Transport for London agrees to scrap 'Stay Back' stickers

Victory for road safety campaigners as hostile driver behaviour shown to be linked to "offensive" stickers

by John Stevenson   June 26, 2014  

Cyclists stay back sticker (CC licensed image by happy days photos and art:Flickr)

Transport for London (TfL) has agreed to roll back the use of the controversial ‘Cyclists Stay Back’ stickers that have appeared on vehicles in London and beyond in the last year.

Representatives of several road safety organisations met with Transport for London yesterday and TfL agreed to:

  • Ask the Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS) members to remove stickers from small vehicles
  • Replace stickers on buses with a new agreed message
  • Write to other fleet owners requesting they remove stickers
  • Agree new wording for stickers on large lorries
  • Issue guidance with the new stickers on their use
  • Create a TfL web page with advice about the stickers

Road safety organisations have for several months been pressuring TfL to act on the stickers, described as "offensive" by London Cycling Campaign (LCC). Evidence has mounted that drivers of stickered vehicles have acted as though the stickers gave them the right to harass and endanger cyclists.

Even the Freight Transport Association and The Road Haulage Association have expressed frustration at the confusion caused by mixed messages and hostile reactions resulting from the stickers, according to LCC.

A previous attempt to have the stickers removed was rebuffed by TfL because, in the words of TfL’s director of planning for surface transport, Ben Plowden the organisation was “not aware of any evidence that suggests the design of these stickers is reducing their effectiveness in promoting safer behaviour among van, lorry drivers or cyclists.”

LCC, CTC, RoadPeace, London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group, Road Danger Reduction Forum, the Association of Bikeability Schemes and Stop Killing Cyclists were all involved in lobbying TfL and in collecting and presenting the evidence that had mysteriously failed to filter up to the higher echelonns of TfL.

An LCC spokesman said: “LCC supports the need for a warning to cyclists about the danger caused when large lorries with inadequate driver vision turn left and collide with cyclists and pedestrians.  The ‘Stay Back’ message however is seen as a prohibition and has been interpreted by drivers as telling cyclists to get out of their way, with the implication that if a collision occurs then it's the cyclist's fault for not having done so.

“The real solution for reducing the danger created by ‘off road’ construction vehicle on London streets is to re-design the driver's cab as in the LCC Safer Urban Lorry concept.

“This prohibition sign is particularly inappropriate on the vehicles whose drivers do not have the same difficulty as lorry drivers, such as buses vans and even cars. Drivers of these vehicles have direct vision of the road in front and to the side. By using their mirrors and taking care as directed by the Highway Code they should be able to avoid putting other road users in danger.

“The next challenge is to encourage all those transport companies who have put ‘Stay Back’ signs on the wrong vehicles to take them off.”

Road safety bodies are working with TfL to agree wording for a new sticker for larger lorries.

Of course, we have our own suggestion for a replacemet for the 'stay back' stickers. We believe that by establishing friendly relations between drivers and cyclists, our stickers would do more to improve safety by encouraging people to be nice to each other than has been achieved by decades of useless warning notices.

22 user comments

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Well done to the campaigners!

posted by jacknorell [386 posts]
26th June 2014 - 15:12

75 Likes

Some states in the US have "Share The Road" as the message on their licence plates (or "license" plates as they insist on calling them).

Why not use something like that. It's also a reminder to cyclists, some of whom in my experience confuse being assertive with being aggressive.

abudhabiChris's picture

posted by abudhabiChris [529 posts]
26th June 2014 - 15:25

61 Likes

Very glad to hear about this move. However I think the horse has already bolted on this one as far as drivers of other private vehicles are concerned, and the misplaced sense of entitlement these stickers engender among them about road 'ownership' and their responsibilities to other road users will take years to eradicate.

abudhabiChris wrote:
Some states in the US have "Share The Road" as the message on their licence plates (or "license" plates as they insist on calling them).

Why not use something like that. It's also a reminder to cyclists, some of whom in my experience confuse being assertive with being aggressive.

As they're not visible at all to the driver inside the vehicle, and probably not very visible to drivers outside it, their apparent sole function is to be 'a reminder only to cyclists'.

posted by congokid [118 posts]
26th June 2014 - 15:53

51 Likes

Quote: "The next challenge is to encourage all those transport companies who have put ‘Stay Back’ signs on the wrong vehicles to take them off.”

Why encourage? Why not just order with the line that they are not regulation signage...

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1054 posts]
26th June 2014 - 16:24

66 Likes

giff77 wrote:
Quote: "The next challenge is to encourage all those transport companies who have put ‘Stay Back’ signs on the wrong vehicles to take them off.”

Why encourage? Why not just order with the line that they are not regulation signage...

These stickers have been given away. They are not the property of TfL once they're out of TfL's hands. TfL can't make anyone take them off, unless it's a TfL vehicle. Buses are not TfL vehicles, though of course they have a lot of power as they award route contracts to bus operators.

It's a bit like expecting TfL to turn London into a cyclists' paradise when they're responsible for only 5% of the roads (though, granted, those roads carry 35% of the traffic).

Sean Kelly's picture

posted by Sean Kelly [7 posts]
26th June 2014 - 16:53

49 Likes

It'll be interesting to see what message will finally be approved, especially after the scorn lavished on the National Express (I think) coach stickers produced in partnership with the very forward-thinking Sustrans, as reported on these pages. The suggested new sticker designs suggested by the cyclist groups look not unlike the Sustrans one.

'Stay Back' came about because they wanted to boil the message down to as few words as possible to make it legible and understandable in a quick glance. Unfortunately, the boiling down made it less meaningful (and more offensive).

It'll probably be a return to the 'Beware passing this vehicle on the left side'.

Sean Kelly's picture

posted by Sean Kelly [7 posts]
26th June 2014 - 17:06

54 Likes

And Another Thing ...

Ben Plowden is not director of Surface Transport. Pedantry, yes, but there should be some journalistic standards maintained here. Research, people! Research!

Sean Kelly's picture

posted by Sean Kelly [7 posts]
26th June 2014 - 17:10

53 Likes

They would be visible to the driver seeing them on other cars and they are visible to the driver every time he or she looks at their own car. How visible would depend on the design including size and colours.

As for the message, I grew up in Australia - I haven't lived there for more than 20 years - but I could still tell you all the messages on the licence plates of the various states.

They are something you see many times every day and the message doesn't have to be in huge letters, but it would be a constant reminder that having a vehicle does not give ownership of the road.

abudhabiChris's picture

posted by abudhabiChris [529 posts]
26th June 2014 - 17:16

51 Likes

Sean Kelly wrote:
It'll be interesting to see what message will finally be approved, especially after the scorn lavished on the National Express (I think) coach stickers produced in partnership with the very forward-thinking Sustrans, as reported on these pages. The suggested new sticker designs suggested by the cyclist groups look not unlike the Sustrans one.

My main issue with the National Express / Sustrans ones is that they look like a big arrow pointing left, and have graphics on them showing a bike and a left arrow, but their intended meaning is "don't go left" ?!?! Silly

The actual wording on them isn't too bad: "Caution Blindspots: Please take care" at least it actually tells people what the danger is instead of barking nonsensical orders.

posted by GrahamSt [93 posts]
26th June 2014 - 17:22

49 Likes

Sean Kelly - ta; fixed

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [1063 posts]
26th June 2014 - 17:51

50 Likes

For an account of what has happened, and what we hope to happen in the immediate future, see http://rdrf.org.uk/2014/06/26/transport-for-london-sees-sense-at-last-ov...

posted by ChairRDRF [130 posts]
26th June 2014 - 18:39

41 Likes

Sean Kelly wrote:
giff77 wrote:
Quote: "The next challenge is to encourage all those transport companies who have put ‘Stay Back’ signs on the wrong vehicles to take them off.”

Why encourage? Why not just order with the line that they are not regulation signage...

These stickers have been given away. They are not the property of TfL once they're out of TfL's hands. TfL can't make anyone take them off, unless it's a TfL vehicle. Buses are not TfL vehicles, though of course they have a lot of power as they award route contracts to bus operators.

It's a bit like expecting TfL to turn London into a cyclists' paradise when they're responsible for only 5% of the roads (though, granted, those roads carry 35% of the traffic).

This has been the matter of discussion we had with TfL yesterday (see http://rdrf.org.uk/2014/06/26/transport-for-london-sees-sense-at-last-ov...). Some of the operators are members of TfL's Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS), and TfL can tell them what to do otherwise they may lose their membership, or at the very least not advance further up the accreditation scale.

Some of the stickers have TfL and Mayor of London logos, so they would have some justification in mentioning issues to operators. Also, they are an authoritative body so can at least mention to operators their responsibilities, particularly with regard to the need for motorists to “stay back” where there is inadequate room to overtake (Highway Code Rule 153) and/or to use nearside wing mirrors (Highway Code Rules 159,161,163, 169, 179, 180, 182, 184, and 202)

posted by ChairRDRF [130 posts]
26th June 2014 - 18:45

53 Likes

It certainly appears that TfL has an anti-bicycle agenda. And many cities and states in the US are far ahead of Bristol, from what I could tell during a recent visit, but the "Share the Road" slogan can also be turned against cyclists. Not long ago, in an effort to avoid potholes, I was riding three feet in from the side of a countryside road when a car crossed a double yellow line to pass me. The mother leaned out through the passenger window and yelled at me, in front of her children, "Sharing the road means you don't take up the whole lane!"

pablo skils's picture

posted by pablo skils [1 posts]
26th June 2014 - 20:57

41 Likes

"Share the Road" with a bike symbol is a common slogan in this part of Australia and to many drivers its means that cyclists should keep well to the left and shouldn't ride two a breast, cyclists are the ones holding up the drivers and need reminding not to do it.

- a great victory on the offensive "Keep Back stickers" - whatever replaces them needs to be carefully trialled with focus groups - its pretty weird what goes on in some peoples minds

posted by antigee [152 posts]
27th June 2014 - 0:31

35 Likes

There will always be a danger that 'Share' will be interpreted the same way toddlers do ... "Mummy, Timmy won't share that toy" (i.e. I want that toy and he won't give it to me).

The idea behind 'share the road' is to encourage respect and patience with all other road users, an effort to limit recklessness, selfishness and road rage.

Sean Kelly's picture

posted by Sean Kelly [7 posts]
27th June 2014 - 10:43

16 Likes

"Cyclists: Stay Back. I have a dangerously large blindspot"

(because I've folded in my right wing mirror).

BqkA7PKCYAAdrgO.jpg large.jpeg

posted by GrahamSt [93 posts]
27th June 2014 - 10:59

30 Likes

pablo skils wrote:
It certainly appears that TfL has an anti-bicycle agenda. ...

I disagree, based on the amount of work they're putting into cycling. However, I do think there is sometimes a clash between their cycling aims and their aim of 'smoothing traffic flow'.

What would help the former is having more representation on TfL's Board of Directors from activists for a liveable city, e.g. LCC, Sustrans, CTC, RoadPeace, Living Streets, etc. The Deputy Chair is a big advocate of sustainable transport, and there's a guy from London Travelwatch on there, which is great, but you also have people from the LTDA, the main private hire (minicab) group, and people with a background in the financial sector in London, the global centre of financial fraud. You can't expect the latter group people to take a stand and make London a less attractive place to drive in (expanding the Congestion Charging zone, giving more road space over to cycling, etc.). The Mayor appoints people to the Board, and that's why London needs a more progressive Mayor.

We, as cyclists and people seeking a cleaner, safer, more enjoyable environment to live in, need to support the move (demanded by the Stop Killing Cyclists campaign and probably others) for representation from cycling/sustainable transport groups on the TfL Board. WRITE TO THE MAYOR!

Sean Kelly's picture

posted by Sean Kelly [7 posts]
27th June 2014 - 11:19

19 Likes

Replacement "Stay Back" sticker revealed with a much clearer message on it:

cyclists_get_a_car.jpg

posted by GrahamSt [93 posts]
27th June 2014 - 15:54

23 Likes

The sad thing is that the use of these stickers has spread far and wide. I've seen them on vans and lorries in Hull. Not just ones from national companies some local companies have got their hands on them too.

I think the box is open and can't be closed.....

posted by jgmacca [11 posts]
27th June 2014 - 20:10

20 Likes

GrahamSt wrote:
"Cyclists: Stay Back. I have a dangerously large blindspot"

(because I've folded in my right wing mirror).

Van drivers are often instructed by their employers to turn in their door mirrors when they park their van at the side of the road, to reduce the chance of the mirror being knocked off by passing vehicles.

posted by Bristol Bullet [12 posts]
27th June 2014 - 23:19

15 Likes

So, nearly a month later these stickers are still on TfL buses, FORS vehicles including small vans, and all sorts of other vehicles...

Anyone got an idea on when this will get done?

posted by jacknorell [386 posts]
22nd July 2014 - 11:36

2 Likes

Still no change on the buses, I'm beginning to think TfL has no intention of removing these...!

posted by jacknorell [386 posts]
11th September 2014 - 10:01

0 Likes