Using the Covid-19 Epidemic as an Excuse for Road Closures

Lewisham Covid-19 image

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has issued a press release that spells out how the Covid-19 epidemic is going to be used to enable a “Transformation of London’s roads” via a “Streetspace” plan. It will mean giving space to new cycle lanes for example and more space for walking, effectively taking away road space for other users. See the press release below for more details.

This will include new temporary cycle lanes on Euston Road and on Park Lane, two of the main thoroughfares for traffic in London. TfL claims these changes are need to cope with a ten-fold increase in cycling and a five-fold increase in cycling as people avoid using public transport, but these estimates are surely simply incredible. In addition it says these changes may be made permanent.

Another example of using the epidemic as an excuse for measures that discriminate against vehicle users and which will cause even more traffic congestion is that from Lewisham Council. They have previously proposed a “Healthy Neighhourhoods” scheme which included many road closures. It has been strongly opposed by residents in Lee Green and other wards.

Now the Council has published on their web site a Covid-19 Transport Plan  (see https://lewishamcovidtransport.commonplace.is/about ). It explains how they plan to prioritise walking and cycling in the borough during the epidemic. But it just looks like the Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme under a different name. See image above for how “Modal Filters” will be used to stop traffic, i.e. close roads.

They plan to implement these proposals via the use of Temporary Traffic Orders (TTOs) rather than Experimental Traffic Orders (ETOs). But this is a misuse of the legislation that permits road closures by councils. TTOs should only be used for such things as emergency road repairs and should be temporary as the name implies. But the Council proposes turning them into ETOs without consultation in due course, and subsequently making them permanent.

The ABD has written to the Council pointing out this misuse of the legislation (see reference 2 below).

Readers who live in London should write to their local Member of Parliament asking them to stop such measures. I would suggest writing to the Mayor of London or the Mayor of Lewisham, but both are very unaccountable to the public and Sadiq Khan can simply ignore any objections.

Note that there is a lot of discussion on social media of these proposals. It would help to counter the activities of cyclist and other pressure groups if you get involved in those media.

Below is the Twitter account of the London ABD which you can follow to pick up the latest news, and there is a national ABD Twitter account also. There are also Facebook pages.

Join us in spreading the word about the opposition to irrational transport policies that favour pampered cyclists and prejudice vehicle users.

Reference 1: Mayor’s Press Release: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayors-bold-plan-will-overhaul-capitals-streets

Reference 2: Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 Section 14: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/27/section/14

ABD London Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

ABD National Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheABD

We also have a national Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/allianceofbritishdrivers/

And a Facebook page dedicated to opposition to Sadiq Khan’s transport strategy here: https://www.facebook.com/AgainstMTS/

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

E-bikes and Scooters Have Become a Major Casualty Problem in Holland

The use of electric powered cycles and e-scooters has taken off in a big way in Holland. But the results in terms of road casualties have got substantially worse.

In 2017, for the first time ever, more cyclists were involved in fatal accidents than motorists in the Netherlands. The number of cyclists suffering fatal injuries was at its highest for ten years and more than a quarter of the victims met their end on an e-bike. More men than women cyclists died and two-thirds of them were over 65.

In addition 25 people using scooters died. The article that disclosed this news (see https://tinyurl.com/y5kx2e5n ) suggested that the reason the elderly were such high a proportion of victims was because they have problems in keeping their balance on e-bikes. But it also probably relates to their higher risk of medical problems, and poor recovery times, after simple falls off fast moving bikes. It’s worth pointing out that many of these accidents will not have involved motor vehicles in any way.

Comment: It is clear that the encouragement of more cycling on congested streets as we have seen in London under the Mayor’s Transport Strategy is likely to have negative consequences. Meanwhile the suggestion of the use of e-scooters on London’s streets, where it is currently illegal but most people don’t know it, should surely be discouraged.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor’s Vision Zero Strategy Failing

In 2018 the Mayor of London launched the Vision Zero strategy to reduce road casualties in the capital city. But road casualty figures for 2018 show that Killed and Seriously Injured (KSIs) on London’s road actually increased by 5% to 4,065 in 2018. Vision Zero is a key part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy along with the encouragement for modal shift with the aim of getting more people walking and cycling.

However, cyclist fatalities actually rose by 20% to 12, and cyclist serious injuries rose by 14% to 770. Cycling is one of the most dangerous ways to travel so is this encouragement to cycling misconceived?

The trend in London KSIs matches the national picture where road deaths have plateaued in recent years. See chart below from the DfT report of national road casualties in 2018.

National Fatalities 2018

We will no doubt see renewed calls for lower speed limits and more enforcement, but the ABD has consistently argued that the focus on simplistic solutions to road safety problems, such as traffic speed reductions, cannot and will not work to cut the horrendous toll of road casualties. The encouragement of cycling is surely an example of an unintended consequence of a policy introduced with the best of intentions to improve the health of the population. In London enormous expenditure on Cycle Superhighways and cycle lanes of other kinds has been incurred in the last few years. This was justified on improving cycle safety but in reality the impact is not apparent. The encouragement of cycling may have actually made the road casualty statistics worse.

The ABD has argued that Vision Zero is a counter-productive road safety fantasy. We argue that more attention should be paid to road user education and road engineering. See our submission to Parliament’s Road Safety Transport Committee in April 2019 given below:

Evidence to Transport Committee 2019: Evidence to Transport Committee 2019-03-26

London Road Casualties 2018: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/casualties-in-greater-london-2018.pdf

National Road Casualties 2018: https://tinyurl.com/yy4ouonf

Postscript: With the appointment of Andrew Gilligan as a transport advisor to our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who as former London Cycling Commissioner under Boris was a big contributor to the growth of cycling in the capital and what many argue is the wasted expenditure on Cycle Superhighways, will we see the same defective policies being spread across the country?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Cycling in London, and Cycle Passing Limits

There are a number of cyclists who avidly read this blog. Many of them are critical of the issues I have raised about the standards of cycling in London in a number of articles. It was very amusing to read an article in the Financial Times last Saturday (29/9/2018) by Katie Martin. She is an FT writer and she gives the views of someone who has been cycling to the office for the last nine years.

She said cyclists would be wrong to assume the main threat was cars, and she highlights two others as of importance: the road itself and other cyclists.

Potholes are a major menace to cyclists and she points out that unlike for vehicle drivers, potholes are not just a route to a repair shop, they are a risk to life and limb. I am sure that all road users will agree that potholes have become a major problem as expenditure on road maintenance and proper resurfacing has been cut back by local councils.

But she says an under appreciated risk is other cyclists who are “comfortably the diciest fellow users of the road”. She describes most of them as “infuriatingly rubbish and some would struggle to pass a primary school proficiency test”. She reports that they run red lights, don’t signal before they swing into your path, don’t use lights in the dark and barge in front of you at traffic lights. There is much more in the same vein.

She also criticises pedestrians and car passengers who open doors without looking, but she does not wish to put off anyone from cycling! You can read the full article here: https://www.ft.com/content/b6ffcb9c-c239-11e8-8d55-54197280d3f7 . I hope she does not get too many abusive comments from her fellow cyclists.

Cycle Passing Limit and Disclosure of Evidence

One ABD correspondent has written to the ABD about the fact that he received a Notice of Intended Prosecution about a claimed offence of passing a cyclist too closely in North Wales, which he denies. The police are claiming to have evidence based on a headcam worn by a cyclist but are refusing to disclose the video evidence or even a transcript of a statement given by the cyclist.

Firstly, headcam or dashcam footage can be used as evidence in criminal cases if some conditions are met although the widespread use of cameras does raise the question of privacy. There is effectively none at present on the public roads.

As regards disclosure of evidence, the police certainly need to disclose the evidence if they intend to pursue a prosecution. See this article on Pepipoo for more information on that subject: http://www.pepipoo.com/Disclosure.htm . Perhaps the Police are relying on people accepting a Fixed Penalty Notice rather than going to court to challenge the case, but that would be most dubious.

As regards the distance that vehicle users should allow when overtaking a cyclist, the Highway Code says the following: “Give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car” and “Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make”. This is somewhat unspecific as some drivers might feel they need not give much space when overtaking another vehicle at slow speeds.

One can see that any prosecution might be difficult based on those parts of the Highway Code. So cyclists have called for more specific limits, e.g. 1.5 metres, or perhaps 1.0 metre on roads with lower speed limits. Ireland proposed to introduce such a law but it was abandoned after realisation that it would create legal difficulties. The Department for Transport is currently considering the matter in the UK.

But in this writer’s view, any specific limit is not sensible. In central London, where streets are narrow, and traffic speeds are low, giving 1.5 metres would not be easy and might simply lead to encroachment onto the opposite carriageway thus creating other road safety risks. Likewise on some of the narrow country roads in North Wales. A wide limit on high-speed dual carriageways or other A-roads may be quite appropriate but equating it to the road speed limit rather than the speed of a vehicle and its size makes no sense. Larger vehicles that create much bigger back drafts are more of a risk to cyclists and drivers of those need to allow more space.

Perhaps the Highway Code should be reworded to try and clarify what is a reasonable passing distance but any specific limit seems unwise because it very much depends on the circumstances. The ABD will respond to any public consultation on this issue if one appears.

In the meantime, it seems some Police Forces are using “Careless Driving” offences to try and enforce specific passing distances and are even offering “education courses” as an alternative to taking the points and fines. That is much the same way as they offer speed awareness courses which the ABD is campaigning against (see our AMPOW campaign at https://www.speed-awareness.org/ ). This is morally and legally dubious and should be strongly opposed.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Number Plates for Cyclists

It was Ken Livingstone who first advocated that cyclists should have number plates on their bikes. That was in response to poor behaviour by cyclists and a complaint to him on a radio phone-in about cycling on pavements. That was back in 2006 but he did not progress the proposal.

Since then cycling behaviour in London has got considerably worse. But a south London school is going to make its pupils display a number plate. This is in Carshalton in South London. Headmaster Amit Amin said that pupils have been cycling in a way “that endangers themselves and others”. Cycling pupils will be given a number plate which they must display when riding to and from school in future.

It brought a rather predictable response from a spokesperson for Cycling UK who suggested it might deter cycling by “making it more difficult”. Cyclists seem to oppose more regulation of cycling in any form. Note that other schools already have rules about what pupils should wear when cycling – for example helmets. That is for safety reasons for themselves but rules that provide more safety to others do not seem totally unreasonable and it is difficult to see why having to display a number would deter anyone from cycling.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Heidi Alexander Appointed Deputy Mayor for Transport

Mayor Sadiq Khan has appointed Heidi Alexander, M.P., as Deputy Mayor for Transport in London. She takes over from Val Shawcross who has overseen major damage to London’s road network as a result of the Mayor’s policies.

Heidi Alexander will be resigning from her position in Parliament where she has acted as a representative for Lewisham East. A bye-election will therefore have to be held for a replacement. She has not announced the reason for her departure from Parliament except she was known to be opposed to Brexit and not apparently a Corbyn supporter.

Does Heidi Alexander have special expertise or knowledge of the transport sector which would quality her for this position? A quick search of the internet reveals only that she expressed concern about access to Lewisham Station. Otherwise she is quoted as being “excited about her appointment” and that “I know just how important it is we ensure everyone has access to a high-quality and affordable public transport network with safe cycling routes across the capital”. So it looks like more of the same policies we have endured in London in recent years. Not that Heidi looks like she does much cycling from her physical appearance. If she does not she might want to practice a bit because no doubt there will be calls for photo shoots of her cycling with the Mayor very soon.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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More Pedestrian Deaths Caused By or To Cyclists

The BBC have reported the death of a 73-year-old woman on Oxford Street after she was hit by a cyclist on Tuesday the 12th September. She suffered head injuries in the collision. A man was arrested at the scene.

The BBC also noted that a 67-year-old woman died on the 9th September after she was struck by a cyclist during July’s RideLondon event. RideLondon is a charity event that attracts as many as 100,000 riders and where many roads in London and Surrey are closed to traffic – which causes enormous problems to many residents. The ABD has objected to such events in the past. However, the roads are not of course closed to pedestrians while many of the cycle riders consider it a race even those in the “non-competitive” part of the event. It is alleged some are using the Strava App to record and compare times – I have previously commented on that use by cyclists in London. In fact all riders in RideLondon get their times to complete the event reported by the organisers which no doubt encourages the competitive spirit. In practice, it means that cyclists are racing on public roads.

There was also one death amongst the riders from medical problem this year, and two deaths in the previous year.

It is surely time these events were reconsidered and the general encouragement of “furious” cycling discouraged, whether in an organised event or otherwise.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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