Wednesday, 27 November 2013

#VictimBlamingIdiot, Operation Safeway and the 'Dead Cat' on the table

This week I was asked (again) to speak on LBC Radio (London's Biggest Conversation). I'd been asked quite a few times this month but declined thus far, mainly because I find Nick Ferrari's views on cycling to be quite repulsively ignorant which makes it difficult to have anything near a balanced debate. But I thought I would give it a go on Tuesday because I wanted to air my thoughts on 'Operation Safeway' publicly. As expected, I wasn't given a chance to talk about something sensible, and instead was quizzed by Nick Ferrari about whether it was 'okay' for someone to cycle their kids into school in a cargo-bike if that involved the children inhaling lorry fumes.

I pointed out that at least the kids were being reminded to exercise and that we were the fattest country in Western Europe and that obesity and lack of exercise would kill you much quicker than air pollution. Nick Ferrari, a rather portly man himself, didn't take well to this. Of course what Nick should have asked was, is it okay for Boris Johnson to have created a city where if a man wants to cycle his kids to school they have to inhale poisonous fumes in the first place? Is it okay that Boris Johnson is happy for London to be the most polluted capital city in Europe and it's 'low emission zone' to be nothing more than duplicitous Orwellian double speak? Is it okay for Boris Johnson to allow large numbers of lorries and HGVs to use London's streets at the exact time that children are cycling, and being cycled to school?

Unfortunately none of these questions occurred to Ferrari. His surname's appropriate, I suppose.

I was then cut off before I could talk about Operation Safeway, so I'll set down here my thoughts on the Metropolitan Police deploying 2,500 officers to police London's most dangerous junctions. One of my problems with this is whether it will it actually safe lives. I appreciate that people might drive and cycle slower when police are around, but TfL's own figures show that in accidents were a cyclist was killed or badly hurt the cyclist was presumed to have committed an offence in just 6% of cases. Therefore, making cyclists 'obey the law' won't safe the lives of the 94% of cyclists killed or maimed on London's roads who weren't committing any offence when they were killed or maimed. Moreover, though law-breaking motorists account for a large proportion of those killed while cycling on the capital's streets, in most cases of a driver killing a pedestrian or cyclist, the driver is not arrested, let alone formally charged. How, then, will compelling drivers and cyclists to obey the law help save lives, when people are being constantly killed when they are following the law, trying to get home, going about their daily business?

Operation Safeway, in my opinion, won't save lives. The most dangerous junctions where these officers are being deployed are not dangerous because of law-breaking road user behaviour, but because the design itself is inherently criminally dangerous for vulnerable road users. Bow Roundabout is fundamentally unsafe for someone on a bike (or, indeed, on foot). Putting an officer there isn't going to change this. An immediate temporary 20 MPH limit on the roundabout and approach roads until road layout changes are completed might at least improve things, but Boris Johnson has rejected this measure. Why? For political reasons he wants to victim blame instead.

Operation Safeway is part of Boris Johnson's wider strategy of being a #VictimBlamingIdiot. When he come to power in 2008, partly on a 'cycling ticket', Johnson should have immediately began segregating cycle and motor traffic on London's most dangerous junctions and roads, and lowering speed limits and putting in cameras to ensure safe driving where this was not possible. Instead Johnson has pursued 5 years of 'smoothing the traffic flow' and actually speeding up much of London's motor traffic, while forcing increasing numbers of Londoners cycling to share road space with ever faster motor vehicles (often on his death-trap 'Superhighways'). The intolerably high number of killings in the recent months and years are a result of this. (Although, granted, in the last 5 years Johnson has, to be fair, done a lot to push cycling up the political ladder of issues, even if he hasn't done anything positive for the safety of Londoners using bikes).

So, Boris Johnson finds himself in a position where, to quote the man himself, "you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case." This is his position in terms of London cycling. He's done nothing to make it safer for Londoners while encouraging them to cycle for the last 5 years. The result: 81 Londoners killed. Directly his fault, often on or near 'Superhighways' which he personally had built. The more people focus on the reality the worse it is for him.

So what's Johnson's solution to this problem? Again his own words speak volumes: "Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as 'throwing a dead cat on the table, mate'. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout 'Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!'; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief." This is exactly what Johnson has done in response to six Londoners being killed in two weeks while cycling in the capital. He has slung a dead cat on the table, namely blaming the victims for either breaking traffic laws or cycling with headphones in (neither the Met nor TfL can cite a single instant where the latter has led to a cycling fatality). Given that the cyclist was breaking the law in only 6% of fatal crashes, attacking cyclists who break the law in response to a string of fatalities is a totally irrelevant issue. It makes everyone sit up and say, 'bloody hell, that's a dead cat', and forget that the reason these fatalities have happened is because Boris Johnson has refused to segregate, introduce 20 MPH, or tighten lorry restrictions and regulations throughout his 5 years in office.

The kind of 'dangerous cycling' Boris Johnson has hypocritically and maliciously blamed London's recent fatalities on. This is the 'dead cat' Johnson wants us to think about and attribute cycling deaths to, rather than appalling road design, which in many cases the mayor and TfL were explicitly told would mean "casualties were inevitable"
Operation Safeway is part of this victim blaming operation by our duplicitous mayor. He tried it before when he lied and said that in 61% of fatalities cyclists were responsible for their own death, when TfL's own figures actually put this at just 8%. Though some police are stopping and checking lorries (which is to be commended) the primary thrust of the operation is being directed against supposedly errant cyclists, therefore furthering the incorrect public perception that cyclists are at fault for their own deaths, a fatuous lie (and 'dead cat') that Johnson wants the public to swallow so they don't see his own grievous failings on the issue of cycle safety.

Moreover, Operation Safeway allows Johnson to further the 'collective guilt' that is currently thrust on 'cyclists' by the media and politicians: i.e. simply because someone jumps a red light in Holborn that makes it okay for a lorry driver to run me over and crush me to death at Bow. He says, 'I know a lot of cyclists have been killed recently, but they've really got to stop jumping red lights and take responsibility for their own safety'. So if someone jumps a red light in front of me that makes it okay for a driver to turn their car directly into my path and kill me? Imagine if a British political figure said, 'I know a lot of British Muslims have been killed recently, but they've really got to stop being terrorists and take responsibility for their own safety'. Some British Muslims are terrorists, but that doesn't mean that British Muslims shouldn't be entitled to not travelling in fear of being killed, and every other right that belongs to UK citizens. Yet Boris Johnson can say it's okay that six cyclists were killed because a bunch of other cyclists have been jumping red lights? Appalling. You can't treat a minority like this. There is no way that I, or anyone else, should have to assume collective guilt for the actions of anyone else that rides a bike. If I'm not breaking the law, I'm entitled to a safe journey home on my bike where I'm not 7 times more likely to be killed than in Amsterdam. I refuse to accept that whether someone else chooses to wear high-viz, a helmet, or obey a red light should have any impact on the standards of road safety I demand from my political leaders.

Yet this is what Boris Johnson is trying to do with Operation Safeway. He's trying to cement the false image of the law-breaking cyclist whose responsible for his own death, and in so doing divert responsibility away from himself, as Johnson is far too aware that it is the decisions he has made at places like Bow Roundabout or King's Cross that have led to the fatalities there, and that he is actually responsible.

It's vile and disgusting. Politics at its lowest. And it's alienating Boris Johnson from not just cyclists, but also Londoners more widely. A lot of people aren't being taken in by Johnson's 'dead cat' trick, and are instead calling the mayor out on his callous and insulting victim blaming antics. Come 2016, he will be in a lot more trouble.

Moreover, this Friday at 5pm the first ever London 'Die-In' is occurring, where Londoners will lie down with their bikes in Blackfriars Road opposite TfL Headquarters to protest at Johnson's failure to act, or even take responsibility for the spate of recent killings on our streets. I urge you to attend.

Cyclists mass die-in protest Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum 1970's. It's because of protests like this that Holland is now a far safer place to cycle than in the UK. Nothing to do with the country being flat, unfortunately...

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Leadership Crisis for Boris Johnson

I've borrowed the phrase 'leadership crisis' from Mark Ames, who writes the admirable ibikelondon blog, but I feel that he's really hit the nail on the head. This really is a leadership crisis for Boris Johnson.

Six Londoners in two weeks have been killed while cycling (something Johnson, and the rest of TfL, constantly actively encourage Londoners to do through, among other things, a series of costly PR schemes). Boris Johnson could have tried to take something constructive out of the tragedy of these deaths. He could have reiterated how important actually delivering his 'Vision for Cycling' was (rather than just talking about future consultations), and how necessary it was to accelerate the road layout changes he wanted to achieve. He could have immediately installed temporary cycle lanes using bollards or cones of key routes in the capital. He could have imposed an immediate 20 MPH limit on all of London's most dangerous junctions. He could have highlighted the intransigence of certain local councils (Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea) in getting on board with his cycling vision and used the media attention around these deaths to force difficult councils to come to heel and embrace segregated routes and 20 MPH limits.

Richard Muzira, the sixth Londoner in two weeks to be killed while cycling. The road were he was killed has neither a cycle lane nor a 20 MPH limit. Did the Mayor suggest providing either of these to prevent future killings? No, he blamed the victim instead. Photo courtesy of Evening Standard.
Boris Johnson could have done any of these things. He chose to do none of them. Instead, he engaged in vile and despicable victim blaming. First he said publicly that cyclists need to obey the law and implied that the six recent killings were caused by law-breaking. One of them may have been. But what about the other five Londoners that were killed who were without a shadow of a doubt behaving completely lawfully? What is Boris Johnson doing for them? Absolutely nothing.

Moreover, Johnson then went on BBC London and described people that cycle with headphones in as a 'scourge', again implying that cycling with headphones in has something to do with the last six Londoners to be killed while cycling in the capital. It doesn't. Indeed, none of the almost 80 Londoners that have been killed while cycling since Boris Johnson came to power lost their lives due to headphone use. It's the equivalent of six Londoners being stabbed to death by gangs, and Boris Johnson telling people not to flash their cash in public, rather than doing anything to improve street safety and crack down on crime. Appalling.

One of key elements of 'Brand Boris' (to borrow another phrase, this time from Dave Hill) is his 'cycling' image. And this is important not just to Londoners, and Brits, who cycle. Many people who don't cycle like Boris Johnson partly because they feel he does 'stuff' for cycling, which seems like a good thing in general. However, over the past few weeks Johnson's credibility among all Londoners on cycle safety has been completely eroded by his utter refusal to act in a constructive manner, and his decision to victim-blame and stir up prejudice instead. 

The wider British public now see Johnson failing on one of his key policies: cycling.  This will undoubtedly have very negative implications for his future political career, and prevent voters from trusting him on any other issues he chooses to get behind. 

You can almost hear Londoners saying: 'if he betrayed the cyclists and did nothing to reduce how many of them were killed or maimed each year that he was in office, then he'll probably betray me'.

This blog has been very supportive of Johnson in the past, but his victim-blaming actions over the past few weeks have been despicable, vile, and offensive to the memories of those who have lost their lives while just trying to cycle from A to B. All Londoners are reacting negatively to this appalling hypocrisy by the Mayor, not just those that cycle.


Also, if you want to make your voice heard in protest about TfL and the Mayor's non-reaction to the recent spate of killings, please try and come to the TfL Die-In, taking place Friday, 29 November 2013 17:00 until 18:30, outside TfL's headquarters on Blackfriars Road.

Friday, 15 November 2013

5 Londoners killed while cycling in 9 days, and Boris Johnson cowardly blames the victims

If you are reading this you are probably aware that five Londoners have been killed while cycling on our capital's streets in nine days. This is a truly appalling figure, and what is worse is that nearly all the deaths have happened in noted accident hotspots where Londoners have been killed before. To take just one instance, Venera Minakhmetova, 24, is the third Londoner in two years to be killed at Bow Roundabout. Is the key issue, therefore, 'cyclists-jumping-red-lights' or the design of specific killed-junctions? An easy question to answer.

Map of recent deaths, courtesy of the BBC

However, when interviewed on this recent spate of deaths Boris Johnson said cyclists 'must obey the law', implying that these Londoners were killed because they were lawbreaking vandals. This is a vile and cowardly response from Mr Johnson. Errant and irresponsible cyclists do not frequent killer-junctions and roads, such as Holborn and the unsegregated section of CS2, in order to throw themselves under an HGV. People get routinely killed while cycling at these junctions because there is no way to cycle through them safely, because they are fundamentally and criminally dangerous. TfL need to be prosecuted for manslaughter.

If there were a section of tube line, say between Vauxhall and Victoria, where trains habitually derailed killing drivers and passengers, then TfL would close the line and fix it immediately. Yet we have junctions and roads in London were Londoners are continually killed while cycling, and TfL thinks it can wait until 2015 or 2016 (at the earliest) before it does anything to change anything. And instead we're told by Andrew Gilligan, 'well, all the other tube lines are safe so how dangerous can taking the tube really be!'. Just because there are quieter roads in London and some half-decent cycle provision doesn't mean TfL should let roads like Holborn gyratory continue to kill people. They know where the problems are. There are specific streets and roads that are incredibly dangerous and these need to be fundamentally changed.

Announcements are all well and good, but we need to change now, before even more innocent Londoners are killed for doing something that the Mayor, TfL, and all London borough councils are actively encouraging them to do.

Please TAKE ACTION NOW and email TfL and the Mayor asking them to prevent further deaths. Just click this link to go the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) page.

Also, do please consider joining the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) if you aren't already a member. They are the only organisation in London that is consistently pushing Boris Johnson to give us continental standards of cycle safety. They are the primary reason the BBC ran a story today on 'Calls for action over cycle deaths in London'. They deserve everyone's support.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Boris Johnson to install rental e-bikes in Haringey

The Evening Standard asked me for a comment piece on the news that next year a rental e-bike scheme will be installed in Haringey. They didn't publish it in the end (perhaps because of the venom in the last paragraph), so I've posted it up here:

I was excited to read in yesterday’s evening standard about Boris Johnson’s plans to install rental e-bikes in Haringey. This will obviously be a great asset to anyone that lives, works or studies in Haringey. However, I believe they will also help bring e-bikes into mainstream British culture and provide an important spark in creating a thriving e-bike industry in Britain.
It is remarkable how popular e-bikes are on the Continent; not only with customers, but also with politicians like Angel Merkel who see the clear economic benefits of boosting cycling rates. Over in Blighty, David Cameron has cynically dropped cycling from his agenda ever since he left opposition so it is good to see Boris Johnson raising the public profile of e-bikes as an easy, cheap, clean, and green way to get from A to B without even having to get sweaty. 
I understand concerns that the large cost of this e-bike rental scheme will be coming out of the Mayor’s £913m fund for cycling infrastructure improvements. It is clear that the single most important thing London needs to boost cycling rates and make it safer is not rental e-bikes, but dedicated, segregated space for cycling which doesn’t involve those on bikes sharing motor traffic lanes with taxis, buses or HGVs. However, creating this dedicated space for cycling is fast becoming a political, rather than financial, issue. 
Take the proposed Cycle Superhighway 9 which TfL would like to build, and segregate, along Kensington High Street. Boris Johnson has the money to do this but is currently being blocked by his intransigent and ignorant fellow Conservatives on the Kensington and Chelsea Council who oppose the creation of any space for cycling in their borough. Councillors like Nicholas Paget-Brown would rather see more Londoners die on streets like Ken High St – or Notting Hill Gate where Eilidh Cairns was killed by a lorry driver in 2009 – than segregate this wide London road. Until local councils like Kensington and Chelsea start placing the lives of their residents above their councillors’ endless desire for private, on-street car parking, Boris Johnson is better off spending his money on e-bikes.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Newspeak of Nicholas Paget-Brown, leader of RBKC Council

Last week I emailed the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, Nicholas Paget-Brown, asking him for an official response on the fact that the Council are currently obstinately blocking a fully segregated cycle lane that TfL want to install on Ken High St as part of the proposed Cycle Superhighway 9 (CS9). I thought he might take a rather more balanced few than Cllr Coleridge on the matter, and was therefore incredibly disappointed by an Orwellian response that would have been more appropriate to Animal Farm. It is copied below:

Another photo of Cllr Paget-Brown.
We have long taken the view that it is important for all road users to share space responsibly and to respect other transport modes. The re-design of the High St was designed to achieve this. Clearly there are also wider concerns in London that cycle superhighways may not be the best solution to the increasing number of cyclists and do not address the concerns of cyclists using other streets. 
You do not explain how a dedicated and separate cycle lane would protect the safety of pedestrians and bus uers and why the Council should consider one mode of travel over all others in this one location. Grosvenor Road and Millbank are much more lightly used roads than the High St and one sits inside the Congestion Charge Zone where volumes of car usage are in any case lower. The junction with Church St and the High St is more than a “T” junction, it has to allow for left and right filters and pedestrian crossing phases at a point just before the carriageway narrows. 
The Council has undertaken a huge number of initiatives to make cycling safer in the Borough but has always considered these in the light of the fact that we need to take account of all modes of traffic in such a busy Borough if we are to improve overall levels of road safety.
I find it deeply insulting (especially to the memory of Eilidh Cairns who was run over and killed by a lorry driver while cycling through Notting Hill Gate in 2009) that Cllr Paget-Brown feels he can blithely equate the dangers posed to someone on a bike by a bus, lorry or HGV, as comparable to those posed to a pedestrian when having to cross a cycle lane that runs behind a bus stop. The threat posed to someone's 'safety' is completely incomparable. In fact, cycle lanes that pedestrians have to cross to reach bus stops are the norm in much of Holland, Germany and Brighton, and are currently being built by TfL on Stratford High Street.

Moreover, I find it extremely worrying that Cllr Paget-Brown feels that taking 2-3m of the ~20m of building-to-building space on Kensington High Street in order to create a segregated cycle lane is 'considering one mode of travel above all others in this one location'. This is just nonsensical. It's newspeak. It's untrue. Anyone can see that using 2-3m of Kensington High Street to create a segregated cycle lane is only using 10-15% of the total available road space for cycling. In no rational world is this 'considering one mode of travel above all others'. There is currently ~8m of space on Kensington High Street used as pavements (discounting additional space created by the wide islands in the middle). Does this mean the Council is 'considering walking above all other modes of transport'?

The story becomes even worse when one remembers that, contrary to Cllr Paget-Brown's implications, there are not any continuous segregated cycle lanes, or even quiet-ish roads, running on parallel routes that cyclists might use instead of 'this one location'.  In fact, there are no continuous segregated cycle lanes anywhere in the Royal Borough. Coupled with Paget-Brown's opening statement that, 'we have long taken the view that it is important for all road users to share space', one can only conclude that Paget-Brown is opposed to the entire idea of dedicated, segregated space for cycling, wherever in his borough it might be suggested.

Paget-Brown's opposition, then, is perhaps not really about Kensington High Street. It's simply about segregated cycle lanes, that he plainly feels shouldn't be built in the first place.

The breathtaking arrogance Paget-Brown's position becomes clear when one remembers that Cllr Paget-Brown is a Conservative and is therefore rejecting the advice and guidance given by his Conservative Prime Minister (David Cameron, who unequivocally endorsed the Get Britain Cycling Report in April), his Conservative Mayor (Boris Johnson, who as head of TfL is proposing the segregating track that Paget-Brown is so stubbornly blocking), and even his Conservative MP (Sir Malcolm Rifkind who wrote last year 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.').

The breathtaking ignorance and heartlessness of Paget-Brown's position becomes clear when one remembers that Eilidh Cairns has already been killed through having to 'share space' with fast moving motor traffic at Notting Hill Gate where the Council also refuses to provide a segregated cycle lanes. Furthermore, just last week in the news there were two inquests into the deaths of Brian Dorling and Philippine de Gerin-Ricard where the Coroner, Mary Hassel, clearly stated:
What we would like, of course, is to have cyclists in a separate cycle lane. It would be safer for cyclists, and motorists wouldn’t have the potential in the same way for this appalling experience of perhaps colliding with a cyclist.
Having 'cyclists in a separate cycle lane' is exactly what TfL are now proposing for Ken High St, and exactly what our 'bikeminded' councillors are blocking. It's shocking.

Paget-Brown says, 'there are also wider concerns in London that cycle superhighways may not be the best solution to the increasing number of cyclists'. Again, this is simply untrue. Concerns have not been raised about the concept of cycle superhighways, but rather about them being built in exactly the way Cllr Paget-Brown clearly wants them built; i.e. with HGVs and Londoners on bikes 'sharing space' and no segregated cycle lanes. The 'wider concerns' Paget-Brown cites in defence of his argument are actually critiques of himself, and his own position in opposing the sort of segregated infrastructure that would make cycle superhighways safe for everyone who chose to cycle.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

My Question for Nick

At 6.30pm Tuesday 29 October 2013 RBKC are holding an 'Ask Nick' event where you can ask the leader of the council, Nick Paget-Brown, any questions you like.

It is taking place at St Charles Catholic Sixth Form College, St Charles Square, London, W10 6EY and I would urge any RBKC residents reading this to attend if they are free that evening.

Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown.
Full details are available here. You can also submit questions in advance using the Council's registration system for the event on their website. Mine is copied below. I look forward to Nick's response.
I would like to know why the Council are rejecting TfL's plans for a safe, segregated cycle lane on Ken High St as part of the proposed Cycle Superhighway 9 that would separate vulnerable residents on bikes from large vehicles that can kill them when driven badly?

Where segregation has been rejected in favour of motor traffic capacity, for example with Cycle Superhighway 2 in East London, four people have been killed by drivers while cycling in the last few years.

Why is the Council making the same mistake on Ken High St? Surely the lives of its residents are much important than how fast you can drive down the street? Particularly as it is a shopping high street, not a distributor road and already has appalling levels of air pollution which would be lessened by the increase in cycling that would result if proper, safe cycle routes were given to residents, not blocked by the Council.

I would also like to ask why the Council is rejecting the lead offered by Camden, Islington, Hackney, Southwark, and the City of London by completely blocking 20 MPH limits in RBKC, except on Exhibition Road? Why can't we have 20 MPH outside schools, for instance? Or on narrow residential streets?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Update on Kensington High Street and Cycle Superhighway 9

Following a slightly ambiguous report in a local paper about Kensington and Chelsea Council stalling on Cycle Superhighway 9 plans, I assumed that the real reason for my Council's hostility to Cycle Superhighway 9 was not the blue paint but the fact that they hate segregation because it means reduced amounts of space for motor traffic. They take this extremely reactionary position because most of the Councillors are rich residents who own two or more cars and drive everywhere. They don't take the bus, and they certainly don't cycle!

I blogged accordingly but also sought clarification from Cllr Timothy Coleridge, Cabinet member for Transport. I've decided to reproduce his reply to me in full here because it sets out the Council's position in clear, specific terms:
Thank you for your e-mail. You are correct that the Council is not supportive at this time of a segregated cycle route along Kensington high Street.  

Kensington high street is extremely busy, but the traffic generally flows well and cars and cycles move through it together and without a great degree of difficulty. The main issues we have is the idea of having a segregated cycle lane on the north side of the street, with cycles going both east and west. Pedestrians wishing to catch the many buses that use the high street would have to cross onto an inner pavement to queue for buses, and more difficult is the very complicated junction with Kensington church street. This junction is extremely difficult to solve. The pinch point as you go east past the Royal Garden Hotel would need to be reduced to one lane of traffic and this would reduce traffic flow to an unacceptable level. Finally the high street has been redesigned to a very high spec and we believe it has greatly improved this busy and important shopping destination.
A few very interesting points to note from this. Firstly, TfL/Gilligan have clearly presented RBKC Council with some very detailed, well thought-out plans for segregation which have been rejected by the Council. The natural corollary of this is that campaigning organisations like London Cycling Campaign need to find a way of putting pressure not just on TfL, but on intransigent local councils too, if they want to see London 'Go Dutch'.

As I blogged about with reference to the Cycle Superhighway 5 consultation in June, sometimes it is not TfL but other local government bodies who are actively resisting the separation of cycle and motor traffic. TfL are far, far from perfect. But councils like RBKC aren't either.

It's also remarkable that the main stumbling block to a 'segregated cycle lane' is that it will mean at one point the eastbound road will need to be reduced 'one lane of [motor] traffic', which the council see as 'unacceptable'. Given that most of the time Kensington High Street functions as effectively a single lane street because of parked cars/taxis, buses stopping, and rush hour cyclists filling the entire inside lane, it is particularly galling that the council will not consider reducing the street to one motor traffic lane at ANY point. Moreover, Kensington High Street is a shopping street, not a distributor road, so why on earth should it have two lanes of motor traffic in each direction?! It's completely idiotic to preserve needlessly high levels of motor traffic capacity at the expense of safe cycling, mass cycling, reducing illegal levels of air pollution, cutting carbon emissions, reducing the number of those killed and maimed in road traffic accidents, and improving bus and tube overcrowding during rush hour.

If you ask me, this current RBKC Council is living in the 1970s. As The Ranty Highwayman pointed out on twitter, RBKC Council don't even see pedestrians or cycles as 'traffic' which they have been legally obliged to do since the Traffic Management Act in 2004. Only cars count.

Come the 2014 elections a large part of this evidently useless chaff will hopefully be threshed out of the Council body so more intelligent decisions can be made on behalf of all Kensington and Chelsea residents (including the 60% of households in the borough that are car-free), not just the predominantly fat and lazy motor-obsessive minority that seem to constitute the majority of the Council at the moment.

Below are some photos I took of Ken High Street (+ Hyde Park Gate and Exhibition Road) yesterday showing just how hostile the current 'very high spec' [Timothy Coleridge's words] design is for cycling, and how frequently it is reduced to one lane of motor traffic:

Absolutely no #space4cycling here.

But many people still forced to use this route due to lack of alternatives.

Fancy a dooring, anyone?

Those on bikes are frequently forced into the very dangerous path of traffic overtaking them from behind due to the lack of a segregated cycle lane. The person in front of me was almost taken out by the blue car (pictured) when I took this.

Another instance of someone being forced into the very dangerous path of traffic overtaking them from behind due to the lack of a segregated cycle lane. Again, there was almost a collision here with the white van (pictured). This road layout is not safe and it's insane to refer to it as 'very high spec' (as Coleridge frequently does).

A bus stop by pass is badly needed here. Would fancy squeezing in the slither of space between the bus and the motor traffic? Or sitting behind the bus and inhaling some lovely carcinogenic diesel until it moved off again?

The road is too dangerous for these people to feel safe cycling, with resultant clogging of the pavement for pedestrians.

This person is cycling across the pedestrian crossing because he's worried about getting killed by the motor traffic.

Pictured again. This is inconvenient for pedestrians. Proper segregated cycling facilities would avoid this.

Exhibition Road. Urgh. What an awful design. Looks terrifying.

It would be difficult to come up with something more hostile to cycling if you tried. Also important to note is the two separate cases of Barclays Cycle Hire users that felt the road, in it's current layout, was too dangerous to use and wheeled/cycled on the pavement instead.

If anyone feels like contacting Cllr Timothy Coleridge on this issue to express their support of TfL's desire to segregate Ken High St, his council email is It might be worth cc-ing in the Leader of the Council, Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown, too:

Friday, 11 October 2013

Are Kensington and Chelsea Council deliberately blocking TfL from segregating Cycle Superhighway 9 along Kensington High Street? Yes.

Given that nearly 60% of households in Kensington and Chelsea are car-free, one would expect the council to be prioritising the safety of the majority of their residents who choose not to drive, rather than obstinately preserving road conditions that are straight out of the 1970s and make Kensington and Chelsea one of the worst of London's boroughs for cycling.

However, a recent report in a local newspaper suggests that the Royal Borough council are apparently against plans for a segregated cycle superhighway along Kensington High Street. According to the report, the Council are blocking the proposed Cycle Superhighway 9 on Kensington High Street because they see it as “unnecessary and inappropriate”. It appears the Council are making a big issue about the colour of the cycle lane surface in order to detract from the fact they are also stonewalling on a fully segregated scheme, which TfL have proposed and would require no paint (blue or otherwise) because it would be physically separated from motor traffic.

Despite 'improvement' work in the early 2000s, Kensington High Street remains poorly designed for cyclists, and the large amounts of wasted space in the centre of the road could be far more usefully allocated as space for safe, segregated cycling for those of all ages.

Plenty of space on Ken High Street for full segregation of cycle from motor traffic. This would also radically improve pollution levels on the street for shoppers. But do the council instead want to continue wasting  the space with traffic island bike parking that no one uses because the street is so hostile to cycling?
Indeed, The Council’s own report into casualty records before (1990-2000) and after (2003-2005) the 'improvement' scheme reported a worrying increase of 186% in the number of cyclists killed and seriously injured on Kensington High Street. A map of all road incidents involving cyclists between 2005-12 shows very clearly that the design of the road is failing to provide a safe environment for travelling by bike:

Moreover, the MP for Kensington and Chelsea, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, himself commented last year 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.” The current design of Kensington High Street could not better illustrate this point.

Is the same Council that spends thousands of pounds running 'Bikeminded' (an initiative aimed at encouraging cycling through explicitly non-engineering methods such as free bike training etc.) deliberately ignoring the wise words of their own MP?

It sure looks like it.

If anyone feels like contacting Cllr Timothy Coleridge on this issue to express their support of TfL's desire to segregate Ken High St, his council email is It might be worth cc-ing in the Leader of the Council, Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown, too:

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Tottenham Hale Consultation on 20 mph is fantastic and should be supported, but the plans need to be changed to include new segregated cycle lanes

This is just a quick post to urge any readers of this blog to respond to TfL's Tottenham Hale consultation, available here, before 18 October 2013 when it ends.

20 mph coming soon to Tottenham Hale, and the rest of Haringey?
The proposals for a 20 mph zone (which includes the main road, Broad Lane, rather than just being limited to side streets) is a massive step forward and should be supported. 20 mph limits will become far more adhered to once they are normalised as the right speed limit for dense, urban areas. However, this normalisation will only happen once 20 mph limits are standard all over London (and the UK), not just in Camden! That's why it's important that anyone that cycles in Britain supports the extension of 20 mph limits across all of our urban areas.

However, it's very disappointing that these designs do not include any plans to extend the crap cycle track on Broad Lane (you can see it on google maps here) and give it the priority over side roads which would turn it into an actual viable transport option. I'd would say it's very much worth pointing this out to TfL, as not providing a proper segregated cycle lane here goes directly against the Boris Johnson's Vision for Cycling in London.


Haringey Council are also consulting about whether to adopt a 'possible borough-wide 20 mph limit' on all the non-TfL controlled roads in the borough. The consultation is available here and ends on 31 October 2013. Please do respond if you get a chance. [I believe Broad Lane is being consulted on separately by TfL because it is TfL controlled so would not be subject to a Haringey Council borough-wide limit and would only go 20 mph if TfL let it happen.]

Thursday, 12 September 2013

City of London officially goes 20mph on all streets with full enforcement by City of London Police; and Boris Johnson gives all-clear to major cycling upgrades following successful Space For Cycling protests by LCC

Two very big pieces of news for those that want to travel around London by bike in safety, and at least relative comfort:

Firstly, the City of London has officially gone 20mph with City of London police happy to enforce (Evening Standard article). This is a massive success and will make the whole area significantly safer for walking and cycling. It also shows that 20mph is not a 'left-wing-thing'. The heart of business in London, in fact the heart of business in the UK (and probably Europe) has backed 20mph because it makes sense in terms of saving lives and it makes sense economically.

The councils of both Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea now have absolutely no excuse whatsoever for not introducing at least a residential 20mph limit, if not a borough-wide 'Total 20' policy. Even if they are diehard Conservatives, that doesn't mean they should let Londoners be killed in their borough by inhumane traffic planning policies.

Secondly, a few days ago Boris Johnson wrote to the London Cycling Campaign, in response to the Space For Cycling protests which the LCC have organised, promising major improvements to:

  1. Holborn one-way system (where Alan Neve was killed)
  2. East-west Holborn contra-flow bus route on Bloomsbury Way
  3. Aldgate East
  4. Aldgate West
  5. Cycle Superhighway 2 (where Philippine De Gerin-Ricard was killed)
This great result shows that BBC's Tom Edwards was right to say that the LCC now have 'teeth'. 

City Hall are right to be worried.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Open Response to Notting Hill Gate redevelopment consultation

Kensington and Chelsea are currently consulting on a redevelopment of Notting Hill Gate. The consultation itself is available here

I would urge everyone to respond to this consultation individually and let the council know this is the perfect opportunity to develop ground-breaking improvements in cycling and walking in the area.

My open response:
Notting Hill Gate is currently a major barrier for cycling in the borough, and London as a whole. The entire junction is horrible; an essentially 1970s design that encourages large volumes of traffic motor to move through the area at dangerously high speeds, leading to pedestrian and cycling fatalities and actively suppressed rates of walking and cycling. 
Visitors to the area can still see a white bike with flowers in memory of Eilidh Cairns who was tragically and wholly unnecessarily killed in Notting Hill Gate by a lorry driver in 2009. It is right that this 'ghost bike' remains near the spot where she was killed, both in memory to Eilidh and to remind the Council that something desperately needs to be done to prevent more wholly avoidable deaths occurring here.

Additionally, the entire area has illegal levels of air pollution and nitrogen dioxide levels that rival Beijing. In fact, a specific stretch of Notting Hill Gate is one of the most polluted streets in London.

The easiest way to solve both these problems is to radically redesign the entire area to provide safe, segregated cycle routes through Notting Hill including bus stop by-passes for cycling. When this has been done in New York it has led to an over 50% rise in local spending, as areas were transformed into 'people places', rather than motor traffic hell. Notting Hill Gate would also benefit from more, and easier pedestrian crossings (including zebra crossings), and a 20 mph limit.

The Westway is less than a mile north and provides a quick, direct route for motor traffic into Central London. There is no reason, therefore, why Notting Hill Gate should not be re-thought and re-designed as an area that prioritised cyclists and pedestrians (if only because these people don't use vehicles that emit illegal levels of air pollution which lowers everyone in the area's life expectancy.

One of the council's core aims is to encourage alternative transport to private car use, such as cycling and walking. The council would be ignoring and actively refuting its core aims if it did not, therefore, use this opportunity to transform Notting Hill Gate into somewhere where walking and cycling is actively encouraged, rather than discouraged, as it is by the current street layout.

Notting Hill Gate. Can you see anywhere safe to cycle through here? Can you see anywhere safe to cross the road as a pedestrian? This junction needs to be completely redesigned with wide segregated cycle lanes, bus stop by-passes for cycling, and more pedestrian crossings.

Monday, 9 September 2013

*Guest Post* by James Finlayson: 5 Cycling Itineraries in London for the Whole Family

With the increased costs of running a car in Central London, along with congestion on the streets, I am more and more getting on my bike to travel everywhere in London. And the nice thing is that when I arrive home on my two wheels on Friday evening, I don't even want to drag out the car for the weekend. What I found out recently is that cycling around London is also a great family activity (you just need to win the initial fear!). Have a look at these 5 suggestions for a weekend family ride.

Start off around one of the many London parks. Try the centrally located Hyde Park. With 350 acres to explore, you won't be able to see it all in one go. Break the day with lunch at one of the lakeside restaurants, or pack a picnic and pick a spot to stop. Visit some of the monuments in the park, including the Princess Diana memorial fountain, or on a Sunday, head to speakers corner and hear some interesting speakers.

Another quiet route to take is the Waterlink Way. Based in the South East of London, this 7 mile trail follows ancient waterways for much of its path. There are a few short areas of road riding, and a couple of crossings where you must be careful. If you start from Kent House Station, you can bribe the children to keep going with the promise of seeing the Cutty Sark at the other end.

Hidden amongst the hustle and bustle of London is around 100 miles of canals. The canal towpaths are a fantastic place for the family to cycle. Full of wildlife and colourful boats, you will always find something of interest for everyone. The Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal can be found in West London. While not a complete green heaven, this section of the canal has vibrant and thriving businesses lining it. Quirky cafes and traditional pubs abound, with canal side seating available for a mid-cycle rest.

For a slightly longer ride try the Thames Cultural Cycling Tour Route. A free download is available at the Visit London website. The 16.8 mile route starts at South Bank then runs to Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge then back to South Bank. The self-guided tour is full of hidden gems waiting for discovery.

Lee Valley runs right from Essex almost to the river Thames. Many miles of cycle tracks are available within its 10,000 acres. Have a look at the Visit Lee Valley website for an extensive list, but right in Central London is their nature reserve Walthamstow Wonders. It’s a simple 2 miles track with grass pathways, bridges, gates and cattle grids.

London is waiting to be explored on bicycles by you and your family. So dust off the bikes and get out in the open air. Find hidden parts of England's capital not accessible by car.

James works for FeatherstoneLeigh. Getting into a career as an estate agent gave him the opportunity to get to know London inside out. The former East Ender now lives in Kew and can’t get enough of long dog walks and cycling Sundays on the South West London green hills.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Laura Trott's utopian government where all policy is based on her anecdotes

Last week Laura Trott claimed that:
Cyclists wonder why they get a bad name... I see cyclists jumping in and out of the buses and people wonder why they get hit. It’s not always the car’s fault.... Cyclists need to help themselves and should not jump red lights. I would ride in London but I certainly wouldn’t ride like that, you just have to be careful.
She then called for helmets to be made mandatory.

Laura Trott: a great professional cyclist, but unfortunately also frustratingly stupid.
Two issues massively irk me about this:

1) "It's not always the car's fault." I'm sorry, but don't you mean, "it's not always the driver's fault". Would you ever say "it's not always the bicycle's fault"? This an example of Laura Trott, without even knowing it, using the English language in a way that immediately absolves drivers of the responsibility for killing and maiming other human beings on foot, on bikes, or in other cars (something regular readers will remember I've blogged about before, as it is especially prevalent among journalists). "It's not the driver's fault, it's the car's fault"... I've never heard so much crap in my life. It's drivers that kill and maim other humans, not cars (or lorries, for that matter). That's why we have a cumbersome driving test in this country (and even more so if you want to drive a lorry), so that once you've passed the test you can take responsibility for your vehicle (just as someone riding a bicycle unhesitatingly takes responsibility for what their bicycle does).

2) Laura's opinions are entirely anecdote-based. She hasn't bothered to look at any of the stats for who's blame in those on bikes getting hit by cars. In fact, even the cycle-phobic Westminster Council recently published data showing that drivers were to blame in over two-thirds of incidents where they hit people on bikes. Moreover, all available evidence from countries such as Australia which have introduced mandatory helmets laws show two key consequences of mandatory helmet laws: firstly, a negligible drop in fatalities and serious injuries among those on bikes; secondly, a highly significant drop in total cycling rates leading to fewer cycle safety measures being taken by local and national government (because that's how democracies work) and cycling becoming more dangerous and fatal in the long run.

Allowing Laura Trott to expound on these issues is like a conversation with David Cameron about Syria going along the following lines:

"Have you looked at any of the evidence, especially from the US and UK intelligence services? Have you perused any of the factual data we have from previous military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya?"

"No, unfortunately not. But I have got some great anecdote-based opinions. I think I remember seeing Syria on a map once and I have also travelled in the Middle East (Israel). In any sane world personal anecdote should be the bedrock of what local and national government does. Everyone knows that."

We don't let Lewis Hamilton tell us how to design a safe urban environment where cars don't kill people, nor does Michael Schumacher tell the Germans how to build motorways and bridges that are safe for drivers to use. Therefore, why the bloody hell should we let Laura Trott, Bradley Wiggins, or Mark Cavendish tell us anything whatsoever about cycle safety. These guys are all professional cyclists. Cycling to the shops to buy milk is not professional cycling. Therefore, I, for one, am going to fiercely defend my right not to be forced to wear a helmet while cycling from A to B.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Richard Mann and his local Oxford cycling group, Cyclox are planning on mis-investing £1m of Cameron's recent cycling funding making key Oxford roundabout, The Plain, *more* dangerous for cyclists

We all know the government are just offering 'crumbs from the table' (according to the British Medical Journal) with their recent, pitifully small grant to fund cycling infrastructure. However, there's potentially an even more grave problem for the future of transport cycling in Britain. Namely, that what little money there is can still be completely mis-invested by idiotic town-planners – and even local cyclists – that don't understand the basic fact that your child will be safer when cycling if he/she isn't sharing an extra narrow 'general traffic lane' with a bus or lorry.

Richard Mann is just one such cyclist who has, incredibly, publicly supported Oxford council's proposed plans to narrow The Plain roundabout in Oxford which currently caters for almost 10,000 trips by bike each day.

I can understand why the journalist who wrote a story on this for the Oxford Mail, Freddie Whittaker, might not understand why the proposed changes will do the very opposite to his ill-informed headline of making The Plain 'safer for cyclists'. He' a journalist after all. Perhaps he never cycles, he just got told to cover this story but his editor. But for someone (Richard Mann) who feels they represent a 'cycle campaigning group', to support these reckless plans is absolutely unacceptable.

The proposed changes have not been formally released as diagrams, but we are told that:

At present the carriageway that runs around The Plain varies between 6m and 10m in width, but the redesign would change this to 5m all the way...  Instead of two lanes approaching The Plain from the city, there would be a single lane. 

Essentially, these plans boil down to road-narrowing like the City of London did with Cheapside, something the City of London planners have now acknowledged has been a complete failure for cyclists using this roads. Richard Mann and Oxford County Council's proposals also sound alarmingly similar to plans which TfL drew up last year for the roundabout where Lambeth Bridge meets Embankment.

TfL's proposed changes in 2012 to narrow Lambeth Bridge Northern Roundabout which were rejected by LCC and eventually binned by Andrew Gilligan, London's Cycling Commissioner.
These plans essentially consisted of narrowing the carriageway in an effort to slow motor-traffic. However, this just means that those on bikes who lack the protection of steel box (a car) are put in even closer proximity with inherently life-threatening buses, or even lorry drivers like the one which killed a Londoner on a bike yesterday. Forcing your child, or your grandmother, or your niece to share an even narrower 'general traffic lane' with cars, buses and HGVs is simply not going to 'make one of Oxford’s key problem junctions as cycle-friendly as they possible' (to quote Richard Mann). It's going to make it substantially worse for those on bikes.

The way to make a junction, road, or roundabout safe for people on bikes is to provide dedicated space for cycling which is not shared by potentially fatal motor traffic. If you want the motor traffic to slow down, give them a bloody speed limit for god's sake. Don't try and use people as mobile human traffic calming devices. Richard Mann, this is inhumane.

And it is for exactly this reason that TfL rejected their plans for Lambeth Roundabout and are choosing instead to trial a Dutch solution, as advocated by campaigners and bloggers that have read David Hembrow's blog. This is a design that sensibly provides a segregated cycle lane for your niece/grandmother/child to navigate the roundabout free from motor traffic.

A 'Dutch roundabout' in Holland where cyclists do not have to share traffic lanes with motor vehicles.
TfL's trial Dutch roundabout which they have constructed in at their testing facility. Berkshire.
So if London, with all it's cars, taxis, and buses has opted for a Dutch solution, and is rejecting the idiotic road-narrowing demanded by Richard Mann, it is slightly bizarre that Oxford is not doing the same thing. What is the point of TfL spending a million pounds trialling Dutch roundabouts if that knowledge cannot be shared across the UK and used to actually get this country cycling, not worsen existing conditions

What makes Richard Mann's and Oxford Council's proposed changes all the more gob-smacking is that The Plain roundabout is:
  1. Larger than that formed when Lambeth Bridge meets Embankment which TfL are planning on turning into a 'Dutch roundabout' with segregated cycle lanes.
  2. Currently used by substantially more cyclists a day than the aforementioned counterpart in London.
  3. Needs to handle far fewer buses and cars each day than Lambert Bridge North Roundabout, especially in the coming years as Oxford city centre, to which it is the eastern gateway, becomes increasingly pedestrianised and cycle-friendly. 
The Plain and Lambeth North Roundabouts compared side by side. Pic by @Robonabike.
Put simply, there are no excuses in terms of size for The Plain not to 'Go Dutch'. There is plenty of space here for full segregation. Anyone that tells you otherwise is simply lying. If there wasn't the space available the Council would not be happy to reduce the carriageway from a maximum of 10m to '5m all the way', nor to replace the two general traffic lanes approaching The Plain roundabout from the city with 'a single lane'. Some trees may have to be replanted, but I believe that is a valid sacrifice to make if it prevents Oxford residents being seriously injured or killed while cycling here.

Nor is it necessary for Oxford County Council to create two lanes for motor traffic here. Motorists will be able to get around Oxford perfectly easily with one lane since so few people drive into the centre of Oxford now. In fact, segregating less confident cyclists from the main carriageway will actually make it easier and quicker for drivers to use the roundabout than the proposed road-narrowing plans which I've heavily criticised above.

And there is a £1m lined up which could pay for a Dutch solution.

But at the moment that's not going to happen. It's a terrible, terrible waste. 

If you feel similarly please let your views by hear by emailing the Oxford County Council at, especially if you are an Oxford resident that uses this roundabout.

I'd also recommend contacting Richard Mann at, especially if you feel like you could do a better job of representing the interests of those that want to travel from A to B by bike in Oxford.


If you think I'm exaggerating, full details about Oxford Country Council's and Richard Mann's plans for The Plain can be found here, from


Mulling over this, it's a real surprise to find this kind of thing happening in Oxford, which has perhaps the best cycle lane in Britain running alongside Marston Ferry Road. The people that built this clearly understand that cycling works best when cycle traffic and motor traffic aren't mixed in narrow 'general traffic lanes' but given their own separate space. This just makes it all the more inexplicable that the County Council and Richard Mann want to spend £1m in order to dangerously mix bike and motor traffic on The Plain roundabout.

This cycle lane (or perhaps 'cycle-road' is better?) is the, for my money, the best in the UK. Wide, safe, well-paved, it's the main reason that almost 60% pupils at Cherwell School (located just off the cycle lane) cycle to school.

Edit 6/9/13 - Doug Culnane has commented below with a link to a very rough mock-up of how The Plain might look with 'Dutch-style' segregation of bike traffic, rather than the lethal road-narrowing Richard Mann is supporting.

A very rough idea of the kind of segregation the County Council and Cyclox should be pursuing given the ample size of the roundabout, the fact they have £1 million to spend, and that Oxford has the second highest cycling rates in the all of the UK. By Doug Culnane.