How to Make London's Roads Safer for Cyclists
L ondon's roads have become better suited to cyclists in recent years but two recent fatalities prove there is much work to be done. As the nights draw in and journeys become more difficult, it's time to look at the measures that cyclists, drivers and mayor Sadiq Khan must all undertake to keep our capital's cyclists safe through winter. Even after all the campaigns encouraging cyclists to make themselves visible, many on the city's roads fail even to abide by the legal requirements for night-time riding. The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations requires cyclists to use front and rear lights at night as well as front and rear reflectors. The rear light must be placed on the saddle stem - and not concealed by clothing - or on the right-hand seat stay, putting it on the same side as traffic. Legally, it should also be positioned between 35cm and 1.5 metres from the ground, though you should aim for the higher end of that range to ensure visibility. The cheapest rear light will emit about 20 lumens but we recommend going at least for a mid-range one of about 50 lumens, to a maximum of 75. If your commute is confined to reasonably well-lit urban streets then purchase one with a brightness of at least 200 lumens, which is the same strength as a typical car's front light. If your journey home sends you into dark, country lanes, however, go for one than can pump out as much as 500 lumens. T here is no legal requirement to wear high-visibility clothing though every good cyclist should know its benefits. As well as hardy perennials such as florescent jackets and Same Browne waistband belts, it is worth considering ankle or spoke reflectors, even if the latter is often anathema to those concerned with bike aesthetics. "Both are brilliant because a car-driver will notice moving lights more than static ones," says Tony Doyle, a former professional cyclist, who frequently rides in the city. The same principle makes flashing lights more visible to drivers, though you need to weigh that up against the fact that a driver is better able to judge distance to a bike with a static light. T he social media site Strava has helped cyclists to connect in ways that was not previously possible and made riding a more rewarding experience by both breaking down the statistics of each journey and comparing riders' times on different segments of roads. The problem is that, for the more reckless riders, Strava has turned cities into a series of time-trial routes in which they constantly try to better their own times and others'. The site allows riders to flag any hazardous' routes that should be exempt from segmentation but those are few and far between, certainly in London, ensuring that the site's affect on road safety remains a source of contention. For while Strava has successfully fought court cases alleging its responsibility for accidents in the United States, it has arguablymade commuting a more competitive activity. "There is more organised bike-racing and bike circuits in the South East than any other part of the country," Doyle says. "If Mamils want to race then they would be far better off going to the Lea Valley Park circuit, to the velodrome at Herne Hill , to Crystal Palace or the road circuit over in Hillingdon , rather than tearing through town. It's crazy. "If we want London to enjoy a cycling culture similar, say, to Copenhagen or Amsterdam, we should be riding our bikes in similar manner to its inhabitants, which means being controlled, calm and respectful of other road users." T he statistics relating to fatal accidents and heavy-goods vehicles in London have reached crisis point. HGVs account for half of cyclist fatalities in the capital and a fifth of pedestrian deaths, hence mayor Sadiq Khan's recently announced plan to ban all dangerous HGVS from the city's roads by 2020. His proposal involves giving all lorries a safety rating between zero to five based on the drivers' level of visibility. By January 2020, those graded zero essentially construction-work lorries with a high cab and tall wheel clearance will be excluded from the city. By 2024, a truck will need a three-star rating to enter the city. C ycling campaign groups welcomed Khan's plan, but a good number had reservations about its ambition. Some felt the timeframe given for it was too long, while others said that HGVs have no place in the city at all, especially during the working day. This argument gathered force with the two recent cyclist fatalities in the city. Filippo Corsini , a young Italian nobleman, and the Italian woman Luciani Ciccolini were both killed after lorries struck them. "I would ban lorries altogether," says Emily Chappell, the author of What Goes Around; A London Cycle Courier's Story . "It's intolerable that we put up with something so dangerous and so inconvenient to other road-users. "Those vehicles that absolutely need to be in the city - say, on construction sites - should be escorted while on the roads and subject to more stringent safety measures than are currently in place. But your standard delivery vehicles could easily stop at depots outside the city centre, say, with their goods decamped into smaller vehicles or cargo bikes. It might be an inconvenience for the drivers and businesses, but this is a question of life and death." T he relationship between car drivers and cyclists has improved with the sport's surge in popularity over the past decade but anyone who rides the city's roads will tell you that mutual hostility still exists, with both tribes believing the other is the most irresponsible with regard to road safety and a hot-tempered confrontation rarely more than one jumped traffic light away. Chappell, for example, insists cyclists are unfairly maligned for not adhering to the Highway Code, insisting that our culture permits car drivers and pedestrians to commit just as many infringements as cyclists without criticism. "I am geek for the Highway Code," she says. "I ostentatiously abide by it, almost to make a point. But it's a myth that cyclists are more reckless with the rules of the road. A lot of pedestrians walkout on the road at zebra crossings, a lot ofcar drivers speed,blastthrough red lights or usetheir phones while driving. But cyclists seem to be the ones who get it in the neck." W hile admitting her bias, Chappell believes this cultural problem stems partly from the misguided belief that cyclists rank below car-drivers in the road hierarchy. "The fact is that cyclists have as much right to be on a B road as a car or any other vehicle," she says. T hat means car drivers should not lose patience with cyclists who slow the traffic and should think very carefully before attempting to overtake them. "The only way to change attitudes and improve people's awareness of the road hierarchy is through campaigning. It will be long, hard process, much like the drink-driving campaigns of the 1980s, but that worked. Culturally it has become unacceptable now. That's the kind of change we need to bring about." A s the numbers of people riding to work continues to grow, it is easy for those returning to the bike after a long time away from it to think that they have nothing left to learn. The truth is, roads are busier now than in decades past, the rules of the road are constantly updated and what we picked up in our youth is easily forgotten. Best, then, to avail of the free adult classes available in most London boroughs, whether through the National Standard for Cycle Training or Bikeability , which has replaced the old cycling proficiency scheme. The latter has three levels but do not think you need to complete the full programme. "Just train to the level you're comfortable with and then go higher if you wish," says Ashok Sinha, chief executive of the London Cycling Campaign . "The important thing is to make a start." S tate authorities could help by making Bikeability a compulsory part of the school curriculum."We believe that every schoolchild should get at least the minimum level of training," Sinha adds. The former major Boris Johnson's foreign policy might have divided the nation but it was hard to argue against the good work he did for cyclists, rolling out the Boris Bikes, while investing in both the Cycle Super Highway and the 100million Mini-Holland cycle path-network programme across three boroughs. I t is important now that Khan makes good on his pledge to build on this legacy and transform London from a city partially suited to cyclists to one that will eventually rank alongside the best in Holland and Denmark, the countries that set the standard for cycling provisions within their urban infrastructure. Specifically, Khan needs to realise his commitment to triple the amount of protected space for cycling in London by the end of his four-year term. That means improving the design of both the 33 worst junctionsidentified by the London Cycling Campaign and the especially busy thoroughfares that the LCC hastargeted as being in need of improvement. These include the stretch of roads running from Old Street roundabout to Oxford Street, carrying thousands of cyclists a day, and Oxford Street itself, which Khan has promised to make motor traffic-free.Several studies have found that such measures significantly cut the number of collisions and injuries to cyclists. "At their best, the Cycle Super Highways match the Dutch standards, in terms of width, physical separation from motor traffic and the quality of the junctions, but this isn't always the case,"says Simon Munk, infrastructure campaigner at LCC. "The ultimate goal is a network of tracks , so that as many people as possible can make door-to-door journeys without encountering significant barriers in between." D rivers in London could learn from Addison Lee, the taxi firm who recently asked LCC for advice on how best to incorporate cycling into their driver-training courses. The Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association recommend cycling-awareness training, too, though the law could go further. The LCC believes that lorry-drivers, for one, should be required to take a Safer Urban Driving module as part of their Certificate of Professional Development, while all car-users should be more closely examined on cycling-awareness in the driving test. "We need to make sure drivers stay aware of cyclists and understand the kind of things that might risk collisions," Sinha said. Finally, though being told toensureyour bike is set up properly might sound like elementary advice,scores of commuters use bikes that have not been properly adjusted to fit them. Most frequently, their saddle is set at the wrong height or the handlebar stem is the incorrect length, making for a less comfortable journey and, more importantly, undermining your control of the bike. "In London, I'd say about one in two people on the road haven't had their position set up correctly," Doylesays. "It's incredible, especially when your local bike shop will do a sight-test for customers for free."A frequent commuter could also consider a professional fit, whether a traditional one using a plumbline and gonimeter, to measure angles, or a modern, computerised version that simulates your pedal stroke to model your ideal position on the bike. "You see a lot of people in the city riding flat-footed or with their heel because it's easier or just lazy," Doyle adds. "They should be riding on the balls of their feet, which gives you better control of the bike." R obertDineen's bookKings of the Road; A journey into the heart of British cycling (Aurum Press) is out now. Telegraph Media Group Limited 2019 Need help? Visit our adblocking instructions page.