UPDATE JUNE 26TH:
Yesterday RDRF and our colleagues in other organisations supporting road danger reduction met with Transport for London and it now appears that the issues referred to below may be resolved after all. See this post for the latest news.
Hopefully our concerns will become history…
Transport for London (TfL) has today taken its behaviour over the “Cyclists stay back” stickers farce to a new low. We believe it has shown contempt for the main cycling and danger reduction organisations who have tried to get it take a rational approach to this issue:
Stickers were issued by TfL in mid-2013, following consultation with cycling groups, for positioning on lorries where there are particular problems with drivers having difficulty in seeing cyclists on their near sides. The wording was somewhat contentious, and more importantly, they were never intended for use on other types of vehicle. Despite this, they found their way on to buses, vans, cars and even taxis.
There is a major problem of drivers not using nearside mirrors (in contravention of Highway Code Rules 159,161,163, 169, 179, 180, 182, 184, and 202 ) associated with a significant proportion of incidents where cyclists are hit by motor vehicles. Even the AA has shown awareness of this issue through a campaign encouraging drivers to look in their wing mirrors.
Accordingly representatives of The Association of Bikeability Schemes (TABS), the national cyclists’ charity (CTC), the national road crash victims’ organisation (RoadPeace), the Road Danger Reduction Forum (RDRF) and the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) wrote to TfL requesting withdrawal of the stickers from the wrong kinds of vehicle, and better wording on stickers where their use may be justified (HGVs and maybe buses and coaches).
After some months TfL gave a rather confused response – it appeared to be unaware that we were concerned primarily with the behaviour of drivers of vehicles other than lorries – to which we had to reply.
1. Transport for London have not responded to our organisations – but have issued statements to the transport professionals’ fortnightly Local Transport Today published today (30th May) The text is here:
Removing cycle safety stickers too tricky – TfL
Transport for London has no intention of asking firms in London to remove ‘Cyclists stay back’ stickers from their vehicles.
Cycling and road safety groups have criticised the stickers, saying the wording of the message is unsuitable because it implies cyclists are “second-class road users” (LTT 16 May). They are particularly unhappy that the stickers have appeared not only on HGVs – which can trap cyclists on their nearside when turning left – but on buses and vans as well.
But a Transport for London spokeswoman told LTT it would take a “substantial amount of time and money to remove the existing stickers from circulation, effort that would otherwise be devoted to improving the safety of vulnerable road users”. On the concern that stickers now appear on vans, buses and HGVs, she said: “It would be incredibly resource-intensive to differentiate between and enforce the distribution of stickers for different vehicle types.”
Ben Plowden, TfL’s director of surface strategy and planning, said: “We are not aware of any evidence that suggests the design of these stickers is reducing their effectiveness in promoting safer behaviour among van, lorry drivers or cyclists. We are always open to suggestions about how we can improve safety and we will look at whether the design of future stickers should be changed to further improve their value.”
National Express is to fit stickers for cyclists to its coach fleet. The stickers, designed with Sustrans, state: ‘Caution: blind spots, please take care’.
2. The whole issue of driver responsibility towards road users on the nearside of their vehicles is not addressed. As Roger Geffen of the CTC says:
“TfL says it knows of no evidence that these stickers are changing drivers’ behaviour, but that’s only because nobody has looked for the evidence. However an inquest has been told that a deceased cyclist had failed to observe a “cyclists stay back” sticker, as if that somehow meant they were at fault. We also know of a case where a cyclist, who had been cut up and abused by a left-turning lorry driver, phoned up the company’s “How’s my driving” reporting line, only to be told that he was in the wrong because the lorry had a “cyclists stay back” sticker. If that’s how these stickers are affecting people’s attitudes, it seems pretty obvious that they will worsen people’s behaviour too.
It is ironic that Transport for London is working hard alongside CTC and others in pressing the Government to give cyclists greater priority and safety at junctions. Yet these stickers are clearly giving drivers the impression that it’s up to cyclists themselves to stay out of harm’s way. Instead of denying that there’s a problem, TfL really needs to act before these stickers cause yet more deaths and injuries to cyclists because of drivers turning left without looking properly.”
Even before considering new segregated cycle tracks – where drivers need to expect cyclists on their nearside at junctions, TfL’s own Cycle Safety Action Plan has for some years shown that not looking for cyclists on the nearside is a form of driver rule-breaking implicated in a significant proportion of collisions involving cyclists.
3. The idea that “It would be incredibly resource-intensive to differentiate between and enforce the distribution of stickers for different vehicle types” is insulting to the intelligence:
This is a car:
This is a van:
All TfL has to do through its Freight Operators Recognition Scheme is instruct its members to remove the stickers from vehicle types for which they are not intended. Explaining why this should be done would involve minimal resources and be a valuable part of education about road user responsibility.
These stickers have been around for nearly a year now. It is unacceptable that TfL is resorting to delaying tactics rather than admitting it made a mistake and taking action to correct it.
POSTSCRIPT June 4th
I received a copy of the following letter sent to Leon Daniels of Transport for London. Assumning the accounts given are correct, it gives some of the evidence TfL appear to weant to indicate that teh stickers are having an effect on the behaviour of bus drivers:
I am a cyclist who has cycled the roads of London daily for the past 25 years. I have never been so insulted regarding the stay back signs that you are now putting on buses. Firstly the suggestion is that the inference is on the cyclist to avoid unsafe practice. Secondly that there is an implied suggestion that at all times it is unsafe to cycle alongside a bus when many times it is perfectly safe to do so. Thirdly it is leading to some very aggressive driving by your bus drivers who now it appears believe that they have ‘a right’ to squeeze any cyclist the find to their left when pulling in regardless of the fact that the cyclist was been overtaken and not the bus being undertaken.
I have had a number of very unsavoury incidents recently of which I will recount two.
I was cycling through the new Euston Circus interchange and down Gower Street at a good speed when a bus which was progressively attempting to overtake me pulled sharply to the left with the sole aim of intimidating me into jamming my brakes on. I was halfway down the length of the bus. This action was repeated until I had a hand on the side of the bus and was on the point of jumping off my bike as I was being squashed against the curb. I bashed on the side of the bus and passengers shouted at the driver to stop. When he did I told him what he had done and he tacitly agreed as his sole response was that I ‘stay back’. I took his picture and at that point he got out of the cab and threatened me both physically and with the police (I think he was Polish and does not understand that we can take pictures of what we want in this country). His whole attitude stank from beginning to end and I believe that much of it stems from the indiscriminate use of these signs on the back of buses.
The second incidence occurred down Oxford Street. I was slowly filtering on both sides of stationary traffic. I filtered down the inside of a bus about 100 yards before oxford circus going west but absolutely nowhere near a bus stop or any other reason for a left turn manoeuvre. As you are aware the speeds possible on oxford street are dictated more by the problem of errant pedestrians than anything else so I am going at walking pace. The bus driver, Asian this time, bus driver aggression is not racist, decide he didn’t like it and pulled the bus over to the left as I was cycling along. Note I know this because I was watching him in his mirror and the act was one of pure aggression and passive violence. I walked down the pavement after being left with less than an inch of road to cycle on. I confronted the driver and his simple response was that I was ‘not allowed’ to cycle down the inside of his bus. I suggested that firstly this was not true (and incidentally would invalidate 90% of the inadequate cycling infrastructure in the United Kingdom) and secondly even if it was that his act was dangerous and could have led to injury. He was adamant that cyclists must stay back and he was ‘within his rights’ to stop me from filtering by whatever means. I can think of no other reasoning for this attitude but for the new signage on buses.
I am not a lycra lout but an everyday cyclist who cycles a Brompton in normal work attire. I am very concerned that this new attitude is being bred in the bus depots as a result of the misuse of the signage that I believe was intended for very different vehicles with restricted views such as HGVs. We need all road users to be equally vigilant and to allow your bus drivers this ‘get out clause’ has increased dramatically the safety concerns I have cycling around London. As a result I am unwilling to give any bus the benefit of the doubt and will ‘take the lane’ at all times in central London streets through a strategy of self-preservation.
Can you please think carefully about the psychological impact of such signage and either remove it or change significantly the message. I understand that you say it would be a misuse of funds to spend time removing the signs and this appears to be your primary argument for not doing so. I am sure you could find volunteers to do this for you. Further your younger drivers need training on what is and is not acceptable as I think the bus driver culture of aggression and intimidation is growing which is wholly unacceptable.
Cyclist, Motorist, Pedestrian
Transport for London has now agreed to meet the representatives of The Association of Bikeability Schemes (TABS), the national cyclists’ charity (CTC), the national road crash victims’ organisation (RoadPeace), the Road Danger Reduction Forum (RDRF) and the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) to discuss the issues raised above on June 25th 2014. We trust progress will nbe made and will report back on developments.