Monthly Archives: November 2014

An open letter to UK’s cycle training industry

The Alternative Department for Transport emblem
The Alternative Department for Transport

Re: Government using cycle training as an excuse to sideline cycling

Dear TABS and other cycle training organisations,

Are you annoyed that the politicians use you to suppress cycling? This probably comes as no surprise, political figures spouting nonsense is nothing new, after all!

Personally, I would be very annoyed if my work was being misrepresented, and used as an excuse to ignore real cycling provision – and unfortunately that’s exactly what’s happening with you.

Time after time, we see those in power refuse to support proper cycling infrastructure – good quality cycling infrastructure, enabling cycling for all, regardless of ability, as can be found in the Netherlands – and one of the frequent excuses given is that cycle training is offered instead.

What they mean by this is that the government throws some money at the cycle training industry. I know it’s not much money in the grand scheme of things, not enough even to teach every child the basics, and yet some of those in power then consider it “job done” as far as cycling is concerned.

Here’s an MSP in Glasgow refusing to support space for cycling, using training as an excuse.

Doesn’t that make your blood boil? Here you are, trying to do some good, and these politicians are using that as a reason to wash their hands of responsibility!

Here’s another politician, in London, cherry-picking a very rare situation as part of an ongoing campaign against the type of infrastructure that’s proven to be safe for everybody.

Central government frequently trumpets the number of children who have received Bikeability training as if this is a goal in itself, ignoring the fact that very few children actually then put these skills to use by cycling for transport.

Surely this must bother you? I can see you being wary of biting the hand that feeds you – the (other) Department for Transport’s logo is on your website, I guess you must receive funds from them – but isn’t it time to issue a statement which will prevent the politicians’ divide-and-rule, infra-versus-training debate once and for all? I’m often told that training is not in opposition to infrastructure, and this is a good chance to prove it.

As an industry, you surely support the principle of investment in high-quality cycle infrastructure. TABS’ website states that their ultimate aim is “more people taking trips by bike more often and more safely” (and some of your most prominent people are in favour of cycleways).

As we all know, “more people taking trips by bike more often and more safely” will only happen when people feel safe and comfortable travelling by bike – which inevitably means not having to cycle amongst lots of motor vehicles.

Surely you’d much rather be teaching every child in the country the rules of the road on safe infrastructure? Perhaps, with your help, one day the UK will be a country where eight years old is considered late for independent cycling!

I don’t expect you to become another full-time campaign organisation, but silence on this issue is tacit agreement with those who abuse your work. It would help everybody if campaigners had something to show to the politicans to say “look, cycle trainers say you’re wrong too. Cycling needs standards and investment.”

So I’m asking you to issue a press release, or add a page to your website, to make clear that training isn’t an alternative to proper infrastructure, but is instead an adjunct to it. Let the politicians know that throwing a few quid at Bikeability isn’t enough to create mass cycling in the UK, and that they can’t continue to design roads solely for motor vehicles any more.

All the best,
S.C.

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You wait ages for a bus, and then three casualties come along at once

Bus drivers are miserable gits, aren’t they, eh? All they do is sit there, driving around under pressure from a system that puts unreasonable demands on them, encourages them to drive dangerously, working unreasonable hours for low pay. Why don’t they just smile?

Or, if they have concerns or complaints, why don’t they report them?

Which leads me to the thrust of today’s post: There is no independent reporting system for bus drivers.

You should know that for almost 20 years, train drivers have had anonymous access to an independent system called CIRAS, which addresses concerns in a no-blame way. The goal of the system is to investigate concerns and eliminate the danger before something bad happens.

This is one of the reasons why Britain’s railways are so safe – drivers feel free to report concerns about safety, dangerous practice, unreasonable hours, or whatever. They can report to CIRAS, who will discuss with management and staff to resolve the problem.

The CIRAS scheme is clearly of use – Network Rail are members, as are TfL’s Underground, Overground and light rail services.

But for some reason TfL doesn’t use it for their buses. Why is this?

  • The scheme already allows buses, it’s not just for trains.
  • TfL already value the scheme, as they pay for their rail networks membership.
  • Adding the buses most likely wouldn’t cost any extra – what TfL pays for the trains would cover the buses too, as it’s one organisation.
  • And – probably the most important reason – is that TfL’s bus system is dangerous:

Every single day there are on average over 60 (yes, sixty) collisions involving TfL’s buses. (See this FOI’d data.)

A TfL bus is involved in someone being killed or seriously-injured on average more than three times every day in the first six months of 2014. (See TfL’s own bus data here.)

The number of incidents sharply increased when Mayor Johnson introduced bus performance contracts, and has been increasing ever since.

How many of them could be prevented by listening to the drivers?

If we listened to the bus drivers – and the system was changed so that they didn’t have to work over-long hours, so that they weren’t under pressure to complete routes in short timespans – then maybe we would all have reason to be more cheerful.

 


Thanks to Tom Kearney for most of the information here. If you don’t know about Tom, he was hit by a red-light-running bus on Oxford Street, was expected to die, woke up after two weeks in a near-death coma, and left hospital after ten weeks, to piece his life back together. He later discovered that TfL and the Metropolitan Police had failed to investigate the case (some might even say it was covered up).

This should come as no surprise, as the branch of the police which investigate bus crashes is funded by TfL – who are also responsible for the bus system! Talk about the fox being in charge of the hen-house…

Here are some links to articles on Tom’s blog, where you’ll find much more information and detail about TfL’s killer bus system:

How the police and TfL looked every which way they could to avoid investigating Tom’s near-death

Tom forced TfL – against its will – to publish bus collision data

The head of CIRAS tells us that TfL could add buses to the system

TfL and bus companies: Ignoring safety for profit

Guest blog post from a bus driver describing the system in which they work (there’s more of these, from various drivers – they’re in-depth but worth reading)

Finally, for now, can anyone tell me why the mainstream media has ignored this issue? It seems that Tom has uncovered dangerous practices which result in thousands of casualties every year, and yet few seem interested.

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