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Boris Johnson and TfL launch major cycle safety campaign

Initiative's aims include raising driver awareness of cyclists - but do TV ads miss the mark?...

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and Transport for London (TfL) have announced a major cycle safety awareness campaign aimed at cyclists in the capital, accompanied by a major TV and cinema advertising campaign aimed at making drivers look out for the presence of cyclists on the streets.

The Cycle Safety Action Plan was drawn up following consultation with expert bodies as well as members of the public, identifies the type of incidents that will most likely result in serious accidents involving cyclists, and proposes ways in which these can be reduced over the next 12 months. It will be implemented in partnership with the police, London boroughs and the haulage industry, as well as road safety and cycling campaign groups.

The principal concerns arising from the research are collisions with HGVs, which are responsible for more than half the fatalities of cyclists in London each year, as well as what are termed “close proximity” collisions, those where road users, including cyclists, do not give each other enough space.

In a press release, the Mayor of London’s Office said that the detailed proposals of the Cycle Safety Action Plan include:

  • “Providing additional funding to boost the provision and effectiveness of cycle training in advance of the launch of the Cycle Hire Scheme and Cycle Superhighways. The Mayor and TfL are calling for Londoners to sign up for the TfL-funded cycle training available through London’s borough councils by
  • The development of an awareness-raising campaign targeted specifically at improving safety between HGVs and cyclists. Working with the Police to tackle irresponsible road user behaviour.
  • Working with the London Criminal Justice Board to strengthen criminal justice procedures for dealing with cyclist deaths and serious injuries.
  • Delivering safer infrastructure for cyclists, including the first two Cycle Superhighways, which will trial new safety features such as Trixi mirrors.
  • Researching the potential for piloting cyclists being able to turn left at red traffic lights, and the potential for a ‘cycling safety code of conduct’.
  • Distributing safety mirrors to fleet operators and working with the industry to avoid deliveries at peak times, especially on roads with high cycle flows.
  • Working with bike retailers and manufacturers to provide safety messages at the point of sale.”

The launch of the London Cycle Safety Action Plan is accompanied by a prime-time TV advert from TfL focusing on the safety of cyclists in London, which will be aired on ITV1, Channel 4 and Five as well as in cinemas across the capital.

The advert, which you can watch below, is based around a bank robbery in which a security guard, panic button and police car all appear much bigger than they are in real life, because the thieves are specifically looking out for them; by contrast, the cyclist into whose path the getaway driver pulls out is at normal scale, with predictable consequences.

While the message is a strong one – drivers need to look out for cyclists – you can’t help feeling that the execution might have been a lot better, perhaps focusing on an ‘average’ driver who is more concerned about speed cameras, sat-nav directions, petrol station signs, traffic lights and other cars than watching out for bike riders. With the ad targeted at drivers, that might make it easier for them to relate to it, by highlighting a few of the distractions that put cyclists at risk every day. 

The advert can also be watched online at the website, which also showcases TfL’s other cycle safety adverts, including one we've highlighted on previously which is based on a Cluedo-style murder mystery where a detective is shown unveiling the killer and the film is then replayed, showing the crew making 21 changes to the set as the cameras roll, changes that the average viewer will no doubt have missed. Again, the tagline is to look out for cyclists, but you can’t help feeling that the connection to cycling is tenuous at best.

Commenting on the Cycle Safety Action Plan, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "The arrival of spring in London is now accompanied by a glorious cornucopia of cyclists taking to the streets in a purposeful display of pedal power. I want each and every one of those people to be as safe as possible, and for thousands more to join them, which is why we are working in every conceivable way to give Londoners the road awareness, infrastructure, and statutory support to stay safe.

He added: “This is London’s year of cycling and we are working tirelessly with the police, cycling industry, safety groups, freight operators and more to ensure it can be enjoyed by everyone from seasoned commuters through to those taking up cycling for the first time.”

According to Ben Plowden, Director of Integrated Programme Delivery at TfL, new initiatives to get even more Londoners on to their bikes made cyclsist’ safety an imperative: “The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on London's roads has fallen by around a fifth in the last decade, despite the fact that cycle journeys on London's major roads have more than doubled in this time. But with an anticipated increase in the number of Londoners joining the cycle revolution following the launch of the London Cycle Hire scheme and the first two Cycle Superhighways routes this summer, we are aware that there has never been a more important time to focus on cycle safety.”

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor of London’s transport advisor, echoed the safety message, saying: “A cycling revolution is taking place in London as our unprecedented investment switches more and more people on to the cleanest, greenest way of travelling. Safety is at the heart of our vision and the Mayor’s Cycle Safety Action Plan sits at the heart of our work. Together we will make sure that cycling is fun, accessible and safe for everyone."

Simon has been news editor at 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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