I got an e-mail from TfL today

And it gave me the rage, it really did.

• Be aware of blind spots all around large vehicles. It’s often safer to hang back

Then explain to me why a cycle lane and Advanced Stop Lane are almost identical in size and shape to a lorry’s blind spot?

Explain to me why lorries and cars ignore advance stop boxes, up to and including manoeuvring themselves illegally so that although you weren’t in their blind spot when you arrived at the lights, you suddenly are?

 • Make eye contact with drivers to make sure they have seen you

So when they run over your head they know what it looked like before it had a close encounter with your wheels? I have made eye contact with drivers, and they turned left directly in front of me anyway. They did a close overtake and then cut in front of me anyway.

• Not ride through red traffic lights. It’s dangerous and you can be fined £30

OK, I’ll give you that one. I despise cyclists who think that the rules of the road don’t apply to them. I also think pedestrians who step out without looking are idiots, and words cannot express my contempt for people who use the baby in the buggy as the road-crossing equivalent of the canary in the mineshaft (if the baby is hit by a speeding car, find somewhere else to cross, this clearly isn’t safe).

But equally, I see car drivers running red lights all the time. I see them accelerating up to traffic lights and skimming through on “dark amber.” I see them encroaching on Advanced Stop Lanes which are supposed to be for cyclists only. I see and hear them revving their engines at zebra crossings. I see them on their mobiles, applying makeup (I hope you poke yourself in the eye with your mascara wand), picking their nose, singing along to the radio, having a row with their passenger, squinting at their satnav. Distractions whist driving a car are far more dangerous to vulnerable road users.

 • Allow space between you and parked vehicles. Doors may be opened suddenly

Then please explain to me why every single cycle lane I’ve ever used in London places cyclists firmly in the door zone? And if I cycle outside of the cycle lane, in order to avoid being doored, I get hooted at and sworn at by drivers who are outraged that I dare to hold them up.

From the wording of the e-mail, they are also writing to drivers. I’d be interested to see that e-mail, I really would.

update

Thank you to everyone who sent me the text of the letter to drivers. Here it is:

It’s a bit, um, weaselly, isn’t it?

We are reminding drivers to give space to cyclists when overtaking and at junctions.

But hey, if you forget, never mind, eh? Accidents happen.

Please remember to look out for cyclists when turning left or right

Please. Pretty please. Pretty please with cherries on top, or we’ll cry.

and check before you open your door as they can be hard to spot.

Those pesky cyclists, eh. They’re hard to spot, so if you hit one, it’s got to be their fault for being invisible in a public place.

We are also writing to cyclists to remind them to be visible,

Yes “make eye contact with drivers.” Because that works so well when they’re fiddling with their radio or squinting at their satnav or putting their makeup on or picking their nose, or doing anything apart from paying attention to the road ahead. Have you ever tried making eye contact with a driver who’s looking everywhere but at you?

ensure they follow the Highway Code when cycling.

Well, actually, we’re just telling them not to run through red lights.

There is nothing in this letter about being a careful and considerate road user. Nothing about paying attention to the road, keeping out of Advance Stop Lanes, or not picking your nose at the traffic lights (seriously, please stop doing that, it’s unspeakable). There’s a dollop of victim blaming, a vague request to look out for cyclists, and an implication that the only people who need to obey the Highway Code are cyclists, not car drivers.

Sending out two separate e-mails smacks of divide-and-rule, us-and-them. No sense of us all being road users together, that if we try and get on then everyone’s journey will be pleasanter.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to I got an e-mail from TfL today

  1. Josh

    Not to mention that ‘it’s an offence to open “any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person”’ (http://ukcyclerules.com/2011/01/18/the-laws-of-car-doors/) – it seems to me TfL are less concerned at preventing dangerous behaviour than at mitigating the effects of that dangerous behaviour.
    The onus – given that it’s an offence to do so – must surely on the driver to look, not the cyclist to avoid. I’d very much like to see the drivers’ email to see if this point is reinforced.

  2. I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said here. Why it seems that cyclists get a bad name for jumping red lights when at just about every junction I see the last one or two cars accelerating through on red, I just don’t know.

    TfL’s designs, to stack traffic in two lanes at junctions just adds to this. I get so frustrated by how the cycle lanes on my commute disappear at junctions as TfL tries to squeeze two lanes of traffic in, to reduce the length of the queue. Not only can we not get to the ASL (which will probably have a car / bike / lorry in it anyway), squeezing two lanes in only to go back go one lane after the junction means drivers treat it like a grand prix start, battling to get ahead when they pull away or, as you say, accelerate on amber to try to get through… Then suddenly you’ve got two lanes of aggressively driving cars jammed back into one lane. And this all happens just as any protection that the (invariably non mandatory, too narrow) cycle lane might have given us is no longer there. Its utterly ludicrous, completely unsafe, and just encourages agressive driving.