Cyclist warning stickers: Is Transport for London doing what it can to get wrongly used ones removed?

Ardmore@4ChordsNoNt

Is this FORS member saying: “I have a wing mirror but I can’t be bothered to use it, so ….”?

UPDATED May 29th 2015 with text of letter from cyclists and road danger reduction organisations (at end of post)

As long standing readers know, the Road Danger Reduction Forum has worked alongside our cyclist and road danger reduction partners with Transport for London on this matter. Our aim has been to have only properly worded warning stickers on the right kind of vehicles, in the first instance on vehicles of TfL’s Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme. (See here for the longest account and history of this story, the follow up and how members of the public can engage with TfL/FORS on this matter.)

Some of this – replacing wrongly worded stickers on FORS member HGVs and on buses in London has progressed well. But there remains a substantial problem: a number of vehicles without blind spots (cars, vans, small lorries) belonging to FORS members (like the van above) are still displaying these stickers. Our understanding in meeting with TfL/FORS has been that they would try to get these removed and they have indicated in their guidance that they are not intended for vehicles below 3.5 tonnes (e.g. those without blind spots).

But is TfL actually doing what it can – and should –  be doing here?

The issue of stickers on vehicles without “blind spots”

One of the key issues has been the use of such stickers on vehicles where the driver has the ability and requirement to see cyclists on their near side. 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), and the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) along with the London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group (BCOG) have met with TfL to get this issue addressed.

FORS specifically prescribes that warning signage should be fitted to vehicles over 3.5T (requirement V7 Vulnerable road user safety); In Mayor’s Question Time the Mayor (Question No: 2015/0852) the Mayor responded to Darren Johnson MLA:

There have been several communications to FORS operators concerning the display of appropriate signage, and accreditation criteria has been updated to reflect the new advice. Operators who do not have the new reworded blind spot warning sticker on their vehicles will receive a minor action point in their next FORS audit.

The FORS programme firmly advocates continuous improvement, therefore any unaddressed points in an audit will be escalated to a major action point in the next audit and this would result in a failed audit result for the company. Cyclists, or any other road users, can report FORS vehicles displaying incorrect stickers through the FORS website (http://www.fors-online.org.uk/cms/contact/) and on the FORS helpline.

In addition, at the meeting of stakeholders with TfL/FORS last year, we suggested that if a robust justification of the instruction was made on a FORS web page, members of the public could contact non-FORS members explaining to them that the foremost fleet registration scheme in London (FORS) was opposed to stickers of this type on “non-blind spot” vehicles. This would spread the word to a large number of vehicle operators – FORS members are only part of the problem – and would also be a collaborative action introducing non-members to FORS.

The problem nowFORS vehicles such as these:

So there have been a number of complaints in the last few months to the FORS helpline about

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And many others, including those belonging to supposedly pro-cycling Councils like LBs Camden, Islington and Brent. We believed that these complaints would assist TfL and FORS. However…

 The response…

Responses to those who complained from the FORS helpline contained the following justification for FORS not intervening to get the removal of these stickers from their members’ vehicles:

Whilst FORS specifically prescribes that warning signage should be fitted to vehicles over 3.5T (requirement V7 Vulnerable road user safety), we cannot enforce the application of warning signage to vehicles of 3.5T and under as a number of clients contractually require signage to be displayed on those smaller vehicles. Where this is a contractual requirement of another organisation, it is outside of the remit of FORS and should be addressed with these companies / clients directly. Therefore I am sure you can now appreciate that FORS is not in a position to contact these companies to ask them to remove warning signage.

 …and our reaction

We were gobsmacked by this reasoning. We enquired as to who these clients were (are there many of them?) and why they would require the use of an unjustified sign with a reputation for being both intimidatory and excusing of careless driving. After various communications with TfL and FORS management, we were told that despite FORS Standard ‘V7 – Vulnerable road user safety’ requires approved blind spot warning signage to be fitted only on vehicles over 3.5 tonne gross vehicle weight,

We are aware that other organisations contractually require their operators, as part of their measures to manage work related road risk, to use warning signage on vehicles below 3.5 tonne gross vehicle weight. However, we do not hold information about which of these operators are also FORS accredited. We strongly encourage other organisations to actively managing road risk and are committed to working collaboratively to provide support, guidance and to promote good practice However, neither TfL nor FORS have a remit to enforce prescriptive and onerous rules, such as the ones you appear to be suggesting, about how other organisations manage road risk in their supply chain. “

The ”prescriptive and onerous rules” RDRF suggested were that:

(a) FORS assess how many cases (approximately) have there been where clients of FORS members have contractually required them to display cyclist warning stickers on vehicles without blind spots as a necessary condition of employment.

(b) In these cases, TfL/FORS may inform the organisations in question that the stickers were never intended for vehicles without blind spots.

(c) Also in these cases, our strong request is for TfL to write to all FORS members, advising them that the use of these signs is contrary to the conditions of their FORS accreditation, and urging them not to sign up to any similar contractual conditions in future, as this could lead to the loss of their FORS accreditation.

(d) In general, we would request that TfL write to all FORS members advising them that the use of these signs is contrary to the conditions of their FORS accreditation, and urging them to remove any such signs, as failure to do so could result in the loss of FORS accreditation and/or reduction in FORS accreditation level.

We don’t see such rules being enforced as onerous or prescriptive (except insofar as any rule is prescriptive).

 So what happens now?

RDRF has consulted with our partners:

The Association of Bikeability Schemes (TABS), the national cyclists’ charity (CTC), the national road crash victims’ organisation (RoadPeace) the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) along with the London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group (BCOG).

The consensus is that, while we acknowledge that TfL cannot over-ride any existing contractual conditions imposed on FORS operators by their clients we don’t accept that this renders them powerless to deal with this situation.

We will ask TfL/FORS to do the following:

 

    1. After a period of time, it removes FORS accreditation from any FORS operators who have these stickers and who have NOT provided evidence that they are contractually bound to have them. However it would exempt any FORS operators who had produced evidence of a contractual requirement to have these stickers – at least for the time being. But they would be warned that they should not sign further contracts with these conditions, as this could lead to their FORS accreditation.
    2.  Specifically contact every London Borough explaining that all stickers must be removed from all small vehicles. They and TfL should also ensure none of their contracts require signage on small vehicles. They should also monitor compliance among both their own and contractors fleets.
    3.  Make it clear to FORS operators that it regards the inappropriate use of these signs as being contrary to (rather than supportive of) the health and safety responsibilities of the operators and that it should therefore urge all FORS operators EITHER to remove these stickers OR to provide evidence of a contractual requirement as to why they cannot do so. (And that way, TfL will find out how many FORS operators are subject to these contractual conditions.)
    4.  The advice presented on the fors-online website is welcome but we suggest that the penultimate paragraph be strengthened to say something like:“FORS specifically prescribes that warning signage should only be fitted to vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight. Our guidance is that blind spot warning signage is not required on vehicles under 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight. Such signs on small vehicles are counterproductive and can induce less careful driving around cyclists and pedestrians. They should be removed at the first opportunity. If there are contractual difficulties in removing signs immediately the operator should seek a variation of the contract to bring it in line with current best practice.”http://www.fors-online.org.uk/cms/warning-signage/
    5.  Meet with the cyclist and road danger reduction organisations involved, who want to engage constructively with TfL/FORS to come up with a solution, and request such a meeting to discuss these proposals, and/or any alternative that TfL might wish to explore.

(A formal letter, by the cyclist and road danger reduction organisations mentioned above, to TfL/FORS management making our requests is due to be sent after the General Election, and should then be found on their web sites. SEE BELOW  The link to this post has been sent to TfL/FORS. )

 

Dr Robert Davis, Chair RDRF 6th May 2015

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untitled LCC logo rOADpEACElogo TABS

29th May 2015

Leon Daniels,
Managing Director,
Surface Transport, Transport for London
Palestra,
197 Blackfriars Road
London SE1 8NJ

 

Dear Mr Daniels,

Inappropriate cyclist warning stickers on inappropriate vehicles

On behalf of the organisations listed above, we write in response to an email from Ian Wainwright, dated 29th April 2015, regarding the continuing misuse of cyclist warning stickers on the backs of vans and taxis in London, in addition to the lorries for which they were intended.

Mr Wainwright references a lot of good work that TfL and FORS have undertaken to promote cycle-lorry safety, and to prevent the inappropriate use of incorrectly-worded cyclist warning stickers on FORS lorries, since we raised our concerns about this issue in the joint letter sent to you by most of our organisations on 20th February 2014. We commend all of this.

We also acknowledge that neither TfL nor FORS has any legal power to over-ride any existing contractual conditions imposed on FORS operators by their clients, if these stipulate the use of inappropriate stickers, and that TfL does not have information about the scale of the problem. However we do not accept that this leaves TfL/FORS powerless to deal with this situation.
Overleaf we set out a proposed course of action, that would not only provide an indication of the scale of the problem, but would also address it over time. We recognise that you may wish to refine it or propose alternatives. However we hope you will agree that it is both possible and necessary to take steps to address this problem. We therefore request a meeting to discuss how best to do this.

Yours sincerely,
Roger Geffen,  CTC

Ashok Sinha,  London Cycling Campaign

Dr. Robert Davis,  Chair, Road Danger Reduction Forum

Amy Aeron-Thomas, RoadPeace

David Dansky, TABS (The Association of Bikeability Schemes)

PROPOSED STEPS FOR TACKLING THE INAPPROPRIATE USE OF CYCLIST WARNING STICKERS ON INAPPROPRIATE VEHICLES

1)  As a first step, we urge TfL to contact FORS operators, reiterating its view that drivers or operators who use either the wrong warning signs, or the right warning signs on the wrong vehicles (e.g. vans or taxis), are undermining their health and safety obligations and TfL’s own cycle safety objectives, by incorrectly disseminating the idea that responsibility for collisionavoidance can be displaced onto cyclists, simply by putting up a sign.
The letter should then explain TfL’s understanding that some FORS operators may be subject to contractual conditions that require them to display these stickers, despite this being contrary to the terms of their FORS accreditation. It should then spell out clearly that all FORS operators should EITHER  remove these stickers OR  provide evidence of a contractual requirement as to why they cannot do so, giving them a deadline for responses. A reminder could also be sent. By requesting this information, TfL will not only find out how many FORS operators are subject to these contractual conditions, but also which operators are currently bound by them, and by which clients. This is valuable for step 4 in the process, as outlined below.
2)  A similar letter should go to all London boroughs, urging them to ensure that incorrect signs are removed from vehicles operated by or under contract to the Council, likewise any such signs on council-operated or council-contracted vehicles for which warning signs are inappropriate.
3)  At the same time as the above, we also urge TfL to update the advice on cyclist warning stickers on the FORS website (http://www.fors-online.org.uk/cms/warning-signage/). In general, we strongly welcome this advice. However we recommend that the penultimate paragraph be strengthened to say:
FORS specifically prescribes that warning signage should only be fitted to vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight. Our guidance is that blind spot warning signage is not required on vehicles under 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight. Such signs on small vehicles are counterproductive and can induce less careful driving around cyclists and pedestrians. FORS operators should remove these signs at the first opportunity, and TfL also urges non-FORS operators to do likewise, particularly if they intend to seek FORS accreditation. If there are contractual difficulties in removing signs immediately, the operator should notify TfL [provide a contact hyperlink here] and seek a variation of the contract at the earliest opportunity to bring it in line with current best practice. FORS operators who fail to do so in accordance with the letter dated [date, provide hyperlink to the letter] may lose accreditation or be downgraded a level in FORS hierarchy (bronze, silver, gold)”
4) Having given FORS operators time to respond to this, TfL should then start withdrawing FORS accreditation from any FORS operators who are still displaying these stickers without having provided evidence that they are contractually bound to have these. FORS operators who HAD produced evidence of such a contractual requirement would be provisionally exempted, but should be warned that they could lose their FORS accreditation if they sign any further contracts with these conditions.
CTC, LCC, Road Danger Reduction Forum, RoadPeace, TABS-UK May 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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