London's Cyclists Danger Unto Themselves, Says TfL Board Member

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 38 months ago
London's Cyclists Danger Unto Themselves, Says TfL Board Member

Photo by Patrizia Ilaria Sechi, in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Cycling/Transport for London-related stories were unfolding in quick succession yesterday. Just as TfL was giving the green light to the Cycle Superhighway — what will be the longest urban segregated cycle path in Europe — one of TfL's board members, Sir John Armitt, was reiterating his feelings about London's cyclists, to wit:

"I've said it before and I’ll say it again — I would say the biggest danger to cyclists on the roads in London are actually themselves."

Armitt went on to bemoan:

"The way in which many, many, many of them ride [a bike] is surprised that in fact the number of accidents is not far larger. Because it is an entirely different way of cycling to that which you see [elsewhere].”

Ignoring the fact Sir John's words make little grammatical sense, it also turns out he's the chairman of the National Express coach group. Which seem ill-timed considering there was a collision between a National Express coach and a cyclist in central London, a few hours earlier.

No doubt Armitt's comments were a bitter pill to swallow for London's cyclists, on a day that should have been all about sweet news for them. Many, many, many of them will disagree with Armitt, including Rosie Downes, campaigns manager for the London Cycling Campaign, who said:

"The comments made by Sir John are inaccurate and undermine the strong case for increasing investment in safer cycling infrastructure."

We'd also suggest that Londoners' "entirely different way of cycling" may have something to do with the city's entirely unique cycling infrastructure.

Last Updated 05 February 2015


Needs to be a discussion about bike lights, some guidelines on what constitutes a good bike light. Single LED is not a bike light, equally, the blinding lighthouse beam of some are a danger to all road users.


TFL's own research refuted this type of rubbish a while back.

For cyclist/motorists collisions (or could be cyclist fatalites...can't remember)

69% were entirely the fault of the motorist
9% were entirely the fault of the cyclist
5% of the cyclists were breaking the highway code at the time (presumebly a much higher percentage of motorists did the same)

Other studies covering the UK paint a very similar picture.


The biggest threat to London cyclists are London bus drivers. The most aggressive and impatient drivers on the capitals roads.
I regularly see buses running red lights at junctions and squeezing riders into the curbside.
This isn't me talking as a cyclist, I drive a work vehicle in town frequently and I'm always shocked at the bus drivers attitude to all on the roads.


To generalize in such a way is wrong, unfortunately in London you have to have great knowledge to ride a bike safely. I personally long for the day when children can safely ride on London's roads.


If this reverse thinking means the end result is the same in that he supports segregated lanes then he can say what he likes!


I've been almost run over many times by cyclists, but not cars. I think car drivers can be arseholes sure - which is always the cyclist's defence for their own bad behaviour - but car owners know that their car is heavy and dangerous. Cyclists think nothing of blasting through red lights and think that they won't cause damage. I know of someone who was killed in this very fashion.

Cyclists need to obey the bloody road laws - then they may be respected by pedestrians and drivers alike.

Oh and one final thing, wear a helmet! I had one militant cyclist say that they shouldn't have to, roads should be safe etc. When you're in a world where you have to make an argument and defend a position of wearing a helmet, obey road signs and not go through red lights we're in a crazy world.


On the grammar thing: the original quote was "...the way in which many, many, many of them ride one is surprised that..." He was being upper class not grammatically incorrect - a subeditor takes the blame for that.

George Redgrave

It is, of course, far more convenient to blame the victim rather than the perpetrator.


At the same time that Sir John tries to convince us that the world is flat
perhaps he could explain away the fact that the majority of cyclists killed at traffic light controlled junctions have the lights in their favour. Green lights seem to mean go and get yourself killed rather than go if it is safe to do so.

Dave Pearce

Finally, someone has the guts to say what many are thinking. Just because you ride a bike doesnt mean you have to give up using common sense.
So many of them have an attitude that causes accidents.


Of course, this guy's a prick. I'm a cyclist, pedestrian, public transport user, occasional driver, and there are some bad road users in each of those categories – I think the point is that we all need to accept each other much better until such time as proper provision is at last made for cyclists around London. Having said all that, I wouldn't dream when I get on my bike in this city of doing what a very small minority seem to be intent on doing - riding without lights in the dark (I was out running one night late last year and saw four of these idiots, all wearing dark clothing), not wearing highly visible clothing, refusing to stop at traffic lights and not signalling. As a cyclist myself, it infuriates me - if you want to be considered a road user and be treated well, follow the rules of the road.

Vision Zero London

So how many cyclists has John Armitt run over recently?



Research suggests that drivers tend to exaggerate the misbehaviour of cyclists because of a tendency to see them as an ‘out group’ and a strong psychological tendency to “overgeneralise from the behaviour of individual members of an ‘out group’ to the behaviour of members of the ‘out group’ as a whole.” (Drivers’ Perception of Cyclists, TRL, 2002).


I have no issue with allowing cyclists a safer environment, however there is no space available that can be given over that wont lead to increased congestion and worsening environmental effect. What is needed is a more radical approach. Someone suggested raised pathways? or reducing pavement space to accommodate cycle lanes? There have been a number of cycle lanes put in recently in the city of London that has resulted in absolute gridlock. Is this really what we believe is acceptable? Also when these lanes are completed and opened, whats the odds that many cyclists will ignore the lanes and stray into the road space at the side of these lanes reducing even more the space available to other traffic. Many many cyclist use the roads wisely but there are also many who behave in a shocking manner putting themselves and their fellow cyclist and other road users at risk. Many of the accidents befalling cyclists are the result of poor cycling behaviour yet there are no proposals to improve individual cyclist behaviour! No matter how many cycling lanes are constructed, unless the issue of poor cycling behaviour is tackled these lanes will do little to stop the deaths or injuries befalling cyclists and other road users. This isn't a case of attack the cyclist, but it is a case of asking the cycling community to resolve this very important issue!


I ride on LondonS roads every day and I heartily agree...It won't be long before cyclists start slamming into each other on a regular basis. I can hardly wait.


There should be a standard light for bikes the same as there is for cars and they should be on the front and back. It should be an enforceable law. The number of cyclists I see at night dressed in back , no lights is frightening. All cyclists should have to go on a safety course to learn how to use the road and to realise that 2 white lines on the road means Give Way. Unfortunately a lot feel they are above the law.