Yesterday was a fantastic day for cycling in Britain. In the afternoon, after an astonishing performance in the time trial, Bradley Wiggins won the Gold medal while his Team GB mate Chris Froome got Bronze.
Update: On Twitter, the Lord of the Cyclists later said his views on helmet laws were misreported: “Just to confirm I haven’t called for helmets to be made the law as reports suggest. I suggested it may be the way to go to give cyclists more protection legally I involved In an accident.”)
This death makes me very sad and very angry at the same time. The fatality is related to the Olympics in several different ways. The most straightforward connection is that he was killed by an official games vehicle. (Here’s an appalling report by an eye-witness of the crash.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Help please!! Following the death of cyclist Johannah Bailey on 31 July, a meeting with TfL officials has been arranged to press for improved safety measures for cyclists in the area of Cycle Route 5 where she died. The meeting is scheduled for 12 September.
Johanna Bailey cycled this way – the spot where she dies comes after about 10 or 11 seconds, where the collision investigators’ markings are in the middle of the road. (video courtesy of “Origamist“)
TfL officials say their work is “data led” — essentially, not enough people have died or had life-changing injuries for them to take action. Having secured a meeting with them nonetheless, it is crucial that we present as much evidence as possible to show why changes here are essential. The police also have asked for copies of correspondence into safety issues here, which they will include in their collision investigation report. Police reports can mandate changes to areas deemed unsafe.
The accident site seen from the opposite direction, seconds 14 and 15. Again, the video was made by “Origamist“.
We need to collect as much evidence as possible to strengthen our case. Have you – whether as a cyclist, driver or pedestrian — seen or experienced near misses in this area? Have you had or witnessed an accident which went unreported?
The area under discussion is the South Circular from the junction of Rudloe and Poynders Road SW4 through to the turnoff from Cavendish Road into Klea Avenue. It includes all the entry and exit points to the area: Cavendish, Hazelbourne, Englewood and Abbeville Roads, and Klea Ave as well as the housing estate entrance.
About 10 to 20 cyclists die on the streets of London each year. Almost all of them are killed by motorised vehicles. Quite often, the drivers are charged with dangerous driving and have to face an inquest. The results of these inquests, however, are frequently very depressing.
And guess what? He was recently acquitted. The case against the driver named Carlton Lewars was dropped after it was revealed that Lewars suffers sciatica. According to a report in the Evening Standard, he claimed that he suffered a “sudden pain” immediately before his bus hit Jayne. Allegedly, this pain was the reason why he used the wrong pedal.
I’m not expert in law, generally I do trust the British judicial system and I think the presumption of innocence rightly has to be applied if there are any reasonable doubt left. So let’s assume that the “not guilty” decision by the judge was correct.
Nevertheless the whole case is deeply unsettling. The company employing Carlton Lewars – Metroline – knew about his illness but allowed him to stay behind the wheel anyway. The “Evening Standard” quoted a Metroline spokesman stating that Lewars had been declared fit by his GP and the illness did not revoke his bus driving licence.
To me, there seems to be a significant hole in the system. How is it possible that an illness does not render somebody unfit to do his job, but when he makes a grave mistake due to this illness, he’s not responsible for his behaviour?
Either his GP (hughly unlikely) , Metroline and/or Transport for London has to take responsibility, in my humble opinion. Metroline employed an ill man who was unfit to drive a bus safely and hence killed an innocent cyclist.
But how about putting your money where your mouth is? Because of your hiring decisions and employment policies, you’re indirectly responsible for the death of Jayne Helliwell. You knowingly employed somebody who due to his illness wasn’t able to do his job properly.
Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to blame TfL bus drivers in general. In fact I do have a very high opinion about them and thing the vast majority of bus drivers in London are doing an amazingly good job. My personal experience as a cyclist is that almost all TfL busses are driven in a very considerate and careful manner (of course, as always in life, there are exceptions).
LCC’s “London Cyclist” magazine has recently done an interesting story on the cyclist awareness training for bus drivers. I think this is really paying off.
This compares to a total of 82 cyclists, the big majority killed by lorries and vans. The low numbers of cyclist killed by bus drivers is even more remarkable given the fact that TfL busses probably significantly outnumber lorries on the streets of London, the job is very stressful and the pay isn’t fantastic.
Nevertheless, Jayne’s death and the revelations from the inquest are deeply unsettling. Hence, I urge Metroline and TfL to take responsibility for Jayne’s death. Pay a comspensation to her family and donate some funds to the London Cycling Campaign. However, even more important is a tightening of the employment rules. Otherwise, the message to any driver in London is straightforward: Convince your GP to diagnose you with sciatica. That’s the perfect insurance policy against any possible wrongdoing.
Having been a CTC member for more than a year, I’ve recently also joined London’s Cycling campaign (LCC) which boasts to be “largest urban cycling organisation in the world”. I hugely admire their work.
A few days ago, my first issue of the LCC magazine “London Cyclist” arrived (issue February/March 2011 – not to be confused with the great “London Cyclist” blog) In general, it’s really an impressive, professionally made product.
However, the bike review on page 42/43 really is a shame. My dear colleagues are discussing “‘urban cross’ bikes”. I don’t have a clue what “urban cross” stands for and “London Cyclist” doesn’t bother to explain it to me.
The teaser of the article says:
“Taking elements from both cyclocross and mountain biking, the new breed of ‘urban cross’ bikes are ideal for commuting, touring, and light off-roading”
Basically, “London Cyclist” seems to talk about bikes for urban use. Commuting, shopping, going to the pub. They’re featuring four different bikes:
When I was searching for the bikes on the internet, I was a little bit surprised. For the first three bikes, the Evans bike online shop is among the top search results on Google, and for “Marin Toscana cycle” Cycle Surgery is ranked very high. Pure chance, certainly. Important advertisers like leading national bike retailers don’t have any influence on the contents of a non for profit magazine run by a cyclists organisation, do they?
But let’s look at the bikes themselves. All of them have drop bars. Two (the Bosanova and the Honky) come with very small tyres (28 mm). The tyres of the Toscana are 4mm wider, while the Day01 has 35mm. Only one of the bikes comes with mudgards. None has rack or a hub-dynamo and lights.
Apparently, “urban cross” bikes are road bikes with disk brakes.
So according to “London Cyclist”, what kind of bikes do you need for getting around in London? Apparently you need a bike that
rides very fast (drop bar)
needs very good roads without potholes (small tyres)
isn’t prepared for rainy days (no mudguards)
isn’t prepared for carrying any luggage on their bike (no rack)
doesn’t need a reliable, always ready-to-use lighting (no hub dynamo)