Monday, 13 December 2021

Access denied, How providing for cycling has left disabled people with less access to bus services

One of the things one picks up early from working in transport and talking to older and disabled people is that they fear cycles on the pavement. And so for many of those working on streets policy it has been shocking to see TfL and other highway authorities divert cycles through bus passenger waiting areas at bus stops. This has been reinforced for me when working alongside disability groups who complained of being ignored and at a Hackney council scrutiny committee when the RNIB told us blind people could not use these stops. 

And to recently read that TfL’s own internal disability advisory group described one bus stop design as a ‘turd’, is more shocking still:

However, there was also strong agreement that this design was, in essence, ‘polishing a turd’ i.e. it was still a turd, but a better one.

The introduction of accessible buses and bus stops has been a key task of the last 30 years. This is because the bus is the most inclusive and affordable public transport, operating 24/7 across the whole of greater London. Any notion of social justice in transport starts with improving access to public transport, primarily the bus.

We know there will be any number of bus passengers at these stops that are either elderly or disabled. There will also be other passengers not in these groups, for example those pushing a buggy or alighting with multiple small and energetic children. All have benefited from legislation and action to improve access to the bus.

How did we get into a situation where £100s millions has been spent over decades on accessible buses and £10s millions to provide accessible stops? How have public bodies, such as TfL, been able to avoid their legal duty to older and disabled people to ‘advance equality’? Are they in fact allowed to disadvantage disabled people who need to access the bus from the pavement in such a manner?

TfL describes the negative impact of their bus stop designs on disabled people in its equalities assessment. And so they understand the problem. They say:

This may increase the potential of interactions between cyclists and pedestrians. Pedestrians who have cognitive, mobility and sensory impairments are more likely to suffer from the negative effects of the increased degree of cyclist / pedestrian interaction. In addition, the amount of manoeuvrability for wheelchair users may be more restricted to accommodate the cycle track as there may be less space.

And on older people:

This may increase the potential of interactions between cyclists and pedestrians. Pedestrians who are over 65 and have restricted mobility or are blind / partially sighted are more susceptible to potential cyclist / pedestrian interaction.

Which all means that older and blind people along with, say, autistic children, and those that use wheelchairs will be put off using the bus. And in some cases may well be injured because cycles, travelling at speed*, are diverted through bus stops.

Understanding how this has been possible requires an understanding of the history of equalities legislation. But in short the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act  that focussed entirely on disability, was repealed and replaced by the Equalities Act 2010 with 9 ‘protected characteristics’.



Gender Reassignment

Marriage and Civil Partnership

Pregnancy and Maternity


Religion and Belief


Sexual Orientation

And this has meant that instead of worrying about the access needs of older and disabled people getting on and off the bus, TfL has been able to mix it up in their assessment and balance off the needs of any group that is under represented in the demographics of cycling. Thus, TfL say:

there are benefits for all ages:

It is anticipated that introducing a segregated cycle track will encourage cycling growth among people of a wider age range;

disabled people benefit:

Cycles can act as a mobility aid for a small number of those who find walking difficult or cannot walk at all. Some people with disabilities ride standard bicycles; others use one of the many types of non-standard bicycle available such as tandems, tricycles, hand cycles or electric bikes;

women benefit:

With women making up over 50% of Hackney’s population, improvements to the infrastructure in the area to create a feeling of safety is likely to achieve higher levels of active travel for women;

there are benefits for ethnic minority communities:

This forms part of a series of measures to help open up cycling as a viable mode of transport to a larger number and wider range of people. BAME groups are typically under-represented in cycling at less than 7% of all cyclists in London, with the lack of facilities and safety concerns associated with traffic key barriers to cycling for BAME groups according to a TfL report;

those having undertaken gender reassignment benefit:

Implementing these measures is likely to deter people from committing crime, which may have a positive impact on people that have undertaken gender reassignment; 

And so it goes on.

TfL and other highway authorities have, in effect, said that they can now set aside the access needs of older and disabled people in favour of all of those that might cycle if cycle lanes were routed onto the pavement and through bus stops (None of which is substantiated).

So legislation designed to advance the needs of all equality groups is now disadvantaging those with disabilities and it is no longer the case that disabled people’s access to bus services is a priority.

This can’t be right!

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

There were 228 cycling fatalities in the Netherlands in 2018 - Christian Wolmar doesn’t want this known

The cycle bloggers and campaign groups such as the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) are forever extolling the virtues of cycling in the Netherlands. In 2012 the LCC ran a campaign to persuade the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, that London should ‘Go Dutch’. It was implied that cycling in the Netherlands is much safer than in Great Britain. 

It is the case that on a ‘per kilometre’ cycled basis fatalities are lower.  However, in absolute numbers, the Netherlands has twice the number of cycling fatalities than Great Britain, but with a population one quarter ours. I have tried to bring this to people’s attention because it’s important. But I was effectively silenced. The person who prompted the suppression of my views would, you’d have thought, been in favour of free speech and intellectually interested in alternative points of view.

Christian Wolmar, journalist, and London Cycling Campaign board member (Chair of the HR Committee), wrote twice last year to my employer complaining about comments on my personal Twitter account. Until now I have been unable to respond. In August he wrote:

“I have been concerned about his Twitter posts for some time but the final trigger which has prompted this email is a recent post in which he used statistics in a completely dishonest way. In this post, Mr Stops argues that to ‘Go Dutch’ risks an increase in cycling fatalities because that is what has happened in the Netherlands. This is a misuse of statistics on a Trumpian scale. Of course there are more fatalities in the Netherlands because cycling levels are many times greater than in the UK. The relevant statistic, as Mr Stops must know, is the rate of deaths per million miles cycled, which is far lower than ours. This is a plain misuse of statistics, using a highly partial selection in order to fit in with Mr Stops’ views.”

 His complaint went on:

I would be very interested to know if this is something that is allowed under your employment terms and, if not, whether you will ask Mr Stops to desist from making these attacks.”

Below is the thread he complained about. My tweet makes the point that the absolute number of cycling fatalities in the Netherlands in 2018 was 228 and in Great Britain 99. And that the Netherlands has a population a quarter the size of the GB. I highlight this because it is a big deal. People ought  to think about the consequences of ‘going Dutch’. I believe we should do much better than the Dutch, or there will be many more cycling fatalities on our roads.

One should be careful with statistics. The number of fatalities can be ‘normalised’ in different ways, and it is true that there is a lot more cycling per head of population in the Netherlands than in Great Britain. Presenting the fatality statistic per kilometre cycled (cycle fatalities / kilometres cycled) is relevant and favours the Netherlands. It is, however, only one dimension. The absolute number of fatalities, is equally relevant because every life matters and the numbers in the Netherlands are high.

The best source of the data I know is the EU sponsored European Transport Safety Council’s publication, page 25: How safe is  walking and cycling in Europe?

Mr Wolmar is correct in saying ‘cycling levels are many times greater than in the U.K.’ The distance cycled per year, per inhabitant, is 865km in the Netherlands compared to 80km in Great Britain i.e. over ten times more. Cyclist deaths per billion kilometres cycled is 13 for the Netherlands compared to 19 for Great Britain. That means the fatality rate per kilometre cycled in the Netherlands is 2/3 that of Great Britain. It is not “far lower than ours” as Mr Wolmar states. 

The table also shows the cycling fatalities per million inhabitants is 12 in the Netherlands compared to 2 in Great Britain.

So, the point of my tweet was not to deny that the Netherlands do better in terms of fatalities per kilometre cycled, but to make the point that the absolute number of cycling fatalities on Netherlands cycling infrastructure is very high and if the UK had the same fatality statistics as the Netherlands it would mean many hundreds more cycling fatalities.

Going Dutch may not be such a good idea. To emulate ‘Go Dutch’ may well result in many more cycling casualties on our roads. We need to do better than the Dutch. This is the debate Mr Wolmar wanted to close down.


As background, the latest fatality data for all modes in both countries is available for 2019Tackling pedestrian and motorcycling casualties, alongside cycling and child casualties on the roads is where the focus of road safety should be in my view and, until recently, was.

Great Britain











Car occupants









Population millions (Wikipedia)



* includes mopeds & pedelecs

** includes 42 mobility scooters


The Netherlands recently published figures for 2020 that show there were an even greater number of cycle fatalities in 2020. 229 cyclists lost their lives using Netherlands cycling infrastructure, the highest number of cycling deaths in 25 years:

More and safer cycling

There are interventions that can improve cycle safety and they are well known:

  • Slower speed initiatives;
  • Motor traffic reduction;
  • Targeted remodelling of junctions:
  • Education and enforcement -get some training:
  • Motor vehicle design - there is some hope that the design of large lorries, more appropriate for urban areas with greater all round vision for the driver, may reduce ‘failure to see’ collisions.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Are cycle lanes safe? A personal view.

Much has been made recently of conditions being made safe for cycling. However my experience has been that there is an unwillingness to discuss or take on board any views about what keeps cyclists safe other than the viewpoint that is currently fashionable - namely providing cycle lanes across London. The lengths to which some people will go to in order to suppress alternative views has surprised me. It includes people who would be, you’d have thought, in favour of free speech. These are my personal views.

Christian Wolmar journalist and London Cycling Campaign board member (Chair of the HR Committee), wrote twice last year to my employer complaining about comments on my personal Twitter account. Until now I have been unable to respond. In August he wrote:

“I am writing to you as a trustee of the London Cycling Campaign and one of the founders of Labour Cycles over concerns about the Twitter activities of one of your staff, Vincent Stops.”

 His second complaint in October stated:

“After a period where Vincent was quieter and blocked me so I could not see his emails [tweets?], he is now at it again.. Here is his latest effort which is clearly nonsensical - cycle lanes are not inherently dangerous and I am sure this is not a view that [employer's name] would want to share.

I hope that you can take action on this...”

Below is the thread he complained about. My twitter thread challenges a rewriting of history by the local cycling group as to how Hackney became such a successful cycling borough. As an aside I say that cycle lanes were avoided because they are unsafe:

I’ve worked professionally, and as a councillor in Hackney, to promote more and safer cycling for over two decades. For two years I was the lead councillor for transport. Hackney is by far the best cycling borough in London. The Census in 2011 reported the highest rise in cycle to work of any local authority area in Great Britain. More residents cycle to work than drive. 

There are cycle campaigners who think cycle lanes will get more people cycling safely, but there are others who have substantive concerns about the safety of cycle lanes. I am one of the latter - some cycle lanes are unsafe. I have made that case in public for many years, including on my Twitter account.

I’ve been on Twitter for a decade and have been debated and attacked for my views for years, and that’s fine. But what I want to put on the public record, and respond to, is the action of journalist and London Cycling Campaign board member, Mr. Wolmar, who made a direct complaint to my employer asking them to take action against me. The effect of this complaint was to stop me being able to express my views on these safety concerns, even in my own borough, in which I am an elected representative.

My twitter account made no reference to my then employer, nor has it ever made reference to my employer. The account is obviously of my own views. I didn’t get a chance to debate Mr. Wolmar on Twitter as he did not seek to engage with me, preferring, instead, to seek to suppress my views via my employer.

Christian Wolmar is a fairly high profile individual in transport circles and his complaint led to my consulting a solicitor, my trade union and invoking a grievance process with my employer - a public body that I had worked for, for 20 years and had hitherto been supportive of my public role.

Are cycle lanes ‘safe’?

Campaigning for cycle lanes and describing them as ‘protected’, ‘SafeSpace4Cycling’ or ‘segregated’, is easy.  It is much more difficult to actually design and implement lanes that provide space genuinely separate from motor vehicles. Often cycle lanes will stop short of the intersection. And it is at intersections where, overwhelmingly, collisions that injure cyclists occur. The ‘protection’ will often be only a dashed line or coloured surface. And, critically, the cycle lane means that cyclists are in the wrong position on the road from which to safely negotiate the intersection. Cycle lanes can make negotiating intersections less safe.

The collision types include: 

  1. being hit by a left turning vehicle or a vehicle changing lane;
  2. being hit by a right turning vehicle. 

You can read some proper analysis of cycle collisions commissioned by TfL here. And below is a slide from the Metropolitan Police service:

Cycle lanes may be fine on stretches of road where there are no intersections, but if there are intersections, bike lanes mean cycles pass side roads and travel through junctions, often at speed, too close to the kerb and on the inside of motor vehicles. This is the opposite strategy to that which cycle training teaches cyclists. Cycle training encourages cyclists to take a more central position so that one is visible to other road users. Cyclists should travel either in front of, or behind vehicles at intersections, and should not try to fit alongside each other competing for the same road-space at the junction or turn.


Cyclists travelling at speed down the inside of motor traffic at an intersection are out of the mind’s eye of the motorist or in a blind spot as the driver turns left and as both cyclist and driver compete for the same road-space. There is some proper research about ‘failure to see’ associated with turning collisions, commissioned by the EU 

Below is an example from my own borough. The cycle lane merges with the carriageway. Cycles turning right compete with left turning motor vehicles for the same road-space.

Below, at the approach to Highbury Corner. A multi-million pound, cycle led, remodelling has designed in this situation. Cycles travelling straight ahead compete with left turning vehicles.

A similar situation arises as cycles pass side roads. Again the cycle is too close to the kerb and the motor vehicle will pass on the offside of the cycle and may fail to see as the driver turns left. Ordinarily, the cycle would be either in front of, or behind the motor vehicle that it is now alongside. Below is an example from one of the early Cycle Superhighways at Mile End.

As I have said, none of this is new. For many years cycle trainers, cycling organisations, the police and highway authorities have tried to raise awareness of this danger. Below is an image from a Metropolitan Police slide. 

Pop-up cycle lanes introduced in response to the pandemic, have the same problem. Below an example on Green Lanes.

Mr. Wolmar also objected to the tweet below, in which I prompt readers to recognise the problem of turning right from a cycle lane on the far left of the carriageway, sometimes across two lanes. The video is from the DfT funded Bikeability training course for children. The video describes how cyclists are trained to safely turn right:

To safely turn right cyclists are trained to follow a sequence of 

  1. look; 
  2. indicate and 
  3. move into a central position. 

How much distance is needed to perform this manoeuvre is dependent on traffic conditions, but it can be quite a distance, particularly if crossing two lanes in busy traffic. Often this manoeuvre is not possible from the confines of a cycle lane and the only safe way to turn right is to dismount and become a pedestrian, which rather defeats the object of cycling as a respectable transport mode - it infantilises cycling.

Below, the photo of a ‘pop-up’ lane approaching Newington Green from the north, illustrates the problem. There is now no safe way of leaving the cycle lane in order to position oneself in the right turn area ahead without at some point dodging through the bollards whilst looking behind.

I have thought about this a lot. Social media is a fact of life. Everyone has a right to their views and should be able to express them. I was not politically restricted and should have the same rights as journalists and board members of cycle campaign groups. For politicians this is important and the electorate are entitled to know one’s views. It is surprising and disappointing a journalist would seek to suppress others’ personal views.

Installing ‘protected’ cycle infrastructure is not as simple as the cycle lobby and Mr. Wolmar would have you believe. The situations I have outlined above are well recognised safety concerns and they are not being dealt with. Whether the problems can in fact be ‘dealt with’ inclusively is debatable. Endless campaigning and harrying of those who have and express these concerns does not mean the concerns themselves will go away or become irrelevant.

Time will, of course tell, but I firmly believe the problems of cycle lanes for cyclists’ safety should be understood and debated, certainly not suppressed.

Further reading

If you want to read some proper research for yourself, there is a DfT commissioned assessment: 

and a Danish study: 

Post script: More and safer cycling

There are interventions that can improve cycle safety and they are well known: