Thursday, 20 September 2012

Government completely ignores former Conservative Transport Minister's calls for better cycle infrastructure and responds to a rising death toll on Britain's streets with a shoddy advertisement campaign

Last week former Transport Minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative MP for Kensington and Chelsea who I unfairly maligned a few weeks ago) intelligently stated here in the Hammersmith and Fulham Chronicle that:

"a long-term paucity of proper cycling infrastructure has forced many cyclists onto busy roads, where they are bound to come into conflict with drivers of cars"

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who served as Conservative Transport Minister from 1990 to 1992 also said that "Cycling should be encouraged as a healthier, cheaper way of getting around that can serve out city's wellbeing and provide relief to our public transport infrastructure". Unfortunately the current Transport Minister, Patrick McLoughlin just wants to create more space for motorists.

Moreover, according to The Times 87 cyclists have died on Britain's roads this year, and at least 75 of those deaths have been due to collision with a motor vehicle. This is a staggeringly high figure and is put into grimmer perspective by the fact that Britain has the fifth worst record for reducing cycling fatalities in the EU.

How is the Government responding these dreadful figures? Is it listening to MPs like Sir Malcolm that are calling for "proper cycling infrastructure" which will prevent cycling deaths on busy roads or killer junctions like Bow Roundabout?

No. The Government is only responding with an advertising campaign that encourages motorists and cyclists to treat each other with more respect. Respect is great, but as Sir Malcolm says, if you've got cyclists mixing with traffic going at speeds usually substantially higher than 30mph then you are going to get fatalities no matter how much mutual respect is going on

Our Government is being wantonly useless. In fact, virtually all positive improvements in cycling infrastructure are coming from the bottom-up. TfL does appear to now be finally taking concrete steps to improve Bow Roundabout, but this is because of bottom-up pressure from Londoners who regularly cycle on Bow Roundabout rather than top-down pressure from a Government that wants to reduce cycling fatalities.

In a civilised country that cares about the safety of its citizens there should be pressure from the top-down on institutions like TfL and our local councils to put in place secure measures that will making cycling safer. But what is the reality in Britain? The Department for Transport (DfT) is currently hindering TfL's efforts to make Bow Roundabout safer because advance traffic-lights for cyclists are actually currently illegal under DfT guidelines. This state of affairs is a complete joke.

TfL has legally installed special 'horse-height' crossing buttons and horse-only crossing lights (seen as red image in background) at the eastern crossing of Hyde Park Corner. But installing a red cycle crossing light is currently illegal (which is why there isn't one here), as is installing cycle-only traffic lights at 'cycle-height'. Tens of thousands of cyclists use this crossing point every day; they are being ignored. I've never seen a single horse here; they are being catered for. Our current National transport policy is a disgrace. Moreover, a lack of 'horse-awareness' is also why the Government-run DVLA have blocked calls by driving instructors to make cycle awareness part of UK Driving Test. Again, this is completely farcical.

The Government needs to get its act together and start taking cycling, and the comments of MPs like Sir Malcolm seriously. Ad campaigns are no bad thing in of themselves. But anyone that has ever cycled on any road in Britain knows that what is a hundred times more important is safe cycle infrastructure which ensures that cyclists do not have to integrate with fast moving traffic that might, and indeed does repeatedly, kill them.

I suspect the reason for the Government's intransigence is due to a fear of alienating motorist voters. This is because nearly every element of proper cycle infrastructure you can think of deprives space or speed to the motorist in some way; advance stop boxes - ineffectual as they are - mean that motorists have to stop further away from the traffic lights; protected cycle lanes reduce that amount of lane space available to motorists; phased traffic lights mean motorists have to wait slightly longer at the lights; contra-flow cycle lanes usually necessitate the removal of on-street parking or the narrowing of a residential street.

The sad truth is that due to successive decades of pro-motorist policies in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, London's streets are already incredibly motor-friendly. Motorists and taxis have now got used to this state of affairs and are, like the American South, resistant to change. This photo is of Eaton Square, a five-lane (yes, that's right, FIVE LANE) residential road linking the twin centers of industry and commerce that are Sloane Square and Buckingham Palace. I can understand that high levels of motor capacity are necessary for some routes like the M25, but this kind of highway design in the heart of Central London, connecting two areas that are barely a mile apart, is just a complete and utter piss-take.
The lorry pictured here is, I believe, working for TfL and has special cyclist sensors. (Has the Government forced the freight industry to make this the industry standard, at least for vehicles travelling in London? No. Of course they haven't.) The rest of the traffic is just speeding taxis and young professionals in sports cars, probably driving to the gym where they'll get on a stationary bike for a workout. I don't think it is unreasonable to ask that one lane of this road is used to create a two-way protected cycle lane.
I would also like to see every member of our current cabinet cycle from Sloane Square to Parliament along this road and then say that all we need to make our streets safer is an advertising campaign. To be frank, I doubt they'd all make it to Parliament alive.

However, unless the Government wants to see more and more cyclists dying on Britain's streets due to collisions with fast moving motor vehicles it needs to make the brave decision to start a National Strategy to improve cycling infrastructure across the country and help - rather than hinder - organisations like TfL in their efforts to make roads safer for cyclists; even if this means making things slightly more cramped or slower for motorists in some areas, particularly inner city roads where high levels of motor capacity are simply not necessary.

To do anything less is grossly irresponsible, and it is a real discredit to Patrick McLoughlin and the Conservative majority of the Coalition Government, that as Transport Minister Mr McLoughlin has not made any efforts yet to properly rectify the issue of spiralling numbers of cyclists being killed by - to quote Conservative former Transport Minister Malcolm Rifkind again - "a long-term paucity of proper cycling infrastructure".


Cyclists in the City has also written intelligently on Rifkind's recent piece in an article available here.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Conservative AM Richard Tracey's cretinous contribution to the London Assembly's investigation into cycling in London

Having just watched the live feed of the London Assembly's investigation into cycling in London today (11/9/2012), I felt obliged to record the idiotic comments of Richard Tracey (a Conservative London Assembly member, representing Merton and Wandsworth) for posterity on the internet.

Here's a photo of Conservative Richard Tracey looking substantially less fat than he did on my web-feed today. Maybe he could take the advice of the Danish Cycling Embassy and prolong his life by 6 years by cycling to work and losing a few pounds?

The London Assembly had very intelligently invited two experts, from Holland and Denmark respectively (two countries where cycling is both much safer and much more widely practiced than in London), to speak on the issue of cycling in London. The Dutch and Danish experts made many incisive comments about the importance of building safe cycle infrastructure, for instance segregating cycle traffic away from fast moving motor traffic to provide real protection for cyclists. Unfortunately Richard Tracey's contribution did not match their intellectual standard.

Among other questions Richard Tracey seemed very concerned to know just how large Copenhagen and Amsterdam were in terms of population size. Given he's paid £53,439 a year to be a London Assembly he perhaps could have gone to the trouble of consulting wikipedia for this information before the meeting in question, and subsequently avoided wasting everyone else's time. But no. He's too lazy. He's Richard Tracey.

Having established the population sizes of Copenhagen and Amsterdam (500,000 and 1,000,000 respectively) Mr Richard Tracey then jingoistically remarked that they were both smaller than Birmingham, the UK's second largest city. Looking around the conference room for encouragement for his completely irrelevant comments, Mr Richard Tracey then pondered if Birmingham was indeed the UK's second largest city, or whether it might be Manchester. Mr Richard Tracey then concluded that he was initially correct. It was Birmingham. [Again, none of this was remotely on topic. What on earth is this man being paid £53,439 a year for???]

If Mr Richard Tracey was aiming to make a point about journey distance (and hence undermine a pro-cycling argument by conjecturing, even though it has been conclusively proved otherwise, that Londoners make so many long-distance trips that a high modal share of bike use is impractical) he completed missed the mark by asking about population size instead. Was this a bit of completely pointless Capital City Cock-Wagging by our elected representative? ["My capital city's bigger than yours! Thanks for taking all the trouble of coming to London and giving us the benefit of your vast experience! Joke's on you cause my ears were closed you European Pricks!"] Just to clarify those are Richard Tracey's words, not mine.

In fact, the extremely high population density and comparatively small road space of London actually makes a very high modal share of cycling eminently practical, for a reason so simple that even Mr Richard Tracey can understand it: bikes take up far less space on the roads than cars. In London we have lots of commuters and a strictly limited road space. Therefore we need more cyclists in we want to ease inner-city congestion.

This photo (borrowed from the excellent Cyclists in the City) shows about 20 rush-hour cyclists fitting into a space that would only hold 2 cars. Imagine how much worse the traffic would be for Richard Tracey if all of those cyclists were in their own cars, creating a 20 car traffic-jam stretching far back over Southwark Bridge.

Having watched Richard Tracey wasting about 10 minutes trying to undermine the London Assembly's distinguished guests because their cities were smaller than his, I thought he would now shut-up. But, unfortunately he didn't.

Moreover, can you guess which reputable newspaper Mr Tracy decided to draw on for his next 'intelligent' contribution? Was it The Times' CycleSafe campaign, highlighting the shockingly high numbers of cyclists that have died on our streets? Was it The Independent and The Guardian repeatedly calling for London's authorities to do more for cyclists. Was it The Economist cogently (as always) arguing that cyclist numbers in London have been increasing while cycle infrastructure has been staying static, and massive investment is now needed to make cycling safer and therefore more attractive to Londoners? Or was it even The Telegraph arguing that cycling should be our national sport, and listing the many ways in which regular cyclists pay an astonishingly positive contribution to our economy?

No. It was The Daily Mail which published an article about a (possibly fictional) woman that got hit by a cyclist. Now, I am in no way condoning anti-social cycling (if this incident did indeed occur). But Richard Tracey is seriously missing the issue here. Insultingly so. If we are to talk at a public meeting about safety incidents involving bicycles in London, should we not be remembering the many people that have lost their lives on Bow Roundabout before we consider anyone that may or may not have been brushed by a bicycle on a pavement? These people are dead now. The Daily Mail columnist's mother (if she exists) is still alive. Surely those that died on Bow Roundabout represent a much bigger issue?

But no. Richard Tracey continued on, quoting from online media created only for the most intellectually limited members of our literate populace, and called for compulsory bicycle number plates so the anti-social perpetrators of these crimes could be caught. Mr Tracey, if you're going to put the focus on justice, how about calling for greater punishments for the van driver who killed a 12 year old boy last Thursday? Or the driver that seriously injured a Paralympic cyclist last year? David Cameron spoke yesterday at the Olympic Athletes' Parade about his son now - in the post-Olympic aftermath - wanting to be "like Bradley Wiggins". But did David Cameron mention any safety measures that would make his son, and many other sons like him, allowed to have the option of cycling safely segregated from life-threatening high-speed traffic, like the aforementioned van driver? No, David Cameron didn't.

Caroline Pidgeon, the leader of the LibDems on the London General Assembly (pictured here), does genuinely understand cycling and cyclists in London. But she is unfortunately hampered by having to work with buffoons like Richard Tracey. The man's an idiot and I'm quite frankly amazed that one single Londoner voted for him in 2010. I am even more shocked that the London Assembly have allowed Tracey to be a member of the Transport Commitee.

To return to my final point with regard to Richard Tracey and the London Assembly meeting. When Dr Rachel Aldred and our Dutch and Danish friends were very cogently outlining the limitations of many of the current Cycle Superhighways (especially CS2 which runs, as blue paint, from Bow, down Mile End Road and Whitechapel Road, to Aldgate), Richard Tracey was extremely keen to know what the "trade-offs" would be to installing safe, protected cycle lanes for Londoners to use. Clearly Richard Tracey was cacking his pants about the impacts of any slight reduction to London's motor traffic capacity.

But as Dr Aldred very acutely observed, many of London's key roads were closed or constricted during the Olympics. Did we have chaos? No. Not at all. London ran better than many of us have ever seen it run. Moreover, all available studies have shown that road congestion simply expands or contracts to meet road capacity. So, just as building the massive M25 did nothing to alleviate London's long-term traffic congestion, because traffic simply increased to accomodate it, limiting traffic flow on many major London carriageways by the installation of segregated cycle lanes is not going to lead to an explosion of road congestion; traffic levels will simply decrease to accomodate the reduced capacity. So would Richard Tracey kindly stop cacking his pants? No.

I've written here in defence of Boris Johnson's cycling credentials. I argued that the biggest opponents to safe cycling in London are local politicians, often councillors, that have no interest in installing safe cycle infrastructure in their boroughs, where they have almost complete control of street layout since, by law, the local council is the local highway authority. This morning at the London Assembly we heard of Newnham Council's depressingly successful opposition in 2010 of TfL's, and Boris Johnson's, plan to extend Cycle Superhighway 2 - literally just 'blue paint' - into their borough. We also got to see, and hear, one of these anti-cycling councillors 'in action' at the council table: Mr Richard Tracey.

An example - on Whitechapel Road - of the horribly obstructive blue paint of the CS2 that Newnham Council so righteously opposed. I wonder how the traffic can flow at all on this street with that barely visible blue box getting in everyone's way.
Future Cycle Superhighway construction needs to be a hundred times more ambitious.

If you think that Richard Tracey needs to bring his views up-to-date with the 21st century - and lets not forget this a man who was in Thatcher's Tory Cabinet of the 80s, a government which designed most of the 'killer-junctions' which TfL are now improving - drop him an email at and do please let him know just how regressive and unhelpful his views are.

If you are a resident of Wandsworth or Merton you could also contact Richard Tracey as a constituent of his through

After all, we live in a democracy and cyclists using online communication channels recently managed to get Richard Nye to publicly apologise for saying "the only good cyclist is a dead one". Richard Tracey's road management policies aren't much better than Richard Nye's anti-cyclist editorials, and unlike Mr Nye, Mr Tracey has far more power to do cyclists actual harm through these policies.

So I think it's worth all of us dropping Mr Tracey a line at and letting him know that his idiotic contributions to today's debate simply weren't good enough.

(I didn't see the start of the debate so if I missed any more puerile questions from Richard Tracey do please add them in the comments section. Politicians like Richard Tracey, and Conservative MP Mark Field, need to be brought to public account with the cycling community, so we can all stop simply 'blaming-Boris'.)

Those interested can also watch a recording of the entire meeting here: (Richard Tracey begins his idiocy at about 1hr 40minutes) or read a transcript of the meeting here:


Other posts on Richard Tracey being a buffoon: 

- A Personal Note to Conservative London Assembly Member Richard Tracey by Cyclists in the City - Nov 2011
The chutzpah of Richard Tracey by As Easy As Riding A Bike - Jun 2011

Mayor of London's Roads Task Force Consultation

Just a short post to emphasise how important it is that all London cyclists fill in the following consultation before it closes THIS Friday 14th September:

The kind of segregated cycle infrastructure we could start seeing all over London

As the Mayor of Paris said, "The car has no long-term future in our cities". We need to make sure this message gets delivered to TfL and radically increased provision for cyclists is prioritised over the next few years, and in the long term.

We want far more dedicated cycle paths, increasing both pedestrian and cyclist safety. If there do have to be some roads (for freight travel etc.) they should be increasingly built underground and have their capacity limited to what is strictly necessary only (e.g. not a commuter who could travel by bike or public transport).

If we want more of this (cyclists completely separated from dangerous HGVs and lorries at Southwark Bridge) we need to let the Mayor and TfL know.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Open Submission to West End Commision

The West End Commission are currently asking for submissions on how the West End should develop over the coming years, with a substantial focus on transport issues. Anyone interested in cycling in London should get in touch with them here and have their views heard:

I've coped my submission below here in case anyone (is lazy) and fancies simply copying and pasting something similar to what I've written. A lot of this is ripped of the wikipedia page on Utility Cycling anyway...

Inviting for a cyclist? Not really... On the plus side at least all these taxis and vans are making the West End far more dangerous, polluted, congested, and noisy, than any cyclists would.

Dear Sir or Madam,

My evidence is relatively brief so I have contained it within this email as well as copying it into a word-document that is attached. As a London resident and frequent West End visitor, I would like to express in the strongest terms how much I believe the West End could improve its current cycle provision. 

I will first list the benefits that increased cycling rates in the West End would bring. I will then list a number of ways to bring about this increase.

Potential benefits of significantly higher cycling rates:

- Less congestion on the West End's narrow roads and at busy tube stations during peak times. 1 car takes up about as much space as 4 cyclists on London's roads. Moreover the vast majority of cars in the West End contain only one person, the driver. Therefore, creating significantly higher cycling rates will inevitably lead to an easing of congestions on the West End's streets, and also less of a pressure on already creaking tube services.
- More direct, reliable, and quick transport. Cycling is a very fast way of getting from place to place across Central London. Unless you get a puncture it is also far more reliable than either tube or bus services. Moreover, you don't have to worry about traffic jams so it is also more reliable than taking a taxi. So the West End will also benefit from more reliable transport times by encouraging cycling.
- Less air pollution. This point should need no expansion.
- Fewer deaths in Central London. Though cyclists do pose some level of hazard to other cyclists and pedestrians, they overall pose far far far fewer dangers to either groups than cars do. So for every motorist that you replace with a cyclist you make Central London a safer place to walk and cycle around. This can only help to encourage tourism and spending in the West End and make it a more pleasant (and safer!) place to live, work, and visit.
- Better health of West End residents, workers, and visitors, because they are getting more regular exercise.
- Increased tourism due to attraction of visiting a borough with high cycling rates. Copenhagen and Amsterdam both benefit massively from tourism generated by cycling culture.
- Reduced noise pollution from traffic.
- Increased amounts of local spending since cyclists spend far more at local shops on their route than motorists do.

How to increase cycling rates:

- Infrastructure is the most important factor. This requires political will and financial investment. It includes:
* Safe, protected, cycle paths (in line with international best-practice in countries like Holland and Denmark) on major roads like Shaftesbury Avenue and Oxford Street. I would strongly advise working with TfL to introduce a central London Barclays Cycle SuperHighway as this will give the West End both free publicity and financial aid with building a cycle network through the West End.
* Large, safe cycle parking spots created in key locations near tube stations, big theatres, big squares etc. Cycle Parking provision is currently awful in the West End
* Intensification of the Boris Bike scheme (i.e. increasing existing docks, building more docks to create more bikes and more spaces)
* Creating contra-flow routes through areas like Soho to allow cyclists to take direct routes through the West End without having to follow a circuitous one-way system designed for motorists. This involves taking away one side of on-street parking to allow for a cycle lane to be put in place. The City of London have already done this to many roads in the City to great effect.

This will all take both strong political will and reasonable financial assistance. But the potential benefits for the area are enormous.

Many thanks for your time,

George Johnston

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Open Letter to Richard Nye, Editor of The Richmond Magazine, author of "the only good cyclist is a dead one"

[do contact Mr Nye yourself at]

Dear Richard Nye (current editor of The Richmond Magazine),

I was disgusted by your comment:

"the only good cyclist is a dead one"

in the latest copy of the Richmond Magazine. 

Are you aware of the fact that there have been 11 cyclists killed in London already this year, 74 cyclists killed in Britain as a whole already this year, and that a 79-year-old man (clearly not a 'lycra lout') died yesterday in a collision with a skip lorry in Walton? 

Your comment was morally despicable, and mocks the serious safety risks posed to cyclists (by drivers like yourself) on Britain's roads in 2012.

I very much look forward to seeing a detailed, formal, sincere, and public apology - and hopefully resignation - from you in the next few days. 

I will continue to publicly and formally seek an apology from you until I hear of one.

George Johnston

P.S. Instead of fuming at cyclists while you drive around London, the next time you are stuck at the lights why not imagine that all the cyclists in the advanced stop box in front of you (and in Central London at rush hour there are quite a few these days) were in a car of their own instead. How much worse would congestion on London's streets then be? You should be grateful for every cyclist you see in London because, by choosing a bike instead of a car, he or she has actually eased congestion on London's streets making it easier for you to get around in your car. Cyclists only interact obstructively with motorists when the Government has failed to build proper cycle infrastructure (cycle lanes, etc.) which the cyclist is allowed to use instead and allows cyclists and motorists to safely travel at vastly different speeds down busy roads because they are safely segregated. And please don't talk about road tax because that doesn't exist. Car users pay a small car tax but given that over half of all Boris Bike registered users earn over £50,000 a year I think they are more than making up for the extremely minimal damage caused by bicycles to London's road system through the 40% income tax they are paying.

P.P.S You should be sacked.


Here's a photo of Richard Nye looking like a crap journalist that doesn't deserve to be employed, let alone made Editor.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

New Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin MP, needs to implement a National Cycling Strategy in the UK to help tackle the recession

With Patrick McLoughlin MP as our new Transport Minister as part of the cabined reshuffle, now is the most important time to email him - - letting him know that we want Utility Cycling to be included (at the very least) on the Government's new Transport Agenda and infrastructure spending plans.

Patrick McLoughlin MP not quite on a bike, but at least standing next to one (far right). Shamelessly borrowed from a good article on the same subject by Carlton Reid on BikeBiz.

I've written a fair bit of local and mayoral transport policy, but I'd now like to focus on our (comparative lack of a) national cycling policy.

In January 2012 France created a National Cycling Strategy.

The whole document is available for the public to view, in French, here. It's certainly interesting reading, with stats like:

"80% of journeys made by car in France are 5km or less" (p.7).

Moreover, France's national newspaper, Le Monde, regularly publishes articles such as this, which recognise the completely transformative positive effect that increased cycling rates could have on our major cities.

All we have here in Britain by way of a National Cycling Policy is the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, giving a lot of nice sounding press-quotes about increasing London's cycling rates, and doing much less. There is no concrete nation-wide plan to increase cycling in this country. This is absolutely ridiculous.

It's not just smaller European countries like Holland, Denmark and Switzerland that have recognised the economic, health and societal benefits of encouraging cycling at a national level. Now the French are doing it too.

Why is Britain not catching up?

If you agree that this is a ridiculous state of affairs I would urge you to contact our new Transport Minister at so we can hopefully see a National Cycling Strategy (for Britain) unveiled in the next 6 months.

Furthermore, you can also make you voice heard at the Department for Transport using the contact us section of their website.

Our idiotic cabinet needs to realise that Utility Cycling is not a policy that should be relegated to LibDem and Green local councillors.

It can, and should, be a full-bred Conservative policy too.* The majority of the UK's cyclists are white and male. The highest peak-rate of cyclists in London is in the Square Mile; also home of the horrid banker people like George Osbourne. Half of Boris Bike subscribers earn over £50,000 a year. These people may not pay car tax (road tax, as we know, doesn't exist), but they are paying 40% or higher rates of income tax (the single largest source of revenue collected by the Government).

It's simply bad politics (i.e. ignoring your own voters) for the Conservatives not to get behind Utility Cycling.


To finish, another quote from the French National Cycling Strategy document:

"The inhabitants of Copenhagen choose overwhelmingly to cycle by bike because it is 'safe, cheap, quick, convenient'. Other reasons, such as the 'environment, health', rank much lower (p.7-8)."

'Safe, cheap, quick, convenient'.

This a list of the qualities which a Conservative/LibDem Coalition Government would look for in transport of any kind.

Why are they so blind to the overwhelming advantages of creating a National Cycling Strategy which aims to create the kind of cycle infrastructure that will make cycling in the UK 'safe, cheap, quick, convenient'?

Email our new transport minister today and help change their minds:

(comments welcomed)

* I'm not saying this as a Conservative (I'm a student and voted LibDem in 2010 - sucks to be me). I'm saying this as someone who thinks cycling in the UK could, and should, drastically improve.

EDIT (7/9/2012): An article in The Telegraph today echoes this argument that supporting cycling makes complete political sense for a Conservative/LibDem Government (indeed, for any Government):

Some stats from the article:

- Membership of British Cycling has doubled to 50,000
- There are now 13 million cyclists in Britain
- Cycling, as a sport, contributes £2.9 billion to the British Economy
- 3.7 million bikes sold in 2011, retail jump of 28% (despite a recession)
- Regular cyclists take fewer days off work for sickness, saving the country £128 million each year. This figure will multiply as cycling rates increase.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Delivery of 4 new TfL Cycle SuperHighways accelerated to 2013

EDIT (18/1/13) - As is probably abundantly clear now, TfL have quickly scrapped their previous plans (which I outlined below) to open 4 new Cycle Superhighways in 2013. This is obviously disappointing.

However, the plans drawn up for the CS2 extension show that TfL might now be significantly shifting their policy to supporting full segregated cycle lanes instead of the current rubbish 'blue-paint-only' that characterises much of the first 4 Cycle Superhighways.

If this is the case, it is possible that the other 4 Cycle Superhighways that were meant to open this year have been delayed so they can made into fully segregated lanes which - understandably - will require substantially more planning, application, and build time.

Fingers crossed eh? The BBC clearly thinks that cycle blogging has led to real, concrete improvements for cyclists.


A while ago I was trawling the internet for information on the Boris Bike Scheme expansion which I could then put on wikipedia (because I'm young and cool like that) and I found this article from the London Cyclist:

As the URL makes clear, the Mayor said back in Dec 2011 there would be no new Superhighways in 2013. But that's strange because if one now checks the TfL website for Cycle Superhighways ( the delivery dates have been brought forward and we are now promised 4 new Superhighways in 2013 and another 4 by 2015.

Evidence from TfL website (3/9/2012)!

The most likely explanation for what has happened is that the increased number of cyclists on London's roads, and perhaps the efforts of cycle campaigners, has led to the Mayor and TfL deciding to accelerated their delivery schedule (we do, after all, live in a democracy). The reason the decision has not been widely publicised is probably because the excuse given back in December 2011 for no new SuperHighways in 2013 was 'a restricted delivery window caused by the 2012 Olympic Games'. Suddenly going back on this would make it seem like there was no good reason for not implementing the SuperHighways in 2013 in the first place...

What does this development mean for cycling in London?

Well, firstly its a big positive for everyone that likes cycling in London. TfL clearly listens to us, at some level, and does (sometimes) alter its policy accordingly. Pats on the back all-round.

My second point is much more important. If TfL has accelerated 4 of its SuperHighways to a 2013 delivery date then it can accelerate the other 4. There is no need for us to wait until 2015 for them. Massive flyovers take 3 years to build. Painting a bit of tarmac blue (which is all that much of the current Cycle Superhighways consist of) takes about a week. I firmly believe that if enough pressure was exerted we could see those last 4 SuperHighways implemented well before 2015, especially since the 2013 Superhighways will only further boost cyclist numbers, and therefore public pressure on politicians to do more for cycle infrastructure.

Map showing future Cycle Superhighways (and junctions proposed for improvements). Available on TfL website; click here to view full-size. As can be seen, the routes proposed for 2015 are clearly NOT going take 3 years to build.

Moreover, as many cyclists online have made clear, the standards to which the last 4 Cycle Superhighways were made is simply not good enough compared to international best-practice.

Given that the Mayor pledged the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) to build new cycle routes in-line with international best-practice as part of his 2012 election manifesto, I also believe that with further pressure from Londoners we could see these new Cycle Superhighways being built to significantly higher standards than the first 4 were.

Wider. Better protected. Better signposted. I'm getting excited just thinking about them...

Boris Johnson also mentioned in his election manifesto a vague commitment to build an East-West Cycle Superhighway. It isn't on TfL's map above. We need to put it on the map (literally). This is NOT an infeasible project and if we could use the increasing momentum of utility cycling (no pun intended) to get it built, it could potentially completely revolutionise cycling in Central London. [If London were personified by David Cameron, then building an East-West cycle Superhighway through the centre of town would be the equivalent of branding the words 'I LOVE CYCLING' on Cameron's forehead for life.]

Essentially the voice of the utility cycling community is clearly being heard (at last!) by London's political leaders. But that is only more reason for us to shout both louder and clearer about exactly what improvements we want to see over the next few years, especially since idiotic local councillors have the power to do so much to obstruct TfL's efforts to build cycle Superhighways through their boroughs.

I've written extensively in this blog about the window of opportunity for cycling in London created this year by the Tour de France, followed by the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and finally the Tour de Britain to finish off (over a million spectators were recorded in 2011 - how many will it be this year with Wiggins involved?).

This window of opportunity has been widened by the AA's call for more cycle lanes (along with Carol Ann Duffy's), and the strong campaigning by British Cycling - a group which has itself more than doubled membership since 2008 to over 50,000 - for both a justice review for when people are hurt or killed on the road, and international-standard protected cycle infrastructure.

Right now, this window has been widened further still by George Osborne's, and the rest of our Government's, calls for investment in infrastructure to help tackle the recession.

Cycle infrastructure certainly isn't as expensive as the Thames Hub Airport would be (which we should build, by the bye). However, it certainly isn't that cheap either, especially in a city as complex as London. If cycle infrastructure could be made part of the national infrastructure-investment 'picture' that would help secure the kind of money necessary to fund the radical road engineering projects which will inevitably be necessary to create uniformly great cycling infrastructure across London, not just blue paint.

So, if you are reading this, please take a moment to have your voice heard at this critical time by:

1. Writing to your local MPs and Councillors (
2. Writing to your MP through this contact detail too, some of them can be very reticent (
3. Writing to TfL at
4.. Writing to Cameron, Osbourne and Clegg (
5. Encouraging your friends and family to get on their bikes to get around London. The higher the recorded number of cycle journeys around London is the more the Government and TfL will do to make cyclists safer and better accommodated (they want votes; UK is a democracy).

6. Finally, like charity, good cycle infrastructure begins at home. Making as many journeys as you can by bike is another effective way of creating change in our city. Drivers see you cycle, making them more aware of all cyclists. People see you cycle, making them jealous that you can filter traffic and encouraging them to cycle themselves. The government registers you cycling, and does that little bit more to represent cyclists at a national level as numbers increase.

If you usually undertake a long commute sans-bike, why not try it by bike a few times a week when the weather is good? Or if you're tootling around Central London and left your regular bike at home, consider getting a £1 day registration for the Boris Bikes instead of using a tube, bus, or taxi to get somewhere.

(comments welcomed)

More user-friendly map of proposed Cycle SuperHighways. Remember that strong local support in every borough will be essential if the new Cycle SuperHighways are to be built, and built to a high standard of safety. Full-size map available to view here.


For those interested in the Boris Bike scheme, the 2013 expansion shows all the signs that it is going ahead although obviously voicing your support locally (and nationally) will help make sure funding does not fall through, which might still be a potential problem. Moreover, if your Borough is not included in the scheme currently, nor in the planned expansion, the 2013 increase clearly demonstrates that TfL and the Boris Johnson are open-minded about further expansion - the Mayor has said publicly he sees it's expansion as an 'ongoing project' - so if you want Boris Bikes near your house write to TfL and let them know (email:!

A further increase in the Boris Bike scheme can also be tied in with the Government's proposed plans for overall investment in transport infrastructure, so now is the perfect time to ask TfL and your local MPs for Boris Bikes to come to your Borough.

Furthermore, for any Hammersmith and Fulham residents, or regular visitors, visit the H&F website here to suggest potential Docking Stations and influence the future shape of the BCH expansion in 2013. The more local support gets heard, the greater the expansion will be. Simples.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Conservative Mark Field MP wilfully ignores cycling as a viable mode of transport

This post is an expansion on my last article examining Boris Johnson's cycling credentials. Here I would like to examine Conservative Mark Field MP (London and Westminster) - mentioned in my previous post - in more depth. Here's a photo of him looking suave but remaining ignorant:

Mark Field MP: "Cyclists are economically detrimental to Central London despite the fact they ease both a congested road and public transport network. I am also comically out of touch with my constituents, the majority of whom don't even have acces to a car. I am unaware of this fact because I'm regressive."

This is a man who represents the Parliamentary Constituency of the Cities of London & Westminster. This borough is in many ways the heart of London, an area through which cyclists from any part of London are likely to travel at some point during a normal week. These cyclists might use their own bikes, or they could very cheaply use one of the (estimated) 3,500 'Boris Bikes' in Mark Field's borough. Moreover, if Mr Johnson is serious about his speculative plans to build an East-West Cycle Superhighway - which, by the way, is an absolutely fantastic idea which would really raise the profile/accessibility/safety/numbers of cycling in London - then it will almost certainly have to run through Mr Field's Parliamentary Constituency for a significant section. In short, this man matters for cycling in London.

This is also a man who clearly cares about transport. If you look on is website you can find many articles on 'The Great Aviation Debate' that he's been writing about for the last 5 years at least. This man clearly understands the importance of giving Londoners - and those working in our city - safer, more direct, and more practical ways of getting from A to B; and, though it is irrelevant to this article, I, like Mr Johnson, fully support Mr Field on his advocacy of a Thames Hub airport.

However, unlike myself, or Mr Johnson, Mr Field does not seem to give two tenths of a crap about cycling as a form of transportation. If you search either 'cycle' or 'cycling' on his website, both words come up with zero articles whatsoever on the subject of cycling in London. This man is so oblivious to any benefits which increased cycling rates could bring to our capital that he can't even be bothered to mention cycling in any way whatsoever, let alone financially, politically, or even just publicly support anything which might improve the lot of London's cyclists. Mark Field even blocked some of TfL's planned Boris Bike racks in 2009 because of "the problems they might pose to traffic flow". There's nothing TfL can do to make cycling safer and more popular if there are complete idiots like Mark Field MP actively working against them.

Here is an extract from his revealing reply to a resident on being asked to support The Times completely reasonable Cities fit for cycling campaign:

...As you are already aware, the Times are running a campaign to see road safety improved for cyclists. I have read through the campaign asks in detail but have some concerns about their practical workings and their economic implications. I appreciate that in many respects one cannot put a price on accident prevention if lives are saved. However it is the job of government to balance the sometimes competing needs of all road users and to find a workable medium between safety, enforceability and what is desired by the public. Without a better understanding of the implications, therefore, I am afraid I am reluctant to give the aims of the campaign my wholehearted support.

What kind of politician cannot even promise support to a campaign to safe cyclists lives?

Which of the many positive economic implications of higher cycling rates is Mark so worried about?

Why on earth has Mr Field MP chosen to occupy this anti-cyclists position?

Space for a cycle lane on the Mall? YES. But I've got a better idea, lets reserve it for cars and taxis that only contain a driver. That is a far more efficient use of limited space available in London's congested road system! Plus it makes the whole area quieter and less polluted, and makes all the pedestrians in the area safer because cars only kill 500+ pedestrians in London each year! Mark Field MP also actively opposed putting in an off-road Boris Bike rack here.

Mr Field's behaviour seems downright idiotic. Boris Johnson is Mark Field's Conservative colleague and you would think that Mr Field would want to support Mr Johnson, even if all Mr Field chose to do was pay token lip-service to the idea of improving cycling in London without ever actually doing anything. But instead Mr Field explicitly withholds his support from The Times cycle campaign, actively blocks TfL's attempts to expand the Boris Bike scheme in his borough, and can't even be bothered to mention the issue of cycling ever on his website.

Moreover, being anti-cycling isn't even a viable 'Conservative' position in 2012.* There's can be no idea of Mr Field 'towing the (male) (white) party line' and 'ignoring all the (poor) (female) (immigrant) (European) cyclists' since a Transport for London (TfL) customer satisfaction survey from September 2011 revealed more than three-quarters of the Barclays Cycle Hire (BCH) scheme’s users are men and half earn upwards of £50,000 per year, while 88% are white. 

Mr Field is deliberately, and idiotically, ignoring all the rich white men in his constituency that would clearly appreciate some leadership from him on the issue of improving cycling infrastructure in the heart of London.

Furthermore, next door to Mr Field, the City of London as a borough is not only home to the UK's financial centre, but also to some of London's best cycling rates and conditions (in terms of cycle lanes, cycle parking, Boris Bike provision, etc.**). The rich businessmen that work in our big banks clearly love cycling. 

Mr Field is rightly trying to help these businessmen by supporting the massive aviation capacity increase that 'Boris Island' (a Thames Estuary Airport) would deliver, allowing better connections with crucially important emerging economies like Brazil. Yet that same Mr Field is also completely uninterested in doing anything to improve these same businessmen's (and, indeed, the rest of the population's) intra-London transport options with regard to cycling. It doesn't make sense. It literally makes no sense at all.

The kind of cycle lane that Mark Field MP and Westminster Council support in order to reduce cycling fatalities in Central London. Notice how this one is conveniently located directly inside the 'car-door-opening-space' for parked cars, putting both car doors and cyclists in danger. As can be seen, the road-surfacing standards are also exemplary [I'm being sarcastic] and mean cyclists no longer have to swerve into the middle of the street - and traffic behind them - in order to avoid potholes and other hazards.

If you put 'Boris Johnson cycling' into google you get thousands of results, including many pictures of the Mayor cycling himself. Yes, Boris may not be perfect. But he is at least a high profile Conservative politician who is repeatedly putting cycling on the agenda, putting himself on a bike on London's streets, and has undertaken a TfL review of 500 dangerous junctions. Moreover, if TfL keep to their deadlines, Boris Johnson will have delivered both a significant expansion of the Boris Bike scheme and 4 more Cycle Superhighways by 2013 (as he promised in his election manifesto).

By contrast, if you put 'Mark Field cycling' into google you get nothing of relevance. If you put 'Mark Field MP cycling' into google the only cycling related result is a post from February 2012 by a well-respected London cycling blog criticising Mr Field, among others, for being completely useless, in fact harmful, with regards to improving cycling in the Capital.

It is time that Mr Field MP, and the Westminster Council***, started listening to these criticisms by the proponents of utility cycling in London and sharpening up their act. Cycling does not have to be the political preserve of Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Greens, especially when one considers the astonishing dominance on our roads of white, male cyclists, and white, male, upper-middle-class BCH users.

More importantly, without the support of Conservative London MPs like Mr Field, and the Tory councillors who effectively run Central London constituencies like Westminster, there is much less that Mr Johnson - as a Conservative himself - can achieve in this area of London.

Indeed, I can't help feeling that the fact Mark Field is a fellow Conservative prevents Boris Johnson calling him out, as he would a Labour politician, on Mark Field's active opposition to cycling in the capital. 

So we can do it instead. 

If you cycle in London and think, like the author of this article, that Westminster could drastically improve its cycling infrastructure then why don't you drop Mr Field a quick email at (If you're keener and fancy writing a letter then click here for full contact details. Moreover, if you are one of his constituents you can also contact Mr Field using:

In response, I'd love to see or hear some kind of reply from Mr Mark Field MP detailing exactly why I am wrong in this article, and exactly what Mr Mark Field MP is going to be doing to improve the lot of London's cyclists between now and 2013 as part of London 2012's Olympic Legacy. That would be fantastic, Mr Field.

With a cycle friendly Conservative mayor, a highly successful £140 million cycle hire scheme which is the 2nd largest in Europe, a significant number of large parks that could - if managed correctly - provide direct, pleasant, traffic-free cycle routes, and an already strong population of cyclists regularly commuting to the heart of the City, Central London should be leading the way for the rest of Greater London (and the UK) with regards to improving cycling infrastructure. 

Instead, Conservative politicians like Mark Field MP are deliberately obstructing measures that will make cycling in London safer and more popular.

(comments welcomed. I'm not trying to pursue a party-political line in this blog - it's simply pro-cycling - but I can't help noticing that non-Conservative London MPs generally seem far more supportive of cycling in their constituencies; with notable exception, of course, for the cycle-toxic Labour disgrace that is Kate Hoey.)


If you have Twitter then you can also tweet @MarkFieldMP, letting him know that completely ignoring cyclists in London's most central borough is NOT okay. Searching @MarkFieldMP on Twitter is also a great way of meeting other Twitter users who also want cycle provision in Westminster drastically improved!

* In my last post I wrote at length on the geopolitical and societal differences between the UK in the 80s and London in 2012 which no longer make a completely non-cycling transport policy tenable, even by Thatcherites.

** For those interested in these things check out the boundary-breaking (for London at least!) east-bound cycle lane on Beech Street which even has a chevroned area of road giving bike riders real protection by separating the traffic lane from the cycle lane (this google map image shows the road as the unnecessary two-lanes it was before). Also look at the cycle boxes in the City of London which are regularly packed to the rafters at rush hour.

*** It is a mark of how little Westminster Council care about cycling in London that cycle parking provision has actually decreased during the re-design of Leicester Square that that this cycling page of their website is now two years out of date:

EDIT: this article is now the first search result when you put 'Mark Field MP cycling' into google.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

In Defence of Boris Johnson's cycling credentials

EDIT (25/3/13) - 6 months on from writing this blogpost I feel my qualified support for Boris Johnson has been vindicated. 

Change is coming!

In early March 2013 the Mayor, along with his new cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan, announced a whole host of innovative measures to improve cycle safety in the capital, primarily through segregation, segregation, and segregation.

A superb analysis of the Boris Johnson's 'Vision for Cycling in London' by Cyclists in the City can be found here.


The more I inquire into local cycling infrastructure projects in my area the more I have come across local officials telling me, "well, the Mayor supports this, but we don't want to go through with it so it hasn't happened".

Boris Johnson on a Boris Bike
Amateur photo from today (2/9/2012). How many of London's other politicians are regularly seen cycling?

Among other projects, I have been told there is strong support from Mr Johnson for putting segregated lanes on major carriageways in Kensington and Chelsea, and for permitting cyclists to cycle in Hyde Park between Lancaster Gate and Queensway (allowing a 'full circuit' route to be created for cyclists travelling around Hyde Park so they don't need to use Bayswater Road). The proposed cycle lanes have been blocked by local authorities worried about restricting road space on what are already 4-6 lane roads while the cycle route through Hyde Park has been blocked by Royal Parks officials worried about the hazards new cyclists might pose to pedestrians. These people seem frustratingly oblivious to the far greater hazard posed to cyclists now as they are routinely forced to share lanes with motorists overtaking them at over 60km/hr down Bayswater Road and other London carriageways that lack even the most rudimentary cycling infastructure.

If Boris is being given a pro-cycling spin even by his antagonists in local government then he must to some extent be fighting the good fight on behalf of London's ever growing number of cyclists. Indeed, it is very easy to overestimate the amount of power that Mr Johnson actually has as mayor; the London mayoralty has only existed since 2000 and is much weaker constitutionally than its equivalents in America, which has a far more federalised government, granting significantly more power than we do to authorities sitting between the local and national. Even TfL only run 5% of London's roads. Essentially, if the local authorities don't want their local Cycle Superhighway to be segregated then it won't be segregated. End of.

So this post is a plea, of sorts, for London's cycling community to not give BoJo quite so much ire. Or at least direct that ire somewhere else.

I'm not saying that every decision or comment that Boris has made in relation to cycling in London has been a good one (although I am an umitigated suporter of the Boris Bike scheme and its rapid expansion).*

But all of my inquiries into local cycling infrastructure so far have uniformly given the distinct impression that the real opponents to good cycle infrastructure are the (often Conservative) local councillors and MPs of Central London who see a cyclist doing 25km/hr in a Royal Park as an intolerably dangerous hazard not to be countenanced, but a regard a motorist doing 48km/hr (30mph) down a residential street as a basic human right not be curtailed with speed bumps or poxy 32km/hr (20mph) speed limits.

Space for even an advisory bit of 'blue paint' on Bayswater Road (pictured here)? Local councillor says no. It would hold up the taxis, which are probably empty anyway. Plus local councillor needs sufficient spare space to have a large chevroned area in the the middle of road serving no purpose whatsoever. (these people are idiots).

It is these councillors and MPs (Conservative Richard Tracey AM - London Assembly - I'm looking at you...) who are repeatedly opposing cycle lanes which might restrict the constant flow of Taxis, Minicabs, and Chelsea Tractors (all stupidly large vehicles) through the already narrow streets of Central London.** They don't seem to realise that getting more people on bikes will actually create road space since someone cycling somewhere takes up so much less road space than someone driving somewhere.

It is these councillors and MPs who, despite all their talk of an 'Olympic Legacy', oppose the removal of on-street car parking to make way for safe and direct contra-flow cycle lanes, because losing a fraction of the borough's parking spaces would make it more difficult for their constituents, and themselves, to easily keep 2 or 3 cars in Central London.

It is these councillors and MPs who, quite frankly, couldn't give a solitary shit about creating more cycle racks in locations that integrate with other transport networks and discourage thieves.

It is these councillors and MPs (Conservative Mark Field MP - London and Westminster - I'm looking at you...) who still cling to Thatcherite pro-automobile policies from the 80s that are completely unsuitable for 2012 due to various geopolitical and societal changes over the last 30 years; e.g. global fuel squeeze, highly politically volatile oil-rich Middle East, desire to exit Afghanistan and Iraq, climate change, pollution in cities, road congestion in cities, national recession, growing health problem of obesity, global green movement, significantly improved London public transport system, and the lack of a British-owned volume car maker that lobbies for demand stimulation (although we do now produce very successful Brompton Bikes which improved cycling infrastructure would certainly stimulate demand for).

Therefore, it is these councillors and MPs that the cycling community should (primarily) be having a go at. Not Boris. 

In fact, you can even do it yourself, using to contact your local politicians about their cycling infastructure policies in your borough

With local elections coming up in 2014, and the popularity of utility cycling set to continue increasing over the next two years, these regressive politicans might even get nervous and start publicly collaborating with TfL's and Boris's repeated efforts to build safe Cycle Superhighways through their boroughs... So email them now and let them know you're not happy with their current policies!

(comments welcomed)

* i.e. the whole 'smoothing traffic flow' idea is deeply flawed; faster traffic logically means more pedestrian and cyclist deaths (but on bright side it seems like the Mayor - hopefully - might have dropped that now).

** I know that Taxis and Minicabs very occasionally operate at capacity take 4-5 people but the vast majority I see on my travels around town either have just the driver, or the driver and one single occupant. It is a ridiculous management of street space to have so many of these barely filled vehicles constantly bowling around our city, especially during a recession when the vast majority of Londoners can barely afford taxis anyway.


EDIT (18/9/2012): Sir Malcolm Rifkind (who I originally targeted in this article as the 'anti-cycling' Conservative MP for Kensington and Chelsea) has today written to me saying that he is actually supportive of proper cycle infrastructure, pointing to this article in the Hammersmith & Fulham Chronicle - published ten days after this post - where he states that:

"a long-term paucity of proper cycling infrastructure has forced many cyclists onto busy roads, where they are bound to come into conflict with drivers of cars"

Arguably he's thinking clearer than CTC (The National Cycling Charity) when it comes to highlighting the patent and obvious flaws of an approach where cyclists integrate with traffic on busy roads, although the headline of the article in question - 'Let's encourage cyclists who obey laws of the road' - is admittedly rather too Daily Mail for my tastes (and has been parodied here).

In fairness, I believe I unfairly misrepresented Sir Malcolm when I wrote this article, and that he's clearly leaps and bounds ahead of some of his Conservative colleagues, such as the infamous Richard Tracey

Still, would be nice to see his signature on The Times's #CycleSafe Early Day Motion (EDM) and British Cycling's Justice Review Early Day Motion (EDM), and as he's my MP I'll keep on pestering him until he signs them; as you should all do with your MPs too.