We did it! The Tour du Danger

A huge THANK YOU to so many of you who came and supported the Tour du Danger on Saturday - a bicycle ride around London's 10 most dangerous junctions for cyclists.

Many hundreds of you came; young riders, old riders, carbon riding roadies, folding bike riders, Dutch bike cruising chicisters; it was a true cross section of everyday and ordinary Londoners on two wheels.




Emotions ran high and our focus was renewed following the terrible news that another cyclist had been killed on the Bow roundabout on Friday night, less than 3 weeks after the tragic death there of Brian Dorling on Cycle Superhighway Two. We rode with their friends and family at the forefront of our thoughts, in the knowledge that no less than 15 cyclists have been killed on London's road so far this year.

This week, Mayor of London Boris Johnson had said that he felt that dangerous junctions, such as the Elephant and Castle were "perfectly manageable if you keep your wits about you." Our key message was to reject that assumption and to reject it firmly. As I explained at the start of the ride;

"The reason we're here today - and the reason why I hope you've all come is - because none of us should have to fight to make our way to work. None of us should feel afraid taking our children to school, whether that's by foot or by bicycle. Designing public spaces which exclude people on the basis of their ability - that is to say those of us who aren't able to cycle like Mark Cavendish around the Elephant and Castle roundabout - is designing in danger, and designing in inequality. Personally, I find that unacceptable. This week, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said he thought the Elephant and Castle roundabout was perfectly negotiable by bike so long as you kept your wits about you. I do not believe that the 89 cyclists who have been killed or seriously injured in the past 2 years on this junction did not keep their wits about them. I believe that these places are inherently dangerous, and it is negligent in the extreme not to act and ensure that these urban spaces are remedied as urgently as possible."

London has made great gains in catering for it's cycling population in recent years. There are many more cyclists on the road in inner London than before; cycle training is widely available, we have the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme, improved cycle parking and improved cycle routes. But on Saturday's ride I sensed that people felt the design and management of our streets was not keeping up. That despite all these new and diverse cyclists on our roads, they were still being expected to mix it up with HGVs, buses and fast moving cars on roads like the Bow roundabout, and that this was increasing cyclist's exposure to road danger.


Transport for London's agenda of "smoothing the traffic flow" has meant warnings about dangerous junctions and poor road design have gone unheard or been ignored. At King's Cross where fashion student Min Joo Lee was knocked from her bike and killed by an HGV, TfL were in receipt of a report which described casualties as being "inevitable" at the site. London Cycling Campaign had made protestations about locating the CS2 on Bow roundabout back in February 2011. Local Assembly Member John Biggs had raised the issue of pedestrian safety here and the lack of crossings. In both instances TfL had ignored these warnings and gone on with their poorly designed and implemented scheme instead. Cyclist fatalities in Camden and Clapham (Paula Jurek and Johannah Bailey respectively) were also preceded by warnings that the junctions where the crashes took place were dangerous to vulnerable road users. The proposed re-design of the northern junction of Blackfriars Bridge - the location of a summer of cycling protests - included taking away cycle lanes, increasing the speed limit and increasing the lanes for motorised traffic from two to three - all this on a bridge where cyclists out number motorised traffic at peak times.


We were pleased to have MP for Southwark and Bermondsey Simon Hughes on the ride with us, and Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon too. We received messages of support from AMs Jenny Jones and John Biggs and others, but it's important to point out that the fairness and equality of our public realm should not be a party political issue. As Danny from Cyclists in the City explains: "The dangers that cyclists face on London's roads are not confined to Bow roundabout, to Elephant and Castle or to Kings Cross. They are about the way that Transport for London looks at London streets and about how it designs them in totality. They are about the culture of aggression on London's streets that impact all of us - drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. The problems are systemic. Transport for London truly believes that some advanced stop lines and blue paint is all it takes to make a street safe for people to cycle there. I'm sorry to say it so strongly but these are complete gimmicks. Just look at the insanely dangerous scheme that Transport for London proposes for the new Cycle Super Highway between Victoria and Peckham. It is repeating the designs that have killed people again and again at Kings Cross, at Bow and at Elephant. And it's not good enough."


Saturday's ride was about highlighting the fact that these junctions exist, increasing awareness amongst cyclists and other road users of just how dangerous they are, and putting Transport for London and indeed the Mayor (or indeed any future hopeful Mayors) on notice to ensure that something is done.  We'll be keeping the pressure up, and of course you'll be the first to know of any developments as a result of our Tour du Danger right here at ibikelondon.

I believe we are already having an effect; Steve Norris, who is a member of the board at Transport for London and a Conservative said today on LBC radio that he believed Boris was wrong about locations such as the Elephant and Castle and that we must do more to humanise them and to make them safe for cyclists.  Our voices ARE being heard, and we will go on ensuring that they continue to be so.

Very special thanks must go to Charlie Holland of Kennington People on Bikes for being our stupendous ride leader, to Charles and to Gerry for being our 'sweepers' and bringing up the rear of the ride in such a civil fashion and keeping the sometimes itinerant motorists at bay, and of course to our wonderful marshals, many of them London Cycling Campaign local group activists, who did an incredible job of keeping us moving through a busy London and keeping us all safe.  Thank you all so much, I've only had positive feedback about you all!

Lastly, a big THANK YOU to all of you who sent messages of support and attended.  As promised on the day, we will be compiling a "dodgy dossier" of our knowledge about the 10 dangerous junctions and will be submitting these to our Assembly representatives and to Transport for London.  So please do share your experiences, photos and videos on Twitter using the hashtag #tourdudanger, and please do add your thoughts about your day to day experiences of these junctions to the comments below - we'd love to hear from you!

For further photos of the day please see my Flickr account here.


Loving the Bike said...

Congratulations Mark. I still think this is one of the most exciting cycling events to take place an a while. Good job, man.


Andreas said...

Agreed - well done everyone who put this together - coverage on the news is very valuable for getting the message out to a wider audience.

amoeba said...

It was a wonderful turnout. The numbers established without doubt a much greater impact. All participants can feel that it was worthwhile and had an impact.

However, without the concept, the planning, the organisation and all those involved in getting this event off the ground, it could never have happened.

Let's hope that TfL and Boris get the message loud and clear will eventually realise that we are going to fight to the bitter end. If we don't, all the effort will come to nought and in time all this will be forgotten. We need to realise that this just the beginning of things. It seems that TfL just blinked, but we will need more of these events. Impact is important.

Public outreach is also important. Drivers need to understand that cyclists are their friends, if they weren't cycling some of them would be driving.
We need to highlight the fact that 'fit for purpose' infrastructure that results in safer cycling and increased cycling levels: benefits drivers, pedestrians, residents, employers, small businesses, the NHS and the economy.

crapcyclelanes said...

Thankyou. Kudos. Coming to Melbourne I hope, where enforcement of helmet laws has replaced punishment of transport planners for crap and dangerous schemes.

Anonymous said...

Well done for organising such a brilliant ride.

I do have one question though. What is Ken Livingstone's position on all this? Has he been invited to show support? Has he got a position at all on cycling, apart from the standard line about "encouraging" it?

I believe in the past he has come out against the Dutch model on the grounds that London's streets are "too narrow". Is anyone trying to re-educate him?

The other problem is that Boris and TfL are not budging an inch from their "smoothing traffic flow" agenda. Mass bike rides do not seem to have the slightest impact on their entrenched views.


Richard Carter said...

It was indeed a great ride, brilliantly organised, many thanks to all those involved in creating the event!

One question: does anyone have any idea how many of us were there on the day? As a pure guess I would have said a couple of hundred, but it would be good if someone had done a better estimate/count than this.

elliot said...

Mark, thanks so much for organising. You and Danny are stars!

My short video of the ride can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHUGh31DxvI

ibikelondon said...

Thanks everyone for your kind messages. The ride really wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for you all coming!

We'll be keeping the heat turned up on TfL and the Mayor and of course you'll hear about any developments here first!

@Richard Carter with regards to numbers, approximately 250 to 300 cyclists set off from Oval. A number of riders joined when we went north of the river - by the time we reached our 10th junction the number was closer to 500. An astonishing turn out for a dangerous ride through a grey November London Saturday!

Nico said...

@Jo: what little cycling infrastructure has been put in place so far by TfL, i.e. the Barclays Superhighways and Hire bikes, irrespective of how imperfect they are, were set in motion under Ken. Boris only scooped up the publicity. That is why I refuse to call the hire bikes "Boris bikes", AFAIK he didn't do anything in favour of cycling apart from posing with Kelly Brooks at the useless Skyrides.

I occasionally see Ken walk his dog near where I live, I'll say hello and try have a chat about cycling with him next time!

To all involved with the "Tour du Danger": well done all, an amazing coup! Wish I could have been there...

Adam Edwards said...

Very impressed to see this event get top story on the BBC London News on Saturday night.

Well done everyone!


Anonymous said...

anyone who wants to push for 'go dutch' to be part of the labour manifesto - write to val shawcross and tell her that!

Sophie Hobson said...

Wow! What a turnout! Congrats to everyone who rode for such a great cause. Even the BBC covered the event. What great exposure.
Sophie Hobson, deputy editor, LondonlovesBusiness

Joel C said...

Whilst i applaud the sentiment, as a cyclist of many years I find it ludicrous that a demonstration focused around cycle safety allows so many to participate without helmets.

amoeba said...

Well, Joel C, while I do not dispute your claim to be "a cyclist of many years", it would appear that you haven't been paying attention to the science. Pieces of sweaty plastic are only of use for low speed impacts, such as experienced by pedestrians falling over on the footway. Helmets confer little benefit to cyclists hit by motor vehicles. This is amply reflected by the fact that very few people wear helmets in the Netherlands. Cycling is a safe occupation, and it isn't made significantly safer by wearing a helmet. There are indeed dangers specifically associated with wearing helmets.

By all means wear a helmet if you wish, but ride as if you don't wear one and please don't expect it to be of the slightest benefit.