Hounslow Cycling aim to promote safer and more convenient facilities for cycling in the borough of Hounslow. As a group we discuss and respond to local consultations. However sometimes it is national policy, written in Westminster as directed by Members of Parliament, that really needs to change in order to make cycling more safe and convenient here in west London.
As a group we have discussed how improved national policy could help cycling locally. Members of the group have cycled in Belgium where it is motor vehicles that have to give way to cyclists at side roads and where it is national policy that in the case of an collision involving a motorist and a cyclist, the motorist is regarded to be at fault unless there is strong evidence to suggest otherwise. At our monthly meetings at Express Tavern in Brentford we have discussed the need for traffic lights that only apply to cyclists and that either give people on bikes their own turn to cross a junction or at least give them a ‘head start’ before the lights for motor vehicles turn green.
So we were pleased to see that local MP Seema Malhotra asked Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, who is responsible for national transport policy, some questions about whether national transport policy is changing to improve conditions for people who travel by bike.
Traffic lights specifically for cyclists was one of the issues raised by Seema Malhotra MP:
Seema Malhotra: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to promote the use of cycle-specific traffic lights.
Stephen Hammond: Provision of cycling measures, including traffic lights, is for local traffic authorities. The Government is committed to improving cycling safety and has provided extra funding through the Cycling Safety Fund for local authorities to tackle the most dangerous junctions on their networks.
DFT officials are working closely with Transport for London on a project trialling a range of new measures, including low-level signals for cyclists. We are also working with Cambridgeshire county council, who are trialling the use of cycle filter signals.
New ideas need to be properly tested to identify any potential problems, and establish what the benefits are likely to be. Subject to the results of the trials, we will consider approving trials at a limited number of sites on public roads.
More information here
It is good to know that the government minister responsible for transport policies is aware of the trials being done by Transport for London. Once the findings of this research is public, we would like to see Stephen Hammond describe what new national rules will apply to the use of traffic lights specifically for cyclists and actively promote their use, particularly at junctions with multiple vehicle lanes of where turning right can be complicated. (If you have junctions like this that you think need addressing do let us know).
Seema Malhotra MP also asked about whether the road design rules are taking into account the need to separate cycle lanes from motor lanes, especially on faster roads.
Seema Malhotra: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it his policy to vary the degree of separation between cycle lanes and motor vehicle lanes according to the speed limit applied in an area.
Stephen Hammond: Local highway authorities are responsible for the design of their networks, including cycle facilities such as cycle lanes and crossings. The Department provides comprehensive good practice guidance on road design to help them in this, for example, in “Local Transport Note 2/08; Cycle infrastructure Design”.
More information here.
So there we have it. While the Get Britain Cycling report says that making cycling a viable transport option requires clear political leadership from government, Stephen Hammond, the Government Minister with responsibility for road design rules thinks that each local authority should apply guidance as they see fit.
Seema Malhotra: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department is taking to reduce casualties of pedestrians and cyclists as a result of road traffic accidents.
Stephen Hammond: Initiatives to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety include 20 mph zones, countdown crossings, Bikeability training, £107 million of additional investment in cycling infrastructure over the last year, including £35 million to tackle dangerous junctions for cyclists.
The European New Car Assessment Programme is increasing the rate at which collision avoidance technologies are brought to market and autonomous emergency braking systems capable of reacting to pedestrians and cyclists are under development
More information here.
Seema Malhotra’s final question is well timed. On 27th June 2013 the Department of Transport published statistics that show that 2012 was the eighth year in which the number of seriously injured cyclist casualties had increased in the UK.
We think that rather than waiting for motor vehicles to be fitted with ‘autonomous emergency braking systems’ the government should promote the extension of 20mph zones throughout urban areas, as advised in the Get Britain Cycling report. This report also says that mandatory cycling assessments should be carried out for all new road designs.
Since Seema Malhotra MP asked these questions, the Mayor of London has been asking the government similar questions too, particularly about cycle-specific traffic lights to make junctions safer.
While here in Hounslow, our local council has been pretty proactive at supporting cycling and has plans to improve cycling infrastructure, without clear leadership from people like Stephen Hammond MP over in Wimbledon, local councillors will be constrained in the improvements they can make.