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.
- If you'd like an email telling you that a new Digest is available online, subscribing is easy.
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.