Transport for London sees sense at last over “Cyclists stay back” stickers

We raised our concerns about the widespread (mis)use of “Cyclists stay back” stickers over 6 months ago , sent a letter of complaint with our colleagues the CTC (the National Cyclists’ Charity), the London Cycling Campaign, RoadPeace, and the Association of Bikeability Schemes, followed by another complaint due to an inadequate response by TfL . And then TfL chose to give yet another – let’s say “inadequate” again because we try to be polite – reply to press enquiries rather than replying to us directly. By now, even seasoned campaigners were getting annoyed.
But yesterday RDRF and the other organisations involved, plus representatives of the London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group, attended a meeting at Transport for London chaired by Lilli Matson, Head of Strategy and Outcome Planning, with nine other TfL officers concerned with safety, freight and fleet operations, buses, taxis, and marketing and communications. We are glad to say that the outcome was very positive.

Vehicles smaller than large lorries:

TfL now agree that stickers of this type have no place on lorries below 3.5 tonnes, vans, cars or taxis. On such vehicles there is no “blind spot” making it difficult for drivers to see cyclists in places where they are entitled and likely to be. Our concern was that the need for motorists to “stay back” where there is inadequate room to overtake (Highway Code Rule 153) and/or to use nearside wing mirrors (Highway Code Rules 159,161,163, 169, 179, 180, 182, 184, and 202) would be eroded, with drivers using the stickers as an excuse for not watching out.
TfL are asking members of its Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS) to remove the incorrectly placed stickers. So, hopefully, no more of these:

???????????????????????????????  carsticker
TfL are also saying that “where TfL has influence” action has been taken to prevent stickers on other vehicles where they are inappropriate. I would have thought that, even where operators are not members of FORS, TfL has “influence”. This is particularly so where the stickers are ones with “Transport for London” and “Mayor of London” logos – but we would hope they can get involved in all types of case where stickers are misused.



Despite the fact that the stickers were originally intended just for large lorries, they have found their way on to London buses. The issues there are different, but there are concerns about potential conflicts involving cyclists when overtaking buses. On that basis, a differently worded sticker for use with buses is to be considered.


Re-wording of stickers

One of the matters raised in the discussions over these stickers over the last year has been the precise effects of the “Cyclists stay back” wording. Where exactly are cyclists being told to go? Shouldn’t there be an explanation of why cyclists should be doing what is suggested? And of course, a “command” can be – without any legal justification – used to justify inappropriate driver behaviour.
We’re pleased that TfL has agreed to re-wording of these stickers – probably with different messages for buses on the one hand and heavier lorries on the other. This wording will be created with input from the cyclists and danger reduction organisations involved and is already in progress.


The TfL advice web page

Fleet operators may still be using the out of date stickers, including ones inappropriately placed. TfL have agreed to put up a web page explaining the problems with the old stickers and their positioning on inappropriate vehicles. They can use this to explain not only to members of FORS but other operators why they should remove the old stickers. Hopefully members of the public will be able to refer vehicle operators who don’t comply with the new guidance to TfL and see results.

Of course, none of this deals with the core issues of properly engineering HGVs so that their drivers are aware of cyclists and pedestrians – why is there a “blindspot” in the first place? It does not deal with engineering out the amount of space between the vehicle and the road surface which is implicated in them being crushed; nor the issues of highway engineering which would minimise this kind of occurrence in the first place; nor issues of rule and law breaking which endanger other road users as well as cyclists and pedestrians.
Nevertheless, one part of this problem was the idea that while a “blindspot” exists it would be useful to advise cyclists how to correctly position themselves, and we were prepared to support this. Unfortunately the issue was mishandled for some time – now we hope the mistakes are being corrected.
Finally, we suggest that all this is happening because of a concerted and well-argued response by RDRF and our sister organisations. (A similarly positive outcome in June 2014 has come here). This suggests that watchfulness informing co-ordinated action by groups wanting road danger reduction is necessary.
We look forward to the changes outlined at our meeting with TfL. Watch this space. And meanwhile

stayclassy                awesomw



8 thoughts on “Transport for London sees sense at last over “Cyclists stay back” stickers

  1. Dave H (@BCCletts)

    There is one campaign which can be delivered by a message on every vehicle – including a bike (probably as a tabard or backpack cover) and so very conveniently it will actually fit perfectly with this year’s theme for Road Safety Week, which runs from 17 to 23 November (after the world day of road victim remembrance on 15th). This year’s theme is “Look out for each other”.

    The Oxcam survey of 5000 cyclists, through robust analysis of the results identified the rearward look as the key safety campaign for cyclists, and similar vision based messages for bus drivers (the work was done with the Road Operators Safety Council (ROSCo). It followed through from the ‘Harmony’ leaflets produced for bus drivers & cyclists by Oxford Councils and local bus operators, co-ordinated by ROSCo and copied by EYMS and Warrington Buses to my knowledge.

    A good few million years of testing and development has delivered integral safety systems which work very well but, as a proper investigation of crashes* will attest, are rarely used effectively. Might I suggest a replacement campaign with the message that can be carried on buses, vans, trucks, and by cyclists – and even at pedestrian crossings. That message is Make Eye Contact the Only Contact you have with me/another road user. Pedestrians have this to a fine art in the piercing glare through the windscreen that says to a driver you will stop as the law prescribes at this crossing/junction to let me cross the road. On a bike, I and many regular cyclists also apply this technique as we look back and communicate with the effective non-verbal system which we have a lifetime of practice in using. Sometimes this will be “I’m going to ride in this direction”, but equally it can be “You go first” or other agreement about how two road users move around each other. I’d envisage this message not only on the back of motor vehicles but on the side and front, perhaps an appropriate illustration.

    One spin-off for this is that the safety campaign material lends itself to being sponsored by one or more of the large high street optician chains, and also driving action on the worrying and known position of many older drivers no longer meeting the eyesight standards but continuing to drive, with a steady stream of fatal and serious crashes as the result.

    Of course eye contact relies on being able to see the other road user’s eyes, and just as we rightly decry tinted windows, the used of ‘mirror’ and very dark eye-wear by cyclists (and some drivers) shuts out this vital way of being sure you have been seen by another road user, and the use of such eye-wear should be deprecated, if not banned in the interests of road safety.

    Eyes of course, whilst having the most direct connection to the brain, and the route for over 80% of the information most of us process to safely go about our daily lives have a limiting factor – they can only see about a third of what is happening around a person at any one time. No problem though as evolution has provided the back-up of hearing – a 360 degree alert system which gets us to take a quick look when recognised sounds are heard – the bicycle bell, the shout, and even the vehicle horn, used as the law specifies, as an audible warning of approach – before the potential for a crash develops. If only we could have a safety campaign based on the use of warning sounds, a horn toot, a shout, or just being able to use your hearing to notice tyre or engine noise. It is very disturbing, that whilst there are many railing against cyclists and pedestrians wearing earpieces, there are many cases of trucks, and even other vehicles hitting other road users and the driver continuing oblivious to the noise of a bike being smashed up or the commotion on the street outside. I cannot drive without having the driver’s window slightly open, and more than once this has alerted me to the presence of another vehicle which cannot be seen in the rear view mirror. I notice widely that many professional drivers do likewise, as even the noise of your own tyres provides vital information about the condition of the road beneath the wheels – on ice, tyre noise disappears and this gives you no excuse for being caught unaware of the danger.

    *Of course we don’t, on the roads, have the resources applied to rail, air and maritime transport, where an independent ‘Accident Investigation Branch’ for each mode reviews both accidents and potentially dangerous incidents to produce objective and impartial reports which thoroughly list the potential causal factors, and analyse their likely contribution to the incident, the reports often refer back to previous similar incidents, and from that analysis, produce a list of learning points, and ‘recommendations’, which pass on to the respective regulators (ORR CAA and MCA) who can then demand action and timescales from the operators they regulate. Most significant is that every report, safety bulletin, and urgent safety advice notice is published and accessible on-line.

    The current equivalent for roads is Section 39, which quiet frankly is not fit for purpose, both in the actual delivery from those mandated to do so and the fundamental flaw in its construction. Basically it mandates the roads authority to investigate road crashes (39.3(a)) and from those investigations, devise road safety policy direction (39.2) and action to remedy and failings in the design and management of the roads (39.3(b)) provided by … er the roads authority quo custodiet ipsos custodes as the saying goes. I and a few colleagues have challenged the authorities to show what they are delivering with an FoIA application – frankly we’re getting rubbish back – Glasgow’s response offered a list of locations and crash counts – a sheet of A4 paper apparently the ‘investigations’ for 2 years worth of crashes on their patch. No use at all for analysis and identification of hazards, or even trends created by changing traffic conditions. In Camden we have the coroner rightly disturbed by 2 identical fatal crashes at the same location in just 5 years – action on the first crash could have prevented the second one.

    Tom Kearney has in a single handed and focussed campaign eventually got TfL to release the quarterly bus crash data but only for fatal and hospitalised victims – this is still a staggering 285 incidents – just over 1 per day, with some operators massively represented (Arriva has 78 of the total, possibly due in part to having the largest number of buses and contracts, but some operators, with a significant presence have few or no reports logged – some routes have clusters of similar incidents often over a specific period – what caused all the falls outside the bus for 2 routes in January for example (109 and 410 – both Arriva London South), or 4 falls inside the bus on route 205 in January/February). Tom, who has worked in the mining industry, with its high levels of regulation, required to maintain the high levels of safety, comments that if his operations had such an appalling record for killing and injuring those it interacted with, he would have been in court in an instant and almost certainly in jail for corporate negligence (

    Things may be changing on the roads, as the announcement just over a month ago that the Highways Agency was being converted into a “Railtrack for Roads” (I hope that DfT has learned the lessons from rail there), and as such there will need to be a roads regulator (lite version?). A bit puzzled though that it does not seem to have the delivery of a Highways Accident Investigation Branch, and is being created by adding a section to the Rail Regulator (ORR) rather than expanding the remit of the existing roads regulators (The Traffic Commissioners with their supporting DVSA team)

    Lothian Buses, working closely with Spokes also produced a set of 4 safety posters for the bus drivers (and relevant to cyclists as well), most notably the ‘mirror view’ of the cyclist alongside, and the ‘leapfrog’ mitigation message (leapfrogging is a major source of irritation between bus drivers and cyclists, but can be sorted out by one or other party simply holding back a few seconds to break the cycle of one catching the other up at each bus stop).

  2. Sarah Swift

    Well done and thank you for putting in the legwork on this one. I raised an eyebrow recently when I saw German cycle campaigners approvingly mentioning Boris Johnson as a paragon of road danger reduction and London as a marvellous place where lorries may very soon be banned if they haven’t got technology for detecting cyclists, but the world definitely is looking towards London (albeit not always with the sharpest of focus) and this will hopefully have a knock-on effect on misguided “blind spot” sticker campaigns in all sorts of places. (I’m thinking of a particularly egregious one with statements like “Let me past, I can’t see you.” in speech bubbles alongside the “Caution, blind spot” message:

    1. rdrf Post author

      Thanks Sarah. I would appreciate a translation of the messages in the pdf., particularly which organisations have produced this

  3. Fred

    John Lewis may be next in the spotlight on this, they’re the kind of company most people feel should know better.

    Copied from Stop Killing Cyclists facebook group: Guardian reporter Peter Walker has asked John Lewis Partnership why they started putting anti-cycling stickers onto their vehicles which state: “Cyclists: DO NOT pass on this side’ (with ‘do not’ underlined). As seen on kerb-side of *all* theirl vans & trucks”

  4. David Robjant (@bike3isavolvo)

    Sent to,

    Dear John Lewis,

    I’ve set up a petition:

    Text, marked for the special attention of Justin Laney, general manger Central Transport, reads:

    “Please remove the dangerous stickers recently affixed to all John Lewis vans and trucks. These say: “Cyclists: DO NOT pass on this side’ (with ‘do not’ underlined). They are currently seen on kerb-side of *all* John Lewis vans & trucks, irrespective of whether the vehicle in question has any relevant ‘blindspot’, and issue their instruction regardless of road situations.

    Why is this important?

    As TfL have recently recognised, similar stickers with a ‘Cyclists Stay Back’ message have the effect of excusing careless driving and dangerous attitudes, thereby contributing to death and injury.

    Cycling and safety campaigners welcome informative safety stickers with messages such as ‘Caution, Blindspots’ affixed to just those vehicles which actually do have these blindspots. We would also welcome stickers encouraging riders to take DfT Bikeability instruction. We cannot welcome attempts to ban cyclists’ lawful progress or to generally displace blame for poor driving onto victims.

    *Vans have perfectly adequate side mirrors.
    *Current Road Layouts often instruct kerbside filtering.
    *As marked in Coroner’s reports, one important danger to cyclists is to be obstructed from reaching visibility refuge in an Advanced Stop Box.

    Thus among other dangerous effects, John Lewis stickers might cause exactly this sort of death:

    On your current stickers, cyclists are instructed not to filter on the kerbside in any situation, including where painted cycle lanes indicate for kerbside progress to a safe location, where no possibility of a left-hook exists, where blocking or other conditions make offside overtaking impossible or dangerous, and where there is no good reason for the driver (of a van, for example) to fail to observe or take appropriate care.

    As TfL has recognised, indiscriminately instructing cyclists to ‘Stay Back’ or ‘Not Pass’ will misinform cyclists about safe cycling, and also support dangerous attitudes in drivers. Both factors will contribute to deaths. Such liability is a serious matter for a commercial organisation, and you may wish to take note of informed comment:

    Having recognised this very serious problem, we expect you will act swiftly to minimise the damage to the John Lewis and Waitrose brands that will result from your ill-conceived sticker campaign.”

    I’m sending this for your information, in advance of general sharing of this petition.


    David Robjant


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