I warned Boris that his policies would lead to more cycling deaths


Jenny Jones AM is leader of the Green Party on the London Assembly and Green Party Mayoral candidate for 2012

CyclistsFour out of the five cycling deaths in the last nine days are linked to either the Mayor’s red buses, or to his blue paint.

After almost six years of inaction on cycle safety, the rise in the number of killed and seriously injured have to be placed at the Mayor’s door. That is why this morning he started blaming the victims, rather than talking about real solutions.

It is the lowest form of politics to direct attention to the mistakes that people may or may not have made as they cycled to work, or rode home to their families, in order to draw attention away from yourself.

The whole point of being Mayor is that you take responsibility for creating safer roads, where individual mistakes by a cyclist, driver, motorcyclist or pedestrian do not get punished with death.

Boris Johnson has previous form on blaming the victims, and repeatedly refused to apologise for the wildly incorrect statistic he used to claim that the majority of deaths and injuries where down to cyclist infractions of the rules. Transport for London refused to back up his claim and the Mayor reluctantly agreed it wasn’t true, but it was a resentful, grudging conversation.

The Mayor even returned to his favourite theme that London’s roads were getting safer for cyclists and he wanted me to apologise for saying they were not. The reality is that they are safer than they were twelve years ago, but they have become more dangerous since he was elected.

My office have been trying to get TfL to make the post 2008 calculation on the ratio of cyclist death and serious injuries since July. We wanted them to do it so that we could avoid another spat between me and Boris over who had better statistics.

Instead TfL have told us that ‘they do not regularly publish’ such figures and directed us instead to the raw data. The calculation seems easy enough so here it is:

In 2008, on average a cyclists could make 401,910 trips before being killed or seriously injured.

In 2011, the average cyclist could make 364,361 trips before being killed or seriously injured.

The 2012 figures will show that this trend has accelerated; I have no idea what 2013 will finally bring, but I suspect it won’t be good news.

I have repeatedly warned Boris Johnson that his policies would lead to more death and injury. Whether it was slashing over £35m off the road safety budget, abandoning the road hierarchy which had previously made cyclist and pedestrian safety the top priority,  or stopping safety improvements at junctions because they might create a traffic jam.

The Mayor made mistakes and stayed firmly in denial about the consequences. He still is. For all the talk of a £900m cycle safety budget, he still believes in those comments about keeping ‘your wits about you’ and ‘there is no amount of traffic engineering that we invest in that is going to save people’s lives’.

The solutions are obvious and uncomplicated. Make 20mph the default speed limit across London. Give space for cycling by taking it away from cars and lorries. Ban HGVs during commuter hours. Get rid of the major gyratories and start from scratch with the redesign of places like Bow Roundabout and Old Street. Fast track all the safety measures on the top 100 most dangerous junctions.

While the Mayor is doing all of that, he could start to enforce the rules on our lawless roads, so we no longer have 62 hit and runs a week in London, or a situation where the majority of drivers with over 12 points on their licence are legally allowed to drive.

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  • Carol Wilcox

    I posted this on Facebook and got this comment from a boris-loving-cycling-tory-mayor: “2008
    was about the time of the crash, following which cycling increased in
    popularity enormously, as a cheaper way to get around. This means there
    were many more inexperienced cyclists on the roads. Yo, yourself, will
    probably have noticed that there are more and more idiot cyclists taking
    stupid risks. It is not surprising that accident rates have risen.” What do you say?

  • LB

    How about getting the police to do something about bad driving?

    Ah yes, you would rather spend 5 million chasing after Assange than do anything about the deaths on the road.

    The police had 1,600 complaints over a 7 month period from cyclist. 1 may have gone to the CPS, but the inspector running the service isn’t sure.

  • JC

    You must be pleased with your prescience then.

  • Ivan D

    Why stop at 20 mph? What about 10 or possibly 5 mph? The cyclists would then be the fastest things on the road.

    My worst cycling injury was caused by a car driver pulling out of a junction. He was doing close to zero and I was doing about 25 mph.

  • avlowe

    Jenny,

    CS2 – Bow

    TfL’s own survey figures counted 60% of cyclists travelling E-W riding over the Bow flyover, possibly more bikes than motor vehicles at certain times of day. Conversely the bulk of the motor traffic goes to & from roundabout, where it joins or leaves the A102, and with the exception of buses nearly 100% of the motor traffic on that roundabout will have been a potential threat where the drivers drive through the strip of blue paint that is CS2. The risk only managed by the hope that both drivers and cyclists comply with the traffic signals and signage, with no fail-to-safe condition if either delivers a wrong-side failure. The introduction of a more complex system of traffic signals and timings runs counter to the best practice in risk management, by creating more variables rather than a basic black & white position.

    By contrast the risk of a driver turning left or otherwise driving through the path of a cyclist crossing over the flyover is for all practical purposes zero – nil – zilch! Not only that but the route is faster and cleaner to cycle than that around the roundabout, with its roulette of chance in avoiding the vehicles going on or off the slip roads. I’m presuming that TfL produced plans for CS2 to both use the flyover, and go round the roundabout, and I’m at a loss to figure out why the decision was taken to send CS2 via the route that most cyclists were demonstrating they did not want – my own spot counts when having breakfast at the Three Mills Cafe suggest that the morning peak figure is closer to 70% of cyclists riding over rather than the TfL figure. It seems inexplicable that when the original CS2 route was shown to be so fatally flawed that TfL persisted with the Mk 2 version being very little changed with regard to the hazardous zones where a direct conflict between cycle traffic and motor traffic (6 different crossing movements for 4 junctions) still exists. This question has to be asked – was there a plan to take CS2 over the flyover, and if so why was the inherently less safe route around the roundabout selected.

    How the risk assessment for Bow could be so wrong, presses the call to have clear transparency in mapping the potential hazards on any road design and showing a how a risk management plan is to be applied.

    Ideally any failure of a road user to observe the required change of speed or direction to minimise the risk of hitting another road user should result in a fail-to-safe condition rather than a shrug of shoulders and “stuff happens” acceptance.

    Manage Don’t Ban

    Put bluntly you won’t be able to ban LGV’s during peak hours, especially the most prolific and notorious type – the 32T rigid 4-axle construction site vehicles. These are the currency of muck and demolition haulage, with many of the major sites having 50 or more of these running between 50 and 60 mile round trips through London, between the site and the place to tip or recycle the loads. There is no space on the site to stockpile and the expensive excavation machinery has to be kept working, and so a big site might be shifting 3000Tons per day – or 150 trucks with a 20T payload.

    Of course there are other ways to move such massive amounts of material in bulk. On the river it would take 1.5 to 2 barge strings with a couple of tugs. By rail it would be 2-3 trains, and on the Regents Canal just under 40 barge-loads. However supporters of the work to move freight on the water – especially the Regents Canal have a major fight to stop mainly residential developments from blocking out all access to use the canal for freight, and there is just ONE working wharf in Central London, which can handle barges of up to 500T capacity, but only able to load and berth at high tide. The rail picture is similar it costs just a few £thousand/year to maintain a connection to the rail network but £millions and a 2-3 year delay to restore or install a rail loading facility. The very transient nature of the demand for individual developments means that no developer is going to set up and run such operations, and so it has to be lead by TfL and the Freight Unit, which showed its worth in managing freight movements for the Olympics in 2012.

    Risk Management

    Management of freight traffic, as a ban would never be workable, will have many beneficial effects. That 60 mile trip with a 20T payload is made by the type of LGV that DfT research shows to cause the greatest damage to roads, a 44T articulated vehicle, carries 50% more, does less damage per ton carried and costs less to run. So the footprint of the haulage operation for a site in pollution (noise & emissions) road damage and risk (fewer trucks fewer possible crashes) improves even if the material still moves by road. Reduce the road trips to a small fleet of trucks making very short trips to load a barge or train, and it might even be sensible to consider a temporary ‘truck lane’ specifically set out to deliver safe crossing points for other traffic, and close control of the LGV movements.

    Trucks too DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE SUCH POOR DIRECT VISION. The units used for refuse collection have the driving position practically at eye level with the pedestrian & cyclist outside. From alongside the vehicle you can look in and see the driver – not just the top of their head but the full body – and they can see you. No need for a forest of mirrors, CCTV, radar detectors etc Plain, simple, direct eye contact. The most certain way to avoid having 2 people walk, ride or drive into each other is to have them clocking each other eye-to-eye. The message – Make Eye Contact the Only Contact you make with other road users

    Concrete for example might be mixed on a large barge, supplied by river with aggregates and cement, and pumping the mixed concrete ashore to load the trucks, or even directly to the site if it was close enough. The ultimate in reducing truck trips has to go to the new London Gateway facility, who got 90,000T delivered in one boat-load removing potentially 9000 truck trips from the roads of Essex, if the boat had been unloaded at another port.

    A vital place to ACT NOW is to plan a reduced truck-use regime for the work due to start demolishing the Heygate Estate adjacent to Elephant & Castle. With the tonnages involved this could put an extra 200 32T tipper trucks on to the Elephant & Castle Gyratory and surrounding roads. Plan to make those journeys either short and on a closely managed route or non existent by loading on to rail via the railway that runs along the Western boundary of the site.

    Driver Quality

    It does beggar belief that a driver like Denis Putz could rack up 20 driving bans and a stack of serious motoring offences and still hold a vocational driving licence. Part of the problem is that whilst the Traffic Commissioners regulate the issue of vocational driving licences and attempt to prevent harm arising from a driver or operator of poor repute continuing to drive or operate LGV’s and PCV’s, the run of the mill issue of fixed penalty fines for a number of offences does not seem to get back and ring the alarm bells in good time.

    Well in Scotland we have a Memorandum of Understanding between the Traffic Commissioner and Police Scotland to ensure she gets notified of every vocational (Class C,D,E) driver stopped for using mobile devices, and gets the opportunity to call them in for interview. If Sir Bernard wants to put the Met seriously behind this campaign to deliver less risk from bad LGV driving, he can make sure that every vocational driver picking up any fine or charge from the Met Police for a traffic offence is logged for a report to the Traffic Area Office Metropolitan & South Eastern, so that the Commissioner can monitor and act appropriately on vocational licence holders, and even the operators who provide the vehicles, who show “poor repute”, to curtail or terminate their ability to pose a threat to all other road users.

    If the Commissioner considers that a person will cause harm if permitted to continue driving large vehicles they can call them in for interview with the sanction of revoking the vocational element, and even taking away the full driving licence, for a period in some cases. We have this sleeping giant, perhaps we should work with it?

  • Themadmullahofbricklane

    I’ll do what I always do with the Jenny Jones’ of this world. What would you do if you were the mayor? It’s year one MBA stuff. Where are you, where do you want to be? Draw a line.

  • Geddis

    The Mayor’s red buses? He must have been mayor for a helluva long time then. Life is risky, but it gets really risky when you cycle up the left hand side of a truck or bus.