CycleDigest December 2013
From the Editor
The stories we gather for each issue of CycleDigest are, of course, a round-up of whatever the month in question happens to bring.
Stepping back to look at them all as a whole - a fitting thing to do at the end of the year - helps refine what cycle campaigning seems to me to be all about: a) encouraging cycling and opening up opportunities for more of it because it does such a lot of good; and b) tackling anything and everything that gets in the way. Inspiring, promoting and protecting, in other words.
Hence, for example, the awards for progress on cycle-rail, the push to mobilise forces to encourage the MoD to give cyclists a warmer welcome on their land and the crucial political focus on cycle safety and on the lorry threat in particular. Read on for all of this, and more.
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As Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, cycling is just one responsibility on Robert Goodwill’s long list. He is, however, an experienced cyclist (and he’s driven lorries), and although only in post for just under three months, he has already shown a good understanding of his cycling brief.
At a Parliamentary debate on cycling on 26 November, Mr Goodwill heard MPs call for more funding, better junctions, safer lorries, training and stronger traffic law enforcement - all of which CTC advocates too and briefed MPs about beforehand. In response, he highlighted work with stakeholders (which include CTC) on the forthcoming cycle delivery plan and said: “We must focus on key areas of threat, to continue raising safety standards for cyclists.”
On 2 December in Leeds, the minister gave a speech to a DfT workshop for English local authorities. He and several other speakers emphasised the strong economic case for promoting cycling, saying, "To continue to grow our economy [...] we need to do more to help people choose alternative forms of transport." He rightly added that cycling provision should be “…designed by people who actually understand cycling” and told delegates that: “Where there are barriers in your way, I want to help remove them.”
The minister then appeared before the Commons Transport Select Committee’s one-off cycle safety hearing, called hastily following the series of cyclist fatalities in London during November. Having toured London and Leeds by bike shortly beforehand, he was in a good position to explain how and why infrastructure all too often fails cyclists.
Having acknowledged the “need to understand why some cyclists feel the need to get away from the junction before the light turns green”, he said he would make it easier for authorities to use cycle-friendly signs, markings and traffic signals – a commitment exemplified not long afterwards in good news about low-level lights (see 'Other stories').
For more, see:
- CTC’s evidence to the Select Committee’s Inquiry, emphasising that raising people's awareness of risk, and training them to avoid it, are the best 'quick wins', but that the 'big wins' involve tackling the source of the danger.
- CTC briefing for the Parliamentary debate
- CTC’s Roger Geffen’s blog on the Inquiry and the debate
- Robert Goodwill’s speech at the workshop in Leeds
- Robert Goodwill’s evidence to the Committee (video)
- Transcript of the Parliamentary debate
CTC’s Chris Peck has also given oral evidence to the Transport Select Committee's Inquiry into the Strategic Road Network. CTC's concerns are principally that major roads endanger and sever local roads. We also raised the issue of the Government’s prediction that cycling will fall by 2035.
Action on lorries
In the aftermath of the series of cyclist fatalities in London during November involving large vehicles, politicians and organisations have been considering measures to reduce the risk that lorries pose:
The Minister's view: While Mr Goodwill’s comments to the Select Committee on tackling poor infrastructure were welcome (see above), his remarks about HGVs were less encouraging. Although he acknowledged that it would be "no bad idea to get truck drivers on cycles”, he was against making cycle safety mandatory in every training programme and not convinced by the idea of lorry bans for London.
The Mayor of London's view: More than 3,700 people took part in CTC's campaign to write to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, urging him to act to stop HGVs from killing cyclists and pedestrians in the capital.
In reply, The Mayor made it clear that he shares our deep concerns about cyclists’ safety. In turn, CTC shares his concerns that the intense media focus on cyclists' deaths - while ignoring pedestrian deaths - may harm efforts to encourage cycle use by ‘dangerising’ it, while distracting attention from solutions that could benefit both groups. As the Mayor rightly says, there are millions and millions of successful cycle trips in London every year, providing enormous health, environmental and economic benefits.
The Labour Party's view: Writing in the Evening Standard about the London Cycling Safety Summit she held in Parliament, Shadow Transport Secretary and cyclist Mary Creagh, MP, said:
"I don’t want to wait until 2015 to start making a difference to London’s cyclists, which is why I am calling on HGV operators now to sign up to Labour’s new HGV Safety Charter. By the middle of next year, we want to see all HGVs fitted with safety kit — including rear-view cameras, rear warning signs for cyclists and flashing lights and beacons. By the end of 2017, we want all HGVs fitted with audible warning systems for drivers, sideguards and blind-spot elimination devices. And if Labour wins the 2015 election, we will legislate to make these safety features compulsory.”
Action from London Councils: London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee has agreed to hold a public consultation on amending the London Lorry Control Scheme (LLCS) permit conditions so that they require vehicles to be fitted with cycle safety equipment (e.g. side guards and extra mirrors). The Committee also agreed to consider altering the conditions to restrict the number of lorries allowed to drive in London during the morning rush hour to reduce conflict between lorries and cyclists.
CTC welcomes these proposals as potentially 'quick wins', but believes more will need to be done to fundamentally redesign lorry cabs to improve drivers' vision of cyclists and pedestrians, and to reduce the number of lorries on busy roads at busy times.
- For more on lorries, and the action CTC is taking and wants to see, go to CTC's 'Action on Lorries' campaigns page
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has discontinued proceedings against cyclist Alex Paxton for failing to stop at a red light.
With the support of the Cyclists’ Defence Fund (CDF) and funding from donations, Alex challenged the FPN he was given after he failed to stop behind the second stop line of an advanced stop zone (or ‘cycle box’), which was occupied by a car. The CPS dropped the case on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of a conviction.
Miss Puneet Rai, of Thomas More Chambers, who acted for Mr Paxton, said:
“In making this decision, the CPS clearly accepted that in the circumstances Alex had no real option than to act as he did to ensure his own safety. Clearly road traffic laws have to be obeyed but not to the point that cyclists are forced to place themselves in danger in order to do so."
- Helmet cam evidence leads to conviction: CTC also welcomes Cambridgeshire Police's successful prosecution of a driver for the close overtaking of a cyclist (classed in law as driving without due care and attention) and mobile phone use.
The cyclist recorded the incident on his helmet camera and the driver was eventually convicted, giving the lie to police claims that such evidence is inadequate for prosecutions, or that courts will not convict close overtaking offences.
CTC and the Cyclists' Defence Fund have been officially linked, a move that has simplified the charities’ administration and will allow CDF to be better integrated with CTC’s campaigning work.
Most international bike share schemes do better than ‘Boris Bikes’ in London, according to a study of data from four of the biggest schemes in Europe and a range of others in North and South America.
CTC believes that poor cycling conditions are likely to be the main reason why the capital’s scheme is one of the least used and the most expensive to operate. Whereas each bike in Barcelona's scheme is hired over 10 times per day, London's are used just 3 times; and they are used less than half as often as those in the Parisian Vélib’ scheme.
The Mayor of London has recently set out a delivery timetable for his ‘Vision for Cycling’, with plans to upgrade 33 major junctions and ‘Mini-Hollands' in four outer boroughs. It also includes a 'Central London Grid' of "connected safe set of routes taking cyclists across central London".
The grid will be made up of 'Quietways' and 'Superhighways' built to a higher standards than before - the proposed routes have just been published and TfL is inviting comments (deadline 14 February 2014).
News that the Department for Transport (DfT) has finally given the go-ahead to ‘low-level’ traffic lights has been welcomed by CTC, who have long campaigned for the move.
The mini, cycle-specific lights help cyclists at junctions because they repeat the signal displayed on the main traffic lights at a level that makes them easier for people on bikes to see. The lights are already a common sight in most other European countries.
The very first set will be installed as a pilot at London’s Bow Roundabout in the New Year, and another 11 locations in the capital will follow. The lights could also be used, subject to further research, to give cyclists an ‘early start’ at junctions.
Transport Scotland is consulting on specific proposals to introduce trial 20 mph zones on trunk roads in Maybole, Largs, Biggar, Langholm and Oban. The zones are expected to be largely self-enforcing with gateway treatments, signing and lining rather than traffic calming measures.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said that the trial “…will seek to improve road safety generally, but we expect them to bring specific benefits for vulnerable road users, such as older people and cyclists”.
Congratulations to CTC member Bill Telfer, who has led a long campaign for the Langholm 20 mph zone.
The winners of ATOC’s (Association of Train Operating Companies) 9th round of National Cycle Rail Awards were announced in November.
The Awards recognise progress in encouraging and developing integrated cycle-rail travel and are judged in partnership with cycling stakeholders and campaign groups, including CTC.
This year’s winners include:
- Greater Anglia (Best Customer Service/Partnership Working and Local Government Schemes)
- Bike and Go, Merseyrail (Innovation)
- Stirling Cycle Hub, ScotRail/Forth Environment Link (Door to Door Journeys including Station Travel Plans)
- Peckham Rye Station, Southern (London Cycle Parking)
- Merseyrail, First Capital Connect (Cycle Security Award)
- Chelmsford, Greater Anglia (Station of the Year)
- South West Trains (Operator of the Year).
- Larry Heyman from First Capital Connect won the ‘Cycle Champion’ category for driving forward a cycle parking project at St Albans station and an on-site cycle repair and servicing scheme.
Royal Mail has confirmed that its cycling days are almost over - what's left of its cycle fleet will be gone by 2014.
When in 2010 Royal Mail proposed to scrap cycle deliveries, CTC objected because of the greater risk to other road users and increased emissions. We also pointed out that cargo bikes are an extremely efficient way to deliver post and other goods.
CTC still objects to the loss of Royal Mail's cycle fleet. We believe, however, that there will be time for Royal Mail to re-think when their replacement vans come to the end of their working life in about 5 years' time. We also note that, while Royal Mail is ditching cycles, rivals TNT and DHL are discovering the benefits of cycling as a fast and cost-effective solution for urban deliveries.
- CTC has teamed up with Gnewt Cargo to expand a trial of green deliveries as part of our involvement in the Cyclelogistics project.
In a speech about the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, Local Growth Fund, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and future plans for sustainable travel, Minister of State for Transport Baroness Kramer stressed the need to reduce the costs of congestion to the economy and decarbonise transport.
The Baroness said, “…local sustainable transport needs to be on the agenda when local leaders decide the priorities for their community” and stated that she would be watching to ensure that LEPs bear in mind the significant economic benefits that such investment brings.
Thanks to lobbying by ECF (European Cyclists' Federation), cycling and EuroVelo (the European cycling route) will be recognised by The Trans-European Transport Network. TEN-T is an EU policy area designed to focus funds on supporting strategically important trans-European transport infrastructure developments. CTC is a member of ECF.
- For global thoughts about cycling, see ECF Development Director Kevin Mayne’s reflections on the Climate Summit in Warsaw.
Surrey and Hampshire cyclists are finding that the MoD (Ministry of Defence) is increasingly restricting access to their land for cyclists.
Local CTC member John Johns recently met MoD minister Andrew Murrison to discuss the situation, while an ongoing byelaw review by the MoD is a good opportunity to persuade them to take proper account of cycling as a legitimate activity on their land and to ensure that unnecessary restrictions are lifted.
CTC would like to hear from any cyclist who has experience of accessing (or trying to access) MoD land.
Plymouth Cycling Campaign, a CTC affiliate group, is calling on the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) not to hold a costly public inquiry into improving a “narrow, rooty, rocky and slippery” section of a local trail just because of a few objections.
An inquiry, the group fears, could thwart plans for works that could transform the Coast-to-Coast trail between Plymouth and Ilfracombe into an economic asset for the region by making it easier and more attractive for cyclists and others to use.
Surrey and Hampshire cyclists are finding that the MoD (Ministry of Defence) are increasingly restricting access to their land for cyclists, especially to Hankley Common in Surrey. Horse riders and walkers are also affected.
CTC would like to know if cyclists elsewhere in the country are experiencing problems accessing MoD land.
If you are, please get in touch. This will help us not only when we are negotiating about local problems, but also in our national discussions with the MoD.
Facts on Cycling Safety (DfT)
Very useful two-page fact sheet with graphics, giving a quick overview of statistics, e.g.: the 16% rise in 2012 of reported cycle casualties (all severities) over the 2005-09 average; the fact that per mile travelled a cyclist is no more likely to be killed than a pedestrian; and that in collisions between a cycle and one other vehicle, cyclists were almost twice as likely to have no contributory factors attributed to them when compared to the other vehicle.
The DfT’s bumper collection of annual transport statistics, with useful accompanying fact sheet picking out the headline figures on, for example, personal travel, travel to work, casualty rates, pollution and greenhouse emissions, road traffic (plus forecasts), licensed vehicles and drivers, public sector expenditure, transport costs and Government revenues. Includes section on walking and cycling.
The influence of a bicycle commuter's appearance on drivers’ overtaking proximities (Dr Ian Walker et al., University of Bath)
Results of a study that looked at whether a cyclist's outfit influences how much room a driver gives them when overtaking.
The researchers tested seven outfits, from a stereotypical sport rider's outfit (suggesting high experience and skill), to a vest with ‘novice cyclist’ on the back (suggesting low experience). They also used a hi-viz jacket.
They found that the only outfit associated with a significant change in mean passing proximities was a safety vest featuring a prominent mention of the word ‘police’ and a warning that the rider was video-recording their journey. Fear of detection is, clearly, a powerful deterrent to unsafe and inconsiderate driving behaviour.
“Notably,” the authors say, “whilst some outfits seemed to discourage motorists from passing within 1 m of the rider, approximately 1–2% of overtakes came within 50 cm no matter what outfit was worn. This suggests there is little riders can do, by altering their appearance, to prevent the very closest overtakes; it is suggested that infrastructural, educational or legal measures are more promising for preventing drivers from passing extremely close to bicyclists.”
Published in 'Accident Analysis and Prevention'
Obesity and the environment: increasing physical activity and active travel (Dr Nick Cavill and Professor Harry Rutter / Public Health England)
Written in conjunction with the Local Government Association, this ‘healthy people, healthy places’ briefing summarises the importance of action on obesity and a specific focus on active travel, and outlines the regulatory and policy approaches available. Advocates creating an environment where people actively choose to walk and cycle as part of everyday life, and supports 20 mph speed limits
A robustly titled briefing that has been emailed widely by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) to Councillors and key Council Officers promoting neighbourhood 20 mph limits. Available to LGiU subscribers.
Lawless Roads 2 (Jenny Jones AM, London Assembly)
A sequel to 'Lawless Roads 1' (published six years ago), this report sets out the road safety proposals for London that were highlighted by the 120 cycling campaigners, the acting head of the Met’s Transport Police and the Mayor’s Commissioner for Cycling, who all attended a seminar in the summer. Presumed (or ‘stricter’) liability; driving bans; 20 mph limits and Advanced Stop Lines are discussed as the priorities.
Commuting by Car (RAC Foundation)
Report looking at car/van commuting trends, concluding that more people in England and Wales are choosing these modes to get to work.
“The RAC Foundation can now show,” its Director Prof Stephen Glaister says, “… just how important the car is for journeys to work – not merely in the case of rural inhabitants, but equally for city-dwellers.” This may be true, but the authors don't think beyond the car - bemoaning motoring costs, the report concludes: "So far, however, people have not turned their backs on the car. What other option do they have?" CTC can think of at least one!
The report does contain some useful facts about car commuting, however.
Transport and Health: Position Statement (Faculty of Public Health)
Policy statement from the standard-setting body for specialists in public health in the UK.
Advocates “a major shift away from cars in favour of active travel: walking, cycling and public transport”. This is needed, it says, to reduce “the harms of the road transport system, enhance the benefits to individuals, society and the environment, and help reduce carbon.” Recommends reallocation of urban road space; policies that discourage private car use in urban areas; and 20 mph design speeds for streets used by pedestrians and cyclists.
London Bike Show, 13-16 February 2014 (Excel)
The UK’s largest cycling exhibition, which last year attracted over 38,000 visitors. CTC members are eligible for a 30% discount on adult tickets by quoting ‘LBCTC’. Under 16s are free.
Time for 20, 18 February 2014 (Camden, London)
20’s Plenty for Us national conference, focusing on how to roll out 20 mph limits.
Includes presentations, expert case studies and workshops. Book your place and learn how to get it right from leading authorities.