Home
"People’s fears about cycling must be addressed"...

Mayor of London Boris Johnson appears to have backed down from his planned comments warning that the focus on recent deaths ran the risk of putting people off cycling.

Speaking at a safety summit at City Hall bringing together cycle and haulage groups, Mr Johnson had planned to suggest campaigning groups needed to be “more careful” in how they spoke about cycling.

According to ITV London’s Simon Harris, Mr Johnson instead said that people’s fears about cycling must be addressed, and returned to his familiar theme that cycling is getting safer, a claim which some nevertheless dispute (see below).

Mr Johnson said that an HGV task force had been launched targeting the bad operators and that in the recent rod safety crackdown, police had issued 1,392 fixed penalty notices to motorists and fined 755 cyclists.

"London's cycling revolution will continue and it will accelerate,” he said, conceding that he and Transport for London had to learn from their mistakes.

“If we can get Londoners onto their bicycles we can take the pressure off public transport,” he added.

On Twitter, Simon Harris @simonharrisitv said: “Boris speech contained none of the pre-briefed references to recent protests over deaths scaring cyclists off the road. It seems the Mayor's speech underwent some last-minute re-writing to avoid infuriating the pro-cycling lobby!”

A widely circulated pre-speech briefing the Mayor was reported as planning to urge campaigners to be “more careful” in how they talk about cycling safety.

[Editor’s note: The remainder of this report was written before the mayor’s speech, based on the pre-conference briefing circulated by the mayor’s office.]

The mayor is perhaps expecting campaigners to follow his example from 2007 when he said of London’s bendy buses: “We should ... get rid of the bendy bus. They wipe out cyclists, there are many cyclists killed every year by them.”

At the time no cyclists had been killed in collisions with bendy buses, and there had still been no cyclist fatalities involving bendy buses when they were phased out in 2011.

Anger about the six deaths in London during November led to more than 1,000 protesters staging a “die in” outside Transport for London headquarters and a vigil for all those killed on London’s roads.

The Mayor will point out that despite the “awful month” of November, cycle deaths in London were the same as at this point last year and lower than the year before.

Not everyone agrees that deaths is the best measure of cycling safety in London; the figure fluctuates significantly from year to year. On average from 1986 to 2010 there were 17.2 cyclist deaths per year in London. In 2004, however, there were just 8 fatalities, while in 2005 there were 21.

In a heated exchange in the London Assembly last month, Jenny Jones claimed that cycling had not become safer since Mr Johnson was elected mayor. In 2008 on average a cyclist could expect to do 400,000 trips before being killed or seriously injured, she said. In 2011 that figure was down to 364,000.

A disproportionate number of cycling deaths in London involve heavy good vehicles.

It is understood Mr Johnson will use the event - organised before the recent fatalities - to examine the case for a ban on HGVs on some London roads and set out deadlines for improvements to notorious junctions.

The mayor will say: “I understand the anger and concern about this terrible spate of tragedies. I share it.

“But it shouldn’t obscure the fact that the number of deaths per bike journey taken in London has more than halved in the last 10 years, to one death in every 15 million journeys.

“The number of cyclists killed in London this year was too many - but it is in fact precisely the same as it was at this point last year, and less than the year before.”

“Of course I accept that people want to create pressure for action to get more Londoners cycling.

“But the risk is that the association of cycling with death may be doing the opposite. It may be scaring people away.

“So we can tackle actual safety. We can and will tackle the roads. But to tackle perceived safety we also need the help of others.

“I’m not saying we should stop talking about safety - but perhaps we need to be more careful in how we talk about it.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

40 comments

Avatar
Colin Peyresourde [1719 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

To be honest I think he has a point no matter what you want to say.

Avatar
noizebox [22 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

He does have a point but he also has the opportunity to try and do something substantive about road safety - an actual response to the issue vs. the appearance of attempting to brush it under the carpet.

Avatar
therevokid [940 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

and in the background we have "white van man" partly
in a cycle lane ... sigh ...  2

Avatar
zanf [829 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Don't say anything that could potentially undermine the little he has done, and show up what he has done to be useless and, at worst, criminally negligent, for fear of damaging his "legacy".

It's time the clown, and his bunch of minions went.

Avatar
Andrewwd [40 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

How much more absurd and adversarial can his politicking get?Boris is a cynic, and a weasel. Note how the duty of 'care' now extends past the conduct of cyclists on the road and into the rhetoric that campaigners use. Cyclists now must be 'careful' not to scare off other cyclists in the same way they must be careful to not end up underneath a truck. How about some care from those that design the roads and legislate for the vehicles that use them?

Avatar
John Stevenson [250 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Note: This story was amended after the comments above were posted as BoJo seems to have decided not to annoy everyone even more.

#suddenoutbreakofcommonsense

Avatar
bambergbike [89 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I would be happy to see the experts tasked with making places safer for cyclists place more emphasis on risk-based road safety and having less of a focus on cyclist KSIs. I doubt this would take very much pressure off Boris: risk-based analysis would uncover no shortage of risks faced by cyclists in London. People are getting upset about deaths not just because they are intrinsically upsetting and tragic, but also because they are so grimly unsurprising to cyclists who have had near-misses themselves.

I find the arguments made by the Road Safety Reduction Forum in favour of risk-based assessment very convincing (http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/15/if-we-want-safer-roads-for-cycling-we-have...): Looking at details like the levels of Bikeability skills required to negotiate a junction, the numbers of lanes to cross, and the speed of motor traffic, along with more general indicators of road danger like the usual percentiles of speed, proportions of drivers unregistered, numbers of insurance claims made by motorists, etc can all be at least as informative as cyclist KSI numbers. And looking at risk like this makes it harder to ignore the difference between a drunk cyclist falling over and a competent cyclist being taken out by bad driving compounded by bad road design and poor provision for cycling. (Apologies to RDRF if the paraphrase is rough!)

That kind of risk-based approach makes a lot of sense on a technical level. There probably are locations where cyclist KSIs are INVERSELY proportional to the danger posed by roads so bad that most cyclists avoid them altogether, and a focus on KSIs will never pick those up. So measuring risk is clearly much better than measuring fatalities if what we want is sound analysis feeding into sound decision making.

But we also need to generate a LOT of political will to advance that process of sound decision making. And I think protesting about fatalities and injuries may get us places in a way that complaining about "mere" risk (and near-death experiences) won't. It worked in the Netherlands. Dangerization is unfortunate and something we should be certainly be concerned about and wary of, but I think the organizers of the recent die-in and the participants did a fantastic job (thank you!) and were not wrong to make emotional arguments with the power to reach a wider public that might not find it as easy to focus on kerb-nerdery and statistical assessments of risk.

Avatar
northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Colin Peyresourde wrote:

To be honest I think he has a point no matter what you want to say.

Oh you do make me laugh, he has no point whatsoever, hence the apparent "climb down", career politician...?

Avatar
banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

He need to stop talking and start doing something about it . There is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed!

Avatar
gazza_d [459 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

He may have not said it "live" but the briefed speech has been picked up by lots of media.

Kinda hoping it explodes in the pillock's face, as it was an extremely crass, insensitive, and incorrect thing to put into a speech. He obviously realised that at the last minute.

Avatar
nuclear coffee [208 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
northstar wrote:
Colin Peyresourde wrote:

To be honest I think he has a point no matter what you want to say.

Oh you do make me laugh, he has no point whatsoever, hence the apparent "climb down", career politician...?

I'd agree with Colin. Both views can be true: having people put off cycling through the perception of danger is a bad thing, and the link between objectively measured danger, and perceived danger, is in most areas pretty close to 'nada'.

That isn't mutually exclusive with the idea that the authorities can and should be doing more.

I do have to wonder, who would you be recommending as less of a career politician who actually has a credible chance of running the show? Methinks the next mayor will make an occasional speech about how great Wiggo and saving the planet is... and that's about it.

Except for maybe leaving papier mache helmets at boris bike booths so "people can look after their own safety" (read: so we've got another reason to blame someone if a trucker left-hooks them at 30mph whilst texting)

Avatar
northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I couldn't care who you agree with, he is wrong.

Avatar
northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

.

Avatar
oozaveared [936 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Some of the comments on here look a bit tribal party political for my liking. Now of course there will be a whole bunch of cyclists that don't like the Conservatives and a whole bunch that do and others that don't care either way.

I am not a conservative but I am more than happy to give Boris a fair hearing over many other politicians for one reason and one alone. He walks the walk or should I say, he rides the roads. Whether he has done enough or the right things is all a matter for discussion but I don't think he is anti cyclist I think he is pro cyclist and is a cyclist himself. Cyclists won't get better provision by being politically tribal but by acting as a cycling lobby and rewarding politicians that are pro cycling and punishing ones that aren't.

Avatar
northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

.

Avatar
northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
oozaveared wrote:

Some of the comments on here look a bit tribal party political for my liking. Now of course there will be a whole bunch of cyclists that don't like the Conservatives and a whole bunch that do and others that don't care either way.

I am not a conservative but I am more than happy to give Boris a fair hearing over many other politicians for one reason and one alone. He walks the walk or should I say, he rides the roads. Whether he has done enough or the right things is all a matter for discussion but I don't think he is anti cyclist I think he is pro cyclist and is a cyclist himself. Cyclists won't get better provision by being politically tribal but by acting as a cycling lobby and rewarding politicians that are pro cycling and punishing ones that aren't.

Wrong, next?

Avatar
Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I actually think Boris is doing a reasonable job; not perfect, and certainly not how I'd do it , but reasonable, and in extremely difficult circumstances.

Avatar
farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Very clever again from Johnson.

He's said what he wanted to say but is now able to say he didn't say it.

Avatar
horizontal dropout [269 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
bambergbike wrote:

Road Safety Reduction Forum (http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/15/if-we-want-safer-roads-for-cycling-we-have...)

Um, agree, but they might not be happy to be called "Road Safety Reduction Forum".

Avatar
Mr Agreeable [172 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I'm tickled by the idea that cycle campaigners are somehow responsible for the public perception that cycling is dangerous. When you tell your auntie or a work colleague that you cycle, and their response is "ooh, isn't that really dangerous?", is it because they've been reading a CTC press release, or David Hembrow's blog?  4

Avatar
kie7077 [874 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I lost any respect I had for Boris when he started war-mongering against Syria, Anyone who wants to send in tens of thousands of troops into another country to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths of men women and children is a complete scumbag in my opinion, especially when the evidence was so flaky (made up lies).

Avatar
ChairRDRF [307 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Thanks for the reference, but as Farrell says, we are actually the Road Danger Reduction Forum.

Dr Robert Davis, Chair, RDRF

Avatar
ChairRDRF [307 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Sorry, horizontal dropout said.

Avatar
bambergbike [89 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Quote:

Um, agree, but they might not be happy to be called "Road Safety Reduction Forum".

Aaargh! Thank you for giving me an opportunity to correct myself: Road Danger Reduction Forum.

Avatar
Karbon Kev [688 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

this bloke doesn't know his ar$e from his elbow ...

Avatar
zanf [829 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
oozaveared wrote:

Some of the comments on here look a bit tribal party political for my liking. Now of course there will be a whole bunch of cyclists that don't like the Conservatives and a whole bunch that do and others that don't care either way.

Maybe its just your perception because I applaud the Conservative members of the GLA that were pushing TfL for a breakdown of the KSI figures of pedestrians and cyclists in collision with buses (To which TfL replied, "No, because they are going down").

I dont give a shit what political party people are members of because at the end of the day, if they have no personal conviction to what they believe in, they might as well vote along divisions created by which type of chocolate they like.

Johnson has demonstrated no personal conviction to any cause but his own. He talks the talk but does fuck all when it comes to rolling up sleeves and getting a bit grimy.

What people seem to forget is that he has been in this job for nearly 6 years, and his contribution to cycling in London has been nothing more than death trap blue paint and pisspoor junction redesign (as well as the criminal ignorance of consultants advice about several dangerous junctions).

Until he was held over a barrel by Londoners on Bikes to commit to the LCC's "Love London, Go Dutch" points, he was extremely dismissive of anyone who mentioned Dutch style solutions to infrastructure problems, and was (and IMO still is, which is why nothing will change) a firm proponent of vehicular cycling.

He will do nothing to reduce the amount of traffic in the capital, he will do nothing to avert the killing of cyclists and pedestrians by HGVs (and buses), nor will he do a single thing about the rising numbers of pollution related deaths either. For the simple fact that he is utterly clueless in how to do any of that.

His 8 year tenure will have put London back decades, cost millions (if not billions) in the follies he has pursued (vanity projects like the new 'routemasters', the now empty cable car, etc) and will leave London in a much worse shape than when he found it, all in the name of his political career.

So I say fuck him and all the shills who sails on his coat tails (Gilligan, et al).

Avatar
VeloPeo [301 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
zanf wrote:

His 8 year tenure will have put London back decades, cost millions (if not billions) in the follies he has pursued (vanity projects like the new 'routemasters', the now empty cable car, etc) and will leave London in a much worse shape than when he found it, all in the name of his political career.

So I say fuck him and all the shills who sails on his coat tails (Gilligan, et al).

This.

And not 'cos he's a Conservative, more that he's a shifty self serving bastard who'll say anything to get people to shut up whilst he gets time to go ahead and does what he was going to do in the first place.

If the guy was a genuine cyclist he'd give more of a toss that people are dying needlessly on his watch as a result of his policies

Avatar
pmanc [203 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I notice the BBC news site originally posted an article based on the pre-speech briefing, and they took rather longer than road.cc to update it, although they have done so now.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-25298354

Of course, a lot more people will have been reading the "incorrect" version over on the BBC and in the "Most popular" bar it still says "Bike protesters 'scaring cyclists'".

Avatar
VeloPeo [301 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Politically he's played a blinder here. Got his "real" message out and the backtrack will be perceived as "fear of offending sensitive cyclists" by a lot of people.

Excellent politician. As a person and a cyclist, not so much.

Avatar
oozaveared [936 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Would you say that you are more of a tiddlywinks sort of person than perhaps a chess sort of person?

All I outlined was that cyclists pursue their interests as an interest group, taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, making broad alliances with people that are pro cycling and seeking to limit the power or influence of those that oppose our agenda.

And your comment was that this was "wrong".

Well the road haulage industry and other successful lobby groups know how to play the game professionally. They'll work with anyone that benefits their interests and agenda and sideline or apply pressure to anyone that doesn't.

BTW I didn't just invent pressure group politics and lobbying I just said I thought we should try to do it a bit more.

Pages