Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Two more London cyclists killed this week. One-third of those killed aged under 18. Meanwhile, Transport for London to temporarily close bus lanes and ban bikes from Olympic Lanes. Why not just ban bikes entirely?

This is a junction on a new cycle super highway in junction this morning. Shared with tipper trucks like this one. We are
the only global-scale city in the world designing new cycle infrastructure this badly

Earlier today, the BBC confirmed that another two people have been killed cycling in London over the last week - one man by the driver of (yet another) tipper truck in Ealing late last week, another man was killed by a car driver in Mitcham this morning. Horrifyingly, the Paralympic cycling gold medal hopeful Rachel Morris was also driven into by a car driver while training near Guildford at the weekend. She is unlikely to recover in time to make the Games. Can you imagine anything more horrific than enduring a nervous system malfunction and having the guts and the courage to fight it and become a Paralympic champion, only to be run over by someone driving a car into the back of you while training? It is to British Cycling's credit that the organisation is not only backing her but also calling for far a far tougher approach by the criminal justice system on behalf of all road users.

It's worth noting that at this point in the year, ONE THIRD of all people killed on bikes in London this year have been aged 17 or under. A horrifying statistic. A 17 year old cyclist killed by a hit and run driver. A 9 year old boy killed on his bike by a hit and run driver. And a 10 year old boy hit and killed on his bike by a black cab driver.

Also today, the Guardian picked up on a press release by the Environmental Transport Association which notes that, during the Olympics, London cyclists will be banned from using many of the city's bus lanes (in many places the bus lane won't be in operation and will be filled with general traffic, so no safe cycling there) and simultaneously banned from overtaking queuing motor traffic that is using what used to be bus lanes by using the Olympic Games Lanes (which will be on the right hand side of the defunct bus lanes). Try to get out of  a hairy situation in a cramped, narrow general traffic lane or attempt to get past queues of stationary lorries and you'll be slapped with a whopping £130 fine. As I understand it, there will be police stationed all along the Olympic routes to catch miscreants.

As the Association puts it: "More than nine out of ten Games Lanes are situated on the outside of traffic queues, but cyclists will not be allowed to enter these ‘offside’ Games Lanes for what are described as ‘safety reasons’ – a policy at odds with national standards for cycle training and one described as potentially highly dangerous by the ETA."

The Environmental Transport Association goes one step further and accuses a Transport for London director of "suggesting that cyclists should sit in traffic queues rather than overtaking slow-moving traffic". I think the TfL director in question should try using a bike in London. I suspect he hasn't.

Over at Hyde Park, meanwhile, one twitter user noticed: "Without warning and with no signs the cycle lane and advanced stop line that crosses Park Lane from Hyde Park into Upper Brook St/Grosvenor Square has gone". Bye bye the only safe west to east cycle crossing of Park Lane - a 10 lane motorway. 

And, as many of you already know, the safe routes for cycling around the Olympic Park itself are gone, closed for the duration of the Olympics. You can add your voice to "Open Our Towpath" campaign by signing up your support on their facebook page.

New Olympic Lane being installed on the Embankment
This is supposed to be the "greenest" Olympics ever. You might have thought cycling would be a part of that. No chance. Pardon my French, but cycling has been well and truly shafted by the London Olympics. The roads - already woefully lacking in any meaningful cycle infrastructure - are being made even more dangerous for people to cycle on. You're being discouraged from driving. Now you're also being discouraged from cycling. 

But at least one Conservative councillor thinks people are just being pessimistic. The councillor responsible for cycling in the borough of Richmond has issued a press release that almost beggars belief: “If we want to encourage more people to cycle", says councillor Katharine Haborne. "maybe we should stop going on about how dangerous it is because, frankly, it isn’t and we’re just putting people off."

I couldn't disagree more. What's putting people off is that cycling in London has become a preserve of only those fit enough, fast enough and brave enough to play with the tipper trucks. And even then, most of us only cycle to work and back and don't risk cycling at times when we can't use the bus lanes.

That's nothing to do with 'going on about how dangerous it is', councillor Haborne. People aren't stupid, they can see for themselves how cycling is simply ignored as legitimate form of transport in London. So they drive. Want to change the cycling culture in this city? Then change the infrastructure. And the culture of the roads. Don't want 'cyclists' jumping red lights? Then build infrastructure that encourages all sorts of people to use bicycles and watch as the majority pedal along nice and quietly in every day clothes.

Clearly not enough space for a bike lane here.
Via AsEasyAsRiding blog
And please don't start insisting that 'there's not enough space' for bike lanes. Councillor Harborne would do well to read a fantastic blog post over the weekend by AsEasyAsRidingABike in which he points out pretty conclusively just how much space there is to install cycle infrastructure in London. The only thing that's lacking is political will. As Mark puts it: "The real issue in London is not ‘physical constraints’ or ‘a lack of space’ but rather how that space is allocated. In other words, how those ‘other road users’ might be affected. In many places, they needn’t be affected at all, because the amount of space is vast. But I think Boris has to grasp the nettle and recognise that space will need to be reallocated if he is going to ultimately solve the problems of congestion in London."

And if the Olympics are any sign of what's to come, space is going to be reallocated. But it's going to be taken away from people on bikes and given over to people in BMWs. I'm excited about the Olympics coming to London, I'm happy to accept some disruption as a result. But it's evident that, outside of a few small teams, Transport for London has systemically failed to even think about cycling as a legitimate transport form. And that bodes pretty badly for the future, after the Olympics are behind us.

Cyclegaz has written an excellent post about Mitcham Road, where a man was killed cycling yesterday morning. Cyclegaz was also knocked off his bike on this road. He puts the blame squarely on the road layout. I agree with him.


  1. I'm pleased you covered this as I was astounded when I read the excuse as to why cyclists cannot share games lanes.

    I find the reasons given by TfL/LOGOC incredibly hypocritical. Busy roads and having to move into offside lanes are part of the day to day challenges of being a cyclist in London and for 50 weeks of 2012 they are exactly the environment TfL have given us. For 2 weeks of the Olympics these conditions are all of a sudden deemed unsuitable and so we're not allowed to use them.

    I'm not cynical but of course everyone knows this is not the real reason - they don't want cyclists getting in the way.

  2. I doubt very much whether the percentage of people under the age of 17 being killed while cycling has changed significantly over the years. Back in the 80s when I was cycling to school, the majority of cycle movements were done by schoolkids. Consequently, I would have expected possibly the majority of those killed in the 80s to have been children.

    Children are always going to be the most vulnerable road users where they have to share roadspace with motor vehicles, for the obvious reason that they have yet to acquire the necessary roadcraft which comes with experience.

  3. A disingenuous headline. Please change. Cyclists are not being banned from bus lanes, bus lanes are merely disappearing for a few weeks. And neither is the ETA statement a response to the two deaths as suggested by your misleading headline. Blog posts such as this worry me. What happened to discussing issues with moderation? The increased vitriol of bike blogs online seems to match the increasingly aggressive behaviour of my fellow cyclists on the road. Your rants are hindering not helping. Sorry.

    1. I see the headline has now been changed. However, while your comment on the original headline was technically correct (bikes are not being banned from us lanes, it's the bus lanes themselves which are being banned) the headline captured the spirit of the problem.

      Most (not all) bus lanes are available to cyclists and some (not most - just TfL and some boroughs) are also available to mtorcyclists. Most (apart from City of London) are available to taxis. None are available to other vehicles, not even to Addison Lee!

      Therefore the volume, and to some extent the speed of motor traffic in bus lanes is lighted than in other traffic lanes, and as professional drivers bus and cab drivers are more aware than most of the personal consequences - loss of earnings, maybe even loss of livelihood - of inflicting harm through carelessness or worse.

      This makes bus lanes relative safe havens for cyclists, indeed they are about as close as this benighted city gets to cycle infrastructure of any kind.

      To lose that protection has a significant impact on the safety and comfort of cyclists in London, to teh point that it might not be a formal legal ban, but it is the next best thing.

      I do hope you are not connecting thee strong feelings voiced by many current cycle bloggers withthe increasingly aggressive behaviour of many cyclists on the road. they are not merely different, they are opposite. Blloggers are arguing for improvements in road engineering which will encourage many more people to take up cycling, people of a more nervous, less confident or assertive/aggressive disposition. The issue with current cyling culture is that to be willing to cycle in London, you have to be confident perhaps to the point of exhibiting risk-taking behaviour, you have to be physically fit so you can do the necessary sprints, you have to be competitive, and you have to be assertive (perhaps morphing into aggressive). That means you are overwhelmingly likely to be male, aged 25-45. Men make up about 75% of all London cyclists, and male 25-45 year olds make up about half. In other words, the sector of society with the highest testosterone levels.

      What bloggers like this and many others are looking for is a world in which children, women, and beyond-middle-aged people can feel comfortable about cycling. If that were to happen, like the Netherlands or Denmark, or a few other European countries, the predominant cycling culture would change out of all recognition.

  4. One way to sort the whole issue, stop anyone and everyone from bringing any form of personal transport into London. There is already an area marked as the inner city. There are buses and underground running every five minute or so, supposing some might be slower. There is no reason for anyone to drive, cycle, skate or use any other form of wheels in the city. There are millions of cameras, people can be easily heavily fined if they try to use anything else but the transport provided - Simples. The government will love losing the tax paid by drivers per day, no parking problems, no accidents with or without cars/lorries/bike/scooter/skateboard/skates. Problem solved, go Boris, block the roads overnight and set a new law, in this democratic nation. Where the peoples vote counts! Or not ......

  5. Saw an olympic branded BMW speed through a red traffic light this evening at the south circular and St Johns Road Junction… the next olympic branded vehicle I see I am going to get in front of and cycle very slowly… suggest we all do the same, this is way beyond whats acceptable now.

  6. I have written via email to my MP Sir George Young with reference to this and the Paralympic articles. I encourage everyone reading this to do the same. Politicians need to hear from the normally silent majority that want safer means if transport.

  7. After being hit by a motorbike last year I can't bring myself to cycle in London during the week any more. This city just isn't safe, and if anything the situation is getting worse. It's incredibly depressing to feel you can't do something as innocently enjoyable as riding a bike without the fear of serious injury. Until there is someone 'really' fighting the corner of cyclists in the assembly I can't see any change though. For the record, I don't blame drivers or pedestrians for the situation, I am as much one of them as a cyclist, the infrastructure is the enemy here.

  8. If there suddenly *is* space to segregate different types of traffic we should be campaigning for the Olympic lanes to be made permanent cycle lanes after the Games.

  9. I feel very sorry for those cyclists who are looking to just pootle from A to B. I treat it as a fitness routine so tend to ride quickly and assertively mostly putting myself away from trouble. However, it's hard not to feel for those who are happy with pootling along as they are in real danger of impatient, distracted motorists and lorry drivers. The issue with the Olympics is one of contracts. We signed up (with little if any ability to negotiate) a contract that specifies how many games lanes are available and what they need to look like etc. If you want the games, there are conditions. It's only two or so weeks and then we can get back to fighting our corner for proper permanent change.

  10. I'm presently in Berlin and cycling in the city here couldn't be more different than in the UK. They have a (mostly) separate infrastructure, even down to mini-traffic lights for cycles, and it all works wonderfully and safely as cycles are prioritised and respected as vehicles on the road.
    But the main thing, and why it all works so well, is that everyone respects the lights, completely and absolutely. Pedestrians don't cross anywhere other than over crossings and nobody (bikes, cars or people) make a move unless it's green.
    I'm an avid cyclist in the UK and am continually shocked by cyclists who jump the lights, apart from being very dangerous it doesn't help the cause.

    That said, having a dedicated cycle infrastructure is of course a winner, and something I can't see ever happening in the UK as it's not seen to be important, beats me why.

    1. The difference is that in Germany all traffic lights have phases for the people and vehicles using them. In Britain, many traffic lights don't even have a phase for pedestrians, let alone cycles. It's a contract that our authorities don't want to enter into: we'll always wait for a green light, and they'll always provide a fair chance for us to cross the road.

  11. This article is so well-written, so astonishing and depressing. This is was cycling has come to in London. A new low. Boris and TFL should be ashamed of themselves, if they haven't realised that they should have been years ago.

  12. The BBC say “A cyclist has been killed in a collision with a car…” and “ …Tarsem Dari, 60, died after colliding with a tipper lorry…” .
    Maybe the motor vehicles were parked up and the cyclists charged merrily into them.
    But you seem to suggest that the vehicle drivers could in some way be at fault. Carful now…

  13. An old American bike rider just returned from riding all over England/France/London (while on a Bike Friday foldup) weighs in now...
    First, you're dealing with an incredibly diverse biking population; everything from kids to pedi-cabs to 'ordinary commuters' to racing daredevils. Then you've got these huge buses that totally fill the bus lanes...as if that isn't bad enough you've got these tour buses PARKED in the lanes instead of moving. Then you've got these monstrosities known as rotaries, can't believe there aren't more accidents at those, especially the big ones. But now to the big one; the thing that struck terror into our cycle-hardened hearts. Brit drivers are less courteous than American or even those superior French. Really? Yes, really! They fancy themselves formula race drivers and are terribly impatient...does that go hand in hand? Not just in London; oh no, also Cornwall, Bath, Salisbury, Oxford, etc. Thank God for the big British and French flags on the backs of our bikes, at least we could be seen if not respected.

    A word about your tube/underground system. As a Chicagoan who has ridden subways all over the world, for a world class city London has some of the worst service I've ever seen. I've timed it; the interterminal shuttle airport trains put your system to shame...there were times I wanted to get off and walk if that were possible. Fix your underground and perhaps more of the drivers will get off the road and use it. God knows that your Tube fares are higher than anywhere else on earth; why not use those ill-gotten gains to improve the system?
    P.S. My wife and I loved London!