Sunday, 28 June 2015

when "cyclists follow the highway code" means "get out of the way"

Twitter is notable in that it allows politicians to engage with their electorate.

Here is Sarah Wollaston, MP, praising the PM for promising the attend the all party cycling working group —and who should come out the woodwork but someone someone with the old "highway code and license" distraction.

yet ask the for more detail on what particular "safety issue" and why not license and tests pedestrians with it, and it comes out that the key reason to single out people on bicycles is "pedestrians on the whole do not block roads".

which gets you into the real meaning of what "follow the highway code is", along with the classic "when I did my cycling proficiency test "anecdote of
"when we learned to cycle we were taught to go single file to safely allow a vehicle to pass'
And that's really it isn't it. You can look at actions of people cycling and point to some that endanger themselves or pedestrians, and make the case for better training. But not use it as a complaint for cycling two abreast, for as the highway code rule 66 says
You should never ride more than two abreast, 
That's right: the highway road says "you can ride two abreast", and even more than three abreast is a "should never", not a "must never"

Which means that anyone who thinks having "cyclists learn the highway code and be tested" is going to have their expectations of not being held up not met.

And why do they say it? It's clearly not about safety, it's purely about the inconvenience caused by having people cycling in front of you, and a mistaken belief that it is beholden on the cyclist to get out of the way of people driving —and because of that belief, irate frustration that all those cyclists in Britain "don't follow the highway code"

Here then, is a message for people complaining about being held up by people cycling:
we are allowed to ride wherever in the lane we feel safe, and if we do that two-abreast, it is still legal. If you find yourself unable to accept this, please return your license to the DVLA with a covering note about your own unwillingness to co-exist with other road users.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

That pittance we promised? We lied. Now fuck off.

Late last year some coalition politicians turned up in Bristol to reannouce old promises of cash and add a few more pennies. Why did they do that?

Generous: they wanted to help our cities. This is maybe one which the Libdems could rightfully claim. Note, however, the cities targeted included those with LD MPs —not just Bristol, but Sheffield.

Realistic: we'd been making lots of noise and they wanted to keep cycling on the back burner during the election. This is probably the thinking of the Conservative party.

Now the election is over the coalition is dead. The cash? It's gone, a "projected underspend". 

Projected underspend? They held out a £10 note and as the councils reached for it, it was snatched away.

How can you expect the councils to have spent the money on anything meaningful when they only had a short time to get their proposals in, the wait for approval, then the slow process of actually designing and building things? When cash comes out on a "spend it now or lose it policy" you don't get well designed schemes. You get minor projects to make junctions worse, paint under parking bays and "mutual respect" bollocks which don't need any design or planning, so can be rolled out in hours.

Well: it's happened. What now?

1. Ask for more.

That's not "ask for our money back", or even a "ask for some figure like £10/head". Because those things can only be negotiated down, and any cutback would savage the plans.

Instead: ask for our fair share of the entire road budget. 10% of journeys? That'll be 10% of the money. £1.5B is the number we should ask for. 

Yes, we'll be laughed at, yes we'll be dismissed. But the key point: our fair share, is valid. The more we repeat it, the more it'll get taken up. It can set the opening position in negotiations, negotiations which will only take the value down. Fine: we will take £1 billion instead. The only way we stand a chance of getting anything serious is by everyone asking consistently and asking for big numbers.

2. Fix the legal system. 

There's funding issues there too, the police and the CPS want to save money. Cycling deaths, pedestrian deaths aren't seen as worth a prosecution. That means our lives are seen as worth defending. What to do there? shout. protest. Make the case. We don't want to see cyclists die, we don't want to be the one. Who hasn't looked at their bike then got on it one morning and thought: is this the day? Is this the day I change from a person to a statistic? Is this the day a policeman turns up at your family's door to bring the news that a loved one won't be coming home? Is this the day I change from a person to a police case that nobody can be bothered to bring to court?

Strict liability is a distraction. What fucking good is it if you've just been run over by a truck? We need something serious in the criminal court.

Prosecutions must begin with assumption of dangerous driving you killed somebody course it was fucking dangerous. Maybe then they can negotiate down to come to careless -let's be precise, death by careless. Oh and let's raise the penalty there too, while treating any decision to drive without a license as a wilful attempt to kill other people. It's not careless if you weren't even allowed to drive.

Near-death incidents caught on camera need to be prosecuted. Again dangerous negotiated down to careless. And for those where everyone agrees the case is too weak for a prosecution that's where ASBOs come in. Give a driver one of those and is actually issued with a warning low-cost one for the police to issue. And if they they endanger cyclists again that's when the car is at risk. Even those bastards are trying to squeeze past or punishment pass you will throttle back once I've had the first warning. And if not : they'll be off the road. The ease of issuing an ASBO and the lower cost means that it should be a default action.

If we are going to ask them for more laws then let's ask for a safe passing distance. 

People will laugh -how can we be expected to give cyclists three feet of passing space? To those who say that you have to get back and say "well what is a safe distance then?" "4 cm?" "4 mm?" "Anything that doesn't actually knock the cyclist off or "clip" as they like to call it in court to minimise the implications and pretend it's no worse than banging a wing mirror against a parked car?". If you "clip" a cyclist then you've actually driven into them. If you did that as you go past you went too close to them —and if you did it deliberately that's attempted murder. Having a legal minimum passing distance will resolve ambiguity on those videos. It will also set the way for how the autonomous car is going to have to pass the cyclist. Because if we don't set those rules self driving cars will go past with centimetres to spare and manual cars will follow them to the millimetre. We need to set those limits now and we need to make them safe.

How will we get the legal standards? We need to get the MPs on board. There's a lot of new ones now that's Conservative as well as SNP. Let's start talking to them. Once you've asked for £1.5 billion asking for some changes in the legal system seems like a nice compromise. It isn't —but it's a starting point.

Demand good infrastructure from councils with vision and competence

As for the infrastructure projects we need a good national standard. We don't want another Sheffield route where the council cites obsolete documents produced by another local government authority as an excuse for junctions that will end up killing someone.

We need mandatory design standards coming out of the Department of transport. How can they deny us that? We have them for roads, we have them for railway lines. You don't have the railway near Sheffield with a different gauge from the rest of the country. We don't have South Gloucestershire making up their own road signs or designing their own roundabouts. National standards must lead the way so that council planners cannot weasel their way out of abandoning you at junctions. And it's those junctions that matter it doesn't matter how good your segregation is on the stray bits it doesn't matter about your floating bus stops if all it does is get you to a multi lane gyratory where only the bold survive.

To get those guidelines we need to push the DFT for them and we need to push back against the council mediocrity. Say no to shite. If you get something shite that's all you get for 20 years. To make things worse, it sets the example for everywhere else. We need better examples. We need council's to be embarrassed about how awful their new work is. We can do that by naming and shaming. Through ridicule and protest getting into the press. And we need to get our house in order by having a consistent message. That includes from Sustrans and the CTC. Something is particularly wrong with Sustrans here: they've gone from an engineering organisation to one that produces the bollocks the councils are happy to build. We need to get them to recognise that their designs are flawed and to move on.

We should also direct the remaining pittance pittance to those councils that are making good use of it. If your council produces shit then don't support their proposals. For example it is better to give it to Bristol then it is to Bath. It's not that Bath doesn't need that infrastructure -it's that they need a nearby city to look at and think "we could do something just as good". If all we have is mediocrity across the country there is nothing good to look at, and designs from abroad can be dismissed as Dutch or Danish culture or reduced to the travesty that is the Bedford turbo roundabout. Restrict it to a couple of towns cities where the council can lead, means that the residents not only get safe cycle infrastructure, they can get one that spans the city. 

As far as English cities go, that means:
  1. Bristol excluding S Gloucs apart from some key routes (railway path, ring road)
  2. Brighton
Let them lead the way and don't waste that limited cash.

Other places? Well, Horsham shows the problem. New roads and housing estates are being built which will implement a ban on cycling for decades. That's anti-bicycle infrastructure. Local groups do need to protest and try and stop those things, and again, our fair share of that road budget has to go into building cycling into the junctions, rather than building it out.

There you have it. Yes they have taken away our money. But it was a pittance that was going to be frittered away by incompetent councils.

So let's not sulk. Let's get angry. Let's get out there. Let's demand our fair share of the road budget a police system that that will protect our lives, and those central government design standards which will stop the mess we get today.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Where are the Fucking Husky Dogs?

So far during the this election period, while the politicians have been bickering on twitter and appearing in staged events we have had
  1. Air pollution so bad that the government has been telling some groups of people to stay indoors and not do strenuous exercise (i.e. breathing heavily).
  2. The supreme court telling the UK government to actually do something on air pollution -an action which would have profound implications for cities and urban motoring.
  3. CO2 levels not getting any lower. Massive droughts in California, worse predictions of the impact of global warming —including more heatwaves in the UK.

And what do we see in the election?

Absolute fucking silence

Public Transport
Tory promise to fix costs of train commuter fare rises to inflation. Does nothing for those off-peak tickets, does nothing about the amount of space on an bristol-london train dedicated to first class travel, with impact on the total train carrying capacity. Nobody who has ever taken a 7pm train from Paddington to either of the Bristol stations will want to do it again.

Buses? Nothing. Their contribution to diesel-related pollution (along with that of taxis) ignored.

Nothing but some fatuous promises, "strive to achieve". from the Tories, Labour saying something when asked about cycling, but something different when speaking to the press about cars. UKIP: same old bollocks. Lib Dems: enough to show that the pittance which did come out towards the end of the last parliament came from them.

No mention of air pollution issues. Using fuel duty rises as an attack, pointing at the other saying 'they will raise fuel duties'. Osborne using Labour's proposal to stop the least economic road in the £15B road project as a sign of an anti-motoring party. Cameron saying the SNP won't care about road dualling in Cornwall (though given their record on the A9, dual carriageways is not something they oppose).

Heathrow and the third runway
Something kicked into the long grass last term, but which will surface this time. Does the silence LHR thinks their ULEZ plans will help, —which is not only ignoring the contributions air travel makes to global warming, its ULEZ plans are fucking hypocritical given they've banned cycling into the T1-T3 zone, with some out of area "cycle hub" that  may benefit some staff, but does nothing for convenience of that staff or indeed anyone actually trying to cycle to the airport for a trip.

Renewable energy?
Again, it's only UKIP that have much to say there -none of it positive. They like their fracking as it doesn't imply that there is anything wrong with the current lifestyle.
The tory party are moving beyond a block on wind turbines, to actively discouraging solar farms —an action that would be more negative on Cornwall than a dual carriageway that will only fill up with caravans pulled by diesel crossover SUVs every summer weekend.

Whatever coalition ends up in power is going to have to act on some of these. The December 2015 air pollution deadline is a one that cannot be ignored. LHR expansion will surface —again— hence the adverts from Gatwick appearing in the press recently. Climate Change? It's not going away.

These things are going to shape Britain. What our cities look like. How we get between them. Where electricity comes from. Even the shape of the shoreline: will Somerset end up underwater in 50 years time?

But nobody is making a fuss of this stuff, at least not enough to get into the press.

One party has been making a fuss about global warming —at least enough to get into the press. That's UKIP, with their plans to abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change. No doubt once they get the human rights laws abolished and leave the EU, they'll be able to ignore those pesky supreme court judgments which they disagree with.

The Tory party has good reason to keep quiet. All their "greenest government ever" claims were clearly bollocks; Cameron hasn't seen a Husky dog since that one press event. 

But Labour? Why aren't they exploiting this? With the air-pollution warnings they could have got up and blamed the conservative party for their inactions. With the supreme court judgement they could have got on stage and said "this has to stop". This would have made for headlines, as there were events in the country people could relate to.

Either their campaign team is fucking incompetent or they've made a deliberate decision to shut the fuck up. In the latter case —why? Don't they wan't the green vote? As they need it in some places, such as Bristol West, where the greens appear to be in second place. Why the showing? It's a university area and the students care about their future. The fact that after interviewing Ed Milliband, Russell Brandt went on to endorse the Green Party shows that having a green agenda would be progressive.

Instead, what do we have? The UKIP, the party of the past, one that cares more about death (abolish inheritance tax) and funding dementia research over any other science. The tory party chasing that UKIP vote (inheritance tax, pensions). And the Labour party? Following the Tory party -into the grave.

Friday, 24 April 2015

The eternal roadworks of the BBRP

Rejoice! The Stapleton Staple Hill Tunnel Railway Path closure "6-10 weeks" is due to be complete next month. That's five seven months after it began.

This is good news for cyclists as it means they don't have to suffer cycling through parts of the city that are so unused to cyclists they have to have warning signs up, parts of the city where locals put tacks out in their way. As for the locals —the S Gloucs Electorate— they can stop being held up by cyclists, park their crossover SUV on the pavement outside their house, sit in front of the TV and go read Bristol Evening Post about how an anti-car city is at war with them.

With this tunnel re-opening, those cyclists now only have to deal with

  1. The Lawrence Hill widening: 10 wee
  2. The Bitton-Saltford Resurfacing
  3. The Destructor Bridge dismantling.
These things actually make the Tunnel closure seem like well thought out. It was scheduled over winter, there were signs from the outset, and eventually the council came up with a route that worked: no main roads, no mad residents, low stress.

Lawrence Hill: 

Ten Weeks, goal being to widen the path on one of the busiest stretches of the route. This will be good for walkers and cyclists, though there's one question: why wait for spring, so closing this stretch until June?


Four weeks.

As the BCyC note, the cyclists actually had to push to S Gloucs council to postpone the roadworks until after the whitsun bank holiday. That's the most popular cycle route in the country, and a council proposing to close it over the first weekend of the school half term. Even closing it for the rest of the week is bad enough. 

Apparently S Gloucs council say "Alternative routes will be posted whilst maintenance work is carried out between Bitton & Saltford"

The fact that they have to promise this shows how little thought goes into the work. Imagine the M4 was being shut for repairs. Would they come up with a plan to deal with the traffic volume, or would they have a couple of arrows pointing you to somewhere (The A4? A431? Something that beanders through the back roads which will takes ages but will ensure you rejoin the path alive unless some S Gloucs chav who likes doing country roads at speeds comes round the corner too fast and "loses control". Then, after killing the family, they'll try the "there was nothing I could do gambit" and get off with a light tut-tut from a jury.

Because we can be confident of this

No attempt will be made to provide a safe alternative route, if that route impact the traffic flow of motor vehicles in the area.

you can see that even in Bristol centre: you can get across via staggered toucans —but have they increased the cycle times of the lights to let the cycle traffic through? If they have, it's not working.


This is a "temporary" closure of six months of the river path joining up the railway path with the centre of bath.

Which a pretty lose definition of "temporary". 

And where do they take you on this closure?

they take you from a quiet path

Onto the A4

via a gravel strip
BANES council can't even be arsed to lay down a strip of gravel to ensure that any cyclist diverted to the Bristol Road doesn't get a puncture en-route to fighting for space with buses and tipper trucks. Furthermore: why hasn't it had tarmac already? Does someone want to preserve the "rural"nature of a link to a river from a main road which oozes diesel pollution? 

Were it not for the fact that it'd close the exit for twelve weeks for resurfacing, it'd be worthwhile complaining about this.

What do all these roadworks have in common.

  1. They shut down the railway path -the sole pleasant route between the two cities
  2. They abandon you on alternative routes.
  3. No attempt is made to make these alternative routes safe to cycle on. At best you get yellow signs showing you where to cycle. At worse (Bath), you are left with some random diversion signs on the way in to town -and nothing on the way back.
  4. All but the tunnel have been scheduled over the summer.
If there is a fundamental problem here it is: the BBRP is the only way to get between Bristol and Bath that people on bicycles actually enjoy. It's family friendly, its flat, and nobody fears for their lives. Whenever its closed, then, the councils dump you on the mediocre unpleasantness that lurks alongside the path. 

The presence of the path has allowed the councils to avoid making any infrastructure improvements in parallel. The growing popularity of the path is forcing them to take action, but it's signs and PCSOs telling cyclists to slow down, rather than providing alternative routes.

Why doesn't the A4 Upper Bristol Road into Bath have cycle facilities? Because it's been possible to push the cyclists out the way into a slow-motion conflict with pedestrians. Why will the Bitton-Saltford detour —inevitably— involve one or more of : random back roads with inadequate signage, cyclists-dismount signs, points where you have to pedal for your life across the A4 or along the A431?

It's because the councils don't care. IF S Gloucs council cared about cycling as transport, they'd have more to spend their money on than resurfacing the one path in the region people use, and if they were to do the resurfacing (to be fair, the surface is bad), they'd do it over winter, and/or make sure the path was open on weekends.

As for BANES, they almost make S Gloucs look good. They still look better than North Somerset, but N Somerset are the rural equivalent of Westminster City Council, so that's not saying much. Their sole contribution to cycling is the fact that most one-way streets in the core have formal cyclist contraflows -not that van drivers on phones recognise or accept that. There's nothing to stop them painting bicycle signs on their road for the six months, or to put signs up on the A4 warning drivers of lots of bicycles ahead. But they don't, because they don't care or caren't be arsed.

Welcome to bath: don't cycle

(update: errors in first paragraph corrected from commenters)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Westminster Council killed a cyclist today

North Yorks County Council have just settled in a lawsuit where an unmaintained pothole killed a cyclist. Martyn Uzzell, from North Somerset, may have died from injuries sustained from a collision with a car, but it was the council who was ultimately at fault.

Which is something in common with Westminster Council, who killed a cyclist today.

TfL's decision to not go ahead with their (somewhat inadequate) proposal clearly stated that it was Westminster Council that was against the proposal:
"Having considered responses to consultation, and following concerns voiced by Westminster City Council, we have decided not to proceed with these planned initial improvements at Lambeth Bridge northern roundabout.
"Instead, we will concentrate our resources on developing more substantial improvements that meet the expectations of Westminster City Council and other stakeholders."
"Meet the expectations of Westminster City Council and other stakeholders? This is bollocks that shows up how much power WCC have —and are using it to Keep London Lethal.  Cyclists who cross that junction are the biggest stakeholders: their lives are the ones at stake. Yet WCC "voicing concerns" was enough to stop the proposal.

And as a result, a woman, a Londoner, has died. It's important to use those terms, not "a cyclist', as that puts her in the box of "a cyclist", right next to the belief "cyclists break the laws, it's their own fault". It's not. It sounds like it is directly the fault of the lorry driver -that's something that may surface in court. Though given the Met Police's history, that will only happen because of the witnesses, and even then, it'll be some "careless driving" offence, probably downgraded to 200h community service, without even a driving ban, because the lorry driver would lose their job.

What is predictable is that WCC isn't going to be in the lawsuit, fielding damages. Because opposing change is a more subtle form of wilful neglect than not filling in a pothole. Yet it is just as deadly.

WCC killed a cyclist. They now have no justification for any new proposals for making this junction safe for Londoners to cycle over. Any attempt to do so will highlight just how much more they care about through traffic than safety of Londoners.

TfL need to go back to their CAD tools and come up with a design that is tangibly safe. Then they need to go back to WCC and say "shut the fuck up" when the WCC transport team mutters on about traffic flow. Will TfL do this? It's up in the air. If Boris becomes just the MP for Uxbridge: maybe. If he goes on to become Leader of the Opposition in a parliament where the government is Labour in some form or other, he may be distracted. And without him doing nearly-fuck-all for cycling, unless he still backs Andrew Gillingham, TfL will back down, Westminster will carry on as usual, and more Londoners will die.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

What do we want? A legal system that works

Turn on a television or iPlayer. Look at what the police shows are on in their drama category. go to IMDb see what's there in a collection of detective and police dramas it'll be about murder cases policeman trying to solve them, prosecutors trying to make a name for themselves, lawyers trying to defend the guilty or the innocent. This is what exciting. This is what policing about. This is what the legal system is about. This is why people joined the police.

Now try looking for something about cyclists being run over. Nothing. Maybe lurking in documentaries is something on Britain's shittiest teenage drivers -entertainment. Alongside Top Gear -a comedy that claims to be the BBC's men's show.

Turn on the news. There may be some dramatic stories on their there. Then maybe some tragic deaths but unless it is particularly dramatic it won't be about somebody being hit by a truck, car or bus.

Death by car is not interesting.

Imagine you are a police force. government cuts are coming down telling you you have to save money where are you going to do it? will it being road policing? Or will it be from those incidents which the press will cover and condemn you if you're seen to fail? Road safety doesn't stand a chance.

Imagine you are a CPS prosecutor. You want to do well in your career. You want recognition. you want things on your resume you can be proud of. You don't dream of prosecuting traffic classes -those are the kind of things you get assigned to when your career is going downhill.

The safety of cycling, the prosecution of cyclist deaths? It's not going to get a look in.

Which is of course precisely where we are today.

It's not just the police don't give a fuck -it's that nobody does: nobody in the legal system, and almost nobody in the national press. And the politicians? They don't have all their constituents clamouring for justice, and would rather talk about the "war motorists" than the war by tipper trucks against people.

The Michael Mason case is going to be a showcase issue. The inaction of the Met police is a story on its own. Their PR department knows it's disaster, which is why they put out that "we will prosecute" press release out. Too bad the rest of the police don't see that and are still doing fuck all. No doubt somebody senior gave the press Department a hard time saying "why did you publish this!" -missing the point that management should been saying "why you do nothing". All the police have to do is hand it on to the CPS. Yet they refuse to do that. It's becoming a point of principle: they don't want to surrender to the pressure we are placing on them.

We can all do something here that start by giving money to the justice for Michael campaign. If they get enough money for prosecution that will get the press we need that will show at the Met for who they are: a police force that doesn't care about the lives of cyclists.

Do it now:

High publicity events in London can also be part of this. If one protest was enough to get the press release issued, bigger ones may actually stir the met into action. Hold one over a weekend and the rest of us across Britain can join in.

Getting the police to refer murder-with-car to the prosecution is only the first step. We need decent prosecutors who recognise that road deaths are the primary non-accidental cause of death in the country. We need investigators the care about the problem and do decent investigations for those prosecutors. We need expert witnesses for the prosecution themselves that don't believe "the sun in my eyes" is a valid excuse for killing people. Bez's articles showing up the utter failings of the legal system are a start here. He is documenting the wrongness. Now we need to get the rest of society to read those articles, to recognise the crimes that have been committed and how the police and the legal system are letting killers drive around the streets.

We need a legal system that gives a fuck about cyclists.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The E-W CSH: A disaster for London and Great Britain. Apparently

Last week TfL voted in the E-W CSH.

From the perspective of liveable British cities, this is significant event. It means that Londoners crossing the city by bicycle will be able to do so, confident that they will reach their destination alive. At least once they get to the CSH.

That guarantee "cross London alive" is the same guarantee that the city extends to anyone driving, taking the tube, a bus, or a train across London(*). A guarantee that was not, until this week, available. Until now: hope.

(*) Pedestrians. You are still fucked by TfL and Westminster Council.

If you look at why cycling in London is restricted to the city centre, to bold people (usually 20-25, male), it is that: only people bold and confident would cycle through London, usually with a compelling reason such as "didn't want to wait sit in traffic jams or pay to be crushed in the tube every day". Which is why cycling in the suburbs is less than in the busier, riskier, city centre. There's millions of commuters in London. It only takes a small fraction of them to be bold enough to cycle and you end up with the peak-hour numbers London gets today.

The credit for this should be spread wide. A unified front pushing segregated cycling, rather than vehicular cycling advocates hoping for safety in numbers. If the cycle lane achieves its expected success, then the VC advocates will have little to say. The London cycling bloggers and the reporters in BBC, the Times, the Evening standard and Guardian kept cycling and its safety mainstream. Everyone who protested, saying "this is unacceptable!"

The effort everyone put in to get so many businesses behind it has also to be viewed as critical -it stopped the campaign being viewed as "the metropolitan elite cyclists" vs "the businesses of London".

That is, unless you are the Canary Wharf company, the GMBpro union, the London Taxi Drivers Association and delivery companies, all of whom appear to be using the same text: too sudden, need a trial.

Which as Cyclists in the City notes is not a coincidence.

Canary Wharf appear to be leading the attack. One possible justification is for their CEO's drive to work. There's a more generous one, which is: if it increases the effective distance of Canary Wharf from the City or Westminster, then it potentially reduces the value of Canary Wharf. Is it really going to hurt them? No. It's what it represents: change.

Change that they are not in control of.

The vote signifies the establishment losing a control of the City of London. Arguably, it represents this establishment, the elite of the Baby Boomers, discovering that their power is over, generation X, Y and the Millenials setting the agenda.

Last week, Schroeders published a report arguing that peak car was a generational shift in lifestyle and hence transport; that repeat sales to baby-boomers to result in a static market.

The CSH is open to baby-boomers: it'll be open to anyone. Only, the elite of the baby-boomers don't want to cycle, they're not dutch. They are happy with their motorised lifestyle -apart from the congestion and delays, obviously. The CSH is a complete attack on their way of life: something that represents the future, shows that the future is not the status quo -and that this future is being designed by others.

They feel threatened, they don't want it, and presumably expected to kill this. Except they haven't. They've tried the classic tactics: discreet words in people's ears, off the record briefings and lobbying at party conferences. Not only has it failed, that lobbying and briefing itself has shown up the old guarded. Canary Wharf's management are tainted.

Which is why, presumably, Canary Wharf itself didn't personally email the TfL board. Instead they appear to have drafted the letters for others to send. It's notable here that the timing is similar, they all had the email addresses of the board, and there's a few recurrent phrases. "laudable" is a key one, as "its sweet but unrealistic to care about the lives of cyclists". There's also that classic "environmental impact" phrase. It's not the cyclists causing the pollution problems, so stop trying to make them or TfL feel guilty about it. No organisation that drives diesel vehicles in city centres is in a position to complain about the environmental impact of cycle paths. Then there's the introduction, which usually starts with "support in principle, however..." ,as a way of making clear they don't support the idea if it comes anywhere near them.

Let's look at the letters that came in.

Jan 29th: Federation of small businesses. Welcomes work to improve cyclist safety. However... Makes the point that 3 months is hard for them to plan around it. Of course, they've really had 6+ months.

Jan 30th: Dr Leon Mannings, Motorcycle Action Group. Cites PhD, then "greatest level of new constraints on vehicular road use ever to be imposed anywhere in the UK". (Clearly Leon's PhD missed the "what is a vehicle?" section). Assumes that motor traffic is inelastic/only going to rise, CSH will cause congestion, air-pollution and misery for all.

"The laudable objectives are to improve safety for riders of a mode that currently facilitates around 3% of transport by road in London, and to deliver a dramatic the centre. [Dr Manning uses city-wide numbers, not c-zone numbers, to minimise cyclist percentage]"

"However...laudable...the negative impacts on the other 90+% of road users will be greater than poosal in the history of UK transport policy...moreover increase congestion and environmental and economic problems."

...Discusses impact of safety to motorbikes, segues into motorcycle based paramedics/police and how lives are threatened. More specifically

this scheme as currently proposed will increase the risk of injury of death for PTW riders -and significantly resuce the avantages that PTW's offer for essential journeys

Leon could have made a better argument focusing on the safety of motorbikes. As it is, his "biggest UK transport changes, restrictions on vehicular movements and congestion & pollution" claims make him sound like he hates the very idea of cycle paths.

Jan 30th: British Beer and Pub Association

This organisation comes over as odd. No organisation claiming to represent supermarkets, chip shops and kebab vendors has criticised the proposals. Yet those businesses need to unload their products. The BBPA claims to represent owners of 40% of pubs and 90% of the beer produced. This implies that they are the beer manufacturers with their tied/owned pubs. These are not the independents and the microbreweries.

"support the improvement of road safety for all road users in London and elsewhere, however"..."100 delivery accounts"..."dangerous to cyclists"..."and to delivery staff who will need to cross busy cycle lanes". "pub businesses will be affected as it is conceivable that distributors will find it simply too risky to deliver"

"we support cycle superhighways but feel there should be a hold on development until there's a resolution"..."cycle superhighway safety from deliveries"

Then they propose: a trial with removable markings.

The behaviour of this organisation has to be called out as outstandingly bad. They are arguing that the fact that they don't know how to deliver beer over a cycle path as a reason to halt the most transformational cycling project in Britain. And, given their objection is to delivering beer over any cycle path, they are against segregated cycle paths in Britain. What do they want instead? Presumably they want shit-paint cycle ways which their vans can park in. For years they've been doing that, yet only now, as safe cycling routes get delivered, do they suddenly start claiming to care about cyclist safety.

They could do some research here. Two obvious tactics spring to mind.
  1. Look at their member list, identify any who have major NL or CPH operations and say "find out what they do". Heineken UK, for example. Or Carlsberg.
  2. Ask cyclists: "would you prefer sharing a lane with an HGV, or have to deal with some vans delivering beer across the path?"

But no, they call for an immediate halt and the bollocks "trial with cones" story. That won't offer tangible safety, won't get serious takeup, and will let them say "it's a failure: stop it everywhere". Should cyclists boycott pubs in retaliation? No: only the big brewer's beers and their tied houses. Look up members of the the society of independent brewers and drink their beers at independent pubs. Indeed, that could be a good national protest couldn't it: a "cyclists don't let friends drink BPA-member's beers" 

 Feb 2: CBI
"support in principle"..."want more information for planning", All well and good, until the phrase "any threats to London's transport network must be fully communicated in advance". What the fuck?

The CSH is considered threat to London's transport network? And of course they close with "balanced network for both motorists and cyclists". Fine. Let's count the number of roads with safe cycling facilities, the number of roads without them: and push for balance. The CBI have said that balance is what they want, so lets call them out on it. For every lane-mile of road within then M25 ring, cyclists deserve the equivalent. Anything else would be an unbalanced network. From that perspective, the E-W CSH constitutes a fraction of the lane capacity of the Chiswick Flyover: there's going to be a lot more cycle paths out there before balance can be achieved.

 Feb 2: GMB Professional Drivers Branch

This is clearly the diesel-head part of the GMB trade union. This branch doesn't like change. "request your reconsideration" ... "major flaws"..."increased journey times", "increased emissions" Notice how its always people on bicycles that get blamed for "increased emissions".

Nobody driving a diesel vehicle in the city has the right to blame the cyclists for their increased NO2 emissions.

With the exception of black cab and red bus drivers, everyone had a choice of what kind of engine to drive. Don't blame the cyclists for GMB pro members going for diesel. They eventually get round to concluding that it "could prove disastrous on the economics of London and indeed of the whole of the UK". This is potentially the first time that anyone has accused a cycle path of threatening the economics of Britain.

Feb 2: Freight Transport Association and Road Haulage Association
This is the letter known to have come from Canary Wharf. "support the superhighway approach in principal", "improve safety for cyclists"..."however"..."a sensible balance between the needs of different road users". OK. Let's have some balance. Here are some basic needs of different road users.
  • Londoners on bicycles: get home alive.
  • Londoners walking: get home alive.
  • Londoners not walking or cycling: get home alive.
This is currently unbalanced. The people not on bicycles or foot don't have to worry about dying before they get home. That puts the "sensible balance" needs into perspective doesn't it?

If you oppose safe cycling options in the city you are saying "your journey time matters more than the lives of others" Their letter goes on to talk about deliveries, emissions, costs etc. But assuming that the whole letter was ghost-written by Canary Wharf, who gives a fuck what the rest of it says. It's just Canary Wharf choreographing opposition with a list of talking points.

Feb 2: UPS

Notice this flurry of emails on Jan 2? Often with that opening phrase "we support in principle". These could all be a sign that Canary Wharf management provided the bullet points to use when drafting a message.

Here's UPS's "not opposed in principle"..."but are concerned"..."damaging impact on our operations"..."will ultimately hinder business growth in the capital" Got that: the barrier to business growth in London is UPS's delivery timetable. Delay that and London will fall. Therefore the UPS delivery schedule is more important than the lives of cyclists.

Feb 2: Association of Internation Courier and Express Services ..."supports TfL's objective to ensure that cycling in London is safer and where possible to ensure properly segregated lanes". This is calm, balanced request for some time to help get their issues about more delivery space resolved. Of all the letters, this is the one that does not imply that the CSH will destroy London. Even so, that, "where possible" is a warning sign.

In contrast, the RAC foundation:

Feb 3: RAC Foundation Argues that the 38M investment will cost London 200M, and that it is real damage to "bus users, business and commerce in the heart of a world financial centre which is a vital engine of economic prosperity for the UK economy." There's not even a mention of saved lives. There's no "We support it in principle, however..". The RAC foundation has just come out and argued against it on economics. If ever anyone felt that the RAC foundation cared about people: if you cycle, they don't. They care about press and TV, are happy to make press events to discuss a future of self-driving cars, but don't care about the live of of cyclists, today.

Feb 3: DHL "we support your work", "however we share the concerns of the FTA and RHA". As it arrives a day after, they may have just been cc:'d a copy of the FTA/RHA "canary wharf" letter, rather than had this drafted by canary wharf.

Feb 3: London Chamber of Commerce
Want more details on economic impact. No mention of cyclist safety.

There you go: CBI views this as a threat to the London transport network, GMB Pro a threat to the entire country. Brewers and Pub association a threat to the very existence of pubs in his country. And the RAC foundation: they don't give a fuck about cyclists and use the "economic prosperity of Britain" as their argument against.

The good news: their letters didn't stop the vote. The briefings failed, the "lets have a trial" arguments dismissed.

Nor did the people who sit on the board -and didn't need to bother with the letters. There's no emails from the LTDA, nothing from Canary Wharf itself. With their members on the board: no need.

Yet something profound happened instead. The people who have influence changed. And the old guard? They may have just pissed off Boris. Who may be leader of the Conservative party in six months, while still Mayor of London.

While the vote went through, it's highlited the difference between that old guard and the future inheritors of the city. The business "spokesman" organisations: CBI, London Chamber of Commerce -they come out as particularly out of touch, criticising the moves as if the CSH project is not for the benefit of the staff of its member, or indeed its customers.

Every organisation that came out in support of the CSH needs to check their membership of these organisations, then get in touch and say: you didn't speak for us. Ask them to start qualifying your statements or change their position, because they are not representative of the future economy of London.