Monday, 23 March 2015

A Manifesto for Better Justice for Victims of Criminal Driving and Their Families

Last week, Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds NW launched the Manifesto for Better Justice for Victims of Criminal Driving and Their Families.

The main points:

  • Replace the charges of Careless Driving and Dangerous Driving with a single charge - "Prosecutors appear to be opting for lesser careless driving charges because it is easier to secure a conviction, even when a dangerous driving charge may appear to be more appropriate, for example when the death has clearly resulted from illegal and risky behaviour, such as driving on drugs, without a licence, while using a mobile, or speeding. Driving that has killed or caused serious harm is inherently dangerous, not merely 'careless',and that the term ‘careless’ undermines the gravitas of the offence.
  • Increase maximum sentence thus:
    • Increase the maximum penalty for Dangerous Driving from 2 years to 5 years 
    • Increase the maximum sentence for Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving from 5 years to 14 years
    •  Increase the maximum sentence for failing to stop following a fatal or serious injury crash – to bring in much stiffer penalties for hit and run drivers
    • Increase the maximum sentence for Causing Death by and Causing Serious Injuries by Driving Unlicensed, Disqualified or Uninsured from 2 years to 14 years
  • Tougher sentences for those driving while disqualified
  • Making driving licence suspension an automatic condition of bail in cases of dangerous and careless drivers who have seriously injured or killed. "Drivers who kill and maim should be taken off the road once they are charged, as a condition of bail. If you are a teacher being investigated for misconduct, you are immediately suspended from teaching in school to protect pupils. If you are a doctor suspected of malpractice, you are immediately suspended from practising medicine to ensure no patients are harmed. Yet if you are charged with seriously injuring or killing someone because of your bad driving, you are allowed to keep driving until you are sentenced in court, despite the fact that nine in 10 drivers (89%) charged with indictable motoring offences, such as causing death by driving, are convicted" 
  • After a fatal collision, there must not be undue police pressure to clear the roads and the police must also be more empowered to confiscate vehicles. Do you hear that, Boris Johnson?
  • Officers and investigators must be thoroughly trained and regularly tested on their knowledge
  • Appoint an experienced prosecutor to receive specialist training in driving offences in each Crown Prosecution Service area
  • Government should introduce national standards requiring judges and magistrates to receive appropriate training and advice on traffic offences, including discussion of case studies, to encourage them to implement appropriately tough charges and penalties
  • Independent review of CPS decisions not to charge or to charge for a lesser offence that the victim's family deems appropriate
  • The Department for Transport should stop describing incidents of criminal driving as “accidents” 
  • Police forces should be obliged to implement recommendations of the IPCC At present, in the unlikely event that the toothless IPCC rules against the Police, the latter can simply ignore the ruling
The manifesto has been sent to Home Secretary Theresa May, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. Put together with cross-party support, the manifesto has also been sent to all MPs and all three of the main political parties.

Vision Zero urges all readers to write to their own MP and ask them to support the Manifesto. It is an important step to change the culture of the Police and the Judiciary, so that they start treating traffic violence, the number one cause of killing in London, seriously. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The charade hasn't stopped

TfL just released collision figures for the bus network it regulates for the last quarter of 2014. (We will have to wait until June for pedestrian casualties on the road network; meanwhile, as of writing, already at least 14 pedestrians have been massacred in 2015).

Tom Kearney, whom all Londoners need to thank for prising these figures from TfL, has conveniently summarised the main points. Essentially on average London buses send to the hospital between one and two people a day, due to collisions. Ten people were killed in 2014. Here is one of the victims, mercilessly mowed down on the most dangerous (and most polluted) street in the country.

Tom has copiously written about the criminal behaviour of Transport for London's management, the collusion with the corrupt Metropolitan Police and the scandalous silence of local and national media. But this country never learns from its scandals and cover ups.

Here, we point out what a nice little charade the TfL/Met Police racket has concocted to fool Londoners in thinking that they take safety seriously.

Let's say that a bus driver, hassled by a controller to speed up (otherwise he loses his bonus), endangers you by overtaking you and then immediately cutting in front of you. If you don't stop, the 12,000kg vehicle will end your life. You keep your calm, thank your deity for letting you savour life a bit longer, whip out your phone and take pictures of the bus and the driver.

Here is an example:

When you are next online, you report the incident on RoadSafe , a Met Police website, "provided to allow the public to pass information, in confidence, about criminal, nuisance and anti-social behaviour on the roads of London".

Up to last year, you will have received this response: 

"Transport for London (TfL) has a specialist team who investigate complaints of this nature and so your e-mail has been passed to them.  If any further information is required, they will contact you direct."

"A specialist team" which however never contacts you back, nor tells you the result of the promised "investigation". If you write to them asking news, you would receive the following: 

"Our drivers are trained specifically in relation to standards of safety whilst operating vehicles around cyclists. We expect our drivers to be mindful of cyclists and drive with due care and diligence. London’s bus drivers receive comprehensive training and poor driving standards are unacceptable. I have made [the Bus Co.] aware of your complaint and appropriate action will be taken. As you have included the registration number of the bus, they will be able to identify and interview the driver."

Note "our drivers". When pressed a bit harder, TfL's specialist team will respond so:

I can confirm [the Bus Co.] are looking into this matter and they will identify the driver from the registration number' They will view the CCTV from the bus and interview the driver about his driving behaviour, and follow this up with appropriate action in line with their procedures. This can range from re-training, a verbal or written warning and to dismissal for more serious incidents. 
Unfortunately, Transport for London (TfL) is not informed of the full outcome of disciplinary interviews, as they are a confidential matter between the operator and their employee. We will therefore not be able to give you any details. I can assure you all operators take remedial 
action when drivers fail in their duties."

Obviously you don't fall for this bullshit and you ask how is TfL assured that remedial action is taken. This is what you get:

"We are not provided with specific information regarding investigations that take place. Our Performance Managers liaise with operating companies to ensure that standards are being kept and to discuss any complaints or reports of poor behaviour."

Oh, maybe the Performance Manager can tell you how the discussion went? In a further message, TfL replies

"As the driver is not a member of our staff, I would advise that you contact the operating company directly. The interview between the operator and driver is a confidential matter and they will not release this information to us"

You keep playing the game and write to the Operating Company, but they don't even reply. Note how the driver is no longer TfL's.

In November 14, at a Traffic Violence Enforcement conference organised by Road Danger Reduction Forum I explained this charade to the audience. Simon Castle, a Policeman from the Traffic Unit, sprung up, saying it wasn't true, effectively calling me a liar; unfortunately for him all this is documented and he had to apologise. So he asked Roadsafe to change the standard reply.

But only the words have changed. The charade is exactly the same. On 30.01 this year, I was subjected to a similar type of violence, and again TfL confirmed that they are not going to investigate. They did however offer to write to the Operating Company to keep the recording of the bus cameras for inspection by the Police. I then went to the Police Station where the officers were so surprised anyone would waste their time reporting a dangerous bus driver, that they spent five minutes debating which was the correct form to fill. That was four weeks ago and I have very little hope that anything will be done.

In this istance I have also reported the near miss on which sends an automatic message to the relevant Local Authority. More hilarity here; the Westminster Road Safety Officer wrote to me with only one concrete suggestion: take a cycling course!

This is why we see Transport for London as a criminal organisation: they know they kill and injure hundreds of people, but rather than solving the problem, they erect barriers and blankets, so that people cannot get to the truth, i.e. that safety is heavily compromised to achieve performance targets in order to enrich the people who run the organisation. And the Metropolitan Police is its accomplice.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Great Stink

London is a city based on Bullshit.

Londoners are always hyperbolic about their city, but the only world primacy that London can claim is as creator of bullshit.

Its biggest industries, finance, law, accountancy, government are based on bullshit.

Its Mayor is a master in bullshit, and Londoners love him for his audacity to emanate bullshit.

Its local politicians can only spew bullshit. Here are a few examples:
Transport for London tells us that they have adopted Vision Zero in the Road Safety Plan. Another stinking piece of bullshit, which echoes the bullshit that comes out whenever Leon "Safety is our No 1 Priority" Daniels opens his mouth.

This is the gyratory where Claire Hitier-Abadie was killed last week:

This is an environment where one small error by anyone can be fatal to someone riding a bicycle. This is NOT a Vision Zero environment.

Last but not least in this brief carousel of bullshitting officials is the Metropolitan Police, headed by someone who thinks that cycling is for poor people who cannot even afford a bus pass. These idiots are the greatest victim blamers in town, and whenever the massacre ratchets up, they briefly halt their  form-filling and hit the streets, giving tickets to the potential victims.

Londoners have become so good at this bullshit, that they fool a lot of people. Many Europeans come to London, enchanted by stories of opportunities and fair play; another bullshit. Nobody warns them that this is a city of callous and lazy people, where killing with a motor vehicle is an unpunished crime, where rules that protect pedestrians are conveniently forgotten, where bus managers push drivers to speed because their bonus depends on it, where the majority of HGVs are driven illegally, where major corporations lobby against road safety, where the Government is happy to see 5000+ people die prematurely from air pollution. In other words, a most unpleasant place

In the past month, at least* six Europeans have been killed by London drivers.

On 24.01 Rogacs Mihaly, 53, from Hungary; killed by a hit-and-run driver, Romford Road, Redbridge.
On 26.01 Hubert Mallet, 25,  from France; killed by a taxi driver, Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch.
On 02.02 Akis Kollaros 34, from Greece; killed by a tipper truck driver, Homerton High Street.
On 06.02 Federica Baldassa, 26, from Italy; killed by an HGV driver, Vernon Place, Holborn.
On 08.02 Janusz Partyka, 31, from Poland; killed by a hit-and-run driver, Wood Lane in Osterley.
On 19.02 Claire Hitier-Abadie, 36, from France; killed by a lorry driver, Victoria.

They all had come to chase a dream; but it is a mirage: this city is just full of bullshit; and my advice to all Europeans is: look for your dream elsewhere, there are plenty of European cities which treat their citizens with respect, which do not put commerce above safety, which, when faced with a problem, look for real solutions rather than blaming the victims.


The above is adapted  and updated from a speech I proposed to make at the vigil of Federica Baldassa; Stop Killing Cyclists, the organisers, did not allow it, because "it would [have been] a disaster for our positive relationship with the press." More London bullshit.

* We say "at least" because the Metropolitan Police and Transport for London refuse to release timely information about the massacre of pedestrians in the capital. There may be other European pedestrians killed that we are not aware of.


Europeans are not the only victims of traffic violence in London. Here is the list of known victims so far this year.
In addition, tens of people have been severely injured, but no-one is keeping track nor drawing lessons, in spite of there being a legal duty on Local Authorities to do so, under Section 39 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Yes, yet another piece of bullshit.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

So how many cyclists has John Armitt run over recently?

Here is the difference between Italian drivers and British drivers:

Most Italian drivers break the law. If they see a pedestrian crossing on a red light, they see her as a member of the community of road users and will take evasive action.

Most British drivers break the law. If they see a pedestrian crossing on a red light, they see her as a member of a different tribe and will run her down.

These are broad generalisations but they capture the deep hypocrisy of the British victim blaming culture. Because of their dysfunctional relationship with the law, people in the UK subconsciously feel guilty of breaking the law all the time when they drive, be it speeding, running red lights, not yielding to pedestrians when turning, etc.; but rather than saying "We are all doing it, so let's take care of each other", they project their guilt by blaming out-groups, people who are considered a different tribe, first among all, people who ride bicycles.

So when we hear John Armitt, a typical exponent of #nastybritain saying "the biggest danger to cyclists on the roads in London are actually themselves" we cannot help asking ourselves:

Just how many cyclists has john Armitt run over recently?
Armitt is chairman of the National Express coach group, so he is responsible for thousands of very dangerous vehicles. We know that one of his drivers almost killed someone exactly when he was making those moronic comments:

Just few hundred metres away another serious collision was caused by one of Armitt's coaches in October last year:

Picture: Twitter/@davenoisome
So we will ask him: how many KSIs has he and his coaches caused in the past two years?

The other aspect of #nastybritain that contributes to road violence is greed. The other enemy of road safety that has emerged in the Crossrail for Bikes consultation is the Canary Wharf Group. Danny Williams brilliantly exposes the mendaciousness of this organisation who is willing to trade lives of ordinary citizens for profits, as it bargains with the Qataris to sell its assets.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Killing for an ideology

At the beginning of January the United Kingdom witnessed an atrocity that claimed as many victims as the number of people killed at the Charlie Hebdo building in Paris.

No major media outlet reported this atrocity. The public remained unaware. The killers are mostly still at large. There has been no national demonstration. No politician has mentioned it, let alone proposed new measures to tackle these terrorists. And yet this type of crime produces the largest number of victims in the country, more than homicides.

The reason is that the terrorists have won. They have seized power and brainwashed the population.

In the first 15 days of 2015 12 people were brutally killed while riding their bicycles on British roads. A similar number of people were probably butchered while walking, but we don't have the precise number because the authorities refuse to publish timely statistics. (For example Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police still refuse to tell us how many pedestrians where killed in London in 2014. And Glasgow City Council is doing its best to cover up the Christmas massacre).

Terrorism is defined as the use or threat of violence for the purpose of advancing an ideological cause.

In this case the ideology is the belief that everyone has a right to drive a motor vehicle, that the roads were built for cars, and that killings by motorists are accidents.

The terrorists have won because these repulsive ideas have become accepted by the majority of people. For example, in a recent essay, Stephen Pinker confirms the thesis of his book which lauds the decrease of violence in the world in the past fifty years. At no point, does he mention traffic violence, which according to the World Health Organization is the number one cause of of violent death in the world. The number of vulnerable road users killed by motorists is at least thirty percent greater than the number of homicides.

We are hopeful that this barbaric state imposed by terrorists, will not last long. We believe that soon the public will feel ashamed and full of revulsion by the violence and cruelty of this ideology, which calls "accidents" brutal killings such as that of Stephanie Turner

Friday, 16 January 2015

10,000 people who rode for Going Dutch do not want more of the same shite

On 28 April 2012, London witnessed the largest ever protest ride. Under heavy rain, 10,000 people demanded Dutch-standard cycling infrastructure in London. It was a pivotal event which led to the Mayor's Vision for London, an ambitious document and the Cycling Commissioner, who acknowledged that the work done in the first term of Johnson's mayoralty was not good enough.

Almost three years have passed. Gilligan has managed to steer the TfL tanker to much higher levels of quality, supported by a Mayor keen to leave a legacy which is not just blue paint.

However the core part of the strategy, the Central London Cycling Grid is in danger of being swept aside by corrupt Local Authorities which have no ambition and are marionettes of minority self-interest groups, such as taxi drivers and car owners.

I have alerted the leadership of the London Cycling Campaign that if they don't urgently mobilise the membership and robustly engage Gilligan, the Local Authorities and the LCC local groups, we are not going to witness  a Dutch-quality network but a total travesty, not dissimilar to the pitiful LCN of decades ago.

So far I have not received an answer to my letter below. I urge you all to write to the LCC and express your dismay at the plans (or lack of) proposed by Westminster, Camden, Islington, City, Southwark and Kensington, and request an energetic response.

Dear all,

We are facing a fundamental threat to the Central London Grid, and if we are don't respond appropriately and promptly it will undermine the whole Cycling Vision.
There seems to be an attempt, principally by Westminster and now it seems from Camden as well, to assume that the whole Grid is a Quietway and therefore it requires minimal intervention.
That is fundamentally wrong.
The Grid is a dense network of safe and direct cycle routes that respect desire lines and that aspirationally are on streets with low traffic volumes. Where the conditions are such that a road can be considered quiet (i.e. 30kph AND fewer than 2k cpu/day), then minimal intervention is required. By definition, not a single street in Westminster meets these requirements.
If a street is not quiet there are two options:
a. make it quiet, or
b. install protected cycle facilities.
Now, the Vision does seem to rule out a.
A new network of cycle routes in central London
 In partnership with the central boroughs, we will create a central London ‘Bike Grid’ of high-quality, high-volume cycle routes, using a combination of segregation and quiet shared streets, along with some innovative use of existing infrastructure. The ‘Crossrail’ East-West Superhighway will form part of this.
 With the boroughs’ agreement, we will seek to open up a number of central one-way streets for two-way cycling, creating direct, easy, lower-traffic routes through the City and West End. Experience from the City and Kensington and Chelsea, who have brilliantly led this process, shows that it can be accomplished without traffic or safety impacts.
 We will not be asking boroughs to remove traffic or, in the vast majority of cases, change parking on the two-way cycle streets, unless they want to.
 The east-west segregated Superhighway will be delivered by 2016. Subject to the agreement of the boroughs, so will the majority of the Grid. Route planning has already started; a planning conference with the central London boroughs will take place next week. Routes for the Grid will be announced as they are agreed with the boroughs.
If a. is ruled out, then b. is a MUST, otherwise we are not going to have "high-quality, high-volume cycle routes".
I think that the LCC and the local groups should sit down with Andrew Gilligan and the Boroughs, and convince them that a. is often cheaper than b. and should be part of the arsenal.
This is where the Motoring Grid becomes a powerful tool. We must challenge the authorities to draw the arterial roads on a map. Then we have a logical framework for filtering cells.
We need 
  • co-ordination from LCC HQ; this must be a key campaign for 2015
  • the various local groups to be on message; the quality of the network MUST BE HOMOGENEOUS 
We are winning, but now we need to fight twice as hard to achieve our goals

Images via LCC

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Nothing sinister. Just everyday carnage.

So the authorities want us to be assured that no-one WANTS to kill us. Within 24 hours of the Glasgow slaughter, motor traffic was allowed again on the busy shopping streets, the blood washed away, and in a few weeks we will hear the conclusion of investigations pointing to something "tragic" having happened, i.e. something beyond our control. Nothing can interfere with motor traffic's violent overtake of our lives.

Image by SWNS Media 

We welcome the following guest post by Dave Holladay, who has decades of experience in a more ethical transport sector, rail. His suggestions go beyond the immediate cause of the incident and start with the question: "What do we need to do to avoid a similar incident happening again?"

We of course would welcome the introduction of the changes suggested by Dave. We cannot fail to remark however that unless there are tragedies of this scale, the authorities are happy with the status quo, confident that people are not moved by the drip drip of daily killings of pedestrians (that's right, the average weekly death toll of UK pedestrians is greater than the Glasgow disaster)

Today (Tuesday) we had some fine words from Gordon Matheson about investigation of the Queen Street crash being investigated and the results made public. I might perhaps point out that this investigation is actually a duty mandated on Glasgow Council as the Roads Authority under Section 39 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, but at present there is no requirement to make the results of their mandated investigations into Road Traffic Collisions public, and the fact that Monday's crash involved a vehicle operated directly by Glasgow Council makes it difficult to consider any investigation carried out under s.39.3.a as completely objective and impartial, just as it is equally flawed to have the Roads Authority then mandated to take the results of the investigations it carries out to advise itself on measures to take which remove the hazards it has in current roads and avoid designing in those hazards on new projects.  The words of Juvenal still hold true Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - a report by the foxes on hen house security lacks significant degree of credibility. 

Just over 15 years ago Lord Cullen's Inquiries into the carnage of the Ladbroke Grove turned around the way we looked at deaths and injuries on our rail system, providing the independent and objective investigation of rail crashes by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, which are published, with the clear objective of making the lessons learned available to the widest audience, and providing the regulator of the UK's rail system (ORR) with recommendations which that regulator can mandate the train operators, infrastructure providers and others delivering the operation of railways to deliver and through this make the railway so safe that they can claim not to have killed a passenger on a train since 2007 - a massive change compared to having 40 or more deaths per year in the period leading up to the watershed of Potters Bar, Hatfield etc at the turn of the millennium.

With the outsourcing of the Highways Agency to a contracted operation in England, the Westminster government has recognised the need to have an independent roads regulator to oversee the infrastructure delivery and has the disconnected delivery of regulation of commercial use of the roads through the Traffic Commissioners, albeit appearing to lack the power and resources of the ORR to press the safety detail.  This is not really a surprise as whilst we have a Rail, Air and Marine Accident Investigation Branches, all producing objective and non judgemental reports which are fully accessible on-line, the investigation of road crashes is either through the flawed and unpublished Section 39, or we have the Police investigations, which ultimately focus of who to bring to court for trial, or the insurers investigations seeking a party to bear the civil liability, and if you want to see the Police investigation, inquests, or insurance reports they are all pay to view, and often difficult to obtain.

Can Glasgow's tragedy be the event which brings the much needed changes? Scotland already needs to match the Westminster detail of a clear and independent regulator to review all aspects of the performance of companies managing the Trunk Roads Network for Transport Scotland, likewise the exclusion of tram systems in Scotland from the regulatory regime of the ORR (which covers all the tram systems in England) means that the 4 tram crashes with buses and coaches, the cyclist-tram crash on a level crossing, the many cyclists falls, and a few other incidents in the first 6 months of operation have not been the subject of any RAIB investigation, nor any equivalent which is then published.  We have a vacuum which needs to be filled, and I'd propose that Scotland looks to the US model of an over-arching Transportation Safety Board, which delivers the impartial and objective investigation of serious incidents across all modes of transport and puts this fully in the public domain, working to banish the acceptance that 'it happens' to the generally avoidable toll of death and serious injury on Scotland's Roads, and hold to account those roads providers who fail to eliminate glaring hazards in road design or management or effectively mitigate the risks. 

There remains the disconnect of having operators regulated by the Traffic Commissioner, and then a possible separate regulator for the infrastructure, and it might be a pragmatic move, for which Scotland's Government has a strong reputation, to combine the regulation of infrastructure with the regulation of operation under a strengthened Traffic Area Office regime, after all the Scottish Commissioner Ms Aitkin already has a slightly wider remit than her English colleagues on roads issues.   

To look at what a report on the Queen Street crash might consider, it does highlight the power and performance of some of the large vehicles now moving around our city streets.  60 years ago the refuse collection vehicle would have been around a third of the weight and limited to a top speed of 20mph. Now we are at last returning to the 20mph speed limit for busy urban streets, and vehicle technology is giving us the means to deliver it effectively.  The systems which deliver the Euro-rated emissions performance also make it now possible to regulate a vehicle's speed very precisely, without the loss of performance associated with the old mechanical governors.  One bus service, operated entirely within a zone limited to 30mph maximum, had the top speed limited to 30mph and a resulting reduction in minor crash damage, driver stress and fuel consumption. That speed limiting can be connected to geo-location, so Euro-rated large vehicles such as buses and trucks working around the city streets can be speed limited to 20mph and even slower when moving through pedestrian priority zones. By getting buses, Council trucks and other publicly operated vehicles all operating to the speed limit we gain a far more effective enforcement regime that road signs, speed humps and cameras for keeping all traffic moving along within the speed limit. Oh yes - it may cost money - but how much is a life worth in comparison to a few £'000 per truck or bus...?

One can only be thankful that this incident did not happen with the refuse truck moving along Buchanan, Argyle or Sauchiehall Streets as they sometimes are, but from this event it may be a clear message that all publicly operated vehicles (Refuse trucks, Fire Appliances etc) have some means of governing down their speeds in pedestrian zones which had to be 'unlocked' with a deliberate and distinct action before that low speed control is overridden. The further presence of a vanguard on foot should also be enforced for all vehicles moving around on pedestrian-filled streets - a detail of delivering the duty of care required by health & safety legislation which Glasgow Council should be enforcing in a far stronger way, having only recently been fined £20,000 for anther fatal incident with a refuse truck operated without a person on foot to manage pedestrian movements and alert the driver when pedestrians were present but not visible from the driving position.

Dave Holladay