Safety for sustainable green cyclists in London

My 19th escape: the cycling accident I nearly had in London

My 19th (?) escape: the cycling accident I nearly had in London

I picked up this helpful leaflet from the London Cycling Campaign and modified it a little to show an the occasion on which a truck driver nearly killed me – about two years ago. He behaved exactly as illustrated and knocked me onto the footpath. Lying between the wheels of his turning truck, I screamed. He heard me and stopped. Then he told me it was my own silly fault – and drove off leaving me too shocked to claim for damage to my bike. Limping home, I remembered my Mum’s poem:
“Oh dear Mama
What is that mess
That looks like strawberry jam”
“Hush hush, my dear,
That is Papa,
Run over by a tram”

Cyclists need to be sustained if we are to have sustainable cycling in London.

37 thoughts on “Safety for sustainable green cyclists in London

  1. James Clarke

    I think that in this year alone there was around ten if not more cyclists killed by HGV’s in London, I think nearly all in a similar fashion to your accident Tom, you were very lucky that the driver heard you. I also think the barriers placed at junctions for pedestrian safety should me removed in certain places, there has been numerous cases of a poor cyclist stuck between the side of the lorry and the barrier, they have no chance of escape.

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    That is a great poster from the Mayor of London – and let’s hope he never earns a Ghostbike. I do not what any kind of grave marker but if I am do be done in by a lorry then I wouldn’t mind having a Ghostbike to mark the spot for a while.

  3. Ying


    I have a bike here, I always like riding bike from Kingston University to where I live. Honestly, it is very dangerous, because the cycle parth is shared by cars,buses and lorries. Although the traffic system in london is much better than China, it seems that very little consider has been put on cyclists on Road. However, I am very glad to see the cycle paths in the public open spaces here.(e,g Parks, riversides…) Maybe, the bikes in London are for relaxation,not as vehicles.

    In contrast,bikes are the main vehicles in China,although there are more and more private cars now. Although, the traffic in central Tianjin is almost a “nightmare”, I am not worried when I ride a bike,because the cycle paths are wide enough. I sounds better than London.However, the bikes in China are still and only considered as ” traffic vehicles, which never join in the public green spaces at all.

    So, the bikes made me think that maybe it is a small point for comparison related to the use of pulic spaces between China and here.

  4. Tom Turner Post author

    I think China has the best cyclepath system in the world (though I have not visited all of it!) and the nearest I came to being ‘strawberry-jammed’ when cycling in China was when being overtaken by electric bicycles. They are too fast and too quiet to mix easily with pedal bikes – though I can imagine that when one learns to fear them one always looks behind before overtaking, in the manner of car drivers.
    An American author (John Forester, M.S., P.E.. Cycling Transportation Engineer Consulting Engineer, Expert Witness & Educator in. Effective Cycling) has made a careful analysis of the statistics and believes that it is SAFER for bikes and cars to share roadspace than to have separate cycle tracks. My theory is that he has not tried cycling in China. Do you know of any statistics for cycling accidents in China?

  5. Ying

    I have checked it ,however, no clear status. As you know,China is big,it may hard to analysis.When I made the comments above, I thought that you would ask me this question.But I still could not find it.

    PS,I just read the ‘Towards a green strategy for London: Sreategic Open Space and Green Chains’pp21 7.6

    I mean, if China can take a action to give more puclic space for cycles, I will be very happy. Acturally, take my hometown as a example, the parks there are seperated, every park has “GATE” ,then the park were never been thougt as a part of Public green Space.

  6. Christine

    Tom I had a very similar experience in a car – when I was on an inside turning lane – being forced off the road by a large articulated truck. It was not a pleasant experience either!

    So perhaps the problem of turning trucks is broader than just cyclists?

  7. Tom Turner Post author

    I have had it happen in a car too and I proud to say that I got out and managed to get the driver to hand over money for repair to my car on the spot. But I was not as much at risk in the car as I was on the bike. So I think this level of risk justifies a certain militancy from cyclists and this is perhaps too evident in London. The phrase ‘road warriors’ is getting more and more appropriate. I hope China collects statistics for cycle accidents on their excellent cyclepaths – and that Ying lets us have the figures in due course! Since Chinese cities are expanding so rapidly they have a once-in-a-1000-years-opportunity to create networks of greenspace in advance of urbanization. And I think they are missing the opportunity! China needed 250,000 landscape planners 25 years ago.

  8. Christine

    Ying may be interested to read this paper ‘Rethinking Regional Greenspaces in China’, which highlights some of the difficulties experienced in implementing greenspaces following the Western model. [ ]

    Another interesting paper she may like to read is ‘Using GIS to assess the Ecological Niche for Urban Greenspace Planning.’ [ ] This paper categorises and assess greenspace provision for a variety of functions (including disaster management, historic areas, transportation and infrastructure etc) in the city of Wuxi.

    The third paper is ‘The construction of landscape pattern at comprehensive planning level in northwestern China – case study of Ankang city.’ [Sorry I do not have a link to this one]. It was published as part of the fourth international conference of the international forum on Urbanism 2009 in Amsterdam/Delft.

  9. Tom Turner Post author

    The paper by Lawson, Gill M. and Liu, Binyi is well written and well informed and interesting but, I think and hope, fundamentally wrong!
    Re the second paper, I think the link is It is also well-written but, I would argue, more open to the charge of utopianism than the approach which is criticised in the preceding paper. ‘Ecology’ and ‘greenspace’ are not things like WCs and car parking spaces which can or should have an ‘ideal’ or ‘normal’ distribution in modern cities.
    However, I am impressed by the level of debate in both these papers on open space and landscape planning.

  10. Christine

    Please elaborate on why you think and hope the Lawson et al paper is fundamentally wrong.

    The second paper sets out with the aim to understand:

    “ to lay out the green space reasonably to maximize environmental improvement while working within the constraints of limited availability of urban land.”

    Which I would say is a common difficulty within urban environments.

    I would have thought a weakness with the second paper is that it does not explain ecological niche theory, how it has evolved and been adapted and how it is applicable within the study.

    It looks like an interesting theory to explore in the context of open space and landscape planning:

    Charles Sutherland Elton, a British ecologist, gave the first working definition of the niche concept. He is credited with saying: “[W]hen an ecologist says ‘there goes a badger,’ he should include in his thoughts some definite idea of the animal’s place in the community to which it belongs, just as if he had said, ‘there goes the vicar.'”
    [ ]

  11. Tom Turner Post author

    I did not read the Lawson et al paper very carefully (so it may be me who is fundamentally wrong!) but my views are: (1) because China has an authoritarian political system it should be very easy to plan greenspace networks, just as it is very easy to plan to transport networks in China (2) in the west you have to deal with every landowner, which takes a long time (3) in China you only need to draw lines on maps and send the maps to the bulldozer drivers (4) I do not see greenspace networks as ‘utopian’: I see them as essential ‘green infrastructure’ for the ecological, economic and social ‘health’ of settlements (5) I can see the physical difficulty of retro-fitting greenway system to an already-built settlement, but China’s cities are growing rapidly and it must be very easy to plan greenways etc in advance of urbanization. So the Chinese should stop making excuses and get on with the job of planning green infrastructure networks! They can and should demonstrate that, for urban ‘greenspace’ planning, there can be advantages in authoritarian systems (though I wish this were not the case).
    Re the second paper, I am a great believer in niche theory and would extend the concept to social planning. It is not enough to plan ‘greenspace’; it is necessary to plan ‘nichespace’, to create social, physical and habitat niches – I am sure Alfred Marshall would agree – and maybe Adam Smith too.
    PS: is Australia part of ‘the West’ – and if you live in California, is China ‘the west’? Not wanting to confuse culture with geography, what replacement term could we have for ‘the West’? I think the Iranians regard Turkey as being part of ‘the East’, notwithstanding geography. And is Japan an eastern or a western country?

  12. Christine

    I believe Australia is part of the global south while Japan is part of the global north. That said when the globe gets up a wobble and tilts…things continue to get confusing.

    You are right authoritarianism did wonders for Paris under Napoleon III. And China obviously admires all things culturally French.

    I look forward to seeing modern China developing a particularly Chinese aesthetic sensibility in landscape planning matters as the Japanese have done in architecture.

    How this best intersects with governance issues I couldn’t say – perhaps Ying may be able to enlighten us?

  13. Tom Turner Post author

    I regret that ‘the west’ feels itself in a morally superior position – and I can’t think that any government has ever done so much so quickly to provide its citizens with what they want.

  14. Christine

    Historically revolutions result in difficult contexts for future generations – political revolutions (America) probably less so than social (France) and cultural (China) ones. I am not sure where religious revolutions (England) sit within this typology?

    Creating political distance from an establishment which exists on a different continent as Americans did, is a vastly different proposition than creating social distance by eliminating a whole social class within your country as the French did or attempting to destroy all traces of your culture as the Chinese did. I suppose in England there was a concerted attempt to elminate all traces of the Catholic religion – so undoubtably there are historical scars.

    Perhaps because the Pope was in Rome there was a lesser impact for history mirroring the effect of the American Revolution?

    I am not sure if any of this means moral superiority, afterall the Vatican was undoubtably implicated in arranging a political marriage for the boy King Henry?
    [ ] Perhaps a review of Henry’s original request for an annulment on the 500 year anniversary of his coronation would assist in healing old wounds? [ ]

  15. Tom Turner Post author

    I wonder if Political, Social and Religious are, as categories, more significant to academics than to ‘the people’. From the Marxist and structuralist perspectives we simply have groups of people using structures (linguistic, legal, political etc) to advance their own interests and curtail those of others (workers, women, gays, etc).
    I have read many comments from London cyclists who see themselves as being in a pre-revolutionary situation. They, or rather ‘we’, are trying to break down the power structures which prioritise machine-powered transport over human-powered transport. In these circumstances, ‘breaking the law’ becomes a potentially heroic act, like casting tea into Boston Harbour, storming the Bastille or throwing oneself in front of the King’s Horse on Derby Day in 1913. The Ghost Cyclist website (see James’ post above) attempts to turn dead cyclists into fallen heros. A new Joan of Arc, in London red, could be re-incarnated as the Cyclist’s Goddess. In fact Marianne, as La Liberté guidant le peuple already waves a red flag – so we could recycle Delacroix!

  16. Ying

    Christine, thank you for your interest of Chinese landscape planning.As everyone know that China has great opportunities for planner,designer and cheaters.

    I used to have a dream which is to build our own landscape architecture and let the western world know Chinese landscape architecture. However, I find that I may be wrong when I came UK, the Chinese landscape architecture means nothing now. What can be mentioned is Chinese Garden,not Chinese landscape architecture.

    It is certain that the Chinese society now is extremely disorder,which is the main reason that almost nobody want to SIT AND GET A PENCIL to draw their ‘IDEA’.Most of the planners and designers will do something for the govenment,for the clients,for… They can make lots of money and buy a GOLDEN PEN with them. but for me ,they are IDIOT.

  17. Tom Turner Post author

    The UK has approximately 1 landscape architect per 8000 people.
    China has 24 times as many people as the UK. Therefore to have the same ratio of landscape architects:people, it would need to have 192,000 landscape architects. But Chinese cities are growing many times faster than UK cities. So perhaps 1m landscape architects would be a good number. How many landscape architects does China have?
    America had 30,000 landscape architects in 2006 (of whom half were licensed) for a population of about 300m (ie 1 landscape architect per 10,000 people).

  18. Tom Turner Post author

    Is there a professional association which registers qualified landscape architects in China, like the American Association of Landscape Architects (ASLA) or the UK Landscape Institute (LI)?

  19. Tom Turner Post author

    Thank you for the link. The CHSLA seems to be exactly what it describes itself as – a society rather than a professional body. A society is a very good thing. So is a professional body. But they are not the same thing.

  20. Tom Turner Post author

    The eastern half of China has, to the casual visitor, three great landscape types (the cities, the agricultural countryside and the mountain landscapes) and it seems to me that the scholar culture of old admired only two of them: the cities and the mountain landscape. Agriculture was a peasant activity and did not generate the yearning love it had in most parts of Europe – where lords were attracted by Horace’s vision of Happy Husbandsmen.

  21. Christine

    Apparently much of the agricultural knowledge of China is to be found in the Book of Odes.
    [ ]

    Perhaps the form and trajectory of Chinese agriculture (and the status of agricultural workers) was determined by the warring states?
    [ ]

    These rice terraces resemble abstract art…
    [ ]

  22. Tom Turner Post author

    I think China’s geography made it necessary to have walled cities and empires, to protect against the northern nomads, relatively easy to maintain them, because there were no seas and mountain chains positioned, like the seas and mountains of Europe, to make empire-building difficult. So a heirarchical society developed and the peasants were downtrodden. Sun Yat Sen and Mao Zedong should have paid more attention to geography before framing their politics.

  23. christine

    The idea of social stratification in Bronze Age Europe has been analysed from the perspective of the relative importance given to status over achievement.

    Something of this nexus is explored in ‘A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China’.

    Benjamin Elman says (xvii);

    “The complicated relationships among the imperial dynasty, local elites, and village peasants were transformed between 1400 and 1600. As China’s population grew from approximately 65 million to 150 million, the reach of the imperial bureaucracy declined.”

    He continues;

    “The civil examination system remained a tense bureaucratic arena, in which the imperial court gamely tried to maintain control of its elites, and the elites brazenly used the government to enhance their social status and economic assets.”

  24. Tom Turner Post author

    The examination system was an amazing system and can be described, properly, as far in advance of all the other government systems in the world – because it has been adopted everywhere else. It did little for social mobility in Ancient China because you had to have an expensive education in order to sit the examination. One could therefore regard it, in this respect, as an additional means of enforcing the urban/rural divide which still dominates China. There is also an obvious parallel between the old imperial self-selecting elite and the modern communist party self-selecting elite. I wonder if progression through the CCP is governed by examination success or by nepotism and corruption of other kinds. The CCP had 78 million members in 2009 – which is only 5.6% of the population of China. This is a form of government by the few – but selecting the few by examination is, or would be, preferable to selecting them by birth.

  25. Christine

    The ancient Confucian Chinese social system was based on four approximate classes:

    The first class was the Shi – the class of scholars (of warrior origin). Legal scholars were very highly regarded and known as Confucians.

    The second class was the Nong – the class of peasants. They were landholders who paid land tax and were considered the breadwinners of China.

    The third class was the Gong – the artists and architects. They did not own land but formed their own enterprises or were self-employed with assistance from the government. Skills were handed down from father to son.

    The fourth class was the Shang – the merchants and traders. Despite their importance in establishing the silk route they were not held in high social esteem. They were perceived as being greedy and immoral.

  26. Tom Turner Post author

    I look forward to the day when Indian and Chinese historians give more time to the histories of each other’s countries, and to their similarities and differences.
    The early Hindu social system was based on four classes:
    The first class was the Brahmins (teachers, scholars and priests),
    The second class was Kshatriyas (kings and warriors),
    The third class was Vaishyas (agriculturists and traders),
    The fourth class was Shudras (service providers, laborers).
    I think that, for understandable reasons, there were more similarities between India and China then between India and Europe or China and Europe. Though I suppose you could categorize medieval European society as Priests, Knights, Merchants and Agriculturalists.

  27. Poppy

    Christine, I am very glad that you like Chinese painting.
    It is true that ” there is much much much left of Chinese landscape architecture that is worthy of exploring, evolving and continuing now…” as you said.
    But the problem is: how to continue the traditional thinking? For example, the Chinese painting showed is like a ideal landscape for living,however,we cannot find this kind of space now,due to the population increase and industrial development.

  28. Tom Turner Post author

    Poppy, see the category link in the right column for context sensitive design. Style is important but it is not the only important thing: materials, climate, construction details, social habits, local plants etc are all aspects of context-sensitivity. And with regard to Chinese urban design here is a blog post about what I think should not be done: 二十一世纪中国园林景观设计思想枯竭了吗?(二十一世纪中国园林及景观发展的方向是什么

  29. Christine

    See what might be possible from exploring a number of sources?

    The first step is possibly to explore the aesthetics of a particular era, for example the Song dynasty.
    [ ]

    Perhaps you may be able to find this book to begin your reading?
    [ ]

    I have included a book review of ‘The Problem of Beauty’. Perhaps it may point you to reading the botanical treatises in particular?
    [ ]

    The famous gardens of Luoyang seem a good place to start. I don’t know if they are anything like their 1095 description? The gardens are in Henan province.
    [ ]

    Perhaps the paintings by Zhang Zeduan can give a sense of Song buildings and gardens as united composition? [ ]

  30. Tom Turner Post author

    The famous gardens of Luoyang are interesting. They were Buddhist gardens and the histories of Chinese gardens I have seen make a great mistake in not considering Buddhist influences. It is like trying to understand the design of cloisters without considering Christianity, or Islamic gardens without considering Islam. Garden design begins with ideas and falls apart when they are forgotten (usually by practical garden builders and practical gardeners).


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