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OPINION

Cycling and the law: what is your experience? asks Jenny Jones

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Green Party Assembly Member explores what problems exist on London's roads and what can be done about them

Cycling and the law: what is your experience?

The things that annoy us about London’s road users can range from the uncivil to the unlawful. My first report on Lawless Roads was published six years ago and showed how a culture of ignoring the rules of the road had grown out of the failures of the judicial system and a decline of Met police enforcement. Since then, London’s population has increased, whilst car use and ownership has shrunk. London has become a city of buses, pedestrians and bikes, but the way we design and police our streets is still based upon a car dominated past. Getting rid of the dangerous roundabouts and one way systems is slowly happening, but the attempt to tame the car and civilise our roads has hardly begun.

Everyone will have their anecdote to tell and those personal experiences of the road network are important because they confirm the story told by the bigger facts and statistics. Here are some of the ones I find startling.

Magistrates

In October 2011, I discovered that about half of the London drivers with more than 12 penalty points were still legally on the road. One person still driving legally was on 30 points.

Evasion

Safety cameras come in for a lot of flack for penalising the motorist, but the reality is that of the 788,000 activations in London during 2011 only 100,000 led to a notices of intended prosecution. Even more dramatic is the non-payment of fines, as only 31,000 paid up and only 18,000 of the worst offenders were taken to court.

Police numbers

The number of traffic police halved in London in the decades before the Mayoralty was created and many of the problems associated with illegal drivers and red light jumping cyclists stem from then. Having established road safety as a Met Police priority in 2002, we stopped the decline in the number of traffic police. Sadly, the new Police and Crime plan has dropped road safety as a priority and the number of traffic police has gone down for the last three years. 

The pattern of casualties has changed significantly since I was the previous Mayor’s Road Safety Ambassador (2002-2008). It is clear that cars are getting safer at a faster rate than our roads are. The number of car occupants killed and seriously injured has dropped rapidly, with improved car design, but we haven’t had the same success with improving the safety of pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists.

I want to use my forthcoming seminar as a chance to collect some good ideas, discuss them a bit and get them adopted by individuals or organisations who can change things for the better. I will also be updating my report on Lawless Roads, based upon Wednesday’s discussion.

This seminar on cycling and the law is also intended to help the Met Police and the Mayor to explore what the problems are and what can be done. It takes place on Wednesday 22nd May, 6.30-8.30pm at City Hall. The head of the Met Police Traffic Command will be there, along with Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor’s adviser on cycling. Places are still available, so please contact Rachel.Carlill [at] london.gov.uk if you are interested.

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