As part of its efforts to make the capital's roads safer for cyclists, Transport for London (TfL) has today emailed cyclists and drivers with safety advice, no bad thing on the face of it. Except, TfL has caused confusion and consternation by sending out at least three differently worded emails on the subject, perhaps unintentionally underlining the 'us' and 'them' attitudes that bedevils the relationship between the users of London's roads.
One of the emails that landed in the inbox of people signed up to TfL alerts plus, we believe, registered members of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, appears addressed to cyclists, another to drivers, and the third… well, we’re not sure, it seems to cover both.
To muddy the waters a bit further, we’re aware that some of you out there who are signed up to TfL alerts as both cyclists and drivers have received the one apparently addressed to cyclists, but not the one to motorists.
Confusing, isn’t it? We've shown the emails in question at the end of this article.
It may seem, to some, a trivial issue, but there are serious aspects behind it, particularly regarding the consistency and effective communication of TfL’s road safety message.
In sending out three separate emails, TfL risks underlining a perceived (and misleading) ‘us and them’ division between cyclists and drivers – often, of course, they are one and the same person – as well as creating conflicting messages.
That’s reinforced by the fact that the advice in the email we presume was sent to drivers doesn’t actually reflect the full content of what’s on the Look out for Cyclists page on TfL’s own website.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing – look below the picture on that page for the text left out of the email and the first thing you’ll find is a reference to ‘Mandatory Cycle Lanes.’
The term is best avoided since it reinforces the mistaken impression that where there is such a lane, cyclists are obliged to use it. The word ‘mandatory’ in this context is actually directed at drivers, who are required to keep out of the lane.
Last year, TfL asked the AA to review its advice regarding road safety relating to motorists and cyclists sharing the rroad.
The advice, which you’ll find here, was compiled with input from cycling experts, expanding upon TfL’s existing advice and removing those misleading references to ‘Mandatory Cycle Lanes’ that now appear to have crept back in.
We can’t be alone in thinking that a single email to all road users might have been a better option, not least because it would help motorists understand the advice given to cyclists, and vice-versa.
TfL email advice to cyclists, 17 January 2012
TfL email advice to drivers, 17 January 2012
TfL email advice, cyclists and drivers, 17 January 2012
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.