Recent headlines have sent a shock through the cycling community. Five cyclists killed in nine days, bringing the death toll this year to 13. Unmentioned, are the hundreds of cyclists to suffer severe injuries.
The Save Our Cyclists petition, as well as a flash ride spearheaded by the LCC and planned Stop the killing die-in event at TfL’s headquarters reflect the sense of urgency felt by the people who ride bikes in London.
The reality for London’s cyclists is that things are not much safer today, than they were ten years ago.
Aside from driving instead of cycling, wearing a helmet, lobbying our representatives and marking off on a calendar the number of days before TfL and the Mayor deliver on their promised improvements, what can cyclists do to stay safe on their next commute?
To answer the question, it’s worth taking a look at what limited information is available on the five recent incidents:
- 9th cyclist to die: Brian Holt: Hit by a lorry on Mile End Road, part of Cycle Superhighway 2
- 10th cyclist to die: Francis Golding: Hit by coach, junction at Vernon Place and Southampton Row
- 11th cyclist to die: Roger De Klerk: Hit by the 410 bus. Cherry Orchard Road and Addiscombe Road (East Croydon).
- 12th cyclist to die: Venera Minakhmetova: Hit by Heavy Goods Vehicle. Bow Road Roundabout E3 along Cycle Superhighway 2.
- 13th cyclist to die: Unidentified man: Hit by 205 bus. Whitechapel High Street, junction with Commercial Road. Along Cycle Superhighway 2
Quotes from witnesses
“I turned the corner and saw the bus go over the cyclist, I’ve never seen anything like it” Croydon Advertiser
“A woman, who looked like the driver of the bus, got out of the bus. She looked in total shock, really panicked.” Croydon Advertiser
“Must have broken every bone in his body”
“He was hit from behind by the truck”
“Both the cyclist and the coach… are thought to have been turning left towards Euston.” Evening Standard
Avoiding “killing machines”
All five incidents have involved large vehicles that have blind spots. When pedalling around London, warning signals should be going off the minute you see a heavy goods vehicle.
Drivers of these vehicles can’t see cyclists. The shock expressed by drivers, and the common phrase “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you” all reflect how dangerous these vehicles are.
When you spot such a vehicle, it’s worth staying behind, or far in front. Don’t attempt to overtake on the inside. If the lights change, the driver will not see you.
In one of the cases, a witness mentioned that the cyclist was hit from behind by the lorry driver. The blind spots extend not just to the side, but also directly in front.
Readers of this blog are hopefully by now well aware of this. Unfortunately, the vast majority of cyclists out there are not. Therefore, whilst the Mayor may point the finger at cyclists and say “you shouldn’t be in that dangerous position” it’s a worthless statement, as people simply don’t know about the dangers.
Instead, the Mayor should be discussing his vision for creating a road network that protects all its road users.
Cycle Superhighways do not offer safety
Three of the past five cyclist deaths on London’s roads have been along Cycle Superhighway number 2. The Mayor and TfL have recognised the flaws in the Cycle Superhighways and plans are in place to make improvements. In the mean time, people are being killed.
The danger of the Cycle Superhighways is that they offer a false sense of security. Whilst some are better than others, they are putting cyclists in dangerous positions, particularly at junctions.
What to do if you are worried about cycling in London
The single greatest course of action you can take today is to find your nearest cycle training course and book an appointment. The hands on experience you’ll get from the one on one tuition, could save your life.
I hope that one day, I’ll never have to write an article like this one again. Until then, as cyclists we can take steps to improve our safety, whilst lobbying, protesting and doing everything in our power to make conditions safer for everyone who wants to cycle.