Sunday, 13 November 2011

Cycle killers, qu'est-ce que c'est?

I couldn't make yesterday's Tour du Danger, the mass bike ride that took in London's most perilous junctions. It was, by all accounts, a chance for two-wheelers to stick up two spokes to those authorities making the city's streets less – rather than more – safe for cycling.

Several hundred cyclists rode through the capital to call on Transport for London to redesign the most dangerous roads, and to do so quickly to prevent any more deaths. Cycling fatalities this year already stand at 15 - and the latest TfL figures show an eight per cent rise in cycling casualties, despite a decline among other road users.

In the past three weeks alone, two cyclists have been killed while riding on roads that will form part of the London 2012 Olympic cycle route.

Last month, Brian Dorling, a 58-year-old cyclist, became the first to be killed on one of Boris Johnson's flagship cycle superhighways when he was involved in a collision with a tipper truck at the Bow Flyover roundabout.

On Friday, a 34-year-old woman became the capital's 15th casualty this year when was crushed by a lorry on the same superhighway, the CS2, on the westbound carriageway at the Bow Road roundabout. The mayor had been asked to do something about safety at this now notorious blackspot at a London Assembly meeting just days earlier.

I for one hate riding on the blue superhighways: the painted lane always *looks* dangerously slippery even before a rush-hour downpour - I thought I'd offer a few ideas for the mayor and TfL to do to help prevent cyclist deaths.

1. Redesign bad junctions. It's particularly poor that the citywide street "improvement" programme that's carving up roads to make them ready for the "greenest Olympics ever" seems to be putting motorists' needs ahead of cyclists. Why else increase the speed limit over Blackfriars Bridge from 20mph to 30mph if not to give somewhere in town for drivers to put their foot down?

2. Remind cyclists is okay to ride like a motorist. Don't cycle in the gutters, or in those cycle lanes that stop suddenly or make you weave into the path of traffic put you in danger. Move away from the kerb. Hog the road if you have to. The lane is as much yours as it is the angry driver trying to overtake you.

3. Re-educate (educate?) drivers and motorcyclists that they should keep out of the Advanced Stop zones at the front of traffic at lights. Such provisions are there to give cyclists a sporting a chance of pedalling off without being crushed; they're a traffic-calmer, too. Cyclists can stick together by aligning themselves in such a way as to keep motorised vehicles out, and take snaps of offenders' number plates and post them online at My Bike Lane - it's a brilliant site, and also good for naming and shaming those who park in cycle lanes.

(What have I missed?)

And if they don't listen, let's protest again (as Chubby Checker almost sang). Or get people in higher places to. With the Barclays-sponsored cycle superhighways now being talked about as deathtraps, it might be ready to flex its muscle at the LGA before its name is linked with any more fatalities. Anyone got an email for the chairman?

UPDATE: there's a handy, at-a-glance graph that shows how London roads are becoming more dangerous for cyclists, here.


  1. All agreed. But it would be lovely if all cyclists had lights on their bikes - I estimate 60% of riders I see at night don't - and also stopped jumping red lights at Pelican crossings.

  2. Touché! But then I'm one of those annoying cycling types who (a) uses lights and wears a helmet, and (b) stops at lights. SMug, in other words.

    For extra smugness, rather than busting red lights, get off and wheel your bike through, pedestrian-style. It really annoys the motorcyclists who try to squeeze in front of you in the advance stop box.

  3. The displacement of blame onto rogue cyclists is understanbdable (I'm a cyclist and I do it). But it's done so often and it doesn't explain much either. Most cycle casualities are in daylight, at junctions, where one or more people are not paying enough attention to others. Attentiveness is a human constant, but junctions can be engineered to reduce the likelihood of inattention being fatal. Lights, traffic separation and speed reduction are the obvious requirements. Some of that isn't even expensive.

    So let's not take out anxiety on each other. Let's get the work done and make things better for everyone. We can quarrel about it later.