It has been a tragic time for London’s cyclists of late. National news was made in the tally of 4 Londoners who’d been involved in fatal accidents on their bikes, and then a fifth and sixth victim soon followed. It is an issue that needs addressing, and not before time. But what can actually be done to make cycling on London’s roads safer?
In 2013, cycling in the capital is actively encouraged. If nothing else, Mayor Boris Johnson is London’s all-time most passionate Mayor to ride a bicycle (he only had to beat Ken), whilst we are also in an era when small carbon footprints are advised, if not enforced. London was late on the scene with bicycle rental portals situated throughout the city but since their introduction, Boris bikes (or “Barclays bikes’ as the sponsor prefers) have become as familiar a sight as red buses in the Capital. Without suitable lanes for cyclists however, there remains a worrying leap of faith for those on two wheels who wish to safely share our Roman built roads with cars, lorries, taxis, and public transport. Perhaps London’s roads are just not made for cyclists.
Personally, I am unaware of a regular cyclist in London who has not been injured in a traffic accident but may not be surprising. TFL figures last week revealed that on average in the last five years, one person has either been seriously injured or killed in an accident involving a London bus. Six London cyclists have been killed on the road in the last two weeks. Most occurred at busy junctions, and all involved heavy good vehicles (HGVs). Several took place on the Mayor’s blue-lined cycle ‘superhighways.’
This most recent spate of accidents began with Brian Holt (62) at Cycle Superhighway 2, Mile End Road, on November 5. Three days later, Francis Golding (69) died after a crash with a coach in Holborn. A week later, Roger de Klerk (43) was killed by a single-decker in East Croydon. The day after, Venera Minakhmetova died on Cycle Superhighway 2 during rush hour after being hit by a lorry at Bow roundabout. That night, a 21-year-old was hit by a bus and killed in Aldgate. On Monday the 18th, Richard Muzira (in his 60s) was killed in a collision with a lorry in Camberwell.
In response to accusations that Tfl are in denial over the danger posed to cyclists on our roads, the Mayor said that they had ‘shifted heaven and earth’ to improve road layouts. Boris has elicited talk of both banning HGVs at peak times, and a proposed crack down on risky behaviour by cyclists, including the wearing of headphones. A Green Party London Assembly Member has put forward one idea that safety requirements ought to be written into bus company contracts. Certainly, accident hotspots need to be identified and evaluated.
The problems lie in that although the rate of cycling accidents has decreased overall, more serious accidents are on the rise. In the wake of the fatalities, it has been announced that there will be an additional 2,000 Police enforcing London’s traffic laws on the streets. Let us all hope that 2013’s death toll among London’s road cyclists henceforth remains at 14.