#space4cycling protest rides reflect growing anger at slow progress by TfL, Mayor and councils

French student killed whilst riding Boris Bike

Image via Evening Standard

After the death of 20-year old French student Philippine De Gerin-Ricard and 54-year old Alan Neve, London cyclists took to the street to voice their frustration at the lack of progress in creating safer streets for cycling.

The first protest ride attracted 1500 cyclists and the second around 2500. They were organised by the LCC in collaboration with London’s cycling bloggers, who put out rallying calls across social media.

Both the deaths involved a lorry and were widely reported across London’s media.

Philippine De Gerin-Ricard

Philippine De Gerin-Ricard was in London for just 4 months, to improver her English as part of her business studies education. She was cycling on a Boris Bike along Cycle Superhighway 2. Due to the roadworks, she was forced in a tight position, sharing the road with a lorry. She died of her injuries.

The protest ride started on the 12th of July at 6pm from Tower Hill. A moments silence was held on the junction between Whitechapel Road and Commercial Street, where the fatal crash occurred.

The LCC said:

“Cyclists of all abilities, including children, are expected to jockey for position among lorries, cars, motorbikes, buses and taxis, with only a smattering of ineffective blue paint and a few bike symbols to protect them. Until the Mayor and Transport for London accept that on London’s busiest roads clear space for cycling must be allocated, then cycling fatalities such as these will continue to happen regularly and cycling growth will be stifled.”

According to Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor’s cycling commissioner, improvements are planned to the area.

Alan Neve

Alan Neve was cycling to work in Holborn during rush hour when he was hit by a tipper truck.

The protest ride took place on 16th of July, travelling from Russell Square to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, pausing at the site of the fatality to pay respects to the victim.

Cyclists continue to be banned from the bus lane that avoids the Holborn junction where Alan was killed. In fact, just weeks before the incident, the police were out fining cyclists taking that route.

Time for action

It’s excellent to see these protest rides being so well attended and gathering media attention. I hope that they’ll continue to be used to spread the message and put pressure on authorities.

Since Boris Johnson came to office, there have been 68 cyclist fatalities. Approximately half of these have involved a Heavy Goods Vehicle.

When I first launched London Cyclist Blog, there was no coherent message coming out of cycling campaign groups. There were calls for lower speed limits, banning HGV’s in city centres and campaigns to share the road.

The message is now much more simple:

Safe space for cycling

It appears the Mayor is listening and grand promises have been made. However, progress on the ground has been slow. Improvements to the cycle superhighways have been scheduled but they are still a few years away. It’s sad to think of the number of people that will have to lose their lives before we finally get a London fit for cycling.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

18 Responses to #space4cycling protest rides reflect growing anger at slow progress by TfL, Mayor and councils

  1. The Ranty Highwayman 17/07/2013 at 11:09 pm #

    I think you have summed up the mood…

  2. marco 18/07/2013 at 8:21 pm #

    I think too little is said about being careful to avoid dangers and accidents in the first place. I hope my comment won’t attract angry answers, but reflection.

    I’m a frequent cyclist, and I don’t own a car nor use one since almost 6 years.

    When cycling I often witness fellow cyclists riding carelessly, doing reckless manoeuvres, almost distracted, as nobody else was on the streets and they were in a big square.

    When I meet a HGV, just as when I see a kid for opposite reasons, a bell in my brain rings “danger, keep as away as possible”, while I see lots of others doing exactly as the HGV or kid wasn’t there, not even reducing their speed or changing trajectory, just assuming the HGV or kid won’t swerve an inch from its path, with narrow misses or some brushing. Many cyclists, like most cars on the roads, always seem to be going somewhere hugely urgent and to be unable to stop and wait for half a minute when it’d be sensible to do so.

    Let’s be careful assuming that better infrastructures alone would eliminate all accidents or doing as it was always someone else’s fault. When cycling we’re extremely vulnerable: if we hit, or let ourselves to be hit by, literally anything except a pedestrian, the consequences for us can be tragic, it’s s fact of life: so when cycling we MUST be extra careful, we must actively avoid danger.

    Time ago, while riding to work one morning at 8:30, a car swiftly overtook me from behind and suddenly steered left at a junction, obviously without even seeing me or signalling, and knocked me on the tarmac, ending up with its left wheels on my bike’s wheels. I jumped and was uninjured. It all happened before I could even “see” it. This sort of accident is unavoidable by the cyclist since we can’t look behind us, but many of the reported fatal accidents, don’t seem like this. I would never find myself in the blind spot of a lorry to begin with, even if it is the driver’s duty to be extra careful about it. At a junction of traffic lights, bycicles belong either in front or behind of buses and lorries, and never on their sides.

    I cycled around Holborn, and the spot of one of these accidents, for more than a year at peak times with lots of heavy traffic. While not ideal, I never had a problem there: it takes a lot of care and caution surely.

    Since indeed the infrastructures could be better and the lorry divers more careful, if we only mention these two things, the risk is we become self-righteous and less careful, and therefore more prone to accidents, while our city becomes the ideal cycling city.

    Having said all that, cab drivers are often awful, especially for example around Victoria Station and Hyde Park Corner.

    • Nick 19/07/2013 at 11:16 am #

      Marco, I totally agree with you on this, we have a go at motorist telling them to pay attention, but I see that same cyclist pass another cyclist to jump a set of lights, THIS MUST STOP! We want to be treated equally but many bad cyclists ruin it for the rest of us.

      I’m no fair weather cyclist, I ride all year around rain or shine (I draw the line at ice and snow). Winter has a few hard core riders, but with the nice weather obviously you see a rise in the number of cyclist (who think they know how to ride London). Many are riding badly serviced bikes and putting themselves in positions that make me cringe or attempt to undertake lorries on the blind side and wonder why the lorry didn’t see them.

      I hate hearing of cycling related deaths, it’s a sport I have loved for many years and I’m pleased to see a rise in the number of cyclists, but we need to make sure these people pay attention and not put themselves in danger, and for the love of it, stop running red lights, if you’re late perhaps leave earlier.

  3. Vincent 18/07/2013 at 10:01 pm #

    Thanks for the article.

    I’m located in Paris where I cycle every day, and just got back from a two-week trip in the UK, with a few days spent cycling around London.

    The article sums up the impression I had cycling there: Even with over twenty years’ experience riding motorcycles and bicycles in the city, I didn’t feel safe. Between double-deckers and bozos driving luxury cars who only know two speeds (0 and 40 m/h), I found riding a bike in London quite stressful, which was unexpected since British drivers are otherwise very good drivers.

    But then, that was the situation over here ten years ago before some political decision was made to encourage bikes and reduce the space left to lorrie/cars. We’re nowhere near what it’s like in NL/DK, a.k.a. bike heaven, but it just shows that nothing relevant can be achieved without serious, decade-long political will.

    Rising petrol/gas prices should help getting there, but it’s too bad politicians don’t anticipate. It’s all the more stupid, since London, like NYC, is a flat city with large streets so, apart from the weather, it’s ideal for riding bikes.

    But then, with someone like Boris Johnson in charge, I’m not holding my breath :-/

  4. Andreas 19/07/2013 at 2:26 am #

    Marco – a valid reply. There’s a lot to be said for taking a cycle safety course and being a cautious cyclist, who knows the dangers.

    Unfortunately, we can’t rely on just that. The majority of cyclists out there won’t know about the techniques you describe, they won’t take a cycle training course and they’ll probably never hear about it (if only more people read London Cyclist!). Unless we’ve got an endless budget for advertising or we force people to take cycle training – they’ll continue to cycle as they always have done.

    Important point: this is not to say that cyclists who are involved in incidents are always clueless about “advanced urban cycling techniques”.

    By re-thinking the way our roads are laid out we can reduce the number of dangerous situations cyclists are put in to.

    You have to remember that this infrastructure isn’t really for you and me but it’s for all the people who want to take up cycling but feel too scared to do so.

    That is a far larger audience then the number of cyclists out there currently. That’s why bloggers say: This isn’t infrastructure for cyclists, it’s infrastructure for cycling.

    As Vincent states, in other cities with different policies, there are far less deaths by Heavy Goods Vehicles. That suggests that this problem can be eliminated and in those cities they didn’t pursue a “let’s hope all cyclists are a little more cautious” strategy, instead they aimed to eliminate the problem through policies and road design.

    Hope that helps explain the position a little better

  5. Dave 19/07/2013 at 10:37 am #

    Perhaps we should all be more proactive and challenge all bad practice. I now stop guys if I see them zipping along the pavement and remonstrate with drivers in the cycle box and motorcyclists that pass too close I do get a bit of abuse, but also get thanks or apologies

    • Mark 19/07/2013 at 1:08 pm #

      id like to know how you approach a motorcyclist who zips past too fast? normally they are long gone?

      also, what do u say to people in Advance stop boxes? ive tried a few times, only to get ignored and then revved at when the lights turn amber, once i had a taxi driver say sorry and babble some excuse. but i had already watched him cruise into the box after the lights had been red for ages and the road was empty (it was 11pm)…..

      regarding advance stop boxes, i heard that police were going to clamp down, well i wish they would. the boxes have been in use for soooooooooo long and drivers have been allowed to get away with going into them for soooooooooo long now that its beyond a joke!
      motorbikes in them arent so bad, but when its full of motorbikes it takes the biscuit!

      dave, ever tried telling a motorocyclist they shudnt be in the box? i havent had the nerve! let me know if u did and what they said! 🙂

  6. Mark 19/07/2013 at 1:05 pm #

    regarding the route that is banned for cyclists –

    who cares if it is contraflow or not. there is a solid white line between bus and oncoming traffic. solid line = do not cross. eg no overtaking. so bus stays behind bike, or more common in my world, bus is too slow and bike stays behind bus.
    its only 200m for gods sake, so who cares if its a 60 second delay!?!!?!?! Crying

  7. Mark 19/07/2013 at 1:10 pm #

    is critical mass banned? there needs to be something drastic to happen to wake up the powers that be? its summer, sun shining, critical mass every friday focusing on a different dangerous junction each week would surely draw some attention?

  8. Dave 19/07/2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Well, Mark

    at Stop boxes I say”I’m sure that you are unaware that you face a penalty of 60 pounds and 3 points”
    Best answer “Thank you I didn’t know that, I won’t do it again”
    Worst Answer, from a female cop “F… Off” as she wheeled away

    Motor cyclists “You shouldn’t come so close, if I had been indicating a turn you would be lying I’m the road now”
    Best answer “sorry mate”
    Worst answer “What?”

    Drivers of car/van/bus that swat me in passing seem to get broken mirror soon after
    Best answer (hooting)
    Worst answer (van driver, trying to catch me in heavy traffic, on foot)

    Keep the Faith

  9. Mark 21/07/2013 at 10:20 am #

    Hmm yea sometimes I’ve been tempted to boot the wing mirror off. Never done it though.
    as for remonstrating with people. Well done keep it up 🙂

    • Tyviano 22/07/2013 at 9:47 pm #

      Hey Mark, I gotta say that Critical Mass just reinstates all those negative stereotypes that other road users and pedestrians have of cyclists.
      CM to me was simply all Cyclists V the rest of the World and 2 fingers up to the highway code and law abiding citizens. I’ve only ridden it once and found it quite empowering to be in the Mass but felt that it gained absolutely nothing for the cause except for more enemies.
      I don’t know what the answer is but a movement that promotes the better side of our cycling community is needed.

  10. Dave 21/07/2013 at 10:33 am #

    Hi Mark

    Thanks for your encouragement!

    I wouldn’t encourage deliberate vandalism, It’s just a strange phenomenon, every time I catch up and pass the vehicle their mirror falls off. Do you think I am picking up their bad habit and passing too close?

    • Mark 22/07/2013 at 12:25 pm #

      lol, i dont have th guts for “that strange phenomenon” either!

  11. Dave 22/07/2013 at 10:30 pm #

    I just wish that people didn’t stereotype all motorists or all cyclists as one thing or another. There are some drivers that are hostile and some cyclists that break the law.

    And some like me remonstrate with both sides. I have stopped adults from riding on pavements and motorists from encroaching on cycle ways.

  12. MrCommuter 24/07/2013 at 1:01 pm #

    I have just returned from France on a sponsored L2P and despite my colleagues and family’s disbelief that I was willing to cycle through Paris, I can honestly say that I would rather cycle the busy routes in Paris than the busy routes in London any day. (There are also many lovely cycling areas in London of course but my comments are about people’s reluctance to share roads).

    The general attitude towards cyclists here is not good and at the end of the day, it is rarely more than impatience aired by drivers who adopt generalised anti-cyclist sentiments as the default excuse to disregard our safety. Having said that I want to balance the equation, for every idiot in a vehicle, there are 20 that seem to respect our place on the road and our vulnerability. But then again, of a row of 20 vehicles, it only takes one impatient driver to kill a cyclist.

  13. MrCommuter 24/07/2013 at 1:04 pm #

    When cycling out of London last week, I was in a single file of about 10 other cyclists. A big E-class Merc overtook and turned left literally pushing in half way through the line of cyclists.

    One cyclist was almost knocked off, and the one behind him had to partially steer into the left turn along with the Merc to avoid being knocked off. The Merc then spun its wheels and raced up the hill away from the scene.

    One might argue that we shouldn’t have been in a row of 10 bicycles, but that’s not much longer than a bus or articulated lorry or even a queue of cars come to that. Besides, was it really a good enough excuse to indiscriminately risk knock us off?

  14. Dave 24/07/2013 at 2:40 pm #

    I know how shocked at the time one is so Reg numbers aren’t in the fore front of your thinking, but that is definitely assault if not hit and run.

    I was cycling to work this am and arrived at a scene where a cyclist was crossing an intersection on Lea Bridge road with a green light a truck facing him turned right onto his path and he hit it full on

    For Boris

    ” How many deaths will it take till he knows, that too many people have died?

    Bob Dylan

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