Regulating Cycling – Is It Overdue?

Regulating Cycling – Is It Overdue?

female cyclist riding bicycle along mountain road in summer

Transport Minister Grant Shapps has suggested that cyclists should be insured, required to have some form of identification (e.g. number plates) and be subject to a 20 mph speed limit. There was an interesting article in the Daily Mail by Melissa Kite on this subject. I quote from parts of it:

The last time I rode my horse on the country lanes of Surrey, I nearly didn’t come back. All thanks to a gang of cyclists.Only a few steps from the gate of the stable yard, a racing club in formation swarmed downhill towards me, spread across the lane. As poor Darcy began to panic, I screamed: ‘No, please!’ But they kept on coming. The bikes swirled around Darcy and suddenly she was spinning in circles – right into the path of a car behind me. I clung to her neck to stop myself falling, and saw the look on the driver’s face. We were so close I think we both thought I was about to end up on the bonnet. To this day, Darcy trembles when she hears the faintest whoosh of a bike. Anyone prepared to hurtle past a woman clinging to the neck of a terrified horse is not safe to be on the roads unlicensed and uninsured.

Some cyclists flagrantly break the law: running red lights, ignoring pedestrian crossings, weaving in and out of lanes and mounting pavements.

As my experience shows, the situation is dire in the countryside, where weekend cycling clubs are increasingly using the public roads as a racing track. And it’s not just the accidents they cause. It’s their anti-social behaviour. The atmosphere in many once-genteel areas has been ruined by the arrogant mentality of cyclists, hurtling along with selfish aggression”.

Comment: There is certainly a big problem in London and other major UK cities. Cyclists ignore red lights and do not give way to pedestrians. Modern bikes enable cyclists to exceed safe speeds and their brakes are not fit for purpose. If they are involved in an accident, as they are often are, they can ride away as they know there is no way of tracing them.

It has been suggested in the past that registration of cyclists or cycles would be expensive and not justified by the benefits. But a modern electronic registration system would not be expensive and a small number plate not difficult to affix to bikes. It should not put off anyone from cycling.

Tougher laws about cycling behaviour would also be welcomed by many people. Riding on pavements is a major problem which pedestrians heartily dislike and now that we have users of electric scooters doing the same we need a review of laws in this area.

Unfortunately many cyclists now think they are competing in a race against other cyclists and this has been encouraged by the promotion of cycling events. Organised events on public roads should be banned.

Roger Lawson

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The Good News and the Bad

The good news is that Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is proposing to drop plans for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) scheme that would charge motorists similar to the Birmingham and London schemes. But it depends on agreement with the Government. The charging scheme had already been “paused” until 2026 but now looks like it will be scrapped. Signs already put up for the scheme will need to be removed. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-61439444 for more details.

The bad news is that the Daily Telegraph have reported that the Government is to finance Mini-Holland cycling schemes to encourage people to ditch their cars in Britain’s major cities under government plans.

Nineteen local authorities, including Manchester, Hull and Nottinghamshire, are to get government funds for mini-Hollands with segregated bike lanes, traffic calming and residential streets blocked to cars.

It is suggested officials have steered away from describing any of the projects as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), which have provoked intense local opposition over road closures and claims of increased congestion on boundary highways in some areas. But they did acknowledge some had LTN features. See Telegraph article here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/05/14/wheels-motion-turn-british-cities-cycle-friendly-mini-hollands/

Comment: I cannot understand why people think that Holland is a good example to follow. There may be more cycling in some Dutch cities such as Amsterdam but nationally there are more casualties to cyclists than in the UK and traffic congestion is also worse. There is no evidence that introducing such schemes increases cycling (or “active travel”) in the UK. Cycling remains a fair-weather transport mode only followed by young males in flat locations. If people calling for mini-Hollands actually bothered to visit Holland they would see a very different picture. The only good aspect is that Holland has encouraged more off-road cycle paths that separate vehicle traffic from cyclists.  

Instead of spending £200 million on encouraging cycling the Government should spend it on improving the road network to improve road safety and cut traffic congestion.

Another good article in the Telegraph was entitled “Why Boris and the elite are determined to wean us off the car”. It said “Exasperated motorists are feeling pushed out of the picture with rising fuel costs, congestion charges, low traffic zones and speeding fines, and motorists, especially those who travel into cities, feel they are being hit from every direction. Dead ahead there are closed off roads in low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs); to the left there are automated cameras monitoring their every move; to the right low emission zones and 20mph limits. And all around are parking charges and fuel costs that put a hefty dent in your wallet”; “There has now developed in Government an anti-car attitude as opposed to car management, a hostility to the motor vehicle rather than how we can manage this, says former transport minister John Spellar. He puts this down to a London-centric approach to transport that focuses on the problems cars cause in congested cities and ignores different conditions in other areas. As Spellar points out, working Britons outside the capital – particularly manual and shift workers – often rely on their vehicles to get to work, unlike city commuters who can travel by train”. See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/cars/features/boris-elite-determined-wean-us-car/ for the full article.

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Pedicabs/Rickshaws to be Regulated

Grant Shapps, Transport Minister, has announced that he intends to introduce regulations for pedicabs, otherwise known as rickshaws. At present they are not regulated at all and local councils have no powers to impose regulations on them – for example in the interests of road safety, the safety of passengers or to avoid a public nuisance. 

They are a big problem in some parts of London, particularly in the evening.

Mr Shapps said in Parliament that “There isn’t any legislation which accurately enables any type of licensing or regulation. It’s time – it’s high time – I know Parliament has expressed interest through a series backbench bills that for one reason or another…have not proceeded through Parliament. We will do that on Government time in the Transport Bill”.

Comment: some system of licensing is surely required and it would be a good idea to extend that to all pedal cyclists. There was a time when most cyclists used to adhere to the Highway Code but now they tend to cycle through red lights and if they are involved in an accident they just walk away knowing they cannot be traced. All users of vehicles on our roads should be traceable and insured. I would even extend it to the users of e-scooters which are proving to be positively hazardous for pedestrians with numerous reports of personal injury accidents involving them. There is very obviously a great deal of infringement of the current regulations that should stop e-scooters being used on pavements or even on roads unless they are rented as part of a regulated trial. The law is being blatantly ignored.

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Chris Boardman’s New Job and Conflicts of Interest


Former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman has been appointed to lead a new body to promote active travel to be called Active Travel England (ATE). ATE will be responsible for driving up the standards of cycling and walking infrastructure and managing the national active travel budget, awarding funding for projects that meet the new national standards set out in 2020.

There will be funding of £5.5 million for investment in cycling and walking schemes, including £300,000 top-up to e-cargo bike schemes and £3 million to improve cycling infrastructure around train stations and to explore active travel on prescription.

But the concern is that Chris Boardman is involved in selling Boardman branded cycles through Halfords and other companies, and has a dedicated web site – see link below.
It is surely inappropriate for a promoter of cycling schemes to have a financial interest in cycling.

DfT Announcement: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/olympic-gold-medallist-and-cyclist-chris-boardman-to-lead-governments-new-active-travel-body

Boardman Cycles: https://www.boardmanbikes.com/gb_en/

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Travel in London Report – Mayor’s Objectives Not Met

Before Christmas Transport for London (TfL) published its 14th Report on Travel in London. It’s basically a collection of data on transport trends in the capital. At 263 pages I’ll only provide a brief summary of some of the key points here – see link below for the full report.

Pandemic Impact

The Report includes data showing the impact of the pandemic. By November 2021 the demand for public transport overall was down to around 70% from pre-pandemic levels. London Underground was 65% and bus demand was about 75%. But road traffic only reduced to about 95% as people chose to avoid using public transport by using private transport (i.e. cars or PHVs) or walking.

Walking actually increased substantially and cycling did increase but mainly for leisure cycling at weekends. Weekday peak commuter travel is not recovering rapidly as there is more working from home, and this is particularly noticeable in central London.

Mode Share

The mode share proportion since 2000 is shown in the above chart. You can see that despite the encouragement for cycling in recent years and particularly by the LTNs of late, cycling has remained a very small proportion and any increase during the pandemic was mainly for leisure.

To quote from page 11 of the Report: “The overall active, efficient and sustainable mode share for travel in 2020 is estimated at 58.3 per cent, compared to 63.2 per cent in 2019”. That includes walking, cycling and public transport use, although why public transport should be considered “sustainable” is not clear. But clearly the effect of the pandemic has been to frustrate the Mayor’s objective to get us all out of our cars and increase “sustainable travel” modes to 80% by 2041. In fact, the active travel mode objective of 20 minutes per day (walking/cycling) for 70% of the population has instead fallen to 35% in the latest quarter probably due to less by those working from home.

Air Pollution

The Report contains some data on air pollution some of which comes from road and other transport of course. But it shows how air pollution has been substantially reducing in the last few years. One interesting comment in the Report is that “The Mayor’s Transport Strategy set a target for London to be a zero carbon city by 2050. However, the Mayor has recently called for this to be brought forward to 2030, recognising the importance of the climate change emergency we face”. That’s news to me. So a diesel/petrol car bought this year might be banned in eight years time if the Mayor has his way!

London’s Population

The good news is that limited data suggests the population of London has decreased with significant reductions in international inward migration. The pandemic has deterred international travel while Londoners have moved out to homes in the country and there may have been some “excess deaths” from the pandemic.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

The Report comments on the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) on page 123 but the data reported is very selective and biased. They conclude with this statement: “In summary, LTNs have a wide range of different and interconnected impacts but the evidence suggests that these are largely positive and that it is in the longer term where most of the benefits become apparent. Therefore, TfL shall continue to support and, where appropriate, conduct further research for a complete and thorough evaluation of LTN impacts”. It seems they have not yet accepted that the majority of residents do not support LTNs as is clear from recent surveys and public consultations in local boroughs, Lewisham being the latest one which we will comment on later.

Traffic Congestion

A section of the Report covers traffic congestion (pages 143 on). It reports that over the last decade “A slow but generally consistent trend of reducing traffic volumes in central and inner London…”; “Traffic volumes in outer London have, however, grown over this period; and “Generally lower car traffic, higher freight traffic, particularly LGVs, and dramatic changes to the numbers of private hire vehicles”. But this comment shows the impact of the Mayor’s policies: “Continued reductions to the effective capacity of London’s roads, generally reflecting other Mayoral priorities such as reducing road danger, requiring enhanced operational management of the road network”. Yes as we all know, London has become more congested in the last few years due to damaging policies.

There has been an allegation widely reported that traffic on minor roads in London has increased substantially in recent years but the Report contradicts that. It says: “Notably, the volume estimates for London’s major roads remained broadly unchanged, and there was no evidence of an (observed) increasing year-on-year trend in minor road traffic from available independent data over the preceding decade”. It seems the claimed increase might have been an aberration based on misleading statistical data.

How do you measure traffic congestion? One way is by traffic speed but that can be misleading. The best way is to look at “excess delay” which compares actual travel time versus that under “free-flow” conditions. The Report actually shows some data on this which is the first for some time to my knowledge. The chart below shows congestion worsening from 2010 and particularly in the period 2015-2019, but a big improvement thereafter as travel generally was reduced due to the pandemic. But it is still worse than ten years ago!

In conclusion, the Travel in London Report does contain some very interesting data, albeit distorted by the pandemic as travel patterns and volume changed. But it shows how defective has been the Mayor’s Transport Strategy as people have resisted change to modes while road capacity has been reduced.

Travel in London Report 14: https://content.tfl.gov.uk/travel-in-london-report-14.pdf

Roger Lawson

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Year End News Wrap Up

This article covers the news items that have appeared in the last couple of weeks that will be of interest to drivers:

Cycle Licensing. The Government has rejected a petition to introduce identification for cycle and e-scooter riders – in effect a licensing system. This was signed by over 10,000 people amid growing concerns about the behaviour or cyclists, particularly in major cities such as London, and the illegal use of e-scooters. The Government thinks it would be too expensive and licensing would deter cycling. See https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/585474?reveal_response=yes#response-threshold

Comment: This is an example of where more signatures might have been obtained, and a more positive response from the Government, if the petition had been more carefully worded. Other countries have introduced registration systems for cyclists in the past but often abandoned them subsequently because of the high costs of administration. But an on-line registration system might be very low cost. There should be no qualification or ability test system, but the ability to identify cyclists after involvement in an accident is important.

Bus Lanes in London.  Transport for London (TfL) have announced that the conversion of bus lanes to operate 24 hours per day has been made permanent. They say that this change that was introduced on some routes recently has improved bus journey times. For the announcement, see: https://tfl-newsroom.prgloo.com/news/tfl-press-release-24-hour-bus-lanes-trial-set-to-become-permanent-as-bus-journey-times-improve

Comment: Of course the recent reduction in bus journey times might have been down to overall traffic reduction as more people worked from home and avoided shopping during the epidemic. Bus lanes are discriminatory in that they favour one transport mode over another for no good reason and do not necessarily maximise the use of road space or the number of people carried. The photograph from the TfL Press Release above shows how underutilised are many bus lanes.

Driver Distraction. There is growing concern about the number of accidents caused by driver distraction. This is not just people using their mobile phones to call or send/receive text messages but using other in-car devices such as satnav systems. An extreme example is the ability of passengers to use touch-screen displays in Tesla vehicles for “gameplay” which is now being investigated by US safety body NHTSA – see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-59760366

Comment: As in-car electronic devices have proliferated and more control options have been provided, it’s become more complex over recent years and inexperienced drivers are the most easily distracted. This certainly requires some investigation because “failed to notice” is a big cause of accidents according to police reports. It may be worth considering whether satnav and infotainment systems should be controllable only when a vehicle is stationary.

ABD Ejected. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has been thrown out of PACTS (the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety) apparently due to the issue of an injudicious tweet. The ABD claims this is down to pressure from “anonymous extreme cycling lobby trolls” but that is a typical unwise comment from ABD Directors and was one reason why I tried to get some changes made in the ABD and am no longer connected with them. PACTS may be an ineffective organisation in promoting transport safety with poor leadership but association with the extremists at the ABD is becoming something no responsible organisation wishes to be linked to.

Car Insurance Costs. One positive change in the New Year for car drivers is that insurers will no longer be able to charge a different rate for new customers to old ones. So renewals should not automatically rise as they have done in the past.

Comment: This should ensure that we do not have to waste time looking at alternative quotes to avoid being stiffed by insurers reliance on our apathy. However despite Willis Towers Watson claiming that insurance rates are at a six year low, my quote to renew insurance was increased by 7% this week. That’s despite my 22 years of no claims bonus and nothing of significance otherwise in recent years. I will be shopping around for an alternative quote. I expected my insurance to fall as I have been driving less in the last two years due to the pandemic and that is generally true of the wider population so accidents have fallen.

Postscript: I got an alternative insurance quotation and managed to cut the cost by £99 from the proposed renewal cost so switched to Saga who I have used in the past. A most efficient on-line quotation system. The moral is that it still pays to shop around.

Croydon Streetspace Schemes and Governance. The London Borough of Croydon is pushing ahead with its Streetspace schemes despite very strong local opposition – see https://news.croydon.gov.uk/next-phase-of-walking-and-cycling-schemes-approved/ . But Croydon residents have also voted to move to a directly elected Mayor which shows the dissatisfaction with the way the borough has been run recently.

Comment: I am not sure this will make a big difference. In Lewisham who have a directly elected Mayor we still see extreme and unwise policies being promoted by the Mayor.

Conclusion. What does the new year hold for private motorists? Probably more prejudice as extreme cyclists continue to dominate policy and the Government’s net zero policies prejudice all private transport. Irrationality continues to be rampant with no proper cost/benefit analysis of new policies or projects.

There is unfortunately a decline in moderation in all politics so we see rushed decisions being taken about responses to the pandemic including using it as an excuse to close roads. We all need to return to sanity and not let the extremists dominate debate.

The Freedom for Drivers Foundation is trying to promote rational and moderate policies so please support us in doing so.

Roger Lawson

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More Leisure Cycling But Not Otherwise

Cllr Vincent Stops posted this comment on Twitter on 9/12/2021: “Whatever London’s Cycling Czar, Will Norman tweets, this is what TfL’s statisticians told their Board meeting yesterday in public about post-pandemic cycling. Unsurprisingly, neither he nor the cycle bloggers, academics nor journos have commented. Please note: percentage changes”:

Cycling as a leisure activity clearly increased during weekends, but overall the level of cycling did not increase during the pandemic despite numerous exhortations to do so and measures to encourage it. Cycling actually fell along with other travel modes. Clearly cycling as a regular mode of travel did not prove any more popular despite claims to the contrary.

Cllr Vincent Stops is a Hackney Councillor who chairs a Planning Committee. He told the Hackney Post in December: “It’s better to create safer roads for everyone. I think cycle bloggers have too much influence.”

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London Is Now The Most Congested City

A report by traffic information supplier Inrix says London has become the most congested city in the world. Its drivers are losing an average of 148 hours per years sitting in traffic. Other UK cities with major congestion problems are Cambridge, Bristol, Exeter and Cheltenham.

Inrix’s Peter Lees blames a lot of the problem on cycle lanes which have made congestion worse. That is certainly true in London where the expenditure on cycle lanes has been very counter-productive. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) have also contributed in a big way to increased traffic congestion in many parts of London.

Comment: The result in London is a direct consequence of the defective Mayor’s Transport Strategy which has encouraged cycling when that remains a minority interest. Public transport has been massively subsidised while the road network has been corrupted by dogmatic policies.

The Mayor needs to learn that you cannot solve traffic congestion by taxing motorists as should be self-evident by now. Clearly a different approach is needed but the Mayor and TfL management put their heads in the sand and ignore the problems they have created.

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Latest Road Casualty Data

The Government has published the latest annual road casualty data for Great Britain. This does include of course periods (April to June and November in 2020) when the country was in lockdown from the coronavirus pandemic and when travel of all kinds was reduced. So the figures may not be typical – they do include a separate analysis of the impact of lockdown.

There were 1,460 reported road deaths and 23,529 KSI (Killed and Seriously Injured) which are substantial reductions on prior years – see chart above of fatal trends. Fatalities reduced by 17% over the prior year and KSIs by 22% when road traffic reduced by 21%, i.e. there was no significant difference assuming accidents directly relate to traffic volumes although anecdotally increases in traffic speed were reported during lockdowns.

Total casualties, including slight ones, were down by 25% although that might be due to less reporting and changes to the way data was collected by the police using Stats19 forms. Although adjustments were made to allow for the latter, people may have been less willing to visit police stations to report slight injuries during the pandemic.

Cycling casualties rise

One anomaly in the data is that there was a substantial increase in the number of cyclist deaths – up by 41% to 141 from 2019. Presumably this might be because of encouragement to cycle during the pandemic or more inexperienced cyclists on the roads. Other data suggests there was some increase in cycling in 2020 particularly during the summer months although whether that continued into 2021 is not clear.

Politicians and civil servants should be aware that encouraging cycling does lead to more deaths and injuries to cyclists, i.e. it’s not a risk free move. Cycling is still very much a minority interest for most journeys but as more people worked from home and had more leisure time for cycling this may account for the change in numbers.

Bus casualties fall

Another significant change during 2020 was the reduction in bus casualties by 51%. Many such accidents are caused by the elderly or disabled falling over in buses and as they were probably being wary of using public transport during the pandemic that may account for this change. For similar reasons there were greater reductions in casualties in those aged up to 16 and over 60 as they travelled less.

In summary, there was a welcome reduction in overall casualties last year but that was almost certainly down simply to reductions in travel on our roads.

See https://tinyurl.com/j3wr9ccr for more details.

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Gear Change , But Downwards

Cover Photo from Gear Change

The Department for Transport (DfT) have recently published a document entitled “Gear Change: One Year On”. It’s a celebration of the radical changes implemented by Government policy in the last year, with more active travel. It also contains a forward by the Prime Minister containing such phrases as: “Hundreds of new schemes have created safe space for people to cycle and walk, supported pubs and restaurants that might otherwise have closed, and allowed us to get the exercise we need. For decades we mourned that children no longer played in the street. Now once again, in some places, they do”.

That’s a very distorted view of what has happened during the pandemic. More people have walked and cycled partly because they have been working from home and hence have more time to do so, but also because they have been avoiding public transport.

The PM also says: “I know many people think that cycling and walking schemes simply increase car traffic on other roads. But there is now increasing evidence that they do not. We sometimes think of traffic as like water: if you block a stream in one place, it will find the next easiest way. Of course some journeys by car are essential, but traffic is not a force of nature. It is a product of people’s choices. If you make it easier and safer to walk and cycle, more people choose to walk and cycle instead of driving, and the traffic falls overall”. The latter comments may be true but there is certainly evidence that closing roads which is a typical element of LTNs does increase traffic on other roads.

The Gear Change document is a panegyric to the wonders of walking and cycling, but it totally ignores the needs of major segments of the population such as the elderly or infirm, or those who rely on vehicles to transport goods, tools or multiple passengers. It also contains some very misleading data on such issues as the take-up of cycling. It also suggests there is widespread public support for LTNs when independent surveys suggest the majority are against them. It depends on who you ask, the questions posed and who runs the survey.

Gear Change promotes a negative, downward move to local transport that will be opposed by many. It’s basically a propaganda piece exhorting us to change our way of life rather than the Government tackling the underlying causes of traffic congestion.

A good example of the kind of opposition to LTNs is the formation of a new group in Dulwich called “Age Speaks”. They say “We are a group of older people within One Dulwich who have banded together to amplify our voice.  As individuals we are being ignored by Southwark Council and our views and needs are being drowned out by the lobby groups the Council is listening to.  Together our voices will be louder and so we are uniting to make sure that older people are heard.

We want to make sure that the Council understands the difficulties the experimental road schemes cause us and how the Council could change things to make sure that we are treated equally.  Age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and the Council has a duty to protect older people from unfair disadvantage.  This is particularly important now, as the Council will be making a decision on the road schemes in October, and so far has paid very little attention to the needs of older people”. They are particularly critical of an Equality Impact Assessment report from Southwark Council which is a typical example of such recent publications which tend to simply ignore many of the problems faced by the elderly.

Those who write such documents tend to be young and fit and simply have no understanding of how the elderly are impacted by attacks on the use of vehicles.

Gear Change report: https://tinyurl.com/yhc2fxkf

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