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Motorists get one email, cyclists another. No more 'us' and 'them'. Oh hang on...

As part of its efforts to make the capital's roads safer for cyclists, Transport for London (TfL) has today emailed cyclists and drivers with safety advice, no bad thing on the face of it. Except, TfL has caused confusion and consternation by sending out at least three differently worded emails on the subject, perhaps unintentionally underlining the 'us' and 'them' attitudes that bedevils the relationship between the users of London's roads.

One of the emails that landed in the inbox of people signed up to TfL alerts plus, we believe, registered members of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, appears addressed to cyclists, another to drivers, and the third… well, we’re not sure, it seems to cover both.

To muddy the waters a bit further, we’re aware that some of you out there who are signed up to TfL alerts as both cyclists and drivers have received the one apparently addressed to cyclists, but not the one to motorists.

Confusing, isn’t it? We've shown the emails in question at the end of this article.

It may seem, to some, a trivial issue, but there are serious aspects behind it, particularly regarding the consistency and effective communication of TfL’s road safety message.

In sending out three separate emails, TfL risks underlining a perceived (and misleading) ‘us and them’ division between cyclists and drivers – often, of course, they are one and the same person – as well as creating conflicting messages.

That’s reinforced by the fact that the advice in the email we presume was sent to drivers doesn’t actually reflect the full content of what’s on the Look out for Cyclists page on TfL’s own website.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing – look below the picture on that page for the text left out of the email and the first thing you’ll find is a reference to ‘Mandatory Cycle Lanes.’

The term is best avoided since it reinforces the mistaken impression that where there is such a lane, cyclists are obliged to use it. The word ‘mandatory’ in this context is actually directed at drivers, who are required to keep out of the lane.

Last year, TfL asked the AA to review its advice regarding road safety relating to motorists and cyclists sharing the rroad.

The advice, which you’ll find here, was compiled with input from cycling experts, expanding upon TfL’s existing advice and removing those misleading references to ‘Mandatory Cycle Lanes’ that now appear to have crept back in.

We can’t be alone in thinking that a single email to all road users might have been a better option, not least because it would help motorists understand the advice given to cyclists, and vice-versa.

TfL email advice to cyclists, 17 January 2012

TfL email advice to drivers, 17 January 2012

TfL email advice, cyclists and drivers, 17 January 2012

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

16 comments

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Chuck [550 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm not sure I see a problem here- the wording of all the emails seems reasonable enough? And while most cyclists might be drivers too, most drivers are not cyclists.

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thereverent [413 posts] 4 years ago
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I got the one addressed to both drivers and cylists (but only containing advice for cyclists).
Nothing in there about motor vehicles keeping out of cycle lanes and ASLs.  14

Another example of TfL shooting themselves in the foot.

Usurprisingly TfLs cycling department is ful of people who don't cycle (according to my sources at TfL).

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Henz [51 posts] 4 years ago
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"We can’t be alone in thinking that a single email to all road users might have been a better option, not least because it would help motorists understand the advice given to cyclists, and vice-versa."

Hear, hear!

I received the cyclists' email, and was , frankly, annoyed. Thankfully someone pointed out the "general" email, also floating around.

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crazy-legs [782 posts] 4 years ago
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I can't help thinking that the whole lot could be summed up by saying "Do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you". In other words, just try and be nice, use your head a bit and we'll all get where we want to go, however we want to get there.

I can see what TfL are trying to do but it could have been done a lot better!

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PaulVWatts [111 posts] 4 years ago
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I agree with Chuck none of the emails seem unreasonable. If we (cyclists) are to be seen as worth listening to then it would be better to reserve our attacks on TfL and other transport bodies for when they are obviously in the wrong.

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 4 years ago
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PaulVWatts wrote:

... reserve our attacks on TfL and other transport bodies for when they are obviously in the wrong.

Which shouldn't require too much breath holding based on past performance  1

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georgee [165 posts] 4 years ago
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write back to Ben, benplowden [at] tfl.gov.uk

I've told him it's tosh and to actually tell us they're doing something above and beyond this to help cyclists. Especially given their stance on helping to kill us.

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Carlton Reid [132 posts] 4 years ago
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The TfL cycle advice - long version - was produced for 'em by AA. I was asked to copy edit and advise. I removed the stuff that TfL have now placed back in, e.g. the Mandatory Cycle Lane bit.

That's a terrible definition because it's aimed at motorists but appears to be aimed at cyclists. Motorists are meant not to drive and park in cycle lanes marked with solid white lines.

It's not obligatory for cyclists to ride in bike lanes.

TfL no doubt mean well but they've gone about this email campaignette in a cack-handed way.

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mickl [1 post] 4 years ago
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How TfL decided who should get the cyclist email and who should get the road email seemed random from the people I've spoke to about it. Should have had them together. I saw a great response to the cyclist's version of the email here - A Helpful Reply to TfL's Helpful Email to Cyclists... http://blog.cycleinjury.co.uk/2012/01/our-helpful-reply-to-tfls-helpful-... - made me laugh.

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twist305 [24 posts] 4 years ago
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For once I'm happy to see anything going out trying to bridge the divide between some cyclists and some motor vehicle drivers.

Whether they could of been done in a better way is of course always open for discussion, but it's good to see some steps are being taken, even if they're small ones.

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Barnie [9 posts] 4 years ago
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Cool... I must remember to not be invisible.  39

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TurboJoe [72 posts] 4 years ago
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There is a bit about ASL's in the second email.

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giff77 [1253 posts] 4 years ago
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Whilst well intended not quite sure why it is only the cyclists to be reminded about the Highway Code. Sadly, the bulk of the drivers will forget the advice offered. And the cyclists who subscribe to TfL will more than likely be responsible cyclists who will be putting into practice the HC  2 it's a start though.

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Coleman [335 posts] 4 years ago
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Mandatory cycle lanes. It is mandatory for drivers to drive and park in them and then shout at cyclists for not using them.

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Simon E [2743 posts] 4 years ago
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Carlton Reid wrote:

I was asked to copy edit and advise. I removed the stuff that TfL have now placed back in, e.g. the Mandatory Cycle Lane bit.

Sadly, that sums up the whole attitude. An opportunity squandered by incompetents  2

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thereverent [413 posts] 4 years ago
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Carlton Reid wrote:

The TfL cycle advice - long version - was produced for 'em by AA. I was asked to copy edit and advise. I removed the stuff that TfL have now placed back in, e.g. the Mandatory Cycle Lane bit.

That's a terrible definition because it's aimed at motorists but appears to be aimed at cyclists. Motorists are meant not to drive and park in cycle lanes marked with solid white lines.

It's not obligatory for cyclists to ride in bike lanes.

TfL no doubt mean well but they've gone about this email campaignette in a cack-handed way.

Fairly typical of TfL to start with some good intentions and then balls it up during the process.