Encouraging Cycling, Encouraging Safety; How to score an own goal & How to do it better

The London Cycling Campaign are currently running a campaign to coincide with the Mayoral Elections in London (on May 3rd). The campaign is called Love London: Go Dutch.  The campaign is calling on the 2012 mayoral election candidates to commit to continental-standard cycling infrastructure in the capital.

The Key principles of the campaign are described as:

Key principles for London’s streets

1. Safety first

Londoners young or old, occasional cyclists or experienced ones, will be safe, and will feel safe cycling on main roads.

2. Best practice

Londoners will benefit from the best available know-how in street design, public education and rules of the road, whether using best-practice from the Continent or home-grown.

3. Adaptability

Londoners will benefit from every infrastructure and non-physical solution to make our main roads ‘Go Dutch’, tailoring solutions to circumstances.

4. Easy passage

Londoner’s will enjoy clear and hassle-free passage throughout our city by bike.

5. Calm junctions

Londoners will be able to negotiate all junctions safely and conveniently whether cycling or walking.

6. Harmony with pedestrians

Londoners will be able to choose to cycle or walk to their destinations without impeding each other.

7. Harmony with public transport

Londoners will be able to safely cycle or use public transport alongside each other, and switch easily between the two.

8. Quality of life

Londoners from all walks of life will be able to enjoy cycling on main roads, which will be improved to make them more pleasant and attractive places for everyone.

9. Commitment

Londoners will have cycling facilities that are properly managed and maintained.

10. Engagement

Londoners will be consulted about the way their local main roads should ‘Go Dutch’

It sounds a sensible campaign does it not? Well, on the face of it yes, but when you dig a little deeper I have serious reservations about this campaign and worry it may actually have a negative effect on the attitude towards cyclists in London from non cyclists, whether motorists or pedestrians.

Lets look a little closer at one or two of the principles.

    1. Safety first

    Londoners young or old, occasional cyclists or experienced ones, will be safe, and feel safe cycling on main roads.

  • The quality of provision for cycling on London’s roads will not only enable more people to choose to cycle but will, in quantifiable terms, reduce collisions and the fear of collisions.

  • Along with high quality cycling facilities, motor traffic speeds will be reduced wherever Londoners are walking and cycling.

  • Main roads should be suitable for unaccompanied young people to cycle safely, and for their parents to feel confident that they are safe doing so.

  • Is it a realistic aim to suggest that “Main roads should be suitable for unaccompanied young people to cycle safely, and for their parents to feel confident that they are safe doing so”.  What do we mean by young people? and what do we mean by main roads? Near my home is the A12, it is the main road from London to Ipswich. it is a dual carriageway and carries thousands of vehicles everyday, including lots of HGVs. Is there anyway to make parents feel safe if little Tommy aged 8 is riding along the same? The answer is that unless there are completely segregated facilities this will not happen. For a lot of the A12, there is no space to provide segregated facilities.

    It is not sensible  in my opinion to call for things that are not practical to provide.

      3. Adaptability

      Londoners will benefit from the full suite of physical and other solutions available to make our main roads Go Dutch, tailoring solutions to circumstances.

    • Where a main road has high volume or speeds of motor traffic cyclists will be given protected space. This includes ‘separation,’ i.e. cycle-only tracks that are physically separated from main carriageway, as well as physically ‘protected’ lanes on the road itself.

    • Where ‘separation’ or ‘protection’ may not be possible on a main road (e.g. a narrow, crowded high street) then solutions such as reducing traffic speeds to 20 mph or prioritising access for pedestrians and cyclists will be used.

    • Cycling on minor roads to and from main roads will be safe and convenient through the application of measures such as: a universal 20 mph speed limit where people live, learn, work, and shop; use of cycle lanes; universal two way flows for cyclists; and filtering cyclists and pedestrians smoothly through restricted access routes for motor traffic (whether right at the junction with main roads themselves or at key locations nearby).

    • The highlighted proposal is clearly ignorant of the needs of other road users. For example, the A1 or the A12, A40 or other main artery roads into or out of London are such important roads that reducing the speed limit to 20mph will have the effect of costing London £millions in extra time and transport costs. It could easily add 30 minutes to each journey into Central London. An extra hour on a return trip for delivery vehicles or people coming into London for meetings etc.

      This smacks of cyclists trying to make London jump to their tune irrespective of the consequences to others.

        4. Easy passage

        Londoners will enjoy clear and direct passage throughout our city by bike.

      • Cycle routes will be direct and free from diversion around motor traffic, and the delays this causes.

      • The passage of cyclists along main roads will be free from stopped/parked vehicles, signposts or other types of obstruction.

      • Cyclists will be given dedicated space away from motorised traffic on main roads (or where not possible, priority over motorised traffic) so that they are not endangered or intimidated by motor vehicles passing near them; in particular cyclists will not have to overtake motorised vehicles on the outside on main roads.

      • Cyclists will be able to make easy and safe transitions between dedicated and non-dedicated space.

      • Some Londoners cycle fast, some slow. All will have the space they need to use the roads together in harmony, even at peak times.

      • Routes for pedestrians and motorists are not free from stopped or parked vehicles, so why should cyclists expect any different? Also, these are all very fanciful but totally unrealistic ideas. There is no indication as to how any of this is possible to provide, especially on the already congested and space limited streets that make up London.

          6. Harmony with pedestrians

          Londoners will be able to choose to cycle or walk to their destinations without impeding each other.

        • Speed limits of 20 mph will be the norm wherever Londoners live, work and shop, including access routes to main roads.

        • Main roads will offer walkers and cyclists sufficient and pleasant space to get around.

        • Crossings will prioritise the movement of cyclists and pedestrians

        • That will be every road then, including the main arterial routes as listed above. See my earlier comments re the cost to other road users.

            8. Quality of life

            Londoners from all walks of life will be able to enjoy cycling on main roads, which will be improved to make them more pleasant and attractive places for everyone.

          • Making space on main roads will be done in such a way as to diversify the range of people cycling, to in turn reflect the diversity of London itself.

          • Main roads will be transformed to give space for cycling in a way that makes them more pleasant places for all who are out and about.

          • Londoners will have ample secure parking for their bikes on main roads, especially where they shop and access businesses, services and amenities.

          • Making more space for cyclists will mean less space for other road users. So creating more congestion and delay and hence cost for other road users. Another cyclist centric idea with no thought to the cost or problems it causes other road users.

            Nearly all of the proposals by the LCC will require extra money to be spent exclusively for the benefit of cyclists. In the current climate of economic cutbacks and recession, is it really sensible to be calling for lots of additional spending? It is unlikely to go do well when it is only for the benefit of a limited section of the community.

            I am not alone in having reservations about parts of the LCC Campaign. The Guardian also harbours similar reservations in its  bike blog section– dedicate to promoting cycling.

            So, after criticising some of the calls in the LCC Campaign, what would I do or campaign for to improve the lot of cyclists. I certainly would not be happy to accept the status quo and agree with the timing of the LCC campaign. Its now that politicians are seeking our votes and its now we are most likely to get them to listen and sign up to campaign aims.

            1. Re-site Dangerously Located Street Furniture – cycling around London, I am amazed at how many junctions , especially from side roads to main roads, have sight lines for the traffic blocked by pillar boxes,  telephone junction boxes, advertising boards and even bus shelters. This street furniture has the effect of forcing traffic coming out of side roads to edge out into the main carriageway before the driver can see whether it is safe to pull out. This is a risk to all road users. Over a period of time, this furniture should be moved to safer locations. Even just moving it back on the pavement away from the road would improve sightlines. As these items come to be replaced/ renewed they should be re-sited. The cost would be negligible as they are being replaced at that  time anyway. The benefit would be to all road users, reducing risk and accidents for everyone.

            2. Proper Enforcement of Current Road Traffic Legislation – every driver who is honest will admit that they have driven without paying proper attention to the road. Why is this? Well, the risk to your licence or purse is negligible. If more people were prosecuted after accidents for careless or dangerous driving, then people would see their licences were at risk. At present in so many cases, the only risk to a driver is an increase in their insurance premium next year, but even that is limited as people can protect their no claims bonus.

            This affects all road users not just cyclists. So often after an accident the driver at fault says “sorry mate I didn’t see you” aka SMIDSY. Surely this is an admission of driving without due care and attention? So why do they not prosecute drivers for this offence? Yes, in the short term it would lead to a big increase in cases going through the courts. In the long term it will reduce the number of cases going through the courts as drivers will take extra care when driving to ensure they do not risk losing their licence by carelessness.

            I posted recently about Michelle’s parents being involved in a nasty accident on the A1 when a lorry they were overtaking pulled out into their car and hit the car causing it to spin down the A1. The car was written off and both Michelle’s parents needed treatment for shock and whiplash. Fortunately the injuries were not more serious. The car was written off. The driver admitted to the police SMIDSY and yet no prosecution followed. Why not? What reason do motorists have to drive carefully if there is no penalty for not doing so?

            3. Changing Facilities in All New Office Developments & Bike Storage/ Parking – It would not be particularly expensive to insist on a certain number of shower/ changing room facilities to be provided in all new office developments. Many people say they would cycle to work if there were facilities to change in or to safely store bicycles. The changing facilities would also be used by those who go jogging at lunchtime or run to work. If these facilities were required to be incorporated into all new office developments, the costs would be minimal and the benefits significant.

            These three changes would do far more to improve the cyclists lot in London and in all other cities. The costs are negligible and the benefits significant.

            As cyclists, we have no God given right to be treated as a special case in the provision of facilities. It is not realistic to expect the rest of London to be brought down to the pace of cyclists. We need to be realistic in the measures we call for to improve cycling if we are not to be ignored and derided as out of touch.

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