Cyclist Killed at King’s Cross – A predictable death

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:

“It might be only a question of time until someone gets hit at King’s Cross / St. Pancras

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.

Continue reading “Cyclist Killed at King’s Cross – A predictable death”

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Cycling in London – How dangerous is it?

“Isn’t it dangerous?” This is the ultimate question regarding cycling in London. Almost everyone asks me this when I tell them that I get around here almost exclusively by bike. I know a significant number of people who do not cycle in London because they consider it utterly unsafe.

My standard  reply to questions on cycling safety is: “Of course it’s dangerous. As life is in general.” I then explain that if you respect certain rules (“Never ever get on the left side of  lorry” being the most important one), safety is not an issue.

Afterwards I usually rave for five minutes about the benefits of cycling. I never forget to mention that, according to studies frequently cited by the CTC, the health benefits of cycling massively outweigh the risks.

Deep inside, however, I always feel a little bit queasy because I ask myself if I’m talking  somebody into cycling who might  end up under a car….

Hence I wanted to get a deeper understanding of cycling safety in London. This is why I’ve started to collect data on severe and fatal cycling accidents in London since 2006. The results are this spreadsheet on Google Docs and this map. Currently they list 59 fatal cycling accidents that have happened in Greater London since  2006.

Collecting this information was heartbreaking and a very emotional thing. I got sad, angry and frustrated by the carelessness and ruthlessness of some drivers; the errors and callousness of city planners  and the verdicts of coroners who were at least sometimes showing an astonishing degree of leniency.

Continue reading “Cycling in London – How dangerous is it?”

London’s Cycling Wastelands (I): Bath Street (Clerkenwell)

Major Boris Johnson has pledged to ignite a “cycling revolution” in London. The city is spending million of pounds on the cycling hire scheme and  “cycling superhighways”. However, there are a lot of small things which could be done to significantly improve safety and convenience for cyclists in London. In this section named “London’s Cycling Wasteland” I’m going to present some examples. They are coming from my own daily experiences on London roads.

Where?

I’m starting with an example that annoys me each time I’m cycling towards the City from Highbury. It is all about the northern end of Bath Street in Clerkenwell and the Old Street roundabout aka “Junction of Death” in Shoreditch.

What’s the problem?

The infamous Old Street roundabout in Shoreditch is a hot spot for cycling accidents and has been nicknamed the “Junction of Death” by cyclists. In February 2011, there have been two severe accidents involving cyclists within a few days. On Feb 16th a lorry knocked down a cyclist on the corner of Baldwin St and City Rd during the morning peak hours. On Feb 24th, for example, another cyclist was hit by a van and has been critically injured.

After the second accident Hackney Gazette run a story headlined “Safety concerns for cyclists on Old Street roundabout following crash”

The collision has reignited safety concerns over the busy roundabout – one of the worst for crashes in the capital. Thousands of cars, cyclists and lorries use it every day.  Cyclist Leo Chapman, who lives nearby in Finsbury, said: “I wouldn’t go around that roundabout, it is just too dangerous. “You could easily get squeezed by somebody and there are too many lanes.”

He suggested cyclists avoid the roundabout by using Shepherdess Walk, Bath Street and Bunhill Row.Charlie Lloyd, cycling development officer of London Cycling Campaign, told the Gazette: “The roundabout has a bad track record. It is among the top three for crashes in London.”

The northern end of Bath Street (across the street), seen from Shepherdess Walk. Southbound cyclists are not allows to go straight on because Bath Street is a one way steet.

Leo is talking about this area and he is absolutely right: In theory Shepherdess Walk, Bath Street and Bunhill Row are perfect for avoiding the Old Street roundabout. Legally, however, this works only for northbound cyclists. Southbound cyclists, unfortunately have to break the law if they want to avoid the  “Junction of Death” – the northern end of Bath Street currently is a one way street without any contraflow system.

Continue reading “London’s Cycling Wastelands (I): Bath Street (Clerkenwell)”