Friday, 18 November 2011

Result! Mayor tells TfL to review ALL cycle super highways and major cycle routes on its roads and report back. Now the work really begins

Cycle Super Highway or car park?
Word hot off the press according to BBC journalist Tom Edwards - author of several hard-hitting reports about the rapid increase in people being killed out on bikes - is that the Mayor has said Transport for London will 'review all major schemes on Tfl roads and review safety on all superhighways Inc bow & report back as matter of urgency'.

About bloody time.

I am writing this before we've seen the Mayor's statement.

Several of the junctions on Boris's Cycle Superhighways and the roads that link them are a bloody disgrace. You shouldn't have to try and bomb down an A-road on a 1.5metre wide strip of 'advisory cycle lane' (ie some dotted white lines) between three lanes of fast-moving motor traffic. It's just plain wrong and is a situation that doesn't exist in any other civilised city.

As the London Cycling Campaign rightly points out, the Mayor needs to force Transport for London to actually look at its roads and think how would cyclists use this. For too long, cyclists have been fobbed off with transport engineers talking to them about the models or the traffic flow strategy don't support safe places for cycling. It's not about traffic flow. It's about how individuals act when they cycle (or how they are too afraid to cycle in the first place).

If the Mayor's call for a full review by Transport for London focusses exclusively on traffic flows and on computer models and does not take into account the behaviour of people on bikes, it's as good as pointless.

Transport for London already knows what people on bikes think about its roads. For years, it asked hundreds of people to spend their days working with it to create a massive database of each and every main route. It dragged hundreds of cycling people along those main roads and wrote everything down, paying consultants millions of pounds to write reports about how cyclists look at every junction and every bit of street.

One such report is this one dating from 2004 - a report close to my heart. It is the report on Blackfriars junction that recommends either a) modify the layout to enchance cycle provision and provide better pedestrian crossings or b) significant realignment of the road. Seven years later when that scheme came to be funded as part of the scheme for a new station at Blackfriars, no one looked at these reports.  There are hundreds of such reports covering all parts of TfL's road network and you can download them here. In other words, millions spent and everyone knew the problems, everyone knew how to solve them. And despite that fact, Transport for London still went ahead and is now implementing a scheme at Blackfriars that marginalises people on bikes or people who want to cross the road.

Transport for London has already engaged with people about biking around London. And from what I can tell it has ignored those findings.

Spot the cycle super highway. This is what it looks
like at Chelsea Bridge most of the time
The London Cycling Campaign points out that Transport for London ignored recommendations from its own advisors Jacobs Consultancy at Bow roundabout that recommended traffic signals specifically for cyclists and pedestrians (toucan crossings) and separate cycle tracks should be installed.


Tonight there is a vigil taking place at Bow roundabout to mourn the loss of two people on bikes. Two people killed - in my view - by negligent engineering.

The Mayor has stated again and again in the last couple of weeks that he believes road engineering is not the answer to making London's streets safer or to making London a place where every day people just get on bikes and get about doing normal things on bikes.

I fundamentally disagree with almost everything the Mayor has uttered on this topic in recent weeks.

We have yet to see what the wording of this review will contain. But it must distance itself from the Mayor's recent comments and must show that the Mayor really does take his responsibilities seriously. He wants a cycling revolution. He needs to tell Transport for London to make junctions and main TfL roads safe to cycle through and he needs that to be achieved from the perspective of people on bikes.

The evidence is all around him. TfL knows what it has to do. The question is whether TfL's review will just be a sop to the Mayor or whether they Mayor is really going to give TfL enough direction to make safe space for cycling and that he will insist on a minimum set of principles.

The London Cycling Campaign is completely bang on the message here: Everyone who cycles on London's roads should expect their journey to be safe, enjoyable and convenient .

No-one expects magic to happen overnight. But we need the Mayor to tell Transport for London to lay down some absolutel minimum standards - such as not having to cycle across five lanes of motor traffic to reach the Super Highway lane and not having to weave between multiple lanes to turn right at Blackfriars. And he should ask the Met to back that up by policing the menace of speeding, driving on mobiles and driving without licences.

This review is a crucial chance for London to get it right. It is also a crucial chance for the Mayor to show he means business. And I, for one, hope he pulls his punches. If he fails, his reputation will be mud.