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London cycling less safe, improving too slowly says report

Riders demand segregated infrastructure to improve safety

London cyclists feel less safe than ever, casualty rates are up and cyclists are not getting the safe infrastructure they crave, according to a report from the London Assembly.

The authority got 6,333 responses to an online survey polling the attitudes of London cyclists. The findings include:

  • 80% of respondents said they were concerned about cycling in London.
  • 68% said this concern had grown in the last six months.
  • 22% reported making fewer journeys by bike in the last six months because of safety concerns.

London’s cycle superhighways have come in for severe criticism in the last couple of years after a spate of deaths on Cycle Superhighway 2. This is reflected in the survey with 68% of respondents saying they did not feel safer using a superhighway than another route and 79% believing the cycle superhighways were not respected by
other road users.

The report (which we strongly suggest you read for yourself) concedes that the survey is self-selecting so it is not representative of all Londoners.

In their comments, cyclists said they felt “extremely unsafe when navigating large junctions in London”; that “lorries and cars in no way respect cyclists”; and “the only solution to London’s cycling problems is to bring in segregated cycle ways without any further delay.”

Basing its comments on the survey and other data from Transport for London, the report criticises the Mayor and TfL for delaying the introduction of further cycling safety measures, reducing the scope of the Better Junction programme and underspending the budget for cycling.

The original plan for London’s Cycle Superhighways promised delivery of 12 routes by 2015, but that has now slipped to 2016.

In 2012 TfL announces a priority list of ‘top 100’ junctions for improvement. In its February 2014 report to the Assembly, TfL says the Better Junctions programme now comprises 33 junctions (18 ‘core’ locations and 15 already covered within existing programmes). Improvements are to be delivered at 10 of the 18 ‘core’ locations by 2016 and at the remaining eight locations between 2016 and 2022.

TfL expects to underspend its cycling budget for 2013/14 by £38 million (34 per cent). TfL also underspent on cycling in 2012/13.

Against this background of delayed and reduced spending on cycling, cycling safety has deteriorated in the capital since 2006. Cyclist casualty rates fell by 46 per cent between 2000 and 2006 but have risen every year since then. In 2012 there were 25 casualties for every million cycle trips compared to 19 in 2006.

London Assembly transport committee chair Valerie Shawcross told the Evening Standard: “There has been a cry from the heart from cyclists that they are feeling less safe.

“The marker for things improving will be when you see more women and children riding in the city. The Mayor made a commitment by pledging money to cycling but so far he is underspending the budget by around a third.”

In an interview with the BBC she added: “Segregation is the biggest issue for cyclists and they believe that better traffic junctions are critical to their safety.

“The mayor and Transport for London (TfL) can’t keep stalling - they need to make short-term improvements for cyclists by this summer.”

Andrew Gilligan, the mayor’s cycling commissioner, said: “We have had to completely redesign the cycling programme to new, more ambitious standards. We have to work with the 32 boroughs, who own 95% of the roads. There are no short cuts or magic wands in any of this.

“Our choice is to do it quickly, or to do it properly. We have chosen to do it properly.”

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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