This article was originally titled "as another Londonder is seriously injured riding a bike", however very sadly it was just confirmed that the female cyclist who was hit by a lorry on Friday has sadly died of her injuries. (Source) My thoughts go to her loved ones. My anger only grows.
A steady stream of London businesses have been pledging their support for the Mayor's ambitious new Cycle Superhighway plans - from the smallest of start ups to behemoths of the City - one after another they've come forward with comments like "build it", "great for London" and "keep our employees safe".
Last week the Evening Standard revealed the massive support among London residents for keeping our cyclists safe; 64% of those polled support the Cycle Superhighway plans as they currently stand, the majority back building segregated cycle infrastructure even if it means taking road space from other traffic and - perhaps most tellingly - a massive 71% of those polled (who came from all economic and political backgrounds) NEVER drive in central London.
"Brave new world", you might think, but when looking around my own office that's a simple reflection of reality. Our Head of Investment catches the bus to work when he is staying in his London home. Our company cook rides a bike across Vauxhall Bridge every day, and loves talking about cycling with one of our most senior lawyers who has a fleet of gorgeous bicycles at her disposal. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
Peter Anderson is the Finance Director from Canary Wharf Group. He's also Chair of Transport for London's finance and policy committee and a member of their board. On one hand he makes critical decisions about what sort of public transportation infrastructure does - and does not - get built. On the other hand he's one of the most senior employees of a company which has received billions of pounds of direct public support in the shape of transport connections; train lines, road tunnels, Underground routes, Crossrail. I can remember when Canary Wharf was little more than a destitute shell on London's outskirts. Now it is a financial powerhouse, employing thousands of people, the majority of whom come and go every day on those very trains and tubes and light railways built with public funds. (Fun fact: the majority of Canary Wharf employees live in inner London, of which only 5% drive or are driven to work - almost the same amount as arrive by bicycle according to this GLA Intelligence report)
TfL and Canary Wharf Group's Peter Anderson
But being in receipt of billions of pounds of public investment is clearly no cause for humility in the Canary Wharf Group. Far from it. Their Chief Exec might tell the newspapers “As a company you have to be a good citizen and do what’s right”, but behind the scenes it seems to be another story altogether...
The Canarf Wharf Group have admitted (to Guardian journalist Peter Walker) that an anonymous briefing paper against the Cycle Superhighway plans had come from them, and that they had been lobbying against the proposals, even sending a lobbyist stuffed with misinformation to party political conferences. It clearly had an effect; local MP Jim Fitzpatrick has been spouting some dubious and drip-fed figures in Parliament whilst the Guardian's Dave Hill - usually a voice for cycling - has adopted a "calm down dears" attitude.
On Thursday the 16th October Canary Wharf Group told the London Evening Standard "[we] believe that certain elements of the proposed east-west cycle superhighway could be improved to ensure not only that better and safer provision is made for cyclists, but that there is no damage to the growth and day-to-day operation of London."
The following day, Friday the 17th October, the same newspaper reported how a female cyclist went in to cardiac arrest on Ludgate Circus after she and her bicycle were crushed beneath the wheels of a left turning tipper lorry. Her crash took place just a few metres from the spot where earlier this year another cyclist, Victor Rodriguez, was killed when his bicycle disappeared beneath a truck. At least 7 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured on this one spot alone since 2008. *see update, above.
The scene of Friday's crash on Ludgate Circus,
Photo via @craigshepheard on Twitter with thanks.
Fourteen London cyclists were killed in 2013, six in a single two-week period alone last November. Each one had a valuable role to play in our city: from students to eminent Doctors, from hospital porters to famous architects. It is not just the friends and family of each of these cyclists who notice their loss, but the wider city too. And on a purely logistical basis, each time one of these terrible tragedies occur the emergency services are scrambled, road crash investigators are roused, the roads on which they take place are closed for many hours.
How DARE the Canary Wharf Group talk about damage to the growth of London, when it is London's own who are being killed in such great numbers on our roads. How DARE they go about briefing against these plans, seemingly more concerned about the speed of a handful of car trips vs the safety of people on bikes, when the very people who drive our city forwards are being killed on its streets. The suggestion that cyclists are somehow detrimental as oppose to central to London's economic success is a fallacy.
Olympic champion Chris Boardman described those who are briefing against these plans as "old men in limos". But I know that the sort of people who are driven around London are fond of hard figures, not existential ideas about road justice.
So here's some hard figures...
The two new Cycle Superhighways will carry 6,000 people on bikes every hour: that's the same as 20 Underground trains or 84 new London buses. They will cost about the same as 0.0002% of the colossal budget allocated to build Crossrail. They have the support of the majority of Londoners according to the latest polls, and the support of hundreds of businesses - including Deloitte, Unilever and Argent - companies hardly in the habit of being breathless about aspirational cycling projects. 600,000 journeys take place in London every day by bicycle, or 22% of the amount of journeys conducted by Tube. This is against a backdrop of decreasing car use in central London. In Westminster, where Mr Anderson lives, traffic volumes have fallen by approximately 25% since 2000 according to the Department for Transport.
Assuming that something odd happens and traffic volumes don't continue to fall, and taking in to account the impact of all other proposed road schemes, and assuming that the new cycle routes will not lead to people changing their travel habits and traffic evaporation occurring, once built the average journey time in a car from the City to Whitehall will increase by a negligible 19 seconds.
In short, bicycle transport in our city is now a big deal, a good thing, and it is not going to go away. It's time we started to keep all of those cyclists - all of those Londoners - safe, rather than pushing for faster journey times for company directors in chauffeur driven cars.
Decline in motor traffic on major roads in Westminster '00 - '13
And here's another fact that is worth pointing out: the north / south Cycle Superhighway currently being proposed crosses the exact spot on Ludgate Hill where the cyclist was crushed on Friday and where another cyclist was killed in April. If these plans which the Canary Wharf Group are briefing against do go ahead, cyclists will be separated in space and time at this junction from other traffic. That is to say, there is a possibility to make safe a known problem junction where people on bikes being killed or seriously injured has become an alarming statistical probability. Why would anyone want to brief against that?
I agree with Danny Williams at Cyclists in the City blog. It is imperative that Peter Anderson from Canary Wharf Group has nothing to do with the funding decision for the Cycle Superhighway plans at the finance committee in November. Furthermore, if he is to retain his positions at Transport for London he must declare his interests and disclose exactly the extent of the Canary Wharf Group's lobbying to their tenants, to journalists, to business groups and to politicians at party conferences against the Cycle Superhighway plans.
The sort of people who rise to become Financial Directors at companies like the Canary Wharf Group have an intrinsic understanding of how gambling works. In this instance, they've played their hand, but I think they've lost. It's time they threw in their cards.
- For more facts on the Cycle Superhighways and their likely impact, The Guardian have churned the data to bring us this Reality Check: will Crossrail for bikes bring gridlock to central London?
- To find out more about the businesses pledging their support for the Cycle Superhighway plans visit CyclingWorks.London
- To make your own contribution to the Transport for London consultation (every voice counts!) visit the proposal's designated page here.