Archive for the ‘Blackfriars Bridge’ Category

Behind the stats: How TfL misled the London Assembly about Blackfriars

October 7, 2011

In September, Transport for London released a copy of a presentation they had submitted to the London Assembly about Blackfriars Bridge.

This contained some rather extraordinary claims, for example this projection (p3):

AM peak 2012 – pedestrians 58%, cyclists 6%, car occupants 14%

Given that there are currently more cyclists than car occupants, and cycling is increasing while driving is decreasing, the above is quite clearly wrong.

Thanks to the tenacity of London Assembly Member John Biggs (and his researchers), TfL has been forced to release an explanatory note, which shows the dubious assumptions that they have made in order to arrive at these figures.

TfL’s projection in their presentation:

There are a number of sins in the explanatory note (detail below). Here are some of my favourite:

  1. Citing a figure from the Department for Transport’s guidelines, but actually using a different figure.
  2. Extrapolating about what will happen at Blackfriars based on a survey about travel in the whole of London – when we have exact figures at Blackfriars going back to 1986.
  3. Using a dataset from JMP consultancy, rather than TfL’s own screenline counts, where the consultancy’s figures lend more support to TfL’s argument.
  4. Despite cycling increasing every year at Blackfriars since 1994, assuming that there will be no increase between 2010 and 2012.
  5. Similarly, despite people driving cars decreasing every year since 1996, assuming that this will not change between 2010 and 2012.

A projection based on correcting the clear errors in TfL’s methodology:

Pedestrians, cyclists and bus passengers increase. Car occupants decrease. Cyclists far outnumber car occupants.

Without pedestrians, this is what this looks like:

Cyclists 23%, car occupants 14%

Get the data behind this here.

I outline the errors and idiosyncrasies in TfL’s methodology that I have addressed below. TfL’s comments are in italics and mine are in bold.

Cars and LGVs

In 2007/08 there were 4033 car and LGV occupants.  This is based on JMP’S January 2007 counts and an occupancy rate per vehicle of 1.63. The occupancy value is from ‘Values of Time and Operating Costs’ (April 2009) TAG Unit 3.5.6, Department of Transport.

This is calculated by adding 1400 cars to 850 LGVs and multiplying by a 1.63 occupancy rate. However, the relevant occupancy rate from the DfT TAG figures cited by TfL is not 1.63 – this is the all week average for all cars. The average per km travelled figure between 7-10am for cars is 1.37, and for LGVs is 1.23.

Using the correct figures, the number of occupants is actually 2963.

For 2012 there are assumed to be 3750 [car and LGV] occupants.  This is based on modal share reported for 2007-2009 in Travel in London Report 3, where car and LGV numbers reduced by 7%.

Using the figures from a report about travel in the whole of London is an odd choice when we have exact year-on-year figures about car and LGV rates at Blackfriars back to 1986.

When we look at those figures, we see that cars have reduced by 7% over the last 2 years – so a reduction of 7% by 2012 would mean that they stayed constant between 2010 and 2012. This seems unlikely, given that car usage has decreased in every period since 1994. 7% is the smallest post-congestion charge 2 year reduction, so it seems conservative to use that for the change between 2010 and 2012.

LGVs increased 6% in the last 2 years, and stayed constant in the 2 years before that – so let’s assume a 3% increase next year.

HGVs

In 2007/08 there were 259 HGV occupants.  This is based on JMP’S January 2007 counts and an occupancy rate per vehicle of 1.

Again an interesting choice of dataset – using the figures from a consultancy rather than TfL’s own screenline counts in the same year which show only 67 HGVs during rush hour.

There is nothing wrong with having two datasets, but it seems reasonable to use an average of the two for a total of 163 HGVs.

Cyclists

In 2007/08 there were 1173 cyclists.  This is based on JMP’S January 2007 cycle counts which have been uplifted by 17% to reflect seasonal differences in cycle numbers.

Once again this is lower than TfL’s own screenline data (1288 cyclists) but it’s not too different so let’s accept it.

In 2012 there are assumed to be 1666 cyclists.  Cycling numbers uplifted by 42%, based on modal share changes reported 2007-2009 in Travel in London Report 3.

Except once again TfL use a report for the whole of London when we have hourly data for this particular bridge for the last 25 years.

Cycling increased 40% between 2008 and 2010, so TfL are saying that it will not increase at all between 2010 and 2012 which seems highly unlikely. In four year period of 2006-2010, cycling over Blackfriars increased 100%. So once again let’s go for a reasonably conservative estimated 2008-2012 increase and say 65%.

Taxi Occupants

In 2007/08 there were 2254 occupants.  This is based on JMP’S January 2007 traffic counts and an occupancy rate of 1.8 based on TfL Strategy Guidelines.

Which guidelines? We know that 1/3rd of taxis in the City are empty between 7am and 10am. So this claim means that the average occupied taxi has 2.7 passengers. A figure this high demonstrates what we already suspected: that TfL are including the driver as an occupant.

This is simply incorrect. 1000 empty taxis add nothing – in fact it’s worse than that. Indeed some might argue you should count taxis with just the driver in as worth less than 0. But let’s not, and just subtract the driver for a figure of 0.8 people per taxi.

Pedestrians, bus passengers and motorcyclists

There aren’t enough other sources of data for pedestrians or bus passengers, so we have to accept those estimates. Motorcyclists seems about right.

I am astonished that Transport for London seem to be able to get away with this. Are they accountable to anyone? This is what I’ll be asking on Wednesday, 5.45pm at Blackfriars.

Blackfriars: Don’t let Boris Johnson’s TfL send cycling back to 2006

October 5, 2011

In the recent discussions about the proposed 80mph motorway speed limit, I was reminded on twitter of an article by Jeremy Clarkson, where he says,

“People go with the flow. We drive as fast as traffic conditions allow. We use public transport when it’s better than taking the car. We use an umbrella when it’s raining and wear a jumper when it’s chilly.”

Clarkson is right. I love driving – but I always cycle or use public transport to commute in London. It makes sense.

Expanding on Clarkson’s point (words I don’t write often) is that as well as people shifting between modes of transport, they also shift routes within those modes, according to what makes sense at the time.

This effect seems to be present if we look at cycling levels at Blackfriars Bridge over the last 10 years – and it shows just how harmful TfL’s changes will be if they go ahead.

Blackfriars in 2004 (image from LCC City of London)

The magnet effect

Blackfriars Bridge has seen a greater than threefold rise in cycle commuters since 2000. But this increase has not been constant.

Prior to 2006, cycling over Blackfriars changed at around the same rate that cycling increased overall on London’s main roads. Since 2006 the number of cyclists over Blackfriars has more than doubled – far outpacing the overall cycling rise.

Increase in rush hour cycling over Blackfriars compared with increase over London's main roads: since 2006, the popularity of Blackfriars has skyrocketed.

What is interesting is that we have not seen the same increase in cycling on the bridges which neighbour Blackfriars: Waterloo to the west and Southwark to the east.

In fact, rush hour cycling on both those bridges between 2006 and 2010 actually decreased – although cycling in London increased by around a third.

Cycling rates over three bridges, 7-10am northbound, 2000-2010. 100 = average in 2000 over all Central London bridges.

Why did commuters old and new (the total number of people crossing all three bridges still increased) suddenly choose Blackfriars over the other bridges?

I may be misinformed, but I don’t believe London’s office space all moved between 2006 and 2010.

What did change was the deaths of two cyclists in 2004 over Blackfriars Bridge. Transport for London resurfaced the road, adding a wide cycle lane.

Blackfriars post 2006 – resurfaced after the deaths of two cyclists with a wide, mandatory cycle lane, no longer between two lanes of traffic.

This wasn’t perfect – the northbound junction was still a problem – but a wide clear space, largely separate from the bus lane, suddenly made this route cyclable again, at least relative to the neighbouring bridges.

The lane won the London Cycle Campaign’s award for best cycle facility of the year in 2006.

The increase in cyclists supports the argument that cycle bloggers have been making for a long time: what really bikes on streets is not marketing (competition in public services has not yet led to each bridge advertising its individual benefits to prospective consumers) – it’s feeling safe.

Going backwards

Jenny Jones, the Green Party London Assembly Member said last week that London’s cycle revolution is losing momentum.

At Blackfriars, TfL’s plans to narrow the northern cycle lane, remove the advanced stop box and addition of an extra traffic lane, are all clear signs that we’re now moving backwards.

I don’t want cycling to return to 2006 levels at Blackfriars - or at Elephant and Castle, Finchley, Richmond, Vauxhall or anywhere else that Boris Johnson’s TfL is making regressive changes to London’s streets.

That’s why I’ll be at Blackfriars on Wednesday October 12th at 5.45pm, for a flashride to show the Mayor which direction London needs to be moving. See you there.

Get the data.

London is broken: why people keep taking to the streets at Blackfriars

September 20, 2011

Running the roads is an enormously expensive business. TfL’s Surface Transport division’s expenditure is forecast at £2.6bn this year.

Let’s put this in perspective for a second – this is twice the figure lost by rogue trader Kweku Aduboli, which last week plunged global investment bank UBS into a quarterly net loss.

While much of the press bemoaned last week’s fares rises in articles which might as well have been written by Ken Livingstone’s campaign team, Dave Hill deftly pointed out the actual issue: Transport for London needs cash.

Hill argues that this money should instead come from higher road pricing for car users – which there is plenty of evidence for. But let’s take a step back.

Where does all the money go?

Transport for London give the public some idea what happens to this money through Finance and Policy Committee meetings.

But how useful is this? Thursday’s meeting, for example, revealed that TfL had revised the estimated final cost of the Cycle Superhighways down from £145m to £105m.

Did someone tell them cyclists like downward inclines?

Why isn’t this news? Basically: because no one really knows what it means.

Can Transport for London really have just reduced the budget by £40m without bothering to consult beforehand, or tell anyone afterwards?  It looks like it – but astonishingly for a public body, they don’t have to say.

Open up TfL

Here’s the rub. Does the Mayor really have to choose between two politically horrible options to come up with capital, raising fares or charging car users – where the decision of a leader largely elected by the outer boroughs is preordained?

That depends if the roads really require the level of government subsidy that they currently receive.

Climate Rush, an organisation who protest primarily about climate change, are on Thursday holding a protest at Blackfriars where their first demand is “an open and democratic Transport for London”.

They cite when TfL ignored the London Assembly’s unanimous vote about Blackfriars Bridge as their watershed moment – but there are plenty more.

Why has Transport for London this month suddenly said it has to splash out an unbudgeted £60 million at Hammersmith Flyover to “address recently identified structural defects”?

Vanity project? Same budget as Boris’s Cable Car

Might such maintenance be required because of the high volumes of wear caused by motor traffic? Is it right that £60m of public funds is being used to restore the very conditions that doom us to perpetually pouring more money into a congested, destructive streetscape?

Why does London keep taking to the streets?

Londoners are not happy with the political choices that are being made on our streets – choices being made with our money.

Thursday will be the third mass protest against TfL at Blackfriars Bridge alone in the last four months – and I suspect that there will be more.

Transport for London are not accountable to the public, nor to our elected representatives, the London Assembly. Nor our MPs, nor our local councillors, nor anyone else we ever get to vote for – with one exception.

TfL are only accountable to the Mayor – and so, for those concerned with transport, protests sizable enough to make Boris take notice are the only form of political engagement left.

The Climate Rush protest is on Thursday September 22nd, meeting at 8am on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge.

Blackfriars Bridge: what we can learn from radical feminism

September 6, 2011

A constant barrier faced by people arguing for change in conditions is the claim that the presence of those conditions is, in itself, evidence that the groups involved are in favour of their existence.

Perhaps my favourite, slightly pretentious example of this is the 17th Century political philosopher John Locke. One of the founders of liberalism, a staunch advocate of the social contract and fierce opponent of the arbitrary rule of monarchy, when discussing the role of women he has a pretty serious wobble:

She should be subject to her husband, as we see that generally the Laws of mankind and customs of nations leave ordered it so: and there is, I grant, a foundation in nature for it.

Locke is unable to overcome the conviction that women ought to be subjugated by men. His only justification for this being “natural” is that this is the behaviour that he has observed.

This continues into modern political debate. Attempts to strike a balance between economic productivity and the need for childcare are concluded with statements from media and policy outlets like:

Pay mothers to stay at home.

Why? This presumption that state should legislate in a gendered fashion based on the historical behaviour of one sex is underpinned by the assumption that actions in the past have been choices.

This view – that the actions of women are an approximate indicator of social vocation – is perhaps most succinctly rejected by Catherine MacKinnon:

Take your foot off our necks, then we will hear in what tongue women speak.

Blackfriars Bridge

In Transport for London’s presentation to the London Assembly about Blackfriars Bridge, published last week, they similarly use the argument that a situation currently exists as evidence that it ought to exist – even though what we see at Blackfriars has quite clearly been artificially created by the very body who refuses to change it, Transport for London.

The Assembly were presented with this pie chart as part of the justification for making cycling conditions worse (p3):

These figures are highly suspect – we know that actually, there are more bicycles than any other vehicle over Blackfriars Bridge into the City during the AM peak.

Note how in the above graph, TfL lump together car and LGV occupants to make that section larger than cyclists (both would otherwise be smaller).

They also assume inordinately high vehicle occupancy rates – on average more than 3 people per occupied taxi – leading to the ridiculous conclusion that more people commute over Blackfriars Bridge by taxi than by bike.

But none of this matters. Even if TfL’s data was correct: so what?

Are we to assume that a relatively low percentage of cyclists over Blackfriars Bridge is an argument for worsening conditions over the bridge?

The demand is there

Transport for London can perpetually produce presentations and press releases of modal share stats, layout drawings and planners’ projections of junctions where they squeeze cycle lanes and remove pedestrian crossings.

But they cannot keep trying to use the fact that people are not cycling in London as an excuse for making London’s roads more hostile to cyclists.

There is a demand for cycling in London on traffic-free routes. On Sunday, 55,000 people on London’s streets showed us that.

And yet TfL in Blackfriars and elsewhere are not just refusing to make streets better – they are actively making them worse. The reason that there aren’t more cyclists on the streets is because of how those streets are being designed.

An executive decision

This is not about TfL and the figures they plug into which modelling software – if the Mayor and TfL can persuade us that it is, then we will never have conditions for cycling in London that would get the tens of thousands of Sky Ride participants on London’s streets any other day of the year.

Sky Ride

Our streets for a day

This is a political situation where people do not have the freedom to use their streets in the way that they would like to. The way out is through a decision that the Mayor has to make.

Image problem

This is an irritating issue for Boris Johnson and TfL because they are aware that Blackfriars has the ability to undo the good work of the Sky Rides: the persistent focus on the day-to-day reality of cycling can harm both Boris and TfL.

Catherine MacKinnon argued that practices of inequality do not require that acts be intentionally discriminatory, “all that is required is that the status quo be maintained”.

Boris can opt to do this – keep building streets the way that they have been built, keep designing people out of London’s cities, keep telling us that this is “not atypical” of London. Or he can choose not to.

But as more people start to notice, and write about it and take to the streets, Boris will find it harder and harder to convince Londoners that he’s in favour of cycling, while continuing to design it out of the city he runs.

What’s wrong with lane rental: it counts vehicles not people

August 22, 2011

The Department for Transport have today launched a 12-week consultation on a proposed “lane rental” scheme, where utilities companies would charged for digging up the road.

Transport for London will tomorrow begin their consultation on whether we should have this in London.

New design

When lane rental was piloted in Camden and Middlesborough in 2002-04, it was concluded that it had little effect on the amount of time companies spent digging up the roads. 

The scheme currently being proposed by the government is quite different to the previous one. The 2004 pilot applied one charge to all streets at all times. The scheme the government are currently proposing will only charge at times which cause the most disruption.

This, we are told, will provide an incentive for companies to carry out works at less inconvenient times.

Inconvenient for who?

This all sounds somewhat sensible. But where will this actually apply?

The streets where evidence shows that works in the highway cause the highest levels of disruption and thus require the greatest efforts to smooth traffic flow.

DfT Guidance to Local Authorities, p8.

This is a phrase straight out of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and demonstrates the extent to which TfL have influenced (or written) the national policy here. A google search for “smoothing traffic flow” on TfL’s website produces over 20,000 results:

On the Department for Transport website, three results.

What will lane rental look like?

The DfT guidance tells that “the detailed design of lane rental schemes is best determined at a local level”.

Fortunately for us, TfL have done exactly this. They have produced a map of the “most congested” areas in London.

TfL Network Operating Strategy p46

These Congestion Management Areas are where lane rental will apply – as explained to the Surface Transport Panel in May 2011.

And how is this measured? By counting delays on roads, to motor traffic. Doesn’t include pedestrians. Doesn’t include people on bicycles.

This means that – despite the fact that Blackfriars Bridge is actually a designated Congestion Management Area – the following will still be acceptable:

There are more bikes here than any other vehicle at rush hour - yet delays to bikes aren't counted by the TfL methodology (image from Cyclists in the City)

Closing a footpath rather than a “lane” will be encouraged under lane rental:

Year long works at Henley's Corner

If Transport for London want to prevent delay and disruption to journey times, great.

But once again they continue to define “disruption” and “delay” as only counting when it affects people in motor vehicles. This simply creates an incentive for people to use cars over other forms of transport – which apart from anything else will actually cause more delays.

The fact that TfL has managed to influence the national policy here is all the more concerning.

Mayor’s office: Boris “not advised” over 20mph report

August 19, 2011

Last Friday, we looked at Boris’ claim that:

“On the 20mph limit zone on the bridges, I’ll look at anything. I’m told, my advice is, from the traffic engineers that this would not be a good way forward.”

Transport for London revealed, in response to a Freedom of Information request, that no one had provided Boris with said advice.

Mayor’s office response

At that point, with a mind to not libelling the man, I was forced to assume that Boris had received this advice from elsewhere. It might not be traditional for the Mayor to keep off-the-books traffic engineers who provide convenient post-hoc justification to his policies, but I couldn’t see any other explanation.

The Mayor’s office has now responded to my Freedom of Information requests. I asked them for:

The job titles of any traffic engineers who advised the Mayor’s office that this report was not the best way forward.

And they have responded:

The Mayor’s office was not advised as to the findings of this report.

I think it is fair to say at this point that what the Mayor said was simply not true.

We know that Boris was given advice that 20mph over Blackfriars Bridge was not the best way forward.

Possibly he thought the Blackfriars Bridge advice referred to all bridges. Or possibly he just lied. Who knows?

Whether you infer confusion or calumny, neither provides an optimistic outlook for Londoners while Boris Johnson remains in charge of London’s transport decisions.

See the full response from the Mayor’s office here.

Blackfriars: Critical Mass 6pm Friday

July 27, 2011

Transport for London have announced that they are gong to ignore the unanimous vote of the democratically elected London Assembly demanding a review of Blackfriars, and start building overnight from Friday.

Cyclists in the City is calling for Critical Mass to loop on Blackfriars this Friday. The London Cycle Campaign has also said that Critical Mass is the vehicle for cyclists to make themselves heard.

No one really needs any more persuading that what TfL is doing is regressive, but I felt compelled to address TfL’s main justification for not providing for cyclists:

Usage by cyclists through this junction [Blackfriars] is predominantly for travelling to and from work and is therefore concentrated during traditional ‘rush hour’ periods

This is true: but it’s true of traffic in general. That’s why it’s the rush hour. Look at 24 hour bike and car flows northbound in 2010:

Are they making the same arguments about cars not being important because they peak at rush hour?

The other point is for three years now, during rush hour bicycles have outnumbered all other modes of travel.

Blackfriars Bridge, north, 7-10am 1988-2010.

As we can see, bikes are also the only mode whose share is increasing. Even if we do nothing, the problems cyclists face at this junction are going to get worse, not better. Actively designing cycling out of this junction is outrageous.

If the campaign on Blackfriars fails, TfL will probably try to impose the same engineering style on all the Thames bridges, and, by extension, all other major road junctions in London under their control.

Come Friday night, I know where I’ll be…

Update 29/7/11: the London Cycle Campaign are calling for people to meet tonight at at the south end of Blackfriars Bridge, for a slow ride to Waterloo to join Critical Mass. Be at this ride first if you possibly can.

Transport for London declares war on the London Assembly. Has Boris Johnson lost control?

July 26, 2011

Last week, the London Assembly passed a unanimous motion against Transport for London’s controversial Blackfriars Bridge plans, which marginalise pedestrians and cyclists in an attempt to cram more motor traffic through the heaving junction.

Conservative Andrew Boff called the plans “too dangerous” and Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon demanded that the Mayor “use the facts”.

The Green Party’s Jenny Jones, who submitted the motion, said it was time for a “fresh think” about Blackfriars Bridge.

The motion, passed with support from all parties, called on Mayor Boris Johnson to “revisit” the plans for the bridge, particularly due to the dangerous junction designs at either end.

Executive power             

Transport for London’s strategy for dealing with scrutiny seems to be to rush things through and hope no one notices.

In 2004, after cyclist Vicki McCreery was killed by a bus on Blackfriars Bridge, they scrapped the cycle lane overnight.

Faced with allowing the Mayor time to asses their plans at Blackfriars, TfL announced on Monday that they will begin work on the junction this Friday – and will work through the night to finish by 5am the following Monday.

The London Assembly may be our democratically elected representatives – but they have no direct power over TfL, whose strategic direction comes from the Mayor.

What are the facts?

Here are some facts to which Lib Dem AM Caroline Pidegon may have been refering:

  1. Transport for London are proposing to add a new traffic lane at the north of end of the bridge, remove a pedestrian crossing and increase the speed limit.
  2. Cyclists make up the enormous majority of traffic over the bridge during peak times, and the number of cyclists is still going up while cars are in decline.

Blackfriars Bridge Northbound Traffic by Mode 2010 - Source: TfL Screenline Counts

Has Boris lost it?

The Mayor of London has responsibility for appointing three functional bodies:

  1. Metropolitan Police Authority
  2. Transport for London Board
  3. London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority

On his third Police Commissioner in as many years, Boris is facing criticism from all directions about his direction of the Met.

Police first: transport next?

The stain of the Met’s activities already has the public suspicious that Boris is either incompetent or iniquitous.

Blackfriars is just the latest in a string of events at Transport for London which suggest that they Mayor can’t quite grasp this brief, either. TfL are currently blocking plans for regeneration at Elephant and Castle because it would “interfere with traffic flow too greatly”. They are also systemically taking time away from pedestrians at London’s busiest crossings, including at Holborn and Oxford Circus.

This latest Blackfriars blunder comes straight off the back of the news that, despite claiming poverty to justify hiking fares last year, TfL’s budget shows a £1.3 billion underspend

Crisis of control

The private motor car is simply not the way that most people get around Central London. The position of Londoners at Blackfriars is clear. Far more people will use the bridge each day as pedestrians and cyclists than they will as drivers.

All London’s political parties, including Boris’s own Conservatives, understand this. They have all explicitly stated they are against TfL’s proposed Blackfriars redesign.

That TfL is still designing streets for cars and not people makes them look increasingly out of touch and out of control. The question now is: is Boris out of his depth?

Justice: City of London style

July 20, 2011

In February 2011, I was stopped by a police officer in the City of London for cycling through a red traffic light. It was the reason that I started this blog. I stated to that officer at the time, and I maintain, that I did not commit this offence and so since then I have been embroiled in the process of appealing it in court.

The Court

After one adjournment from an original court day in May, I received last month a Summons to City of London Magistrates Court for this morning at 10am.

I sat in the court room for 4 hours. During this time, I watched three cases. All of them were people who already had between 6 and 9 points on their driving licenses, and who had subsequently committed a variety of motoring offences. They were:

  1. A man with 9 points on his license, including various speeding convictions, who was caught driving at 48mph through a red traffic light in a 30mph zone.
  2. A man with 9 points on his license, including speeding and driving while using a handheld mobile phone in May 2011, who was caught driving at 30mph in a 20mph zone.
  3. A man with 6 points on his license for driving without insurance who was facing charges after having been caught driving while using a handheld mobile phone, at which point it transpired that he was not insured.

All three pled guilty. In normal course, they would all lose their licenses. However, they all claimed that it would cause “exceptional hardship” if they were to do so.

The magistrate told driver one that he did not accept the exceptional hardship claim, however due to his early guilty plea he would only face a driving ban of six months. Driver two was given three points (bringing him to a total of 12), but his exceptional hardship claim was accepted – he was given no driving ban.

Sadly, I was not around to see the verdict for driver three, as while the magistrate was deciding (4 hours after my arrival at the court), I was told that my case would be adjourned again and I would have to come back in November.

This is half the story.

The Street

After leaving the court, I cycled down Queen Victoria Street towards Blackfriars Bridge:

At this narrow point, I decided to “take the lane”, as I’ve been overtaken by buses here before and it’s a little close for comfort.

A black cab driver behind me became very angry, aggressively revving and trying to squeeze past. At the end of this section (about 15 seconds after the beginning of it), he leaned out his window as he overtook me and said, “Who do you think you are? I’ll slit your fucking throat.”

There was a police car stopped at the next set of traffic lights. I knocked on their window, reported what the taxi driver had said, and one of the two officers within asked both me and the driver to pull over.

The Police

One officer spoke to me and one to the driver. The one who spoke to me (CP 241) was very friendly, said she understood my concerns but also that it’s understandable that taxi drivers get frustrated being on the road all day.

Her colleague, PC Jeffreys (CP 267), spoke to the taxi driver then came over and said that I had been cycling in the middle of the road and this was why the taxi driver had become so aggressive. He said that the taxi driver had admitted that he had sworn at me, but not the threat to kill.

PC Jeffreys then told me that I should not have been cycling in the middle of the road and that both parties were in his view in the wrong. He said that in future if I felt intimidated by a taxi driver behind me, the correct action would be to pull over to the side of the road, dismount my bicycle and wait until I no longer felt at risk.

I could not understand why on earth we were talking about where I had been cycling, when it was clearly not illegal, whereas I had just been the victim of a verbal assault and threat. I said so.

I then tried to take a photograph of the taxi driver using my mobile phone, so there would be no possibility of the man denying that he was driving should I wish to take the issue forward with either to police or the Public Carriage Office. PC Jeffreys physically prevented me from doing this by grabbing my arm and pushing me back to the kerb.

Futility

Honestly at this point, I lost the will to continue. I’d just taken holiday from work to sit in a court room watching drivers who clearly should have been disqualified for a long time managing to avoid it, then to be told that these cases were more important than mine so come back in November, then immediately upon leaving been aggressively bullied by a taxi driver, and then been told by the police that it was my fault.

On the plus side, the London Assembly agreed today to review a 20mph limit on Blackfriars Bridge. Great, right? Speeding is incredibly harmful. (Source: Amy Aeron-Thomas’s Street Talk). (Update: having read this while less frazzled, they’ve actally agreed to “ask the Mayor to instruct TfL” to do a review. So it may not even happen.)

I’d like to pretend to care about the London Assembly vote, but I just can’t. We already have a report saying 20mph on London’s bridges would be safer. Even if the review says it is unambiguously advantageous to move to a 20mph limit (it won’t), and if somehow the London Assembly manages to on this basis pressurise the Mayor into actually implementing such a limit (doubtful), it will make basically no difference.

Unlike Tower Bridge, the road layout at Blackfriars lends itself to driving much faster than 20mph, which people will do. Enforcement of the limit will be rare, and as I saw today, consequences in those cases where it is enforced minimal. We need to stop devoting our energy to tinkering around the edges like this and start campaigning for proper infrastructure – yes segregated cycle lanes, but this as part of a package of properly designed streets, not huge urban motorways.

Cycle safety on TfL’s roads has flatlined since 2004

June 18, 2011

When challenged about the death and injury of cyclists on London’s streets, the mayor or TfL’s press machine come out with statements like

“Cycling in London is safer now than it was a decade ago.” – Boris Johnson

“The overall number of cyclist KSIs [killed or seriously injured] on London’s roads has fallen by almost a fifth since the mid-to-late 1990s (18 per cent).” – TfL press release

Safer streets? An extra traffic lanes and no advanced stop box in the Blackfriars plans

Both these statements are true. However, they are somewhat misleading.

I have spent some time “reverse engineering” the data about TfL’s own road network (the TLRN) from a November 2010 London Road Safety unit report (p7), using the GetData Graph Digitizer (h/t Drawing Rings). I have indexed the 2010 full year figures by mapping existing indexed values to actual figures from here, here and here.

With this new data set, it is possible to calculate the KSI rate on the TLRN. This is the number of cyclists who are killed or seriously injured in each year, divided by the total cyclists that year. This is what it looks like (setting the year 2000 value to 100):

Not a graph you'll find in a TfL report

The reason that cycling is safer than it was a decade ago is because, for some reason, there was a significant reduction in danger between 2000 and 2004. Since then, TfL have achieved nothing.

Actually, it is worse than having achieved nothing. Research has shown that as the number of cyclists increases, the number of accidents decreases, as driver awareness of cyclists improves, as does driver behaviour as they are increasingly likely to be cyclists themselves.

What TfL have managed to do since 2004 is to preside over a road network so dangerous that it actually cancels out any safety benefit of the 170% increase in people riding bikes on the TLRN:

With modelling which treats people on bikes as having the value of 0.2 people in cars, is this any wonder?

If TfL really want people to “catch up with the bicycle”, they have got to stop prioritising motor vehicle convenience at the expense of cycle safety.

If you would like to use the data I’ve put together, email me at the address on my About page and I will send it to you.

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