. Things have got to start to change. 

This Saturday. Departing at 10.30 from 
St Mark's Church, The Oval, Kennington, SE11 4PW. Saturday 12 November for a 10.30 prompt departure. 

I'd also suggest that you think about joining the London Cycling Campaign. We need a voice that can talk for us all.