Month: March 2015

Vision Zero.0 is about putting walking and cycling first.

On Friday I attended a presentation organised by Nesta about Intelligent Mobility. The buzz phrase was “Mobility as Service”: a future where people will no longer own a private car, rather the car-sharing club membership will be part of a “platinum Oyster card” which will include all transport options, at a price.

This is what Helsinki is already on course on establishing, and we certainly welcome the disappearance of private cars in London, freeing thousands of hectares of public space, presently rented out at scandalously low prices to polluters and killers.

However the panel, almost totally consisting of white middle aged men, stuck between their personal past and a techno-rich dreamland, said nothing about walking and cycling, the universal solutions to urban mobility. Even within the context of Mobility as Service, it is clear that walking and cycling produce positive externalities (such as lower future health bills) whereas public transport produces negative externalities. Surely a city-wide MaS service must include an incentive reward for every trip conducted on foot or by bike; otherwise the whole scheme is mispriced.

On the other side of the Baltic, people in Stockholm have realised that Vision Zero needs to be updated and modal share needs to be at the centre of the vision; there is widespread agreement that streets need to be reclaimed for the benefit of ordinary citizens who walk and cycle, as described in this short film by StreetFilms.
Stockholm Excerpt – Going Beyond Vision Zero? (Streetfilms) from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

A Manifesto for Better Justice for Victims of Criminal Driving and Their Families

Last week, Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds NW launched the Manifesto for Better Justice for Victims of Criminal Driving and Their Families.

The main points:

  • Replace the charges of Careless Driving and Dangerous Driving with a single charge – “Prosecutors appear to be opting for lesser careless driving charges because it is easier to secure a conviction, even when a dangerous driving charge may appear to be more appropriate, for example when the death has clearly resulted from illegal and risky behaviour, such as driving on drugs, without a licence, while using a mobile, or speeding. Driving that has killed or caused serious harm is inherently dangerous, not merely ‘careless’,and that the term ‘careless’ undermines the gravitas of the offence.
  • Increase maximum sentence thus:
    • Increase the maximum penalty for Dangerous Driving from 2 years to 5 years 
    • Increase the maximum sentence for Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving from 5 years to 14 years
    •  Increase the maximum sentence for failing to stop following a fatal or serious injury crash – to bring in much stiffer penalties for hit and run drivers
    • Increase the maximum sentence for Causing Death by and Causing Serious Injuries by Driving Unlicensed, Disqualified or Uninsured from 2 years to 14 years
  • Tougher sentences for those driving while disqualified
  • Making driving licence suspension an automatic condition of bail in cases of dangerous and careless drivers who have seriously injured or killed. “Drivers who kill and maim should be taken off the road once they are charged, as a condition of bail. If you are a teacher being investigated for misconduct, you are immediately suspended from teaching in school to protect pupils. If you are a doctor suspected of malpractice, you are immediately suspended from practising medicine to ensure no patients are harmed. Yet if you are charged with seriously injuring or killing someone because of your bad driving, you are allowed to keep driving until you are sentenced in court, despite the fact that nine in 10 drivers (89%) charged with indictable motoring offences, such as causing death by driving, are convicted” 
  • After a fatal collision, there must not be undue police pressure to clear the roads and the police must also be more empowered to confiscate vehicles. Do you hear that, Boris Johnson?
  • Officers and investigators must be thoroughly trained and regularly tested on their knowledge
  • Appoint an experienced prosecutor to receive specialist training in driving offences in each Crown Prosecution Service area
  • Government should introduce national standards requiring judges and magistrates to receive appropriate training and advice on traffic offences, including discussion of case studies, to encourage them to implement appropriately tough charges and penalties
  • Independent review of CPS decisions not to charge or to charge for a lesser offence that the victim’s family deems appropriate
  • The Department for Transport should stop describing incidents of criminal driving as “accidents” 
  • Police forces should be obliged to implement recommendations of the IPCC At present, in the unlikely event that the toothless IPCC rules against the Police, the latter can simply ignore the ruling
The manifesto has been sent to Home Secretary Theresa May, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. Put together with cross-party support, the manifesto has also been sent to all MPs and all three of the main political parties.

Vision Zero urges all readers to write to their own MP and ask them to support the Manifesto. It is an important step to change the culture of the Police and the Judiciary, so that they start treating traffic violence, the number one cause of killing in London, seriously. 

The charade hasn’t stopped

TfL just released collision figures for the bus network it regulates for the last quarter of 2014. (We will have to wait until June for pedestrian casualties on the road network; meanwhile, as of writing, already at least 14 pedestrians have been massacred in 2015).

Tom Kearney, whom all Londoners need to thank for prising these figures from TfL, has conveniently summarised the main points. Essentially on average London buses send to the hospital between one and two people a day, due to collisions. Ten people were killed in 2014. Here is one of the victims, mercilessly mowed down on the most dangerous (and most polluted) street in the country.

Tom has copiously written about the criminal behaviour of Transport for London’s management, the collusion with the corrupt Metropolitan Police and the scandalous silence of local and national media. But this country never learns from its scandals and cover ups.
Here, we point out what a nice little charade the TfL/Met Police racket has concocted to fool Londoners in thinking that they take safety seriously.
Let’s say that a bus driver, hassled by a controller to speed up (otherwise he loses his bonus), endangers you by overtaking you and then immediately cutting in front of you. If you don’t stop, the 12,000kg vehicle will end your life. You keep your calm, thank your deity for letting you savour life a bit longer, whip out your phone and take pictures of the bus and the driver.
Here is an example:
When you are next online, you report the incident on RoadSafe , a Met Police website, “provided to allow the public to pass information, in confidence, about criminal, nuisance and anti-social behaviour on the roads of London”.
Up to last year, you will have received this response: 
“Transport for London (TfL) has a specialist team who investigate complaints of this nature and so your e-mail has been passed to them.  If any further information is required, they will contact you direct.”
“A specialist team” which however never contacts you back, nor tells you the result of the promised “investigation”. If you write to them asking news, you would receive the following: 
“Our drivers are trained specifically in relation to standards of safety whilst operating vehicles around cyclists. We expect our drivers to be mindful of cyclists and drive with due care and diligence. London’s bus drivers receive comprehensive training and poor driving standards are unacceptable. I have made [the Bus Co.] aware of your complaint and appropriate action will be taken. As you have included the registration number of the bus, they will be able to identify and interview the driver.”

Note “our drivers”. When pressed a bit harder, TfL’s specialist team will respond so:

I can confirm [the Bus Co.] are looking into this matter and they will identify the driver from the registration number’ They will view the CCTV from the bus and interview the driver about his driving behaviour, and follow this up with appropriate action in line with their procedures. This can range from re-training, a verbal or written warning and to dismissal for more serious incidents. 
Unfortunately, Transport for London (TfL) is not informed of the full outcome of disciplinary interviews, as they are a confidential matter between the operator and their employee. We will therefore not be able to give you any details. I can assure you all operators take remedial 
action when drivers fail in their duties.”

Obviously you don’t fall for this bullshit and you ask how is TfL assured that remedial action is taken. This is what you get:

“We are not provided with specific information regarding investigations that take place. Our Performance Managers liaise with operating companies to ensure that standards are being kept and to discuss any complaints or reports of poor behaviour.”

Oh, maybe the Performance Manager can tell you how the discussion went? In a further message, TfL replies

“As the driver is not a member of our staff, I would advise that you contact the operating company directly. The interview between the operator and driver is a confidential matter and they will not release this information to us”
You keep playing the game and write to the Operating Company, but they don’t even reply. Note how the driver is no longer TfL’s.
In November 14, at a Traffic Violence Enforcement conference organised by Road Danger Reduction Forum I explained this charade to the audience. Simon Castle, a Policeman from the Traffic Unit, sprung up, saying it wasn’t true, effectively calling me a liar; unfortunately for him all this is documented and he had to apologise. So he asked Roadsafe to change the standard reply.
But only the words have changed. The charade is exactly the same. On 30.01 this year, I was subjected to a similar type of violence, and again TfL confirmed that they are not going to investigate. They did however offer to write to the Operating Company to keep the recording of the bus cameras for inspection by the Police. I then went to the Police Station where the officers were so surprised anyone would waste their time reporting a dangerous bus driver, that they spent five minutes debating which was the correct form to fill. That was four weeks ago and I have very little hope that anything will be done.
In this istance I have also reported the near miss on which sends an automatic message to the relevant Local Authority. More hilarity here; the Westminster Road Safety Officer wrote to me with only one concrete suggestion: take a cycling course!
This is why we see Transport for London as a criminal organisation: they know they kill and injure hundreds of people, but rather than solving the problem, they erect barriers and blankets, so that people cannot get to the truth, i.e. that safety is heavily compromised to achieve performance targets in order to enrich the people who run the organisation. And the Metropolitan Police is its accomplice.