CTC chief executive enlightens Canadians about London’s Cycling Superhighways

CBC As It Happens promo cardLast night, the long-running and popular ‘As It Happens‘ current affairs radio programme on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) broadcast an interview with Gordon Seabright, the chief executive of CTC. The programme may also go out to listeners in the USA on their public radio stations. An edited version of their podcast containing the interview is embedded at the end of this article.

The 7 minute ‘London cycling deaths’ piece was introduced by Jeff Douglas:

It has been a deadly month for cyclists in London, England: six deaths in just over two weeks.

It wasn’t long ago when the city’s mayor, Boris Johnson, was seen as the urban cyclist’s dream. He promised to invest more than a billion dollars to build cycle superhighways. Now, many are disappointed by the mayor, and are calling for better ways to protect cyclists.

We reached Gordon Seabright, chief executive of the Cycle Touring Club in Marlborough, England.

The interviewer Carol Off started by asking Gordon to describe what happened to some people who were cycling in London this month. Gordon stated that several people had been killed in collisions involving heavy goods vehicles (HGV): 6 deaths in the past 2 weeks, bringing the death toll in London to 14 (9 of which caused by HGVs).

Carol stated that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson suggested people were not cycling safely, that they may have been in some part responsible to what had happened; she asked Gordon for how he responds to him on that.

Gordon Seabright

Gordon Seabright was elected as the chief executive of the CTC in February 2012 (photo credit: CTC)


Gordon said that the Mayor “was blaming the victim… I think it is monumentally insensitive, especially when he actually didn’t have any idea of the circumstances of those particular deaths that happened just before he made those comments.”

He added, “Even if somebody is being unwise [riding their bicycle] we don’t have the death penalty for that.”

When asked about the increasing numbers of people who are choosing to cycle in London and the UK, Gordon said, “We are becoming more of a cycling culture” and added that he did not like the assertion that people need to be “expert cyclists before they dare to the streets.”

He continued,

“What kind of a country, what kind of a city do we want to have? We should actually be making the city as safe as it can be to encourage more and more people to get on two wheels.”


Although Boris Johnson had not “covered himself in glory in the last couple of weeks”, Gordon said that people want the Mayor to “get stuck into making cycling more safe…to address the real problems.”

He said,

“Now it is time to do difficult things like redesigning some of the roads and junctions; keeping trucks out of the busy streets at rush hour when there are more people walking and cycling around; having rules around what kind of trucks can come into the city.”

Gordon says that Boris was going to “investigate the Paris example” but a year and a half on, “he hasn’t done that at all. It is time he lived up to the promises he made. It could be so much safer and [that] is in his hands [to do].”

The interview went into a bit more depth about the kinds of things that can be done to improve safety regarding HGVs and other trucks.


Stop the killing of cyclists

Separately, over 1300 people have said they are joining a vigil and “die in” event this coming Friday in London.

Previously, the CBC show had broadcast a story that focused on the Cycling Superhighways – which had many Canadian listeners saying they wanted them put into cities in Canada.

Gordon said, “They [cycling superhighways] are pretty controversial here in that they don’t entirely live up to their name. Sometimes they give you great facilities where on really busy stretches you are separated from motor vehicles and sometimes they are little more than a bit of the road that has been painted a different colour which actually has no legal force.”


The interviewer mentioning that in Canada that there has recently been pushback on creating cycling lanes – that it is a “war on the car”.

Gordon responded to that by saying, “We know that more than 80% of our members drive as well as cycle. There really isn’t two tribes here. Cycling is a great way of reducing the amount of congestion because you can get 7 times more bikes over a piece of road than cars in a period of time.”

He continued,

“It is in car drivers’ interest to have more people cycling because it is actually reducing the amount of congestion they are dealing with. Once we realise we’ve all got this in common then a lot of the tension goes out.”

That “sounds quite enlightened” said the interviewer. Gordon responded, “We got a long way to go believe me!”

The full interview is in the programme’s podcast this week. An edited version of the podcast is playable below.
The views of the Freight Transport Association about an HGV ban in London are in their press release here: HGV ban is not the solution claims FTA.
Aside: recently a poem about the deaths on London’s roads was published – see “Super-Highway to Hell
Information about the independently organised mass “die-in” and vigil at the Transport for London offices this Friday is at: STOP THE KILLING.

Footnote 5 March 2014: CTC announces departure of CEO

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