Cyclists and other people in London actively resisting oppression by motor vehicles

Month: March, 2012

Events and non-events of interest

So well done! The numbers turning out for a peacefully enforced go-slow at Kings Cross are bouncing back again, with a few dozen non-motorised road users calming the death-trap outside the station during the rush-hour on Monday. It was enough to do the job, even if (as can be seen here) the event was a bit straggly at times… Note that this was at a time when the whole of this road would normally have been choked [as would the passers-by] with dangerous motorised traffic.

There’s a more multi-faceted photo reports of the event, from Demotix, at:

We now bring you news – or in some cases reminders – of forthcoming events of interest; and also some “non-event” (in the nicest possible sense) information.


1)  Critical Mass

Since this Friday, 30 March, is the last Friday in the month, it’s the London Critical Mass bike ride. Hundreds of cyclists will gather by the riverside, under the south end of Waterloo Bridge, from 6pm onwards. By 7pm (in theory) the mass will be swooping through central London redressing the normal balance on the roads, putting non-motorised road users in charge. Note that, on past precedent, it seems likely there could be a consensus amongst participants that this month’s route should stretch out south-east to Deptford, SE8, where a cyclist was killed last Friday at the junction of Deptford Church Street and Bronze Street in a hit-and-run incident involving a car.

2)  Brighton Bike Fest

There are always good reasons to go to Brighton, and for a week next month – 16-22 April – there’s an extra reason for cyclists: the Brighton Bike Fest. Its aim is to “celebrate cycling as a safe, clean, healthy and cheap alternative to the car, bringing together various Brighton cycle groups in a self-organised celebration of the bicycle”. There are events every day. For more details see (unlike the misprinted website address on some of their own literature, tut-tut, this is the right address!).

3)  Spring cleaning London’s air

No apologies for another plug for the next main Bikes Alive mobilisation: on Thursday 19 April we’re joining with our friends at Climate Rush in a Clean Air Zone initiative. We meet at DEFRA’s head office (17 Smith Square, SW1) at 6pm; then we’re cycling and walking to somewhere which – by the magic of peaceful direct action – we’ll transform into London’s cleanest road, free of traffic fumes. Imagine a road with no cars, no toxic fumes – a safe space for children to play, for cyclists to ride, and for pedestrians to walk.

You’re encouraged to take your feather-duster, some children’s games, and food for a picnic…

There’s more background on the Climate Rush website at


Our comrades at LCC (the London Cycling Campaign) are organising a “Go Dutch” petition in the run-up to the Greater London elections in May, calling on candidates to agree to make London’s streets more liveable for everyone by making them as safe and inviting for cycling as they are in some neighbouring countries – hence the name of the campaign. See

On the subject of LCC: after the government recently promised £15million to decrease dangers for cyclists at junctions in London, LCC called it “a welcome gesture”, which is probably about right. However, their website’s coverage of this links to an earlier item in February, where LCC talk of the need for rethinking junctions in the light of the “public outcry over Bow Roundabout and Kings Cross”. … Bikes Alivers might be a little surprised at the mention of Kings Cross, given the LCC HQ’s refusal to tell their membership of a certain series of actions at Kings Cross that have been one of the most significant manifestations of that outcry!

Also in the run-up to the London elections, Londoners on Bikes, a campaign bringing together a range of cycling activists, is encouraging people to “vote with their bike”. Given the probable closeness of the vote as between the two Mayoral candidates most likely to win, the idea is that they should see how crucial the votes of thousands of cyclists could be when they’re making promises. For more details, see

Most people will know about the “Zil Lanes” that will be in place all over London during the Olympics, which – in order to speed up the limousines carrying the event’s fat-cat corporate sponsors, and other dodgy characters – will make many journeys intolerably difficult (and in some cases impossible) for millions of Londoners for weeks on end. Worse still, the changes to roads will increase the dangers faced by both cyclists and pedestrians who’re trying to get around. One dogged individual has spent ages trying – using Freedom of Information regulations – to get copies of whatever safety impact assessments were made concerning these changes. It seems – from the authorities’ stonewalling – that either there are none, or the results were too embarrassing to make public. For those with a stomach for this kind of thing, you can find some of the correspondence here and here.

If you’re interested in making contact with people wanting to do something about the dangers posed by these lanes, see Also, note the next gathering of anti-Olympics campaigners will be taking place on 14 April – see

Those of you who read the excellent Camden New Journal – as all of you in and around that borough no doubt do – should note an unfortunate misprint in this week’s issue (in their almost-every-week coverage of Bikes Alive). The subtle wit of the latest Bikes Alive press release [you can see them all here], with its reference to the campaign’s “Spring Defensive”, was sadly lost on them: they’ve now told their many thousands of readers that we’ve launched a Spring Offensive – and we don’t want Transport for London to retreat to their bunkers any more than they do already.


In an example of cultural differences – and this relates to the LCC campaign mentioned above – try to imagine, if you were reading a news report of a crisis meeting of the British cabinet, what photos of the Prime Minister arriving at the meeting you’d expect to see. And now look at this [and apologies for having to include a link to the Daily Mail]:


Get those scissors out!

Help promote next Monday’s one-hour Springtime go-slow at Kings Cross. (For more details of the event, see the last posting – below, or at

One way you can promote it is by printing copies of the sheet of flyers you’ll find here, cutting them up, and giving them to everyone you know who prefers to move round London peacefully, safely, and unpollutingly. See you there at 6pm sharp on Monday!

(And you can also stay in touch by following @BikesAlive on Twitter, if you’re that sort of person…)

Some variety in the Spring

Last Monday, the day of the latest Bikes Alive action, The Times ran a story about the scandal of TfL telling its experts to ignore cyclists when planning road changes at Kings Cross (see – though unfortunately the paper omitted any mention of the action due there that night. And an interview with a Bikes Aliver was run several times that afternoon on LBC radio (and of course he did plug the action). But despite the mini-flurry of last-minute coverage, turn-out was poor last week.

If you were all saving yourselves for Spring, then there’s good news: we have some cheery plans, as set out below … and note that the first event is our next visit to Kings Cross, on Monday 26 March at 6pm for another one-hour go-slow. For some of the reasons to be there, see below.


1)  Kings Cross action on Monday 26 March

We’ll be back for another peacefully enforced one-hour go-slow on the lethal roads outside Kings Cross station. And note that since the switch from 6pm to a 6.30pm start time hasn’t increased numbers, we’ll be back at 6pm again next week. This has the advantage that the hour’s action takes place while there are still large numbers of people in the area to experience/witness the event, and to be communicated with. Here are some extra reasons to turn out next week…

(a) It’ll be soon after the equinox; BST will have started, making it suddenly brighter at 6pm; it’s Spring! (b) You all need a chance to redeem yourselves after your poor showing last time. (c) Even as you read this, work to remodel the road layout is getting under way at Kings Cross – work which expands the cyclists’ killing zone at the lethal junction by the south-east corner of the station. (d) Leon Daniels, roads supremo at Transport for London (TfL), has yet to make good his promise to send his friend at Bikes Alive news of the alleged (but strangely invisible) in-the-nick-of-time re-think of TfL’s plans for Kings Cross (see the report of the day they let Boris loose in E3, in the last posting here).

Please be sure to help promote this event: you can post information, and/or a link to this site, on any blogs or other websites you’re involved with; you can make sure information about the action is circulated round any bike groups or other networks you’re part of. And if you want to prepare any leaflets, feel free to use the latest Bikes Alive logo, as above.

2)  Small-scale, not-publicised-in-advance, “guerilla” actions

Over the next couple of weeks, a few Bikes Alivers will be undertaking some unannounced (but quite public) actions to help enforce better behaviour by motorists, and to insist on increased safety for cyclists. If you use your imagination, you could no doubt think of things of this ilk which you and other cyclists in your area could do. So what are you waiting for?

If some of these ideas work out well, they’ll be shared with everyone else via this website. Send in any reports of your actions to the usual address –

3)  Spring cleaning London’s filthy air, Thursday 19 April

Next month, we’re joining with our wonderful friends at Climate Rush in support of their Clean Air Zone initiative. We meet at DEFRA’s head office (17 Smith Square, SW1) at 6pm; then we’re cycling and walking to somewhere which – by the magic of peaceful direct action – we’ll transform into London’s cleanest road, free of traffic fumes. Imagine a road with no cars, no toxic fumes – a safe space for children to play, for cyclists to ride, and for pedestrians to walk.

You’re encouraged to bring your feather-duster, some children’s games, and food for a picnic…

There’s more background on the Climate Rush website at


The last two of these include pictures of last week’s Bikes Alive event.

More on the Kings Cross scandal

Today we bring you the latest on the scandal relating to Transport for London’s culpability at the lethal junction at Kings Cross; and we also bring you a story of everyday faux-East London folk (ie, Bumbling Boris and his merry men). And please remember: we’ll be back at Kings Cross on Monday (12 March) from 6.30 to 7.30pm. Will you be there?


Following the revelations a few days ago that, for years, Transport for London (TfL) told its road engineers to ignore cyclists when planning junction changes at Kings Cross (see, we now know that this was despite dozens of cyclists being injured there during this period.

The work undertaken by traffic engineers Buchanan and Partners, when TfL told them to ignore cyclists, covered the period 2005-2009. Research by Levenes Solicitors, who specialise in cycling safety, has looked at the part of the Kings Cross road system where Bikes Alive holds its go-slows (a total road length of less than half a mile), and has found 25 occasions from 2005 to 2010 when cyclists were injured seriously enough to show up in official statistics. (See

And yet more research disclosed on the local Kings Cross community website has found that even when the traffic engineers did try to behave ethically and include recommendations relating to cycle safety, they were watered down between the draft report and the final report (see Minutes of a Camden Cycling Campaign meeting from this period show that a TfL representative explained the unwillingness to improve cycle safety quite simply – they were “very insistent on through traffic”. (By which, of course, they mean motorised through traffic.)

We have no reason to believe that TfL’s dirty dealing over Kings Cross for many years is any different from the way it behaves everywhere else in London. But at Kings Cross we have the incontrovertible evidence … hence Bikes Alive’s concentration on Kings Cross, where we think the history, the strength of the local campaign, and the focus given to the Kings Cross situation by Bikes Alive and others, gives us a chance of getting TfL on the run – as a starting point for getting them on the run all over London, of course. Indeed, for hints of TfL at least claiming that they could be re-thinking their current Kings Cross plans, see the next item.

Our immediate lesson, of course, is that we need to return to Kings Cross in ever-greater numbers to keep up the pressure. So – see you on Monday evening!


Last Wednesday evening, Bikes Alive discovered that Mayor Boris was due in the East End on Thursday morning for the public (ie press) launch of the major expansion, that day, of the area covered by the Bike Hire scheme – of which he’s very proud. Discussions were had, and it seemed that the mayor’s hypocrisy – claiming to be pro-cycling, yet being in charge of a body (TfL) which has policies that are responsible for so many avoidable deaths and injuries of cyclists – deserved pointing our publicly. So, Bikes Aliver Albert Beale cleared his diary, and arranged to head out to the farthest reaches of the borough of Tower Hamlets on Thursday morning. He came back with a tale to tell.

This is that tale…

As I cycled east along Roman Road, shortly before the appointed time for Boris’s photo op, I spotted a crowd of people at a crossroads in the distance, some wearing fluorescent yellow jackets, and wondered whether I’d found the venue sooner than I expected. As the bright sunlight glinted on my grey hair, I suddenly saw a number of cameras raised in my direction; but my instinctive reaction to that was to tidy my hair, rather than to deliberately make it more boyishly tousled, and the cameras were quickly lowered again.

Once I arrived, I found a greeting party of clumps of press, Pearly Kings and Queens, and dozens of TfL officials of various ranks. Five minutes later, a group of cyclists arrived from the same direction as I had, this time with the real Boris at the fore. As he wheeled round the corner in front of the crowd, I called out his name, and shouted, “Why are you such a hypocrite – pretending to support cycling when you run TfL which has policies responsible for cyclists’ deaths?” His reaction made it clear that he heard me; but my intervention was apparently only partly audible in any of the media coverage. Though one local news report did say: “The Mayor of London was greeted with a mixture of cheers and heckles…”, which is encouraging.

I then went ahead of the official party, while Boris glad-handed stallholders in the local street market, so as to attempt further interaction with him and the media at the new docking station site which had been chosen for his formal “unveiling”. It was noticeable that, apart from some of the officials on the new hire bikes, there was no sign of anyone else at all having arrived by bike “normally”.

More heckling

I did a bit more heckling when he arrived, and once he was ensconced in front of the cameras I was approached by a couple of smartly-dressed members of the TfL entourage who started talking to me about my criticisms; no doubt a major reason they decided to interact with me was in order to distract me from continued heckling, and since I was sufficiently polite to let them engage me in a lengthy conversation, I must admit that their ruse worked.

I subsequently discovered that one of my new chums was Leon Daniels, since last year TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport; and the other was the Tory Party’s Kulveer Ranger, one of the mayor’s official “advisers”, in this case in the role of “director for transport policy”. In terms of their ability to empathise with people over whose lives they have so much influence, it should be noted that each of them is paid as much in a week as many Londoners have to live on for a couple of months. Leon Daniels, in particular, is an example of the revolving door between public servants and affluent corporations in the same area of business, which is so common in most areas of government these days: he arrived at TfL last year from a private transport company, as his predecessor left for a similar role at another such corporation.

It was, and is, hard to know how seriously to take what they told me. At one stage, Kulveer Ranger, when responding to my complaint that there weren’t separate traffic lights for cyclists, said that such a system was now being installed at the site of last year’s two cycling deaths at Bow Roundabout, and claimed that this would be “the first in Europe”. When I pointed out that I’d cycled in European cities with such systems back in the last century, he changed the claim to it being the first such example in the UK. And when I pointed out the need to slow down traffic light phasing, to allow enough red overlap for slow-moving cyclists and pedestrians to get clear of the junction before vehicles were coming at them, I was told there were national transport ministry regulations stopping this; yet I was then told proudly that TfL often went beyond the ministry-prescribed minimum.

Promises, promises

I had a lengthy discussion with Leon Daniels about the fact that not only were existing junctions dangerous for cyclists, but that most changes to junctions made them worse. He referred proudly to the revamped plans for Bow, implying that they’d learned their lesson. I said I would reserve judgement. His general message seemed to be, “Even if we have messed up until now, we’ve seen the light, and from this day onwards…” As far as Kings Cross was concerned, he repeatedly suggested that it was included in the recently announced review of junctions. I asked whether this meant that the planned changes announced some while back, which those of us who know the area see as introducing new dangers for cyclists, were now being reviewed before the (overdue) work got under way (and was this perhaps the reason it hadn’t already started); he was far from explicit, but he didn’t actually deny this. In the end, after he wouldn’t be pinned down, he said he’d send me details of the current state of play, in terms of what work was now due and who was currently being consulted about Kings Cross. Naturally I’m still waiting.

I also spoke to Nick Aldworth, who manages the hire bikes scheme for Transport for London, who had little useful to say once I’d agreed with him that having lots of extra bikes on the streets was a good thing – even though, I pointed out, Barclays had got the best of the deal financially. He didn’t try to rebut that point very strongly. My only regret was not discovering that another of the besuited men on blue bikes was actually a senior official from Barclays Bank – given other news emerging that day, there was the making of another interesting conversation there…

I did manage a bit more attempted dialogue with BJ, including telling him – when he was leaving – not to run away when people wanted to talk to him. But he seemed reluctant to meet his public one-on-one. I spoke to some journalists, including making one probably useful new contact on local radio. But the only person to record an interview with me was a charming young man from Romanian Radio; I charmed him back with my – very slight indeed – knowledge of the orthography of the Romanian language and he let me have quite a rant.

The only serious attack I had was from a raucous local who saw me with my bike and denounced cyclists as being the main cause of the world’s ills. And apparently we didn’t even know the Highway Code. He only slightly calmed down when I told him I’d once won a prize for my knowledge of the Highway Code – which was perhaps fair enough since, although I didn’t tell him, it was when I was at primary school.


Statistics – which match common sense – on the dangers of collisions with HGVs:

A friendly local report about Kings Cross (though note it has the wrong start time for Monday’s go-slow):’s-advice-ignore-cyclist-data-kings-cross-accident-junction-‘scandal’

There’s been a sudden flurry of hits on the Bikes Alive website emanating from Reddit; this seems to be why:

Promoting next Monday; and other events

A reminder that, as announced, we’re returning to Kings Cross on Monday. And we do so against the background of this week’s shocking revelation that for years TfL was telling its transport consultants to ignore cyclists when planning road changes at Kings Cross (see the news in the last posting). So it’s really important to get a good turn-out, and to keep this issue in the public – and political – eye.

Please pass on news of the event on Monday evening to all your concerned/campaigning contacts – cycling, pedestrian, community, and environmental. You can print copies of this flyer to distribute to your local cycle shops, community centres, and so on. Or just give them to cyclists you’re alongside at traffic lights!

And while we’re at it, a rare piece of good news from the roads of Kings Cross: Islington Council is developing plans to calm the southern end of Caledonian Road – much of which, at present, acts as a barrier to the community rather than the heart of the community. This plan could extend to getting rid of the gyratory racetrack in part of the Kings Cross one-way system which falls inside Islington. See


Nonviolence and Transport – Tuesday 13 March

The London group which has monthly discussions about aspects of pacifism and nonviolence has “Nonviolence and Transport” as its theme next Tuesday evening.

Some questions which the meeting might address include: Are there aspects of the way our society deals with issues of mobility and transport which are, in practice, violent? Is much motorised traffic inherently violent? Are large-scale transport systems inevitably a violent assault on the ecosystem? Do ideas of nonviolence suggest ways in which we should have more local self-sufficiency, and so travel a lot less? What role is there for nonviolent direct action in campaigning over transport and mobility?

See for more details; everyone interested is welcome.

Barnet’s Great Divide Ride – Sunday 25 March

The North Circular Road cuts a swathe across Barnet, and crossing points lack friendly features for cyclists. In fact, the recent remodelling of Henley’s Corner is another classic – and all too common – example of a road redesign that makes it even more hazardous for cyclists. So the Barnet group of the London Cycling Campaign has organised a ride which takes in lots of notorious junctions on the North Circular, including Staples Corner and the Brent Cross Flyover; they’re meeting at New Southgate station, N11, at 10am for a 10.30 start.

For more details, see


Last and next … back to Kings Cross


After last week’s outing to Archway, we’ll be back at Kings Cross next week (6.30-7.30pm, Monday 12 March). Below you’ll find:

reports of the Archway event;

the latest Kings Cross news (including that TfL told road engineers conducting traffic flow modelling at the lethal Kings Cross junction to ignore cyclists);

the text of a Bikes Alive letter which was (kind of) published; and

a few useful or interesting links.


Last Thursday, a hundreds-strong crowd took to the road outside Archway underground station, circling the massive roundabout and causing traffic to back up for a while. The protesters were mostly locals (some of whom have been campaigning over the Archway road system for years); and a large majority were pedestrians. Bikes Alivers made up about half of the cyclists’ contingent, joining local cycle activists and others.

The event made the front page in the next day’s Islington Tribune – see the on-line version at

There are also photos and a video, respectively, at and,

It was a very cheery affair, with plenty of not-usually-the-demonstration-type locals; and some of the organisers went out of their way to thank Bikes Alive for being crucial in swelling the cycle contingent. One of them also apologised for the fact that the event had been set up with the police, after lengthy discussions, in a way which pretty much precluded repeated circling of the gyratory; but he expressed the hope that there might be another Archway event at some stage, more cyclist-led, which would make its presence felt at greater length…

Some participants expressed dissatisfaction at the less-direct-action-oriented style of the event; however, Bikes Alive was there very much in support of an existing local initiative, and so we were constrained by the arrangements they’d made. And next Monday we’ll be back at Kings Cross, in our ususal mode…


As we rev up (or whatever the cycling equivalent is) to return to Kings Cross next week for a one-hour enforced go-slow at the death junction outside the station, there are important new revelations about Transport for London’s (TfL’s) culpability.

The Times, which is still continuing its high-profile (even it analytically limited) cycle safety campaigning, has picked up on the police investigation into allegations of corporate manslaughter by TfL, as long pushed by the local Kings Cross Environment website ( This relates to the fact that TfL failed for years to change the Kings Cross road layout, despite knowing that it failed to meet official safety standards. The only downside of this Times story ( is its failure to note that the changes that TfL does now plan are ones which introduce new dangers for cyclists!

Another shocking story just dug out by the Kings Cross folks is that TfL advised road engineers conducting traffic flow modelling and measurements in the Kings Cross area from 2005 to 2009 to ignore cyclists at the Kings Cross killer junction, despite cyclists making up 20% of casualties. (See

So, do you need any more reasons to to come and reclaim the roads at Kings Cross next Monday evening? See you there!


After all the fuss about cycle safety in The Times and the Independent recently, the Guardian ran a pro-cycling editorial a week or so back. However, given that it made positive noises about the cycling image of certain not-so-radical politicians, a letter was sent in putting a Bikes Alive-type spin on things. Come Saturday, several letters in response to the editorial were printed, but not including the Bikes Alive one – which is fair enough, given that their letters page is greatly over-subscribed, and only a small proportion of letters submitted make it into print. However, it transpires that nowadays – if there’s a topic which attracts more letters thought worthy of printing than there’s room for – the Guardian sometimes prints an expanded selection on its website. (This is not to be confused with other discussion threads on their website, which are full of anonymous – and frequently incoherent and hysterical – disputes about topics in the paper … discussions which many Guardian readers are amazed to find printed by an allegedly serious publisher.)

This is the text that was printed as one of the two extra letters in the on-line version of the letters page; it’s only slightly edited from the original submitted.

Your editorial refers positively to both David Cameron’s and Boris Johnson’s use of bikes, and calls for changes in attitude and the law, and for more investment in cycling facilities.

But in congested urban areas like London, it is impossible to increase safe cycle usage (or indeed to have air quality which doesn’t breach international standards, or to have a safe and unthreatening street environment for slow-moving pedestrians) without the elimination of most cars. Yet the politicians you praise are part of a selfish and privileged stratum of society which insists on the right to use private cars whenever desired.

Furthermore, Transport for London – run by Boris – currently has a deliberate policy of remodelling major road junctions in order to increase the throughput of motor vehicles while simultaneously increasing the dangers for cyclists.

It’s small wonder that many cyclists find such politicians, even when on their bikes, to be part of the problem not the solution – hence the need for non-violent direct action by cyclists to defend ourselves.

Albert Beale
Bikes Alive


Firstly, references to Bikes Alive (not all of them completely uncritical):

And some items from the Independent a while back which were omitted from an earlier round-up: