Cycle campaigners in South West London have hit out at “patently dangerous” traffic calming measures, which instead put cyclists at risk of death and serious injury and insist that there are serious deficiencies in safety audits carried out for Transport for London (TfL) which they claim play down the risks to which cyclists are exposed and discriminate against them.
The verdict was delivered in a report carried out on behalf of Merton Cycling Campaign (MCC), which among other issues highlighted a series of chicanes installed in the borough’s Martin Way in 2007, which the local council eventually removed in May 2010 at a cost of £500,000.
The road layout has been described by London Cycling Campaign as "one of Greater London's worst ever cycle facilties."
The detailed report, which is called Unsafe: A Review of London’s Road Safety Audit Procedures and the cyclist and can be accessed from MCC’s homepage, was written by retired architect and local cycling campaigner Hugh Morgan.
Under the original design of the chicane layout on Martin Way, which operated in both directions, cyclists were filtered into a short cycle lane ahead of the chicane itself.
The end of those lanes, separated from the main carriageway by a kerb, finished at the exact point where motorised vehicles needed to move to the left as they negotiated the chicane. There was a marking on the road for cyclists top stop and give way.
In other words, the road design meant that motor traffic was diverted directly into the path of any cyclists exiting the cycle lane, creating an obvious danger for cyclists, as can be seen in the video below of the road layout before it was changed.
According to MCC, the design of the chicanes placed cyclists “in the line of fire,” and it added that any cyclist using those lanes at busy times “would have to be suicidal.”
“In writing this report I was shocked to discover the lack of standards in the road safety auditing procedure,” said Mr Morgan, quoted on the Your Local Guardian website.
“We have seen the results of this first-hand in Merton, and paid heavily for the auditors’ mistakes."
The key findings of his report are that current road safety audit procedures:
- “Underemphasize the safety problems associated with cycling on the carriageway and tend to invite discrimination against cyclists.“
- Are inadequately set up by TfL and can be applied with inadequate rigour leading to a diseased system. This is demonstrated at every stage of the Auditing process in the B286 Martin Way example.
- “Have a looseness that stems from the randomization of Road Safety Audit procedures that effects [sic] the whole of the United Kingdom.”
It recommends that:
- “TfL engage in tightening up Road Safety Audit procedures throughout London with immediate effect.
- “TfL carefully re-write their Road Safety Audit procedures.
- “London Boroughs should check that they follow Merton’s subsequent improvements in procedure.
- “TfL compensate the London Borough of Merton for the costs of removal of the scheme that TfL had Road Safety Audited.
- “UK National urban Road Safety Auditing procedures should be agreed.”
The Martin Way chicane system was subject to a road safety check by auditors acting on behalf of TfL, although MCC said that their proposed solution of changing the kerb size was not only “ridiculous” but also “lethal,” and assumed that traffic would be confined to cars on a road also used by buses and lorries.
Charlie Lloyd of London Cycling Campaign said: "The video shows how appalling these cycle 'facilities' were, needlessly pushing cyclists into the path of fast-moving motor traffic.
"When our local campaign group complained the council defended the design, saying that it had passed a 'safety audit' carried out by Transport for London.
"What became clear to everyone, except the council engineers, was that the safety audit process had failed."
The Your Local Guardian website reports that a spokesman for TfL had taken issue with the findings of the report, insisting that the body had put forward recommendations for amending it that had not been implemented, and that a complaint against it had not been upheld by the Local Government Ombudsman.
Merton Council's cabinet member for environmental sustainability and regeneration, Councillor Andrew Judge, told Your Local Guardian: “Merton’s road safety record is one of the best in London. "This is largely due to the council’s careful and considered planning of its traffic calming measures.
“An independent safety audit was conducted to ensure the chicanes in Martin Way meet the required safety standards.
“We go to great lengths to ensure that all our traffic calming measures contribute to the safety of all road users, including cyclists.”
TfL has been in the firing line from cycling and road safety campaigners following a series of deaths of cyclists in the capital recently.
In Kings Cross, local road safety campaigners have said that they are considering pressing for a charge of corporate manslaughter to be brought against TfL in connection with the death there in October of cyclist Deep Lee after it emerged that safety recommendations contained in a 2009 report commissioned by TfL had not been acted upon.
It was subsequently revealed following the deaths of Brian Dorling and Svitlana Tereschenko at Bow roundabout that safety features recommended by a separate report prior to the installation of the Barclays Cycle Superhighway that ends there had also not been acted upon.
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.