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5.09.06 by Buffalo Bill

Yesterday Ken Livingstone, the man who thinks that number plates for bikes are a good idea, launched a campaign to stop cyclists from running red lights, and discourage motorists from entering the cyclists’ box at red lights. There was a lot of publicity for the measure, and the media focussed a lot of attention on the ‘problem’ of red light jumpers and pavement cyclists, and the threat to public safety thereof. This despite the fact that of over 3 000 people killed on the roads in the UK in 2004, there was only one fatality in as the result of a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian, and in that case the collision took place on neither the footway nor a pedestrian crossing. The traffic statistics for London 2001 – 2005 show that pedestrians are 42 times more likely to be hit by a car whilst on the footway (pavement) than a cycle.

So what the f*** is Ken doing? This is not fact-based policy making, this is anti-cyclist propaganda. There is no evidence that cyclists are a major threat to the safety of the public. There are just a lot of vocal idiots complaining about the ‘cyclist who just missed me by inches the other day’.

On the other hand, cyclists are still being killed by lorries turning left and cut in half by cars. And according to the Cyclists Touring Club, 20 pedestrians a year are killed on the pavement by motor-vehicles. Where’s the balance? What appropriate allocation of resources? Why hasn’t the Mayor done more than issue an insipid press release on the very real danger from negligently driven lorries, which account for over a quarter of the cyclists killed every year on London’s roads?

Jack Thurston of the Bike Show described the initiative as ‘a pile of cack’. I wholeheartedly endorse Jack’s position and would only add the words ‘huge’ and ‘steaming’ to Jack’s assesment. If only the Mayor of London had put the same resources into stopping Heavy Goods Vehicles from killing cyclists. At least Jenny Jones managed to mention something about lorries giving cyclists more room.

Apparently, the campaign will be back up by special enforcement measures by the police, so if you are going to run one, keep ‘em peeled.

The full press release

UPDATE

This morning I rode into work, like I do every morning, and I made a point of running every single red light that I came to. I only managed to catch 5 on red, sadly. I can’t wait to get a ticket. But you gotta catch me first, Ken.

Guardian piece on Sheppard's death and trial by media
Guardian story on lorry deaths makes serious error
8th female London cyclist killed by lorry?
Police appeal for witnesses to fatal collision, 11th London cyclist killed
'Psychiatrist' says bicycles kill more people than 'terrorism'
Appeal for witnesses to fatal collision, 29th June 0820, Kennington
London Cycling Campaign
Boris left at the lights
Dead cyclist's widow wins compensation
Driver that killed Lisa Pontecorvo had removed mirror

  1. Sorry I’m a bit late to the party (three years!) but I saw your link to this post on Twitter yesterday.

    I’m with you 100% on the misguided priorities we seem to hear from media and politicians. It seems as though certain risks are so prevalent we’ve accepted them as part of everyday life.

    We have welcomed cars, and their associated dangers, into our lives to such an extent that we don’t even notice much of the suffering they cause. Car accidents are almost a ‘fact of life’, while an incident caused by a bike is noteworthy precisely because it doesn’t often happen.

    Maybe it’s because it’s so unusual for a cyclist to cause an accident that such incidents get noticed and shouted about as they do.

    But I don’t understand your reaction as described above.

    “I made a point of running every single red light that I came to”

    Ooh. Well done.

    What does that tell the dozens of other road users that saw you? What message does that give about the respect we ask for from motorists? We’re all individuals, of course, but whenever the public see you shooting smugly through a red light, doesn’t that re-enforce the negative perceptions of cyclists as law-breakers?

    You jump a light, we all get regarded as tossers. Thanks.

    How do the ‘vocal idiots’ you describe form their negative perceptions? Is it purely through the pages of the Daily Mail or does it have anything to do with what they see going on around them?

    Of course the media focussed on the RLJ side of Ken’s announcement. That’s what the media do. So why play right into their hands?

    I agree we need to level the playing field, so that the huge danger presented by cars is seen in fair proportion to the tiny tiny risk that cyclists present to the general public.

    So why do anything that re-enforces the stereotype of cyclists we so often hear from the media?

    Clive

    (Disclosure – you know I work for a cycling organisation, but I’m writing here as me – I’m not at work right now!)


    Clive    19 November 2009, 08:05    #
  2. Thanks for decontextualising a comment which I myself admitted was ‘childish’. Thanks also for blaming me, in particular, for the anti-cyclist bile in the media. Classic bit of cycling community self-hate. Oh, and as a professional, you ought to be referring to ‘collisions’ or ‘crashes’, not accidents, by the way.

    As it goes, these days I am one of the most law-abiding cyclists on the road.


    — Bill    25 November 2009, 09:02    #
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