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Campaign group responds to launch of "Son of Safeway" operation in London yesterday...

London Cycling Campaign says it welcomes casualty figures announced yesterday by Mayor of London Boris Johnson that show a sharp fall in the number of cyclist killed or seriously injured in the capital during 2013. However, it says that police road safety initiatives need to focus much more on careless driving to improve safety.

The figures, compiled by Transport for London, revealed that 475 cyclist had been seriously injured in London in 2013, a fall of 28 per cent compared to the 657 recorded in 2012.

According to a press release from the mayor’s office, “that is the second-lowest rate ever recorded, just behind figures for 2006, when there was one KSI for every 434,000 journeys by bike.”

It added that the fall was in part due to the Metropolitan Police launching Operation Safeway, although since that only ran from mid-November, devised in response to six cyclists losing their lives in a two-week period, LCC says it believes the impact of the initiative has been overstated.

Operation Safeway resulted in 14,000 fixed penalty notices or summons being issued, three in ten of them to cyclists, and Mr Johnson confirmed yesterday that a smaller-scale “Son of Safeway” operation would see as many as 1,000 officers deployed for two days each month at 100 Inner London junctions.

Superintendent Rob Revill, of the Metropolitan Police’s Safer Transport Command, said: “Our aim is to reduce the appalling number of people who die or are injured on London's roads each year. Every road death is a needless tragedy that wreaks devastation for the victim's friends and family. Every serious injury is life-changing and distressing.

“Operation Safeway has significantly contributed towards a change in road user behaviour, so we will continue to carry out operations at busy junctions, in addition to our daily road safety work to ensure that people continue to act legally and safely on the roads.

“It is so important that this change in behaviour is now maintained and we are not complacent. Remember, nothing is worth risking yours or another person's life on the road.”

However, in response to the mayor’s announcement, LCC chief executive Ashok Sinha said: “We can all be careless if we don’t make an effort not to be, but when we’re driving such carelessness can kill – that’s why it’s a crime, and the law should be enforced.

“We welcome more traffic police on our streets, but they must use their powers to tackle carelessness, which is the biggest single factor in the deaths and injuries of thousands of cyclists in London every year.”

LCC pointed out that Operation Safeway attracted criticism because it failed to address the three types of driving behaviour that according to TfL’s own data are most likely to result in cyclists being killed or injured, namely:

• Drivers turning across the path of cyclists without care
• Drivers overtaking cyclists too close, and without care for their safety
• Drivers or passengers carelessly opening a car door in the path of a cyclist.

LCC also said that many of the cyclists stopped during Operation Safeway, which ran for seven weeks, were “cycling carefully and lawfully, and were given questionable safety advice,” such as:

• Cyclists were told off by police for ‘taking the lane’ in accordance with Government cycle training advice
• Cyclists were told off for moving to the right of a lane when making a right turn
• Cyclists were told off for not wearing helmets or high-viz clothing, despite the effectiveness of this being strongly disputed.

Charlie Lloyd of LCC said: “It's excellent news there's been a fall in cyclist death and serious injury rates – although one year’s data doesn’t necessarily indicate a trend.

“However it’s rather fanciful to suggest Operation Safeway, which ran for just six weeks at the end of 2013, can have caused a major reduction in cycling casualties for the whole of the year.

“The months of cold weather earlier in 2013, severely reducing the number of cycling journeys, are likely to be a significant factor in the year-on-year reduction.

“It’s just too early to say if we are seeing a sustained reduction, let alone attribute it to any one police operation.”

Alex Ingram, co-ordinator and vice-chair of hfcyclists, the branch of LCC in Hammersmith & Fulham, took the TfL data made available by the Mayor of London’s office and produced graphs to show long-term trends, posting the results to Twitter.

While the graphs show an upward trend in the number of cyclists suffering serious injuries when looking at a three-year moving average, what they don’t take account of is the growth of cycling in the city; putting the figures in the context of total distance cycled would enable an assessment of trends in casualty rates to be made.

While no accurate data are available covering the whole period in question, according to the Mayor’s Cycling Vision published last year, levels of cycling on the TfL road network (ie London’s major roads) grew threefold in the previous decade.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.