Thursday, 14 November 2013

5 in 9. The Flash Protest & How to Fix Things

Images via LCC
Yesterday afternoon I received word from LCC of a flash protest that they were organising at Bow Roundabout last night after the fourth cycling death in 8 days in London. I picked up CS2 on Whitechapel High Road and headed east to Bow Roundabout.  It was rush hour at the time, around 6 p.m. and traffic was heavy as it always is.

It was not my first time at all on CS2, but it was my first trip to the Bow Roundabout.

On my approach, I met an activist who was photographing one of the ghost bikes, which is on the approach to Bow Roundabout. This was in memory of Brian Dowling, one of the three people who have tragically lost their lives at this same fatal accident blackspot for cyclists. The activist was pointing out a couple of cyclists who were, crazily it seemed, taking the option of the Bow flyover to avoid the Bow Roundabout.

The flyover is little short of a motorway, with at least two lanes of motor traffic, some of them going so fast that they look as if they are almost flying. As he said, it is a failure in itself if cyclists would prefer to cross two busy lanes of traffic and take their chances on a flyover, in order to avoid the dedicated cycle facilities that have been painted on the Bow Roundabout.

Of course, it is difficult for engineers to cater to all road users and they have clearly made efforts to cater for everyone. It is not difficult to see, however, how so many cycling accidents have occurred here, since it is a busy roundabout and however much blue paint is on the road, it is clear that motor traffic takes serious priority here.

I then took my own chances on the Bow Roundabout.

I tried to go around the roundabout myself as a cyclist to really look at and think about the facilities. One of the first things that happened, however, was I ended up coming off the roundabout and heading on a slip road to Stratford. This was where the cycle lane took me, rather than completely around the roundabout, which was what I was intending to do. I then had the fiendishly difficult job of trying to re-join the roundabout, coming off my bicycle and walking over several sections, negotiating impatient drivers all the time.

I joined the throng of LCC people and the candlelit protest and it felt a small relief to have managed to travel half way around the Bow Roundabout safely in order to join the protest.

I think it is too easy to blame everything on Boris Johnson and pretend that there are some easy answers that will turn off the cycling fatalities like a tap. In general, I think the cycling super highways are very positive. From memory, these were Ken Livingstone’s idea and their implementation has not been all negative, since thousands of safe journeys are made every day on the various super highways already in place around London.

I speak to cyclists every day following accidents and I know of only one on-going case I have, out of dozens, from a CS route. They don’t need to be scrapped, they’re a great start and they simply need to be made safer for cyclists.

The particular difficulties are locations like Aldgate and the Bow Roundabout, where, as the coroner recently said, cyclists are lulled into a false sense of security and the CS road markings indicate that cyclists have a stake in these areas of road, when the ferocity and size of the motor vehicles around them suggests otherwise.

The time has come, in my view, to look at restricting the HGV lorries which can be in operation on London’s roads. Clearly, this is controversial and we also have to live in the real world which means that deliveries have to be constantly made by large vehicles around London. A compromised way of achieving this would be to ban HGVs from CS routes altogether. This would avoid confusion and divert all lorries on to alternative road routes and there are alternatives throughout the city.

This would also bring the public and the cycling community in support of the 8 new CS routes that are planned by TFL over the next 2 years, there are only 4 in operation at present and the Mayor needs a drastic measure now for this flagship policy to retain the support of its key users, the cyclists.

This would at a stroke make the CS routes much safer, but it is important to remember that there will always be the potential for injury and death when cyclists and motor traffic are coexisting so closely together.

It is the lorries however, that are responsible for so many of the cycling deaths, and if we could separate lorries and cyclists in this way and divert all of the lorries in London to non-CS routes, then we would really be making some instant progress.

Well done to the LCC in organising last night’s protest. It is important for us all to feel we are doing something rather than just hearing the news telling us about yet another cycling death.

by Kevin O'Sullivan - Partner and Head of Levenes Cycle

Connect with Levenes Cycle:
Blog Homepage Follow us on Twitter Connect with us on Facebook Connect with us on Google+ Get blog updates via Email Contact Us Subscribe to our Feed Catch us on YouTube

No comments:

Post a Comment