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Follow up hearing discusses recent cyclist deaths in capital, but commentator says MPs 'ill-informed and out of touch'...

Poor quality infrastructure and bad driving are the main threats to cyclist safety in London, London Cycling Campaign chief executive Ashok Sinha has told the House of Commons Transport Committee.

MPs heard evidence from a number of parties on cycling safety in a follow up session in the House of Commons yesterday, after a spate of cyclist deaths.

Mr Sinha told the two-hour sitting of the committee: "There are places and times in London when you are not protected as well as you should be (as a cyclist) and you are at risk.

"I would say to cyclists, 'Yes, keep cycling in London, but there are dangers in places and particular circumstances'."

He told the committee that there was not a ‘war’ between cyclists and motorists, adding “A lot of people are very concerned. I hope people are not put off cycling.”

Metropolitan Police Commander Dave Martin also spoke, and agreed with Mr Sinha’s comments.

He said: “I would not describe it as a war. But there have been things that have caused great concern.

"People are going through red lights - both cyclists and motorists. And motorists are still using mobile phones at the wheel."

He told the committee that the police crackdown on road safety behaviour was not unfairly targeted at cyclists.

But Katja Leyendecker, the Newcastle Cycling Campaign chairman, said that if there was no war, there was "certainly a battlefield out there".

Val Shawcross, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee noted that it was mainly ‘fit young men’ cycling in the capital, despite infrastructure improvements like the cycle superhighways, which she said had been a “long learning process”.

Meanwhile David Davies, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Counsel for Transport Safety, said cycling was as safe as walking, and that pedestrian deaths did not get the same publicity.

He said: "In London and across the UK as a whole there are considerably more pedestrians, considerably more motorcyclists and vehicle occupants as well who die, so the number of cyclists deaths, although it has had huge attention, is quite a small minority.

"It is very welcome that cycling is getting this safety attention but in some ways it is a shame every time a pedestrian is run over in London it doesn't merit similar attention."

Asked how safe it is to cycle in the capital, he added: "If you measure it in terms of casualties per mile travelled, then walking and cycling[are] broadly comparable which perhaps suggests walking is not as safe as some people think it might be."

Some commentators were disheartened at the quality of the inquiry, with the Guardian’s Peter Walker writing that the Tory MP Martin Vickers, “asked – and he was being entirely serious – if the panel felt cyclists should "contribute" financially to the upkeep of roads.

“Yes, that's right. The "road tax" question, the litmus test for someone who not only doesn't understand the very basics about cycling policy but hasn't the barest minimum of intellectual curiosity about it. Silly enough in a pub conversation.

"For an MP, let alone an MP on the transport select committee, let alone an MP on the transport select committee discussing cycling, it's unforgivable.”

In a tweet, he described the committee as “Ill-informed, silly and out of touch.”

Robert Goodwill MP, the cycling minister will also give evidence on cycling safety at 5.50pm tomorrow.
 

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

12 comments

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oliverjames [53 posts] 2 years ago
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“Ill-informed, silly and out of touch.” well I never.

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OldRidgeback [2592 posts] 2 years ago
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So we've at least one member of the House of Commons Transport Committe who doesn't understand how funding for road infrastructure is sourced. That is appalling.

One of the reasons Winston Churchill gave for abolishing road tax in 1937 was because he believed people paying it would feel they have a right to use the roads. And still this fallacy continues, even amongst those who have responsbility for the transport network.

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unsliced [16 posts] 2 years ago
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There's the quote that's almost a cliché that

The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.

and I suspect that we're almost to that state with many of the busier junctions, certainly in London.

There's a fixation with red-light jumping but few people step back and question the fixation with traffic lights in the first place. That the roads are filled with these types of enforced control is a major part of the problem. Many RLJers (and I am not one) are doing it safely and while it doesn't make it right, it isn't a massive wrong.

We can all think of junctions where there's a pedestrian phase but rarely any pedestrians. Or where your route goes straight on and the road joining from the right doesn't impede your lane. Or where the phasing means that you're always just meeting a red light. Or a dozen other simple examples of where a traffic light is just a means to frustrate rather than actually aid safety or efficiently shape the traffic.

When was the last time you saw a traffic light left on flashing amber (i.e. pedestrian priority, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12860433)?

The transport select committee obviously do not understand how roads actually work - and the fact that the RHA got a free ride shows that the CTC, LCC and so on should probably take a leaf from their lobbying tactics.

The roads are too complex to leave it up to individuals to see the bigger picture, but it's apparent that no-one in charge cares, so we're going to be left with only one choice: if the powers that be can't be trusted to protect us, we'll just have to make the rules up ourselves.

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ribena [179 posts] 2 years ago
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Whats most depressing, if you read DFT cycle lane guidelines and even TFL's own plans, it all makes sense.
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/corporate/safe-streets-for-london...

so clearly the relevant people lower down the chain do understand the issues, but all this just gets lost when the issues are discussed by narrow minded MPs.

Can't we have people with relevant skills in charge? The only thing these people are skilled in, is the deliberate use of logical falacies and arguing techniques.

Despite all these committees and reports, information never seems to flow upwards.

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bobbypuk [38 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

There's a fixation with red-light jumping but few people step back and question the fixation with traffic lights in the first place.

I do think this an important point for RLJ and ignoring one-way systems. Road junctions may be designed with cyclists in mind (though they aren't) but road systems rarely are. Where I used to live to get to work by bike meant cycling down a fairly steep hill for 500m yards, going round a roundabout with 5 sets of lights, another 2 sets of lights then up a steep hill for 600m. This left me 100m away from where I started but heading in the right direction.

For a car driver this would be a slight annoyance. For me it was nice training (a hill and a few standing start efforts). For other cyclists why would you follow the proper route? Cyclists hadn't been considered when designing the layout and so most did the sensible and ignored some of the lights or the one-way stretches.

This is something that needs to be recognised. Getting a bike moving is difficult, doing it 5 times to get round a roundabout does wear a bit thin.

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BikeBud [204 posts] 2 years ago
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ribena wrote:

Whats most depressing, if you read DFT cycle lane guidelines and even TFL's own plans, it all makes sense.
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/corporate/safe-streets-for-london...

so clearly the relevant people lower down the chain do understand the issues, but all this just gets lost when the issues are discussed by narrow minded MPs.

Can't we have people with relevant skills in charge? The only thing these people are skilled in, is the deliberate use of logical falacies and arguing techniques.

Despite all these committees and reports, information never seems to flow upwards.

Agreed - there seems to be lots of politics going on, but not much Government.

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adscrim [137 posts] 2 years ago
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unsliced wrote:

Many RLJers (and I am not one) are doing it safely and while it doesn't make it right, it isn't a massive wrong.

I'd be interested in finding out the number of cycling deaths that were related to RLJing. My gut assumption is that a significant number of deaths will be as a result of cyclist stopping at lights (unseen by big lorries turning left for example) or in free flowing traffic where a cyclist hasn't been seen, with relatively few being due to a cyclist jumping a light.

I'm generally not a RLJer but I've been known to go through a red lights at 'odd' times of day (early mornings and late nights when there is no other traffic around me) and I frequently anticipate the lights (I know the light sequence and at points where my light changes following a green man, I'll be up, clipped in and leave on the amber).

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teaboy [311 posts] 2 years ago
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The 'war' only happens because people fight. Cyclists currently have to fight for road space for safety reasons. If user attitude can be changed from "get there as fast as possible" to " get there as calmly as possible" most of the problems will disappear. Everyone just needs to chill the hell out - it isn't 'us and them', it's just 'us'. This could be aided by strict liability laws, and strong enforcement of them.

There are plenty of infrastructure issues too. I've just been to Berlin, which has cycle traffic lights and many segregated cycle paths. Traffic is allowed to turn across pedestrian crossings (both on green lights) but pedestrians have priority. A flashing amber light is used to warn road-users that people may be crossing. This works, but mainly because people actually give way to each other. There are few road-markings at crossroads, so people have to give way to each other, and there's little feeling of 'entitlement' that London's roads produce. Remove traffic lights and road markings at junctions and people are forced to actually be aware of their surroundings.

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felixcat [467 posts] 2 years ago
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adscrim wrote:

I'd be interested in finding out the number of cycling deaths that were related to RLJing.

Interesting study reported here, some data on other knotty questions often discussed in this forum.

"Risky cycling rarely to blame for bike accidents, study finds
Cyclists disobeying stop signal or wearing dark clothing at night rarely cited in collisions causing serious injury

"A tiny proportion of accidents involving cyclists are caused by riders jumping red lights or stop signs, or failing to wear high-visibility clothing and use lights, a government-commissioned study has discovered.

"The findings appear to contradict a spate of recent reports speculating that risky behaviour by riders, such as listening to music players while cycling, could be behind a near 20% rise in cyclist deaths and serious injuries in the second quarter of this year.

"The study, carried out for the Department for Transport, found that in 2% of cases where cyclists were seriously injured in collisions with other road users police said that the rider disobeying a stop sign or traffic light was a likely contributing factor. Wearing dark clothing at night was seen as a potential cause in about 2.5% of cases, and failure to use lights was mentioned 2% of the time.

"The data, which was analysed by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), showed that more than a quarter of all cycling deaths in 2005-07 happened when a vehicle ran into the rear of a bike. This rose to more than one-third in rural areas and to 40% in collisions that took place away from junctions.

"With adult cyclists, police found the driver solely responsible in about 60%-75% of all cases, and riders solely at fault 17%-25% of the time.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/dec/15/cycling-bike-acciden...

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jollygoodvelo [1398 posts] 2 years ago
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The standard political process:
[bad thing happens]
"We must do something!"
[A Thing is proposed, without any proof]
"That is a Thing! We must do that!"

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Nidge [2 posts] 2 years ago
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Never thought I would find myself in agreement with David Davies, but I have said elsewhere that no-one insists that pedestrians wear hi-viz and helmets despite 100+deaths in London per year.

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Nidge [2 posts] 2 years ago
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It is not just MP's who are ill informed, I had a customer at my bike shop who was stopped by a community support officer who told me that he could receive a fine for not wearing a helmet. He asked the officer what section of which act he was quoting and surprisingly the officer couldn't remember. If you are stopped by any officer of the law including C.S.Os and they try to issue a fine, remember that they have to tell you the section and the act of parliament they are using. I suspect many C.S.Os don't even know what an act of parliament is.