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Posts Tagged ‘Boris Johnson’

Boris Johnson likes to label himself as the “cycling mayor” who wants to kick-start a cycling revolution in London. 2010 was supposed to be “the year of cycling”. However, a lot of cyclists have the impression that their needs aren’t really respected by traffic planners in London.

Interestingly, figures released by Transport for London in their latest  “Travel in London” report compellingly show that they have a point. According to data published in Chapter 9 (“Transport and quality of life: Customer satisfaction and perception”), cyclists in London are by far the least satisfied users of roads in the capital.

The authors of the report put it this way:

“Satisfaction levels were similar for users of all road modes except cycling, where satisfaction was significantly below average at 67 out of 100.”

How severe the level of frustation is becomes clear if you compare the statisfaction of cyclists to the statisfaction of Tube users. There is a lot of moaning and complaining going on about the Tube: fares, punctuality, crowding. However, the average cyclist in London is significantly  less happy with the road network than the average Tube passenger is with the Tube. According to the report, the overall satisfaction of Tube users is at 79 out of 100. Even with regard to train crowing, Tube users are more satisfied than cyclists are with London roads (72 out of 100).

Aspects of satisfaction

This frustration of cyclists  is confirmed by other results. For example, the conditions of cycle lanes get the worst marks at all. Amazingly, this aspect even fares below traffic congestion! The satisfaction with the availability of cycle lanes and advanced stop lines is also significantly below average.

Here’s another evidence that London is massively neglecting cyclists:

Proportion of satisfied road users

Taken together, from my perspective these results are pretty devastating.

The report states that

“the Mayor has made it a particular priority to improve the quality of Londoners’ overall daily travel experiences. The substantive outcomes of these policies should be visible, in due course, in the various formal and informal performance measures considered elsewhere in this report”

If this pledge, the fuss about the “cycling revolution”  and the results in the report were taken seriously by London’s policy makers, improvements to the cycle infrastructure would be of utmost priority.  Why do I have a hunch that this is  not  the case?

Thanks to the “Love London, Go Dutch” campaign we talk a lot about making London more like Amsterdam. However, judged by the low satisfaction of cyclists with the road network, it would be nice to make London (for cyclists) at least like London (for cars).

 Interestingly, despite the awful road network and the lack of cycle paths, cyclists in London in general love what they do.

Journey Satisfaction

Asked about our  general satisfaction with their most recent journey, we are happier than the users of public transport and cars. This proves the vast benefits of cycling: It is quicker and cheaper than most other means of transport.

Even the wretched road network and the biased priorities of London’s traffic planner cannot botch this!

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Maybe this is just wishful thinking. Maybe, however,  the 2nd February 2012 might be seen as a historic day for cycling in London when people will look back in a few years.

Today might be remembered as the day when the real cycling revolution in London started.

Today, “The Times” , one of the oldest newspapers of the world, kicked off an amazing and impressive campaign to make British cities safer for cyclists. “Safe our cyclists”, the newspaper urged on its front page.

This might be our “Stop de Kindermord” moment.

In the early 70s, in the Netherlands a movement called “Stop de Kindermord” (“Stop the child murder”) campaigned hard for a more cycling friendly road design in the Netherlands. Only these protests lead to an infrastructure that today is the envy of the world and taken for granted by most observers. (David Hembrow has an interesting post about the history of the movement and there is also a good video on Youtube on how the Dutch got their cycling infrastructure.)

“The Times” could not have been timed better. In the last 12 to 18 months, the public anger about the appalling road conditions for pedestrians in London has grown impressively.

Bloggers – first and foremost Danny Williams and Mark Ames – organised a number of demonstrations against car centric traffic priorities, poignant vigils remembering cyclists who died in traffic were held, and  ghost bikes for killed cyclists were installed.  A new group called “Bikes Alives” organises regular demonstrations at King’s Cross (the next one on 6 February). The topic was discussed in the London Assembly, and a growing number of articles in blogs and traditional news media address the issue.

The University of the Arts London has launched a campaign called “Right to Ride” after Deep Lee, one of its students, was killed by a lorry at King’s Cross last year.

Local newspapers like the Evening Standard and the Camden New Journal report meticulously about cycling related issues and the London Cycling Campaign works on a large initiative called “Go Dutch”.

On top of all this comes the impressive and vocal campaign by “The Times”, triggered by the accident of Times reporter Mary Bowers who was crushed by a lorry in November in front of the newspapers offices in Wapping and has been in a coma until today.

This campaign might be the tipping point.

The fact that “The Times” embarks on the topic proves that cycling has become mainstream. It’s not just the pastime of tree huggers or overly active lads in lycra. It’s an everyday activity that ordinary people do. It’s the fastest, cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to get around in central London. And we have the right to cycle without constant fear.

Due to car centric thinking at Transport for London, this activity is much more dangerous than it ought to be. A lot of things could be improved rather easily (here’s an example concerning Old Street roundabout, where a Boris biker was almost killed by a lorry yesterday). Some fundamental and expensive changes in road design are also necessary.

In an election year, the safety of cyclists has become one of the big issues in London. Until today, Transport for London and Boris Johnson have not taken the issue seriously. They  have chosen to ignore the fact that planning priorities and road design are to blame for many deaths and injuries of cyclists.

This approach has become much, much harder to hold up.

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The new docking station on Crinan Street / York Way

It is with deeply mixed feelings that I realised a few days ago there will be a new docking station for Boris bikes north of King’s Cross. It will be on Crinan Street right next to King’s Place, where the Guardian resides. It looks like it will be opened soon.

On the one hand side, it’s really good to see the expansion of the cycle hire scheme in the King’s Cross area. The network of docking stations is particularly patchy in this part of the city. Although I’m only a very casual user of the scheme (I prefer to use my own bike) it’s very convenient to have a docking station right next to my office on Crinan Street.

On the other hand, the new docking station really gives me shivers. If you want to use it, you have to ride your bike on one of the most notorious and cycling unfriendly areas of central London – the infamous King’s Cross gyratory.

If you happen to be south of Euston Street, you are forced to cross the junction where Deep Lee, a 24 year old arts student, was crushed by a lorry when she cycled to college on 3 October 2011. Since 2006, three other cyclists were killed by lorries in the area. Pedestrian and cycling campaigners have been fighting for years for a more human friendly redesign of the area but Transport for London did not bother to take action. They were more concerned about smoothing the traffic flow than improving the safety of cyclists. In December, the Camden New Journal reported about a special town hall meeting in Camden:

A TfL representative insisted that introducing a cycle lane at the junction would “cause considerable queues”, stressing that there was “limited time” to conduct a review of the proposed changes for the junction because of a “commitment” to make them in time for the Olympic Games.

Some improvement works at the dreadful junction are about to begin, but James Thomas, an architect and cyclist working on York Way who had a close look at TfL’s plan, says the changes fall short of any real improvement. James, who built the memorial bike for Deep Lee, concludes that the plans bring

no improvements in safety for cyclists

The new docking station north on York Way will lure Boris bikers to an area that is loathed even by very experienced cyclists. Many of them are tourists or otherwise inexperienced cyclists who are not familiar with the bewildering system of one-way streets around King’s Cross and are not aware of the build in dangers for cyclist on the roads around King’s Cross. To quote an infamous sentence by Boris Johnson, they will find is amazingly difficult “to have their wits about them”.

There are no bike facilities on York Way whatsoever and cycling there is absolutely counter intuitive. Between Euston Road and Wharfdale Road, the left lane is used as a bus stop. Northbound cyclists who keep left happen to be squeezed in the middle of the traffic: busses on their left, fast moving cars and lorries on their right.

I cycled there quite often and came to the conclusion that the “safest” way to ride there is if you position yourself on the road like a cyclist in Europe would do: I keep on the outer right lane next to the curb.

However, if you want to carry on north behind Wharfdale Road, you have to cross two lanes of car traffic because York Way ceases to be a one-way street there. To get to the docking station on Crinan Street, you have to cross York Way with its four lanes of fast moving, aggressive drivers. (The better way to get to the docking station is a right turn onto Wharfdale Road and then a left into Crinan Street, but tourists and people not familiar with the area won’t know.)

I consider myself an experienced cyclist who tends not be scared easily but I always feel extremely queasy when I cycle on York Way. I usually use Pancras Way as an alternative to York Way . However, this tiny street between King’s Cross Station and St. Pancras Station currently quite often comes closer to a car park for cabs than a street. In peak hours, it is almost impossible to cycle there at all. On top of that, Goods Way north of St. Pancras currently is a one way street in eastern direction and you have to cycle illegally on the curb if you want to get to King’s Place.

Leaving the docking station on Crinan Street by bike is a similar nightmare since you can’t use the York Way south of Wharfdale Road. Imagine you cycled to the docking station on Crinan Street and find out it is full. If you’re not aware of Pancras Street, cycling back to the docking stations south of King’s Cross resembles a very personal “Tour du Danger”.

All in all, the docking station on Crinan Street makes the case for segregated cycle lanes in the area even more compelling. Anything else would just be irresponsible and a gamble with human life.

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Blackfriars Bridge has rightly become a symbol for car-centric planning in London and the utter disregard of Transport for London and Boris Johnson for the real needs of cyclists in London.

The redesign of the bridge and the planned increase of the speed limit for cars from 20 to 30 mph has been annoying cyclists for months. This comes despite the fact that two cyclists died on the Bridge in recent years and many more were injured by cars.

Human-friendly version of Blackfriars Bridge.

Two days before the next demonstration is going to happen – another “flashride” on 12 October, 6pmLondon Cycling Campaign has  revealed an alternative proposal for the road layout of the bridge.

From LCC’s press release:

Urban planner Richard Lewis, who led LCC’s design team, said, “Our layout is based on continental principles, which eliminate junction conflicts that put cyclists at risk.”

LCC chief executive Ashok Sinha said, “Our visionary design provides larger and better spaces for people on bikes and on foot, but also retains bus and vehicle lanes.

“We hope these graphics stimulate debate among cyclists, pedestrians and city planners, so together we can come up with a solution that’s fit for all Londoners.

“Our city deserves to be a global leader in sustainable transport and liveable public spaces, not an also-ran.”

From my point of view, LCC’s proposal appears very sensible. If you share this impression, please join the flash ride next Wednesday (riders meet outside Doggetts pub at 5.45pm).

 

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2011 may become a black year for cyclists in London. Yesterday, the latest cyclist was killed by a lorry, report the Evening Standard and London 24. At the moment, only few details of the crash are known. It happened at 3.20pm on the junction Camden Road and St. Pancras Way.


According to my mostly hand collected statistics, the number of killed cyclists in London in 2011  has risen  to 8 (compared to 10 in 2010) Details  about all crashes are available here. These numbers are terrible and depressing.

However, I strongly caution to read  any real trend out of this. These numbers do not show that cycling in London has become more dangerous recently!

Since 1986 the number of cyclists killed in London per year varies massively. On average, from 1986 to 2010 , 17.2 cyclists died per year. If there is any trend, there seems to be a slight decline in the more recent years. The average from 1986 to 1999 was 18.3 while from 2000 to 2010 it was 15.9. However, the  yearly variation is huge. For example, in 2004 only 8 cyclists died. One year later the number rose to 21. The worst year as 1989 with 33 fatalities.

All in all, the absolute numbers of dead cyclists  are very small (fortunately!). Statistically this makes it almost  impossible to  detect any reliable medium to longterm patterns. Statisticians call this the “law of small numbers“. A recent academic paper by Andrei Morgan et al. ( “Deaths of cyclists in london: trends from 1992 to 2006“)  puts it this way:

… the number of cyclists killed in London remains small, meaning that even if trends were present, they may not have been detected.

I recently had an email exchange  with Andrei Morgan, a researcher with London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine regarding the numbers. Among other things  I asked him the following question:

What was going on in 2004? Why was the number of killed cyclists so much lower in that year? Was it  just luck?  The number of seriously injured cyclists was very low as well, which might indicate that something else was happening. Was the  weather particularly bad (probably not, since your relative estimates went down as well. Have there been significantly fewer construction sites and in London?

This is what Andrei answered:

There are, of course, many possible reasons for this. But statistically speaking, if annual deaths are modelled using a poisson distribution, as we did, one would expect between 8 deaths and 25 deaths given that the average underlying rate was 15 deaths per year.

Two things, however, are for sure from my point of view.

1) Transport for London and the major are massively  missing their aim to reduce cycling fatalities. Boris Johnson sees it differently. He’s recently argued:

I would however like to make the point that cycling in London is getting safer the whole time. I know it may not feel like that but the statistics show that while cycling has more than doubled in the last ten years the number of serious injuries and fatalities has declined by a fifth.

I don’t take issue with the fact that cycling has more than doubled in the last ten years. But I think the statistics at least with regards to fatalities don’t say much.  Severe injuries  have declined, but there are some doubts about the  figures (possible reporting bias)

2) Lorries are the biggest single danger to cyclists in London. Between 2009 and 2011, 51% of all fatal cycling accidents involved lorries. According to Morgan et al. between 1996 and 2010 “freight vehicles were involved in over 40% cyclists killed”. Boris, if you really want to make cycling safer in London,  do something about the lorries! In their “No More Lethal Lorries” campaign, the  LCC has drafted a five point plan.

  • Cyclist-awareness training for drivers. All city lorry drivers should be have ongoing cycle-awareness training, including on-bike experience.
  • Drivers must take more responsibility. Authorities must recognise driver responsibility for doing everything practical to reduce risks. Blaming a ‘blind spot’ should be an admission of guilt.
  • Safer design for London lorries. Lorries designed for off-road use should be taken off city streets. The best mirrors, cameras and sensors should be fitted as standard.
  • Higher standards from lorry operators. Quality-assurance schemes such as London’s Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) should be mandatory, and the police encouraged to crack down on rogue operators.
  • More responsible procurement Companies must only buy haulage services from reputable firms, with government taking a lead in encouraging best practice.

Boris, please don’t boast about shady statistics anymore. Get real and fully endorse all those  points. Just sign  and implement the  LCC  petition.

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