Cycle Super Highway

The Transport Committee’s evidence session on cycling safety appears to have upset some of the pro-cycling groups, seemingly because given the opportunity the assembled MPs didn’t give representatives of the road transport industry the kicking some wanted to see.

Certainly David Davies, executive director of the parliamentary advisory counsel for transport safety, and his suggestion that “cycling deaths were getting huge attention despite being a small minority” of total deaths in the capital, wasn’t exactly a promising start.

Davies pointed out the fact explored in our previous post - Proportionality must be maintained in cycling debate - that while there were significantly more pedestrian deaths on the roads in London last year, splashing each cyclist’s death on the front page of the London Evening Standard can, tragic as each is, present a rather hysterical and distorted picture to the general public.

Foolhardy Andrew Gilligan, the mayor of London’s cycling commissioner, suggested that Londoner’s resulting perception of how safe it was to cycle in London (not very) was vastly different to the reality.

Gilligan pointed out that cycle journey miles in London have increased from 118 million in 2002, when there were 20 cycling deaths, to 209 million miles last year and 14 deaths. This seems a reasonable measure to suggest positive improvement over time.

He has also said that while TfL is considering the pros and cons of a lorry ban, the introduction of such a measure in Paris hasn’t actually been the magic bullet some seems to think it could be in London and hasn’t stopped cycling deaths.

And, in the eyes of the pro-cycling lobby, quite how RHA policy director Jack Semple lives with himself after suggesting to the panel of MPs that his members’ message to cyclists is “don’t go up the inside of an LGV” - while spelling out that, “LGVs have to do their bit too” is ...

I’m sure you get the point.

Tackling the issue

For those of us that want to play a constructive role in keeping everyone as safe as possible on the UK’s roads, there was however much to be encouraged about.

Not least the measured evidence of representatives from the London Cycling Campaign and Newcycling (Newcastle Cycling Campaign), who were intelligent and articulate in their responses to an emotive issue.

Certainly, both the cycling and industry representatives present were keen on greater segregation of the cyclist from other traffic – the difference seemingly lying in the extent you take segregation to – a few key roads, blanket coverage etc, and how you ensure that essential deliveries can still be made (on a side note the pro-cycling group representatives on the first panel all personally felt that wearing earphones while cycling on the roads wasn’t a great idea).

However, it was also rightly pointed out that the road transport industry isn’t perfect: there’s some bad operators out there doing bad things, with waste operators on restricted licences singled out.

It was no surprise then that Christopher Snelling, head of urban logistics and regional policy at the FTA and Jerry McLaughlin, director of economics at the Mineral Products Association, called for more, not less enforcement.


They and the RHA were also supportive of the HGV Task Force , a MET police and Vosa joint project revealed in September, that Semple told the committee his organisation had been pushing for in concept for years.

“We think some operators are cutting corners and should be caught and taken off the road,” said Snelling.

Commander Dave Martin, head of public order, task force and roads policing at the Metropolitan Police Service, also pointed out that in four years more than half of cycling fatalities in London have involved LGVs, a sobering thought lest we forget the importance of tackling this issue as an industry.

He added that while statistically LGVs had only made up about 5% of all serious collisions during this period, due to the associated weight involved in any collision with a cyclist the result is too often catastrophic.

Road layout and infrastructure was also inevitably discussed with Dr Marcus Jones, principal consultant at the Transport Research Laboratory, stating “road layouts as stand are encouraging them [cyclists] to do that [put themselves in danger].”

Ashok Sinha, chief executive of the London Cycling Campaign, added: “Even the best equipped trucks and trained drivers will always have a chance of collision, so we need an infrastructure solution.”

“User behaviour can only go so far,” he added. “We need to offer proper protection [to the cyclist].”

Val Shawcross, chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, stated the early infrastructure – including the first of the mayor’s cycle super highways – had been “poor and weak”, something Gilligan claimed was being addressed with new junction layouts and technology, as well as £913m of front-loaded investment on cycling infrastructure in the capital over ten years.

TfL is also introducing a network of quietways, roads and routes away from the main flow of traffic that in some cases will be closed to motorised traffic.

Later today roads minister Robert Goodwill will sit before the Transport Committee and next week TfL will launch its construction charter in a bid to address the challenge around construction vehicles.

Martin’s view seems as good as any to end on. “This is very much a collective effort, if we are to achieve anything in the longterm.”