Sunday 16 December 2012

How much does that lorry weigh?

This week the driver of the loaded Lynch Haulage four-axle tipper truck that collided with Times journalist Mary Bowers, leaving her in a coma a year on, was convicted of careless driving and cleared of the more serious charge of dangerous driving. He was given a fine and disqualified from driving for 8 months.

According to the Standard,
A jury decided that Beiu's driving standards were not bad enough to convict him of the most serious charge available in cases where the victim is not killed.
Beiu's barrister Rowan Matthew Jenkins told the court that Ms Bowers, who was wearing a helmet and dark clothing, had been "easy to miss, even for a careful person looking out".
Beiu said in evidence: “Maybe I didn’t look properly enough. This is what I will regret for the rest of my life.
“I should have looked better and this would never have happened."
The court had been told that Ms Bowers placed herself alongside another cyclist in an advanced cyclists' box in front of the lorry as they waited at traffic lights in Dock Street.
Beiu was giving directions on a hands-free phone to a colleague and failed to spot Ms Bowers despite her being "in direct sight" through his windscreen for at least 10 seconds before pulling away and turning left across her path.
He even failed to realise there was a cycle lane on his near side, the court was told.
I can't help but wonder whether the decision that the jury came to was influenced by the kind of 'There but for the grace of God go I' feeling that one driver (and the odds are that there were several drivers on the jury) may feel for another.

You know, setting off from the lights, bit distracted chatting to my mate on the hands-free mobile, so many pedestrians, bollards etc. around that aren't lit up - slight chance I, a social rather than professional driver, might misjudge what's happening and bump into something or someone but hey I'm going slowly and not likely to cause much damage really. Just a bit careless.

But there are vehicles and there are VEHICLES. It's one thing imagining being knocked into and run over by a car like the one above travelling at very low speed. Now imagine being knocked into and run over by the lorry below (or rather this lorry when it's fully laden).

Crossrail ready tipper
According to the Standard,
Ms Bowers suffered a "significant brain injury" and two severely broken legs, a severed artery, a punctured lung, a broken arm and a broken pelvis.
Given the scale of damage that can so easily be delivered by a vehicle of that size and weight, I am dismayed that the jury members didn't consider that driving while a bit distracted on a populated urban street, which they might view as 'careless' by a car driver, falls into the category of extremely 'dangerous' when driving the lorry above.

I also have to say that I'm really thankful that I don't have to make a living driving trucks of that scale on streets shared with pedestrians, cyclists and all the other road users - the drivers have an incredibly challenging job with a huge amount of responsibility. 'Chapeau' to the many excellent ones.
I've taken this indicative image of a 4-axle tipper truck from the website of  Lynch Haulage, which, let me be clear, may not be the same company that provided the truck that Beiu was driving, and I don't know whether this is the type of four-axle tipper truck that he was driving. (Regardless,  I'm certainly pleased that the company website states it is currently installing  the safety measures identified in their photo)

Friday 14 December 2012

So much to explore within an easy ride of school

Pupils from Charlotte Sharman and Crampton schools each had their final after-school club ride this week. Some Year 6 pupils from Charlotte Sharman were on camp last week and the couple of Year 5's who were hardy enough to brace the chill this week were desperate to show them some of the places we visited last week, so our ride schedule was tweaked to accommodate their wishes. Both groups also really wanted to drop by the London Eye and see what was happening in Leake Street.

First stop, at the request of a pupil who had heard of the "£1m property that only two people lived in", was the Water Tower featured recently on Grand Designs
 Then on to check out the gold plated hoops at The Regal at the Black Prince Community Hub
Up Lambeth High Street and over to the Thames Path for a great view of Parliament - I'm so pleased that the proposed ban on cycling on this stretch of the Thames Path was overturned. It would however be great to have some wheeling ramps on the steps that lead up to Westminster Bridge Road to avoid having to carry all the bikes up.
Along Belvedere Road to the London Eye where we stopped to refuel with chips we'd bought in Lambeth Walk
 and took a seasonal snapshot 
 then into Leake Street which, as ever, didn't disappoint - in particular this awesome painting of Gollum
plus a chance to ask some questions of a spray can artist just starting another ephemeral painting
Then it was back to school, both groups a few minutes later than planned having had so much to stop and talk about.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Shopping locally for books this Christmas

Ethical Consumer suggests alternative shopping options to Amazon for those wishing to challenge their tax "efficiency":
"The Guardian ran a series of articles on Amazon’s approach to tax in April this year. Evidence showed that the company which sold one in four books in the UK, and generated £7.5bn from sales here in the last three years, did so without attracting any corporation tax on the profits from those sales."
 Here are my suggestions for bikeable bookshops for readers in the area:

Kennington Book Shop at 306 Kennington Road, SE11 4LD, has a good stock (new and second-hand) and can get books in at short notice. The cycle parking on this TfL managed section of Kennington Road remains very poor (see my post from 2010) to the detriment of the retailers and our local economy. If I was a retailer there or a local Councillor I'd be screaming at TfL to sort it out.

A truly fabulous second-hand bookshop I stumbled across last week that has cycle parking bang next door to it is Bookmongers at 439 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8LN.

To support a charity, sling a few books in a pannier and take them to the Oxfam Bookshop (opposite a remainder bookshop) in Victoria at the end of Horseferry Road (34 Strutton Ground, SW1P 2HR) then fill your pannier with books you've bought. Unsurprisingly, for this is Westminster, convenient cycle parking is lacking here but there are railings on the other side of the roundabout.

The National Theatre has a performing arts bookshop and there's a branch of Foyles on the river side of the Royal Festival Hall; and the second-hand book tables under Waterloo Bridge. Then there's The Book Warehouse remainder bookshop at the corner of Baylis Road and Waterloo Road (with good cycle parking, thanks in part to Lambeth Cyclists pushing for it). Railway, Aviation and Military enthusiasts may find what they're after nearby at Ian Allan in Lower Marsh.

We mustn't omit the 56a radical social centre and bookshop / exchange in Crampton Street (no. 56a) with good cycle parking and a DIY cycle repair centre to boot, or the Calder Bookshop and Theatre at 51 The Cut.

Then of course there's the Charing Cross Road and Cecil Court bookshop; Waterstones at Trafalgar Square  and on and on.

As a planet friendly alternative or addition to giving a book, why not give membership of Lambeth Libraries? It's free and provides the recipient with access to more books than they could ever read! Nearest is the Durning Library at Kennington Cross with cycle parking opposite (though it's also worth hopping on the bike to check out Lambeth's brand new Clapham Library, and maybe also have a swim at the shiny new Clapham Leisure Centre.). Don't forget Southwark's Newington Library on the Walworth Road too.

Where should I have included but haven't?

Monday 10 December 2012

Have your say on draft plans for Superhighway

TfL details below. See also comments by Cyclists in the City

TfL is proposing to introduce a new cycle route between New Cross Gate and Victoria. Barclays Cycle Superhighway Route 5 (CS5) would run via Peckham, Camberwell, Kennington and Vauxhall.

View the proposals and have your say:
Please visit to see details of the proposed route and have your say. Alternatively, please contact us if you would like us to send you designs for specific sections of route.

Public Exhibitions:
We invite you to one of our three public exhibitions so you can view the proposals and speak to members of the project team:
·           Saturday 8 December 11:00-15:00, Peckham Library, 122 Peckham Hill Street, SE15 5JR (view map)
·           Tuesday 11 December 15:00-19:00, Oval House Theatre cafĂ©, 52-54 Kennington Oval, SE11 5SW (view map)
·           Wednesday 12 December 15:00-19:00, Parnell House, 25 Wilton Road, SW1V 1LW (view map)

About the proposed new route:
Barclays Cycle Superhighway Route 5 would bring substantial changes to the road layout to improve safety for cyclists, including:
·           More space for cyclists and buses, through reallocation of road space
·           New mandatory cycle lanes
·           Improvements for cyclists at 52 junctions, including new Advanced Stop Lines, cycle feeder lanes, and speed reduction measures
·           An innovative cycle ‘early-start’ facility at Vauxhall Bridge Road/Millbank to help cyclists get ahead of traffic
·           Banning some turns for cars and lorries to reduce conflict with cyclists
·           Extension to the existing 20mph speed limit in New Cross

The new route would also include a comprehensive package of supporting measures, including:
·           Over 3,000 new cycle parking spaces along the route
·           Cycle safety checks
·           Free cycle training
·           Industry-recognised safety training for drivers of large goods vehicles

Construction work:
We plan to start work in late spring 2013. We’ll write to local residents and businesses before undertaking work. The route is planned to open later in 2013.

Nominate a pavement and/or road to be fixed

 If you're in Princes Ward send an email to, in other wards try your local councillor or the transport department at Lambeth.

According to Cllr. Morgan,

The Princes Ward current backlog list comprises of

Roads: Brook Drive Chester Way Glyn Street Johnathan Street Laud Street Monkton Street Newport Street Oakden Street St Mary's Gardens St Mary's Walk Vauxhall Walk Walcot Square 
Pavements: Denny Crescent Denny Street Kennington Road (Kennington Lane to Lambeth Road) Sancroft Street Vauxhall Walk Walcot Square 
If you think another road/pavement needs doing then let us know and we will ask the traffic engineers to pay a visit. Photos of any issues always very helpful.

Thursday 6 December 2012

A peaceful ride on our roads

This afternoon I led a small group of hardy Charlotte Sharman year 5 pupils (year 6 it turns out are on school trip) on a local ride.

First stop was the Black Prince Community Hub to check out the Regal Basketball Court with its gold-plated hoops, the football pitch and the long jump - the latter attempted on foot and then, inevitably, on bike

 We stopped to pick up some warming chips at Frank's Fish bar on Lambeth Walk (opposite Lupino Court, named after Lupino 'Doing the Lambeth Walk, Oy!' Lane).
then cycled past the former Doulton HQ to White Hart Dock
 before heading to the slipway by the SIS/MI6 building to eat our chips and throw stones into the Thames.
 On our way back we stopped to admire the Christmas lights at Pimlico Plumbers (and the van registration LOO 2 0LD)
 and checked out the names of several astronauts on the Plane trees on Kennington Road.
The previous day it was the turn of Crampton to cycle to More London. They tried very hard to obey the No Cycling rule in the vast volume of space,
 but some found the fountains irresistible.
Who could possibly blame them or deny them a little fun?