Friday 15 November 2013

My letter to Standard re CSH and the Mayor's victim blaming

This is the version of my letter I approved this morning:

THE angle the Mayor took on the radio yesterday, talking about cyclist risk-taking in relation to the recent terrible incidents is very unfortunate.  Either he has inside information before it is released to the public or as his own spokeswoman said it is too early to say. It is highly improbable that all the victims were being reckless for their own safety, and highway engineers can and should allow for human error.
Cycle superhighways are designed by people who have not been required to undergo cycle training and do not understand the importance of cyclists positioning themselves where they can best survive mistakes by others.  The paint encourages both cyclists and motorists to believe that cyclists should be alongside the kerb. I avoid the superhighways and would recommend other cyclists do the same.

Martin Porter QC

I am told that an editor has used the term 'accidents' and that by the time I was informed of this the print deadline had passed.  I very much regret the understandable distress this will cause (and indeed the perplexity amongst my followers.)


  1. Hi Martin,

    I agree that the term 'accident' should not be used, for these 'incidents' are rarely accidental. Of course, there is always blame to be attributed somewhere....... it's the very business that keeps both you and I in inner tubes, coffee and flap-jacks.

    The fact that there is usually someone / something to blame for these incidents, usually prevents me from making generalised comments on the dangers of cycling in urban areas and the potential causes of these tragedies. For me, each and every one of these incidents has to be considered independently of the others before blame can begin to be apportioned.... by me, you, Boris, anyone. Only then can we begin to look for trends and start to look for better ways.

    As you know, I am a keen cyclist. I have done my fair share of commuting on a bike (though not in London). These days I commute into and out of London almost every weekday...... in my car. I simply wouldn't do it on my bike.

    Every single day, without exception, I see drivers of busses, vans, HGVs, cars, Taxis, mini-cabs...... all displaying appalling standards of driving. Indeed, on more then one occasion, I am pretty sure there is a good chance I would have been killed by one of these drivers had I been on a bike.... and that's when driving a bright blue Volvo estate.

    Unfortunately, also on a daily basis, I see cyclists put themselves in positions I would never wish to be. I would not describe these cyclists as 'reckless', for these are not the fixie-couriers who jump red lights. These are the feckless and inexperienced. Just like with the drivers I mentioned above, I have had my close encounters with these riders - I have even knocked one spilling to the pavement (thankfully he was fine). These people are not knowingly taking unnecessary risks, as Boris may have put, they are simply oblivious the risks.

    I have no data of course, but I would suggest that every time a cyclist is killed on London's roads, the incident most likely involved one or both of these types of people.

    Unfortunately, I am not sure there is a simple solution to the problem. The city's roads were not designed and constructed for today's levels of motorised traffic. Neither were they designed and constructed with today's ever-increasing number of cyclists in mind. I do however happen to believe that it ought to be possible for drivers and riders to be able to share these very roads, without incident.

    For me, I believe there is an overall failing in the education of our road users (drivers and riders). I suspect, given that there is currently no mandatory teaching or assessment of cycling ability, the majority of the lack of education is on the part of the cyclist, but this is not their fault.

    Of course, there are always going to be 'bad apples'. These individuals, when proven to have broken a law or a common duty of care to others, should be rightly punished.

    For me, cyclists on the road need to be treated as equals...... and that is why you and I both ride some distance from the gutter. My concern is that I was never taught that. I am concerned that other cyclist are not taught that, I am concerned that someone who has never driven a motorised vehicle in their lives, nor ridden a bike in the city, can pop along to their LBS and start putting their own lives in danger. I am concerned that drivers are not taught that cyclist should not ride in the gutter, and that is why many of them become irate and make bad decisions behind the wheel.

    How do we start raising the level of education (and reducing the frequency of these deaths)? I just don't know...... but I'm pretty sure its not by painting blue lines on the road.

    Nick D

  2. Martin, should you be involved in the next inquest concerning CS2 at Bow, you might ask why TfL, with their own survey figures showing that 60% of the CS2 cycle traffic was riding over the flyover, dumped a design option to build over the top, and built instead the initial route, and when this was shown to be fatally flawed, compounded the folly by adding further safety interventions, which potentially make the situation worse by creating a false reliance on technology.

    In very basic terms the potential of any driver of a vehicle turning left across your path as a cyclist, or driving across it from a slip road exit or circulation, when you ride over the flyover are practically nil YES ZERO possibility that you'll get flattened by the typical junction crash.

    On the other hand - from my observations at the site on various visits, about 80% of the drivers of motor traffic travelling along the Bow-Stratford axis go on to the roundabout to join or leave the A102/A102(M). For a fundamentally obvious reason very few cyclists need to make this manouevre. It follows from this, that aside from the buses, almost 100% of the motor vehicle drivers using the roundabout will be turning to go on to or off of the A102 slip roads, and will be a delivering a 100% potential for the hazard of crossing CS2 when there is a cyclist also present in the road space. To prevent this TfL has provided traffic signals, road markings and signs, but in the event of a wrong-side failure (not stopping etc) there is no delivery of a fail-to-safe outcome, such as the rail network normally provides, by interlocked settings for signals and points (Ladbroke Grove being an example of where the railway failed in this respect).

    At Aldgate I have occasionally opted to go between Commercial Road and Commercial Street, which even in a motor vehicle is 'challenging' with barely 100m between making a left turn (in the nearside lane only for Commercial Street) and then getting right across to queue in the offside lane(s) for the right turn. Signage, lane markings etc are far from intuitive and perhaps even ambiguous.

    As for Boris's intemporate remarks he clearly follows his colleague Stephen Hammond who managed to come out with a statement blaming every person killed on a level crossing for their own demise, whilst Colin Bazlinton (Olivia's father) sat a row of seats behind him at the Transcom Inquiry.

  3. THIS will not help in the present time ,MAY help in the present , but , it MAY help in the FUTURE !

    People try to Emulate Sporting Stars , and when they see them " Saluting " Good Driving , they will copy ? If drivers see Cyclists acknowledge " kind behaviour " , will they not want similar recognition ?

    Education is the FUTURE !

    NOW we need 1 1/2M safe passing , as in EU AND Strict Liability Laws ! It will be too late in the 2015 Election , to vote , hoping that Politicians will recognise that they lost their SEAT , because of the Cycling Casualties , they neglected to reduce ?

    BORIS , try riding the BLUE paint , that Police Vehicles wander onto , thus encouraging " Mr Motorist "to emulate !

    David Cameron , instead of dangling the helmet from the handlebars , wear it OR leave it at home ! The youngsters do not need to copy this behaviour !

  4. Since posting Comment above , i have created the following petition .

    It will ONLY have value , if visitors here chose to sign on :

  5. Great letter.

    It is telling that Boris speculates that the victims were being reckless but makes no similar speculation about the drivers of the vehicles that did the killing. Why would he do that when evidence shows (I believe) that drivers are statistically more likely than cyclists to be committing road offences when there is a collision.

    On a slightly different point, the phone records of all drivers involved in collisions (and not just those with fatal consequences) should be examined to see if they have been texting or calling whilst driving as a matter of routine procedure.

    Also YY for a 1.5m minimum passing distance on all roads faster than 20mph. If there is not space for this then the road should have a 20mph limit.

    Small steps...


  6. Regarding victim blaming I was astonished at page 15 of todays daily mirror by noneless than their chief reporter. I thought I was reading a masterly humorous viz article until the sad realisation dawned upon me that this was actually a serious piece of journalism