14 January 2010

Councillor knocked down by Southwark cyclist

On 7 Dec, the Evening Standard quoted Westminster Councillor Angela Harvey as saying that "little old ladies are always getting knocked down by yobs on bikes". She'd also said in a council press release: "Pedestrians are being knocked down on pavements by a hardcore element of anti-social cyclists who often shout at the pedestrian before cycling away. They have little regard for their own safety and that of other road users."

Southwark Cyclists' Barry Mason challenged Ms Harvey to produce data to back her claims. After some persistence he managed to get a reply, full of vague, hand-waving, filibustering nonsense: "mis-conflation of a number of [my] comments... [we] have heard from a number of residents who have been injured by inconsiderate cyclists... there is widespread underreporting... action must be taken now..." etc etc.

No, that's not data. That's waffle. As waffly as a waffle stand owner waffling about his waffles. While waving a waffle iron.

Hearsay doesn't count. Quite a lot of midwest Americans say they've been abducted by aliens but that doesn't mean it's remotely true.

Helpful note to councillors: 'data' means figures, such as those in police reports. Actual incidents with a paper trail. You can tell figures because they consist of a selection of the characters 0 to 9, a little like telephone numbers.

For example, 0 is a figure. It's the number of actual, verifiable, reported incidents of pedestrians being knocked down by cyclists in Westminster.


  1. "For example, 0 is a figure. It's the number of actual, verifiable, reported incidents of pedestrians being knocked down by cyclists in Westminster."
    Er, you forgot to mention a date range that your data applies to. Is zero the number of pedestrians knocked down by cyclists in Westminster (on the pavement) ever or, last week or last year? And of course if the pedestrian or cyclist wasn't injured then the incident wouldn't be recorded by the police, and even if the pedestrian or cyclist were injured, it would take one of them to report it to the police - which I feel sure doesn't always happen.

  2. Disagree strongly. There's no date range because Councillor Harvey hasn't come up with any data of her own. So we assume zero, with a date range of well, back to the beginning of time, say.

    If pavement cycling is such a menace, how come that apparently nobody in Westminster has ever actually reported an instance of injury? We're always being cut up by mad people in taxis and buses, and you can be damn sure we report those, even though nobody is injured.

    Nope: the pavement cycling business is hopelessly overexaggerated by foolish people with a chip on their shoulder.

  3. Pavement cycling is this year's paedophilia. Or something.

  4. I agree with Rob, Angela Harvey would have used anything she found (probably the largest figure) to back up her case. That she can't show any evidence, proves how weak her case is.

    When I see any cycling on the pavement, its normally at walking pace by teenagers or older women. This vision of 'lycra louts' is rubbish (and I hate it when supposed quality new outlets like the BBC use the term).

    But peoples perception can be very differnet to the facts. This morning I was shouted at by a pedestrian for going through a green traffic light (so the pedestrian light was red). They were just stepping out as I came past. They probably got to work and told all their collegues that they had just been 'almost killed' by a cyclist jumping a red.
    The fact that it was green for me, I saw and avoided them, and that I never was that close to them will not be included. It might spoil the story.

  5. I disagree with you again Rob. Simply because Cllr Harvey doesn't give a figure, I don't think it's safe to assume that the figure is zero.... ever. I believe that the statistic of reported injuries resulting from collisions between cyclists and pedestrians on the pavement is very small whether it relates to last week, last year or even the last decade. Don't misunderstand me, I would wager that there are more reports of pedestrians injured by cars and vans on the pavement in Westminster most years.

  6. Also did you catch the latest Daily Outrage:
    Cylist films commute to work and puts it on youtube. Similar to Magnatom http://www.youtube.com/user/magnatom and others.
    By the look of the comments I don't think the reads like the idea of being filmed in their car. Prehaps some facts might show the real menace on the roads. Maybe some insurance companies will start looking for car they insure on clips.

    Incidently I've just got an action camera, so will start filming from the bike soon.

  7. "We're always being cut up by mad people in taxis and buses, and you can be damn sure we report those, even though nobody is injured."

    Cllr Harvey wouldn't necessarily know about these cases if you reported them to the police or City of Westminster. You could try asking the police how many cyclists were cut up in 2009. They wouldn't know. I don't want to harp on about these things but I feel that sometimes people put too much trust in statistics and believe that more information is recorded than is really the case. What we can agree on is that Cllr Harvey seems to be making cycling on the pavement out to be a much bigger problem than it is.

  8. Also perception of speed is different for different vehicles.
    If you took a non-cyclist and got a car to drive past at 20mph while they were standing on the edge of the pavement. They would probably say the car was going fairly slowly. Repeat with a bike going at 20mph and they would say they were going much faster.

    Hence the description of a cyclist going like 'a bat out of hell' probably meant 15mph.

  9. Do you have precise figures of the number of people who spit on the pavement? I expect that such data does not exxist but I see people doing it every day.

    I also know a large number of people who have been hit by pavement cyclists.None of the incidents were reported to the police as they turn a blind eye to this behaviour and there is no point in reporting these "accidents" as no one is interested unless there is a death or a serious injury. Broken bones, bruises and anxiety caused to pedestrians seem not to matter.

  10. I'm not sure if we're dealing with one, two, three or four Anonymouses here.

    Personally I'm getting worried about the Anonymous Commenting menace. I know people who have been in fear of their life because of such things. Something must be done. I know I don't have any figures to back it up, but a friend of mine's mother's next door neighbour was VERY NEARLY KILLED by one, so it must be true.

    Anonymous IV: no councillor has been quoted in the Standard as saying their constituents are under attack and daily injury from pavement spittlers with no data to back up their claim. The point is that Cllr Harvey made a silly and over-the-top claim which she was totally unable to back up with any sort of figure at all. Hot air such as hers deserves a strong rebuttal, because we cyclists have enough shit to put up with.

    Anonymous II: that was a jam by the Dutch prog rock group Focus, from their 1972ish album Focus III. It was rather good, I thought.

  11. I have to confess that I once almost hit a pedestrian in Westminster. She was crossing the road, I was turning into it, and when she saw me, instead of continuing on her path (which I had allowed for) she tried to turn back and so I almost hit her. So make that almost 1... Oh, and while I'm confessing my sins, I did actually hit a pedestrian in Chelsea but he was a) drunk b) walking down a bike path and c) very, very apologetic and I only hit him because we both simultaneously tried to get out of each other's way in the same direction. So clearly I'm a one-woman cycling menace and it's lucky I've moved out of London...

  12. "I'm not sure if we're dealing with one, two, three or four Anonymouses here."

    Anonymouses I,II and III were me. IV is someone else. I'd rather not give my real name if you don't mind. I look at your blog most days because it's on exactly the topic I'm interested. The content is great.


  13. Thanks for clearing that up, Anon I-III - and thanks for your comments.

    Obviously, we're all pedestrians, and we're all against biking yobbery on the footpath.

    Doesn't seem to be the same debate in Paris, funnily enough. But then there's so much dogshit on the pavement, I'm not surprised.

  14. "At least one" is the actual number of pedestrians hit in Wandsworth in the last few days...


  15. Well spotted, Matt. 'Mown down' is a bit strong in the headline, as we don't have the cyclist's side of the story - but the cyclist should certainly come forward and either own up or put their version. Tch. No wonder the mother is pissed off - sounds like she's actually being pretty reasonable about it.

    Irritating though to see the police spokeswoman saying 'There are cycle lanes provided in many areas of the borough and they should be used' - there is no compulsion on cyclists to use cycle lanes. Often, as we know, they're full of broken glass, discontinuous, cumbersome, too narrow, and force you dangerously into the traffic.