Thursday, 12 September 2013

City of London officially goes 20mph on all streets with full enforcement by City of London Police; and Boris Johnson gives all-clear to major cycling upgrades following successful Space For Cycling protests by LCC

Two very big pieces of news for those that want to travel around London by bike in safety, and at least relative comfort:

Firstly, the City of London has officially gone 20mph with City of London police happy to enforce (Evening Standard article). This is a massive success and will make the whole area significantly safer for walking and cycling. It also shows that 20mph is not a 'left-wing-thing'. The heart of business in London, in fact the heart of business in the UK (and probably Europe) has backed 20mph because it makes sense in terms of saving lives and it makes sense economically.

The councils of both Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea now have absolutely no excuse whatsoever for not introducing at least a residential 20mph limit, if not a borough-wide 'Total 20' policy. Even if they are diehard Conservatives, that doesn't mean they should let Londoners be killed in their borough by inhumane traffic planning policies.

Secondly, a few days ago Boris Johnson wrote to the London Cycling Campaign, in response to the Space For Cycling protests which the LCC have organised, promising major improvements to:

  1. Holborn one-way system (where Alan Neve was killed)
  2. East-west Holborn contra-flow bus route on Bloomsbury Way
  3. Aldgate East
  4. Aldgate West
  5. Cycle Superhighway 2 (where Philippine De Gerin-Ricard was killed)
This great result shows that BBC's Tom Edwards was right to say that the LCC now have 'teeth'. 

City Hall are right to be worried.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Open Response to Notting Hill Gate redevelopment consultation

Kensington and Chelsea are currently consulting on a redevelopment of Notting Hill Gate. The consultation itself is available here

I would urge everyone to respond to this consultation individually and let the council know this is the perfect opportunity to develop ground-breaking improvements in cycling and walking in the area.

My open response:
Notting Hill Gate is currently a major barrier for cycling in the borough, and London as a whole. The entire junction is horrible; an essentially 1970s design that encourages large volumes of traffic motor to move through the area at dangerously high speeds, leading to pedestrian and cycling fatalities and actively suppressed rates of walking and cycling. 
Visitors to the area can still see a white bike with flowers in memory of Eilidh Cairns who was tragically and wholly unnecessarily killed in Notting Hill Gate by a lorry driver in 2009. It is right that this 'ghost bike' remains near the spot where she was killed, both in memory to Eilidh and to remind the Council that something desperately needs to be done to prevent more wholly avoidable deaths occurring here.

Additionally, the entire area has illegal levels of air pollution and nitrogen dioxide levels that rival Beijing. In fact, a specific stretch of Notting Hill Gate is one of the most polluted streets in London.

The easiest way to solve both these problems is to radically redesign the entire area to provide safe, segregated cycle routes through Notting Hill including bus stop by-passes for cycling. When this has been done in New York it has led to an over 50% rise in local spending, as areas were transformed into 'people places', rather than motor traffic hell. Notting Hill Gate would also benefit from more, and easier pedestrian crossings (including zebra crossings), and a 20 mph limit.

The Westway is less than a mile north and provides a quick, direct route for motor traffic into Central London. There is no reason, therefore, why Notting Hill Gate should not be re-thought and re-designed as an area that prioritised cyclists and pedestrians (if only because these people don't use vehicles that emit illegal levels of air pollution which lowers everyone in the area's life expectancy.

One of the council's core aims is to encourage alternative transport to private car use, such as cycling and walking. The council would be ignoring and actively refuting its core aims if it did not, therefore, use this opportunity to transform Notting Hill Gate into somewhere where walking and cycling is actively encouraged, rather than discouraged, as it is by the current street layout.

Notting Hill Gate. Can you see anywhere safe to cycle through here? Can you see anywhere safe to cross the road as a pedestrian? This junction needs to be completely redesigned with wide segregated cycle lanes, bus stop by-passes for cycling, and more pedestrian crossings.

Monday, 9 September 2013

*Guest Post* by James Finlayson: 5 Cycling Itineraries in London for the Whole Family

With the increased costs of running a car in Central London, along with congestion on the streets, I am more and more getting on my bike to travel everywhere in London. And the nice thing is that when I arrive home on my two wheels on Friday evening, I don't even want to drag out the car for the weekend. What I found out recently is that cycling around London is also a great family activity (you just need to win the initial fear!). Have a look at these 5 suggestions for a weekend family ride.

Start off around one of the many London parks. Try the centrally located Hyde Park. With 350 acres to explore, you won't be able to see it all in one go. Break the day with lunch at one of the lakeside restaurants, or pack a picnic and pick a spot to stop. Visit some of the monuments in the park, including the Princess Diana memorial fountain, or on a Sunday, head to speakers corner and hear some interesting speakers.

Another quiet route to take is the Waterlink Way. Based in the South East of London, this 7 mile trail follows ancient waterways for much of its path. There are a few short areas of road riding, and a couple of crossings where you must be careful. If you start from Kent House Station, you can bribe the children to keep going with the promise of seeing the Cutty Sark at the other end.

Hidden amongst the hustle and bustle of London is around 100 miles of canals. The canal towpaths are a fantastic place for the family to cycle. Full of wildlife and colourful boats, you will always find something of interest for everyone. The Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal can be found in West London. While not a complete green heaven, this section of the canal has vibrant and thriving businesses lining it. Quirky cafes and traditional pubs abound, with canal side seating available for a mid-cycle rest.

For a slightly longer ride try the Thames Cultural Cycling Tour Route. A free download is available at the Visit London website. The 16.8 mile route starts at South Bank then runs to Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge then back to South Bank. The self-guided tour is full of hidden gems waiting for discovery.

Lee Valley runs right from Essex almost to the river Thames. Many miles of cycle tracks are available within its 10,000 acres. Have a look at the Visit Lee Valley website for an extensive list, but right in Central London is their nature reserve Walthamstow Wonders. It’s a simple 2 miles track with grass pathways, bridges, gates and cattle grids.

London is waiting to be explored on bicycles by you and your family. So dust off the bikes and get out in the open air. Find hidden parts of England's capital not accessible by car.

James works for FeatherstoneLeigh. Getting into a career as an estate agent gave him the opportunity to get to know London inside out. The former East Ender now lives in Kew and can’t get enough of long dog walks and cycling Sundays on the South West London green hills.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Laura Trott's utopian government where all policy is based on her anecdotes

Last week Laura Trott claimed that:
Cyclists wonder why they get a bad name... I see cyclists jumping in and out of the buses and people wonder why they get hit. It’s not always the car’s fault.... Cyclists need to help themselves and should not jump red lights. I would ride in London but I certainly wouldn’t ride like that, you just have to be careful.
She then called for helmets to be made mandatory.

Laura Trott: a great professional cyclist, but unfortunately also frustratingly stupid.
Two issues massively irk me about this:

1) "It's not always the car's fault." I'm sorry, but don't you mean, "it's not always the driver's fault". Would you ever say "it's not always the bicycle's fault"? This an example of Laura Trott, without even knowing it, using the English language in a way that immediately absolves drivers of the responsibility for killing and maiming other human beings on foot, on bikes, or in other cars (something regular readers will remember I've blogged about before, as it is especially prevalent among journalists). "It's not the driver's fault, it's the car's fault"... I've never heard so much crap in my life. It's drivers that kill and maim other humans, not cars (or lorries, for that matter). That's why we have a cumbersome driving test in this country (and even more so if you want to drive a lorry), so that once you've passed the test you can take responsibility for your vehicle (just as someone riding a bicycle unhesitatingly takes responsibility for what their bicycle does).

2) Laura's opinions are entirely anecdote-based. She hasn't bothered to look at any of the stats for who's blame in those on bikes getting hit by cars. In fact, even the cycle-phobic Westminster Council recently published data showing that drivers were to blame in over two-thirds of incidents where they hit people on bikes. Moreover, all available evidence from countries such as Australia which have introduced mandatory helmets laws show two key consequences of mandatory helmet laws: firstly, a negligible drop in fatalities and serious injuries among those on bikes; secondly, a highly significant drop in total cycling rates leading to fewer cycle safety measures being taken by local and national government (because that's how democracies work) and cycling becoming more dangerous and fatal in the long run.

Allowing Laura Trott to expound on these issues is like a conversation with David Cameron about Syria going along the following lines:

"Have you looked at any of the evidence, especially from the US and UK intelligence services? Have you perused any of the factual data we have from previous military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya?"

"No, unfortunately not. But I have got some great anecdote-based opinions. I think I remember seeing Syria on a map once and I have also travelled in the Middle East (Israel). In any sane world personal anecdote should be the bedrock of what local and national government does. Everyone knows that."

We don't let Lewis Hamilton tell us how to design a safe urban environment where cars don't kill people, nor does Michael Schumacher tell the Germans how to build motorways and bridges that are safe for drivers to use. Therefore, why the bloody hell should we let Laura Trott, Bradley Wiggins, or Mark Cavendish tell us anything whatsoever about cycle safety. These guys are all professional cyclists. Cycling to the shops to buy milk is not professional cycling. Therefore, I, for one, am going to fiercely defend my right not to be forced to wear a helmet while cycling from A to B.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Richard Mann and his local Oxford cycling group, Cyclox are planning on mis-investing £1m of Cameron's recent cycling funding making key Oxford roundabout, The Plain, *more* dangerous for cyclists

We all know the government are just offering 'crumbs from the table' (according to the British Medical Journal) with their recent, pitifully small grant to fund cycling infrastructure. However, there's potentially an even more grave problem for the future of transport cycling in Britain. Namely, that what little money there is can still be completely mis-invested by idiotic town-planners – and even local cyclists – that don't understand the basic fact that your child will be safer when cycling if he/she isn't sharing an extra narrow 'general traffic lane' with a bus or lorry.

Richard Mann is just one such cyclist who has, incredibly, publicly supported Oxford council's proposed plans to narrow The Plain roundabout in Oxford which currently caters for almost 10,000 trips by bike each day.

I can understand why the journalist who wrote a story on this for the Oxford Mail, Freddie Whittaker, might not understand why the proposed changes will do the very opposite to his ill-informed headline of making The Plain 'safer for cyclists'. He' a journalist after all. Perhaps he never cycles, he just got told to cover this story but his editor. But for someone (Richard Mann) who feels they represent a 'cycle campaigning group', to support these reckless plans is absolutely unacceptable.

The proposed changes have not been formally released as diagrams, but we are told that:

At present the carriageway that runs around The Plain varies between 6m and 10m in width, but the redesign would change this to 5m all the way...  Instead of two lanes approaching The Plain from the city, there would be a single lane. 

Essentially, these plans boil down to road-narrowing like the City of London did with Cheapside, something the City of London planners have now acknowledged has been a complete failure for cyclists using this roads. Richard Mann and Oxford County Council's proposals also sound alarmingly similar to plans which TfL drew up last year for the roundabout where Lambeth Bridge meets Embankment.

TfL's proposed changes in 2012 to narrow Lambeth Bridge Northern Roundabout which were rejected by LCC and eventually binned by Andrew Gilligan, London's Cycling Commissioner.
These plans essentially consisted of narrowing the carriageway in an effort to slow motor-traffic. However, this just means that those on bikes who lack the protection of steel box (a car) are put in even closer proximity with inherently life-threatening buses, or even lorry drivers like the one which killed a Londoner on a bike yesterday. Forcing your child, or your grandmother, or your niece to share an even narrower 'general traffic lane' with cars, buses and HGVs is simply not going to 'make one of Oxford’s key problem junctions as cycle-friendly as they possible' (to quote Richard Mann). It's going to make it substantially worse for those on bikes.

The way to make a junction, road, or roundabout safe for people on bikes is to provide dedicated space for cycling which is not shared by potentially fatal motor traffic. If you want the motor traffic to slow down, give them a bloody speed limit for god's sake. Don't try and use people as mobile human traffic calming devices. Richard Mann, this is inhumane.

And it is for exactly this reason that TfL rejected their plans for Lambeth Roundabout and are choosing instead to trial a Dutch solution, as advocated by campaigners and bloggers that have read David Hembrow's blog. This is a design that sensibly provides a segregated cycle lane for your niece/grandmother/child to navigate the roundabout free from motor traffic.

A 'Dutch roundabout' in Holland where cyclists do not have to share traffic lanes with motor vehicles.
TfL's trial Dutch roundabout which they have constructed in at their testing facility. Berkshire.
So if London, with all it's cars, taxis, and buses has opted for a Dutch solution, and is rejecting the idiotic road-narrowing demanded by Richard Mann, it is slightly bizarre that Oxford is not doing the same thing. What is the point of TfL spending a million pounds trialling Dutch roundabouts if that knowledge cannot be shared across the UK and used to actually get this country cycling, not worsen existing conditions

What makes Richard Mann's and Oxford Council's proposed changes all the more gob-smacking is that The Plain roundabout is:
  1. Larger than that formed when Lambeth Bridge meets Embankment which TfL are planning on turning into a 'Dutch roundabout' with segregated cycle lanes.
  2. Currently used by substantially more cyclists a day than the aforementioned counterpart in London.
  3. Needs to handle far fewer buses and cars each day than Lambert Bridge North Roundabout, especially in the coming years as Oxford city centre, to which it is the eastern gateway, becomes increasingly pedestrianised and cycle-friendly. 
The Plain and Lambeth North Roundabouts compared side by side. Pic by @Robonabike.
Put simply, there are no excuses in terms of size for The Plain not to 'Go Dutch'. There is plenty of space here for full segregation. Anyone that tells you otherwise is simply lying. If there wasn't the space available the Council would not be happy to reduce the carriageway from a maximum of 10m to '5m all the way', nor to replace the two general traffic lanes approaching The Plain roundabout from the city with 'a single lane'. Some trees may have to be replanted, but I believe that is a valid sacrifice to make if it prevents Oxford residents being seriously injured or killed while cycling here.

Nor is it necessary for Oxford County Council to create two lanes for motor traffic here. Motorists will be able to get around Oxford perfectly easily with one lane since so few people drive into the centre of Oxford now. In fact, segregating less confident cyclists from the main carriageway will actually make it easier and quicker for drivers to use the roundabout than the proposed road-narrowing plans which I've heavily criticised above.

And there is a £1m lined up which could pay for a Dutch solution.

But at the moment that's not going to happen. It's a terrible, terrible waste. 

If you feel similarly please let your views by hear by emailing the Oxford County Council at, especially if you are an Oxford resident that uses this roundabout.

I'd also recommend contacting Richard Mann at, especially if you feel like you could do a better job of representing the interests of those that want to travel from A to B by bike in Oxford.


If you think I'm exaggerating, full details about Oxford Country Council's and Richard Mann's plans for The Plain can be found here, from


Mulling over this, it's a real surprise to find this kind of thing happening in Oxford, which has perhaps the best cycle lane in Britain running alongside Marston Ferry Road. The people that built this clearly understand that cycling works best when cycle traffic and motor traffic aren't mixed in narrow 'general traffic lanes' but given their own separate space. This just makes it all the more inexplicable that the County Council and Richard Mann want to spend £1m in order to dangerously mix bike and motor traffic on The Plain roundabout.

This cycle lane (or perhaps 'cycle-road' is better?) is the, for my money, the best in the UK. Wide, safe, well-paved, it's the main reason that almost 60% pupils at Cherwell School (located just off the cycle lane) cycle to school.

Edit 6/9/13 - Doug Culnane has commented below with a link to a very rough mock-up of how The Plain might look with 'Dutch-style' segregation of bike traffic, rather than the lethal road-narrowing Richard Mann is supporting.

A very rough idea of the kind of segregation the County Council and Cyclox should be pursuing given the ample size of the roundabout, the fact they have £1 million to spend, and that Oxford has the second highest cycling rates in the all of the UK. By Doug Culnane.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

10,000 Londoners take to their bikes and bring Parliament Square to a stand-still but Boris Johnson *still* doesn't get the message.

Don't misunderstand me, I feel Boris Johnson has done a lot for London cycling, particularly in raising it's profile as a viable method of transport that anyone can, and should, use. However, his response to Nick Ferrari's questions during today's LBC Radio phone-in were deeply worrying. When asked about yesterday's London Cycling Campaign #Space4Cycling Protest Ride, the Mayor said that those Londoners taking part (all 10,000 of them) were unreasonably trying to get their own dedicated road space which simply wasn't feasible in London (where everyone knows that 95% of road space must at all costs be dedicated to motor traffic otherwise you're just being selfish).

These Londoners aren't happy sharing the road with HGVs. They want dedicated space for cycling. Boris Johnson needs to embrace this... because they're all going to vote...
The London mayor was talking absolute rubbish. It's completely legitimate not to want to share a 'general traffic lane' while defenceless on a bike with an HGV or a Chelsea Tractor going at 30MPH+. Moreover, there is plenty of space in London for the reallocation of road space, as Boris himself has previously admitted (think Euston Road, Cromwell Road, Park Lane, Vauxhall Bridge Road, etc).

Today on LBC Radio, Boris advocated 'share-the-road', 'mutual-respect', 'everyone-being-more-aware' crap instead, and suggested this was the real solution. Not dedicated space for segregated cycle lanes that didn't mix motor traffic with those on bikes. That would just be plain silly.

This public position from the Mayor of London is incredibly idiotic and demands another Protest Ride to actually bring the message home to him that Londoners are not happy sharing lanes with drivers that kill them every month (14 Londoners were killed while cycling in 2012), and seriously injure them almost twice day (657 Londoners were seriously injured while cycling from A to B in our Olympic year). Humans are not perfect. Therefore drivers are not perfect. Therefore it's idiotic to mix steel motor traffic with humans sitting on bicycles in 'general traffic lanes'. Over 100 MPs recognised this last night when they unanimously passed the recommendations of the Get Britain Cycling report (which includes segregation on main roads). Boris Johnson needs to recognise this.

By all accounts yesterday's #Space4Cycling Protest Ride was a huge success. The weather may have helped...
What is also interesting is that the Mayor's response to the Protest Ride differs completely from that of Andrew Gilligan, London's Cycling Commissioner. What Gilligan essentially said yesterday was that the Mayor's office are already pursuing a policy of segregation (i.e. with the Cycle Superhighway 2 extension in Stratford). The problem with this is that segregating one road in Stratford is not going to make it safe to cycle for the 8 million Londoners who don't live in Stratford. We need the Mayoralty to begin implementing immediate changes (i.e. 20MPH limits, point-closures to remove through-traffic, temporary cycle lanes using cones/bollards) all over London.

However, at least Gilligan is explicitly accepting that segregation and dedicated space for cycling is the way forward for London. His boss, Boris Johnson, isn't. He's still wittering on about 'share-the-road' twaddle, even after 10,000 Londoners in Parliament Square and over 100 MPs in the House of Commons unanimously called yesterday for full segregation of major roads in London, as well as all over the UK (for those interested there is a BBC recording of the entire 4 hour Great Britain Cycling Commons debate available from here).

I recommend another Protest Ride along the roads outside Boris Johnson's house to ram the message home.

Also, a massive well-done and thank you to everyone at the London Cycling Campaign for organising such a well-attended, successful, and trouble-free Protest Ride yesterday evening.

Please note: 10,000 is my personal estimate of the amount of riders who took part yesterday having watched the procession from the front to back.