Standard Criticises Times Cycling Campaign, Similar To Its Own

By jamesup Last edited 75 months ago
Standard Criticises Times Cycling Campaign, Similar To Its Own

When Simon Jenkins reached for his keyboard yesterday (we presume, perhaps he dictates?) to disparage The Times' Cities Fit for Cycling campaign, it stirred a memory. Oh yes, that’s it — the Evening Standard once had a Cycling campaign of its own. Join us on a journey back in time...

In April 2007 the Standard launched a "major campaign...encouraging Londoners to take to two wheels". Andrew Gilligan declared: “Cycling is a simply matchless way to travel. It has all the flexibility of the car, with none of the flaws. It will change your view of London, and renew your affection for the capital.” He wrote on: “What would do more than anything to capture would-be cyclists' imagination, and quell their fears, would be a proper cycle network, a network with complete, continuous, flagship routes at all main points of the compass.”

If anything, the Standard was ahead of the curve — there’s a feeling among some campaigners that lingering on the casualty rate will not help their goal of mass cycling, and a fear that cycle lanes could see the freedom of the road removed. Both have shifted in the past year as high profile deaths, notably two at Bow, and the Blackfriars bridge protests have shown that the limits of mass cycling in London are imposed by the TfL road network as much as anything else.

They, like The Times, had a manifesto — bolder than that proposed by the national:

The Standard's charter for cyclists (2007)

  1. A real cycle network across London
  2. Better cycle lanes with proper segregation
  3. Enforcement of special advanced stop lines for cyclists
  4. HGVs to be fitted with special cyclist safety mirrors
  5. Compulsory cyclist awareness training for all bus drivers and new HGV drivers
  6. Cycle-friendly streets: fewer one-way systems that funnel cyclists into the middle of traffic
  7. More cycle parking across London
  8. Police crackdown on bike theft
  9. Make safe the Thames bridges: some of the most dangerous places for cyclists
  10. Campaign to alert the self-employed that they can claim a 20p-a-mile cycling allowance against tax
  11. Better cycle-bus-rail co-ordination: adequate parking at stations
  12. Cycle training for all children and any adult who wants it

They ran stories on the Safer Cycling Campaign for most of 2007, claiming credit for, among other things, the Cycle Superhighways and a promised lifting of the DLR bike ban (which sadly never happened).

Yesterday’s article couldn’t be further from that optimistic tone. Jenkins celebrates that “In 2010 the number killed fell from 13 to 10” — perhaps, but last year, as his paper reported, 16 people died. Nor is the premise that ‘more people having accidents is acceptable, because more people are cycling’ one that we're willing to put up with. How many cyclists died in Paris last year? Zero, or — as the French say — Zero. And that’s despite faster roads, a larger cycle hire scheme, more tourists, French driving and much, much cheaper wine.

He moves on to sing the praises of the latest passion, the shared space — best (though not necessarily well) exemplified in London by the recently completed Exhibition Road scheme. Jenkins ignores the clear difference between a road such as this and the main routes of London’s traffic. He applauds the Dutch example inspired by Monderman, but ignores the fact that Holland has more than 19,000 km of segregated cycle lanes.

The Standard does some great reporting on cycling issues, Ross Lydall notably giving it good coverage, so it’s sad that after such a bold head start the Standard should find itself so far behind. It’d be great to see some of that old vision for a better city return to its editorial pages.

Finally, it is curious that Jenkins' article should follow this one (from the above-quoted Mr Gilligan) so closely, if we were of a more suspicious disposition it would seem that someone is briefing certain journalists to downplay cycling casualties last year...

Last Updated 08 February 2012


I don't think Simon Jenkins is actually saying 'more cyclists = more casualties = acceptable', he's pointing out a basic fact about statistics. Surprisingly, I also agree with a certain amount of what he says.


thank you, most of us didn't want to touch his piece with a stick. 

PS: Up until 2008 the official total length of stood at 18.000 km, but the Cyclists Union (Fietsersbond) remeasured the network in 2009. It established that NL has more than 29.000 km of dedicated bike paths & over 7000 km of on road bike lanes.


There is a fundamental difference about the way traffic operates in London that people fail to consider (at their peril).

In most of the western world, pedestrians (and cyclists to a lesser degree) have priority over automobiles. Mush as steam yields to sail, the more-vulnerable are protected.

In London (and to a lesser extent the UK) pedestrians are expected to yield to traffic. Black cabs hoot their horns to "warn" pedestrians that they are not stopping. "Out of my roadway" seems to be the mindset.

And Zebra crossing! Does *anyone* actually respect these? Scooters (and cyclists) use them as opportunities to under/overtake, so I suppose that's handy. Illegal, but handy.

Quite a few London junctions actually have no pedestrian crossing signals. Others, the expectation is that pedestrians will use the other side, in effect asking them to cross three times instead of once.

In London, the car is king - no matter what anyone says. I think it's a class thing.

David Jenkins

The Independent, , Standard and the Times all ran campaigns but equally they have all run terrible articles cementing divisions of cyclists and blaming them for their own situation. The Guardian without actually running a campaign have consistently covered the issues and cyclists have been shouting what is need for decades before any paper got wind or it.


I'd be interested to know if segregated cycling lanes have any effect on pedestrian safety. Have any studies been done in, say, Amsterdam or Copenhagen, about an increase or decrease in cycles colliding with pedestrians as more segregated lanes are introduced. I'm curious because I often cross the one on Tavistock Place in Bloomsbury. You need to have your wits about you more than a normal shared-space road, because cycles are coming from 2 directions (and from round corners), followed by 2 directions of traffic. So you really have to do the old look-left, then right, then left, then right, Green Cross Code thing. So, if segregated lanes were everywhere, would it lead to more pedestrian-cyclist accidents (from pedestrians forgetting to look both ways immediately), or fewer (because people are having to think and be more cautious)? Have any studies looked at this?

I ask out of genuine curiosity, not to make any point. 


I'd also be interested to see some statistics around numbers of privately-owned cars vs commercial vehicles and the accidents involving cyclists. As I understand it, the majority of cyclist fatalities have involved a lorry/van, yet the reaction often appears to be to call for a ban on cars. This is also genuine curiosity rather than point-making.


Thing is, cycling safety is not rocket science. Yet people seem to think that "the authorities" must come up with lots of amazing solutions. Simon Jenkins is simply saying that authority-imposed control is not the answer and advocates softer approaches like the shared-space street designs and removal of railings (which is happening). Segregated cycle lanes? Look at the streets and you will find there is not the space, generally. Ban all lorries from turning left or fit them all with alarms? Well yes, but they already have flashing orange lights called indicators, and foreign lorries will continue to form a proportion of traffic in London. And it is a fact that some cyclists in London do not understand the Highway Code or basic geometry as to how lorries turn corners, or make understandable mistakes about judging speed, and find themselves in dangerous spots in relation to vehicles. This is also true of all types of highway user, but as a more vulnerable user surely it just makes sense to spend a quid and get familiar with its contents rather than risk injury. I have.