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?