Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
Robin Heydon, Christopher Peck and Majeed Neky
29 March 2011
Q37 Chair: Good
morning, gentlemen. Welcome to the Committee. Could you give
us your name and your organisation, please? This is for our records.
I will start at the end here.
Majeed Neky: I
am Majeed Neky from Living Streets.
Chris Peck from CTC, the national cyclists' organisation.
Robin Heydon: Robin
Heydon, Cambridge Cycling Campaign.
Q38 Chair: Thank
you very much. Is congestion a problem for cyclists and pedestrians?
Majeed Neky: It
very much is a problem for pedestrians, from our point of view.
We relate this problem to the lack of an integrated transport
strategy. We need to consider congestion reduction and traffic
management as part of a broader picture of reducing motor traffic
volumes, encouraging modal shifts to healthier and more active
modes and, in the longer term, integrating transport and spatial
planning more effectively together to create compact mixed use
neighbourhoods that are easier to get around.
Q39 Chair: But
is congestion a problem for cyclists and pedestrians?
Majeed Neky: Yes.
It affects streets as places as well as corridors for movementthings
like air pollution and the social effect.
Q40 Chair: Could
you focus on whether congestion is a problem for cyclists and
pedestrians and explain to me the nature of the problem?
Majeed Neky: Yes.
The first point of the problem is that congestion affects streets
as places as well as corridors for movement. That affects the
pedestrian experience quite profoundly. The second problem is
that pedestrians, in the real world, are traffic flow. Pedestrian
flow is traffic flow; everyone is a pedestrian at some point.
The concept of congestion and the concept of traffic management
that we need to have needs to include things like
Q41 Chair: I understand
what you are saying; you are painting a picture, but I want you
to focus on the question. Could you give me examples of circumstances
in which congestion is a problem for cyclists and pedestrians,
if indeed you think it is? What is the nature of the problem experienced?
Majeed Neky: Congestion
is detrimental to the pedestrian experience. It puts people off
walking. The congestion in pedestrian flows is a problem for pedestrians
as well in things like lack of adequate crossing provision. That
actually creates congestion for pedestrians as well.
Q42 Chair: Thank
you. Mr Heydon, do you have any views on that? Is congestion
a problem for cyclists and pedestrians?
Robin Heydon: Absolutely,
congestion is a problem. We have significant cycle congestion
in some locations in Cambridge. I am assuming by "traffic"
you mean all traffic: pedestrians, cyclists and motorised vehicles.
For example, there are entrances to most of the commons
and, because the commons have cattle on them, there are cattle
grids, and most of those cattle grids are just one cattle grid
wide. So there is a place for pedestrians and there is a place
for cyclists. But, with the amount of cycling we have now in Cambridge,
we have a significant problem of having twoway traffic going
through, effectively, a single lane road. That is a significant
cause. The other problem, of course, is that there are lots of
big metal boxes on the road that restrict the movement of low
carbon emitting vehicles.
Q43 Chair: Do
cyclists cause the congestion? Mr Peck, do you have a view on
We would certainly argue they don't. Evidence from Holland suggests
that you can carry 14,000 cycles per hour per lane, as opposed
to 2,000 per hour per lane for a car. As we have already heard,
the average loading of a car is between 1.2 and 1.6, depending
on the time zone and the type of trip.
Additionally, Transport for London have done some
recent research which suggested that the value of a bicycle was
0.2 of that of a car when they do their traffic modelling of roads
in London. Certainly, it has a much lower impact on congestion
than personalised motor vehicles. Of course, the other benefit
of cyclists, which has been outlined in the previous session and
was picked up by Transport for London, is that they can filter
through traffic. Of course, they can be grouped in very large
numbers at the front of traffic and there are advanced stop lines
that are now used in many places. This keeps them out of the way
of motor traffic, allows them to filter through it and doesn't
cause a problem to other road users.
I would very much suggest that cyclists do not contribute
to congestion. Indeed, they are a major solution to it. In places
where congestion has got very bad, we noticed that cycling levels
have increased. A lot of people have moved from car to bike as
a means of reducing their own susceptibility to congestion and
delays that are caused to their trips.
Q44 Chair: Does
the Highway Code help people who don't drive, or is it just for
Part of the problem is that the Highway Code isn't adhered to
very well. It certainly could be improved for vulnerable road
users such as pedestrians and cyclists, and, indeed, horse riders.
I think it is still very much tipped towards drivers. There is
a lot of stuff in there about how cyclists and pedestrians should
take extra care in certain circumstances.
Yes, it also reflects that drivers have to be aware
of cyclists and pedestrians, but certain rulessuch as Rule
170, which says that pedestrians have priority at side roads when
they have started crossingare very rarely observed by many
Certainly, with regard to Rule 163, which advocates
that when overtaking a cyclist you give as much room as you give
a car, I think our members would agree that that happens very
rarely amongst the majority of drivers. Of course, there are a
lot of drivers who do overtake correctly, but a significant minority
do overtake far too closely, causing both a hazard and a discomfort
Robin Heydon: I
would say that cycling here I signalled right, put my hand out
and hit the white van that was overtaking me. The law or the recommendation,
I believe, is that you should give as much space as a vehicle.
I believe a vehicle is around 5½ feet to 6 feet wide and
my arm is not that wide.
Q45 Iain Stewart: With
the advent of "Boris bikes" and other similar schemes,
we are hopefully going to see a significant increase in people
using cycles as a means of transporta lot of people who
will not probably have been on a bike since childhood. Do you
think there is a danger that a significant number of new cyclists
will not have good road awareness of cycling in congested urban
areas, and is there a need for a better education of cyclists
on how to use bikes properly in urban areas?
Robin Heydon: Absolutely.
I can't speak highly enough of, for example, Bikeability, which
is aimed at schoolchildren. There are three different levels.
I am sure you are well aware of that scheme. I am very happy that
the Department for Transport is continuing funding that at least
for the next four years.
My concern, though, coming back to your question,
is, what about adults? There are, as you say, plenty of adults
now taking up adult cycling. Yet, for example, Cambridge County
Council have just announced that they are going to cancel all
of their cycle training for adults. I can't see how, when the
volume of cycling traffic in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire is increasing
significantly, cancelling a training budget for adult cyclists,
getting them confident on the road, is a good thing.
I would very much endorse that view. Child cycle training has
been very, very effective. It is very highly regarded by children.
Adult cycle training has also been very effective. As Robin points
out, in certain areas they are cutting the funding for adult cycle
In London, there is a much more substantial budget
for adult cycle training and it has been very well received. It
is a key part of both the Barclays cycle hire scheme that you
refer to, and the Cycle Superhighways scheme, which has been implemented
by the Mayor. Both of those are supported by a lot of adult cycle
training. They are going out to businesses and they are recommending
cycle training to those users.
On your point about safety, there is a concern there,
but I would suggest that, where we see very high increases in
cycling and places where there is a lot of cycling, the risks
to cyclists tend to be lower than in places where there is less
cycling. For instance, in the Netherlands, the risk of cycling
is twice as low as it is here. That is a contribution of infrastructure
and so on.
In the UK, places like York and Cambridge have a
much lower risk per cyclist of being injured than other places
where cycling is much lower. We think that is partly because driver
behaviour improves or drivers become more used to cyclists. They
may not enjoy having cyclists coming at them at all crazy angles,
but they have become better at anticipating cyclists. The evidence
from the DfT is that the majority of all crashes between cyclists
and drivers are deemed by the police to be the fault of the driver.
So it is improving driver awareness as well as improving the training
of cyclists on which we need to focus.
Q46 Chair: Mr
Neky, do you want to add anything to that on cycle safety?
Majeed Neky: We
would very much support the role of cycle training and encouraging
responsible cycling that meets the interests of all road users,
including pedestrians. We advocate a broad modal shift towards
active travel. We recognise there is a minority of cyclists who
engage in antisocial cycling behaviour, such as failing to stop
at crossings, riding on pavements, etc. We advocate vigorous and
renewed enforcement of that, but we also want to see it within
the broader picture of conditions on the roads for cyclists and
Q47 Mr Harris: First
of all, can I just point out that I am probably the only person
around this table who has passed all three levels of my Bikeability?
I have the badges somewhere; I am not quite sure where.
On the Highway Code, it seems that your criticism
of it, Mr Peck and Mr Heydon, is that drivers don't obey it rather
than the Code itself being a problem. If drivers aren't giving
enough space when they are overtaking cyclists, that is the fault
of the driver, isn't it, rather than the Code itself?
Robin Heydon: The
question really is, is it the fault of the driver or is it the
fault of the situation that the driver is in? What if the road
is narrow? There are plenty of examples I can give in Cambridge.
For example, at the end of Madingley Road, there is a beautiful
cycleway segregated from the traffic, which goes right into a
bottleneck which is one car and a little bit wide. The cycleway
feeds into that bottleneck, basically putting the cyclist in the
way of the cars. The question I would ask is this: is the infrastructure
of the roads designed to help cyclists?
Q48 Mr Harris: That
is not the question I am asking. Is the Highway Code a problem?
Is it the way the Code is written? Is the agency that compiles
the Code a problem? Or is it simply the fact that drivers don't
read the Highway Code? I have to tell you I passed my driving
test in 1982. I have not read the Highway Code since then,
and I expect I am not all that unusual. But is the Code itself
a problem or is it lack of adherence to its rules?
Robin Heydon: I
would say that the Code itself starts from the premise of car
drivers. For example, the first thing it says for cyclists is
"Wear a helmet." Oh my God, it's so scary out there
that you've got to put some piece of plastic on your head that
does no good whatsoever.
Q49 Mr Harris: If
you were to take a show of hands in this room, you would find
that most people are drivers. Surely, it's a sensible notion to
construct a Highway Code that caters primarily to those people
who use a particular form of transport. Given that the vast majority
of journeys are undertaken by drivers in their cars, isn't it
sensible to assume that the Highway Code, therefore, will cater
primarily to drivers and to car drivers?
Robin Heydon: Sir,
I am going to disagree with that hypothesis that the majority
of journeys are made by car. In Cambridge, in 2009, 49,956 cars
crossed the River Cam every day; 50,822 bicycles and pedestrians
crossed the River Cam. The cars are a minority.
Q50 Chair: Mr
Heydon, isn't Cambridge a special case? Isn't Mr Harris's general
point a good one?
Robin Heydon: No.
Cambridge is what we should be aiming for.
Q51 Mr Harris:
No, hold on a second. Whatever aspirations you have for Cambridge
being the template for the rest of the country, the fact is Cambridge
is not typical. I went, as a Minister, to all the cycling cities
that Cycle England were funding. None of them was typical of your
average town or city in this country. The vast majority of people
drive. There are more two-car families in this country than there
are families with no cars. All I am saying is would it not be
surprising if the Highway Code were not to caterlet me
put it that wayfor drivers primarily rather than cyclists,
for example, or horse riders?
Robin Heydon: I
think it should be catering for both. If we are going to encourage
a country where sustainability of transport is a goal, then you've
got to encourage sustainable transport modes, and cycling is one
of those sustainable transport modes.
Q52 Mr Harris: We
are clearly coming to this point from different directions. Isn't
the Highway Code a guide for road users to deal with the road
as it is today in 2011? It is not some kind of aspirational document
of what we want life to be like in the next century. It is about
how to cope with the roads today.
Robin Heydon: Yes,
I agree. But, as mentioned by Christopher Peck, there is a rule
in the Highway Code that says, when a pedestrian is crossing a
junction, they have priority over side traffic. Even in Cambridge
not many car drivers abide by that.
Q53 Mr Harris: Can
we conclude, then, that the Code itself is not the problem; it
is the fact that drivers either don't read it or, if they do read
it, they don't adhere to the rules? So it is not the Code itself;
it is the users. Is that correct?
I think it depends on the rules. There are some rules which we
are very happy with but there is a lack of adherence to them.
There are other rules we feel could be improved. Obviously, there
are aspects of the Code with which we agree.
Q54 Chair: But
Mr Harris's point is that the Highway Code does relate to cyclists
as well. Would you agree with that?
It does, but, backing up what Mr Heydon said, we feel that cyclists,
pedestrians and horse riders are very much secondary in the Highway
Code. Many local authorities adopt a hierarchy of road users which
puts pedestrians and people with disabilities top and cyclists
and other nonmotorised users below.
Q55 Mr Harris: Can
I address one other issue because I think the CTC evidence to
the Committee suggested that there clearly is a problem with cyclists
being intimidated and sometimes physically assaulted by car drivers
or their passengers? What do you say to the argument we constantly
hearMr Neky referred to thisthat if, in central
London for example, cyclists even occasionally stopped at red
lights, that would help develop a more positive relationship between
them and drivers, who have no option but to stop at red lights,
otherwise they may lose their licence? You understand what I am
saying. There is this resentment, and it is sometimes perhaps
irrational, but how often does the CTC tell its members to adhere
to red lights and not to go through red lights?
My understanding from way back is that cyclists will
justify going through red lights, especially in a built-up area,
because they have got a lorry at their back. That is not true
because, if you go into central London, the vast majority of cyclists
that go through red lights are not being pursued by a lorry. What
advice do you give to your members?
Chair: Cyclists and red
lightswho is going to give us the answer?
I don't think very many of our members are really the problem
here. The Cyclists Touring Club are very much the AA of the cycling
Mr Harris: I am sure.
But what I would say is I do think that, as you said, this
is perhaps an irrational thought that is going through people's
mind. It is a very obvious form of law- breaking, but there is
a lot of law-breaking among all road users on the roads. 48% of
cars are breaking the 30 mph speed limit, 2.5% of drivers
Q56 Chair: Is
there more or less law-breaking from cyclists compared with drivers?
To put it in perspective, in London, over a 10-year period we
had evidence from Transport for London which said that about 4%
of the pedestrians who were injured following a vehicle jumping
a red light involved crashes with cyclists. Cyclists were 5% of
surface trips in London. The rest of the injuries to pedestrians
involved motor vehicles, of which about half of that were cars
and the rest taxis and buses and so on. There were 47,932 fixed
penalty notices for drivers jumping red lights in 2005. The only
thing that stops them sending out more of these is simply the
lack of staff to send out the fixed penalty notices.
Q57 Mr Harris: That
is exactly the reason why cyclists don't get fixed penalties.
What we would like to see
Chair: I think we are
straying into difficult areas there. Mr Harris, do you want to
pursue it further?
Mr Harris: I am fine,
Q58 Paul Maynard: Mr
Neky, in your evidence from Living Streets, you talked about some
of the examples of what were called naked streets. We are looking
today at effective traffic management. Would you argue that perhaps
the most effective traffic management is to have less management,
reduced management, or perhaps even no management at all?
Majeed Neky: I
think we need to be quite careful when we are considering this
issue, when approaches like that are being yoked to things like
removing pedestrian crossings, which I think needs to be considered
very carefully in the interests of all road users. But I would
say that taking an integrated approach to the management of traffic
For example, on Kensington High Street, the traffic
was slowed down, there were more informal crossing spaces and
there was therefore less need to segregate different road users
such as pedestrians and motor vehicles. It is easier for people
to cross the road ad hoc rather than having to wait for ages with
congestion building up, and there has been a 47% reduction in
pedestrian casualties as a result. I certainly think that, while
it needs to be appropriate for the needs of that place and the
users of that area need to be consulted, it can certainly have
a part to play.
Q59 Paul Maynard: Do
you feel that motorists improve their driving habits in such an
environment more than cyclists improve their cycling habits in
an identical environment?
Majeed Neky: Evidence
from the British perspective is of quite short standing and there
will need to be quite a lot more research on this. But I think
that a cultural change needs to happen over a number of years,
and part of that is going to be needing to try out more of these
schemes and evaluate them properly.
Q60 Paul Maynard: Where
it has been tried in Blackpool, the problem we have found is that,
while motorists improve their behaviour, cyclists see it as a
green light to over-exceed the normal rules of the road that they
might otherwise have adhered to. That causes particular concern
for the more vulnerable pedestrians, who may have a visual or
other impairment. How do you think this perhaps well-meaning idea
can be finessed to ensure more effective street management and
better protection for vulnerable pedestrians?
Majeed Neky: In
relation to the point about cyclists, as I have already said,
Living Streets advocates more vigorous enforcement of that very
small minority of cyclists who engage in antisocial cycling behaviour.
But the second point, more widely, is that we advocate
that schemes like this or any redesign of streets should be done
completely in conjunction with the whole range of road users in
that area. If you do that properly, you get fewer controversies,
as there have been in Kensington, because there is joint working
from the start and you find places that people are happier to
use across the board. That is what we advocate.
Q61 Paul Maynard: In
Kensington, how have those with visual impairments been involved
within the system, as it were? What have they done to help the
Majeed Neky: As
I understand it, they have reached an agreement in Kensington
and Chelsea where there is a lot more involvement of visually
impaired groups. I understand there was a lot of controversy over
that as certain agreements made that an example of a noted shared
What Living Streets wants to stress is that it is
a spectrum of approaches. There is no necessary reason why a level
surface needs to be introduced straight away into every area.
That is not what this is about. It is about looking at the broad
spectrum of streets as corridors for movement but also places,
and deciding on solutions that are appropriate to each place in
consultation with the people using them.
Q62 Jim Dobbin: This
is an interesting discussion. As a driver of 50 yearsI
suppose I am giving my age away thereI am becoming less
and less confident on the road, especially driving in the City
of London. I feel under threat at times, and it is basically from
cyclists and motorcyclists because you don't know where they are
Don't you think that there is probably the need for
some national campaign of understanding for road users? Don't
you think it is time that that happened? It appears to me that
we are all in competition for that road space at the present time
and it is quite unsafe. The point has been made about the Highway
Code. I see cyclists day after day going through red lights and
breaking the Highway Code. All I am suggesting is that it may
well be that all road users need to go through a process of minor
We would be very happy to see a campaign and associated enforcement
of all road traffic law, because, as vulnerable road users, both
cyclists and pedestrians have the most to gain from an improvement
in road traffic behaviour and adherence to traffic law. I come
back again to the 30 mph speed limits. 48% of cars are observed
to be breaking them. It is all road users who are to blame here.
Cyclists can be obvious. The anarchic behaviour of
cyclists upsets people, but, when it comes to red light jumping,
I think there is a very interesting thing. There has been some
research which looked at why cyclists jump red lights, and Mr
Harris referred to some of it. Perhaps some cyclists excuse their
behaviourthey are escaping danger or they are doing it
in order to make progress without interfering with anyone else;
whereas when drivers jump red lights they accelerate through the
end of an amber phase, putting everyone at risk. They speed up
to go through, and it doesn't look as bad.
Chair: Could I just remind
you that our focus today is congestion and what causes congestion
or might alleviate it?
Jim Dobbin: I just wanted
to make the point that I feel I am a threatened driver. I have
lost my confidence.
Majeed Neky: I
think a road user environment where that kind of competition that
you mention is encouraged is exactly what we need to change with
better street management solutions. I would like to return for
a second to the discussion on the Highway Code.
Chair: In relation to
Majeed Neky: If
it is to be reviewed and improved, I think road traffic incidents
would be reduced and the smooth flow of traffic would actually
be encouraged if it was to state clearly, strongly and up front
the rights and responsibilities of all road users and set that
out clearly. I think that is a role it needs to play.
Q63 Chair: Is
there any actual evidence that if more people walked or cycled,
there would be less road congestion?
Robin Heydon: I
can only speak from the context of Cambridge. Cambridge is a very
congested city. There are many people who want to drive, but we
have had a significant increase in the number of people travelling
When we look at traffic, I think we have to decide
whether we are just focusing on the people in the big metal boxes
moving at 14 mph average speed, or whether we are looking at everybody
moving through the city. In Cambridge, there has been a significant
increase in the number of people cycling and the number of people
using the bus services, but no increase at all in the number of
people using cars. From a car perspective, you could argue that
congestion has not improvedthat congestion is exactly the
same as it was 10 years ago.
Q64 Chair: It
has not improved congestion but it has not made it worse.
Robin Heydon: From
a car perspective. But, from a prosperity point of view, the number
of people travelling into the city, the number of people able
to access jobs
Q65 Chair: That
is not the question. I am asking a very specific question. Is
there any actual evidence that increased walking and cycling reduces
Robin Heydon: Yes.
Q66 Chair: You
are saying in Cambridge, yes.
Robin Heydon: In
Cambridge, we have gone through, I think, four or five phases
now of the Core Traffic Scheme, which has basically been reducing
Q67 Chair: No.
Can you just give me the answer whether it has or it has not?
Robin Heydon: It
Q68 Chair: Is
there actual evidence from anywhere else in the country that it
In London, for instance, we have had the congestion charge. That
has meant there are 60,000 fewer drivers, from the year 2000,
entering central London every morning. It is down from about 150,000
to around 85,000 to 90,000. Those people have gone on to other
modes and we have seen a big increase in cycling. There has been
over 100% increase in cycling over that period. There have been
increases in bus use. These multimodal things depend, as it were,
on people transferring from bus to walking.
Q69 Chair: There,
it is cycling combined with public transport which you are saying
has reduced it.
In some cases, yes, a lot of people coming to rail, but also a
doubling of cycling into central London.
Q70 Chair: Would
traffic flow more freely if there were fewer traffic lights? That
is one of the suggestions that has been put forward to us.
Majeed Neky: As
I said before, that needs to be looked at incredibly carefully.
Q71 Chair: I know
that, but I am asking for examples. Is there any actual evidence
that, by reducing the number of traffic lights, you would have
more free-flowing traffic and not more accidents?
Majeed Neky: We
are certainly not aware of any, which is why we are concerned
about this happening without evidence.
Q72 Chair: I just
want examples. I am not looking for the general philosophy. We
have all that in the written submission. It is examples.
Robin Heydon: I
have an example on the northern entrance of Cambridge. At Histon
Road, there is a new junction which has been put in because of
recent development. It takes approximately four minutes for pedestrians
or cycles to cross basically four lanes' worth of traffic. That
has significantly increased cycle congestion at that location
because of those traffic lights. I am not saying we should remove
them, because if you remove them, you get the situation that we
have at the A14 slip road at Horningsea. Between Horningsea and
Fen Ditton, they have just spent a significant sum of money to
widen the cycleway but they have not put traffic lights in, which
basically means that a cyclist or a pedestrian has to wait five
minutes for a gap in the traffic.
Q73 Mr Harris: Mr
Peck, I want to pursue this line of inquiry about the congestion
charge in London. This is a genuine inquiry because I don't have
the information to hand. There has been a reduction in the number
of cars that have come into London since the congestion charge
was introduced, which has also led to a modal shift to either
cycling or public transport. It sounds like a counterintuitive
question, but does the fact that there are fewer cars mean that
there is less congestion? In other words, has some of that road
space been taken up by other modes of transport?
Presumably, we measure congestion by the average
speed of a journey within a particular area. How has the average
speed of a car journey changed since the introduction of the congestion
charge and can we use that measure to decide whether or not that
has been successful?
I don't have the exact data for you. I am sure Transport for London
could provide it or I could provide it at a later date. I believe
the average speed in central London of vehicle traffic is about
9 mph and in Greater London it is 18 mph. I don't believe that
has changed all that much, but I would come back to what Mr Heydon
said. All the traffic must be considered under the Traffic Management
Act 2004. We must consider all traffic to be part of that.
I know that part of the movement after the congestion
charge was, yes, to reallocate some of that road space to bus
priority and also to pedestrian priority, to increase phasing
time for pedestrians, who are also victims of congestion in terms
of busy pavements around here. You will see a lot of people waiting
to cross to Oxford Street or wherever. So I do believe there has
been an improvement in traffic flow in central London as a consequence
of the congestion charge, and the reduction of private car use
has undoubtedly contributed to that.
Chair: Thank you very
much for coming and answering our questions.