Friday, November 18, 2011

All Cycle Superhighway Junctions to be Reviewed

A couple of days ago, after the news that the design of Bow Flyover Roundabout, scene of two recent fatal collisions, was to be reviewed, this blog commented:

"It's important that everyone realises that Bow is the tip of a very considerable iceberg. Fixing Bow, if TfL is minded to do it, won't fix any of the other more dangerous junctions."

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor's director of environment is today reported as saying:

"Work is beginning on how London gears up to move to the next level of cycling infrastructure and continuing to improve safety for cyclists. This includes a commitment from TfL to review all major schemes planned on TfL roads as well as to review all the junctions on the existing cycle superhighways."

Sounds like good news! After all the protests and news coverage, finally a result? Don't count your chickens just yet folks. Getting TfL to do something for cycling is like trying to get a teenager to tidy their room. With a lot of threats and cajoling you may be able to get them to make a reluctant effort if you stand over them while they do it, but you'll face exactly the same struggle next time, and the time after, until at some time in the future the scowling youth internalizes the need for tidiness and understands that it's not an optional part of life. Right now, like the teenager, TfL is much more interested in fast cars.

What exactly does "review all the junctions" mean? A quick look at CSH#7 on Google Maps reveals there are approximately 135 junctions between the start at Colliers Wood and the Stockwell Gyratory junction. I've counted all the minor road junctions. Are they going to review every single one? Well they should, because over that same stretch, there have been 41 serious or fatal incidents involving cyclists between 2000 and 2008 that didn't occur at the major junctions, and only 10 at major junctions (5 of those at the Stockwell Gyratory). And my personal experience of riding the route (which is I suggest rather more extensive than TfL's) suggests that the minor junctions represent very significant hazards, with motorists emerging from side-roads without looking, or turning right into minor roads across two lanes of motor traffic without being able to see cyclists coming up the blue lane.

Second, what does "review" actually mean? Is this "review" in the sense of a "review" of the Blackfriars Bridge scheme, where nothing much changed? In point of fact, there is less a need for reviews, than for TfL to stop ignoring its own experts. The BBC's Tom Edwards has revealed that there was a report produced for TfL highlighting the problems of CSH2 that said of the Bow Roundabout:

"Toucan crossings should be installed on the north and south sides of the roundabout. And "off-carriageway cycle lanes" should be provided around the roundabout, to "encourage less confident cyclists to use the route".

As Tom points out:

"someone made a decision to ignore the advice of TfL's own traffic consultants"

I wonder who that someone was, and if they sleep soundly at night? And I wonder if that someone will be involved in the "reviews"?

Quite simply, TfL cannot conduct the CSH junction reviews themselves. There is a clear conflict of interest: they cannot lead an impartial review of safety, when they know that the outcomes may well (and jolly well should, in my humble opinion) raise awkward questions of their individual and collective conduct and competence.

I pointed out a couple of days ago, the Bow junction, and indeed the other dangerous CSH junctions, are not the way they are because someone screwed up. They are that way because of TfL's priorities and approach to highway design. So it's not just the Superhighway junctions that need a review - it's TfL itself. There needs to be a change of agenda. The "traffic flow" imperative can no longer be allowed to trump "safety" in every critical decision. This is as much a cultural issue as an engineering issue, and it is very difficult to see anything changing while TfL is structured as it is and while the same faces remain. Anyone got a new broom?

Lastly, it's not reviews we need. It's action. As yet, there's been no commitment to actually doing anything about the dangers, and no indication of the terms of the reviews. The CSHs are broken by design, and it's going to take a considerable amount of investment to fix them. Boris is in a tight spot. On the one hand, if he tries to wriggle out of doing anything having blinked over the Bow tragedies, he will look like a ditherer, cynically trying to whitewash the blood off the road. On the other hand, if he commits to substantial changes, he is open to the charge of having misconceived and mismanaged the original CSH project, in doing so having wasted at least some of the near £40M spent so far.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Box Hill Cyclists

The police don't really know what to do about cyclists in the lovely Surrey Hills. The car-dependent locals don't much like being held up by cyclists, and are not shy of venting their frustrations with the local police. Hence the appearance of a police leaflet, which read:

"INCONSIDERATE RIDING: If a person rides a cycle, on a road, without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road, is guilty of an offence. [sic] £1,000 FINE"

This generated a tirade of angry comments on the Cycling Weekly site from riders such as Kevin Blackburn:

"This smacks almost of harassment of cyclists - the Police have obviously had some complaints from held-up motorists, and decided to intimidate/encourage cyclists to stay away. £1,000 fine for cycling inconsiderately - how many times could that be applied to every car driver that cuts us up, doesn't indicate, gives us less than the EU regulation 1.5m passing, infringes the 'cycle advance' box at junctions, parks and drives in cycls lanes - I've complained and taken photos of cars in cycle lanes, and had it explained that they are only adbisory - no, any continuous white should not be crossed on a road!....and so on. Its not until a cyclist is hit that police do anything about car drivers, but here they appear to be being pro-actively undermining cyclists rights to ride as per the highway code."

Scroll down the comments, and Inspector Terri Poulton, writes:

"Hello, I am the local Neighbourhood Inspector for the Mole Valley area and thought it would be a good idea to touch base with you all about this.

I would like to apologise about the wording of the attached card which was produced by a local officer who genuinely thought it would be helpful. We live and learn!

Whilst I support the message about road safety - this extends to all road users; I have been very clear through the Cycle and Drive SMART initiatives in the local area that we want to support everyone in enjoying our area รข€“ cyclists, drivers and pedestrians. You can hear me speak about Cycle SMART at

An increase in cyclists is putting more pressure on the local roads network but I want to focus my efforts on targeting the minority of poor drivers and cyclists. I hope this message is received as intended - an apology for the blunt, inappropriate card - but also a plea for understanding. Safety and tolerance is the key message and, above all, we want everyone to enjoy our beautiful area."

Tolerance - and  grammar - are clearly not the strong suits of the "local officer" concerned. It's quite interesting to click through the YouTube link, because there's rather more talk in the piece about inconsiderate driving than cycling. Kay Hammond of Surrey County Council says,  "It all started about 10 months of the biggest issues facing Surrey residents was antisocial driving." Tom Arthur of Surrey Police continues, "We need people cycling sensibly, we need them being considerate, but we also need drivers to be tolerant, and realise that it's a road for everybody." Andy Wright of the National Trust cousels against overtaking on the hill: "If you're following some cyclists up the hill, it literally takes you another 3 or 4 minutes to get's [about] tolerance on all sides."

Fast-forward 2 months, and the BBC reports :

"Tensions between drivers and bike riders using the 2012 Olympic cycling route through Surrey have prompted extra police patrols...Residents near Box Hill, which will form part of the London Games' cycling road race course, said the extra riders were causing a nuisance...Surrey Police said there had been a "significant" increase in cyclists along the A25 and at Box Hill. 'We are taking any community concerns very seriously,' said Sgt Andy Rundle."

I wonder if Sgt Rundle is taking any compaints by cyclists seriously? What happened to "drivers being tolerant" ? It so happens I have been known to venture outside the smoke down to the Surrey Hills. And I can confirm that there are a lot of cyclists down there. I've not personally seen much inconsiderate cycling, although I'm sure there's the odd incident: the clubs don't tend to cycle in large pelotons and tend to break rides down into smaller groups. However, I'm not sure why there is such a difference in some peoples' minds between a group of cyclists and a line of traffic. It's all traffic, it's a pain, it's in front of you, and the only way of getting it behind you is by overtaking it, which should only be attempted when it's safe to do so. Some motorists don't think that way. These aggressive types believe that common sense requires them to overtake all cyclists, whether alone or in a group, immediately, regardless of blind bends, speed limits, narrowness of the road or oncoming traffic. This kind of behaviour can be seen regularly, is highly dangerous and illegal. But you won't hear of the police clamping down on it or educating motorists as to the finer points of the Highway Code in this regard. As the report says:

"Residents told the BBC some cyclists...were aggressive to drivers trying to overtake."

Aggressive's generally what you feel when someone storms past forcing you to swerve into a pothole or a hedge. And bear in mind the Box Hill zig-zag road has traffic calming. From the highway code [my emphasis]:


Traffic-calming measures. On some roads there are features such as road humps, chicanes and narrowings which are intended to slow you down. When you approach these features reduce your speed. Allow cyclists and motorcyclists room to pass through them. Maintain a reduced speed along the whole of the stretch of road within the calming measures. Give way to oncoming road users if directed to do so by signs. You should not overtake other moving road users while in these areas."

The BBC didn't interview any cyclists about dangerous overtaking. Maybe they were afraid they might be too aggressive. Anyway, the report continues "Many [riders] are from local organised clubs whose riders cycle frequently around Surrey but there are also thought to be many from out of the area."

Outside the area? They're probably illegal immigrants. Better let the Daily Mail know.

"Mr Rundle said there had been a dedicated car and bicycle police patrol at Box Hill for a number of weeks.
'This isn't an issue solely of cyclists but an issue of increased visitors to Box Hill full stop,' he said.
'We are stopping motorists and cyclists and making sure that all road users are mindful that they are likely to encounter increased numbers of cyclists. It is a challenge the local police have to rise to and make sure that everyone is considerate of every other road user.'"

Goodness me. That sounds almost as if cyclists have an right to use these roads, and equal treatment under the law.That could actually encourage cycling...and then where would we be?

Alright, enough joshing around. In general I welcome more police, particularly if they're on bikes as they'll quickly find out what us civvies have to put up with. And there are a fair few coppers who are leisure cyclists. Hopefully the enlightened PCs outnumber the dinosaur officers like the one whose leaflet is at the top of this post. But there's something seriously wrong when an increase in cycling is greeted as if it's mainly a problem with cyclists, rather than a problem with drivers not tolerating cyclists and ignoring the Highway Code's guidance about how to drive when there are cyclists in front of them. If I write to my local police compaining about an increase in drivers or speeding and aggressive driving, I know the response won't be increased police patrols. It will be incredulous laughter, or protests that the police don't have the resources to enforce 20MPH limits. And probably a proposal to widen the road, legalise parking on the pavement, and a host of other measures to ensure traffic flow. While there are some cyclists taking risks and riding inconsiderately, they're very unlikely to kill anyone except perhaps themselves. If only the same could be said about risk-taking, inconsiderate drivers.

If it's a nice day this Sunday, I might just make a nuisance of myself and see if I can beat my PB up Box Hill. That'll show 'em.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bother for Boris in Bow

To paraphrase Joseph Stalin, the death of one person is a tragedy; the deaths of thousands is a matter of statistics. So it is that two tragic deaths at the same location in less than a month is sufficient to generate a flurry of media stories about the Bow Flyover roundabout. Statistically, two deaths so close together in location and in time is an anomaly as this location isn't even in the top 10 most dangerous junctions.

However, it does encourage journalists to ask serious questions of TfL about its whole Superhighways strategy. The approach is to route cyclists along the capital's busiest roads, and through its most dangerous junctions, while asserting that it's impossible to put in proper provision for cyclists at those junctions because it would have too much impact on traffic flow. Transport for London (TfL) director Ben Plowden promised to look "very closely" at the Bow junction. Why? TfL knew perfectly well how dangerous these junctions - fast, multi-laned affairs with a good sprinkling of HGVs - are for cyclists. Nothing has changed. TfL knew it had the choices it made didn't ensure cyclist safety, and it must have known what the consequence of that would be. It is easy for TfL and its ultimate boss Boris Johnson to maintain the the Blackfriars Bridge redesign has to sacrifice cycle lanes on the altar of traffic flow, given that it's not killed anyone yet, but it's not so easy to defend the Bow Flyover design in the face of the bereaved families and friends of the victims.

It's therefore important that everyone realises that Bow is the tip of a very considerable iceberg. Fixing Bow, if TfL is minded to do it, won't fix any of the other more dangerous junctions, and more people will die at those locations. There must be an acceptance that the two recent fatal collisions at Bow were not accidents. This was not one rogue road designer, an isolated error or a failure of process. The Bow junction is the way it is precisely because the designers followed TfL's rules and guidance on road design, prioritizing traffic flow and ignored the protests of London Cycling Campaign about the clear dangers. If these deaths are not to be in vain, TfL must accept that it has an institutional problem, a systemic problem, and to address it, it needs to push cyclist safety to the top of the priority list.

Fuel Prices - They Still Don't Get It

It's a while since I last wrote about fuel prices, and not much has changed, but the campaign to lower the petrol price seems to have got even better organized. Unfortunately, they've still not addressed the fundamental problem at the heart of the matter.

When I last wrote, the oil price was at $98.45. I noted there were problems with the Alaskan pipeline and Norwegian oilfields that were interfering with supply. Since that time, the Libyan conflict has been and gone, and the European economies are forecasting lower growth - all factors that should either increase potential supply or reduce demand. Yet today (15 Nov 2011) a barrel of Brent crude will cost you $113.22. Pump prices are still hovering around the £1.40/litre level for diesel.

There will be a Commons debate about fuel prices today. What will they talk about? The fact that the Government changed the tax regime in the last budget, and that spectacularly failed to fix the problem? The fact that the relative tax take has been going down for a while: for every pound drivers spend at the forecourt, about 60p is now going to the Treasury compared to around 80p in every pound between 2001 and 2003? The fact that in the USA where fuel taxes are low, people are much more affected by underlying changes in the oil price (and complain about it a lot more) ? According to the debate's sponsor, Robert Halfon MP, families are being "crucified" by high petrol prices, and are in "fuel poverty" as a result. But I can't see much difference between "crucifixion" by petrol prices, and "crucifixion" by rail fare increases, or VAT increases, food price inflation, losing their job, or any other combination of price inflation or wage stagnation. It's all poverty at the end of the day. You would think a Tory would expect people to help themselves, as many people (and businesses) are doing by driving less and adopting lower-carbon forms of travel. Again, some people have no choice but to drive, and petrol price increases, along with electricity, gas and food price increases, are giving rise to real hardship. There's certainly a case to be made to help people in poverty, but it doesn't follow that a general cut in petrol tax is the best way of doing that, especially considering it will benefit rich car owners more than the poor. I've not seen much evidence that it's the best way to help the economy either. It will benefit businesses that use a lot of fuel. What about businesses that have invested in a lower-carbon business model, making the correct assumption that oil prices will continue rising? Why move the balance away from businesses that are succeeding? Why give the signal that if you're oil-dependent, you'll get bailed out by the government?

Lowering fuel taxes may give a small amount of temporary relief to motorists who have no choice but to drive and are spending a lot of their income on fuel, but it will also disproportionately benefit motorists who are not very hard-pressed, choose to drive big thirsty cars and can well afford to fill them up. Also, taxes will have to rise elsewhere to compensate, at a time when there are calls to lower them to stimulate the economy.

Instead of debating the cost of fuel, which is largely out of the control of the Government, we should be debating how we manage down the use of fuel. Oil dependency is the underlying problem, and it's what is delivering blows to the economy every time the underlying price of oil goes up. That's why a US military thinktank is saying that America needs to cut its oil use by 30% over the next decade.  "I don't really see myself as a treehugger in any way. I look at it as an issue of national security," said Howard Snow, former deputy assistant secretary of the US Navy.

Whingeing about the pump price won't solve anything. Lowering fuel tax will cause people to think they don't need to change their driving habits, and we'll be having exactly the same debate come the next budget. Instead, we need to help businesses and individuals to use less fuel. Done correctly, this will have a much greater positive effect on the economy, because it will have a long-term effect and cause more cash to stay in the UK rather than going into the coffers of oil-producing countries.

Friday, November 11, 2011

TfL and Cyclist Safety

Sometimes it's best to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. So it is with TfL and cycling safety. No doubt in response to a stream of negative stories, they've countered with a press release that purports to show how with its "huge range of practical measures", TfL is really spoiling us. Unfortunately, the box of Ferrero Rocher is pretty much all gold PR foil.

"I implore cyclists to stay safe, don't stay next to a HGV," says Boris, although he's not telling HGV drivers not to stay next to cyclists.

"While every collision is regrettable, it is encouraging that the proportion of cycling collisions on TfL roads that result in fatal or serious injuries has declined since 2008, indicating that the severity of collisions is falling."

Statistics served with a lot of backspin, it could be argued, since the London cyclist KSI casualty rate has in fact been rising for a few years now.

Let's take a look at the "vast array of improvements" TfL boast about.

"Additional guidance for highway contractors is currently being produced by TfL on providing sufficient space for cyclists at roadworks. This new guidance will ensure better consideration is given to vulnerable road users while street works are taking place across London and forms a key part of the Mayors new Roadworks Pledge"

Space for "Cyclists Dismount" signs, I think he means. Let's hope this is a U-turn from TfL's attitude up until very, very recently: "It is necessary to request that cyclists dismount between the peak [hours] as our works at these times take in a greater proportion of the carriageway at these times. This narrows the space available for vehicles and cyclists to share beyond the point that can be safely accommodated. We ask that cyclists dismount in order to ensure that they can safely pass through the area affected."

 "A £100 million investment during 2010/11 in cycling schemes, which included a range of safety action such as the provision of cycle lanes"

Lanes that are often narrow and/or advisory, sprinkled with parked cars, and become "ghost" lanes or disappear altogether at the trickiest junctions, when you need them most.

"blind spot safety mirrors at key locations along the Barclays Cycle Superhighway" 

...which are necessary because TfL gave up on the  idea that the CSHs should be "safe and continuous" at those key locations.

"advance stop lines at traffic junctions across London"

Ah yes. The advance stop box. Like a box of cheap chocolates, it's very likely to contain something you don't want. Like the one after Admiralty Arch at the Trafalgar Square roundabout. Another of London's most dangerous junctions. Often the approach lane is blocked. If you can't get to the ASL you'll be stuck on the inside of vehicles that may 'left hook' you. Go round the outside and your chances aren't much better, and don't think you can rely on vehicles letting you back in the queue if the lights change when you're trying to filter. If instead you just wait in the queue, there'll likely be someone behind you who'll be trying to overtake just at the most hazardous point. Even if you can get to the advance stop box, there is a good chance the box will contain a taxi or a car or both. All of which makes the advice that "Cyclists should take a visible position well in front or well behind a vehicle at traffic lights" seem rather Marie-Antoinette.

"encourage [HGV operators] to sign up to TfL's Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) "

FORS is rather limited in what it can achieve. To be a FORS member, your drivers don't have to have any more training than the legal minimum, and can have as many endorsements as you like as long as they still have a licence. From the specification, killing a cyclist won't get you kicked out, (although there will be a benchmark to get to the Silver level of membership). To give you an idea, Thames Materials is a Bronze member.

As for enforcement against dangerous or intimidating driving by professional drivers, forget about it, unless you've been seriously injured. Report it to the police and you'll likely get a polite letter saying they don't prosecute unless there's a realistic chance of a conviction (and the bar is pretty high, believe me). According to the FORS specification, there is no mechanism to complain about a FORS member's drivers, and the Public Carriage Office, which regulates black cabs and private hire, will also ignore complaints about cab drivers. In short, Boris's exhortations to 'share the road' and 'look out for cyclists' are backed up by nothing but his winning smile, and have as much chance of being taken seriously as Silvio Berlusconi at a feminist's convention.
Now don't get me wrong. FORS is a good thing and we should encourage it, but  it will mainly help good operators get better. Without legal sanctions, it will still be too easy for irresponsible companies to take advantage of the lower operating costs that come from dangerous practices and taking chances with peoples' lives.

"help fleet operators identify and compare different HGV safety technologies...a new Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) training module specifically written for freight drivers in London...worked with the Freight Transport Association to develop a Cycling Code for its members"

In other words, it's all good, but it's voluntary. It will be ignored by the cowboys, who will be able to speed about their business unmolested by the diminishing number of traffic police.

The fundamental problem with TfL's approach is that they don't adequately tackle the problem of keeping drivers, especially bad ones, away from cyclists. In fact, at the most dangerous junctions, where cycling collisions are most likely,  they completely give up, reasoning that traffic flow is a higher priority than safety. Even good drivers have lapses of judgement and observation, especially on dark wet days, and if cyclists are mixed up in the general traffic flow those lapses can be fatal. In simple terms, TfL are putting up the curtains while there's still no roof on the house. The point is to generate more cycling, because it's good for the economy, good for the environment and good for public health. There is no way you can do that by training HGV drivers (worthwhile though that is). Even if 95% of drivers had a high standard of skill and a good attitude, the remaining 5% would be enough to put most ordinary people off cycling. What TfL are doing is making the roads marginally safer, but doing it in a way that is very costly and time-consuming. Which is nice for the few people who are actually happy to cycle on-carriageway, but hardly tempting to the large number of people who would like to cycle but don't feel it's safe.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Westminster Parking Charges

Westminster Council don't win much approval on this blog, but the extended car parking charges and restrictions which will be imposed in the early 2012 gain a qualified nod. Westminster are doing the right thing - discouraging motor traffic - for the wrong reasons - to make money. Even though the policy is attracting considerable well-organized opposition, the Council are seemingly sticking to their guns although they have dropped plans to introduce the charges before Christmas.

Effectively, from January there will be no more free parking on Westminster-controlled streets at any time.

Westminster claim that the charges are necessary to deal with increasing night-time congestion. Which is interesting, coming from a council that opposed the London Congestion Charge. At Cycalogical, we're happy to forgive the sinner that repenteth, although we're a tad suspicious that the move has more to do with filling a hole in the Council's budget that any concern for the adverse impact of motor traffic on the capital.

By Westminster's own admission, this is a congestion charge. Unlike the actual congestion charge however, the proceeds won't go to improve public transport - they will go to keep council tax down for Westminster residents, many of whom are a lot more well-heeled than the average Londoner. Yet many more Londoners will be affected by the policy, which raises serious questions of democratic accountability. Most Londoners don't drive much into central London, so the effect will be broadly positive for them - less congestion equals faster bus journeys and a hopefully a better environment for pedestrians. On the other hand, people who have no option but to drive at night or on Sundays will be paying to park - a considerable sum for night workers. There will likely be displacement of car parking into neighbouring boroughs and possibly also onto TfL roads.

Businesses aren't happy with the policy. They see only the downside: the prospect that car-based trade will evaporate. In reality though, will it be that big a deal?  Some erstwhile car-bound customers will switch to using public transport or cabs. Some will simply swallow the parking charges. Some may switch to nightlife outside Westminster. However, because this isn't a policy oriented to making the West End better for visitors (and therefore the businesses that depend on them), the Council don't have a good answer to the charge that new parking fees will kill trade. The policy would make more sense if Westminster acknowledged that congestion is just one unpleasant symptom of car dependency. If the streets of central London were more pedestrian-friendly, if there were more streets oriented towards dining, drinking, shopping and outdoor enjoyment rather than the passage of motor traffic, this would likely generate a lot more trade than would be lost as a result of parking or congestion charges. Indeed, it's businesses themselves that are calling for such a policy in Oxford Street and Regent Street. As it stands though, Westminster are opposed to cycling, opposed to 20MPH speed limits, opposed to traffic reduction or calming schemes, and ideologically opposed to anything that interferes with private motor traffic...except when they can make a couple of quid out of it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Going Dutch - The Fightback Begins?

LCC has at long last come around to the idea of segregated space with its 'Going Dutch' campaign. It was only a matter of time before there was a counter-campaign by those whose vehicular cycling outlook until recently held sway. Hence a post by Matthew Wright in the Guardian's cycling blog.

Wright doesn't go all-out to say that segregation is a bad idea. He starts by pointing out that in Holland "cycling facilities were so good that their use was obligatory and enforced by police". This is an allusion to the well-worn argument that the provision of segregated paths will whittle away at the cyclist's right to use roads. Fair enough if you like cycling on roads, but most people don't, which is why almost no-one (except me and you, dear readers) cycles in the UK.

He attacks segregated paths by casting doubt on their safety credentials:
"The safety of having separate lanes has often been questioned. Though there are many variables, and conclusions are contested, most studies suggest that separate paths, if anything, make cycling more dangerous, because junctions – where most accidents occur – are more complicated."

Are separate paths more dangerous? The research cited appears to be quite old, and any research done in the UK is based on the narrow, badly-designed, badly-maintained, badly-surfaced tracks, regularly punctuated with driveways and side-road junctions, and featuring jaywalking pedestrians, dogs, and the odd parked car. I'm not going to pick through every study because that would be futile - if the Dutch road system with its extensive use of segregated paths has the best safety record, there can't be too much wrong with segregated paths as such.  But the reality is, it doesn't matter. Go to Richmond Park on a weekend, and you'll find thousands of people cycling on those dangerous off-road paths, and these are largely people who wouldn't dream of cycling on those safe, fluffy roads because for some bizarre reason they think they're too dangerous. Even if you showed them the statistics, they wouldn't believe you, because there is something inherently sphincter-spasm-inducing about being passed by a 3-tonne van with a couple of inches between its mirrors and your elbow. Nothing short of mass hypnotism will persuade most people to cycle on UK roads, because it feels dangerous, and it's gut feel, not statistics or probabilities, that people rely on to tell them whether something is safe or not. In the simplest possible terms, even if roads are safer than segregated paths, UK road conditions are the biggest deterrent to cycling there could possibly be. And it's UK road conditions that are pushing people into the car-dependent, sedentary lifestyle that is far, far more dangerous than cycling on a segregated path could ever be.

Wright then quotes Amsterdamize's Marc van Woudenberg as saying "Segregation is just one (important) part of bicycle policies in the Netherlands, complemented with integral spatial planning, traffic calming, bike facilities and effective traffic laws." Wright continues: "in reducing the Dutch approach to being mainly about paths, LCC is misrepresenting it. Their campaigns for a 20mph speed limit (widespread in the Netherlands), and the crucial issue of strict liability would make a more sensible centrepiece for Go Dutch."

So there you have it. Put the word 'Dutch' in front of all the UK cycling campaigns of the past couple of decades that have failed to deliver meaningful growth in cycling, and they will magically succeed and deliver a cycling culture. I live on a 20MPH road, and I avoid cycling on it whenever I can because no-one drives at less than 28MPH unless there's something seriously wrong with their car. 'Integral spatial planning' in London to most people means being able to park your car. Strict liability? Drivers don't go out intending to crash. They already know that a prang will push up their premiums. Read much more about why strict liability is irrelevant here. As David Hembrow (a Dutch-based cycling blogger that Wright doesn't quote, but I will) says: "[Dutch] Strict Liability came only after the majority of people cycled, and when there was already a very high degree of segregation and planning around bicycles."

Wright then points out, "LCC's emphasis on 'London's main roads' is also strange...why would you want to cycle in such noise, danger and pollution, when there are faster and more pleasant routes through back streets, parks and towpaths? This kind of route requires only some intelligent planning"

Back-street routes are what we have with the London Cycle Network. Even if you weren't perpetually getting lost on the LCN, it can hardly be described as 'fast'. There are hazards from frequent junctions (and the priority is usually against you), parked cars, and there's significant rat-running traffic to contend with. The phrase 'only some intelligent planning' seems to imply that a couple of weeks work by some contractors will sort it out. But I digress. Why emphasise main roads? Because it's very hard to avoid main roads if you want to follow a reasonably direct route, and you need segregation where there is significant motor traffic. Where traffic levels and speeds are low enough, you don't need segregation. That's how the Dutch do it. If you only use filtered permeability, 'home zones', and greenways to construct a cycling network, you end up with very compromised routes. It is not a vision of mass cycling: it's a vision of mitigation that isn't going to inspire anybody.

Wright then wraps up by saying:

"the biggest barrier on the road to creating a widespread cycling culture in the UK is tackling speed limits and a pro-motorist legal bias."

This is a real chicken-or-egg argument. The reason that speed cameras, speed limits and indeed any restrictions whatever on car use are unpopular in the UK is because we are so car-dependent as a nation, and as a consequence there are a lot more voters who are motorists than there are voters who cycle. Lower speed limits and cycle-friendly traffic laws are consequences of a cycling culture, not prerequisites. It is also a false argument. The biggest barrier to creating a UK cycling culture is the fear of traffic. This is demonstrated in survey after survey. Vehicular campaigners have been trying to civilize motoring for decades, successes have been few and far between, and there's no evidence that fear of traffic has become any less. Freewheeler has already documented why.
What is most toxic about opposition to Going Dutch is the fact that if cycling campaigners cannot present a single, compelling vision about how mass cycling can be achieved, then we won't convince the politicians or the public. And the fact is, the public understand segregation: I speak to many people who say they would cycle more if there were cycle paths away from traffic. It almost seems like it's only cycle campaigners who don't 'get it'.