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cycling politics

pic by Ben BrownAs I mentioned on twitter, on Monday 23rd February it will be 11 years since the death of Sebastian Lukomski, who was killed whilst working in London as a bicycle messenger by a left-turning lorry.  As 8 of the 9 London bicycle messengers known to have been killed whilst working died as the result of being run over by lorries, I have studied the hazards from to lorries to London cyclists over a number years, and campaigned for changes, notably by asking for a daytime ban on lorries in London after Seb’s death when I was chair of the London Bicycle Messenger Association. 4 people have been killed whilst cycling in London so far this year, all of whom were run over by lorries (HGVs).  In an average year, between 10 & 15 people will be killed whilst cycling in London.  I reckon that these numbers are about as low as they have been at any time since the invention of the bicycle, and are certainly as low as at any time since I started cycling in London, over 40 years ago.  The overwhelming majority of these deaths will be as the result of being run over by a lorry, which is highly likely to be working for the building trade.  Frequently, the collision will happen at a junction, at which the lorry will be turning left, as in fact seems to be the case with all 4 fatalities so far this year. The deaths have led to renewal of calls for a large scale network of segregated bicycle lanes, of the Dutch or Danish design, with Donnachadh McCarthy of Stop Killing Cyclists, organisers of ‘Die-Ins’and other actions, prominent.

Lorry risk zone - image from the London Cycling Campaign

I think it’s worth pointing out that segregated bike lanes alone will not prevent these types of collisions, and that segregation in space only is arguably likely to cause more rather than less of these types (left turning lorry runs over cyclist proceeding straight on or also turning left) of highly dangerous collisions.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but in my view, any situation where cyclists and lorries are stationary at a junction with the cyclist to the left, or, worse, with the cyclist slight ahead & to the left of the lorry, and then move away from the junction at the same time will lead to potentially deadly conflicts. Likewise, anytime you have cyclists on the left of lorries on the approach to a left-turn, there is the potential for collision, if the lorry is turning left across the path of the cyclists.

A considerable amount of work has been done to alert both cyclists and lorries to the potential dangers of left-turning lorries to cyclists, including legislating to make the fitting of the so-called ‘4th mirror’ to lorries compulsory, the Changing Places initiative, which encouraged cyclists to sit behind the wheel of a lorry, in order to demonstrate how difficult it is for drivers to see objects alongside and just in front on the left of the vehicle.

photo by Selim Korycki

The solution to the problem of bikes and lorries pulling away from lights together is, of course, to separate in time as well as space, by giving bikes their own traffic light phase, such as the lights at the junction of Agar Grove and St Pancras Way.  These were installed after Conrad DuToit was killed by a lorry, whilst using the segregated bike lane.

The problem of lorries turning left across segregated bike lanes is a little more difficult to solve. High cab lorries are inherently unsafe, even with mirrors and cameras.  At last year’s debate on sentencing in road crime cases, we were told that to check all the mirrors from behind the wheel of a high cab lorry takes several seconds, which is an eternity when manoeuvring a lorry in traffic in London, and despite apparently being fitted with all the latest safety features, including cameras, a lorry ran over and killed Claire Hitier-Abadie, the 4th person to have been killed whilst cycling in London by a lorry so far this year.

I doubt that the provision of properly separated bike lane will solve the problem.  Right hooks by lorries across cyclists are a problem in Denmark and the Netherlands, and are recognised as such by the authorities there. I am sure that building a decent network of segregated bike lanes in London will lead to an increase in people cycling, and that this is in itself is reason to do it – it is pretty clear that the much heralded cycling boom of the noughties has levelled off, and without investment in infrastructure, cycling rates in London will remain were they are – popular with a particular demographic i.e. young, affluent professionals, but not with the average shopper or commuter.  However, in my opinion, the only way to dramatically reduce the numbers of people killed whilst cycling inLondon by lorries is by completely segregating bikes from high-cab lorries, that is, ban high-cab lorries altogether from London.

LCC's Safer Lorry designThe London Cycling Campaign has challenged the construction industry to adopt its safer lorry design, but without legislation, I can’t imagine a big take-up.  As the economists say, at the moment the construction industry is able to impose a large externality, i.e. serious injury or death of pedestrians and cyclists, on society which we are forced to absorb.  The costs of road traffic injury and death are great – whether you are considering the human, social or economic implications of the death of a mother, colleague and wife such as Claire Hitier-Abadie.  I have absolutely no doubt the costs of these deaths and injuries far exceeds the cost of re-equipping the lorry fleet.  Why should the construction and building industry evade these costs completely? I see no reason to change my mind about a ban on high-cab lorries in London.

If you haven’t read about it somewhere else, reports from Boston suggest that Lucas Brunelle was the victim of an assault by a cab driver after a traffic incident.  As you may or may not know, Lucas Brunelle has achieved some notoriety by filming cyclists using the public roads as a race-track.  The films that he has cut from this footage have been widely disseminated via various forums, including the Bicycle Film Festival & the internet.

Road.cc, in their article about the assault and preceding traffic incident, highlighted Lucas’ films and my criticism of them.

I have had my disagreements with Lucas Brunelle about his desire to publicise these races, which is a matter of public record, as referred to in the Road.cc piece.  I think the linking of Lucas’ films to this incident is highly tendentious and not relevant.  The comments below the various articles posted about the incident are pretty terrifying, suggesting more or less that Lucas had it coming.

The idea that Lucas deserved to get what, judging from the photos taken in court at the cab driver’s court appearance, looks to be a more or less a serious beating, because he posted some films of cyclists doing ‘bad stuff’ on the internet is, in my view, completely wrong.

I wish Lucas Brunelle all the best, and I hope that everyone involved in the incident heals up soon.

A Ferret Called Wilson

There are two reasons why I like this article by Mr. Stromberg on Vox. The first is that the cover photo is of someone on a bicycle who clearly understands and appreciates that Pink is the fastest color.

Cover image from Vox's article on bike messengers Bike messengers know style.

The second reason is that this article clearly explains why a persona in our society is not a villian, fundamentally evil and worthy of disdain, but rather another victim of the greater inhuman, indeed machine-like system in which we all operate. Economics is all about understanding incentives and if we give people the permission and the incentive to abuse each other, they will. Moreover, because the system is so big and removed from any individual’s choices, those of us who are hurt (pedestrians and drivers who are startled and annoyed by cyclists) don’t even know where to direct our anger because even though it’s the cyclist, or the…

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Cyclists Stay Classy – Uncle Bob makes TfL see sense over sticker nonsense

Road Danger Reduction Forum

We raised our concerns about the widespread (mis)use of “Cyclists stay back” stickers over 6 months ago , sent a letter of complaint with our colleagues the CTC (the National Cyclists’ Charity), the London Cycling Campaign, RoadPeace, and the Association of Bikeability Schemes, followed by another complaint due to an inadequate response by TfL . And then TfL chose to give yet another – let’s say “inadequate” again because we try to be polite – reply to press enquiries rather than replying to us directly. By now, even seasoned campaigners were getting annoyed.


But yesterday RDRF and the other organisations involved, plus representatives of the London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group, attended a meeting at Transport for London chaired by Lilli Matson, Head of Strategy and Outcome Planning, with nine other TfL officers concerned with safety, freight and fleet operations, buses, taxis, and marketing and communications. We are glad…

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In the Telegraph report on Eric Pickles’ changes to stop local councils from using CCTV to issue fines to drivers that park illegally, there is the following line:

“Ministers are trying to ease the policing of parking, as they believe it often makes driving to shops too difficult and forces people to go out of town or online.”

The assertion (unattributed, but doubtless made by a press officer or adviser) is contradicted by the conclusions of a report called ‘The relevance of parking in the success of urban centres’, one of which is as follows:

‘Mary Portas in her review into the future of high streets recommends that:

“Local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres”

The problem is that there is no such thing as ‘free’ parking.

All the research reviewed, including that sponsored by industry associations such as the British Parking Association highlights that somebody has to pay for the development and maintenance of parking spaces, as well as the management of any enforcement regime to ensure their efficient use. This cost may fall to developers and private businesses in the case of shopping centres or large retail stores. Most on street parking is the responsibility of local authorities and therefore it local taxpayers who pick up the cost of provision if revenue is not sufficient to cover costs.

As Shoup and the COST Report indicate, the introduction of ‘free’ parking often does not have the desired effect in terms of increasing visitors or shoppers to any area. In fact, it most often leads to a reduction in turnover of spaces, i.e. longer parking stays mean less visitors per day, with the most usual beneficiaries being local workers. This means that retails sales reduce rather than increase. ‘

(My emphasis).

A typical government decision – based on what will look good on the front pages, rather than on evidence.

More on “Cyclists Stay Back” stickers, including some evidence that they are already being used by vehicle operators to excuse negligent behaviour by drivers…

Road Danger Reduction Forum

Transport for London (TfL) has today taken its behaviour over the “Cyclists stay back” stickers farce to a new low. We believe it has shown contempt for the main cycling and danger reduction organisations who have tried to get it take a rational approach to this issue:

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rosslydall

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A play inspired by the death of a young cyclist will aim to highlight the danger of riding a bike in London.

Tamara von Werthern used the case of Eilidh Cairns, who was killed by a 32-tonne tipper truck in Notting Hill, as the basis for her play The White Bike.

Eilidh, 30, (below), was hit from behind as she cycled to work in February 2009. The first permanent ghost bike in London was erected in her memory nearby. HGV driver Joao Pedro Lopes was convicted of driving with defective eyesight and fined £200.

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Ms von Werthern, 36, a mother of two from Hackney, said she decided to write the play after returning from maternity leave and passing the crash site on her daily ride to work in Shepherd’s Bush.

She saw many similarities between Eilidh’s life and her own and used it as the…

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