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Transport for London agrees to scrap 'Stay Back' stickers

Victory for road safety campaigners as hostile driver behaviour shown to be linked to "offensive" stickers...

Transport for London (TfL) has agreed to roll back the use of the controversial ‘Cyclists Stay Back’ stickers that have appeared on vehicles in London and beyond in the last year.

Representatives of several road safety organisations met with Transport for London yesterday and TfL agreed to:

  • Ask the Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS) members to remove stickers from small vehicles
  • Replace stickers on buses with a new agreed message
  • Write to other fleet owners requesting they remove stickers
  • Agree new wording for stickers on large lorries
  • Issue guidance with the new stickers on their use
  • Create a TfL web page with advice about the stickers

Road safety organisations have for several months been pressuring TfL to act on the stickers, described as "offensive" by London Cycling Campaign (LCC). Evidence has mounted that drivers of stickered vehicles have acted as though the stickers gave them the right to harass and endanger cyclists.

Even the Freight Transport Association and The Road Haulage Association have expressed frustration at the confusion caused by mixed messages and hostile reactions resulting from the stickers, according to LCC.

A previous attempt to have the stickers removed was rebuffed by TfL because, in the words of TfL’s director of planning for surface transport, Ben Plowden the organisation was “not aware of any evidence that suggests the design of these stickers is reducing their effectiveness in promoting safer behaviour among van, lorry drivers or cyclists.”

LCC, CTC, RoadPeace, London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group, Road Danger Reduction Forum, the Association of Bikeability Schemes and Stop Killing Cyclists were all involved in lobbying TfL and in collecting and presenting the evidence that had mysteriously failed to filter up to the higher echelonns of TfL.

An LCC spokesman said: “LCC supports the need for a warning to cyclists about the danger caused when large lorries with inadequate driver vision turn left and collide with cyclists and pedestrians.  The ‘Stay Back’ message however is seen as a prohibition and has been interpreted by drivers as telling cyclists to get out of their way, with the implication that if a collision occurs then it's the cyclist's fault for not having done so.

“The real solution for reducing the danger created by ‘off road’ construction vehicle on London streets is to re-design the driver's cab as in the LCC Safer Urban Lorry concept.

“This prohibition sign is particularly inappropriate on the vehicles whose drivers do not have the same difficulty as lorry drivers, such as buses vans and even cars. Drivers of these vehicles have direct vision of the road in front and to the side. By using their mirrors and taking care as directed by the Highway Code they should be able to avoid putting other road users in danger.

“The next challenge is to encourage all those transport companies who have put ‘Stay Back’ signs on the wrong vehicles to take them off.”

Road safety bodies are working with TfL to agree wording for a new sticker for larger lorries.

Of course, we have our own suggestion for a replacemet for the 'stay back' stickers. We believe that by establishing friendly relations between drivers and cyclists, our stickers would do more to improve safety by encouraging people to be nice to each other than has been achieved by decades of useless warning notices.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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