More on Share the Road
10.09.06 by Buffalo Bill
As regular readers will know, last week Ken Livingstone launched a campaign called ‘Share The Road’ aimed at cyclists and motorists, encouraging both sets of road users to respect the law. Predictably, this has led to a renewed outbreak of anti-cycling propaganda in the media, and more demonisation of cyclists as a major threat to public safety, despite the fact that there is no evidence that cyclists represent anything more than a statistically insignificant threat to pedestrians, or any other road user for that matter, whilst motor traffic accounts for at least 3 000 deaths in the UK annually.
This morning the Telegraph is reporting that the government is considering making bicycle bells compulsory (I thought they were anyway but still!) and mentions that ’12 pedestrians have died after being hit by cyclists in the last 5 years.’ Where they got this stat I have no idea, because the only reliable stat that I have seen suggests that there is one death a year as the result of a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian, and believe me, I have looked. Notice that the wording implies that the cyclist was at fault. No mention of the 4 000 other pedestrians who died as the result of a collision with a motor vehicle in the last 5 years, of course. Naturally, this story has been picked by other lazy journalists here. and here, among other places.
So thanks a lot for that, Ken. And thanks also to the London Cycling Campaign. I had my rant about it a few days ago. I emailed it to a few cycling types. Most were supportive, but one guy dissented.
I thought I would give it space here, as it’s Sunday, I’m stuck in the office and I don’t have anything better to do.
I’m one of dozens of people who give their time to help LCC promote cycling in London. I’ve read your stuff on Moving Target and am naturally sorry to hear that you have cancelled your LCC membership.
The inconvenient truth is that a major barrier to new cyclists is not the fear of being killed by a truck, but that their friends will think they’re joining a bunch of tree hugging anarchists. Share the Road is one of a number of initiatives designed to raise the status of cyclists and thereby move towards a position where cycling is seen to be a normal everyday activity. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.
All this – Ken calls it a culture change – is made much harder by defiant comments about running red lights which, by encouraging cycling yobbery, merely reinforce the media stereotype of war on the streets. Can’t you see how this puts off new riders?
Most of the people I meet want to see cycling in London continue to rise towards continental levels with all the benefits that brings. If you seriously want to see more bums on saddles in London, I urge you to reconsider your tactics.
BTW your attack on Simon Brammer is way off the mark. A large part of Simon’s job is to balance the demands of LCC members with the over-arching TfL juggernaut whose resources are one thousand times those of the LCC. I’ve seen him in action and, trust me, he does a bloody good job.
Needless to say I don’t agree with D at all. All the research I have seen (research carried out by Transport for London, with help from, yes, you have guessed it, the London Cycling Campaign) puts the perceived danger of cycling top of the list of reasons given by people for not cycling, followed by worries about the physical fitness required.
In other words most people, when asked say they don’t cycle because they are a. too scared and b. too lazy. Not because they are worried their friends might think they had joined the Animal Liberation Front (BTW, D, if you insist on using lazy clichés: hippys hug trees; anarchists throw bombs). I am not saying it’s not a factor, but it’s not top of the list. Safety is. That’s why the LCC and TfL(Transport for London) have invested time and money (not wisely in my view) in cycle lanes.
OK, I agree that my characterisation of Simon Brammer as a muppet might be off the mark, but it was funny (it amused me, anyway) and borne of the frustration of having tried to get the Mayor of London, the Greater London Authority, the Mayor of London’s Office, the London Road Safety Unit and TfL to actually do more than issue a single solitary press release about the biggest threat to cyclists in London: HGVs, popularly known as lorries. When I was Chair of the London Bicycle Messenger Association, I initiated a campaign to try and stop HGVs from killing cyclists. The full details are here.
I wrote letters and went to meetings. I argued and proposed. And nothing changed. Meanwhile did the LCC leadership offer any support? Their news magazine London Cyclist didn’t even print a news item about it, despite the participation of some of their members in the meetings, and my frequent emails and letters to them.
Why is that? I have no idea. My guess is that as the LCC has become part of the beauracracy of TfL because of the way that LCC projects are now funded, the LCC is locked into a ‘only good news’ policy. Everything for London cyclists is rosy – cycling under Ken is up from 2% to nearly 3% – wow! And to keep in with Ken, the LCC must stay on message. Dead cyclists are not ‘good news’. Dead cyclists do not ‘promote cycling’.
But still cyclists are being killed by lorries. Last year, Harriet Tory was killed by a left turning lorry on Clerkenwell Road, and Conrad Dutoit was killed in the Pancras Way bike lane by a right turning lorry. The lorry driver who killed him, Mr Ibrahim, was found guilty of ‘Driving Without Due Care And Attention’ (ie he didn’t look before turning) and ‘Driving Other Than In Accordance With A Licence’ (ie he wasn’t licensed to drive the category of lorry that he crushed Conrad to death with), fined £500, plus £250 costs and disqualified for 56 days. Patricia Macmillan was also killed last year by a turning lorry in West London, but the media managed to blame her iPod instead. And these three, remember, are only the ones that I have personally heard about. If the number of cyclists killed in London remains at the same level as 2004, 14, then there are at least another 3 that I haven’t heard about, seeing as most years lorries account for nearly half of cyclists killed in London.
A lack of appreciation of the priorities with respect to road danger is why I am so outraged by ‘Share The Road’. “Roadpeace”:http://www.roadpeace.org campaigner Cynthia Barlow, who participated in the HGV/cyclist charade along with me, and is passionately committed to reducing road danger, feels the same way. She was involved in preliminary meetings on ‘Share The Road’ but withdrew because she was so concerned by the lack of balance between nuisance cycling and life-threatening road-crime.
Here is some correspondence she sent me:
Many thanks for copying me in to the Share the Road pieces. I was involved in a couple of preliminary meetings about the Share the Road campaign and several of us did make it perfectly clear that we could not support the campaign unless, and on condition that, it was followed by enforcement campaigns that did target those issues which do actually kill people : eg HGVs etc.
I had a meeting with Simon at LCC and we agreed that we were faced with ‘politics’. Ken is a politician and the GLA is a political body. If there are lots of complaints and critical articles in the press about cyclists on pavements etc then Ken has to be seen to react to this and do something about it. We acknowledged the existence of the world of political needs, but at the same time stressed that it isn’t cyclists who are killing people and the current campaign had to be followed by other campaigns targeting the actual problems we know exist. Our support for the first stage of the campaign was on condition that this happened.
I will forward separately the e-mail I sent to Adrian Bell at the GLA before the first of the Share the Road meetings for your information, and also below is my follow-up e-mail. You are not alone!_
From: Cynthia Barlow
Sent: 06 September 2006 18:02
To: ‘Ian Wingrove’;
Cc: Adam Coffman; Jenny Jones; Jonathan Gaventa; Simon Barnett; Simon Brammer; Tom Bogdanowicz; firstname.lastname@example.org; David Dansky; ??@sustrans.org.uk; Richard Bourn; ??@ecodev.co.uk; Richard Lewis; ??@lcc.org.uk; Becky Upfold; David Love
Subject: RE: Livingstone’s ‘Share the Road’ campaign is based on myths not facts, says CTC
I also agree strongly with the points made by Brendan and am pleased you are taking them up with Jenny.
I think it was agreed by everyone that the initial Share the Road campaign could only be supported if there was an enforcement programme to follow which targeted the specific problems which cause deaths and serious injuries on the road. The comments by Jenny and Simon on the BBC 6.30 News were very helpful.
I agree with the first point that there should be an enforcement campaign targeted at motorists, but I would like the campaign to take up wider issues, not just deal with it as a traffic management problem.
Three of the issues I raised in the discussions were:
1. Driver Liability
We know very well that more people are killed by motorists than cyclists and that speeding is a significant part of the problem. Approximately 900 of the annual c3,250 road deaths involve speed. The responsibility of drivers to obey the law must be highlighted and I think it would be useful if Jenny could initiate, perhaps in the MPA, some discussion of the principle of driver liability. This has the effect of throwing the burden of proof onto the driver to prove that he is NOT liable for a death or serious injury of a vulnerable road user when this has occurred, and in other European countries which have already adopted this, it has made a significant impact on casualty figures and we should begin the discussion more purposefully here.
2. Uninsured drivers
I attended recently a talk by the Motor Insurers Bureau on the problem of uninsured drivers. This is costing the rest of us millions of pounds a year. Every person who does pay their car insurance is also ‘taxed’ an extra £30 to £50 per year to cover the cost of uninsured drivers. The kind of incidents in which they are involved tend to result in more serious injuries than average, so the cost to the NHS is huge. Uninsured drivers also tend to be involved in other sorts of road crime, such as driving while unqualified/disqualified, and drink driving. We know where the ‘hot spots’ of uninsured driving are in London (Tottenham has the highest figure I think). I hope the enforcement campaign will target these areas but not just deal with it as a traffic police matter. We need to be publicising this more as a social problem in particular areas so that it becomes regarded as despicable anti-social behaviour, so that social pressures are brought to bear on the guilty parties.
3. Construction vehicles
We already know about the disproportionate number of cyclist deaths involving rigid axle vehicles associated with the construction industry : concrete mixers, skip lorries, tipper lorries etc. The lady representing the Road Hauliers Association at the meetings at City Hall recently did say that in view of the huge amounts of construction traffic shortly to be generated by the Olympic sites, it is important that this problem too is targeted.
_Below is my e-mail to Adrian Bell asking for evidence-based policy-making, (which I don’t think I ever got a reply to).
From: Cynthia Barlow
Sent: 08 August 2006 11:56
To: ‘email@example.com’; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’;
Subject: FW: re TfL cycle/share the road meeting
Thank you very much for arranging this meeting.
I understand from the 5th paragraph of the note you circulated that, whilst you have received reports on cyclists ignoring red lights and cycling on the pavements, there is not a great deal of statistical information on the consequences of this.
Unfortunately, I know of many cases of cyclists killed in London where, at the moment of impact, they have been in the right place on the road, behaving in accordance with the law, wearing the right gear, etc etc and so I am anxious that the campaign you envisage should have a broader context in terms of road user behaviour so that cyclists will see the point of abiding by the law.
A RoadPeace member I spoke to last week had just returned from Denmark, and he said that because cyclists were ‘protected’ by the legal principle of driver liability in respect of vulnerable road users, cycling was safer, and therefore more people were both cyclists and drivers and thus, when driving, were more aware of the likely positions of cyclists on the road, which in turn added to the safety of cyclists.
Please find below a list of questions. I know there will not be time before Thursday to reply comprehensively to this, but any relevant data you do have would be very helpful so that we are all working with the same evidence-based information.
1. Number of cycle K/SI(Killed & Seriously Injured) cycle collisions at junctions, analysed by: a. by other vehicle involved
b. involving turning lorry?
c. involving red light running by cyclist
d. involving red light running by other vehicle
e. involving pavement cycling
f. other contributory factor
2. Number of pedestrian K/SI collisions
a. by vehicle involved
b. by location (on pavement, on crossing, near crossing, etc)
c. involving pavement cycling
d. other contributory factor
3. Illegal road user behaviour
a. number of complaints re speeding
b. number of complaints re red light running by vehicle type involved, if possible
c. number of complaints re pavement cycling
d. estimate of the percentage of motor vehicles speeding in London
e. estimate of the percentage of motor vehicles red light running in London
f. estimate of the percentage of cyclists running red lights in London
g. estimate of the percentage of cyclists cycling on pavements in
Why wasn’t LCC asking these questions of TfL? Why were those questions not answered, still not answered? Do you have the answers, D? Do let me know.