I see from some of the tweets from the Guardian Live cycling event that Andrew Gilligan thinks that campaigning for lorries to be banned from London, is an ‘unnecessary distraction’. This is presumably on the grounds that we, the cycling community, have such limited resources that we can only effectively focus on one thing at a time, and at this time, that focus should be on improving the cycle network. The lack of progress on the Quietways, when compared with the Cycle Superhighways, could probably be cited as evidence of this.
Obviously, given my campaigning background, I completely & viscerally disagree with this.
It is perfectly possible to successfully put energy into both making lorries safer, and building a comprehensive network of cycle lanes, as has been shown by the London Cycling Campaign in the 2012 London elections. And, in my view, it is helpful, tactically, to keep pushing for a lorry ban, in exactly the same way as Andrew Gilligan initially proposed taking two lanes from motor traffic on the Embankment – he told us on Monday at the LCC Policy Forum seminar that he always intended to give one lane back, in order to appear to have listened to objections and compromised. Push for a total ban, and then relent, and allow lorries with a direct vision cab to use London’s roads.
And for all those of you that say than banning big lorries from London is wildly impractical, Paris operates a day-time lorry ban (ok, the actual nature of the ban is a little opaque, but read this primer by Kieron Yates if you want to know more). And Mary Beard confirmed that Julius Caesar instituted a similar ban on heavy goods vehicles in Rome, which was never repealed (ok, I’m pretty sure that Caesar didn’t have the safety of Roman citizens uppermost when he did it, but still, it’s a fun fact, isn’t it?) I’m also disappointed to hear cycle-campaigners, who, for years & years, have listened increasingly impatiently to people saying that it was impossible to build a segregated cycle-lane network in London – the streets were too narrow, it would cause too much congestion, it would cost too much money, no-one would use it etc, etc, say that a London lorry ban is unrealistic, impossible, impractical etc, etc.
In my experience, it’s only when, to paraphrase Che Guevara, you start being unreasonable and demand the impossible, that people start to take you seriously. And there is no better proof of this than in the lorry campaign. Apologies if you have heard or read all this before, but it was only when I wrote to Ken Livingston and all the other candidates for Mayor of London in 2004 demanding a day-time lorry ban that serious action began on the problem of lorries killing cyclists in London. Don’t take my word for it, ask Alastair Hanton, a long-standing LCC campaigner. He said this to me on more than one occasion.
After all, a great deal of pressure was successfully applied, rightly, to the Mayor of London by cycling advocates using media coverage of cyclist lorry deaths, media coverage which would not have existed if it wasn’t for the continuing campaigning efforts of the LCC, Roadpeace and others. As has been proven in the Netherlands, Denmark & Germany, well engineered cycle lanes will help to significantly reduce injury and fatalities from collisions with lorries, by making junctions safer (almost all serious collisions occur at junctions), but will NOT eliminate them. In my view, to pretend otherwise is wrong.
Sorry, Mr Gilligan, under Boris’ leadership you have achieved great things, but on this you are wrong.