Thursday, 3 August 2017

Fact checking Dr Rachel Aldred's latest blog

Dr Rachel Aldred has just published her latest blogIn which she states:
"Each year, Hackney consistently has more cyclist than pedestrian casualties."
But is this true?

Dr Aldred doesn't tell us how many, nor which years her comment refers to. The data  for years 2000 to 2015 is published. 2016 data is not.

These casualty figures are set against a backdrop of a significant growth in the population - 70,000 or 35%, additional residents since 2001 and a significant rise in the popularity of cycling.

The graph below shows cycle and pedestrian fatalities since 2000.

The second graph shows cycle and pedestrian serious injuries since 2000.

And finally the graph of cycle and pedestrian slight injuries, those not needing hospital treatment.

From these graphs it is clear that Dr Aldred's comment that Hackney consistently has more cycling than pedestrian casualties isn't true. 

It is even less the case if one does as cycle campaigners suggest and one were able to consider casualties per mile cycled, because there is much more cycling now than there was in 2000.

The data show that:
  • between 2000 and 2015 there were 17 cycle fatalities compared to 47 pedestrian fatalities; 
  • there were 379 serious cycle injuries compared to 706 pedestrian serious injuries between 2000 and 2015, and that the annual figure is fairly stable despite the large growth of cycling in Hackney;
  • that cycle collisions resulting in a minor injury are increasing as cycling becomes more popular in Hackney. There is also an upward trend in pedestrian collisions resulting in a minor injury.
Every injury is a personal tragedy. But If one were interested in the truth, rather than being determined to frame cycling as a dangerous activity, one would say that Hackney council has been successful in its borough-wide approach to cycle and pedestrian road safety since 2000. It is a testament to all those involved and should not be undermined. The rate of cycle fatalities and serious injuries is reducing. Slight injuries to cyclists are increasing, but below the rate of increase in cycling.

For the record he graph below shows Hackney killed and serious injuries for all modes on Hackney's streets and in total.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Cycling is getting safer In London

I've fact checked the recent Hackney Cycling Campaign's cycle safety press release . In this Blog I describe what you can reasonably discern from the published statistics on cycling.

Firstly, you can only meaningfully consider casualty rates from a London wide perspective, because although we know how many casualties there are in each borough each year, there is no reliable cycling volume statistic available for individual boroughs. 

Transport for London (TfL) publish estimated cycling trips statistics for the whole of London in their annual statistical publications Though it must be noted that this is a statistic of trips, not miles travelled. These are available on their website. The Department for Transport (DfT) publish the Met police statistics of collisions and casualties. This data is also available on the TfL site.

The growth in cycling trips is shown in the graph below. Cycling more than doubled between 1995 and 2015. (The upturn is associated with the introduction of congestion charging in early 2003.) 

Volume of cycling in London (Estimated number of trips) since 1995

During the same time, 1995 to 2015, the number of cycling casualties (all severities, minor to fatal) dipped and then rose again. These figures are shown in the graph below.

Absolute casualty figures since 1995

These statistics can be represented on the same graph by equating both of the 1995 figures to 100 and showing the following years relative to 100. 

The resulting graph shows how cycling has risen as casualty numbers remain broadly constant.

Cycling trips have increased whilst casualty figures have remained constant since 1995

The same representation can be repeated with the data on serious and fatal injuries. These are smaller numbers and so there is more variation.

Cycling trips and serious and fatal injuries between 1995 and 2015

And also with fatalities only. Here there is even more variability when comparing one year to the next.

Cycling trips and casualties between 1995 and 2015, indexed to 100

A reasonable conclusion from these statistics is that cycling is getting safer in London.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Fact checking the recent Hackney Cycling Campaign road safety press release

I was intrigued when the @Hackney_cycling twitter account announced: "Is there any safety in numbers?" I clicked on the link to their website that says:

"New analysis of police injury data known as Stats19 carried out for Hackney Cyclists by Dr. Rachel Aldred shows worrying trends in the borough." 
And from Dr. Aldred:

‘Clearly cycling in Hackney has grown during this period, perhaps roughly doubling, but it’s a concern that there doesn’t seem to be much of a ‘safety in numbers’ effect for cyclists – in other words it hasn’t got much safer per trip, as cycling has gone up.’
The full statement taken from the Hackney Cycling website is reproduced at the bottom of this page.

But the Hackney Cycling Campaign analysis is partial and misleading. So here is a fact check of Dr. Aldred's 'analysis'. 

The claim is that cycle casualties went up in Hackney between 2005 and 2015 along with the numbers of cyclists, but that safety had not improved 'per trip'. The analysis states that there were 134 cycling casualties in Hackney in 2005 and that this went up to 250 in 2015. Dr. Aldred's figure for 2015 is one out, it is actually 249, however, this equates to an 86% rise between 2005 and 2015.

These figures are reliable, but care should be exercised in their use. The number of casualties can vary quite markedly from one year to the next and picking out two years figures to compare can be misleading. Looking at the trends and averages over three years is both more meaningful and more usual. For the readers benefit the graph below shows the figures for casualties in Hackney between 2001 and 2015.

All Hackney cycling casualties, from minor injur to fatalities, against year
So the numerator is correct. But, how did Dr. Aldred arrive at the denominator in the 'analysis'? This is described in the press release:
"Clearly cycling in Hackney has grown during this period, perhaps roughly doubling..."
So there we have it, the denominator in the equation is made upThe 'analysis' turns out to be a guess: 
(134 ÷ 249) ÷ (perhaps roughly doubling)
But can we do better than Dr Aldred, or at least understand the complexities? I think so.

There is no reliable cycle volume data, particularly at a London borough level. Transport for London has London wide data, but there is very great variability between boroughs and Hackney is an outlier in cycle statistics. The Department for Transport (DfT)  publish some data for Hackney, but it is not very accurate at a borough level because it is a small sample count of cycles and only on main roads.

The only reliable statistic for the increase in cycling in Hackney is the Census figures for 'Method of travel to work'. But even these figures are limited to travel to work and they are now quite dated. The figures that are available are for 2001 and 2011. 

So, below is the same calculation that Dr Aldred has done, but taking the years that have a reliable statistic for both cycling levels as well as casualties. Between 2001 and 2011 in Hackney casualties rose from 134 to 259 (93%). In the same period cycle to work Census figures rose proportionately much more, from 4940 to 17312 (250%). 
(259 ÷ 134) ÷ (17312 ÷ 4940) = 0.55
In conclusion. Over the only period for which there is a reliable and comparable statistic for growth in cycling (2001 to 2011) the casualty rate has dropped markedly. 

For the period Dr Aldred has 'analysed' there are no cycle volume figures and so Dr Aldred has guessed what the growth in cycling might be. Can such a poor analysis be regarded as good practice in either the academic or policy development milieus?


Taken from the Hackney Cycling Campaign website:



New analysis of police injury data known as Stats19 carried out for Hackney Cyclists by Dr. Rachel Aldred shows worrying trends in the borough. Hit and runs are on the increase, and are now happening at a rate of one every two days. While 11% – just over one in ten – of all injury collisions across Britain involve a hit and run vehicle, the figure’s higher in London (15%, or around one in seven) and an even higher one in five in Hackney. And while one in five sounds high enough, it’s one in four for collisions where a pedestrian or cyclist is injured.
Jono Kenyon, Co-ordinator of Hackney Cyclists, says ‘One of our three ‘asks’ for Hackney mayoral candidates was a higher priority for roads traffic policing. Hundreds of people are injured on Hackney’s roads every year while walking and cycling. Road traffic offences, from close passes to hit and runs, need to be tackled to help make our roads safer for everyone.’
Since 2005, injuries to cyclists to Hackney have increased, and although numbers have been falling in recent years, in 2015 there were almost twice as many cyclists injured in Hackney as there were in 2005 (250 vs. 134). Over the same period pedestrian injuries have been roughly stable but car and taxi occupant injuries have decreased. Dr. Aldred comments ‘Clearly cycling in Hackney has grown during this period, perhaps roughly doubling, but it’s a concern that there doesn’t seem to be much of a ‘safety in numbers’ effect for cyclists – in other words it hasn’t got much safer per trip, as cycling has gone up.’

 Join us this Wednesday 1st March to hear more about these issues and see what Hackney Cycling is proposing to ask for in terms of better protection for our communities:

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Congestion or congestion charging?

London's congested roads are always a talking point for Londoners, motorists, bus passengers, cabbies, cycle campaigners and the papers they read. Last weekend the Sunday Times had an article re-hashing previous commentary. It reports that Lord Wolfson of the Next chain has offered a reward of £250,000 to find a solution. There is to be a Parliamentary Select Committee to look at urban congestion.

Everyone points the finger elsewhere. The black cabbies blame the explosion in the number of PHVs, as well as the cycle lanes and pedicabs; PHV operators tell us they mainly operate during quieter periods so it's not them, it's a loss of road capacity. Peter Hendy, the then London Transport Commissioner pointed out that everyone from the Chief Exec down, including himself were having their Amazon parcels delivered to their central London offices during peak hours. Cycle campaigners say it's not them, nor is it the new bike tracks, which, they say, will in the end, be a solution for congestion. Bizarrely there is quite a head of steam behind the notion that buses, the most space efficient mode are part of the problem - the 8000 buses in London are causing more delays than the 2.6 million private cars!!

Add to all of this the fact of population rise and jobs growth (the biggest cause of increased travel demand in London) and the near certainty of more to come; the fall in fuel price, rise in public transport costs and lots more construction sites.

So how to solve it? Solutions abound. From the cyclists, it's greater use of cargo bikes and even more cycle tracks. The cabbies want a limit on PHV numbers and restraint on them competing as hailable vehicles. Some say more technology is needed. Rephasing the traffic lights is always offered up as a solution; managing traffic as London did for two weeks during the Olympics is suggested. The latest technology is the shared autonomous vehicle which is so clever it will travel closer to the car in front leaving more space (for more cars). Night time deliveries are to be part of a solution as is freight consolidation.

This all matters. The cost of us all sitting in traffic in London is counted in billions. It's a massive part of the pollution problem - even cars running on fresh air would create small particle pollution from their tyres. Too many people are being injured on our roads - a direct consequence of designing our road system for huge numbers of motor vehicles.

But none of the above solutions go anywhere near solving this problem. It is an uncomfortable truth - no amount of freight consolidation, cargo bikes, cycling, rephasing of traffic lights even bus lanes will solve this problem. Modal shift is great. Of course the use of the most space efficient modes and many of the other ideas should be encouraged. However research tells us that there is so much travel demand in London that if the travel behaviour of one motorist changes (to a more space-efficient mode), the space that's freed up will be filled by another motorist.

Congestion charging needs
more sophistication

Along with changing travelling habits any freed up road space should not simply be occupied by others taking the opportunity for private car travel. In the jargon, there has to be a mechanism to 'lock-in' the benefits of modal switch and one proven method is roads pricing. Roads pricing is simple. The user of road space pays directly for its use and at busier times in busier locations pays more. Others pay less for their travel.

And this is not new. In 1963 the Ministry of Transport published the Smeed report: it said you can only manage congestion by permit or price. There can not be a single academic or practitioner that works in the field of transport planning that would challenge the view that roads pricing has to be part of any sensible policy to manage roads in urban areas. The choice is simple: 

you can have a managed road network or an unmanaged one; you can have congestion or congestion charging.

And it's really not good enough to keep coming up with clever forms of words to avoid this. It is too important and the solutions have been delayed too long. Politicians should be debating how best to to persuade the public and how best to implement roads pricing, and not simply finding excuses to leave it it up to the next generation to solve.

Friday, 14 October 2016

The closure of Wordswoth Road

Next week the Wordsworth Road will be closed at its junction with Matthias Road
I am privileged to live where I do on the Stoke Newington ladder roads. We live in a 20 mph zone enforced by speed cushions. There's a 6 day a week, 12 hour controlled parking zone (CPZ). Next week the council will stop through motor traffic by means of three point closures and my neighbourhood (see map below) will become a quieter and pleasanter place. 

Along with over a thousand residents, three local schools will benefit, as will hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians who pass through. Overall, prioritising cycles and keeping them on the carriageway is by far the best way of providing for cycling. 

Motor vehicles can gain access, but will be discouraged from diverting off of the primary road network in order to make a short cut. They'll be accommodated where they can best be managed - on the primary road network.

Stoke Newington Road and Matthias Road will be safer because there will be far fewer turning movements into the affected side streets. The turns will happen at controlled junctions. Over time there will be fewer short car trips.

Three road closures will have area wide benefits

Seen on their own the closures are just a minor local scheme. But they are part of Hackney's hugely successful strategy for incremental change to:  "create a better balance between walking, cycling and motor vehicles". These closures along with over 100 others are shown on the map that prompted our local MP to say in Parliament:
In fact, it is possible to cycle around the backstreets of Hackney and rarely meet a moving car. That is what gives me the confidence to cycle slowly in my own little way.

Meg Hillier MP, Hackney South and Shoreditch, Parliamentary cycling debate, 16 October 2014

Friday, 29 July 2016

Towards a Fine City for People

Reflecting on transport policy and practice in London over the last 15 years the high point must surely be 2004. The Mayor had introduced the congestion charge, the London Bus Initiative was transforming bus services, Trafalgar Square and the Shoreditch one-way system were radically overhauled to prioritise the sustainable modes: walk, cycle and bus.

Gehl's Towards a Fine City for People, 2004

Topping all of this, the world’s foremost urbanist, Jan Gehl, had been commissioned to develop a blue print to make London a liveable city for people. His report, Towards a Fine City for People was a masterpiece. It was a simple programme of change, but at the same time a sophisticated analysis of that which is far from obvious: people like living in cities in close proximity to other people if there are good quality, legible, human scale, clean environments that are not dominated by motor vehicles. 

Gehl’s formula is simple: 

creating a better balance between motorised vehicular traffic, pedestrians and cyclists;

and in practice means incrementally improving the streets with good quality materials and creating attractive places where people want to be. Clear away the obstacles to walking, improve cycling and public transport. Reduce the amount of on-street parking and provide public seating - it should come as no surprise that if you provide seating people will use it to enjoy public space! 

The then Mayor, Livingstone, made steady progress with this agenda. In Hackney great improvements were made transforming what was once a poor streetscape for the better. Jan visited in 2013 and described the Mare Street commercial area as a ‘great city street’. 

But progress on transforming London into a liveable city slowed dramatically when Mayor Johnson first chose to remove the western extension of the congestion charging zone, then ‘smooth traffic flow’ (a code for enabling private motor vehicular transport), all but abandoned a bus priority programme and latterly focused almost exclusively, and at considerable expense on movement by cycle. 

This short blog post is an appeal to Mayor Khan and a reminder to others that although movement is important and cycling is important, cities are for people and ‘place’ is as important as movement. I commend Jan Gehl’s Towards a Fine City for People as a great route map to a more liveable London.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Why close streets to through traffic? A personal view.

Hackney has benefited from reducing and slowing traffic through measures such as humps, parking zones, improving junctions—which remains the biggest challenge in any city, particularly London—and, as I mentioned earlier, assigning quieter routes off main roads. In fact, it is possible to cycle around the backstreets of Hackney and rarely meet a moving car. That is what gives me the confidence to cycle slowly in my own little way.
Meg Hillier MP, Hackney South and Shoreditch, Parliamentary cycling debate, 16 October 2014
London is currently a city of 8.6 million inhabitants and that will rise to 10 million in a relatively short time. The population of a single Borough, Hackney, grew by 20% between Census 2001 and 2011 and 15,000 more homes were built in the borough in that time period. Hackney has to deliver even more homes to meet demand - at least 1,500 homes each year. Looking beyond Hackney, half of all new homes in London are due to be built in the East of London. 

If car ownership in all new Hackney households were to be at similar levels to that of the borough's existing households (at 35% the lowest in the UK) there would be an additional 525 private motor vehicles per year moving or parked on Hackney roads. TfL has forecast  rises in congestion of 25% for inner London ( ).There are city-wide problems of physical inactivity, vehicle pollution, climate change and housing those in need. How we travel has a bearing on all these problems.The figures are conceptually staggering, and unsustainable! It is imperative that we change the way we travel.

Hackney has prioritised the bus on bus routes. The best example on 
Amhurst Road, Hackney Central
In fact, Hackney has been at the forefront (by a very long way) and has de facto taken the lead in changing how we travel in London. Hackney's public transportation has improved beyond recognition with the expansion of rail services and the prioritisation of the bus on its roads. Hackney has improved the pedestrian and cycling environment more than any other London borough with  myriad interventions; from high quality paving and 20mph zones on its' residential streets; speed tables on many of the borough's roads (creating a lower speed environment); to the removal of pedestrian guard railing and pavement parking. 

Kingsland High Street at Dalston Kingsland is a street for walking

There have also been major street improvement projects. Our shopping streets at Dalston Kingsland, Mare Street in Hackney Central, Stoke Newington Church St and Broadway Market have been transformed, in a manner that encourages informal crossing of streets for shopping and commerce, with space for people to linger and chat, as well as to circulate.

Car-free development has helped to reduce the number of private
vehicles in the  borough

Hackney has benefited from being part of the congestion charge zone, itself an initiative which has contributed to reducing private motor traffic and increasing bus use and cycling in the borough. Controlled parking has been introduced across much of the borough and almost all (97%) of new housing development is car-free, which means that new home owners purchase those homes knowing that they will not be entitled to an on-street car parking permit. This basket of measures reduces the prevalence of private car use and allows better public use to be made of the public space of our streets.

In addition, and over many years, large areas of Hackney have had streets closed to through motor traffic, which improves the environment on those streets for cycling and walking and, crucially, simply for living on. More recently Hackney has ensured that these closures are easily passable by cycles. The most well known area to have had this treatment is De Beauvoir Town in the west of Hackney. Here much of the through traffic has been excluded for a generation and the streets are great for cycling and for walking.
De Beauvoir Town. The most photographed of all area wide filtered 
permeability schemes in place for over two decades.

There are other sizeable residential areas in Hackney which have received similar street scene treatment to De Beauvoir Town. Finsbury Park; Lower Clapton; the part of Hackney which abuts  the City of London, south of Great Eastern Street; and the Stoke Newington ladder roads south of Church Street are some of the larger schemes.

Palatine Road, one of the point closures that has had an area wide impact 
on the Stoke Newington ladder roads.
Smaller areas have also benefited from such interventions, including the area behind Hackney town hall. New Kingshold estate was regenerated in the recent past and has been designed with street patterns that exclude through traffic. There are many single point closures too - Downs Park Road east of Hackney Downs and Ashwin Street in Dalston for example

The point closure on Ashwin Street..

Closing streets to through traffic, alongside the many other measures mentioned above, provides a good and ever improving, area-wide cycling and walking environment. However, the objective is not simply to move vehicular traffic from one street to the next, but as part of a strategy to bring down the overall volumes of traffic across the borough's roads. Closures will restrain some motor vehicle journeys through and originating from the area. Not all vehicular journeys will simply be displaced, and over time there will be net reduction in traffic volumes. 

Hackney's proactive and consistent approach has meant that it has the most enviable transport statistics in the UK. More residents cycle to work than drive. The number of walking trips doubled in just ten years between the Census years 2001 and 2011. The proportion of residents using the bus is higher than anywhere else in the UK. More children are cycling to school, building on the very high numbers who presently walk. Car ownership is among the lowest in the UK.

It is important to see these measures, not in isolation, but as having a cumulative effect. Part of the effect is an increase in physical activity, as people walk - to the shops, to their work, or to their public transport. Public health professionals do not distinguish, in general, between the relative physical advantages of, say, cycling, over walking or walking to get to public transport. What is important is the physical activity in all three cases. Creating a more welcoming environment for walking, cycling and the use of public transport - and for living in - is one of the main strategic aims of transport planning. Taken on their own, the measures that Hackney has implemented may not seem to contribute to reduced congestion, more active lifestyles, a reduction in emissions and a more liveable, denser city. However, as our MP said, even for her, an occasional, not a committed user of the bicycle, Hackney's streets are welcoming and encouraging.

Hackney, and London generally, should continue to improve the alternatives to the private car. Selectively closing streets to through traffic - while maintaining and enabling access to properties for builders, plumbers, electricians and others who contribute to how we live our lives, is one part of a strategic approach to accomplishing these ends and should be supported.