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

Monday, 22 December 2014

When an angel smiles at you, ... and when she doesn't.

It is often a matter of centimetres or minutes and it generally involves an angel.

When Tom Kearney was hit by a bendy bus on Oxford Street exactly five years ago, a young man from Hackney saved his life, by applying first-aid techniques he had just learned. Tom was in a coma and choking on his blood; Hamza Benkhadda cleared blood from Tom's nose and throat, placed him in the recovery position and waited by his side until the arrival of the emergency services, 29 minutes later.

Two weeks ago, Victoria Lebrec was crushed by a left turning skipper lorry on Clerkenwell Road. As her father recounts,
At around 9am, Victoria was about to arrive to work on her bike. At the corner of Clerkenwell and St Johns, she turned left, but was caught by a skip lorry, which dragged her under. From what we know, the wheels must have rolled over the lower part of her body, in the pelvic area. We have learned since that accidents involving the pelvic area are usually fatal, as it is very hard to stop the internal bleeding that usually results. The details from then on are very sketchy, but we’ve heard that an ambulance or a police car was close by. This enabled an air ambulance to be on the scene within 10 minutes.
Picture by Daniel Russell

And, as far as we can understand, they were able to perform a new procedure, called REBOA, which basically enables them to stop the bleeding by inserting a balloon in the artery using ultra-sound. It’s been very recently introduced in the UK (more common in the US apparently) and has generated much interest, including this BBC clip.
Sometimes, however, cruel fate dictates a sadder ending.

My father was hit by a TfL bus 200m from Tom's incident and experienced a similar trauma, but he never regained consciousness.

Earlier this year, 300m to the North (see a pattern here?) Michael Mason was hit by a "blind" motorist and did not survive.

According to TfL, these are just numbers, statistics to be massaged and spun to show somehow that things are improving.

To the Metropolitan Police these are "tragic accidents" to be buried as quickly as possible. In all these incidents (except Victoria's, which is still live), the Police blamed the victim and refused to prosecute the killer.

So you can see the wheel spinning:

  • people are getting killed in the same streets, (here is Oxford St/Regent's Street; here is Clerkenwell Road - e.g. Harriet Tory, same age as Victoria, was killed on the same spot and in the same way). 
  • killers are not prosecuted 
  • no lessons are learned 
  • nothing changes 
  • more people get killed 

 "It's like déjà vu all over again."

Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police and the Local Authorities are happy with this state of affairs. They have no moral qualms that their action kills people. When human beings start to work in these inhuman organisations, they lose their humanity, their compassion, their morals and trade human lives for political favours. These organisations are masters in making monsters out of normal human beings. Just like the Army reprogrammes teenagers' brains to become killing machines, TfL, the Police and Local Authorities rewires employee's brains to detach themselves from the tragedies they cause.

There is only one way to stop this infernal killing machine .

It is for the survivors and the families of the innocent victims to rise and say "Enough!" Tom Kearney is a shining example of what we can do; he has started to open TfL stinking can with a forceful opener and out has come the data they were embarrassed to reveal, and he has given a voice to those employees who refuse to be forged into cogs of this devilish octopus.

Vision Zero London will help anyone who has been the victim of traffic violence and channel all our efforts towards the change that we all want and deserve.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Is it reasonable to expect pedestrians to take 4 minutes 15 seconds to cross a street?

On Tuesday Assia Nikoforova was killed by a lorry while she was crossing Edith Grove, SW10.

I met her children; you could see from their eyes that dealing with the loss of one's mother from traffic violence is a tragedy that brings out many emotions.

Flowers left by a witness, Lady Nadia Essex (her picture)

The son explained that his mother probably started crossing with the green light. The lorry must have stopped over the ASL and started off without looking; the poor woman was dragged by the low front fender and then crushed to death.

Large lorries do not respect ASL and cannot see children in front of them

Examining the site at 15:30, one could not help noticing the number of young children holding hands to their parents. And yet the conditions for pedestrians are woeful.

  • There is no all-green pedestrian phase
  • One arm has staggered crossing, with up to 60 second wait in the middle
  • One arm has the crossing pushed back 20 metres
  • One arm has NO pedestrian lights.

Father and child risking their lives with 50kph traffic and no green man. The alternative is a four minutes and fifteen seconds ordeal

If a pedestrian, say a 69 year old woman like Assia, doesn't want to risk crossing at the arm with no lights, she would have to cross the three other arms. This takes four minutes and fifteen seconds.

Alternatively, imagine you are the parent of an 11-year old walking to school. What advice are you going to give him?

How can TfL be so contemptuous of ordinary citizens, especially the young, the old and the less mobile?

Let's also see whether the Metropolitan Police yet again are going to accept the lie of "I didn't see her" as an excuse for not prosecuting the killer.

UPDATE 15.1.15

Here is the response by TfL to my concerns that there is no pedestrian traffic signal on one arm of this very busy junction (my emphasis):

Dear Andrea Casalotti 

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding pedestrian crossing provision at the junction of Edith Grove with Kings Road. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you.

We were very sad to hear of the fatality which recently occurred at the junction and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the injured party. We are working closely with the Metropolitan Police to understand the circumstances in which this occurred and are awaiting their feedback which will inform our further investigation of this junction.

Whilst we understand the benefits for pedestrians to be provided with all round pedestrian facilities at the junction, we need to balance the needs a of all road users. Where there is not enough time in the signal cycle to create dedicated pedestrian crossing facilities this will result in a detrimental impact to the traffic flow.

In the current signal method of control the junction, due to the high volumes of traffic at this junction the amount of time which can be given to pedestrians in each cycle of operation is limited. Pedestrians cross the western arm of the junction in a ‘walk with traffic arrangement’ and do not have a dedicated pedestrian stage with a green person aspect in the signal head as is seen on the eastern and northern arms of the junction. To this end, we would need to alter the signal arrangement of the junction in order to provide a new formal pedestrian crossing facility on the western arm of the junction so that traffic does not conflict with the movement of pedestrians.  

We are presently working on early stage concepts for improvements at this junction and as part of this, consideration will be given to what pedestrian crossing improvements can be achieved within the constraints of the network and its current operational performance, amongst other improvements for the wider users of the junction. We hope to be in a position to share these proposals in the coming year.

Again, please accept my apologies for the delayed response. I do hope this adequately responds to your comments. If there is anything else we can help you with, please reply to this email. Alternatively, you can speak to one of our Customer Service Advisers on 0343 222 1234.
Kind regards

Anthea Elias
Customer Service Adviser
Transport for London Customer Services