Thursday 16 February 2017

Dying for a bike ride in London??

Despite the different facilities that have been put in place in London for bike riders, the number of fatalities involving cyclists on the road is not decreasing significantly.

Anita Szucs died in a hit-and-run at Enfield
We are only two months into the year and already three cyclists have been killed on London's roads, with all these tragedies occurring in the space of four days, just over a week ago.

What really brought it home was when a colleague of mine told me that one of the victims was a colleague of her Hungarian partner. My colleague said that when her partner returned home from work last Monday week he was numbed and shocked at the news that he would never again see
his colleague and fellow compatriot, Anita Szucs. The 30-year-old newly-wed had been killed by a car in an apparent hit and run incident on 6th February in Edmonton as she cycled home after a completing a late shift.

Anita's death was shortly followed later that day by the death of a Brazilian architect, Karla Roman, aged 32, when she was hit by a coach on the Cycle Superhighway at Whitechapel.

Then in the same week Ben Wales, also aged 32 was crushed to death by a tipper truck at Silvertown, Woolwich on 9th February. It was reported that he was wearing a helmet and high visibility jacket at the time.

Karla Roman killed by a coach on the Cycle Superhighway at Whitechapel
The full details of these accidents are not yet known, but needless to say one death is too many, and with this many accidents it still begs questions about how safe cycling is being made for cyclists in London. It is even more concerning that one of the fatalities occurred on a supposedly segregated cycle lane. This is not a great advert for cycling in London.

Last Saturday a "die-in" and demonstration organised by the Stop Killing Cyclists campaign took place in Trafalgar Square. As well as remembering the three cyclists (and two pedestrians) that were killed last week, activists will demand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer increases its spending on cycling and pedestrian infrastructure  to 10% of the transport budget by 2020. The government's current plan is to spend around £500M on cycling and walking projects over the same period, which will represent less than 1% of the total UK transport budget.

Ben Wales crushed to death at Woolwich
While the new London mayor, Sadiq Khan has pledged to spend £770M on cycling initiatives in London over the next four years, Caspar Hughes, organiser of last Saturday's protest does feels there is still a lot more that can be done.

Hughes said, “The same problems have been repeated for years and although the mayor has increased spending it’s still nowhere near enough." 

British Cycling Policy Advisor (and Olympic Cycling gold medallist), Chris Boardman described the government's level of spending on cyclists of barely £1 per head as "shameful".

Provisional figures recently released by the Department for Transport have shown an increase in the number cycling accidents in Britain. The provisional figures for the number of people killed or seriously injured on bicycles increased by 2% for the period October 2015 to September 2016, compared with the same period the previous year. Furthermore, when the number of killed or seriously injured cyclists for the year to September 2016 was compared with the average figure between 2010 and 2014, this showed a 7% increase (though there was a drop of 4% when looking at all types of cycling accident).

Basically, the number of cycling fatalities and serious accidents in the UK does not seem to be falling. This may be reflected by the fact that more people are being inspired to get out on their bikes but yet the government has not made a proportional increase in investment in cycle safety measures for road users.

Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling may well want to reconsider the invitation from Chris Boardman to accompany him on a bike ride, and see what it really is like to cycle on public roads in the UK. Perhaps that might (only might) make him think more about the safety of cyclists.

My thoughts are with the friends and families of the those killed while out riding their bikes.

Related post
Our dear anti-cycling Minister for Transport

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