Coroner Mary Hassell investigated the circumstances around the deaths of two people, Philippine de Gerin-Ricard (died 5 July 2013) and Brian Dorling (died 2 years ago today, 24 October 2011), who were killed by HGV trucks whilst riding their bicycles.
On 17 October 2013, the coroner concluded that:
What we would like, of course, is to have cyclists in a separate cycle lane. It would be safer for cyclists, and motorists wouldn’t have the potential in the same way for this appalling experience of perhaps colliding with a cyclist.
This is a significant result and adds a strong voice to the growing calls for governments, local authorities and highway agencies to create space for cycling.
The coroner also recongised that people have to deal with the situation as it is today: paint on roads which usually mean nothing legally but gives the impression of a safer place to ride a bicycle.
Her report includes a recommendation for “the education of cyclists…so that cyclists know instinctively how dangerous some of these manoeuvres are.”
What she is referring to there is the interaction of people on roads: people riding bicycles alongside lorries, or as often happens, the faster lorries driving up alongside people cycling, or being turned in front (and possibly into) them.
The Mayor of London has a duty to respond to the coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report by 16 December 2013.
DAYS LATER – ANOTHER HGV COLLISION
Just 4 days after the coroner’s recommendations, news broke of another woman hit – but thankfully not killed – by a person driving an HGV.
It appears that the lorry was being turned to go down a side street in Camden, London at the time. From pictures in press reports and a witness quoted by a newspaper, it appears the woman was cycling to the right of the lorry – in other words, not on the inside where so many others have been when hit.
A guess – and I stress that this is purely my guess – is that the driver of the HGV swung his lorry to the right before turning it left. I have seen many buses and trucks maneuvered like that in order to make sharp turns. This would mean that advice given to people who cycle should be simply: stay away from lorries – don’t pass them on the left or the right.
If this is what happened, then it makes the case even stronger for local authorities to create segregated routes, space for cycling, to remove the conflict between people on bicycles and those driving motor vehicles especially HGVs.
It also raises a point about looking for other road users: lorries should have cabs with door windows which give the driver high visibility of the road around them. Some trucks, like those that collect refuse bins, already have this design. Mirrors clearly are not enough.
Over in Motor Transport magazine, though, columnist Hayley Pink wonders, “are hauliers doing enough?“:
operators have been dealt a deluge of safety initiatives and potential legislation aimed at protecting cyclists from ‘dangerous’ LGVs.
The article quotes a few drivers of lorries who seem to be getting upset at being lumbered with demand after demand to improve their safety systems.
UPDATE 25 October 2013: The Evening Standard reports today that negotiations to bring in safer lorries to the UK have become deadlocked, delaying their arrival to at least 2015
THE MAYOR RESPONDS
Yesterday, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, was asked about the recommendations of the corner during Mayor’s Question Time.
He told, in part, the London Assembly,
this is always going to be an extremely difficult challenge for us on the streets of London…
I cannot guarantee to Londoners that we are going to be able to produce segregation everywhere it is desired. That is simply not a realistic objective, just because there isn’t the road space to do it.
I want everybody in London to feel happy and safe on a bike…I particularly want people who aren’t currently cycling, or did briefly take it up and then suddenly got alarmed, I want them to feel safe enough to do it.
These are good words. Clearly the pressure to build safe cycling infrastructure is being kept on the Mayor. Many people believe, like me, that there is space for cycling (segregated paths) but not the political will (yet) to create that space by either closing some minor roads to motorised vehicles and/or reducing lanes or pavements on other routes. I suspect there is more space in London than the Mayor is willing to admit publicly.
The Mayor tossed out a statement belittling segregation without any evidence to back it up. He said,
The difficulty is you take away a huge amount of road space and you perhaps don’t even deliver the safety improvements you desire.
Perhaps. Perhaps not. That isn’t the full picture though. Safety is important – top of the list – and so is the perception of safety. It is by creating a feeling of safety – something I argue that only segregated routes or quiet/slow roads can do – which will encourage more children to cycle to school and parents (and others!) to hop on their bicycle to get down to the High Street, or over to a friend’s house.
Aside: and judging by the reaction to the ‘trial’ removal of bus lanes in Liverpool, where people on bicycles who use them too are understandably upset, its mayor too!
Aside to the aside: bus lanes are not segregated infrastructure but it is a step towards the goal.
Aside to the aside to the aside: the Mayor of Liverpool has tweeted that cycle lanes are planned, stating, “we are currently working on new cycle lanes and view cycling as something we want to encourage and make safer” – details on them are awaited. He also stated on his blog (HERE) that he will consult with cyclists throughout the bus lane’s trial suspension
INFRASTRUCTURE AND EDUCATION
Education campaigns are good to do, but are often ineffective.
The Department for Transport just announced they are going to roll-out the Think! Cyclist campaign to various cities. The campaign came in for criticism when it was first used earlier this year, especially when Hampshire County Council wrapped a bandage around the head of the person on a bicycle – see HCC Campaign: Cycles and Cars – How Close?
People naturally react to the world as they set it around them – and that is defined by the infrastructure: lanes, curbs, signs. Presently, these are a mess in the UK and have historically favoured people who choose to drive a motor vehicle. In contrast, places like The Netherlands recognise and cater for people using other forms of transport.
Aside: there is an interesting article about behaviour and road layout over on the The Ripple Effect blog by Warren Hatter – see “Why being behaviour-smart trumps responding to demand“. Well worth the read!
Another aside: after publishing this article, I came across this on the road.cc site: “Changes to road design could improve the safety of cyclists”
A NATIONAL CAMPAIGN
A while back I wrote about what I consider ‘space for cycling’ to encompass: What does creating ‘space for cycling’ mean?
Now, more groups are starting to define what the phrase means to them, such as the London Cycle Campaign who just laid out, at their recent AGM, their strategy for campaigning during the local elections in 2014 — see “AGM motions confirm our commitment to campaigning for streets that make cycling safe and inviting for every Londoner”
LCC have made a bold and strong start for London -I hope many organisations throughout the UK pick up on similar themes. To engage with the public and local authorities, the country needs to rally around a couple core national issues with additional local items added in by respective areas; all in time for the upcoming local elections in May 2014.
A list of various group’s current proposals, policies and manifestos is at: SPACE FOR CYCLING.
I’ll say it again, because I think this is so important: My hope is that we see campaigning groups converge on a couple national key points, and then add in a few more which are specific to their local area and members. That would make it easier for communicating the goals to the public and politicians (current and candidates).
But it doesn’t end there…
SPACE FOR WHOM (NOT WHAT)
Earlier last week, Monday in fact, there was a ‘flash ride’ in Birmingham organised on Facebook just a week beforehand. Some people were (rightly) getting quite upset that drivers of black cabs were going along a route which was clearly marked as being for just bus and bicycles (map here).
There was a confrontation between people on bicycles and a driver of a black cab carrying a fare paying passenger at the intersection, inside the area where black cabs are not permitted. A side mirror of the cab was vandalised.
The organiser of the protest aimed to send the message that he wanted “enforcement to take place and fines to be issued in the event of ALL future violations [of the bus lane restrictions].”
That is a good goal for the present. We need to aim higher. Much higher. Absolutely, by all means, ask that rules for the pathetic infrastructure we have now – paint! – are enforced; but push for not needing to do that…by removing the conflict in the first place with segregated routes. In other words, by asking for space for cycling.
Aside: Maybe we should also consider asking for space for driving? Hmmm… more on that thought later.
APPEALING TO THE MASSES
The Birmingham protest resulted in an eye-ball catching headline in the Trinity Mirror owned Birmingham Mail: ‘Vigilante’ cycle gang attack taxi in bus lane.
We (cycle campaigners for safer infrastructure) have to figure a way to turn headlines like that around, to have the media latch on to the need to remove conflicts, and importantly to see people on bicycles and in black cabs for what they are: people who want to get to their destination in safety.
Whilst we (cycle campaigners) are getting giddy about the phrase ‘space for cycling‘ catching on amongst our lot, blogger Schrödinger’s Cat points out in his/her/its AlternativeDfT article ‘Space for Cycling and Childhood Freedom‘ that“those who do support separate infrastructure very often don’t get it”
Some thoughts on that are bubbling, but for now, that is enough for one article – probably my longest ever! As always, please do leave your comments and share your thoughts…