"A new low" - TfL refuses to order removal of 'Cyclists stay back' stickers

Road safety & cycling groups said signs treated cyclists as 2nd class citizens & should only be on lorries

In what has been described as “a new low,” Transport for London (TfL) has rejected calls from road safety organisations and cycle campaign groups to ask vehicle operators in the capital to remove “Cyclists stay back” stickers from their vehicles, claiming it is too difficult.

In February, a joint statement from the Road Danger Reduction Forum (RDRF), CTC, London Cycling Campaign, RoadPeace and the Association of Bikeability Schemes called for the stickers, which have appeared on HGVs, vans, taxis and buses, to be removed by the end of March from all vehicles other than lorries, as originally intended.

Among other things, they said that the wording of the stickers gave the impression that cyclists are second class road users, and that the wording should be a warning rather than a command, similar to the wording that coach operator National Express recently said it would use, which advises, “Caution: blind spots, please take care.”

The organisations did not receive a response, but last week a spokeswoman for TfL told the website Local Transport Today that it is unfeasible to remove the stickers from vehicles.

She said that it would require a “substantial amount of time and money to remove the existing stickers from circulation, effort that would otherwise be devoted to improving the safety of vulnerable road users.”

TfL introduced the stickers in the middle of last year following consultation with road safety and cycling organisations.

While the wording to be used gave rise to controversy, at the time it was intended that the stickers only be displayed on lorries.

Responding to concerns that they have been used on other vehicles too, the spokeswoman continued: “It would be incredibly resource-intensive to differentiate between and enforce the distribution of stickers for different vehicle types.”

TfL’s director of planning for surface transport, Ben Plowden, said: “We are 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.

“We are always open to suggestions about how we can improve safety and we will look at whether the design of future stickers should be changed to further improve their value.”

The RDRF hit out at TfL’s stance, saying on its website that its behaviour over the stickers represented “a new low” and that it had “shown contempt for the main cycling and danger reduction organisations who have tried to get it take a rational approach to this issue.”

It added: “These stickers have been around for nearly a year now. It is unacceptable that TfL is resorting to delaying tactics rather than admitting it made a mistake and taking action to correct it.”

Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director at CTC, quoted on the RDRF’s website, said: “TfL says it knows of no evidence that these stickers are changing drivers’ behaviour, but that’s only because nobody has looked for the evidence.

“However an inquest has been told that a deceased cyclist had failed to observe a ‘cyclists stay back’ sticker, as if that somehow meant they were at fault.

“We also know of a case where a cyclist, who had been cut up and abused by a left-turning lorry driver, phoned up the company’s ‘How’s my driving’ reporting line, only to be told that he was in the wrong because the lorry had a ‘cyclists stay back’ sticker.

“If that’s how these stickers are affecting people’s attitudes, it seems pretty obvious that they will worsen people’s behaviour too.

“It is ironic that Transport for London is working hard alongside CTC and others in pressing the government to give cyclists greater priority and safety at junctions,” he continued.

“Yet these stickers are clearly giving drivers the impression that it’s up to cyclists themselves to stay out of harm’s way. Instead of denying that there’s a problem,

“TfL really needs to act before these stickers cause yet more deaths and injuries to cyclists because of drivers turning left without looking properly,” he concluded.

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.

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