Unite on the streets

December 1, 2013 at 9:27 am (Cycling, London, Rosie B)

On our streets taxi, bus and lorry drivers and cyclists have an uncomfortable  relationship. In Edinburgh a piece of dangerously inept road design united taxi drivers and cyclists in protest, and this union of shared interest was presented as a kind of Ribbentrop pact.

Bella Bathurst’s The Bicycle Book had one chapter where cabbies spilled their dislike of cyclists. – for getting in the way, bending their wing mirrors and scratching their doors as they do that cyclist’s slither along the roofless tunnel that motorised vehicles create.

In London “around 50% of all cyclist deaths involve lorries, which comprise only about 5% of traffic, with a high proportion happening when left-turning trucks crush cyclists.” Construction lorries are the main culprit.

The London Cycle Campaign has an arm that attempts to improve co-existence between lorries and cyclists.  One simple method is for cyclists and lorry drivers to change seats. Cyclists sit in  the cab and note the restricted view of a lorry driver. A friend of mine. a London cycling commuter, tried this, and said it was an eye-opener, seeing where the blind spots are.  London councils offer their drivers a day on a bicycle to widen their understanding of what a road is like for a cyclist.

This kind of thing is obviously better than professional drivers’ and cyclists’ relationship being that of giving each other the finger and swearing.

The London Cycle Campaign also gives advice on how cyclists should drive near lorries.  Their advice confirmed my instincts – when I see one of those big bastards I don’t go near them.  I give them all the road in the world to get away from my space.


At the moment street design in the United Kingdom means cyclists and motorised vehicles having to share busy, fast streets.  Cyclists and the professional drivers are together in wanting to be apart. There have been six deaths of cyclists in London in a fortnight, about which Unite put out a statement:-

Unite, Britain’s biggest union, which represents London’s bus and taxi drivers, is calling on Boris Johnson to take urgent action to stop the tragic loss of life on the streets of the capital.

The union is urging the Mayor to invest, as a matter of urgency, in safe and effective cycle routes, separated from other road users to reduce the practice of cyclists using the capital’s congested bus lanes.

The number of cyclists on London’s streets has trebled in recent years, but the Mayor’s infrastructure strategy and spending policy is nowhere near enough to cope with the influx and is wholly inadequate.


“Our bus driver members have been deeply affected by the tragic loss of life on our roads, and recognise the vulnerability of cyclists vying for space on London’s increasingly busy roads.

“Boris Johnson’s spending policy for cyclists is lagging behind reality. The Mayor and his cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan have a lot to answer for, following their deeply inappropriate and insensitive comments. Their blasé remarks show utter contempt for the health and safety of all road users.

Jim Kelly, Unite taxi representative, said: “Unite’s bus and taxi driver members report that in many places the Mayor’s blue Cycle Super Highways are not fit for purpose – a bit of blue paint is simply not enough to keep cyclists safe.

“Urgent action is needed to develop a safe cycling network that takes cyclists away from the capital’s busiest and most congested thoroughfares. An example of good practice can be found in Cable Street East London, where cyclists have a route segregated from traffic – a safe alternative to the busy Commercial Road.”

Meanwhile the London Cycling Campaign is “calling on the Mayor to redesign every major junction in Greater London to make cycling a safe, comfortable and convenient experience for everyone, and is demanding he take immediate action to address Cycle Superhighway 2 from Aldgate to Bow. ”


 More than a 1,000 cyclists blocked traffic as they lay in the road outside the Transport for London (TfL) headquarters tonight to protest recent road deaths.

Here’s the vision of an infrastructure presented by Boris Johnson and Andrew Gilligan, his cycling commissioner:-


The present blue painted lines are presumably supposed to be a step towards that urban paradise, but they contain shocking sections at present.  Follow this link to a video which shows how bad a place it is at the moment, and looking at it, with the segregated paths being in short chunks that disappear at junctions, I wouldn’t cycle that for £1000.

Another video shows how the Dutch, who are the cycling gods, manage their infrastructure. There are different light phases for cyclists. There are rights on uncontrolled crossings for pedestrians and cycles, and clear sightlines for lorries. What makes me really envious are the safe busy roundabouts, which are my greatest fear. Oh, note that the red-light jumper is a British lorry!(2:29).

These aren’t mock ups. They’re pictures of actual people using safe infrastructure in actual cities

1 Comment

  1. Unite on the streets | OzHouse said,

    […] Dec 01 2013 by admin […]

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