53 per cent of cyclists jump red lights? Cycling in London is becoming a dialogue of the deaf - by Andrew Gilligan

Yesterday’s Standard followed up a claim by the London Taxi Drivers’ Association that “53 per cent” of cyclists go through red lights. I was immediately sceptical about this number, which is way out of line with the findings of more neutral parties – such as the Sunday Times earlier this month. Their figure for London, based on their own counts, was that just over 12 per cent of cyclists go through red lights.

The LTDA’s highly-scientific analysis is based on some filming they’ve done at (wait for it) two sets of traffic lights, in Hackney and in Camden, for (drum roll) one whole hour each. That’s a pretty small basis for a pretty big generalisation – but the problems with this story go even further.

 You see, when I watched part of the unedited films myself, they didn’t show 53 per cent of cyclists skipping red lights at all. I watched the first ten minutes of the Hackney film. In that time, by my count, 130 cyclists passed the camera, of whom 12 – that is, 9 per cent - jumped a red light. In other words, 91 per cent did not.

If you confine it only to the periods when the lights were red, my count in that ten-minute period is that 39 of 51 cyclists stopped. My figures could be out by a few because there are one or two debateable ones - the LTDA probably counted cyclists stopping just beyond the stop line, for instance. But the riders only did that because there was traffic - illegally - in the bike box; and they did stop.

I said all this to the Standard when they asked me for comment, which I refused. The reporter on the story wouldn’t tell me whether he’d actually watched the full footage himself, or just taken the cabbies’ word for it. Maybe, who knows, there was a dramatic deterioration in cyclists’ behaviour after the first ten minutes.

But I have no doubt yesterday’s story will provide yet more tasty food to stow in that vast larder of myths, unjustified generalisations and general poor thinking that encircle the subject of cycling, like space junk orbiting the planet.

We have a second example today, from the other side of the debate. A group called “Stop the Killing of Cyclists” is organising a “die-in” outside Transport for London’s offices (“wear skull masks/death costumes, dress in black, put some fake blood on an old t-shirt,” advise the organisers.) The phrase “stop the killing of cyclists” implies that someone else is always to blame for cyclists’ deaths, which is untrue.

One of the demo’s demands is for a “ban on any vehicles whose drivers cannot see adjacent road users” – in other words, a ban on lorries. Not just in the rush hours, or in central London – but all lorries, everywhere, 24/7.

This would, of course, cripple London’s economy, empty the supermarkets and throw hundreds of thousands out of work overnight. There are things we can and will do about lorries – but not that.

Maybe the die-in people just haven’t thought about their demands. Worse, maybe they have - and are deliberately asking for things they know neither we, nor any administration, can give, so we can then be accused of selling out.

The problem, I suppose, for the diers-in is that we have a highly ambitious cycling programme. What can they ask us to do that we’re not doing already? The answer is what in opposition politics you call “demand escalation.” We promise to treble spending on cycling – so the folk in the skull masks demand we quintuple it, to £33 a head or £275 million a year. (This is only about £90 million a year less than is spent on subsidising the entire London bus network, which carries about 50 times more people.) We promise to do a huge network of cycle routes by 2016 – so the demand becomes for an even bigger network, to be finished even sooner.  

I dare say that just like the LTDA “survey,” the die-in will get uncritical news coverage. But both these stories are examples of what the debate over cycling threatens to become. It’s starting to become a dialogue of the deaf.

From one side, cyclists are red-light-jumping menaces, even when your own filming says they’re mostly not. From the other, they’re helpless victims, “killed” by an uncaring mayor who won’t even ban lorries 24/7.

It’s starting to remind me of American politics, where the centre has shrunk, the extremes have grown and nuance is betrayal. We’re a long way off it yet. There are plenty of reasonable people around; I had a much better meeting last night with cycling campaigners and four members of the London Assembly to discuss our plans for upgrading the much-criticised Cycle Superhighway 2, which I will blog about later.

But we are getting closer to that kind of American situation. That’s why I’m going to start blogging on this site a bit more often, to try to explain what we are doing – and what we cannot do.

Tell us what you think. Please login or register to comment below

29th Nov 2013
2 weeks ago (5:00 PM)

Comments:

Selsey

new

I accept that it is very difficult to make a busy city like London cycle friendly overnight and I fully accept that cyclists have a duty of to cycle safely. However, it surely cannot be right that a high percentage of London's road users are so hampered by the poor design of their vehicles that they are totally unaware of what is happening around them. The deaths of many cyclists are a direct result of the drivers of these vehicles not seeing them. In any other situation the lorry designers and manufacturers would be sued for negligence. Tfl must act quickly to ensure that the drivers can see down both sides of their vehicles.

pdfbt40

new

Unfortunately, there may be a perception that breaking the law of the road has nothing to do with KSI accidents. I'd have to disagree. My perception is that such people are just as likely to ignore hazards (if they've ever bothered to get trained), such as LGV indicating left, and place themselves in danger.
Its all very well trying to blame other road users, but the accident investigators recognise who creates the collision.

kraut

new

'The phrase “stop the killing of cyclists” implies that someone else is always to blame for cyclists’ deaths, which is untrue.

Is victim blaming now official city hall policy? In the case of the HGV crushing the French girl on CS2 - was she to blame for using the superhighway? Or was it maybe the lorry encroaching on her space and crushing her? Or the mayor and TfL for providing such inaedequate and dangerous infrastructure?

'One of the demo’s demands is for a “ban on any vehicles whose drivers cannot see adjacent road users” – in other words, a ban on lorries.'
Vulnerable road users want to get dangerous machines off the road. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
Of course we need deliveries in London. They don't have to be made in enormous trucks with dangerous blind spots. If the mayor can ban lorries from central London that are too polluting, he can ban those lorries that are too dangerous, too.

Its 2013. There must be technologies to eradicate blindspots when turning. And, I've asked this many times: Why not force lorries with a blindspot to have a co-driver responsible for checking it? That won't wreck the economy - it will even help reduce unemployment.

And, given the stats about lorries breaking the already lax regulations - why is the Met not stepping up regular checks on HGVs until all the unsafe operators get their act together, or get off the road?

'There are things we can and will do about lorries – but not that'
So what are you going to do about lorries? And, just as importantly: WHEN?

Cyclists are listening. You're not.

Ronald

new

Cycling infrastructure is very very much neglected in the UK and London, unlike bus travel.

You shouldn't compare funding for both on a 'per user' basis for this very reason. The sooner the infrastructure is in place, the sooner London will see more users, more safety, and a lower cost per user. By doing this you are feeding any opponents with incorrectly interpreted data,

Of course the die-in demonstration is a bit over the top... Just like the 'Stop de kindermoord' was in a similar way in the 1970's in The Netherlands. To dismiss the idea behind the demonstration is not something I would expect from the cycling ambassador of London.

A total ban on HGV is probably a step too far, but proper safety measures fitted to these vehicles to help mitigate the problems with massive blind spots is not.

sgshields

new

Wow.

Instead of being rude and disparaging of well over a thousand people who protested this evening, perhaps going along to see what it was all about and listen would have been more effective than mouthing off prematurely?!

Many of us who went have lost loved ones and these comments are out of order.

The demand for a ban on vehicles that are blind to those around them is NOT a demand for all lorries to be banned 24/7. Either you are being very dim or disingenuous. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you just didn't 'get it'. As the brave, bereaved mother of a girl killed by an HGV in Birmingham said, equipment that costs just a few hundred pounds would save lives. Lorry drivers, by definition, do not have to be blind to all that is around them. As the Mayor and you both say you are working on imposing charges/restrictions on lorries without safety kit in London, you must know this. Cameras, well-designed cabs, sensors, warning alerts, proper training, etc can all enable lorry drivers to be aware of what is around them. Rush hour bans are also possible, and the Olympics proved that tough restrictions can be made to work.

The idea that those of us who protested are just out to set TfL up to fail is both absurd and offensive. We just want to be safe and we don't want to see any more people dying needlessly. The demands of the Dutch Cycling Union would seem ridiculous here, but it is the persistent demands for ever better facilities that have helped bring about the cycling revolution in The Netherlands - that didn't happen by people being grateful for every crumb tossed at them. It was this type of protest in The Netherlands that inspired tonight's 'Die in'. 'Stop child murder' was a pretty harsh slogan, but it worked.

When we complain about the crackdown on cyclists, we do so, not because we are blind to the dangers, quite the contrary is true. When cyclists make up such a small percentage of traffic, cause so few deaths and serious injuries, we object to the police issuing 40% of tickets to cyclists in the recent (otherwise welcome) crackdown. We don't say it is OK for people to flout the law however they travel, and as you note above, some infringements like stopping ahead of the line can often be done because cyclists are forced to do so by drivers abusing ASLs (which the CPS also seem to have acknowledged in their decision to drop a prosecution for that very situation).

We do object to being stopped and rudely told by the police to wear helmets, which are optional, and arguably dangerous (the CTC's excellent evidence review makes that very clear). All we are saying is that people should get their priorities right - that means sorting out HGVs as the main focus for action right now.

Whilst the plans for more cycle projects are welcome, we are too used to promises not being met. CS2 was delivered by this Mayor and he has taken too long to properly respond to concerns about it. He still expresses scepticism of the Go Dutch principles, despite signing up to them. We were promised CS5 by the end of the year, where is it - is TfL just going to back down to the crazies in Westminster Council again? Where is the big vision for a city where all main roads have safe, largely segregated cycle lanes and all side roads, residential streets and town centres have 20 mph limits? Why has the Safer Junctions review web page not been updated for 9 months and why are the few upgrades delivered so rubbish? Why are cycle campaigners still being told that motor traffic cannot be delayed to make junctions safer? We see too many vague promises. As the protest organiser said this evening 'it isn't rocket science' - just do what the Dutch do instead of finding endless excuses not to.

We appreciate change takes time, but we are seeing too little, delivered too late, evidence being ignored, promises being broken and no big vision for a fully cycle-safe and pedestrian-safe city.

Like any big group of people, there are a diversity of views and campaigning styles. As London's cycling commissioner, I hope that you make more effort to understand and unite London's many different current cyclists, those who want to cycle and other road safety campaigners. We need you firmly on our side, not playing piggy in the middle or sowing division.

Don't become part of the problem and don't let defensiveness lead you to fire off half-cocked.

Boris at least had the good sense to welcome the protest. I hope you will take the chance to apologise to all those you have offended and upset and start to see the cycle campaigners as part of your army, not your opposition. Work with us, don't patronise us.

kraut

new

sgshields - well said!

Olivia

new

Yup. You've misjudged this. We all know the media exaggeration of the supposed 'battle' on the roads between motorised traffic and the rest of us is unintelligent, untrue, and counter productive. The organisers of the 'die-in', in contrast, have been thoughtful and moderate in their language. But they did want to make an impact, and they succeeded in having, as they constantly reminded us they wanted, a dignified, respectful, peaceful, quiet protest .. with some strong language to make a strong point. It's the road design that has caused most of the deaths and injuries in London, not someone's lack of concentration. The design should protect all of us from our many errors of judgement, and should not be prioritising motorists speeding through town, causing a huge increase in accidents. On the contrary, keep the cars out as much as possible, and keep them slow, and give pedestrians and cyclists space to move around in ... then watch the city flourish. And I think you should apologise to the organisers of the protest. You tarred them with the same brush as some pretty dubious commentators, which if you had been at the protest you would have realised is completely out of order.

fredofrede

new

Andrew Gilligan is part of the problem which perpetuates the 'battle on the roads' myth, when many cyclists drive and it is only a small minority of either group who seeks to antagonise other road users. Most people want to get to where they're going safely, and get on with other road users in a friendly considerate way.

TheWillAsh

new

This is unbelievably stupid from Mr Gilligan. "Stop the killing" does not imply that cyclists are entirely not to blame for the deaths, it does however imply that cyclists are not to blame for the absolute vast majority which is a known fact by everyone, and is a policy adopted by the Dutch and written in their Highway Code.
One of our demands was a ban on vehicles blind to adjacent road users, a reasonable demand seeing as thousands of peoples lives are at risk from this we open on the roads. A way of doing this would be to follow the Dutch/Belgian/French (yes we will keep banging on about them until to do something about it). They have a ban on HGVs in city centres all day. To get round this, they have large depots on the edges of the town or city where the cargo is unloaded and stored, before being carried into the city/town centre via smaller vans and other vehicles. This keeps the HGVs away from vulnerable road users (not just cyclists but pedestrians and motor cyclists too) thus making the roads safer as a result.
What you've got to remember Mr Gilligan is that we are not campaigning for the sake of campaigning, because we want to have more fun on the city streets, but because we want to stop the killing of cyclists. Surely if someone's life is at risk something should be done of no matter of the cost. You mentioned how bus network carries 50 times more people, which shows how you are looking at it in completely the wrong way. You think of it in business terms so if there is not as much demand for something then you spend millions more on the larger one, well how can you ignore the deaths on the road which you Mr Gilligan are responsible for, their blood is on your hands.
It is well within your interests and ability ondo something about it.

fredofrede

new

Agreed. It's not like modern technology can't solve the problem of blinds spots anyway - you can get kits which would do this from Maplins! There is absolutely no reason that lorries should be allowed to drive blind around London.

richienichs

new

This is a poor article. I work in financial services, live in London, cycle a large amount and race competitively. Of course, this is not in the slightest bit relevant at all in terms of cycling safety, but the mayor and his 'Cycling Commissioner' are making it part of the debate. The letter above is a shameless attempt by a journalist to marginalise what they want to be framed as a minority group whose demands might in someway hold back the economy.

The sad thing for me at the cycling event yesterday evening was that it did not even begin to encapture the scale, diversity, volume and importance of cycling in London. Cycling in London is not a minority; it is an utterly important, inclusive sector that needs representation and protection. It's sad that the Cycling Commissioner, who only works 3 days a week, has failed to align himself with the people he is meant to represent.

The Mayor’s office keep banging on about what they are going to do make cycling safer but nothing really seems to be happening. Rather than excelling and pushing the limits of possibility they are more into managing limited expectations. In reality, safer cycling comes down to two things – infrastructure and attitudes.

On infrastructure - Are there plans to put bike lanes over or around rail space in London? What about the exciting plans for bike lanes over the Thames? London should not be following other cities, it should be surpassing them all with ingenuity, forward thinking, boldness and capital unavailable to other European cities. The current cycling infrastructure is frankly dangerous. I fully expect cycling accidents as a result of the poor cycling lanes on the Wandsworth one-way system, which is local to me.

On changing attitudes towards cyclists (which I believe to be the biggest challenge) London is still a long way behind. I nearly got run over by an ASDA delivery van this week as he felt the need to drive like a nut case round a residential area at 6.30am on a Tuesday morning. It is this kind of driving that the police should be cracking down on. The recent police targeting of cyclists is utterly farcical and further fuels the ‘get off the roads’ argument from many drivers.

Gilligan – you and Boris really need to step back from the politics, get back on your bikes and start thinking big and making real changes. Give the cyclists no excuses to criticise you, at the moment there are plenty.

fredofrede

new

Spot on - the cycling commissioner seems to see it as his job to justify the limited improvements rather than push for more, and marginalises cyclists rather than promoting the dialogue he claims to support.

fredofrede

new

Andrew Gilligan's comments are completely off the mark and he clearly wrote the piece before the event and without bothering to find out what it was really about. The idea that in this age where we have technology for everything, and cameras in most pockets, we should accept dangerous lorries who can't see vulnerable road users is dangerously wrong, especially coming from a cycling commissioner.

He also finds other things to complain about, such as disagreeing with the phrase 'Stop the Killing', for a tenuous reason which really doesn't add up*. The fact is that if he looked at the demands carefully and thought about the alternatives ('lorries who can't see pedestrians and cyclists are fine' etc.) he would realise that these demands are neither unreasonable nor impossible tasks.

Importantly he also compares the funding which we're asking for cycle infrastructure with the yearly subsidy on buses. He thinks that asking for 75% of the annual subsidy on buses is too much. However this ignores the fundamental difference between the two - the cycling infrastructure built next year will be around for the next 20+ years, but the subsidy on buses will be paid out year on year and after 20 years we will have no lasting increase in capacity. We are asking for a cycle network in 5 years which is likely to last for 20+ years. 5 years of funding is around £1.4 billion, only £0.4bn more than they say they will spend anyway. In the 25 years of building and using the network (likely to last much longer), TfL would spend £9.1 billion subsidising private bus companies and have nothing to show for it at the end.

The cycling commissioner labels the protesters at 'folk in the skull masks', saying we "are deliberately asking for things they know neither we, nor any administration, can give" and says it is a dialogue of the deaf.

This was a peaceful protest, which brought together cyclists, pedestrians and other road users to highlight a serious problem which affects many families from all backgrounds all over London. This is a protest my mum and dad came to.

I was giving Andrew Gilligan the benefit of the doubt that he might be working for all cyclists, but he seems to have come out and shown his political colours. The 'Stop the Killing' movement must continue, it needs to be bigger and we need to reach out to more people. There are local elections next year and it is a great opportunity to keep this issue in the spotlight. I am sure 'Stop the Killing' will last longer than Andrew Gilligan.

Fred

P.s. AG claims 'stop the killing of cyclists' implies cyclists are never to blame for accidents and therefore is unreasonable.It doesn't, and his assertion just doesn't stand up. As a for instance, 'Stop the Killing' is often applied to civil wars and is about stopping the loss of human life, it doesn't imply that everyone in a civil war situation is a pacifist (in that case there wouldn't be a war). I guess Andrew Gilligan was really scraping the barrel when he came up with that one to try to make his point.

Tulyar

new

To use the quotes from two great statesmen - firstly Theodore Roosevelt who described the way to deliver a successful outcome was to speak softly but carry a big stick. Well just look at the respondents here and around the debate and the discussions held with your officers in TfL. Reasoned, intelligent people making clear arguments which they can make quietly through the conventional processes, but tak tent, when, within 24 hours over 2500 cyclists mobilese to hold a vigil at the site of a cyclist's death in Holborn, or a mass ride can still be crossing Westminster bridge as the leaders are coming back over Lambeth Bridge - an estimated 8000 riders - you ain't seen nothing yet. Every one of those riders can influence others in family and friends networks, and some may even work in the financial services sector which Boris wants to keep on-side - we are some big stick.

Then I reflect on Ghandi and try to work out where in the process we've reached so far. I think we're getting past the "First they dis' you" stage of being oddball cyclists, and moving on to "Then they hate you" with some of those digging in against pressure to change, I just wonder when the "and then you win" sunrise begins to send its shafts of light into the city.

Tulyar

new

Well articulated sgsshields and kraut but give credit for actually viewing the LTDA material and seeing through their ridiculous claim.

The die-in is a culmination of the frustration of many who cycle in London - not 'cyclists' but simply people who use cycles as transport, in the same way that they might also use cars, or buses. It is in the face of nothing being delivered, and worse still the same places having fatal crashes, in the case of Bow roundabout 3 times in barely 2 years. So obvious is the inherent danger that 60% of cyclists (by TfL's own survey results) ride over the flyover instead (nearer 70% by my observations). It beggars belief that when the hazard of having a motor vehicle driving through the path of a cyclist on the roundabout exists for 100% of the motor traffic using the roundabout* and 100% of cyclists using CS2's painted blue strip (*aside from the bus routes that go straight through), the risk is only managed by a hope that drivers and cyclists comply with the traffic signals and signs - the revised arrangements are even MORE dangerous because of the ambiguity in the way the traffic signals are used and their timing. Cross over the flyover than the hazard of a motor vehicle turning across the path of a cyclist = 0% So with 3 deaths on the record someone has to explain why the route was taken through the place with the greatest hazards.

The detail is repeated widely albeit without such a glaring challenge to the competence of the decision not to use the route that the majority of cyclists have taken.

The holistic approach is also needed First get all vehicles being specified for Council contracts to have low cab high direct vision driving positions. Extend this to the specification of vehicles entering London. Forget the use of mirrors CCTV etc these are secondary systems - they break down, false read, can be ignored because of cry-wolf alerts, and research by truck operators indicates that it can take up to 5 seconds to do a check of every mirror before returning to check the first one - many concerned drivers point out that these devices are distracting them from the primary action of watching where they are driving. The only way to sort out the blind spot issue is to build trucks without blind spots. Sgshields rightly notes that GLA has set standards and timetables to deliver LEZ compliance, and low floor buses on TfL services, so a direct vision requirement is no different - perhaps with a 7-10 year horizon, based on the age at which around 50% of trucks fail their annual test and would normally be replaced.

But for equal disingenuousness the FTA wins a prize for failing to suggest that their members who deal with rail and river (RFG and CBOA) are available and willing to work and deliver a massive reduction in the ton miles currently being generated by hauling materials from and to sites in the city from out of town locations - typically 60-70 miles for up to 3000T per day - that's 150 truck movements on 300 journeys, with 40-60 trucks on the work - because they are stuck in the traffic congestion. Some, like Lynch of Brentwood, and Cory Environmental are putting substantial tonnages on the river and canal 10,000T per day is quoted - that's 500 trucks taken off the road, and you'll hardly have noticed the tugs going up and down the river with 1000-2000T in the barge strings behind them. Boris closed the TfL Freight Unit but it was revitalised for 2012 - but it still is wanting - we need a core freight strategy to move freight in the city as much as we need commuter rail services. There is just ONE wharf in Central London with capacity to load 25T containers on to 500T barges - but only at high tide! With massive truck movements due for the Heygate Estate demolition and redevelopment (immediately connected to the Elephant & Castle crash blackspot) measures to limit this traffic are a matter which must be addressed - for example could the materials be loaded up to haul away on the adjacent railway line?

Finally as insurers surveys suggest 80% of crashes and claims are generated by less than 20% of the drivers, and so narrowing a focus in on bad drivers should deliver an even greater improvement. Drivers with a string of convictions, like Putz, should have been removed from driving trucks if the system had worked effectively. Lets make that system work. C,D,E licences can be revoked if the holder shows themselves unfit to hold those licences. Just sort out the protocols.

SimonBurrell

new

I am a big fan of yours Andrew – you may remember that I told you what a great job I thought you were doing as you headed out of the main hall at a recent panel discussion chaired by Jenny Jones at City Hall. You struck me as passionate, knowledgeable and level headed – a real shot in the arm for the cause of genuine progress on London becoming a more cycle-friendly City.

I suspect you know there is a “but” coming here, but I think you have genuinely misjudged this one. Had a journalist written the material above I would have put it down to a good idea for an article but a little lazy in a journalistic sense and more than a bit opportunistic. We get the message, it is just that the target is wrong and the conclusions are amiss.

I attended the TfL Die In event, mainly because I am concerned about safety in this fine city and wanted to lend my support to any activity that would keep the pressure up in that area. I found the event to be respectful and tolerant, focusing mainly on a genuine sense of respect and mourning for those that had lost their lives on the roads. In that respect, it was quite moving and I am glad I attended. I rode in from my job in the City and then commuted back to South West London. I ride for fitness, training and racing, whilst also driving and using public transport. I consider myself to be a fairly well balanced individual, although I’m now not sure whether you see me as some sort of unreasonable cycle-warrior.

I take exception to your suggestion that those at the protest are the kind that are offered an inch and clamour to take a mile. We really just want what has been promised and ideally some time soon. We are a patient bunch – God knows we have waited long enough already. We just want to understand when some of this change is happening and are concerned that little seems to be changing on the ground. People are genuinely worried.

Boris Johnson’s credibility with cyclists is probably at an all time low right now. His failure at MQTs to accept that there was a problem with CS2 was quite bizarre and his attempted “dead cat bounce” with the subject of headphones was nothing short of shameful chicanery. I think people have recently got a rude awakening as far as Boris is concerned and have genuine worries about where this is all headed. The Vision for Cycling in London is a great document but is nothing more than words on a page until any of it becomes a reality. The excellent Get Britain Cycling report is a real blueprint for the future but has pretty much been kicked into touch by Boris’s own party despite the unanimous approval by 100 MPs in a Parliamentary session to debate it. People are rightly concerned at where this is heading.

The event yesterday evening called for lorries that have such major blind spots to be banned from London’s roads – I wholeheartedly agree. I don’t want to ban all lorries, just the ones that don’t have appropriate safety equipment. The HSE simply would not allow the same level of danger on site, so why do we allow it on the roads?

I know you have been working like a demon to make a difference and I genuinely want you to be able to look back and say “I helped make London a great place to cycle”. I also know that with large and complex projects, you need to make the right long-term choices and hold your nerve when people clamour for quick fixes. However, I would suggest two things: firstly you communicate better and publish some interim results and timelines, even if these are subject to change. Secondly you need to consider some quick fixes to address the immediate issues, even if these lessen slightly your ideal longer term aims.

You have genuinely misjudged the situation here. We want to be behind you and helping make these grand plans a reality. We don’t want to feel like this is all about a series of political manoeuvres to cover backsides. You may need to decide how much you choose to align yourself with Boris Johnson if you wish to retain the support of the people you represent.

Keep up the good work and let us know more clearly how it is going and what we can expect to see real changes for the better.

andrew gilligan

new

Thanks for all the comments folks. I accept that some people on the demo may not have known what its official demands were, though they were all spelt out on its Facebook page.

I see the organiser of the die-in is quoted on BBC News describing the cycling budget of £1 billion as "crumbs." That is not true. I also see that he is now demanding, not £270 million a year of spend on cycling (his figure of just a few days ago, £33 a head) but £600 million a year - in other words, not far off double what we spend on the entire bus network, which carries 50 times more people. That is not "thoughtful and moderate" language - and nor are claims that some of you have made that I or the mayor have "blood on our hands."

The truth is that even if we had £600 million, which we don't, the problem is not lack of money or indeed lack of political or official will. It's lack of capacity - which inevitably takes more than a few months to build up. There aren't many people in the UK who have experience in designing cycle schemes and we are hiring most of the ones there are (128 extra staff to be precise are being hired to help with the cycling programme.)

You'd be the first to complain, I dare say, if we just shoved in a lot of poor and badly-designed schemes for the sake of "doing something." Part of the very problems with the existing superhighways are because they were done too quickly.

Equally some of the claims in comments above - that we can, for instance, fix all lorry blind-spots with a device you can buy on the High Street - just aren't true.

One of the problems with politics is often that people don't tell you the truth; they tell you what you want to hear. I always decided I was not going to do that; I'll tell you the truth, even if you don't like it much. I'm hoping for the same in return.

Tulyar

new

£1 spent wisely is better than £100 thrown at random at the problem. Transport for the individual is by its very nature a system which demand thoughtful spending small sums rather than massive fanfare projects. It is often better to deliver in sensible incremental stages and develop from lessons learned than make step changes.

I'd rather see a budget based on how much to deliver rather than how much to spend delivering it.

KristianCyc

new

Hi Andrew,

I think we'll certainly welcome more communication on what's happening. 128 is an eye catching figure, and if you're claiming that's what the hold up is, then I think it would be good if you could keep us up to date with the hiring process, letting us know how many of the roles have been filled and how close to the 128 target you are getting.

Perhaps the demands from the protest organisers were not what they should have been, but the event was about so much more than the lettering of those demands. It was a political statement, making it clear to any observers that we care about the people who have been killed and we fear for ourselves, our family and friends also, as the danger we are exposed to on a daily basis is all too apparent to us.

You may have a great plan for cycling but the protests must continue. Boris' commitment to "smoothing traffic flow" continues to contradict the cycling vision. Traffic capacity is still used by people in places of influence and power to thwart plans to make cycling safe. Car parking is still a live-rail across London. Westminster council continues to behave as though it despises cyclists. We have to protest to weaken these people opposed to making cycling universal in London, and I hope you can see that and we can work together to utilise that political power to break down the barriers you will continue to face as you pursue your cycling agenda in London.

The battle is not won yet, we will not stand idly by as people are killed on the streets because you say it's all going to be fine in three years time. The strength of our opponents in this is still very apparent to us and we've been disappointed far too many times in the past to accept that this time it's going to be okay.

plasticmonkey

new

Capacity for Olympic traffic appeared overnight. It's just a case of priorities, which comes back to the political will issue you're so quick to dismiss.

Enough excuses.

andrew gilligan

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It may have appeared overnight, but it was three years in the planning!

m185874

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I notice that my earlier comment - which had agreement from others, has been removed because it "might cause offence".

Apparently anything that speaks up against the cycling lobby can be deemed as potentially causing offence, so there is little hope of any accurate assessment of genuine London opinion on this matter, is there?

Still, when the cycling lobby has the mayor in their pocket, that was probably always going to be the case.

But someone, somewhere, needs to tell these people that when it comes to cycle safety, they are their own worst enemy.

pdfbt40

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Not only your earlier comment m185874, but also my comment which was attached with similar feels about the lobbying. Apparently any replies to a comment which is removed by the "automatic moderator" also go with out being vetted. So here it is again.

'I wonder who's funding this campaign for cyclist, both the skilled/trained and law breakers, to have better safety than any other road user. Its not actually illegal to pedal into a blind-spot, just incredibly dangerous as the accident investigations show.
How many of those at the die-in have attended bikeability training to level 3 or further. Yes you can learn to ride a bike with no formal training, as you can a car or lorry, but I suggest cyclists look at how many hours compulsory training is required to pass a basic test.
Sorry, I was trained to avoid hazards as a first line of defensive driving at the age of 10, and its been reinforced by training and experience whatever I'm driving.'

angus_h

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I was there. Trained & also hold a drivers license. Cycling in London 20 years, nowadays ride several thousand miles a year & drive a few hundred. Hasn't stopped me from being hit twice by idiots.

Will write a longer post later, but in short - I was there because, while I might feel relatively safe, much more could be done & many potential cyclists are put off by the danger. It's not imagined - you really do have to keep your wits about you just to stay alive and I believe London's cyclists and would-be cyclists should aspire to a better future than that.

Bus passengers, drivers, Tube passengers, lorry drivers. None of these groups are, by and large, expected to "keep their wits about them" just to get to work in one piece. Even pedestrians get their own safe space most of the time. And all the keeping-your-wits-about-you in the world won't always help if a driver is simply inattentive.

I think many of those at the Die In support the declared aims of the Mayor's Vision for Cycling. Cycling for all, fewer cars, and all the benefits that brings for society as a whole. It's my personal view that the plans as they currently stand are not quite capable of delivering those aims.

congokid

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"The phrase “stop the killing of cyclists” implies that someone else is always to blame for cyclists’ deaths, which is untrue"

I think you're being rather disingenuous with this remark and those I've addressed below. What's killing London's cyclists is appalling infrastructure that puts them in harm's way - and that's absolutely the responsibility of the Mayor, TfL, DfT and the local borough councils, all of which are in a position to do something about it.

"One of the demo’s demands is for a “ban on any vehicles whose drivers cannot see adjacent road users” – in other words, a ban on lorries. Not just in the rush hours, or in central London – but all lorries, everywhere, 24/7."

Here you're making a strawman argument.

I'm not aware of what the organisers' demands are, but surely even a rush hour ban on HGVs would remove about 95 per cent of the risk to vulnerable road users? And isn't that perfectly achievable without raising the false spectre of a crippled economy or unemployment?

"This is only about £90 million a year less than is spent on subsidising the entire London bus network, which carries about 50 times more people."

I really don't understand this. Your're completely ignoring the fact that a well funded and extensive segregated cycle network would be full of all kinds of people - not just that small proportion of London's population who currently travel by bike. You of all people must know that there is an enormous unfulfilled demand for cycling amongst people who would love to travel by bike in the city but are afraid to do so.

I'd also be hugely surprised if proper cycling infrastructure in London didn't generate levels of usage comparable to the best seen in the Netherlands, to the extent that bikes would attract the largest modal share of any current transport method.

From a so-called cycling commissioner, your remarks are not only astounding, they're deeply depressing.

andrew gilligan

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We're not against a rush hour ban on HGVs and we are studying it, but the arguments are more finely-balanced than you seem to realise.

It would certainly not "remove about 95 per cent of the risk to vulnerable road users" and might in fact increase the risk to some vulnerable users.

A rush-hour ban could have prevented two of the 14 cyclist deaths in London so far this year (the other 12 did not take happen in the rush hour, or did not involve HGVs.)

However, it could lead to a greater concentration of lorries at other times - after 9am, for instance, as they flood on to the streets after the ban. There are fewer cyclists on the streets after 9am, but more pedestrians, particularly pensioners, who tend to go out just after the morning rush hour. They might be more at risk than now.

It would also lead to more lorries in the evenings and at night, when visibility is less; and it would also have a significant effect on health in other ways - as Londoners' sleep was disturbed by lorries delivering at night because they could not move in the morning. Then, of course, there are the economic effects.

All these are precisely the reasons why we have to study its real effects before we decide what to do. These decisions are complicated.

On your other points, there is indeed a substantial unfulfilled demand for cycling, which is we are spending a lot of money to meet it. London's current cycling modal share is 2.2%, however, and we are not going to generate "levels of usage comparable to the best seen in the Netherlands" (40% plus in some cities) for decades, if ever. London is ten times the physical size of even the largest Dutch city and distances are far greater.

If you are arguing that we should make drastic cuts to the bus network to drive people onto bikes, I can't agree.

David Robjant

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Dear Andrew Gilligan,

Thank you to you, and to many many other people on the Mayor's team, and in the Boroughs, and in campaigning organisations, for taking the time to understand the issues, and for together making some appreciable difference. The difference I detect is that in the 90's i tried cycling to work in London and swiftly gave up for sheer terror - gave up cycling in London, and gave up London too. Now the critical mass of london cyclists is such that driver attitudes are *slightly* different in spotting the two-wheeler. Related to that change, ASLs make a big difference, where observed by traffic. As a reasonably fit male, and moderately experienced cyclist, I am now able to cross town when I visit London, without feeling that I am inviting certain death, or that *every* vehicle is trying to kill me at every opportunity.

I am grateful. Yet my gratitude is at the same time a bit like being grateful for not being hunted by penguins with machine-guns. It feels like the least one could reasonably expect.

You worry as I do about a polarisation of the debate, and I can also be grateful for your willingness to combat this by blog communication. I take it that the die-in, which you blogged in advance of, was brought on because of a feeling that the Mayor's office and some connected police action 'blamed the victims'. I don't think that feeling unreasonable. The problem of death and injury on the roads is not six of one and half a dozen of the other, and to the extent that politicians and police interventions allow it to be characterised in that way, you will *look* to be in retreat about the cycling agenda, at best.

You wish to manage expectations, and express doubt about the hope of going Dutch. You write:
"we are not going to generate "levels of usage comparable to the best seen in the Netherlands" (40% plus in some cities) for decades, if ever. London is ten times the physical size of even the largest Dutch city and distances are far greater."

Can I ask for the evidence base here? A radical difference (x10) of commuting distances would be a relevant fact, but that the size of the city is 10x larger is not the same point as that the distances road users travel is 10x larger.

I would be interested to discover if London commutes are ten times longer than commutes in Amsterdam or Berlin, but the spectacularly low average speeds on London roads would hardly suggest that Londoners manage great road leaps beyond the distances dreamt of by continentals. Or would it? Do let me know. Perhaps you will also consider cities nearer London in size, like Berlin. Obviously the thought of leading the world needn't enter your head.

Wishing the best at yourself and these very good protestors,

David Robjant

David Robjant

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You'd want them, Andrew, so here are the facts on distances motor vehicles cover in London: http://aseasyasridingabike.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/bsrwkk8ciae52r0-l...
http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/does-size-matter/
"67% of all car journeys by Londoners are under 5km (3 miles). Despite London’s size, car trips remain, for the most part, very short. Again, these are trips of a length that can – and undoubtedly should – be cycled, or walked, if conditions are attractive."

HR10

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Dear Mr Gilligan,
Your comment on last Friday's die-in outside TfL HQ, are disparaging and a misrepresentation of what the die-in was about. Inspired by the example of the Dutch in the 1970s, it was a calm, peaceful protest against inadequate and dangerous cycling provision in London. The cello music was lovely (except when drowned by a police helicopter).

I read today (3 December) that Jan Gehl has said he has never dared to cycle in London and ""In Copenhagen I cycle with one grandchild at the front of the bike and another at the back, and a five-year-old grandchild on his own bike next to me. That can be done if you have bicycle lanes which are proper lanes which have kerbs and proper junctions. But in London, never,"*. How many have to die in London cycling accidents until the GLA put proper resources into London cycling provision?

Robert Holden
* see The Guardian report on Danish urban designer, Jan Gehl's visit last week to London http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2013/dec/03/london-cycl...

Geoff Shucksmith

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We have run a trial into Euston station from the midlands using a high speed freight train, very successful takes about 15 articulated HGV's off the primary trunking route into the center of London per train. Could be many trains a night into one common user consolidation center . I already have retailers interested in using it major benefits for them in terms of CO2 approx 60% reduction compared to the trucks and gets there faster. We just need to find a better way of then moving the freight on smaller vehicles from the station to the shops. Euston is being redeveloped (HS2) without any consideration for freight please act now and support us before this opportunity is lost forever we are running a demo of this on the 11 Feb 2014 at Euston where we will bring a HST freight train in and unload it to selection of smaller vehicles. Clearly there are opportunities for other stations I need help galvanizing opinion and stakeholders

Geoff Shucksmith

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We have run a trial into Euston station from the midlands using a high speed freight train, very successful takes about 15 articulated HGV's off the primary trunking route into the center of London per train. Could be many trains a night into one common user consolidation center . I already have retailers interested in using it major benefits for them in terms of CO2 approx 60% reduction compared to the trucks and gets there faster. We just need to find a better way of then moving the freight on smaller vehicles from the station to the shops. Euston is being redeveloped (HS2) without any consideration for freight please act now and support us before this opportunity is lost forever we are running a demo of this on the 11 Feb 2014 at Euston where we will bring a HST freight train in and unload it to selection of smaller vehicles. Clearly there are opportunities for other stations I need help galvanizing opinion and stakeholders