As part of our public service commitment I have dug out the debate in the Greater London Assembly on cycling safety on November 9th 2011 so that we can see what politicians of all parties said before a major media campaign burst out from The Times. This debate went under the guise of questions to TfL. I am grateful to our colleagues at Camden New Journal for first reporting this at the time – I admire the fact that the Journal still does things the old fashioned way and goes to stuff and reports it.
Anyway, the transcript of the debate is hidden away inaccessibly on the London.gov.uk website so I have extracted the bit on cycling verbatim and put it in an easy to browse google doc – anyone can see it you don’t need an account or login. You can also download it as a word document here. The Chair of TfL (Boris Johnson, also the Mayor) puts in a bravura defence of TfL and ducks and dives all over the place on whether junctions should be re-engineered to make them safer for cyclists. Mr Johnson’s statement that junctions are ‘under constant review’ is fascinating – if they are under constant review why is so little timely action taken to make them safer? Some of his sweeping comments about engineering solutions to make the road safer beggar belief as you ride through Kings Cross. Thanks to Caroline Pidgeon AM and Jenny Jones AM for pushing hard.
Boris Johnson (Chair, TfL): When you look at some of these roundabouts, for instance, it is simply not possible to put in a dedicated lane that would protect a cyclist in the way that we would all want without totally disrupting the traffic…..
Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Yes, but what I am asking is will you commit to make sure you review these junctions personally and particularly the cycle superhighways. A lot of cyclists that I talk to see it as just some blue paint on the road and at some of the very difficult junctions – whether it is Oval or Stockwell – you have not really tackled some of the more expensive mechanics that you need to make at those junctions to make them work and safe for cyclists.
Boris Johnson (Chair, TfL): Of course. That is why —
Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Of course – is that a yes?
Boris Johnson (Chair, TfL): They are under constant review and I can tell you that I personally cycled all of these areas and I have strong views —
Caroline Pidgeon (AM): And reviewed them?
Boris Johnson (Chair, TfL): — about them. I make my views known to TfL. You have got to be honest and sometimes, Caroline, it is not the case that you could materially affect the outcome by engineering. You have got to be honest about this. You cannot just tell people that it can all be magically changed simply by rebuilding roads —
Caroline Pidgeon (AM): It is not just engineering – it goes along with training and some of the other measures from HGVs that I welcome. I still want you to be reviewing those dangerous junctions to make sure you are doing everything you can.
Jenny Jones (AM): Commissioner, thank you for your letter that you have written to me about the Kings Cross cycling death. You have offered a briefing on the whole junction which probably Val Shawcross and Caroline Pidgeon would also like to be part of. Yes, to that briefing.
Boris Johnson (Chair, TfL): …Jenny, I really respectfully appreciate you raising this up the agenda because I take this incredibly seriously and it is of huge personal importance to me because I feel that I am the Mayor who makes a big thing about cycling and goes on and on about how wonderful it is that we have got our bike hire scheme and that we have had a 15% increase in cycling in the last year. I am very proud of it so of course it really worries me when I read about cycling accidents. It grieves me sometimes to see the way that TfL is blamed. If we can do anything to ameliorate the junction that you describe, or the roundabout, and if that would really address the problem then of course we will look at it. Sometimes I do not think that physical street works are the answer. The answer is, very often, to educate HGV drivers and to educate cyclists about the need not to be, as I said in my earlier answer to Caroline, caught in that position on the left.