A cycle campaigner who last year launched a petition signed by more than 37,000 people asking Mayor of London Boris Johnson and his Cycling Champion, Andrew Gilligan, to outline how they intend make the capital safer for cyclists is claiming "a brilliant victory" after receiving a response that agreed to four of the petition's five demands.
Among details disclosed by Mr Gilligan are that Transport for London (TfL) aims to ban lorries without sideguards and is considering also banning them from morning rush hour, as well as lobbting the government to introduce cycle awareness training to the driving test, including for HGV drivers, and an acceleration in the spending of the £913 million set aside by Mr Johnson for cycling.
Rhiannon Redpath set up the Save Our Cyclists petition on the campaigning website 38 Degrees after six cyclists were killed in London during a two-week period last November.
It called on Mr Johnson and Mr Gilligan to "to vastly accelerate their plan for expenditure of the £913 million cycling fund, by releasing an accurate, costed and time-bound plan for how the fund will address cycle safety over the next 12 months, from the end of December 2013."
Specifically, it asked that "the plan should address what actions are to be taken - and what changes cyclists can expect - on... key areas of concern, over the next 12 months:
The petition was handed to Mr Gilligan outside City Hall in December, with fellow 38 Degrees members, representatives of London Cycling Campaign, the protest group Requiem for Cyclists and London Assembly members from all the main parties in attendance.
Yesterday, people who had signed the petition received an email from Ms Redpath to tell them that she had heard back from Mr Gilligan.
"Getting a response out of Gilligan is a result," she wrote. "He could have brushed it off, ignored us, hoping that we'd forget and go away. The fact that he responded shows that we’re a force to be reckoned with. Our efforts here, and our collective voices are making a difference. We’re making progress.
"Better still, Gilligan has agreed to our demands. This is a really positive step on the way to realising the changes that we want to see for cyclists in London."
Here are the five key action areas demanded in the petition, and a summary of Mr Gilligan's responses:
Cycle Superhighway 2
Work will begin in the second half of this year
Proposal to ban lorries without safety equipment to protect cyclists. Looking into banning HGVs during peak times
Training for motorists, including TFL staff
Lobbying Government for changes to DVLA driving tests
Training for cyclists
Plan to spend £60 million on cycle training, being able to offer cycle training to every London child and every adult in London who wants it
Further investment in the cycling fund
Ms Redpath said: "That's 4 out of 5. It’s a brilliant victory. Of course, this is not quite the costed, accurate and time-bound plan that we asked for. This plan is lacking in detail and specific time structures, but it is a start, and it is a commitment. We are starting to get some clarity on the changes cyclists can expect to see this year."
The letter from Mr Gilligan began with him saying, "we share all your objectives," and while he said the £913 million investment in cycling over the next decade was unprecedented, he pointed out that the ambition of the Mayor's Vision for Cycling, published last year, meant the programme had needed to be "extensively redesigned."
Some of those changes being highlighted in a road.cc article last weekend detailing amendments to the cycling section of the latest draft to the London Plan.
He also said that since London boroughs, rather than TfL, control "the vast majority of the roads and land which we will need to deliver the programme," their agreement, and that of other landowners such as Network Rail and the Royal Parks, was needed to proceed.
"Both of these things are enormous and time-consuming tasks," he said. "But over the last ten months, significant progress has been made."
Agreeing to accelerate spending on delivery of the programme, he explained: "As we move from a planning, design and consent-gathering phase to a delivery phase, spending will sharply increase. Underspends from the planning phase will not be lost to the programme; they will be carried forward to cover likely overspends in future years.
"However, spending money is only the means. Achieving high-quality cycle facilities is the end. We will not spend money for its own sake, or without an agreed high-quality scheme to spend it on, or for the sake of being seen to spend it quickly. That would invite waste and failure. Many of the problems with previous cycling facilities are because they were done too quickly."
He said that delivery dates, however, were "not entirely within our control," since "they depend on the boroughs and on how easy a ride the schemes have with local communities," but added: "We understand the impatience some feel at the sometimes grinding processes of negotiation, agreement and consultation with others which we must go through. It is, however, the price of living in a democratic society and of making changes to what are busy and contested spaces. It is usually also, in practice, quicker than trying to bulldoze through change, which risks causing backlash and delay."
Regarding four of the five specific areas identified in the petition, he said: "On the specific items you mentioned, CS2 will be comprehensively upgraded with segregation or semi-segregation over its full length and five new cycle-segregated junctions. We will start stakeholder engagement this week, publish detailed designs in June and begin work in the second half of this year.
"On HGVs, we last week strengthened our proposals to charge lorries which were not fitted with safety equipment to protect cyclists. We now propose to ban such lorries entirely. Subject to statutory consultation, the ban would take effect in the second half of this year.
"We are also studying the possibility of banning all lorries in the morning rush hour. We are also studying more targeted time and place-specific restrictions. We are trialling electronic measures, such as proximity sensors and camera systems, to see whether they can overcome drivers’ blind spots. We are strongly lobbying for new EU rules to require redesigned cabs with fewer blind spots.
"We have substantially increased enforcement against HGVs. We have found striking levels of non-compliance with existing regulations and can already see that enforcing greater compliance is making a noticeable difference to cyclist safety.
"We have also substantially increased enforcement against law-breaking by motorists and cyclists, including Operation Safeway last year. This, too, has made and is making a substantial difference to cyclist safety and will be continued, with similar operations to Safeway.
"We are lobbying the Government to require greater cycle awareness and training in the driving (and HGV) tests, but this is not within our power. Over the period of the Business Plan, we will spend £60 million on cycle training, offering it to every London child at some point in their school career and every adult in London who wants it. We are reviewing the cycle training programme to ensure that it is relevant to children’s real needs. We will invest a further £33 million in cycle to school partnerships to create safe cycling routes to schools."
In her email to the petition's supporters, Ms Redpath said: "We are now over 37,000 people. That’s 37,000 bicycles that can hold the Cycling Commissioner to account. From a crisis moment at the end of 2013 that tipped the everyday experiences of cyclists in to mass mobilisation, we have come a long way. With the Mayoral elections coming up next year, major initiatives launching with the London Cycling Campaign and persistent direct action by Stop Killing Cyclists, we still have everything to play for.
"For now, we’ve scored a win. But our work is far from over. Already this year, one cyclist in London has tragically died, and another London cyclist is struggling with severe head injuries after a collision with a car. We’ll need to think about what to do next, where we want to go with this campaign."
That includes recruiting more volunteers, but in conclusion she said: "Before we begin round two, let’s enjoy this victory for a little while. Congratulations!"
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.