Thursday, 23 April 2015

No lessons learned from a preventable death

Henry Lang was killed by a refuse lorry as he was cycling on a cycle track in Richmond. This was a totally avoidable death and yet:
  • the Police has not charged the killer
  • the Coroner has refused to issue a Prevention of Future Death report
  • the local paper has done its bit of victim blaming
  • Transport for London are likely not to change anything.

Let's see the conditions of 350 metres of cycle facilities, before and after the site of the killing:

Picture 2 - Share with pedestrians and then, who has priority at exit of rugby pitch?
Picture 3 - Where Henry was killed

Picture 4 - 50 metres after Henry was killed, another yield

Picture 5 - Why should cyclists yield to waiting pedestrians? Pedestrians should wait either side of the track; cyclists should need to stop only when green man is on.

Picture 6 - Typically awful treatment for crossing road, with two unsynched traffic lights

Picture 7 - Why do they bother?

Picture 8 - The ultimate insult: Dismount!

According to the engineers who laid out this deathtrap, to TfL, to the Coroner and to the ignorant journalist, it is Henry's fault to be killed, because every few metres he should have looked behind him and guessed whether any of the criminals driving over the speed limit was going to cut across him. At the inquest, it was not recorded whether the lorry was indicating. We have all seen the very poor standards of driving of sub-sub-contracted drivers of refuse lorries. [I have been physically assaulted by one such driver in Islington. The team lied to the Police, so no-one was charged, the Council refused to pay my claim for injuries and Councillor Webbe refuses to mandate that refuse lorries be equipped with dashcams]

These 350 metres are a typical example of the idiocy and nastiness of British authorities. I leave it to Rosie Downs, campaigns manager at the London Cycling Campaign to explain in detail:

Henry's death highlights massive confusion in the design of safe road infrastructure and in the enforcement of laws requiring careful driving. Despite the confusion over priorities at this junction many cyclists will be disappointed in the failure of the police to consider there was a duty of care on the driver to look out for cyclists on the well used track  which is plainly visible to drivers turning off the main road.
Highway Code rule 183 says "When turning, give way to any vehicles using a bus lane, cycle lane or tramway from either direction". However at this junction and at thousands like it formal priority has been removed from the cycle track with give way lines painted across the track.
Unfortunately that layout was seen as a safe design without realizing that it requires cyclists to give way to faster traffic overtaking them from behind. The latest advice from the London Cycle Design Standards (section 5.3.4) says the priority at this sort of junction should be reversed to reduce danger and "to offer the highest level of service for cyclists".
Such a change would make cyclists journeys safer and make them feel safer. The current design gives a false sense of safety which actually increases the risk of collision.

The most dangerous cycle lane in Richmond

London Cycling Campaign's local group has described the cycle track alongside the A316 as "the most dangerous cycle lane in Richmond" for the repeated use of this junction design.
In the UK, cyclists crossing the give way line at a cycle path have no legal protection. The advisory Highway Code rule 170, regarded as the rule most often disregarded in the Highway Code, says “You should watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way.” This advisory wording means that motorists do not give way to pedestrians, and as cyclists are not referenced they are forgotten altogether.
The normal rule in continental countries is that vehicles making any turning movement should give way to pedestrians or cyclists going straight ahead across their path, unless there are signs or signals saying otherwise.
LCC and others have pushed for cycle and pedestrian priority over turning traffic, but to date national government has refused to legally reinforce this. A legal change would make it much easier to introduce segregated cycle tracks, and it would make walking and cycling feel much safer, like it does in the Netherlands. Transport Minister Robert Goodwill says that the government doesn’t encourage cycle priority because of the low levels of cycling, and they will only reconsider this position if we see an increase in cycling. Yet there are barriers that need to be overcome before cycling becomes a realistic option for most: and road danger is the most significant barrier.

There is a 100% probability that someone is going to get killed on a cycle track like this. It is like having a live electric cable in the middle of a Regent Street pavement and then blame pedestrians for getting electrocuted, because they did not read the sign.

Just another example that Transport for London kills by design.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Promotion and disrespect

The Labour Party Manifesto famously promises: "We will support long-term investment in strategic roads, address the neglect of local roads, and promote cycling"

This is the typical stance of someone who doesn't want to do anything to solve an issue. UK's pitiful cycling modal share is not due to lack of promotion and yet despite

  • proven favourable ROI on money spent on cycling infrastructure
  • strong links between cycling infrastructure and other issues that the next Government has to tackle, such as air quality, health crisis and climate change

the Labour party is happy just to "promote" cycling and spend nothing on infrastructure.

We all know who the beneficiaries of promotions  are: consultants, printers, video makers.

Vision Zero was invited to speak this week at a workshop for organisations involved in European Mobility Week. Twenty years ago European cities started having Car Free Days on 22nd September; that evolved into Mobility Week, which seems designed as a gift for UKIP to show how your tax money is wasted on promoting activities that people are not keen in doing, because much more money is spent to convince them to do the very opposite.

The Conservative Party has pledged to spend £200,000,000 on cycling and £15,000,000,000 on motoring and £0 on walking. In other words, every year they plan to spend £0.62 per person on walking and cycling (and they have not specified if it is on infrastructure or on promotion) and £47 per person on motoring. This when the City of Copenhagen has shown that every km cycled benefits society, and every km driven places a cost on society.

Let's assume that one attends an EMW event, visits a promotion merchant, and is convinced that next time she goes to the cinema, 2 km away, she will walk there with her boyfriend. They arrive at this junction, at the corner on the right and need to cross to the white building:

It will take them five minutes, twice corralled in the middle of the road, where pollution is highest, because the timing of the lights is programmed for the benefit of motorists, not pedestrians. A woman died here a few months ago, probably punished by a motorist for not waiting, i.e. for not knowing her place in society.

Here is another example, again site of a killing of a pedestrian:

The crossing in the foreground has no green man; motorists from the left (behind the trees) will turn right at speeds of 50kph. Sustrans, the quintessential promotion merchant, will tell you "Walk to school!" Well, the choice for your child are risking being killed, or going all the way around, which will take her more than four minutes. You think: "This is not right", so you write to TfL, and they respond saying, "Sorry, nothing can be done, otherwise we inconvenience motorists [who as you know, are higher class than you - Know your station and wait]

Or take this crossing in front of Euston Station, where TfL expects you to wait one minute and twenty seconds to cross and is happy for bus drivers to kill you if you are impatient [66% of bus drivers break the speed limit here, one of them has killed a young man last year, but TfL has no intention to change things]

Every journey one takes on foot or by bicycle, one is reminded that the Government is treating you as a second class citizen. They may be promoting walking and cycling, but the way they use your money is sending you a clear message: if you drive, we will spend billions of pounds, if you walk, go to the back of the bus:

Black people in America had only one choice: rebel. People in the UK have a much easier choice: conform, get a car and join the rat race.

People in Venice need no promotion to walk. There is just one way to increase the number of walking and cycling trips: make them safe, convenient and pleasant; that means designing cities where Active Travel is prioritised; and then we will discover that there is plenty of space at the front for everyone.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Unanswered questions about the killing of Alan Neve

Left: The killer, Barry Meyer. Right: The victim: Alan Neve. Picture credit: Daily Mirror

Alan Neve was killed at 9:25 on 15.7.13. A tragedy that should never have happened for two reasons:

1. No-one should be forced to ride a bicycle on what is effectively a death trap. At the time, Camden Council was banning the use of a relatively much safer route, egged on by Transport for London, which was concerned that it would delay bus schedules.Camden Council was warned repeatedly of the inevitable consequences but they waited until someone was killed before opening the Vernon Place bus lane to bicycles.

2. The killer, Barry Meyer, should have never been in charge of a construction lorry, indeed of any motor vehicle, that morning. Not only Meyer did not hold a HGV licence, and therefore was uninsured, but he had shown in the past to have a total disregard of the law and of the safety of other road users; here is a brief summary of his previous convictions (omitting convictions for assault, criminal damage and drugs):

Source: Ross Lydall

How can someone with such a record be allowed to be in charge of a tipper lorry and drive in busy London streets, mingling with people on bicycles? This is a system failure of such enormity that goes well beyond the behaviour of a rogue driver.

Here are some key question

  • Who gave the keys of the lorry to Meyer?
  • What steps are in place to prevent someone without a licence to operate a commercial vehicle?
  • Why is someone with Meyer's record not banned from the haulage industry? Can you imagine a GP with a similar record allowed to practice?
  • What investigation has HSE undertaken? HSE infamously refuses to investigate corporate misbehaviour on public roads, but Meyer must have operated on corporate sites as well, endangering the lives of other workers.
  • Why is TfL's CLOCS scheme voluntary in an industry notoriously plagued by rogue traders?
  • Why is Camden Council not addressing the Holborn gyratory with urgency, in spite of five people being killed while riding their bicycles here?

The Judge will be sentencing Meyer next month, and has warned him that he faces a jail term; we all know how inadequate the maximum terms for Causing Death by Careless Driving are and how ludicrous the rules are that stipulate that he can expend his driving ban while sitting in jail. However this is a case of catastrophic regulatory failure, well beyond the inadequacies of the Justice System.

We will probing the authorities with our questions, until we see a wholesale change of attitudes on how to deal with traffic violence.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

How to persuade the police

Police forces are the ultimate subject for studying organisational pathology. 

One approach is to do a survey across countries through experience, such as the one undertaken by Paul Salopek on a slow journey across the world. He recognises however that as a white traveller he seldom falls in what the local police perceive as a member of a dangerous out-group. 

Let's look at the average police recruit. Police forces never recruit outside managers, so everyone at the top has started as a recruit and has risen up. If one looks at the bell curve of IQ scores of high school graduates, it is likely that most of the police recruits will be coming from the left hand side. Police work of course it's not just about being a Sherlock Holmes, it should be primarily about preventing crime, a job for which emotional intelligence is a necessary skill. But even in this case, graduates on the right hand side of the bell curve are likely to be attracted to other jobs, where they will assume their skills will be better appreciated, such as in social services, NGOs, the medical sector, etc. Similarly, with so many opportunities in other industries it is unlikely that young people with creative skills are attracted by a career in the police force. 

So what attracts many of the police recruits? Important factors are a job for life, being part of an organisation that demands respect, fighting the "bad guys". Once a recruit is inside the organisation, s/he soon realises that the organisation is mired with corruption and inefficiency, but as long as s/he plays the game, s/he will be all right. Remember that the police doesn't recruit outside managers, so everyone at the top has thrived throughout their career in a climate of corruption and inefficiency. 

Recruits also soon find out that the police not only have legal monopoly of violence but also are blessed with impunity; essentially they can get away with anything, even murder. This impunity is bestowed to them by the ruling class, to which the police is fully subservient. 

To summarise, the police is a powerful organisation, holding monopoly of violence, serving the ruling class, staffed by dim, dull people, and mired with corruption and efficiency. If you are a member of one of society's outgroups, e.g. a young black male, a European, or someone who doesn't use cars, the police is no friend of yours; either you accept your lower status or if you dare protest you will get clobbered. 

If you represent an outgroup, there is little point appealing to common sense. The police understands two things: power and money. I suspect most campaigners will not be willing to bribe the local cops to enforce a 30 kph speed limit. So how do road safety campaigners change police attitudes so that they start to take traffic violence, the number one reason of violent killing in the country, seriously? By gaining power. Traffic violence is indiscriminate. The victims are not just members of an out group. Sooner or later everyone is touched by the daily massacre. That is why we highlight the stories behind the figures; the human lives suddenly cut short by killers. 

We expect that soon a national wave of revulsion and shame will force the police to deal appropriately with criminals who kill and leave the scene of the crime; who kill cyclists from behind and claim that they were invisible, or who, like Martin Low, Westminster's Transport supremo, refuse to lower the speed limit in the centre of town.

P.S. When one generalises, inevitably the honest are tarred by the sins of the majority. I want to mention Simon Wickenden, in the Traffic Management Unit, who has impressed us with his integrity and thoroughness in investigating the circumstances surrounding traffic collisions.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Vision Zero.0 is about putting walking and cycling first.

On Friday I attended a presentation organised by Nesta about Intelligent Mobility. The buzz phrase was "Mobility as Service": a future where people will no longer own a private car, rather the car-sharing club membership will be part of a "platinum Oyster card" which will include all transport options, at a price.

This is what Helsinki is already on course on establishing, and we certainly welcome the disappearance of private cars in London, freeing thousands of hectares of public space, presently rented out at scandalously low prices to polluters and killers.

However the panel, almost totally consisting of white middle aged men, stuck between their personal past and a techno-rich dreamland, said nothing about walking and cycling, the universal solutions to urban mobility. Even within the context of Mobility as Service, it is clear that walking and cycling produce positive externalities (such as lower future health bills) whereas public transport produces negative externalities. Surely a city-wide MaS service must include an incentive reward for every trip conducted on foot or by bike; otherwise the whole scheme is mispriced.

On the other side of the Baltic, people in Stockholm have realised that Vision Zero needs to be updated and modal share needs to be at the centre of the vision; there is widespread agreement that streets need to be reclaimed for the benefit of ordinary citizens who walk and cycle, as described in this short film by StreetFilms.

Stockholm Excerpt - Going Beyond Vision Zero? (Streetfilms) from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

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.