Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Why the BBC's 'War on Britain's Roads' was complete rubbish

Many people have criticised the BBC's recent 'War on Britain's Roads' programme so I know I'm hardly the first person to be saying these things. Yet, the programme was so infuriatingly banal that say them I must.

While being an hour of reasonably well-produced television, 'War on Britain's Roads' was brutally misinformed as to the real reasons that cyclists and motorists come into conflict on our streets. The programme went for the 'human-angle', interviewing both cyclists and motorists involved in incidents and eventually implicitly concluding that we should all get along better and perhaps lorries should have more mirrors and sensors on them.

A taxi driver very dangerously cuts up a cyclist. Rather than this just being condoned out-of-hand so we can all move on, we are interested treated by the BBC to 'both sides of the story'. This is bullshit. The taxi driver was at fault. He shouldn't have passed the cyclist so close. He could have killed the cyclist. Why can't this just be accepted as a fact?
If the cyclist can knock his frame to tell him he's too close, then he's too close. There shouldn't be any debate over this.

This is all 'true'. But it's also the sort of trite rubbish that a child could come up with simply by imagining a road that's being used by a cyclist, a motorist, and an HGV.

There is no pathological, eugenic difference between Britons and Hollanders.

The reason Dutch people do not have a 'War' on their roads is that Dutch roads are designed so that cyclists and motorists can both use the roads safely.

This is done in many ways. One of these is putting in cycle lanes on most roads where cars are doing 30mph or more which prevents motorists becoming angry about cyclists slowing them down when they want to drive at 30mph or above.

Do the BBC recommend implementing more and better cycle lanes, even implicitly? 

No. They seem to imply instead that motorists should perhaps maybe calm down a bit if they don't have space to overtake, and cyclists should maybe just bite the bullet if they get hit because they're 'taking control of the road'. (and on that note, can you think of a more idiotic and unnecessarily inflammatory way to describe cycling in the primary position?)

Similarly, after focusing on the tragic story of a young woman who was killed by a left-turning lorry, did the narrator draw the conclusion that enforcing a London-wide ban on HGVs that lack industry-standard mirrors and motion sensors would be a good idea?

No. It was simply left to the woman's bereaved mother to pursue her solo-campaign with the lorry companies that still fill our streets with dangerously ill-equipped vehicles. But why should this be one woman's responsibility? Anyone can get killed by a left-turning lorry. It's everyone's responsibility. Yet the BBC's opinion seems to be that people who (idiotically?) choose to cycle are some 'other tribe' that need to fend for themselves and don't come in for the basic rights of government-led safety that any normal citizen is entitled to.

How many of these cyclists have a head-cam? None. The BBC failed to mention that the agressive head-cam footage used for the programme was completely unrepresentative of both the cycling style and experience of the majority of Britain's cyclists who rather surprisingly don't choose to cycle on road-bikes at 30mph.

I could go on all day about the problems with the programme, but I'll end with a final thought:

Throughout we were treated to a fair range of clips of motorists behaving badly, then cyclists behaving badly, in what I presume was an attempt to give a 'balanced view' of the situation. Yet, did the narrator mention that in the case of motorists behaving badly cyclists die (119 so far in 2012; a five-year high). And did the narrator mention how many motorists have been killed by cyclists jumping red lights? I confess I don't know the exact figure off the top of my head but I imagine it's somewhere around zero.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not condoning red-light-jumpers for a second. But there is, at least for my money, a complete difference both in degree and consequence between the crimes of bad driving and bad cycling.

I would have preferred it if BBC's 'War on Britain's Roads' could have pointed this fact out. Or if one of the cyclists interviewed had had the presence of mind to do so when confronted with the extreme footage of a messenger race at the end of the programme, instead of blithely suggesting that a "punch in the face" was the solution to the 'everyday' problem of a bicycle courier competition held for a cash-prize 6 years ago.


If you'd like to make a complaint about the programme you can do so in about 2 minutes here. (The BBC do at least have a very quick and easy online complaint-making system in place...)

For two much more thorough and better researched pieces on the same subject please also see:

As Easy As Riding A Bike's excellent recent article: That 'war' on Britain's roads - the statistics
- Peter Walker's latest piece in The Guardian: BBC's War on Britain's Roads: even more fake than we feared

Friday, 30 November 2012

Some thoughts on 'SkyCycle': a further defence of Boris Johnson's cycling credentials

Clearly we can all take as read that the SkyCycle idea publicised earlier this year is absolute rubbish and neither practically nor financially viable. However, I would argue that putting it on the table was actually a very shrewd move by Boris Johnson and co at TfL.

Snazzy (if completely unrealistic) computer animations like this help capture the tabloid imagination.
Unlike, for instance, a proposed protected cycle-lane (which all cyclists would much more prefer) SkyCycle plans are 'sexy' and thus got significant tabloid coverage. This publicity constructively helps to put cycling on the map to the general British populace as a viable mode of transport, and reinforce the idea that cycling conditions in this country are currently substandard and something needs to be done.

Furthermore, by giving the impression (whether correct or not) that they have pursued and then discarded the SkyCycle scheme, if Boris Johnson and TfL then turn around and say (as they do appear to be doing now) that what we actually need are early-start cycle-only traffic lights and cycle bus stop By-Passes, then their arguments have significantly more clout with those that oppose improving road layout for cyclists. They can say, 'look, we've looked into a number of options but a protected cycle lane and reduced motor traffic capacity is really the only solution'.

Perhaps I'm being too kind to Mr Johnson, but I don't think it's wise for cyclists to underestimate the depth of anti-cycling feeling that a politician like Boris has to negotiate in order to deliver any lasting road layout solutions; especially when these very solutions will often result in increases to average motor traffic journey times in London.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Surprisingly good plans from TfL for Bow Roundabout Junction Review

TfL have just released some rather radically effective new plans for Bow Roundabout. They propose:

1. Cycle-only early-start traffic lights with a cycle-only Advance Stop Box which will be 18 metres deep. This is an unsatisfactory compromise solution that has been effectively critiqued by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) here.

2. Cycle Bus Stop By-Pass. This is, by contrast, a very impressive idea since it will prevent cyclists coming into conflict with buses at the bus stop on the approach to the roundabout. Buses are a inescapable feature of London's traffic and as such are not going to go away anytime soon. However, cycle bus stop By-Passes are a very rare, even non-existant, sight in London at present. The implementation of a successful and popular Cycle Bus Stop By-Pass at Bow Roundabout could pave the way for their installation across London's busier roads which is really a very exciting prospect indeed.

(For pedestrians getting off buses that need to cross the By-Pass, TfL are also intelligently proposing a specific pedestrian crossing on the cycle lane which is visible on the map below. This is a much better idea than having a general-crossing free-for-all for the duration of the By-Pass because it limits pedestrian-cyclist conflict to a specific area and gives cyclists a specific location where they need to look out and give way to pedestrians, thereby reducing the risk of pedestrians and cyclists not seeing each other.)

Map of proposed changes. Click here for a PDF download of the image.

I would urge, in no uncertain terms, that anyone interested in Cycling in London visits and takes the 'Online Survey' sometime between now and 19 Dec 2012 in order to let TfL that they are doing the right thing.

It's just as important to let know organisations like TfL know when they are doing stuff right as it is to let them know when they are getting it wrong (c.f. the closure of Upper Ground covered impressively well by Cyclists in the City).

That way we can hopefully see more Cycle Bus Stop By-Passes (and Cycle Early Start systems) being rolled out all over London; i.e. not just at junctions where people have to die before TfL start doing anything about the road layout situation.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Doubling of Boris Bike Fares from 2 January 2013 - DISASTROUS move by Boris Johnson and TfL

EDIT (25/4/13) - As predicted... Boris Bike rentals drop by a third in the first three months of 2013 (and that's despite an overall increase in the total number of journeys made by bike in London, and large amounts of 'cycling publicity' caused by our new Cycling Commisioner)


From 2 January 2013 daily access to the London Cycle Hire Scheme will double from £1 to £2, weekly access from £5 to £10, and yearly access from £45 to £90.

This is an absolutely atrocious move by Boris Johnson and TfL at just the point when cycling in London generally, and usage of the Boris Bikes, seems to be on the rise.

As this blog has previously argued, one of the principle advantages of the London Cycle Hire Scheme (if not the principal advantage) is the low cost of renting a Boris Bike, making it in almost all situations the cheapest way of getting around London short of walking.

Increasing the charge for access fees by 100% - while bus and tube fares rise by only 4.2% - will completely destroy London Cycle Hire's position as the cheapest form of transport in London, and make single bus and tube journeys, in certain situations, a cheaper way for a Londoner to get from A to B than renting a Boris Bike.

Similarly, raising the price of annual subscriptions will make it much harder to woo new members to the scheme and may convince many existing customers (like myself) to choose not to renew their membership next year.

Yearly membership to London Cycle Hire to double from £45 to £90 from January 2nd 2013.
While their might be a very slight uptake is usage from certain sections of the upper-middle classes that will inevitably see a more expensive product as worth buying simply on account of its higher price, the overall and unavoidable effect of this price hike will be to further to cement an image of cycling that is centered on the rich, white, middle class.

This is exactly what cycling shouldn't be.

Cycling is the cheapest, greenest, and healthiest mode of transport known to man. It should therefore be associated with all social groups, especially lower-income segments of the population.

Instead Boris Johnson and TfL's latest decision will only further entrench a completely unnecessary and invalid view of cycling that is restricted to 'lyrca-louts' and 'arsehole-bankers'.

Moreover, if the doubling of rental costs results in a dip in Boris Bike usage, this fare increase could very well lead to an increase in cycling deaths and fatalities in London.

Over the past few years large numbers of Boris Bikes in Central London have helped to calm traffic and make the streets safer for everyone. This benefit to all Londoners that choose to cycle (or walk) will be lost if Cycle Hire usage declines.

This blog has championed Boris Johnson's efforts in the past, but this fare increase is idiotic, incompetent.

Worse, it will in any case be ineffectual, since too few Londoners use the Boris Bike scheme to contribute anywhere near the billions of pounds needed for the continuing tube upgrade (and £180 million which the new routemasters cost). The fiscal burden should instead be borne by the tax payer, and tube and bus users themselves.

If you believe that the planned price rises are ridiculous and cretinous, please feel free to drop Barclays Cycle HireBoris Johnson, and TfL an email and let them know your thoughts.


Please see also similar responses from The Evening Standard, I love Boris Bikes, and The Telegraph on this issue.

Monday, 8 October 2012

TfL / Royal Parks: Bring Boris Bikes to the Mall

Back in July 2009 TfL, led by our cycle-friendly Mayor Boris Johnson, proposed installing a large 38-bike Cycle Hire Docking Station on the Mall as part of the initial 2010 implementation of the Boris Bike scheme. (For those interested the full details of the refused planning application can be found here.)

There is currently a massive glut of Cycle Hire Docking Stations in the Mall Area. See for yourself on this map.
Among those idiotically opposed to the Docking Station was the Conservative MP for Westminster, Mark Field, and the proposed site on the Mall was eventually rejected on the grounds of:

"impact on streetscape"  (!)

Yes, installing a Docking Station here would clearly change the large pavement area on the North side of the Mall in some small, minor and purely cosmetic way. But as has been shown with other public events like the Notting Hill Carnival and the Olympic Games, the Cycle Hire bikes can be quickly and easily removed during busier periods to prevent excess congestion. When this is done all one is left with is a few stands barely waist height. There really is no logical reason not to extent the Cycle Hire Scheme to comprehensively cover the Mall/Constitution Hill area.

Moreover, if there is one part of Central London where the roads are wide and empty enough to accomodate large amounts of cycle traffic it is the Mall. The entire network of roads around Buckingham Palace are almost comically large and this whole area could really become a very pleasant place to cycle around in the near future.

This is something devoutly to be wished, since a higher numbers of cyclists (instead of cars and taxis) on these streets would make the whole neighbourhood:

1. Cleaner
2. Less polluted
3. Quieter
4. Safer (no one can argue that even the most irresponsible cyclist in London is a fraction as dangerous as a car going at 30mph or more)
5. Less congested (cyclists take up far less road space than the equivalent amount of passengers using cars, taxis, or even buses)
6. Safer cycling (since as cyclist numbers increase political support for tough decisions in favour of cyclists - e.g. reallocating road space in cyclists' favour, cycle-only traffic signals, adequate cycle parking in urban centres - will become ever greater)

The Mall's proximity to the wonderful off-road East-West cycle routes available through Hyde Park also mean that it is (comparatively) very pleasant to travel to and from by bike meaning a Docking Station there would be very well popular with both tourists and locals alike.

From the official Westminster Council planning application. Space for a Docking Station here? YES YES YES. Boris Bike racks have been squeezed into far smaller spaces in the more cycle-friendly boroughs of London.

As I've argued before in this blog, Cycle Hire schemes function as a highly effective 'gateway drug' to much higher levels of cycling by all portions of the population, not just on cycle-hire bikes. This is one reason why cycling rates in London have risen so markedly in the last two years despite the amount of safe cycle infrastructure in the city, and the statistical risk to cyclists, remaining relatively static from 2010 to 2012.

Therefore, it is clearly in the interest of everyone interested in cycling in London to improve the currently woeful lack of Cycle Hire Docking Stations in the Mall area. How can this be done?

The Mall as it is now. Full of (mostly empty) taxis and not a single cyclist in sight.
Well, fortunately I've been informed by TfL that they are now re-applying for planning permission for a Docking Station on the Mall as part of the 2013/2014 Phase 3 expansion of the Boris Bike scheme which will (hopefully) include substantial intensification of the scheme in Central London. This intensification is needed to help accomodate increased commuter flow of bikes from the South-West areas of London which are being brought into the area covered by the scheme.

Therefore, if you want to help support TfL's, and the Mayor's, efforts to gradually tame Westminster and make it that little bit less cycle-toxic, please sign this petition by I Love Boris Bikes to bring the Cycle Hire Scheme to the Mall.

If TfL can show evidence of widespread support for a Docking Station here they are much more likely to get a successful planning application for it.

Furthermore, if you are a resident in the Borough of Westminster please consider writing personally to your local councillors and Mark Field MP, as letters from personal constituents can often be more effective than large scale campaigns.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Doing the simple things well with road design for cyclists

Below is a picture of Storey's Way, Cambridge (googlemap street view:,0.107503&spn=0.017303,0.0318&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=47.483365,65.126953&hnear=Cambridge,+United+Kingdom&t=m&layer=c&cbll=52.213776,0.104975&panoid=-l2D8TEtu8I4pkMgJsVPPg&cbp=12,20.89,,0,1&z=15)

Cycling right-turn cycle safety box outside Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

The very simple cycle 'box' painted on the road provides greatly increased safety to any cyclists turning right here. Drivers on both sides of the road are alerted to the potential presence of a cyclist by the red paint on the road and cyclists are therefore much less likely to get hit by a vehicle while waiting to turn right.

Moreover, this kind of cycle infrastructure costs virtually nothing; it's just some red paint, a white cycle sign, and some chevrons.

What is surprising though is that this kind of street layout is still a comparatively rare sight in the UK.

Equivalent situation street design in London (Ladbroke Grove). The road is blocked with paving in the middle, but no effort has been made to make this permeable for cyclists or to use the road space which is being taken up anyway to provide a safe box for cyclists turning right. I imagine this design was put in during the 80s.

It's up to all of us to help inform our local planning officials and let them know about the little things like this which can make a cyclists journey so much safer and are so easy to implement!

(Obviously much bigger elements of cycle infrastructure are crucially important too. But it really does surprise me how many local planning officials would - if they knew it existed - be happy to implement smaller elements of cycle infrastructure like the cycle-box in the first photo. It's our job to make them better informed so we don't get more of the second photo.)

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Government completely ignores former Conservative Transport Minister's calls for better cycle infrastructure and responds to a rising death toll on Britain's streets with a shoddy advertisement campaign

Last week former Transport Minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative MP for Kensington and Chelsea who I unfairly maligned a few weeks ago) intelligently stated here in the Hammersmith and Fulham Chronicle that:

"a long-term paucity of proper cycling infrastructure has forced many cyclists onto busy roads, where they are bound to come into conflict with drivers of cars"

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who served as Conservative Transport Minister from 1990 to 1992 also said that "Cycling should be encouraged as a healthier, cheaper way of getting around that can serve out city's wellbeing and provide relief to our public transport infrastructure". Unfortunately the current Transport Minister, Patrick McLoughlin just wants to create more space for motorists.

Moreover, according to The Times 87 cyclists have died on Britain's roads this year, and at least 75 of those deaths have been due to collision with a motor vehicle. This is a staggeringly high figure and is put into grimmer perspective by the fact that Britain has the fifth worst record for reducing cycling fatalities in the EU.

How is the Government responding these dreadful figures? Is it listening to MPs like Sir Malcolm that are calling for "proper cycling infrastructure" which will prevent cycling deaths on busy roads or killer junctions like Bow Roundabout?

No. The Government is only responding with an advertising campaign that encourages motorists and cyclists to treat each other with more respect. Respect is great, but as Sir Malcolm says, if you've got cyclists mixing with traffic going at speeds usually substantially higher than 30mph then you are going to get fatalities no matter how much mutual respect is going on

Our Government is being wantonly useless. In fact, virtually all positive improvements in cycling infrastructure are coming from the bottom-up. TfL does appear to now be finally taking concrete steps to improve Bow Roundabout, but this is because of bottom-up pressure from Londoners who regularly cycle on Bow Roundabout rather than top-down pressure from a Government that wants to reduce cycling fatalities.

In a civilised country that cares about the safety of its citizens there should be pressure from the top-down on institutions like TfL and our local councils to put in place secure measures that will making cycling safer. But what is the reality in Britain? The Department for Transport (DfT) is currently hindering TfL's efforts to make Bow Roundabout safer because advance traffic-lights for cyclists are actually currently illegal under DfT guidelines. This state of affairs is a complete joke.

TfL has legally installed special 'horse-height' crossing buttons and horse-only crossing lights (seen as red image in background) at the eastern crossing of Hyde Park Corner. But installing a red cycle crossing light is currently illegal (which is why there isn't one here), as is installing cycle-only traffic lights at 'cycle-height'. Tens of thousands of cyclists use this crossing point every day; they are being ignored. I've never seen a single horse here; they are being catered for. Our current National transport policy is a disgrace. Moreover, a lack of 'horse-awareness' is also why the Government-run DVLA have blocked calls by driving instructors to make cycle awareness part of UK Driving Test. Again, this is completely farcical.

The Government needs to get its act together and start taking cycling, and the comments of MPs like Sir Malcolm seriously. Ad campaigns are no bad thing in of themselves. But anyone that has ever cycled on any road in Britain knows that what is a hundred times more important is safe cycle infrastructure which ensures that cyclists do not have to integrate with fast moving traffic that might, and indeed does repeatedly, kill them.

I suspect the reason for the Government's intransigence is due to a fear of alienating motorist voters. This is because nearly every element of proper cycle infrastructure you can think of deprives space or speed to the motorist in some way; advance stop boxes - ineffectual as they are - mean that motorists have to stop further away from the traffic lights; protected cycle lanes reduce that amount of lane space available to motorists; phased traffic lights mean motorists have to wait slightly longer at the lights; contra-flow cycle lanes usually necessitate the removal of on-street parking or the narrowing of a residential street.

The sad truth is that due to successive decades of pro-motorist policies in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, London's streets are already incredibly motor-friendly. Motorists and taxis have now got used to this state of affairs and are, like the American South, resistant to change. This photo is of Eaton Square, a five-lane (yes, that's right, FIVE LANE) residential road linking the twin centers of industry and commerce that are Sloane Square and Buckingham Palace. I can understand that high levels of motor capacity are necessary for some routes like the M25, but this kind of highway design in the heart of Central London, connecting two areas that are barely a mile apart, is just a complete and utter piss-take.
The lorry pictured here is, I believe, working for TfL and has special cyclist sensors. (Has the Government forced the freight industry to make this the industry standard, at least for vehicles travelling in London? No. Of course they haven't.) The rest of the traffic is just speeding taxis and young professionals in sports cars, probably driving to the gym where they'll get on a stationary bike for a workout. I don't think it is unreasonable to ask that one lane of this road is used to create a two-way protected cycle lane.
I would also like to see every member of our current cabinet cycle from Sloane Square to Parliament along this road and then say that all we need to make our streets safer is an advertising campaign. To be frank, I doubt they'd all make it to Parliament alive.

However, unless the Government wants to see more and more cyclists dying on Britain's streets due to collisions with fast moving motor vehicles it needs to make the brave decision to start a National Strategy to improve cycling infrastructure across the country and help - rather than hinder - organisations like TfL in their efforts to make roads safer for cyclists; even if this means making things slightly more cramped or slower for motorists in some areas, particularly inner city roads where high levels of motor capacity are simply not necessary.

To do anything less is grossly irresponsible, and it is a real discredit to Patrick McLoughlin and the Conservative majority of the Coalition Government, that as Transport Minister Mr McLoughlin has not made any efforts yet to properly rectify the issue of spiralling numbers of cyclists being killed by - to quote Conservative former Transport Minister Malcolm Rifkind again - "a long-term paucity of proper cycling infrastructure".


Cyclists in the City has also written intelligently on Rifkind's recent piece in an article available here.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Conservative AM Richard Tracey's cretinous contribution to the London Assembly's investigation into cycling in London

Having just watched the live feed of the London Assembly's investigation into cycling in London today (11/9/2012), I felt obliged to record the idiotic comments of Richard Tracey (a Conservative London Assembly member, representing Merton and Wandsworth) for posterity on the internet.

Here's a photo of Conservative Richard Tracey looking substantially less fat than he did on my web-feed today. Maybe he could take the advice of the Danish Cycling Embassy and prolong his life by 6 years by cycling to work and losing a few pounds?

The London Assembly had very intelligently invited two experts, from Holland and Denmark respectively (two countries where cycling is both much safer and much more widely practiced than in London), to speak on the issue of cycling in London. The Dutch and Danish experts made many incisive comments about the importance of building safe cycle infrastructure, for instance segregating cycle traffic away from fast moving motor traffic to provide real protection for cyclists. Unfortunately Richard Tracey's contribution did not match their intellectual standard.

Among other questions Richard Tracey seemed very concerned to know just how large Copenhagen and Amsterdam were in terms of population size. Given he's paid £53,439 a year to be a London Assembly he perhaps could have gone to the trouble of consulting wikipedia for this information before the meeting in question, and subsequently avoided wasting everyone else's time. But no. He's too lazy. He's Richard Tracey.

Having established the population sizes of Copenhagen and Amsterdam (500,000 and 1,000,000 respectively) Mr Richard Tracey then jingoistically remarked that they were both smaller than Birmingham, the UK's second largest city. Looking around the conference room for encouragement for his completely irrelevant comments, Mr Richard Tracey then pondered if Birmingham was indeed the UK's second largest city, or whether it might be Manchester. Mr Richard Tracey then concluded that he was initially correct. It was Birmingham. [Again, none of this was remotely on topic. What on earth is this man being paid £53,439 a year for???]

If Mr Richard Tracey was aiming to make a point about journey distance (and hence undermine a pro-cycling argument by conjecturing, even though it has been conclusively proved otherwise, that Londoners make so many long-distance trips that a high modal share of bike use is impractical) he completed missed the mark by asking about population size instead. Was this a bit of completely pointless Capital City Cock-Wagging by our elected representative? ["My capital city's bigger than yours! Thanks for taking all the trouble of coming to London and giving us the benefit of your vast experience! Joke's on you cause my ears were closed you European Pricks!"] Just to clarify those are Richard Tracey's words, not mine.

In fact, the extremely high population density and comparatively small road space of London actually makes a very high modal share of cycling eminently practical, for a reason so simple that even Mr Richard Tracey can understand it: bikes take up far less space on the roads than cars. In London we have lots of commuters and a strictly limited road space. Therefore we need more cyclists in we want to ease inner-city congestion.

This photo (borrowed from the excellent Cyclists in the City) shows about 20 rush-hour cyclists fitting into a space that would only hold 2 cars. Imagine how much worse the traffic would be for Richard Tracey if all of those cyclists were in their own cars, creating a 20 car traffic-jam stretching far back over Southwark Bridge.

Having watched Richard Tracey wasting about 10 minutes trying to undermine the London Assembly's distinguished guests because their cities were smaller than his, I thought he would now shut-up. But, unfortunately he didn't.

Moreover, can you guess which reputable newspaper Mr Tracy decided to draw on for his next 'intelligent' contribution? Was it The Times' CycleSafe campaign, highlighting the shockingly high numbers of cyclists that have died on our streets? Was it The Independent and The Guardian repeatedly calling for London's authorities to do more for cyclists. Was it The Economist cogently (as always) arguing that cyclist numbers in London have been increasing while cycle infrastructure has been staying static, and massive investment is now needed to make cycling safer and therefore more attractive to Londoners? Or was it even The Telegraph arguing that cycling should be our national sport, and listing the many ways in which regular cyclists pay an astonishingly positive contribution to our economy?

No. It was The Daily Mail which published an article about a (possibly fictional) woman that got hit by a cyclist. Now, I am in no way condoning anti-social cycling (if this incident did indeed occur). But Richard Tracey is seriously missing the issue here. Insultingly so. If we are to talk at a public meeting about safety incidents involving bicycles in London, should we not be remembering the many people that have lost their lives on Bow Roundabout before we consider anyone that may or may not have been brushed by a bicycle on a pavement? These people are dead now. The Daily Mail columnist's mother (if she exists) is still alive. Surely those that died on Bow Roundabout represent a much bigger issue?

But no. Richard Tracey continued on, quoting from online media created only for the most intellectually limited members of our literate populace, and called for compulsory bicycle number plates so the anti-social perpetrators of these crimes could be caught. Mr Tracey, if you're going to put the focus on justice, how about calling for greater punishments for the van driver who killed a 12 year old boy last Thursday? Or the driver that seriously injured a Paralympic cyclist last year? David Cameron spoke yesterday at the Olympic Athletes' Parade about his son now - in the post-Olympic aftermath - wanting to be "like Bradley Wiggins". But did David Cameron mention any safety measures that would make his son, and many other sons like him, allowed to have the option of cycling safely segregated from life-threatening high-speed traffic, like the aforementioned van driver? No, David Cameron didn't.

Caroline Pidgeon, the leader of the LibDems on the London General Assembly (pictured here), does genuinely understand cycling and cyclists in London. But she is unfortunately hampered by having to work with buffoons like Richard Tracey. The man's an idiot and I'm quite frankly amazed that one single Londoner voted for him in 2010. I am even more shocked that the London Assembly have allowed Tracey to be a member of the Transport Commitee.

To return to my final point with regard to Richard Tracey and the London Assembly meeting. When Dr Rachel Aldred and our Dutch and Danish friends were very cogently outlining the limitations of many of the current Cycle Superhighways (especially CS2 which runs, as blue paint, from Bow, down Mile End Road and Whitechapel Road, to Aldgate), Richard Tracey was extremely keen to know what the "trade-offs" would be to installing safe, protected cycle lanes for Londoners to use. Clearly Richard Tracey was cacking his pants about the impacts of any slight reduction to London's motor traffic capacity.

But as Dr Aldred very acutely observed, many of London's key roads were closed or constricted during the Olympics. Did we have chaos? No. Not at all. London ran better than many of us have ever seen it run. Moreover, all available studies have shown that road congestion simply expands or contracts to meet road capacity. So, just as building the massive M25 did nothing to alleviate London's long-term traffic congestion, because traffic simply increased to accomodate it, limiting traffic flow on many major London carriageways by the installation of segregated cycle lanes is not going to lead to an explosion of road congestion; traffic levels will simply decrease to accomodate the reduced capacity. So would Richard Tracey kindly stop cacking his pants? No.

I've written here in defence of Boris Johnson's cycling credentials. I argued that the biggest opponents to safe cycling in London are local politicians, often councillors, that have no interest in installing safe cycle infrastructure in their boroughs, where they have almost complete control of street layout since, by law, the local council is the local highway authority. This morning at the London Assembly we heard of Newnham Council's depressingly successful opposition in 2010 of TfL's, and Boris Johnson's, plan to extend Cycle Superhighway 2 - literally just 'blue paint' - into their borough. We also got to see, and hear, one of these anti-cycling councillors 'in action' at the council table: Mr Richard Tracey.

An example - on Whitechapel Road - of the horribly obstructive blue paint of the CS2 that Newnham Council so righteously opposed. I wonder how the traffic can flow at all on this street with that barely visible blue box getting in everyone's way.
Future Cycle Superhighway construction needs to be a hundred times more ambitious.

If you think that Richard Tracey needs to bring his views up-to-date with the 21st century - and lets not forget this a man who was in Thatcher's Tory Cabinet of the 80s, a government which designed most of the 'killer-junctions' which TfL are now improving - drop him an email at and do please let him know just how regressive and unhelpful his views are.

If you are a resident of Wandsworth or Merton you could also contact Richard Tracey as a constituent of his through

After all, we live in a democracy and cyclists using online communication channels recently managed to get Richard Nye to publicly apologise for saying "the only good cyclist is a dead one". Richard Tracey's road management policies aren't much better than Richard Nye's anti-cyclist editorials, and unlike Mr Nye, Mr Tracey has far more power to do cyclists actual harm through these policies.

So I think it's worth all of us dropping Mr Tracey a line at and letting him know that his idiotic contributions to today's debate simply weren't good enough.

(I didn't see the start of the debate so if I missed any more puerile questions from Richard Tracey do please add them in the comments section. Politicians like Richard Tracey, and Conservative MP Mark Field, need to be brought to public account with the cycling community, so we can all stop simply 'blaming-Boris'.)

Those interested can also watch a recording of the entire meeting here: (Richard Tracey begins his idiocy at about 1hr 40minutes) or read a transcript of the meeting here:


Other posts on Richard Tracey being a buffoon: 

- A Personal Note to Conservative London Assembly Member Richard Tracey by Cyclists in the City - Nov 2011
The chutzpah of Richard Tracey by As Easy As Riding A Bike - Jun 2011

Mayor of London's Roads Task Force Consultation

Just a short post to emphasise how important it is that all London cyclists fill in the following consultation before it closes THIS Friday 14th September:

The kind of segregated cycle infrastructure we could start seeing all over London

As the Mayor of Paris said, "The car has no long-term future in our cities". We need to make sure this message gets delivered to TfL and radically increased provision for cyclists is prioritised over the next few years, and in the long term.

We want far more dedicated cycle paths, increasing both pedestrian and cyclist safety. If there do have to be some roads (for freight travel etc.) they should be increasingly built underground and have their capacity limited to what is strictly necessary only (e.g. not a commuter who could travel by bike or public transport).

If we want more of this (cyclists completely separated from dangerous HGVs and lorries at Southwark Bridge) we need to let the Mayor and TfL know.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Open Submission to West End Commision

The West End Commission are currently asking for submissions on how the West End should develop over the coming years, with a substantial focus on transport issues. Anyone interested in cycling in London should get in touch with them here and have their views heard:

I've coped my submission below here in case anyone (is lazy) and fancies simply copying and pasting something similar to what I've written. A lot of this is ripped of the wikipedia page on Utility Cycling anyway...

Inviting for a cyclist? Not really... On the plus side at least all these taxis and vans are making the West End far more dangerous, polluted, congested, and noisy, than any cyclists would.

Dear Sir or Madam,

My evidence is relatively brief so I have contained it within this email as well as copying it into a word-document that is attached. As a London resident and frequent West End visitor, I would like to express in the strongest terms how much I believe the West End could improve its current cycle provision. 

I will first list the benefits that increased cycling rates in the West End would bring. I will then list a number of ways to bring about this increase.

Potential benefits of significantly higher cycling rates:

- Less congestion on the West End's narrow roads and at busy tube stations during peak times. 1 car takes up about as much space as 4 cyclists on London's roads. Moreover the vast majority of cars in the West End contain only one person, the driver. Therefore, creating significantly higher cycling rates will inevitably lead to an easing of congestions on the West End's streets, and also less of a pressure on already creaking tube services.
- More direct, reliable, and quick transport. Cycling is a very fast way of getting from place to place across Central London. Unless you get a puncture it is also far more reliable than either tube or bus services. Moreover, you don't have to worry about traffic jams so it is also more reliable than taking a taxi. So the West End will also benefit from more reliable transport times by encouraging cycling.
- Less air pollution. This point should need no expansion.
- Fewer deaths in Central London. Though cyclists do pose some level of hazard to other cyclists and pedestrians, they overall pose far far far fewer dangers to either groups than cars do. So for every motorist that you replace with a cyclist you make Central London a safer place to walk and cycle around. This can only help to encourage tourism and spending in the West End and make it a more pleasant (and safer!) place to live, work, and visit.
- Better health of West End residents, workers, and visitors, because they are getting more regular exercise.
- Increased tourism due to attraction of visiting a borough with high cycling rates. Copenhagen and Amsterdam both benefit massively from tourism generated by cycling culture.
- Reduced noise pollution from traffic.
- Increased amounts of local spending since cyclists spend far more at local shops on their route than motorists do.

How to increase cycling rates:

- Infrastructure is the most important factor. This requires political will and financial investment. It includes:
* Safe, protected, cycle paths (in line with international best-practice in countries like Holland and Denmark) on major roads like Shaftesbury Avenue and Oxford Street. I would strongly advise working with TfL to introduce a central London Barclays Cycle SuperHighway as this will give the West End both free publicity and financial aid with building a cycle network through the West End.
* Large, safe cycle parking spots created in key locations near tube stations, big theatres, big squares etc. Cycle Parking provision is currently awful in the West End
* Intensification of the Boris Bike scheme (i.e. increasing existing docks, building more docks to create more bikes and more spaces)
* Creating contra-flow routes through areas like Soho to allow cyclists to take direct routes through the West End without having to follow a circuitous one-way system designed for motorists. This involves taking away one side of on-street parking to allow for a cycle lane to be put in place. The City of London have already done this to many roads in the City to great effect.

This will all take both strong political will and reasonable financial assistance. But the potential benefits for the area are enormous.

Many thanks for your time,

George Johnston

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Open Letter to Richard Nye, Editor of The Richmond Magazine, author of "the only good cyclist is a dead one"

[do contact Mr Nye yourself at]

Dear Richard Nye (current editor of The Richmond Magazine),

I was disgusted by your comment:

"the only good cyclist is a dead one"

in the latest copy of the Richmond Magazine. 

Are you aware of the fact that there have been 11 cyclists killed in London already this year, 74 cyclists killed in Britain as a whole already this year, and that a 79-year-old man (clearly not a 'lycra lout') died yesterday in a collision with a skip lorry in Walton? 

Your comment was morally despicable, and mocks the serious safety risks posed to cyclists (by drivers like yourself) on Britain's roads in 2012.

I very much look forward to seeing a detailed, formal, sincere, and public apology - and hopefully resignation - from you in the next few days. 

I will continue to publicly and formally seek an apology from you until I hear of one.

George Johnston

P.S. Instead of fuming at cyclists while you drive around London, the next time you are stuck at the lights why not imagine that all the cyclists in the advanced stop box in front of you (and in Central London at rush hour there are quite a few these days) were in a car of their own instead. How much worse would congestion on London's streets then be? You should be grateful for every cyclist you see in London because, by choosing a bike instead of a car, he or she has actually eased congestion on London's streets making it easier for you to get around in your car. Cyclists only interact obstructively with motorists when the Government has failed to build proper cycle infrastructure (cycle lanes, etc.) which the cyclist is allowed to use instead and allows cyclists and motorists to safely travel at vastly different speeds down busy roads because they are safely segregated. And please don't talk about road tax because that doesn't exist. Car users pay a small car tax but given that over half of all Boris Bike registered users earn over £50,000 a year I think they are more than making up for the extremely minimal damage caused by bicycles to London's road system through the 40% income tax they are paying.

P.P.S You should be sacked.


Here's a photo of Richard Nye looking like a crap journalist that doesn't deserve to be employed, let alone made Editor.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

New Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin MP, needs to implement a National Cycling Strategy in the UK to help tackle the recession

With Patrick McLoughlin MP as our new Transport Minister as part of the cabined reshuffle, now is the most important time to email him - - letting him know that we want Utility Cycling to be included (at the very least) on the Government's new Transport Agenda and infrastructure spending plans.

Patrick McLoughlin MP not quite on a bike, but at least standing next to one (far right). Shamelessly borrowed from a good article on the same subject by Carlton Reid on BikeBiz.

I've written a fair bit of local and mayoral transport policy, but I'd now like to focus on our (comparative lack of a) national cycling policy.

In January 2012 France created a National Cycling Strategy.

The whole document is available for the public to view, in French, here. It's certainly interesting reading, with stats like:

"80% of journeys made by car in France are 5km or less" (p.7).

Moreover, France's national newspaper, Le Monde, regularly publishes articles such as this, which recognise the completely transformative positive effect that increased cycling rates could have on our major cities.

All we have here in Britain by way of a National Cycling Policy is the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, giving a lot of nice sounding press-quotes about increasing London's cycling rates, and doing much less. There is no concrete nation-wide plan to increase cycling in this country. This is absolutely ridiculous.

It's not just smaller European countries like Holland, Denmark and Switzerland that have recognised the economic, health and societal benefits of encouraging cycling at a national level. Now the French are doing it too.

Why is Britain not catching up?

If you agree that this is a ridiculous state of affairs I would urge you to contact our new Transport Minister at so we can hopefully see a National Cycling Strategy (for Britain) unveiled in the next 6 months.

Furthermore, you can also make you voice heard at the Department for Transport using the contact us section of their website.

Our idiotic cabinet needs to realise that Utility Cycling is not a policy that should be relegated to LibDem and Green local councillors.

It can, and should, be a full-bred Conservative policy too.* The majority of the UK's cyclists are white and male. The highest peak-rate of cyclists in London is in the Square Mile; also home of the horrid banker people like George Osbourne. Half of Boris Bike subscribers earn over £50,000 a year. These people may not pay car tax (road tax, as we know, doesn't exist), but they are paying 40% or higher rates of income tax (the single largest source of revenue collected by the Government).

It's simply bad politics (i.e. ignoring your own voters) for the Conservatives not to get behind Utility Cycling.


To finish, another quote from the French National Cycling Strategy document:

"The inhabitants of Copenhagen choose overwhelmingly to cycle by bike because it is 'safe, cheap, quick, convenient'. Other reasons, such as the 'environment, health', rank much lower (p.7-8)."

'Safe, cheap, quick, convenient'.

This a list of the qualities which a Conservative/LibDem Coalition Government would look for in transport of any kind.

Why are they so blind to the overwhelming advantages of creating a National Cycling Strategy which aims to create the kind of cycle infrastructure that will make cycling in the UK 'safe, cheap, quick, convenient'?

Email our new transport minister today and help change their minds:

(comments welcomed)

* I'm not saying this as a Conservative (I'm a student and voted LibDem in 2010 - sucks to be me). I'm saying this as someone who thinks cycling in the UK could, and should, drastically improve.

EDIT (7/9/2012): An article in The Telegraph today echoes this argument that supporting cycling makes complete political sense for a Conservative/LibDem Government (indeed, for any Government):

Some stats from the article:

- Membership of British Cycling has doubled to 50,000
- There are now 13 million cyclists in Britain
- Cycling, as a sport, contributes £2.9 billion to the British Economy
- 3.7 million bikes sold in 2011, retail jump of 28% (despite a recession)
- Regular cyclists take fewer days off work for sickness, saving the country £128 million each year. This figure will multiply as cycling rates increase.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Delivery of 4 new TfL Cycle SuperHighways accelerated to 2013

EDIT (18/1/13) - As is probably abundantly clear now, TfL have quickly scrapped their previous plans (which I outlined below) to open 4 new Cycle Superhighways in 2013. This is obviously disappointing.

However, the plans drawn up for the CS2 extension show that TfL might now be significantly shifting their policy to supporting full segregated cycle lanes instead of the current rubbish 'blue-paint-only' that characterises much of the first 4 Cycle Superhighways.

If this is the case, it is possible that the other 4 Cycle Superhighways that were meant to open this year have been delayed so they can made into fully segregated lanes which - understandably - will require substantially more planning, application, and build time.

Fingers crossed eh? The BBC clearly thinks that cycle blogging has led to real, concrete improvements for cyclists.


A while ago I was trawling the internet for information on the Boris Bike Scheme expansion which I could then put on wikipedia (because I'm young and cool like that) and I found this article from the London Cyclist:

As the URL makes clear, the Mayor said back in Dec 2011 there would be no new Superhighways in 2013. But that's strange because if one now checks the TfL website for Cycle Superhighways ( the delivery dates have been brought forward and we are now promised 4 new Superhighways in 2013 and another 4 by 2015.

Evidence from TfL website (3/9/2012)!

The most likely explanation for what has happened is that the increased number of cyclists on London's roads, and perhaps the efforts of cycle campaigners, has led to the Mayor and TfL deciding to accelerated their delivery schedule (we do, after all, live in a democracy). The reason the decision has not been widely publicised is probably because the excuse given back in December 2011 for no new SuperHighways in 2013 was 'a restricted delivery window caused by the 2012 Olympic Games'. Suddenly going back on this would make it seem like there was no good reason for not implementing the SuperHighways in 2013 in the first place...

What does this development mean for cycling in London?

Well, firstly its a big positive for everyone that likes cycling in London. TfL clearly listens to us, at some level, and does (sometimes) alter its policy accordingly. Pats on the back all-round.

My second point is much more important. If TfL has accelerated 4 of its SuperHighways to a 2013 delivery date then it can accelerate the other 4. There is no need for us to wait until 2015 for them. Massive flyovers take 3 years to build. Painting a bit of tarmac blue (which is all that much of the current Cycle Superhighways consist of) takes about a week. I firmly believe that if enough pressure was exerted we could see those last 4 SuperHighways implemented well before 2015, especially since the 2013 Superhighways will only further boost cyclist numbers, and therefore public pressure on politicians to do more for cycle infrastructure.

Map showing future Cycle Superhighways (and junctions proposed for improvements). Available on TfL website; click here to view full-size. As can be seen, the routes proposed for 2015 are clearly NOT going take 3 years to build.

Moreover, as many cyclists online have made clear, the standards to which the last 4 Cycle Superhighways were made is simply not good enough compared to international best-practice.

Given that the Mayor pledged the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) to build new cycle routes in-line with international best-practice as part of his 2012 election manifesto, I also believe that with further pressure from Londoners we could see these new Cycle Superhighways being built to significantly higher standards than the first 4 were.

Wider. Better protected. Better signposted. I'm getting excited just thinking about them...

Boris Johnson also mentioned in his election manifesto a vague commitment to build an East-West Cycle Superhighway. It isn't on TfL's map above. We need to put it on the map (literally). This is NOT an infeasible project and if we could use the increasing momentum of utility cycling (no pun intended) to get it built, it could potentially completely revolutionise cycling in Central London. [If London were personified by David Cameron, then building an East-West cycle Superhighway through the centre of town would be the equivalent of branding the words 'I LOVE CYCLING' on Cameron's forehead for life.]

Essentially the voice of the utility cycling community is clearly being heard (at last!) by London's political leaders. But that is only more reason for us to shout both louder and clearer about exactly what improvements we want to see over the next few years, especially since idiotic local councillors have the power to do so much to obstruct TfL's efforts to build cycle Superhighways through their boroughs.

I've written extensively in this blog about the window of opportunity for cycling in London created this year by the Tour de France, followed by the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and finally the Tour de Britain to finish off (over a million spectators were recorded in 2011 - how many will it be this year with Wiggins involved?).

This window of opportunity has been widened by the AA's call for more cycle lanes (along with Carol Ann Duffy's), and the strong campaigning by British Cycling - a group which has itself more than doubled membership since 2008 to over 50,000 - for both a justice review for when people are hurt or killed on the road, and international-standard protected cycle infrastructure.

Right now, this window has been widened further still by George Osborne's, and the rest of our Government's, calls for investment in infrastructure to help tackle the recession.

Cycle infrastructure certainly isn't as expensive as the Thames Hub Airport would be (which we should build, by the bye). However, it certainly isn't that cheap either, especially in a city as complex as London. If cycle infrastructure could be made part of the national infrastructure-investment 'picture' that would help secure the kind of money necessary to fund the radical road engineering projects which will inevitably be necessary to create uniformly great cycling infrastructure across London, not just blue paint.

So, if you are reading this, please take a moment to have your voice heard at this critical time by:

1. Writing to your local MPs and Councillors (
2. Writing to your MP through this contact detail too, some of them can be very reticent (
3. Writing to TfL at
4.. Writing to Cameron, Osbourne and Clegg (
5. Encouraging your friends and family to get on their bikes to get around London. The higher the recorded number of cycle journeys around London is the more the Government and TfL will do to make cyclists safer and better accommodated (they want votes; UK is a democracy).

6. Finally, like charity, good cycle infrastructure begins at home. Making as many journeys as you can by bike is another effective way of creating change in our city. Drivers see you cycle, making them more aware of all cyclists. People see you cycle, making them jealous that you can filter traffic and encouraging them to cycle themselves. The government registers you cycling, and does that little bit more to represent cyclists at a national level as numbers increase.

If you usually undertake a long commute sans-bike, why not try it by bike a few times a week when the weather is good? Or if you're tootling around Central London and left your regular bike at home, consider getting a £1 day registration for the Boris Bikes instead of using a tube, bus, or taxi to get somewhere.

(comments welcomed)

More user-friendly map of proposed Cycle SuperHighways. Remember that strong local support in every borough will be essential if the new Cycle SuperHighways are to be built, and built to a high standard of safety. Full-size map available to view here.


For those interested in the Boris Bike scheme, the 2013 expansion shows all the signs that it is going ahead although obviously voicing your support locally (and nationally) will help make sure funding does not fall through, which might still be a potential problem. Moreover, if your Borough is not included in the scheme currently, nor in the planned expansion, the 2013 increase clearly demonstrates that TfL and the Boris Johnson are open-minded about further expansion - the Mayor has said publicly he sees it's expansion as an 'ongoing project' - so if you want Boris Bikes near your house write to TfL and let them know (email:!

A further increase in the Boris Bike scheme can also be tied in with the Government's proposed plans for overall investment in transport infrastructure, so now is the perfect time to ask TfL and your local MPs for Boris Bikes to come to your Borough.

Furthermore, for any Hammersmith and Fulham residents, or regular visitors, visit the H&F website here to suggest potential Docking Stations and influence the future shape of the BCH expansion in 2013. The more local support gets heard, the greater the expansion will be. Simples.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Conservative Mark Field MP wilfully ignores cycling as a viable mode of transport

This post is an expansion on my last article examining Boris Johnson's cycling credentials. Here I would like to examine Conservative Mark Field MP (London and Westminster) - mentioned in my previous post - in more depth. Here's a photo of him looking suave but remaining ignorant:

Mark Field MP: "Cyclists are economically detrimental to Central London despite the fact they ease both a congested road and public transport network. I am also comically out of touch with my constituents, the majority of whom don't even have acces to a car. I am unaware of this fact because I'm regressive."

This is a man who represents the Parliamentary Constituency of the Cities of London & Westminster. This borough is in many ways the heart of London, an area through which cyclists from any part of London are likely to travel at some point during a normal week. These cyclists might use their own bikes, or they could very cheaply use one of the (estimated) 3,500 'Boris Bikes' in Mark Field's borough. Moreover, if Mr Johnson is serious about his speculative plans to build an East-West Cycle Superhighway - which, by the way, is an absolutely fantastic idea which would really raise the profile/accessibility/safety/numbers of cycling in London - then it will almost certainly have to run through Mr Field's Parliamentary Constituency for a significant section. In short, this man matters for cycling in London.

This is also a man who clearly cares about transport. If you look on is website you can find many articles on 'The Great Aviation Debate' that he's been writing about for the last 5 years at least. This man clearly understands the importance of giving Londoners - and those working in our city - safer, more direct, and more practical ways of getting from A to B; and, though it is irrelevant to this article, I, like Mr Johnson, fully support Mr Field on his advocacy of a Thames Hub airport.

However, unlike myself, or Mr Johnson, Mr Field does not seem to give two tenths of a crap about cycling as a form of transportation. If you search either 'cycle' or 'cycling' on his website, both words come up with zero articles whatsoever on the subject of cycling in London. This man is so oblivious to any benefits which increased cycling rates could bring to our capital that he can't even be bothered to mention cycling in any way whatsoever, let alone financially, politically, or even just publicly support anything which might improve the lot of London's cyclists. Mark Field even blocked some of TfL's planned Boris Bike racks in 2009 because of "the problems they might pose to traffic flow". There's nothing TfL can do to make cycling safer and more popular if there are complete idiots like Mark Field MP actively working against them.

Here is an extract from his revealing reply to a resident on being asked to support The Times completely reasonable Cities fit for cycling campaign:

...As you are already aware, the Times are running a campaign to see road safety improved for cyclists. I have read through the campaign asks in detail but have some concerns about their practical workings and their economic implications. I appreciate that in many respects one cannot put a price on accident prevention if lives are saved. However it is the job of government to balance the sometimes competing needs of all road users and to find a workable medium between safety, enforceability and what is desired by the public. Without a better understanding of the implications, therefore, I am afraid I am reluctant to give the aims of the campaign my wholehearted support.

What kind of politician cannot even promise support to a campaign to safe cyclists lives?

Which of the many positive economic implications of higher cycling rates is Mark so worried about?

Why on earth has Mr Field MP chosen to occupy this anti-cyclists position?

Space for a cycle lane on the Mall? YES. But I've got a better idea, lets reserve it for cars and taxis that only contain a driver. That is a far more efficient use of limited space available in London's congested road system! Plus it makes the whole area quieter and less polluted, and makes all the pedestrians in the area safer because cars only kill 500+ pedestrians in London each year! Mark Field MP also actively opposed putting in an off-road Boris Bike rack here.

Mr Field's behaviour seems downright idiotic. Boris Johnson is Mark Field's Conservative colleague and you would think that Mr Field would want to support Mr Johnson, even if all Mr Field chose to do was pay token lip-service to the idea of improving cycling in London without ever actually doing anything. But instead Mr Field explicitly withholds his support from The Times cycle campaign, actively blocks TfL's attempts to expand the Boris Bike scheme in his borough, and can't even be bothered to mention the issue of cycling ever on his website.

Moreover, being anti-cycling isn't even a viable 'Conservative' position in 2012.* There's can be no idea of Mr Field 'towing the (male) (white) party line' and 'ignoring all the (poor) (female) (immigrant) (European) cyclists' since a Transport for London (TfL) customer satisfaction survey from September 2011 revealed more than three-quarters of the Barclays Cycle Hire (BCH) scheme’s users are men and half earn upwards of £50,000 per year, while 88% are white. 

Mr Field is deliberately, and idiotically, ignoring all the rich white men in his constituency that would clearly appreciate some leadership from him on the issue of improving cycling infrastructure in the heart of London.

Furthermore, next door to Mr Field, the City of London as a borough is not only home to the UK's financial centre, but also to some of London's best cycling rates and conditions (in terms of cycle lanes, cycle parking, Boris Bike provision, etc.**). The rich businessmen that work in our big banks clearly love cycling. 

Mr Field is rightly trying to help these businessmen by supporting the massive aviation capacity increase that 'Boris Island' (a Thames Estuary Airport) would deliver, allowing better connections with crucially important emerging economies like Brazil. Yet that same Mr Field is also completely uninterested in doing anything to improve these same businessmen's (and, indeed, the rest of the population's) intra-London transport options with regard to cycling. It doesn't make sense. It literally makes no sense at all.

The kind of cycle lane that Mark Field MP and Westminster Council support in order to reduce cycling fatalities in Central London. Notice how this one is conveniently located directly inside the 'car-door-opening-space' for parked cars, putting both car doors and cyclists in danger. As can be seen, the road-surfacing standards are also exemplary [I'm being sarcastic] and mean cyclists no longer have to swerve into the middle of the street - and traffic behind them - in order to avoid potholes and other hazards.

If you put 'Boris Johnson cycling' into google you get thousands of results, including many pictures of the Mayor cycling himself. Yes, Boris may not be perfect. But he is at least a high profile Conservative politician who is repeatedly putting cycling on the agenda, putting himself on a bike on London's streets, and has undertaken a TfL review of 500 dangerous junctions. Moreover, if TfL keep to their deadlines, Boris Johnson will have delivered both a significant expansion of the Boris Bike scheme and 4 more Cycle Superhighways by 2013 (as he promised in his election manifesto).

By contrast, if you put 'Mark Field cycling' into google you get nothing of relevance. If you put 'Mark Field MP cycling' into google the only cycling related result is a post from February 2012 by a well-respected London cycling blog criticising Mr Field, among others, for being completely useless, in fact harmful, with regards to improving cycling in the Capital.

It is time that Mr Field MP, and the Westminster Council***, started listening to these criticisms by the proponents of utility cycling in London and sharpening up their act. Cycling does not have to be the political preserve of Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Greens, especially when one considers the astonishing dominance on our roads of white, male cyclists, and white, male, upper-middle-class BCH users.

More importantly, without the support of Conservative London MPs like Mr Field, and the Tory councillors who effectively run Central London constituencies like Westminster, there is much less that Mr Johnson - as a Conservative himself - can achieve in this area of London.

Indeed, I can't help feeling that the fact Mark Field is a fellow Conservative prevents Boris Johnson calling him out, as he would a Labour politician, on Mark Field's active opposition to cycling in the capital. 

So we can do it instead. 

If you cycle in London and think, like the author of this article, that Westminster could drastically improve its cycling infrastructure then why don't you drop Mr Field a quick email at (If you're keener and fancy writing a letter then click here for full contact details. Moreover, if you are one of his constituents you can also contact Mr Field using:

In response, I'd love to see or hear some kind of reply from Mr Mark Field MP detailing exactly why I am wrong in this article, and exactly what Mr Mark Field MP is going to be doing to improve the lot of London's cyclists between now and 2013 as part of London 2012's Olympic Legacy. That would be fantastic, Mr Field.

With a cycle friendly Conservative mayor, a highly successful £140 million cycle hire scheme which is the 2nd largest in Europe, a significant number of large parks that could - if managed correctly - provide direct, pleasant, traffic-free cycle routes, and an already strong population of cyclists regularly commuting to the heart of the City, Central London should be leading the way for the rest of Greater London (and the UK) with regards to improving cycling infrastructure. 

Instead, Conservative politicians like Mark Field MP are deliberately obstructing measures that will make cycling in London safer and more popular.

(comments welcomed. I'm not trying to pursue a party-political line in this blog - it's simply pro-cycling - but I can't help noticing that non-Conservative London MPs generally seem far more supportive of cycling in their constituencies; with notable exception, of course, for the cycle-toxic Labour disgrace that is Kate Hoey.)


If you have Twitter then you can also tweet @MarkFieldMP, letting him know that completely ignoring cyclists in London's most central borough is NOT okay. Searching @MarkFieldMP on Twitter is also a great way of meeting other Twitter users who also want cycle provision in Westminster drastically improved!

* In my last post I wrote at length on the geopolitical and societal differences between the UK in the 80s and London in 2012 which no longer make a completely non-cycling transport policy tenable, even by Thatcherites.

** For those interested in these things check out the boundary-breaking (for London at least!) east-bound cycle lane on Beech Street which even has a chevroned area of road giving bike riders real protection by separating the traffic lane from the cycle lane (this google map image shows the road as the unnecessary two-lanes it was before). Also look at the cycle boxes in the City of London which are regularly packed to the rafters at rush hour.

*** It is a mark of how little Westminster Council care about cycling in London that cycle parking provision has actually decreased during the re-design of Leicester Square that that this cycling page of their website is now two years out of date:

EDIT: this article is now the first search result when you put 'Mark Field MP cycling' into google.