As more information emerges from the recent inquests into the deaths of Brian Dorling and Philippine de Gerin-Ricard, a disturbing pattern is forming.
Today, Mark Ames published an article covering the proceedings and their background, which attracted at least one remark on Twitter as to how measured it was. Anger is “difficult to sustain“, he remarked, which is absolutely true.
So let’s have a go at helping to sustain it.
Ignore the evidence
I’m going to cherry-pick a few bits of Mark’s article here:
- “At Bow roundabout Transport for London ignored their own consultant’s report which said the site was so dangerous that traffic signals and separated lanes for cyclists should be installed.“
- “The London Cycling Campaign were so worried about the design proposals for Bow that they wrote in the strongest possible terms … Their concerns were also ignored.“
- “This week’s inquest exposed that Transport for London also ignored warnings from the Met Police that CS2’s design could potentially put cyclists in danger … a list of 21 concerns about cyclists’ safety at Aldgate gyratory issued by the Met in 2008 had also been brushed aside by TfL“
- “This comes after previous revelations that Transport for London told consultants to “ignore cyclists” at a dangerous junction in Kings Cross where a report stated vulnerable road user deaths were “inevitable”. Student Min Joo Lee would later be killed at this spot.“
Now, that’s just me lazily scraping a single article about this. Plenty of people far more diligent than me, and far more familiar with London’s particular issues than me, have already begun – and will no doubt continue – to pick through the wreckage and shine a light on vital details.
But how is it not possible to be angry at that?
It would appear that TfL ignored their own highway engineers, ignored the police, and ignored the main local representation of the road users who would be placed at risk – all of whom had serious and myriad concerns about the designs.
They ignored them all. They’ve instructed their contractors to ignore them. And they’ve ignored them repeatedly.
Sustain the anger? Hell – this is institutionalised steamrollering of safety concerns, no?
Ignore the elephant
From Mark’s article, “TfL’s Ben Plowden admitted designs drawn up for separated lanes and toucan crossings for cyclists at Bow were discounted by TfL because they would cause delays to motorised traffic deemed to be unacceptable.”
Sure. Life’s full of compromises, eh?
There’s a massive elephant in the room here, and it’s this:
You’re not going to improve much for anyone unless you start restricting, or at least disincentivising, the use of motor vehicles.
It’s that simple.
As to how to deal with the elephant, you’ve got three options.
One: you can accept it, and roll with it, like the city of Malmö did (if you haven’t seen that before, watch it – it’s eight minutes of your life well spent).
Two: you can deny it, and just keep on filling towns and cities with more cars, more lorries, more pollution and more tarmac.
Or three: you can deny it, but publicly claim to recognise that option two is clearly madness, and throw token gestures at the transport system.
Somewhere along the line in London, option three was chosen. And option three gives us the worst of all worlds. To be blunt, option three kills people.
In the UK – all of it, not just London – we choose option three almost every time. No-one has the balls to take on the might of the motor vehicle. No-one will stand in the way of the cars, or the trucks, or their lobbyists.
Yet that is what people in the streets are forced to do, whether on foot or on a bicycle. We’re all forced to do it, in the most literal and physical way.
People must stand aside, cycle in the gutter, be mown down with no protection at all, explicitly in order to ease the flow of those who choose to inflict the highest cost on cities in terms of infrastructure, pollution, noise, injury and physical divisiveness. Transport authorities will tempt people onto the roads with blue paint, but it’s a trap. It’s just paint. Paint won’t stand up for you. Paint didn’t stand up for Brian or Philippine.
And the people in the street should be sick of doing the standing up, when they are so let down by those elected and promoted to positions where they should do just that.
People in the street should be angry. Angry as hell.
Try to ignore us
This blog oscillates between two main subjects: the rock of public policy and infrastructure on the one hand, and the hard place of the law on the other.
Public institutions such as TfL actively disregard people’s safety, whilst the law tolerates their injury and death. It tolerates the negligence of individual road users and – thus far at least – it tolerates the negligence of the institutions who ignore safety advice. (Might we see a change in that? In the case of TfL the issue isn’t just poor engineering, it’s explicit dismissal of people’s safety to a degree of repeatedly incurring predictable fatalities.)
Enough of the rock, and enough of the hard place. They are both fatal factors, and they are not wholly unconnected. Both need to be dealt with.
I’ll leave just one parting thought – although you need to read this first.