On Monday, 24 October the 14th London cyclist of the year was killed in traffic. A male rider was crushed by a tipper lorry in a roundabout near the Bow flyover in east London.
The media focuses on the fact that it was the first fatality on a so called “cycling superhighway”.
However, another fact is even more annoying and depressing.
Once again, there have been advance warnings to TfL about the the poor design of the junction where the crash happened.
“London Assembly Member John Biggs said he twice met with Transport for London officials over concerns with the Bow Flyover.
However, he was told there was no obvious solution which would not cause massive traffic delays. Mr Biggs said he had the same response in a written question to London Mayor Boris Johnson.”
(Diamond Geezer discusses the awful road layout at the Bow Flyover in detail here.)
This is at least the forth time this year that a London cyclist died on a road that was harshly criticised in advance.
On all occasions, however, Transport for London chose to ignore the warnings and did nothing to improve the safety of cyclists on the streets they manage. The other fatalities were:
Min Joo Lee (24), killed at King’s Cross on 3/10/2011
Min Joo Lee, a 24 year old student who was called Deep Lee by her friends, was crushed by a lorry on 3 October on York Way at the junction with Pentonville Road.
As William Perrin revealed in a blog post on the “King’s Cross Environment Blog”, in 2008 the pedestrian and cyclist safety of the whole area was harshly criticised in a report commissioned by TfL and came to the conclusion
“that casualties were inevitable”.
TfL, however, chose not to publish the report (Will only got it thanks to a freedom of information request) and did not change the road layout at all in the area.
I did not know this report, when I wrote a blog post about the appalling traffic situation around King’s Cross this April. In a blogpost entitled “King’s Cross / St. Pancras: Accidents waiting to happen” I came to a very similar conclusion:
“It might be only a question of time until someone gets hit at King’s Cross / St. Pancras”.
TfL, however, delayed a minor re-design of the junction until it was too late for Deep Lee, as the “Camden New Journal” revealed.
(Note: Today – 26 October 2011 – at 6.30pm a Ghost bike for Deep Lee will be installed at the junction where she died. If you’re in the area, please come by and bring some flowers.)
Johannah Bailey (49), killed on Cavendish Road on 31/7/2011
Johannah Bailey was killed by a van on Cavendish Road in Clapham on 31 July. The circumstances of the crash are not publicly known, but the road where Johannah died was regularly criticised by local cyclists. As LCC reports:
“An inspection ride that took place in 2008, attended by local London Cycling Campaign members, identified the section (…) between Poynders Road and Abbeville Road as a major problem.
A full review “to determine how the junction should be redesigned” was recommended.
LCC’s Mike Cavenett lives nearby: “This is a junction I avoid because it includes dangerous right turns in both directions. It’s long needed a major redesign to reduce danger for cyclists.”
TfL, however, did no care at all.
Paula Jurek (24), killed on Camden Road on 5/4/2011
The forth victim of TfL’s disregard for cyclists is Paula Jurek, who died on 5 April on Camden Road and St Pancras Way. According to the Camden New Journal:
“The busy four-way junction is recognised in TfL reports as one of the worst hot-spots in Camden for collisions.”
Ten cyclists have been involved in accidents at the blackspot in the past three years. (…)
Camden’s council-appointed cycling champion, Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Braithwaite, revealed at Monday’s full council meeting that TfL, which is responsible for safety on the road, had been warned about possible dangers.
He said: “We’ve had the most appalling series of accidents on Camden Road, between Sainsbury’s all the way up to Brecknock Road, with fatalities.” Urging Camden’s Labour environment chief Councillor Sue Vincent to press for changes, he added: “You know and I know that TfL have been pressed to change two of these junctions and have dragged their feet because they don’t want to slow their buses.”
Other hair-raising examples of TfL car-centric planning are the re-design of Blackfriars Bridge and the Elephant and Castle roundabout, which were intensively covered on “I bike London” and “Cyclists in the City”.
TfL answers directly to London Mayor Boris Johnson – the major is the chairman of their supervisory board. Boris talks a lot about cycling and the alleged cycling revolution he wants to unleash in London. However, the reality is completely different. TfL, which role according to Wikipedia is to “implement the transport strategy” puts motorised traffic first.
They are obsessed with “smoothing traffic flow”. Just a quick glance at the cover of this TfL leaflet tells you what this means: get as many cars as quickly through the streets of London as possible, “so that Londoners no longer have to sit for hours fuming in the fumes”, as Boris puts it in this foreword to the brochure.
The result of this policy is that the speed limit on Blackfriars Bridge will be raised from 20 to 30 mph and the bridge will get a design that is more suitable to a motorway than to an urban street. On the newly designed Elephant and Castle roundabout, cyclist will have to cross eight lanes to go from south to east, as Danny points out in his “Cyclists in the City” blog. He also revealed how TfL tweaked their statistics against cyclists. Apparently, in the TfL models used for traffic planning, one car is worth five cyclists.
“Cycling is the healthiest and greenest form of transport there is”, states the official mayoral document entitled “Cycling Revolution London”. In his foreword, Boris writes:
“I’m determined to turn London into a cyclised city – a civilised city where people can ride their bikes safely and easily in a pleasant environment.”
Unfortunately, there is a tremendous gap between is words and his deeds. Smoothing traffic flow currently seems to be more important for TfL than the life of the occasional cyclist.
Given TfL’s misconduct at King’s Cross, William Perrin is rightly accusing them of corporate manslaughter. Increasingly, I get the impression that they are serial offenders.
This will ultimately backfire for Boris, who is going to fight for his re-election in 2012. As Dave Hill writes in an excellent post on his London blog at the Guardian, the fatality in Bow intensifies
“the anger of cyclists over the road-management priorities of a mayor whose personal enthusiasm for cycling is integral to his cheery public persona. That persona is perhaps his greatest asset as a politician. Can it remain unscathed in the face of growing rage over cyclists’ safety under his administration at City Hall? “
How many more cyclists have to die until planning priorities at TfL change? When will Boris not only talk about making cycling safer and more enjoyable?
Note: If you also think that TfL is on the wrong track, join the bike ride to London’s 10 most dangerous junctions on 12 November. The event is organised by the “Cyclists in the city” blog. The ride starts at 10.30am. Meet by the stairs at the front of St. Mark’s Church, The Oval, Kennington, SE11 4PW.