Saturday, 6 July 2013

Second cyclist killed on Cycle Super Highway to Bow. Boris needs to sort this out now. And so does the City of London which is planning a whopping 50 centimetre wide bike lane down the road from here. That's hardly going to make things better, is it?

This is the Cycle Super Highway to Bow at Aldgate East. It is a completely negligent design. 
On Friday night, a young woman was killed while cycling past Aldgate East tube on a Boris bike. The Metropolitan police issued a statement that the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet. The woman was killed in a collision with an HGV. Does anyone seriously think the key issue here is whether she was or wasn't wearing a helmet?

The BBC's London correspondent Tom Edwards got the message right when he reported: "The overwhelming feeling it leaves me with, is that for all the education programmes on blind-spots and millions being invested in safety, and for all the well-meaning exchange programmes for cyclists and HGV drivers - I'm afraid it doesn't seem to be working yet."

He's right. These things do help but they are only part of the answer. As the Dutch have been saying for years, "The ultimate solution for the blind spot problem is a structural separation of trucks and cyclists."

This is the second person to die cycling on Cycle Super Highway 2. The bike lane is a disgrace. It consists of blue paint and nothing else. The junctions are intimidating and difficult to cycle through, even for highly competent road cyclists. The bike lane is full of parked cars and vans. Lots of money has been spent on blue paint and PR and nothing more. It's a negligent disgrace.

What's even more of a disgrace is that lessons still haven't been learned. Last week, dozens of people attended the City of London cycling forum. The key topic of the evening was the Aldgate gyratory, ie the very area where last week's fatality took place. The room was asked to write down three things it liked and three things it didn't like about the City of London's plans to spend £12million getting rid of the Aldgate gyratory.

These are the plans by the City of London for Aldgate High Street. A one metre bike lane next to a 2.5 metre
loading bay for lorries. Spot the problem? Lorries are usually 3 m wide. That means the bike lane is actually only 50 centimetres wide. 

The feeling in the room was unanimous: The City of London's plans for Aldgate were woefully rubbish for people cycling east to west, just like the woman who was killed here last week was trying to do. What people wanted was proper, safe space for cycling. What people are going to get is bike lanes that stop, start, stop again and pavements that are massively wide. What they are also going to get is two metres of bike lane in one direction and a bike lane that is only one metre wide in the other direction. That one metre bike lane will run alongside a 2.5 m wide loading bay for lorries. Given most lorries are nearly 3m wide, that leaves 0.50 metres for you to cycle in. Oh, and the bike lane only lasts a few yards. After that you have to mix with the lorries and coaches through a police checkpoint that will be as wide as a coach but offers no safe way through for people on bikes.

There are, to be fair, some very good bits about the design: a brand new public space with a new north to south bike track is the highlight. But the scheme leaves a lot to be desired on the heavily-used east-west axis.

Detail of the planned road layout at Aldgate. Spot how the bike lanes start and stop all the time. Why? 
You can look at the City of London's Aldgate plans online and you can comment on them via the online survey. 

You can see a video fly-through of the Aldgate plans on the City of London website. It's interesting to compare them with the plans for a bus and bike lane in Manchester for reference.I know which road I'd rather cycle on.

Last night's death is horrific. And two groups of people need to do something about it. Transport for London needs to upgrade the whole of Cycle Super Highway 2 to make it safe to use because it quite clearly isn't. And the City of London needs to upgrade its plans a couple of hundreds yards down the road at Aldgate to make that area safe to use, because it quite clearly won't be under the current proposals.


  1. The Dutch are right to say: "The ultimate solution for the blind spot problem is a structural separation of trucks and cyclists." However, as I understand it, they also suggest that there are penultimate and even antepenultimate solutions that cannot be side-stepped.

    I am not saying for one second that the City of London's plan for Aldgate should not be radically improved. But if the City do publish the results of their little survey (the three things people disliked about the proposed scheme), I wonder how many responses would be along the lines of: Because it's not part of a network, or Because it's a piecemeal solution.

    Chapter 6 of Cycling: the way ahead answers the question: What needs to be known to take the first (right) steps? I have 'translated' the text into English here, I hope fairly.

    I have written: "Reproducing apparently effective action taken elsewhere could have negative consequences if the concerted and coherent programme on which such actions were based is not taken into account. On the contrary, it is preferable to draw inspiration from known examples with due caution. Keeping in mind some of the constant factors of a thoroughly understood cycling policy, allow full recourse to the imagination and try to make the best use of locally-available resources."

    Last night's death is tragic, I agree. But even if the City had proposed a scheme which ticked all of the Go Dutch boxes, if this work was not going to be undertaken within the framework provided by a "concerted and coherent programme", are we absolutely certain that the development of an isolated piece of quality infrastructure would have no "negative consequences"?

    I note that George Johnston pointed out to City officials that focussing on a hard-to-understand network of routes for cyclists of 'different abilities' is ... what? Not the simplest way to encourage cycling? That's for certain. It's an appalling idea. But I can't help thinking it is the best response the authorities feel able to give at the moment given the stiff resistance from the majority of cycling advocates to the idea of developing the whole of a comprehensive and easy-to-understand network to the point where it functions (i.e. "introducing" it).

  2. Bikemapper is talking dangerous nonsense. We must encourage safety improvements everywhere we can. Don't ever hold back on making things safe just because the places we don't improve will be relatively less safe.

    That's a bit like looking at an area where the murder rate is high but not providing any extra police officers because the nearby areas will appear relatively more dangerous. It's just absurd.

    And - just in case of doubt - the Aldgate plans are a steaming pile of dangerous crap which will kill and kill again.

    1. A famous physicist - whose name escapes me - tells the story that at least once a week he receives a paper from someone who claims to have proof that Einstein's Theory of Relativity is incorrect. He gives the paper to a student, with an accompanying letter which says: "There is a mistake on line ___. Everything after that is therefore incorrect."

      In Anonymouse's case, the mistake is on line 1. I am most definitely not saying that we should hold back from making things safe just because the places we don't improve would be relatively less safe. In fact, I agree that we must encourage safety improvements everywhere we can. However, I am saying that we should sort out these dangerous junctions within the framework provided by a "concerted and coherent programme". I am also saying that the City of London's plan for Aldgate should be radically improved.

      It can be predicted with a fair degree of statistical certainty that within the next four weeks a cyclist will be killed in London. What can not be predicted is where this fatality will occur. It could be anywhere. So yes, don't ever hold back from making things safe just because the places we don't improve will be relatively less safe. Indeed, we must do as much as possible as quickly as possible.

      By necessity, and as a rule of thumb, this would mean accepting interim measures. Certainly there are places which would prove to be an exception to this rule, and for all I know, Aldgate might be one of them. But as the former chair of the Cycling Embassy once said, cycling will not be taken seriously for as long as we pursue a piecemeal approach.

      Finally, this is the last time I respond to an anonymous critic. I am fed up with it. If you've got something that is worth saying, then man up, why don't you?

  3. Over on Kings Cross Environment we have been quietly and patiently trying to hold TfL to account for their failure to take timely action to improve safety on a junction they control at the bottom of York way where a young woman cyclist was killed by an HGV nearly two years ago. In Kings Cross we have asked a lot of questions and I thought I would share these here to help other campaigners.

    In my opinion TfL has not historically had adequate processes in place to safeguard cyclists on the roads it controls. And our experience in Kings Cross was that they are too slow to act when notified of potential for danger. This situation existed during the tenure of Ken Livingstone as Mayor and Boris Johnson. Something has been broken in TfL for a very long time with regard to cyclists on London’s roads until their sudden panic into action prior to the 2012 Mayoral campaign.

    Here are some basic questions that could be asked of TfL to ascertain whether they were prudent in their management of this section of road.

    Did TfL ever receive any complaints or other communications including say from representatives or cyclist lobby groups or individual citizens about cyclist or other road safety at or near the spot where the fatality occurred.

    Did TfL perhaps through its media monitoring operations observe in the media such as blogs and specialist cycling publications complaints about safety at or near the spot?

    What are the details of these complaints – please publish them?

    What was the process in place for handling such complaints at the time they were received? Please describe it, including at which level in TfL managers were informed of any potential threat to personal safety or threat to life.

    For complaints received what checking and risk assessment was made, what recommendations arose from that assessment?

    Did TfL identify improvements that will reduce the contact between cyclists and vehicles?

    What cost benefit analysis was carried out to evaluate and rank improvements?

    To what extent was smoothing traffic flow a factor in evaluating improvements?

    What improvements were made and when?

    Which improvements identified were not made?

    What was the highest management or bureaucratic level in TfL that awareness of safety issues was raised?

    The blue painted cycle super highway was designed to alter people’s road usage patterns and their perceptions of road use. What risk assessment was made for the installation of the section of superhighway where the accident occurred?

    Does the blue painted cycle superhighway at the point the accident occurred comply with TfL’s own Cycling Design Standards (as opposed to on superhighways?)

    Hope this is helpful


  4. And what's your and Tom Edwards solution to the much higher rates of motor cycle casualties and much higher absolute numbers of pedestrians?

    Segregated motorcycle lanes? Segregated pavements?

    1. A different anonymous16 July 2013 at 23:43

      Pavements are already segregated by things called kerbs.

      And motorcycle casualties are all too often caused by the rider's ambition exceeding his ability.

  5. I don't mean to contradict or challenge anything said here. There is a clear problem and it must be investigated. My reason for posting is to share some of my knowledge as both a cyclist and HGV driver with over 20 years experience in both roles.

    The first thing which I would like to address is the blind spot issue. In my view it is a complete red herring. I drive various trucks of all types and total blind spots are never in the zone where cyclists have been killed. It is simply a method of excusing a driver who has failed to look! Modern mirror requirements cover every area adequately apart from the centre rear (often covered by a camera) and the outside of a trailer in a turn (which should be of no danger to a cyclist). That said, in very busy urban environments, a drivers eyes can't be everywhere and separation is the only absolute though perhaps impractical solution.

    I would like to correct the assertion that most HGVs are 3m wide. With the exception of fridge vehicles which are 2.60m, construction and use regs allow a maximum width of 2.55m. The mirrors have to be outside of this width in order to work but should not affect other road users apart from other large vehicles. That is not to say that the suggested modifications are anything but minimal, but I believe that having inaccurate facts may weaken any argument.

    I drive and cycle through central London regularly and see some very risky behaviour by cyclists. Passing along the inside of large vehicles is normal behaviour for urban cyclists. We are encouraged into this behaviour by cycle lanes and peer practice. Experienced drivers in this environment expect and cope with it, but as the cost of living in urban environments rises beyond the reach of lorry and bus drivers, less experienced drivers enter the equation, often from other countries.

    It is now a legal requirement for vocational drivers to take regular ongoing training. One module available covers vulnerable road users in the urban environment. I have tried and failed to get ministers to make this module compulsory. Maybe now is the time to reconsider this?

    1. I think the issue is even simpler. Humans behave in a particular way. No amount of road warnings, zebra crossings, traffic controls or public information has changed the way that humans cross roads. We all know the risks but we all still step into roads at points that may not be safe and are not designated for crossing.

      It's the same with all road users including cyclists and lorry drivers. This is not a criticism but an acceptance that humans will always think "Oh, it won't happen to me". So yes, there is a strong argument for changing the road infrastructure, because changing human behaviour will take a very, very long time.

    2. I agree with this but we either shrug and accept that drivers were just careless because of the attitude stated or we start to expect a higher standard of training and behaviour. Human behaviour can demonstrably be changed over quite a short period of time, certainly in a time scale that may match or exceed a complete change of road structure.

      There is never going to be a zero collision solution, but there can definitely be a reduction. Accident (not a term of my choosing) rates are reportedly falling with the exception of cycling deaths. The new requirement for vocational drivers to take regular ongoing training is a golden opportunity to address this precise issue where it WILL (assertion based on evidence and example)make a difference. Tom Edwards asserts that such training has had no effect, maybe the drivers involved in recent tragedies have not received such training because although taking training is compulsory, the content is not!

  6. Can anybody explain to me how the designers that produced the map above make cyclists appear and disappear on their journey? If they cycle on point A in a street, you cannot image them NOT to be there 50 m onwards? Can you? Or do I miss something of the engeneering philosy?
    And as for mixing cyclists and motortraffic: if you do not want them to mix on a simple straight street (hence the bike lane), why would you want to take chances mixing them on a junction (and not have the bike lane there)? A juntion is taking attention from everybody in traffic, so collisions and other mixing problems are more likely there, not less. Or are there statistics proving otherwise?
    I must be missing something, I feel so blonde....

    1. Well, it is typical of English design for bike lanes, they disappear magically at every junction, intersection or other "interesting" spot.
      You are not as blond as Boris, believe me ;-)

  7. Horrible to hear of another cyclist death.

    My weekend was blighted by trying to avoid Brixton Road using the cycle route on Loughborough Road. Again, what sort of clueless idiot designs this? Obviously no room for a cycle lane here - not with all those bollards taking up space on the almost empty pavements. Make it a bit more interesting - lets add a pinch point with those traffic islands. Then add a speed pillow to encourage motor vehicles to encroach on the cycle lane. It's a 20mph zone, but of course unenforced.

    The vehicle that thought twice at the very last minute about overtaking me at that pinch point was a Police BMW X5. No matter. The same Police driver then tried to left hook us as we crossed this junction - .

  8. I inadvertently plonked myself amongst the Councillors and advisers and right next to Gilligan at the City forum thing as I arrived a little bit late.

    There was a huge amount of tutting and disapproval around me whenever someone criticised the plans. They genuinely thought the cyclists would be delighted with their new scheme. And Gilligan sat with his head in his hands for most of it. The people who are responsible for this stuff still just don't get it. And there is an alarming disconnect between the rhetoric from places like the Mayors office and action on the ground.

    I think we are long overdue some direct action on this subject. Let's start picketing Waterloo bridge every day. Or hold a Pedal on Westminster (again).

  9. This why you should take primary position, not the cycle lane. Cycle lanes make things worse, not better, for cyclists. The answer is not segregation. It's for cyclists to take their rightful position in the centre of the lane. A cyclist is a vehicle like any other. Don't get intimidated. Take the lane!

    1. Tell that to an 8 or 80 year old.

    2. Is this a genuine opinion or just a very bad trolling attempt? Do you have any idea why the vast majority of people do not cycle in traffic? I am one who does and yet even I want to have a safe comfortable pleasant journey rather than having to "take the lane" all the fucking time.

    3. I agree with Dominic. The more cyclists cycle on the road, at a safe distance from parked cars, the more careful and patient drivers will have to be. I don't mind being honked at a few times - I'm perfectly within my rights to be on the road.

    4. Dominic and Marianne, you sound like people from the stone age. Luckily the numbers falling for this Franklinist dogma is diminishing daily.

      I can only assume you don't have children. If you do, and would be happy for them to "take the lane" at Aldgate, then I'd be very surprised.

  10. Very sad news.

    One point that Hexhome also noted above; the maximum legal width of a lorry in the UK is 2.55m excluding mirrors. When parked the left wingmirror is obviously over the pavement and the driver-side mirror is by no means 45cm wide. Furthermore the bottom of the mirrors is higher than the majority of cyclists.
    Therefore saying that "lorries are usually 3m wide" takes the strenght out of an otherwise very important and valid argument (the fact that a 1m wide cycling lane between a loading bay and a traffic lane is a very dangerous idea).

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Lorries don't park at 0 cm to the kerb. A wing mirror plus the distance from the kerb when parked is easily 50 cm.