Chair gives evidence at Select Committee

Following on from our submission of written evidence to the Transport Select Committee at the House of Commons, Katja was invited to give oral evidence on 2 December 2013. Here is the full video, and (if you did not want to watch it all) a few pointers of what she had to say below.

Katja’s contribution in transcript:

16:25:20 – Are we asking the right question?
The perspective from outside London. Having listened to what people are saying here I think the question might be a completely different one and not so much about safety at all. I think it is about the future of our cities and how we want to run our cities. We were talking – beforehands – about education and enforcement and I think we have done that. We have done that in London and we have done that outside London. And it is actually the engineering bit that is missing. It has been done in bits and pieces, but not in a continuous, and certainly not in a holistic, look at the City or at the city of Newcastle for example.

16:38:48 – Is it a war?
I probably wouldn’t quite say it’s a war, but it certainly is a battlefield out there. And if, if anything, and I am sure everyone agrees on this, a very very contested space in which all of us – when we participate on it – are quite tragic participants. And it brings me back also to the aspect of human behaviour. Of course, we as humans react in a certain kind of way and there are a lot of subliminal messages that you get as a drivers, as a cyclist, as someone who is walking in London or Newcastle or anywhere else. The way it’s been tackled elsewhere is to take that human behaviour into account, and therefore have something which you could almost call Forgiving Design. So that behaviour that might be that cyclists wobbling about that’s what cyclists do when they start and therefore you’d need a certain kind of lane width or path width. There is actually a lot of Rosa Parks, I would say, stuff going on that cyclists do. We talked before about cyclists going through red lights. There is certain countries, the cycle-friendly ones, who have started to design those things in. Where you have got a permanent green left, or on the continent it would be a right arrow, for cyclists. Where people have observed cyclists and have then found why cyclists do these things and actually allowed for it in the road design – which might be cycle lanes, cycleways, but it also has to be our junctions, the way our traffic lights are phased and all the wider picture around that. But the very starting point is the human being and we are making mistakes. Every one of us. It’s just when one person makes a mistake sitting in a car or even a lorry that mistake costs so much more.

16:48:15 – Should cyclists be taxed?
And I am yet again sure that everyone in this room would like this to happen as well – if we wanted more people to cycle I think we have to ask ourselves how we get them cycling and not about putting more barriers in their way to achieve that. I don’t know whether you are aware of this report ‘understanding walking and cycling’ a three year sociological study speaking to hundreds of people trying to find out why they are not cycling. And first and foremost it’s because there is no space, there are no cycleways. So, the question really ought to be how we can get more people cycling rather than how can we make it more difficult for people to cycle. And the other question would be ‘what would you charge cyclists for?’ because they are actually doing a lot of good.

16:51:15 – Should bicycles be licenced vs space clarity and design solutions
Just very quickly on that, the answer is ‘no’, unsurprisingly. But I was thinking about the example that you gave, that you never quite know whether a cyclist would be on your left side or your right side. This is exactly the kind of thing that can be sorted out through design and road layouts. I think this is exactly what we will have to do to make it a lot clearer and give space clarity to drivers, as well as cyclists – and therefore remove that conflict.

16:57:35 – Lorry bans, headphones
Just very quickly, just one sentence. If there isn’t a separation in time, there ought to be a separation in space so I am agreeing with Val [Shawcross] on that. Headphone: taking in auditory information from your surroundings is certainly a good thing. Sometime you don’t know why cyclists might wear head phone [the point was made before that some listen to GPS] – Whether it would be banned, I think that’d probably be going one step too far.

17:00:50 – One thing you’d want London Cycle Commissioner to do / and similarities to Newcastle
[Ashok Sinha mentions reviewing entirely the approach to traffic modelling and Val Shawcross suggests backing off the smoothing the traffic policy and reinstate a much better road user policy.] I absolutely agree with that. It’s exactly the case in Newcastle as well what we are up against here.
When it comes to the HGV problem that probably exists more in London than it does, certainly, in Newcastle – I could not speak for other cities. Otherwise I think the problems are pretty much the same – or similar anyways.

Katja contribution was afterwards welcomed by Select Committee member Sarah Champion MP who said “Katja Leyendecker from NewCyling in Newcastle, really impressed me as a witness. Rather than getting caught up in detail, she kept pulling the debate back to the philosophical position of what should be the vision of transport in our cities?” [ref.6]

Media reports

1. Guardian Bike Blog
2. BikeRadar
3. RoadCC
4. Bikebiz
5. The Journal
6. Guardian Bike Blog