Saturday, 28 June 2008

The News

Cycling is on the increase in London but

Nationally, the situation is rather different. The latest figures from the Department for Transport show that the overall number of cycle trips has fallen slightly, down from an average of 17 trips per person in 2000 to 16 in 2006.

More stats:

The number of people killed on British roads last year fell to the lowest level since records began, it was announced today. However the number of motorcyclists killed or seriously injured rose 4per cent to 6,737, while the total casualty figure of 23,459 was 1per cent up. Total fatalities in 2007 were 2,943 - 7per cent lower than in 2006, with deaths and serious injuries down in all categories of road user except motorcyclists. The number of children killed or seriously injured in 2007 was 3,090 - a 6per cent fall.

The great helmet debate:

A cyclist who suffered permanent brain injuries after a bike accident has accused Boris Johnson of setting a bad example by failing to wear a helmet. Father-of-two Simon Turner, 41, spent three days in intensive care and doctors warned his wife Michele that he might not survive the injuries he sustained in the fall in Richmond Park. Two years later, he has metal plates in his head, permanent pain, fatigue and tinnitus, and has lost his sense of smell, taste and the hearing in one ear as a result of the accident. He called on the Mayor to ensure he always wore a helmet when cycling in London.


Bicyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be struck by passing vehicles, research suggests. Drivers pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than when overtaking bare-headed cyclists, increasing the risk of a collision, the research has found. Dr Ian Walker, a traffic psychologist from the University of Bath, used a bicycle fitted with a computer and an ultrasonic distance sensor to record data from over 2,500 overtaking motorists in Salisbury and Bristol.

Cyclists in central London can expect to be cut up by an exciting new style of taxi: The Mercedes-Benz Vito has sliding doors, electric steps and seating for six people. The familiar TX4, made by London Taxis International, seats five.

Another 'personality' gets the kid glove treatment from the courts:

Television presenter Patrick Kielty has been fined for speeding at 101mph. His lawyer, Gerald Tierney, said Kielty normally flew and was therefore unfamiliar with the road. "Having had a busy day working in London, his concentration slipped. An error of judgment occurred," Mr Tierney said. Mr Tierney argued that Kielty's charity work, encompassing high profile events and smaller fundraisers such as golf tournaments, would suffer he if was disqualified from driving. Sheriff Thomas Millar said he had taken this into account when deciding to impose a fine.

Violence on the roads is marginalised and naturalised. It just happens, like bad weather. Were you even aware of yesterday’s violent death of two small children and their mother? [Monday update here.]

Mobile phone killer:

Richmond, of Oakwood, Derby, an HGV driver for 25 years, caused carnage when his lorry slammed into the queue of traffic on the A631 at Corringham, near Gainsborough, Lincs. The court was told that he was "oblivious to all around him" because of the 23-minute call to his mother and did not even apply the brakes of his Scania HGV before ploughing into the traffic.

Mr Buston, a 36-year-old married father-of-two, was killed outright, his brother-in-law Peter Long, who was in a Transit van with him, was badly injured, and the driver of the lorry at the front of the queue, Andrejz Matkowski, lost both arms.

Roger Vincent, a spokesman for RoSPA, urged the government to impose a blanket ban on making phone calls whilst driving, saying the current laws banning the use of hand-held mobiles failed the address the issue. The Department of Transport's official stance making hands-free phone calls is that they are a "distraction" and should be avoided. But the government-funded Transport Research Laboratory has found that even hands-free phone calls make drivers four times more likely to have an accident, with concentration levels reduced for 10 minutes after the call has ended. The research also showed that drivers making hands-free calls had slower reaction times than those who were slightly over the drink-drive limit.

The face of the future?

The town of Bohmte, near Hanover, received a £1.8m European Union grant to remove all its traffic lights and warning signs. The 13,000 drivers who use the town each day now have only two road traffic rules to stick to - do not exceed the 30mph speed limit and always give way to the right, whether it is a car, bike or pedestrian. The local council has hailed the experiment a success as not a single traffic accident was reported last month, compared to at least one serious crash every week before the change.

Electric cars:

A pioneering scheme that rewards owners of electric vehicles with free parking is being scrapped - because it works too well. Since 2001, the City of London has issued free roadside parking passes to nearly 500 drivers of the zero-emission cars in a bid to encourage other people to buy one. It has also handed out 539 permits for free parking in its car parks. But both schemes are being axed or scaled down, because commuters are adding to congestion by using the cars instead of walking, cycling or travelling by public transport.

Climate crime:

James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, wants the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech to the US Congress - in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming - to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the "perfect storm" of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable. Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

Crap public transport:

Passengers face acute overcrowding on key railway routes because capacity will be exhausted many years before any new lines could be built, according to Network Rail.

Parking scam:

Residents living near the venue for the Wimbledon Championships have been copying and selling parking permits to tennis fans on the internet. Wandsworth Council issued the permits to homes near the All England Club to allow friends and family to park in restricted areas during the tournament. But the council had to issue new ones after it discovered some residents had made numerous copies of the passes. One was selling 17 passes on eBay and another was asking for £60 for a pair.


Crime! Violence! Anti-social behaviour! How about this for anti-cycling prejudice?

Elsewhere in the metropolis:

Eighteen police officers have been disciplined for joking about crashing cars and injuring pedestrians on a social networking website.The officers posted photos of crashes with comments on a group on Facebook called Look, I've had a pocol – slang for a police collision. The group had more than 200 members before it was disbanded in January and an internal inquiry launched.

More than 30 pictures were posted on the Facebook site, on which the officers made light of writing off their vehicles and putting members of the public in danger.

Fourteen of the officers have been given written warnings and another four received "words of advice".

This week’s crash:

Six people were hurt when a marked police car collided with a taxi in Sunderland.

A small loophole is plugged:

Driving bans will apply throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland from next spring. Irish, British and Northern Ireland ministers announced the arrangement following a meeting in Belfast. It means that Irish drivers disqualified for an offence in the UK will no longer escape that punishment when they return home, and vice-versa.

Obituary: Frank Blackmore.