Usually it’s great when you’re proven right. This time, however, it is utterly frustrating and appalling. In April I wrote a blog post about the dangers for cyclists around King’s Cross / St. Pancras and stated:
On 3 October, unfortunately, this is precisely what happened. Around 11.40am Min Joo Lee, 24, was killed by a lorry on Pentonville Road at the junction with York Way. (The police report says it happened at the junction with Kings Cross road, but given this photo the cops got the location wrong.)
Few details are publicly known about the crash at the moment and we should not jump to conclusions. The police is looking for witnesses – if you saw something, please get in touch with the Road Death Investigation Unit at Alperton on 0208 998 5319.
I don’t mind if you also report what you saw in a comment on this blog.
My office is a few hundred yards further up close to King’s Place and I cycle regularly in the area.
The whole area around King’s Cross is a complete and utter nightmare for cyclists. As my statistics about cycling fatalities show, in the last five years, four cyclists were killed in the proximity of King’s Cross / St. Pancras.
- In 2006, Wendy Gay was crushed by a lorry as she rode in a cycle lane on Euston Road close to the British Library.
- Also in 2006, Emma Foa died after she was run over by another lorry on Goodsway.
- In 2007, Madeleine Rosie Wright died at the junction of Pentonville Road and Penton Rise after she was hit by a lorry. (There was another severe, non-fatal accident at the same location in 2009 when a TfL bus hit 14 year old girl.)
And now Min Joo Lee died.
This turns the King’s Cross / St. Pancras area into one of the worst death traps for cyclists in London. For a number of reasons, this is no surprise. First of all, because motor traffic on the Ring road is horrific.
The road layout around King’s Cross / St. Pancras makes matter much worse. Everything is ridiculously car-friendly. A nasty system of one-way roads and other restrictions makes it amazingly hard to avoid the busy roads as a cyclist. Apparently, nobody who is responsible for the road design in that area ever seriously thought about cyclists.
The situation will get more severe because cycling traffic will definitely increase thanks to the opening of the new campus of the University of the Arts London north of King’s Cross. 4500 students will have to get to their campus, and I’m sure a significant number will do this by bike. (Min Joo Lee was a fashion student at the University of Arts and was on her first day back at the university. What a horrific start for the beautiful new campus…)
What is urgently needed is a clever system to lead cyclists securely around King’s Cross / St. Pancras. The best option would be to close Pancras Road for motor traffic at least in one direction and turn the space into a segregated, two-way cycle lane.
The current option for northbound cyclists – York Way – is a complete nightmare, and Pancras Road is completely jammed with cars. Southbound cyclists have to use Midland Road, which is only slightly better than York Way. The least thing traffic planners should do was opening Pancras Road for southbound cyclists.
In a way, it is really heartbreaking that London – and Boris Johnson in particular – induces Londoners to cycle more but do not change the urban planning priorities accordingly. London still is designed for cars, as the ignominious redesign of Blackfriars Bridge shows. (Next week, on 12 October, there will be another flash ride against the plans. Please join the ride, I’ll be there too.)
I personally try to avoid the busy roads around in this area (and everywhere else in London) like the plaque.
Working out the routes takes some effort (a handheld GPS device mounted on your handlebar makes things much easier), but I think it’s really worth it. I’ll blog about some alternative routes in that area shortly.
And please, please: Stay behind lorries, never try to pass them on the left at a junction.