The night we swooped on Blackfriars Bridge...

You came in your many hundreds... old cyclists, young cyclists, people on road bikes, upright town bikes, people with dogs and kids in trailers or on cargo bikes. Lycra clad or cycle chic, two wheels or even three, there must have been close to a thousand angry Londoners on Blackfriars Bridge on Friday night telling Transport for London that their designs - and their excuses-  just aren't good enough any more.  You arrived via Twitter, via Facebook, by email, by press coverage, by good old fashioned word of mouth.  London Cycling Campaign, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, Living Streets, and various itinerant bloggers like myself were all united in spreading the word, and the important thing is you all heard the message and were there.

As I stood with the BBC camera crew ready for my highly uncomfortable minute in the media glare, I couldn't help but feel extraordinarily proud of all the people who'd come along to make their voices heard.  I've never seen a bike protest in London that big before, and it just goes to show the strength of feeling amongst everyday and ordinary people that plans like those of TfL just aren't acceptable anymore.

Look, Mum, I'm on the telly!

Pictures and videos speak a thousand words, so I'll let them do the talking, but all I wanted to say really was a very, very BIG "Thank You".  Thank you, London cyclists, you've started the ball rolling with a bang in putting on to the agenda the fact that we need to designing streets for people and putting safety and sustainability first. 

ITV London news covered the protest live, too.  That's us, on our bikes, filling the entire bridge.

The trick now is to keep up the pressure.  Some cyclists are going back on Monday morning to ride together across the bridge again, in the hope of raising awareness.  There's already mutterings of a massive, pedestrian and cycling rally in September calling for people-led places to be put first.  The important thing is, we must keep the pressure on.  On Friday night it may have felt as though we were winning the battle, but we certainly haven't won the war.  Suggestions, as always, are most welcome.

Thank you,



Photo 1 & 2 via Zefrog on Flickr Dino photo unknown

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Tonight's the night for Blackfriars Bridge

Unless you've been living under a rock, the furore over Blackfriars Bridge has been coming to a head this week after months of sustained campaigning by concerned cyclists.

The Mayor of London (and Chair of Transport for London) has described the new designs for the northern junction of the bridge as having "more work needed to be done".  His cycling champion and Conservative Assembly Member Andrew Boff has said of the existing conditions "I am staggered that so many cyclists use Blackfriars Bridge, if it was on my commuting route I wouldn’t because it is too dangerous."  He, along with all political parties at the London Assembly, have signed a motion calling on TfL to urgently review their dangerous and poorly designed plans as a matter of urgency and to consider reviewing retaining the 20mph speed limit.


Even Transport for London's own safety audit of the scheme has concerns about the width of the cycle lanes which will form part of the junction; teetering along on a narrow cycle lane on a Boris Bike next to 3 lanes of fast moving traffic is hardly an ideal cycling environment.

And yet tonight Transport for London - who are unelected and unaccountable - intend to go ahead with their plans.  The Huffington Post no less has asked if Boris Johnson is losing control of the city and his transport behemoth. 

This morning on BBC London Radio Breakfast Show, Ben Plowden (Head of Better Routes at TfL) argued with me that their plans are essential to accommodate the many thousands of pedestrians who will use the new Blackfriars train station.  This is a fallacy.  Quite how pedestrians are supposed to benefit from increased traffic speed limits, increased lanes of cars and increased exposure to road danger is beyond me.  If TfL were really concerned about pedestrians they wouldn't be expecting them to wait at crossings to traverse four to six lanes of fast moving traffic.

And as we've always said, it's not just about Blackfriars; this junction is indicative of the kind of thing happening all across London.  In the Elephant and Castle in south London the hideous '60s-style roundabout will remain because turning it into a pedestrian square with escalator access to the new Tube station there will 'hold up traffic'.  Parliament Square remains a marooned dust bowl of a traffic island because making it a people-friendly environment will 'hold up traffic'.

TfL are irrationally obsessed with the smoothing traffic flow agenda, to the detriment of all other road users.  Not only are their plans uninviting and uncomfortable they are also unsafe.  In the first decade of this new century we should not be designing our cities purely to squeeze as much traffic through as possible despite the consequences, but should be designing our cities for people.

After months of campaigning and having exhausted all democratic channels, tonight is the night for Blackfriars Bridge.  I hope you will come by foot, come by bike, bring your friends and bring your voices and join us for a go slow 'flashride'.  London's press will be there too.  If we want a safe city where cycling is for all now is the time to shout about it.

Blackfriars Bridge flashride; assemble outside the Doggett's Pub at 6PM on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge.

See you there!

The last stand in the battle for Blackfriars: take action!

** UPDATE: 28/7/11 12.28 **

In order to accumulate as much clout as possible, and to ensure all our cycling voices are heard coherently, bike bloggers, the London Cycling Campaign and others have agreed to consolidate the various rides being planned in to one.  A go slow 'flashride' will take place on Blackfriars Bridge at 6PM on FRIDAY.  Meet outside the Doggett's Pub on the south side of the bridge just before 6PM.  This will then loop in with Critical Mass which sets off from beneath Waterloo just before 7PM - probably for an even bigger return to Blackfriars.  BE AT THE FIRST DEMONSTRATION!  Any possibly action on Monday morning is now under review as TfL have revealed they now expected their works to take 3 months, as oppose to be being largely completed by the end of the weekend.  Please help spread the word.

** **

It's been rumbling on for months... letters have been written, petitions signed, rallies held and motions tabled.  Despite all our protestations and the unanimous backing by all the parties at the London Assembly of a motion calling for an urgent review of the plans for Blackfriars, Transport for London intend to go ahead with their treacherous and terrifying junction plans anyway this Friday night.

Over 2000 people have signed London Cycling Campaign's petition, 100s have added their photos to show they don't want this dangerous design implemented.  Mayor of London Boris Johnson (who is Chair of TfL) has said that "more work needs to be done on cycling over Blackfriars Bridge", TfL's own safety audit recommends that proper two metre wide cycle lanes are implemented, all of the major parties (including the Conservatives) have backed an Assembly motion calling for TfL to seriously consider retaining the existing 20mph speed limit currently in place in the junction and "We also urge the Mayor to revisit the plans for the bridge with particular attention to cyclists making right turns when exiting the bridge at either end."  You couldn't try harder to get a point across... 

But Transport for London - the undemocratic, unelected, unaccountable kings of spin and of moving the goal posts - are going ahead with their plans all the same.  The speed limit will be increased from 20mph to 30mph, cycle lanes will be squeezed and shoved to one side, carriageways for cars will increase from two lanes to three.  In all effect, they are hell-bent on creating a 1960s-style urban motorway, completely to the detriment of all other road users... 

Blackfriars Bridge cycling charge! from ibikelondon on Vimeo.

And all this in our so-called "cycling city" on a bridge where two cyclists have previously died as a direct consequence of TfL's design interventions and on a bridge where cyclists make up the majority of road users at peak time, despite being the most vulnerable.  TfL had the gall to write, in their press release heralding the arrival of the works "The current and previous road layouts would simply not be able to handle the extra pedestrians that will need to negotiate the space around and across the junction adjacent to the new station entrance.  The new design accommodates the huge increase in demand from pedestrians whilst improving facilities for the estimated six per cent of people who travel through the junction by bicycle."  Dressing up the designs at Blackfriars as "improvements for pedestrians" is laughable.  It's not pedestrians who will benefit from the increase in road space for motorised traffic from two lanes to three.  It's not pedestrians who will benefit from the increased road danger and poor air quality brought about by increasing the speed limit from the existing 20mph to 30mph.  And I don't know where TfL got the idea that bicycles make up 6% of traffic on the bridge - their statistics are scratchy at the best of times, and indeed the entire scheme appears to be based on out of date data which didn't reflect that cyclists now in fact make up the majority of road traffic on the bridge at peak times.  Frankly, I am shocked and astonished at the cheek of it all.

Indeed, according to a tweet by Green Party Assembly Member Jenny Jones TfL may well try to go ahead with their original plans from last May after all with no cycle lanes whatsoever.  Could this really be true? Nothing surprises me anymore I am afraid.

At the end of our tether? You bet we are.  We've exhausted every single democratic channel available to us.  We've fought long and hard engaging with politicians to get consensus from all sides.  We've taken the time to ask people on the bridge to sign petitions.  We've drummed up media support.  We've organised 'flashrides', talked to journalists, even gone walkabout on the bridge with TfL representatives, and yet despite all this Transport for London has decided to pursue its own deadly agenda all the same.  Remind me again who runs London?

And the reason it's been dubbed "the battle for Blackfriars" is because what happens here will happen elsewhere in our fair city.  Already there are ludicrous plans to run a new cycle superhighway down the middle of two lanes of fast moving traffic on Vauxhall Bridge, and to rip out cycle lanes at London Bridge and force cyclists to push their bikes through the station instead.  Let it be known, and known widely: Transport for London only encourage cycling in London to alleviate their chronic over-crowding on the Tube.  Once you are up on their roads it is each to their own. Things are getting worse, not better, which is why the many thousands of you everyday and ordinary people on bikes are being forced to make a stand.

London Cycling Campaign, Cyclists in the City blog, Cycle of Futility and many others are calling on all London cyclists to join Critical Mass this Friday from 6PM (it meets beneath Waterloo Bridge outside the BFI)  Be there and be prompt.  For those who don't want to join the mass, or want to kick things off earlier meet outside the Doggett's Pub on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge ready to start a 'go slow' flashride across the Bridge.  Those on the Critical Mass will soon join you.

But here's the rub... Transport for London are expecting us.  They know the strength of feeling about Blackfriars.  They'll be waiting for us to do our protest ride on Friday night.  Then the paint trucks and bulldozers will roll in regardless, the junction will be laid out to their hair-brained designs over a solid weekend of working, and come Monday morning their work will be done.  They'll be expecting us to go away quietly and for their plans to appear, fully formed and unremarked, to "smooth traffic flow" and will assume they've won.  The papers and the news media will have long forgotten Friday night by Monday morning and that will be that.  Which is why - and I know it's a big ask dear readers - we have to be ready to do it all again when the time comes.  Friday night needs to be HUGE but we must not be afraid to mobilise when nescesary.  By Monday morning the new junction will be almost finished, TfL will have assumed they've won, and it will be up to us to say that we don't accept it, that we don't think it's over and that we won't stop until cyclists - all those bankers, designers, clerks, nurses, teachers and Mums with kids - riding across the bridge are kept safe and Transport for London start to really sit up and pay attention.

By acting against the Mayor - their own Chair - and against the London Assembly, and against the many thousands of you who have written, Tweeted, blogged, protested and petitioned, Transport for London are slapping the face of democracy, crushing the broken bones of road safety and giving you all the finger in their desperate pursuit of a 'smoothing traffic flow' agenda.  Dramatic though it may sound, it really is up to you and I now to shout as loud as we can to say enough is enough.

I hope you will join me.  Tell your friends, bring your families and let's all ride together.

Friday night action:

Meet outside Doggett's Pub on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge at 6PM PROMPT for a go-slow 'flashride' across the Bridge.  This will then connect with Critical Mass at Waterloo which departs around 7PM.

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y o u b i k e l o n d o n; Max from Kingston

Name / age?
Max, and I'm 27
Where do you live / ride to?
I actually live out near Kingston, but I'm a cycling instructor so I ride pretty much everywhere.
What do you ride?
Sometimes this bike, sometimes a steel framed touring hybrid thing I have, it depends.

How often?
Pretty much every day, with the job, rain or shine, I'm a bit of a glutton for punishment.
Helmet or no helmet?
Helmet.  Quite a lot of instructors don't wear them, but I do, I don't see what harm wearing a helmet can do and I know a few people who have suffered when they haven't been wearing one.
What's your primary reason for riding a bike?
Because it's fast and because it's fun.
What's your least favourite aspect of cycling in London?
Probably not knowing whether my bike is going to be there when I get back or not.  I tend to ride the Brompton more because the other bike I have is quite rare, and if that gets nicked I'd be very upset.
What's your most favourite aspect of cycling in London?
It's the impromptu races you have with other cyclists!
What do you never leave the house without when riding your bike?
My cycling gloves, because the few times I have crashed they've been a really good hand-saver.
How many locks do you carry, and have you ever had a bicycle stolen?
Yes I have had a bicycle stolen, but it's generally because I haven't actually locked it - although this was never in London.  So touch wood I've not had a bike stolen in London, and I usually carry one lock.
What advice would you give to an aspiring cyclists thinking of riding for the first time?
Take your time, think, be observant and don't go rushing in to it.  I would always say to people give it a go, start on a quiet street and build up to busier ones, but I think if your road sense isn't that good or if you aren't very confident do go for lessons, they'll help you understand what is happening on the road and build your confidence.
Lastly, if you were Mayor of London for the day what would you do to improve the lot of the London cyclist?
That's a very good question!  I'd probably offer free cycling tuition to everyone for one day so that people who hate cyclists - certain car drivers - can find out what it is actually like on the road on a bike for themselves and see for themselves how it feels.  It's all about co-operation at the end of the day.

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Get ready to vote on LCC's 2012 Mayoral policy

Come July 2012 we will all be voting for a new Mayor of London. Will Boris Johnson be returned for a second term, or will seasoned hand Ken Livingstone be swept back in to power?  And what of the Green's Jenny Jones and the as yet un-named Liberal Democrat candidate?

Over at London Cycling Campaign they are already gearing up for the 2012 election and want all of its members to get involved.  Following their Web 2.0 Blackfriars Bridge photo petition (which you can still contribute to, here), they are turning to the internet again to find out what their members - all 12,000 of them - want the LCC to lobby the prospective Mayoral candidates for.

I really welcome this change in tact at the cycling campaign - it was only last October that I was seriously questioning whether the LCC were pro-cycle lanes or not, so mysterious and dogmatically vehicular and based on endurace, as oppose to invitation, did their campaigning stance appear to be.  Since then they seem to be improving significantly; their new Chief Executive Ashok Sinha has come on board, they moved quickly on the Blackfriars Bridge issue, they weren't afraid to help organise the Blackfriars 'flashride' at very short notice, and they've even made their position on the great segregation debate clear...  In the latest issue of London Cyclist magazine Dr Sinha writes "Quite correctly our policy is that segregated cycle tracks are the right solution in select circumstances.  But because so much of our work focuses on individual junctions, cycle training for kids, funding levels etc, we rarely mention the S-word in practice.  This is of course false, and it's perfectly possible to be clearer in expressing ourselves without abjuring our belief that a complex mix of solutions is needed London-wide.  So, for example, let's state right now that places like Stratford High Street, the Victoria Embankment, Lambeth Palace Road and several other 'urban motorways' are (at least in part) prime candidates for segregated facilities, as part of a wider package of measures." 

I've always agreed that we need things like cycle training, cycle parking standards and all the rest of it, but that asking for those alone without significant segregation on the key busiest routes was never going to achieve much; Dr Sinha's statement is the clearest and most explicit explanation of the LCC's position on segregated cycle facilities to date; and I for one welcome it.

Theobald's Road, Clerkenwell.  Not exactly idyllic conditions for cycling in London by all

And now, the LCC is keen to ensure that it reflects the campaigning priorities of all of its members, and not just those who are slogging away on it's campaign committees.  In preparation for the 2012 election, they want to know exactly what their members want them to be pushing the prospective Mayoral candidates for.  Every paid up member is being sent an email from online vote register DemoChoice (do check your spam inbox for a note saying "You are invited to vote in a DemoChoice Poll", that's where mine ended up).  Members are being given the following options, one of which they must chose for the LCC to push for:

Start Right: getting 100,000 children cycling regularly to school
Love thy Neighbourhood: double the number of local journeys made by bike

Go Dutch: clear space for cycling on main roads in every borough

Unwind: replace the 10 worst gyratories with cycle-friendly junctions

Now, I think 100,000 kids cycling to school would be a marvellous thing, but we all know how politicians love to sign up to targets to get elected and then later quietly drop them.  And besides, how will we convince 200,000 parents that letting their little darlings cycle in current conditions is a good idea anyway?

Unwinding gyratories is indeed an urgent priority, however I don't like to think of this as being just a "bike only" issue; work to rid London of it's 1960's legacy of 4 lane roundabouts and labrynthian one way systems should be a joint effort by cyclists, pedestrians, bus users, local residents, local businesses and others.

More journeys in local neighbourhoods would be a wonderful thing, but here's the rub: if you want lots of people to use bikes a lot more they'll need to be able to make journeys between neighbourhoods (as oppose to just pootling in circles) and to do that, more often than not, they'll have to use those big scary roads where segregation is so important if we want the majority of people to feel safe and comfortable enough to be invited to cycle.

Copenhagen's own 'cycle superhighways', safe, direct, comfortable and accessible by all.

And so, for me at least, there can only be one choice worth really voting for out of all of these;  high quality, Dutch-style seperated infrastructure on the big and terrifying roads will help unblock gyratories, encourage more journeys between A and B, have a spill-over effect of more journeys on the quiter roads within neighbourhoods and indeed create conditions which might actually convince parents to let their children ride to school.  Nearly every single old fashioned and ill-informed myth about proper cycle tracks has been blown out of the water by the rise of the internet (hat tip to Manchester Cycling amongst many many many others), and we only need look over the North Sea to see that it works.  And of course it was the Dutch who first came up with 20mph zones and shared space and all those other little interventions for the smaller roads to ensure a seemlessly comfortable door to door journey.

I'm voting "Go Dutch" as I believe that this is the only option that can bring about mass cycling in London, and that it is an intervention that is sorely overdue, but whatever you believe do ensure you have your say and vote!

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y o u b i k e l o n d o n; Juliet from Archway

Name / age?
I'm Juliet, and 23 years old
Where do you live / ride to?
I live in Archway and I'm not working at the moment so I'm able to ride all over the place, where I like, I'm spending a lot of time in Hackney at the moment, I'm organising the Tour de Dalston.
What do you ride?
A single speed Fuji, freewheel not fixed.
How often?
Every day, rain or shine. I was riding in the rain a few months ago and came off on a pot hole, I didn't see it, went straight through, so riding in the rain is a bit um...

Helmet or no helmet?
No helmet.
What's your primary reason for cycling?
What's your least favourite aspect of cycling in London?
I'd say van drivers, they just seem to be the most agressive drivers on the road, revving their engines at the traffic lights.
What's your most favourite aspect of cycling in London?
Meeting other people and other cyclists is great.
When you are out riding what do you never leave home without?
My bank card. It's easy I keep it in my Oyster holder just in case something catches my eye.
How many locks do you carry and have your ever had a bicycle stolen?
Just one, and yes, I have had a bicycle stolen.  It was on Clerkenwell Road, I left it there, went back in the evening and it was gone.  It was terrible, I was so upset.  I was lucky in that I had insurance, so got the Fuji.
So you'd reccomend insurance?
I would, absolutely, yes.
What advice would you give to an aspiring cyclist thinking of riding for the very first time?
I would say go for it, but go with someone else who is an experienced cyclist, don't just go it alone, and it's more fun that way too.
If you were Mayor of London for the day, what would you do to improve the lot of the London cyclist?
I'd add more cycle lanes, and I'd make the 1st of every month car free day here. How about it?

The Tour de Dalston was a family bike ride through London's East End in June - despite the shocking weather a fun time was had by all.  Let's hope for a return of this cracking two wheeled event next year!

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Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia... said author, thinker and futurologist H.G Wells.  I'm inclined to agree, and he also said "When I see an adult on a bicycle I do not despair for the future of the human race"...


Not so long ago we were asking here on the blog how we can go about encouraging cargo bike culture, and steadily and surely I've been noticing more and more cargo bikes - nearly always for carrying kids - since then.  I witnessed a touching moment this week when a group of commuter cyclists formed a 'guard of honour' around a Mum on a Christiana at a busy junction in the City - they kept the traffic from passing too closely through the junction so she could be safely on her way.  It wasn't planned, or even discussed amongst the cyclists, it just sort of happened, but moments like that give me hope that we can at least start to get somewhere in London with our emerging cycling culture.  Now all we need are the conditions to encourage an awful lot more of it!

On London's busy, dangerous roads should we even be encouraging these pioneer cargo bike users, and if so, what can we do make conditions safe and comfortable for them?

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Street Talks 5; Amy Aeron-Thomas of RoadPeace on traffic justice

Whilst stabbings, shootings and murder might make the headlines, people continue to die on London's roads almost entirely unremarked.  Indeed, you are four times more likely to die in a crash than from murder.

Road deaths are one of those subjects which society likes to sweep under the carpet; as if it is easier to ignore the guilty consequences of our collective transport choices than to actually face them head on.  Meanwhile, another family is coming to terms with loosing one of it's own every few days; run down on the pavement, killed in a car-to-car collision or knocked off their bicycle.

Flowers and cards left at Pritchards Road, Hackney, where Mr P McGreal was killed by a hit and run lorry driver last week.

And do those families receive justice for their loss?  According to the Movement for Liveable London - the organisers of Street Talks - no.  "Those injured by dangerous, speeding or drink drivers are not even included in counts of victims of crime statistics. Speeding vehicles was the most common type of anti-social behaviour reported in the British Crime Survey—until it was dropped from the survey."

When we discuss amongst ourselves what really puts people off cycling, we mostly all agree that safety is the key issue - whether statistical or subjective.  Part of creating conditions which are inviting cycling is tackling the 'road safety' debate head on.

Why not come to the last of the spring / summer season of Street Talks, before the August holiday break, to hear Amy Aeron-Thomas, Executive Director of RoadPeace talk about their pioneering work as the national road crash victim charity, their approach to road danger reduction, and traffic justice in London.  It's sure to be a stimulating, thought-provoking night.

Street Talks are a monthly 'drink tank' on sustainable cities, liveability and transport issues organised by the Movement for Liveable London.

Tuesday 5th July, 6PM for food and drinks for a 7PM start, in the upstairs bar at the Yorkshire Grey pub, Theobalds Road, London.

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