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This was forwarded to all the attendees by Jenny Jones’ office.

Findings from ‘Cyclists and the Law’ seminar, 22nd May 2013

 

Andrew Gilligan’s opening comments

  • It is not just cars but also motorcycles that often fail to stay out of ASLs. He would be in favour of signage warning of £50 fines for vehicles that encroach on ASLs.
  • Cyclists currently are prohibited from entering ASLs via any means other than the feeder lanes and can be prosecuted for doing so. This needs to be changed.
  • Red bicycles on crossings are not allowed whereas red pedestrians and red horses (in Hyde Park Corner junction) are permitted. Why not red bikes?
  • Mayor’s sentencing unit recently set up – monitoring sentences for those convicted of causing death to a cyclist by dangerous or careless driving is a ‘priority’
  • Cycle Task Force to be expanded by 25% – there will be an average of approx. 2 officers per borough
  • Commercial vehicle unit (8 officers) to monitor commercial vehicle safety

Kevin O’Sullivan’s opening comments

  • A big step forward would be for the injury caused to be mentioned in a criminal charge. This would communicate the seriousness of the collision and make the process not just a judgement on the driver’s driving but also on the injury they caused another person (and the impact on that person’s life).

Andrew Gilligan – main comments

  • Suggests we could learn from the Olympics re: restrictions on HGV movements during peak hours – the Games were delivered on time and with restrictions enforced well
  • Stricter liability makes sense especially if we look at the cyclist as the ‘vulnerable road user’ – motorists cannot be classified as vulnerable
  • Bad road design produces bad cyclist behaviour e.g. pavement cycling

Kevin O’Sullivan – main comments

  • Police officers are often reluctant to share CCTV footage after a collision, citing ‘insufficient resources’ as the reason. DCS Wilson agreed with this reasoning
  • ‘Death by careless driving’ is the routine charge in the event of a cyclist fatality
  • After a collision, police should as a matter of course check drivers’ ‘phones to see if they have been used shortly before the incident

Scott Wilson – main comments

  • Re: HGV driver who caused a cyclist’s death not being immediately arrested – this was because the police did not want to use up allowed questioning time before knowing the details of the incident

Darren Johnson AM – main comments

  • Current shift in engineering thinking is not being accompanied by shift in law
  • TfL should insist that boroughs sign up to HGV safety training code of procurement before money is made available to them

Ideas from the floor

  • Stricter penalties should exist for drivers (including police officers) who park their vehicles in cycle lanes. At the moment no penalties
  • Charges of ‘careless’ (introduced in 2008) instead of ‘dangerous’ driving are lessening burden of blame on drivers who have caused injury or death Since 2008, prosecutions for dangerous driving have nosedived. CPS need to look again at this distinction
  • Proximity used to feature in previous incarnations of the highway code but has been dropped. This remains in place on the continent
  • Restrict HGV movements during peak hours (it worked during Olympics)
  • A legally binding inspectorate is lacking (unlike rail or aviation accidents) – if one existed it could prosecute councils for bad junction design Gilligan pointed out this could discourage innovative thinking from junction engineers
  • Poor performance of cycle safety working group. Police do not enforce road traffic laws properly
  • ASLs to be treated the same as yellow box junctions. Kevin O’Sullivan pointed out that this would be best enforced using CCTV, as yellow boxes are enforced
  • Re: the police saying ‘we are not going to enforce 20mph limits’ – elected representatives make these decisions, not the police.
  • More one-way systems which are two-way for cyclists only
  • Junction outside Victoria Station (Palace Street and Victoria Street) lacks safety features such as ASLs. Police cars are often seen inside ASLs all over London. Accidents should be visible on a map like crimes are on the crime map. Signalling in the city also seems to be optional – why can’t this be enforced with CCTV?

Initial vote – 15 initiatives

Initiative Ranking
Stricter liability – the assumption that injured cyclists deserve compensation unless it can be proved otherwise, or the Dutch scheme where at least 50% of responsibility for all cycle-related collisions lies with drivers 1st (82 votes)
The courts should make greater use of driving bans in sentencing and should be much firmer in resisting pleas of ‘hardship’ 2nd (79 votes)
Enforcement of 20mph limits by police 3rd (53 votes)
Implement 20 mph limits on main roads, unless a case for exemption has been made and approved 4th (41 votes)
Advanced Stop Lines to be treated the same as yellow box junctions 5th (40 votes)
All KSIs to be properly investigated and the police should adhere to the Road Death Investigation Manual 6th (35 votes)
All major new developments should include Crossrail-type clauses on HGV safety training and joining the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) 7th (26 votes)
Road crash victims of speeding, drunk and careless drivers should be included in the Government’s Code for Victims 8th (22 votes)
‘Stop at red’ campaign 9th (21 votes)
Cycle lanes should continue across side roads 9th (21 votes)
Continental standards on vehicle design and fitting safety equipment, especially HGVs 10th (20 votes)
Coroners should make greater use of their powers to make “Section 43” reports to highlight solutions that might prevent deaths, and particularly the recurrent causes of deaths 10th (20 votes)
Combat pavement cycling 11th (11 votes)
Legal priority for ‘straight across’ movements at junctions 11th (11 votes)
Close proximity collisions should be prosecuted using plain clothes police officers with cameras 12th (6 votes)

Follow-up Vote  (Audience ideas in red)

 

Initiative Ranking
Stricter liability – the assumption that injured cyclists deserve compensation unless it can be proved otherwise, or the Dutch scheme where at least 50% of responsibility for all cycle-related collisions lies with drivers 1st (34 votes)
The courts should make greater use of driving bans in sentencing and should be much firmer in resisting pleas of ‘hardship’ 2nd (9 votes)
Enforcement of 20mph limits by police 3rd (8 votes)
Advanced Stop Lines to be treated the same as yellow box junctions 4th (6 votes)
Decriminalise ASLs and mandatory cycle lanes 5th (5 votes)
Implement 20 mph limits on main roads, unless a case for exemption has been made and approved 6th (4 votes)
Tie cycle education to parking permits/DVLA 7th (3 votes)
‘Careless’ driving should not be default CPS choice 7th (3 votes)
French rules on close proximity 7th (3 votes)
Continental standards on vehicle design and fitting safety equipment, especially HGVs 8th (2 votes)
All drivers automatically arrested in the event of a death or serious injury 8th (2 votes)
Mayor should refuse to fund boroughs until they sign up to HGV training contracts 8th (2 votes)
No more road building in London 8th (2 votes)
Legal priority for ‘straight across’ movements at junctions 9th (1 vote)
Police to automatically look at CCTV and check mobile ‘phone records after collisions 9th (1 vote)
Focus on reducing number of potholes 9th (1 vote)
All KSIs to be properly investigated and the police should adhere to the Road Death Investigation Manual 9th (1 vote)
Larger road traffic unit 9th (1 vote)
Create a legal inspectorate similar to that which operates on the railways 9th (1 vote)
Police report form ‘accidents’ does not mention cyclists and should be changed 9th (1 vote)
Tougher rules on dirty vehicles – air pollution 9th (1 vote)
Speed limiters in London 9th (1 vote)
Bigger, clearer cycle signage 9th (1 Vote)
Trial covering repeater traffic lights (should result in better adherence to signals) 9th (1 vote)
Ban on HGVs during peak hours (Games model) 9th (1 vote)
Close proximity collisions should be prosecuted using plain clothes police officers with cameras 9th (1 vote)
Ban taxis from bus lanes 9th (1 vote)
‘Stop at red’ campaign 9th (1 vote)
Cycle lanes should continue across side roads 9th (1 vote)
Coroners should make greater use of their powers to make “Section 43” reports to highlight solutions that might prevent deaths, and particularly the recurrent causes of deaths 9th (1 vote)
Combat pavement cycling 0 votes
All major new developments should include Crossrail-type clauses on HGV safety training and joining the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) 0 votes
Road crash victims of speeding, drunk and careless drivers should be included in the Government’s Code for Victims 0 votes

Ideas for ‘legislative wants shopping list’

  • ·         TfL should insist that boroughs sign up to HGV safety training code of procurement before money is made available to them
  • ·         Minimum proximity between drivers and cyclists – Gilligan commented that this was ‘interesting’
  • ·          All KSIs need to be more thoroughly investigated and that the police should be obliged to adhere to the Road Death Investigation Manual – over a year has passed since Roadpeace, LCC and CTC got TfL and the Met to agree to their demands to publish an annual report on the legal outcomes of KSIs in London. Road death investigation unit overall do a good job but the same cannot be said for borough police
  • ·         What can be done to deter motorists from using mobiles whilst driving? Urgent action also needed to get drivers with 12 points off the roads. 8,000 drivers in the UK are still driving with 12 points on their licence
  • ·         TfL have control over the taxi fleet. Why not use this leverage to influence taxi drivers’ behaviour and oblige them to fit sensors? Or limit parking permits to those who have undergone appropriate training? Power over taxi drivers lies in taxation, duties to be paid or licensing arrangements. Behaviour can be changed in these ways, leaving criminal action as a last resort

Update:

Jenny Jones’ office sent out the following emali:

We’ve realised that the ‘Cyclists and the Law – Summary of Findings’ report which you recently received contains a factual error.

 Specifically, the comment ‘Stricter liability makes sense especially if we look at the cyclist as the ‘vulnerable road user’ – motorists cannot be classified as vulnerable’ was incorrectly attributed to Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan. This comment was in fact made by a member of the audience and not Mr. Gilligan who has emphasised that he does not have any position on stricter liability.

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Got this via Facebook from a female friend:

“Are the schools on holiday? The commute in was remarkably pleasant apart from one HGV driver who decided that me looking back to check he saw me was an invitation to roll up next to me, roll down his window and yell at me about how he was a professional driver and to not listen to a word I had to say on my actions or reasoning. Bill Buffalo, have you heard anyone reporting similar in the wake of increased pressure for more education for drivers?”

I was looking back through some notes, and found something I took down whilst at one of the Commercial Vehicle Educations Unit’s ‘changing places’ demonstrations, designed to illustrate HGV/LGV/lorry ‘blind-spots’ to cyclists.  This is from 2007, so a little bit out of date.  I don’t know why I didn’t put it in my original post.

I was speaking to one of the CVEU officers, and he expressed surprise at their strike rate, when stopping LGVs, i.e.  how many times CVEU officers stop an LGV (lorry) and find something wrong.

Cyclist using a mobile: a major threat to public safety or a minor irritant easily avoided?I think it was Dr. Robert Davis, author of Death on the Streets, that said the following:

Complaining about cyclists jumping red lights is like complaining about queue-jumping in a bank whilst an armed robbery is taking place.

If it was someone else, my apologies for misattributing it, but it does sound like something Bob would say.

Disclaimer: I am actually a pretty law-abiding road-user these days, probably as law-abiding as anyone,  in any class of vehicle, on the road.  I used to be a bicycle courier (or messenger if you prefer), and if I obeyed the law, I lost money in earnings because I was slower than the other riders I was competing against for work who did not obey the law some or most of the time.

I guess my attitude now is that I really can’t be bothered to break the law if no-one is paying me to do it, but when I was a courier, it didn’t make sense to obey the law, everything else being equal.  I did try to be careful to respect the safety of other road users, particularly vulnerable ones.  Balanced against the economic imperative not to stop was the economic imperative not to get injured.  Nearly all couriers are classified as self-employed sub-contractors, and so do not receive pay when off work due to injury (or sickness).  In other words, if you rode like a crazy person, and crashed all the time, you wouldn’t make any money, because you would be on your back instead of on your bike.

I noted in this article that a courier had been stopped and ticketed by the Met for red light jumping (RLJing), and told that the police were cracking down on RLJing because a cyclist had recently been run over by a lorry.  This despite the fact that cyclists involved in collisions with lorries (HGVs) are almost always in compliance with the law at the time of the collision.  Another courier was stopped by the police, and given the option of attending a safety course instead of a fine.  The safety course was this week. It was a session in a lorry, observing the blind-spots.  The courier’s offence? Riding on the pavement.

As I said, I totally get that the police get more complaints about misbehaviour by cyclists than any thing else (including violent crime etc), so they need to be seen to do something; I also get that if you break the law, you should be prepared to accept the consequences, but I do find the association between anti-social behaviour and critical injury to cyclists by lorries really quite offensive.

There’s a lot of talk about ‘subjective safety’, notably by the kerb nerds, but also by cycling advocacy groups generally.  Subjective safety is what stops more people from riding, according to the surveys.  Subjective safety probably explains why a female friend found cycling in London too daunting, and now rides a motor scooter, despite the scooter being objectively more dangerous as a mode of transport than the bicycle.

Subjective safety explains why cyclists are far more concerned about being crashed into from behind whilst moving along in a straight line along a straight road, when in fact they are much more at risk when stationary, or moving off from stationary, at a junction.  Subjective safety explains why the public view cyclists as a major threat to public safety, when in fact cyclists are, almost without execption, an irritant, and that pedestrians are far more likely, by a factor of several hundred, to be killed whilst walking on the pavement (sidewalk for any N Americans) by a motor vehicle.

Subjective safety explains why, at the conclusion of a lengthy twitter debate about patronising advice given to female cyclists, someone tweeted:

Please – & I think it is more women doing it TAKE OUT THOSE F* EARPHONES. Too many die for music.

If you’re relying on hearing danger, as opposed to having a good look around you, I would suggest that you are likely to come a cropper whether you’re listening to bird-song or the latest offering from Motorhead.  Most headphones are totally inadequate in a competition with road-traffic noise, and some motor-vehicles are virtually silent, as are cyclists & pedestrians.  Cycling with head-phones does look dangerous, but objectively, it’s probably not any more dangerous than cycling without a hi-vis vest.

The RLJ debate comes up again and again and again, I have heard it raised by serious policy-makers at serious policy conferences, as if it were a proper threat to public order and health on the order of something like obesity, or alcohol abuse, when in fact, it is of little more concern than illegal parking.  So I welcomed these two items from the internet, the first a letter to the Montreal Gazzette, which I’ll reprint in full:

Re: “Cyclists must be made to obey rules” (Letter of the Day, May 6)

Elazar Gabay says “bicyclists have the same rights and duties as other drivers” then just a few sentences later complains that “at times they (bicyclists) occupy the entire lane …”.

Well, if they have the same rights, and motorists have the right to use the full lane, then shouldn’t bicyclists, too?

In fact, it doesn’t make sense that the exact same rules should apply to motorists and cyclists (and indeed it’s not the case). The difference in speed, mass and size means that sometimes they should be treated differently.

Everyone breaks whatever rules they think they can safely get away with. Motorists speed all the time; cyclists can’t because their vehicle can’t. Cyclists go against one-ways all the time; motorists can’t because their vehicle is too wide.

Where motorists think they see cyclists breaking so many rules, they are only seeing different rules being broken, due to physical differences between vehicle types. Motorists have long since internalized their own rule breaking as socially acceptable.

Cyclists are no more scofflaw than motorists.

Sean McBride

Montreal

The correspondent correctly, in my view, identifies that it is subjective safety that is the issue here.  Motorists do dangerous things in their vehicles, but this behaviour (speeding etc) has been normalised and is socially accepted, the way drink-driving was 30 years ago, whereas cyclists’ behaviour is unusual and doesn’t fall into social norms and so looks dangerous.

The second article is much longer and appears in Atlantic Cities, with the delightful title  Why We Should Never Fine Cyclists. It’s quite long, but worth a read.  The author goes much further than me, and to use Anna’s paraphrase, proposes that traffic lights are for traffic, not cyclists. A brief excerpt will give the flavour:

On balance, cyclists’ illegal behavior—like that of pedestrians—adds much, much more convenience to life than danger. Aggressive enforcement of traffic laws could upend the fragile system of incentives that leads thousands of people to undertake a long and sweaty commute each day.

Why should people riding 20-pound bicycles obey laws designed to regulate the conduct of 4,000-pound cars, to say nothing of accepting the same penalties? In terms of the damage we can cause and sustain in an accident, cyclists have more in common with pedestrians than cars and should be treated accordingly.

I know that there is a discourse about respect, recently advanced by a cycling writer that I respect, Ned Boulting, who got a bit backward when I pulled him up on it, more or less running that if we want to be taken seriously, we need to behave seriously, i.e. if we don’t stop running red lights and riding on the pavement, we won’t deserve to have decent provision.  This is total pony, and the argument doesn’t stand up to any examination.  Objectively a majority of motorists break the law relating to speed.

Since when did anyone get up and say ‘well, until the motorists stop speeding, we’re not going to build that new motorway, because they’ll only use it drive even faster than they are doing now’?

I was delighted, overjoyed to see what seemed like immediate action after the publication of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report, ‘Get Britain Cycling’.  In the wake of the report’s publication, the Roads Minister appeared to signal national government’s willingness to tackle the HGV problem saying that the government could not let lorries continue to run over cyclists.

The action was a sweep of HGVs by the Met Police’s lorry unit, checking for vehicle defects and illegal driving, as reported by the Standard, which also published an editorial calling for more action to protect cyclist from lorries.

Keen students of the HGV / cyclist issue will remember that Jenny Jones MLA and Boris Johnson, Mayor of London had the following exchange in October 2009:

Jenny Jones: Could you confirm the number of HGVs stopped by police in London for each year since 2000, the proportion that were found to be driving illegally, any breakdown of offences and the proportion that were stopped by specialist traffic police?

Answer from the Mayor: The MPS did not, until 2008, keep a record of the number of HGVs that were stopped. In 2008/09 3,000 vehicles were stopped (all types including lightweight vans). Of these 1329 were ‘trucks’ over 7.5 tonnes [note: vehicles over 7.5 tonnes are defined as HGVs]. Proportion found to be driving illegally: Offences were found in an average 80% of these vehicles.

At the time Boris suggested that the high proportion of offences found was down to diligent police-work, but however you dice the numbers, that is a lot of illegal lorries.  As was pointed out by nearly everyone with access to the numbers, lorries are 5% of traffic, and yet are responsible for over 50% of cycle fatalities in London, and in some years, closer to 100%.  Lorry drivers that have run over cyclists have been driving vehicles subsequently  found to have illegal defects, such as the Hanson HGV driver than ran over Lisa Pontecorvo, who had removed the mirror that might have, had he been looking in it, allowed him to see her.

And, by the way, despite the EU directive requiring that all HGVs / lorries registered since 2000 retro-fit the so-called ‘blind-spot’ mirror, there are still a lot of tipper trucks driving around without the mirrors fitted.  Whether this is because they were registered before 2000 or because they are simply breaching the law, I don’t know, but I saw 6 out of 8 tippers without the other morning.  I know that isn’t a sufficiently rigorous study, but they were all around Old Street and Clerkenwell Road in the morning, i.e. likely to be using one of London’s busiest cycling streets in the morning peak.  If the Mayor brings in a modified lorry ban, these vehicles would no longer be permitted.

I say all this to demonstrate how important it is that the law is enforced on the roads.  Manifest failures to enforce the law on the roads lead to public outrage, such as in the case of Stephen Perrin.  As has been widely reported all over the cycling web, the CPS and police failed to take any action after being presented with Mr Perrin’s video, which clearly shows an unprovoked and violent assault by a driver.

Almost every cyclist I know has either been subject to an identical or worse assault, or has witnessed one.  It is this wide-spread experience of violent behaviour on the roads, and the total failure to use legal remedies on this driver,  that lead to the hounding of the driver and his family.  I have to say that I have little sympathy for the driver, even if resorting to illegal and violent threats is inexcusable.   He should have been subject to exemplary punishment for his behaviour, precisely because it is so common, so that all road users were reminded that being on the road does not mean that the normal rules of common decency and behaviour are not totally abrogated, as many people appear to believe.

As I said elsewhere, the current penalty for running over a cyclist, either killing or inflicting what the police chillingly call ‘life-changing injuries’, is currently very slight.  Even where the police are able to prove negligence by the driver, the driver often receives a trivial administrative penalty and small fine.  The police are often hampered in these cases because the key witness is frequently deceased.  Generally the only person who sees what happens is the cyclist.  The driver wasn’t looking, (not didn’t see didn’t look) and by-standers only turn to look after the noise of the collision draws their attention.  But even so, the sentences seem extremely light.

To me, and to most cyclists, the sentences, often contextualised by the magistrate with the words ‘momentary inattention’ or some similar formulation, are a manifest failure of justice.

To tie red-light jumping by cyclists to lorries running over cyclists compounds that sense of injustice. This is what a policeman did at an operation to catch RLJing cyclists on City Road last week.  I totally accept that some members of the public view RLJing as a major problem requiring the urgent attention of the police.  I also totally accept that if you break the law, you should be prepared for the consequences.  I am not seeking to excuse cyclists that jump red lights, or argue that they should be shown leniency.  But I am saying that issuing a fixed penalty notice to a cyclist for jumping a red light with the words “we’re doing this because a cyclist got run over by a lorry last week” is grossly stupid and displays a near total ignorance of the reality of collisions between cyclists and lorries.

In numerous cases, too many to list (if you’re looking for examples, surf the contents page of Moving Target, and click on the ‘HGV’ section), the collision happened as both vehicles pulled away from a green light, i.e. the cyclist had waited for a red light to turn green, as required by law.  Reports suggest that this is exactly what Dr Giles did, to quote the most recent example.  Sebastian Lukomski definitely did.  They rarely, so rarely that it has happened perhaps once or twice in the last 20 years in London, are the result of the cyclist having run a light.

And don’t think that this ignorant policeman is an isolated example.  Policemen and women have often said something like ‘we have to scrape you off the road’ to me when chastising me for running a light, or riding the wrong way up a one way. (I used to be a bicycle messenger.  I got paid to get there quickly; obeying the law was discouraged by economic imperative).  I have the greatest respect for traffic police, who really do know what they are talking about, but no traffic cop has ever said this to me. It was always the police equivalent of white van man.

This ignorant behaviour extends to the higher reaches of the police force, as evidenced by the incredibly stupid use of Sebastian Lukomski’s crushed bicycle by the City Police in ‘education’ lectures given to RLJing cyclists instead of a fixed penalty.

I support the police.  I wrote to the Mayor when he tried to cut funding for lorry police. I support their initiatives to educate road users.  But when police make statements like this, they undermine respect for the badge, respect for the law and confound our already low expectations that justice will be done on the roads.

As Easy As Riding A Bike is at it again – being really binary. He presents two equally possible and plausible courses of action as an either / or, a yes / no.  We are offered a choice of roads engineered to be safer for all road users, or a ban on the most dangerous category of vehicle from the roads at times when they are most likely to come into conflict with soft road-users (lorries kill pedestrians too).  We can’t have both, we must pick one or the other.

This is the conclusion that you might draw from reading his post Conflict between lorries and bicycles.

He writes in the aftermath of 3 serious crashes that have involved bicycles and large vehicles in the last month in London.  One (involving Dr. Katherine Giles) has been national front page news, one seems to have been largely forgotten (probably because the rider was neither female nor riding a Boris bike, nor had he been run over by a lorry, although the difference in effect of being crushed under the wheels of a coach, as opposed to a lorry seems very slight), and one made local headlines.  It doesn’t always lead if it bleeds.

This would be nice, wouldn't it?Yes, it would. Oh sorry, I was trying really hard not fall into the trap of asking a question and then answering it.He makes the case that unless we reengineer the roads so that these conflicts between lorries and cyclists are less likely to occur, then ‘human error’ and ‘mistakes’, as he calls them, will continue to lead to the deaths of cyclists. The kind of re-engineering that he is talking about is fairly comprehensive, viewed from the perspective of a London cyclist.  There is no junction in London, no cycle facility in this city, that I know of, that matches what AEARAB posits.  And it does look much safer, absolutely no question about it.

Let’s consider the the road on which one of these crashes happened, Old Street / Clerkenwell Road / Theobald’s Road. This is one of the main east – west axes for cycle commuters coming in from Hackney and other parts of east London. There have been at least 6 fatalities resulting from collisions between cyclists and lorries on this route in the last 10 years or so, and I know of at least another 2 in the 10 years before.  It’s getting on for a real black spot (or line, as it is nearly 2 miles long).

Clerkenwell Road, looking west from junction of Goswell Road.To make the whole of the Old Street – Clerkenwell – Theobald’s safe in the way that is described would require re-engineering at least 10 junctions and probably making Clerkenwell Road between Goswell Road and St John Street one way for motor traffic.   I’m not totally sure, but to my untrained eye this stretch would not accomodate separated bike paths, 2 footways (road engineer speak for pavements) and 2 carriageways of motor traffic. The bridge at Farringdon Road junction is also likely to be  similarly too narrow.

Where the road is not wide enough to accomodate 2 footways, 2 separated bike paths and 2 carriageways for motor traffic, one of the 2 motor carriageways has to go, and the road will then be one way for motor traffic, including buses.  To make this whole road safe for cyclists to use, this is what will need to happen.  As we know, there is no point making a road safe for cyclists right up until the point where they could really use some separation and then removing it, i.e. the big junction where lots of vehicles are turning.  Female cyclists have been killed at both ends of the narrow section of Clerkenwell Road, and at least one cyclist has been killed on or very near to the Farringdon Road junction, all by lorries, at least 2 by tippers.

Something else to think about in respect of this road is that it goes through 3 different boroughs, Hackney, Islington and Camden, which is an additional complication for whoever is planning the overhaul of this major cycling route.  I say all this not to discourage, but merely to highlight the size of the task.

AEARAB presents an alternative method of keeping lorries and cyclists away from each other, and then dismisses in the same sentence:

One way of achieving this would be a lorry ban at peak hours, which has been mooted, but this doesn’t seem to me to be particularly likely, or workable.

Personally, as a long-time advocate of a lorry ban, I wouldn’t say I have been mooting it, I would say that I have been demanding it, and I like to think that I have become increasingly stridently as the death toll has mounted.

There are a couple of different configurations of lorry ban – one is a total ban in commuting time,  I would suggest 0700 – 1000 definitely, and maybe 1500 – 1900, one is a modified ban on lorries that don’t have the right kit to be driven safely (mirrors, proximity alarms, ‘cycle-aware’ drivers).

A morning peak hour ban would work well because the overwhelming majority, let’s say at least 90%, of London lorry deaths happen in the morning rush hour from 0700 – 1000. 0 lorries on the road equals 0 cyclists killed by lorries. Think of it as another way of achieving separation in time and space between bicycles and lorries, only without all the raised kerbs and fancy coloured lights.

There’s some question about political opposition to such a ban, but if another young, bright, intelligent woman goes under the wheels of a lorry whilst the ban is being considered, given the backing of the Times and the Standard (for which, thanks!), any such opposition will melt away, in my opinion.  And there is no reason to think that in the next 12 months, whilst a ban is being considered, a young, bright, successful woman will not go under the wheels of a tipper lorry.  In fact, it’s a virtual certainty.

I’m sure it wouldn’t take long, with the political will, to enact the legislation to enable a rush hour ban.  It could happen in a matter of weeks: no more tipper lorries in London in the morning rush hour.  Imagine that.

I’m not going to get all black or white, yes or no on you and present this as an either or, or dismiss the likelihood of Old Street / Clerkenwell Road getting the reworking it badly needs, because I want to see it happen and believe that it can, and I also believe that we can have both a commitment to building better streets for people and a commitment to keep lorries off the streets when most people are using them, but I am going to say that I am disappointed by this latest manifestation of bicycling binary.

A report was published yesterday by the Transport Research Laboratory, the broad thrust of which is that the construction industry, despite the fact that their vehicles have been identified time and again as the number one threat to cyclists, have failed (with a few notable exceptions) to take effective action to reduce that threat.

INot photo-shopped, a real picture (Selim Korycki)t is now 19 years since the British Medical Journal published a report entitled Deaths of cyclists in London 1985-92: the hazards of road traffic’, which specifically addressed the problem of the disproportionate number of collisions between lorries (aka Heavy Goods Vehicles) and cyclists that resulted in a fatality.  By the way, isn’t it absurd that whenever these collisions are reported in the mainstream media, the driver is always described as ‘unhurt’ – of course the bloody driver was unhurt!  In the conclusion to report, there is the following:

a ban on heavy goods vehicles in urban areas should be considered.

Reading the numbers again, and some of the conclusions, some things jump out.  The absolute numbers of cyclists killed by collisions with lorries hasn’t really changed that much since 1985 -1992 (the period which the report was based on),  75 deaths in 8 years, or around 9 or so a year then, 8 or so a year now.  The report also notes that the higher proportion of women cyclists who die in accidents involving heavy goods vehicles in inner London cannot be explained satisfactorily. Same thing now.  It is a fact that women are well over-represented in the KSI numbers where the other vehicle was a lorry.

 

I am sick of writing and reading about London cyclists who have been killed by a collision with a lorry. I looked on the contents page of Moving Target, and started counting the number of articles that I wrote about the issue between 2005 & 2011, and stopped counting when I reached 40.  As I said in a previous post, I am delighted that the mainstream media has now picked up the story, and are demanding action.  However, I think they should be going further, and demanding, like the author of the BMJ article, like the London Bicycle Messenger Association did in 2004, a ban on lorries in central London daytime.

 

Memorial for Sebastian Lukomski, killed by a lorry on Upper Thames Street. Photo: Ben Brown

Putting it in economic terms, why should commercial road users be putting the costs (medical attention, police investigation etc) of their business onto the rest of us?  In a recent Freakonomics podcast, economist Steve Levitt said ‘there are few instances in our society where individuals are able to impose such large externalities on other individuals through their behaviour as on the roads.‘  Sure, all motorists are required by law to have 3rd party insurance, but this does not cover the costs of the emergency services etc, which are substantial, especially, as almost always happens where a fatality has resulted, there is an extensive police investigation.  Relatively speaking, there is little cost to the operator, or the operator’s employer, i.e. the organisation that is paying the operator to deliver whatever load the lorry is carrying, of a fatal collision. It is therefore not very surprising that, in a business in which margins are low, competition is high, and buyers are very price sensitive, that lorries still run over cyclists, as there is almost no economic penalty for doing so.

The threat of a daytime lorry ban, almost universally dismissed as unworkable, might serve to concentrate minds, given that it would carry considerably greater costs, especially in the construction sector.  I realise that there is currently a night-time ban on lorries in London, but this should be done away with.  This ban dates back to 1982, and I have no idea at all why it was brought in.  We want as many HGV movements at night as possible, surely?

 

And to those people who think that a daytime ban on HGVs is madness, I say, be reasonable, demand the impossible.