Monday 30 November 2009

Waltham Forest: a clutter-free paradise

Uncluttered cycle parking! Uncluttered pavements! Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds!

Back in 2006, the London Borough of Waltham Forest initiated its grand Anti Clutter Initiative, scheduled to last for the period 2006-2010:

We are keen to reduce the amount and impact of such clutter, which will greatly improve the visual order and reduce obstructions in our streets.

The Council has already taken steps to achieve this by creating a street scene steering group and Action Plan, and has implemented the first stages of this plan. Unfortunately, a lack of funding halted work, but 25K additional funding obtained in 2006/07 will allow for training, research, and Phase 2 of the clutter removal programme to take place
ensuring this essential work continues.

(First photograph, above: Wood Street E17. Below: High Road Leytonstone.)

More cyclophobia in ‘The Times’

Two more anti-cycling features from Times newspapers.

Two Christmases ago it was The Times which gave Matthew Pariss a column to chuckle that

A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists.

[It’s since been tried out in Wigan, with some success]

the lynching of a cyclist…would be a joy to witness.

There was some adverse reaction to the column. But, like someone who’s just told a racist joke and is surprised to discover that no one else in the room is amused, Parris indignantly explained that he was just having a larf. A bit of harmless fun, that’s all. Blimey, it’s political correctness gone mad if you can’t suggest that murdering cyclists is just what they deserve.

And now we have Eleanor Mills, who, having identified herself as a cyclist, informs Times readers that

cyclists are a bandit tribe who blithely ignore the usual laws of the road.

many cyclists feel uniquely free to ignore the rules of the road. Some are total idiots.

The flaw in her argument is that even if every cyclist in Britain scrupulously obeyed the rules, they would still be run down in their hundreds. Bad behaviour by cyclists is the default condition of cycling on roads designed for motoring and filled with reckless criminal drivers. Expecting cyclists to obey the rules when no one else does is a utopian expectation, especially when adherence to those rules may put you more at risk of losing your life or suffering serious injury. She provides an email address at the end of her feature, should you wish to enlighten her - as a fellow cyclist.

Half her feature is simply a lazily recycled TfL press release for ‘cycle superhighways’ and suburban transformation: Goodbye Britain, hello Amsterdam, is the general gist.

The notion that anywhere in London, or anywhere in Britain, will shortly resemble the cycling infrastructure of Amsterdam is complete fantasy. There is no transport vision on the Dutch model, and absolutely no political will to implement one. I am tempted to call Eleanor Mills pig-ignorant, but that would be unfair to a species of quadruped far superior in intelligence and charm to a Rupert Murdoch lackey.

Mills’s tosh is matched by another cyclophobic feature, headed

Beware, iPod zombie cyclists are on the rise

Cyclists distracted by music blaring in their ears have become the latest menace on Britain’s roads.

The fashion for cyclists to wear earphones on crowded city streets is being held partly responsible for the recent upsurge in cycling injuries and deaths, as well as collisions with pedestrians.

There is, needless to say, not a scrap of evidence linking cyclists wearing earphones to any such crashes or casualty figures. This is just another version of ‘the cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet and so was to blame’.

So in the absence of evidence, who is keen to blame the victims?

Road safety groups are alarmed at the practice and this weekend Edmund King, the president of the AA, called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to launch a campaign warning cyclists of the risk.

The AA of course is NOT a ‘road safety group’ but a road lobby organisation. And as we know, Edmund King is a lobbyist with form, whose career is devoted to ceaselessly fretting about the poor, persecuted driver.

Nicholas Gardiner, an Oxfordshire coroner, spoke out about the risks of riding with iPods, saying that cyclists’ careless attitude had to be challenged. “Frankly I find it quite frightening the things cyclists do,” he said.

[Frankly, I find it quite disturbing that we’re not permitted to know what motoring convictions a coroner may have.]

Youth for Road Safety, a new group, is to launch a campaign called Tune into Traffic under the slogan “Your earphones could kill you”.

You won’t be killed by a driver or a ton of metal, see? It will be your earphones. And if your abdomen is split open by the wheels of a heavy goods vehicle and you are wearing a woolly hat, it’s the wool that will be at fault.

Manpreet Darroch, who is leading the campaign, said: “It’s a serious problem which is only going to get worse as the number of cyclists increases — lots of people are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them. People don’t realise how dangerous listening to music is on the roads — whether pedestrian or cyclist. It takes one of your key senses away.

I don't myself cycle with headphones on, but I dislike the thrust of this kind of campaign. Are we saying that deaf people shouldn't cycle? And if listening to music is so dangerous and distracting, why is it not then banned in cars? East London is not exactly short of drivers whose vehicles vibrate to the boom and thump of sound systems. I also see drivers wearing headphones.

Needless to say Youth for Road Safety, which seems to originate with Channel Four, is one of those mysterious organisations which seem to lack members and which has no connection at all to reputable representative groups like RoadPeace. If you google the TUNE INTO TRAFFIC: Road Safety Campaign you enter a labyrinth and eventually arrive at Mentors, who are this creepy bunch

Media froth, in other words. And clicking at random on a link I learned about

Iris Andrews

Iris is the sort of person we all dream of being.

[Not true. Once I'd read about her, Iris is the sort of person I dream of pushing off a very high cliff.]

Age 15 she started campaigning for the Peace One Day organization, got heavily involved in Greenpeace, and worked on the Great Leaders project with Nelson Mandella and Kofi Annan.

Soon after, because she's so brilliant, she was recommended to meet a seriously rich entrepreneur who wanted to give something back to society. He put in the money to set up the Catalyst Project and got Iris, at age 19, to run it. Basically her job is to get really rich people and really powerful movers and shakers to address the problem of climate change. And she's managed it - raising enough money to set up a foundation, and enough research to convince people that there’s a lot more work and fund-raising to be done.

Ah, yes, fund-raising. But to benefit whom, precisely?

Manpreet Darroch popped up as the self-appointed voice of 'road safety' and the MP3 generation at a conference:

CSEC, which is hosted by RoSPA and NCB and funded by a £1.6million grant from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, was established earlier this year. It is a coalition of member organisations working together to promote practical safety education in order to reduce unintended injury.

Yes, there’s always lots of corporate media attention and lots of lovely lolly for ‘road safety’ initiatives which blame the victims, change absolutely nothing about the transport status quo, and divert attention from the root causes of violence on the roads.

Climate Emergency bike ride

Next Saturday: the details here.

Last year’s ride attracted at least two London cycling bloggers, including the voice of Croydon and this phantom figure.

You get an escort of friendly bicycle police, who are all smiles because this is an orderly and strictly controlled event with polite, well-behaved environmentalists and no danger of things getting out of hand. Which is how cops like it. Also, they were getting paid to ride a bicycle. No wonder they were smiling.

Top tip. I was incredibly cold on the last one and wished I’d wrapped up better. Global warming? Common sense tells you that’s rubbish innit.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Safety and cycling

(Above) Unsegregated infrastructure doesn't work: the cycle lane on Leyton Green Road, E10.

The Copenhagenize website:

The European Cyclists' Federation - one of's heroes - published their position paper in response to the European Union's Road Safety Action Programme 2011-2020 today.

"We want to underline the fact that unsafe traffic conditions and the individual perception that it is not safe to travel do limit people in their mobility or in their choice of transport mode. This is in particular true for "unprotected" (pedestrians, cyclists) and vulnerable road users (children, elderly).These fears need to be tackled. There is good evidence to support the idea that cycling gets safer the more people do it. This is called the “Safety in Numbers” principle."

Those last two sentences are garbage, poppycock, piffle and balderdash. Let me quote in full the relevant bit:

There is good evidence to support the idea that cycling gets safer the more people do it. This is called the “Safety in Numbers” principle. Countries with high levels of cycle use like the Netherlands or Denmark are less risky for cyclists than countries with low cycle use, such as Portugal or Spain.

That’s a completely fatuous comparison. Dutch and Danish cyclists are safer and cycle more because they enjoy better cycling infrastructure and more segregation from motor traffic (and the Dutch infrastructure is far superior to the Danish, incidentally, with a corresponding superiority of modal share). Where there is safe, segregated, convenient cycling infrastructure many people choose to cycle. Where there isn’t, and where they feel that cycling is a dangerous and unpleasant activity, they won’t and don’t. Easy-peasy.

The European Cyclists' Federation:

Also comparative statistics within certain EU member states support this concept. Therefore we need positive campaigns promoting the use of the bicycle, such as “Kopf an, Motor aus” (“Turn on your brain, turn off your engine”) financed by the German Federal Ministry of Transport.

This is the same strategy pursued by the London Cycling Campaign. Let’s all be positive about cycling and everyone will cycle! Let’s pay celebrities to promote cycling! Hey, everybody, cycling is cool!

Take a look at this video of Koy Thompson standing by the Wellington Arch on a lovely sunny day, with cyclists flitting by all the time. Koy’s strategy appears to be that we must encourage more people to cycle, and this will create its own unstoppable momentum. He foresees the time when “cycling will accelerate to levels that will create a Copenhagen effect in London”

Firstly, I don’t believe there will ever be a significant switch to mass cycling in London without supplying the kind of safe infrastructure which at present is signally lacking, and which is not even on the horizon (unless you are suckered by the hyperbolic 'Cycle Super Highways'). Who really wants to cycle on streets like Cann Hall Road E11 or on cycle lanes like this one on Forest Road E17 or in conditions like this? What’s more, out here in Waltham Forest cycling is about to get worse not better.

Secondly, what’s so great about Copenhagen? If Copenhagen was in the Netherlands it would actually receive additional funds due to its low cycling rate (there, that shocked you, didn’t it?). Vulnerable groups – the elderly and unaccompanied children - don't seem to cycle much in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is not quite the cycling paradise that it is marketed as:

A 2006 DanishTransport Research Institute poll found that 47 percent of cyclists feel unsafe riding on Copenhagen streets. A decade prior, 40 percent expressed such concerns. 'More parents don't want their children to ride,' Lindholm acknowledged.

As far as I’m aware, Copenhagen last published "all trips" figures in 2002 (why is that I wonder?) when 33% of commutes were by bike and 19% of journeys overall by bike. For the last few years only the more spectacular sounding commuting figure has been published, which has grown to 37%.

The problem with Copenhagen is that it doesn’t have a comprehensive cycling infrastructure. A city of 1.8 million people has just 25 km of properly segregated cycle path. That might seem like paradise compared to a backward, cycling-hostile city like London, but is risible compared to, say, Groningen in the Netherlands, where modal share is 59 per cent cycling and 36.8 per cent car. Copenhagen is being marketed as an example of best practice in the world, which it is not. So why is Koy Thompson talking about “a Copenhagen effect” and not “a Groningen effect”?

Even Copenhagen’s infrastructure, such as it is, was accomplished by removing parked cars from city streets – something which is anathema to London’s transport planners. Restraining the parking of vehicles on streets is an important first step in civilising streets and in making them more attractive for cycling on, yet when the Greater London Assembly ran a consulation exercise on parking controls, just two road user groups couldn’t be bothered to express an opinion:

Other road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists groups were written to for their views on parking enforcement. No evidence was received from the first two groups, however three submissions were received from the motorcyclist (powered two wheeler – PTW) lobby.

Because they don’t take a holistic approach to cycling and walking, neither the London Cycling Campaign nor Living Streets could be bothered to express an opinion (four hundred Londoners wrote in as individuals, including me).

I believe you will only ever attract a small number of people to cycling by marketing strategies alone. And if you attract them to cycling for them only to discover that cycling is a rubbish experience (unsafe, stressful, full of delays, lacking direct routes, with no cycle parking and a high risk of bike theft) then you will simply lose them again. I’ve witnessed this happen to novice cyclists I've known in London. Yes, there is massive potential to make London into a mass cycling city but that potential is being strangled both by politicians from the three main parties and by transport planners, who still prefer to put the motorist first. Pretending that that's not the reality doesn't help cycling one little bit.

Back to that European Cyclists' Federation position paper:

Research suggests that a doubling of cycling would lead to a reduction in the risks of cycling by around a third, i.e. the increase in cycle use is far higher than the increase in cyclists’ casualties. UK: London has seen a 91% increase in cycling since 2000 and a 33% fall in cycle casualties since 1994-98. This means that cycling in the city is 2.9 times safer than it was previously.

This blatantly derives (even the wording is identical) from Britain's Cyclists Touring Club. As I never tire of pointing out, it’s quite untrue that “London has seen a 91% increase in cycling since 2000”. That figure refers to measured cycling on just 40 main roads in London, nothing more. It has nothing to do with modal share, which is the only statistic that really matters.

I also think as an index of danger it’s untrue. What is left out of the equation is exposure to risk, which I believe is enormous and growing. Far from being “2.9 times safer than it was previously” London is in reality becoming a more and more dangerous city to cycle in. It is objectively more dangerous, because its streets are full of large numbers of drivers steering with one hand while distracted by conversations on handheld mobile phones. That was not the situation in 1994-1998.

Cycling in London is becoming objectively more dangerous in other ways. Two recent examples: firstly, London Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision to scrap the Met Police’s lorry safety unit… The unit reportedly costs under £1 million per year to operate, funded by the Metropolitan Police Service and Transport for London. and secondly Cuts to the unit responsible for dealing with speeding and red light jumping

Koy Thompson’s enthusiasm for ‘a cycling mayor’ seems naïve in the light of Boris Johnson’s transport policies, which favour car ownership and use, ownership of Chelsea tractors (that's SUVs, if you are North American), and the worst kind of lawless driving.

The European Cyclists' Federation breezily says

We can promote cycling without worrying that this will lead to more casualties. It is clear that ‘more’ and ‘safer’ cycling are perfectly compatible. The challenge is not to worry that more cyclists mean more casualties, but to tackle the fears that deter people from cycling in the first place.

But this is tautological. Every survey reiterates the basic reality that people are afraid to cycle because they perceive roads to be very dangerous places for cycling on. Telling them that their perceptions are false and that statistically and scientifically London’s roads are almost three times safer than they used to be, does not strike me as being a marketing strategy that is going to work. More cyclists on dangerous roads is likely to result in more fatalities and injuries, which further works to suppress cycling:

My own daughter sometimes cycles to the Embankment to work, but has decided to lock up her bike now until the lighter days and evenings next year thank goodness.

The European Cyclists' Federation says

Authorities at all levels need to take responsible action. This includes traffic management, safe cycling infrastructure, traffic code enforcement (speed limits!), education and awareness raising campaigns and technical solutions and standards.

Which is an odd mish-mash. If you provide “safe cycling infrastructure” of the Dutch kind you don’t by and large need to worry about the other stuff in so far as it won’t affect cycling. Those other aspects only matter if cyclists have to share roads with motor vehicles – the integrationist approach.

Needless to say The European Cyclists' Federation is anxious to position itself as a moderate and responsible organisation, hence claptrap like this:

Cyclists as well as motorised road users should be educated on how to behave safely in traffic.

Cyclists should be targeted with public information on respecting the traffic code (not
riding through red lights, for example), and be informed on how to avoid accidents.

Once again we see a cycling organisation totally out of touch with the reality of cycling and the reality of how cyclists actually behave. Huge numbers of London cyclists ignore pious advice to stop at red lights, simply because (i) cycling only works if it is a quick way of getting around a city (ii) it is often perfectly safe for a cyclist to ride through a red light, provided this affects no other road user, especially pedestrians – this is probably truer in outer London where there are less people walking than in the dense West End, where pedestrians rightly object to being harassed by cyclists cutting through (iii) it may well be safer to cycle through a red light than obey the law and be crushed to death by a lorry driver [we still don’t know why so many women cyclists die on London’s roads, but the theory that they are at risk because they are more cautious, law-abiding and less assertive is certainly plausible] (iv) red lights are there to control motor vehicle flow, and almost no junctions in London have dedicated cycling lights.

The problem with The European Cyclists' Federation is that it accepts the status quo as a given. If red lights are there, cyclists must obey them. If cars are built to break the speed limit, we must accept this and not express a squeak of dissent.

‘Road safety’ is a concept engineered by the road lobby to divert attention from its own lethal products. And instead of addressing such central issues as vehicles designed to break the law, the criminally negligent operation of dangerous machinery, and the indulgent treatment of criminally dangerous behaviour by European legal and judicial systems, we end up with techno-fix stuff like this:

One of the measures that would lessen serious and fatal injuries to cyclists considerably is an airbag on the windscreen.

Personally, I’d rather not be hit by a criminally negligent motorist in the first place.

(Below) A scene you are unlikely to see in London. Two small unaccompanied children cycle side by side in a safe cycling environment. Amsterdam. Photo credit: Amsterdamize.

Driver terrorises lollipop lady

“Last week one motorist was shouting at people and he got really mad at me when I was crossing the children. He came right up in my face, just inches away, and I thought he was going to hit me.

“It was scary and I got upset, this has never happened to me before. I will carry on doing my job because I am not prepared to give in to bullies.”

Crap policing

SUSSEX Police are urging people to take more care after a spate of collisions on the county's roads this morning (Thursday November 26). A motorcyclist was killed at Horsham and a woman was trapped in her car after it overturned on the A23 at Handcross.

What Sussex Police won’t be doing, of course, is enforce road traffic law.

And guess what – the very next day in the county: Two men died in crashes on Sussex road in this morning’s bad weather.


A busy road was blocked after a two vehicle road accident. The incident, involving a 4x4 car and a van, saw one of the vehicles crash into the central reservation.


Motorists in Richmond upon Thames are being told to snuggle up with their car keys at night to keep car crime low.

Police are issuing a key fob with the slogan "take me to bed" to to remind car owners not to leave keys on show.

Cyclists are the problem

The purpose of my cycling to work is see how the world appears on two wheels rather than four. I thought it would make me more sympathetic to cyclists. But thus far I have been horrified by what I have seen.

Cars, buses, taxis and vans have – touch wood – been fine.

I have, however, had to watch out for cyclists jumping lights as I made my slightly shaky progress through the streets of London.

Of course, if you want to know where David Millward is coming from, you only have to look at his articles here.

Waltham Forest Council – the fraudster’s friend

In common with many other local authorities, Enfield Council has an

on-going clampdown on disabled parking fraud.

The streets of the London Borough of Waltham Forest are crammed with drivers displaying blue badges, who patently are not disabled. But neither the Metropolitan Police nor Waltham Forest council could give a toss, and the crap council is content to lose tens of thousands of pounds of revenue each year, while doing precisely nothing to crack down on fraudsters.

But then this rotten council stinks.

Safe cycling fun!

Stationary bikes take cyclists on virtual rides through scenic routes, and provide the opportunity to compete in a virtual race against the cyclist beside you or in the next country.

Saturday 28 November 2009

The age of stupid (contractors)

They obstruct cycle lanes and pavements in the stupidest ways possible. But no one cares. When did you ever read about this problem in the press or see it on TV? That's because cycling and walking aren't important to the people who manage our streets and our society.

(Above) High Road Leytonstone.

(Below) Contractors working on Newgate Street EC1 (close to the back of the Old Bailey) had blocked off the cycle lane yesterday, even though it was plain they could have left it open, together with a corridor for pedestrians, without risking the health and safety of anyone. So cyclists were forced out into the stream of traffic, and pedestrians chose to walk in the road rather than make a detour down a side street.

Waltham Forest's climate change strategy

(Above) Still shining for Ed Miliband... The Town Square, with the Bhs store in the background. The 'switch it off' council has made no attempt to turn off all the street lamps which I keep showing on this blog burning brightly all through the daylight hours.

Ocean acidification, loss of rain forests, degradation of ecosystems, and desertification…loss of biodiversity and reduced agricultural productivity.

But we don’t worry about that stuff in Waltham Forest.

And anyway most of the borough is well above sea-level. So, on with the Council’s five neighbourhood “improvement schemes” which “introduce where possible additional parking bays”.

And, hey, where better to chill out and relax and not worry about this global warming nonsense than Park Road, Leyton!

T451 JBP - HGV with driver using handheld mobile phone

T451 JBP - HGV with the Asian male driver steering with one hand while talking on a handheld mobile phone, 10.14 am, Hoe Street E17, junction with Selborne Road, yesterday.

Cops fail to find road rage attacker who said his dad was a cop

A DISABLED pensioner kicked in the head in a road rage assault has slammed the police for not doing a better job of finding his attacker.

Dennis Pullen, 75, who was attacked outside the Co-op store in High Street, Sturry on August 27, is furious that police took THREE months to release an appeal for witnesses – only to issue a CCTV photo that he insists is of the WRONG man.

Grandfather-of-16 Mr Pullen, a retired painter and decorator with from arthritis of the spine and progressive lung disease, told the Canterbury Times: "I am very annoyed with the police. "The guy in the paper is not the same guy. They've made a mistake.

Climate change sceptics

David Aaronovitch:

They are only sceptical about what they don’t want to be true.

They somehow believe that the whole global warming schtick is an amazing confidence trick performed upon the peoples of the world by a group of scientists and socialists, and pursued by politicans keen to get their hands on green taxes (though for what nefarious purpose we do not know), and which has taken in almost all the governments of the world, from the US to China.

They suggest that they are open-minded, but their foundations and articles are designed to reassure the witless that their attachment to their Porsche Cayenne Turbos and their hatred of recycling are somehow acts of non-conformist courage.

Railings collide with Range Rover in accident

A footballer

had "a couple of drinks" before driving home in the early hours of the morning and crashing his silver Range Rover Sport into metal railings

He was

fined £2,600, including costs.

Which isn’t much of a deterrent to someone on


Car supremacist Flagler Beach not ready for pedestrianisation

FLAGLER BEACH -- A proposal to close off part of a main road near City Hall and create a pedestrian mall failed to win over city leaders this week.

The idea is based on a similar recommendation stated in a charette -- a series of talks on the city's architectural design -- and master plan the city paid for years ago. Such a center would allow visitors to the area more easily, traffic-free access to businesses and the Flagler Beach Museum,

John Manoni, owner of the Chi-Dog Restaurant, asked commissioners to find other ways to make downtown more inviting for walkers without shutting down the road. Manoni, whose eatery sits on Central Avenue, said many towns that created traffic-free downtown areas are now abandoning the initiative and reopening streets because pedestrians complained it's difficult to access businesses, and retailers were losing money.

Commissioner Joy McGrew said. "I look forward to this look and can see this look," she said. "But it's ahead of its time."

Not-so-friendly Denmark

The Danish parliament today passed legislation which will give police sweeping powers of "pre-emptive" arrest and extend custodial sentences for acts of civil disobedience.

The "deeply worrying" law comes ahead of the UN climate talks which start on 7 December and are expected to attract thousands of activists from next week.

Under the new powers, Danish police will be able to detain people for up to 12 hours whom they suspect might break the law in the near future.

Friday 27 November 2009

A dirty and neglected cycling facility

Here’s the difference between spin and reality:

The borough is one of the leading authorities in London for the provision of cycling facilities

The Council also recognises the difficulty cyclists encounter at roundabouts and signalised junctions on main roads with three major underpasses for cyclists at the Billet, Waterworks and Green Man roundabouts, and two cycle/footbridges crossing the M11 link road and railway line in Leytonstone.

In reality all five facilities mentioned were not designed to benefit cyclists but to benefit motorists, by sending cyclists either under or over roads, on diversionary routes which are inconvenient and threatening. It’s one of the reasons I used to be bitterly opposed to segregated routes: UK cycling segregation is almost always installed to prioritise motor traffic flow. But there’s another problem with these fa(r)cilities: their gross neglect and lack of maintenance.

When I cycled over the cycle/footbridge near Leyton station (the Langthorne Road E10 route) on November 3rd, I spotted two plastic objects which looked like they might have come from a domestic electrical appliance, perhaps a washing-machine or a tumble drier. When I cycled over this bridge yesterday they were still there. In other words, over a period of 23 days no one had been near this facility to clean or maintain it. That doesn’t surprise me a bit. The cycling infrastructure generally in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, such as it is, is shockingly neglected.

These two cycle/footbridges (which the clowns at Sustrans have in the past described as ‘exemplar facilities’) are also disfigured by graffiti, as is the underpass at the Waterworks roundabout. It’s another reason why cycling in London is being suppressed and is most unlikely to grow significantly:

“Graffiti is a significant problem in London. In a survey we carried out recently over half of those questioned (61%) said they would consider taking a cab rather than walking or cycling through neglected graffiti-ridden areas. Most of our respondents (83%) would avoid streets that they consider to be neglected."

The crap that was there on November 3rd...

was still there yesterday, over three weeks later:

Speeding and carbon emissions

MINISTERS are being urged to cut the national speed limit to 55mph

Yorkshire Labour MP Colin Challen, who chairs a Commons group on climate change, says domestic flights should also be phased out by the end of next year alongside a massive expansion of home insulation programmes and investment in public transport

The Independent Committee on Climate Change has already found that 1.4million tonnes of carbon emissions could be saved in the UK if the current speed limit was obeyed.

Floods, famines, pollution, Ed Miliband and Walthamstow

Secretary of State for energy and climate change, Ed Miliband MP, will be visiting Walthamstow to talk with residents about cutting carbon emissions ahead of the Copenhagen summit.

Labour prospective party candidate for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy, who organised the event, said: “It is vital the political leaders at the Copenhagen summit make a deal which cuts carbon emissions internationally otherwise floods, famines and pollution will blight the lives of millions of people here and abroad.

The event is at Willowfield School, in Clifton Avenue, Walthamstow, between 6.30pm and 8.30pm today.

I made the effort to get there by 6.30 pm. Checked out the stalls. Read some literature. Waited for the action to begin. Wondered why so few people were there. Eventually learned that the Minister was now not turning up until 8 pm.

A pity. I would like to have asked him: ‘Minister, when Boris Johnson came to Walthamstow recently he cycled all the way from City Hall on the south bank, alone. How did you get here tonight?’

I think I can guess the answer.

I expect the speech I missed would have been a version of this one.

Oh yeah, one other thing. Bearing in mind that this was a meeting for people who live locally about the urgent need to cut carbon emissions I was not remotely surprised that the school car park contained three bicycles and fifteen cars. Here’s a lovely picture.

Fear of driving

BIRMINGHAM’S Spaghetti Junction has been voted Britain’s most intimidating road junction in a survey of UK motorists.

One in 12 motorists avoid scary junctions, driving on average an extra 238 miles a year on detours to avoid having to use them. Some particularly nervous motorists (2 per cent) even admitted to avoiding taking right turns at all costs, because they are so concerned about their safety.

Oh and look what’s just happened!

Motorway users face large tailbacks this afternoon after a crash on the northbound carriageway of the M6 resulted in two lanes being closed.

The accident involved four lorries between J5, Castle Bromwich and J6, Spaghetti Junction

Thursday 26 November 2009

Breaking news: a new fatality involving a woman cyclist in central London

POLICE are appealing for witnesses and information after a cyclist died following a collision with a bus in central London.

Fashion student Dorothy Rose Elder, who lived in Whitechapel, died in hospital on Sunday after she was in collision with a bus at the junction of Southampton Row and Theobalds Road on Wednesday, November 11.

Collision investigators are keen to speak to any witnesses that were in the area at the time of the incident.

Broken glass and domestic waste only, please

South Access Road, Walthamstow

Every day brings something new

Twinned with the previous post. The London Cycle Network. Leytonstone. The other day.

20 mph zones – some problems

Peter Hawkins, of the Cycle Touring Club Scotland, said: "Cycling is hard to promote to non-cyclists because it appears unsafe because of the behaviour of drivers. Twenty miles per hour should be the norm for all residential streets and a maximum of 30mph on main roads. Enforcement is lax – speed limits are widely disregarded."

However, the Institute of Advanced Motorists called instead for other measures, such as segregated cycle lanes.
"Investment in high-quality cycle routes that separate inherently unsafe cars and bikes is needed rather than unenforceable speed limits in areas which are already safe. People cycle in Holland because they don't have to worry about traffic conflict anywhere on their journey."

Needless to say the AA and RAC are against 20 mph zones. The ubiquitous Edmund King thinks they only work where drivers “understand and respect why the limit is lower” – which cleverly leaves obedience to road traffic law to the discretion of the driver. And

Elizabeth Box, head of research for the Royal Automobile Club Foundation said: "One-size-fits-all policies are rarely successful. Twenty mile per hour zones are no different."

The IAM is right in believing that segregated cycle lanes on the Dutch model are the only thing that will result in safe, popular cycling, but wrong in opposing 20 mph zones, since they bring benefits to pedestrians, who have blatantly been left out of the discussion here. But building that kind of segregated cycling infrastructure means getting rid of on-street car parking, which I suspect is not something the IAM would enthusiastically endorse.

As for the AA and the RAC - they are simply doing the archetypal whining they do whenever any restraint is suggested on the lavish freedoms of drivers to behave however they want to. And the RAC Foundation is just another tax-dodging “charity” which exists to promote the politics of car supremacy, even though charities are supposed to be non-political.

However, I think Peter Hawkins of the CTC is wrong if he believes that 20 mph zones in themselves are enough to increase cycling and make it a mass, popular means of personal mobility in urban areas.

Waltham Forest has a number of 20 mph zones and driver speeds are often relatively low. But cycling in 20 mph zones is still frequently an unpleasant and stressful activity, because it involves cycling on roads choked with parked cars lining the street on both sides, with drivers either honking their horns angrily behind you out of frustration at being delayed for a few seconds by a cyclist, or approaching/overtaking you at a speed which still seems threatening. Having a ton of metal pass by you just a few inches away is not pleasant, even if that ton of metal is “only” travelling at 20 mph. Very few drivers show any willingness to accept that when they are approaching me on my side of the road I have priority and they should give way and slow down or stop. The vast majority simply expect the cyclist to give way, and some drivers assert their metallic strength and superiority in the most aggressive way possible. The physical proximity of a moving motor vehicle is the problem, not just the speed.

These kinds of experiences underline (for me at any rate) that the integrationist strategy which many cycling campaigners still believe in, is not getting us anywhere. I used to be an integrationist myself, but not any more. However, I will leave the issue of integration versus segregation to a future post.

For the moment let me point to an aspect which usually gets left out of the discussion. Many campaigners believe that 20 mph zones are implicitly a good thing in themselves. In one sense that’s obviously true – better any kind of traffic calming and speed reduction than none, and there is no shortage of evidence that, measured by casualty figures, they are a success. But do traffic-calmed 20 mph zones really keep speeds down to below 20 mph? The Church Hill area of Walthamstow was recently traffic calmed and turned into a 20 mph zone. However, I am sceptical that driver speeds are really below that limit.

My subjective perceptions are implicitly confirmed by a very interesting report by Southwark Living Streets suggesting that 20 mph zones may not be quite as effective as they are supposed to be, and that frequency and type of traffic calming measures is crucial in determining success or failure.

The report scrutinises streets in a traffic calmed 20 mph zone, where, depending on the street, between 32 per cent and 86 per cent of vehicles are being driven at speeds faster than 20 mph.

Read the report here.

Crime advice

Excuse me, do you have a leaflet on car dependency? Because I think it's criminal the way people handing out crime advice leaflets are so lazy they'll even drive into a pedestrian zone and park their car, rather than walk a few yards. Bloody climate criminals. (The Town Square, yesterday.) Oh, and talking of local crime...

Just fancy that!

At least half the 36 UK officials and ministers travelling to the climate change talks in Copenhagen are going by air rather than by rail.

A dream come true

Mr Jones said: ‘If we are going to have a vehicle going through our fence we would like to have a tank.

‘I’m sorry, for refunds you have to join the queue at customer services’

Tesco is taking legal action after mistakenly paying almost £1 million for six bicycles

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Another woman cyclist killed in central London

This news has been very slow to emerge:

Tanya Van Der Loo, 33, suffered serious head injuries in a collision with a motorbike on Victoria Embankment near Temple Tube station.

After coming round from a coma she appeared to be making a good recovery before suddenly deteriorating and dying eight days after the accident.

The death brings the toll of cyclists killed in London this year to 11. Police are appealing for witnesses to the crash at 8.20am on 20 October.

The collision took place on the eastbound carriageway of Victoria Embankment

A prize-winning cycle route

(Above) This is where the Orient Way off-road cycle lane, which won the London Cycling Campaign Best Cycle Route Award in 2001, joins the on-road cycle lane in Ruckholt Road in Leyton, where cycle counts show an increase in daily cycling from 329 in 1998 to 837 in 2007. In other words, the finest and most successful cycling in the entire London Borough of Waltham Forest. Yesterday.

(Below) This is how it should be, unobstructed. A design which requires cyclists to emerge without either warning or physical protection into the path of high volume, fast-moving traffic, at a location where many drivers are undoubtedly breaking the 30 mph speed limit.

You have to ask if the increase in cycling in London is because of cycling infrastructure like this, or despite it. And is a continuing increase in cycling in the capital likely when this is the sort of environment the novice cyclist has to encounter?

(Below) Just beyond where the Orient Way cycle lane joins Ruckholt Road, the carriageway cycle lane is regularly obstructed by vehicles servicing the car sales showroom on the corner of Ruckholt Road and Oliver Road E10. (November 3rd.)

Obstruction of the pavement

(Above) The pavement on Beulah Road E17 by the junction with Grove Road has been blocked off for the past two days by builders working on the property on the corner. They should have sought permission from the Council before blocking off the pavement like this.

I suspect they didn't bother, which, if so, makes this illegal. If the contractors did seek permission, the London Borough of Waltham Forest ought to have insisted on safe provision for pedestrians. I could phone up but I know from past experience that the environmental inspectors wouldn't turn up for several days, by which time the obstruction will almost certainly have gone.

(Below) Contractors are working on the Almshouses by St Mary's Church, Walthamstow, and obstructing the entrance to Vinegar Alley, which is a public right of way. The Council should be taking enforcement action, but as this footpath is obstructed every Sunday morning by car-addicted Christians, I don't suppose there's much hope.

Thirdly (below), the contractors who are modernising Walthamstow Girls School have recently thrown fencing across the pavement around the entire site (below), causing major obstruction for pedestrians with a mobility handicap on no less than three streets.

This firm has already been in the local paper for breaching its work hours, annoying local residents by starting work earlier in the morning before the agreed time. So it wouldn't surprise me if this firm had arrogantly done this without any consultation with the Council. On Woodbury Road E17 it has blocked the pavement for people with pushchairs, right by a local nursery. If consulted, the Council should have insisted that proper provision be made in the carriageway.

Ageing American male novelist

Young women on bicycles I find very erotic, I have to say.

Even in New York, there are

But read the interview for yourself, here.

Are injuries to cyclists getting more severe?

There are suggestions, too, that the types of injuries cyclists suffer have become increasingly severe. A study conducted at the Rocky Mountain Regional Trauma Center in Colorado measured a threefold increase in the number of abdominal injuries and a 15% rise in the number of chest injuries among cyclists admitted to the regional trauma center over the last 11 years.

"The number of injuries that came in to our trauma center did not increase, and mortality did not increase. What did change is the injury patterns," says Zachary Hartman, a medical student who worked on the research. The exact reasons for the increase in injury severity remain unclear: Hartman speculates that the increased popularity of large vehicles such as SUVs could play a role.

The latest scandalous injustice

Mohammed Mian was

an ex-police patrolman

from the sleazy, car supremacist Metropolitan Police. Unsurprisingly for someone from this background he

has a string of speeding convictions

but Britain’s car supremacist judicial system let him go on driving until he killed, and will even now permit him to drive again.

In the minutes before the deadly impact Mian had been talking on his mobile phone while driving


driving at up to 60mph


Steve and Rosemary, who were married for 25 years and had two children, were walking home from a party after dropping off her elderly mother when the accident happened. The pair were hit by Mian in his 2.3 turbo Volvo estate car. Rosemary was thrown 14 metres on impact while her husband was propelled a further 30 metres. His right leg was torn off by the force of the impact and smashed into an upstairs window of a nearby house. He died at the scene.

Rosemary, was in a coma for six days and in hospital for six weeks after shattering her pelvis and having her left leg amputated.
She now requires constant care, and suffers from "mental torment" as well as continued pain. Doctors gave her a 20 per cent chance of living. Mian, of Gredle Close, Urmston, later told police he had ''put his foot down'' but had not seen the Campbells.

In a final insult to the victims and their family he was

disqualified from driving for five years.

The couple's daughter, Hayley, 25, said: "He has shown no remorse. He's had various speeding convictions and if he's had convictions for speeding more than 10 years ago and he's still speeding now, killing a man, he's never going to stop."

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Plain Good Fun

10 WAYS TO GREEN YOUR LONDON LIFE, advised last Thursday’s Evening Standard. The usual blather was accompanied by ADVICE FROM THE CAPITAL’S ECO HEROES, one of whom was Koy Thompson, ‘CEO of The London Cycling Campaign’:

Cycling is so fashionable, rejuvenating, addictive and plain good fun it shouldn’t be green. Imagine your commute being the best part of your day rather than the most miserable. Why not discover London rather than simply fight through it? So ditch tired old travel habits and join the cycling revolution.

Well I’m sure quite a lot of people do commute every day along the cycle lane shown above (pictured where the A112 approaches the junction with the A104), as it’s probably the quickest and most convenient way of cycling in a north-south direction through the heart of the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

But I’m not sure that this lane is really the stuff that dreams are made on, or that addictive and plain good fun and the best part of your day are quite the phrases that will spring into the mind of anyone cycling here. Photos taken yesterday, in the rain.

Nor am I persuaded that the overwhelming majority of the population of the borough who currently don’t cycle are really going to switch to the bicycle if these are the conditions which await them.

As Daphne du Maurier famously wrote: ‘Last night I dreamed I went to the Netherlands again. And then I woke up in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, with its innovative and extensive cycling facilities.'

Terry Povey’s bad language

SIX cars and a lorry were involved in multiple accidents on the M11 today (November 22), which left two people in hospital.

A one mile stretch of the motorway, near to the M25 interchange at junction six, saw three separate accidents.

Essex Fire Service Divisional Officer Terry Povey said: "The incident dealt with by fire crews involved six cars and an HGV with two casualties trapped in two separate vehicles.

"But in less than a mile of motorway there were three accidents believed to have been caused by a combination of heavy water spray and bright sunlight reflecting off the road.

Oh really, Terry? Accidents, were they? Not caused by the drivers, then? No criminal negligence involved? Nothing to do with the fact that most drivers on the M11 are belting along like lunatics at speeds well in excess of 70 mph, recklessly close to the vehicle in front, indifferent to road conditions, then? A situation which bothers no one in the emergency services at all – not Essex police, who collude in massive law breaking and who designate all fatalities as “accidents” (on their signs asking for witnesses), and a situation which doesn’t appear to bother the Fire Service either.

And these crash sites, incidentally, are nowhere near this much-demonised speed camera.

Cycle parking at The Bucket of Blood

Or, as it is nowadays called, The Lamb and Flag. It’s twinned with The Jerusalem, in the sense that it has no cycle parking. But if you go down the road, and round the bend, and – oh, sorry, all the street furniture is taken.

HGV driver on a mobile?

On its website, the London Cycling Campaign has this pic of a cyclist and a lorry driver, designed to underline the message that cyclists need to watch out for left-turning lorries.

To me, the photo simply underlines the lack of infrastructure for safe cycling in London, and how you will never get a mass shift to cycling in conditions like this.

But look closely. Isn’t that lorry driver using a handheld mobile phone? His bare left arm appears to be raised to his left ear in the classic posture of someone holding a mobile phone, and his bare right arm appears to be steering the lorry. It looks dodgy to me...

Be careful with that pig

Enforcement action will be taken November 30 to December 6.

Common cycling offences include carrying another person,
carrying any animal or article which obstructs the cyclist's view, riding a bicycle on the pavement and riding without lights.

Telegraph pole collides with Alfa Romeo in accident

Emergency services were called to the scene of the collision on the A1094 Aldeburgh Road, passed the Friston turning, at 12.30am, where a blue Alfa Romeo had left the road and collided with a telegraph pole, ending up in a ditch.

Barrier collides with Transit van in accident

Police were called to Middleton Road, Higher Blackley, following a report a Transit van had collided with a barrier at Heaton Park.

Pensioner collides with Lamborghini in accident

The unnamed 22-year-old driver of the Lamborghini eventually ploughed into a VW Golf, pitching it 50 metres across the road. Its driver, a 70-year-old German pensioner, was severely injured in the crash.

Intrusive CCTV

A COUNCIL CCTV camera is ‘spying’ on a Leyton flat, a resident claims. Rodney Best, 62, a bus driver, of Market Parade, said the camera keeps turning to face his or his daughter’s bedroom window and they have been forced to live behind closed curtains.

I must say I’ve noticed this, all over the borough.

CCTV cameras can quite often be seen not pointing down at the street but tilted to focus on first floor windows or higher. They are plainly being used to spy on private residences. It’s not clear to me who is operating these devices, though I think it’s either the police or civilian workers under the control of the police.

Are CCTV operators voyeurs? Frankly it wouldn’t surprise me if they were, especially if it was cops (mis)using them.

Monday 23 November 2009

Cycling through red lights

The London Cycling Campaign:

Jumping red lights and riding on pedestrian-only pavements is illegal and can also be dangerous or frightening for others. Don’t do it!

Advice which tens of thousands of London cyclists ignore every day. And note that slippery expression ‘pedestrian-only pavements’ – local authorities are as keen to put cyclists on the pavement through ‘shared use’ as they are to accommodate and promote car ownership by creating parking bays on the pavement.

No one has rendered the old saying pavements are for pedestrians more empty than local authorities, not least a council like Waltham Forest, which regards pavements as good places to put cars, cyclists and revenue-generating advertising panels. And when councils put cyclists on pavements they do so to benefit motorists, not cyclists.

Debra Rolfe, campaigns coordinator of the CTC:

Much illegal cycling is the result of ignorance and fear of cycling on hostile roads, rather than malice. I'd like to see all cyclists offered cycle training and cyclists who break the law required to undergo it.

In other words, Britain's two main cycling organisations collude with the car supremacist transport status quo by demanding that cyclists conform to it. They not only do not represent that large number of cyclists who routinely ignore their pious advice, but they position themselves firmly on the side of a transport culture designed to manage drivers, not cyclists or pedestrians.

The conformist arguments of the LCC and the CTC cut little ice with a cycling radical like Josh Hart:

I run red lights all the time, routinely, and I’m not ashamed of it and I won’t apologize for it.

The bottom line is that red lights and other rigid, auto based traffic rules are only necessary to keep the awkward and clumsy movements of cars packed into an urban area from killing and maiming more than they already do. Why should cyclists, who aren’t the cause of this madness, be caught up in the same wide net as cars? The solution is not to campaign for cyclists’ obedience to traffic lights, but to change the law to better reflect the reality of our transport systems.

I find Josh Hart's cycling advocacy more impressive than Debra Rolfe's. For her to demand that people like Josh (or all those other bloggers who make it plain that they cycle through red lights, including Chris Hutt) undergo “cycle training” is crackers.

Josh Hart’s post provoked a lot of comments. Here are the ones which make most sense to me:

Chris Hutt:

I don’t see the point of waiting at a red light when there are no conflicting pedestrian or vehicle movements.

The traffic control system on UK roads has evolved over the last 50 years or more with little if any regard for the particular needs of cyclists. It is therefore entirely logical and fitting that cyclists should treat this system with the same contempt as the designers of the system showed towards cyclists.
Besides which the proliferation of traffic lights in more recent decades has occurred principally to accommodate an unsustainable and obscene increase in motor traffic in our cities. In many cases Zebra crossings that gave by default priority to pedestrians have been converted to Pelican crossings that give by default priority to road traffic, so making walking even less attractive and encouraging car use.

I would go so far as to say that it is the duty of every genuine environmentalist to do everything they can to undermine this iniquitous system, including of course jumping (as we say in the UK) red lights whenever it is safe and convenient to do so.

‘Dave M’:

‘Stop at Red’ completely misunderstands the problem – rather than campaigning for road laws which accommodate cyclists, they are campaigning to force cyclists to conform to the current laws – which are designed for cars.

Many (although not all) riders who jump lights have simply seen the truth of this, and choose to take responsibility for progressing when it is safe, just as pedestrians do.
The elephant in the room is that bikes are *not* cars.

The fact that the law largely requires cyclists to obey “car laws” is a problem which should be addressed by new laws.
Pedestrians already treat the ‘red man’ as a ‘give way’ sign, and there is no reason why cyclists should be persecuted for the equivalent. If cyclists are cutting up pedestrians on crossings they should be hit with fixed penalties – but not for jumping lights when there are no pedestrians.


The majority of cyclists are not members of a cycling organisation, don’t read blogs, and don’t bother with the kind of feverish arguments which this topic engenders among cycling activists and bloggers. They simply adapt their behaviour to the existing road network, in a classically Darwinian manner. This is partly about survival and partly about convenience. As long as Britain lacks a safe and convenient cycling infrastructure, cyclists are going to ride on pavements, go through red lights and go down one-way streets the ‘wrong’ way. If you punish cyclists who do this when there are no victims (i.e. when there is no conflict with other road users, especially pedestrians), all you’ll do is stop people cycling.

Of course, some cyclists simply dump their problems on pedestrians, and no one should be surprised if pedestrians think cyclists are a bigger threat than motorists. Quoting statistics at them isn't going to change views founded in experience, any more than quoting statistics at people is going to persuade them to take up cycling.

One major attraction of cycling in London is that it offers a quick, convenient way of getting around a dense, often non-linear urban road network. But both cyclists and pedestrians are expected to wait at red lights for long periods of time, simply to accommodate the smooth passage of motor traffic, which remains the number one priority of transport planning in Britain, both at a national and local level. No cyclist or pedestrian wants to wait 2-3 minutes, simply to cross a road, and that is why when the opportunity arises to do so, cyclists and pedestrians both cross at red.

Similarly if you convert roads to one-way in order to smooth the passage of drivers on streets choked with parked cars, then cyclists are either going to cycle down the road the ‘wrong’ way, or cycle on the pavement. Every year in the London Borough of Waltham Forest another half-dozen streets are converted to one way, without any consideration of cycling flow or convenience. With brazen impudence the Council has even done this on recommended cycle routes. I can’t say I’m aware of even a squeak of protest from the London Cycling Campaign, at either a central or local level.

Instead of seeking to punish or re-educate cyclists, supply them with a safe, convenient infrastructure on the Copenhagen/Dutch model and watch the bad behaviour vanish. If you are not prepared to do that – and it seems plain that British transport planning remains doggedly in love with motor vehicle supremacy and fundamentally hostile to cycling and walking – then the ‘bad behaviour’ will continue as cyclists adapt their cycling to dangerous, inconvenient roads which pamper bad, lazy, lawless, reckless drivers. Whether or not you agree with my arguments, this I believe is the future. In the absence of an infrastructure, cyclists will continue to engage in perceived 'bad behaviour'. However, I think there is a big difference between inconsiderate cycling and safe, considerate but unlawful cycling.

Let me add something about this sequence of events. When I had got past the van illegally blocking the cycle lane, and the Council van illegally in the Advanced Stop Line, I moved forward to find a twenty-something female cyclist waiting beyond the ASL. When the lights went to red for the traffic on Forest Road, an all-green phase kicked in for pedestrians at the junction. There were no pedestrians crossing at any of the four crossings. The woman cyclist sailed across at red and went off down Fulbourne Road. A thirty-something male cyclist who’d been waiting ahead of the vehicle-occupied ASL on Forest Road went through the lights at red and turned right into Wood Street. And I cycled across at red and turned right on to Forest Road.

The three of us were not inconveniencing pedestrians because there weren’t any, nor were we putting ourselves in danger, because the motor vehicles were all held at red and there were no emergency vehicles howling towards us. Our behaviour was motivated by the knowledge that it was safe, convenient cycling and considerably safer than waiting for the lights to turn green, when the possibility of conflict and danger arose from those vehicles lurching forwards out of the ASL. Proof, if you like, that cyclists who break the law by jumping red lights may be safer, especially when you consider that

Most cycling casualties are at junctions… These collisions are more likely to involve serious injury or death to the cyclist. This is certainly not to say that "jumping lights=safer" but that at some particular junctions it can be safer to proceed ahead carefully when the junction is empty

That’s a very different situation to this. Drivers jumping the red light at one of the busiest pedestrian crossing points in the borough (Willow Walk E17 at the junction with High Street).