London’s deputy mayor for transport Seb Dance has claimed that he was “punched in the face” by a cyclist he confronted for not waiting for a pedestrian at a floating bus stop.
The former Labour MEP, whose role focuses on delivering Sadiq Khan’s transport strategy and ensuring that 80 percent of journeys in London are walked, cycled, or made using public transport by 2041, made the claim during Thursday’s Mayor’s Question Time at City Hall.
In a video published by the Daily Telegraph, Dance can be seen describing the incident to a visually impaired campaigner who attended the public meeting to oppose the installation of floating bus stops in the capital, as the National Federation of the Blind wrote to mayor Sadiq Khan calling for “urgent action” to protect pedestrians from being hit by cyclists and e-scooter users on the contested infrastructure.
“I was cycling alongside a floating bus stop, and there was someone waiting to cross,” Dance says in the video.
“I stopped, and two of my fellow cyclists didn’t. I then caught up with them and remonstrated with them. And I was punched in the face for my efforts.”
After the campaigner raised the well-trodden issue of licence plates for cyclists, the Labour politician noted that, since the alleged attacker was riding a hire bike, he could be tracked and that the incident was reported to the police.
Dance’s claim was made at the same event where Sadiq Khan promised a review of the guidance and enforcement around the use of floating bus stops, after 164 campaign groups raised safety concerns for visually impaired pedestrians on the infrastructure – but failed to provide evidence of any incident.
Floating bus stops, where a cycle lane is sandwiched between a bus stop and the pavement, have been introduced in many parts of the country to protect cyclists from being stuck behind a stationary bus or having to pull out into moving traffic.
However, blind campaigners highlighted what they claim to be the threat posed to visually impaired people by cyclists during Mayor’s Question Time on Thursday, with Khan confirming that Transport for London (TfL) was already reviewing the safety conditions of the bus stops.
“I’m more than happy to throw at this what we can to make sure these bus stop bypasses are safer than they appear to be,” he said.
A petition, penned by the president of the National Federation of the Blind UK and signed by 164 campaign groups was sent to Khan earlier this week, calling for “urgent action” to protect pedestrians from being hit by cyclists, e-bike riders, or e-scooters users.
“Expecting people who cannot see, who cannot move very fast, or who are using mobility aids to step on and into a cycle lane with speeding cyclists and people using e-devices is simply not safe,” the letter argued.
However, the campaigners admitted that they were unaware of specific incidents of blind people coming to harm — but claimed that the potential danger of colliding with a cyclist had led many blind people to avoid using buses in the first place.
The letter came just days after the Sunday Telegraph controversially quoted a spokesperson for the National Federation of the Blind who labelled floating bus stops as “death traps” – despite not providing any evidence to back up that assertion.
“Our concerns, our evidence and our accessibility needs have been ignored, diminished and ridiculed for far too long over the inherently discriminatory floating bus stop design,” Sarah Gayton, the charity’s shared space co-ordinator, told the newspaper.
“We need a complete halt on any new ones being installed, getting the ones installed in lockdown taken out, and all the others removed. It beggars belief that they’re still putting them in. This research should be a massive wake-up call. It’s crazy.”
Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner, defended the infrastructure, saying: “Bus stop bypasses are a nationally recognised approach for avoiding the dangers of cyclists going around buses into oncoming traffic.
“TfL, like many cities across the country, have integrated this approach into our cycleway programme and we’ve seen a dramatic increase in [the] number of people cycling in the city. We are continually working to make all our infrastructure as safe as possible for all road users. All cyclists are required to stop for pedestrians at zebra crossings in accordance with the Highway Code.”
Nevertheless, the claim was picked up by Conservative London Assembly member Emma Best, who echoed the newspaper’s rhetoric on Thursday when she claimed the majority of cyclists refuse to stop for pedestrians, putting the safety of pensioners and young children at risk.
She asked the mayor if he would support an “awareness campaign” advising cyclists on how to behave on floating bus stops, leading Khan to reply that while TfL’s installation of the Dutch-style infrastructure was “completely consistent” with Department for Transport’s guidance, all cyclists also need to stop at zebra crossings in accordance with the Highway Code.
“Clearly, if it is the case that that is not happening, we need to not just raise awareness, we need to try and ensure there is enforcement as well,” the Labour mayor told the public meeting.
“We need to make sure we keep cyclists safe from the risk of pulling out into traffic when a bus is [at] a bus stop, but also that pedestrians, particularly visually impaired ones, aren’t in danger because of cyclists not following the code. It’s really important they feel safe as well.
“What I am willing to do, and what I think we must do, is look into safety concerns raised by not just those who are visually impaired but others to make sure, in the quest to make cyclists safe, we don’t inadvertently, because a minority of cyclists aren’t following the rules, endanger others.”
Floating bus stops have already come under criticism in other cities by visually impaired people, with one campaigner from Glasgow suggesting it makes using the bus “like playing Russian roulette”, and another in Bath calling the infrastructure “an accident waiting to happen”.
However, Sustrans’ detailed analysis of potential conflict between pedestrians and cyclists at two floating bus stops in Cambridge in 2016 showed that “all interactions” between road users at the location concerned reflected “safe, normal behaviour.”
The study also found that 99 percent of the cyclists who passed through the location did not have any interaction with pedestrians.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.