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Leaked documents suggest "low risk" of cyclist collisions at "floating bus stops", as blindness campaigners urge safety action on design

The infrastructure, which forces bus users to cross a cycle lane when boarding or alighting, has been criticised by some, leaked TfL meeting slides suggesting that floating bus stops might "feel dangerous" but there is a "low risk" of a collision...

A Transport for London (TfL) figure has maintained that protected cycle infrastructure remains "key to reducing" risk amid renewed calls for safety action on floating bus stops from blindness campaigners. The comments come after leaked contents of a meeting suggested that while being "low risk" TfL is aware of concerns about the infrastructure, which requires bus users to cross a cycle lane to get to their stop, specifically that they can "feel dangerous" to some pedestrians and research suggesting that up to 60 per cent of cyclists may not give way to pedestrians at their crossings.

The discussion about so-called "floating bus stops" has reemerged over the weekend, The Telegraph newspaper publishing leaked contents from a TfL meeting in which the cycle lane design was discussed.

> Sunday Telegraph accused of using divisive rhetoric in "death trap" floating bus stops article

Slides from a presentation by London's walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman pointed out that of 623 reported instances of pedestrians being injured in a collision with a cyclist in London between 2020 and 2022, just four occurred at a floating bus stop (0.6 per cent — two people were seriously injured and another two suffered minor injuries). He concluded that "the casualty data shows there is a low risk of a pedestrian/cycling casualty at a bus stop bypass in London".

However, the presentation reportedly also accepted that "bus stop bypasses can be difficult and feel dangerous, particularly for older and disabled" people and included Mr Norman asking "what more could be done to increase the number of cyclists that yield to pedestrians at zebra crossings?"

TfL's own research into the matter — commissioned by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in March, it involved recording 24 hours of rush hour video at eight sites — found that 60 per cent of cyclists did not stop to let pedestrians cross at floating bus stops with zebra crossings.

"Where there was a pedestrian/cyclist interaction, a significant number of cyclists did not yield to pedestrians (60 per cent didn't yield, compared to 40 per cent that did)," the leaked TfL slides stated. "Most often non-yielding involved the pedestrian waiting until the cyclists had passed, some occasions the cyclists would pass the pedestrian on the crossing, and other occasions the pedestrian did not cross at all and continued to stand at the crossing until a bus arrived."

A TfL spokesperson has since said it would be "retrofitting" floating bus stops with zebra crossings to "make clearer to people cycling that they must stop to allow people to cross", the meeting also hearing that a third of the bus stops' design did not meet the authority's "best practice" standard.

Mr Norman's comments on the "low risk" of such infrastructure are disputed by some, Sarah Gayton of the National Federation for the Blind UK calling for the walking and cycling commissioner's resignation having "consistently prioritised cyclists over pedestrians".

Floating bus stop (Stephen Craven/Geograph/CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

[Stephen Craven/Geograph/CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED]

"Cycle lanes have been transformed into e-microbility lanes with legal and illegal e-scooters and e-bikes, e-unicycles, e-skate boards and cargo bikes moving at high speed. It is a matter of time until someone is killed," she told the newspaper.

A professor of law at the University of Leeds, Anna Lawson, who is blind and has published research on the "inclusiveness of space" for disabled and elderly pedestrians added her view that floating bus stops make things "much more difficult and dangerous".

"People with visual and mobility impairments and parents with pushchairs told us how bus stop bypasses made getting around much more difficult and dangerous," she said. "Several reported startlingly near-misses with cyclists when trying to cross a cycle lane or getting out of a bus. Collision statistics won't reveal just how dangerous these designs are because the people they put most at risk stop using them.

"They run counter to government commitments to make Britain more accessible and enable disabled people to live independently, participate actively in their communities and find work."

However, TfL's head of healthy streets investment Helen Cansick maintained that "protected cycle infrastructure is key to reducing risk to cyclists" and has an important role in encouraging people towards active travel.

"We have been engaging with stakeholder groups, including those representing older and disabled people, on a robust review of their safety taking into account concerns raised," she said.

Hills Road separated cycle lane, Cambridge (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpeg

"This has included looking closely at data, the design of bus stop bypasses as well as observing the operation of existing bypasses. We will be publishing details of our assessment early this year."

The floating bus stop design in question here is not just limited to London, similar infrastructure has been introduced in towns and cities across Britain, including Bath and Cambridge. Back in 2014, the boss of bus company Stagecoach Cambridgeshire called their introduction "absolutely ludicrous".

However, a report commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) and carried out by Sustrans — which analysed 28 hours of CCTV footage, and largely mirrors the methodology of TfL's latest research — suggested that the infrastructure was improving safety, with "safe, normal behaviour seen".

99 per cent of cyclists were involved in no interaction with pedestrians. Of the 42 interactions that did occur between pedestrians and cyclists, all were at peak times, and all scored one or two on a five-point scale.

However, concerns have been heard from elderly and blind people, charities and campaigners for the National Federation of the Blind and 162 other disability groups handing a petition to Downing Street in 2022 calling for floating bus stops' abolition.

"For a blind person it is impossible to access buses," one campaigner said at the time. "Quite frankly a blind person, like myself, is not going to take a chance. It's like playing Russian roulette. How am I going to know when a cyclist is coming along?"

 

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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21 comments

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hutchdaddy | 4 months ago
1 like

NFBUK don't really do themselves any favours posting videos like this that mostly show the danger to cyclists from errant pedestrians

https://twitter.com/NFBUK/status/1743973780240597185

However they have a point with this dreadful example

https://twitter.com/NFBUK/status/1744002563530256524

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chrisonabike replied to hutchdaddy | 4 months ago
0 likes

Think the "dreadful example" has featured on road.cc before.

That's a poor design there*.  We should definitely aim high.  However  - again apparently - uncontroversial designs in e.g. Copenhagen are the same or worse e.g. have people boarding directly from the cycle path - not from a 75cm buffer, but the cycle path itself.  (I don't think that is acceptable for anyone though).

Perhaps for some the issue is better stated as "I've learned to just about navigate the situation as is (dangerous and very poor provision for me).  The last thing I need is another type of vehicle with different characteristics (much quieter) in 'my space'."

That's not "bus stop bypasses" - that's "bloody cyclists".

* But watching it I couldn't help thinking "and nobody died" - or even "just wait until they hear about cars!" 

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chrisonabike replied to hutchdaddy | 4 months ago
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The "dreadful example":  the biggest thing lacking is a clear indication of the existence of a cycle path and where it is - something the UK is very poor at.  So different colour, texture and - most important for those with sight impairment - a suitable height difference from it.  (Doing that may also nudge cyclists to stay within this space).

The "better" designs seem to have the shelter and sizeable waiting space at roadside.  However in NL not all have though (as you can see in this collection).  Some have a similar arrangement - perhaps with a small amount more space for boarding and a level change from the cycle path.

If suitable provision for mass cycling occurs it will be "change!" for everyone - driving, walking or cycling.  It would be interesting to have some experience reports from NL here.

I think when "everyone cycles" the situation stabilises to being - for better or worse - a bit like here when many people drive.  So in busier areas cyclists essentially displace pedestrians from the cycle path.  That will be fine because Dutch standards always provide separate footway*.  So - unlike the UK now - people won't be standing in a group on the cycle path.  That is because it is "understood" you don't block these, it's socially unacceptable AND it doesn't feel pleasant to wait or walk there.

In quieter places (* where the Dutch often ONLY build cycle paths as these are always legal for pedestrian use) everyone discovers it's not an issue and people on bikes moderate their behaviour slightly.  I don't expect people en-mass to be much more "sympathetic" or "well behaved" when on cycles than when in cars.  But walking and cycling are more similar modes and cyclists behaviour should be moderated since they feel more vulnerable than when in cars.

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RoubaixCube | 4 months ago
1 like

As a person who has almost been knocked off their bike twice by people randomly stepping out in front of them without looking when going around these floating bus stops. I avoid them and stick to the main road as I deem it to be much safer.

The bonus being that I can pass through that stretch of road or area at a much faster pace as well

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qwerty360 | 4 months ago
3 likes

Note that NFBUK's total budget is less than the nearest blind support group to me I can find on the charities commission (Kingston) - By a factor of ~10...

 

So why are they treated specially rather than using Guide Dogs (£140m) or RNIB (£70m) (both of whom campaign on transport infra)

 

I suspect it is because incindary comments saying cycling infra should be scrapped from a tiny charity (~£45k budget per charities commission) that is basically one person campaigning with a name that implies national standing sells papers while RNIB or Guide Dogs suggesting minor, cheap/easy changes to improve things for the blind (and pointing out it is still safer for all users overall) doesn't...

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Rendel Harris replied to qwerty360 | 4 months ago
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qwerty360 wrote:

Note that NFBUK's total budget is less than the nearest blind support group to me I can find on the charities commission (Kingston) - By a factor of ~10...So why are they treated specially rather than using Guide Dogs (£140m) or RNIB (£70m) (both of whom campaign on transport infra)

They are a very niche organisation that almost exclusively obsesses over floating bus stops and hire bikes/scooters. Or at least they were last year, I can no longer follow their activities because they blocked me on Twitter for politely asking why if they are "The Voice of Blind People" in a country with 340,000 registered blind and partially sighted people they had fewer than 3000 followers.

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FionaJJ | 4 months ago
11 likes

I understand there is concern, especially when whipped up by the anti-cycling lobby,  but once again entirely different expectations of safety and priority from those cycling compared with driving. 

Education on who has priority and some standardisation of design and signage is necessary. That will require some investment and a communications campaign, but it is in no way insurmountable.

I agree with those frustrated by selective, convenient claims of concern for those with disabilities. Often just as sincere as the feminism that suddenly manifests itself in racists to give them cover for hating on people from certain religions. HOWEVER, disability rights groups are reasonably concerned their needs are routinely overlooked. There's so much more that could be done to improve accessibility and mobility of people with disabilities that can be implemented alongside active travel arrangements that benefit cyclists. If cycle lobby groups show support for those measures, as well as engaging in education of cyclists, condemning reckless behaviour where appropriate, disability groups will be more willing to trust that this sort of infrastructure can work.

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Steve K replied to FionaJJ | 4 months ago
1 like

FionaJJ wrote:

I understand there is concern, especially when whipped up by the anti-cycling lobby,  but once again entirely different expectations of safety and priority from those cycling compared with driving. 

Education on who has priority and some standardisation of design and signage is necessary. That will require some investment and a communications campaign, but it is in no way insurmountable.

I agree with those frustrated by selective, convenient claims of concern for those with disabilities. Often just as sincere as the feminism that suddenly manifests itself in racists to give them cover for hating on people from certain religions. HOWEVER, disability rights groups are reasonably concerned their needs are routinely overlooked. There's so much more that could be done to improve accessibility and mobility of people with disabilities that can be implemented alongside active travel arrangements that benefit cyclists. If cycle lobby groups show support for those measures, as well as engaging in education of cyclists, condemning reckless behaviour where appropriate, disability groups will be more willing to trust that this sort of infrastructure can work.

Good post.

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chrisonabike replied to FionaJJ | 4 months ago
1 like

FionaJJ wrote:

... HOWEVER, disability rights groups are reasonably concerned their needs are routinely overlooked. There's so much more that could be done to improve accessibility and mobility of people with disabilities that can be implemented alongside active travel arrangements that benefit cyclists.  ...

Indeed.  Once more for a classic: "who else benefits from (proper quality) cycling infra?"

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mattw replied to FionaJJ | 4 months ago
2 likes

Some good points.

A further big issue around disability rights groups is that they can get hijacked by one particular view, then pretend that that is "THE DISABLED VIEW", when there is actually a huge diversity within the constituency - and balances need to be struck.

This is evident around bus stop bypasses, and many other issues. Currently being worked out in the York consultation about YCC's Local Transport Strategy, for example.

Local Councils and similar then take that as the disabled view, and implement the demands of a tiny minority to the detriment of most of the rest of disabled people.

Around cycling this is typically around "benefits for disabled people of banning cycling".

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Steve K | 4 months ago
7 likes

Every time a bus stop bypass is put in, it should be accompanied by a zebra crossing across the main carriageway so that pedestrian can get across the road to use the bus stop in the other direction.  If that were the case, the relatively small inconvenience for bus users of the bus stop bypass would be more than compensated by the increased convenience when they need to travel in the other direction (or on their return journey). 

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chrisonabike replied to Steve K | 4 months ago
1 like

This sounds good, but I could see this leading to an increase in crashes in cases where people - naturally perhaps in a hurry - cross in a position where they're concealed from approaching traffic by a bus waiting at the stop.

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Steve K replied to chrisonabike | 4 months ago
1 like

chrisonabike wrote:

This sounds good, but I could see this leading to an increase in crashes in cases where people - naturally perhaps in a hurry - cross in a position where they're concealed from approaching traffic by a bus waiting at the stop.

Well, it wouldn't have to be precisely at the bus stop.  Bus stops on either side of the road aren't generally directly opposite each other, so the crossing would be half way between them.

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mattw replied to Steve K | 4 months ago
0 likes

It probably should be at the bus stop, because if it isn't they will all have to cross the mobility lane twice in addition to crossing the road.

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chrisonabike replied to Steve K | 4 months ago
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If it was far enough from both bus stops, sure.  However I'm not seeing what a level crossing say 40 metres+ away from a bus stop has to do with bus stop bypasses for cyclists though?  Do you mean effectively extending the bus stop so it's - say - several times the length of the bus, then having a crossing at the end of that?

My issue is I can't see why people would feel they were "compensated" in any way by anything if they honestly feel simply crossing a cycle track means "It is a matter of time until someone is killed" or it is  "much more difficult and dangerous" or "It's like playing Russian roulette". A UK bare-minimum width even by our "standards" one to boot as they are!

OTOH given what occurs in reality* with these I suspect this concern would evaporate on repeated exposure.  However - I don't have any disabilities or issues seeing (yet...).  And we should always check we're not achieving "safety" like we have done with vehicles on the roads e.g. by driving everyone else out of those spaces.

And it's always within the abilities of our systems in the UK to deliver truly terrible implementations of these designs.  (Which will be - of course - nothing to do with cyclists, bus passengers, or those with disabilities, but because we can't inconvenience the motorists...)

* Checked both by video studies, and by the fact of these things existing for decades all over several other countries.  And indeed as the Ranty Highwayman's article showed - they've existed for time in this country, just not with a special "name".

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Secret_squirrel | 4 months ago
2 likes

I love the way that even the "anti" academic who's alledgedly done research cant actually produce a statistic for her criticism soundbite.

I think they all protesteth too much.

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mattw | 4 months ago
9 likes

Glad to see continued coverage of this.

You do well to highlight that 'perceived safety' is important for visually impaired pedestrians (just as it is for getting a full range of people riding bikes everywhere), and that this is not a reason for ripping out all bus stop bypasses; it is however a reason for them all to meet LTN1/20 design standards, which many do not.

I think you well highlight that NFBUK are at best a very fringe lobby in the visually impaired community, and have a tiny number of members - around 500, compared to mainstream groups such as RNIB.

Don't miss the fraudulent attempts to pretend that bus stop bypasses are opposed by "disabled people". In fact mobility lanes are of a huge benefit to a huge number of disabled people, and it is not just cyclists.

It is a fairly standard technique to quote findings from a splinter group, and then carry out the con trick of saying that these represent the disabled population. They do not.

Which is why there needs to be a continued public conversation, pointing out all aspects.

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 4 months ago
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This is why I like the Ranty Highwayman article - he's specific on this (and includes a UK study so "even here" they are actually fine) but highlights the objections from people are to do with "feeling".  That is indeed something to address (like one of the reasons why - despite it being objectively safe - the vast majority of people just don't like cycling in traffic and won't).

Unfortunately negative feelings are hard to counter with words e.g. evidence, argument.  People usually have to confirm via experience - which they're unlikely to do given the rarity of these in the UK.

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 4 months ago
5 likes

There are a few points of cognitive dissonance which IMHO maybe come along with the feeling of "cycling danger" (this is broader than just bus stop bypasses of course).  (My own anecdata / introspection - I think someone actually *has* done some studies here but can't recall).

1) Expectations of "normal".  Crossing roads (even at signalised crossings) is dangerous - because cars are more dangerous than bikes as well as there being a lot more of them.  But the presence of cyclists is "terrifying".  Motor traffic is normal though.  This is sometimes explained as "but you can't hear cyclists" - well, in many street environments you'll struggle to hear the car that will hit you - for the other cars.  Of course, we don't notice the noise, because it's normal.

2) As pedestrians we're worried by having cyclists "in our space" (even when there's a cycle path, distinct from footway...).  Cognitive dissonance because people a) think they're safe from motorists on footways and b) don't expect them driving there.  Despite tens of people dying a year dying on the footway from motor traffic crashes and almost every street/road giving ample evidence that driving on the footway is normal.

3) Because motor vehicles are so space-inefficient I think people are imagining these cycle paths being as full of cyclists as the roads next to them or more.  This won't be the case and indeed even in some of the busiest cycle lanes people manage to cross "informally".

4) The cyclist as "other".  I think people genuinely see people on bikes as less trustworthy than some imagined driver.  When I've probed this I've heard things like "they're not licenced / tested / don't have number plates".   Or just given examples of seeing "wrong'uns" on bikes - presumably easier to assess someone's character than when they're inside a car...

There are some reasonable concerns / truths behind this also of course.  Cyclists may currently not be seen until "they were right on me" because people are not expecting or looking for them (same applies to people when they're driving).  And yes, there are bad cyclists, careless riders, people on illegal electric motorbikes, people who don't bother with lights or indeed effective brakes because "it's only cycling" etc.  I'm pretty sure most of the population have very rarely* had any close encounter with these though (because small percentage of an already niche group).

* I'm not as sure as I might have been because of the very salient growth of the bike food delivery business, but that's not *everywhere*.  There's also possibly the "almost every one jumps the red light" in certain London locations.

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qwerty360 replied to mattw | 4 months ago
1 like

Note that I have seen RNIB (and guide dogs) file consultation responses objecting to bus stop bypasses.

The difference is they point out that the plans in question were using an old design that other countries have tried and all but scrapped because it didn't work, recommending instead rough alternative designs that need slightly more space or cost more but (done properly) drastically reduce negative interactions. (see having the bus immediately empty onto a zebra crossing or similar on a cycle track rather than an island of sufficient width WITH appropriate grade changes, crossings and tactile markings between it and the cycle lane).

 

Or the submission they did re changes to bank junction (amongst other things to get traffic lights rather than Zebras on certain crossings due to where their HQ's are located as these are preferable for blind users even when crossing cycle lanes and discussions about where disabled parking bays were located as the new spots were less convenient for them)

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chrisonabike | 4 months ago
8 likes

Unfortunately those with disabilities and / or visual impairments always tend to be at the bottom of the pile (until they're in a motor vehicle).  And already have poor or absent provision most places.  However there is also usually some "selective concern" at work in these "controversies".

We've been round this one several times on road.cc.

To avoid repetition, bus stop bypasses are ubiquitous and - AFAIK - not controversial in NL and Scandinavia.  (Some of the Scandinavian examples are not ideal either, having passengers boarding from within the cycle path).  It's also clear that even in a country where there the largest fraction of journeys are cycled - pedestrians in general (and indeed some partially sighted people) find it simple enough to cross cycle paths.

As the addendum to this excellent article suggests however (end of page), despite apparently (from stats) making things safer for all pedestrians, these concerns should be addressed seriously.  Because those affected are often most impacted by any changes.  (But that shouldn't extend to "ergo we in the UK just can't do things to shift people from driving to cycling even though they appear to have worked for decades at population level in multiple other countries")

Further reading - Ranty Highwayman's article - a UK traffic engineer on these (with links to studies).

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