London Cycle Deaths

November 15, 2013 by  

London Cycle Deaths, The safety of London’s cyclists has become the cause of urgent debate after a man killed on Wednesday night became the fifth cyclist to die in the London in nine days. The mayor, Boris Johnson, has played down the spate of deaths, suggesting “there’s no amount of traffic engineering that we invest in that is going to save people’s lives.”

We’ve been deluged with stories from cyclists of their own near misses. Many were furious with the mayor, echoing London assembly member Darren Johnson’s suggestion of victim blaming. Through their stories a map of danger spots, familiar to anyone who cycles regularly in the capital, rapidly emerged. Many of those involved parts of the controversial super highways, with one stretch leading to the Bow roundabout now the location of three separate deaths. Southwark Bridge also received several mentions as a known black spot.

What came across most of all in the responses is the desire for a revolutionary approach to the city’s infrastructure. One reader, Alun Hughes, who has suffered near misses on the approach to Tower Bridge, said: “To see so many more people cycling in the city is hugely uplifting, but both motorist and cyclists need a well-designed safe environment.”

‘You can see [the super highway] in the picture under the car’
I had a recent near miss in east London. It’s on Whitechapel Road on the cycle superhighway. You can see it in the picture under the car. The taxi driver just pulled out in front of me while I was riding along in the blue lane. There was a long queue of traffic but the superhighway was clear. I swerved but still went right over his bonnet – if he’d got any further I’d have just hit the side of his car and been badly injured. He tried to say that I should have been riding in the outside lane not in the superhighway lane (ie with all the other cars in the line you can see). When I argued with him he said he didn’t see me, which I think just means he didn’t look properly.

This stretch of road feels pretty lethal, with the superhighway hugging the curb, through bus stops, sharing the inside lane at all junctions and probably a bit confusing for divers where the bus lane’s white line becomes perforated in the middle of the road at the same place where the blue highway crosses with the side roads (as in the picture).

After begging me not to call the police or tell his boss, the taxi driver ended up taking me to a bike shop, buying me a new front wheel, then breaking down in tears because his friend had been killed by a car while cycling a few years earlier. I gave him a hug.

Dr Luke Dickens

‘This week has been the worst I’ve known’
The last quarter mile of my commute from Catford takes me from Mansell Street to Aldgate High Street, where I join Cycle Superhighway 2. In that last quarter mile, two cyclists have been killed in the last four months. Countless more have been hit, or experienced near misses – myself included.

There aren’t yet details of what happened to last night’s victim. But the location – the left turn from Aldgate High Street onto Commercial Street, leading up to Shoreditch – is known to cyclists, campaigners and engineers as a black spot. The problems are multiple. There are three lanes of traffic: the left, for those going left or straight ahead. In rush hour, traffic is solid. When you join the road as a cyclist, the superhighway invites you to join the left of the left hand lane – regardless of whether you’re turning left. Even if you actively reject the superhighway, take the lane, make eye contact with drivers next to and behind you and hold your ground, it’s still difficult to prevent a determined driver from cutting you up by turning across your path.

The last week has been horrific for cyclist fatalities – the worst I’ve known. The only comfort I take when cycling through that junction each morning is politicians are now, finally, talking about the need for change. Action to improve safety for cyclists is now, more than ever, on the agenda.

My plea is that we see the same surge in rage and consequent response from government for the most vulnerable of road users: pedestrians. Sixty-nine pedestrians were killed in London last year, and more are killed or seriously injured every day on our streets: but the silence in response is chilling. We need action to protect all vulnerable road users, and we need it now.

I haven’t agreed with Nick Clegg often over the last year, but when he says that he hopes the spate of fatalities doesn’t discourage people from cycling, I feel the same way. The more of us there are, the more care drivers will take, and the louder our voice. But it’s critical that action is taken. Junctions like this can’t be allowed to exist in our city. Dangerous HGVs should not be on our roads. For the sake of cyclists and pedestrians.

Rosanna Downes is Campaigns and Communications Manager at Living Streets, the national charity that stands up for pedestrians. She writes above in a personal capacity.

‘I’m becoming very discouraged’
Every time I cycle I have a near miss, even though I am a safe cyclist, and wear lights and reflective strips at night.

The Mile End road is particularly dangerous, as the blue super highway is completely ignored and utterly useless when everyone parks on it anyway during the weekend. Motorists are always cutting into it, rarely leaving a safe space, and turning across it without looking. Often bus drivers are the worst, pulling into stops right in front of you – I don’t know whether they could all have a day course on cyclist awareness.

I can particularly see why accidents keep happening on Bow roundabout, as I found it very confusing when I cycled it the other day – not only does the blue route suggest right of way, but there is a traffic light specifically for cyclists, which when it goes green, doesn’t actually mean that there’s no oncoming traffic. I have no idea why it is there. I’m so glad I checked for traffic even after the light had gone green, as there were loads of cars coming from the right.

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