Tuesday, 28 February 2012

'Cycling has risen up the political agenda'. Yes. But ministers need to do more than send a nice letter to council leaders. Come and show politicians you want them to do more. Saturday April 28th. Please join me & 10,000 other people at #thebigride London

The government wants councils to look to London for leadership on cycling. We might have nice yellow bikes. But this woman has just given up on trying to cycle here. This needs to change. 

According to today's edition of The Times, "Norman Baker, Transport Minister, and Mike Penning, Road Safety Minister, have sent a letter to every council leader or chief executive asking them to make the changes. “Cycling has risen up the political agenda in recent weeks, not least due to the excellent campaign run by The Times, and we are keen to seize the moment to make good progress on a number of fronts,” they write." You can read that letter in full here.

As it happens, ministers, cycling has been rising up the political agenda for more than a few weeks. For some reason, the UK is packed with people blogging and campaigning on cycling issues. There's something odd about cycling in the UK and the fact that it needs to be a political issue in the first place. If you look for blogs about cycling in Germany or the Netherlands, you don't find all that much to read about. Yet, look for blogs about cycling in the UK and there are loads of us writing about local government, about national government, about crap cycle lanes, about lousy infrastructure. None of us started out to be 'campaigners' or to be 'political' per se. But I think (I hope no-one takes issue with me on this), most of the bloggers and other commentators on cycling in the UK would agree with this editorial in The Times last Thursday, when the Times said this of its #cyclesafe campaign: "Success would not be a dip in statistics, and a few stretches of road painted blue. It would be a fundamental change in the popular expectation of how British cities ought to look." Absolutely spot-on.

The Guardian backed up comments by The Times. It described the mentality of UK transport policy which says: "roads are for getting cars from A to B as quickly as possible and everyone else can fend for themselves".

I think what is happening is that people are increasingly saying, 'No! Roads are not just for getting cars from A to B as quickly as possible'. The issue is that people want alternatives. They want to cycle safely. They also want walking to be more convenient (not three minutes for the pedestrian crossing lights to change. Or worse, for the pedestrian crossings to be removed as part of a policy to speed up motor traffic, as is happening in London at the moment). 

The Times editorial last week set the standard. The newspaper said that: 'MPs should press the Department for Transport to build new cycle paths, to address the issue of trucks that kill and push new city authorities to appoint people to take responsibility.'

What we have instead is the Ministers who work in the Department of Transport washing their hands of it and saying it's all up to local councils to sort out. Oh, and they should do this by seeking sponsorship for bike lanes. In other words, not our problem, says the DfT. And so I believe that several other commentators are right to point out that they are less than optimistic about the government's response. Cycalogical wrote a very good piece along those lines here.

I suppose the question is, will MPs actually do anything? What's more, will the government, through the Department for Transport, actually do anything? I'm afraid that the letter penned by Ministers Baker and Penning doesn't reassure me.

Blackfriars Flashride number two. This time, let's make it
much, much bigger. And much more inclusive of children, parents,
old and young. 
In that context, I think it's time to show Ministers that this is a really, really big deal for a lot of people. And that these issues aren't going away. It's a problem that's going to get bigger and louder. 

Last year, Mark of ibikelondon blog and I worked with several volunteers in London Cycling Campaign to organise a series of Flashrides at Blackfriars Bridge. These rides saw over 2,500 come together with only a couple of days' notice each time to protest at the way London's Mayor has designed them out of one of the busiest bicycle bridges in London (36% of rush hour traffic on Blackfriars Bridge is people on bikes). If politicians can ignore people on bikes at a place like Blackfriars, they will have no qualms ignoring people on bikes elsewhere in London and the rest of the UK (notable that in Scotland and Wales, where power is devolved, things are taking a different direction). For those of us in England dealing with the UK parliament, things aren't looking too positive yet.

So, I think it's time to show there are more than a couple of thousand of us. On Saturday April 28th, the London Cycling Campaign is organising The Big Ride (twitter #thebigride).

The Big Ride aims to be the biggest mass participation bicycle ride in the UK ever. I hope that we can gather over 10,000 people to this ride. I'm going to invite everyone I can think of, my friends and my family, to join and to make it a really fun day for everyone. The ride is a week before London's Mayoral elections and it's about sending a message to the Mayor and to all UK politicians that cycling is here to stay.

The London Cycling Campaign has released details about the ride on its website here today. 

I'd urge you to join me and 10,000 other people to push for cycling to be taken seriously in our streets and on our roads. And that, Messrs Penning and Baker, means you need to do more than send a nice letter to council leaders. It means you need to actually deliver this yourselves.

I'm planning to join one of the feeder rides to #thebigride and asking my friends and family to join me on that feeder so they don't feel threatened by cycling in London (most of them can and do cycle but most of them won't cycle in London though). I'll have more details on that soon. You're all welcome to join whichever feeder ride suits you.

By the way, if you have thoughts and ideas about what government ministers should be doing for cycling (other than writing polite letters shoving responsibility on local councils), please let me know. I'm very interested to explore some of these ideas.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Please complete the online survey and help get a new north to south bike route from Islington along Bunhill Row. Takes two minutes

Two-way cycling streets cropping up all over the City of London. Can you help extend this into Islington? 

Last month, the City of London turned almost a dozen one-way streets into two-way routes for people on bikes. You can read about those streets here

These schemes are designed to make it easier to get through the maze of the City's back streets without having to go round and round in circles. Some of them provide really useful alternatives to some pretty busy and narrow alternatives. 

Some of the key new links help people cycle in and out of the City from Islington where there is also a strong network of two-way routes people can use on bikes. However, there is one key missing link, Bunhill Row. You can cycle in both direction on the streets directly north of here but then the route stops as soon as you get to Bunhill Row heading southbound and you're stuck having to detour via some fairly major junctions that take you quite far out of your way and expose you to some of the most dangerous parts of the London road network. 

Bunhill Row is wide north-south road that should (in theory) allow you to get into the City from Old Street without having to use the lethal Old Street Roundabout. There are good bike links either side of Bunhill Row but the road itself acts as a kind of barrier to safe, sensible cycling from the north of the City. This should be a crucial entry point into the City for hundreds (more likely thousands?) of people cycling into the City from the north. 

After some very tenacious campaigning (and this has been going on for years) from Islington Cyclists Action Group, the council has drawn up plans to allow a contraflow bike lane on Bunhill Row. However, it will only implement this plan if people show they genuinely want this link. 

If you want to be able to cycle southbound in to the City, I'd urge you to click this link and complete the survey to tell Islington Council you support southbound cycling on Bunhill Row. 

Friday, 24 February 2012

As The Guardian comes out in support of The Times, the issue of cycling has now trascended party-politics: My summary of the Westminster Hall debate on cycling. We're all in it together and now the real work begins.

Symbolic: Yesterday, the last car showroom in the City of London closed its doors.
It is being turned into a bicycle shop.
Yesterday, 76 MPs including three ministers, debated cycling in the UK. Wesminster Hall was so rammed that Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) could only find a seat on the opposition side of the Hall. Over at ibikelondon blog, there is a picture that tells it all - 75 MPs in the cycling debate, virtually none in the Commons debate at the same time.

It was fascinating to listen to. I had worried earlier in the week that the debate might tend towards a focus on helmets, red light jumping and hi-viz jackets. Although the debate did touch on these things, it did so fairly and in proportion to the wider context. I was impressed by the informed quality of the debate but most of all by the heart-felt passion of the debate. My first observation was 'blimey, who knew so many MPs use bicycles?'. Almost all of them had a personal story to tell. Heidi Alexander (Lab, Lewisham East) talked of how she had twice been knocked off her bicycle and referred to the roundabouts in Lewisham and Elephant & Castle. Echoing the Prime minister, she commented that you 'take your life into your hands' here and that 'we must sort out these junctions'. She's completely right. She was not, by any means, the only MP to have been knocked off her bicycle or to have been intimidated and abused just because she was on a bicycle.

Ian Austin MP (Lab, Dudley) almost brought tears to my eyes at one point. He talked at length about poor sentencing, how drivers that kill on our roads are - for the most part - let off with minor cautions for ruining lives. It was a theme that echoed throughout the debate. His key point was that if people want to ride a bicycle 'they should be able to do so safely'. Spot on.

Again and again, MPs from across the country talked about how children want to cycle to school but can't because their parents don't want them mixing with heavy and fast traffic. Ben Bradshaw (Lab) pointed out that 20% of secondary school children in Exeter now cycle to school, following investment in safe cycle routes, 10% of primary school children. Sarah Wollaston (Conservative, Totnes) and a Conservative Somerset MP both echoed this point. Many MPs pointed out that much of this success was down to work undertaken by Cycling England - an agency that tied together government initiatives for better, safer, normal cycling in England that was scrapped by the coaliton government. There seemed to be general consensus in the room that the government, instead of scrapping Cycling England, should be beefing it up.

A surprise was Jane Ellison, Conservative MP for Wandsworth (a borough that is uniquely awful for cycling, in my view). She talked about the fact that our cities need continental street designs, about including cycling in junctions and at roundabouts. Infrastructure came up again and again during the debate - cycle routes cut in half by six-lane A-roads, bike lanes with cars parked in them, stop-start bicycle infrastructure that was a result of stop-start bicycling investment. I was almost floored by Oliver Colvile MP (Con) representing Plymouth - a somewhat portly chap, if you follow my meaning - who talked about being a lapsed bicycle user, someone who would cycle but only if there were properly delineated space for cycling on our roads away from big lorries. Here was someone who hasn't used a bicycle in decades but understood clearly why people don't cycle and knew instinctively what needs doing. I don't know the man but I felt his jocular commentary was important for really driving home how non party-political this issue is and how it really isn't about young, fit males sprinting to work in pelotons. It's about everyone and anyone.

Flashride to Parliament, the night before the debate.
Courtesy zefrog http://www.flickr.com/photos/zefrog/
All in all, though, three MPs blew me away (well, almost). Ian Austin, I've already mentioned. The other two were Julian Huppert (LibDem, Cambridge) and Maria Eagle (Labour, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport).

Eagle's main theme was this: "What struck me about that was how obvious were the changes we need to see. This isn’t one of those issues that needs a major ideological debate to be won – just some common sense. And a renewed commitment to cycling safety. None of these things needs to be impossible – or even difficult – to deliver. It’s as much about will as money." She's spot on that it's all about will. This is a theme that we've seen again and again in London where our Mayor has tended to take choices that encourage more and easier driving and instead of choosing safer, easier cycling or walking for Londoners.

I feel that the previous Labour government promised big things for cycling. You can look at the (utterly failed) National Cycling Strategy and see a promise to have 10% of all journeys made by bike in 2012. The money and the commitment never happened. But I think full credit to Eagle. She has got behind this issue, understood it and has dragged her party's heavyweights with her. She acknowledged one key point: "we will not repeat the mistakes of the past – and start taking into account the impact on cyclists of road design". Good.

Eagle talked, as did many others, about the need to fund cycling properly from the centre. Ian Austin talked about the fact that the UK spends £0.79 per person on cycling and that a real commitment would see that figure nearer to £10. Even that is less than half what is spent per head in countries like the Netherlands.

I think, though, the real star of the show was Julian Huppert (LibDem) MP for Cambridge who batted hard-hitting answers questions with speed and precision. His summary was that UK streets should be places that can be used by people from eight to 80. And he's right.

What struck me was the enormously consensual nature of the debate. This wasn't a debate of party-political proportions. It was a debate that showed people care about these issues in their communities. And it was striking how the Guardian newspaper picked up on that theme: 'Whatever newspaper you read (or don't read)', said the Guardian yesterday, 'sign up for the Times campaign. If you live in London support the London Cycling Campaign's Love London, Go Dutch initiative. And maybe, just maybe, the mentality that says "roads are for getting cars from A to B as quickly as possible and everyone else can fend for themselves" that pervades much of UK transport policy will start to change.'

I can't think of the last time that the Guardian came out in support of an initiative by a News International publication. What this says to me is that from this point on, we're all in this together. We're not cyclists any more, we are people that want to get about the places we live in. And we want to do that as responsible, normal citizens and do so by bike, safely.

I felt tremendously sorry for Norman Baker MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport), the man responsible for cycling. He had to sum up the government's response. He is a man who, I think, 'gets' these issues. But he is also the man whose boss scrapped Cycling England. The sentiment in Westminster Hall was fairly united. I sensed MPs on all sides of the House wanted more from the government. Norman Baker is going to need to stand up to his boss. And those of us who believe in these things are going to have to make a lot more noise to make that happen.

You can start by putting Saturday April 28th in your diary. We want this to be the date of the biggest ever bicycle ride in London and the biggest statement of support for cycling. It's about ordinary people saying they support cycling, converging on London but coming from all over the UK. Read here for more details.

You can read more about the debate on The Times's website here

Thursday, 23 February 2012

David Cameron: cycling in our cities 'is taking your life into your hands' and promises piffling £25million. As the lady says, 'Grannies want to cycle too'. Says it all, frankly - My review of last night's Flashride at Parliament

This glamorous granny has made exactly the right
point. Cyclesafe Flashride is about all of us
Yesterday, David Cameron stood up at Prime minister's question time and said this in response to a question by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert: "Anyone who has got on a bicycle, particularly in one of our busier cities, knows you are taking your life into your own hands every time you do so and so we do need to do more to try and make cycling safer." You can see the PM's full statement on The Times's website here.

Cameron went on to announce a handful of low-budget investments that the government will support - some mirrors, some cycling training. Nothing terribly significant.

Last night, the police reckon that around 2,000 people came to the Flashride at Parliament. My own view is that most of them came to say that the sort of status quo Cameron was promising is no longer enough. In actual fact, Cameron scrapped Cycling England, the poorly-funded cycling body and has replaced it with some dribs and drabs of money for mirrors  and some cycle training. Mirrors are nice but not the answer. The Dutch road safety institute thinks this is completely the wrong way to go about things, for example. Cycle training for children is a must-have, frankly, not something the Prime minister should be too proud of.

But the point is that it is no longer enough to fob cycling off with handfuls of cash on isolated projects here and there. I said last week that - for the timebeing at least - those of us who cycle are a small niche. We are given only the odd niche bits of infrastructure. But many many more people want to cycle. And they don't feel they have the choice to cycle because of the way our roads are designed and because of the culture of our roads and traffic laws. To get these people on their bikes means cycling needs to be included as a formal mode of transport, one that involves sustained and consistent investment. The government spent nearly £4billion on UK roads last year. Cameron announced a whopping £15-25 million for cycling in the Commons and none of that is about building the sorts of facilities that would encourage more glamorous grandmothers like the lady pictured above to hop on their bike to the shops.

The editor of The Times wrote this today: "Our cities must be reimagined so that the cyclist is no hindrance to the motorist, and the motorist no danger in return....It is a campaign that intends to change the way we live". Hard-hitting stuff.

I said something clunkier on the BBC last night (forgive me, I was slightly nervous to make sure last night was a success) but with the same goal: "I thought [Cameron] was completely spot-on. He’s absolutely right that it’s quite difficult to cycle in UK cities. The thing is it shouldn’t be difficult to cycle in the UK and that’s a factor of how much investment we put into the UK, which has been pretty minimal and pretty patchy.”

Sums it all up, really.

Today, MPs will sit down and debate issues around cycling. I'm keen to know how they repsond to these sorts of questions. 

In the meantime, a huge thank you goes to Ian Austin MP (Lab) and Julian Huppert MP (LibDem) and Steve Brine (Con) for working so hard on this issue and to the rest of the All Parliamentary Cycling Group. An equally large vote of thanks goes to the Metropolitan Police who advised and supported us on last night's ride. At one point, an idiot in a BMW X5 exited the House of Commons car park then tried to ram his way through 2,000 people on bikes in Parliament Square. I'm pleased to say the man was swiftly surrounded by a number of very grumpy policemen before accelerating off very harshly. I don't know what, if any action, was taken but the man was clearly abusing his powers. Above all, my thanks to my co-conspirator Mark Ames of ibikelondon blog, to the 30 people who volunteered to help marshal last night's ride and to the London Cycling Campaign for taking centre stage on these issues and leading from the front. 

Have a look at what the BBC has to say. And then book this date in your diary. Saturday 28th April, central London. A week before the Mayoral election. We want to bring 10,000 people together for a Flashride with children, parents, dogs, commuters, racing bikers, the whole community that believes cycling should be made normal for all of us. Oh, and please, more glamorous grandmothers. The London Cycling Campaign is taking the lead on this and I'm whole-heartedly behind it. Brompton bicycles and the Dutch Embassy in London have backed it. I hope many more of us will back it with our pedals and that more sponsors will come forwards too. 

Monday, 20 February 2012

MPs debate cycling this week, Prime Minister hosts cycling summit. 63% agreed that they would find cycling on the roads stressful. No wonder cycling is such a marginal activity in Britain.

Believe it or not, this is a bike lane.
No wonder most people drive.
MPs will be debating cycle safety this week, thanks - in part - to the CycleSafe campaign spearheaded by The Times. Tomorrow, the Prime Minister has announced, he will host a 'future cities' conference which may feature a flicker of discussion about cycling and the sorts of models used in other cities. The PM's debate sounds rather too futuristic for my liking when basic changes on the ground are what's needed, not apartment blocks where you can ride to the 10th floor.

Ahead of the debate, the House of Commons library has published a briefing note summarising official statistics on cycling safety. Here are the key points as shown on the intro page:

In Great Britain, in 2010:

• 3 billion vehicle miles were travelled on pedal cycles, 1% of all vehicle miles taken on the roads
• Males cycled more miles on average (66 miles per person) than females (19 miles per person
• 111 cyclists were killed on the roads; the second lowest number in the last 61 years
• 2,660 cyclists were seriously injured on the roads; the highest number this century
• Four-fifths of cyclists killed or seriously injured were male

The note is a decent summary of the bare facts, but is rather lacking when it comes to explaining them. And there's a risk that some MPs might draw completely the wrong conclusions. For example, at first glance it looks great that 2010 saw the lowest number of cyclist deaths in 61 years. On that basis, you might be forgiven for asking what the problem is supposed to be.

I think there are three crucial points which the Commons briefing note doesn't capture, and which MPs need to be aware of.

First, the low cycling rate (1% of traffic) and the low number of casualties are both due to the same phenomenon: most people don't cycle because most people don't think cycling is safe, so it has become the preserve of a small of minority of people on a small minority of roads. (Even the Daily Mail agrees with this point, for more see here). The disparity in serious injury rates between cycling and driving is huge, 553 per billion km for cycling versus 15 for driving. And as The Times has pointed out, the cyclist fatality rate in Britain is three times higher than in the Netherlands.

New York bike lane. Clear space to cycle in
People are well aware of the disproportionate risks cycling involves. A Department for Transport survey found that an overwhelming majority of people (86%) identified cycling as the least safe mode of transport. The same survey found that 60% of people who can ride a bike think the roads are too dangerous, while 63% agreed that they would find cycling on the roads stressful. Today's Guardian revealed a Sustrans poll which states emphatically that: 'The majority of Britons believe it remains unsafe to cycle on urban roads'. No wonder cycling is such a marginal activity in Britain.

Second, the reason cycling is so unsafe in Britain is because cyclists are so exposed to traffic. There is actually very little that is inherently dangerous about cycling, as shown by the fact that just 8% of the deaths or serious injuries to cyclists in 2010 were ‘single vehicle’ cases, compared to 26% of motorcyclist and 33% of car KSIs (see this table). That means that the overwhelming majority of deaths or serious injuries to cyclists are due to collisions with other traffic.

Third, the casualty rate is much lower now than it was in the 1950s, but since the early 2000s it's been fairly static (and in some places is getting worse). So as more people have taken up cycling, more cyclists have been getting killed or injured. You might wonder why more people are cycling if it’s so much riskier than the alternatives. I think it’s probably got a lot to do with the alternatives getting less attractive, as our roads and public transport get more crowded and/or more expensive. In any case, governments at all levels are constantly talking about trying to encourage people to cycle. If they succeed, are they willing to live with more casualties, or will they make the safety improvements required to make it safe for everyone?

Which brings me to the last point not covered by the Commons note. When you  ask people what would get them cycling, they are most likely to ask for safe, high quality cycle facilities – you know, like they have in the Netherlands. In that DfT survey, 52% of people agreed that they would cycle more if there were more dedicated cycle paths. And when the London Cycling Campaign recently asked people what single change would encourage them to cycle more, the two most popular suggestions were “Safe and convenient cycle lanes all over London” and “Making it safer to cycle across junctions and roundabouts”.
No doubt there will be challenges making cycling in places like central London safe. But it is do-able, providing we stop designing roads for cars and start designing them for people. Hopefully the debate in parliament this Thursday will be the start of that.

(Note, this piece is written by a contributor but one whose voice I agree with 100%)

You can see the two Early Day Motions that are up for discussion by clicking here and here. You can also see how MPs have been responding to their constituents in London, Scotland, Wales and elsewhere in England by clicking here.

It's not to late to write to your MP before Thursday's debate asking them to attend by clicking here and sending an email directly to them.Alternatively, attend the Flashride to Parliament on Wednesday night to remind MPs why we feel this is important.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

MP implies people who use a bicycle to get to work 'not essential to the economy'. Here's an update on how MPs are responding to The Times's 'cities fit for cycling' campaign. Flashride to Parliament Wednesday night. Join in.

I put it to Angie Bray MP that the people parking their bicycles in this office in the City of London are just as 'essential to the economy' as the people driving motor vehicles on London's roads. I'm not sure she realises that.

Last night I posted details of the many MPs who have responded to their constituents asking them to support The Times's #cyclesafe campaign and to make our cities fit for anyone to cycle in. You can see what your MP has to say if you live in Southwark, Lambeth, Westminster, the City or in the Prime Minister's constituency by looking here. A number of Conservative MPs have sent a cut and paste response which you can see on this link here. However, Andrew Jones (Con) MP for Harrogate and PPS to Justine Greening has confirmed he will attend the debate and has indicated support for making our cities places where people can cycle as a matter of habit.

This morning I realised that I should collect a list of the MPs who haven't yet responded. Now, I don't want to get too hard on these MPs. Perhaps some of them are on holiday for the Parliamentary break. Some, however, are known to be fairly anti the idea of people getting about on bikes as a normal mode of transport. Angie Bray, Conservative MP for Ealing Central, made some fairly illuminating comments on twitter earlier this month which show where she thinks the priorities lie:

"@AngieBrayMP I certainly back safer cycling and segregated lanes surely help.But roadspace has to be shared so not always easy on busy roads"

"@AngieBrayMP I think the change in numbers probably marginal and it is mainly commercial traffic which is of course essential to the economy."

"@AngieBrayMP yes of course but we have to find a way of protecting the vulnerable while accommodating what is necessary."

"@AngieBrayMP they are carrying goods/tools/supplies etc which clearly can't fit on a bike"

Good that she sees the point of safe space to cycle. Bad that she doesn't realise the lack of this safe space is why the 'change in numbers probably marginal'. Equally bad that she doesn't understand someone on a bicycle might be just as 'essential to the economy' as someone driving.

I'm building a list of MPs who have failed to respond to constituents. If yours is ignoring the cyclesafe motion, please let me know and I'll add them to the list.

List of MPs who have failed to write back to their correspondents' letters about making our cities fit for cycling include:

Stephen Dorrell (Con) Charnwood, Leicestershire
Glenda Jackson (Lab), Hampstead & Kilburn
Joan Ruddock (Lab), Lewisham & Deptford - Has since responded with a positive message.
Eleanor Laing (Con), Epping Forest
John Cryer (Lab) Leyton & Wanstead
Frank Dobson (Lab) Holborn & St Pancras
Barry Gardiner (Lab) Brent North
Malcolm Wicks (Lab), Croydon North
Lyn Brown (Lab), West Ham
Vince Cable (LibDem), Twickenham
Nick Raynsford (Lab) Greenwich & Woolwich
Angie Bray (Con) Central Ealing & Acton and Richard Ottaway (Con) Croydon South - neither has responded to constituents directly but both have signed up to the template letter you can see here.

Meanwhile, if you regularly use the incredibly popular, segregated cycle track that runs east-west through Bloomsbury, you might like to see how Frank Dobson MP tried very hard indeed to prevent that cycle track from being built in the first place by reading this excellent review here.

If your MP is on this list, then write to them before Thursday's debate asking them to attend by clicking here and sending an email directly to them.

Just in case the point still isn't clear enough, do some
MPs think these people cycling to work in London
aren't doing their bit for the economy?
Some additional responses from other MPs
You can see how Kate Hoey (Lab) Vauxhall responded here and Mark Field (Con) Cities of London & Westminster here. Emily Thornberry (Lab) Islington South & Finsbury - has been in touch saying she can't participate in Early Day Motions but is inclined to support.

The senior Labour team involved in transport has been very clear and come up with a three point plan that contains many of the right issues. You can see those details on a previous post here. 

Simon Hughes (LibDem) Southwark & Bermondsey has shown real understanding of cycling issues and been a prominent supporter. You can see his latest update on his website here.

I've seen positive reports from Zac Goldsmith (Con) Richmond and from Mike Freer (Con), Finchley & Golders Green. Freer's response to a constituent was generally sympathetic and talked about the fact that he cycles to work but contained the magical line that 'the roads are rarely wide enough to carve out a dedicated and segregated cycle lanes'. Firstly, that slightly misses the point. Segregation is one of several tools in the road kit. Also, it's not true. I asked one UK-based Danish diplomat to respond to Freer's email on twitter and this is what she said: "seems unambitious, when comparing LDN w my native CPH then seems there is room on streets & in heads for more #cyclesafety :)"

Exactly right: The 'lack of space on our streets for safe cycling' is actually about the lack of room in our heads. There's plenty of space, we just need to think about our neighbourhoods differently.

Mark Lazarowicz, (Labour-Cooperative), Edinburgh North & Leith said: "The potential danger presented by motorists driving at speed in urban areas can put many people off cycling. Cyclists are inherently more vulnerable than motorists and drivers should be more aware of the need of cyclists, especially when they are turning right or at junctions."

Jonathan Evans (Welsh Conservatives) Cardiff North: "I welcome the current campaign launched by The Times, which aims to improve safety. However, it is also important to improve through improving the proficiency of cyclists and by enforcing proper compliance with the Highway Code. I am disturbed by evidence that a major number of cyclists routinely ignore traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. I was struck by such a cyclist myself in London recently who told me he did not consider that compliance with lights and pedestrian crossings applied to cyclists. I also believe that it is important to promote the wearing of helmets by cyclists as part of this safety campaign..."

Bring a bike and join our ride to Parliament to ask MPs to make cycling a serious transport choice. Join us Wednesday 22nd February. Meet at the Duke of York steps, The Mall, 6.15pm. 

More details on ibikelondon blog here and on the London Cycling Campaign page here. You can even register for the ride (but you don't need to) on the Londoners on Bikes website here. I'm also delighted that both Brompton bicycles and Evans Cycles have committed to support the Flashride. It would be lovely to see some other big cycling names get behind the ride as well.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Too many MPs have been failing cycling since 1996. It's not good enough to fail again. Now Brompton bicycles and Evans Cycles get behind next week's Flashride. Please join us on Wednesday and help encourage MPs to support cycling in our cities

If she lived in Denmark, she'd probably
be cycling to school on her own next year.
Not in our country though. Something's
gone very wrong here.
"It is crystal clear that the bicycle has been underrated and under-used in the United Kingdom for many years. This is especially true when one looks at those other European countries where cycle use has been increased and maintained by deliberate action at both local and national levelThere is enormous potential to increase the use of cycles in Britain, but it will only be realised if we develop a coherent approach setting out how the status quo can be altered in favour of the bicycle.” - UK National Cycle Strategy 1996. 

I'd argue that, from a political and policy perspective, the bicycle has been largely underrated and under-used ever since 1996. 

This week, MPs debate cycle safety for the first time (that I'm aware of at least) since that Strategy was set. It has been fascinating to see how MPs have been talking about cycling over the last few days. 

My own MP, Labour's Kate Hoey, has been slightly disparaging and Mark Field MP for Westminster and the City sent an extremely ambiguous response to one of his constituents. 

In general, Conservative MPs have copied and pasted an official line that seems to ignore many of the actual issues. One Conservative response has stood out, though, that of Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport, talking to The Times. The most important thing, says Mr Roberston, is "that parents have confidence that their children can cycle in a safe environment." Spot on, I think. 

Labour's Transport team has been highly active on twitter about cycling matters and seems to have encouraged some extremely positive responses from many of the more senior Labour MPs. Sadiq Khan, former transport minister spells out Labour's position on his blog:

Sadiq Khan MP hops on a bike

Chuka Umuna (Labour) Streatham:  "Despite the importance of cycling proficiency and awareness, we must never give the impression that the responsibility to prevent collisions simply rests with cyclists. That is why The Times is right to highlight the importance of measures such as improving road junctions, creating alternative cycle routes and improving safety equipment on HGVs."

Karen Buck (Labour) Westminster North: 'It cannot be right that people have to fear their friends and relatives getting on a bike, particularly in our cities.'

Simon Hughes (LibDem) Southwark & Bermondsey : 'Southwark has huge potential for increasing cycling numbers but more must be done be the council to support cycling in our borough. The council's current target for increasing cycling levels from 4% to 5% by 2025 is pathetic, and alongside proposals to remove cycle lanes from 20mph zones, it's a pretty dim picture.'

Mark Field (Conservative) Westminster and City of London: "It is the job of government to balance the sometimes competing needs of all road users....Without a better understanding of the implications, therefore, I am afraid I am reluctant to give the aims of the campaign my wholehearted support. Nevertheless, if politicians are to continue to encourage the public to cycle - and this is something which is very actively promoted in a city like London - I would have thought that the time is ripe to review whether the existing arrangements are working well enough..."

David Cameron (Prime minister): "Ministers have committed to improve the driving test..."

As I said last week, that's why I will be attending the Flashride on Wednesday 22nd February, the eve of the biggest debate on cycling this country has seen in 16 years. I want to remind those MPs that it's time to fulfil the 'enormous potential' for cycling in the UK as a serious means of transport. They've been failing since 1996. Here's a chance to make them realise it's not good enough to fail again. 

Join us. Wednesday 22nd February. Meet at the Duke of York steps, The Mall, 6.15pm. 

More details on ibikelondon blog here and on the London Cycling Campaign page here. You can even register for the ride (but you don't need to) on the Londoners on Bikes website here. I'm also delighted that both Brompton bicycles and Evans Cycles have committed to support the Flashride. It would be lovely to see some other big cycling names get behind the ride as well. 

It's not too late to write to your MP and tell them why you think they should attend the debate by clicking here and sending an email directly to them.


I'm building a list of MPs who have failed to respond to constituents. If yours is ignoring the cyclesafe motion, please let me know. You can see the list by clicking here. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

I want my MP to take next week's cycling debate seriously - not just helmets, hi-viz and training. That's why I'll be at the Flashride the night before. Join our Flashride at Westminster, Wednesday 22nd February.

Call the Midwife. My gran remembers cycling all over.
She'd never contemplate it now: 'too many cars..!'
Once upon a time, a UK politician who divides opinion told people looking for work 'to get on their bike'.  So I did. When I was 17, I went and worked in Germany to earn enough money to pay for my first year at university. I bought a second hand bike and cycled to work. In a car factory, of all places.

I couldn't afford to live in the town so I rented a room 10km away. I didn't have a helmet or any hi-viz. But I did have some lights and I cycled in my work clothes. The entire route went along either a bike track or through streets in the town that were only for bikes and for the people that lived there to drive in and out.

Looking back, it sounds rather quaint but what I didn't really appreciate at the time was that this was something normal in Germany. The municipality was designed to include me on a bike in a way that you rarely see in the UK.

I very much doubt I'd have done an equivalent journey by bike in the UK back then. I would probably have caught the bus or looked for a lift to work. The reason? An equivalent journey in the UK would have meant cycling down the dual carriageway with cars at 70mph+ and lorries thundering past me, rather than cycling on a bike track well away from it. The infrastructure just isn't there to make me want to do everyday cycling and feel I'm doing something safe and normal in my everyday clothes.

I don't really have a problem with cars. I think people rely on them too much, I think they pollute too much and I think over-dependence on them is killing off our town centres (Mary Portas, bizarrely, can't appreciate that point). But like many people, I see them as something of a necessary evil. I don't cycle because it's sustainable or because it's green or because it's 'active travel'. I just use a bike to get around. End of story.

Back then (we're talking mid 1990s) there were just shy of 20 million cars in the UK. Now there are just shy of 30 million. That's a pretty fundamental shift in the way our roads look and feel. During that period, almost nothing has happened to make it easier or safer to cycle on those roads, despite the fact there are massively more people using them now in faster and bigger cars.

My feeling is that people who aren't in cars have been squeezed off the roads by the massive shift towards a car-centric transport network.

During that period, many politicians will argue, our roads have become safer. So what's the big deal? Well, here's a comment by Peter Hitchens, writing in the Mail on Sunday of all places:

"I think our roads are statistically safer largely because soft targets, particularly child cyclists, have almost entirely retreated from them. But the roads are not really safer. It’s just that people have learned to avoid them unless they themselves go out in armour, and have narrowed their lives as a  result."

I couldn't agree more.

Next week, for the first time in over 16 years, cycling gets a look-in at national level. As Carlton Reid points out: "In the mid-1990s both Labour and the Conservatives seemed to be fighting over who could be the most cycle-friendly. But bugger all got done. All the promises, all the pledges, they all got broken."

Hats off to The Times's 'Cities fit for cycling campaign' for raising the issue at a national level (although I note Scotland's government has already radically altered its funding plans in favour of cycling) and to Julian Huppert MP (LibDem) for tabling next Thursday's early day motion in Westminster. Hats-off also to the several MPs (Simon Hughes LibDem and Zac Goldsmith Conservative stand out in London so far) for getting behind the campaign. Labour's Sadiq Khan (Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice) told me today on twitter that his party supports 'proper cycle ways, junction design and traffic phasing'. We'll see what happens.

Carlton Reid continues: "Big bucks needs to be thrown around to protect vulnerable road users. Some tough decisions need to be made on how we want our cities to look in 20 years time. And the race tracks that are our rural roads need to be changed, too. Naturally, it will be far easier for MPs to lobby for things like helmet compulsion for cyclists rather than place draconian restrictions on the “freedoms” enjoyed - and exploited - by Mondeo-man."

David Cameron's response to the cycling debate. 
Sadly lacking. 
I've been dismayed by the responses to the cycling debate that many Conservative MPs have sent to their constituents. Many have used the exact same text as this letter sent by David Cameron which you can see here.

As Carlton Reid points out, the emphasis risks being 'cyclists should wear helmets, cyclists should wear hi-viz, cyclists should have more training'. End of debate.

I think that's only the start of the debate and I'm disappointed to see how many Conservative MPs have sent a cut and paste version of Cameron's letter. It suggests they don't really understand why thousands of people are writing to them about cycling.

That's why I will be attending the Flashride on Wednesday 22nd February, the eve of the biggest debate on cycling this country has seen in 16 years. I want to remind those MPs, including my own Labour MP (whose response you can see here) that I want them to understand the issue and not resort to helmets, hi-viz and training as the be all and end all of the problem.

Join us. Wednesday 22nd February. Meet at the Duke of York steps, The Mall, 6.15pm. 

More details on ibikelondon blog here and on the London Cycling Campaign page here.

It's not too late to write to your MP and tell them why you think they should attend the debate by clicking here and sending an email directly to them.

Flashride Wednesday 22 February, 6.15pm, The Mall. Too many MPs think #cyclesafe is just about more training and bike mirrors. There's much more to it. Come and tell them to make cycling a legitimate mode of transport not just a training 'issue'

The Newington Gardens Womens' Cycling Group
Frankly, this is the sort of thing that the words 'cyclist' and 'London' ought to conjure up in people's minds. One day...
Courtesy Kennington People on Bikes blog. For more info click here.

The Telegraph's London correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, made a good point in his blog this week:

"If we are to get the improvements we need, we need to avoid coming across as shrill or entitled. Not all cycle safety campaigners manage this, frankly. And if cycling is to become a genuinely mass means of travel, as it is in Germany or the Netherlands, with the mass political clout that entails, we mustn’t needlessly scare off the parents and the grannies and all those people you see cycling over there, but never over here."

I sense that Gilligan thinks my blog can sometimes be a little shrill. And in a way, sometimes it can. Largely because I try to point out the dangers being designed into our roads and to show how those often lethal designs are the result of policy decisions by the Mayor or by local authorities. Although I disagree with Gilligan that we might 'scare off the parents and grannies' - in the London I live in most of the grannies or mothers with kids already seem to be scared off zipping about on bikes - he is right to say that only when these sorts of people think using a bike is something they want to do will there be sufficient mass political clout to shift 'cycling' from a niche to an everyday issue.

And in a way, those of us who use bikes at the moment are a small (albeit growing) niche. We are given only the odd niche bits of infrastructure on London's roads too. In fact, we're caught in a sort of trap where Transport for London doesn't seem to understand how to make roads that anyone and everyone would feel safe to use on a bike and instead tries to address the issue of 'cycling' by adding a few niche bits of infrastructure here and there. Transport for London tends to slot safe cycling as a kind of niche around its day job, that of moving as many motor vehicles around the city as possible. It's all slightly self-reinforcing.

This has been going on for years. A decade ago, the London Cycle Network was in full swing. Although much of that network is still very useful, you need to be a pretty dedicated 'cyclist' to know where it is and how to use it. For the most part, it's very very niche indeed. I'd point out that under the last Mayor, Ken Livingstone, grand plans were floated for 'de-niching' the London Cycling Network and making it something much more useful. Never happened though.

And so I can understand why Boris Johnson scrapped most of the funding for the London Cycle Network and went for the Cycle Super Highways instead. They're big, loud and you can't miss them. On the surface, at least, the Cycle Super Highways sound incredibly sensible.

Parliament Square - London Cycling Campaign impression
of how the Square could work better for people not just motor traffic
Unfortunately, much about the Super Highways has been deeply compromised, sometimes fatally so. Again and again, Super Highways wimp out exactly when you need them - at major junctions, or alongside multiple lanes of fast-moving motor traffic. The result is that the Mayor has replaced one niche solution with another. No wonder most Londoners still don't see bikes as just a normal way to travel in London.
After four years of Boris Johnson's 'cycling revolution', there still isn't a single obvious and safe route through central London for people to use on their bikes and the 'revolution' seems to be confined to only some blue paint that helps commuters cycle to work during a three hour window each day.

That's to the detriment of all of us, whether we sit in congestion in buses, taxis and cars; whether we live on residential streets turned into rat runs; whether we wonder why our high street shops are shutting down in favour of large out of town retail outlets (that people drive to) or whether we want to use a bike to get around at night or to the shops or to school.

Gilligan is right to say that we need to think bigger than this. In particular, we need our politicians to think bigger than this. Next week, MPs will meet next week to debate the issue of making our cities fit for cycling - a debate that has been made possible thanks to the noise generated by The Times's Cities fit for cycling campaign. So far, the responses I've seen from MPs have been varied. Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle has been very supportive, as has Julian Huppert (LibDem) who tabled the early day motion on the topic - the first serious debate on cycilng as a mode of transport in 16 years. My own local Labour MP in Lambeth has sent mixed messages and the Conservative MP for Westminster and the City of London has indicated he is not supportive.Four other Conservative MPs have sent this identical letter which you can see here.

A typical London bike lane. Encouraging cycling by keeping
people safe from large, fast, dangerous machines
I don't think it's good enough that MPs believe the issue is simply one of the relative merits of mirrors, advance traffic lights or other niche ideas about how to make cycling a viable mode of transport. I want MPs to realise the debate is about something much bigger than that. It's about creating an environment where we give people space to get about that is not entirely dominated by the private car.

One campaign that I think has started using this sort of language is the launch last week of the London Cycling Campaign's Love London Go Dutch effort. This is a campaign that is focussed entirely on making London the sort of place where grannies and mums with kids can get about more easily and safely by bike and not just by car. According to research by the Campaign, 81% of mothers said they could be encouraged to cycle and favoured safer bikes lanes or safer junctions and roundabouts to help them do so.

Pictured above, the LCC's vision for Parliament Square. Sponsored by Brompton Bicycles and supported by the Dutch Embassy, the LCC is aiming to show how the Mayor could create "more people-friendly streets where people work, shop and live".To that end, the Campaign is hosting a mass bike ride on April 28, designed for all Londoners from young to old. It is also building a petition that states: "I want the mayoral candidates to pledge to make London more liveable for everyone by making our streets as safe and inviting for cycling as they are in Holland” You can sign the petition here.

The point I'd like to make to MPs and to our Mayor is that they can choose to make London and other cities more liveable and more easily accessible for everyone. It's up to them to start talking about this from a policy-making perspective.

Bike being used yesterday for its true purpose?
Courtesy Murad Qureshi, London Assembly
Member via twitter
It is in that context, that several of us have decided next week is time to host another flashride. Our intention is not to be 'shrill or entitled'. Our intention is to focus the minds of our MPs and our Mayor. We want to encourage MPs to attend the debate and to listen to the actual issues, not spend three hours talking about the odd niche solution here and there. In fact, what I'd really hope for is a realisation that to really make it possible for 'grannies and parents' to get about by bike, requires people in senior political and policy roles to own targets to achieve just that.

The police are providing support, there will be marshalls helping us on the way, a number of MPs have expressed support, the London Cycling Campaign is in support and ibikelondon blog has a well-argued post with more details here.
Meet Wednesday 22 February Duke of York steps on the Mall at 6.15PM for a 6.30PM departure (see link for location)

We'll head down the Mall, along Horseguards Parade, around Parliament Square to Lambeth Bridge, along the south to Westminster Bridge, back round Parliament Square up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, through Admiralty Arch back to the steps. Please join us.

It's not a protest. It's not even about 'safer cycling' per se. It's a polite but forceful request to our MPs and to the Mayor to listen to and think about the bigger picture : to make our cities places in which we can live and get around more easily and healthily for all of us and not simply kick around issues of more bike training, more bike mirrors and other niche solutions that won't change the current status quo. And to encourage MPs to attend the debate taking place the next day.


If you haven't already, it's not too late to write to your MP as well and ask them to attend the debate on 23rd February. You can email your MP using http://www.writetothem.com/. Mark at ibikelondon has a useful template email you can send at this link here but it's always best if you can send a personal email that explains why you think it's important that they take cycling seriously.

Friday, 10 February 2012

My Labour MP tells me it's my responsibility to keep away from danger when I'm on my bike. How am I supposed to do that when the Mayor is re-designing London roads to make it even harder to stay safe?

The old A13 junction at Blackwall Tunnel with its relatively
safer bus and bike lane. Picture thanks to @jplumbum on twitter
The Times's Cities fit for cycling campaign is going from strength to strength.

On February 23, MPs will debate cycle safety for three hours. And if you haven't done so yet, do take two minutes to ask your MP to attend the debate by filling out this form.

I did exactly that earlier this week and wrote to Kate Hoey, Labour MP for Lambeth. The text of her response follows:

"Thank you for writing to me about the Times Cities Fit for Cycling Campaign. I certainly agree that the number of cyclists who die on our streets each year is a concern that needs to be addressed. The Times Manifesto lists some interesting proposals, and I would add the need for cyclists to clearly understand their environments and not put themselves in danger.

I fully understand your concerns and have been happy to raise them with the Transport Minister."

I'm at a slight loss how to interpret this response. On the one hand, good news she's listening. On the other, what's this statement where she says 'cyclists must not put themselves in danger' all about?

Let's look at one example. Pictured above, the A13 in London at the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel, a main route into the City of London from east London. The picture shows the road layout as it used to be.

Have a look at the video below (or click here to view) which shows the exact same junction now that is has been redesigned by London's supposedly cycle-friendly Mayor. This new road layout was finished a couple of weeks ago, part of Boris Johnson's scheme to revise London's junctions to make traffic flow more 'smoothly'.

This new Boris-designed junction is frankly terrifying. Where once you could cycle in relative safety in the bus lane, now you have to swing into the second lane of four, a lane in which motor vehicles will be turning left in front of you at high speed as you pedal frantically straight ahead. It's unbelievably lethal. As one commentator says: "I seriously fear for my life and other cyclists' lives on this junction." What's more, the bus lane has gone and notice just how much space there is beside the road for a decent Dutch-style bike track to run alongside.

My question to Kate Hoey MP is whether she genuinely understands the implication of her statement that cyclists should 'clearly understand their environment and not put themselves in danger'. I would like Ms Hoey to realise that London's Mayor has implemented road policies that put Londoners in danger when they are on bikes. The same is happening all over the country. What I want to know is what Kate Hoey proposes to do about it, not have a lecture about my ability to read road conditions. Her statement is insulting and utterly misses the point that The Times is making.

My concern is that Kate Hoey interprets the Cities fit for cycling campaign as a campaign to tell people to cycle more safely. That's only part of the message. The bulk of it is that the way our streets are designed and policed has to change. I hope she realises how little she has understood of the issues that are being discussed and debated in the media and that she changes her position before the debate in the Commons on February 23 but I doubt she will.

In fact, I doubt she wants me to use a bike at all. Back in 2010, Kate Hoey was vocal in trying to ban people cycling along London's South Bank - an off-road family and leisure bike route.It seems she doesn't want bikes to mix with cars but she also doesn't want bikes to get safe alternatives either. What's it to be? Shall we all take to our cars, Ms Hoey? 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Southwark Labour council reverses previous cycling policies, states publicly that fear of motor traffic is what puts people off using their bikes and pledges to change that. About time too.

Vauxhall Cross - spot the bike lane. There is one. It's the width of your handle bars. Clearly not enough space for more
Courtesy ibikelondon blog

Pictured above, Vauxhall Cross - an urban race track for motor vehicles. Yes, there are bike lanes here but they're fairly substandard. The one over Vauxhall Bridge (bottom right of the picture) is next to five lanes for motor vehicles and is literally as wide as my handle bars. Cycle from Wandsworth towards Oval on the bike track and you have to wait at eight separate bike traffic lights. People in cars, by contrast, only need stop at two traffic lights. If you're on a bike, this junction screams at you that you should get out the way of people who are in motor vehicles.

No amount of training makes you feel this is a safe place to use a bike. Last week, Olympic cyclist Nicole Cooke told The Times: "There are also junctions in London that need sorting out to make cyclists less vulnerable. I certainly wouldn’t fancy riding across Vauxhall Cross." But if you're coming from Wandsworth or Stockwell, this is the only way to reach central London and you have no choice but to cycle through it.

In that context, I am encouraged by the way The Times is raising the issue of safer cycling in our cities. I noticed in today's edition that David Cameron has committed to support the initiative and Julian Huppert (LibDem) has secured a three hour debate later this month. If you read this blog and think cycling is important, you should write to your MP and ask them to make sure they attend the debate. You can do that by clicking on The Times link here.

However, the same edition of today's Times quotes roads minister Mike Penning, who seems to think that cycling is already accounted for in the government's budgets and plans. Note that it isn't Mike Penning who wants a debate about safety for people on bikes, it's the MP for Cambridge, not the MP who is responsible for our roads. Penning talks about how the government is giving billions to local councils to spend on "transport improvements, including measures for cyclists". The reality is the vast majority of that money is going on new or wider roads, on electric car infrastructure and virtually none of it on infrastructure that will help people choose to use their bike rather than their car. The prime minister pledges his support but his minister is simply showing the support is little more than words.

Most people don't use bicycles to get from A to B in this country. The reason is simple. Most people look at the roads and think, no chance am I putting myself on a bicycle in the middle of four lanes of motor traffic and then turning right across that junction. As one local councillor put it in Cornwall this week: 'parents told me it was not safe, and that's why many choose to drive'.

And it's in that context that I want to laud some very recent changes in thinking at Labour-controlled Southwark Council, which yesterday announced plans to work on a 'network of safe routes for cyclists'. Yesterday's press release stated very clearly that the council will build 'safe, cycle routes free of intimidatory traffic for those who travel across the borough by bike'. Surveys, says the council, 'show that many people want to cycle but are put off by fear of traffic. This initiative aims to reduce those fears.'

This is the sort of language that makes sense, nothing like the obfuscation and denials of Mike Penning. It is also a significant shift in tone from the Labour administration at Southwark council. A couple of weeks ago the London SE1 website pointed out how the Southwark councillor responsible for cyclists' safety in the borough said that he would spend his time and money to 'focus on equipping cyclists with the skills to interact with other traffic rather than building a network of segregated routes'. This blog lambasted that intention as utterly out-of-touch and irresponsible. It is encouraging to see that same Labour councillor now supports a proper network where people will feel it is safe and sensible to use a bike.

Unfortunately, the Southwark press release also contains a cautionary note which is this: "We are also committed to lobbying Transport for London to ensure that the roads they are responsible for are as safe as possible....nine out of the ten most dangerous junctions on the borough are under the control of TfL." What that means is that Southwark has no power over the big main roads that run through the borough and are controlled by the Mayor, Boris Johnson - places similar to Vauxhall Cross (in Lambeth but controlled by Boris Johnson).

Plenty of space to make cycling safer on roads that are
 controlled by Boris Johnson in Southwark
Just like David Cameron, London's Mayor has started making the right noises about making London's roads places where people feel they can cycle safely. He announced a junction review late last year and then re-announced it as something new to The Times this week.

But the early signs are that Boris is listening but not yet implementing. Over at Euston Circus, the Mayor has announced a consultation on a new junction layout at the top of Tottenham Court Road. This consultation was announced after Boris Johnson had promised 'a step change in the way engineers think when planning road layouts'. Well, they clearly didn't have a step change here. The junction will be reduced from six lanes to three. And people on bikes will be expected to cycle bravely along these extra narrow lanes.

The Mayor needs to demonstrate he realises that the way his engineers design London's road network has an impact on the way we get around on London's streets. For people who use bikes on London's streets, that can have lethal consequences. Another blogger puts this point extremely well:

"The local police safer neighbourhood team were out on my commute home tonight warning cyclists about breaking the law on Victoria Park Road. They seemed to accept, though, that Hackney Council’s failure to provide safe lanes on an important cycling route was causing scores of cyclists to either put themselves in danger or conflict with pedestrians on the (also inadequate) pavements. I’m also hopeful from my chat with the SNT officer that the police in Hackney are actually already advocating for better infrastructure."

I think it's time that London's Mayor demonstrates that his much promised 'cycling revolution' actually has some legs. And he needs to start by actually building the infrastructure to support it. After an outcry by councillors and residents, Southwark's Labour council seems to have realised that too. It's not about building segregated bike lanes all over London. It is about building our road infrastructure so that there are plenty of 'safe, cycle routes free of intimidatory traffic for those who travel across the borough by bike'. Provided they get on and build it, then this is absolutely spot-on, in my view.