Showing posts with label Department for Transport. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Department for Transport. Show all posts

London's first truly super cycle highway comes to Stratford; a first look at the CS2 extension

Cycle Superhighway 2 has rightly been receiving harsh criticism of late, following inquests in to the death of two cyclists on the route.  From Aldgate, along Whitechapel Road and across Bow roundabout, CS2 was always the worst of the cycle superhighways, made up mostly of just blue paint on top of existing traffic lanes.  But the route will very shortly be significantly extended, from Bow to Stratford, and this new cycle route could not be more different.  London is about to get its first truly super cycle highway.


In a victory for campaigners who have been pushing for separated safe space for cycling since the last Mayoral election, the 3 kilometres of new cycle route are made up of largely segregated cycle tracks running either side of busy Stratford High Street.  Separated cycling infrastructure has often received a lukewarm reception in cycle advocacy circles in the UK, usually because what has been built previously has been dangerously inadequate or dangerous.  There should be no such issues in Stratford, with each bicycle track nearly 2 metres across on each side of the road, smooth, freshly painted, and free of obstructions (wide enough to drive your car down, as the builders demonstrated at the weekend as they finished building it!)


What's more, a raft of complementary measures will help to grow cycling culture in the area as part of the installation package.  Local residents can expect to see some 400 new bike stands being installed along the route, improved signage and feeder bike lanes from adjoining roads, as well as free bicycle training for new or returning riders using CS2.

The bike tracks replace a lane of traffic in each direction on what was previously a six lane highway running through the heart of east London.  Following the Olympics - when the new bike lanes were used as "Olympic family lanes" - TfL realised the space could be reallocated to other users whilst only delaying existing motorised traffic on the route during the AM peak by 90 seconds.  For those who have been battling against TfL's "smoothing the traffic flow" network assurance concerns for many years, this is a very significant breakthrough.


In a first of its kind for London, innovative bus stop bypasses will take the cycle track behind "floating" bus stops where passengers will wait to board.  When buses stop to pick up passengers it will be the motorised traffic - and not more vulnerable cyclists - who have to move out in to the fast lane to overtake.  To protect pedestrians, the cycle track narrows as it enters the bus stop bypass to encourage riders to slow down, and tactile pathing will help pedestrians with limited vision identify the safe crossing point.  A "speed table" where the bike track raises to meet the level of the pavement has been installed to give a flat crossing surface to the bus stop island; great for raising awareness to cyclists that they are about to interact with pedestrians, and vital for those using the bus who may have limited ability or buggies and wheelchairs.


There will undoubtedly be some confusion as to how people using the bicycle tracks who wish to turn right do so safely.  Before their construction, cyclists in the kerb-side traffic lane would have had to move across a further 5 lanes of fast moving and heavy traffic before reaching the other side of Stratford High Street.  Now, riders will be able to make an Anglicised version of a Copenhagen box turn.  The video that TfL has produced showing you how to do this legally in the UK shows a somewhat ungainly solution that does the best dealing with current DfT-issued guidelines.  However, in reality the best way to turn will be to pull over in to the Advanced Stop Line of the road to your left, before turning 90 degrees and proceeding across the main road when the lights turn green. (see the red line I have marked on the diagram below)  For those approaching from side roads, the shared use pavements will allow you to - carefully - turn left and join the cycle track even when the traffic lights are red, thus eliminating any danger from moving off along with left turning motor vehicles. (As shown by the yellow line on my diagram below)

I do have some concerns about elements of the design I saw being constructed over the weekend, though I will reserve full judgement until the extension is completed and officially open.  Some easy fixes would be to increase the length of the pedestrian "speed tables" for people joining the floating bus stops, or to install one at either end to discourage pedestrians from stepping in to the rest of the bike track.  I'm also worried about the height of the curbs, which are flat-faced and do not allow for much wiggle room if you strike them.  As pointed out to TfL during the consultation stage, slope-faced kerbs - though much more expensive - would allow cyclists to utilise the full width of the 2-metre lanes; useful when large groups are riding together or when faster riders wish to overtake slower cyclists with a bit of extra room for comfort.  These should most certainly be installed on the bus stop bypasses, where the bike tracks are narrower, as a minimum.  The opposing sides of the cycle track do not have equal geometry on the entry and exit "curves" of the bus stop bypasses, which could cause incidents when the tracks are very busy - I suspect this is down to a rushed installation based on unclear drawings, and is something that future schemes should seek to improve on.

It's worth remembering that cycle tracks on this scale have not been built by Transport for London before, and it will have been a steep learning curve for their engineers.  The scheme will not be perfect to begin with, but it is already head and shoulders above anything built on TfL roads previously.  Yes, there are niggles and refinements that need to be ironed out, but at least the tracks are safe and operable to start with (more than can be said than another "cycle facility" recently installed in neighbouring Tower Hamlets)

For me, what is most exciting about these cycle tracks is that they will help to animate Stratford High Street with actual people.  Historically, this has always been a severely car-choked highway with a serious air quality problem, designed primarily to speed along traffic that originates from outside the area.  And yet, when you spend time on the road, you begin to see that there is life here.  In addition to rows of terraced housing just off the main road, there is a church, a nightclub, some great restaurants and cafes, a University campus and student accommodation, a number of hotels, a supermarket, a primary school, and a bingo hall along the route.  Soon, a resident living on the route will be able to safely cycle to the town centre, or even Westfield, using the CS2 extension.  And connecting with the route are the Bow roundabout floating underpass and canal-side traffic-free routes along the River Lea and Bow Back Rivers, as well as the 7km Greenway walking and cycling path from Beckton to Victoria Park, as well as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park itself.  Once the QEOP is fully open and the Greenway re-connected after Crossrail stops digging up most of Pudding Mill Lane late next year the Cycle Superhighway 2 extension will connect with miles of traffic-free cycle routes, creating the beginning of a safe and comfortable cycle network in the area.


And just as Stratford High Street is changing, so too will the profile of cyclists here.  These facilities will allow older riders, children, more women and even less abled cyclists the opportunity to ride here - something you would not have seen when this was a six lane wide road.   In turn, those riders will have to learn to take extra care on the bus stop bypasses of pedestrians - particularly those who are less mobile - something that will be encouraged by the speed tables and additional signage.


There will be some in cycle campaigning circles who will hate these cycle tracks because of long-held feelings that separating cyclists is not the right way to go, that it is some kind of surrender.  At the other end of the spectrum, hardened advocates will argue that these designs are 'not Dutch enough'.  To both I say this; TfL have had to install separated cycling infrastructure under the duress of a UK legal and road rules system that simply doesn't yet know how to accommodate such plans.  As such, their hands are tied with how far they can push the envelope.  For most of the route, the cycle tracks are so wide that you could drive a car down them.  Indeed, a lane for motorised traffic has been lost here in both directions.  It's not very often we get to congratulate TfL on a job well done, and to those quick to criticise I would say this; reserve your judgement before you've actually come here to Stratford and ridden the tracks yourself, and seen them in situ.  They're not perfect, and there are lessons for TfL to learn, but they're a damn site better than anything built on a major London road before.  

I for one can't wait for more of London to start looking like this; let's start with the shocking state of the rest of CS2 down Whitechapel Road shall we?

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Space4cycling shows us: campaigning works

There is something happening in the UK cycling scene at present that deserves greater scrutiny; a groundswell of popular cycling opinion, a heart-felt movement that is gaining traction all the time.  It started with a whisper just a few years ago, and has grown in to a national movement that shows no sign of slowing down.


I'm talking about the wave of bike protests that have swept across the UK recently, that are lead by a more combative and vocal group of cycling campaigns.  As recently as 2010 the London Cycling Campaign were so meek in their aspirations, and so unclear in what they actually stood for, I seriously questioned on this blog whether they were even pro-cycle lanes or not.  Since then the LCC executed the massively successful "Go Dutch" campaign which saw 20,000 cyclists on the streets in protest and secured serious commitments from the Mayor which led to his pledge to spend nearly ONE BILLION pounds over the next ten years making London safer and more inviting for cyclists.  The substantially separated Cycle Superhighway 2 extension, from Bow roundabout to Stratford, will open in the next few weeks, taking away a lane of traffic and giving it over to safe space for cycling.

Meanwhile, against a backdrop of regular deaths and serious injuries endured by cyclists beneath the wheels of HGVs, persistent lobbying, letter writing and picketing by all of our cycling campaigns has led to announcements that Transport for London and the Department for Transport will create a central London "safe lorry zone" to crack down on rogue and dangerous operators.


British Cycling asked all of its nearly 80,000 members to get behind its calls for sentencing guidelines to be reviewed, following a spate of cycle deaths that had led to paltry convictions.  The Government listened and have pledged to conduct a full review of the judiciary early next year.

Following the excellent efforts of everyone behind the Get Britain Cycling inquiry, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have created cycling manifestos for the next general election, and the Government have been keen to point out they have pledged millions to cycling schemes nationwide.

In short, campaigning works.  


And now, bouyed with confidence and with the sense that change is achievable, cycle protests are sweeping the UK.  In London, we had flashrides on Blackfriars Bridge in 2011, the massive "Go Dutch" rally in 2012, and a series of space4cycling demonstrations where cyclists have been killed in Holborn and Aldgate, and on Westminster, each of which has attracted thousands of participants.  In Scotland, two "pedal on parliament" rallies to the Scottish government saw thousands on the streets.  And the "space4cycling" message seems to really resonate, with copycat rides taking place in Manchester, Birmingham and even motor-centric Reading in recent weeks.

For years there have been hard-working but misguided members of the cycle campaigning fraternity who have felt the best path forward is to tread meekly, to ask quietly and to not dare to dream too big.  Just last week long-standing cycling journalist and industry elder Cartlon Reid proposed in the Guardian that it would be easier - and quicker - to wait for all cars to become automated and computer controlled than to campaign for the traffic restraint schemes, investment, cycle training and quality cycling infrastructure that our Dutch neighbours share (as if riding amongst many thousands of computer-conrolled tonnes of machinery would be any less unpleasent than cycling among heavy traffic is at present)

But the internet is steadily sweeping this kind of thinking aside, and encouraging people to believe they can actually play a part in change themselves.  ("Yes we can!" said Obama, "Hope, not Cope!" says I.) They've seen how the Dutch got their cycle paths and are seeking to emulate the experience here in the UK.  They've seen how advocates in the US are taming the streets of New York and feel like our own cities are falling behind.  They've seen how Londoners out on the streets are having a direct effect on policy and cycle spending, and want the same where they live.


Campaigning works, but only when people care enough to get involved.  For many years on ibikelondon we've said we should each be the change we'd like to see, but the need now for more people to get involved is more apparent than ever before.  Because whilst the protests and campaigns are gaining traction, the forces arrayed against creating more cycle-friendly streets are as prevalent as ever.  Funding cuts, the motor lobby, hackneyed and downright dangerous road design schemes divert our attention.  Indeed, Cyclists In The City blog recently identified 5 major proposed road design schemes that seek - either through ignorance or downright spite - to squeeze out cycling.   Meanwhile, at the Judiciary, drivers who kill or hurt cyclists are let off with alarming and downright depressing regularity.  And at Government level the recent cash that has been pledged is most welcome, but not nearly enough to really make a difference.

The passion and protests on the streets this summer have been a fantastic start to real change, but they need to be followed up with many hours of behind-the-scenes campaigning.  Whether it is with London Cycling Campaign, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, Sustrans or British Cycling your local cycling campaign needs you.  It is time to roll up our sleeves!

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In, out, in, out, shake it all about.. Why today's cycling cash up for grabs is not enough to Get Britain Cycling

Prime Minister David Cameron has today announced new funding for a raft of cycling measures to the tune of £77million pounds.  8 key UK cities will receive the lion's share of the cash, raising investment per head in those cities to £10 per head, compared to the national average of a pathetic 94p per person.

Each of the cities benefiting will add their own funds to swell the money being spent; Greater Manchester will contribute £11milion of their own cash on top of the £20million given by the Department for Transport, ensuring that local authorities take the cash seriously and see that it is spent well. 

The Government will also continue financially supporting Bikeability cycle training for children for another year, through to 2016.

4 national parks will benefit from additional investment to help make them more attractive places to cycle, and a feasibility study will look in to creating a cycle track alongside the proposed HS2 rail link between Birmingham and London (not as crazy an idea as it sounds - see the Cambridge Guided Busway cycle track for the origins of this thinking)

Cameron said; "Our athletes have shown they are among the best in the world and we want to build on that, taking our cycling success beyond the arena and onto the roads, starting a cycling revolution which will remove the barriers for a new generation of cyclists."

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin added; "We are absolutely committed to boosting cycling in cities and the countryside across the whole of England."

You might argue, in our current economic climate, that today's announcement is a "big win" for cycling and that we ought to be grateful for any scraps of funding that come our way.

But it is worth remembering that the model of focusing pots of cash on a handful of cities who have demonstrated their commitment to cycling with their own cash was pioneered by the quango Cycling England and their excellent Cycling Demonstration Towns project - unceremoniously and brutally scrapped in 2010 by... ..David Cameron's government.  

Back then Cycling England ran on a budget of approximately £200,000 a year (the cost of building about 5 metres of new motorway) and handed out pots of public money to the tune of about £60 million.  So today, we're really only getting about £17 million more than what we had before it was all taken away - will that extra cash help to make up for 3 years of limited investment, loss of skills and cancelled projects around the country?  

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, as they say en France.  
In English?  "Do the hokey cokey and turn around".

It's fantastic that some cash - any cash! - is back on the table for cycling outside of London (where, incidentally, we are due to spend nearly a BILLION on getting people riding bikes over the next 10 years) but as even the usually muted CTC, whilst welcoming investment, tweeted: "We now need MPs to demand far more"

So why the change of heart from the Government, and sudden commitment to spending money that they once took away?  Have the Government miraculously seen the cycling light and got fully on board with creating a cycling nirvana in the UK?  Will Jersualem Amsterdam be built in England's green and pleasant land?


Today's funding is what's known in political circles as "p*ssing on bonfires", or, if you prefer, "nipping things in the bud".  Truth be known, the Government are scared of the strength of feeling that has been building up in cycle campaigns for some time now, the persuasive voices that have built up an incredible head of steam and secured a landmark cycling debate on the 2nd September that will discuss "Getting Britain Cycling".  

This campaigning strength has come from many corners, converging on Parliament at the same time; protests around Parliament by people on bikes, the hard-hitting and powerful Cities Fit For Cycling campaign by The Times newspaper, support for more investment in cycle safety from all corners including motoring organisations such as the AA, and of course the All Party Parliamentary "Get Britain Cycling" inquiry.

Starting in January of this year, a panel of MPs and Lords from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group sat for six weeks hearing evidence from motoring bodies, Government ministers, cycling organisations and safety campaigners, as well as bike bloggers (including me), traffic planners, urban designers and the police, all sharing their ideas as to what needed to be done by the Government to encourage more people to turn to two wheels.

BBC Newsnight journalist Anna Holligan pre-empts the forthcoming Get Britain Cycling debate in Parliament and compares cycling in the UK with cycling in the Netherlands.

The result of this is the Get Britain Cycling report, the most intelligent and realistic study in to everyday cycling produced in the UK to date.  It focuses not just on the usual easy targets of cycle training and bike riding for children, but also makes clear the importance of high quality cycling infrastructure and implementing best precedent examples from successful overseas cycling cultures.

And now, thanks to the efforts of cycling backbencher Julian Hubert (Lib Dem, Cambridge), our Government will debate the report and adopting its recommendations on the first new day of Parliament after the summer recess; Monday September 2nd.

This debate has the potential to bind the Government legislatively in to having to really take cycling seriously and commit funding for many years to come, and the Government are afraid.  With today's one-off funding announcement,  unusually coming in the middle of the summer recess, they're hoping that some of the heat will go out of the debate and the pressure on them to do something - anything - will subside, and we will all go away quietly.

In the mean time, despite the welcome new investment, Britain's roads will remain fundamentally ill-suited for mass cycling and people on bikes will continue to die in terrifying numbers (65 dead in London in the last 5 years alone), our Justice system will continue to fail cyclists as a matter of routine, and English cities not receiving any of this one-off funding will continue to fall further and further behind our cycling contemporaries just across the North Sea in the Netherlands.

If that hasn't made your blood boil, let's put the paucity of today's announcement in to context on a Governmental level and talk hard tacks.  Today David Cameron pledged £77million pounds for cycling.  Three years ago he took £60million pounds for cycling away.  At the same time the Government has pledged £500 million for new electric car charging points that nobody uses, nearly £400 million for just 4 miles of new highway in Surrey and a whopping £28 BILLION in new funding for the strategic road network.

Now is not the time for cyclists to celebrate and go away quietly.

Over Westminster Bridge

Cyclists ride on Parliament in February 2012 - the beginning of the entire "Get Britain Cycling" process.

The Parliamentary debate on September 2nd is highly significant; the first of its kind to take place in the House of Commons for over a decade.  Whatsmore, if enough MPs from the Lib Dems, Labour and independents vote to adopt the findings of the inquiry report then Government will not be able to get away with a paltry one-off investment like today's but will have to start genuinely building a cycling revolution for the whole country.

Our cycle campaigns need your help to make this happen and this most critical of times.

British Cycling ask you to write to your MP (they do read their mail during the summer recess!) and make sure that they know their constituents will support them if they in turn support the Get Britain Cycling report.  There's even a template letter you can adapt if you like.

The Times and the CTC ask you to add your own name to the "Get Britain Cycling" petition calling on Parliament to act.  They want you to sign, and then tell your friends, family and Facebook buddies to sign it too.  So far there are 70,000 signatories - we want to get it to 100,000 by September 2nd.

Lastly, the London Cycling Campaign are organising the next space4cycling demonstration to coincide with the Get Britain Cycling debate on 2nd September.  As MPs sit inside and debate, the outside of Parliament will be surrounding by thousands of cyclists calling for now to be the time for them to act.  In London especially we all know what the consequence of patchy stop/start cycle provision and funding can be, and the importance of getting it right first time, and that one-off funding announcements will not save cyclist's lives, let alone protect new riders.  After the success of the first two space4cycling demonstrations, the third promises to be the biggest and loudest yet, but the LCC needs YOU to come along in order for it to be a success.

Me?  I'm doing all three, and I'd recommend you do the same.  I for one will not go quietly content with table scraps when we have an opportunity within our grasp to finally, truly, Get Britain Cycling.

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One year on, London's Olympic legacy still lays in its roads

Tomorrow night will mark exactly one year since a group of volunteer London cyclists captivated a global audience, riding on their Dawes bicycles through the London 2012 Olympic stadium dressed as doves of peace.  

Not your average commute to work...

Outside the stadium, having unsurprisingly strayed too close to the Olympic exclusion zone, 182 Critical Mass riders were arrested and harried in to waiting Police vans.  Local residents were furious to find themselves cycling on the perimetre roads of the Olympic park following the closure of the safe river Lea towpath on "security grounds" -  a ban which evidently didn't apply to cycling soldiers drafted in at the last minute to mop up the mess left behind by shame-faced security firm G4S.

Soldiers cycle the River Lea towpath 
- photo via the now sadly defunct Leabank Square blog.

The Games witnessed the tragic death of a cyclist at the gates of the Olympic park, two-wheeled visitors from around the world cycling through London, not to mention capacity crowds turning out on the streets to cheer for Team GB cyclists in the road races, time trials and triathlons.  Who can forget "King Bradley" on his throne at Hampton Court, the sporting prowess of Dame Sarah Storey and her four Paralympic Gold medals, or my favourite 2012 moment; Sir Chris Hoy (and his parents!) delivering a tense career-concluding race on the banks of the brand new velodrome in Stratford?

 No comment necessary!

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have already passed in to a halcyon haze of gold medals and flag-waving high spirits, but London still awaits its true legacy, and it lies in our roads.

July 2012 saw more than a million Barclays Cycle Hire journeys in one month for the first time ever, with 47,000 Boris Bike journeys being made on the 26th July alone.  But more astonishing changes were taking place across London's road network.

At peak times, there was an average 10% to 15% reduction in motorised traffic on the Olympic Route Network.   For the first time in Olympic history, no private car parking was offered to all 7.25 million  ticket holders, essentially creating a "car-free" Games for spectators, each of which were issued with free public transport tickets.  Record numbers of spectators also viewed the road events across London and the South East, with a total of 1.8 million estimated to have attended.  The Bike Show's Jack Thurston recalls his experience; 

"I was at Richmond Park for the Mens Road Race and the park was closed to all traffic (except bikes) and the result was a veritable festival of cycling down there. Sunshine, picnics, and then for a few seconds, the race itself.

I also went along to the Time Trial, down at Esher. It was at least three people thick all the way down. I don't think the world has ever seen a bigger crowd for a time trial event. Most were cyclists, many had come on bikes on the day" 

London's Underground absorbed passengers who might usually have been travelling by car from the streets above; Tuesday, 7 August was the busiest day ever in the Tube’s 150 year history, carrying 4.57 million passengers.  The Docklands Light Railway saw a 100% jump in rider numbers, whilst London buses carried an astonishing 161 MILLION passengers during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

At Games venues some 15,000 free cycle parking spaces were laid on especially to accommodate bike riding athletes, dignitaries and visitors - and they were needed...

Measurements on bridges over the Thames during the Olympic Games indicated 20% more cyclists and 22% more people on foot, compared with the previous fortnight. In Central London the figures showed 29% more cyclists, and in East London 62% more cyclists and 158% more pedestrians, indicating large increases in the areas most affected by the Games.

One of the most astonishing Olympic experiences for me was seeing the speed with which special Games Lanes, barriers and right turn bans were put in to place across the road network, and the effect it had in evaporating traffic by reducing space available for it.  Riding home from work on the night of the Olympic Opening Ceremony - July 27th 2012 - will always be for me one of the most astonishing cycling experiences.  Berkeley Square in Mayfair - usually a traffic-choked gyratory - was silent from the absence of motorised traffic.  On New Bond Street well-heeled pedestrians normally confined to narrow pavements spilled over in to car-free streets.  On the Kingsway in Holborn - a road more akin to a motorway than a central London boulevard - the sheer volume of space given over to shifting vehicles around our city became apparent by their absence.  I was home in time to watch the Red Arrows roar over my house in East London having barely broken in to a sweat on the journey with only fellow cyclists to contend with aolong the trip.

July 27th 2012 at PM peak in central Lindon
July 27th 2012 at PM peak in central Lindon
July 27th 2012 at PM peak in central Lindon
July 27th 2012 at PM peak in central Lindon
July 27th 2012 at PM peak in central Lindon

Above, the Kingsway in Holborn, Berkeley Square and New Bond Street in Mayfair and St Martin's Lane in Covent Garden - between 5.30PM and 6PM on Friday 27th July 2012, and empty.  Below, Regent's Street - usually one of London's busiest and nosiest roads.

Since the Games the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced a very welcome cycling festival (happening next week!) and planned record investments in cycling facilities including "Cross Rail for bikes'.  It's fair to say these plans are the most ambitious cycling plans ever produced in Great Britain, and should they succeed then they will change the face of London - and how we get around it - forever.

However, the £1billion in bike funds needed to realise these plans have not yet been secured from the Government, and Transport for London are still waiting for approval from the Department of Transport to begin incorporating bold cycling innovations in to their road designs such as small bicycle traffic lights and separated cycling infrastructure with priority over side roads.

July 27th 2012 at PM peak in central Lindon

And within Transport for London itself, there are still those who would seek to turn more space over to motorised traffic and side-track cycling plans.  Recent announcements regarding the Mayor's Road Task Force still rang empty with references to "network capacity assurance" and "smoothing traffic flow".

If the 2012 Games taught us anything, it should be that our road network is capable of being much more lean and dynamic than it currently is, and the scope for positive change is there.  London's real Olympic legacy lies not just with shining sports venues and future medal hopes, but in the very possibility of changing our city for the better in the future, with cycling at the centrepiece of that vision.  The Games showed us that such change is not only possible, but that it is there for the taking - recent cycling fatalities demonstrate that Transport for London and the Mayor's office must simply get on with it.

  • Figures on the performance of London's transport network from the Parliamentary report available at this link (PDF).

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The dog that barks the loudest gets the bone; is it time for a cycling lobby?

It's so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye to Cycling England which hit the skids last week as part of the coalition Government's so-called 'Bonfire of the Quangos'.  The body had a pitiful cash burn and was practically unknown outside of cycling circles, but did help the Government invest in cycling projects based on expert advice, and was the guardian of the re-badged cycling proficiency test "Bikeability"... 

...Here in London even the cycling campaigns are keen to clamour about 'record levels of investment in cycling in the capital', but recent calculations from the Green Party show that our Mayor, Boris Johnson, is only spending about half of what he says he is stumping up in cash. (ie under spending the cycling budget by as much as 50%)  All of the spin but none of the win for the end users, us cyclists... 

...Meanwhile, over in our highest house the good lords and ladies are bumbling along talking about high vis jackets and helmets as if they were the be all and end all of all things two-wheeled. 

I'd despair if it didn't all make me so angry.

In the case of Cycling England, 'Bikeability' will be brought in-house at the Department of Transport, but it's funding is only guaranteed "till the end of this parliament" (which, considering the uncharted territories of running a country by coalition may well be sooner rather than later).  Meanwhile, funding for cycling projects (if any) will come from a newly devised "Local Sustainable Transport Fund".  That is to say, funding for the things that can really matter the most on the ground - the construction of segregated cycle lanes, bike hubs at train stations, bike stands for kids at schools - will be funded from the same pot as improved bus timetables, schemes to implement charging points for electric cars (of which Transport Secretary Philip 'Hoverboard' Hammond seems particularly keen) and any other scheme that can be spun as 'sustainable'.  The transport minister with portfolio for cycling, Lib Dem Norman Baker said "...there will no longer be a dedicated cycling pot of money, but instead a much broader fund, we feel that Cycling England is not the right way to continue to incentivise and encourage local authorities and others to stimulate cycling."

Cycling is going to be up against some seriously well-organised money-thirsty transport schemes.  Bus firms have them, rail firms have them, car manufacturers practically invented them... is it time cycling got serious about its own lobby?

Until recently perhaps Cycling England's most prescient purpose was as a pyramid head for the disparate and varied stakeholders involved in cycling; it drip-fed up to the DfT the ideas, advice and requests of the CTC, Sustrans, British Cycling, the Cycle Training Standards Board and others.  Now, in a classic 'divide and conquer' manoeuvre by the Government these organisations will be left squabbling and scrabbling for every morsel the DfT may care to throw their way.  Meanwhile, the bus boards, the train operating companies and the electric vehicle manufacturers will be flexing their well-toned lobby muscles.  If the future funding of sustainable transport is to be decided in an arena fashion, cycling will be the first to be thrown to the lions.  Or, if you like, the dog that barks loudest gets the bone.

The UK's cycling organisations, if they don't want to implode upon one another in a fit of survivalism, need to get their act together and unify to see this present funding crisis out.  We need to play the game on the playing field that the Government has chosen to provide us.  Cycle England will be gone by spring 2011 and it won't be coming back.  We need a new national umbrella body of some kind to represent the local, regional and national stakeholders at Whitehall.  At present none of our cycling campaigns are broadly popular or skilled enough to be able to do this alone.  More crucially still we need our retailers to be involved.  The Bicycle Association and the Association of Cycle Traders are pissing in the wind if they think their voices can be heard alone.  But their efforts, combined with that of the likes of the CTC, would double their strength and double their volume and help to put them on a more even footing with the likes of the bus and train companies.  On a public front we have plenty of cycling celebrities to add to our voice - get the likes of Victoria Pendleton and James Cracknell, Dermot O'Leary and even Lord Berkeley on side and the publicity follows.  Run a campaign incorporating all cyclists calling for support for cycling.  Remember the impact the NSPCC's green button 'full stop' campaign against child cruelty had?  Something on that kind of scale injecting a bit of cyclist's pride into the voter demographic will help to secure funding in the future.  So long as cyclists are few and represented by many small voices they'll not get the funding we all know they deserve.  Present them as many and with one loud voice and suddenly the Government will start to listen.  Again, the dog that barks the loudest gets the bone.

Get people involved!  If there's one thing the wider public think of Quangos is that they were London-centric 'jobs for boys like us' type outfits.  We all know that David Cameron has this thing about 'Big Society' so let's make it an opportunity to give him some good news; lobby for investment into a project to train out of work miners from Newport as cycling instructors so they can train their kids or something equally worthy and you'll soon have a happy PM praising you from a pit-head press conference and the funding will soon follow...  As I said, the Government has chosen the playing field, cyclists have to be ready to play on it.

Of course, a question of funding comes in to play here which in these financially difficult times is a tough one to address.  It's all well and good proposing to form a national cycling lobby, but who will pay for it?  Let us think of the ubiquitous coffee chain for a moment.  Those popular coffee shops which you find all over the country start by opening just one cafe, and start selling coffee for £1 a cup.  Of that pound 50p is profit, 25p goes on staff, 10p goes to the coffee farmer and supplier, 10p on overheads and that last 5p goes into a little pot to save up to open the next coffee shop.  When that opens you have double the amount of money going into the 'new shop' pot and so on and so forth until you can open shops all over the country, or even the world.  Of course bicycle retailers can only open so many bike shops.  So long as cycling remains a minority modal share of national journeys there are only so many opportunities to sell bikes.  But instead of putting that 5p towards a new shop, why not put it towards an autonomous organisation that helps to gain funding for cycle paths, money for national cycle networks or mountain biking hubs, secures the provision of cycle parking at stations, trains up the next generation to be efficient and enthusiastic cyclists?  Suddenly you'll have a hell of a lot more cyclists than if you leave things in their current status quo.  And all these new riders need new bikes, new locks, new lights and lovely accessories.  NOW you need to open a new shop, and another, and another... and suddenly you're in a position to badger the Government to drop VAT on new bikes, or give tax breaks to bike manufacturers in the UK (all part of transferring to a carbon neutral economy, remember?).  It puzzles me why this hasn't been proposed or discussed before but if a very small percentage of sales of all new bikes and cycling accessories sold in the UK went directly back into a national cycle lobby focussed on securing funding to grow cycling, surely this would be a self-fulfilling prophecy or funding circle?  Everyone wins, right?

We've had a few days to weep and wail over the loss of Cycling England, and that's only right because they did do some good work after all.  But it was, to be frank, a punitive organisation in the first place which worked extremely hard in return for very little.  Now that it is going there is a very real risk that petty in-fighting will descend upon the cycling advocacy scene here in the UK (which is exactly what the Government would like) but we need now to renew and increase our efforts if we don't want to enter another decade of cycling being out in the wilderness.  We have till March 2011, when Cycling England's mandate runs out.  Bike campaigners, retailers, advocates, lobbyists, riders, manufacturers et al; as Philip Hammond would say "Gentlemen, start your engines!"

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The real risk of cycling? Cycling safer than walking down the road in Q2 09!

It's that time of year again when casualty figures for our roads in the last quarter are released and, inevitably, there has been some hand-wringing over the fact that there has been an increase in cyclist deaths.  The AA were first off the mark with a suitably unhelpful response "This is a problem you have when you get a whole new wave of cyclists coming to the road" said Andrew Howard, the AA's head of road safety.  Even our own CTC has been beating out the message that the safety in numbers effect will take time to come into play, and that the extra injuries could be down to a glut of inexperienced riders on the road. (Sound familiar?) 

But is this all a percentile flash in the pan?  If you look at the actual figures, there has been a 9% increase in cyclist deaths and serious injuries, contrasting a 4% decrease over the previous two quarters (which, I note, went largely unreported at the time).  In real terms this represents approximately 132 more cyclist deaths or serious injuries in the last quarter, and tragic whilst this is I haven't heard a peep from the AA about the 4920 automobile users' deaths or serious injuries in the previous quarter...  Yes, that's 97% more deaths and serious injuries in cars than on bicycles.

So let's turn the statistics on their heads.  Using the same figures here is a news flash even Boris Johnson would be proud of:  Cycling safer than walking down the road in 2nd quarter of 2009! 

Deaths and serious injuries as a % of total casulaties in Q2 09:
11%  Cyclists
19%  Pedestrians
26%  Motorcylists
38%  Cars

Slight injuries as a % of total casualties in Q2 09:
8.36%  Cyclists
10.5%  Pedestrians
08.6%  Motorcylists (presumably few injuries on motorbikes are slight)
66%  Cars

I'm rather proud of those percentages - I worked them out myself from the official data.  It made my head sore.

Malcolm Wardlow BSc MBA in 'Assessing the actual risks faced by cyclists' writes:

"Pedestrians bear a higher fatality rate than cyclists, by a factor of almost 1.5...

...the belief that cycling is dangerous turns out to be a factoid; opinion based on long repetition, not evidence."

And just in case you're one of those people who is worried that cycling is not only dangerous, as oppose to everyday and ordinary, but that furthermore  cyclists pose a serious risk to other road users and pedestrians, Mr Wardlow has the following nugget for you:
"Typically only 3- 7 third parties are killed in fatal bicycle crashes annually, as against 145 cyclist deaths.  In fatal car crashes 1,600 third parties (600 passengers, 650 pedestrians, 75 cyclists, 250 motorcyclists) are killed in addittion to 1,100 drivers."

There, that's enough of selling newspapers on stories sensationalising our roads and making cycling out to be dangerous when it is not.  Let's get on and ride!

Children in deprived areas "at greater road risk"

The following press release, from the press agency Reuters, is reasonably balanced and tells a story.  It's a sad story about young people and how they are more likely to die on roads in areas like where I live, Tower Hamlets in London, because of their socio-economic standing.  It also discusses a minor issue amongst the cycling community, and approaches to road uses in general.  So far, so straight-forward.  I encourage you to read it and then re-join my for a little analsis at the bottom...

LONDON (Reuters) - Children in deprived areas are four times more likely to be killed in road accidents than those in wealthier locations, a report by MPs said on Thursday.
The Public Accounts Committee also said more should be done to examine the "irresponsible behaviour of some cyclists" and what impact they had.
Although Britain is one of the safest countries in the world in terms of road deaths, the death rate of child pedestrians was worse than in many other countries, the committee said.
In 2007, 646 pedestrians and 136 cyclists were killed, with more than 30,000 pedestrians and 16,000 cyclists injured.
The committee called for the Department of Transport (DfT) to introduce more road safety measures, such as speed humps, 20 mph zones and speed cameras, saying the current child casualty rate was unacceptable.
The committee said the higher death rate in deprived areas might be because children in such places were more likely to be unsupervised and to be near roads when they returned from school.
"The department's approach towards child deaths must be one of zero tolerance," said the PAC's chairman Edward Leigh.
"It should give priority to promoting child pedestrian road safety schemes in deprived areas, which suffer disproportionately from such casualties."
The MPs' report said the number of deaths and injuries of cyclists had fallen since the mid-1990s but that from 2004 to 2007 there had been an 11 percent increase, despite no significant rise in the amount of cycling.
It said the DfT appeared unaware that many people thought some cyclists were a "hazard to themselves and other road users."
"Some cyclists are perceived to behave irresponsibly, such as riding on pavements and disregarding red traffic signals, thereby posing a danger to themselves and making other road users including elderly pedestrians feel unsafe," they said.
The DfT said only a minority of cyclists were irresponsible.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)
© Thomson Reuters 2009. All rights reserved.

So, the general gist of this story is that, tragically, 646 pedestrians and 136 cyclists killed in 2007.  I only know of ONE death to a pedestrian by a cyclist in recent history.  Which means the other 781 deaths must have been caused by something else, some awful child-killing monster lurking on our streets.  The press release doesn't mention what this killer must be, but I would hazard a guess that it is the automobile...

And what did our national broadcaster interpret this press release as? 
"Cars kill kids"?
"Poor kids more likely to die on our streets because they are poor"?
Nope, not that either.
"Lots of people die on our roads but some cyclists are a little bit of a nuisance"?
Nope, not even.
Yes, you've guessed it, the BBC, our national and venerated broacaster, interpreted this story like this:

Never mind all those dead kids in our roads, what about those pesky cyclists?!!
I am beyond words, really, I am.